Sunday, January 13, 2008

Food, unbelievably glorious food

Have you ever really tasted what you eat? Do you zip through your meals on the run, in the car or in front of the television? You get a sense of taste but do you really taste what you've eaten? I realized this morning that most of the time I don't. I have a set amount of food to eat and I eat it quickly as though it will be gone if I don't. I don't really enjoy what I'm eating except on the most superficial level. So why the change this morning? I've been reading again . . . as always.

This change has been coming on gradually as I read this book, which is more like a course in healthy living and nutrition. The information isn't groundbreaking or a breakthrough in nutrition, diet and exercise, but a realistic approach to health and fitness that has been around since creatures first appeared on this planet. I realize I've been moving in this direction for a very long time and was ripe for this when it came up in my weekly notice of newsworthy items. You won't find it on the front page of any newspapers or even as the lead item on the 6 o'clock or 11 o'clock news because it will not benefit the industries that pay to keep this sort of news quiet -- diet mongers, corn and soy growers and the giant food industry that hypes fake food and drink. You won't hear it because it is simple, common sense and coded into your essence, your DNA. That will line the pockets of none of the industries who have bet their futures on keeping you fat and hungry by denying you real and good food. Sounds like a fantasy, doesn't it? It's not.

First of all, not everyone is born to look alike and healthy and fit for one is not healthy and fit for someone else. It is the nature of humanity that we are all a bit different in height, weight, looks and everything that makes us who we are. One diet will not fit another and no two people who diet the same will ever get the same results. Want to know the big secrets that doctors and diet mongers have kept from you? Dieting makes you fat. Fake food keeps you fat. Scientists have no real idea of what does and doesn't work in the human body because they have yet to map all 25,000+ genes and chromosomes in human DNA and decode how they all work and interact. Everything you've been told is misleading or an outright lie. Yes, there is a fat epidemic in America and, despite what you have heard, it's not all the fault of McDonald's or prepackaged foods. It's the fault of dieting.

People consume less fat than they did 50 years ago and they're fatter. More people in the country are on diets now than ever before -- and they are fatter. Are you beginning to get the picture? Diets make you fat. Here's how to get and maintain your healthy and fit body weight: STOP DIETING!

Secondly, all your cues about diet and nutrition come from external sources: people, doctors, diet books, diet companies, etc. You have stopped listening to your body. Is it any wonder you're always hungry and deprived? Are you surprised that given the chance to eat something you "shouldn't" you binge or gorge yourself, eat in secret, feel guilty and clamp the diet restrictions tighter? Your body has been screaming at you to pay attention and you've tuned it out so it acts out because the body will not be ignored.

Your body knows what it needs and will get what it needs with or without your help. Look at the research about people who have been starved. Look at the stories of people who were in the German concentration camps during the way, how they acted when they were faced with real food. Look around you or look in the mirror. What you see is a direct result of dieting, denying yourself.

I have been appalled at my mother's diet for months now. All she wants to eat are circus peanuts and chocolate pudding. She has never had a weight problem but now she weighs about 110 pounds, which for her frame and size is too thin. She's always hungry and she craves sugar and fat. Sound familiar? When she gains a few pounds and gets back up to 120-125 pounds, she will stop eating what she loves: fresh, hot bread slathered with butter, sugar, and fat. In short, all the things that she craves when she bottoms out at 110 pounds. We won't even go into her problems with constipation.

I know how she feels. She put me on a diet when I was nine years old and I have spent most of my life on and off diets and denying myself food. The result is that I have a big weight problem. For all my dieting, my body's starvation gene has been activated to store every morsel of food as fat because my body is programmed to protect me against greater privations. No more. This morning, I had a real taste of what I've been missing.

