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Beyond The Closet

posted Sep 14, 2013, 5:10 AM by Rhandeev Singh   [ updated Sep 14, 2013, 5:41 AM ]
On Thursday, Jan 17, 2013, a friend wrote me:

Hi Rhan, my sister in India read your online account of your dietary switch and liked it, and she was wondering whether you've written any more material about how your family is taking to it.  Let me know if you have something that you can share, even if it's not published on the web.

On Sunday, January 20, 2013, I responded as follows. I've added paragraph headings so it's easier to navigate.

Thanks for the note. I've been putting off a long overdue update. Since I tend to only publish on the web what's written with conviction, care and inspiration, feel free to pass along this relatively terse and bland update for now.

The First Big Milestone

My dad started on an exercise program shortly after his recovery from the original surgeries. Just shy of a year from the surgery date, he was given the blessings of his cardiologist to discontinue all medications with the exception of 10 mg daily of a statin medication.

Since his total cholesterol was 100 mg/dl (below the so-called "normal" range of 160-200), he asked the cardiologist why, and was told simply, "I'm taking no chances with you."  I read this as a combination of "your history of heart disease" and "you got drug-eluting stents just 11 months ago."

It's since been just over 3 years since dad's cardiac event and surgery. Since that time, dad has moved out of home, got the house rebuilt and moved back in. He now has more HDL than LDL.

The Second Big Milestone

During the first two years, however, he found a gradually increasing LDL level. The numbers themselves weren't worrisome and I forget what they were, but it was a concern because it was slowly but steadily increasing with no sign of abating. This mirrored my own situation in 2010-2011.

The culprit turned out to be a dash of honey in his morning bowl of oatmeal. Removing that caused his LDL level to fall back down and allowed his HDL to exceed LDL. Note that all this is on that 10 mg/day of statin.

The Second Big Milestone, For Me

For me, a similar change occurred. I had been consuming large amounts of sweet potatoes and grains (mostly oats) with little or no regular exercise from 2010-2011. In the second half of 2011, I substituted most of the sweet potatoes and grains with beans and lentils and began to exercise more regularly, first at the very modest rate of about 30 minutes a week, then up to 60-75. This lowered my LDL from 105 (IIRC) to 86 in under two months.

Since then, I have not been taking regular measurements. I think the last panel I did was somewhere in 2012 and I could dig up the results if you like.

Leaving The Safe Zone

Also, my dad experienced a rather busy month or two while having the house rebuilt in 2012. During this time he had temporarily suspended his exercise program. At his next test he discovered his total cholesterol had risen to about 150 mg/dl or something like that, with little or no change to LDL – it turned out his HDL had doubled. My dad and I found this very puzzling. I thought this counter-intuitive result might have been due to the statin medication.

[Update 2013-09-14: He has since had one or two more busy periods like this, each about a month long. At the end of each period, he always goes back to his regular exercise program three times a week.]

The Third Big Milestone: Emotional Stability, Empathy, Social Development

Finally, dad is as suspicious of meditation schemes and terrified of religion as he's always been, so no change there.

For me, however, I began experiencing epiphanies. I've always experienced epiphanies from time to time going as far back as I can remember, but the emotions and conviction seemed stronger. For instance, though I never really felt a strong yearning to eat vegetables in order to not harm animals, I began to identify emotionally with certain documentaries about the subject.

I think this may have been a gradual change, and it wasn't until a year or so after the dietary changes that I resolved to start listening to sutras and teachings from spiritual guides (e.g. Tibetan Lamas visiting the Bay in the Spring of 2011). Thus I began to explore spiritual paths with determination once more – something I had not done for over 10 years.

Then one day near the end of 2011, I discovered my [other relative X – identity protected] had also been doing the same, unbeknownst to me. In fact, I think X may have been already flexitarian (vegetarian whenever possible without making social obligations difficult) and already progressed far along a spiritual path by the time of my dad's heart attack. I remember X introducing to me the subject of alien civilizations at the hospital back then, so clearly X had been quite widely read by then and attempting to find the most likely way to introduce the subject of spiritual development to me outside of the more rigid forms of the established religions.

It has gotten quite late now, but this is where our paths likely intersect. In that sense, no further correspondence of the usual kind is necessary, since we're already of one mind and just don't know it. Perhaps further conventional communication will help our conscious minds to realize that this is in fact so, or perhaps not. Who knows what the ego cannot know!

[Update 2013-09-14: I have also begun reaching out to friends and reconnecting with people more. Recall that the medical research literature has identified several factors associated with a disease-free long life: good diet, good exercise, many friends, spiritual practice. I have begun to suspect that these correlates are not causal factors, but, along with the associated health benefits, these factors are themselves the effects of something else. In other words, you should not try to force them on yourself.

Instead, focus on their causal factors, and these behavioral changes become automatic.]

The Secret Of Success

I forgot to mention, my mum is also eating this way – I think she transitioned about 3-4 months after dad and I.  My wife and daughter still eat meat but have reduced the amount. I think they're 80-90% calories from plants now.

[Update 2013-09-14: Meat is addictive! I have observed my wife and daughter gradually increase calories from animal products until they're probably 60-80% calories from plants now, even though they don't believe anything has changed. This puts them back in the danger zone according to Campbell's estimates.

Mum has also become flexitarian due to a skin condition, though dad has always stayed true and continues like me. I've concluded that some people do better with small amounts of meat (particularly fish), within the range of 80-90% calories from plants, while others do better with 90-100% calories from plants. Animal products are calorically very dense, so that translates to a tiny piece of e.g. fish once a week. The reasons for my conclusion would constitute another long post. You won't really know which group you're in until you take quantitative measurements and adjust what you do from there.]

The Secret Of Failure

At several points since 2011 March, I became so enamoured with the material I've been reading that I began talking about and playing it (text-to-speech) so often that I hope I haven't become a stumbling block for my wife and daughter!  Nowadays they tire very quickly of that kind of talk/material, so I have had to cut back and go slow. That said, my wife is eons ahead of me in practical application. Her ego is so humble she absolutely denies it though.