Two items to get out of the way before moving on to the cruise report:
First, a big thanks to The Older Brother for taking over the Fat Head chair while I was gone. Today happens to be his 59th birthday, so wish him a good one and 50 more.
I recall a conversation we had a few years ago as our dad was fading from Alzheimer’s. The Older Brother pointed out that our great-grandfather (who lived to be 101) was sharp until around age 98. Our grandmother began fading mentally in her 80s, and in retrospect it was clear Dad began fading in his 60s. Noting the pattern, The Older Brother said (to paraphrase in polite terms), “We’re screwed.”
I disagreed and pointed out that researchers were beginning to describe Alzheimer’s as type III diabetes. The reason each succeeding generation in our family succumbed at an earlier age was that each generation began eating a crap diet at an earlier age — thanks to arterycloggingsaturatedfat! hysteria and hearthealthywholegrains! nonsense. This isn’t some biological destiny we can’t escape, I said. We just have to ditch the processed carbs and industrial oils and get back to eating real food. Then we’ll be the next generation to be full of lucid and smart-ass comments well into our 90s.
The Older Brother is now a year away from age 60 and isn’t showing any signs of losing his memory. (When he does, I’ll tell him he owes me money.) I like to think our conversation about Alzheimer’s is part of what turned him into the dedicated real-foodie he is now. After all, I owe him for turning me into a libertarian by shredding me in an impromptu economics debate back when I was a wishy-washy “moderate” about such things.
Second, I apologize for the delay in crawling back into the Fat Head chair myself. I came home from the cruise happy but exhausted. As usual, I stayed up waaaay too late the last couple of nights, getting in those last conversations with cruise buddies I won’t see again for a year.
To add insult to injury, whenever I have to catch a flight or leave a cruise ship early in the morning, my brain likes to pop awake at a ridiculously early hour. So I flew home on Sunday after sleeping maybe two hours. Perhaps because of the exhaustion, I came down with some kind of head cold/ear infection annoyance a couple of days later. When Thursday rolled around, I was running a fever and didn’t much feel like writing a post.
Here’s the difference a good diet makes: ear infections used to knock me flat for a week. Thursday I felt lousy and had a high fever. By Sunday I felt well enough to spend four hours pushing the mower up and down the big hill in our back pasture … then go play 18 holes of disc golf.
Anyway, on to the cruise report …
I’ll start with the most surprising news of the week: Jimmy Moore and I won the cruise-ship karaoke contest with our rendition of “Elvira.” We didn’t set out to enter the competition, but when we wandered into the karaoke club on Wednesday night, we learned it was the first of two qualifying competitions. Well, what the heck, since we wanted to sing anyway, we signed up. Applause from the crowd was the major factor in the qualifying rounds, which gave us an advantage … although some of our fellow low-carb cruisers were ticked off by the loud cheers that greeted two Brazilian girls in tight dresses.
I can’t believe you two are going to get beat out of the finals by a couple of dresses!
Uh, look, I replied, you’re taking this way more seriously than I am. It’s just for fun. The winners don’t move on to American Idol or anything.
But the low-carb crowd managed to out-whoop and out-clap the fans of tight Brazilian dresses, so Jimmy and I made it into the Saturday night finals. The emcee announced that applause would only count as 20% of the score for the finals. I have my doubts. Truth is, everyone in the finals could sing. An objective listener could have voted for any of us. So I think applause figured for more than 20%.
Two of the singers (Brazilians, but not in tight dresses) had large groups of partisans in attendance, but I’d say at least of the third of the crowd consisted of low-carb cruisers. When it was time for vote-by-applause and the emcee held his hand over Jimmy and me, the noise was deafening. I told Jimmy I felt like we’d just won an election in Chicago, complete with ballot-box stuffing. But of course, I happily wore the shiny first-place medallion afterwards. It was a great way to end a great week.
There were three seminar days for our group, with so many good presentations, I won’t bother trying to describe them all. That would require a book-length post. Dr. Andreas Eenfeldt posted the seminar schedule on his blog awhile back, so I’ll just link to it rather than type the lineup again.
On last year’s cruise, Dr. Eric Westman announced that he would soon be opening his first HEAL Clinic – a center dedicated to treating diabetics with diet instead of drugs as much as possible. (Imagine that.) This year he was able to announce that the center is up and running. His long-term goal is to open them all over the country.
Low-carb author Dana Carpender wrote the official cookbook for the HEAL Clinic diet. After all, once people leave the clinic, they have to put what they’ve learned into practice in their own kitchens. The recipes – hundreds of them – are mostly of the quick-and-easy variety. If you like low-carb cookbooks, this is another good one to have. If you’re not on a ketogenic or VLC diet, do what I do: cook up one the recipes and add a potato as a side dish.
In Dr. Ted Naiman’s presentation about hyperinsulinemia, we learned why Dr. Westman’s approach is so necessary. Going through a series of studies at breakneck speed (the guy is a fast talker), Dr. Naiman made the case that high doses of insulin are as damaging as high blood sugar. If you’re a type I diabetic and need to squirt a normal dose of insulin into your bloodstream to absorb nutrients, fine. You have no choice. But doctors are treating type II diabetics with ever-higher doses of insulin – several times the dose produced by a person with a healthy metabolism.
The sky-high load of insulin thickens arteries, encourages the growth of tumors, triggers weight gain, and pretty much makes a mess of the whole body. So when I hear diabetes (ahem) “experts” insisting that type II diabetics should eat their carbs and then “cover” with insulin, I want to scream. Or punch somebody really, really hard.
