Nutrition, Fashion, and a Fancy Lunch

One thing I learned from my checkup a couple of weeks ago is that I have to lower my cholesterol. Most of my numbers are pretty good, but my LDL (the “bad” cholesterol) is a bit higher than it should be. It’s balanced out some by a higher HDL (the “good” cholesterol) level, but my doctor still wants me to see what I can do with lifestyle adjustments.

Fortunately, I know all about what to do about that. My first job out of college was at a medical school. I was a writer and public information officer, which meant I wrote articles and news releases about the departments I covered and handled press inquiries relating to those departments. One of those departments during part of my time there was the Center for Human Nutrition, along with nutrition research in general and the clinical nutrition training program. Cholesterol was the biggest thing being discussed at that time. Two of our doctors had won the Nobel Prize for research relating to cholesterol. I’ve written so much stuff about that, and I have the information direct from the horse’s mouth, so to speak.

I even have a book about lowering cholesterol and thereby lowering heart attack risk, which I got at an event relating to the medical school, so I pulled it out and started reading it. That was when I realized how much things change and evolve in science and medicine. The copyright on this book was 1993, and I already could see things that are different now. For one thing, according to the scale in this book, I shouldn’t have to do anything. My LDL would have been well within normal parameters, but they’ve since changed the recommendations, so I now fall within the “nothing to be too alarmed about, but you should probably make some lifestyle changes so things don’t get worse” level. The recipes in the book tend to be pretty high in sugar, and they’ve found since then that high sugar is also a risk factor. It’s a trick to balance lower saturated fat and lower sugar and simple carbs. Avocados are a no-no in the book, and now they’re recommended. I think the views on eggs have also shifted since then.

But that’s how science works. They’re constantly adjusting and fine-tuning as they learn more. What they’re recommending one year may be different from what they recommend later. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t listen to scientists because they change their minds. In fact, you know you’re dealing with good scientists when they’re willing to change their thinking based on evidence.

This book definitely brought back memories because the event where I got it was an interesting one. Because research is so expensive, the school was always doing fundraising activities, which generally involved Dallas society, the wealthy people who mix charity with fun, so they’re always having balls and parties to raise money. I sometimes had to go to these events to write about them, which meant I’d end up at mansions with butlers answering the doorbell. I’d pull up to the valet that they had to use for guest parking in these neighborhoods in my Chevy Cavalier when everyone else had Mercedes, BMWs and Jaguars. I was in my very early 20s and making about $20,000 a year, so it was quite a contrast.

For the event where I got the book, I wasn’t yet assigned to the nutrition department, but the university president’s secretary called our office not long before lunchtime one day and said she needed some women to fill seats for a fundraising luncheon. I don’t know if someone had backed out or if they didn’t sell all the tickets, but they didn’t want empty seats. The next thing I know, I’m in the secretary’s car, being whisked off to this fancy luncheon full of Dallas society women. They stuck me in one of the empty seats, and when the lady sitting next to me introduced herself, I realized I was sitting with Margot Perot — wife of the infamous billionaire and sometime presidential candidate H. Ross. Then I learned that the entertainment for the luncheon was a Chanel fashion show. That was awkward because I was wearing a Chanel-style suit from Casual Corner. It wasn’t a true knockoff, no fake logo, or anything like that, but it was definitely that style. I was sitting there in my cheap imitation, surrounded by billionaires and millionaires who wore the real deal.

Models walked around the room while we ate our fancy salads and stopped at each table to describe their outfits and answer any questions. Fortunately, it was mostly resort wear, so no one was wearing the real deal version of my suit. And it turned out that Mrs. Perot was delightfully snarky and had the same attitude about that kind of fashion as I did, so next thing I know, the two of us are Statler and Waldorfing the fashion show. After we were through eating and looking at clothes I’d never be able to afford, there was a speaker. I don’t remember who it was, but it might have been one of the authors of this book, which was given out to each attendee, along with a Chanel goodie bag containing a full-size bottle of Chanel No. 5 perfume. That perfume alone probably doubled my earnings for that day.

Reading through this book took me back to that day, when I was very much a fish out of water, but one of the top fish was so kind and friendly that she put me at ease. I may have to find a way to put this experience in a book. In the meantime, I need to do a little more research into the current dietary recommendations. I think mostly I need to cut back on the amount of cheese I eat. One of my indulgences during lockdown has been finding the fancy cheeses in the Kroger cheese shop that have been marked down, and that’s generally what I have for lunch. I eat way more than the recommended serving size, I’m sure. I’m also trying to exercise more and at more intensity. I’m the kind of overachiever who wants to get a better “grade” on my next cholesterol test.

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