Nom

So here’s why I love the internet. A few years back, I found a recipe in some magazine for this awesome garlic-orange spinach. I made it a couple times, lost the recipe, thought of it fondly on occasion, but never bothered trying again, because I couldn’t remember exactly how to make it.

Now, you could argue I didn’t really need a recipe, considering the ingredients are seriously oil, garlic, orange juice, and spinach, period (okay, salt, pepper, and orange zest, too, if you’re feeling fancy), but I am such a lousy cook I didn’t trust myself to use the right amounts or put them in the pan in the right order without the recipe. So yesterday, when I suddenly decided I HAD to have that garlic-orange spinach again, I Googled those three words in hopes of finding something similar, and the number one result was exactly the recipe I wanted — turns out it was from O. That is why I love the internet.

And this recipe is so good, fast, and unfuckupable even for a cook like me, I decided I had to blog it. Here’s what you do.

1. Slice up some garlic.

2. Put some oil in a pan over medium high heat.

3. Cook the garlic for 30 seconds-ish.

4. Add 3 tbsp. orange juice and cook for another 30 seconds.

5. Throw in a bunch of spinach (and a little orange zest if you’re a keener) and cook for like a minute

That’s it. For more specific directions, check out the real recipe, but there’s a whole lot of leeway on the amounts, actually. (Because I can fuck up even unfuckupable recipes, I failed to adjust the amount of juice relative to the amount of spinach I used tonight, so I ended up pulling the soaking wet spinach and garlic out with a slotted spoon. Still yummy.) Oh, and the issue it came from was, iirc, all about “superfoods,” which is why they say to use grapeseed oil. Fuck that. Whatever oil you have on hand will do.

I can’t say for sure if this is the kind of recipe that would have made me like spinach as a kid, but it’s definitely the kind that makes me want to eat a truckload of spinach now, just as much as I want to eat a truckload of fries at other times. Which makes me sad once again to think of how long it took me to fully appreciate that bitter vegetables + tasty extras = nom. I mean, I actually could have gotten away with this recipe while dieting (though I probably would have used a single spray of olive-oil flavored PAM and halved the O.J., and I definitely wouldn’t have followed it up with ice cream as I did tonight), but it didn’t fit with my image of what veggies were supposed to represent: virtue, purity, nutritional overachieving. I wasn’t some wuss who needed a pat of butter on my broccoli — give it to me steamed and unadulterated! Let nothing come in contact with my veggies that might detract from their Goodness! Thin people don’t enjoy food, for Christ’s sake!

Feh. Allow me to quote myself:

This is bullshit, people. Once again, the conflation of “fattening” with “unhealthy” has completely warped our concept of reasonable eating. I know it took me forever after I stopped dieting to realize that yes, I could eat a salad with full-fat dressing, cheese, croutons, and even — gasp! — bacon, and I would still be getting a nice big dose of greens, peppers, broccoli, carrots, whatever. And, miracle of miracles, I would not secretly feel deprived — like choosing to eat salad was a moral victory but a practical disappointment — and subsequently crave a burger and fries more strongly than ever.

…I am not, of course, a health care professional or nutritionist, but from one ex-dieter to another, I hereby give you permission to drink fruit juice and eat your veggies with fat. You will not cancel out their nutritional value. (Well, you’ll lose fiber drinking juice instead of eating fruit, but since you’ll still eat fruit at other times and get fiber from other sources, it’s still okay.) You will not go to hell. You will not even get any fatter, if you’re already at your set point. You’ll just be eating and drinking stuff that tastes good and contains lots of nutrients your body needs.

Shapelings, tell me about your favorite veggie recipes that involve butter, oil, sugar, cheese, bacon, Hollandaise, chocolate cake, whatever. Bonus points if they have less than five ingredients.

Non-headless non-fatty

As Jessica at Feministing notes, the Wall Street Journal, that bastion of…something, has launched a new “women’s” section online. Three guesses what kind of topic is considered Suitable for the Ladies. Okay, to be fair, there are some career and politics-oriented articles, but there are also the obligatory articles on shopping, exercising, and dieting. The dieting article is almost HAES in drag: it’s about mindful eating and its potential to help chronic dieters or those with eating disorders. Sounds good, right? Well, it would be if it didn’t emphasize the weight loss of one participant, and if it didn’t include this delightful quote from a psychotherapist:

“I’ve worked with lots of obese people — you’d think they’d enjoy food. But a lot of them say they haven’t really tasted what they’ve been shoveling down for years.”

