On fad diets, disordered eating

If it wasn’t already apparent, I have problems with disordered eating. I’m not saying that I have an eating disorder, or at least that’s what my therapist says, and I think that in some ways there is a difference. I have never been anorectic, unless you count the few months in high school where I ate a small bag of plain popcorn, Diet Coke, and a reduced-fat Oreo for lunch, and challenged myself to eat fewer calories than the day before. That clearly didn’t last long. I’ve never binged and purged, though YOU KNOW I’ve thought to myself that it’d make my life a hell of a lot easier if I could. And at the other end, I don’t think I’ve ever really had problems with binge eating. Now, I think just about everyone has a pig-out once in a while, but not full-on EAT ALL THE THINGS on a regular basis.

No, what I struggle with is more…portion sizes (and again, this is not EAT THE WHOLE CAKE, but maybe having a piece or two that maybe are just a little bigger than they should)…peer pressure (c’mon, just have ONE drink!)…the tendency to crave all the wrong things at all the wrong times (super tired? how about something crispy and fried or creamy and frozen?)…and mindfulness (I’ll just have a few crackers…whoops there goes the whole box, and I’m still hungry).

From what I understand, these are common disordered eating habits, and in combination has sort of brought me where I am now.

But I have to admit, too, that I have been extremely vulnerable to faddish diets. And as someone who is fairly intelligent, this makes me ashamed.

  • Growing up, when I first started counting calories, it was all about low-fat and keeping to a percentage of calories-from-fat. If there was a day where I had extra calories and needed to reduce the fat percentage, we’d drink a can of full-calorie soda. (Facepalm.)
  • In college, I got on the Atkins train and lost about 20#. I became obsessed with the 25-carb-per-day onboarding period, and just never moved past it. This turned into me eating basically bacon, diet soda, cheese, and tubs of Cool Whip (oh, and those Atkins shakes), because, uh, carbs.
  • After that, I said FUCK ALL DIETS and gained about 90#. Not because I was eating TONS, but because I didn’t keep track of what I was eating, wasn’t making the best choices all the time, and ate just a bit more than I should. (It adds up.)
  • Then in grad school, Weight Watchers happened. And I have to say that this is NOT a fad diet; HOWEVER, I do still disagree with a lot of the foods that they peddle. Nonfat dairy products, super-processed frozen meals, and ALL THE GRAINS being a few of them.
  • Then, to get a few more pounds off, I meticulously counted points with the Wendie Plan, and then began carb cycling.
  • Then it was all Paleo all the time. Which is totally cool and fine, especially since, you know, ALLERGIES, but I came away from that with a still-nasty case of orthorexia and judgmentalia, in which you obsess over the cleanliness, pasturedness, and organicness of your food, and then harshly judge yourself and others when this is not abided by.
  • And now? Let me get to that.

So, as I may have mentioned before, as part of BFF’s TDP, I am now back to counting calories. And he has been very conscious in his pushing of CALORIES ONLY, until I get back into a healthy routine of exercise and eating. Because, as my food tracker will show, I eat super clean about 80% of the time. The other 20% is Pizza Friday, maybe an ice cream, and possibly popcorn or gluten-free pasta during the week. And all this, aside from Pizza Friday, is balanced with lean proteins and vegetables (so gluten-free pasta nights isn’t just pasta–it’s pasta that’s been weighed out, and then eaten with copious amounts of broccoli and a few ounces of chicken breast). Because, in reality, if I don’t have these little luxuries, how am I supposed to, really, continue on?

So here I am, just chugging along. Running three times a week, light weights three times a week, and tracking like a mofo, even on Pizza Fridays. And I’m feeling pretty good about myself and my effort, even though the scale isn’t showing leaps and bounds of awesomeness.

And then I start getting bombarded. Not personally, but it seems like all of a sudden everywhere I look online, everyone is talking about Flexible Dieting and the wonders of #IIFYM (if it fits your macros). The idea being, if you eat tuna and brown rice, and it has 45 carbs, 40 protein, and 10 fat, your body doesn’t know the same as a cheeseburger, which might also have 45 carbs, 40 protein, and 10 fat. So if you have a set amount of macronutrient goals for optimum performance, why wouldn’t you eat that cheeseburger? It fits your macros!

