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Slouching Towards Sustainability

July 31, 2012
In the light of my lessening, I believe more than ever that my mindless gluttony had no moral or ethical aspects.  Despite my parents’ abiding indictments, eating crap was just eating crap.  It didn’t mean that in some way I had a character flaw or that some inwardly irresponsible fissure in my soul evidenced itself by ridiculous overindulgence.  All it meant was that crappy food tastes good and eating a lot of crappy food often feels really good and allowed social situations and “me time” to have some sensual satisfaction.Losing the lard suit didn’t mean I was the master of my being.  I am no less likely to be an ass when my ass is smaller, no less likely to say the wrong thing to relatives or tear down the wrong wall when renovating the family room.  I was only making my body align with my self-perception.I wish I could say that the easiest part of losing weight was the dropping pounds and that the hard part is keeping it off.  That sounds good, but it would be a lie.  Eating meat and water for six months is hard, and eating zero refined carbohydrates or any fats for another three months is also hard.  Another side benefit of a radical approach to losing weight is that if what follows the very hard is less hard you’ve plowed the field of psycho-physiological acceptance for a permanently restricted menu. A mild comfort, but better than gobbling back on the sack of fat I lived inside of for 25 years.  Given that no spouse, parent, doctor or cultural imperative caused this attitude adjustment, I have no one to satisfy (or more likely, to disappoint or deceive) other than myself.  Since judge and jury are looking back at me when I walk up to a mirror, how I sustain the change is really up to me and me alone.

It’s not easy to say “no” to foods that you have grown up with, loved, and have provided 50 years of comfort in all states of boredom, stress, empowering ardor, and, well, hunger.  However, I’ve found there are some foods, and approaches to food, that can actually make “life after mass” palatable, so to speak.  Rather than offer a prescriptive “menu”, or even a “plan”, let me recount the things that work for me without the mind-numbing recantation of calories, fat grams, fiber content, etc. ad nauseum.  These are food items I regularly ingest without any sense of limitation:

1.       Limited calorie fluids.  I still eschew milk in any form.  It simply has too many calories per gulp.  Fruit juices don’t pass muster for the same reason (which is why I still take a multivitamin every day to prevent scurvy).  What I do drink, because I always have and it has relatively few calories per serving, is tomato juice or its fairly whacked out cousin, V8.  That, plus Bloody Mary mix and every form of unsweetened iced tea known to mankind, Diet Coke and the occasional coffee binge (black, of course) represent the sum total of my slurping consumption (along with a quart or so of water every day).  Of course, when there are “special events” ethanol slips through the passages to my innards and is gratefully received and appreciated.

2.       Zero fat Greek-style yogurt.  Yogurt, a little bit like cottage cheese, can have an acrid and disgusting quality which is, (not unlike cottage cheese), only enhanced in its yuckiness by the “separation” of pus-like liquid from “solids”.  But Greek yogurt is somehow different.  It is smooth, creamy, and has a no fat calorie version.  With a tiny bit of maple syrup or honey and some almonds, this yogurt becomes a reasonable facsimile of a dessert.  It also provides protein, which is helpful if in your exercise regime you are trying to make dense muscle mass (which in turn burns calories when you are sedentary).

3.       Massive fruit consumption.  As noted elsewhere in this blog, fruit has entered into my diet where once it was excluded.  The goal is to have more high fiber fruit (meaning more bananas, melon and pineapple rather than sweeter oranges and grapes).  The more fiber the fruit has the more full you feel, the less overtly sweet the fruit is, the less you crave other, evil, sweets.

4.       Tomatoes.  Truly ripe tomatoes can now be found twelve months out of the year, courtesy of the large carbon footprint shipping system that connects all climates at all times.  Tomatoes have very few calories, lots of fiber, and a taste that, for me, needs only salt and pepper to make them a pure delight .  This may be a little acetic for some of you, but the truth is that a ripe tomato is bliss for me.

5.       Clear soups or Gazpacho.  Any soup without refined carbohydrates (white rice, white flour noodles) or a cream (read fat) base fills the bill.  Oftentimes I have to accept that fact that the vast majority of soups do have some refined carbohydrate mixed in with all the inoffensive stuff, and typically since I’m not providing myself fat as a  taste sensation, salt and pepper often take its place.  But the truth is that you can eat a whole lot of Gazpacho and ingest almost no fat calories (depending on the quantity of oil used in its preparation).

6.       Vegetable salads. Whether corn or broccoli, semi-raw vegetables with just a hint of oil or other forbidden fat, a bit of onion-izing, salt and peppering, provide a low calorie/high bulk ingestion and create a happy sense of fullness that was previously reserved for stomach filling sugar and lard laced delights.

7.       Grilled everything. Some foods are fat (nuts, butter, avocados) others use fat in preparation to sneak a ticking time bomb of bloat into your innards. So cooking over an open flame (meat or vegetables) heads the fats off at the pass – and there are no pots to clean.

8.       Drink your dessert.  Rather than have some fat and sugar entrained glob at the end of some celebratory event, why not have fewer calories (and no fat) by having an ounce (or three) of some delectable ethanol product?  Whether it’s single malt Scotch, single batch bourbon, ancient port, or other super flavor intensive booze, sipping these savory substances has a depth of reward no fluffy pastry could begin to match.

9.       Only eat when hungry.  Unlike the “feel good” pop culture pronouncements that thin people eat breakfast, let’s get real.  Saying that fat people don’t eat breakfast is about as crazy as saying that only tall people play basketball.  Many fat people eat three squares a day and many thin people skip breakfast, and if you’re suffering from a syndrome of excessive calorie intake, shoving a few hundred more calories down your throat (no matter how whole grain/natural/low fat) may just be enough to put you over the edge – I prefer the novel concept that you should never eat unless you are truly hungry.  I wish I could say that I always follow this ethos, as I often eat simply for the taste or because of the culture of ingestion, but at least I try to listen to my stomach first, and grab and chew second.

Clearly radical getting rid of one third of myself revealed how my body actually processes food – versus how I wished it did.  When I eat refined carbohydrates (breads), my body seems to literally “puff up” by a few pounds.  I have absolutely no idea why this happens, but it does.  So when I puff up, I eschew refined carbohydrates and focus on working out like a mother, and over a few days my body comes back down to where it was before I grabbed those 24 Ritz crackers at the reception. Of course, all of this thought and anxiety could probably be short-circuited simply by going to somebody who knows what they’re talking about (I think they call them doctors), but that’s not exactly part of my life pattern.

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