We both lived similar lives. We each had a family, a professional career, and a relatively busy lifestyle. By chance, he called me and asked, "What's new?"
I responded that much had changed. So, we arranged to have lunch to catch up.
Things had changed
What changed with me? I had a stroke at the age of 59. Then, I learned about ancestral nutrition and lifestyle, which turned my life completely around. I learned how to become healthy. What I learned saved my life.
Alvin Danenberg, DDS.
What changed with him? I found out at lunch.
I am almost 71 years old; my friend had just turned 70. He was not able to stand up straight, having had various surgeries for back problems. From what I could see, he was at least 40 pounds overweight. This wasn't the person I remembered from 13 years ago.
We were seated at a quiet table near the back of the restaurant. We talked, we laughed, and we reminisced. Both of us looked at the menu, ordered our lunch, and talked quite a bit more. I ordered a duck salad and hot tea; he ordered a Reuben sandwich, fries, and sweet tea (I live in the southern part of the U.S, where sweet tea is ubiquitous).
He told me about his kids, his grandkids, his wife, and what he was doing with himself. He was retired and had sold his medical practice, but he would go to a local clinic one day a week to treatment-plan patients and triage their medical conditions. He personally had been dealing with various chronic diseases and was taking several prescription medications. He said he was happy, but to my eyes he looked very unhealthy.
I told him what I was doing with my life -- treating patients one day a week, writing profusely, being physically active, and creating a new company and product line for the organic-conscious public. I might have mentioned my new book.
He asked me what my book was about. I told him it was about the lifestyle and nutrition of our primal ancestors and how their bodies were strong and healthy because of the way they lived. Being a periodontist, I wrote my book about nutrition starting in the mouth and then affecting the entire body.
I explained that our modern world has diverged from the path traveled by our ancestors, which has led to an increased incidence of chronic disease. I described my book as a means to return to a healthier way of living by emphasizing nutrient-dense foods, restorative sleep, efficient exercise, and reduction of stress.
He thumbed through my book, glancing at the front and back covers. He took some time to skim the table of contents and quickly read the preface. Then he told me that there are too many health books in the marketplace.
"Every expert thinks he knows the answer," he said. "There are some people who eat to live, and there are some people who live to eat."
You can probably guess his follow-up.
"I eat whatever I want," he said.
We spent almost two hours at the restaurant. He drank three glasses of sweet tea. After finishing our meals and completing our conversation, we paid our checks and walked out of the restaurant. Before leaving, he grabbed a handful of mints near the hostess desk.
“Both of us have chosen different ways to live our remaining years.”
I am sure I will see my friend again. I also am sure he will never read my book. It appeared to me that he preferred to go down a path I would no longer travel.
It was obvious to me that at some point over the last 13 years he and I veered off our similar tracks. Both of us have chosen different ways to live our remaining years. My goal is to strive for quality of life. This is paramount to me. Whatever I can do to prevent chronic degenerative disease that is within my ability is what I want to do.
Some critics of this lifestyle seem to think I am interested in living like a caveman. That makes me smile. What I am interested to learn is what made our species physically strong and mentally superior.
Since my stroke years ago, I have changed my life. I strive to thrive. As I move through my eighth decade of life, I feel healthier today than I have ever been. I can only hope my friend can soon say the same about his life.
A version of this column first ran on Dr. Danenberg's blog. DrBicuspid.com appreciates the opportunity to reprint it. His book Crazy-Good Living from Elektra Press is available here.
Alvin Danenberg, DDS, practices at the Bluffton Center for Dentistry in Bluffton, SC. He is also on the faculty of the College of Integrative Medicine and created its integrative periodontal teaching module. He also spent two years as chief of periodontics at Charleston Air Force Base earlier in his career. His website is drdanenberg.com.
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