I’m not saying that this is the WRONG way to think about food, though I will say that fundamentally I think there is a problem in thinking that you should eat cheeseburgers over brown rice and fish. HOWEVER, I AM saying that I feel I am being assaulted on a daily basis. The same people posting ridiculous before-and-after photos of a thin version of themselves versus a thin and jacked version of themselves a month later, after counting their macros. And keep in mind, these are THE VERY SAME PEOPLE who, just a year or two ago, were preaching Paleo/Zone and/or intermittent fasting as the one-size-fits-all miracle solution.

And I’m thinking to myself, Am I doing something wrong? This person who has NO weight to lose lost 4# in a week, and I’m obese and have lost 1.5# in a MONTH.

And then I start thinking, Do I need to start counting my macros meticulously?

This is about the point where BFF has smacked me upside the head and reminded me that yes, this IIFYM IS JUST ANOTHER FAD DIET. And do not get sucked in!

But to be honest, it absolutely kills me every time I see something about IIFYM and results. It kills me. It makes me anxious. It’s a SUPER trigger. It even hurts my feelings and makes me feel crappy about myself. I can’t explain it, but if you’ve ever felt like this, you’d know.

The other piece, too, is that the people who preach IIFYM/IF/PZ are notoriously people who have absolutely no idea what it means to be obese. They have never been in a situation where they have 100+# to lose. And they probably never will, god willing. They are people who have always been slim and active, and really just want a six-pack. They will never get it. Ever. Sorry if you are one of those people, because sometimes I think you just can’t help it.

So no, I will not be counting my macros right now. I won’t be intermittently fasting, and I won’t be on a meticulous Paleo/Zone diet. Because right now, I need something that is both livable and will not make me feel guilty or like shit about myself whenever I eat something non-organic.

Thank you for sharing your success, but please leave me alone.

</rant>

Butternut squash chowder

Butternut squash chowder! Amaze!
Butternut squash chowder! Amaze!

So. This might come as a surprise, but my boyfriend neither Crossfits nor enjoys vegetables.

Yeah, I know.

I have to give him credit, though, because he will eat ALMOST anything I cook, and if I cook vegetables, we have a deal that he at least tries them. Granted, he certainly does not get the volume I’d like to see, but it’s a huge step in the right direction, especially for someone who’s gone from ZERO to dating the vegetable queen. It’s taken some adjustment on my part, too, as I’d become someone who was fine eating the same dinner all week, and lots and lots of straight-up veg. Now, I’m cooking more of a variety of things so we’re not bored, and I essentially have to treat vegetables like I would for a picky child: Hide them.

Some attempts have been more successful than others. Brussels sprouts and bacon were a huge flop, as is roasted broccoli (so sad!). Salad with homemade dressing was so-so for him, but he loved the crap out of kale cooked with whole-wheat egg noodles, vodka sauce, and ground beef (hamburger helper, anyone?). He also did impressively well with a veggie burger I made that had beets as a base. Additionally, the boy loves a good hearty soup. He’s been a fan of a few soups I’ve made this winter, including a Thai-style butternut squash and coconut soup and a carrot-ginger-cashew soup.

Well, I just conquered the mother of all challenges.

We got frozen cauliflower in last week’s CSA. Now, I LOVE cauliflower in all its incarnations, but The Boy hates it. He likens it to an allergy, saying he tastes it differently than other people and how it makes him gag. My mom made him try a FRIED cauliflower patty at Christmas and made the mistake of telling him what was in it. I say that because nothing about this patty is healthy or screams cauliflower. It’s all egg binder, herbs, and lots of romano cheese. He barely took a bite and gagged.

Knowing that cauliflower makes a good mashed faux-tato, I thought that it might go well in this soup, to give it a thick and creamy flavor and consistency.

And what happened?

The Boy went back for SECONDS and couldn’t stop saying how good it was. He renamed this soup the “Fucking Awesome Soup.”

