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That’s So Cheesy

Once upon a time, I could eat just about anything I wanted. Pizza, spaghetti, bagels, Good Humor ice cream bars, lemon meringue pie… And I didn’t gain weight. I didn’t feel sick. And I was happy.

The first food limits were self-imposed when I stopped eating meat at the age of 13. While my decision came about due to my love of animals, I had also noticed that I felt awful every time I ate meat. Who knows if this was physical or psychological, but either way, that was the first food-related restriction. It seemed to bother other people way more than it bothered me. Everyone worried about what I could eat. And where I’d get my protein. And that I’d end up with anemia. This was back in the Stone Age when there weren’t the myriad alternative meat options there are today. Every time there was a family get-together, there was the wringing of the hands as to what they could feed me. I always tried to remind everyone that their entire meal did not consist of dead animals. That there were plenty of other options on the table. But the panic ensued for many years.

Thankfully, after college I moved to Los Angeles, where veggie burgers were found in abundance, and fresh fruit and vegetables were available year-round. And there were other kindred spirits who made me feel that I wasn’t so alone in the world of carnivores.

Pasta was always a great option as well. My favorite was Fettuccine Alfredo, the ultimate comfort food. Carbs slathered by creamy, cheesy goodness melted into one coma-inducing blob of deliciousness. And I still didn’t gain an ounce.

And just around the time I was congratulating myself for still being within ten pounds of my wedding weight, wham! The need for surgery arose. And things started to change. First was that my blood pressure went sky high and never completely reverted to the very normal numbers I had always enjoyed, in spite of the various medical combinations my doctors prescribed. Obviously, diet and exercise were important. So I learned to live within the boundaries of a sodium-restricted diet. Everything began tasting like cardboard. And, I gained ten pounds. So food tasted worse to me, my options were starting to shrink while my stomach and thighs were starting to grow.

Then, sugar became an issue. I didn’t drink sugary sodas, and I didn’t often eat dessert. But I did drink orange juice in the morning. It was my special treat each day. But I grudgingly switched over to low-sodium V-8. Which I now really enjoy, but in the beginning, it made me very grumpy. And more favorite things got crossed off the list.

But I still had my pasta. And I still had my cheese. So I made some adjustments to my diet and carried on.

Then came the thyroid surgery. The surgery I hadn’t been worried about. The surgery that left me without a speaking voice for six months. The surgery that changed so many things about my body, I’m still reeling. But the main two changes were that I got sick every time I ate, eventually realizing it was the gluten that was the problem. And within one year I gained over 30 pounds. So in spite of the fact that I had to cut out my beloved bread and pasta, the weight was piling on faster than I could put food in my mouth.

I exercised. I counted calories. And nothing changed. Finally, I got really strict about what I was doing and over the course of a year and a half, I lost 20 pounds. I was so proud of myself. And I kept it off in spite of so many stressful things happening in my life. Then, out of the blue, last year, the weight slowly started creeping back on. And within about two months, ten pounds came back. NO! I screamed each time I got up the nerve to step on the stupid, traitorous scale. What the heck? I hadn’t changed anything that had been working, and yet those sneaky calories were still somehow sabotaging my best efforts.

I did some soul-searching. There was still one delicious thing left in my diet. I could eat it straight out of the fridge when I was hungry. Melt it on a corn tortilla for breakfast. Shred it over a boring salad and make things tasty. But, it does have lots of calories. And fat. And has addictive qualities. My beloved cheese. The last holdout from my previous carefree life. But in the interest of health and weight control, I researched cheese substitutes. I bought several that were sliced and some that were shredded. I took a nibble of the sliced “cheese” that was supposed to taste like cheddar. I shuddered. I tried the shredded “cheese” over my rice pasta – it wasn’t too bad, melted. Then one of my friends informed me the slices also needed to be melted in order to be food-like. And it’s true. Especially if you add some avocado on top of it.

So far, the scale has rewarded me by going down one pound. One whole pound, imagine that. I’ve given up the last bastion of deliciousness and one pound has melted away. OK.

So, I’m going to try to get some more exercise in my daily life and see if that helps. Some recent studies I’ve read give me hope. One is about the correlation between sleep and weight loss – I could get behind that one. I’m ready to sleep almost any time of day. Especially if I blink too long. Another study said something to the effect that taking a bath might be equivalent to a half hour of walking. Sign me up! If sleeping more and taking baths could get me to my normal weight, you probably won’t see me until the end of July.

