Sunday, June 12, 2011

This Omnivore's Dilemma (aka Where the hell is my cheese?!)

Back when I was living in Chicago, stumbling through my college years, I procured this great shrunken t-shirt from Urban Outfitters.  It's slate gray with a big red heart in the middle and scrawled across the bust, in yellow writing, reads "Love makes life worth living".  Except that "Love" has been crossed out and written above is "Chocolate."  This t-shirt has stayed with me through new homes, new jobs, and new loves.  Now, it has stitched up holes in both armpits and does not stretch lovingly across my new mommy pooch belly, but I can't conceive of getting rid of it.  You see, I've never been shy about eating.  EVER.  I've generally been willing to try anything once and this has yielded some great food finds.  While I enjoy eating healthy, indulging was something that I've always allowed myself.  I don't ever want to imagine what something tastes like - I just want to taste it! 

Celebrating my 28th Birthday at The Bridge with a Riesling

 South Beach has some AMAZING seafood! 
Brian introduced me to mussels and I've never been the same :)
 Brian was busy enjoying a beer on our trip to Vancouver.  I'm digging into a chocolate banana bread pudding.
When we went to breckinridge, they had all you could eat ribs. 
This was my third rack.....

I struggled a bit with my pregnancy diet.  No roast beef sandwiches (which was the one thing I craved in my tumultuously nauseating first trimester), sushi (I LOVE unagi!), soft cheeses (I could swim in a creamy pool of brie), caffeinated coffee ( Venti 6 pump vanilla nonfat caramel macchiato got me through my mid twenties) or wine (which I'm pretty sure flows through my veins).  I did make up for these losses with brownies, peanut butter cups, cookies, and strawberry cheesecake ice cream.  Quite frankly, I'm surprised I gave birth to a little human boy and not a gingerbread man.  I did try non-alcoholic wine and champagne.... definitely not worth the $$$ as both are missing that delicious "burn" when you take a sip.  Clearly the sacrifice was worth it when I first laid eyes on Cameron, but nonetheless, I did purchase all the fixings for an epic wine and cheese plate to celebrate not being pregnant anymore - apricots, dried cranberries, walnuts, almonds, prosciutto, spicy salsiccia, mini rye flats, rosemary raisin flatbreads, brie, dubliner, fontina, toscano black pepper, and a fruity stilton (all of which can be found at Trader Joe's!)  I was preparing for my first pump-and-dump experience when I had my heart attack.

During my stay in the ICU, the hospital nutrionist came to visit.  My heart attack was not caused by clogged arteries, as I don't have any.  But now, it's very important that I keep them that way, through exercise and a heart healthy diet  After she introduced herself, the conversation went a little like this:

Nutritionist: Do you eat desserts like cakes, cookies or chocolate?
Me: Yes...
Nutritionist: Well, now you can have dark chocolate or fruit.  What about salty things?
Me: Well I don't really salt my food, but I suppose I like salty items
Nutritionist: Moving forward, you'll need to make low sodium choices, avoid salty foods and use salt substitutes like Mrs. Dash.  How do you get your dairy?
Me: (laughing) Cheese and lattes!
Nutritionist: (not laughing) You need to start drinking skim milk plain and consider other options like fat free yogurt.  I would avoid sour cream, ice cream and cheese.  If you need to drink coffee, consider decaf.  As for cheese... you can have two servings of low fat cheese a week - the equivalent of two cheese cubes. 
Me: (silent and stunned) Uh.... okay.  What else?

For the next twenty minutes, I felt like Charlie Brown.  There I was, sitting in class, listening to my teacher go "Wahwahwah, wah-wah, WAH.  Wah, wah-wah wah wah."  Brian took copious notes for me as I sat in my hospital bed listening to this woman gibber-gabber on and ON.  Thoughts raced through my head.  No butter? I'm sorry, but margarine is a four letter word in my house.  No half and half in my coffee? You know it's summer when my Starbucks coffee order switches to a grande iced coffee sweetened, with a sizeable splash of half and half.   This may have very well been rock bottom.  I couldn't see my son, I'd just had a heart attack and now I had to overhaul my diet?  What about all the freakin' cheese sitting in my fridge, just waiting till pump-and-dump night?! WHO AM I IF I CAN'T EAT CHEESE?

Well, it turns out I'm really stubborn for one.  If I can't eat the way I used to, then I'll figure out how to eat the way I WANT to.  Brian and I have always enjoyed cooking for each other and together, and we'd just have to pay a little more attention to what we prepare and how.  My aunt Lisa and uncle  Doug (who was born with a heart issue) surprised me with a four inch 3-ring binder of heart healthy recipes.  I purchased Gwyneth Paltrow's new cookbook after reading about it in SELF magazine.  In the last two months, I've slowly learned how to integrate more beans, fish, fruits and vegetables into my diet.  If I need to "treat" myself, I pay attention to portion sizes - I don't feel guilty having 13 jalapeno potatoes chips or half a dark chocolate peanut butter cup every once in a while. Upon a visit to Trader Joe's a few weeks ago, I was lured into the wine aisle by a woman giving out free samples.  One "plus" of a heart healthy diet is drinking a glass of wine a day.  You better believe I enjoy my 5 oz. every night!  But the cheese part has been hard.  I realized that day, gobbling up tiny pieces of aged parmesan and sipping a dixie cup of syrah, that I can't give up cheese.  If I'm going to eat it, I limit my portion to the serving size and make a point to avoid saturated fats during my other meals that day. 

Dining out has been difficult, but not impossible.  I have to scope out the menu before I go anywhere.  Celebrating my aunt's birthday at a great spot in the Central West End, I had already picked out my meal (trout with green beans).  However, I listened to the waiter's specials anyway. "Oven roasted chicken with root vegetables (YES!) basted in butter (NOOOO!)"....."Pork tenderloin with sweet potato puree (YES!) breaded and fried in bacon drippings and its own juices (NOOOOO!)  I'm glad my family had a sense of humor too, because my aunt was laughing along with me when the waiter left the table.

At the end of the day, it is hard to change.  But I have enjoyed spending more time in the kitchen, with Mowgli and Cameron as my helpers....

I appreciate my meals more and the people I share them with most.  Really, this new "diet" is the way that all people should eat, if they want to be truly healthy. Most of the people in Cardiac Rehab (now called "summer camp" my some of my friends, since Cardiac Rehab sounds a bit depressing) are there from years of poor eating and inactivity.  I'm sure if they had it to do over, they would have made different choices.  So now, I choose to treat my body more respectfully while putting good food in it!

"We are indeed much more than what we eat, but what we eat can nevertheless help us to be much more than what we are." - Adele Davis

"One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating." - Luciano Pavarotti

1 comment:

  1. Another GREAT column Rach! I always enjoy reading it. :)