One of the memorable presentations came from one of our own – Ailsa Marshall, a member of the team that organizes the cruise every year. She apologized a couple of times for not being a professional speaker (after, say, pushing the wrong button on the PowerPoint remote), but not being a professional was part of her charm. She was up there as just another person battling both diabetes and the effects of bad medical advice.
As she explained, she had tried following her own doctor’s advice, but her blood sugar kept spinning out of control, despite the insulin and other drugs. It was on last year’s cruise, in fact, that she finally asked Dr. Westman if he could help. (A bit tricky logistically, since Ailsa lives in the U.K. and Westman is at Duke in North Carolina.) Dr. Westman said he could indeed help, but under one condition: she had to be 100% on board. No half-measures, no cheating. She agreed.
A year later, she’s off the insulin and her blood sugar is finally under control. Oh, and she’s also lost 40 pounds. I almost didn’t recognize her at the pre-cruise dinner, even though I’ve known her for a few years now.
As I put it in the title of a long-ago post, This Is Why We Do What We Do. Ailsa’s story needs to become the common story for type II diabetics, not the story of one woman lucky enough to be treated by Dr. Westman instead of some drug-pushing doctor.
As if anyone needed more convincing, Jackie Eberstein (the long-time nurse for Dr. Atkins) gave an interesting/frightening presentation on the side effects of the most commonly prescribed drugs. Nearly all of them create vitamin or mineral deficiencies, yet few doctors know enough to tell patients which supplements to take. Then, of course, the drugs prescribed by different specialists treating the same patient start producing negative interactions. Then another doctor may prescribe more drugs to treat the problems caused by the drug interactions.
Geez, it’s enough to make you want to stay healthy by eating real food.
Real food was, in fact, one of the most common themes throughout the presentations. In his amusing talk about what low-carbers and paleo types think of each other, Jimmy Moore said many paleo adherents see low-carbers as a bunch of fat people swilling Diet Cokes and other treats full of artificial sweeteners. (Low-carbers, meanwhile, see paleo types as born jocks who gobble down treats made with honey and maple syrup and get away with it because they’re born jocks.)
Some years ago, that stereotype of low-carbers may have been true. It certainly isn’t now, at least not from what I’ve seen. Thanks largely to the paleo movement (which Jimmy acknowledged), the low-carb movement has become a real-food movement. Every doctor and researcher who gave a presentation on the advantages of a low-carb diet emphasized that the diet has to be based on real foods.
In a speech about the supposed dangers of ketogenic diets, Dr. Adam Nally pointed out that when people wave around studies of, say, kids who experienced health problems after going on a ketogenic diet to treat epilepsy, they don’t mention that the kids were largely living on ketogenic shakes, not real food. The health problems were caused by nutrient deficiencies nearly everyone who tries living on meal-replacement shakes will experience.
Anyone who thinks a low-carb diet is all about bacon and cheeseburgers without buns should join us for our leisurely cruise dinners. Yes, we ate steaks and lobsters and racks of lamb. We also ate a ton of vegetables. The waiters for our area (who were excellent) figured out our habits right away and took it upon themselves to bring huge serving trays of extra steamed vegetables to the tables – with butter, of course.
I took a camera on board, but as often happens when I’m not with Chareva and the girls, I forgot to use it much. But here are some of my dinner companions for the week. (There were more people at our table, but not when I was snapping pictures.)
Steve and Mariane Cunningham from Alberta.
Jeane Kelly (left) from New Jersey and Lisa Colclasure from Colorado.
Yours truly and Gerd Birgit Hay from Norway.
I sure hope I said something funny just before the picture was snapped. If not, Gerd may have been laughing at me for undisclosed reasons.
The seminars took place on sea-travel days. On port days, most people leave the ship for excursions. I chose not to go on any excursions. Back in my standup days, I was on Caribbean cruises more times than I care to remember. Beaches, beach bars, and souvenir shops have kind of lost their appeal. So I did some reading, watched tutorials on software I want to learn, and walked around the ship while sipping coffee. Here’s what the fifth-deck promenade looks like:
The eighth deck is called Central Park. There are shops, restaurants and an outdoor tavern along the walking paths. I thought for the sake of realism, the crew should stage an occasional mugging late at night, but no, it’s safe even at 1:00 AM. Nobody tried to steal my wallet as I sat there one night drinking red wine and staring at the stars.
I also took some time to re-work the blog a bit, in case you hadn’t noticed. I removed dead links, reduced the blogroll to people who are still blogging, dumped the No-Bologna Facts and Meet The Experts pages, and added a page for articles and studies. I plan to keep updating that one.
This year’s cruise took place during finals week for the girls, which is why they and Chareva stayed home. I missed them. It’s not the same being on a cruise without them. I borrowed Jimmy’s iPhone a couple of times so I could talk to them via Facetime and see their faces. (And when I got home, I finally caved and bought an iPhone.)
But next year … ohhhh, yeah! In case you didn’t already know:
I booked the four of us for next year before leaving the ship. No way I’m letting my wife and girls miss a week in Alaska. I did two weeks in Alaska during my standup days. In fact, I wrote the script for Fat Head during that cruise. (My standup workweek consisted of two shows, so I had plenty of downtime.)
For my presentation this year, I read portions of the book for kids, with Chareva’s cartoons on the screens. I already told Jimmy I’m going to have the film version ready to show in Alaska, no matter what it takes. Perhaps it will be the premiere.
Meanwhile, I saw in the cruise Facebook group that more than 150 people have already signed up. So if you’re planning to join the group in Alaska, best get on it sooner rather than later.
Hope to meet many of you there — or see you again, as the case may be.
Thanks for putting together another terrific cruise and seminar lineup, Big Guy … and for singing “Elvira” with me, of course.
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