I’ve always prided myself on eating fruit as the best way to keep fit as a fiddle. But, just how fit is a fiddle? Some fiddles, like unripe fruit, can be very sour. On the other hand, the fiddle as played by Heifitz can be beautifully sweet. Fruit has been used as a metaphor for health advice since the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve partook of the forbidden fruit because that evil old snake told the first couple it would bring them everlasting good health. The Bible never explains exactly what kind of fruit tempted them to take a bite, although all kiddie book pictures indicate it was an apple.
Which brings us to how the apple is perceived in health legend. Who has never heard that an apple a day keeps the doctor away? Forget it. We all know doctors never ever make house calls anymore. The phrase should be updated to: an apple a day keeps you from sitting three hours in the doctor’s waiting room.
Seriously, it doesn’t take much scientific study to understand why a regular daily diet that includes fruit is beneficial for good health. Various fruits, both raw and cooked, are bursting with natural vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that react favorably to the body’s needs. Fruits also provide fiber, aiding the digestive system to function properly and with regularity.
In my case, a fruit diet helped me to return to a healthy lifestyle after years of abusing my body with overeating, especially unhealthful foods. When I retired at age 65, I weighed close to 200 pounds, which on a five-foot-eight body was a formula for heart disease. As a very busy career guy for more than 40 years, one of my management tasks was to set up meetings and conferences, often at very ritzy resorts.
Days often lasted from 5 am to well past midnight, and because all the wrong foods and booze were readily available free to me in the hotels, I nibbled and ate and beered heavily. I certainly was not fit as a fiddle. Actually, my endless self- indulgence was making me look more like a bulky bass fiddle.
When I retired, I moved from the cold, cold East Coast to the hot, hot Arizona desert. A visit to a cardiologist there convinced me that, in my current overweight condition, my retirement years would last just a matter of months. When the doctor offered his advice, at first I sneered, because he said it was simply a matter of eating fruit. That’s it? Will fruit take off all this blubber? Finally, after he told me it was a choice of either pushing down fruit or pushing up daisies, I agreed to try it.
I soon realized the simple idea was not just eating fruit, but also based on substituting it for and cutting way back on all the bad stuff. Fatty meats, potatoes loaded with butter, cakes, pies and breads. His advice was to eat a fresh or unsweetened cooked fruit three times a day as dessert along with modest, low-fat, low-calorie meals. And most important, between meals, whenever I longed for a Big Mac, slice of pie or a bottle of beer, instead I was to munch an apple, peel an orange or dig into a melon half.
Of course, another factor was important in my blubber-reducing regimen. My many years as a conference planner had involved considerable nervous activity, heavy meals, frequent snacks, but no regular exercise. I had simply lumbered from one task to another, and by age 65, my lumbering was getting slower and much more difficult. On doctor’s orders, for my new desert life, I began hiking an hour a day and/or swam laps in our Olympic-sized community pool. At first, it was very difficult. I could only hike for ten minutes before I’d have to sit down, and my daily swimming was two laps before I dragged myself out of the pool like a beached whale.
I didn’t totally cut out meats and carbohydrates, but did lose the weight by adhering to the mostly fruit diet and significantly reducing my calorie intake. It wasn’t fast and it wasn’t easy at first, but after a year or so, I no longer was hooked on the habit of overeating and indulging in the wrong foods.
A large raw peach left me as satisfied as if I had eaten a Big Mac with fries. And is a hell of lot healthier. Now that I’ve been a fruit eater for more than a decade, as well as a daily exerciser, my former 200-pound frame is down to 155. I can hike for an hour without resting, and can easily do 20 or more pool laps. And, guess what? I actually do feel fit as a fiddle.