Life on a Flat Earth

My dad’s scientific expertise lies in the area of dairy chemistry. He knows, on the cellular level, how milk is made, and what happens to it as it travels the food chain and the cow and calfdigestive tract. Fifty years ago, he said margarine was a bad idea. Nobody really understood what happened digestively to superheated fats, said he, whereas mother’s milk was the sine qua non of thriving infancy across many species. He stuck to butter, while the rest of the world sanctimoniously switched to margarine.

His position was laughed off as a dairyman advocating for his product of choice, but he had science to back it up. Come to find out–decades later–most margarines widely marketed in the 60s wer really bad news for your health. FDA was wrong, Dad (still kickin’ at 93) was right.

joggerMy sister Gail is a Type One diabetic who takes her diagnosis very seriously. For years, she told her top flight, international expert endocrinologist that she needed less insulin in the summer. He told her it was because she exercised more, but no. Gail rotates along the same menu of exercises throughout the year, for the same number of days a week.

Kids-tree-houseWell, it must be that she exercises harder in the summer? No, again. Gail tracks her blood sugar carefully, and she’s no lower after a summer workout than a winter workout. Well, then it’s just in her head, an anecdotal impression… Turns out, Vitamin D, which we make a lot more of in summer, is critical to insulin metabolism. Other diabetics confirmed Gail’s observation, and said their docs blew them off too.

Gail was right–most diabetics needs less insulin when they get more sunshine. The expert was wrong

irregularsurfacesTwenty years ago, I said that a lot of ADHD was because children are not designed to sit in classrooms all day from the age of five, and unstructured time outside is a sure cure for the fidgets. The social workers and therapists laughed at me, and told me not everybody was raised on a farm. Turns out, every hour kids with ADHD spend outside reduces their medication requirement by a measurable amount. I was right, the mental health people were wrong.

Galileo was right, Darwin was right, and sometimes, you’re right too. When were you or somebody you know years ahead of the accepted wisdom, or what accepted wisdom do you reject now, whether anybody agrees with you or not?

To one commenter, I’ll send a $50 Amazon gift card.


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47 comments on “Life on a Flat Earth

  1. I became a vegan seven years ago at age 39 because I saw the unhealthy conditions of the older people in my family and wanted to have a longer better quality of life than they do. High blood pressure meds for life at age 40 was the big one. I am now 46 and have better than normal blood pressure and am on NO prescription medications whatsoever. Going vegan also vastly improved my sleep–I sleep through the night–and my digestion–I have not had a single stomachache since going vegan; something I suffered from several times a week since childhood. I am healthier than anyone in my family and even family & friends my own age and younger. I am grateful I took this step in my life and I have never looked back.

    • If I’m not mistaken, the longevity stats are best for vegans, almost as good for vegetarians, and worst for omnivores. Some of that could be simply because vegans and veggies are more likely to eat clean food, and to watch their diets, also to avoid obesity. Whatever the reason, many would applaud your choice.

  2. I don’t know if it’s been proven, but I have always thought that all this antibacterial stuff was not a good thing. I know so many families where they live in a very “clean” home and spend more time being sick than most people. I am of the opinion that a few germs won’t hurt you. It’s hard to get my boys to wash their hands all the time and none of us are too keen on hand sanitizer. I won’t touch the stuff unless absolutely necessary. Of the four boys, the three with autism are the healthiest, especially the twins. And while my typical child is sick a lot, it’s mostly all asthma related.
    As I said it’s just my observation and not one that has been proven. One of my husband’s favorite things to say when the boys were just crawling or starting to walk and they would pick something off the floor and put it in their mouth was “Ah, it’s good for the immune system.” And who knows, maybe it was.

    • The kids least likely to develop asthma and allergies are kids raised on farms. Of course, they too are likely to have a clean diet, gets lot of outside time, and otherwise enjoy good health.

      I’m with you, though. The cavemen didn’t wash their paws, and cleanliness was considered vain for much of the middles ages (in some circles, while the nobility bathed in luxury).

  3. I know that all these antibacterial things are not good for us! Of course, science is coming to agree with this too

  4. What a wonderful post, very thought provoking. I can’t think of anything similar, but I know there have been instances in my life when something was all the rage and then the experts found out it wasn’t good for you, or had no effect whatsoever. 😀

    • Smoking was once advertised as healthful way to relax… Nicotine boosts mood and energy levels, so there was credibility to that claim, and in a time when tuberculosis was widespread, it was probably hard to exactly correlate smoking with lung ailments.

