I am so excited to present to you my friend Janae Allbee! She is such a smart and insightful woman who also happens to write very well. It is fitting that this month she was open to the suggestion of writing an article for me about Heart Health. These are some very practical tools to help you and I am anticipating even more posts from her about emotional heart health as well, so stay tuned! ~Tamarah
By Janae Allbee
Yes, it’s February & the month of St. Valentine, and what better (and more cheesy) way is there to celebrate than by talking about our hearts.
Motivated by poor family history, confirmed by ominous test results, and nudged by my doctor’s orders, I am on a mission to care for my heart. Even though I’m only 32 years-old, and only slightly (is 12 pounds slightly?) overweight, I am at risk for heart disease. I have sixteen weeks to lower my cholesterol or my doctor is going to recommend medication for it. I don’t want to go on medication, so I am choosing to change my diet and exercise.
I am fairly happy about this, most days. If you don’t count the days I really want to butter my whole wheat English muffin or the days my four daughters ask me why I choose not to eat the gooey grilled cheese sandwiches, or the days my sweet husband asks me to make cinnamon rolls for his office knowing I shouldn’t test just one to make sure they had risen enough. Most days I am happy to take the two and four year old on a ride in the jogging stroller, as long as they try not to climb out.
My goal is to lose 16 pounds by my next doctor’s appointment: one pound for every week. Doable? I sure hope. I have lost 2 fake pounds and 4 real ones. Fake pounds? My shoes. I was wearing shoes when the doctor weighed me. So if I include the shoes in my total weight loss it equals 6.
In all honesty, I feel motivated to reach my goal of lowering my cholesterol and losing weight. The only problem is the little obstacles that get in the way. For me, it’s not really the food, but the information—the plethora of conflicting information. On Jan 20th, when my doctor told me my test results and suggested I go on a low-fat high fiber diet and lose weight, I started to research and read articles about what I needed to do. My zeal and desire quickly turned into paralysis. Meat? No meat? Eggs? No eggs? Cheese? No cheese? Nuts? Which kind? Butter, margarine, oil? And the clincher—the argument that cholesterol really has nothing to do with heart disease.
Even though I was sometimes unsure of what to do, the bottom line was that I need to make changes, even if my test results were normal, I still would have room for improvement. So I made a few conclusive conclusions (yes I know that is redundant) that for now are directing my choices. Some of my absolute conclusions:
Focus on the DO’s: thinking about the opportunities as opposed to dwelling on what I might be missing helps me keep a positive outlook and increases my chances of success. Thinking about what I can’t have sometimes leads to a feeling of deprivation and that would be counter-productive to reaching my goal.
Some Important DO’s
Make Exercise a Priority: I put exercise in a category of necessity just like brushing my teeth, showering, eating, and sleeping. I try to integrate it into the things I already do. Instead of taking my kids to the park a block from my house, we will ride bikes or walk to the one about one mile away.
Eat Real Food: Foods that come from the earth are fantastic. Foods that are whole and unprocessed are fantastic. I get excited about some of the foods I get to eat. I get to eat a serving of avocado every day. I love avocados. I get to eat walnuts and steel cut oats. I get to eat as many vegetables as I want. I look forward to Fajita night with fresh peppers and cilantro and black beans.
Be Realistic about the DON’ts: The one absolute DON’T I found is to avoid trans fats. Trans fats are a product of partially hydrogenated oils. It is often found in processed and pre-packaged goodies. I can avoid those. I prefer the homemade stuff anyway. The other DON’T I have found is to reduce my intake of saturated fat. This one is challenging, but very crucial. This is the category butter and cheese and some meats fall into. So I focus on replacements for these things. Instead of butter, I use olive oil. Instead of mayonnaise I use mustard or avocado. I made cheese-less pizza with a whole wheat crust, veggie toppings, and a cannelloni bean dip. It was so yummy. I didn’t even miss the cheese (although my husband wasn’t a fan of the residual garlic smell).
Most importantly, I am trying to be patient with myself as I make positive changes and forgiving when I falter. I am trying to love my heart in more ways than one.
Janae Allbee is a stay at home Mother of 4 girls. She is a free-lance writer and an avid reader and explorer of all things new and interesting.