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>

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.

Ma, am I Italian now?

My version of Mom's pizza.
My version of Mom's pizza.

There’s a semi-half-joke that’s been running in my fam for a while now…my mom goes around telling people I’m Mexican because that’s the only food I cook.

Well, a few months later, I’m pretty sure I’ve proven her wrong.

I can cook lots of Thai food, in addition to Mexican and cupcakes. Also–after my mom decided that I was NOT Italian (although I am, biologically) but Mexican instead–I decided to prove her wrong on that account, too. I made polenta lasagne from scratch, and that was a success!

Today I made pizza. From scratch.

And while some recipes are strictly secret in our house, including pretty much all of the Italian food, I can’t tell you how to make the bread or sauce, but I will tell you what was on these delectable pizzas:

Pizza 1:

  • Chicken
  • Artichoke hearts
  • Organic sweet peppers (red, orange, and yellow)
  • Mozzerella, a handful of cheddar, and a bit of Romano

Pizza 2:

  • Fresh mozzerella
  • Fresh mushrooms
  • Organic fresh basil
  • Ricotta dollops
  • Romano

Both were amazing. Pizza No. 2 won, though, in my opinion. 🙂

I also made round pizzas that were slightly thinner crusted than my mom’s (so I could make two instead of one with the dough I had) instead of one thickly-crusted rectangle pan pizza. Highly recommend it!