I’m dieting so you don’t have to

I recently spent over two hours with a nutritionist recommended by my primary care physician. I met with the nutritionist for two very distint reasons – the first so he could help me understand a gluten-free diet since I was diagnosed with celiac disease (more on that in a separate post), the second, and frankly, the one he was much more interested in, to help me lose weight and improve my cholesterol.  I was game for the weight loss plan since I have a stubborn fifteen to twenty pounds to lose but skeptical about using cholesterol as a measuring tool because (a.) both my parents have terribly high cholesterol, at least twice as high as mine with the addition of statins, and (b.) my numbers aren’t bad to begin with.  In fact, once we dispensed of all the gluten -related talk I waved my latest numbers if front of him, absurdly proud of myself. My good cholesterol was up, up, up.  My bad cholesterol was down, down, down. My trigicerides were low. Sugar? Normal. Given my family history I felt happy, proud. That is, until the nutritionalist started talking (I thought for a bit about nicknaming him Jack Ass Nutritionalist but have since decided against doing so since, really, he’s just trying to make me feel better, heal, and live a really long time).

“We’ve got to get your numbers down.  They are still significant,” he said, leaning over the table and grabbing notebook from my side of the table.

“Really? I thought I was on to something – the overall number is lower than it ever has been. It’s forty points lower than it was six months ago.”

I imagine many doctors and nutritionalists would congratulate their patients for a forty point, all natural, cholesterol improvement but S. and I go to the meanest primary care physician in the city and there are no congratulations, no hand shakes, from her – just a laundry list of things to improve every visit.

“But you are near the high end of normal,” he pointed out, writing something in his mysterious notebook.

“Well, I think that’s good! I mean, my parents’ both have cholesterol hovering in the high 200s…with statins! So did my grandmother.” I sat back and crossed my arms over my chest, pleased with my argument.

“Are you your parents?” He asked, continuously jotting. I imagined him jotting patient extraordinarily difficult – in denial.

“Well, no. I mean, obviously not.”

“So why are you comparing yourself to them?”

“Well, it’s just – cholesterol is at least partly a hereditary thing, right?”

He waved his hand in the air, which he does a lot – as though erasing my thoughts as they fall from my mouth.

“I don’t do that – I don’t care about your parents. My goal is to get your bad cholesterol down to sixty.”

“Sixty?” Truly, I sputtered. I laughed.

“Yep. Then it’s a negative risk factor for heart disease. So our goal number is sixty.”

“Well, I just really don’t see how that’s going to happen,” I said. “I think that’s impossible.”

“With that attitude it certainly is. But look, you’re young. You don’t have any health problems. Why not nip these two things in the bud…your extra twenty pounds and your cholesterol? Why have them hanging around you in a decade, when you’ll have kids and more pressure from work and less time to take care of yourself?”

See why he isn’t really a jackass?

“Okay.” I said. Grudgingly.

“So, let’s go over what you eat. What do you eat for breakfast?”

“Oatmeal and fruit. Almost exclusively.”

Okay – for the sake of expediency I am going to omit all the foods he ask me if I ate that could contribute to my current situation, including pork rinds, nightly ice cream, a daily beer or three…it took a grand tour of the American Way of Eating before he pinpointed my (in his eyes) problem.

What about butter? Do you ever cook with butter?” He asked.

“Well yes. Of course.”

“How much butter?”

I honestly couldn’t think of an answer for him. How much butter? However much is necessary for whatever I am eating, is what I told him.

“You can’t have butter. It’s terrible for you. Use olive oil exclusively – measure how much you use. Use something like Benecol or Smart Balance if you have to – measure that, too.”

“But I thought it was better to eat more natural products, like in Europe…”

“Europeans don’t eat butter. Besides, do you live in Europe?”

“Um, no.”

“So I don’t want to hear that argument again. Until you are living in Paris or Rome and living a true European lifestyle it does not matter what they eat or what they do – you are still working a high-pressure job and eating on the run half the time. Now what about cheese? You eat cheese?”

