Monday September 24, 2012
When to walk away
BUT THEN AGAIN BY MARY SCHNEIDER
Addiction takes many forms as many of us are painfully aware of.
IT SEEMS that I now have a slight cholesterol problem, which has prompted my doctor to encourage me to change my eating habits and undertake regular exercise.
When I say “slight”, I mean that if you were to cut my arteries open you would probably find them lined with a mixture of rich creamy Gorgonzola, crisp sharp Cheddar and crumbly Parmesan cheeses, such has been my life-long love affair with the stuff.
As soon as I’d received the bad news, I headed home, opened my fridge door and looked at my stash of cheese. I know we should never stare at our enemies longingly, but I couldn’t help myself. Cutting back was going to be difficult.
Over the next few days, the more I thought about not eating cheese, the more I wanted to have it. Addictions are like that. Deprived of my fix, I became obsessed with it. Suddenly, the only food worth eating had cheese in it.
“You need to find a substitute for cheese,” said a friend, trying to be helpful. “You can get some non-dairy cheese in the health food section of the supermarket. When people are coming off heroin, they often take methadone, a synthetic opioid, to help them make the transition. I guess it will be just like that.”
“You’re comparing cheese to heroin?” I asked.
“Well, they can both kill you, if you don’t control your intake.”
It was obvious that I needed to find a substitute for my friend’s advice.
I did look at the cheese alternatives available, but there’s no way that I’m going to subject myself to anaemic soy cheese, or some doubtful plastic stuff that only melts at 1,000°C or textured protein slices that are so tough that they can be used to re-sole your shoes. Any such substitutes would just make me yearn for real cheese all the more and serve to underscore my deprivation.
Of course, it’s not just my cheese intake that’s now restricted. Many other favourite foods have also been put on the warning list: nasi kandar, char koay teow, nasi lemak, roti canai, pisang goreng, and mee goreng, to name just a few of the Penang specialties that have found a place in my heart, and possibly my arteries, over the years.
My partner, a sickeningly healthy man who gets a huge kick out of eating nuts and fruit and running around a squash court for several hours, must have felt a bit sorry for me, because he went out and bought me a present.
“Ah, what a thoughtful man,” I can hear some of you saying just about now.
Ah, but wait till you hear what he bought for me.
Other women get flowers, or jewellery, or perfume when they are feeling down in the dumps, but I get a device that counts every step I take.
“If you want to get healthy, you need to take at least 10,000 steps a day,” said my partner. “It’s a good starting point.”
A good starting point? What did he want me to do? Walk to the moon and never come back?
Of course, since he was so concerned, the least I could do was humour him. However, I’m ashamed to admit that outside of holidays, when I can hike for miles without complaint, walking is pretty much an alien activity to me. If I want to go anywhere, I almost always take my car. And if there’s a drive-through option for buying food (usually containing cheese) or paying bills, that’s where you’ll find me.
I have since discovered that it takes 38 steps to get from my bed to the fridge, where my cheese is still stashed – I now limit myself to a small piece once a week.
My partner, who doesn’t have a cholesterol problem, continues to eat cheese whenever he wants to. But he does so discreetly.
While I’m doing my grocery shopping (2,000 steps), he can indulge in any number of artery-clogging activities, as long as he doesn’t tell me every excruciating detail of the experience afterwards. Likewise, while I’m enduring a speed walk (7,000 steps) every other day, he can happily get stuck into a melting Camembert, far from my deprived eyes.
Contrary to my initial reaction to the pedometer, the gadget has now become my new addiction. Why, last night I even paced up and down my bedroom floor for 10 minutes, just so I could achieve my “step quota” before going to sleep.
When my partner found out what I was doing, he whipped out his handphone.
“Say cheese!” he said, as he clicked on the camera function.
I couldn’t help but smile.