During my long convalescent period after heart surgery I re-read Coleridge's classic poem Kubla Khan, which concludes with the famous lines "For he on honey-dew hath fed/And drunk the milk of Paradise." And I thought to myself: the honey-dew is probably safe, but I bet there's a sack load of fat and cholesterol in that milk of Paradise. Obviously I am not the sort of person who would have thrived in the stately pleasure dome at Xanadu, since it does not appear to have been a particularly heart-healthy establishment.
Alas, even great literature provides no respite from the gloom of coronary artery disease, merely reminding the post-operative reader that he can no longer take advantage of all life has to offer. Rather he must adhere to strict dietary rules, maintain a rigorous program of physical exercise, and remember to take his pills every morning and night. Never completely cured, heart disease remains sleeps in your system with one eye open, like a killer shark floating silently through the channels of a blood-red sea.
My own regimen will probably not make a much sense to you, but there is method in my madness, it's just not a particularly sane method when considered from most points of view. After all, it was slavishly following the path of a conventional lifestyle that led me into these dark, cardiological woods in the first place. An unhealthy forest of fat where the deadly cholesterol beast lurks and no person with a family history of heart disease can feel secure.
Anyway, whatever, my day begins with several laps around an Olympic sized pool; or at least it would do if I was not embarrassed to take my shirt off in public because of the huge scar running down the center of my chest. Unfortunately, I must hide myself away like a Frankenstein and interact with the world via Internet instead, limiting my breakfast to a single cup of coffee and small fat-free yogurt.
My non-existent swim concludes with self recriminations for not knowing how to check my own blood pressure. To take my mind of this failure I start thinking about lunch. I usually consult the Herbivore's Delight for healthy options, but the recipes are far too complicated for me to even consider so in the end I just sling some bits of salad together.
After lunch: siesta.
Unfortunately, sleeping during the day always leaves me feeling groggy and listless, which means the rest of the afternoon is a total write-off and it's pointless to schedule any activities whatsoever. At work I become the most observant of clock-watchers. If someone walks into my office I either pretend to be on the phone or hide under the desk. Should I be found hiding under the desk I simply plead that the effects of my recent surgery have left me tired and full of pain, and that I need to lie down for a few hours.
My evening meal is a twist on the FDA's approved Food Pyramid: it's more of a Food Igloo. This special frozen menu comprises ready-made dinners from the freezer which are carefully microwaved, then liberally slathered with fat-free dressing and washed down with a glass of heart-healthy red wine. Bon appetit.
When dinner is over and the dishes have all been left in the sink for someone else to do, it is important to re-connect with the world again by watching reality television in bed: a particularly effective form of anesthesia which is obviously the highlight of my daily regimen.
As I stated earlier, such a strict and rigorous program isn't for everyone, but I find it helpful and stimulating.