Tuesday, December 30, 2014

climbing on the wagon

snap of the ghost of Christmas Present from the Goodman Theatre's production of A Christmas Carol
It's that time of year again. Where "Let's Talk About Writing" becomes "Let's Talk About Eating."

I outdid myself this holiday season, in terms of cookie, chocolate and alcohol consumption. In my mind, I resemble the Ghost of Christmas Present in "A Christmas Carol." Everything inflamed and larger than it should be. My stomach gurgling and hurting. My skin blotchy. I picture my liver being blown up by a ball pump. And the vessels in my heart choked and lined with fat. The bad fat. You know, LDL and whatnot.

I know what to do. Of course I do. I have a 80thousand dollar education from Syracuse University to prove it. A diploma somewhere in storage claiming I have a BS in dietetics. I know that fad diets are lame and losing weight fast is stupid and unsustainable, and that there is no fountain of youth. I also know better than to cram my face with peppermint patties, almond roca and figgy pudding. And yet, each year, I eat like a pig for a month, washing it all down with gin and red wine - sometimes both in one sitting. Fa la la la burp la.

It's no secret that we tend to eat three times the calories we normally do in the five weeks or so between Thanksgiving and New Year's. Booze, bon-bons, crème brûlée. Champagne, cheese, chocolate. In that cold, dark month, we Americans pile on as many calories as we do from June to October. And we exercise half as much. Wonder why we tend to feel like shit on December 30th? And guess what? We still have a week's worth of parties to attend! I'm all about The Royal We here, because, obvi - 'tis the season of the diet book. A whole shitload of them pubbed today as a matter of fact. Here are a few:

The Zero Belly Diet
The Burn: Why Your Scale is Stuck and What to Do About It
Supermarket Healthy
The DASH Diet Younger You

Of the above books, I recommend the DASH one. And it's probably my frame of reference, coming from a clinical dietetics background, but this book includes some of the latest academic information backed by actual scientific research. I'm a snob about that stuff. So shoot me. There's another book I like too - and it has a similarly unfortunate "snake oily" title: 7 Years Younger: The Anti-Aging Breakthrough Diet. I am gleaning stuff from both those books, and making my lists, checking them twice.

With a caveat.

The thing about any prescriptive book for creative types? We have a hard time following directions. Guilty as charged. For instance, I'm not going to eat oatmeal. My loving husband does. Every single morning. I hate oatmeal. Unless you put lots and lots of butter and brown sugar in it. Period. Also, low fat cheese. What's the fucking point of low fat cheese? I say, eat half the amount of regular cheese. Plus, no way am I giving up coffee. I am giving up booze though. For a month - then adding it back in judiciously. Also, limiting sugar with a goal to wean myself off of it 90% of the time.

So, upstart that I am, I've developed my own version of a diet, stealing a lot from the aforementioned books. It's anti-inflamatoryish, balanced as far as the carb/protein/fat thing goes and it's between 1400 and 1500 calories, so it's reasonable. As far as writing things down? I have the apps. A really good one is My Fitness Pal, and an even better one is Fooducate. MFP is free, and the bells and whistles Fooducate one costs a few bucks a month. They're helpful to track the calories in/calories out thing, but the best way to get on the healthy eating wagon after a period of over-indulgence is to plan ahead. Buy the groceries, plan out the menus, know what you're going to eat at the start of the day.

So, guys, here's how I'm going to do it. I'm going to post my "menus" every day and my "shopping lists" once a week. Here on the blog. Staring tomorrow, New Year's Eve, until January 30th (at which point I'm off on a week long holiday with some fabulous gal pals, and yes, I will eat, drink and be merry - but hopefully, somewhat healthily, too).

Wanna join me? No pressure. Only that tight waistband.


  1. Oatmeal is overrated!!

    On May 3, I agreed to do this online thing called Whole Life Challenge w/ my aunt and two cousins. The online part was mostly to keep you accountable and connected to your "team." Food limitations were not so bad - no bread, pastas, cheese, chips, junk food, sweets. Dairy was limited to yogurt. You could have all the veggies/fruits/meats/seafood you wanted - just cooked healthy. And you had to work out daily.

    It was an 8-week program, but something about it stuck for me. I haven't had cheese, bread, crackers, chips, pasta since May. I also chose to stop red meat - I'll try my husband's steak, but haven't ordered a burger since the switchover.

    And alcohol's not on my allow list anyway, so there's that.

    I splurge on things like hot chocolates and lattes, and drink my coffee just the way I like it - half 'n half and honey (so i'm back on dairy - but just not cheese).

    I look forward to seeing your daily menus as I'm always looking for new meals to try...and whatever I need help cooking - you can show me in a month!!!