      But how can you not notice the stink?!

  5. While I can’t think of any time I’ve been ahead of the times/current belief, I do hope I’m ahead in one area. I’m hoping to see our education system return to more practical matters. We’re so intent on forcing every kid to fit a mold of college preparedness that we’re forgetting the jobs that make the world go round. Not ever job in our world needs college education. The lack of skilled labor in the United States is a growing problem.

    I’m so busy helping my students (even the ones with the more severe disabilities) take classes are necessary for college (despite the fact they should never set foot in a college classroom) that I’m neglecting making sure they have skills that will help them in the workforce. But, you know, I’m crazy. The Governor of the Great State of Tennessee is right. We need to pushing to make 55% of our populace college graduates. You know, the kind that can’t find jobs in a bad economy, but by grab, they have a college education.

    Yeah, I better get off the soap box before I get so agitated I fall off of it.

    • Most of Europe would join on you that soapbox, Sabrina. The kids go to school for fewer hours six days a week, and the afternoon are supposed to be spent preparing for a trade, an artistic or athletic career, or earning money in some apprentice capacity. The down side is you pretty much cast your professional dice by mid-adolescence. The upside, the trades are respected and well compensated.

      I could rant with you about how people are lured into law school by purposely skewed earnings and job placement statistics. A quarter of a million $$$ in loans later, no job, and no way to pay off the loans unless living with Mom and Dad for fifteen years while waiting tables is an option. (Though some people say it couldn’t happen to a more deserving profession.)

  6. My aunt had her baby during the height of the SARS epidemic and as a result they became too overprotective. Other family members would tell them you need to be less restrictive and try different foods. The family was right because it seems the child’s immune system can’t handle much. She’s frequently sick and of course is a picky eater.

    • Time might take care of the immune sensitivity, especially if she’s not in day care. What used to be the sickly kindergarten year is now a sickly year in preschool. But that picky eater thing… My daughter used to mono-feed: For six weeks, she’s only eat hot dogs and mac and cheese. Then, boom, no more of that, she’d only eat granola and yogurt, or peanut butter and celery.

      Fortunately, the pediatrician said not to make an issue out of food. Give a vitamin and don’t worry about it, said he, and she enjoy excellent physical health now.

  7. Quite frankly I don’t believe in what most the “experts” have to say. Medicine is now a for-profit endeavor. I remember the doctor telling me my 2 yr. old had to switch to 2% milk. She was always on the small side and I saw no reason to switch. He also tested for cholesterol at that age. Tests for tests sake or to be sure they aren’t sued. Now I don’t even believe in drinking what they call milk. And don’t get me started on GMO’s. Our food is no longer food. I have a whole list of reasons why I don’t believe in most doctors. I’ll see one now for emergencies only. I think a lot of medicines do more harm than good. And processed foods are horrible. But like many others I am guilty of going for the easy and cheaper ways to cook. I too switched to margarine and should have stayed with the olive oil that I grew up with. Your dad was right!

    • The margarines now are much safer, Catslady. They aren’t chock full of trans fats, and many have a good quantity of olive oil on them.

      I could sing it with you when it comes to certain drugs, starting with Lipitor, which can do a real number on your memory, for starters.

  8. When will Worth be available in book format? (I hope you will continue printing books, since I’m not a fan of e-books.)

    • Pamela, I’m a print reader too, so as along as Print on Demand options are available, the books will all be out in print. Some readers aren’t happy with the size of the print books (trade as opposed to mass market), but the closer you get to mass market, the higher the price (and nobody will let you exactly replicate the mass market size yet).

      I expect old Worth will be downloading by the end of next week, or the week after at the latest. I’m trying to avoid the first Tuesday of the month week, because that’s the traditional monthly publication day, and people will have more new choices that day than any other day of the month. But as soon as he’s ready, on sale he will go.

