Health and fitness, diet and nutrition, solitude and occasional melancholy…and a really nice pair of socks
With the holiday season comes the inevitable worry of expanding waistlines and depressing weigh-ins. For me this is a year round concern, so nothing is different right now. I avoid temptation by doing very little socializing. Actually, temptation is no longer a problem for me. I am so frightened of sweets and baked goods that I can no longer partake of them with any pleasure. This change in attitude – and believe me, it was a big, big change – occurred eleven years ago when I first found out that I have Type Two Diabetes. As the potential complications were being enumerated, my doctor got to diabetic retinopathy…and she did not need to go any further. I was scared straight, from that moment.
In fact, I was so scared, I virtually stopped ingesting carbohydrates, convinced that they were my sworn enemy, out to inflict loss of vision on the world’s most compulsive reader. This is NOT what I was advised to do. A moderate intake of carbohydrates is necessary for good health. Note the use of the word “moderate.” A dietician calculated what I should be eating along those lines; her conclusions were based on my sex and my weight. She was being reasonable; I was being terrified. I not only cut out carbohydrates, I drastically reduced fat. What was left? Mainly protein laden foods like beef, chicken, fish, and eggs, and rabbit food – sorry, salads. I quickly got sick of garden salads. I hated – and still hate – steak, though I can tolerate ground beef. I ate numerous hamburgers (no rolls – those things are loaded with carbs), eggs, and a little cheese – strangely, the sole dairy product almost completely free of carbohydrates. I cared only about lowering my blood sugar to an acceptable (for me) level. I achieved this goal in fairly short order. In the process, in the space of a few short weeks, I lost 37 pounds.
I also lost almost all joy in the consuming of food, up until then my chief joy in the world. Eating became an activity inextricably mixed with anxiety. I was so repulsed by the food I could eat in any quantity, and so filled with longing for the food that I could eat only in minuscule amounts, that the whole enterprise began to seem pointless. I thought I’d take on cooking as a challenge but it soon began to seem like an onerous chore. (And I so missed those heaping plates of pasta!)
Eventually, I stabilized my relationship with food. There are some things I have pretty much sworn off entirely: rice, pasta, bananas, nearly all sweets, most baked goods. I knew I could not give up bread completely, so I still have it, but in very small quantity, and almost always in its multi-grain or whole wheat form.
I’ve always loved what I ate between meals much more than the meals themselves. These are the items that keep me from going crazy when desperate for something to snack on: . It’s probably needless to say, but I’ll say it anyway: the aforementioned can in no way take the place of the beloved and still longed for: .
Three other items are of critical importance to my eating life. In fact, they represent to high points of my day. For breakfast, I have one of the Kashi whole grain cereals. Loaded with fiber and occasionally enriched with dried fruit, the taste is one of natural sweetness (though I add Stevia anyway). This is my current favorite: For lunch, I have a sugar free (or no sugar added) muffin baked by the excellent folks at Butterfly Bakery. Brenda Isaac began creating these recipes in 1998 with her own mother, a diabetic, in mind: “As I shared my creations with family and friends, I realized there was a real need for these products in the marketplace.” This gifted baker also observed that”….the choices in the marketplace were unappealing and limited.” Well, Ms Isaac, all I can say is that you have earned the everlasting gratitude of this constantly-feeling-deprived diabetic!
Every night my dessert is the same: one Carb Smart ice cream bar from Breyers. Six net carbs! (‘Net carbs’ means the number of grams of carbohydrates minus the number of grams of fiber. If you’re diabetic, fiber is your friend.)
What I really wanted to write about here is the emotional impact of all of this. Like many Type Two diabetics, I have struggled all my life to control my weight. I have gained, lost, and then gained back more pounds than I’d like to count. It was only the threat of vision loss that was powerful enough to get me on the wagon for good.
So, isn’t this a good thing? Of course it is, but it has come at a cost. I’ve made a number of discoveries since embarking on this life of Being on a Diet Forever. One is that you cannot force yourself to love broccoli. (My gorgeous, slender daughter-in-law Erica actually does love it, wouldn’t you know!)
Another is that it’s the anticipation of eating something you know you love, as opposed to the actual consumption of same, that provides the major mood lift. I’d be thinking happily of settling down on my favorite soft couch reading spot with a good book and a bag of chips. Immediately thereafter I would realize with a sharp pang that although the former was permissible, indeed desirable, the latter was not. I felt a momentary panic. Would reading, and my joy in it, still be possible without the accompanying, seemingly essential Joy Bringer? Only time would tell….
Time has told. I am reading now more compulsively than ever. And enjoying it. Loving it, really. But as for the rest of life, abstention from chips, cookies, cake, big hunks of crusty French bread, heaping bowls of pasta, rice, and French fried – French fries! – has exacted a price. If you’ve used food for mood control purposes your entire life, and then you have to stop doing that, you do suffer a kind of withdrawal, or at least, I did. You may not be as effortlessly happy as you once were. I’m not.
I have also kept off all of that 37 pounds.
I do not want this little piece to degenerate into a whining plea for pity. I’ve been incredibly lucky to have a terrific primary physician and an equally terrific husband, both of whom have been unstinting in their support. (This is the same husband whose favorite, somewhat modified article title is: “Health and Nutrition, Its Prevention and Cure.” He trots this out every time he feels annoyed at yet another lecture in writing from the food police.) I know that there are people facing far more dire challenges to their health with courage and resolve that I am almost certainly incapable of summoning.
Much more could be said on this subject, but I’d rather, at this point, move on to the fitness component. The fun factor is much greater there. Besides, I must get to work on the Boeuf Bourgignon. This dish is one of the few that I still enjoy cooking. The recipe comes from The Art of Cooking for the Diabetic. . (I’ve written about this before, in a somewhat different context.)
And so: on to Part Two, in which, among other things, the mystery of the Really Nice Socks will be revealed….