And no, I did NOT ruin the moment and tell him there was cauliflower in it.

He’s taking soup leftovers with him to work because he liked it THAT much.

Seriously, you want to try this soup. It is thick and hearty and delicious and filling and perfect for the nasty weather we’re getting in the Northeast. In this incarnation, it’s not strict Paleo, but it IS gluten-free, and easily adaptable for vegan/vegetarians (use veg stock) or Paleo folk (omit corn and potatoes). You can even add some diced chicken boob for some extra protein! Mmmmmm!!!

Let me know how you like this. I’m telling you, if I can fool my boyfriend into thinking it’s a basic yummy chowder, I PROMISE your picky eater will lap it all up instantly, too!

Such a delicious soup!
Such a delicious soup!

Butternut squash chowder

Ingredients

  • 1.5 pounds butternut squash puree (I used 1 pound butternut squash puree and 1 cup of pumpkin puree), fresh or frozen
  • 1 pound cauliflower florets, fresh or frozen
  • 1 pound corn, freshly de-eared or frozen
  • 2 small white potatoes, diced
  • 32 oz low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 large cloves garlic
  • 1.5 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • Sea salt to taste (1.5–2 teaspoons)

Directions

Coat the bottom of a medium pot with 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil or cooking spray, and heat to a medium heat. Add diced onion and a pinch of salt, and brown, stirring occasionally, approximately 5 minutes.

Once onions begin to caramelize, add chicken stock, butternut squash puree, garlic cloves, curry powder, and cauliflower florets. Bring to a boil, and then simmer on medium-low for approximately 20 minutes, or until florets are tender and hot.

In two batches, puree soup mixture in blender until smooth. Be careful because it’s now very hot! Return pureed soup to the pot, and return to a simmer.

Now, add corn kernels and diced potatoes, along with the smoked paprika, pepper, and salt. Simmer until potatoes are tender, stirring from bottom occasionally, approximately 20 minutes. Enjoy!

Recipe makes approximately 12 one-cup servings. For WW peeps, this recipe fits within the Simply Filling/Simple Start plans.

Ch-ch-ch-CHIA [Seed Pudding]!!

Delicious, delicious chia seed pudding.
Delicious, delicious chia seed pudding.

I have recently discovered chia seeds. And after reading about them, I’m pretty much convinced that they’re a miracle superfood. They are not only rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, but they also have fiber and protein up the wazoo. And since it’s a seed, it’s Paleo-OK!

Do you like chocolate? Add 2 tablespoons unsweetened dark cocoa powder to the mix for a chocolatey treat.
Do you like chocolate? Add 2 tablespoons unsweetened dark cocoa powder to the mix for a chocolatey treat.

A few of my friends have told me about chia in the past, and I thought that they were mostly used as an egg substitute for vegans, or to grow little window-sill pets. My first brush with them came in kombucha, actually. It was a fruity effervescent mixture with the chia seeds, which floated, suspended in a gel-like liquid. I was intrigued by the texture, which kind of reminded me of the tapioca pearls in bubble tea.

When I saw a bag of them on sale at Trader Joe’s, I nabbed it.

And then I was like…What now?

After a bit of research, I found that the egg substitute gel is made when you add water to the chia, and it creates a gel after you let it sit. And apparently these little suckers will hold 9 times its bodyweight in liquid, not just water. So I start thinking…What if I mixed it with almond milk?

Wanna know what happens?

It turns into pudding.

The trick is just in the proportions.

And when you do it right, you have something that is basically vegan Paleo tapioca-freaking-pudding with way more substance and nutrition to it. OHHHH YESSSS.

This recipe is oh-so simple.

It only has a few ingredients: chia seeds, almond milk, agave syrup, and vanilla extract, which is optional.

Simple ingredients.
Simple ingredients.

Measure out your almond milk.

Lovely almond milk.
Lovely almond milk.

Stick it in a container that will be shake-proof.

Shake-proof.
Shake-proof.

Add your agave and your vanilla extract.

Agave time!
Agave time!