  9. You betcha! I never gave up on Butter! My kids were raised on it along with lemonade, whole milk. I always buy Fresh Veggies from small growers when I can…My kids were raised in a small neighborhood in a small town and they were “outdoor kids” as my neighbors used to call it. They ran and played in the dead end street, rode those Big Wheels and bicycles. Played hide and seek out side until dark. Played in the dirt and made mud pies. Had dogs and cats (that slept in the house, but also were the indoor/outdoor kind of pets) The same way I was myself growing up. Never any Allergies. Then Daughter got married, the husband got allergies – Wham, the house got super clean – she now has all kinds of allergies and so does my grandson.. I grew up with mom feeding me Cod Live oil all winter – I was rarely sick. I also grew up on the Shore, and our staple was FISH…Kids are not allowed to be kids anymore – School (programs) are a sham – advancing instead of learning – politically correct instead of real and everyone has to win -no one learns to lose.. Character has been left behind. Disipline is a dirty word. Not everyone is meant to be a college graduate, we need plumbers, electricians and mechanics. OOPS! SoapBox, Sorry…. Very thought Provoking and I am waiting for WORTH!

    • You and Sabrina should hold a pep rally. I’m really glad I got to go to college, but my dad was a college professor, so it was cheap for all seven of his kids to go. That’s part of the reason he didn’t jump to industry–the university had a tuition discount for faculty dependents.

      That said, what supported me all through college was the ability to play the piano, which I did not learn in a traditional classroom, and certainly had well in hand before college. Then I got jobs as a document production coordinator (still no use for those college degrees), and finally, I got into law school (for which an undergrad degree was necessary). Took me ten years to pay off the loans…

      I do wonder if I shouldn’t have apprenticed to a florist. I wonder that a lot.

  10. Boy, you would think I’d be able to come up with something??? I know I’ve said “I told you so!” a time or two in my life.

  11. I can’t really say I told you so on anything yet.

    I did switch back to butter before the scientists said to, but mostly because it was more natural. Our bodies haven’t evolved enough to be able to deal with all the artificial additives in our food. What other long term problems might show up?

    I believe that kids need to have free time both physical and mental or they can never really learn to live life and be happy. We need to teach kids the basics and teach them how to learn — not just Google search – but to learn. To observe, acquire, and analyse data so they can come to their own conclusions not just parrot back what they are told.

    And AMEN to Sabrina’s comments about the total focus on college in schools today. Not only do we need more vocational focus for the kids who are not interested in or quite honestly put together in the ‘college student’ manner, but there are also many jobs that do not require a college education and with the cost of colleges today attendance would likely be a waste of money and time.

    OK time for me to stop….

    • I think college serves a function we haven’t accommodated in other regards in our society. It’s a halfway house to adulthood. You’re not living at home, you’re not entirely independent. This can be a good time to make mistakes without having them cost you everything, but the downside of that is college campuses are notoriously lax about enforcing the law when real crimes occur.

      Bet we could all riff on that one. In some societies, the college years are when you’d go help your uncle on his farm, you’d travel the world, or otherwise get some breathing room for the transition from late adolescence to adulthood.

      We’re short on rituals, rites of passage, and homogeneous social structure, and college, for some, serves that need.

  12. I think common sense has gone out the window in favor of listening to whatever people hear on TV or social media (regardless of whether or not the person talking has any actual knowledge of the topic) and taking it as the God’s honest truth. Now we have kids dying of vaccine-preventable diseases because vaccines are “bad”, medicating kids into oblivion because they are annoying (back in the day our teachers would just send hyper little kids–mainly boys–to run the length of the school playground to burn off a bit of energy), and using drugs to “maintain” diseases that people cause themselves due to lack of exercising and eating crap food. Great post and great reminder that we all need to take a bit more responsibility for ourselves.

    • We teach children to listen to their uh-oh feeling when it comes to good touches and bad touches, but we don’t give ourselves the same permission when a doc says we MUST take the medication, or a parent tells us what we MUST do with our money.

      When isn’t it a good idea to look before you leap?

  13. Obligatory subject: I’ve always said that “Modern medicine” is still hack medicine. Most of it is still invasive, and still guess work. You go to the doctor, he THINKs you have the flu, tells you to do what your grandma already told you, and charges you $100 so your workplace has a note from him so they know you are actually sick, not off playing golf. But I digress. Medicine has improved immensley, no doubt there. I’m just saying the focus is more on the dollar than true health, so some of the techniques in use are still there cause ‘it aint broke” and yet they could be better.

    Along lines previously mentioned on other soapboxes, I recall old family practitioner Dr. Mahaffey told mom repeatedly that her allergies would be better if she ate local grown vegetables, local milk products (a little off on the milk–she’s lactose intolerant).

