The Reckoning, Part 6

8 Apr

Mid October, 2011

I had a roommate in my first hospital room who was in pretty bad shape. She was only 40, but she and her husband were overweight and worn down; both easily looked ten years older. She had transferred from somewhere in rural New Hampshire to get treatment for a specific disease she was suspected to have. From what I could gather, her issue was that she had a uterine edema – tons of swelling in her torso tissues – the source of which was a botched ovarian cyst removal. The end result was that they put her on a very strict low fat diet to minimize the fluid retention.

Having had pancreatitis in the past, I’m no stranger to that kind of life change. But to overhear them speak about it – literally day and night it was the only thing they talked about – you would think it was as if her child was pulled for the Hunger Games or something. It was, to them, the most taxing life change they could imagine.

Shh baby... This low-fat diet won't win. We're gonna beat this thing.

But here’s the crazy part – when a physician says “fat is bad” or “dairy is bad” or “gluten is bad”, patients inherently want to do as little as possible to work within the confines of their restrictions. So, low fat means that anything labeled “fat free” is ok. Right? Standard logic. My neighbor received a gift basket from her sister which included things like baked Lays potato chips, fat free Ranch dressing, diet ginger ale, etc. Part of me sneered at those products, probably the same part that knows these are standard items in my family’s kitchens.

Does anyone honestly think that you will heal yourself on a diet of Kraft products just because they’re labeled ‘low fat’? If you think so – head down to your local grocery and check out the ingredients in Fat Free Half and Half. It’s a joke – it’s just high fructose corn syrup. Not to get overly incendiary here, but they just sub out one poison for another.

True story: top 3 ingredients are sugars!

If you are buying something that is traditionally pure fat, but labeled as 'fat free', do yourself a favor and don't.

NEWS FLASH, ya weenies: If you are put on a low fat diet, and you eat processed foods labeled “fat free”, you’re increasing your sugar intake. What does excess sugar conver to? Fat. Interestingly, some cardiologists argue that low far diets have never been the appropriate course of action for treating congestive heart failure. It’s further argued arterial plaque buildup is triggered by low-fat (read high carb) diets.

Jordan and Steve at SCD Lifestyle put together very interesting read on why packaged foods labeled “Gluten Free” are sometimes just as inflammatory to people with GI issues as foods containing gluten.

Restrictive diets infer that if a patient finds something that’s pre-prepared and flagged as not containing the bad ingredient, then it couldn’t possibly be bad. Let’s face it though, if you’re sick, no matter with what, you should probably be eating home cooked food and still keeping as balanced of a diet as possible.

Chances are your grandma's soup is healthier and tasier than Progresso's.

Rather than a restrictive diet, what if a physician recommended “you are only allowed to eat things prepared from scratch”. How about “The only fat you are allowed to cook with is olive oil.” Why can’t it be done? Granted some savvy person like me would find a way to fry donuts in olive oil (look like Giada beat me to it), but isn’t it usually better to tell someone what they can and should have as opposed to what’s off limits? At least from a psychological perspective, to keep people from feeling they’re an outsider to the rest of the world?

On a related note, why can’t physicians tag team with nutritionists at patient bedside? Why are they always separate entities entirely? I spoke SO much to my physicians about my diet, about what triggered symptoms and what didn’t. Not a word of it in my patient notes. Not a mention in my discharge papers.

Seeing my roommate allowed me to commit to cooking for the rest of my life. I will keep good habits for myself and set good ones for my family. If you start to slack and rely on pre-prepared items, it’s a slippery slope that takes it’s toll in more ways than one.

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