Taking the Healthy Coastal Lifestyle to Another Coast

Even before the humbling and irritating doctor’s appointment, I knew I needed to make some changes to my life and diet. Four days before my appointment, we had returned from our teenager’s senior trip and a truly epic family vacation to Florida. Since it was VACAY!!!, I was pretty careless about my eating. I didn’t overeat, but I also didn’t make the best food choices. My teen challenged me not to log my food for the week, and I was okay with that. You may remember that I’m a lazy dieter, and as opposed to trying to figure out how to add a new food or its components to my nutrition log app, I’ll just not eat it. I vaguely remember eggs a couple of mornings, three (gasp!) cheeseburgers, a cinnamon roll, and a large banana fritter during the week. Suffice it to say, I’d butchered my cholesterol-vulnerable bloodstream!

After a trip like this, I eat a lot of whole grains in the weeks following, especially oat-based products, like oatmeal. Then again, I usually eat six burgers a year, so eating this many in such a short amount of time was really out of character for me. I ate my whole grains, but I also thought that we needed a reset on our diets to get back to our lean meats and fruits and veggies. Something led my mind to the Mediterranean diet.

You know me, and you have heard me say that I don’t do “diets.” I don’t do restrictions and eliminating certain micronutrients (e.g., carbs) from my life just for the purpose of losing weight. Friends and family members have done that, and I’ve seen that fail them over and over as their weight has yo-yo’ed down and back up with no lasting results. Before even entertaining the ideas of adapting our diet to the Mediterranean diet, I researched. And researched and researched and researched. I didn’t and don’t need anecdotal evidence of success: “I lost 18 pounds in one week!” or “I went down five dress sizes in a month!” In fact, I doubt either of those is a realistic expectation of this food plan.

From all that I’ve been able to ascertain, the Mediterranean food plan is more about long-lasting health and increased longevity and quality of life just from, well, pretty much eating as Jesus ate. Research shows that those who adopt this eating plan have lower cholesterol, less chance of cardiovascular events (i.e., heart attacks and strokes), and are less likely to develop certain dementias. A deeper plunge into studies based on this way of eating substantiates theories that eating Mediterranean can decrease depression and anxiety.

Wha-a-at??? Sounds almost too good to be true, doesn’t it? And yes, I know I’m beginning to sound like a late-night infomercial (“But wait! There’s more!”). Let me pause right here and say–promise–that I’m getting absolutely no kick-backs off this blog post at all. This is all me sharing with you some things I’ve learned. The American Psychiatric Association did this study where they looked at the effects of the Mediterranean diet on people’s moods. Apparently, magnesium as an important dietary mineral is prevalent in fish, whole grains, almonds, and a few other foods that are key components of the Mediterranean diet. I have no problem believing the science, but I also believe how fabulous I’ve been feeling of late! I feel stronger, healthier, fuller, and happier.

That’s the another thing I like: I feel full all the time. Not bloated or anything, just pleasantly satisfied. The amount of fruit I’ve been eating has taken care of my desire for sweets, and we have found alternatives to things we had enjoyed. Plain nonfat Greek yogurt that I can stir honey into has replaced my lowfat vanilla American-style yogurt with added sugar.

Another thing about this way of eating that I’ve really enjoyed is the creative inspiration to change up old stand-bys. Instead of chicken salad with mayonnaise (even though we use light), we have discovered chicken salad with a delicious olive oil and lemon dressing with veggies hidden in it. That was amazing in whole grain pita bread! Steamed broccoli has stepped aside for much more flavorful roasted broccoli drizzled with a little lemon juice and sprinkled with feta cheese.

The sheer variety of food options thrills us, too. Are you aware of how many nations and cultures border the Mediterranean, each with its own flavors? Yet, the basic foods of the Mediterranean eating plan overlap them all. Seafood, lentils, fruits, vegetables, and grains, all set apart by robust seasonings and herbs. This means dinner never has to be boring, but we can also stay with our plan while exploring different tastes and textures.

