About six weeks ago, I went to see my doctor for a check-up. She looked at my chart and said “We haven’t done a blood draw on you in a while. Let’s do that before you leave.” Being the agreeable sort that I am (and because I am fortunate to have pretty decent health insurance through work) I said “Sure. Whatever.” Then I went on about my life, not giving it another thought.
A few weeks later, it was a miserable, icy day, and Mark and I were both suffering with some sort of upper respiratory crud, feeling lousy and taking turns blaming one another for bringing whatever this crud was into the house. Some things just don’t need to be shared, even when you’ve been married for a really long time. Our wonderful hippie doctor, being the agreeable sort that she is, agreed to see us at the same time, so we only had to make one visit.
As it turned out, we were each suffering a different malady, so nobody was to blame. A cold and bronchitis for Mark, a sinus infection for me. It was nobody’s fault, just bad luck. And then my luck got worse, when Dr. Jamie opened my chart and said “Now, let’s talk about your bloodwork.”
Uh-oh. I could tell by her tone that I was in trouble.
“You’re pre-diabetic.” As soon as she said it, I felt my stomach knot up. This was not news I wanted to hear. I suppose it could have been worse. She could have skipped the ‘pre’ part and gone straight to the ‘diabetic’ option. But this was just the lesser of two evils.
“Your liver enzymes are WAY up, and your blood sugar is out of whack. You need to start making some dietary changes. No white foods. And you need to cut back significantly on your sugar consumption. And if you’re not getting enough exercise, get busy. If you drop 10-20 pounds, these numbers are going to improve pretty quickly.”
I’ve had doctors tell me bad things before. They told me I had high blood pressure, but there was a pill for that, so I started taking it. They told me my cholesterol was too high, but there was a pill for that too, although I balked at the expense and the possible side-effects from it, so I refused to take that one. I didn’t like hearing bad things, so I downplayed them, took a pill, or not, and went on my merry way.
Not this time. This time, I was scared shitless.
Diabetes is bad news. It’s manageable, if you’re lucky and diligent in your own care. But it was not a place I had any intention of going. There was nothing good there.
So, I decided I was going to fix things. I was going to course-correct. Immediately. On this new path, I felt sure that a lot of other positive things would happen. I would lose weight. My cholesterol numbers would improve. My blood pressure would go down on its own. And I could avoid all the pills that went along with those things.
I can’t tell you, over the years, how many diets and exercise programs I’ve started. From back in the day when I was a teenager with only an imagined weight problem, to my mid-forties, when I left my job as a gym rat to become a cube-dweller, and inactivity, poor diet and the promise of a pill to fix everything (and the insurance to pay for it) saw me decline into a sloth. A really cute sloth, but a sloth, nonetheless. Occasionally, I would make some progress toward getting back to my pre-sloth self, but mostly I didn’t.
This time, it was different. This was potentially a serious health issue. It shook me to my core. And fear is a great motivator.
The solution to this problem was very clear. Correcting it was totally in my power. But there was no time for hesitation. I had to get my ass in gear, both literally and figuratively. So I did, that very day.
No more ice cream as a midnight snack. Processed foods began to vanish from the pantry. Brown rice replaced white. Sweet potatoes filled in for white ones. And fresh fruits and veggies became the norm. I bought several diabetic cookbooks.
A week or so later, when the sinus infection was cleared up and I could breathe again, I restarted an abandoned exercise plan. The first week nearly did me in, but I kept at it. It got a little easier. Eating well began to feel more natural. I began to feel better. And I made my condition known to the people around me. Family, friends, co-workers – everyone was informed.
My co-workers offered to hide our community candy stash if it would help me, but I was resolute in my intention to stay out of it. This is my problem to deal with. Other people shouldn’t have to change to accommodate me.
And so far, I’ve been fine. Chocolate is great, and I’ve gotten a lot of comfort from it over the years. But it’s a weakness for me. Kryptonite, if you will. In great quantities (and I prefer consuming my chocolate in great quantities!), I know it can contribute to my demise. So for now, it’s off the table.
When faced with behavior change, there’s only one logical way to look at your options. You can keep doing, or not doing, the things that are damaging you (or your relationships or your forward progress) or you can change course. That conversation with my doctor set off an alarm in my brain. Keep this up and it’s going to kill you. That alarm was loud and ominous, and I knew if I didn’t silence it, it would plague me and distract me from other things and keep me awake at night. And as my grandmother used to say “Who needs that tsuris?”
As you know, I have plans. I have a dream job to pursue and a foundation to establish and lots of people to feed along the way. If I want to do any of those things, I’ve got to be healthy and strong. I’ve cooked for a crowd plenty of times. It is hard work that requires stamina and energy, and those things will be much more abundant if I’m leaner and meaner.
An amusing side effect to all of this: I’ve heard the same reaction from many of the people I’ve told, one of shock and disappointment. But not for the reasons you might think. “Oh NO! Does this mean you can’t bake anymore?”
Uhhh, well, thanks for your concern, but not to worry. Yes, I can still bake. I just can’t partake, save for a taste here and there. And I’m okay with that. This experience will help me learn to adapt recipes, not just for me, but for everyone I cook for in the future. It takes a lot of people to put on a rock and roll show, and somewhere down the road, I’m going to encounter someone with dietary restrictions. No problem.
I’ll be ready for anything.
And speaking of baking, we have a winner for February’s baked goods contest! Alyson of River Falls, WI has already requested a pan of brownies. She was so excited when she received my email, she responded by saying “I think this is the first time I’ve ever gotten a “You’re a winner!” email that wasn’t from Nigeria. Cool!”
It may be your turn next month, peeps. And remember, the more friends you refer as subscribers, the more chances you get to win food! Real, homemade deliciousness.