Every Saturday this summer, we visited the local farmer’s market—for fresh vegetables, of course, but also for French tarts so good you knew butter suffused every pastry pore. I waited to have my annual blood-letting until the market closed, for I suspected my cholesterol level might be in doubt. I should have waited until the holidays were over.
I’m reasonably thin and fit, and I haven’t had a problem with cholesterol in the past. Once, for other reasons, a low-fat diet was thrust on me. At the time, I took it seriously and searched for what to do. The nutritionist sent a stack of indecipherable lists and charts; the internet yielded more nonsense than sense. When I complained to a friend to whom the same suggestion applied, she said, “Oh, so now we eat wheatgrass, then we die.” Indeed. In the end, I ate as I pleased, without any ill effects.
But now, the pied low-fat piper pipes at me again, in the form of a letter from my doctor, admonishing me to “follow a strict low fat, low cholesterol 14-1600 calories diet—with regular moderate exercise for 30-45 minutes/day.” No further explanation, no conversation, not even a brochure telling me what to avoid or what to eat. Not even a compliment on my great HDL result. The exercise I accept—I do my best at that. But to the calorie count I say, not so fast.
When I was in college, I had a roommate who was on a perpetual diet. She invariably got hungry in the middle of the night. My bedroom shared with the kitchen a flimsy sliding door, and I would hear her tiptoe in. To avoid waking me, she didn’t turn on the light. Instead, she measured frozen peas in the dark. I heard each click as she dropped them on the scale. When she missed, which happened often, I heard them bounce on the linoleum. My first task most mornings was to gather stray peas from my bedroom floor.
Is it now my turn to measure frozen peas? If my doctor were given this instruction, would she follow it? I know the intent of the letter is efficient communication and probably, given the pittance insurance pays for primary care, to protect the doctor’s time. But along the way we’ve lost something precious: face-to-face communication.
Not to mention a way to eat right that allows for the joy of a slice of tart—or Juniper-Brined Roast Turkey with Chanterelle Mushroom Gravy, or Apple and Sausage Stuffing, or Sweet Potato Purée with Streusel, or Spiced Pumpkin Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting.
I’m just saying . . .