Diets

This posting is mostly about my personal life, but there is a (small) linguistic point. If you don’t want to read about my personal life, bow out after the preliminaries are over.

It starts with a Zits cartoon from last month:

Jeremy’s parents are on diets — low-fat and high-fiber and probably more — and I sympathize. I’ll explain, but first a few comments on the word diet.

In modern English this has two principal meanings (there are others), an older one and a more recent one that’s a specialization of the older sense. NOAD2 glosses them:

[older] the kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats

[specialized] a special course of food to which one restricts oneself, either to lose weight or for medical reasons

Compare “Kim’s diet is low in fat” [sense 1] with “Kim’s diet allows only a few grams of fat a day” [sense 2]. In sense 2, a diet serves a purpose other than providing simple nutrition or sensual pleasure; it’s treatment rather than just food — a fact that has led many critics (Michael Pollan, for instance) to criticize diets-2, sometimes passionately.

Here end the preliminaries.

I am older than Jeremy’s parents, by a good bit; I’m old for teenage children, of Jeremy’s age, but easily old enough to have teenage grandchildren, indeed old enough to have children the age of Jeremy’s parents. So, as I say, I sympathize with them in their dietary travails.

For some time I’ve suffered from hypothyroidism (low thyroid function) and asthma, more recently from elevated blood pressure, elevated blood cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes (elevated blood sugar plus other symptoms), and I’ve been gaining weight over the years (especially since my partner Jacques’s death and the disaster of necrotizing fasciitis — “flesh-eating bacteria”, ugh), to the point where I ended up officially obese. Along the way, I became depressive, enough to have that interfere with many things in my life.

Then, after the next disaster — massive upper-intestinal bleeding — in early February, I was discovered to have serious anemia (see my “frog-boiling” posting) and an irritated stomach lining.

Before that disaster, I was taking medication for my hypothyroidism, asthma, blood pressure, and blood cholesterol (several medications for some of these), but not for my diabetes (which I had managed to control through diet and modest exercise, to my family doc’s amazement). Post-disaster, additional medication, for anemia (the Evil Iron Tablets — this in a posting to come) and stomach acid, plus further medication to alleviate some, but alas not all, of the side-effects of the EITs.

To this remarkably complex schedule of medications (complicated further by restrictions on times of the day, on taking meds with food or without food, on taking certain meds close to one another in time, etc.) were added a series of diets-2: a weight-loss diet, intended to also improve my blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and blood sugar, so that the diet was low not only in overall calories, but was also low-salt, low-fat (especially saturated fat), and low-carb (especially sugar, but also bread and pasta); an ulcer diet, eliminating things that might irritate the lining of the stomach (so no aspirin, though I had been taking one baby aspirin a day as a blood thinner, for my heart; no alcohol; no coffee or tea; no fried food; no spicy food, though I’ve relaxed this a bit on occasion; and no high-acid food, though I’ve had to relax that a bit to satisfy the requirements of some of the meds and other parts of the diets); and a high-fiber diet (not a problem, since my diet-1 has long been high in fiber). No one suggested an actual anemia diet, since it would conflict at too many points with the other diets (though spinach and grilled fish, for example, are fine — and the fish provide some fish oil, which is a Good Thing for other purposes), and since many doctors are dubious that dietary manipulations can do enough to make a real dent in anemia.

(Also taking a multi-vitamin pill every morning, to make up for possible vitamin and mineral deficiencies in the rest of the diets.)

There’s enough food left for me to eat that I can have pleasurable, though small, meals — but eating out requires a careful choice of restaurants (some are just out out out) and menu items. (Food preparation at home is difficult, since my right hand is significantly disabled — fallout from the necrotizing fasciitis — and I never got very good at cooking for one anyway.)

In any case, I’ve been losing 10 pounds a month, 30 pounds so far, with at least 30 more to go, sigh. Clothing has to be constantly re-negotiated, a not unpleasant task.

5 Responses to “Diets”

  1. irrationalpoint Says:

    On the linguistic point: in my adolescence, it seemed that diets-2 had a further subtype, along the lines of “a restricted set of foods, supposedly to lose weight, but with a dodgy scientific/medical basis, usually promoted by a celebrity or women’s magazine”. As in “I’m on a cheese diet” — which means “I’m eating only cheese”. This sense of “diet” got sufficiently popular when I was in my last two years of school that if anyone said they were “on a diet”, they would immediately asked “what kind?” and if the answer was “generally healthy eating, you know, to lose weight. I’m not eating so much junk food”, then the reply was “oh, I though you meant a celebrity diet”.

    On the non-linguistic issue: I sympathise. My own multiple health issues require a certain amount of close attention to food, limited in my case by having to weigh the effort of cooking and cleaning up afterwards against chronic pain and fatigue. In my experience, it does all get more manageable as time goes on. But much of what you’ve describe, I’ve been through myself. Mostly my solution has been to eat at home most of the time and to try to find as many easy-cooking solutions as possible. My favourites are the One Pot Meals — characterised by little chopping, short cooking times, and everything goes into the one pot/pan so little washing up. But of course, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution.

    –IP

  2. Eleanor Houck Says:

    Hi! Thanks for the update and inspiration…was wondering how you are doing…life can get complicated, but is manageable. Best Wishes! El.

    [(amz) For the rest of you: Eleanor is my cousin (the youngest of my cousins, in fact, but now that we’re all seniors, that doesn’t make much difference), with whom I keep in touch, but almost entirely by snail mail. Nice to see her on the net.]

  3. More diets « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] Arnold Zwicky's Blog A blog mostly about language « Diets […]

  4. X diet « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] By arnoldzwicky Another small follow-up to my first posting on diets, this time about N+N compounds of the form X diet, denoting types of diet. These […]

  5. Food and drink postings « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] Diets (link) […]

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