When my spouse spent two months in a hospital recovering from a stroke, he lost 35 pounds. He was on a special diet limiting sugar, fats, and portions and despite spending a lot of time in a bed, the weight rolled off.
Problem: He didn’t think he was overweight, he didn’t look overweight, and yet his weight loss put him right smack in the middle of where a man his age should be. Was weight gain an underlying cause?
When someone you love has a life-threatening incident, you examine every symptom, eliminating those that weren’t present, and focusing on those that were. The goal is to prevent it from happening again. He wasn’t a smoker, he exercised regularly, he didn’t have high blood pressure. After looking at probable causes we decided (in his case) it was his unhealthy eating and drinking habits that put him at risk. Bad cholesterol and borderline diabetes. Both symptoms.
So how do you change a half century of eating habits? You do it gradually, and you do it with difficulty. But you do it.
I love to cook, but for the past three years we lived mostly on a boat. A healthy lifestyle? Yes, in terms of constant exercise. But not necessarily for eating. Boats have tiny refrigerators, but pretty ample dry food storage spaces. Because you’re out on the water for weeks at a time, you tend to stock up on packaged and canned food which is full of preservatives and easy to keep without refrigeration. Fresh food is consumed early (before it spoils) and there isn’t space for much. And when we were able to eat out, we weren’t picky about where we dined. It was always a treat.
Now we’re careful. Sweets are almost non-existent and wine (we shared a bottle at least two nights a week) is pretty much gone from our diet because of interaction with spouse’s medications. Our boat dessert of two squares of chocolate each night is now down to one square of dark chocolate once a week. Gone, also is my spouse’s nightly glass of sherry or port.
We’re eating a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables and lean meats to build up the muscles in my spouse’s weakened limbs which are thankfully useful again. And I read labels when I shop. Very little finds its way into my cart if ingredients are unpronounceable. We’ve also chosen to go organic when we can. No methyl-ethyl-bad shit.
Are we suffering? A little. Do we break down and eat that pancake or piece of bacon once in a while? Yes. Do we miss snacking? Actually, we don’t because we never had much room for snack food on the boat and we got out of the habit.
What do I miss most? Starchy comfort food like mac and cheese and mashed potatoes, rich gooey cheeses spread on crackers, enchiladas, and tapioca pudding. What does Mark miss? Green tea frappucinos from Starbucks and his nightly glass of dessert wine. But he’s a trooper. He eats and drinks what’s put in front of him now.
As long as it doesn’t taste like coconut or bubble gum.