Who really is suffering on this diet?
Aspen, CO Colorado
I found out recently I have a cholesterol problem. Well, it’s not actually my problem per se. But when two people share, like, 17 meals a week, a change in one person’s dietary habits inevitably affects the other’s.
My husband, Rick, went to the doctor for his annual physical and everything checked out fine except for his LDL cholesterol level, which was high. Upon hearing the news he declared instantly that a total internal makeover was in order. Since he already runs six times a week and consumes more apples and bananas every day than the average grocer sells in a month, he decided to take more drastic measures. He’s cut out junk food.
Fortunately (or, rather, unfortunately), I have some experience in playing food cop to a loved one. Years ago my dad’s doctor recommended he go on a restricted diet and because I care about him so deeply, I took it upon myself to make sure every morsel he consumed was heart healthy. My dad wasn’t thrilled with his daughter playing major general (although my Grandma Nettie was thrilled someone else had taken the helm in the nag game) and so perhaps not coincidentally, he mysteriously developed a memory lapse every night when I asked for an inventory of what he had eaten that day. Nonetheless, he still thanks me for my vigilance by letting me know whenever possible that he’s experiencing pain in his left arm, and is that cause for concern?
With Rick, though, this food cop can apparently kick back and graze donuts all day long, as so far it appears as if he’s going to police himself just fine. A little too well, actually.
It’s sort of sad when someone whose idea of Shangri-La is bottomless buckets of fried chicken and biscuits swimming in pools of white gravy with floating bits of sausage starts worrying whether his five o’clock shadow looks like rabbit whiskers because he just finished his third bag of carrots in two hours.
We stopped to use the restroom in a Dairy Queen last weekend and he motioned for me to move closer to him. “I bet a lot of people in here have high cholesterol,” he whispered scandalously, his eyes scanning the customers squeezed into the hard plastic booths.
It’s a good thing I love him unconditionally, because despite already being in possession of a metabolism that rivals a baby nursing from a jug of prune juice, in the past week and a half the changes Rick has made have resulted in a six pound weight loss (for him, not me).
Which only adds to how this cholesterol thing has been somewhat harder on me than him. I had come to enjoy all the benefits of being married to someone who always orders fries and is happy to suggest dessert. As is universally known, there is no weight gain associated with eating the fattening foods ordered by someone else.
I’m sure in time I’ll come to accept his new ways, but it has been a rough transition. Last weekend Rick ordered a mahi-mahi sandwich with mixed greens at a steakhouse. One night this week at McDonalds he got a grilled chicken sandwich in lieu of a Big Mac, a side salad with balsamic vinaigrette instead of large fries and an unsweetened iced tea rather than a Coke. He shook his head in disgust as he inspected the sandwich.
“I told them no mayo,” he said, ladling it off with a plastic spoon onto his napkin.
On Wednesday he baked himself a piece of orange roughy and ate it along with tomato soup and some peas and corn. Thursday night’s dinner was a vegetable plate with tofu and steamed chicken.
Still, I’m grateful for the time we had pre-bad LDL level. Had we never had shared that time, I might have spent the rest of my life wondering what chicken fried steak looked like, what it tasted like and who actually orders it in a restaurant.
But despite his determination to get his LDL level below 100, he does still have some work to do.
He called me Wednesday with a confession.
“I had a hamburger for lunch today,” he said softly.
“That’s okay. You can eat an occasional hamburger,” I told him soothingly.
“But I didn’t get cheese on it. And it was an organic burger. That makes it healthy, right?” he asked.
“Organic just means the cow was exposed to fewer chemicals, not that it didn’t have cholesterol,” I said.
He started to panic. “But the no-cheese thing counts for something, doesn’t it?” he pleaded, invoking the seldom used “I-wanted-it-but-didn’t-order-it-so-I-feel-strangely-entitled-to-lose-that-exact-same-amount-of fat-and-calories” argument.
We looked up on the Internet foods that help reduce cholesterol. He wasn’t thrilled to see Kashi and oat bran, but he was pleasantly surprised that cashews made it (on some lists), as did red wine and beer.
In fact, the mention of beer and wine cheered us both up considerably. Especially now that it’s practically health food.
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Sean Beckwith is taking advantage of his column space this week to inform the public of the Best in Jest.