No More Bread and Butter

There’s this old song by the Irish Rovers (a Canadian folk group who were/are all from Ireland), which has been running through my head lately, because it pretty much describes my current lifestyle.  The following Youtube video is the ONLY one I could find of the song, so please shut your eyes to the appalling spelling mistakes and botched transcriptions:

The reason for this dire diet in my case?

Gallstones.

Sigh.

I have been told to eat as little fat as possible, no alchohol, avoid caffeine.  I thought it sounded doable when my GP first told me this, but it turns out a lot of my favourite foods are on the “no go” list:  cream (for the coffee I should be avoiding), bacon, butter, cheddar cheese, pastry.   I’m supposed to aim for a high amount of whole grains, lots of fruit and veg, lean meats in moderation, not much else.

In some ways, it’s been quite easy – supper in particular around here turns out to be usually pretty low in fat (I don’t like gravy, which helps), or can easily be made so for me.  More difficult have been breakfast and lunch, where I have commonly indulged in the aforementioned favourite foods.  Fortunately, zero fat yogurt makes a nice dip for raw veggies, there are some lovely whole grain breads available locally, as well as what we make at home, and I have a recipe for breakfast oat bars that does have some butter in it, but not much, and which has saved my bacon (so to speak) at breakfast.  Coffee was easy to give up as the latest gallstone attack had made me uninterested in it anyway.  I am still drinking 2 cups of tea a day without any apparent effect.

I’m so very lucky that it’s only gallstones – other people in my life are dealing with some serious cancer issues, multiple allergies, MS, and other conditions that severely affect their ability to lead a normal life.  In my case, if I eat very healthily, I avoid some truly horrible pain – and that’s pretty much it.  I am seeing a specialist soon to get booked for surgery (months away, I’m told), and then pretty much case closed.  In the meantime, the fear of another gallstone attack has proved to be a huge motivator to eat much more healthily, and a positive side effect is that I will most likely lose some weight I don’t need.

It’s funny – I thought with my locavore mania and my cook from scratch mantra, that I WAS eating healthy.  I guess in a way I was – the thing is, I was eating both – healthy and unhealthy.  I had fallen into the habit of allowing the wrong foods to dominate my diet.  Bacon is a great addtion to so many dishes – pizza, perogies, baked potatoes, brussels sprouts – and it’s wonderful in a sandwich, like a BLT, or as part of breakfast.  But daily?  Cheddar cheese – this one has been hard for me – macaroni, pizza, grilled cheese, cheese and chutney on crackers, cheddar bacon muffins (double whammy), cheese scones, etc.  It turns out I was probably eating that daily as well.  Coffee with cream – I’d always limited myself to 1 per day, but this past year, I relaxed and usually had 2, and even occasionally 3 cups daily.    What used to be a treat I looked forward to had become something automatic in my day.

I was also eating a lot of good things – whole grains, lots of vegetables, chicken, lamb, pork, some pastured beef occasionally.  Probably not enough fruit now the berry season has passed, but pretty close.  But it turns out that it is completely possible to eat unhealthily while still eating entirely locally, seasonally, sustainably and cooking from scratch.  If my consumption of all the fatty foods had stayed porportionately less than the other foods in my diet, I probably wouldn’t be humming “No more bread and butter” right now.

Having to think more about my choices has made me aware of other ways I was slipping, mostly around snacks and lunch.  It turns out I was seldom eating fruit at work, if ever, but was certainly eating snacks – cookies or crackers or nuts, usually at least twice daily, as well as with lunch.  Chips(yes, I’d found a local brand) or chocolate were probably a weekly occurrence.   That has had to change, and now I’m getting more veggies and fruit at work, and no cookies.  Chocolate is not appealing thanks to the last gallstone attack, so has been easy to pass over.  This has also made me aware of less than great eating habits other members of my family have slipped into – again, mostly around treating “treat” foods as commonplace.  Something like gall stones can be heriditary, so hopefully they will find some incentive to adapt through their observations of my experiences.

Months from now, I won’t have the motivator of pain to keep me on the healthy eating wagon, so I’m glad of this opportunity to reform my eating habits now – not just mine, but the whole family.

I hope they’re not reading this.

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6 thoughts on “No More Bread and Butter

  1. Carrie says:

    There may be a few supplements listed on the following page that might help? http://www.doctoryourself.com/gallstones.html

    • A very helpful and pithy link, thank you. The internet abounds with contradictory advice regarding diet for gallstones – olive oil is good, drink it by the cupful, olive oil is still fat, be careful. Nuts are good, nuts are bad. Butter is good, butter is bad. I gave up. Your link is thankfully closely aligned with my (conventional) GP’s advice, which inspires me with more confidence. Thanks for sending it along.

  2. Annie says:

    Oh goodness! But I love how you still have a great sense of humor (saved my bacon at breakfast…that’s hilarious!).

  3. df says:

    Oh, I’m feeling for you! I remember when my mum was suffering from gallstones when I was a kid, but I would not have appreciated what she was going through. Keep up the humour and you will indeed get through this with new habits to boot. I also find that I slip into bad habits when I think I’m eating well. I find that smoothies are a big help to me when I’m not eating as well as I should; they are a great breakfast or snack item and low to no-fat yogurt makes them very appealing. They are easy to hide other super-nutritious things in as well. We have a lot of squash in our root cellar and I find that every few days I bake one and then take just five minutes to whip up a soup; again, non-fat yogurt can fill this type of soup out nicely. Very satisfying, but so good for you! And I love how fast it is (which means that there are no barriers for me actually doing it!).

    • Thanks for the encouraging words – and ideas. Squash – yes we have several down in the basement, I’m making squash soup about once a week, I think – it’s a favourite with all but the youngest (there’s always one, right?). Smoothies are a good idea, and I have a ton of frozen berries that never made it to jam…

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