“Of course.” Since I was trying to be all European and all.

“You can’t eat cheese. Cheese is death. You know what I think when I stroll through the cheese section of Whole Foods?”

Um, food orgasm? Because that is what I think.

“No, what do you think?”

“I think early heart attack. I think death. Cheese is death. Remember that.”

Together, we reviewed foods I could eat and foods I couldn’t and while I have to admit the list of foods to avoid seems grossly over-exaggerated to me I have decided to commit to this low-fat, low-carb, high-intensity exercise diet for one year. Because, really. I know I have been given the gift of pretty wonderful health…despite the celiac diagnosis I have pretty fabulous bloodwork and unlike a lot of my friends in their thirties I don’t have a bad back or a funky thyroid or anything like that, and I should protect what I’ve been given. So, as I told S., here is the deal – I am committing to this diet (both the gluten-free and the low-fat) and if, in a year, I don’t feel fabulous or I haven’t lost weight or my cholesterol hasn’t reached that elusive goal of sixty, then I’ll deal with it at that point.

Jokingly, I say I’ll throw myself headfirst into a pile of cigarettes, martinis and steaks – all things I’ve either given up or am watching very carefully.

In all seriousness, these are my parameters: While the nutritionist and my doctor may measure my results by my cholesterol, I am not going to do so. I will measure myself solely by the way I feel and weight loss. After all, my numbers are NORMAL. That’s worth celebrating for me, even if it isn’t for them. And I am not entirely avoiding meat. I’ve already been on the diet a week and butter and cheese haven’t felt like a big deal at all, but I have a terrible craving for my mom’s sausage, pepper and potato recipe. I am going to make it, have one serving, and freeze the rest. If I can’t have some of the things I love, I won’t stick to  this – I just know it.

So, that’s the scoop! This diet seems a little ridiculous, even to me, but I am doing it so you don’t have to. I’ll share my results with you.

Oh! And also! Not only does cheese = death, apparently sugar = an even worse one. So, you know – avoid sugar. It is apparently a scourge.

Stay tuned, and happy weekend.

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24 Responses to I’m dieting so you don’t have to

  1. Becky says:

    Wow, that’s a commitment. It’s a tough one but I bet you do feel better if you stick to it (not that I think I could give up cheese). And I think your attitude is the right one – complete deprivation just makes you obsess about all the food you aren’t eating. If you allow yourself the treats, it’s more likely the habits will be sustainable.

  2. Dorothy W. says:

    I am NEVER going to see a nutritionist! Okay, maybe, but it will be an awful experience if I ever do because I subsist on cheese, butter, simple carbs, and sugar. It’s bad. All the cycling in the world won’t help that, I’m afraid.

  3. Good luck – it sounds pretty rigorous. I agree with your nutritionist about sugar, but not about butter and cheese. However, who’s to argue? He sounds rather opinionated.

  4. Gumbomum says:

    I kind of like that “cheese is death” saying. Even though I like cheese, of course.

    Have you read Joel Furhman’s “Eat to Live”? It convinced me to drop meat, dairy, and refined carbs. Well, for about a week. Good book, though.

  5. Belle says:

    Celiac diagnosis? How long? I’ve had it for nigh on 6 years now and they hide gluten in a lot of things so it’s hard to avoid. There are so many wonderful blogs and cookbooks out there now though that it’s way easier than even six years ago. Make sure you get gluten-free oats for your oatmeal (Bob’s Red Mill offers some). Good luck! There are a lot of us out here.

  6. appellationmountain says:

    Yikes! Cheese = death? Sugar = immediate and yet horrible, painful death?

    Your attitude is fabulous. I’d be hiding in a corner, rocking like a motherless monkey after that conversation.

  7. laura says:

    You’re a brave woman! 🙂

    I’m trying to do the no sugar, and that’s hard! I couldn’t do no cheese, not to save my life! But I’m proud of you for your forty points! That IS huge, and you should be proud!

