With all the side effects from medications, the last thing I want to do is take more prescription drugs than necessary. I’ve been trying my best to follow my doctor’s orders from a year ago to avoid this. Exercising, maintaining a healthy weight, and taking my blood-pressure medication were all musts if I wanted to prevent a stroke. (Although she also mentioned that my cholesterol levels were on the rise, I chose to ignore that for the time being.)

For a year, I made a commitment to take my medication. But I stopped paying attention to my bathroom scale, and the next thing I knew I was 20 pounds overweight. I seem to have this chronic condition of gaining weight over the winter and then fighting to lose it in spring.

I wanted a good checkup, so I signed up for a weight-loss program online — for the fourth time in four years.

The program gives you a total point goal for a day, with some extra point allowances for the week. When I planned my day, I started with the points I would need for the end of the day. A glass and a half of wine, six points; three-quarters cup of pretzel pieces to complement the wine, 12 points. With my total daily points set at 21, I was left with three per day.

I researched the lengthy list of zero-point foods to create menus that would provide the nutritional components needed for a healthy, balanced diet. The food choices had to be quick, easy, and readily available. Thankfully for me, I’m a creature of habit and don’t need variety, so I stockpiled my fridge with fresh veggies, light ranch dressing for dipping the veggies, fresh fruit, and eggs. I considered the creamer in my coffee my own little freebie.

When I finally hit my goal weight 17 weeks later, I made an appointment with my doctor. I was looking toward a good report. And the visit started well. Perfect weight. Perfect blood pressure. But then came the blood-test results.

“Your cholesterol is starting to creep up,” the doctor said. “Before I prescribe something, tell me about your diet.”

Things went south pretty fast then. Even though eggs are high in protein, I learned that three to four a day was not good for me. “Maybe try three a week,” the doctor suggested. I tried to defend my diet plan: “But I found on the internet that three eggs per day was perfectly safe!”

Then she asked the next damning question: “Do you drink alcohol?”

I lied. “One glass of wine,” I said, and then added a truthful explanation: “At night. After the daycare kids are gone.”

“Yeah,” she responded with a chuckle. “Based on your weight, a half a glass would be better.”

My life was crumbling.

“I read on the internet that red wine was good for you,” I protested. “It actually lowers a person’s blood pressure!”

The doctor countered my findings, but I didn’t hear what she said. I was stuck on wondering what to do with the half-glass-of-wine plan. What would be the point of pouring? Had she no empathy?

Still bewildered, she asked, “Do you exercise?”

“I used to.” I didn’t think my current plan of running two miles every six weeks or so would qualify me as a runner.

“Thirty minutes five times a week of cardio exercise may help in lowering that cholesterol number,” the doctor said.

When I thought about my day and how I already felt overwhelmed with my schedule, I suggested with a hint of sarcasm, “I suppose I don’t have to sleep.”

She laughed. “No, you need sleep, too.”

I left the appointment knowing I’d have to make some changes to my lifestyle. Finding a new zero-point protein source was first on my list. Not satisfied with the options, I turned to the recommendation for adopting an exercise program. Maybe I could balance out the added points of a broader variety of poultry and meats with exercise.

With both a stationary incumbent bike and elliptical machine in my basement, I couldn’t use my old excuses of, “It’s dark by the time I’m done with work!” “It’s slippery!” “There’s a blizzard outside!” For me, my only excuse for not exercising was making the time.

But I do make the time. Because I don’t want to take medications, I don’t want to gain weight, and, dang it, I want to be healthy enough to drink just one glass of red wine a day.

Doris Rauschenbach is a writer in Ashland and a regular contributor to the News Tribune Opinion page. Her website is doriswrites.com and she can be followed at facebook.com/DorisWrites. She can be contacted at doris.author@gmail.com or at P.O. Box 1024, Ashland WI 54806.