Dad Has Dementia

Week 22: Dad Is Bad for My Waistline

Last updated: Jun 11, 2010


Things have been a bit heavy lately. Let's lighten up.

At least, that's been my recent dietary motto: Lighten up. I've gained eight pounds since Dad came to live with us. Why? Let me count the ways.

1.Stress. Despite being a nurse, I'm as prone to stress eating as anyone else. It's easier to self-medicate with food than with any other substance. Food provides comfort. Mashed potatoes provide the most comfort, in my opinion. Well, and chocolate.

2.Cultural gulf. I am a Midwesterner born and bred. So is Dad. The difference is that I outgrew the classic Midwestern diet ages ago. Dad did not. I grew up eating meat and potatoes, but I evolved into eating salads and chicken. Dad still is a meat-and-potatoes guy. Consequently, to make him feel at home, I've been cooking a lot more meat and potatoes. The baked-with-sour-cream doesn't look good on my thighs.

3.Lack of formal exercise. In my guest room is a gleaming, thousand-dollar machine that's gathering dust. It's a rowing machine. Before Dad came to live with us, I used it regularly. It has proven to be one of my best investments. However, since Dad's been living here, I haven't found time to actually use it. This is not a lame excuse. My days frequently begin before 6:00 a.m. and go past 10:00 p.m. I'm a committed exerciser, but my current schedule simply doesn't allow it.

4.Snacks. Dad has a sweet tooth. From cookies to ice cream, Dad loves sugar. Personally, I'm a devotee of the low-starch diet. But who doesn't want to share ice cream sundaes with Dad? When he's in his final days of lucidity? On a hot Sunday afternoon? Or when there's baseball on? Or for any other reason? Let's face it: Hot fudge sundaes are good. I may be committed to good nutrition, but I'm not a saint!

So, what to do?

Well, I work for a plastic surgeon, so liposuction is an option.

Before I do that, however, I think I'll try to get my diet under control. Not only will I lose the pounds but, more importantly, I'll be healthier.

I realized that I can continue my old, healthy, pre-Dad diet while still cooking him the things he likes to eat. And that's what I've been doing. For the past couple of weeks, when Dad has a baked potato with his London broil, I've had a salad. And when Dad has suggested we share hot fudge sundaes, I've made one for him while I've enjoyed chocolate mousse yogurt instead.

To my surprise, it's really not that much work to create meals that work for both Dad and me. It's easy to substitute veggies for starches. I feel better and have more energy, while Dad feels comfortable knowing his own food preferences are being met. It's a real win-win.