  8. smithereens says:

    Cheese = death??? [long, perplexed, European, butter-saturated silence] And your figures are in the normal range, right? What would he say if they weren’t… Does he think you’ll pay him more if he says so many mean things to you?

  9. Sara says:

    The sugars I can deal with cutting down and sodas are out. But cheese? Um, no. Lowfat cheese I will stick to but I won’t cut it out.

    Congrats on 40 points, that’s wonderful!

  10. Carmen says:

    Wow, that is a lot for one person to take in and try to deal with. I agree with Laura — you are a brave women! Sometimes we go to doctors and nutritionist for help, but we often leave feeling worse. The matter is — we do not like to deal with reality! What is the reality of dieting? Trying to eat right and stay motivated! I am here to tell you, that I can offer you a product that will help you drop 3 sizes instantly without any diets or surgery!!! The Body Magic. Have you heard of it? It’s a medical garment that is designed to reshape your body and drop your size in minutes. The garment is like a spank and girdle put together. It provides great curves, posture, lifts and back support. The product is called Body Magic because if you constantly wear the garment — you actually start loosing the pounds and your figure starts reshaping. In minutes you look great, but in months you can look like that without the garment, dieting or surgery. Google Body Magic for reference. The product has been on You Tube and CNN.

    If you are interesting in hearing and learning more, please send me an email or check out my site: ardysslife.com/fabulouscontours. We also carry a juice called Le’Vive that you take everyday 2 times a day, 2 ounces and it contributes to the weight lost. The juice is pure, no sugar and carry 5 antioxidants – the noni fruit, mangosteen, goji berry, the acai berry and pomegranate; an absolute detox!!!

  11. Noble Savage says:

    Death by cheese sounds pretty good to me! Count me in.

    Sorry, the guy sounds like an asshole, no matter how well-intentioned he may be. I can’t stand people who talk to other people like that and totally dismiss their ideas, thoughts, feelings, achievements, etc… because they think they have all the answers. Doctors are good at that.

  12. shoreacres says:

    I’m really glad you posted this because I need all the encouragement I can get – even if it comes from someone else’s nutritionist. I started eating oreos and snickers when I was waiting for hurricane Ike to come ashore, and I haven’t stopped.

    Even worse, I’m dealing with a recalcitrant, feisty, occasionally depressed 91 year old mother who’s completely insistent on any number of things that depress me to death. My answer? Ice cream. Large amounts.

    I’ve got to get myself turned around and headed back in a healthy direction, lose 20 pounds and stop depending on ice cream as an antidepressant. I intend to cover my fridge with posts from people who have wise things to say – or at least encouraging things! Yours will be right up there! (But that nutritionist could ease up a bit!)

  13. Emily Barton says:

    I’m in the sugar camp (which doesn’t mean I’ve done a very good job of giving it up completely, but I’m much better about it). However, I don’t think many who rail against it have read all the studies about organic, grass-fed meat and dairy (including cheese). It’s the factory farming and feeding the animals the wrong foods that make all those fats bad and strip them of their healthy, cholesterol-lowering omega-3s. Then again, we’re talking nutrition. You can find as many arguments for as you can against just about anything, if you look hard enough. So, good for you for trying the new diet, and we’ll all be eager to hear how it works.

  14. Emily Barton says:

    Did you know that WordPress will tell you you’re posting comments too quickly and to slow down? (THAT should help cholesterol levels.) Anyway, I (too quickly, apparently) also tried to add that this post is hilarious.

  15. JK says:

    Elana’s Pantry is an awesome website with recipes delicious gluten free recipes that are healthy and simple. Instead of sugar she uses agave nectar and grape-seed oil instead of butter. You can still have your frosted chocolate cupcake and enjoy eating it.


