L.J. Rohan

L.J. Rohan

Certified Gerontologist

Change is Hard

February 11, 2019

I just hung up the phone from speaking with my doctor about my lab results, and it seems I need to make a few critical changes to lower my cholesterol. Now granted, the blood work was done three weeks after the holiday season when the remains of sweet treats of all kinds still lingered in a corner of the kitchen counter. I can also recall several meals involving bread, wine, and dessert during the month of December, and so the number could be a little off, maybe. However, not enough, I fear, to keep the doctor from threatening a pharmaceutical intervention to bring it down. Like so many health issues, we often feel fine until the issue reaches critical mass, and then BOOM! We have a heart attack, or full-blown diabetes, or worse. (I feel perfectly fine and have energy. even though at this moment I am closing up my arteries with gooey globs of sticky plaque.) Having written about the effects of sugar and wheat on the brain (blog post Jan. 22) some of you readers might think I don’t eat those inflammation-causing foods. Well, you would only be partially right. From giving up all sugar from Thanksgiving to Christmas 2017, I have slowly slipped back into the clutches of the white menace—both sugar and white flour. The numbers do not lie. 

The rest of my diet does look more Mediterranean than North American, except for those two tiny ingredients. I love bread, and I will walk a mile outside in Texas during the month of August for a slice of old-fashioned yellow cake with chocolate fudge frosting. But, I also want to age vibrantly and, well, actually get older, instead of possibly dying too young from a heart attack. Today, I will begin making changes to insure that doesn’t happen. How will I do it? I will start with sugar, since I am not sure I can yet live without toast. I will begin by sweeping the counters clean, and tossing all temptations, but perhaps keep the chocolate sandwich cookies I bought last month, as my crutch. I am not a big after-dinner dessert eater because I am usually too full. However,  I am a I- want-something-sweet-between-meals sugar consumer. Wine is out, but I’m not a big drinker, and so giving up the vino  will not be too difficult. 

Since I know change is hard, and even tougher the older we get, I will start by cutting back my sugar consumption by 50%, this red-hot minute. I will do that for a week, then cut that by 50%, then 50% each week for a month, until I am getting my sweet fix from berries or other low-glycemic natural sugars—like eating an orange. This is how I think I can manage changing for the long-term. But, I know I will fail at some point, slip up and drop three handfuls of M&M’s into my mouth one afternoon because I am having a bad day. And, that will be O.K. One indiscretion will not delete all my efforts. It isn’t a zero-sum game. Thank God. When I have an M&M fall-out, that night I will add to my gratitude list that I am grateful I only needed three handfuls to make me feel better, instead of the entire bag. I am making progress.

Once I have scoured refined sugar from most of my diet, I will begin on foods made from wheat and follow the same procedure as I did with the sugar. I will stop eating things in order of their value to me. I love toast, as I mentioned—for breakfast, for a midnight snack, truly anytime is a good time. It has a high value in my life, which probably makes it the last thing I will eliminate. I will find a substitute that doesn’t raise my insulin and inflammation levels. I realize these are goals I won’t meet in a week or even in two months  but I will keep trying. I will need to learn to love this new low-glycemic toast substitute, and then I will feel I have my wheat toast addiction in a good place. 

That might be the answer, at least for me: find a substitute I can fall in love with for a food/foods that will eventually kill me, and slowly eliminate the killers from my diet. This is my plan for now. I shall pivot my thinking to see foods made from refined sugar and wheat as occasional treats, splurges to be eaten with reverence, and savored, tiny bite by tiny bite. I promise to keep you posted on my progress, and what I can find to replace my beloved toast. I don’t think there is much hope for a replacement for the old-fashioned yellow cake with fudge frosting, but I am keeping my toes crossed on that one.

Until next time…Be Vibrant!