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From Soup to Nuts
I have always been a lover of good food. All over the world I’ve sought out the finest dining establishments, from five-star restaurants to hole-in-the-wall eateries. When I first survived three occurrences of throat cancer (three surgeries and a full course of radiation) over a three-year period twenty years ago, I was still able to eat and swallow without too much difficulty. Yet over the years many side effects have occurred.
With the first surgery, my epiglottis (the valve that separates the airway from where the food goes down the throat) was removed. As a result, when I ate, food would go into my lungs and cause infections. Several times I ended up with pneumonia and I developed bronchiectasis. Five years ago, I had had at least one infection a month over the previous twelve-month period, all treated with antibiotics.
I’ve had all of the surgeries, treatments, and follow-ups at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. In October 2002, the doctor gave me two options to eliminate the infections: to surgically separate my esophagus from my trachea so food would not be able to get into the lungs; or to surgically put a feeding tube in my stomach. With the first option, they would have to remove my voice box. With the second, no more eating or drinking of any kind. Wow! I though. These are my options! But I knew I had to choose one.
I was not prepared to forever give up my voice, so I chose the feeding tube. I immediately had concerns about using canned formulas. During my first throat cancer surgery they had me on a canned formula during my recovery and I got nauseous while I was on it. I did not want a repeat. In addition, I have always been conscious of healthy food and made efforts to eat healthy. So I hit the books and researched foods that could be blended and put through this lovely tube I now had sticking out of my belly. No formulas for me!
I stumbled upon Barry Sears’s Zone Diet, which balances fat, carbohydrates, and protein in the right proportions [Editor’s note: please see comments at bottom of page]. And then a friend mentioned this great device called Vita-Mix. It’s a high-powered blender that will pulverize anything, and I mean anything.
My very loving wife helped me develop over thirty recipes for soups and a half-dozen different smoothies that all utilize primarily fresh vegetables and fresh fruit as the primary ingredients, with some fish, chicken, nuts, tofu, soy milk, and other foods. Over the course of a month I don’t repeat the same meal twice, so I’m getting a wide spectrum of nutrients. I figure as long as I’m not going to be tasting anything, I might as well give my body the highest quality food I can give it—so no caffeine, no sugar, no alcohol (one time I did put some saki through for fun), no pasta, no bread, no desserts, no dairy. Nothing but fresh ingredients, organic when possible.
I’m eating as healthy as one could possibly be eating. I eat four times a day with a volume of 28 oz of food and 12 oz of water with each meal (8 am, noon, 4 pm and 7:30 pm). My blood sugar remains balanced throughout the day and I hardly ever feel hungry as long as I eat on time. My weight has remained steady at about 165 pounds (I’m 6’4”).
After the initial seven months I switched the long tube that had been used to a button; it looks like I have an extended belly button. I attach a short tube to it every time I eat. This gives me great flexibility, which is good as I remain very active at fifty-five years old.
I am happy to share the recipes I use with anyone who would like them. Whether you are able to feed yourself or need someone to do it for you, you might give it a try. One of my favorite things is walking into the kitchen while the soups are cooking and smell the aromas of the day. I am blessed to be able to continue to live a very good life. Aloha.
We also asked Laura Matarese, PhD, RD, LDN, FADA, CNSD, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for her thoughts on the Zone Diet. She responded:
“The Zone Diet has received mixed reviews from the scientific community. Unfortunately, there is no scientific evidence to support the diet. However, it is not necessarily bad for the patients. It is very high in protein and may be too high if someone has renal insufficiency. The complex carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables may not be tolerated by many Oley consumers.
“On the positive side, the Zone Diet encourages people to eat often throughout the day—at least every five hours. It also eliminates foods many people overeat, such as sweets, chips, certain starches, and, of course, junk food. It concentrates on including a number of healthful foods—low glycemic fruits and grains, vegetables, lean proteins, and monounsaturated and omega-3 fats. The Zone Diet works for weight loss because it is actually a low-calorie diet. For instance, the sample meal plans for an average woman total approximately 1200–1300 calories per day. Most women would lose weight at this level of caloric intake, regardless of the source(s) of these calories.”
You can learn more about the Vita-Mix at www.vitamix.com or by calling (800) 848-2649. Inquire about the company’s special purchase plan if you are using the blender for medical reasons (contact firstname.lastname@example.org or ask for household sales when you call).