cereal

I was born in 1970, and for 37 years I was under the impression that a bowl of cereal was a good idea — “part of this nutritious breakfast,” as the commercials say. Full of vitamins, minerals, fiber and a splash of fat-free milk, what’s not to love? As it turns out, plenty.

It’s not like I’m eating Double Chocolate Sugar Cookie Crisps. Anyone with half a brain can tell that stuff’s not healthy. You might as well have a smoke at the breakfast table and get it over with. No, my cereals of choice are the ones I grew up with — Cheerios, Life, Chex, Corn Flakes, Frosted Shredded Wheat. Life cereal? Anyone remember this? “Some cereal. It’s supposed to be good for you. Let’s get Mikey. He’ll eat anything!” If it’s good enough for Mikey, it’s good enough for me.

But it was all a rouse. It turns out I shouldn’t have breakfast with Mikey anymore. Mikey raises my blood sugar too much. Since I’d like to avoid using Mikey-endorsed injectable insulin, I’ve must kick him to the curb.

Maybe I should back up for a moment and give you some contextual history. About 10 years ago I was woefully overweight. I did everything wrong. Too much this, not enough that — blah, blah, blah, it’s a common tale. I decided to change my ways and lost about 50 pounds, and part of the program includes visiting my doctor on a regular basis, not just when I am sick or when something really, really hurts. My doctor is, interestingly, anti-drug. Perhaps not so coincidentally, my pharmacist — with whom I share a home, bed and two young children — also is anti-drug. They both have been around the medical block enough to have learned that solving medical issues without drugs is a lot better than solving them with drugs.

What this means for me is that my days of ordering a Wendy’s triple cheeseburger are over. Instead of getting acquainted with the numerical combo menu at the drive-through, I have now become acquainted with the weight bench, treadmill and medicine ball.

I want no part of medicinal side effects. As an example, have you heard about Alli? It’s a new weight-loss drug that comes with its very own fashion tips. To quote the Alli Web site, “You may feel an urgent need to use the bathroom. Until you have a sense of any treatment effects, it’s probably a smart idea to wear dark pants, and bring a change of clothes with you to work.” I really wish I were making that up. I’m not.

So what can I do to minimize my need for medicine, both now and later? Well, part of my ongoing, never-ending health change includes sitting down with a dietitian who works at the doctor’s office. A couple of weeks ago when she asked what I typically eat for breakfast, I told her — honestly. What’s the point of lying to a doctor? She’s just trying to help you.

“A big bowl of cereal,” I said. “And maybe a banana.”

Then she asked me what kind of cereal, and before I could even get to the second one on my list of favorites, she was already shaking her head.

“Cereal’s no good?” I asked her. How can this be? My entire life I’ve been told that cereal is a good way to get a jump on the day. It’s cereal, for cryin’ out loud! I’m not eating coffee cake, a bear claw, Ring Dings and a pound of bacon every morning. Life cereal? What can be better than Life?

It seems that all those carbohydrates in cereal get digested and transformed into sugar very quickly, and that’s no good. So what should I eat for breakfast?

“Eggs,” the dietitian said. “And maybe some turkey sausage and some fruit.” She said I need to cut back on the carbs and eat more protein.

OK, fine, but eggs? I thought eggs were bad news. The medical community flip-flops on eggs. One decade they’re good, the next decade they’re bad, then they’re good again. I don’t know what to think anymore.

The next thing you know some medical study will “prove” that air conditioning lowers life expectancy by 15 percent. Maybe it turns out that profuse summertime sweating is good for you. Can you imagine? America has had air conditioning for too long now. We’ll never kick that habit. I don’t care how many degrees, diplomas and letters after his name a doctor has, air conditioning is here to stay.

My point is that I didn’t think cereal was a problem for me, just like I don’t think air conditioning kills. Who knew? Just when I thought I was on the right healthy track, the conductor throws a switch and my cereal days are behind me.

Goodbye, Mikey. It was nice knowing you. I’ll see you in the weight room.

David Spates is a Knoxville resident and Crossville Chronicle contributor whose column is published each Tuesday. He can be reached at davespates@tds.net.

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