August 11, 2014

Food Chat

Before we dive right into this, I have to warn everyone, I'll be talking about you. My friends. My family. Acquaintances. People I don't care for very much. Everyone.

This week has been filled with lots of examples of talking about food and health. I think it's because most of us do not get proper education on nutrition things tend to go off-script, get ambiguous, and become super-subjective super-fast.

So I'll warn everyone, all of these posts are MY ventures into healthier processes as I define them. I have zero proper education on it, nor am I really interested in getting proper education. Like the message in my last post, food is tedious. I'm sure an education in food and health may cause me to grow a tail, breathe fire and smash all the villages.

But here's a fast question--why aren't we teaching about nutrition? I was having a conversation with one of my friends about the healthcare system and I tried to make the point that "good" healthcare and "health" are very subjective but the only examples I could come up with at the time were "ViagraViagraViagraAbortionViagraViagraABORTIONViagra". I ended up saying I didn't have an example because I try hard (GET IT?! Viagra? Hard? Ok... sorry) to not become the one-trick pony that is sexuality but I'm getting 2 degrees in human sexuality...

... so it's hard.

ANYWAY! I should've come up with nutrition and health. It's so subjective and ... subject?... huh... subject to change with the times. Regardless, I feel like food health should be taught in grade school and should really cross the... subjects... like you would talk about the molecular structure of protein and anatomy in biology; how to calculate calories and convert between 50 measurements of food in math; how culture and people talk about health in English; learn cooking vocabulary in Spanish... but cross all areas of learning so that students have complete and practical comprehension of nutrition--not bullshit that you never use and therefore forget by the time you're an adult (I'm looking at you, Are you Smarter Than a 5th Grader?).


So anyway, back to me. This week there were also the social venues when (usually the women) band together to talk about how they ran 50 miles today and then they ate blahblahblah. My wonderful friends are athletes. I am, what the French would call, not. The most energy-consuming and coordinated thing I do these days is precariously balance food on dishes/bowls/napkins/hands/llamas down the stairs, to the couch, and while turning on my TV, my DVD player, and grabbing remotes. It's a delicate but majestic process, worthy of Cirque de Soliel, as soon as they become cool with cursing. But as a non-athletic person, when my dear friends start talking about running, I immediately start to think of all the chips I enjoy and how if I had a brownie for every time my friends talked about diets and running...

... I'd be a diabetic.

And it's not just my overly-patient friends, it's others (like my grandmother's neighbor this weekend) too, forcing me into a dialogue about my health which almost ALWAYS comes from a place of knowing more/being better than me. I helped my grandmother move out of rehabilitation this weekend and as we're eating lunch at her home, her neighbor came in to check on my grandmother's recovery from hip surgery. I knew the process was going to take all day so I PACKED ALL MY FOOD. I mean I packed snacks, my lunch, my breakfast. I did it. I showed a level of commitment for this eating healthier thing I have never shown before.

I'm pretty amped about it.

My lunch was a new smoothie concoction that I had tried the day before with revolting results. I decided to try the combination again because it was high in fiber, high in protein but removed the high vom-factor of protein powder. The fact that people can eat that powdery crap is proof of Darwin's theory--healthy people have a genetic mutation that eliminates taste and food texture sensitivities so that they can power through rancid but healthy things and live longer than all the rest of us who have working taste buds. My grandmother and aunt had just finished giving me shit when the neighbor walked in. Yes, I had my smoothie in a basket-pattern Mason jar. It was all that there was available in the house besides baby food jars. And yes, the result looked like I had taken a pipe wrench to the underside of the sink and filled said basket jar with the garbage disposal contents. And yes, it sort of tasted like that but in a sweet and tolerable (note: not delicious) form. But the neighbor walks in and immediately inquires about this fanciful basket jar sludge I was ingesting through a smile that looked like I was REALLY trying not to regret my healthier decisions.

