Oh, great, Joel thought. Although it wasn’t terribly surprising. He was getting older. And there were people with heart disease in his family—although he’d tried to reassure himself that everyone has someone in the family with heart disease.
“I suppose I’ll have to take drugs,” Joel said.
“Not necessarily. I prefer to start with lifestyle changes. Like a healthy, low fat diet.”
“Low fat diet? Don’t you mean a ‘no taste’ diet?”
“I’ve seen patients adapt. If you’d rather, we could put you on statins immediately. Or you could just prepare to die. If it happens after a big steak dinner, I hope you’ll feel the steak was worth—”
“OK! OK! Point taken!” Joel threw his hands up.
Joel went home and gathered up all the unhealthy food, which he gave to a neighbor. (He tried not to cry at the thought of giving away the imported butter he loved.) Then, he went grocery shopping. He needed to. He had almost nothing left to eat once the unhealthy food was gone.
The new diet was a challenge. Particularly the first week or two. He could cook a steak, but had no idea how to cook lentils. He had no idea how he could cook oatmeal so it wasn’t repulsive mush. And he wondered if weird things in the supermarket produce section were actual vegetables to eat, or if they were decorative, like autumn gourds.
But...he slowly got used to it. And he saw benefits. He lost weight. He had more energy. His cholesterol level dropped.
He discovered he enjoyed many healthy foods, like locally grown apples, heirloom tomatoes, and a rustic whole grain bread from a local bakery. (Although he knew he’d love the bread even more if he could slather it with the butter he’d loved so much. But...butter wasn’t worth drugs with possible harsh side effects. It certainly wasn’t worth a heart attack.)
“Your lab results look really good,” Dr. Wilson said a few months later.
“Good! The diet must be working well,” Joel said. “I was so worried when I heard I had high cholesterol!”
“Yes.” Dr. Wilson sighed. “I meant to mention something I realized today. We had a problem a while back with some lab results. It was a mess that should never have happened. Long story short: you got inaccurate test results a while back. You never had high cholesterol.”
“I never had high cholesterol? You mean I didn’t need to go on such a restrictive diet?”
“Yes. Although, of course, I’d urge you to continue eating healthfully most of the time! But I don’t see why you can’t have an occasional ‘cheat.’”
On his way home, Joel couldn’t resist stopping by the store to get some of the butter he’d missed.
But he also got some kale, which—despite his years of making kale jokes—he’d recently discovered he actually liked.