Pour in the chia seeds.

Thar she goes!
Thar she goes!

Don’t be afraid now!

Mmm!
Mmm!

Put on the lid….

And shake, shake, shake! (I totally used a protein shaker!)

Shake it like a polaroid picture!
Shake it like a polaroid picture!

Your mixture won’t look exciting at first.

All shook up.
All shook up.

But stick it in the refrigerator, and go back and shake every once in a while, and after 3-4 hours, you have a delicious treat.

After a mere three hours!
After a mere three hours!

You can even add chocolate for a chocolate pudding, and I hear that it’s delicious adding fruit puree, too! The taste and texture is similar to tapioca, but there’s just the faintest hint of a crunch from the seeds. Seriously, try it! It’s divine.

Divine divine divine.
Divine divine divine.

Chia Seed Pudding

You know you want this.
You know you want this.

Ingredients

• 2.5 cups unsweetened almond milk
• 1/2 cup chia seeds
• 3 tablespoons raw agave syrup
• 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Directions

Place all wet ingredients in a sealable container. Stir or shake until agave is dissolved.

Add chia seeds, and seal container. Shake until the seeds are well-distributed.

Refrigerate 3-4 hours, shaking periodically, until chia seeds absorb liquid, and pudding forms.

Enjoy!

Also try: Substitute coconut milk instead of almond milk! Add unsweetened dark cocoa powder! Add fruit puree!

For my WW peeps, a 3/4-cup serving is 4p+.

TWO-YEAR CROSSFITAVERSARY!

Well, good lord, this year has gone by awfully fast.

As you’ll be able to see in the table at the end, I’m approaching a pretty humongous weight-loss milestone, so unlike last year, this year’s Crossfitaversary will not include before-and-after photos. I’m saving that for later. 😉

While this year I’ve definitely become more comfortable in my Crossfitting skin, looking back, I’ve made leaps and bounds since last year. It’s pretty amazing, actually. Especially because, when you get comfortable doing something, it’s difficult sometimes to actually see the improvements you’re making.

Let’s take a look at my list of goals from last year:

  • Move up from the 6″ baby box for box jumps
  • Move up from 35# kettlebell for American swings
  • Continue to PR Olympic lifts; get past 220# deadlift
  • Practice the overhead squat; stop falling over with 45#
  • Nail a double-under
  • Do WODs with a band-assisted pull-up
  • Make it a point to attend at least one WOD that includes running

So…what did I do this year?

  • I’m doing box jumps on a 12″ box now
  • I’m still doing most KB WODs with 35#, but I have done a few with 45# (lower volume reps)
  • I have had significant Oly lift PRs, and I hit a new deadlift PR of 235#!
  • I have yet to nail a double-under, but damn that needs to happen soon! I’m constantly doing 100+ single unders unbroken
  • Nobody at our box does band-assisted pull-ups, but I’m werkin’ my ring rows
  • I’ve started running. Period.

And since goals are very important, here are my goals for the next year:

  • Make it to Lifetime at Weight Watchers (yeah, I said it!)
  • Get an unassisted pull-up
  • Nail that damn double-under
  • Work up to the 18″ box for box jumps….
  • Keep on inspiring people

Big goals. But I think I can do it. Right?

Now here’s a little recap of my year in photos:

I spoke at WW Success Stories Live, after getting my 75# ring.

Success stories!
Success stories!

I hiked the Cliffs of Moher!

Atop the Cliffs of Moher
Atop the Cliffs of Moher

I competed—and did awesomely—in a partner competition.

Long live Team Nevernudes!
Long live Team Nevernudes!

I wore a bikini!

Gettin' scandalous on Hampshire Beach.
Gettin’ scandalous on Hampshire Beach.

I ran a 5k!

WHAT IS THIS!?
WHAT IS THIS!?

I ran another 5k!

Color me happy!
Color me happy!

Two years ago, did I ever think I’d be living this life?

Hell no.

Two years ago, did I ever think I’d still be Crossfitting?

Hell no.

