Calorie intake for weight loss is another inspiring short story from Bernard Preston's book, Frog in my Throat.
I am one of those strange people who won’t have a print hanging in my home or office. Give me an original O’Hara, Campion or Bainbridge any day over a Rembrandt print. Music too, for that matter. A live performance, either in theatre, or my son playing quietly on his guitar, brings me much more pleasure than the great John Williams on compact disc. So I spend my money on art and concerts. They restore my soul.
This page was last updated by Bernard Preston on 8th July, 2019.
Frog in my Throat
Mrs. O’Hara had phoned me one day: ‘Doc Bernie, would you see my son? He has hurt his back.’
There was only one problem. Money. Tim was a poor artist on holiday from Cape Town and had hurt his back while packing to visit his parents in Shafton. Inwardly I groaned, but I put on my best ‘I care’ voice. Mrs. O’Hara had been a good patient for at least ten years so obviously I owed it to her to make sure Tim had the care he needed for his back. But it did make me wonder again why so many sons of a hard working generation seemed so dependent on their parents and the charity of others.
Tim fortunately responded well to treatment of a really quite acute disc injury in the lower back and, when payment time came, he volunteered a portfolio of paintings. My initial thoughts about his generation had been quite undeserved. One of them immediately caught my attention: a black ink on white paper sketch of a house with a lone chair in the shade of an umKuhlu tree. It was entitled ‘Gin Time’ and we made a happy trade. In fact I went on to pay him money!
I really liked two others of his paintings and they became quite valuable when Tim ultimately went on to fame. But that’s neither here nor there as I really liked the paintings and wouldn’t part with them. And they came tax-free.
One of the issues that many of us struggle with, I suppose, is rendering unto Caesar when payment comes in kind. A bag of pecan nuts; half a dozen chickens. Should I declare the painting as income? My mind went back to the disturbing book ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’ about an island doctor in the Ionian Sea in which virtually all payment was made in kind. Eggplant from one farmer, olives from another. And the priceless bit about the prostitute. What kind of payment was she going to offer? One way or another, I loved Gin Time.
I don’t drink gin and, in fact, do not like to imbibe at all during the day, but such is the power of that painting that it held pride of place in my office where I could dream, occasionally, of a quiet hour under a shady tree.
It was that time one Sunday that I call Gin Time, that Pastor John, of peeing in praise fame, phoned.
I immediately sensed the panic in his voice: ‘My son, Tyron, has fallen from his tree house, Bernie, onto his back. Could you please come down and see him?
Could you come right now?’
As I drove down, I wondered what I would find. Only a few months earlier there had been a similar story in the press about a lad who was paralysed from the waist down after severing the spinal cord. Fortunately a careful examination of Tyron revealed nothing more that a few bruises.
The first neurological test in such circumstances is a rather vulgar peek inside his pants. An erection is an ominous sign but he looked quite normal. Not so the quizzical look on his father’s face! But there was something else about Tyron. Twelve years old and only five foot two, at eighty-five kilogrammes he was obviously seriously over weight.
Gross obesity is a very perplexing problem. The beginning of a whole host of diseases from high blood pressure to diabetes, not to mention severe and often nasty teasing by peers, it cannot be simply addressed by a command to lose weight. In fact it’s not far from all the other addictions and has often a deep psychological root.
As I pondered Tyron and his gross obesity, I wondered how many other teachers, parents and doctors had instructed him to lose weight all, obviously, to no avail. Something different here was needed. Every now and then one has remarkable bits of inspiration and insight. This was one of those occasions.
‘Tyron, it would not be good for you to lose weight,’ I said, to the total astonishment of his concerned parents.
His jaw, too, dropped. ‘But I want to see you in a year’s time and I do not want you even one kilogram over eighty-five. Okay? And I want you to join a gym and train every day after school.’
I saw Tyron on the odd occasion over the next few years, mainly for headaches that started after the fall. Fortunately they were infrequent and usually responded to one or two adjustments of his occiput bone. But it was only when he grew to over six foot that he topped eighty-five kilograms, and by then was sixteen years old.
