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Eating Right… Sort Of…

Eating Right… Sort Of…

This year I celebrated my 50th birthday… (I know, I know, nobody was more surprised than me!)… and I’ve had the good fortune to arrive at this age in relatively healthy shape. I say “good fortune” because I wasn’t really doing much of anything that reasonable people would consider “healthy”, with the notable exceptions of wearing my seat belt and looking both ways before crossing the street.

Watching what I ate was something that rarely crossed my mind. I could eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, however much I wanted, and unlike many of the folks that I used to hang around with… I didn’t get “huge”. I only ate when I was hungry, I wouldn’t stuff myself, and some magical combination of natural metabolism and cigarettes kept the weight off. No diets, no exercise, none of that “paying attention” (much less “working at it”) stuff.

I did go to the doctor of course, and every 2-3 years I’d show up for my annual physical. Well apparently, when you turn fifty, the doctor gives you a gift… and no, it’s not a subscription to AARP… it’s a handful of referrals… (in addition to his usual “recommendations”). Go here to get poked, go there to get prodded, stop by this other place just for the heck of it… (smile for the camera!)… all of which I dutifully if not enthusiastically accomplished.

One of the results of this flurry of activity was that, in the span of just a couple of months, I had 4 or 5 healthcare professionals tell me basically the same thing about “healthy living”: Eat right, lose weight, exercise, don’t smoke… yada, yada, yada. But there’re a couple of things that made it kinda “sink in” a little this time:

The first is that I actually saw 4 or 5 healthcare professionals in the span of just a couple of months; which, compared to my irregularly “annual” physical, essentially means that they had the chance to gang up on me… as well as the consistency of the message.

Another is that there were health “issues” that needed to be addressed. Nothing catastrophic, but things like: Elevated blood pressure, “bad” cholesterol, and triglycerides; and a dearth of “good” cholesterol. Plus a BMI that was just a hair into the “overweight” range, which was due in part to the fact that I had lost an inch of height. “Lose 5-10 pounds” was the recommendation, or about 2-5% of my body weight.

And finally… I like being “relatively healthy”, and it dawned on me that I couldn’t continue eating and drinking like a frat boy… (okay, grad student)… and expect to fulfill my lifespan potential. You buy a new car and it’s great for the first 50,000-miles… but then things start wearing out, breaking, and needing flushing-out (etc). It’s like I realized that I’m past my warranty so now >>>I’m<<< responsible for the maintenance and repairs.

So I bit the bullet, went to the Nutritionist referral, embraced everything she told me, and now I’m eating healthy… happy end of story…

… heh, just kidding… it’s KILLING me!!!

Alright, that’s exaggeration for effect… but not by much. After a half-century of “not paying attention”, taking on this new daily responsibility is irritating, frustrating, and depressing. True I had a “head start” on some aspects and converted relatively painlessly to others… but the supposed “goal” of optimum healthiness is still overwhelmingly and ridiculously out of reach.

Okay… I’ll try to think positively… and start by focusing on what I was already doing:

Low- or No-Salt

I was never a salt freak, so even before blood pressure became a concern, I would cook with little or no salt.
MADGestic Meat Spice:
  • One part ground cumin
  • One part ground black pepper
  • Two parts garlic powder
  • Two parts onion powder

(Best with pork or beef.)
See… Garlic- and Onion-POWDER … not –Salt.

Some things, like creamed spinach and macaroni water, genuinely need a pinch of salt; but these days there is salt in virtually everything… (butter, soda, anything in a can)… and tons of salt in some things… (BACON, hello?!).

Spices are wonderful things and I’ve always explored non-salt cooking… (I even use the no-salt Heinz Ketchup; tastes great at twice the price)… but the problem is that I rarely cook for myself, and rely on micro-meals (frozen retail dishes for the microwave oven) and other prepared foodstuffs for the bulk of my diet. So when the Nutritionist told me that I could still do micro-meals BUT… had to check that it was less than 3-grams of saturated fat and no more than 600-mg of sodium… I thought: “Okay, no biggie… I’m already checking sodium levels on things like hotdogs so this shouldn’t be an issue.”

Yeah, checking is not an issue… coming home with a freezer-full of meals that excludes all my favorites is another story.

Low- or No- Red Meat

When I got into this, my first home, over fifteen years ago, the first 2 things I bought were:
  • A 36” console TV, and…
  • A Weber 2000-series gas grill.

(I already had the kick-azz sound system… over 500W through Klipsch speakers bigger than end-tables… though my neighbors in my prior residence, an apartment building, didn’t much appreciate that.)

The TV lasted just less than 10-years (about average)… but, after rehabilitation a couple of years ago… (one of those increasingly rare moments when I actually do something hands-on myself)… Wilbur Weber is still going strong! He’s seen all sorts of things: veggies, fish, poultry… even leg of goat and baking bread… but by far some kind of steak was most popular… (usually with potatoes on the warming rack).

