A sweet breakfast checkup

February 13, 2010

I went for a full physical this week.  My company pays for a top-to-toe physical done at the American Hospital every few years, and it’s something I’ve put off for a long time.  It includes eye tests, hearing tests, breathing tests, EKGs, all the usual prodding and poking by a doctor or two, and about a gazillion vials of blood and other bodily fluids.

I first had this done in 2006 and am ashamed to admit I was actually called back for this follow up one in late 2008 but for scheduling reasons I pushed it into 2009, then I felt guilty about my weight being so high that I rescheduled the appointment, then I was traveling on several dates I’d rearranged it for, then I found out about endometrial cancer & was seeing doctors all the time and didn’t think it was a good time for this, and so finally now have gotten past the healing phase from the hysterectomy and booked it into a non-travel week to finally go.

I was glad my weight was back to within 10 pounds or so of my visit a few years ago – I’ve lost over 30 pounds in the past year, so while I was expecting to get a doctor’s lecture about managing my weight, I knew it would be quite different if I was clearly showing I was actively managing it instead of putting the pounds back on.  If you’re here reading a weight loss blog you can probably relate to the guilt over weight as you face the doctor.

The doc was really nice and the tests all went well.  I assume the bloodwork was mainly normal (don’t have it back yet, but got no phone call).

I was faced with the “typical French breakfast” as I had remembered.  You show up fasting & first thing they take blood, then they give you breakfast & then an hour or so later they take more blood (to measure your glucose & insulin after eating).  It’s not as scientific a method as giving someone a glucose drink to choke down (as they do w pregnant ladies) but you’d have a bunch of rioting French business people on your hands if you tried to give them some disgusting drink instead of breakfast for scientific accuracy.  Food in France is not to be trifled with, breakfast included, and this is a posh hospital catering to rich companies, so they’re not going to rock the boat.

When I had my first exam several years ago I was in active dieting mode and I remember having just the tea and a small plain yogurt for breakfast, because everything else on offer didn’t fit with my diet.  Of course that meant that the blood test was meaningless, as I hadn’t challenged my body with sugar, but I didn’t care.  I always thought my first real glucose tolerance test would be when I was pregnant, but of course now that will never happen and so I realized I should grab the opportunity to see what is up.

I’ve been dieting for geez, more than half of my life, and one of my iron-clad rules is not to drink my calories.  I don’t drink juice.  Haven’t for years, except very occasionally.  Like about two or three times a year.  Even when I’m not “actively dieting” this is a basic rule of living I’ve adopted.  And of course I’ve been eating carb-restricted for many months now, meaning the typical French breakfast of bread with butter and jam is not on my radar either.  But for the French, the typical breakfast really is a good glucose tolerance test, as it is based on white French bread, sugar-loaded jam, butter, juice & coffee or tea – to which most people also add sugar.

So you know what? I went for it.  I mean, free medical testing is free medical testing and I don’t know when I’ll get another opportunity so I drank the juice (nearly gagging it was so sweet) and happily ate the bread with butter & jam for the first time in many months.  The bread was good too, which I wasn’t expecting. Had a few spoonfuls of yogurt, drank my tea (no sugar however, I don’t like it sweetened).  Had the blood drawn again, finished the rest of the exams, and set out on the rest of my day.

The one high-carb meal had no noticeable effect on me.  I wasn’t extra hungry later, didn’t see anything shocking on the scale, and had no trouble being back in carb-restricted land from the next meal onward.

It was an interesting experiment – not only will I see in a week or so what kind of glucose response my body had, but it also opened up a degree of meal flexibility for the future.  I’m not much of an all-or-nothing thinker, and believe in approaching dieting in moderation.  When I really crave something I have it, and when it’s a special event I enjoy it – and then get right back on track.  But I hadn’t dared try that approach with breakfast, fearing it would open up Pandora’s box for a day, but this week’s experiment left me confident that I could have a special event breakfast without any real worries.

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