Friday, October 22, 2010

Me and food

I recently finished reading In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan. Everybody would enjoy this book and there's plenty of knowledge and perspective to be gleaned from it if we so desire. (Unless super interested in food history and chemistry, though, I wouldn't feel bad about skipping the first section and on to the practical application.) The bulk of food research I've completed is based in nutrition science, and thus technical and complex-- replete with lengthy, unpronounceable words describing incomprehensible (to me) chemical processes. I still devour this information, as we all do. Pollan's suggestions, however, are so much more wholesome and applicable and, perhaps most importantly, simple.

This whole process of deconstructing my family's American diet and feebly reconstructing each meal has been thoroughly exhausting, both physically and emotionally. After reading Pollan's book, though, I feel at peace. His basic dietary recommendation omits the titles of nutrients, simply encouraging us to "eat food. not too much. mostly plants." Oh, okay. I can do that. (By "food," though, he means something our great grandmas would recognize as food, not "food-like products" composed mostly of foreign-sounding chemicals and ingredients.) Most advice coming from the health and nutrition world tells me to get this many miligrams of omega-3s and three cups of leafy greens and half the amount of grains as solid green vegetables but twice the amount of nuts, except for cashews, but only on Thursdays before 3pm, if you're wearing orange, unless you stubbed your toe on the chair of someone consuming less saturated fats than you and, well, you get the idea. I am more than willing to abandon the nutritionist training of my past for a food philosophy far more practical and empowering.

Yes, yes, I feel quite liberated right about now.

And just how did I get to where I am now? I'm not entirely sure what initially stirred the emotional unrest I had with my dietary lifestyle. It wasn't health problems or a weight loss goal or environmentalism or apathy towards ice cream. In fact, especially since welcoming the Vitamix into our home, I considered we Larsens a family of reasonably healthy eaters. We ate vegetables every day and almost every meal was prepared in my kitchen with my bare hands. My personal philosophy was that, as long as I was consuming the minimum servings of the four food groups (a la old school food pyramid guidelines), the top of the pyramid could be as large as I dared it to be.

The very first family we met here in AZ brought us lunch and dinner and snacks and inquired about our Vitamix. I told her a little about my green smoothies and resumed inhaling a batch of cookies. Each time I saw her, though, we talked a little about food and I discovered that she's a whole-foodist, as we're sometimes called. I was genuinely interested in her dietary philosophy. She's a soft-spoken and unassuming person, and honestly never pushed an ounce of persuasion on me, but I asked questions and she conservatively answered them, and very soon I wanted to eat just like her.

Or perhaps it was that I wanted to want to eat like her. Two months ago when I began my conversion, I was inwardly appalled that she and her husband rarely eat meat and NEVER eat cheese or any dairy products. The thought of ingesting only a salad for dinner was disturbing. I could only conclude, based on my own preferences, that they were miserable, or brimming with self control, or both. I, on the contrary, have never been willing to be miserable nor to exhibit self control. This is, of course, much of why I've never even attempted to "diet"/cut back on junk food in the past.

My friend shockingly reassured me that after only two weeks of forsaking cheese and sweets, she didn't really miss them. If she spoke the truth, this was revelatory and of vital importance in my whole-food conversion! Once I believed her-- believed that at some point I would no longer desire the delicious junk I craved daily-- it was easy to commit to this lifestyle change.

Of course, when I commence a new hobby, I tend to dive into the deep end, which is a thrill, but often leaves me thrashing around only occasionally surfacing for air, and requiring rescue, and also a relocation to the shallower end. (I've never been a strong swimmer.) The food case was no different. After reading what I wanted to read, I decided overnight that vegetarianism was insufficient, as was veganism. No, I wanted to go straight to whole raw food veganism. Basically, this entailed eating only fresh, unprocessed fruits, veggies, nuts, grains, and seeds, all RAW. The only permissible dishes in my current culinary repertoire were guacamole and salsa.

After being overwhelmed and discouraged for several days about raw foodism, all while learning more about it, I decided that that diet was far too time-consuming, expensive, and just plain gross. I settled for the Mediterranean diet. But that was too easy, not good enough.

