Fear and Bloating in KnoxVegas

A largely irritated Momblog about the banalities of suburban life

Faster Fasting

We just had a three day weekend adjacent to my birthday. (Read this as:  I ate my weight in spicy, fried, red meaty, rich delights–accompanied by delightful potent beverages–not necessarily in that order.)

I don’t feel guilty. Hell, I don’t even feel that bad.  But I’m back on the Nutritarian bandwagon today.  Because I have noticed some positive changes after eating this way for three weeks (weekends off) now.  I do seem to have more energy and I do not crave those naughty foods that get me off track (and by crave I mean gut-cramping, mind-controlling, drool-inducing, soul-crushing, can’t-see-straight, lock-the-doors, rapacious mania.)  By “naughty foods,” I mean white starches, crispy, salty or cheesy things.

Am I really fasting? No. I have fasted before and that is freakin’ intense.  However, I am currently only eating three meals a day–very little (if any) snacking.  This is a departure for me. I don’t like feeling hungry. (Let’s face it, we in this country don’t know hunger.  What we experience is merely our appetite.) At any rate, I don’t like that gnawing feeling in my belly.  So, I’ll jam something in my gob to quell that feeling–a handful of pretzels, some chips, cheese, olives–whatever I can my greedy little mitts on.

So, I’m not doing that since starting this lifestyle.  If I am really feeling voracious, I’ll grab a piece of fruit or some vegetables.  This is where things get similar to real fasting–you get spiritual about eating and food.  It stops being something that takes that bad feeling away–be it the acidic appetite feeling, the anxiety of whatever has cropped up during the day, the midday fatigue from not sleeping well the previous night, the boredom that comes with being cooped up in an office or at home all day…fill in the blank with your unpleasant feeling of choice.

Your coping mechanisms get amped up.  You fight through it.  And then you start thinking about when & what you are going to eat.  At first you fixate on it.  I’ve been experiencing a strange thing lately–when the time finally arrives to eat something, I can’t decide exactly what it should be.  Which is where the spirituality begins…

I start to carefully weigh my options.  I consider carefully what I should eat.  What does my body need?  What will best feed my brain?  I have stopped thinking about the consequences of my food choices; it really has become more about how food can build me up, make me stronger, make me function better.  It’s as though I’m in thoughtful communion with my sustenance.

I’m not getting all Dalai Lama here, I know this is somewhat trivial.  Except that it isn’t.  Food prevents our dying.  I also know that I am a total hypocrite, given my behavior on weekends.  The thing is, there is no one right path.  You do what you have to do to access that part of yourself–the part of yourself that makes your head warp through six dimensions when a new sense of perception enters your mind.

Anyway, this was dinner tonight: 

Dal (stewed red lentils) with assorted curry blends, a lot of vegetables, and some garbanzos.  I used a bit of coconut milk and topped off the works with cilantro, red onion & chilies.  Turnip greens, simmered with a goodly amount of garlic & onion and dressed with lemon juice.  Quinoa was the grain tonight.  It was good.

The last bonus of eating this way?  When I eat a meal now, I can actually feel it affecting me.  I feel it entering into my bloodstream.  My energy returns, my spirits lift (and stay lifted for a much longer time) and I don’t need a nap.

To Veg or Not to Veg

It’s Friday.  It’s a long weekend.  To this point, we have been eating vegan on Fridays, as well as during the week.  I couldn’t do it today.  Today, we were lowly vegetarians.

Dinner:Black beans & rice, topped with melted white cheddar, sour cream & cilantro Black beans & (brown) rice, cooked with some red bell pepper, carrot & garlic, cumin, ancho & smoked paprika (no salt, no oil.)

But I was feeling cravy.  I needed some dairy.  I needed some sharp cheddar.  I wanted some sour cream.  I had both of those things.  And I put some Frank’s Red Hot on there, too. (Total salt bomb–and it was great.)

We also had big (not bigass, but big) salads, and some steamed broccoli.