Use of “obese”? Check. Stereotypes about fat people? Double check! Fatties both loooove food AND can’t enjoy it because they’re shoveling it down too fast to have normal human experiences like “taste.” Mind you, the article does discuss binge-eating disorders in a reasonable way, but that’s not what our friend the psychotherapist is talking about — she just means any old “obese people” out there. You just can’t stop tear them away from the baby-flavored donuts!

But what really burns my cookies is the picture used to illustrate it. I was expecting a Headless Fatty, natch, but oh no, they’ve gone one better:

Mindless?

Hillary Clinton is not mentioned once in this article. Is she a binge eater? A chronic dieter? Does she practice mindful eating? Who knows? Who cares! It doesn’t matter. She’s a Lady, you see. And the WSJ is all about The Ladies. I’m sure running an unflattering picture of the first major female presidential candidate next to a headline about being “mindless,” for an article that reminds us that sometimes women eat cake! and then they get fat!, is just a random pairing that has nothing to do with WSJ’s notoriously stodgy editorial stance.

This article, which actually delivers what could be a fat-positive or at least fat-neutral stance, is framed as a way to keep all those silly fatties and mindless women from devouring the world. No woman is immune from public scrutiny of her diet: not even if you are rich, white, able-bodied, post-menopausal, and a US Senator can you avoid being used as a cautionary tale of The Dangers of Women Eating.

“It’s not real food, it’s yogurt!”

I spent time with several wonderful fatties this weekend (among them Kate, The Rotund, Lesley of Fatshionista, Meowser, and Substantia Jones) and our lunch conversation consisted, in part, of a bunch of us repeating just about every line from this video and then laughing our asses off. It’s only tangentially fat-related, but it’s a pitch-perfect takedown of the way food — and, in turn, ideas about denial, indulgence, and femininity — are marketed to women.

Not safe for work, but only because you are probably going to lose your shit laughing.

Ask Aunt Fattie: How do I stop grief eating?

Dear Aunt Fattie,

My father is dying. The end is very close – he’s in his final hours. In the past, I’ve always been unable to eat in times of extreme stress. My stomach would knot up and the mere thought of food would nauseate me. A bad breakup could be counted on for a 20 – 30 lb weight loss.

This time is different. The only thing that seems to help me cope with my grief is food. I just want to eat and eat and eat all the time, even when I just finished eating and couldn’t possibly be physically hungry. And it’s all high fat and/or high sugar foods that I’m craving – pizza and nachos and ice cream and rich desserts. I feel bloated and sluggish and I still can’t stop eating.

How do I stop this constant grief eating and get through this without a significant weight gain?

- Grief Eater

Continue reading

Attack of the Samoas

All right, I have a confession to make: I really don’t like Thin Mints.

Judging by some recent posts about Girl Scout Cookie season (and their comments), I guess this is a little heretical. As is the fact that I’m not too fussed about Girl Scout Cookies in general. I do like me some Caramel deLites (that’s what Samoas are called around these parts), but there are plenty of very similar cookies I could get at the grocery store year-round if I really wanted them. And I usually don’t. They’re tasty, but… so are a gazillion other things. Not to mention, the older I get the less I’m inclined to go for highly processed, packaged cookies at all. They were never all that high on my Favorite Treats list to begin with, and these days, living in a city where I can get awesome homemade (or close to it) cookies at several locations within 2 blocks of my apartment, I rarely find myself craving the kind sold by little girls or elves.

(Please note that this is not me getting on my food snob high horse. My food snob horse is built more like this. Packaged cookies just don’t happen to do it for me.)

So I’m feeling rather left out as I observe all the OMG THIN MIIIIIIINTS! comments sweeping the blogosphere these days.

And also, rather angry.

Why angry? About cookies? Well, let’s start with the FAQ at the Girl Scouts of America’s site.