But I am. And I’m happy for it. And I’m proud of it. And I’m…

I’m…

I’m…really, really excited. And changed. I’m a changed woman.

And, without further ado, here’s my yearly poll. Please answer it, and let me know what you REALLY think!

Really…I have so much love and appreciation for Crossfit and all the people I’ve met because of it. Thank you so much for being a part of my life, and here’s to another awesome year!

Movement Baseline 2011 2012
General WOD Weight 25# bar 45–55# 60+ (closer to Rx)
Front Squat 75# (5RM, 01/24/11) 110# (5RM, 11/09/11) 135# (1RM, 9/17/12)
Back Squat 1RM=90# 1RM=160#, 10RM=115# 1RM=165#
Overhead Squat 25# 45# 2RM=90# (8/20/12)
Deadlift 1RM=195# (02/23/11) 1RM=210# (10/22/11) 1RM=235# (11/2/12)
Power Clean 45# (01/25/11) 2RM=90# (11/08/11) 2RM=100# (10/18/12)
2k Row DNF at 12:00 Sub-10:00 8:23.1 (11/1/12)
Clean & Jerk 65# 85# (11/15/11) 2RM=100# (11/5/12)
Back Squat 1RM=90# 1RM=160#, 10RM=115# 1RM=165#
5k Run Not performed Not performed 31:28 (8/29/12)
Grace 3:27 @ 45# (02/15/11) 3:10 @ 55# (10/15/11) 4:54 @ 75# (9/21/12)
Diane 5:56 @ 85# (01/21/11) 3:39 @ 85# (11/07/11) 5:53 @ 155# (10/8/12)
Fran 6:52 @ 25# (12/8/10) 4:57 @ 50# (11/18/11) 7:17 @ 65# (8/24/12)
Pull-Ups Jumping Transitioning to black band Ring rows/Blue band
Kettlebell Weights 8kg, period 35# American Swing WOD weight, 45# Russian Swing 35# American Swing WOD weight, 53#+ Russian Swing
Competition Row for the Red Cross 5k Row (03/05/11) Fall Face-Off (10/29/11) Strongman Competition (December 2011), Xs & Ys Garage Games (March 2012)
Attitude “You always have a crappy attitude.” —Dean “STOP SMILING!” —Kevin (11/09/11) “You’re killing it! Bodies everywhere!” —Dean (11/12/12)
Weight Lost 69.8# 96.4#

Guest Post: How I learned to eat clean for my kids

Editor’s note: Recently, one of my friends, Sarah, discovered that her youngest child, Ian, has a wheat allergy. She’s been talking a lot online about how she’s been needing to change things up in her home just so the kid wouldn’t get sick. I know I talk Paleo a lot, and a gluten-free diet is closely in-line with this ethos, so I invited Sarah to share her experience of bringing her kids into a world post-grain. Enjoy this fantastic guest post!

Sarah and her beautiful children, Lucy and Ian.
Sarah and her beautiful children, Lucy and Ian…and their puppy Tessa—all grain-free!

By Sarah H.

I don’t diet. In fact, if the diet had a name I wouldn’t do it because I knew I’d be miserable. And anyone who lived with me would have to live with my miserable wrath. I don’t do well on deprivation. People try to tell you it’s not deprivation… but anyone who’s ever had issues with food knows it really is. “No you can’t have that cheeseburger… but boy you’ll feel and look great… think of how healthy you’ll be… think of the PR’s”…. yeah, you lost me at no cheeseburgers. Deprivation.

I am also lazy and convenience food is, well, convenient but certainly not for weight loss or management. Don’t get me wrong- I had “tried.” I put that in quotations because inevitably I’d make some excuse or get too lazy to follow through and feel any results. I had done challenges at work, at home, and at the gym. I always blamed the money… or the planning… or the preparation… “I have two kids. I can’t eat like that. It’s too __________ (expensive, complicated, time-consuming, etc.).” And off I went. It wasn’t MY fault.

