Monday, June 14, 2010

Back from vacation, back to the grindstone

I’m back from an absolutely fantastic vacation. Lior and I went to New Orleans for five days. New Orleans is a great city. The people are friendly and easy going. And the city is filled with an incredible amount of creative energy – writers, artists, musicians – and chefs. Oh yes, lots of great food. Really fattening food. Alcohol. Temptations.

New Orleans is not the healthiest city to be a tourist with diabetes and celiac – an allergy to wheat, rye, and barley. I also don’t eat pork products and only eat certain kinds of shellfish. So needless to say, finding the right kind of foods was challenging for me.

Lior and I combed the French Quarter both on-line before the trip and while there via guidebook and on foot in search of meals that fit at least most of my requirements. And when we did, the food was positively delicious. But it wasn’t easy.

And my blood sugars suffered. I went as high as 300 on one occasion and had a terrible low of 44 in the airport on the way home. I cursed every fattening, starchy meal I ate while sitting on a bench at the Philadelphia airport in a groggy haze recovering from that hazardous low sugar. Thankfully, Lior was there to pick up the suitcase. I was a mess.

The blood sugar roller coaster ride is exhausting. Physically draining. Frustrating. And I felt guilty. I’ll be honest. Despite all of the fun we definitely had, food, diabetes, and celiac was a sore point of the vacation for me.

But of course, I try to live life finding the lesson in my diabetic experiences and then use that lesson so that I can thrive with diabetes. I use this blog as a forum for doing that.

To do that, I need to be honest. I need to back track a bit. I knew ahead of time that I would be steering off of my healthy eating course on this vacation. When we first decided to go to New Orleans, Lior and I researched restaurants trying to find a place with just the right balance of vegetables, healthy grains, and nutritious options. But what I found was an array of exciting restaurants to explore - with lots of unhealthy choices.

So I rationalized: I’m not in New Orleans every day. My whole life’s motto is to live life to the fullest and take advantage of every moment.

And so I decided that food would be part of the experience:

Wednesday night at GW Fins, I ate a very succulent tilefish with shrimp etouffee, mashed potatoes, and lobster butter sauce, and I had blackberry and mango sorbet for dessert. Lior and I both agreed that GW Fins was our second favorite meal of the whole trip. I drank a beautiful glass of Riesling later at Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse while Lior drank who knows what. But lots of it.

Thursday night at Desire Oyster Bar, I ate blackened snapper with crabmeat on top of sautéed green beans, peppers, and capers, and a baked potato. The meal was good. I also tried a bite of oyster for the first time in my life. Delicious but a bit chewy for my taste. I did love the atmosphere though. The restaurant‘s windows opened out onto Bourbon Street, and the ceiling fans, lights, and tile floor reminded me of the oyster bar in Grand Central Station in New York (which is most likely a copy of the ones in New Orleans).

On Friday night we ate at Arnaud’s Jazz Bistro. The band played classic jazz while I dined on mushrooms Veronique, salad, chicken in béarnaise sauce, Brabant potatoes covered in hollandaise sauce, and I had caramel custard for dessert. The food was okay, not great. But the experience was worth it. We then returned to Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse and listened to Leon “Kid Chocolate” Brown on his trumpet (or perhaps it was a trombone, can’t remember) while Lior drank five martinis. I drank juice. The guilt trip started that night.

And on Saturday night, we rode the St. Charles Avenue Streetcar to Brigtsen’s, a James Beard Award winning restaurant. As you can imagine, I ate the most delectable, unforgettable meal ever: Blackened tuna with smoked corn sauce, red bean salsa, & roasted red pepper sour cream, mashed potatoes, sautéed green beans, and the most incredible café au lait crème brulee for dessert.

I gained two or three pounds while I was away, had crazy blood sugars, and I think there may have been some gluten in one or two of those meals. I felt sick to my stomach from all of that crazy food that Sunday at the airport, and actually that entire day, and you know what?

It was worth it.

I know I’m supposed to write about eating healthy all the time, exercising, and taking good care of your health. But you know what? It’s true. It’s not a rationalization. I’m not in New Orleans every day. And I love delicious food. I tried my best to maintain a gluten-free diet. I tried to eat vegetables whenever I could. I walked every day, and even went to the hotel fitness center one day and did some yoga every other day while I was there. And I had a great time.

I did feel guilty when I got back home though. But you know what? That’s okay too! It means I care about my health, and was fully aware that I was breaking the rules.

The guilt has also pushed me to focus on healthy living again now that I’ve returned. I decided to start counting calories and intensify my work-outs some more. (I had gotten a bit lazy before going away on vacation.) I have already lost the two or three pounds I gained while in New Orleans. And am on my way to losing some more.

I have actually found that being a little bit sinful and letting loose once in a while has been a great motivator to push forward now that I’ve returned to the grindstone.

What’s the diabetic lesson I’ve learned? We all need a break sometimes. I know I did. And I am willing to turn those guilt trips into acceptance, have some fun, and then transform all of that energy I used on feeling guilty into pushing forward and making even better and healthier choices once the vacation is over.

Will I feel guilty on my next vacation? Probably, but maybe that’s a good thing after all?

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