One of my friends called the other day to tell me his recent blood test had shown he was a borderline diabetic. His doctor recommended that he cut back on his carbohydrate intake. My friend wasn’t even certain what qualified as a carbohydrate.
His phone call reminded me of the time my late husband was in the same situation.
I’ve always heard that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but I never really believed it. I mean, we once had a 15-year-old dog that learned plenty of new tricks. Granted, most of them were bad, but still, they were new. I soon came to understand, however, that when the “old dog” was my husband, the old saying pretty much did hold true.
It all began when his doctor informed him that his blood sugar was too high and suggested that he eat no more than 55 grams of carbohydrates per meal and 30 per snack. He also advised him to space out the snacks and meals at least two to three hours apart to avoid a “glucose overload.”
“So, what are carbohydrates?” my husband casually asked me on the way home from the doctor’s office.
“Starches and sweets,” I told him. “Basically, anything that’s white is a carbohydrate. You know, sugar, bread, flour, potatoes, milk. Stuff like that.”
His eyebrows arched. “So what you’re trying to tell me is that just about everything I like is a carbohydrate?”
Considering the fact that he ate potato chips for dessert every night, I had to say yes.
The next morning, I got up and found my husband sitting at the table and eating four slices of toast slathered in peanut butter. Even worse, he was washing them down with a big glass of chocolate milk.
“What on earth are you doing?” I gasped.
“Watching my carbohydrates,” he said, smiling proudly. “I toasted the bread, so it’s not white any more. And I made the milk brown, too!”
In spite of myself, I burst out laughing. I could see I was going to have my work cut out for me.
Another problem was that my husband was the type of person who started snacking the minute he got home from work and continued to snack until bedtime…pausing only long enough to eat dinner.
Trying my best to help him adjust to his new way of eating, I went to the supermarket and searched for some low-carbohydrate snacks. Believe me, there wasn’t much to choose from back then. I must have spent two hours squinting at the microscopic print on labels before I finally found three snacks (aside from a slab of beef and a wedge of cheese) that were low in carbohydrates and might be decent substitutes for my husband’s nightly potato-chip crunching fest: fried pork-rinds, macadamia nuts and turkey jerky. I bought all three.
When I handed the snacks to him, he stared at them for a few seconds, then gave me a look that told me he suspected I was trying to cash in early on his life insurance.
“Come on, be brave and just try them,” I said. “At least when you get the urge to snack, these won’t affect your sugar levels.”
He opened the bag of pork rinds and sniffed the contents. “I think I’ve just lost my urge…forever.”
The faces he made while tasting the pork rinds and the jerky would have won awards in the international “make-the-ugliest-face” contest. But then he tried the macadamia nuts. Up until that point, he'd always disliked nuts…that is, unless they had been pulverized into peanut butter.
“Wow! These are excellent!” he said, his eyes wide. “They taste just like buttered popcorn.”
Within 20 minutes, all of the macadamia nuts, which had set me back nearly $6, were gone. Three hours later, my husband was suffering from the stomachache of the century.
“Ohhhhh,” he groaned, clutching his waist. “What’re you trying to do? Poison me?”
I glanced at the label on the empty jar and shook my head. “No wonder you have cramps! These nuts contain enough fiber to give Metamucil a run for its money! You weren’t supposed to eat the whole jar in one sitting!”
“Now you tell me,” he said, groaning again. “I never want to see another macadamia nut as long as I live.”
So much for trying to find him a tasty low-carbohydrate snack.
A few days later, while my husband and I were out for a ride, he swung the car into a Burger King drive-thru. There, he ordered two double cheeseburgers and a King-Kong-sized order of fries. I just stared at him, my mouth hanging open in disbelief.
“Hasn’t anything about carbohydrates that I’ve been trying to pound into your head managed to get through to you?” I asked.
He smiled and shook his head. “Prepare to be impressed,” he said smugly. “I’m allowed 55 carbohydrates at each meal, and 30 for each snack, right? Well, I’ve stayed well below those numbers all week, so I added up all of the extra carbohydrates that are owed to me and I’m using them for this one big meal right now!”
I actually wished our 15-year-old dog hadn’t passed away because I’m pretty sure I would have had an easier time teaching HER all about counting carbohydrates.
Then maybe she could have passed the information on to my husband.
# # #
Sally Breslin is an award-winning humor columnist and the author of “There’s a Tick in my Underwear!” “Heed the Predictor” and “The Common-Sense Approach to Dream Interpretation." Contact her at: email@example.com.