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Sometimes you just plain surprise yourself

If you know me, what follows would be the equivalent of me becoming a born again Christian.

If you know me, what follows would be the equivalent of me becoming a born again Christian. This is unlikely as I am a once born Unitarian, which is to say, I do not go to the church, but listen to Pete Seeger records occasionally and leaven with classical choral music which often one finds in church. The contradiction, I think, is explained by having a reverence for life, if not necessarily for God, and listening to a choir anywhere is a tribute to the human spirit.

The born again part is this: since I can remember I have eaten meat every day of my life. When I was broke, it was hamburger, and when I was not, it was steak. Yes, there are days of chicken, but they do not compare to my dedication to rare meat. With the love of meat comes the enjoyment of various hard liquors and, of course, a glass of red wine to make sense of it all. Over the years I have loved French bread as something to enjoy with my butter, and for dessert, well, a Costco-sized bowl of ice cream with peanuts would be just fine. Recently an old friend, Peter Goring, introduced me to Greg’s Ice Cream in Toronto, which to the best of my knowledge, is the only outlet with the ice cream flavour of burnt marshmallow. It would not surprise you I love burnt marshmallows when they are the real thing which, I think, comes from a custom my mother had which was to make burnt toast. We had no toaster in the early years and so toast on the weekend was burnt over an open burner as if it were a camp fire. I thought this was normal. Happily, there were no fire alarms to annoy but their installation has held me back since.

It will not surprise you then that after three score and a few years I have some well-earned digestive problems. Here is the more surprising part.

A few weeks ago I stopped eating sugar. Actually, I stopped eating meat as well. Not content, I stopped drinking and also nixed the bread if you are asking. I haven’t seen a container of Greg’s Ice Cream and peanuts in a month. Last night, I had a dream about a rare New York steak dressed as a Greek Goddess with a side of sautéed mushrooms. I have lost about 25 pounds. This makes people nervous. The other day I put on an old pair of pants I haven’t been able to fit in 20 years.

There have been a number of learnings from this adventure.

The first is to warn your friends and colleagues. My companies are in different cities and so I may not see folks more than once or twice a month. At two of our locations my colleagues thought I might be dying. I’m pleased to report it didn’t seem to make them happy, but all the same, it does set you off your game. In Ottawa the other day, I discreetly slipped out of the board room to pick up some fruit to substitute for the usual sandwich fair and people looked at me as if I had joined a cult.

The second big learning experience is the extraordinary presence of refined sugar in our world. Not only is it everywhere, it is in all sorts of foods and preparations where you have no idea it is present. It is incredible what we ingest for flavour and convenience. This isn’t news for anyone who pays attention to this stuff but its ubiquity is awe-inspiring.

It is difficult to live healthy in a world without honest labelling and garnished with advertising that is misleading and seductive. The tsunami of type II diabetes and obesity in North America is astonishing and its antecedents obvious and avoidable. The problem is that most of us do what is easiest and most pleasurable and there is lots of money to be made catering to that weakness. Few of the major food companies feel any obligation to offer healthy food until forced to do so.

Soon, I will add back some of the foods I have eliminated for this assessment period, but I’ve learned I can survive on a steady and environmentally friendly regimen. This comes as something of a surprise to this rogue carnivore, but it shows you anything is possible.

Now, aren’t you pleased I’ve said nothing about the Northern Growth Plan?