But see, those special (and rare) moments represented most of my red-meat self-cookery… and I never bought steak in a restaurant because I knew that I could do it better myself… (see: MADGestic Meat Spice, above). My love of spices had me cranking out all sorts of delicious other stuff… so cutting out (or at least reducing) red meat was fairly painless.

ALTHOUGH… I gotta make an exception for Mama’s meatballs!

Low- or No-SUGAR

As it turns out, I have more of a cake-and-candy “sweet tooth” than I was willing to admit. However, since, as a young man, I essentially ruined my teeth sucking Victor’s lozenges… (please don’t tell Victor, he was sleeping)… I was already exploring sugarless candy (etc); although in this case, “exploring” was mostly: “Hey, look at that.” But my Mom turning diabetic, and having a diabetic kitty and weight-conscious friends, all this gradually (re-)introduced me to the sugar-free realm.

(Cue nostalgic music)… I remember…

… growing up in NYC and living less than one block from the “corner candy store”… just like everyone else. They had penny candies (and cigarettes) and comic books… ice cream cones and sundaes… egg creams and milk shakes… and the whole “soda jerk” shebang. But this was also the first time that I had exposure to No-Cal® soda for sale… and it was absolutely awful. You wanna know why Tab® was such a sensation?... try some No-Cal®… no, really… NOT kidding. It was hideous.

Does anyone remember that recipe when you baked apples in the oven using No-Cal® soda? No?... really?... this is my own personal nightmare?... You Don’t Know The Things I’ve Seen… (and tasted)… ***shiver***… and I miss Dunkin Donuts coffee rolls… especially since they’re now only $0.99… I wanna go in there in the morning, buy my expertly-prepared coffee… and then SMACK somebody…

As you can see, “Switching To Healthy” (STH) can be quite problematic.

Easy Transition

100% whole grain bread and muffins… (even generic)… wow, I can do that… who knew? In my tender childhood I must have been somehow brutally traumatized by… wheat bread: Ewww…. this is brown and crunchy… I’ll have to take a pass on the French Toast] since I’m an American White Bread Wonder Boy… (yada yada])… yet I’m buying generic store-brand , shoving it in the freezer, toasting it when needed, and… actually enjoying it.

Buy store-brand whole-grain English muffins and put them in the freezer… the take them out and put them in the microwave for ~11-seconds each (to defrost)… and then into the slot-toaster for “touch-up”. Generally apply Teddie Natural Peanut Butter… (stir first then refrigerate) and Smucker’s Sugar Free preserves and jellies… and you’ll feel like you’re five-years-old again… instead of FIFTY!

(C’mon… work with me here…)

Fresh Fruit and Veggies

TOTALLY fell down on this… I’m used to supermarket shopping maybe once per month … clutching a handful of coupons and shopping “strange”. Unless I had a plan and was going to eat “fresh” that very night… my primary focus was “shelf life”… Now I’m supposed to eat FIVE servings of fresh fruits and vegetables every friggin DAY?!!!

Yeah no… not gonna happen.

HOWEVER… I HAVE been honing my arm (and aim), and have been hitting that big tree 50’ off the deck with everything from snowballs to overripe fruit for longtime now. Not quite the same thing as shooting at anyone… just don’t piss me off when I have an orange in hand.

”Vigorous Exercise”

Who are they kidding? No, really… if I broke a sweat walking to my car in the driveway… I would call in sick: My bedclothes are sodden… I must have a fever…and the CDC suggests that I stay home… better call: Doctor Detriot

… ;)

Well, as you can see… I’m dreadfully conflicted (and not terribly motivated) about this “healthy stuff”… running to the market every week just to buy fresh fruit that I’ll eventually throw at a tree may be more fun than snowballs… but not for long.

I have MOVED in a generally good direction… but the law of diminishing returns seems to apply…

… I could be almost-totally carefree and last for who-knows how long… OR

… I can make the deliberate effort… the “extra push”… and last longer than anyone wants me to last… just to piss them off. (Yanno, kinda like Ted Kennedy?)

It’s APPLE season… lots of fresh crispy fibrous fruits to “keep the doctor away”… and if you’re not eating apples… then STFU about healthcare.



3 Comments On This Entry

You live in San Francisco? Try picking up some Himalayan salt at the San Francisco Bath Company. It actually lowers blood pressure as does adding coconut oil to your diet. Coconut oil is also good for your prostate, at least that is what wags told me on my birthday thread.

katnapper, on Sep 19 2009, 09:39 PM, said:

You live in San Francisco? Try picking up some Himalayan salt at the San Francisco Bath Company. It actually lowers blood pressure as does adding coconut oil to your diet. Coconut oil is also good for your prostate, at least that is what wags told me on my birthday thread.

Actually, I live in Massachusetts, but thank you for the recommendations. :P

Eskimo Curlew, on Sep 20 2009, 11:35 AM, said:

The thing is being american is never ever let the food police from CSPI or PCRM or the wackos like MICHEAL JACOBSON,NEAL BENARD,MARION NESTLY,or MORGAN SPURLOCK dictate your diets to you

I'm not sure who/what all those entities are but there does seem to be a consensus about "more good stuff, less bad stuff." :P
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