A Heart-Wise Reality Check
Mister Reality Check stopped by to see me last week when I got word that a dear friend was unexpectedly admitted into the hospital for open-heart surgery. Just four days prior to receiving this news, I had cackled with him at a party for a mutual friend, sharing our hopes and dreams, and in the short term, the plans we had in store for the long holiday weekend. Little did we know that life had other plans for him and his arteries.
The dramatic turn of events aside, the bypass was successful, and my friend is now at home, recuperating and perhaps reflecting on how quickly life can flash before our eyes.
The news knocked the wind right out of me, as it took me back 25 years when my father's heart stopped pumping and then just six weeks later, his mother's heart stopped, too. It was DNA's way of screaming from the rooftops to my mother: "Lady, this is a warning; get your kids screened for cholesterol immediately and cool it with those double cheese burgers."
For the next few years, we played by the rules, switching out hydrogenated Oreos for low-fat ginger snaps, shifting from full fat to skim milk and letting go of obvious cardiac demons such as bacon, ice cream and fries.
As an adult, my heart-minded diet has gone on a journey filled with twists, turns, peaks and valleys. During most of my twenties, I ignored the cardiologist's advice and ate whatever I wanted. Within a few years, I paid the price for my dietary arrogance and my cholesterol level was having the last laugh. Into my thirties and now forties, I continue to dance with cholesterol devil, unable to remain steadfast with a heart-smart diet.
Just a few weeks ago, I remarked to another friend that if ever I were to be diagnosed with cancer, I would immediately do a clean sweep of my diet and look at food solely as medicine.
Her response was: Why wait?
She's right. What the hell am I waiting for? And whatever happened to the notion of food as preventative medicine? And how did I lose my dietary footing, particularly as a food writer?
While strolling through the hospital hallways, my friend the bypass patient bemoaned the changes in his new diet, which would include restrictions on both fat and salt.
"No-salt Saltines," he said, with a sigh. "That's no fun."
And fun is what life is all about, right?
Eating to live or living to eat: Where do we draw the line? As I sit with Mister Reality Check, who has no interest in leaving the building, I am nervous and uncomfortable -- at long last. It is high time to find a new happy medium, and yes, it's a matter of the heart.
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