Friday, January 11, 2013

It's Not A Diet, It's A Lifestyle Change

If eating healthy is boring, I am Silas Marner: The Weaver of Raveloe. Sure, I change it up frequently, probably to combat that boredom which has likely lead to the unintended consequence of an unhealthy obsession with what I put in my pie hole. Of note, it ain’t pie.. or cookies or candy or creamy chocolate – unless it’s 85 percent cocoa or higher – or never anything custard-y or cold and creamy.

Whatever happened to balance? Everything in moderation?

Whoever asked this question does not know about my misgivings. Bottom line: if I could, I would... but finishing an entire pan of brownies before they go into the oven is standard operation. My involuntary licking of the bowl resembles a big giant eating his goulash with his giant wooden spoon accompanied by his giant grunts of pure delight.

Yeah, I got a problem. So do you, probably.

So, instead of tackling that problem and dissecting the inner workings of my need to emotionally eat everything sweet or salty or creamy or crunchy, I’ve banned it altogether.

Boring. Totally.

My lifestyle (it’s not a diet) consists of kale, spinach, avocado, almonds, chicken, tofu and eggs. Throw in a nice vinegar based squash and top everything with toasted pine nuts in coconut oil, and you pretty much know intimate details of my staple intake. Way back in the 90s, it was a completely different story. And to fully understand how I managed to spend  an exorbitant amount of money on every fad diet to hit the airwaves, one must understand how this all started.

Enter the Carb Head, circa 1994 - a term coined by Jillian Michaels, or was it Richard Simmons? No, he coined the tootsie roll, which was/is an exercise that involves some gyrating core and butt cheek movement from the floor. Now that I have the 69 Boyz Tootsee Roll song stuck in my bean, we shall move on..

I used to run eight to ten miles every other day and then top it off with a piece of Boudins sourdough bread the size of a basketball, a plate of pasta with two handfuls of Parmesan cheese. The sauce was too unhealthy for the likes of me. I was a runner. I needed to carbo load.

For lunch on most days, I thought I was out smarting most health experts (and my wallet) by ordering the soup of the day at a local restaurant and eating two (free) loaves of crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside warm baked French bread. I saved calories and money. It was brilliant. I felt great, aside from the nagging sensation of smuggling a punch bowl under my clothes as I stumbled out of the restaurant, along with my head weighing about 200 pounds by 3 p.m.

Hey, at least I wasn’t gorging myself on potato chips. Instead, I ate Chicken in a Biscuit crackers, the whole box, along with the processed powdered cheese salt that covered my spit ridden fingers. Subsequently, I would lay my head down on my pillow and dream of sour cream and onion French fries.

Then came the whole wheat craze. When my grandmother died of diabetes at an early age, I thought it was because she drank a case of soda a week and ate Otter Pops for breakfast, but in the early 2000’s I began reading about the glycemic index and how bleached flour and “white carbs” were really just sugar. Perhaps white carbs were my grandmother’s demise. She loved her tortillas and pastas and breads.

I began familiarizing myself with the signs of white carb addiction. I even took a Cosmo-type test and learned that if these carbs were alcohol, I would be serving out my third stint at Betty Ford.

So I switched to light beer, aka whole wheat.

It just so happens, I wasn’t quite expecting my body’s impeding rejection to this wholesome alternative. My gut preferred the machine washed version of the carb over the unwashed, unprocessed carb. This new lifestyle gave me a painful and inconvenient case of colitis. I attributed this health impediment to the red wine I was guzzling to numb my loss of sourdough bread, but when I ceased to drink per my doctor’s orders (boo!) my colitis got worse. Don’t know what colitis is? Look it up on your own time. It ain’t pretty and I would prefer keeping my lunch below the gullet where it belongs.

A typical meal under the wheat carb colitis diet, er, lifestyle change: Whole wheat crackers with cheese, whole wheat tortillas filled with cheese and brown rice, topped with sour cream and tomatoes (veggies), topped with some light cheese. Breakfast would include three pieces of wheat toast, sugar free jam, and a whole wheat bagel with cheese exactly one hour and 22 minutes later. During this lifestyle change, I became obsessed with what food was doing to my muscle mass, aka, my sag arm wave, my muffin top and my jean-to-snugness ratio. I started weighing myself two times a day, thinking, it must be working.
After a typical good carb, low glycemic meal of whole wheat products, I gained about 3.5 pounds in one day. This, of course, had nothing to do with water weight, and after close to a year of said lifestyle changes, my midsection was an architectural overhang.