    Now American media finally are mumbling about independent farmers==one of the most underpaid & under appreciated workers given his role in the ‘civilized’ world life cycle == is important to city dwellers staying fed and an “endangered species”, and now actually allergy increase occuring because that large amounts of imported foods in ones daily diet inhibit immunization of local wee beasties. Imagine that, Dr. Mahaffey.

    Of course the more paranoid sibling goes on about mass food sources create weak links for terrorists–that one will be true also. Think about your local feral cat–he already knows the importance of long term locally accessible food sources…and that you cant trust anybody else when it comes to your perosnal safety. Which proves you can learn from almost anybody.

    Hope all had a safe & happy Easter.

    • The wisdom of local is supported by science when it comes to allergies. I’ve also heard local honey in particular will help with them. Then too, local produce isn’t bred for long shelf life and hard transport conditions… though I do so love those clementines in January.

  14. Thank you, Grace, I feel as if you dedicated this post to me! Anyone called A. W. – Aunt Weird – by her nieces and nephews has been ahead of the curve on a number of things. I became interested in health and wellness several years ago as a Jazzercise instructor. While I no longer teach, that led to my becoming a massage therapist and then to practicing energy therapy (working with the human energy field) and aromatherapy. I loved it when Dr. Oz said on a show that energy therapy was the future of medicine!

    Congratulations to you and your family for having the courage (and common sense!) of your convictions. While I’ve studied food and nutrition for years, I think it can be pared down to two simple rules: 1) If it doesn’t go bad in a week, don’t eat it. i.e. if an item is packaged, boxed, canned, processed, etc. it’s not going to be living, healthy food and 2) If it has an ingredient label, don’t eat it.

    • Dean Ornish is doing the happy dance over in the corner. Now why, when there’s so much bad news out there, and he can CURE heart disease in a year flat with diet and exercise alone, isn’t that Big News?

      • My only argument with Ornish is he’s a zero fat guy. Healthy, i.e. raw fat as fat changes its molecular structure when heated above 104 degrees, is very necessary for health. America started getting fat when it began eating No Fat and Low Fat in the ’80s. Long live Lurpak butter (not pasteurized and delicious!).

  15. I think that my eventual diagnosis for RA by an excellent rheumatologist was partially because he asked questions, listened to me, and believed what I told him about my symptoms even though the RA factor blood test was negative. Even over 13 years since my diagnosis I barely register a positive reaction on that test.I also know that once I had my tonsils removed over three years ago I’ve seldom suffered a sinus infection even though the ENT doctor told me it wouldn’t matter, it did. Grace I remember living in southern Minnesota back in the early ’60’s when margarine was white, not yellow. It came with a little packet of dye that you had to mix in yourself if you wanted it colored, my mother just tossed that packet in the trash because it didn’t blend up completely.

    • And certain little boys, when told to color the margarine, would get out the blue food coloring… But margarine in MINNESOTA?! That’s blasphemy!

      My thyroid disease is like your RA. The usual test shows nothing. The test of thyroid antibodies is off the chart, but soooooo many doctors ignore the symptoms and worship the lab report.

  16. I once knew a lady named Robin. She was a hippie in the original sixties sense and I grew up with my mother taking me to visit her home in Encinitas,Ca. It was this beautiful hand built mansion surrounded by a forest like garden, with hidden rooms and trap doors and a glass indoor kitchen that had floor to ceiling windows and little shelves holding different colored glass bottles. I remember that walking through it as a child seemed like wandering through a fairyland. Anyway,back on track . .. Robin was militantly against refined sugar,said it was the main problem with the health of most Americans and never kept anything stronger than honey in her home. I vividly remember my young sugar loving brain thinking: This woman is insane.
    After a tragedy in my family (an uncle who died of Diabetes) and a trip to Europe I got to visit Robin again, who is now in her seventies and aside from silvery grey hair the woman doesn’t look a day over 45. I would normally chalk this up to good genetics . . . if it weren’t for my recent trip to Europe I lost ten lbs in three weeks not eating sugar, it also turns out that 80 percent of american processed foods are banned in Europe due to containing chemicals known to cause cancer. SooO, I have a natural distrust of the FDA in general.
    On another note for years I have been telling my friends not to trust everything their doctors say, especially because I am training to be a midwife. I my self have tried to impress that a due date for birth is a “guess” date and that not all women are alike. IE if all of our periods are different why would every woman give birth on the exact same day? I just doesn’t make sense any who at the end of last year the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, narrowed the dates fore full term birth citing there was no difference in the healthy outcomes of babies born a week earlier. So basically just because they wanted to. O.o one day mark my words, women will be protesting the strain of forced c-sections on their bodies and the effect it has on children born too early. That is just my opinion . . .

