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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The High Cost of Eating Well


A recent conversation with a friend has caused me to revisit the question of whether healthy eating is truly more costly than unhealthy eating. The answer depends greatly on how you define “healthy.”

If “healthy” to you is low calories, high fiber, you can do quite well on a paltry budget budget by dining on meals rich in beans and legumes, whole grains and seasonal fresh/frozen/canned veggies and fruit. Your grocery dollars can go quite far if you’re not buying milk, butter, eggs and cheese. Dried beans and lentils are cheap. Brown rice is cheap. Oatmeal is cheap. Look in any grocery ad, and you’ll find some veggie or fruit on sale for 99 cents a pound or less.

Buying organic can increase your costs, but you’re still saving a hefty chunk of change compared to the carnivores of the world.

If, however, “healthy” for you is a high-protein, low-carb eating plan, adjustments have to be made.

You Get What You Pay For
I remember when I first had gastric bypass that people would often comment that I must save a ton of money on groceries. It sounds like a logical conclusion until you realize that quantity gives way to quality when your capacity for food is limited. The pantry had to be cleared of cereal, bread, crackers, pasta and rice. No more juice, milk or generic yogurt in the fridge. And definitely no ice cream in the freezer.

Instead, my pantry was stocked with protein powder ($40-$60 a canister) and ready-to-drink protein supplements ($3-$4 each). My fridge and freezer housed a combination of cheese ($4-$5/lb.), fish and seafood ($5-$8/lb), Greek-style plain yogurt ($5 for a large carton), chicken ($2/lb) and the like. Surprisingly, not only did my grocery bill not go down – in some cases, it increased.

My friend, who recently adopted a healthier way of eating that involved cutting sugar and refined carbs noticed the same trend at her house. A frequent fast food diner, she was amazed at how much more expensive her daily drive-through visits had become.

“Instead of spending 99 cents on a chicken sandwich, I’m ordering a $4.99 chicken salad – and it’s not even that good,” she lamented.

The flip side, though, is that she feels a lot better and has noticed other positive effect of her new way of eating, such as sleeping better at night, having more energy during the day and just a general sense of wellness.

And (pardon the pun) that’s what makes the juice worth the squeeze.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

28-Week Update

Where has the time gone? I realized when I had my OB appointment that we never got around to taking profile photos of me during the second month. Though I still get told I don't look anywhere near seven months pregnant, you can definitely see that my belly has expanded since the last in-home photo shoot!

It's amazing to me to document the changes in my body -- just as amazing as it was when I documented my weight loss back in 2005 when this blog was published as a series of columns in the Tracy Press.

It can be challenging at times to see the scale drift in the opposite direction, especially when I've spent the last 4-plus years focused on losing and maintaining weight loss. However, the knowledge that I am growing and nurturing a baby prevents me from feeling as if I'm just eating my way past the tool of gastric bypass.

Speaking of eating, I've been ravenous for the last week. I can't seem to get enough to eat. I'm learning quickly how to balance that by eating small meals throughout the day. Not only does that help manage my hypoglycemia but it also prevents me from biting the heads off of my coworkers during hunger-induced temper tantrums. Seems everyone benefits from making sure I'm well fed.

I have to say that I am really happy with my choice of medical provider. Not only is she local, but she truly understands the risks associated with my medical history and current pregnancy. She's not an alarmist, but she's definitely thorough. She orders a full metabolic panel every other month to check my nutrient absorption. So far, iron and vitamin D have been my only deficiencies. I'm hoping that my hemoglobin is on the rise, given the two iron supplements and liquid cholorophyll I've been taking for the past 60 days. If there's no sign of improvement, we'll have to figure something else out.

She's also testing my blood sugar level. Because of having gastric bypass and reactive hypoglycemia, I can't have the glucose-tolerance test that most pregnant women go through to test for gestational diabetes. Other doctors I had interviewed felt this minor detail meant I had to be labeled high-risk throughout my pregnancy and put on bed rest (not sure what bed rest can do for blood sugar but it's an interesting concept). Dr. Schill was the only one who didn't consider it that big of a concern and felt that careful monitoring would be sufficient. It feels good to be treated like a normal patient vs. a surgically altered freak.

As I await my lab results, I'm enjoying the feeling of the baby's movements. At 22 weeks, I just felts taps and pokes. Now I can discern the difference between kicks/punches and flips/twists. It's definitely a miraculous experience. And to think that I never thought it would be possible. Boy, am I glad modern medicine doesn't know everything!