Look, a girl wants what she wants.  And sometimes she wants cheese & sour cream.  I also want some bacon fat popcorn…and I’m not sure the Willpower Gods will be able to snuff the Craving Gods.

Root Down

Hmm…so how’m I gonna kick it?

With a megasalad and no grains tonight.  There are only so many ways one can have beans, greens & grains.  I mixed things up a bit tonight: 

I roasted some sweet potatoes in a hot oven in my cast iron skillets–minus any oil or salt.  The results?  Meh…they would have been killer roasted up in some bacon fat.

I also roasted some beets, the normal method–wrapped in foil, no oil or salt, in  a hot oven until they are tender, about an hour.

I threw together a quick garbanzo dealie–carrots, celery, red bell pepper, garlic, artichoke hearts and herbs.  Completed the dish with some steamed some turnip greens.

Again, it was tasty and filling.  I feel good about eating this stuff.  I know that it is likely undoing some of the damage I have done to myself.  Don’t get me wrong–I wouldn’t take back a millisecond of my indulgent years.  Honestly, I am glad I had these past 6 years to enjoy all that I could get my greedy chops on.  And I still plan on getting my grindz on.  Every. Weekend.  Ever.

Desperately Seeking Savory

One of the perks of this vegan lifestyle is that my taste buds are experiencing a rebirth.  No, really.  My go-to seasonings prior to this experiment have been salt, pepper, fish sauce, soy sauce and dried chili pepper(s).

The first week of no salt was, well…agonizing.  It took me awhile to analyze why exactly that was.  Everything that week tasted pretty good.  I used my best tricks to make bland things palatable.  Here’s what I figured out:

Most food is inherently sweet.

I’m not a big “sweets” person.  My favorite sweets are those involving butter & salt–toffee, caramel, butterscotch–and even those I would most often trade out for something with either a crispy, battered & fried or peppery, seared crust.

Without salt, grains…are sweet.  Without salt, beans are predominantly sweet. Leafy greens?  With the exception of mustard & collards,  greens have a pronounced sweetness.

So what is a savory gal (such as myself) to do surrounded by such sweetness?  She tries to achieve true umami.

The things that I have found to work best are finely minced raw red onion, thin slices of fresh chilies (we’ve been using serrano, from the garden), minced cilantro and toasted nuts & seeds.  These things actually work best in combination with one another.  Seaweeds and liquid aminos are also very good, but of course these actually contain a good bit of sodium.  (I rationalize this by reminding myself that seaweed & liquid aminos also have nutrients in them, unlike plain salt or soy sauce.)

Dinner tonight (with a huge-ass salad prelude):

Red beans, cooked with garlic, onion & a tiny bit of coconut milk; smoky turnip greens and herbed, germinated buckwheat groats.

I was really not sure about turnip greens.  Turns out they are fabulous.  The cook fast, get very tender & have not a trace of bitterness.  By far my favorite green so far, and I believe this will go a long way to getting me to that “one-pound-of-greens-per-day” goal.  (I have been meeting the “one-pound-of-salad-greens-per-day” goal, without much trouble.)

I am thinking about conquering real collards this weekend, and I know just where to get the pork jowl bacon.  They will taste sooooooooo good with the fried chicken I have been fantasizing about.  I will preemptively atone for the sins of the upcoming weekend by running my ass off early tomorrow morning, in my new birthday sneakers.

Stature of Limitations

Week 3.  Whew.

So, the spouse has been surprisingly on board with this whole “weekday vegan” thing.  And we have been eating outstanding, meaty, salty, cheesy dinners on the weekends (and even on the weekends, we begin lunch & dinner with a big-ass salad.)

Sooooo…three weeks in & the spouse has dropped 12 lbs.  And you can SEE it on him.  His face is cut, his midsection is whittling down, his clothes hang differently–he looks good.  He has even started working out–and bought a new pair of running shoes.

I hate him.

I’m doing the exact same plan as he, and I have lost–wait for it–2 lbs.  Damn it.  I have been even stricter on the plan than he–and I’ve been working out–HARD for 2 weeks.

