Table of Contents

My struggles with diet

My struggles growing up. Food has been my great delight and my gnarly nemesis. As a child I was fat, wearing husky boy jeans and enduring disparaging nicknames. My candy habit was probably to blame. Adolescent growth spurts helped a bit with that, but I remained fat until early days in Kenya, where I contracted what the doctor decreed was dysentery. I had the runs out both ends for well over a week, and a long slow recovery with almost no appetite. I lost thirty pounds and kept it off. In college I became more physically active, thanks in part to more appealing phys ed choices: sailing, then dance: ballet, modern, jazz. Dance led to contact improv and then experimental movement à la Pilobolus, my big theatrical success. I stayed physically active in school even when I burned through my illusions about majoring in theater and dove into my independent study major in mythology. It wasn't until my first descent into a miserable ease, in Tallahassee, that the weight started catching back up with me. Harmonizing came along just in time, whisking me away to Boulder, where everyone ate grain and veggie meals sitting on the floor, and ran on mountain trails. That kept me lean through the 1980s. Too lean, as a matter of fact. At one point I became painfully underweight in Boulder, the result of a misguided attempt by my guru to force me to eat right. That ended up being a good thing. It helped me see through his scam for one thing. More profoundly, it gave me a deep acquaintance with being underweight, letting me feel how wrong that was for me. Invaluable, that I was able to experience that so deeply and painfully, surrounded as I am by a thinner is better culture.

The Diet. In Boulder I learned a new approach to food: grain and veg-based conscious cooking and eating. All the meals were one-bowl meals you were supposed to eat meditatively with chopsticks while sitting cross-legged on the floor, a thing I could not do. I rebelled mightily against the discipline and simplicity of it. Cooking was spelled out in minute detail: exactly how to cut each vegetable, and cheese must be cut into 3/16 inch cubes. My portion, the exact quantity I was allowed to eat, was determined via muscle testing. I never accepted The Diet, as it was known, but having to live with it was good for me. I got healthier, while my coworkers in Tallahassee were settling into middle-aged spread. A miserable ease as Nietzsche so plangently put it. The ease I dodged twice: by leaving Tallahassee in 1979, and by moving out of my almost-paid-for home in Seattle in 2008.

Eating in other people's homes. In 1991 I left the cult and moved to Seattle. At first I stayed active and healthy, sticking with the kind of running program I learned in Boulder: run six days a week, mixing distance, shorter more intense runs, and fartlek workouts, with an easy run somewhere in the mix. But I gradually let the dietary discipline I learned in Boulder fade as I settled into a series of houses that were not my own: first Ruby's house, then Keith's house, then the house I bought for me and my wife. By the early 2000s I was getting fat again. But then in 2006, as my marriage became sheer dull misery, I got in touch with Leela, my own internal authority: wisdom spoke, and guided me to muscle testing, a practical way to get direct guidance from my body about what to do and not do to make progress with love. The first order of business was losing weight. Being fat was beginning to threaten my health. So I surrendered all my dietary choices to Leela in the form of my newfound ability to muscle test myself. The diet Leela gave me had a new theme: low carbohydrates. I lost the weight by eating a diet based on low carbohydrates, mildly high fat, and portion control: I cooked only the amount I was going to eat. No seconds, no leftovers. Over the course of the next year I lost fifty pounds without going hungry or starving myself. My diet mellowed out after the weight loss, but I held fast to limiting carbohydrates and portion control. I avoided potlucks. I stopped eating holiday feasts. I made my meals just the right size no matter what day it was. In 2008 I moved out of the house I was buying for my soon-to-be ex-wife (as it turned out) and started renting a room in the house of a guy I knew from dancing. It was the right move, the perfect place, but I was still eating in someone else's home, cooking in someone else's kitchen. I wouldn't find out how crucial the distinction is until I finally moved into my own home in 2021. Meanwhile, my diet became an ongoing experiment. My most interesting experiment was a more intense low carb high fat diet based on the one Leela had given me before. I loved the result. It felt like I was in a new world; my body felt so supple and alive, just crackling with energy. But then it began to feel like more than I could handle. I was burning too hot, I couldn't handle the energy, so I had to back off. Weaving through all this happy chaos was a steady process of refinement: I gradually got better at cooking, and I came to understand cooking and food more deeply.

Eating in my own home. I moved into my new home determined to live the right way. I was determined to surrender to my own internal authority in every detail of my life, inner and outer. I muscle tested everything. But some things are too deep to get at that way. They're too deeply ingrained by decades of wrong living. My basic approach to cooking my meals was one of those things. To make me willing to reconsider the fundamentals of cooking, Leela encouraged me to follow my fascination with zero-carb high-fat eating. All the way down the rabbit hole of my keto delusion to its ugly denouement.

My keto delusion. The very first thing Leela did for me after I learned how to muscle test myself was to put me on a low carb diet. Over the course of a year I lost fifty pounds, pulling myself back from the edge of serious dietary health risk. A few years later, in the mid-2010s, I experimented with a very low carb diet for a few months and I absolutely loved it. But I wasn't ready for it. I got freaked out by the amount of energy it was generating. But the wonderful way it made me feel stuck with me; maybe that's an important clue? Around two years after moving into my new home Leela started prodding me to take another hard look at my diet. Instead of surrendering and humbly asking for step-by-step help for improving my diet, I let myself get mentally fixated on a keto diet. I got way into it, eating an increasingly ridiculous diet for months. Leela gave me free rein, plenty of rope to hang myself.

Denouement. Everything came undone over the course of a miserable weekend. Friday night I woke up in the wee hours with heart palpitations that wouldn't go away. My pulse went irregular and stayed that way all day Saturday, varying some but only from bad to worse. I knew better than to go to the ER, even though I was reeking of fear; I learned something from all those decades. My misery reached a fever pitch about 24 hours in as I finally realized this was just my body's response to my fatuous high fat diet and knew I had to drop it, starting with my next meal. By Sunday afternoon I was feeling better but hadn't slept since the onset. By Monday night I was miraculously recovered just in time to go put on Waltz etcetera.

Surrendered cooking. My high fat delusion and its denouement were the perfect storm to prepare me for what came next: a fresh new start to my diet. That profound misery made me willing to start completely from scratch without trying to figure anything out. I'm happy to buy ingredients not knowing what they're for or how I should cook them. Happy to start cooking a meal with step one, having no idea what step two might be. I sometimes feel lost when I'm cooking a meal, dubious about the result. And the steps I take keep changing. Each meal builds on the success of the last, but not necessarily the way I think it should. I have to set aside my ideas about what the next step should be this time, and simply humbly ask. Midway though I often have no idea where this cooking process is going next. I'm learning new ways of cooking good basic food every time I cook. And the finished product just keeps getting better. I've reconnected with the sense of playful adventure I felt so long ago when I first began playing in the kitchen