    • I also forgot to note that the average person does not agree with me about the birth date, when I meet a pregnant woman and talk to her about it . . . I especially get weird sideways glances. It’s something like telling a ten year old that sugar is bad, even if they don’t believe you now maybe someday they will and that is worth something.

    • I was in the hospital to give birth the week after SuperBowl Sunday in a baby farm hospital (5000 births a year). There were no babies born on Superbowl Sunday, but there were a ton of C-sections the three days before.

      If men gave birth…

      Quick, somebody order us more soapboxes!

    • Doesn’t it though? But who has a back yard they can turn the kids loose in by the hour? I lived in a fairly rural situation. I could ramble the woods, go down to the stream, up to the back pasture, climb any number of trees… but that’s a paradise many children will never know, and if they did, it would no longer be considered safe for them to explore.

  17. When I watched The King’s Speech, one of the scenes that struck me was when the doctors suggested King George VI to start smoking to overcome his speech impediment. And of course he followed their advise billowing smoke one cigarette or two at a time. Need we guess where that led him?

    So-called experts have been wrong many times but because we thought they know better than us, we don’t question their decision and follow suit. Thank heavens for the breakthrough in modern science, we are learning more though its still far from perfect.

    “Common Sense” is like a friend that’s always there but oftentimes taken for granted because of the presence of other “factual researches”. Like many among us maybe I should listen more closely to my dearest friend.

    • One of the areas I’d like to see children better educated is simple rational thought. Among authors, there’s a debate about whether piracy hurts sales or helps them. Neil Gaiman, a very talented author, noticed that as piracy of his books increased (in Russia), so did his sales.

      He and many other concluded that piracy boosted his sales. In the back of my mind, I hear my sixth grade science teacher moaning, “After does not mean because of!” Overweight people drink more diet soda.. does that diet soda make them fat? Old people sleep more, does the sleep age them? ARGH.

      We don’t seem to hang onto basic analytical competence when we need it most.

  18. I fondly remember Mom’s flakey pie crusts made with lard. Just like butter, lard became a no no. Enter Crisco, so much “better” for you! Yet another thing to add to the list of a more natural product better (relatively speaking!) than super processed.

  19. I tend to get throat infections a lot, I have since I was a kid. I never had my tonsils out and everyone says that I should get them out even though I am almost 40 and they say that I need to clean my house with bleach. What? Anyway, I just deal with Strep and I take my medicine. My doctor says I just happen to be a carrier, there is nothing I can do different and cleaning my house with bleach isn’t going to stop it!!! People and their suggestions…….

    • My brother John had chronic strep, and after many courses of many antibiotics, he got hit with another bout in the summer. My mom the registered nurse called the doc and told him she wasn’t bringing the kid in, she would give him a chance to fight it off himself. It took three miserable weeks (for John), while every other kid in the house was re-exposed to the active virus for days on end.

      With a ton of comfort nursing, he fought it off, and hasn’t had a strep throat since (nearly sixty years). No, I do not advocate this approach for everybody, but it was certainly contrary to conventional wisdom.

  20. 100% juice is not bad. Yes, water is a necessary part of our diet and many of us don’t drink enough water but please stop lumping real juice in with “sugary” drinks. Its not what has caused or perpetuated the obesity epidemic. Also, anti -carbs anti-gluten is as ridiculous as the fatfree diet of the 90’s. Gluten allergies aside.Whole wheat/whole grains have enormous nutritional value. It may take 15 years but these fads too shall pass.

  21. Grace,
    When I was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes I started taking a medication Glucophage – I took it religiously. Then the generic was available and it never worked for me like Glucophage (the brand name). For 2 years I experimented with both – really strict notes and tested my blood sugar and kept a consistent diet and exercise… my doctor (which I love) told me time and time again that the generic is the same… I totally don’t believe it… at least not for me its not. I need less Glucophage than Metformim… by all means… I just can’t afford it right now… but I would totally go back on Glucophage if I could!

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