Two. Lousy. Pounds.

OK, so my clothes fit a little differently (thank God for small favors.) Nothing groundbreaking.  I still have a lot of clothes from graduate school–even some high school stuff.  It still fits–just differently since I’ve had kids.  (And–for the record–I was not a thin high school or grad school student, and these garments fall into the extra-baggy category.)

But this tells me a few things:  A. The manner in which I was eating before was not terribly high in calories, B. I must get more exercise than I think, just chasing my kids around & doing housework and C. I can go back to having my fancy cocktails. (Right???)

This was lunch today.  That is a half-pound of salad greens, topped with salt-free, fat-free black beans leftover from last night’s dinner.  (I included the coffee mug to give a sense of scale–I’m not sure that it was effective.  That is a big muthatruckin’ salad.)  No dressing, just a squeeze of lime juice and nary a dash of salt.  It was actually pretty tasty.

And here’s my dinner salad. A generous half-pound of salad greens. With tomatoes and a puree of avocado, raw garlic & lime for the dressing (note the lack of salt.) 

The rest of my dinner was this:

White beans simmered with carrot, celery, pepper, onion, rosemary & oregano.  No salt, no oil.  Kale steamed, with garlic.  No salt, no oil.  Brown rice, less than 1/2 a cup.  My snacks for the day included a nectarine and some carrots & celery. And I ran this morning–at 5:45am.  (All this salad must be negatively affecting my judgement.)

Suffice it to say, I must remember that I can not diet and exercise my way to a 5’7″ frame.  I actually do feel better, and as the good doc has suggested, I do not crave salty foods or starches.  I think about them, fondly…but I do not ferociously crave them, as I did before.

But my birthday is coming up…and I feel some fried chicken coming on.

Cocktail with Benefits

It is Friday.  Very technically the weekend.

Dinner:  Heaping salad with leftover beans & corn.  I splurged and drizzled about a teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil over the top, along with some champagne vinegar.

My reward for behaving this week.  My signature cocktail, the Thai-tini.  Chili-infused vodka, simple syrup, lime juice & muddled cilantro.  Salad! Isn’t it?

Life is good friends, life is good.

Mean Joe Bean

I recently made acquaintance with collard greens…and they were likely the best greens in the country.  Yeah, I’m a little late to the game.  I’m going to go ahead and play the Yankee card here.

So, they were delicious–and I knew (even though I was a collards virgin) that I had just tasted something extraordinary; that not everyone could make a dish like this.  I expected something bitter, what I experienced was sweet, smoky, salty–even creamy (which I can only attribute to whatever luscious pork hunk was in there simmering away with the greens.)  They were delicate–and greens (outwardly) are formidable–what with their army-green coloring and less than appetizing name. I am in love with Bolton’s collard greens.  If Bolton’s had a Vegas location, I would marry these greens.

About tonight’s meal–big salad?  Check. 

Greens?  Vegan collards.  Beans? Black eyed peas.  Cornbread? No–in the spirit of eating “whole” foods, I made a roasted corn salad.

Everything was oil-free and salt-free. I toasted some pumpkin seeds for the salads.  I used Liquid Smoke for the beans & the greens.  A bit of red onion, lime juice & cilantro with the corn.  All in all, it was relatively tasty.

But, I know that salty, porky, sweet greens are out there, waiting for me.  I know that beans are sooooo much nicer with a dash of salt.

I also know that I am going to misbehave my ass off this weekend.

Saladus Colossus

Whew.

I’m getting a little burned out already.  I’m only on the third day of week two.  And I took the weekend off–this does not bode well.

The major tenet of this lifestyle (Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s Eat to Live) is that leafy greens are the key to health.  And I mean a LOT of leafy greens.  To the tune of one POUND of raw leafy greens (read as: salad) and one POUND of cooked leafy greens–per DAY.  In other words, the salad IS the meal.

