A Libertarian Chooses a Diet
by Ralph Shnelvar, June 28, 2003
Astute readers will note that the word "libertarian" in the title is in lower case. This denotes the fact that this diet is not sanctioned in any way by the National or State Libertarian Party. [Editor's note: Shnelvar originally titled his article, "The libertarian Diet." I chanaged the title to, "A Libertarian Chooses a Diet." I capitalize all major words in titles, though the term "Libertarian" is still intended in the general sense.]
Ralph Shnelvar is not nor ever has been a licensed medical professional. All opinions are Ralph Shnelvar's and do not represent the American Medical Association, the Association of Homeopathic Professionals, the American Bar Association, [The Colorado Freedom Report,] or any other association, government entity, or group of Alien Beings from Vulcan. If you decide to go on this diet you should definitely consult your local Libertarian Party chapter to find out if this is, indeed, a diet that they agree with. You might also want to consult with a medical professional.
The libertarian movement (and, perhaps, the Libertarian Party) believes in experimentation. It is experimentation that allows us to find unexpected and sometimes better ways to do things. When government cuts off experimentation by denying all of us the opportunity to fail and succeed, society suffers because we are not the beneficiaries of would could have been.
Six months ago I went to my eye doctor in Boulder for a routine eye examine. My glasses were not working as well as I wanted. I was experiencing the typical ravages of old age and my eyesight was changing.
At the end of the examination, the eye doctor, much to my surprise, asked to take my blood pressure. I didn't want her to but she insisted that it was part of the exam.
I knew my pressure was high before the examine and I had carefully cultivated a healthy psychological state of constructive denial. I didn't want to know because I was satisfied with how I looked, how I felt, and how I lived.
Now that the warning flag was raised, I had to do something about it. I was quite upset with my eye doctor. She told me something I didn't want to know. Now I knew and my life was about to change.
On March 5, 2003 I weighed in at 211 pounds and had a BP of 160/120. At 5'8" I was obscenely overweight. Today I weigh 170 and my BP is 140/90.
But I felt good and I didn't look particularly overweight except when I took my clothes off. When I looked in the mirror I marveled at how much better Homer Simpson looked in underwear than I did.
I decided to lose weight and exercise in order to get my blood pressure down. It's hard - very hard - to get your blood pressure down once it is high. I am determined to succeed.
As a rational libertarian I dug into the facts. According to the American Heart Association, high blood pressure is a primary or contributing cause of death for over 200,000 American women and men annually. An estimated 50 million Americans have this "silent killer." Let's face it, folks, you have less than a 1:250 chance of dying in any given year from anything that high blood pressure contributes to. Those are not bad odds. Really, a rational person would look at those odds and say "I am enjoying my life. Leave me alone when it comes to being overweight or having high blood pressure."
So what motivated me to lose weight and get my blood pressure down? My bookie.
Well, actually, my insurance company. Libertarians know that what insurance companies and bookies really do is place and offload bets. "Insurance" sounds better than "betting."
I want to get "long term health care insurance." I'm at the age where I don't want to drain my savings in case I need to spend more than a few months in a medical facility.
So I tried to place a bet with GE Capital. Uh, I'm sorry, I tried to get insurance coverage with GE Capital that would cover me if I or my wife get sick in our old age. I'm betting one or both of us will get sick and need long-term treatment. They're betting that both of us will die before we use long term health care at a rate that exceeds the premiums that we paid.
It's a sick world we live in.
So in order to get this coverage I have to have a reasonable blood pressure.
Thus, as a libertarian, I made up my own diet. Maybe it'll help you.
I can't stand not eating. I love to eat. I love to eat sweets and I love to have a full belly after a meal. Eating a small meal is torture; I'd rather not eat. As far as I am concerned the words "portion" and "control" should never be in the same sentence; including this one.
I need a diet where I can eat and eat and eat and still lose weight.
I believe that I have found this diet. The diet is simple: I fast every other day.
Before you dismiss this as the ravings of a kook, you need to learn a little bit about some old experiments on longevity and some recent experiments.
Some old experiments
It's an experiment that has been repeated thousands of times. It is completely counterintuitive. It makes no sense but the results are unambiguous.
If you take mice, rats, almost any species, and you undernourish them, they will live a longer and healthier life.
All you need to do is do a web search on "mice" and "longevity" and you'll end up with a flood of articles.
Nonetheless, I don't want to walk around feeling deprived all the time. It's the old joke: Yeah, you might live longer but who would want to?
Some new experiments
It's depressing. To live long and healthy lives you need to always feel hungry.
So I was delighted by some new experiments.
Here's some background. (Warning: These guys are trying to sell you something. I'm not.) The reports of the science in the following seems to coincide with the other studies that I have read.
What the studies seem to indicate is that if you fast every other day and then gorge every other day, you will get the benefits of longevity and not gain weight.
But you won't lose weight, either. You'll might your blood pressure somewhat. But if you're like me, then it won't be enough.
So you've got to do something else: exercise. You've got to exercise to the point of a mild sweat for at least a half an hour a day.
I hate exercising. I hate it. I hate it. I hate it.
But I do it anyway. A combination of exercise and weight lose is what can get your blood pressure down. I have tracked it and for me it's about a point per pound.
So should you go on this diet?
I am aware of no studies on humans. Remember, the conventional wisdom is that you should eat several small portions a day. As is so often the case, conventional wisdom might be wrong. Hell, if conventional wisdom is right, this could kill me.
Or I might live to be 200. I don't know.
According to MSNBC, "[T]he researchers, Mark P. Mattson and colleagues at the National Institute on Aging found equal benefits [for longevity and health] for mice that ate only every other day, but didn't cut total calories because they ate twice as much on days they weren't fasting."
I am unaware of any studies on human beings so I'm the guinea pig.
I know that my wife could not possibly go on this fasting/gorging diet. She, like so many others, gets severe headaches if she doesn't eat regularly. Could she be trained out of if? I don't know. Pain is a good indication that something is wrong so this diet might do her an enormous amount of damage.
It might do me an enormous amount of damage. But as a libertarian I'm willing to experiment on myself.
As a libertarian I'm enormously grateful that the government does not mandate that I eat a minimum number of calories a day.
With Social Security being an enormous drain on the Federal treasury, the government has an enormous incentive to see that you die early. Even a 6-month shortening of the average age of death could save untold billions of dollars.
Given this incentive, any rational human being should take any pronouncement about health and health care from a government-sponsored organization with skepticism.
If the government ever declares the "libertarian diet" to be safe and effective, I might just stop.