Q. Obesity is at epidemic levels, particularly childhood obesity. Does it concern you that by selling cookies you are contributing to a very real health threat?

Q. How do you answer concerns of those on low-carb diets?

Okay, so who wants to bet me a nickel that first question was submitted by MeMe Roth? As for the second, I cannot even believe this is a real question, let alone a frequently asked one. You know how I answer the concerns of those on low-carb diets? DON’T EAT FUCKING COOKIES.

And that’s just the tip of the ol’ ‘berg. Yesterday, Shapeling Stefanie sent me a link to this post at Ken Levine’s blog, by his daughter Annie, about how Girl Scout Cookies now come in those infernal 100-calorie packs — and, get this:

On the back of each of the cookie packs it says this:

Girls can burn calories and have fun with 30 minutes of activities like these: Ice Skating—126 calories. Gymnastics—72 calories…

WHAT?!

Why don’t they just start giving out merit badges for weight loss? Or maybe their uniforms could only go up to size “medium” …y’know, for incentive. Why can’t they just call them “fun packs” like the good old days? When these little girls start thinking they’re fat and asking how many calories are in their graham crackers and juice box, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

*epic headdesk*

But on the positive side, at least I’m reading that and thinking, “Yay, this Annie person is sane! And funny! That makes me want to stick my head in the oven a little less!”

Then I get to the comments.

I would worry less about the kids, and more about all those adults who are so weak in the face of sugary, fat-laden empty-calorie treats that they can’t face a normal-size package of them without eating the entire thing.

Some might think that it’s a bad thing to introduce kids to this stuff, but with so many bad options for (fast) food, I think it’s best that they learn about healthy eating when they’re still young.

At the same time, kids are exercising less and less and getting fatter every day. And here they are selling cookies. I don’t condone anorexia, but it might be a good idea to teach kids that you can’t eat box after box of cookies and never gain any weight

You don’t condone anorexia. That’s… nice.

And, finally, we get the full-on OBESITY EPIDEMIC BOOGA BOOGA BOOGA Concern Troll:

Really!?!? Don’t you think it’s about time we start teaching kids how to manage a healthy lifestyle though good eating habits? Teach them how calories are a measure of energy and how that is converted once we eat it. We spend way too much time marketing food to our kids it is no wonder that obesity has become a problem in our country. Over the past 20 years, the proportion of overweight children ages six through 11 has more than doubled and the rate for kids 12 through 19 has tripled (CDC).

You’re misplacing blame here Annie… Eating disorders are not a result of teaching kids to eat healthy. Generally teaching healthy eating habits would include teaching kids about the dangers of not eating enough. I think the only thing Girl Scout cookies teach kids is how to push product. You’re way off base here. Honestly, the Girl Scouts should probably be selling fresh fruit.

Bingo!

Where to fucking begin? How about the assumption that without the aid of 100-calorie packs, people will be helpless in the face of the dreaded (but oh-so-desired) Girl Scout Cookie, and just eat BOX AFTER BOX? Children, even. Children with their child-sized stomachs. There’s certainly no way they would naturally figure out when to stop, based on cues like, oh, I don’t know… feeling satisfied? Or, failing that, eventually feeling like they’re gonna barf — which, for the vast majority of kids, will happen well before they get through one box? (And also might just teach them a valuable life lesson like, “Don’t eat so damn many cookies,” without parents, educators, or MeMe Roth ever having to say a word?)

For the gazillionth fucking time, eating “box after box” of cookies is called Binge Eating Disorder, not “What every human being would naturally do if we weren’t all bugfuck crazy about calorie-counting.” But if you don’t have BED, and instead you just have some insane fucking nightmare/fantasy about how you TOTALLY WOULD eat box after box of cookies if you ever stopped rigidly controlling your diet for ten seconds — and accordingly, you assume that that is how all fat people eat, all the time, so not only do you have to rigidly control your own diet, you’re morally obligated to make sure everyone else is equally vigilant? Well, you might have an eating disorder, too, come to think of it. But you also might just be a giant douche. In which case, please eat 10 whole boxes of STFU and call me in the morning.

