Illness sent Stuart Nunnery down the nutrition trail

September 04, 1991|By Charlyne Varkonyi

Stuart Nunnery wasn't always the Pied Piper of food and nutrition issues. A bout with a strange undiagnosed illness led him from a high-fat diet to his nutrition crusade.

After graduating from Princeton with a degree in sociology and teaching certificates in special education, he taught school and wrote songs in New England. When his "Sally from Syracuse" and "Madellaine," hit the top 100 charts, he left education for a full-time job in music and entertainment.

By age 28, he had a recording contract with Columbia Records. But suddenly fate turned off the spotlights. Stuart Nunnery suddenly lost all hearing in his left ear, then his right ear. All he could hear was high-pitched rushing noises. His marriage and career fell apart. And his doctors were baffled -- no one knew what was causing his illness.

Desperate for some answers and a cure, he became a health fanatic for four years, reading and experimenting with many diets, vitamins, holistic remedies and macrobiotics.

"I tried every diet pill and food regime you can imagine to retain my health," he said. "I took enough minerals to become the world's first human refrigerator magnet."

Eventually partial hearing was restored to his left ear and he could use the telephone again with the help of a hearing aid and a special phone receiver. He was able to work and took a job in sales with a natural foods company. But the next year, he lost sight in his right eye to the same undiagnosed condition. The doctors were able to restore sight in his right eye through surgery, but they still have only theories, no facts as to what caused his disease.

He said he's convinced that a better diet could have helped him fight off the unknown disease that was ravaging his body. Back then, he had a typical American diet -- high in fat, high in salt, caffeine and sugar. He ate few vegetables and hardly any grains. These days, he eats few dairy products, no red meat, a little chicken and a lot of fish. The center of his diet is whole grain, fruits and vegetables.

"I am absolutely convinced that if I had been food literate and known more about a proper diet, my condition would never have graduated to that extent," he says. "If I had responded more quickly, it may have never happened at all. As a result of my dietary changes, I believe I have stopped or at least retarded further decline in my health."

But he's not a health fanatic. These days he says he tries to not do anything to extremes, including trying to be "too perfect" in his diet.

"I have become very humbled about what happened to me and I am reluctant to tell people what to eat because I know that no matter what I eat, there are no guarantees."

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