Saturday, June 12, 2010

Reflection on a Sunday: The Religious Experience

The forbidden foods?

"You probably don't even eat red meat, but I just went to the most amazing burger place," a friend told me recently at the YMCA after our exercise class. "Girl, it was like a religious experience."

"I eat red meat," I replied.

"Really? I guess I just sort of thought good doctors didn't eat anything bad." While it was nice that she counted me as a "good doctor," I was still trying to decide how I felt about the intonation of her "really." It was like in that quasi-snarky tone where the first syllable is ultra high-pitched, you know? Kind of like when someone says, Is thaaat right? I decided to take it all as a compliment since clearly she was privy to my svelte bod following our 6 AM Body Pump class, and surely anyone with this body would not be eating--hush yo' mouth--red meat. Uh. . . yeah, that's it.

"Red meat in moderation is okay." Nice, official answer.

"But, no Kim, this is like a straight up burger joint. I'm talking fries, onion rings, burgers. . . . grease." She laughed for emphasis. "It just seems wrong for a doctor to eat something so unapologetically artery-clogging. . . . .like a doctor shouldn't even be caught anywhere close to a place like that." She laughed again. Kind of like a little cackle that said (in the most loving way, of course) -- "It sucks to be you." So much for the compliment.

I think I can understand how someone would assume such a thing about a doctor--especially a nerdy internist. I mean, we spend hours counseling people on the importance of eating right to keep their weight down, their bowels moving, and their sugars normal. We calculate body mass indexes, refer people to dieticians, and furrow our brows when potato chips fall out of someone's bag. How dare one of the aforementioned individuals be (more than just a little) interested in hitting some greasy burger spot for a religious experience with red meat?

Okay, so newsflash: Doctors don't follow all of their own rules. (Wait--is there something in the Hippocratic Oath that says I can't say that?) Either way, as blasphemous as it might sound for me to admit it, it's true. We are 100% pots calling kettles black all day long.

Before you fret about your fearless health care providers, don't worry. A lot of us do try really, really hard to follow our own rules. A lot of us work out more than just every blue moon, and try more than just a little bit to be health conscious. But just so that you won't feel like a horrible failure the next time you encounter your doctor's furrowed brow at your next visit, I will disclose a few things (probably against my better judgment) that will show you this doctor's clay feet.

  • Confession #1: I love, love, love salty stadium peanuts and sunflower seeds. I can devour them. Really. And when I do, I don't stop until my lips pucker and shrivel into little raisins.
  • Confession #2: I only breast fed my first child for 4 months. Wait, 4 months is generous because I'm counting the time that I pumped, too. Yup. Knowing full well that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends one full year of the good stuff. The truth is that I fought the good fight with breastfeeding. I tried and tried and cried and cried before finally accepting that it was not working. I made a decision to not breast feed for my sanity, and spent way too long feeling guilty about it. (Did I mention that I am a board-certified pediatrician, too?)
  • Confession #3: I forgot to take my prenatal vitamins for 50% of my pregnancy. I did take them religiously for the first 20 weeks, but as soon as I saw that the ultrasound looked good, I became terribly noncompliant.
  • Confession #4: I missed a doctor's appointment just this past Friday because I didn't know it was scheduled for me. Yikes. Did someone from my doctor's office tell me? Kinda-sorta. I'm pretty crappy about checking our home voice mail which is where I heard the lonely reminder--errrr. . .today. What's worse is that I was in the very building just one hour before my appointment at another appointment that I was aware of. Oh, and the person who called to let me know I was a no show? She saw that I'd made the other one and blown off theirs in the computer. Nice.
  • Confession #5: I can eat peanut butter straight from the jar all day, every day if you let me. Chunky, creamy, Jif, Skippy, Peter Pan, no brand, the kind you stir, the kind you don't, organic, ordinary, reduced fat, or full fat--I don't discriminate. Peanut butter is my friend. My close friend. Especially after a long day in the hospital.
  • Confession #6: I not only found that burger joint, but ate at it yesterday complete with greasy fries and onion rings. Although it 100% negated the great workout I'd had that morning at the Y, it was so yumtacular that I felt 0% guilt.

