But Doc, red wine is good for you!

Published in The Duluth News Tribune


With all the side effects of medications, the last thing I want to do is take any more prescription drugs than is necessary.  I’ve been trying my best to follow my doctor’s orders from a year ago to avoid this. Exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, and taking my blood pressure medication was a must if I wanted to prevent a stroke.  Although she mentioned that my cholesterol levels were on the rise, I chose to ignore that for the time being.

Over the following year, I made a commitment to take my medication, but I stopped paying attention to my bathroom scale.  Next thing I knew, I was 20 pounds overweight.  I seem to have this chronic condition of gaining over the winter, then fighting to lose it in spring.  I wanted a good check-up so I signed up for the on-line version Weight Watchers.  It would be the fourth time, in four years.

In Weight Watchers, you are given a total point goal for a day, with some extra point allowances for the week.  When I planned for my day, I started with the points I would need for the end of the day; 1 ½ glasses of red wine-6 points, 3/4 cup of pretzel pieces to compliment the wine-12 points.  With my total daily points set at 21, I was left with 3 per day.

I researched the lengthy list of zero-point foods to create menus that would provide the nutritional components needed for a healthy balanced diet.  The food choices had to be quick, easy, and readily available. Thankfully for me, I’m a creature of habit and don’t need variety, so I stockpiled my fridge with fresh veggies, Light Ranch for dipping the veggies, fresh fruit, and eggs.  I considered the creamer in my coffee my own little freebee.

When I finally hit my goal weight two months later, I made an appointment with my doctor.  I was looking towards a good report.

The visit started well.  Perfect weight. Perfect blood pressure.  Then came the blood test results.

“Your cholesterol is starting to creep up,” said the doctor.  “Before I prescribe something, tell me about your diet.”

Things went south pretty fast after that.  Even though eggs are high in protein, I learned that three to four a day was not good for me.  “Maybe try three a week?!”  The doctor suggested.

I tried to defend my diet plan, “but I found on the internet that three eggs per day was perfectly safe!”

Then she asked the next damning question, “do you drink alcohol?”

I lied, “one glass of wine . . .”  then I added a truthful explanation, “at night.  After the daycare kids are gone.”

“Yeah,” she responded with a chuckle.  “Based on your weight, a half a glass would be better.”

My life was crumbling.

“I read on the internet that red wine was good for you?!  It actually lowers a person’s blood pressure?!”

The doctor countered my findings, but I didn’t hear what she said.  I was stuck on wondering what to do with the ½ glass of wine plan.   What would be the point of pouring?  Had she no empathy?

Still bewildered, she asked, “do you exercise?”

“I used to.” I didn’t think my current plan of running two miles every six weeks or so would qualify me as a runner.

“Thirty minutes, five times a week of cardio exercise may help in lowering that cholesterol number,” the doctor said.

When I thought about my day, and how I already felt overwhelmed with my schedule, I suggested with a hint of sarcasm, “I suppose I don’t have to sleep?!”

She laughed. “No, you need sleep too.”

I left the appointment knowing I’d have to make some changes to my lifestyle.  Finding a new zero-point protein source was first on my list.  Not satisfied with the options, I turned to the recommendation for adopting an exercise program.  Maybe I could balance out the added points of a broader variety of poultry and meats, with exercise?!

With both a stationary incumbent bike and elliptical machine in my basement, I couldn’t use my old excuses of, it’s dark by the time I’m done with work!  It’s slippery!  There’s a blizzard outside!  For me, my only excuse for not exercising is making the time.  But I do.

Because . . .

I don’t want to take medications.  I don’t want to gain weight.  And dang it, I want to be healthy enough to drink just one glass of red wine a day.



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