It has been more than two months since Rob and I embarked on our plan to lower his blood sugar and improve our general health. We are both a size smaller and falling, thanks to a strict regimen of low carbs, high fiber, and 2-3 mile walks almost every day of the week. When I am not surreptitiously twirling the waist of my formerly tightest skirt around my waist just because I can, I am looking for new things for us to try – most recently Ezekiel Bread, about which more later. Rob graciously and enthusiastically eats smaller meals with piles of vegetables, and sets new challenges for his daily run-walk. We are generally the beatific poster children of Success Through Healthy Living.
Here’s the thing, though: we still live in the same world we inhabited before The Reformation, and an important part of making really lasting change is developing the capacity to be a little flexible sometimes, and then climb right back onto the wagon. When one is a dinner guest, for example, it is beyond rude to pick through food, announcing what you “can’t” eat. We are not allergic to carbohydrates, and are unlikely to die as the result of consuming a half cup of fruit salad, or a cookie. It is far worse karma, in my opinion, to devalue the hard work of someone who has cooked for you than it is to eat a respectable portion of whatever it is and then add a half mile of walking or some sprints on the stairs to burn it off.
Aside from situations in which someone else would be hurt or embarrassed if we refrained, there are certain rituals and milestones of life that call (in our culture, anyway) for celebration. I make possibly the best carrot cake in the universe (and I wouldn’t say it if it weren’t true), and I make it three times a year: for Father’s Day, for Rob’s's birthday, and for my father’s birthday. It isn’t hard to make, but it is incredible, incredibly rich and caloric; even in the days when we consumed calories like the government spends money, it was not a regular household commodity. I didn’t make the cake for Father’s Day, because that was the month we had to lower Rob’s's blood sugar or face the insulin. Since we were doing so well, I decided that we could have some for Rob’s birthday celebration, although we could each only have one piece, and the balance of the cake was to be left at my parents’ house where we couldn’t succumb to it’s considerable charms.
Last night we went out to dinner as a final flourish to the four day celebration of the birthday, and the cake was to be the grand finale. Knowing this, I ate pretty reasonably at the restaurant – an appetizer of ricotta and mozzarella wrapped in eggplant (no carbs), a salad with nuts and cheese (low carbs) and a piece of salmon with “hold the rice and extra vegetables.” I confess to snitching approximately two inches of bread, which was divine, but I did stop after that. Rob ate, along with a steak, a fried calamari appetizer (!), a whole baked potato (!!), bread (!!!) and two IPAs (!!!!). At my parents’ house we had our cake, and I confess that I was already so full that I couldn’t finish mine. At that point, I felt uncomfortably full, and very, very sleepy. Rob wasn’t doing much better.
Within 30 minutes of arriving at our own house, we were lying in agony on couch and chair, looking and feeling like beached whales waiting for the crew with the yellow tape to come and cordon us off until we could swim away safely. My stomach hurt, I could not stay awake (at 9:00 PM) and even when I slept I was uncomfortable. We had consumed meals which, three months ago, would have seemed perfectly reasonable – even modest, aside from the carrot cake, and we were in agony. In my case it had taken nothing more sinister than part of a piece of carrot cake to do me in.
There is no question that we have learned from this experiment. We have to be able to acommodate the odd treat in order to live in our world, and prior to last night’s debacle we had suffered no ill-effects from the odd cookie or large serving of rice. On the other hand, we are apparently not up to an evening of eating like we used to. Last night’s meal was the culinary equivalent of Antabuse, and I need nothing more to drive me straight back to the land of the un-processed, un-fried and low carb. I judge no one who can enjoy a great meal and a slab of carrot cake; there are millions of healthy, active folks who could have killed last night’s dinner without a backward glance. Not I. (Apparently, not Rob, either). I honestly can’t wait for tonight’s grilled chicken, quinoa and zucchini, and an hour on the walking path.