Disturbing Literature & The Snickers Bar in Your Blood Stream

A few years ago I picked up Dr. Gillian McKeith’s, You Are What You Eat. To say I instantly regretted it would be an over statement. To say I slept for two days straight after reading it would also be a derivative of the truth. Looking back, I’m not sure why I even purchased the bloody thing and now, with four years of nutrition education under my belt, I find it rather funny that I did.  But first let me say kudos to her for having the moxie to write and publish a book. I have anxiety over this blog, a portal for my thoughts for which I receive absolutely no compensation.

Let’s start out by doing due diligence. Dr. Gillian McKeith is a Scottish nutritionist with the teeth to prove it. She’s also a UK television presenter and writer. She has a degree in linguistics from the University of Edinburgh and a Masters from the University of Pennsylvania in international relations. She received a Masters and a Ph D in holistic nutrition via a distance-learning program from the non-accredited American Holistic College of Nutrition, later the Clayton College of Natural Health in Birmingham, Alabama which has since closed. There are numerous portions of her book that made me do a double take. Herbal and nutritional supplements to suppress appetite, aromatherapy vein massage, a healthy teeth program involving horsetail and oat straw supplements (yes, you read that right), and a stress self check questionnaire (if I don’t know I’m stressed, I probably shouldn’t be reading this book) are just a few. Oh and lastly, I cannot ignore the section titled “Cleaning Out the Dirty Sink” in which she recommends an enema or colonic on the day of a cleanse. Ouch. Also, I’m not super fond of thinking of my colon as a dirty sink, but okay.

Moving On.  In Chapter 5 titled, Top 5 Bummers, she discusses the regulation of insulin and glucose in the body.  Allow me to catch you up to speed.  A more relatable word for glucose (in reference to our blood) is blood sugar. Insulin is the hormone that drives glucose into cells when our blood sugar levels rise. This innate process is crucial for clearing sugar out of our bloodstream. And we’re back.  She provides the reader with the following “Glucose Tolerance Self-Check” quiz to allow you to identify if you may have a problem with regulating your insulin and/or glucose levels.  Thanks?
  1. Difficulty concentrating
  2. Excessive consumption of caffeine, chocolate or cigarettes
  3. Excessive sweating
  4. Excessive thirst
  5. Extreme difficulty in getting out of bed
  6. Falling asleep in the middle of the day/feeling really drowsy
  7. Inability to get going without caffeine/nicotine fix
  8. Irritability without frequent meals
  9. Need for more than eight hours’ of sleep a night

Umm…crap. Let me tell you folks, I do not have any issues regulating glucose at this time and I am literally nine for nine on that questionnaire.  Most days, I’ve experienced all nine by 3pm. My life gets very real when I’ve gone more than four hours without eating and if you’ve ever witnessed me on less than eight hours of sleep, you know my demeanor resembles that of Attila the Hun. It’s like witnessing a punk rock band actively contract sun poising in front of your eyes. I’m truly a delight under the right circumstances.

What is it about most nutrition related literature that can really freak a reader out? Sometimes it seems most of these authors corner the market on scare tactics and drastic recommendations (*see horsetail). Honestly though, one scary nutrition book can lead you to find the most normal things in your life to be a medical emergency. It reminds me of when I was taking Medical Terminology. We had just covered the urology chapter and without being too graphic I had eaten red beets for dinner and in the morning I awoke to a toilet bowl full of temporary terror.

In all seriousness though, insulin resistance can lead to some pretty heavy complications. For example, it can be a precursor for Type II diabetes and cardiovascular disease. So although I’m scoffing this little questionnaire, You Are What You Eat has sold over 2 million copies worldwide, so you better believe people are reading it.

Having said this I feel it’s important to arm you with some knowledge because calling out your caffeine fix for a medical condition just isn’t fair. Common symptoms of insulin resistance (or glucose intolerance) can include excessive thirst, frequent urination, weight loss, and polyphagia (excessive hunger/eating).  Hyperglycemia or high blood sugar can be further evidenced by fatigue, headache or blurred vision. As you can see, some of the items on McKeith’s list are right on track with these symptoms. Here’s what I’d say. If you have a family history of insulin resistance or diabetes, you’re probably already aware of the signs. If you experience any of them on a daily basis, do more than take a self-assessment questionnaire. Please go see your doctor.

If you’re interested in this book, by all means check it out.  The book does have some merits.  She pushes healthy eating 101: fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, whole grains, etc. However, there is a lot of information to keep track of and a smattering of some rather odd practices. Personally, I don’t think food needs to be this hard. The plan she designs is rather complicated and time-consuming for us mere mortals to follow on a daily basis. Nevertheless, who doesn’t want to read a book where the author states on the cover, “Slimmer, healthier, and happier…that’s my promise to you”. If only there was a chapter on techniques for paying off student loans.

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