It's incredible to me, the effortless NBD aura that all doctors seem to give off. Like all of those doctors on medical drama shows who keep cool as cucumbers as the seventh knife wound victim is wheeled into the E.R. in one shift. As I met with my doctor at my initial appointment, he told me the probable cause for my symptoms along with my two plausible choices. As he did this, he definitely gave me the message:
"Yeah, uh huh. No babies. So, what'll it be? Pills or pounds?"
He suggested a few diets he had "heard of" that seemed to get good results for other patients, and then he brought the lights down low and decided to make it personal. ...okay, the lights stayed on in all of their full-blast fluorescent glory. I just imagined it that way. Like the part of an 'NSYNC concert - yeah, I've been to a lot of them - where the lights would get low and J.C. would use his bedroom voice to tell all of the lovely ladies out there that he loved them and each and every one of the aforementioned ladies' tummies would get butterflies and then the rest of the group would come out onstage thrusting their hips and singing in five-part harmony about forever love and unicorns and such.
Only my doc wasn't trying to get me to throw my underwear at him.
He was just trying to be less of a tool, I think.
Anyway, he told me a "deeply personal" story about when his wife finally decided to get control of her weight. She decided to go off of all dairy, and the pounds magically melted away. He acted like this was the hardest diet he had ever heard of, and I'm pretty sure he implied more than once that I wasn't woman enough to do it.
The only problem was that I am not now, nor have I ever been, a big dairy girl. If my doc and his wife grew up around here maybe they were brought up on full fat milk from the dairy down the road and cheese on their every baked potato and butter and all of that. But, until the studies came out in overwhelming numbers on the super-terribleness of margarine, that was all I ever had in my house. Milk was either painstakingly squeezed from a cactus flower or shipped to Las Vegas, my birthplace, from some far off land where things like cows could survive in the open. ...by the way, I may have made up the cactus-milk thing. Sorry.
Giving up dairy was not my answer.
I spent the intermediate week between dooms day doctor, blood tests and results looking up the diets my doctor had mentioned. The Flat Belly Diet by Prevention Magazine had some really interesting ideas in it, including information especially applicable to me about the nature of belly fat. Belly fat, it so happens, is a huge marker of diabetics. I have always gathered the bulk of my, well, bulk around my middle, but the flat belly diet suggests a number of reasons besides diabetes that contribute to belly weight, including chronic stress. I sent this picture to my sister-in-law, Mandy, after a particularly bad day and a long phone call spent bawling to her about my worries and woes. I knew that the last two years had been really, really - no, really - hard on me, but it was especially difficult to read through this list and realize I either had or was currently experiencing just about every symptom listed.
I made a list of my own, because, well, that's just what I do, and "Figure out a way to deal better with stress" wound up at the top of the page.
The basic tenets of The Flat Belly Diet is that the dieter should eat four four-hundred calorie meals per day, each one containing at least one serving of MUFAs -- ANOTHER ACRONYM! Yes! I am on a roll.
A MUFA is a Monounsaturated Fatty Acid. These are found in things like peanut butter, nuts and seeds, olives, olive oil, and even dark chocolate.
I loved the idea of eating more servings of MUFAs in my daily life - hey, it beats swallowing one giant, nasty fish oil pill every day, right? - and I figured I would start there as far as changes to my diet went.
Okay, here is the part where I insert that I don't really believe that "diets" work. I have been on enough of them to know. As I wrote about last time, over the past five months I have come to realize that it is me - my attitude, my habits, my beliefs - that must change. I have started to believe that it's only realizing that I can wait, stop, nibble, sip or just say no, and there is nothing wrong with that every single day. There is a saying that makes more sense to me now that I have actually tried to apply this IWKYTMO mantra - We must all suffer from one of two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. I honestly think that knowing this, and I mean really knowing it, is the only "diet" that has or will ever work. It means not expecting perfection, but instead being quick to forgive, forget and move on. It means acknowledging that I don't "deserve" anything but a healthy lifestyle and a clear conscience.
In the addiction recovery world, I first learned about the concept of Hitting Rock Bottom. For an addict, HRB doesn't mean that you are cured and will be perfect, but it does mean that the pain of the consequences of your actions/addiction finally outweigh the pleasure of indulging in your addiction. Sitting on that crinkly paper bed-liner and trying not to cry while a guy who was charging me $40/second to listen to his patient-but-bored speech on dropping LBs felt an awful lot like falling through the air and landing on the unforgiving rocks below. Reading about MUFAs was the first step in picking myself up and limping forward.
Incorporating more MUFAs into my diet has been easy. I am already the biggest peanut butter lover on the face of the earth. Spreading a tablespoon on an apple at night when I am feeling snacky feels like a luxury. Grabbing a square of rich dark chocolate and nibbling away at it feels like sinning. Throwing chopped walnuts into my salad feels like giving my heart a high-five. ...you know. In a good way.
For the next few days I stocked my pantry with the MUFAs I wanted to incorporate into meals, and I started on the four-day jumpstart plan listed in The Flat Belly Diet. It was a great way to begin eating more mindfully, and prepping my tummy to down-grade the amount of food being shoved in there every day. I skipped the weird water thing it wanted you to drink every day, but, to be fair, it sounded intensely disgusting to me. If you are interested in The Flat Belly Diet, go to their website, check out the book at your local library, or buy it almost-anywhere for about $5. It's a pretty good, quick read, and it made for a great kick start to a new way of thinking - Read: Actually thinking before, during and after eating - for me.
PS Hey Doc, Just FYI, I am woman enough to do this.