Tyron went on to win numerous body-building and weightlifting titles, and captained the water polo team.
Mrs. Cantata was a different story. She drove me crazy with every serious affliction associated with obesity but was quite unable to lose more than a kilogramme or two, which she soon put on again. She weighed in at one hundred and thirty three kilogrammes when she first consulted me. Aged forty six, her ample buttocks protruded over the edges of the chair, as she complained of pain in the neck from an old injury.
The pain responded quite well despite the early degenerative change that almost invariably follows motor vehicle accidents, but she angrily, and sometimes tearfully, ignored my pleas about her weight.
‘Mrs. Cantata, you are going to have high blood pressure. Mrs. Cantata, you could have a stroke. Mrs. Cantata, you are going to get very painful arthritis in your knees. Mrs. Cantata, won’t you please go for a walk every day, Mrs. Cantata this and Mrs. Cantata that!’
These conversations went on over the years and, sadly, I began to see my predictions coming true. I was really quite fond of her but my earnest pleas were ignored. She was a superb musician and every year, for Christmas, she would send a tape of melodies that she had written for the flute.
As far as I knew they were never published but I, for one, enjoyed them greatly. Sometimes I would play them in the car, sometimes before bed, or just lying flat on the floor after a long day at work. She too grew quite attached to me and she used to bring little gifts now and then.
But always there was the gnawing realization that pain would soon be her constant companion and that she was going to die before her time; I had been unable to contribute meaningfully to her greatest need.
‘Doctor, I’ve become very dizzy lately; do you think it’s my neck?’
‘I’m afraid not, Mrs. Cantata,’ I replied after a moment with the sphygnamometer, ‘it’s your blood pressure.’
‘Doctor, I’m having to go to the loo so often – do you think I could have a pinched nerve in my back?’
‘No,’ I replied after a simple urine test, ‘you’re diabetic, Mrs. Cantata.’
‘Doctor, I have this pain in the knee. Is it sciatica?’
‘No, it’s not,’ I replied after an x-ray series, ‘You’ve got arthritis in the knees.’
Obese women invariably seem to get painful degenerative arthritis in the knees.
Something different was needed for Mrs. Cantata. But what? I couldn’t use the Tyron method. All my cajoling had failed dismally. She had tried all of the weight loss classes to no avail. Even hypnosis and acupuncture had been unsuccessful. I had reconciled myself to the fact that I wasn’t going to win. She had too.
But that didn’t stop us enjoying one another’s talents. I tried to ease her pains and she brought me samples of the beautiful music that came pouring out of her soul, as well as the very tempting tidbits from her kitchen. It was no secret to either of us why she was so fat!
‘Doctor, will you come to my birthday party next week? I’m turning sixty,’ Mrs Cantata proudly announced one day. ‘Please, won’t you come?’ she continued, seeing my dubious look. I don’t normally hobnob with patients. ‘I’ll write a special piece for you.’ She tried bribery, knowing my weakness for fine music.
The party was a really rather special affair. Her cooking was superb and I got my piece on the flute, a virtuoso performance. The applause was long and heartfelt and I suddenly wondered if her failure to reach the top had been the cause of her obesity.
Afterwards I had a long chat to her husband. ‘She relies on you so much, you know,’ he started. You have no idea how seriously she takes all your advice and treatment.’ ‘You could have fooled me,’ I replied, a little nastily, conscious of my total failure to help her in the one really important area of her life. Doctors tend to blame their patients when their treatment is ineffective and I was struggling to come to terms with where the buck ultimately stopped. ‘I don’t know what she would do without you,’ he went on. You’re not planning to emigrate like all the other doctors are you?’
The new South Africa was going through very painful birth pangs. All kinds of social problems, very high taxation and a rapidly depreciating currency were sending shock waves through the medical community as doctor after doctor went off to Canada or Saudi Arabia or some distant place, looking for greener pastures. ‘It did look greener in New Zealand,’ one colleague had confided in me, after his return, ‘but I had no idea how much crap there was out there’, he continued, spelling out the word as though that made it less vulgar, ‘fertilizing the pastures!’
