Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Got Gout?

For those of you who still don't believe my mantra that we are what we eat.....I would like to share a little experience.

I escaped to my sister's in Brooklyn this past weekend. I spent four fun-filled days and nights with her, her husband, her kids, her grandchildren and her great-grandchildren.  I had a blast: busy days, relaxing nights, plenty of laughter and food. Lots and lots of food!  I have so much on my plate right now, I thought getting away and spending time with the people I love would be a nice distraction. And it was.

One thing about my sister and her husband: they do not share my values when it comes to health and good, nutritious food. Their fridge and cupboards are stocked full of goodies: ice cream, candy, cookies, crackers, chips, dips, cheese, bagels, rolls! All the things I rarely indulge in. And, don't forget, it's Brooklyn: the best spot in the world for pizza, Chinese takeout, bakeries on every corner, fresh fish markets, and anything else your little heart could possibly desire--all within walking distance!

My sister and her husband both believe that food is the cure for everything. OK- I think along those same lines but my approach is much different. First of all, I am a VEGAN which means I do not eat animal products: no meat, no cheese, no fish, no milk, no eggs. My basic diet consists of tofu, beans, nuts, lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, no sugar,  no processed foods, and no white flour carbs. This is how I eat almost every single day. There are a few occassions when I indulge but that's the exception- NOT the rule. And while I do believe that food directly affects our body, mind and spirit and what we eat (or don't eat) can help prevent disease, I don't subscribe to using food as a substitute for what we really want and need. My whole consulting practice and unique Weight Release Program is built on the concept that Food is fuel and not our lover! But for some strange reason, this weekend, all my convictions about food and healthy eating flew right out the window.

My sister and her husband both know I am trying to deal with an awful lot of stress and major changes in my life so it was their mission to feed me- all weekend long. They don't understand the whole VEGAN-THING and they try so hard to make me happy that I don't want to insult them. Every time I opened my mouth, they were shoving food in it. My brother-in-law, Don, would disappear for awhile and then reappear with some delicious treat he picked up around the corner and insisted I try it. My sister even bought a six pack of beer (which I don't drink) and stuck it in the fridge. And, how can I forget the Entenmann's cheese buns she buys everytime I visit? Puffy squares of white flour and sugar filled with sweet artificial cheese and topped with a white sugary icing.  My sister warms them slightly and we enjoy them with tea at night. I usually allow myself to have just one. ONE!  This time, I ate a warmed cheese bun every night while watching TV- four nights in a row!.

For four fun-filled days and nights, I existed on nothing but junk. We had a few good dinners: rigatoni stuffed with ricotta cheese (I don't eat cheese), grilled shrimp (shame, shame- the VEGAN ate shrimp!), triple cheese mashed potatoes (from a box), Chinese take-out (they ordered jumbo shrimp with broccoli for me so once again, the VEGAN ate shrimp). In between meals it was bagels and buns, chips and dip, cookies and cake, cheese and crackers and one night- a big dish of Spumoni from the famous Spumoni Gardens restaurant.There wasn't a block of tofu, green veggies or a piece of fruit in sight. I was just so busy entertaining all my nieces and nephews, there was no time to sneak out to the store to pick up foods I usually eat.  My sister had gone shopping ahead of time and because I so appreciated all the love and concern she had for me- I cast aside my convictions and ate everything in sight.

Not only did I gain about five pounds from all that eating, I am tired and sluggish despite the fact that I am home now and slept until 9AM this morning (I am usually up no later than 5AM). The one thing I noticed on Saturday evening (while still at my sister's house) was that my left foot and ankle were swollen and throbbing with pain. At first, I thought I sprained it but I couldn't recall any activity over the weekend that would have caused such an injury other than repeated trips to the kitchen.  I attributed it to the heat ( I am forty-nine years old and sometimes my feet swell a little in the summer) but honestly, it really wasn't that hot this weekend. The pain got worse on Monday when we arrived back to Long Island for a BBQ with my folks (another unhealthy eating frenzy). By the end of the night, I was in agony. It felt as if someone had smashed my ankle with a sledge hammer . I couldn't even touch my foot yet there were no bruises or signs of a sprain or twisting of any kind. By midnight, I was actually crying from the pain.  It was then, that my dad examined my foot and laughed.

"Darling," he said. "You've got GOUT!"

GOUT? Impossible. Gout is what happens to old men, not young, healthy, active women like me! I have witnessed my father suffering from gout many times. The pain is so awful at times, he can't even cover his foot with a bedsheet at night. It usually happens to him when he eats too many peanuts or very rich foods.

After I got over my initial shock, my dad explained to me that gout is common in his family. His mother suffered from it, my aunts, a few of my cousins (all unhealthy eaters by the way). My mom shared that members of her family suffered from it, as well (another group of unhealthy eaters).  Might as well face it, girl. You're old now and chances are you are gonna get gout, too!

As I recalled everything I ate over the weekend, I realized the damage I had done to my poor body. I felt like crap and my foot looked like a surgical glove filled with water.

Take a girl who eats a very healthy diet and cram her full of rich, creamy, foods (including fish and cheese which she is no longer used to eating)  and the end result: an exhausted, moody, bloated girl who cannot even muster up enough energy to get up and drag her big swollen foot behind her.  And this was just in one long weekend! Imagine what those who exist on diets like that all the time are doing to their bodies every single day?

I've got GOUT! I am trying some natural remedies here home: lots of filtered water, organic cherry juice and a very mild diet. In fact, I really have no appetite at all right now but my foot is starting to feel better already.

I've learned a few lessons. First of all: I am a poor excuse for a VEGAN and really must stick to my guns regarding my choices and not worry about other people being offended or hurt. Second: Gout is extremely painful and I never want to suffer from it again. I need to be better prepared when I go away. My body just does not like rich, fatty foods. It is rebelling BIG TIME right now. I need to graciously decline some of the special treats offered by well-meaning friends and loved ones and make sure I have alternatives or take a trip to the local store and buy some. A broken heart or stress is NEVER an excuse to eat- especially if I am going to indulge in the kinds of foods I know are so bad for me. There are other ways to cope: exercise, yoga, a soak in a nice warm tub, a stroll through town, or some good old-fashioned conversation.

Here's a little info on GOUT in case you are interested.

And this is my Daily Cyn.......

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