Recently, someone mentioned to me that I talk about food too much. In fact, they think I am obsessive about it. It is a funny feeling to be criticized for caring about nutrition and the effect it can have on your body. I am still trying to figure out if it is true. Am I obsessive about food?
When I was diagnosed with myotonic dystrophy (DM), I started to conduct research on my disease and what I could expect. Since the cause of DM is a mutation in my DNA, it has a wide-spread impact on my body. In addition to weakening and wasting my hands, legs, and core muscles, the disease has and will continue to damage my heart and my lung muscles. I have a high likelihood of becoming insulin resistant. One of the scariest problems is that I have difficulty swallowing my food, and choke easily (even on water).
When I discovered that my muscles were being destroyed, I knew that I needed protein, that sugar was best to be avoided, and that I could help myself by being proactive. I decided to make a difference in my experience. The more I read, the more I learned that many diseases can be affected by consuming the right types of food.
My journey has taken me to a different level of awareness. Some of what I learned, we all know. The difference is that I decided to stop eating fatty or fried meals, refined sugar, and processed foods. Simply put, I eat mostly organic, unprocessed foods. Lately, I removed gluten from my diet. The more that I take care of myself, the better I feel.
Just doing a cursory glance at food and disease, we can see a connection. Diabetics need to watch their fat, sodium, carbs, and calories. People with hypertension should avoid sodium, sugar, processed foods, coffee, and alcohol. If you have a heart condition, you are advised to avoid sodium, processed meats, and refined sugar. See the pattern? Of course, many other physical ailments could benefit from a more balanced nutritional intake of foods.
So, knowing what I know, how could I continue to take in foods that are harmful or potentially harmful to my body? Making the decision to take care of myself was a given. If I can slow the disease process and improve my overall health, then I will do whatever I can. The process to change lifelong habits takes time and commitment. Finding recipes and new ways to prepare food has helped me to keep interested in making the changes. Planning weekly meals helps to budget grocery bills, reduces waste (waist), and adds variety to my diet.
This past summer, my husband had a heart attack. His recovery has been remarkable, and the cardiac rehab people were amazed at how quickly he was able to regain strength and lose weight. A significant contribution to his recovery was his decision to move his dietary habits to align more closely with mine. You all know the drill: reduce high-calorie foods, avoid refined sugar, limit sodium, and try to replace processed foods with unprocessed foods. I am not a strict-adherent prophet calling out the warning to change your food choices because it does not work if you end up feeling as if you are on a diet. It is a lifestyle change. Listen to your body.
I modified my approach to food because it will (and has) a direct effect on my body. Just like I changed by exercise pattern immediately upon diagnosis. The doctors and healthcare professionals are human beings with their own agendas. Some will take an interest in nutrition and some will not. I had a nutritionist who provided me with a sample meal plan that included Saltine crackers for a snack every day. It was at that moment that I knew I needed to take care of myself.
If I do talk about food too much, then so be it. I plan on being around as long as possible, and what you eat can shorten your lifespan or lengthen it. It’s your choice.