So when I suspected and later confirmed Ian had a wheat allergy it kind of turned my world of excuses upside down. Ian goes to daycare 5 days a week and their menu is usually something like: “Wheat with a side of wheat and wheat breaded with wheat topped with wheat sauce.” Yum. So I’d be lunch packing 5 days a week. And then what in the hell will I do for breakfast? The waffles, the cereals, the toasts…. And forget eating out. As I researched I found wheat is basically in everything.

But when it’s your child you find a way to do it. There is no “Well, I am too tired to pack lunches tonight. I’ll just eat KFC at work tomorrow.” With a wheat allergy that would become, “Well, I am too tired to pack lunches tonight. I’ll just let my child suffer explosive diarrhea and stomach aches so I can chill out on the couch for an hour.” You’ve heard of Moms lifting cars off their kids? I think the least I could do was pack a lunch.

It’s been 3 months now and I realize now that it was me always in the way of healthy eating. (The “I told you so’s” and “Really? Shocking!” comments can begin). I’ve always had the time to plan and prep- I just didn’t want to. And money? Well, it’s certainly a bit more money in groceries but a lot of savings in unplanned fast food stops (mainly for me), gas station snacks (definitely for me), and going out to eat cause Mom didn’t want to cook and clean. It probably balances out.

So how did I go from the “Screw it, it’s delicious” to the label-reading, farmer’s market food only eating Mom so quickly? Here’s my “I am still a novice, but it’s gotten me through” advice. None of which I actually made up, but have collected from various authorities:

  1. Need lunch? Cook extra dinner- same # of dishes, prep, clean-up, etc.
  2. Packing lunches is not rocket science: Protein, vegetable or two (with a dip like sunbutter, guac, or hummus), fruit, and nuts/seeds. Makes the 3, 5, and 31 year old happy for lunch time. Plus, takes like 10 minutes to get it all together. The batman shaped ice packs help too.
  3. Your kids will be better at this change than the adults. Has Ian cried for a cookie? Nope. Has Mommy? Almost.
  4. It does get better. You do get a new normal. I don’t want wheat now. At all.
  5. Everywhere has a gluten-free menu. Except Cheesecake Factory but at least their manager’s know what’s up.
  6. Gluten-free doesn’t mean healthy. Most diets, in fact, can be unhealthy if you really try. A friend of mine has a child with a lot of severe allergies and her best advice was to not buy the gluten-free subs for foods we were familiar with. No one “needs” bread, wheat or gluten-free. No one “needs” cookies, crackers, pretzels, bagels, pizza…. and no one needs the gluten free version either. That advice right there saved me $1000’s. She’s a pretty smart lady.
  7. You will not notice change right away. But it will happen. Some unexpectedly. I am far more energetic and productive, less frazzled, happier, and not so sickly after 3 months. My body composition is about the same even without wheat. “Abs” haven’t magically appeared because I am far from eating a clean enough diet to deserve them. I’m also not eating for abs. I’m eating to live my life and be happy.
  8. Eat knowledgeably. Eat what you are going to eat but know what you’re eating, where it came from, and why you’re eating it. Take ownership. Whether it’s a pound of bacon or a Whopper. Don’t pretend you don’t know the consequences or benefits or whatever comes with that choice.
  9. Totally disagree with me. If this doesn’t work for you, cool. Find out what does.
  10. You’ll never be perfect. Don’t get me wrong- I will NEVER give Ian wheat. Not even like an oat that was processed at a plant that processes wheat. But Chex cereal at 6:30am because 4 people need to be out of the house by 7:15am works for me. Some people would give me flak for that and suggest all sorts of other things to do for an even better breakfast. But I’m not perfect.

Yeah so this post turned into a talk about me and not my son. Why? Because he wasn’t the broken one with screwed-up food issues. He’s totally fine with the changes. Has never fussed or complained about it. Asks people if there is wheat in it before he eats. Sees cookies and if we say there’s wheat, he doesn’t want them. He’s probably been the most receptive to the changes. It’d actually be a pretty boring post: “Child has wheat allergy. Happily will not eat wheat. Feels better. The end.”

Now, if only I could be allergic to sugar…. and ice cream….

