Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Taylor Swift Is Making Me Eat Oatmeal

At my annual OB/GYN checkup earlier this year, my doctor suggested that I have some blood work done as it had been a while since my last blood letting. My doctor, by the way, looks about eighteen years old and bears an uncanny resemblance to Taylor Swift. She is a lovely, bright young woman, and from what I can tell a fine doctor, but I don't know if she's the best choice to usher me into my fragile menopausal years.

With each yearly visit, more and more parts of me wrinkle and sag further south while Dr. Taylor Swift is just coming into her prime. I worry it could get ugly on an intensely hormonal, insecure day. As I sit vulnerably on the paper-covered exam table half exposed in an open-front hospital gown, I start to imagine myself in a glowy, hazy Taylor Swift video where Dr. Taylor and I do a guitar duet version of You Belong With Me:
My part: 
'Cause she wears short skirts
I wear an ugly gown
She's a cheery MD
And I'm in the stirrups
Dreamin 'bout the day when I sit up and find
That my breast exam is all normal this time.
Taylor MD comes in: 
If you can see that I'm the one who understands you
Knows your per-i-od and does your pap smee-ee-arr.
You belong right hee-ee-eerre.

You're-old-but belong right here.
The ladies might appreciate my ditty. Guys - you will have to come up with your own tune about coughing and prostate exams. Too bad for you Taylor Swift is an OB/GYN and not a urologist...

Anyway, back to the blood work. I kept putting it off with plans of losing a few pounds and getting in better shape before coming face to face with my cholesterol levels. In the past, my total cholesterol has been a little high, but my LDL or "bad cholesterol" was within normal range and the elevated total resulted from a high HDL or "good cholesterol" level. Even though my total was a little above the recommended numbers, I rationalized that my excess "good cholesterol" got me off the hook from worrying about it.

Well, I finally dragged myself down to the lab to get my blood drawn since the extra ten pounds I'd been carrying did not seem to be in a hurry to drop off. I fasted for the obligatory twelve hours before my appointment. Why is that so ridiculously hard to do? Basically just skip breakfast. You would have thought I had not eaten for days by the time I weakly crawled into Wawa for coffee and a Sizzli after the lab visit. I suspected the results of my blood test were going to mean changes to my diet, and I wanted to get in a last relatively guilt-free greasy breakfast.

When the results came in the mail, I was not too terribly surprised to learn that my total cholesterol was forty points higher than five years ago. While my "good cholesterol" was still very high, my "bad cholesterol" was now seventeen points above normal range. At the bottom of the lab report, a handwritten note from Taylor was scrawled which read, "Start a low cholesterol diet and follow up with your primary care doctor." There it was - the directive from Taylor Swift to clean up my dietary act:
And you've got LDL that could clog up this whole town
You haven't checked it in a while, need to bring it down
You say you're fine
I know you better than that
Hey what you doing with a Sizzli like that.
Cause she wears short skirts
I wear sweat pants
She's a cheery young thing
And I need some implants
Dreamin 'bout the day when I wake up and find
That my bathroom scale has been wrong this whole time...
Sooo. Here I am a few weeks later having made some modest changes to my fitness and eating behaviors. I am trying to be more consistent with my exercise and do something physical each day whether it's a bike ride to Graul's instead of driving or a short run. I have also cut back on high cholesterol foods, and I try to work fish and vegetarian meals into our dinner menu two or three times a week. I still allow myself eggs here and there because I love them.

The other dietary change I've made is adding the mother of all cholesterol busting foods to my breakfast menu. Yes, I'm talking about good old reliable oatmeal. I've made attempts in the past to embrace oatmeal, but somehow I've resisted preparing and eating it on a daily basis. I'm not a creature of routine in general, so I guess that should not be a surprise.

For the past two weeks, however, I have cooked myself a bowl of old fashioned oats every morning, and I have to say, I have become a fan - you might even say a groupie. While oatmeal is not glowy, hazy, Taylor Swift smooth, youthful, and glamorous, it does perk up nicely with the addition of some well chosen enhancement products. Just as a little collagen cream, face spackle, and matte powder freshen up my saggy, mushy exterior, oatmeal becomes pretty darn appealing when topped with an assortment of fruits, nuts and spices - instant oatmeal facelift! Here are before and after pictures of my oatmeal:

Sad old oatmeal
Oatmeal post-facelift

I bet most of you can find a way to like oatmeal if you get creative enough. You can cook it with almond or soy milk instead of water, swirl in some honey, nutella, or peanut butter, top it with granola or yogurt, or add chopped apples. strawberries, or even dark chocolate chips. My version here is cooked with a drop of vanilla extract and cinnamon and topped with some brown sugar, sliced almonds, banana and dried cranberries. I used pumpkin spice yesterday with chopped pecans and some crumbled ginger snaps. Just keep some basic ingredients on hand and have at it.

I personally like the old fashion variety of oats. They cook up in five minutes on the stovetop and have a better texture to me than the quick or instant kinds. Steel cut are also good but take longer to prepare, and that's just not doable for me. I get distracted and forget about them and end up with a pot of inedible, solid glop.

You know, I think Taylor Swift is great - both the artist and the doctor. I am secure enough in my aging skin to appreciate their youthful energy and beauty and confidently stand alongside with the wealth of experience and battle scars that come with maturity. I was there once, and they will be here one day - looking for ways to dress up their mushy, saggy oatmeal and get their cholesterol in check. We have to keep our senses of humor and perspective intact to make it happily and healthfully to the finish line.

Here's Taylor's adorable video for You Belong With Me released back in 2009 when she was 19 years old. She's a ripe old 21 now and seemingly wise for her years. May we all be so.


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