The Second Half: Live longer: Get high on what?!

By Kathleen D. Tresemer

Everybody is talking about eating right to live longer. But what do they say: Eat yogurt? Drink red wine? Avoid meat? Many of the experts claim reducing carbs is the way to go.

In our Second Half, many of us find it hard to understand about carbs since bread was the principal staple of our 20th-century diet. How could we spend our first four to six decades eating the staff of life and now learn it was bad for us? Bread has been the foundation for religions, symbolized agricultural bounty, and has been a significant food source for civilization across centuries. Spread with butter, toasted with cheese, or dipped in olive oil, bread tastes so good! Why would anyone in his right mind give it up???

Here’s the thing…according to the famous heart surgeon Dr. Oz, carbohydrates have been found to be one of the most addictive substances known to man! May 19, the Dr. Oz Show (locally airing on WIFR TV) described the growing body of research that identifies our obsession with carbs as a true addiction.

Dr. Oz says: “You constantly crave it. You can’t get enough. All you think about is your next fix…unhealthy carbs, especially things made with white flour, may be just as addictive as cocaine or heroin…”

Seriously? He describes the total rush that results in complete pleasure upon consuming refined carbohydrates. Well, I know just what he’s talking about, having my own personal jones for foods such as bagels, pasta, cookies or good, ol’ fresh-baked bread. Dr. Oz explains this craving: “Processed carbohydrates release serotonin in the brain—the feel-good chemical associated with happiness and peace.”

Oh, yeah, baby! On many a sad or lonely night throughout my life, I sought solace in “The Big C.” I get a warm feeling just remembering…since then, I have learned that carbs are a problem for me and make every effort to eliminate ’em from my diet. Check out the Dr. Oz website at to learn more and to find his 28-day plan to overcome your addiction to carbs.

Dr. Mercola, Chicagoland’s Natural Medicine expert, tells us on his website in May 2011: “Unfortunately, for the past 30 years or so, the primary official health recommendations have been to reduce your fat intake and eat plenty of long-lasting complex carbo-hydrates (starches) to keep your body supplied with energy. This has been a prescription for health disaster, and we have skyrocketing disease statistics to show for it. By advocating heavy carb consumption, our health officials have made insulin resistance the norm rather than the exception, which in turn is driving a huge, expensive pharmaceutical machine…”

In our Second Half, I’m told, we should be concerned with insulin resistance. But I wondered, “What exactly is that?”

Simply, when our cells become insulin resistant, the normal response to insulin is reduced. As a result, more insulin is needed to have the same effect.

Insulin resistance leads to chronic disease and accelerates the aging process, impacting longevity. It’s a no-brainer, really: too much sugar, grains and processed foods, combined with a lack of exercise, leads to high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes and high cholesterol.

“So, what do carbs have to do with insulin resistance?” you ask.

Here’s how it works:

You eat starchy foods like bread or pasta—those are the unhealthy carbs. Through digestion, your body breaks carbs into simple sugars, causing an acute rise in your blood sugar. If your blood sugar kept rising, you would fall into a coma and die. Luckily, your body produces insulin, which brings your blood sugar down to a safe level.

However, when your body does this every day, several times a day, for more than half your life, well…you can understand how it would stop working so well. That’s why, in our Second Half, we need to pay more attention to this process.

Hubby says, “The human body is like an old car—when it starts to burn oil, you have to baby it a little, give it better fuel, drive more carefully, and keep it well lubricated.” I get it—we mature humans need to exercise properly, eat the right fuel, control inflammation, and consume healthy fats.

Dr. Mercola’s website also discussed the groundbreaking research of Dr. Cynthia Kenyon regarding the genes that control youthfulness and longevity. She claims we can turn on our “youth gene” by simply cutting calories through decreasing carbohydrates. (Go to and enter “Cynthia Kenyon” in the Search box for articles about her work.)

When Kenyon wins the Nobel Prize for her work, you can say, “Oh, I’ve been following her research in carbohydrate reduction for some time—that’s why I’m so healthy and fit at my age!” Or better yet, “Kathleen Tresemer wrote about her in The Second Half!”

Besides, all the celebrities know what I’m talking about: such stars as Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Courtney Thorne-Smith and LL Cool J claim to eat a low-carb diet for health and fitness.

What does a low-carb meal look like? It depends: Hubby says: “Steak—a big, thick, juicy steak!” I say, “A Greek salad with olives and feta cheese, green beans with slivered almonds, a grilled steak, and berries with whipped cream and shaved dark chocolate for dessert.”

Skip the carbs and get high on that! Or get addicted to activities that make you laugh out loud with joy. In my Second Half, I figure I’m worth it—Peace and Love, baby!

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 June 8-14, 2011 issue

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