Having said that, in the case of Girl Scout Cookies, this kind of hysteria is a little easier than usual to understand. As the Rotund points out, the fact that the cookies only come around once a year is a brilliant marketing plan — which is to say, it’s a brilliant recipe for making people fucking fetishize a bunch of frankly lackluster cookies.

This is one situation in which I think people freak out and eat more than they planned as an overreaction to deprivation. Meanwhile, because I’m allowed to have a fucking cookie whenever I want, I’ve had the same box of Thin Mints in my freezer since LAST Girl Scout cookie season. I only eat them with vanilla ice cream and only when that is what I really want.

They are just cookies.

I mean, of course we all know she’s lying about that box of Thin Mints, seeing as how she’s fat and all. Fat people can’t keep a box of cookies in the house for more than 15 minutes! Especially not GIRL SCOUT COOKIES! But she has a point.

If you feel powerless in the face of Girl Scout Cookies in a way you don’t when you go up against, say, Keebler or Nabisco or Mr. Christie’s products? That is not because they’re just that good (they’re really, really not) or because they have crack in them, or — listen up, this one’s important — because you are secretly harboring a hideously undisciplined, morally suspect Fat Person inside you, who’s just dying to get out and ruin all your hard work. It’s because they ONLY COME AROUND ONCE A FUCKING YEAR. You know the desired object will soon disappear for a long time, so you flip out and hoard it. It ain’t rocket science. I mean, how many Shamrock Shakes have I ordered in my lifetime purely because, you know, it’s March! It’s green! It’s special! — only to be reminded with the first sip that I don’t even like minty stuff that much? (Which is why I don’t dig the Thin Mints. I do make an exception for mojitos, though.)

And now, I hope you’re sitting down and have some smelling salts and a trusted friend nearby, because I am about to BLOW YOUR MIND…

People tend to want what they can’t have. It’s true!

For Maude’s sake, y’all. As I’m reading all this blog-talk about Girl Scout Cookies, I keep thinking of the non-American readers who must think either A) We have all lost our goddamned minds, or B) “Damn, those cookies must have solid gold in them!”

Dear non-American readers,

It’s A.

Love, Kate

And as for trying to teach little girls to “eat healthy” by encouraging them to count calories consumed and burned, I will leave you with a quote from this brilliant (if not entirely fat-friendly) article La di Da linked to in comments the other day (emphasis mine):

Health and education professionals who work in the treatment and prevention of child obesity also need to be aware of the fact that their best intentions may have the potential to inadvertently do more harm than good. The unintentional creation of body image and weight concerns, dieting, disordered eating and eating disorders is a probable outcome of child obesity prevention programs that focus on the ‘problem’ of overweight and refer to issues of weight control. The vast majority of overweight children and adolescents know that they are fat and subsequently develop a poor body image and a fear of food (O’Dea et al., 1995; Neumark-Sztainer et al., 2002Go), as do many normal weight youth who incorrectly perceive themselves to be ‘too fat’ (Croll et al., 2002Go). It is a common myth that overweight children and adolescents are unconcerned about their weight or make little effort to try to control their weight. Health education messages about overweight and weight control are likely to make young people feel worse about their bodies and themselves in general.

Put that in your 100-calorie pack and eat it.

Be Comfortable in Your Genes

I’ve been remiss in not mentioning National Eating Disorders Awareness Week yet (and in not posting much this week at all). But hey, it’s only hump day — still plenty of week left.

The theme this year, which I absolutely love, is “Be Comfortable in Your Genes.

Brilliant. And not just because they’ve tied it into a 20% discount at True Jeans, an online retailer that asks about your measurements, style preferences, and body type, then tells you which brands of jeans will fit you best and sells them to you. (Of course, they recommend Svoboda jeans for me, which are out of my price range, not to mention too long, but the concept is great.)

Wait, I’m sorry, were we talking about something besides clothes?