So, I am on day seven of having two enormous salads every day (so is the spouse).  Dr. Fuhrman also calls for no more than one starch serving per day–best for it to be a whole grain.  No problem there, except whole grain pasta is evidently not the best way to get your whole grains–technically, it is processed (I admit, I hadn’t considered this before.)

And, oils are out.  Even olive oil–it too, is a processed food (again–I hadn’t thought about it before.)  And–the part that makes me weep–no added salt. This has probably been the toughest part.

This has made me rethink how I prepare everything.  Can’t saute in a little olive oil.  Can’t add salt to sweat the veg.  Can’t drizzle a little soy sauce on the tofu fried rice.  Can’t put a dash of salt on the beans & rice.  Salad dressings?  Yeah–that’s been a challenge.

So here’s dinner tonight: 

That’s a dinner plate, heaping with salad.  I made an avocado-kiwi-lime-roasted garlic dressing for it, in my blender.  I topped it with raw, unsalted sunflower kernels that I toasted in a pan, some minced red onion and a few slices of serrano chili from our garden.

 

Below, is a small plate.  An actual salad plate, with my beans, greens & grains for the day.  (I have not been able to get a full pound of cooked leafy greens in my body, yet.)  I cooked the garbanzos from dried beans (so as to avoid any added salt), then stewed them with onion, cubanelle peppers & rosemary from our garden, tomatoes and dried oregano.  I topped them with fresh basil, champagne vinegar and hot pepper flakes.  The greens are kale, braised with garlic, in water–with some chili flakes.  The grains are wheat berries–seasoned with nothing.

Here’s the thing–the meal was actually pretty tasty.  And satisfying.

Yet, I weep saltless tears.

Toning and Atonement

I have some serious atoning to do.

It has been a great summer, and I have been living high off the hog (nearly literally.)  The family & I have had a marvelous time–visiting family & friends, eating rich, crispy foods and trying fabulous new cocktails (well, not the kids, but I did let them have some pop throughout the summer–which I never, ever do).  It was a carefree summer; one where I didn’t stop to consider my (considerable) hips or thighs before trying whatever delight was set in front of me.  I simply threw caution to the wind–and it was f&%*ing great .

And I’m sure I did some damage.

We took a trip to Nashville for our last hurrah of the summer.  We visited some friends, took the kids to Cheekwood, ate some mind-blowing hot chicken, got some pho, drank some wine, and got to talking…about nutrition.

I have long considered myself an amateur nutritionist.  I dabbled in vegetarianism as a kid, and went full bore at age 18.  I was a vegan for two years.  And–just to be clear–I was not a fun vegetarian/vegan.  I was totally inflexible, thinking that if I were going to be a vegetarian, I was all in–or why bother?  I didn’t like imposing my food dealies on anyone , but it sure made dating me a colossal pain in the ass (and my vegetarianism was the only thing that made me pain in the ass–of this I am certain.)  Hey, I’m a fun gal.

Over this past summer, I have overindulged on a few occasions…on delights both fried and boozy.  But something is different–I feel…tired.  I actually had a hangover headache–that hasn’t happened to me since 1998.

Thanks to those friends we visited last, I have made literary acquaintance with Dr. Joel Fuhrman.  I have read his book Eat To Live.  I highly recommend it to anyone who has even the vaguest interest in nutrition.  In it, the Board Certified Family Physician punches considerable holes in conventional nutritional wisdom, gives specific outlines for how to implement his ideas into your life and backs up all of his writings with scientific research, studies and his own field work with the hundreds (if not thousands) of patients he has counseled.  I don’t doubt a single idea he proffers up as being anything but accurate.

It is meatless.  It is cheeseless.  It is (mostly) grainless.  It is saltless.  It has no added oil of any kind.  Yet, it is not (entirely) joyless (at the moment.)

One of the things from my veggie years that I reflect upon fondly is that I learned how to make unexciting, unmeaty, uncheesy foods tasty.  And I think that is why I hopped back on the meat bandwagon so voraciously at age 30–it is pretty easy to make that stuff taste good.  And with a little extra effort (or know-how) it can taste stellar.