I have quickly learned that people will always ask what's in your smoothie. It makes me think of this CSI episode where this one nutritionist was making human blood/organ powder smoothies (talk about subjective health and nutrition...) because she had Renfield's Syndrome or at least claimed that she did. How the hell did this woman go for years eating people without being bothered to list her smoothie secrets?! Anyway, most of the time people genuinely don't care what's in your smoothie. It's almost like this compulsion to reduce ambiguity. You could say that there's panda tears, bamboo stalks, and soy sauce in it and it's called the "Karma Express" and has been known by the Asian Chinese for years to center your chi... or something. It doesn't have to make sense--karma is part of Hindu traditions, most commonly associated with Indian culture and chi is from Buddhism--no one notices. It doesn't matter most of the time. But every other time (like this one with the neighbor), they do care and want to know what you dared to put in your blender. Mainly for the purpose of judging it.

And, ok, that's a negative way to look at it. But their response does come from this place of feeling they know better about smoothie experiences. I listed my ingredients and woefully ended with "It all sounds good but combined... the taste? Not so much." There was no request for recipes, no suggestions for improvements, just stating the facts. I. don't. like. this. But I had to be polite and listen through a smoothie recipe the neighbor swore by (swore what? Who knows. I don't care.). When the first ingredient was kale I tried to say, "I cannot stand kale. Someone" playful glare towards my grandmother "who may or may not be at this table totally scarred me for life with kale. I think it tastes bitter."

"Oh you don't taste it! Spinach is the one with the bitter taste!"

... sigh...

Let me go and think about the chips I like and about how if I had a brownie for every time I expressed my opinion and received a response that acted like the total opposite was fact, I would be a diabetic.

Let me also say that I totally judge too. Actually, judging is where I AM an athlete. Jump to a judge in a single bound, I do. And I judge the shit out of other people's food choices. Today my mom told me that my dad has high blood sugar so he has chosen to cut out his snack peanut butter crackers but not his pudding or Little Debbie's treats... look me in the eye and tell me you don't judge the shit out of that food choice. I'm training my mind to think in sugar grams and sodium milligrams. It's to help myself. So I get it, Mimi's neighbor, my friends, healthy-minded people--you train your mind to think healthy and it's hard to remember that not everyone is programmed that way. Just like my mind has formed a distinct sex-subjects funnel, it doesn't mean that there isn't more to the world.
There's also more images in this world than this ridiculous dog. But it's funny and I'm lazy.

August 7, 2014

True Confessions: I'm Addicted to Food

So, I keep seeing this meme pop up online. At first, this image yielded my typical responses--"Huh, interesting"--and afterward, "Oh, please, shut up".

Now, I'll admit that exercise was at least somewhat effective for depressive symptoms. At my exercise peak, I had the energy to do a lot more than usual... once I found the motivation (which exercise did NOT cure thankyouverymuch).

I will also admit, my life does revolve around food. There's been *cough* several times when I go to meet with someone, particularly my boyfriend, and they want to go to a store or something and I respond with, "Yea! That sounds great! After food though. Right? Right. Food."

There was zero shame to my game.

But here, in part 2 of chronicling my healthier habits, there is all the shame, and frustration, and anxiety, and depression. My life still revolves around food but it's in the most tedious and unpleasant fashion.

I've been using the myfitnesspal application on my phone to keep track of how much food I'm consuming, my nutrition, exercise, and water intake. For the  most part, the app has been great except it it not as intuitive for daily life.

Like, for example, the app has "chewing" as an exercise. But there's no exercise for "Rampaging in DC traffic"

 Another example, you can log calories burned from being on the elliptical and other cardio machines but it doesn't say that doing cardio, then planks, then squats, then a wall sit, then multiple sets on multiple leg machines, then lunges with weights burns calories. It doesn't even matter that you got halfway down the gym stairs to leave, wanted to sit at the landing and lament like Andy from The Office, "Oh, I could just sit here and cry"

I've maybe been watching a lot of The Office... I'm sure nobody could tell.

I'm able to get over this issue because it exaggerates the number of calories I burned on the elliptical-- "Oh, training for 25 minutes equals 300 calories? The machine told me 230 but OK!"

It's mainly the food. I figured out months ago, when I downloaded the app, that I have ZERO judge on the size and serving of food. I've had a chai latte practically every morning for the last... yikes, 7 1/2 years... wow. I'm coming up on a chai-aversary in a few years... Anyway! I knew that the habit wasn't GREAT for me but, hey, it wasn't coffee and I had moved myself down from 2% milk down to skim milk (which is essentially white and water), so it couldn't be that bad. Right? Let's see, I'm supposed to have a 300-400 calorie breakfast and chai is 70 calories for every 1/2 cup. "That shouldn't be too bad!" I pour my typical amount of chai concentrate into my mug and then pour it into a measuring cup... there goes 1/2 a cup... and 3/4... and now I've run out of lines... "You know what, fuck this!" I turned off the app and glared at phone for the rest of day for what it did.

I wasn't ready to quit my chai. I wasn't ready to start chronicling my every calorie because I knew it would be fraught with disappointment and bitter surprise, sometimes horror. I wasn't even ready to say "Ok, let's start working our way down to 1/2 cup of chai with half cup of milk. That's totally doable."

I figured out I had to do the leg work first--guilt-tripping yourself out of eating a food is so much easier when you're not craving it. I created a list of snack foods and appropriate meals. While typing this sentence took 2 seconds, I promise you getting to where I was last week when I finally pulled the trigger on this plan took, arguably, 2 years.

Now, here's another moment where I'll admit that my obsessiveness did not help. I bought a ricemaker thinking "rice is healthy and I love it. I will forever eat rice". But, as karma demands it, no, white rice is just as terrible as white bread. Because it's not just about getting a food low in fat or calories, it's about the sodium and cholesterol content if your family has a history of heart disease (*swish* count it!) or sugar if your family has a history of diabetes (*swishswish* COUNT IT!).

You doubt everything you buy. Nothing is good for you. And after spending 5 minutes debating every purchase in the grocery store only to get to the bottom of the nutrition facts and find out the product is riddled with fake sugars and processed evil mystery preservative (anddd family history of cancer for the hat trick *swishswishswish*).

Here's the moment when I would reuse The Office Andy "I can too just sit here and cry" picture.

I will never be safe until I build a biodome.

In case this existential crisis wasn't clusterfucked enough, enter life, stage right. My grandmother recently broke her hip and due to what seems like some true-life-based Saw movie, I've been visiting her in the rehabilitation facility at least 3 times a week. Day 2 of my healthier venture, I agreed to go to a meeting to talk about her upcoming discharge (thank godbuddahallah).

9am: I had my healthy breakfast, I'm good to go!
11am (mid-meeting): CRAP! It's time to eat again? But I forgot to bring a pre-packaged 150 calorie snack. Oh well. I'm not hungry because I had an awesome healthy breakfast.

 *somewhere in here my mom volunteers me to stay with Mimi for another 2 hours which then turned into me doing her laundry and returning it to rehab for another 4 hours*


And what do you do when you're counting calories and need lunch? You sure as shit don't go to a restaurant because you won't be able to log it in! So I got a chicken salad sandwich from Harris Teeter. No nutrition facts. SHOULD HAVE SCANNED IT IN THE STORE. But I didn't. I went back to Mimi's to listen to the hum of the dryer and ate my sandwich containing 500+ mg of sodium.

And that all was just one day. Most of the days this week have included some panic to get "healthy" looking food only to eat it and then become pissed and/or disappointed. Today I was back at Mimi's and wanted a burger from this place down the road. It's a very hipster place that totes it's killing of happy cows who were frolicking locally before being lured into the barn with an axe. The dairy cows, if capable of frolicking, are also in said local fields produced cheese for the meat products of their angus brethren. Even the veggies placed on top of this local feast was grown on the same lands, just out of cow-reach. As a proud meat-eating redneck, this makes me very happy. But as an chicken-eating soulless creature trying to eat healthier, I dragged myself into a sandwich chain store and ordered what I thought was a lean turkey sandwich but turned out to be dehydrated, thinly-sliced, shredded lettuce-topped mess.

Side note-- why the hell is deli-thin slice a thing? You can barely taste anything that's thinly sliced. "Oh, you know what really brings out the flavor of that cake? Slicing it into slivers so you can eat 4 of them just to get the same amount you normally would."... said no one ever.

I'm now leaving my house wondering about when I'm going to eat next, what will I eat, what will I eat after that to compensate. Nothing about the unhealthy eating habits have seemed to change, but, arguably, have gotten worse. It's depressing.

I'll close with this: leaving a bag of grapes on the counter is dangerous.
What is the serving size equivalent to "I went to the bag and just started shoving them into my face"?