From the Blog

A New Fun Thing To Obsess About

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I recently mentioned that I had my cholesterol tested. I got the results back three weeks ago. My cholesterol is waaaay too high. Like, 60-year-old-obese-trucker-Big-Mac-every-meal-heart-attack-waiting-to-happen type cholesterol. I thought I was eating a little better since my mom’s heart attack last April. Somehow though, in the past year, my cholesterol went UP 70 points. It’s like sympathy cholesterol.

I’m in my mid 30s. This is the kind of cholesterol that kills you by 45. Three weeks ago, the day I got my results, I had a few bites of some homemade macaroni and cheese, one of my favorite foods. I knew it would be the last time I’d be eating mac and cheese for a long, long time.

Since then, I have become hyper conscious of what I am eating. It takes me twice as long to go grocery shopping because I am reading the back of every label. And I already spend a hell of a lot of time haunting the grocery store. It takes me ten minutes just to buy a loaf of bread. Why? Because nearly all commercial bread has high fructose corn syrup. Or they add honey or molasses or brown sugar because it’s cute. And it fricken annoys me. Why would I want my bread to be sweet? Or rather, why would I want it to be so sweet it needs high fructose corn syrup? So I end up spending so much time fondling the bread that the stock boys get suspicious.

We’ve cut back on anything containing saturated fat. I used to casually look to see if food contained cholesterol. I didn’t realize that eating dietary cholesterol makes less difference than saturated fat. So before, I was practically slathering fish and chips all over my body thinking “cholesterol free!” I knew it was bad. But I didn’t think it was THAT BAD.

We’ve gotten books, I’m reading up more. When I want to learn about something, anything, I want to know EVERY infinitesimal tiny little detail about the thing. I want instruction manuals. I want literature. I want schematics. I think I must get this quality from my dad, who used to make us cry when he tried to help us with math homework.

And as it turns out, Dave and I already have a bunch of low fat and vegetarian cookbooks. He used to be vegetarian, and early in our relationship, he vowed that he would try to get me to eat more veggies. At the time, that sounded like “I’m going to make you join a cult.” Naturally, I was a bit skeptical.

Dave is reluctant to go to the doctor unless something is broken or falling off, so we can only guess what his cholesterol might be. We essentially shared the same diet, except he drinks a hell of a lot more beer. Happily, he is just as enthusiastic about eating better as I am. I am endlessly thankful for his support. And his resolve is steely. I get a hairy eyeball when I grate a little parmesan over my pasta. One ounce of parmesan has more than five grams of saturated fat. It doesn’t sound like a lot. But every bit of resistance feels like victory.

In the past three weeks, we have been very careful about the choices we are making when it comes to food. Eating at home is easier and we’ve cooked some fantastic extra healthy meals. On Sunday, I made a soup that was so damned healthy I felt like I could flap my arms and fly afterward. We live on the second floor. It wouldn’t be that far down.

Eating out is a little harder. Going to restaurants is not as much fun. I’m already sick of salad. But I don’t even look at heavy fat items. It’s like they don’t exist. I don’t even let myself be tempted by mac and cheese or fish and chips. It’s odd how easy it is to turn down food that isn’t healthy. Though when I get hungry, which happens much more frequently now, I’m not dreaming of healthy food. I’m dreaming of giant plates of pasta. With snowy white piles of parmesan cheese.

During one recent dinner out, I ordered a salmon taco special at a mexican restaurant. It was one of the only items without cheese or sour cream or meat. I won’t mention the restaurant because the food was pretty mediocre. The salmon was okay, and the taco had lettuce and tomatoes as you might expect. But it also had mayonnaise, (in a taco?), and wads of cheddar cheese. A month ago, I would have eaten it all without a second thought.

I dissembled the fish and the veggies and scraped the mayo and melted cheese out of the tortilla. And as I mushed it all to one side, I wondered how many calories and fat everything was. How much was that shred of cheese? How about that one? 10 calories? 20?

Are you exhausted? Am I sounding ridiculous? Because it’s kind of fun, actually. Yes, fun. It’s a bit of a game. I like the challenge. Three weeks, and I can already tell my clothes are fitting a little better. I just hope that we can keep it up. Because I really miss gnawing on blocks parmesan cheese.


  1. Check out “Food Rules” by Michael Pollan.

  2. I am pretty in to healthy eating in fact personally something miraculous happen because of it. I am lucky in that I have low cholesterol, but do have relatives with very high cholesterol and heart disease.