"She is so dependent on you," Mr. Cantata continued, beginning to make me feel a little nauseous. He was making out that I was a great doctor, and I felt a total failure. "She couldn’t bear it if you were to move."
I pondered Mr. Cantata’s words over the next week or two. If my presence didn’t help, perhaps my absence would. But I would have to put the dagger in to the hilt. It was some weeks before she consulted me again and I had done my homework.
"Mrs. Cantata, I’m afraid I have failed you dreadfully, so some changes are necessary," I began.
She paled for a moment. ‘What do you mean? You have been an excellent doctor and a good friend to me. What are you talking about?’
Calorie intake for weight loss as by hook or by crook every doctor worth his stripes badgers his obese patients to shed those pounds.
‘I’m talking about your weight,’ I said, trying to look my sternest. It’s going to take five or more years off your life and make your last decade miserable. So! Here’s what we are going to do. I have made an appointment with a dietician for you and given her strict instructions. You are to lose a kilo per week – she will tell you how - and unless you fulfill it,’ I went on, handing her a chart that spelt it out graphically, ‘then I’m afraid I will refuse to accept any consultations from you. My secretary will weigh you each time you come here and unless you fit in with this chart, then I will not see you. As you can see, by next Christmas you must be under one hundred kilos.’
It was a long time since I had seen her totally speechless. First she was angry and went quite red in the face. Then, struggling for words, she went white. Finally, she stormed out without saying a word, choking back the tears. Was this the bastard’s way of thanking her for the party? It was six weeks before I heard from her again. It had been a long time. Mrs. Cantata was jubilant; she had lost seven kilos, and could she come and see me? Absolutely!
Not known for being a modest or self-effacing man, I became not a little arrogant and very proud of myself. My little scheme had worked. You see, you just have to be firm with your patients, I later told my colleagues at the next branch meeting. And it was good to rejoice with her. Although I couldn’t see any difference except for a slight loss of her second chin, when I pointed out to her that it amounted to fourteen blocks of butter, we both shouted and clapped gleefully together. Best of all, I suggested to her, it was going to cost her husband a fortune: a whole new wardrobe!
But a month later, she had a splitting headache and my secretary called me moments before the consultation. Not only had Mrs. C. not lost another four kilos, but she had put two of the lost seven back on!
Dagger to the hilt? ‘Sally, suggest she see a physiotherapist. I recommend Annie Thompson.’ I heard the shriek of anguish down the line and hung up.
I didn’t want to hear it. But I wasn’t going to budge.
CALORIE INTAKE FOR WEIGHT LOSS
It was three years before I saw Mrs. Cantata again. You could have knocked me over with a feather. Helen and I were enjoying the annual ‘Art in the berg’ where all the best artists were exhibiting when I met her in front of a Bainbridge. It was a few moments before I remembered Mr. Cantata’s name. But who was this attractive woman on his arm?
‘Hello, Doctor Preston,’ she said shyly. ‘Remember me?’ Her voice hadn’t changed but I could hardly believe that this beautiful woman was the one and only Mrs. Cantata. Stunningly dressed and weighing at most sixty kilogrammes, she was lovely beyond imagining.
Sometimes, you have to be cruel to be kind. But she never consulted me again. Or forgave me, I suppose.
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Bernard Preston is a semi retired chiropractor with a passion for healthy living; he doesn't like having to consult doctors of any ilk, so he makes the time for exercise and good food. There is no other way; a study of calorie intake for weight loss is part of the solution.
An even better is to properly understand the term glycemic index; it's the only rational way to lose weight more easily, healthily and permanently.
If I was to add just one food regularly to improve my health I'd choose kale; it has so many benefits, not least the lutein than prevents age onset blindness.
Rather lutein benefit than a white stick, right! Research shows it absorbed better from your food than from pills.
Just a few young shoots in your green salad will save you from blindness; is that too much trouble?
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