The Second Half: Get and stay healthy by eating to live

By Kathleen D. Tresemer


I am always on the lookout for a way to get and stay healthy, so I gave up one of my precious Saturday afternoons to find out how. The expert was David Mulvain, a nutritional consultant with degrees in bio-chemistry, diet and nutrition. The class was a joint effort between Rock Valley’s College of Continuing Education and the Center for Learning in Retirement.

Mulvain lives in Durand—out in my neck of the woods—but I never met him prior to the class. He’s a vigorous, energetic fellow in his Second Half who doesn’t look or act his age at 69 years old. He describes himself as a “Crusader for Anti-Aging.” I figure he’s doing something right.

I was a little bit out of my league—the audience held a former health food store owner and some very enthusiastic health nuts. I, on the other hand, showed up to class with my lunch from McDonald’s and a large coffee. At least it was a chicken flatbread thing instead of a greasy burger—not one person commented, but I could feel their eyes on me.

“Why would you think THAT was a good idea?” I berated myself, trying to distract them from the horrible nature of my food choice by wolfing down those two flatbreads really, really fast. Try eating anything from McDonald’s at a health lecture, and watch the audience gravitate away.

Then, I got cocky. “I’m a grown woman and if I want to eat this stuff I will,” I muttered to the empty space where people once stood. “And I won’t feel bad about it, either!” I drank my large coffee with extra cream very, very slowly.

Once the class started, I was amazed to find out about Mulvain: his angina that started in his 20s, his heart attack in his early 30s, and his decision to take control of his health at a time when doctors wouldn’t treat him because he was “too young to have a heart attack.” Imagine that.

“At that point,” he said, “I lost faith in science.” Well, DUH! I have heard lots of doctors say lots of stupid stuff, too, so I was eager to hear what he did to take control of his own life.

“I went, instead, to the principles of good health,” he told us. Here are three of them:

1) Harmony with Nature

2) Wisdom vs. Knowledge

3) Eat to Live vs. Live to Eat

OK, that last one stung a little. I must have made a face because he stopped to explain it as kindly as he could: “Being overweight is the first symptom of a process that will kill you.”

Crap! I totally get that I am not where I should be, but I remember my then 70-something father telling me about his diagnosis of diabetes: “I didn’t live this long to start eating like a rabbit. I’m going to enjoy the time I have left!”

Yeah, so if I’m honest, while that attitude is appealing, it doesn’t really make any sense. The equation was simple: to live well, eat sensibly and limit sweets and starches; to die after a sickening deterioration, ignore what I just said. “Come on, Dad,” I recall begging. “It won’t be that hard.”

He just smirked at me and lied, “OK, I’ll watch it.”

Now, here’s the best part—he lived another 10 years in relative happiness and health, all things considered. So, given his experience, aren’t my genes on the more tenacious side? If he lived vigorously into his 80s, disregarding all medical expertise, why can’t I?

Hubby helped me out by answering what was meant to be a rhetorical question: “First, you can’t guarantee your genes are as durable as his—after all, your Mom died in her 50s. Second, we don’t honestly know how he felt those last 10 years—maybe he felt lousy a lot of the time. And last,” here’s the kicker, “I thought you wanted to live a lot longer than he did…120 years old, right?”

I have to give in when he’s so logical.

Looking for some concrete answers, I turn to David Mulvain, who preaches good food for good health: fresh, organic, locally grown, and naturally raised. It makes me happy to report he promotes eating meat, too—grass fed and organically grown. Along with the “healthy life” standards—exercise, fresh air, and seven to nine hours of sleep—he is a big fan of spirituality and such things as love, joy and gratitude. In that area, at least, I excel!

“Attitude, stress, and spiritual health are a big part of the mind-body connection,” he tells us; in this area, “The more you do for yourself, the more you do for the people around you!”

This fits right in to my new plan, the one that includes yoga. Happily, Hubby plans to join me in my great yoga experiment. I’m pretty sure he’s thinking it’s better than taking dance lessons, my other suggestion. Besides, Jim Belushi takes yoga classes with his wife on the sitcom, According To Jim, so it has the macho-man stamp of approval.

Mulvain’s class was jammed full of information—too much for a four-hour class, but as an overview, I’d say he knocked it out of the park. He presented us with solid science in an easy-to-digest format—works for me. At home, I found myself browsing through my kitchen wondering, “Where could I start making changes?”

Hey, Dave…now you know your impact!

To contact David Mulvain for a consultation, call (815) 248-4394 or e-mail

In her second half of life, Kathleen D. Tresemer is both a journalist and an award-winning fiction writer. She lives with her husband on a small ranch in rural Shirland, Ill. Kathleen can be contacted by e-mail at

From the November 25-December 1, 2009 issue

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!