    My favorite *heart* book is “The McDougall Program for a Healthy Heart: A Life-Saving Approach to Preventing and Treating Heart Disease” because like you, I want to know everything and this breaks it all down to a cellular level. Once you know what is happening on a cellular level when you eat a high fat meal, you are very inspired to never eat one again. One caveat though, this book is a few years old. While the info is good, the part about eating and recipes does not incorporate many of the newer healthy convenience foods and if you decide to follow that, a newer cookbook by him or his wife will be very helpful.

    One neat thing about his books is that I have learned of many things that are either suppressed by groups like the beef and dairy industry or things that could be figured out by the studies that are already out there, but he is the only one who decided to figure it out. For example, milk is bad for your bones. He also published in a book about 10 years ago that said mammograms were of no benefit to life expectancy to women under age 59. That was shocking at the time, but now, just within the last few months, that is what the medical community is saying. For the record and for extraneous reasons, I do get mammograms. One important fact I also learned from him, that I think will be important to you is that while the American Heart Association diet slows down the advance of heart disease, it does not reverse it. This book shows you how you can and it is all based on science.

    Another great book is “Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease: The Revolutionary, Scientifically Proven, Nutrition-Based Cure”

    Both of these authors base everything on science and very clearly reference their sources. They also both explain everything in great detail. They are both enjoyable and inspirational.

    Good luck!!

  3. i need to get on your bandwagon, seriously. for counting calories, there is an app (of course) for your phone, for counting calories. i cannot think of what it is called, but you do have to purchase it, though the cost isn’t high. i’ll go look it up and get back to you.
    your time will speed up in the grocery store, btw. you’ll get to the point where you can breeze through, i promise.

  4. i wish you were closer, you could come over and borrow the tons of veg. cookbooks i have! have you tried whole-grain pasta? once you get used to it, you can eat it without the guilt. dreamfields is pretty close to the taste of the old “white” kind.

    we’ve started getting a bi-weekly csa produce box, and the huge assortment of mysterious mixed veggies helps inspire us to eat better because if we don’t cook them up, they will rot and we will have wasted our money. but i am getting pretty sick of kale!

  5. Thanks for all the reading recommendations! It was hard to go to Powell’s and know what to get. There are so many wacky fad diets, it’s hard to know what might be base on actual science.

    Brigitta, we have been considering a veggie co op. While I am eating many more veggies than, well, ever, I get a little nervous about “weird” veggies. I’m trying, though. I might become an adult one day.

  6. Meredith says

    YAY! YAY! YAY! I’m so happy about all this!! It’s inspiring!! And yes, for some reason, it does get mysteriously easy to ward off the fatty food, not even looking at donuts, they’re not an option. And I agree, wheat pasta isn’t that bad, it gets a bad wrap. But hey, you’ll live like, 5 years longer if you eat wheat pasta!!

  7. I just looked at cake, turned around, and walked away. While I’ve luckily got low cholesterol and am really quite healthy, numberswise, I do need to lose some blasted weight, and drinking a bunch of beer isn’t helping. So, no more unexpected “extras” for me, and I’ve been walking even more than normal. I’ve been tempted to get a pedometer to see exactly how many steps I total a day, as I get bored with counting once I get >1000 on the way to work. Good job with being awesome about this – once I’ve got some more kitchen stuff done, we’ll have to have you guys over for dinner. ^_^

  8. My nefarious plans are working:

    – Get Heather to drink more beer – check!

    – Get Heather to eat more vegetables – check!

    – Get Heather to exercise more . . . . . . .

  9. Exercise. Hmmm. Let’s not get hysterical.

  10. I heard somewhere that if you just cut out cheese in your diet you’ll be golden. Cheese is in EVERYTHING!!!!!
    I also heard that if you go on a straight alcohol diet you’ll beat the bad Of course cholesterol won’t live long…but you’ll live happy! Oopsie….guess what diet i’m on….
    In all seriousness, they have drugs for that!

  11. I used to weigh 200 lbs and had the same cholestoral as that trucker! I used a website called It counts calories for you! And it breaks down what you are eating into carbs, protiens, and fats, as well as all the rest of the stuff. It helped me lose 70 in a year. And believe me, I do NOT exercise, ever. hahaha! Check itout, it may help or it may not. It helped me to realize what I was shoveling into my face every day.

  12. @Red, glad to hear of your success!

    Thanks again, everyone for all the suggestions. I’ll remember to freak out about my aliments more often…I get great advice!

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