Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Food Schizophrenia ...

Tomorrow is August. My birthday is in November. How did yet another birthday get this close again already?

I'll turn 38 this year. Inching ever closer to 40.

I'm not one of those people who gets weird about getting older. There's only one alternative, and I'm no fan of death. In fact, I'm a death bigot.

So maybe it's that latent knowledge that I'm not getting any younger that's the reason for my attitudinal shift in the past couple months when it comes to food.

See, I've spent 37 years eating the wrong foods. Not all the wrong foods, but too many of the wrong foods. My mom is a sensational cook, not that I'm blaming her. But damn if it isn't hard to turn down her pork steaks and macaroni and cheese. Or her lasagne. Or her, well, anything, really. Even her sandwiches are the best sandwiches in the world. I never turn down a Mom Sandwich. (Mom, I should note, is 65 and in the best shape of her life. She, too, has greatly shifted her thinking about food.)

And I had a long, intense love affair with Cheetos. I wouldn't eat them often, but when I did, my fingers looked a bit Oompa Loompa-ish. Cheetos were my car food on road trips. Cheetos and Pepsi.

Over time, I've cut back on things. Several years ago, I had gotten into the habit of eating a bagel every morning. Then I learned how many calories are in one of those honkin' bagels. Add butter and you're in for a world of caloric hurt. So I cut back to one bagel a week, on Sundays.

Sunday, I had a bagel. And I looked at my mom and said, "I think this is my last bagel." I just can't eat refined white flour anymore. Not like that. Not in one big lump. I bake with white flour and I'll continue to bake with white flour. My Christmas cookie recipients needn't worry that I'm going to go all whole wheat and carob on them. But overt white flour like in a big white bagel? Sayonara.

And I've cut out pop. Soda, some of you may call it. Where I come from, it's pop. High fructose corn syrup is pretty much a dietary nightmare. So I can't have it anymore. Again, in overt forms. I find HFCS is cleverly hidden in many foodstuffs. So I've started reading labels more closely. I recently discovered it in Miracle Whip. Not that I eat much Miracle Whip, but when I make potato salad (as I did for the 4th of July), I dress it with Miracle Whip. Because that's how my mom made it when I was a kid. And I'm a sucker for nostalgic food.

And I've cut out fast food. Hamburgers, especically. After reading Fast Food Nation, I just can't stomach the idea of a fast-food burger. I have a couple things that I'll allow myself in a pinch, like the grilled Asian salad at McDonald's or a turkey-on-wheat from Subway with no cheese, mayo, or oil. But the nearest Subway isn't near, and I can get pretty sick of the grilled Asian salad at McDonald's, so fast food is pretty much just off the table.

I've always admired Dave's attitude toward food. He never eats fast food. Ever. He once stopped at Burger King to get a plain Whopper for his dog and he felt guilty about that. He views food as fuel. Which isn't to say he eats sticks and twigs. He's a total foodie. His wife is a high-end caterer and they're all about fine dining. But he makes really good choices. Two years ago my birthday lunch was at Coco Pazzo Café and I ordered some fries for the table. But they weren't normal fries. They were topped with grilled vegetables and sprinkled with herbs. Dave took a pass. I looked at him and said, "Oh, for God's sake, it's my birthday. Have a fry." So he did. He had one. He took up his knife and fork and spread his elbows wide and said, "OK! Make room!" and dug in. It was very funny. Eating a fry is indeed an event for him, and he was purposely being silly, but I also admire that he's so mindful of what he puts in his body. He doesn't eat mindlessly.

So lately, I've found myself thinking about food like Dave thinks about food. It's become quite the smackdown in my head. Part of me wants Doritos, dammit, but the newer part of me says, "You can't eat Doritos. Not only are they devoid of anything nutritive, you'll actually be taxing your system to digest them. Why put yourself through that?" And the Doritos stay on the shelf in the store.

But the other day, I really wanted snacky food. So I bought Baked Ruffles. The "cheese" kind. Because, I figured, those were kind of like nacho cheese Doritos. Of course, there are Baked Doritos, too. Don't ask me why I didn't buy those.

And then I think, "Well, it's not like I'm just never going to have ice cream again." I like ice cream. It's summer, dammit. So last night, I bought frozen yogurt. Close enough. And I had some on a cone (because I eat less ice cream if I put it on a cone versus putting some in a bowl) and I'll throw the rest of it away, send it down the garbage disposal. Cuz if it's in the house, I'll eat it. Also, I've discovered, having cut a lot of sugar out of my diet, that when I eat it, it really affects me. My insulin must be spiking and crashing fast, because I get really tired shortly after eating sugar. Even natural sugar in fruit.

So there really is something to this food chemistry after all. Huh. Look at that. My body really does do better with some foods and worse with others.

So now, every foodstuff I'm considering is viewed with a keenly nutritional eye. I'm sure the see-saw will level off and I'll find my dietary equilibrium. I'll allow myself to have pizza now and again. And I'm sure as hell never giving up my mom's lasagne. But most of the time, I make good choices.

Because if I'm going to spend a hour on the treadmill every day, I might as well be burning off some body fat, not a Big Mac and fries.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

All this is what Bob Greene (Oprah's diet guru) means by "making the connection": making the connection between what you eat and its effects upon you after after you've eaten it (and NOT just its effects on the circumference of your hips, either).

For instance, it's knowing that if you eat ice cream, the next day you can expect to have pain in your knees (sugar + dairy + recipe for inflammation and knee pain). Knowing this, you can decide whether the trade-off is worth it.

12:17 PM  
Anonymous girlanddog said...

Great post, Beth! I don't know if you have Rubio's in your neck of the woods, or if you even like Mexican food, but their Health-Mex Mahi Mahi burritos are good "fast food" in a pinch. It has black beans, grilled mahi mahi, rice and salsa on a whole wheat tortilla, and they claim that it gets less than 20% of its calories from fat. That's the only fast food I allow myself to eat.

9:09 AM  
Anonymous Ethan said...

Good to see that you're making dietary changes in concert with your exercise routine. It takes some doing to strike the right balance, but it sure beats eating "cement" and wondering why the exercise alone isn't cutting it.

If at all possible, I recommend cutting out bagged snacks altogether, but do what you can.

10:41 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

Anon - Yup, if I take a moment to think through what I'm about to put in my mouth, I can usually talk myself out of it for a host of reasons.

Girl - Nope, no Rubio's in these parts, but it sounds fab!

Eth - Part of living this healthly lifestyle is coming to terms with the fact that I'm not going to be a monk. There will be days when I'll eat a few potato chips or have a piece of candy. Otherwise, life's just too damn boring. But yeah, by and large, I've said goodbye to a lot of crap. And my body is thanking me.

10:34 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home