Where do we go from here?

Monday, October 25, 2010

The REAL Change of Life

So, here's the story:  About a month ago my partner, Gail, was diagnosed with Coronary Artery Disease, to be known hereafter as CAD.  She'd been having some chest pain when we walked, especially if we tried to pick up the pace, or go uphill.  And in NM one is often going uphill.  Once she turned sixty-five, and entered into the wonders of Medicare, she finally saw a doctor, had blood work revealing very high cholesterol, a stress test with abnormal results, and  got a diagnosis.  And a referral to a cardiologist. I went with her to the cardio visit, and listened to the recommendation for catheterization, perhaps angioplasty, perhaps a stent, blah blah blah.  We've been primarily vegetarian for about four years now, having fish sometimes, organic poultry once in a great while, no red meat at all.  But once we stopped eating meat, we, alas, started eating way too much dairy and eggs.  So, even before Gail's diagnosis, we had (thanks to all the publicity about Bill Clinton's turn to a vegan diet before Chelsea's wedding) dropped the dairy and eggs, and started a vegan eating plan.  My niece, vegan for years now, recommended a book to us, Eat to Live, by a Dr. Joel Fuhrman.  We took it out of the library, read it cover to cover, and began following his principles.  In it he mentions yet another doctor, and another book, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn.  This one is even stricter in his principles, but we're trying to keep up with it all.

A vegan diet is just fine with me, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds, soy products, and so on.  The problem with these cardiac diets, especially Esselstyne's, is that they also omit all oils and fats, even those with veggie sources, as well as salt and sugar. It's hard to imagine how hard it is to cook without oils, especially olive oil, which is a staple of my culinary existence.  Earlier this month, but after we had started this life change,  we took a trip to the east coast to visit family members in Washington, DC and Bristol, Rhode Island.  Traveling while eating like this is less than fun, or easy.  We managed to pack a lunch for the plane rides to D.C., and my sister did her very best to deal with this (she's even more of an olive oil fan than I am)  while we were staying with her.  From D.C. we took the train up the coast to Rhode Island, to our joy discovering an oatmeal breakfast from Au Bon Pain in Union Station, and carrying veggie and fruit snacks to sustain us.  Once we got to Jessica's house, we could relax.  She, her partner Steve and their children are vegan, and actually trying to cut out the oils and fats from that way of eating themselves. So, we ate well and heartily, and I learned a lot from them about vegan cooking, and tricks for palatability, despite the lack of oils and salt. Since my cholesterol and blood pressure are also sky-high, and I have been steadily gaining weight over the past many years, it is clear that, though I have no angina, we both are in the same cardiac ship of fools.I've already lost a sister to heart disease and diabetes, and my brother has had two heart surgeries, as well as diabetes. Suddenly it seems, I have no time to waste.

I've posted a fair amount about food in this blog, and will probably be posting a lot more from now on, with a very different slant.  After only about a month of eating according to the Good Doctors, both our blood pressures have come down, Gail's to normal, mine to practically normal,  I have lost almost thirty pounds, Gail has lost six (she was not actually overweight, but wants to get down to "medically thin," at which point her cholesterol should have diminished to normal or below.  For me "medically thin" is in the far distant future, but it is also my goal.  Since returning from our trip, life has been a whirlwind of cleaning out our refrigerator and cupboards, throwing or giving away the things we no longer eat, shopping every single day at one of the many good markets available to us here in ABQ: La Montanita Food Co-Op, Whole Foods, Sunflower Market.  I plan to hit Talin Market soon, it's a huge international grocery with things from all over the planet.  I'll be looking for spices and seasonings there to rejoice our palates.  They also have fruits and vegetables there that I've only read about in books. After we shop, I cook.  Constantly, it seems.  Eating out is no longer an option, as just about all restaurant food is full of salt and fat, both obvious and hidden.  There is one restaurant, Annapurna's, that we are going to check into to see if it will sustain this diet.  We have eaten there as vegetarians, not yet as vegans on cardiac diets.  So,, stay tuned, lots more to come.


sunflowerkat321 said...

I know this is the way to go, but I cannot imagine being vegitarian, much less vegan. Clearly, it's something that everyone in the household needs to embrace or the cook would end up crazy!

It sounds like you and Gail are finding your way with this and have some good support in place. Best wishes to you both. I have no doubt that you will find creative ways to keep this new lifestyle interesting and delicious!

texaslupinus said...

I have been vegan for 4 months now and have of course, resumed cooking. I haven't removed the oils, but cut down on them considerably. Marj is now vegan and glutton free and has loss about 30 lbs. I lost about 5. Indeed, eating out is the dilemma, I don't know how I could cook without oil, perhaps that is next. I do feel better. I'll check those books out, but I do think it would be hard for me to lose the lovely olive, sesame, walnut, grapeseed, peanut oils!

marigolds2 said...

Thanks for the good wishes, Kat. And yes, if anyone in the household is doing it, it has to be everyone. It's cooking-intensive for sure.

texaslupinus, whom I believe to be Stephanie Landregan, no?, interesting to hear you are on the vegan bandwagon. The oils are a huge loss, and as I have no heart diagnosis yet myself, I must confess that I put a little olive oil on those ubiquitous salads once in a while. Are you and Marj still connected in some way? It's quite amusing to me that you misspelled "gluten" as "glutton." Is this a Freudian slip? or a joke? Or did you perhaps actually MEAN "glutton" free?