Oh, right, eating disorders. They’re way less fun to talk about. But we bloody well need to be talking about them, because the line between disordered eating and what’s promoted as “healthy” eating grows ever slimmer (pun intended). The Department of Health and Human Services’s “Small Step” campaign, for instance, is ostensibly about helping people make little, sustainable lifestyle changes to improve their health. Awesome! Finally, the government promotes Health at Every Size! Except, wait. Those “small, sustainable” steps include things like, “Don’t eat a portion bigger than your fist” and “Eat your meals at home on a smaller plate” to fool yourself into thinking you’ve eaten more, and my personal favorite, “When dining out, order a light appetizer instead of an entree.”

This is what the government is telling us to do to be “healthier.” Eat a “light appetizer” instead of an entree — because of course ONLY GRODY FATTIES EAT FULL MEALS!! And let’s not think about the fact that only eating portions smaller than my fist would mean I couldn’t eat an entire apple, orange, pear, bell pepper, tomato, or cut-up carrot in one sitting. My tiny fist is equal to about 1 tangerine, 3 brussels sprouts, or 2 good-sized broccoli florets. If I never ate anything bigger than my fist, I would be FUCKING STARVING ALL THE TIME — but hey, since I’m fat, that’s not a problem. That’s the point.

I mean, many among us will recognize those “small steps” as hoary old diet tips, and some will even recognize them as the sort of helpful advice that circulates on pro-ana sites. But when it comes from the government, it is totally not about weight loss at any cost, even if it means disordered eating! It’s about OUR HEALTH.

Yeah.

Eating until you’re satisfied is bad for your health. Ordering an actual meal is bad for your health. Downing a WHOLE APPLE in one sitting is bad for your health. As long as you remember those things, you will be healthy, and once you get healthy enough, you will be able to wear “a bikini that challenges some obscenity laws.

This is how it works.

And this is why we need a National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Among about a billion other reasons.

Some other recommended reading this week…

Harriet Brown: “Anorexia: a portrait” (trigger warning)

Paul Campos: The weight of a cruel culture

Rachel: An eating disorder by any other name

The Rotund: Intuitive Eating Primer

Take care of yourselves, Shapelings. Cheers to those currently recovering from eating disorders — and love to those still fighting them.

Friday Fluff: Recipes

We got to talking about food in a comments thread the other day (imagine!), and I promised that I would soon devote a thread entirely to Shapelings’ favorite recipes.

Here is that thread.

As I’ve said many times here, I’m a crappy cook, but I do have two recipes that are always crowd pleasers. One is the oh-so-charmingly named Christmas Morning Wifesaver from the Best of Bridge cookbook*, which actually was our Christmas breakfast most years while I was growing up. If you’re afraid of white food, this one won’t be for you, but it’s damn tasty. (And fwiw, I’ve tried substitutions including brown bread, sausage, and red peppers, but in my experience, nothing’s as good as the original. Though if you’re lacto-ovo vegetarian, you could probably eliminate the meat and have a totally yummy eggy-cheesy thing.)

The second recipe is the kind I love best — only a handful of ingredients, so I can remember them all at the store and make it without having to consult the recipe. And basically foolproof. Of course, the fact that I always do it from memory means I don’t know the exact quantities of ingredients anymore, but there’s a ton of wiggle room here.

Spinach Lasagna Roll-Ups

  • 1 or 2 10-oz. packages of frozen spinach, depending on how much you like, thawed and squeezed out and whatnot — OR one large bag (or equivalent) of fresh spinach, wilted and chopped up in a food processor
  • About 2/3 of an average-sized tub of ricotta
  • 3 cups of other Italian cheeses — I usually get a bag of shredded Italian cheese blend and pour it in, but if you’re a keener, you can grate 1 cup of parmesan, 1 of mozzarella, one of romano or asiago or whatever, yourself
  • 2 eggs, maybe 3 (I can’t remember which the original recipe said, but I usually use 2)
  • 1 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 10 lasagna noodles (Original recipe called for oven-ready lasagna noodles, which you were supposed to soak in lukewarm water for 10 mins to make them flexible. This never works for me — they go straight from stiff to starchy mess when I have my back turned. So in Toronto, I always bought sheets of fresh lasagna noodles, ’cause they were easy to find. Here, they’re not, so I boil normal ones.)
  • One jar of your favorite tomato sauce

Preheat oven to 350. Mix up everything but the noodles and sauce in a large bowl. Pour half the jar of sauce in the bottom of a 13″ x 9″ pan. Spread some spinach and cheese goop on each lasagna noodle, roll ‘em up, and place them seam side down in the pan. Pour the rest of the sauce over the top. Bake covered for about half an hour. (I think the original recipe called for uncovering it and baking for 5 more mins., but I’ve never really seen the point.)

