Sounds pretty morbid, doesn’t it? Let me explain.
It’s January, and my own health isn’t feeling so tip-top. During my journey on the Camino de Santiago, I walked 20 miles a day, ate whatever I wanted, and felt fantastic. The problem is I’ve kept eating that amount, and added a boatload of cookies, cakes, and sweets during the holidays. So much in fact that I am oozing sugar cookies out of my pores (I should not be getting breakouts at this age), and the muffins I love so much have become a giant muffin tire around my hips and back. No joke. I can feel it.
So like many others who jumpstart a nutritional change on January 1, I am too (also, my annual physical is in two weeks, and I’m embarrassed to go there and have the doctor tell me I’ve gained 20 pounds). No joke. Those loose-fitting pants from the Camino? Not so loose anymore. Rather, what’s the word? Snug. (Even though I’ve been pretty committed to spinning the last couple months, I’m pretty sure the newly thickened thighs are not all muscle.)
It’s not weight I’m concerned about. It’s health. I’m celebrating another birthday this month (and it’s not 18), and I need to really pay attention to how I age. I had been all set to de-tox for three weeks (no refined flours, sugars, etc. for three weeks. First week: fruits & veggies. Second week: tofu, legumes, beans. Third week: fish). Then Patty tells me to watch Forks Over Knives (learn about the 5% Diet and the movie here) and go vegan. We had a heated argument. I told her she was going too extreme. I had tried vegan for a month a year ago after reading The China Study, and then, well, bacon rocks. She sighed in exasperation, not understanding how I could be so stubborn and stupid.
My answer: whatever.
I come from a family who loves to eat. So much so that my mom has Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol (probably a few more things that I forgot). She isn’t overweight, quite tiny actually, so she thinks she’s actually fine. When she went from pills to insulin shots, she thought that was a sign of improvement (not kidding). She proudly skips her other medications because she thinks she will overdose (not kidding). She said her doctor was a bad doctor for threatening to “fire” her because she won’t listen to him. He tells her to change her diet and exercise.
Her answer: whatever.
My dad, on the other hand, ten years her senior is fit as a fiddle, with a cholesterol 20 points below mine, and can do yoga positions I only dream about. He is also the cook in the family, and so has been the one plying us with dinners full of meat and rice (for whatever reason, this diet has not negatively affected him). And he has never been able to say no to my mom. So he continues to succumb to her demands for duck, lobster, and sweets.
You would think these two were two little old, uneducated people who don’t understand how their diet is linked to their health. But oh no, no. My mom isn’t even in her 60s yet and she continues to instruct me on how to eat better (“turnips help to cut down blood sugar”…perhaps, then why is yours so high?). My dad loads us up with healing broths when we visit.
So why do they insist on wanting an early death?
I really have no idea. Whatever the resistance is to change is probably what is also killing so many people prematurely, or at least, making their elder years really crappy.
I figured, if not one of her kids (or a really adorable grandson) can convince my mom to change her eating habits, perhaps a movie might. Forks Over Knives has been on my Netflix forever, so I decided to go ahead and rent it (Netflix, you are starting to be economically un-smart for me.) since I was visiting my folks over the holidays. I made my parents sit and watch it.
My mom’s reaction: this is stupid, This woman is still fat, (before wandering off like a 2-year old).
My dad’s reaction: we should try this.
My mom’s reaction to my dad’s reaction: Of course eating less meat helps (huh?) I crammed before my last bloodwork and my doctor was pleased with the results (we have progress!)…but I can’t be bothered to eat like that all the time. This is stupid. Everyone needs meat and enjoy sweets. I’ll get sick if I don’t (and..end progress. Regress).
As if she isn’t sick right now. She’s stabbing herself daily with insulin and complaining about leg and foot pain (signs of diabetes-related nerve damage). We’ve all tried to scare her, cajole her, teach her how to pick out how the whole grains, everything, but she seems to insist on dying early and painfully. It doesn’t help that she’s stubborn and opinionated (runs in the family).
Do I sound pissed? Well, let me put it this way: it is not going to end well. My dad is going to end up taking care of my mom, carrying her up the stairs when she has no legs or feeding her when she can’t do it herself because she’s had a stroke. The Beanie Baby, aka Mister Strong, will not have his grandmother around for long, or at least, not in great condition (interestingly, my grandmother – my mom’s mom – lived healthy well into her 90s. She understood the concept of hari hachi bu. Her one weakness was vanilla ice cream).
So although my mom seems insistent on trapping her young-at-heart, young-in-mind spirit into an old woman’s body and we’re not sure what to do about it, here are a few things I am doing because at least these steps are within my control:
- Practice what I preach – commit to the whole foods/planet-based/little-no-meat/no overly processed-packaged food way of eating. For those of you know me, this is a HUGE deal. But I have ZERO desire to age in a way that I could avoid by taking preventive measures. Perhaps by changing my diet and forcing my family to adjust to it when I visit will convince my mom that she needs to change, too.
- Stop beating around the bush – try and help others be aware of what they eat directly affects their health (and their life span and their families). It’s selfish for people to eat in a way that leads them to avoidable premature death or preventive chronic conditions. Not only are taxpayers paying for what-could-have-been unnecessary medications, but kids are then also left without their parents or aunts, etc. (Yes, Mister Strong’s dad, I’m looking at you).
So to jumpstart the steps I can take, here is a delicious (DEE-LICIOUS), healthy, whole-foods recipe that might even convince my mom that “whatever” isn’t going to cut it anymore. For other awesome, vegetarian recipes, check out the Telegraph.
Don’t tell Patty. She loves to tell me, “I told you so,” especially when it’s for my own good.
Roasted Acorn Squash with Wild Rice & Quinoa Stuffing
I used wild rice harvested by canoe, thanks to ZomppaLiz’s dear husband. You can make the rice ahead of time, and the flavors of the rice will continue to harmonize over a few days, making leftovers awesome.
6 small acorn squashes (nice to have individual portions), halved lengthwise and seeds removed
3 TB honey
3 TB dark brown sugar
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
3 medium shallots, finely chopped
6 celery stalks, finely chopped
3 TB thyme
3 TB rosemary
1 TB cayenne pepper (or more, for a bigger kick)
1 1/2 cups wild rice (or red, brown, or black)
1 1/2 cups quinoa
3 cups vegetable broth
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup raisins
1. C wild rice and quinoa in veggie broth (2:1 water:grain ratio). Bring broth to boil, cover for 20 minutes until fluffy. Remove from heat.
2. Preheat oven to 450F. Rub each half of acorn squash with honey and brown sugar. Season with bit of salt and pepper.
3. Bake acorn squash for 30 minutes until tender (fork should go right in).
4. While baking, add a bit of oil in deep skillet and add onions, shallots, and celery (can use veggie broth instead of oil). Season with salt, pepper, thyme and rosemary (and really, any other herbs you prefer) until soft (about 6-7 minutes).
5. Take mixture and stir into rice. Add walnuts, cranberries, and raisins. Season with salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar (makes flavors pop).
6. Stuff each half of acorn squash with rice and return to oven for another 20-25 minutes until squash is totally tender and edges browned.