Sunday, December 18, 2016

An Accidental Food Renaissance - Part 1

So it’s the holiday season, and I have been exposed to some fantastic food – including a new place called the Two Twenty Two which had the first ever “gluten-free open-faced calzone”… which to be fair is really just fancy-talk for “pizza”. I was too excited to take a picture, so I’ll do it next time I go there [and there will definitely be a next time, woo!].

Instead, I want to take advantage of the free time to do a little reminiscing, and think about all that I have to be thankful for during these past three years on my health journey… or as I like to think of it, my food renaissance. :)

But while I feel the most effective change has happened within the last three years, the story itself begins much farther back.

Well not too far back else I start speculating about my childhood… though I can say I’ve always had a passion for food. At least up until I started being conscious about health, and becoming self-conscious of the fact that I was mostly overweight – what was once a sense of pride for me suddenly became a liability.

Sooner or later, though, I became a firm believer in the orthodoxy of mainstream diets, and began not only shunning fast food and junk food whenever possible, but also engaging in pseudo-vegetarianism, limiting fat, eating plenty of fruits and vegetables [mostly fruit], consuming soy everything, and, of course, cramming down on all of that HEALTHYWHOLEGRAIN. For my sandwiches I would shun the dreaded white bread, replace it with stone-ground healthy whole wheat bread – I could almost taste the windmill stone pulverizing those wheat grains into the dark, roughage-packed manna – and then just sit back and relax as I imagined the pounds rolling off. Maybe I’d throw in a bowl of Total cereal [with soy or rice milk, of course], and maybe a spat of Country Crock margarine … I adored popping open a fresh tub of it, breathing in all the yummy chemical deodorants. Oh and let’s not forget the fruit… add in some apples and bananas, maybe both. Meat was too be shunned, at best maybe low-fat, low-salt Butterball sliced turkey,… and heaven forbid I eat more than one egg a week, or I imagined I’d choke on all that cholesterol! Cheese was perhaps my only “cheat” food, although once I discovered over-priced soy cheese and rice cheese I felt I could eat as much as I could afford and gain no health repercussions whatsoever [in hindsight, I’m thankful I couldn’t afford to gorge myself on those things].

At the time, “calories in calories out” did not exist for me, at least not as a silly catchphrase. Even so, it seemed like “common sense” that great food choices alone was not going to be enough -- I had to also exercise till I dropped!! And so I would jog, treadmill, cycle, do weights, push-ups, sit-ups, jumping jacks, stretching, and so forth. Dance Dance Revolution was a godsend at the time, and through manic spasms that the PS2 somehow equated to "dancing" I was able to lose about 5 pounds in a month. Once I got bored with that, Wii Fit came around and took it to the next level of self-deprecating interactivity!

And seemingly doing everything right, I was rather shameless in my efforts to spread the gospel. This WAS the best way to eat healthy, and I wanted to make sure everyone was aware of that. I was proudly smug when news story after news story continued to validate the wonders of HEALTHYWHOLEGRAINS or the horrors of ARTERYCLOGGINGSATURATEDFAT! I was buddy-buddy with any doctor who wagged his or her finger at those straying from the orthodoxy, courting fat, cholesterol and other death wishes. When Super Size Me came out, I showed it to EVERYONE I knew in the hopes they’d finally “get it”. When the news people HOWLED over the unholy Atkins diet, I was unified in the collective derision against all the who risked their very lives and their arteries over some weird fad diet.

And the irony of it all, despite my fanaticism, I was still overweight and gradually getting bigger over time. And each time it happened, I would seek to determine a culprit based on my pool of dogmatic knowledge. Fat makes you fat, so maybe I was eating too much “low-fat” peanut butter? Ergo, I should try non-fat peanut butter, or even no peanut butter at all… maybe soy butter was the answer! Meat was bad [OF COURSE!], so no more fat-free turkey… and in fact no more normal Mexican food! Tortillas with beans and veggies it is! I didn’t believe in the emerging low-carb “craze,” but I was a believe in portion sizes, and it occurred to me that I was always eager to finish my entire plate. So small plates it is! And when making sandwiches, the “lean” flatbreads and wraps would replace the big, calorific bread slices. I was often hungry, so I looked up every magical way to not feel hungry and put the pain out of my mind [after all, no pain no gain] – I still remember a period of time when I would always drink several servings of yerba matte a day for that reason. And of course the excessive exercise would continue, combined with other oddball shortcuts the likes of which you would see in a 6-minute ab commercial.

Food was becoming complicated, and gone was the simple pleasure of just eating what was good and what I enjoyed. Now food was my enemy, and I would beat it into submission until it started acting as it should, and not embarrass me in front of my friends and family. And it seemed to work… the thrill of doing what wright, but MORE OF IT, simply heightened my sense of infallibility. Now it was going to work, and NOW I was finally going to lose weight. And that was more important now as I began to have some strange health problems appear too – including random fainting, shortness of breath, high blood pressure, and a less than stellar cholesterol profile. I didn’t really make the connection, but instead figured that once I got thinner, somehow magic would happen and the other conditions would go away too. So I carried on wasting time, energy and money on this conventional lifestyle.

Then, in 2010, came what I now call...

Mailroom Day...

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