At least the first time you try it, resist the temptation to fancy it up with other ingredients. The best thing about this recipe is its utter simplicity — the flavors all blend perfectly, and adding extra garlic (the sauce should provide plenty) or mushrooms or whatever just messes with that. Don’t forget the nutmeg, though — it’s important.

Oh, and this recipe is awesome for people only cooking for one or two, because the roll-ups make it easy to freeze individual portions for later microwaving (which isn’t ideal, but they’re still pretty yummy that way).

All right, Shapelings, hit it. What’s your favorite recipe?

*I made this for my friend Mean Asian Girl’s baby shower, and she went, “Oh, is this that… Christmas Morning Wifebeater or whatever?” So that’s been the new name for Wifesaver around here since then. You can take your pick.

Intuitive Eating Case Study: My Last Three Meals

Last week, a reporter who was trying to get her head around the concept of Health at Every Size asked me, “So… what do you eat?”

Food, mostly. Tree bark and car parts are much harder for the human body to digest. Next question?

Smartassitude aside, I actually get questions like this a lot from readers — and usually, what they really mean is, “What am I allowed to eat to uphold my Good Fatty status?”

The answer is the same: food. But since I’m still learning intuitive eating as I go along, and I know how weird and… well, counterintuitive it can seem at first, let me tell you about the last 24 hours.

Yesterday, I had a photographer coming over in the late morning to take pictures of me for the article the aforementioned reporter was working on. This meant that I spent the early morning frantically tidying, selecting an outfit, and fucking with my hair. And I forgot to eat. Then the reporter was a bit late, and the shoot took a bit longer than I expected. So there I was at like 1 p.m. with no food in my belly, and I was fucking starving.

Al asked what I wanted for lunch, and I immediately said, “Hot dogs.” Plural. No question. At that moment, I felt like I wanted to eat about 10 of them, and I ended up ordering 2 at the restaurant we went to, which is unusual for me. Fries weren’t even on my radar — I just wanted dense, fatty meat like nobody’s business.

Why? Because I was hungry. Because my body was screaming for something that would fill me up as fast as possible.

Last night, I had plans to cook dinner, but then Al felt like going out. So we went to a restaurant that’s fast becoming one of our favorites. I looked over the menu, which includes steak, burgers, pulled pork, and pumpkin ravioli with sage and dates in brown butter sauce that is so fucking good, I can’t even tell you. (Not to mention the caramel apple bread pudding on the dessert menu, OH MY GOD.) I like all of those things. A lot. But what caught my eye last night was the tilapia with spinach and roast fingerling potatoes.

I’d never ordered it before, and I was really tempted to relive one of the yummy meals I’d had there in the past — the aforementioned ravioli, or another ravioli dish with vodka tomato cream sauce that was on special, or a huge bowl of corn poblano chowder, or the warm poached pear stuffed with blue cheese, alongside a big basket of fresh bread dipped in olive oil… But as I was considering all those things, I couldn’t get the tilapia out of my head, which told me that was what I really wanted. (Well, that and the bread, which is half the reason we go there.)

Logically, choosing what you really want from a menu ain’t rocket science, but I don’t know anyone who hasn’t at some point been paralyzed with indecision while a waiter stood around tapping his foot. For me, indecision is part of going out as often as not, and it’s always for one of two reasons: 1) I’m hungry and 10 different things sound good to me, or 2) I’m trying to talk myself into the “good” thing and out of the “bad” thing, having an internal battle that goes, “I know intellectually that I really love this particular salad, and it will totally fill me up, but… BURGERBURGERBURGER.”

