Pulling bits and pieces out of Kara Fox's charming "spirit box" (stones gathered from favorite places, a half-smoked cigar from a man she loved who died, a bell "to summon your angels") leads into a winding conversation about life and beyond. Halfway through it's clear to Treitler that this woman, a former commercial photographer and design executive in the advertising and marketing industry, has a strong spiritual side. She believes that periodically you should move 37 things in your house to shake up the feng shui. She believes that dreams are prophetic and windows to the soul. She keeps stalks of "lucky" bamboo in groups of threes. She's suspicious of X-rays.
These ideas seem fairly innocuous. But other convictions of questionable logic from specious sources may have a detrimental effect on her health. Which is why Treitler is staring, astonished, at a nearly empty refrigerator, its only contents evidence of Fox's extremely restricted eating: olives, baked tofu sticks, diet soda, frozen grapes that made an ice pack for a relative's recent eye surgery, and the heavy cream for her coffee ritual. "I bought that half-and-half by mistake," she says, pointing to a neglected carton. Fox is currently following the rules of a bet she made with her brother: no refined sugar, flour, rice, or potatoes (the first one to crack owes the other a big check). But her favorite pre-bet meal was frozen yogurt. "Just because it's called yogurt doesn't mean it's healthy," Treitler reminds her.
All of us live with some inconsistencies and contradictions. Fox tries to eat only organic dried fruit and won't own a microwave, yet she rarely reads labels to check for artificial ingredients or preservatives. Her two grown children were brought up on wheat-germ-oil shakes and lunches so wholesome that they traded with other kids at school. But Fox recently self-published a collection of recipes from family and friends that rely heavily on convenience foods, such as Mom's Easiest Chicken made with canned apple-pie filling, onion-soup mix, and bottled French dressing. Periodically, she prepares a cracker from flaxseeds that are soaked and put in a countertop dehydrator for 24 hours; she snacks on the dried mixture, out of her conviction that the high rate of colon cancer in this country is due to lack of fiber in the diet. But desirable fiber intake for adults is 25 to 35 grams a day, and she's getting only a fraction of that amount from her nibbling. (She's also about ten years overdue for a baseline colonoscopy.)
Moving into the bathroom and infiltrating Fox's medicine cabinet, Treitler finds homeopathic preparations for bruises alongside serious prescription pain meds—"just in case" she falls and breaks a leg and has to "wait for paramedics." (In the meantime, she hasn't had a bone density scan in five years.) On display around the sink are beautiful soaps that look untouched, the kind you find in guest bathrooms at parties and hesitate to use. What's used in this room, Treitler determines, is the scale. At least twice every single day.
Next: Kara gets a health upgrade