 

Meanwhile, nobody better mention taking my avocado away from me. I’m a woman on the edge.

 

Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved

 

Don’t Give Me Some Sugar

Magazines in a library

We are drowning in misinformation. Boing, boing, boing – our belief system is challenged so frequently we end up with whiplash. There are studies that make us believe one thing. Eventually, those studies are disproved, and we’re supposed to believe something else. We’ve seen it with so many things we ingest, inhale, inhabit. We’re inundated with ads telling us life will be so much better if only we own – or use – certain things. If we question their safety or efficacy, studies are shoved in our face to assure us that all is good and benign and we should all just shut up, close our eyes, and don’t worry, be happy.

We like to hang onto the things that make us feel good. Years ago, it was cigarettes.  cigaretteWhen scientists were attempting to ring the alarm bells as to the dangers of smoking, the tobacco industry funded studies to calm those fears, assuring the public that there wasn’t any real danger and you could just keep puffing away with no ill effects. You were cool and fun if you smoked. Happy, popular people waving cigarettes around were the pictures we were deluged with on TV, in movies, and in magazines. The images of rotted lungs and cancer-ridden bodies were kept well-hidden for years. Big Tobacco had their own “peer-reviewed” studies published in major scientific journals to counter the bad publicity. Is anyone surprised? My guess is, not really.

e-cigNow there’s controversy over vaping. For those who want to smoke anywhere that smoking is prohibited, e-cigarettes initially seemed like a great option. But now we are hearing about their dangerous chemicals and flavorings and the fact that inhaling the vapor both first- and second-hand may be carcinogenic after all. While I don’t know of any current studies that purport vaping is perfectly safe, I’m waiting for that industry to push back in order to keep their profit margins healthy.

antibac-soapRecently, antibacterial soap has been banned. For years, we felt cleaner, even more virtuous, using antibacterial soap instead of plain old soap and water. It made sense, right? We were germ warriors, fighting disease and nasty bacteria while we sang two  verses of “Happy Birthday” as our hands foamed up with antibacterial cleanser straight from the pump, and water. And now, our halos have been tarnished by the knowledge that it soapwas all for naught. A plain old bar of no-name soap has the same cleaning properties as our fancy, expensive, wonderfully scented cleansers. And it’s probably much safer as well.

But to me, the most egregious betrayal has been done to us by the sugar industry. Sugar! Sweet and wonderful sugar. Where would we be sugarwithout birthday cake and chocolate chip cookies and butter pecan ice cream and chocolate?

What happened was almost Shakespearean in the depth of the lies and treachery that pinned our growing obesity and heart disease epidemic solely on fat. Everything changed after these studies seemed to show, without a doubt, that we needed to stop eating fat – immediately. So new fat-freeindustries suddenly appeared – fat-free everything became the rage. The fact that even more sugar was being added to these foods to make them not taste like cardboard, was largely ignored.

A quote found on the NBC News page sums it all up: “Together with other recent analyses of sugar industry documents, our findings suggest the industry sponsored a research program in the 1960s and 1970s that successfully cast doubt about the hazards of sucrose while promoting fat as the dietary culprit in coronary heart disease,” Kearns, Glantz and colleagues wrote. “By the 1980s, few scientists believed that added sugars played a significant role in coronary heart disease, and the first 1980 Dietary Guidelines for Americans focused on reducing total fat, saturated fat, and dietary cholesterol for coronary heart disease prevention,” they added.

dollarsThink of what this means for a moment. Think of all the money you spent on crappy tasting food because you thought it would make you healthy. Think of all the people who developed or increased their heart-disease risks and diabetes risks because they stopped eating fats, but continued to load up on sugar-laden foods. Think of the fact that the people behind industry-funded research don’t give a damn about anything other than the almighty dollar and we are paying the price for all of this greed and corruption. And we are not only paying the price in dollars, but also with our health – and our lives.

Even though I consider myself a realist, this even surprised me. If you can’t trust something as sweet as sugar, who or what can you trust?  I expect politicians to betray me. I expect boyfriends to betray me. I’ve even learned to expect my own body to betray me. But sugar? It’s enough to push me over the edge in search of a bar of chocolate. Or ice cream. Or both.

chocolate

 

Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved