I wrote most of this post over a year ago then filed it away under “I’m too afraid to talk about this.” But I’ve been thinking more and more about this post for a few weeks yet again. So here goes.
I write and post about food more than any other topic. I can’t tell you though how often people I know say to me: “If I ate like you did, I’d be huge.”
I mentioned to my Dad the other day that this is the primary reason I stopped posting so many cooking photos on my personal Facebook page. (Oddly enough strangers on Instagram never make body size comments.) Anyway, my Dad said to me, “You know what you should say to those comments? ‘If I ate like you thought I did, I WOULD be huge!’” Bingo Dad, thanks! And that’s what this post is about.
I write about this reluctantly for a couple of reasons—first, I don’t want to draw attention to my weight nor my body shape. I am an average middle-aged woman with an average weight. I’m happy being 5’10” and a size 10. I’m sure admitting my size to you means many of you are thinking “I’d shoot myself in the head if I ever got to be so big I wore a size 10” and many may also be thinking “I’d shoot someone else in the head if only I could be a size 10.” Secondly, I can’t think of anything more boring to read about on the internet than dieting and body size. I’d rather chew broken glass.
But I do think you can enjoy delicious food (even cake—especially cake!) and still maintain a healthy lifestyle. Jeanne Ray, author of Eat Cake, said it best:
Now you know why I have the above passage highlighted in a novel. So when someone makes a comment to me about how they wish they could eat cake and be thin, I bite my tongue and think “one slice of cake never made anyone fat”. I know their comments are well-intentioned, even meant as compliments, but they imply that somehow all this comes easy to me. This post is my answer to those comments; this is how I live my life so I can eat cake.
1. I do not drink my calories. I don’t usually drink anything but water and one glass of milk daily. I don’t drink soda (sugar or diet—they’re all poison), no juice, no coffee, no tea, no alcohol. I want to chew my calories. Don’t get me wrong—I love root beer and when I do have the occasional burger at In-N-Out I sometimes allow myself a root beer or a freshly squeezed pomegranate juice in Jerusalem while on vacation. Have mercy it was so good.
2. Whole grains, whole grains, whole grains. I mostly eat whole wheat bread, brown rice, wheat pancakes, quinoa, bran, etc. I absolutely love lentils and beans too. These are my daily staples.
3. No fast food. I keep snacks in my minivan. Things like protein bars, smoked almonds, and water bottles. I love Burger King’s onion rings and Carl’s Jr Santa Fe Chicken sandwiches (although I won’t eat there anymore until they get rid of their sexually explicit ads), and In-N-Out’s fries. Oh how I love fried taters! But you can’t eat like that everyday, or even weekly. You just can’t! I haven’t eaten fast food since a road trip 2 months ago. Man I’m due.
4. Don’t eat at night. This is one I struggle with because I love eating a bowl of Cocoa Krispies at night after the kids go to bed. I’m getting too old to eat after dinner. If I bake something delicious like cake or cinnamon bread, I try to eat it earlier in the day—rarely at night. If I’m truly hungry at night I go for the apple or Greek yogurt. Stupid rule.
5. Don’t eat processed foods or fake foods. The author Michael Pollan has some great food rules—one of them is this: Eat all the junk food you want, just make it yourself. Isn’t that amazing? I try to live by that. I don’t usually buy junk food in a bag. I’d rather eat one slice of homemade pie. I was in Israel last week and the hotel we stayed at kept Kosher, which meant no meat or dairy at the same meal. At dinner they served meat which mean no dairy in the desserts or even butter for your bread. I didn’t realize this at first so I couldn’t figure out why the desserts just were not as tasty as they looked. I kept trying a few bites of all the desserts on the buffet when finally I realized puddings and pies and cakes without any butter or cream are not satisfying. So the last few nights I skipped all the desserts except Jello. My point is this: really tasty treats leave me satisfied and happy after one serving. But imitation junk food from a bag or dairy-less desserts do not, hence a desire to overeat while still being unsatisfied. The French Women Don’t Get Fat author also talks a lot about this subject.
6. Exercise, exercise, exercise. You have to do it. All the time. I know, I know, I’d rather eat cookies and watch a marathon of Chopped episodes, screaming at the TV “Don’t put soy sauce in that sponge cake!” too but you have to move. I’ve had an almost-daily habit of exercising for over 16 years now. So move your coffee table and jump around like an idiot like I do 5-6 days a week. I love Tracy Anderson videos, Bob Harper videos, and recently discovered Fitness Blender where all workout videos are free. Love them! In the warmer months I walk and run too. I am not an athlete, I hate most sports, and have no coordination but tough luck. I focus on being fit and strong, not a skinny little waif which means nothing.
My teenage daughter recently asked me if I had a six-pack. I said “Of course I do! It’s just hidden under a layer of cake and pasta.” We then had a great conversation about what real health meant. If I could make a wish on a shooting star and have a six pack would I want one? Yes! Am I willing to give up butter and live on rabbit food to do so? No! I hate the following slogan “Abs are made in the kitchen”. It should read “Abs are made out of the kitchen because you’ll never get to eat pasta in your kitchen again if you want a six pack.” Here’s a great opinion about six packs.
7. Learn to cook—learn to really, really cook. I guess this isn’t necessary if you’re happy eating boiled chicken and rice cakes, but good grief, really tasty food makes me really happy. Those who cook their own meals are usually healthier too. Whole wheat pizza is pretty good too. So are curried lentils and roasted broccoli. But you have to learn to cook if you are going to have any of those things taste delicious. I’ve had canned lentils. They taste like turds. So suck it up and learn to cook healthy foods so that they taste fabulous. One of Bob Harper’s Skinny Rules is "Eat at least 10 meals at home”. What?!!! I’m lucky if I get to eat out even once a week! I eat 21 meals at home! Man I need a life!
8. No seconds. I hate this rule, I really, really do. And it is the hardest one. But If I want to keep eating enchiladas (and I do) portion control is everything. I am not eating tofu and birdseed for dinner. I don’t care how freakin’ amazing my abs will get because of that kind of diet. Eat the two beef enchiladas and three helpings of roasted broccoli. That’s my idea of portion control and moderation.
9. Treats are occasional. Instagram and Facebook friends see my posts about cake and pie and think I eat like that everyday and all day. Sadly, I can not. I eat dessert once a week, maybe twice. And often I eat treats during the day instead of at night (see #4) when my body is done burning calories for the day. I bake treats and share them with friends, have dinner parties, or put them in my kids lunches. Sunday was my son’s birthday and I made this amazing Fluffy Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting. I had one sliver of a slice, that was all. The next day I saw the rest of the cake sitting under that cake dome and really, really wanted more but resisted. It’s fun to post pictures of cake. It isn’t as fun to post pictures of the greek yogurt I eat daily. Or my chocolate protein shake. What a snoozer.
And the most important rule of all…….
10. I am kind to myself. We all have sorrows, disappointments and unmet expectations in life. So when I do fall off the wagon with either exercise or eating habits, I cut myself some slack. Yes, I keep two sizes of pants in my closet because life is hard. Life is messy and I refuse to beat myself up. Some days (or months) you’d rather cry on the couch with cookie crumbs all over you rather than exercise. I have been there. You have been there. The body goes soft and the scale goes up. When your life has fallen apart who the hell cares about what the scale says?! So stop the self loathing, keep two or three sizes of clothes in your closet, and just try a little harder tomorrow. Or next month. My worth is divine. You are divine. Be kind to yourself. Do not objectify yourself or others. We are all just doing our best at that specific moment in time.
Now pass me a cookie.