As regular readers know my former blogging partner, John, has severe dietary restrictions following his angioplasty and near heart attack. He has posted a number of items detailing his journey in dealing with this life-changing situation. As his former good friend, I was stunned by the news of his hospitalization and situation. Of course, I immediately imagined myself in his place and considered what I would do if confronted with an 80 percent blockage of a major artery and a stent being placed inside to facilitate my circulation. I find that I would handle it considerably differently than John. I don’t pretend to be a doctor. I don’t know that my way is better. I just know that my actions and ideas going forward differ sharply from John’s. I am more than 10 years older than he is and I have no dietary restrictions. I am presently enjoying the best personal health of my life. The National Institutes on Health considers me one of its success stories.
To begin with my first reaction would be gratitude. I would be thrilled to be still alive and feel that I had cheated death at least this one time. I would also make a firm purpose of amendment about my eating habits to guarantee that I would never put myself in this vulnerable situation again.
A near death experience like this is what I think of as a ‘square one’ situation. That is the same as when you go from grade school to high school and change from being a big shot at school to a little freshie in the new school. Ditto high school to college. Same kind of transition. I think square one situations are tremendous growth opportunities. Very challenging, to be sure, but they offer huge opportunities for real growth and discovery.
So, instead of looking back at the situation and feeling bitter over what I could no longer eat and whining about it, I would look forward to the chance to learn a whole new way of eating and making my dietary decisions. Previously, I chose things for taste with no consideration for the consequences on my body. Going forward, the health benefits would be way up there on my priority list. Of course, taste matters, but I would no longer limit my choices to taste alone as I did when I was a child. I don’t think a grown up should be making decisions on that basis.
Secondly, I have certain foods I like and foods I don’t like, but going forward, I would put everything back on the table (so to speak) and start from scratch. I would absolutely try to open my palate and my mind to new tastes including foods I might not have liked previously. Nuts are a superb foodstuff. If I didn’t like nuts, I would make a point of trying a number of different kinds, maybe a few at a time and find a couple that I enjoyed and could integrate into my diet. As my former major protein source -meat- is nearly off the menu, it would be very effective to add the rich protein of nuts to my menu. I could start with a few on my salads. Nuts also happen to be a great source of EFAs, Essential Fatty Acids, which are necessary to every diet. That’s why they’re called essential.
I would consider soups and salads an effective way to widen my taste spectrum with a minimum of difficulty taste wise, or otherwise. You can stick a lot of white meat into a soup and make it very tasty as opposed to eating it straight from the chicken. I am talking about soups made from scratch, of course. Even Mr. Lazy Cook makes his own soups, so there is no reason to include those Sodium-laden store bought ones. Additionally, your own soups are the perfect place to load up on whole grains. I have discussed here on the blog, brown rice, barley, quinoa and Farro. Those are excellent very satisfying nutritious grains that can go a long way toward filling out that decimated food menu.
I have written about Chia seeds and hemp seeds for the blog. Even though I personally have no dietary restrictions, I now include both of them in my daily diet. I put them into my morning smoothie and into my afternoon high fiber parfait. Again, they each are a rich source of EFAs as well as protein and they have the added effect of giving me a full feeling after consuming them. You can read about Chia seeds and hemp seeds at the links. Both are available from Costco.
On July 14, 2013, The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington reported that Diets low in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds and high in sodium, processed meats, and trans fat cause the most premature death and disability. Yes, even worse than smoking. You can read my blog post on it here.
Speaking of smoothies. This is another fertile area for changing your diet in a healthy way. You can make all kinds of terrifically nutritious dishes in a Vita Mix machine. I got a cookbook full of whole food recipes with mine. It’s also a lot of fun to experiment and make discoveries of new healthy drinks.
The last item I differ with John on is the reconstruction he is attempting. I would not try to recreate the Italian dishes with their fats and heavy salt content that were part of the reason for the artery blockage in the first place. His new recipes eliminate bad fats and salt content, but that leaves a dish that doesn’t taste very good. My feeling would be that’s what got me into trouble in the first place. Better to leave it alone and find a new route. As the Beatles said, “That was yesterday and yesterday’s gone.” Like John, I am also of Italian descent, but I would not sacrifice my good health for some kind of misguided nationalism.
As a near daily bicycle rider, I use energy bars on every ride. I think of them as a super source of carbs and protein or booster-fuel for my rides. As I write this, I have boxes of Power Bars, Clif Honey Oat Bars, Honey Stinger Waffles and three different kinds of Power Crunch Bars including Chocolate ones in my kitchen cabinet. I think that one or more of them would work perfectly to supplement John’s restricted diet. There is Sodium in some of these bars, but they would work well on the diet of someone less restricted than John. Also, there is always the option of cutting one in half. Learning restraint in eating (and in life) is one of the most important lessons. If you can master it, you won’t have to spend the rest of your life atoning for your sins of your youthful bad judgment.
I think creating a diet with fresh new elements would be a really positive creative challenge that would be rewarding on a number of levels. Certainly, health wise, but also psychologically, too.
This is all hypothetical, as I enjoy super good health and have no need to restrict my diet, but I wanted to put these thoughts forward in light of John’s decisions which I think are less than first rate and, worse, will not have the healthy results his body needs so badly.
I invite readers to join in the discussion. Maybe you can add some light to this fascinating situation.