A big part of learning to eat intuitively has been learning to leave my intellect out of it and just order the goddamned burger, because I know I’ll mourn the loss of it if I get the salad. It’s fucking stupid, this mourning of food I could get any time, but then, that’s why I’ve been training myself to just go ahead and order it — to reinforce the idea that yes, I can have this any time, because I am a freakin’ grown up, and no one is going to burn me at the stake for eating a high-calorie meal. (Yet.) And the more I believe that, the more I find myself naturally and truly drawn to a wide variety of foods, instead of having the BURGERBURGERBURGER voices drown everything else out whenever I sit down at a restaurant. That’s the damn point of intuitive eating — but it’s also why it’s trickier than it seems.

So, after way too much consideration, I ordered the tilapia, ’cause it was what I really wanted. And like everything else I’ve had there, OMG, so good. Fish was beautifully done, beurre blanc was awesome, and the very lemony spinach was so yum I wish they’d given me twice as much of it. (I should have asked and might next time, actually. I’ve told this story somewhere on the blog before, but this is also the restaurant where I once ordered the smoked chicken, apple, grape, pecan, etc., salad, and only ate about 2 bites of the chicken, because I was really just into the rest of it. The waiter said, “You left the best part!” and I said, “Ehh, I wasn’t really in a chicken mood tonight, but I could have eaten like 9 more apples.” Then I went to the bathroom and when I came back, there was a plate of sliced apple on the table, compliments of the waiter. LOVE. Also, there’s intuitive eating in action for you — most likely, I hadn’t had enough fruit in the day or two before that, so I became obsessed with the apples and grapes and couldn’t give a shit about the “best part.”)

Then it came time to look at the dessert menu, and Al and I both decided to look, because their desserts are so damn good. But upon looking, we both realized, whaddaya know, we just weren’t hungry anymore. The caramel apple bread pudding sounded good — ’cause it always sounds good — but we just weren’t feeling dessert. I was, however, feeling port. At first, I ordered the Taylor 10-year but was told they only had Cockburn 10-year. I was about to take that, and it totally would have been fine, but then Al said, “For god’s sake, just get the Graham 20. You know you love that.”

Good point. But the Graham 20 was 12 freakin’ dollars a glass, so I hadn’t even let myself consider it. Which is just idiotic, because the 10-year was $10, and if I’m going to pay more for a glass of port than I did for my entire lunch, what’s 2 bucks? But this is the kind of thing I do to myself so often when looking at menus: I immediately identify the thing I really want but feel too guilty to order it — either because it’s obscenely expensive or obscenely calorific — so I try to find something that’s good enough instead. Truth was, the Graham 20 was what I really wanted from the get-go. But I couldn’t order it until Al explicitly gave me permission. (Which means I probably shouldn’t be so hard on those friends who try to dragoon me into splitting dessert with them when I’m not hungry; it’s not like I don’t have my own hang-ups about what I’m allowed to consume and how and when.)

That meal cost a bundle, but it was awesome, and it was exactly what I wanted, start to finish. I am still new enough to this intuitive eating shit to be surprised and pleased when that happens just like it’s supposed to.

So that was last night. This morning, I woke up to a much more normal day — made coffee, puttered, got hungry, and had some oatmeal with dried blueberries and cranberries. Normal morning, normal food, yummy but not anything special. Now, it’s almost time for lunch, and I’m thinking about what I want. Most likely, it’s gonna be tomato soup and a salad with sliced green apple and blue cheese vinaigrette, as that’s what I have in the house that sounds best to me right now. And you know what really doesn’t sound good today? Hot dogs. Especially not 2 hot dogs with everything but tomatoes AS FAST AS YOU CAN POSSIBLY MAKE THEM, PLEASE. Because I had breakfast and am therefore not so hungry I could eat Crisco out of the can.*

So, there’s a snapshot of what I eat. Food. Whatever sounds good to me for any number of reasons — I’m fucking starving; I haven’t had fish in a while; I love the combination of citrus and spinach; oatmeal will fill me up without much effort; there’s tomato soup in the fridge, etc. Food. Just food. And I eat however much it takes to satisfy me at a given moment.

Seems simple, doesn’t it? Except for the part where it isn’t at all, when it comes after 30 years of being taught that my actual desires will inevitably steer me wrong, so I must apply some external set of rules to my food choices or suffer the consequences (e.g., guilt, shame, a fat ass, “loss of boyfriend,” and an early death).