Finally I came to the conclusion (with Michael Pollan's help) that most people would've from the onset: my ideal is not any particular diet, but rather to just eat food, good food, and quit with the food anxiety. This makes so much sense and rests well with my body and spirit. Running through my mind as I've embraced all these improvements in health is that my goal should be to eat food the way it was intended when God put it on the earth, and the way people ate it forever up until a couple generations ago. Granted, industrial-strength blenders weren't around back then, but food was grown in personal gardens or purchased locally, prepared by hand, and shared around the table by the whole family. It wasn't merely eaten, but was enjoyed. Of course this ideal is far from feasible for many families, but I'm moving in that direction, and I'm finally accepting that it must be gradual.

Bob and the kids and I have loved all this. (Although, as of one hour ago, Bob is gone. =( He left for the lighter ozone levels of Sacramento in search once again of better sleep. We are hopeful, but miss him already. Ellie and I teared up when he left tonight-- he's lived with us for over two years and we will definitely feel his absence sorely.)

Thankfully, I don't miss meat or cheese. I'm not saying I won't eat them, because I do whenever Kyle's cooking, and they still taste good, though not as good as I remember... I really don't crave cookies and candy and yogurt and cereal and chocolate, although if it's before me, you better believe I'll still eat it, but with a bit more voluntary restraint than ever before. Most of the time it's just too sweet to be as palatable as before. My taste buds are changing. My energy level is, as well. I have to say, more than any other physical factor, this was my motivation to start eating better. I don't think I had a lower energy level than most people my age, but I just felt drained a lot of the time. I was always searching for my next opportunity to sit down, and Ellie ended up fetching lots of things for me. Even when I wasn't tired for sleep, my body still felt weary.

Nowadays, I am still quite tired prior to 10am, which I suspect will never change until I learn to go to bed earlier. Still, I definitely feel more energetic. No, not skipping-through-the-kitchen, somersault-contest energetic. But I can be on my feet all day and feel fine. I accredit this to the fruit and veggie smoothies that have become my breakfast, morning snack, and/or lunch. Everything in them is raw, aka alive. Turns out eating food that's alive makes me feel alive!

Well, that's more than enough about food for today. I'm planning on posting some recipes and tips sporadically, for my own record mostly, but perhaps they'll be useful to anyone out there a little bored with their own recipe repertoire.

I also plan to post soon about our "new" house,

Ellie's 5th birthday party,

and perhaps get around to yet undocumented happenings of last summer. (That grotesque candid of me is the best I can do to reel you in.)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Sandal serendipity

So Erik tripped on our way out of the car mechanic's yesterday, which meant a spontaneous trip to Old Navy was in order (they do sell the cheapest and cutest flip flops, you know). Turns out they were having a 50% off all clearance items sale. I can't pretend that I ENJOYED the hour I spent there, what with Charlie's screaming and escaping from the cart and Erik parading around barefoot and finding lots of little things to cry big about, and spending half of that hour in the checkout was also less than ideal. I also can't pretend that it wasn't absolutely positively worth that hour of suffering! I hate to brag, but people, I am so amazing sometimes. As proof:

-my most lavish expenditures, at $5 a piece (and this is all after Mish and I had a splendid excursion at Charlotte Russe where almost every top was $5, even cardigans! But Old Navy puts Charlotte to shame here.)

-these were each snagged in the $1-$2 range

-$2-$4.50, mostly near the $2 end

-a few token items for the kids, plus some jewelry for me, each <$1
-to top it off, my passion for scarves has officially been unleashed. I confess I have fantasized about a quick trip to Beijing to collect all those $5 fake Pashmina scarves I neglected to win during our stay there (probably my life's greatest regret, until being made irrelevant today). Well, this scarf spree went beyond my dreams because each and every one of these scarves was $0.48! AAA! (Hyperventilating over here.) So were those t-shirts, but the scarves! I spent a very long time tonight just stroking and admiring them with giddy glee. Instead of being creeped out, Kyle was somehow stirred to suggest that he should let me shop more often because it makes me so fun and happy. Does life get better than a husband encouraging shopping sprees?!

Anyway, I guess there's nothing like adorable deals to lure me back into the blogging world. Not to make excuses or anything, but I've been enjoying visits from fam, plus Ellie's birthday party wore me out a bit. Also, you know how I tend to be obsessive about my hobbies. My fetish migrated from crafting to parties to coupon-ing to super-health-freak-eating. That's still about where I am. However, I'm on the decline of that initial spike in fanaticism, so I think I'll get around to posting again soon.