    1. You are my inspiration, Amy! But I know I couldn't give up bread (croissants! English muffins!) for longer than two days. Okay, three.

      The chip thing is a slippery slope, isn't it? I'm purposely not buying hummus and salsa because - you know, delivery vehicle and all that. Portions are problematic for me when it comes to sweets. Just now I porked down half of one of those chocolate bars you're supposed to feel good about eating because it has an endangered animal on the wrapper.

    2. Anonymous6:39 AM

      The best thing in hummus? Those golden cherry tomatoes. Dear lord, I could eat a bucket of them.

  2. YES! Gluttony feels gross, and I'm ready for the austerity of January. Sign me up sister, and Happy New Year!

    1. Climb aboard the deprivation - er, I mean, sensible eating wagon, Drea! Stay tuned for tomorrow's oh-so-fun lists! xo

  3. Love it! May join you. 'Tis certainly the season for dieting advice. What speaks to me are the posts that remind me to keep it simple and keep the long view. Nia Shanks has this great post, http://www.niashanks.com/avoid-detoxes-cleanses/, in which she says to basically just eat healthy. How hard is that? Well.....I'm with you on anti-inflammatory-ish, 1400-1500 calories-ish....plus the other health pieces that are easy to forget, like sleep, water, sunshine, fresh air. So simple, and yet. My favorite nutritional advice came from a book about elite athletes: "100 grams of lean protein, 8 fistfuls of green vegetables, 70 oz of water, plus whatever else you honestly feel your body needs. End of story. I look forward to your January journey and may join you along the way. (So long as I don't have to buy 30 days worth of "medical food shake.")

    1. No shakes, promise. Well, maybe a smoothie now and then. But only when it's warmer than 28 degrees out.

      I love the 8 fistfuls of green vegetables idea. Tonight, in prelude to all of this, I prepared a sample "mindfully made" dinner. Fish, roasted veggies, and salad. When it's just us three, I do the Papa, Mama, Baby Bear thing when it comes to salad greens: one fistful for Carson, three for me, four for Kirk - and the main ingredient tonight was mache - which is like eating dozens of miniature lettuce plants. Mache is loaded with Vitamin C and really delicious. (http://www.healwithfood.org/health-benefits/mache-lettuce-nutrition.php) but seems to repel vinegar-based dressings, which makes its actual consumption a sort of messy affair. Drops of brown all over the tablecloth.

      Dinner went pretty well except while I was setting the table, in a major clumsy maneuver, I rammed my foot on the metal edge of a folding chair and I think I broke a toe. Plus, I undercooked the halibut.

    2. A propos vinegar: lately I've been making my salad dressing even simpler (something I didn't think possible after years of simply pouring on vinegar & oil) by squeezing a lemon directly onto the salad instead of vinegar, and then sprinkling on the oil which I need less of when combined with lemon rather than vinegar. Try it!

  4. Anonymous6:36 AM

    This is the easiest holiday season I've had in years, food-wise. I've been vegan since April and have found it remarkably easy to stick with the lifestyle this time around, even through the holidays. I still eat too much, though. Might not be a bad idea to keep track of the guacamole consumption...

    1. The DASH dietitian really emphasizes plant-based diets. I'm for it, and heading more in that direction. However, for this month, I'm including a bit of meat/fish/eggs - I love the vegan recipes that you occasionally post on your blog, Averil. I'm gonna steal a few!

    2. Anonymous7:22 PM

      I made burrito bowls last night, with black beans, tomatoes, rice and raw spinach. And guacamole. Fucking guacamole.

    3. Guac is good on just about anything. Eggs, rice, fish, cake...

  5. I have been out of control. Parties, travel, hardly preparing meals at all. It's time for me to get back to my low carb lifestyle because burp. Yeah.

  6. Anonymous1:44 PM

    As I stand here in my kitchen making guacamole and spinach quesadillas for tonight, I hear you. Ugh, do I hear you.

    I think I've been on an eating rampage since early summer, and only when I started working out again after Thanksgiving did I get the full reality: I can't do the workout I was doing just 6 months ago; my boobs are huge, not in a good way; and I can't wear a single pair of pants I bought last winter. After a month of imperfect but more conscientious eating, and almost-daily breathing hard, I just now feel like I'm clawing my way back onto the wagon.

    Plus, I swear that the more I write the fatter I get, but that's not news to any of us.

    In the new year, I hope to eat less meat while I try to understand that every single meal does not need to be a party in my mouth. (which already has me pining for mashed potatoes and gravy, so I might be eternally lost.)

    1. Oh, how we love a good mouth party.

      As far as increasing plants, decreasing meat, here's a cool book to consider (it was featured in today's Food Day section): The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. http://www.powells.com/biblio/18-9780316244183-0


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