Food for Thought #9: What’s in your refrigerator determines what’s in your medicine cabinet

This is not a purist’s design post.  It has as much to do with health as it does with your kitchen or bathroom.  So if you’re hoping for pictures of pretty spaces to tart up your Tuesday, click here instead!

I’m writing this to share an insight that I’ve found to be true in my life.  It’s probably true for yours, too.  It might even save it, as it did mine.


Looks great.. But it’s what’s inside that counts!
(Photo Courtesy:  Robern)

Let me rewind the hands of time to Spring 2009.  A look inside my medicine cabinet would have revealed a prescription bottle full of Omeprazole, a drug I took daily to prevent acid reflux, and over-the-counter Famotodine, (generic Pepcid AC), when the Omeprazole didn’t work.  That happened with ferocious regularity.

I also had a box of chewable, cherry-flavored Pepto Bismol for other frequent stomach upsets and lots of Ibuprofen.  I needed those  to kill the dreaded pain of plantar fasciitis, the stabbing ache I’d get in my feet when I spent too much time on them.  When I’d attend a trade show, I’d have to change shoes almost every hour and pop Advil like candy.

KBIS 2009 Gala Pic

NKBA Party – Spring 2009

As out of shape as I was back then, I was still healthier than some of my contemporaries, a few of whom were already on anti-cholesterol or high blood sugar drugs.  I was seriously overweight, completely sedentary and fast approaching the need for statins or early-onset diabetes medication myself.

That’s when my marriage unraveled.  I realized then that the stress of this new emotional crisis, in tandem with poor eating and zero exercise throughout my forties, could easily lead to a heart attack or a stroke.  I didn’t have anything in my medicine cabinet to counteract those.

So I started swimming three times a week for stress relief and it helped enormously.  I also started making better food choices, as my more active body began craving different flavors; I didn’t consciously change the way I ate at that point.  (That came later, when I moved out and started cooking for myself.)

It was around that time that I read the fridge-medicine cabinet connection quote that inspired this post.  I can’t recall who said or wrote it.  I wish I did, as I’d acknowledge its author gratefully.  From Spring 2009 to Winter 2010, I’d dropped 48 pounds and moved into my own place.

After being spoiled for so many years by a husband who cooked really well or treated us to restaurant dinners regularly, I was on my own.  I had to make all of my own food choices, as well as prepare my own meals.  I chose low-fat and low-carb ingredients, made a bunch of new slow cooker dishes, (some tastier than others), and largely ditched the high sugar and fat treats that had been staples in my life for so long.  I also cut way back on the number of meals I ate outside the home.

As my refrigerator was now stocked with fruits, vegetables and healthful leftovers, rather than yesterday’s pizza or Chili’s doggy bag, I found that the acid reflux went away and I no longer needed the Omeprazole or Famotodine.  Because my feet had so much less weight to support by that point, my plantar fasciitis eased, too, and I could walk a trade show all day without needing a handful of Ibuprofen.  (I still have some on hand for the times I overdo it at the gym.)

Holiday Party 2012

NKBA Party – Winter 2012

That’s my story, and I don’t recommend divorce as a weight loss strategy.  What I do recommend is not cooking or bringing home foods that lead to the need for medicine cabinet solutions.  And I strongly suggest stocking up on those foods that lead to an emptier drug shelf.  Your doctor or nutritionist can help in that regard.

Here are some additional tips from someone who has succeeded at losing weight and maintaining the loss  — 100 pounds by Spring 2012 — and who designs kitchens and baths for a living:

  • LOW COST TIP:  Arrange your kitchen in a way that makes it convenient and enjoyable to cook at home.  This could mean investing in storage accessories that roll out or put your spices front and center.  If it’s a challenging or unpleasant space to use, you’ll use it less.
  • FREE TIP:  Organize your pantry and refrigerator with the healthiest foods within easiest view and reach.
  • DESIGN TREND TIP:  If you’re replacing your cooktop, consider an induction model.  Since it’s easier to clean than a traditional gas or electric cooktop, you won’t hesitate to use it with the prospect of a tedious clean up afterward.
  • DESIGN TREND TIP:  Consider investing in a steam oven; it cooks food with less fat and better taste.  There are built-in and countertop models available.  There are even now over-the-range microwaves with steam cooking capability.  These are ideal for the many homeowners stuck with this configuration and no plans to remodel.

GE Steam Oven

Over-the-Range Microwave with Steam Cook Button
(Photo Courtesy:  GE Appliances)

  • LOW COST TIP:  Consider buying a slow cooker; it, too, cooks with little to no fat and you can freeze whatever you don’t eat for future meals.  I’d suggest a model with a keep warm setting.  This means dinner is ready to serve when you get done with work and the temptation to stop for takeout is avoided.
  • FREE TIP:  On a related note, relocate out of the kitchen or donate to charity those countertop appliances that tempt you to cheat; be they a waffle iron or deep fryer.
  • FREE TIP:  If you have other adult household members who insist on eating whatever they want, buy only those junk foods for them that you don’t like or can’t eat because of allergies.
  • FREE TIP:  Do your best not to stand or walk around while you eat, and to focus on your food.
  • FREE TIP:  Find points in  your work day when you can stand and stretch or walk or otherwise be physical.  When I was writing my book, I had a “dance between drafts” policy, where I’d just kick it out to a favorite Pandora tune when I’d finished another chapter.   That two or three minutes of happy motion made my body and soul happy.
  • FREE TIP:  Start and end your work days with exercise.  It can be as simple as calisthenics you do at home or a short walk around the neighborhood.  Starting out your work day with exercise gets your metabolism revved up early and ending it with something as simple as a neighborhood walk breaks up the vicious desk chair to dining chair to TV watching chair cycle.   Check out a related Food for Thought post on whether our open plan kitchens might be making us fat!


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Jamie Gold, CKD, CAPS,  MCCWC

Jamie Gold, CKD, CAPS, MCCWC
San Diego, CA

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