Sarah H. is a super mom and athlete, and has two super-cute kids and a super-adorable dog. Ask her more about her forays into the gluten-free lifestyle in the comments below.

Healthy revolution

Jamie Oliver
Jamie Oliver, British chef, takes on America's schools.

If you couldn’t tell from some of the stuff I write about, I’ll say it now: I like food. I like cooking it, eating it, buying it (local and organic), and watching shows about it. At home, my family always made fun of me, because I made it a point to watch No Reservations, Top Chef, Man vs. Food, and Kitchen Nightmares.

So I was going through my Hulu queue the other day, and I came across Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. At first I resisted, and then I became curious. Was this another Kitchen Nightmares-esque show where some British chef goes around to try to reform restaurants?

Well, yes and no.

Jamie, who happens to be a helluva lot nicer than Gordon Ramsay and touts a nice cockney accent, is on a mission to change America, starting with our schools. We’re immediately dropped into Huntington, West Virginia, a city that was recently deemed “most unhealthy” by the federal government. His first mission: to completely reform school lunches, beginning with one elementary school.

Unfortunately, Jamie is met with a surprising amount of opposition from just about everyone—from a family he’s exclusively working with (they continued to eat fatty foods until he took their obese kids to the doctor, scaring them with the very real future of diabetes) to the lunch ladies and higher-ups to the actual kids. You can’t help but root for the guy.

The school-meal program is absolutely, downright despicable, and in obvious need of major reform. Within the first few minutes of the first episode, we see kids eating pizza and strawberry milk, and Cinnamon Toast Crunch saturated in chocolate milk for breakfast. And then chicken nuggets for lunch. Everything highly processed and full of sugar and sodium. The most disturbing scene, in my opinion, is when Jamie shows a group of kids how chicken nuggets are made. He cleanly divides the chicken into breasts, legs, wings, explaining to them that this is the good, edible, expensive part of the chicken. He then shows them the stinking carcass (to which everyone says EWW), throws it in a blender—bones and all—with some chicken skin and purees and then sivvs. The kids are still squeamish. Then he adds some flour and flavoring, rolls it out, cuts it out, then fries it. And to our shock and horror…after all that…the kids want to eat it. Le sigh! This is how brainwashed our kids are! Then when it comes to school-lunch reform, he is able to come up with his own menu, but the kitchen workers are uncooperative. On the one hand, we’re supposed to probably look at these people as just being stubborn, but there’s a whole other side to the story that I can pretty much guarantee won’t be explored.

People working in our nation’s school kitchens are some of the lowest-paid and most undervalued employees, period. They work long hours, and put up with a lot from parents, school officials, and their own political stratification. They’re bogged down in technicalities, paperwork, and schedules, and I can see with 100 percent clarity how these ladies would have been frustrated with the changes Jamie was trying to make. These people are powerless to make such huge changes by themselves, and the added work of cooking from raw is surely not welcome, considering their current working environment.

At the same time, it’s obvious that the schools in Huntington need a major overhaul.

Where I’m from—Portland, Oregon—Nutrition Services (which works in tandem with Portland Public Schools) is light years ahead of the atrocities we see in Food Revolution (although I think Portland as a whole is light years ahead of most of the rest of the country). I don’t say that lightly, either. Not only are their nutritional requirements completely different, but they have made a conscious and concerted effort to incorporate fresh, local, and healthy fare. Last year, they had Harvest of the Month, which was one meal that was completely locally produced.

This year, they upped the ante and have nixed Harvest of the Month in exchange for a constant emphasis on the local and fresh. The salad bar is always unlimited, and kids learn at a very young age how to make good, wholesome, balanced meal choices. Nutrition Services does not serve flavored milks at breakfast, and when they serve it at lunch, it’s of the nonfat variety that is not in a huge bottle. And I’m pretty sure that they don’t count French fries as a vegetable. They do, however, consider freshly roasted squash as veg. See where I’m going with this?

I’m not telling Oliver to stay away from my hometown, but I am saying that perhaps schools across the nation could take a cue from Portland and start treating kids like the future of our world that they are.