Friday, February 19, 2010

The Heart Chronicle (Part 5)

So I’m finally at home, rebounding from cardiac surgery and the shock of it all, glad to be within my own four, very dingy, walls. Then my friend, singer Stacey Shaffer-Bishop, calls me, and says she’s coming over with stuff for me to eat. And gosh darn if she doesn’t bring me a big, big pot of homemade chicken soup (no salt used in its preparation), coffee, matzo crackers, salad greens, some Girl Scout cookies(!), and other assorted sidebars. Most all of this stuff is good (or not bad, anyway) for one’s heart.

The matzo crackers, for example, have almost freaking nothing in them: no fat, no trans fat, no cholesterol, no sodium. They are bland to the taste, yeah, but you can put some organic cream cheese on one (Stacey brought me that, too!), and it’s not bad at all.

Then a few days later, my friend Deanna brought over two kinds of homemade soups—the Soup Sisters rule!—plus a box of stone ground sesame crackers and a bottle of sparkling cranberry drink. Fantastic!

And now I’m an oatmeal freak. (No one in my past life would ever believe that.)

As I’ve pointed out previously, I don’t think, pre-heart attack, I would have fallen into the category of horrendous eater, but clearly I wasn’t doing myself any good. Basically I was doing what too many typical American males do: Eating exactly what I wanted when I wanted. That has to change, but complete denial of the goodies can be avoided if I’m smart about it. (And it was very wonderful to learn through my experience that I am not diabetic. Those folks face real challenges.)

With a little help from my friends, I’m already learning things about fat and sodium and cholesterol and trans fats, etc. Watching one’s daily allotment for intake of potentially harmful substances pays dividends, I’m sure, and I can guess that, once it becomes habit-forming, also becomes a little easier to parse through. I say this with all cautious optimism, ‘cause—dammit!—I love to eat sometimes...

Meanwhile, I’ve been investigating some food-biz movies of the recent era, documentaries and docu-dramas like Fast Food Nation and Super Size Me and Food, Inc. Now I’m not going to go all wild-eyed political here on the state of food in this country. You can do that for yourself once you watch these well-known flicks, if you haven’t seen them already.

Super Size Me, Morgan Spurlock’s journey through a McDonald’s-only diet, can be viewed in 10-minute increments on You Tube. The other two are available through NetFlix or wherever.

These flicks are only tangential to the personal heart-attack experience—after all, we’re each responsible for our own body, right? Yet they do help shine some light on the culture of food in America, with a special spotlight on the nexus where profitability and health meet and then diverge.

In corporate America’s desire to maximize profits in food, they essentially exploit two things: humankind’s addictive tendency; and poverty. These are huge things for our society to consider and confront. Not to mention where capitalism fits into the whole scenario, where thousands of workers earn their livings from the business of foisting crap on their fellow citizens.

Like many things in America, it’s not really about class or race or education—it’s mostly about money: who has it and who can afford to spend wisely and healthfully on food. Anyway, within this general subject heading, there is much for the average person to learn about healthful eating.

What can I say? I love a Big Mac, too. And the fries. And eating those once in a while isn’t going to destroy my health profile. But really, more thoughtfully, why would you put that stuff into your system when you don’t have to? Something to think about always when the fast-food, or quick-food, decision is before you.

And seriously, if everyone in the U.S. got healthier in their eating, I guess thousands of people at McDonald’s and Burger King and the candy companies and farmers cranking out high-fructose corn syrup and fattening up hogs and cows and chickens in suspicious ways would soon enough be unemployed. (Okay, I’m not getting into government subsidies for agri-products, but that subject needs to be discussed, too.)

Hell, once I get my ticker back in shape, I could very well eat myself a naughty burger. Believe me, I approach all of this stuff with humility. But if my thinking about it gets others to think about it, too, then that’s cool.

The Heart Chronicle (Part 6) is up next: Smoking.

1 comment:

diamond dave said...

Some eye-opening stuff. I'm 41 and happy to say I kicked the nicotine habit for good twelve years ago, but I do indulge in the sin of eating whatever I want when I want, often in large portions. Though I avoid overindulging in the worst of the worst (I can take only so much deep-fried at a time before my stomach revolts), I do avoid excessive salt intake, and I'm developing more and more of a taste for fresh veggies, I still need to watch myself. My worst nightmare is reaching the point where I'm cursed the rest of my life to a bland, tasteless diet. Food, like sex, is one of those pleasures that must be enjoyed, and not being able to enjoy such things takes quite a bit out of the quality of life.