No more delicious fat? What?!
Updated: Aug 21, 2018
When you have a heart attack, one of the first things they do is tell you how to not have another one. unsurprisingly. And apart from all the drugs, the focus is entirely on your lifestyle.
Tim's lifestyle came under intense scrutiny, and as a result, so did the lifestyles of our whole group of friends. We all liked to have beers on a Friday night, we all had been known to smoke when inebriated, we all liked to stay up late, eat junk food, drink rum until 4am... Looking back now, that conjures up the image of lots of fat, greasy layabouts. We weren't. We aren't. We're all functioning professional adults. Some of us have children!
Everyone was completely shaken up by what happened to Tim, the life and soul of any group had nearly died at the age of 38. Tim, who lived the same life as all of us, had almost not got away with it.
The doctors looked closely at Tim's lifestyle and it was to there, that the finger of blame pointed.
On the second day Tim was in hospital, I was walking in to the bright, sunny cardiac ward when I noticed a display of leaflets from the British Heart Foundation. They were friendly, bitesize bits of information on how Tim's angioplasty (stent-fitting) had happened, one on atheroma (the furring-up of his arteries), there was one on how to eat, and while I took them all home to read on my own in bed when I couldn't sleep, it was the food one that stuck with me.
I had felt completely helpless throughout this whole event. I hadn't stopped Tim from overindulging in life, I hadn't been able to help the paramedics, I hadn't been able to be of assistance to the doctors and nurses performing his emergency surgery in the Cath Lab.
But I was able to help prevent Tim from being ill again. Well, me and the medicines. But what is food, if not the best preventative medicine going?
So I researched, I learned and I taught myself how we should be eating. I should say that I began to scratch the surface on how we should be eating, as with any diet, there are many, many, MANY schools of thought on this, and helpfully they nearly all contradict one another. I even completed a nutrition course accredited by the Association for Nutrition, and have applied for a Clinical Nutrition Masters degree.
My initial port of call was to follow the Mediterranean diet, which was encouraged by our cardiac rehab nurse Lou, is supported by the British Heart Foundation, and is something of which I have long-since been aware. There appears to be low instances of heart disease in areas where the Mediterranean diet is prolific.
It involves almost eliminating saturated fat from the diet, while eating good fats (mono and polyunsaturated fats) found in nuts, fish and vegetable oils. It means no salt, lots of wholegrains, an absolute shit-ton of vegetables, some fruits, and reduced sugars.
My first act of food-love for Tim was to bake a loaf of unsalted, stone-ground, wholemeal bread. The universe was once again being a good egg and made it turn out really well. Some of my subsequent loaves have been a bit peculiar but I've more or less got it down now. TOP TIP: wholemeal flour is heavy, put it in a loaf tin so it at least comes out bread shaped.
Since we've started our new diet, we've both lost weight and Tim looks very healthy. While he wasn't exactly fat, he wasn't in great shape. When we look back at pictures, the difference in him is stark. It helps that he has the sickest tan right now as we essentially live in the garden.
Since it happened, tonnes of other diets and ways to live have been suggested to me, such as the Low-Glycaemic Index (GI) diet, which involves eating foods that don't cause a huge spike in your blood sugars. This includes carbohydrates, which are broken down in the body as sugars.
Talking to doctors, they can't say for certain if Low-GI is good for hearts indirectly because it reduces the risk of obesity, or directly in the sense that not having spiked blood sugars has an effect on the heart itself. It is something that certainly has an impact on my body weight, but right now our focus is healthy, fuelled bodies, that aren't being damaged on the quiet.
I'll go on forever if I try to share my experiences with all of the other ways to eat now, so I will end saying that we're currently choosing to live the Mediterranean way, and while bacon is sadly missed, we feel healthy, lighter, stronger and like we're always on holiday. But of course, living in a caravan in 30-degree heat helps with that.