So, 4 days ago, I bid a fond farewell to tasty life with a big bowl of my beloved white carb/salt bomb indulgence–Shin Ramyun.

So far, no one has complained about the new vegan menu.  We began our venture with Tofu Fried Rice, but I cheated and used soy sauce. The next night we had beans & rice (which we actually eat quite often.) BUT–this was saltless, olive oil-less, cheeseless, sour creamless beans & rice.  And no one griped.

Last night, I tried my hand at succotash. 

This evening, we had vegan red bean burritos, with homemade whole wheat (no added fat) tortillas.  Again, no one complained.

This all seems fairly unsustainable, so I am going to go ahead and declare myself a fair-weather Nutritarian.  I’m taking weekends off, so stay back!

Insecurity is the New Vanity

I’m wrestling with a decision.  A ridiculous decision. A decision that most people could and would make over a cup of coffee.  It is something to which I am giving entirely too much weight and consideration.

Vanity.  This is unfamiliar territory for me.  I’m not being superior or holier-than-thou.  I’ve never had much reason to be vain.  I wasn’t a cute kid–no outstanding physical attributes.  In my family, that role was filled by my brother;  golden curls, olive skin and big puppy dog eyes framed by long, long lashes.  He was adorable.  I, on the other hand, have pale skin and freckles, did the braces and glasses thing in my preteen years, and have a decidedly asymmetric face, complete with bizarro nose.  Let’s just say I never put much stock in my looks. (However, I was cute for about 10 minutes in the Fall of 1996.)

Nor did I possess a grand intellect. That position is ably held by my sister–damn, she’s a smart cookie (and she was super cute–still is).  Don’t get me wrong–I don’t think I’m stupid or anything, but whatever brains I’ve got have never elevated me to the level of “standout.”  Looking back, it appears that my role in the family was that of the cautious, responsible one (mostly).  I was a standout at being steady (outwardly, anyway.)

So, vain?  No.  Insecure?  For many years, yes.  Admittedly, I didn’t always deal with my insecurities in the healthiest of ways.  I had mostly evolved past that by my mid-twenties.  It wasn’t difficult–I just stopped looking.

Age has also never been something that I have never been terribly concerned with.  I am one of those people who often can’t remember their age–I have been outspokenly WRONG about my age.  My mother used to tell me that I was 40 when I was born.  I likely will have to consult my sister with regard to my next age change.  Yet, I am starting to see evidence that age isn’t just a number…age is what happens to your face when you are not looking.

In addition to my laundry list of physical flaws (perceived or otherwise), I have a mop of gray hair.  I found my first grays at around age 14.  It’s totally hereditary, and I have the family photos to back that up.  Many of the women in my family have fought the good fight against their grays, only to embrace it later in life (typically by their early 40′s.)

I sort of halfway fought the fight, starting in my teens.  I say “halfway” because I would never choose a hair color that was my own.  Sometimes I would get close to the dark brown that Mother Nature gave me, but mostly I chose outlandish platinum blondes or brassy reds.  In retrospect, I don’t think I was really trying to hide my grays.  I think I was just using them as an excuse to be experimental (and goofy looking.)

Regardless, I (mostly) have embraced my grayness (because I just don’t care that much.) Until recently, that is.

A dye-job.  That’s my big crisis.  Whattodo, whattodo.  If I give in to my little aging demons, I’m not getting a do-it-yourself kit, like I used to do–because I actually want it to look good.  That’s what’s eating at me–my motives have changed.  I actually GIVE a shit what I look like.  Sort of.

What’s bothering me (I think) is that I look older than I really am (I think I am 35–can someone fact-check that for me?)  I have friggin’ AGE SPOTS on my cheeks (no doubt it’s sun damage, even though I live my life mostly as a shut-in), wrinkles around my eyes that don’t go away when I stop smiling, and perma-creases in my forehead.

Why do I suddenly care about this stupid crap?  And can someone please recommend a good colorist?

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