So here's the thing: I tell my patients that moderation is the key. I regularly tell them that I, too, fall short sometimes and that I have to regroup, too. (I even give them a few examples if they don't believe me.) I tell them that it's so okay to be a work in progress. That a little indulgence is reasonable sometimes, but just not every single day. That each morsel you eat should either be for nourishment or if it's a treat, be worth it -- and that it should never be mindless. That you do have to pay the piper with some sho' nuff exercise on a regular basis. And that to get the results you want, you have to have at least some restraint with food/portions/etc. Oh,and for those same results to be sustained, that there must, must, must be balance.

I tell them that it's kind of like spending money, you know? Use your head, and don't go crazy with spending and restriction, or eating and restriction, either. In other words, it's okay to allow yourself a religious experience with a burger every now and then . . . or with a pair of red suede peep toe pumps for that matter. (I'm just sayin'. . .)

So there you have it. The cat is out of the bag right along with the potato chips. Your doctors are not perfect. In fact, they are anything but. I guess that is part of why I write this blog. To humanize patients and those of us involved in their care. In my opinion it's the only way to improve our relationships and outcomes. Why? Because when folks are on completely different pages, communication suffers. And evening out the playing field by being more authentic makes it easier to communicate, don't you think?

Me indulging in a full-fat, four-dollar latte from Starbucks (but "tall" not "venti" . . . .capisce?)

*Oh yeah, turns out the place is called "Farm Burger" and is a casual burger joint in downtown Decatur (a cool neighborhood in intown Atlanta.) My friend at the YMCA gave what was like the 5th endorsement I'd heard about this place, so I knew it was a must. The burger was what I'd describe as "psycho-yummy", a self-derived term that I reserve only for the most deliciously yummy foods I encounter. (Other examples of psycho-yummy include all peanut butter, anything my mother-in-law cooks, Antico Pizza, and Peter Luger Steakhouse in NY just to name a few. . . .) Anyways, if you're in the Atlanta area and are leaning toward the indulgent side of your balancing act with food, OM quadruple G, you've got to eat a Farm Burger. Not only is it bucket list worthy, it's a psycho-yummy party in your mouth that is a sho' nuff and bonified religious experience.

If you don't live a little, your relationship with food becomes this:

What are YOUR favorite psycho-yummy foods? Do tell. . . . .


  1. Food is love and good food is just plain good love. It reminds me of my mother's cooking. I tell my patients that moderation is the place to be in any walk with food. You have to eat a bit and move a bit. Now, thank you for the place. I will put that on my list of $100 hamburger places and fly down from CLT in a few weeks; low altitude in the four-seater.

    To return the favor, check out Jake's Good Eats in Charlotte (CLT). . .

  2. Adding it to my "where to eat on my next day trip to Atlanta" list. If it's in Decatur, that means I have an excuse to go to the Dekalb Farmer's Market. (Like I needed an excuse...)

    And also returning the favor like the commenter above, Aretha Frankensteins in Chattanooga for breakfast. They aren't called "Waffles of Insane Greatness" for nothing.

  3. Will do! I think my husband and I saw that place featured on the Food Network's Diners, Dives, and Drive-ins.

  4. Ohhhh, that sounds GOOD. Confession #6 made me smile. It definitely looks too good to pass up.

    I'm so glad you wrote this; sometimes living a really healthy lifestyle feels so unattainable to me and I look around at all the people who never seem to do anything wrong (like many of the doctors I've known!) and think, wow, I could never be that disciplined. But it's definitely a great reminder that the key IS moderation, and that it's about a pattern of making overall good choices instead of going crazy over all the little details that, in the end, balance out.

    I could probably write you a whole novel about my own psycho-yummy foods ;) but lately I've been craving jook, which is Chinese congee (not terribly unhealthy in and of itself) with yau jau gwai--literally translates to deep-fried devils, and it's this stick of bread dough that's, as you can imagine, deep-fried. When you get it in a paper bag I swear the oil in it turns the paper bag clear. But it's SO good, and always reminds me of childhood.

    Love your blog so much! :)

  5. Ok, the confessions are just hilariuos!! I am always amazed by how you can find the perfect song and picture for any and I mean ANY topic. Fantastic blogging Dr M!

  6. Rut roh! I ate Antico Pizza tonight. . . .OMG! My moderation is slightly off right now. . . back on the wagon tomorrow, I promise!

  7. Sounds like a good spot for my birthday meal when I'm in town next month! Thanks, Sis!


"Tell me something good. . . tell me that you like it, yeah." ~ Chaka Khan

Related Posts with Thumbnails