This is also why, when pressed to describe what I promote here — usually as a counterpoint to someone’s assumption that I promote sitting on your ass eating donuts all day — I try to remember to say something like a “balanced” or “varied” diet, rather than a “healthy” diet. Or worse yet, a “good” diet. For the umpteenth and nowhere near last time, eating is a morally neutral act. I mean, if you want to talk to me about animal rights, or supporting small farmers, or boycotting irresponsible corporations, or minimizing environmental damage, then sure, we can discuss food in moral terms. It makes sense in those contexts. But the morality of your diet has jack shit to do with how many calories you consumed or how many chocolates you didn’t eat in a given day, all right? Depriving yourself does not make you a better person, and eating what you feel like eating does not make you weak. (Hear that, India Knight?)

And most importantly, occasionally having 2 hot dogs for lunch does not make your diet unbalanced. Having hot dogs 3 meals a day would. So would having spinach 3 meals a day. But eating a wide variety of foods as your body demands them is the very definition of a balanced diet. Being terrified of certain foods (unless your body actually reacts poorly to them) and ascribing imaginary virtue to others is a recipe for an unbalanced diet. Thinking only in terms of how many calories you’re consuming in a given day is, too. Ditto letting yourself get so hungry you’re well past the point of hearing anything from your body other than “FOOD. LOTS. NOW.” — which not only is why I snarfed those hot dogs yesterday but just might be why so many people on diets assume that if they ever let up, they’d immediately go eat a pound of bacon in one sitting and wash it down with a whole chocolate cake. Ya think?

And for my money, a balanced/varied diet IS a healthy diet — I just try not to use that phrase, because it’s most often used as code for “diet that makes you thin.” Which, as we all know, is often not a diet that’s actually good for your body. I mean, I could be wrong, and science could someday prove that eating nothing but Sweet Tarts is the path to optimum health. But as things are right now, I think listening to my body is the best shot I’ve got at giving it what it needs.

I eat food. I recommend that everyone do the same. The end.

*Dear Trolls, this is what’s known as EXAGGERATING FOR HUMOROUS EFFECT.

Friday fluff: What a fool I’ve been

I have a confession to make: I am, or was until a couple of weeks ago, a salad dodger. I’ve always hated salad and refused to eat it, although I love raw veggies and will happily eat many of a salad’s component elements. First I thought it had to do with my general desire not to have my foods mixed together — I have very simple (some would say simplistic) tastes, though I branched out a bit after discovering Indian and Thai. Salads have lots of elements plus dressing, when I’d rather just eat one or two kinds of naked vegetables, so it would make sense that salads were too complex for me. But there was always a nagging voice wondering whether my dislike of salad — and the fact that I always asked for my sandwiches sans lettuce/tomato/mayo — was less about simplicity and more about… well, being a salad dodger.

Turns out I just really hate lettuce. Oh.

It still took me a while to try a non-lettuce salad, because of the voice in my head going “salads are diet food and will make you hate them and yourself.” But I finally got around to eating spinach salad a couple weeks ago, and it was a fucking revelation. I was so excited about how great it was that I texted Sweet Machine saying “my god, you were right all along!” I’d been worried that it wouldn’t be satisfying because of the diet-food aspect, but that’s BULL — as Kate’s mentioned before, it’s astonishing what just the right amount of fat can do to vegetables. I’m really thrilled, because a lot of foods don’t agree with me, like meat, and cheesy things, and fried things, and creamy things — meaning that there are whole restaurants in which salad is my only good option. Not having to be the wet blanket when people want to go to a brewery or burger place is a big deal. Plus there’s a place across the street from my office that does custom salads, and I’ve eaten one for lunch nearly every day for the last few weeks. And I’m so astonished by what a FOOL I was for SO MANY YEARS that I keep telling people about how salad is awesome, which I’m sure makes them think I’m some kind of diet proponent, but I can’t help it!

So, Shapelings: tell us about a time when you turned out to be wrong about a strongly-held opinion (not necessarily food!) in a way that totally altered your habits or beliefs, or even just your lunch order. How did you react to discovering your error? How did your life change?