I attributed this body change to an increase in my muscle mass from working out, but the heaviest thing I was carrying was my farmer’s walk of wine from the grocery store to my car.

Besides, due to the colitis, I couldn’t very well make it to the gym for a workout or around the block for a run without immediate access to a restroom.

Then, some a-wipe friend suggested I do a Tough Mudder race and I again, had to change my “lifestyle”. I joined the Midtown Strength and Conditioning torture chamber, which I praise as cult-like (I sprouted traps), and have blogged about it ad nauseam. I also changed the way I ate… again.

It was what I affectionately referred to as the substitute lifestyle change. I wouldn’t necessarily give up the foods I loved, I would just make a few modifications. Here’s what it looked like:

Instead of sour cream, I used plain Greek yogurt. Huge yuck factor unless you douse it in lemon pepper, dried oregano flakes and processed onion dip, topped with cheese of any kind.

Instead of rice, I used quinoa (keen wah). This tastes like poppy seeds mixed with pine needle nubs and dirt unless you cook it in chicken and beef broth, the oil from chorizo sausage and topped with two large handfuls of Parmesan cheese. I typically ate this meal with a dollop of the Greek yogurt processed onion dip. Semi-delicious.

Instead of eggs, I used tofu. I would load up the skillet with an inch of vegetable oil, garlic, soy sauce and butter until it was a nice caramelized color, threw in the tofu with some shredded sharp cheddar and, for good measure, chopped basil and Asiago cheese. To thicken things up, I added a handful or two of wheat flour (a small amount couldn’t hurt, no?) and two handfuls of shredded cheese. Tasted like dirty diapers, but seemed healthy enough.

Instead of mashed potatoes, which I would just as well bathe in, I used cauliflower, steamed in beef broth until it condensed into something resembling a pumpkin in the hot July sun, accompanied by two handfuls of Parmesan cheese, the aforementioned Greek yogurt processed mixture, some 2 percent low fat milk, buttermilk, whipped cream, a cup of regular milk, two large tablespoons of butter, a block of high end deli merlot soaked cheddar, and some bacon grease for flavor.

Instead of sugar sprinkled on my fruit, I used flax seed mixed with a sugar substitute, typically Equal or Nectresse or Splenda or Stevia or fill-in-your-latest-aspartame-cancer-causing-chemical-here. A tad bitter, but hey, at least I cut out that raw sugar cane. That’s a gut-tearer-upper.

After about three months, I nixed the "Instead Of" lifestyle because I was too preoccupied at work staring down at the bread loaves that had become my feet. I managed to stuff those things into tiny party hats I called my fancy work shoes. The image was fascinating; I wasn’t getting a lick done at work. I googled, “bloated during non-menses weeks,” and realized I had an "Instead Of" problem..

Cut to current day. I am on to lifestyle change obsession number 2,339. The experts call this the Paleo. I call this Open Caveman Style. I have resorted back to my ancestors’ way of consuming food: chest pounding meat, green leafy veggies and twigs and berries. In fact, look closely, and you may catch me in my backyard picking wild mushrooms out of my dogs’ compost pile. I may or may not be wearing leather (cow) skin shams and Ugg boots during backyard hunt. I may or may not be holding a spear, eyeballing the neighbor’s pet chicken. The only thing missing is the lip jewelry… cuts into my eating.

The typical breakfast is a spectacle, which my son, Yack always interrupts by asking how many people I am feeding. “It’s only me, sweetie,” to which he replies, “it looks like you’re feeding three or four people.”

Whatever, kid, eat your gluten rich cereal and let’s see who’s still holding up at 10 a.m.

He’s five.

I’m forty.

But I have to say, this current “lifestyle” sure has my energy on the rise. I never feel sluggish. I don’t do a header into my computer come 3 p.m. and I don’t really crave anything like sugar or carbs, aside from a few Red Bulls and Go Girls a couple of times a day, but seriously, whatever.

And by the time I turn forty-one, I will be rid of the kale, crushed pecans, chicken thighs, liquid glucosamine and vitamin B12 that have become a staple of consumption in my everyday life. At that point, I will on to the next fad, which I will proudly call a lifestyle change that I will claim gave me an unexpected spring in my step, healthier hair and a shinier outlook on life. Stay tuned.

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