A total lifestyle change can mean many things. It can mean no more drinking alcohol or caffeine, the cessation of smoking cigarettes, getting plenty of rest, adopting frequent exercise, or changing ones eating habits for the better. I’ve now done all of these. Except stopping caffeine. Coffee is my last vice. Nothing could make me give it up. Well, unless it threatened to kill me, I suppose. *Twitch*
Something I’ve learned about myself in my late thirties, is that I dearly enjoy living. In January after some physical symptoms I was having stumped my neurologist he sent me to my primary care physician, who decided to check my electrolyte and iron levels, and added a cholesterol test to my blood work as an afterthought. A few days later, I received a letter informing me that my cholesterol was high and my doctor recommended meds. I had a decision to make. I did not want more medication.
High cholesterol was most likely not what caused the symptoms I was having in December. My PCP narrowed it down to seasonal changes and needing more water. the more water thing flummoxed me since, other than black coffee, water is all I drink. But, turned out I needed more. I’m grateful my doctor added that last minute cholesterol test that day. She’s thorough like that and that’s why I love her.
When I received that letter, I made an appointment with her to discuss my options.. I wallowed for a week, eating everything I knew was bad, and then I hit the internet and taught myself about cholesterol and how to lower it with diet. I decided I would do it naturally because I did not want more medication. I’m on enough, thank you very much.
What I learned was that everything converts to fat. Duh, right? But that there are good fats and bad fats and hiding fats and hiding sugar which converts to fat and packaging labels lie and cholesterol raising ingredients are everywhere and man, it’s a dangerous world.
So basically, if I wanted to stay away from more medication, I would need to prepare all my food from scratch. Well, I told myself, here’s the push you need to finally begin preparing your own food.
I’d known for awhile that this had to happen, that the way I was eating was terribly unhealthy, like Frozen dinners (even those referring to choices that are healthy or cuisines that are lean) or fast food burgers that B picked up on the way home from work,yum. I would try and order the healthier items when we’d do take-out from restaurants, *cough* labels lie, but I was fooling myself, desiring the easy way out.
You know that phrase, nothing worth doing is easy?
In the weeks leading up to my doctor appointment, I began eating foods I prepared. I had a left over box of pasta in the cabinet so I would sauté fresh veggies and toss them with olive oil and pasta. I changed my frosted mini wheats for Quaker Old Fashioned Oats. None of that quick, packaged stuff with the yummy fruit. Remember those hidden sugars? Nothing processed for me, baby. I switched to 1% milk for my oatmeal and added raisins and honey. I made fruit salads with apples and grapes in non-fat, plain Greek yogurt for lunch. When I went back to my doctor I had lost seven pounds in two weeks.
I told her all the dietary changes I had made. I explained about exercising on week days. She congratulated me on the weight loss and said what I was doing was working. No pasta though. That converts to sugar which converts to fat and up goes your cholesterol. She said I could have a side of pasta sometimes. Who wants to put in the work of boiling pasta for a side dish though? Not this girl. I finished the box of pasta and bought no more.
My doctor was concerned that nothing I had mentioned included protein, so I added chicken to my list of things to learn to cook as well as beans. I now make hummus from scratch. I make it so from scratch in fact, that I buy five pound bags of raw chickpeas, soak them, and boil them. I want to know exactly what is in my food. I don’t trust those lying labels any more than I trust a lot of lawyers. This is my health, and if I’m going so far as to not take a drug that many people take and trust, I’m going to be serious about lowering my cholesterol another way.
*Cough* Except for dinner on weekends. Hey, a girl needs french fries sometimes.
Is this where olive oil comes in? Not yet. Well sort of. We are at the part of the post that involves olive oil, yes. Just not french fries.
Another thing I’ve changed about my life, is the addition of podcasts. I read something somewhere about podcasts being an excellent source for story ideas and examples of dialogue. That was my intention when I began listening to podcasts, to jot down dialogue ticks from listening to real people speak, and to add to my well of ideas. Who knew that learning more about the world would be so rewarding? That has been a welcome side effect.
My weekday routine now includes listening to NPR’s Fresh Air every morning while I prepare and eat my oatmeal, make the bed, and clean my teeth. Yesterday, I had to fast before going to get my blood drawn. It was the first check of my cholesterol since the lifestyle change. I’ll get the results next week. Hash tag fingers crossed. (I wrote out the words hash tag because I’ve taken to saying them when I speak, in case you were wondering, which you probably weren’t.)
Since I didn’t eat my oatmeal for breakfast yesterday, I didn’t listen to Fresh Air, so I listened to it today while I prepared my oatmeal. Every day while it’s cooking I grind beans for a cup of coffee and grab my agave nectar, almonds, and Greek yogurt. I cook raisins in with the oatmeal so they’re nice and plump, and doctor the mixture when it’s done nuking.
When I pulled the yogurt out of the fridge, the container felt as though there were liquid in it. I knew I was running low since tomorrow is grocery day, and sometimes yogurt gets a bit liquidy. (My Mac is telling me that liquidy is not a word, but on my blog, it is.)
the microwave beeped and, like always, I added a spoon full of yogurt to the hot oats. My attention was drawn away from the episode of fresh air when the spoon didn’t feel nearly as heavy as it usually does when full of Greek yogurt. I shrugged and tipped the spoon over the bowl.
It was then that I thought about the old Greek yogurt container in which I keep my olive oil, in the cabinet. I keep my oil this way so that I can ladle it out with my aluminum measuring spoons, bent in such a way that they are miniature ladles. I was taught this technique by a rehab counselor when i was newly blind. I’d pour my liquids into a cup, ladle the needed amount with the measuring spoon, then use a funnel to pour the liquid back into its container. Oil is such a mess though, that I simply keep it in a yogurt container I can easily ladle out of. I keep salt in an old butter container. Cinnamon, too. Just level off with the flat edge of a butter knife.
Luckily only one spoonful of olive oil made it into my oatmeal. I added my two spoonfuls of Greek yogurt and a handful of almonds, stirred it all up, and prayed. I could taste the olive oil, but just barely. I bet anyone who didn’t know it was there, wouldn’t taste it. I thought hmmm, if I ever need to add even more olive oil to my diet than I already eat, I can just add a spoonful to my oatmeal.
How the olive oil got into the refrigerator right in front of where I keep the Greek yogurt, I’ll never know. It’s kinda like the day after my Y2K party, when I found the milk on the counter, and the scissors in the fridge. Only these days, I’m completely sober.
If I have any readers left after my unintentional hiatus, tell me, should I tell the story of setting my pants on fire while cooking chickpeas?