Friday, July 30, 2010

In the beginning...

I’ve been toying with this blog for a month, busily hashing out recipes and compiling nutrition facts. My family has been happily eating (for the most part) through all sorts of meals. Since it’s summer all three of my sons are home, along with their friends. On any given night there are three to ten college age kids inhaling my meals.

The best part is the challenge of keeping up with who is vegetarian, are they tired of Thai red curry (my fav) or can I get away with rice and beans one more time? The best test of a recipe has been getting thumbs up from a dozen unrelated critics. How can it go wrong?

In 1996 I was diagnosed with oculopharyngeal muscular dystrophy (OPMD). OPMD is a genetic disease that causes atrophy of all muscle groups, but mostly the muscles of the face and throat. My OPMD was further complicated when I broke my left leg in 2003, got my right hand stuck in a belt sander in 2004 and finally broke my right leg in 2005. I have not been able to walk or stand since 2005. I have had pretty good luck learning to do most things with my left hand too. Put it all together and I have become a one handed chef. It’s not pretty sometimes but the job gets done and it always tastes good.

The genesis of all this was two years ago. I was sick and nauseous for a couple months with no idea what caused it. Eventually it turned out to be an intestinal problem (I’ll spare you the details) and I was staring at surgery that could leave me incontinent for the rest of my life. With any kind of disability, surgery is dangerous. For people with muscular dystrophy the anesthesia alone is dangerous. After seeking a second and then third opinion, I found a doctor willing to do more than just slice and dice me. It was the first time any of these GI doctors even mentioned changing my diet. After 60 days of a nasty but effective antibiotic and a high fiber diet, I got past the infection and healed surprisingly well.

About a year ago, I was diagnosed with hypertension (high blood pressure). My doctor’s reaction? More pills! No diet pointers, nothing. There seems to be an expectation over the years that because I am disabled my doctors don’t expect much. Toss ‘em another pill and see ya in six weeks. WTF? My father had the same disease I do but it was heart disease that killed him at the ripe old age of 75. Any healthy guy like me under 50 would or should be told to change his ways and eat better. So I decided to do it myself.

Since about January 2009 my diet has been evolving. No red meat, more fish, nothing but whole grains, beans, no cheese, and so on. It didn’t happen overnight and that was deliberate. I am not dieting but changing the way I eat. There have been a lot of experiments, which has expanded the family recipe book. In turn, eating well has become habit instead of a novelty. Now the whole family looks forward to my low fat vegetarian chili, tofu stir fry and Asian chicken noodle soup.

How has the diet experiment worked? Great! I’ve lost 25 pounds, lowered my blood pressure to 108/70 from 130/95 and my resting heart rate is down to 64 bpm from 85 bpm. No more hemorrhoids, heartburn or scary blood test results. Due to my disease I can’t exercise much so diet was the only solution. Remember- it won’t happen all at once. Add a new recipe every week and within a year you won’t miss the garbage you were eating. I love cheeseburgers but they don’t love me!

The recipes I post will usually have basic nutritional information including calories, fat, protein and fiber content per serving. Blog content will not be limited to food and diet, but also disability issues and an occasional rant when something pisses me off. I want to hear from disabled chefs or people who cook for a disabled person. Healthy food doesn’t need to be boring and I’ll do my best to make it taste better.

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