  16. Cam says:

    I talked my son into going to a nutritionist a few months ago – I’m so glad that Jack A. Nutritionist is not practicing here or I would still be hearing complaints. Death by butter and cheese induced food orgasms do sound much more fun that his stringent, no-joy prescriscriptions. And unnecessarily so, because there can be plenty of joy in foods that you can eat. Even though you are not following a vegetarian diet, I’d recommend investing in some vegetarian/vegan cookbooks and learning to love a whole new world of foods. Without trying, I’ve cut back drastically on flour-based products and cheese. I have lived by Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian this summer and have learned to love stuff that I’d never would have tried before. For example: Quinoa. Love it. And no gluton.

  17. litlove says:

    Your account of your nutritionist made me laugh a lot. He was so terrible he was truly funny. Of course he has a point, but you have a better one, going by how you feel. I am a strong believer in just listening to your body. Alas, human beings don’t come in textbook sizes but we know what feels healthful and right. Good luck with the diet. I gave up sugar and don’t eat much dairy on account of chronic fatigue, and it does make a difference to my general well being. So the hassle is sort of worth it.

  18. Courtney says:

    First of all, a quick update – I lost 6 lbs in the first week which is ENTIRELY too much – I think the lack of gluten combined with the lack of fat did a number on me…even found myself dizzy yesterday. I’ve added a few more grams of fat in this week – stay tuned.
    Becky…exactly. It’s all about choosing what treats you want to indulge in. I deeply fear becoming one of those women who ONLY talks about food.
    Dorothy – I remember lecturing you about veggies a year ago..still, no dice?
    Charlotte – he’s definitely opinionated. I have to admit I made a chicken dish tonight and I did add two tablespoons of butter…
    Gumbomum…I haven’t read it but I will look for it at the library the next time I am there!
    Belle – thanks for the support. This first week has been really weird…I’ve felt sort of “off” and at times like I did when I withdrew from cigarettes…weird! And – welcome!
    A- well, how did you get so skinny? You look amazing! I can’t believe you are eating much cheese or butter…
    Laura – thank you! I AM proud of that drop!
    Smithereens – I think mostly he is trying to help me with weight loss but I have such a wicked family history that perhaps he imagines it can’t hurt? Do you eat a lot of butter in France?
    Sara….good point. He did recommend some low fat cheese but I just have trouble seeing the point…
    Carmen …hello! You know, I can’t decide if you are wickedly supportive or just a more elaborate rendition of spam, but you know what? If you ARE spam, I totally dig you, so I’m keeping your comment around.
    NS – LOL – you forget, though, that I am totally a western medicine kind of girl…I work for and represent cancer care in America and feel I have to walk the walk, somewhat…
    Shoreacres…oh, sorry, you had me at ice cream…
    Emily – I really think this is the diet that he thinks can help me lose weight…I think his concern lies with my extra twenty pounds. That said I definitely lost TOO much the first week – am hoping to about halve the number this week…
    JK – ThANK you. That website is incredible!
    Cam – LOL – I checked Bittman’s book out last weekend – I’ve been inspired by it every day since!
    Litlove – I am SO glad it made you laugh…it was meant to. He really isn’t so much a jackass as just really, really vigilant…

  19. auntjone says:

    Cheese=death. I will post this on my fridge.

    Does he believe in moderation? I’m guessing the answer is no.

  20. JK says:

    Courtney: You’re welcome!! I’m happy to share it. 🙂

  21. smithereens says:

    Re:butter it’s not so much the quantity we eat alone (like, on toast) that the pastries, the croissants, the sauces etc. all prepared with butter. We don’t have fake butter either, so it’s the real thing – or not at all, which makes it harder I guess. Good luck for your diet, I admire your courage!

  22. Cheese=Death…I don’t know about that. Dairy is essential and there are healthy cheeses. I just read an article on Yahoo saying French women were the thinnest and the healthiest in the world…and they eat lots of cheese.

  23. Jean says:

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  24. brandy says:

    Acai berry really works it just a matter of time, you can try it first without wasting money.

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