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Posts Tagged ‘healthy eating’

  1. OPP (Other People’s Plates)

    March 24, 2011 by Laura

    Now that I’m on a health kick, I really notice what other people are eating. Last night we went out on a date (!) to hear some live music (!!), and the guy sitting next to us was having steak and potatoes and gravy. He was a big guy. It was when he got the ice cream for dessert that I went into one of those critical care nurse reveries of him becoming diaphoretic and clutching his chest, and me needing to yell, “YOU! Call 9-1-1 and get the AED!!” and then going through the whole CPR thing. As it turned out he survived the show. I can’t tell you how relieved I was. Nothing can ruin a date like an MI.

    And maybe it’s none of my business, right? It’s not like he was smoking and blowing it my way. Besides, my nose is so stuffy I couldn’t smell the steak. Why would I care? Because he’s the guy I take care of after the CPR keeps him going long enough to get to the ICU. And he’s the guy driving up the cost of health care with his MI and subsequent years of compromised cardiovascular health. OK, that sounds really cynical. I don’t really look at my patients and think, “Oh great, there go my premiums!” I see my patients and their families as people who are suffering. What’s sadder, is that they often accept that suffering (and it is considerable) as their fate.

    Not all of the illness I see is avoidable, but much of it is. I tell you this, and simultaneously remind myself, because we have a tendency to blithely follow our habits as though we are powerless to do otherwise. I want to tell you that as long as you are on this side of the hospital bed, you are not powerless.

    Last week I had a patient who was in terrible pain because his left foot was dead; that is, no blood supply to it. His peripheral arteries were so blocked, that he was awaiting the amputation of his foot. Arterial disease is about inflammation, and smoking causes inflammation. When I reminded him of this, he told me to quit nagging. When I told him he still had one foot left to save, he rolled his eyes. He would rather lose his legs that lose the cigarettes. Sound crazy? I don’t know. I don’t know how to assimilate that in a way that does justice to an entire person, rather than just throwing around catchy phrases about personal responsibility. I like to believe that we’re all doing the best we can with what we’re given, while still believing that there’s always room to grow.

    What I do know is that our bodies are, in general, extremely resilient. We have built-in healing processes that we can enhance in myriad ways. The best methods do not require us to seek specialized practitioners, expensive  supplements, or exotic treatment plans. Eat right (and by “right” I mean tons of vegetables), exercise daily, enjoy quality time with people you like and have a hobby. The tricky thing here is that all of these require us to assume some measure of control over our own health and lives. We can’t look to the medication or the herb or the retreat or the trainer to save us from ourselves. We have to trust that we can provide for ourselves adequately. I presume that just about my entire audience is capable of this. If you grew up eating nothing but convenience store foods and have no idea what to do with broccoli well, welcome! I hope I can help.

    I hope we can all help each other, actually.


  2. Incredible abundance (and moderation)

    February 16, 2011 by Laura

    Tonight’s dinner was soup & salad. Again. But lest you think I am living a life of asceticism, let’s compare and contrast what I might have eaten for dinner 2 months ago. A very typical dinner for us was roasted chicken. When done well it is undoubtedly one of the more delicious foods out there. The meal might have consisted of salad, chicken, brown rice or roasted potatoes, and broccoli or green beans. That sounds healthy, right? I think so too. I can eat half a chicken, no prob. Most of my calories would have come from the chicken. The potatoes and green veggie would probably have been seasoned with garlic, lemon, salt & pepper, or something similarly simple. They would have been side dishes, meaning the obligatory other things on the plate so that we don’t look like animals. Add in a glass of wine, and there would seem to be a decent variety of, you know, stuff. Animal, vegetable, mineral, the food groups well represented.

    Tonight we had vegetable bean soup & green salad. I took inventory of the meal’s components while admiring the colors on the plate. Represented were no fewer than 6 lettuces plus arugula; 3 members of the allium genus (leeks, garlic & red onion); 2 umbellifers (carrot & parsnip); 2 brassicas (cabbage & kale); 2 solanaceae (red peppers & tomatoes); 1 legume; avocados, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, cashews, figs, mustard seeds & balsamic vinegar. Wow! How unbelievably lucky am I– are we– to have access to all this? And clean water too… it’s all a gift. I’m starting to feel like a Cafe Gratitude menu.

    Recently I was confronted with what I thought was a rather cynical rebuttal to my groovy meal plan: It’s just not possible for everyone in the world to eat this (good, organic) food all the time. The implication being that it’s not worth bothering, since it’s impractical on a global scale. We may be well past that tipping point where organic agriculture is capable of sustaining the Earth’s population. Is that a good argument to continue to pursue gluttony? Should I therefore consume greater quantities of less nutritious calories? I was also confronted by someone who said, “I could make a case that veganism isn’t all that healthy.” Sure, but not as great a case as I could make that what they’re likely eating is less healthy. And for crying out loud, I’M NOT A VEGAN!

    A note on moderation: If I could do moderation, I wouldn’t be writing this blog. It’s like those potato chips that came out a few years back that were basically indigestible and caused really embarrassing side effects. They suggested that you only eat a few. If I could eat only a few potato chips, I wouldn’t be buying fat-free ones now, would I? Jesus… (By the way, I never bought those potato chips.) So for now, I won’t be eating any of the things that I said I wouldn’t be eating.

    Tomorrow I will go back to work after a 6 week hiatus. I’m looking forward to it. I work with great people, both my colleagues and patients. Most of our patients come to us as a result of cardiac or vascular disease, diabetes, or chronic respiratory conditions. In other words, problems that were likely preventable. Often our patients are very grateful for our care and thank us with boxes of See’s Candy. To be honest, I think it’s overrated, but I generally eat about 4 pieces per shift. No, really, that’s why there’s hardly any left by the end of the shift. Sorry. And I know, it was probably meant for you hotshot “Heart Nurses”, not for little ol’ me.  Don’t worry. From now on if someone comes in with a box of See’s or doughnuts, I’ll just look at them, smile sweetly and then say, “What the f#ck is wrong with you?! Are you trying to kill us?? Take this poison that likely got you into the mess you were in and throw it right in that red bin there– the one marked ‘Biohazard!'”

    Just kidding.