The cupboard is pretty bare because I haven't been to the store this weekend, but there were eggs and onions and sun dried tomatoes in olive oil and lots of spices, so I decided to make an omelet. My stomach gurgled and grumbled, but I'm used to that. It does it all the time. It's been doing that for over forty years. I have learned to ignore it. Not this morning. I was hungry and I wanted something to eat NOW. I poured a little of the olive oil from the tomatoes into the hot skillet, chopped up some onion and threw that in, and then roughly chopped the sun dried tomatoes and threw them in. The smell was incredible as the ingredients sizzled, an aroma at once sweet and fruity and smoky. As an afterthought after I ground up some sea salt, I tossed in a few cumin seeds. Now the air turned smoky and spicy and my stomach cheered as I whisked the eggs and poured them over the softened and slightly caramelized ingredients. When the omelet was done, I turned it onto a plate and added a bit of feta cheese, folded it over and took it to the table in the living room. Instead of diving into the food, I cleared the table and got ready to eat, forking up the first bite and really noticed what I ate. It was incredible.

I tasted the sweet and slightly caramel onions and the fruity sweetness of the sun dried tomatoes came through subtly but clearly. The smoky heat of the cumin tingled on my tongue and the salty, creamy texture of the feta cheese was a lovely counterpoint. The eggs were eggy with a hint of salt and pepper that were the perfect balance to the other ingredients and it all tasted marvelous. It took a while to eat the whole omelet, but I enjoyed every mouthful, something I haven't done in ages. I'm sold. No more dieting. No more denial. No more worrying about counting calories or carbohydrate and fat grams or anything else. I am going to eat whatever I want, even if it's peanut butter toast or grilled cheese sandwiches and sweet pickles. I am not going to shy away from the ice cream aisle or potatoes or bread or pasta or from making my own bread and rolls. I am going to eat whatever I want and never count another calorie as long as I live. I'm going to trust my body to get me to the right weight for my height and frame and I'll never worry again about whether I'm too fat or not thin enough. I'm never going to be really thin because that's not the way my body was made to be. I am tall and muscular and rounded in all the right places -- or I was once upon a time before I was made to feel ashamed and guilty that I wasn't thin and petite. I am never going to be thin or petite, except when the flesh has disappeared from my bones, and even then I won't be petite because, unless someone lops off my legs, I am going to be tall and sturdy.

That's the whole problem in a nutshell. Madison Avenue and the diet gurus have conspired to give us all a view of beauty that only exists in a handful of individuals who had the fortune to be born into a time when thin is all the rage. There is no room for a real woman's figure because it gets in the way of the way the fabrics hang and how much weight the camera adds. Didn't you ever wonder how Italians and the French get away with eating so much fat and carbohydrates? It's because they enjoy their food. They celebrate food and focus their attention on how it is made and how good it is when it is eaten. Food is a celebration of life and should be treated as such. If you enjoy salads, eat them. If you love baked Alaska or beef Wellington and Yorkshire pudding, eat them. If you want ice cream for breakfast and cereal, milk, toast and juice for dinner, eat them. There are no limitations, other than what tastes good to you. Throw away your diet books. Avoid the fat-free, taste-free, fake food aisles and buy bread and crackers and canned spaghetti if you want them. Put butter on your toast and ignore margarine and oleo and all the butter tasting fake food. Get the real thing. Eat what you want when you're hungry and eat as much as you need to feel satisfied. Enjoy your food and your body will do the rest. It will take some time to get your metabolism back to normal, especially if you've been dieting forever, but it will happen and your body will settle into its own healthy and fit weight. It may be higher, or even lower, than you think it should be but it will be the weight your body was designed to maintain, and that's all right.

It's time to make healthy, fit and happy the norm and forget about the number on the scale. Forget your BMI (body mass index) because by that measurement Arnold Schwarzenegger and Russell Crowe are obese. Forget insurance tables about what is average for your height; they're wrong because there is no such thing as an average person, just averages of weight across a small sector of the population. You're not a number or an average; you're a person. It's time to stop dieting and punishing yourself for not having the genetic makeup to be a super model or Twiggy. It's time to enjoy life and follow the Epicurean lifestyle. Deny yourself nothing and enjoy everything. Become a hedonist. Enjoy your life and give up guilt. If it doesn't taste good, don't eat it. Indulge yourself. You've earned it and your body and soul will thank you.

If you're interested in what I've been reading, check it out.

That is all. Disperse.

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