Long ago as a university writing instructor I didn’t have the luxury–or the confidence–to draw pictures on the chalkboard to illustrate a point. Instead it would be key words or concepts from the required reading. What I never failed to marvel at, though, is how many times it was necessary to repeat these key words and concepts and their significance. In fact as time went on, I began to see teaching as simply repeating the most essential things necessary to writing and thinking and reading–over and over in slightly different ways so that as many individual students as possible might catch on, have their very own lightbulb moment. Instead of being aggravated by this, I was comforted by it. Repetition didn’t mean failure; it was occasion for discovery.
When I received the following comment pending my approval a while back, at first I was exasperated and then stymied about how to respond:
“Honey, if you’re going to continue to live in any kind of good health, you seriously need to add some (or a lot) of healthy oils to your diet! You scare me! Your brain, for one, is made mostly of fat. Did you know that? It needs nutrition too. Coconut oil, minimally, camelina or hemp.
The diseases you’re living with could be so much smaller………..
PS: I’ve only come across a couple of your recipes and when I add an organic healthy oil, they really come to life!”
I admit to being exasperated, then annoyed (in particular by being addressed as “Honey”–although I choose to believe this person meant well enough). I decided to sit on it for a few days, and then my computer had to be spirited away to the computer hospital for several days for some TLC. So some time went by. Some perspective was gained. Enough for me to realize the following truism applied to me: once a teacher, always a teacher, even without a conventional classroom full of students. And that this was a teaching moment, if I chose it: a simple chance to remind this reader, and all readers, of the purpose of this blog.
Full disclosure: the reason this comment threw me for such a loop is that it literally is the first one of its kind I’ve received since I was invited to write this blog nearly two years ago. I’ve been blessed with the most supportive and articulate of readers who choose to leave comments. So why showcase this one in its very own post? There’s certainly no need to preach to the amazing choir of regular readers and commenters I am blessed with. But there may be others out there, searching, wondering, touching down, and not quite realizing where they have landed. So for all those potential readers, and the one who did post such a comment, here is the answer I drafted:
“The purpose of my blog is to share and reflect on how an oil free low fat whole food plant based diet has changed my health and my life for the better in amazing ways. Before I began eating this way, I ate as you suggest and did not see any improvement, only decline. Once I started eating this way my health has improved to the point that I was asked to share my experience and recipes from the last several years here on the Fat Free Vegan site. I have been able to do that and much much more, as careful reading of my blog entries will show. I am committed to this way of eating and the science that supports it. I hope you can respect that this is not the place to insist that I or anyone else add oil to their diet in order to be healthy. I won’t be approving any more comments that insist on dietary recommendations that undermine the purpose of my blog.”
This blog and this post were not created to debate the pros and cons of oil versus no oil, or to argue why one is better than the other, or even to defend my choice to eat plant-based whole food that is as free from oil, salt and sugar as I can manage. I’m not interested in arguing about any of that. But I am passionate about sharing with you my insights and reflections on how eating this way HAS changed my health and my life, along with some recipes to try out for those interested in following a similar path to health. For those of you who may be new to my blog, there are many posts describing the contrasts in my well being between the time in my life I ate food made with “healthy oil” and after I switched to eating food made with “no oil,” if that’s how anyone wants to frame it. Here are a few of my favorites: “Return to Elk Creek,” “The Spirit of Thanksgiving Past,” “Interdependence Days,” “Zen Chores,” “Better Than It Was,” “Walking into the Future,” “The Temple of My Daily Life,” “The Envelope Please,” “Plein Air Dreamin’ Come True,” “I Want to Live,” and “The Toaster Oven.”You can find these and many more I’m not thinking of at the moment under the categories “Little Victories Over Multiple Sclerosis,” and “Plant-Based Lifestyle Epiphanies.” And of course you can find the recipes that have allowed me these triumphant experiences.
My simple chalk drawing of the nearly empty bottle of garlic granules is a reminder to me of how complex something that looks empty actually is. Often, such objects or experiences are not empty at all; they’re just filled with memories or beliefs or experiences that aren’t readily visible to those unfamiliar with them. So perhaps to those who find they benefit from oil in their diets my eating plan looks empty of what’s necessary for good health. They may wish to follow other blogs, other doctors, other lines of science. But for me, this eating plan is “more than enough.” I know in my heart and my body that I would no more be drawing a bottle and photographing it for my blog than I would be able to fly on a carpet if I hadn’t changed my diet to be low fat, plant based and virtually oil free. Let alone do the work it took to rezone my old house to sell it with integrity, and buy the one I’m now writing to you from.
Another important subset of my purpose is that I have chosen not to take any medications for the MS or the fibromyalgia or any other chronic ailment. This wasn’t a knee-jerk or uninformed choice, and so far it is the right one for me. Anything’s possible, but I doubt I’ll change that course at this point. So it isn’t the purpose of this blog to comment on medication, or to debate whether using medication is better than not doing so. My choice is not to, and I’m not qualified to give advice about it as far as anyone else is concerned, and I’d appreciate it if those who are enthused about a medication that’s working for them would refrain from suggesting I try it too.
Perhaps because of the serious health issues I’m living so well with, maybe it’s assumed I write this blog hoping others will follow the same path I’m on. I love it when others are moved and inspired and encouraged by my words, or my experiences remind them of their own, but I think such change is a decision each person has to make on his or her own. I just started reading a book I know I’ll have a hard time putting down titled “A Wolf Called Romeo.” It begins with a breathtaking non-aggressive “social” encounter between the author and his wife, their yellow lab, and a huge black wolf on an ice covered lake near Juneau Alaska. The reason I bring it up is that although our purposes are completely different, at the end of that initial encounter with the wolf the author, Nick Jans, writes some words that also pretty much sum up one of the essential reasons I write my blog:
“It’s a story of our time on this shrinking world I need to tell–most of all, to myself. Late at night, it fills the spaces between heartbeats, nudges me awake. By speaking, I hope not to be rid of it, nor even to understand, but just to set down all the facts, the musings, and unanswered questions as best I can. Years from now, at least I’ll know that I did more than dream. . .”
My sweet departed neighbor once said in response to how I eat: “You’re a fighter.” I didn’t think I was. But maybe I am; not in the way of arguing my case, but in the way of illustrating and documenting for you how I walk my talk. If you are here for the first time, and you want me to debate the path I’ve chosen, you won’t find that here. It isn’t my purpose, or my passion. Instead, you’ll find plenty of reflection and memoir. It is my passion to render how this way of eating, in Doug Lisle’s words, “seems to work for me.” It’s seeming limitations have set me more free than I’ve ever been.
I’m sorry if it alarms those who believe otherwise, but there’s not much I can or want to do about that. Instead I’ll leave the defense of the sound science that supports this way of eating to experts like Dr. Campbell, Dr. McDougall, Dr. Esselstyn, Jeff Novick, Dr. Fuhrman, Dr. Neal Barnard, Dr. Greger and many others. (There is some mention of them and what standards I follow in posts such as “Reading My Way to Straight Up Food,” A Slice From Whole,” and “How Much Is an Ounce?”) But most of the time you’ll get stories, art, poems and recipes about what living a low fat whole foods plant based life can yield by sticking with it–from my admittedly personal perspective. My passion is to strive to raise personal testimonial to the level of art, literature and delicious food–made possible by low fat plant based whole foods eating. If it’s debate or recipes using oil you’re looking for, I’m sure there’s many other places on the internet to find both of those in abundance.