Saturday, August 02, 2008


THOUGH I'M STILL STRIVING TO make my dinners perfect under the current regime, I got evidence last night that my body wants me to succeed in finishing the day with the most healthful food I can find. Follow along for more painfully solipsistic scrutiny of my eating habits. I'd call it navel-gazing, but I still need to lose a little more fat before I can see it.

One of the recurrent goals I've had during this 30x40 eating and exercise plan has been to eat nutritious dinners. It's been a major weakness during my previous fat-loss attempts, and it continues to be difficult. I get home, feeling tired after waking up at 5:00 a.m. or — recently — drained of motivation, and I lack the energy to construct a meal from scratch. Simple-carb- and saturated-fat-laden prepackaged alternatives then beckon.

Cueing up pre-made meals like frozen chili is a winning option. But I'm getting frustrated with some of the foods in my rotation. This Tuesday, I barely made it through the sandwich I had for lunch. I've eaten a turkey sandwich with green- or red-leaf lettuce and low-fat Munster on whole wheat for just about 13 months straight, and now, finally, I've soured on the combo. I thawed chili for two of the remaining days to compensate, deviating from the program on Thursday to grab pizza/Italian fare with my buddy Ratatosk, who works nearby. But I'll need to figure a plan for next week and beyond with the usual lunch no longer as satisfying.

Dinner's another matter entirely. By that time on weekdays, I've usually eaten five small meals over the day: a postworkout smoothie, cereal or oatmeal, lunch, and either a handful of nuts or dried fruit, a small can of tuna fish, or half a peanut butter sandwich on whole-grain bread. Very hobbit-like, except my plan is to eliminate the Bilbo-like potbelly. (The underground lair I could get behind, along with the homebrew beer.) My ancient standbys, like a huge bowl of pasta with my own meat sauce, or a stir-fry with sugary or oily sauce, would undo all the good I'd done over the day. Something small, nutritious, and satisfying.

Bodybuilding literature advises the emphasis be on protein and good fat for the final meal of the day. The former feeds the muscles you've battered earlier that day during slumber, and the latter helps pace the absorption of the protein because it takes longer to digest, and of course is taaaaasty. There is room for veggies in this mix, they being a "cheap" way to get vitamins, minerals, and fiber without an overwhelming sugar rush.

Still, by the end of this Friday, when I slammed the door on another suboptimal week, I didn't feel like cooking. I'd gotten paid, and the State of New Jersey had kicked back $80 of my taxes under the Homestead Rebate Act. Unlike serious and whimsical uses for past government kickbacks, I was of a spending mind. I figured, why not grab something at the mall, then drift down to Barnes & Noble and do some grazing? This would require a hard culling decision to be made back home if I bought anything, but still, using a bit of the current windfall for some fun and stashing the rest for the lean times in my current save-crazed context wouldn't be so bad.

And this, O patient reader, is where my body informed me that it can't tolerate fast food anymore.

I hit up Chik-Fil-A, my usual food stop at this particular Paramus mall, for dinner. A dozen chicken nuggets, which (compared to the algae chunks at McDonald's) are identifiable as actual white chicken meat; waffle fries; ketchup and the BBQ dipping sauce you get for the nuggets; and a Diet Coke. Nothing I haven't done ten thousand times.

About 10 minutes after I finished, I felt rolling stomach cramps coming on. Not usually something that happens after I go there. Nausea was creeping in by the time I returned to the car. I held everything down, but I kept one eye on the right-hand lane in case I needed to merge hard and make a quick deposit in a gas station . . . or wherever.

I suspect I've changed my body's food preferences. It's been a month of very clean eating, with exceptions for dining at friends' homes or with my parents on Sundays, but in both cases, I didn't eat the sort of high-fructose corn syrup–infused spreads, dressings, or desserts that now contribute to the national waistline. I've especially avoided ice cream, mass consumption of sweets, breakfast pastries, and cakes. I'd gotten a hint of that last one this previous weekend, when, while celebrating my friend Jen's graduation, I engulfed a large and yummy piece of cake that left me feeling queasy.

(Side note: My blood sugar tests have been normal even when my diet was at its worst, so I don't suspect a pancreatic/diabetic origin for this. Were this true, the sugars in the fruit-filled smoothie I down each morning probably would've put me in the hospital by this point.)

I've read vegetarians' and vegans' testimony that they'd lost interest in meat after excluding it for a spell, and of those attempting to clean up their diets getting profoundly ill when relapsing into or experimenting with the sugary or greasy food they once downed in bulk. Perhaps this is another corner I've backed myself into. Considering my awful past with mindless eating of comfort food and junk, not the worst fate in the world. It will make this coming holiday season, and the party I will throw, which is always a sugar-fest, very interesting indeed.

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