With the Mediterranean diet, we have only had to cut out the few bad fats we were eating, processed foods, and refined sugars. With easy substitutions, this has hardly caused a blip for us. I’ll admit, we’re not 100% on this thing, yet. A surplus of fresh broccoli after our teen’s graduation party over the weekend left me wondering what in the world I was going to do with it before it went bad. My dad suggested broccoli casserole. It’s not at all “Med-friendly,” but I made one, anyway. We’re having it tonight with baked salmon. My older daughter suggested fruit with honeyed yogurt for dessert to go with it and further offset the unhealthiness of the casserole while adding a bit more protein and a fruit serving.

Keep your eyes here as I share some of the delicious recipes I’ve discovered, including ones for all the dishes I’ve mentioned here (but not the broccoli casserole).

Have you tried the Mediterranean eating plan, yet? How has it worked for you?

Medical Fat Shaming Needs to Go!

If you are carrying a bit of extra weight, you’ve gone to the doctor, only to hear them make a comment about your needing to lose weight. Some doctors just tell you you need to lose x number of pounds to improve your health. Other docs are a bit more passive-aggressive about it.

Early last fall, my right knee was giving me problems, so I went to my orthopedist to see what was going on. He said, “You could stand to lose some weight. I was having knee issues, lost fifteen pounds, and that took care of it.” I replied with, “I lost twenty-five pounds and wrecked my knees in the process.” Suffice it to say, that shut him right up.

My teen suffers from migraines, and her doctor was telling her about one of her medications. He said, “It may suppress your appetite, so that’ll be good for taking a little weight off, eh? [chuckles]” My teen has curves backed by muscle and fierce soccer thighs with curves that were common among 50s pin-up girls.

The final straw came week before last, though. I went for my annual physical because part of the healthy coastal lifestyle is making sure everything is working as it should. I always get a full blood panel done to monitor my cholesterol (which tends to run a little on the high-normal side–darn genetics!). The family nurse practitioner came in and immediately started talking about my weight and addressing my cholesterol. Her advice ranged from cutting out most of my carbs, eating just egg whites, and not tracking what I eat. I pointed out to her that there is a huge difference between carbs from Grape Nuts and carbs from potato chips. Keeping my micronutrients in balance and tracking my food have been two things that have helped me.

Two things are true, though. I keep an eye on my cholesterol every year and am mindful about eating foods and living a lifestyle that will keep it within normal range. I also knew going into this appointment that my cholesterol would be higher due to pre-vacation stress and the food I ate on vacation. I wasn’t wrong. I also thought that, given the walking I’d done while on our vacation and that I was weighing in on a fast, it seemed that my relationship with gravity that the doctor’s office scales were reporting was off by more than a few pounds. The next morning, I hopped on our bathroom scales first thing and concluded that either I’d miraculously lost seven pounds overnight or someone’s scales were off. Maybe it’s ours, maybe it’s the doctor’s. But given that my eight-pound barbell weighed exactly eight pounds on our scale, I have concluded it was the doctor’s.

I would wager that everyone who is carrying a little extra weight is quite well aware of it. This has always been my truth, partly due to genetics, partly because I’m short, and partly because of my enjoyment of food. I’ve struggled with my weight my entire life. When I was younger and my pediatrician would give my mom the stats–“She’s in the 98th percentile for weight”–my mom would always say, “That means only two percent of girls your age are bigger than you.” It was always “bigger,” never “fatter” or “heavier,” but I knew exactly what she meant. The fat shaming didn’t work then, and it certainly doesn’t work now.

What if, then, instead of doctors blaming everything that ails us on our weight (except for, of course, those diseases that are directly related to weight), they addressed it more proactively and positively? Instead of doctors assuming we are idiots who aren’t aware of our proportions, they could instead ask patients what we know about our weight. That FNP I saw could have asked, “What steps are you taking to lose weight?” Then she’d know that I monitor what I eat and what my activity level looks like. If she’d asked me about my cholesterol, then I could have told her things like my genetic predisposition, how stress can make it go up and what stress I was under, and the very out-of-my-usual foods I’d eaten the week prior. Instead of assuming I was both ignorant and careless about my cholesterol, she could have instead learned that I’m both mindful and careful with it.

I have since made arrangements to switch providers. Our family has also started introducing elements of the Mediterranean diet into our lives. With its heavy emphasis on fruits and vegetables, summer is the most fabulous time to start this. I’ll be speaking more about that in posts to come.

Have you ever had a doctor fat-shame you? How did that feel?