3.23.2008

Apparently, I can't be trusted

The NYT Dining section this week had an article that, quite frankly, irritated me. Don’t believe me? Just ask the husband, who got the full brunt of my tirade. The article, “The Fat Pack Wonders If the Party’s Over” by Kim Severson, talks about foodies with weight problems and, thusly, health problems. These hedonistic, blogging, obsessive food addicts have diabetes, heart problems, high blood pressure…you know, all the usual problems that come with overindulgence. Obviously, I don’t have a problem with the general subject of the article – it’s true, there’s an obesity problem in America; let’s address it.

Here is my problem: I hate the word "dieting". Dieting means restrictions, limitations, denial, forced physical activity. The article states that Joseph Bastianich’s recipe for weight loss is “run a lot and try not to eat after 6 p.m.” Really??? “Run a lot”??? Now, I know lots of people that truly derive pleasure from running, and that may be the case with Mr. Bastianich. To each their own. But I am not a fan of running if its sole purpose is to allow you to eat more. Heaven forbid, rather than running for your life, you simply eat slightly less than you normally would have had you run. Heaven forbid, rather than take the elevator up three floors, you walk up the stairs instead. Sounds much more pleasurable (and sexy) to me than running.

The article states that, instead of chili dogs, Jason Perlow now blogs about “lentil soup and The Big Salad.” Why stop blogging about chili dogs? Chili dogs are soooo good! Perhaps instead of eating the whole thing, as Mr. Perlow might have done previously, he only eats half. He derives enormous pleasure from it, yet doesn’t get the weight gain from overindulgence. Why deny oneself the pleasure of a chili dog? It is also said that “though [Mr. Perlow] is still in mourning for his old loves, especially pizza and burgers, he says his pleasure receptors are better tuned to the joys of vegetables and legumes.” Well, I’m enormously pleased for him; his “pleasure receptors” should be more in tune with veggies and legumes. But why deny himself “old loves”? Please tell me that he still allows himself joyous nibbles of these foods occasionally! Please! They both can’t cause harm…in moderation. Or try those delicious vegetables on a thin pizza crust. Why must anyone deny themselves anything? Eat consciously and learn moderation in all things…that way, you can have your cake and eat it too.

Ultimately, I resent the implication that people who are food-obsessed and truly passionate about gastronomy must be overweight. Don’t think that’s true? Perhaps I am overreacting – it wouldn’t be the first time – but with books like Never Trust a Skinny Cook by Iain Hewitson and Mo’Nique’s Skinny Cooks Can’t Be Trusted, I can’t help but feel we’re completely misguided in our belief that one must eat everything on one’s plate to demonstrate and derive enjoyment. Why must this be about fat versus thin with a side dish of mistrust? I argue that, in my case, I’m a better cook for being a thinner one. Why? Because I make smart choices in my eating. I’m not going to waste my time with anything less than fantastic. I’ve had one bite of a piece of cake and pushed aside the rest because it was dry and too sugary. I’ve thrown out entire dishes right into the trash because I don’t want to waste the calories, fat, and sugar on something sub-par. I make conscious, smart choices about what is going into my body. I stop eating when I am satisfied, not when I’m full. I eat small portions of a bunch of different foods so that I’m able to enjoy everything. I never skip a meal, and I never eat low-fat, non-fat, low-cal, low-carb anything. Since when has moderation been equated with deprivation?

The implication is that, because I’m a healthy weight, I somehow deprive myself of pleasurable food. And that just isn’t the case with me and I’m certain you’d find that to be true of other cooks with healthy weights. I only live by the credo: all things in moderation. Eat consciously. Respect your food and your body. Avoid processed foods. Be healthy. Be comfortable in your skin, whatever weight that may be. That is how I lost 25 pounds and have kept it off for the past 2 years. And I’ve never eaten so well with such variety in my life.

For heaven's sake, bon appètit

Photo by Getty Images

7 comments:

Monica Edinger said...

Laura,

As you know, I greatly admire your willpower, but I sure don't have it. Sometimes I can stop with one bite, but often I can't. As a result I do eat much more cautiously than in years pass. (Things changed unpleasantly for me metabolically when I reached a certain age. And then genetics make things worse --- my sister has a much easier time of it than I do, annoyingly.) Sometimes I just don't eat anything at parties because I know I won't be able to stop with one bite. Truly very difficult for me.

As it is for me to throw away food, partly because I was raised by those who insisted I eat everything on my plate (and they were strictly raised the same way) and because of my Peace Corps years in Sierra Leone where I did see serious hunger firsthand (close at hand, in fact).

So I guess I"m sympathetic to those foodies having to be so careful. They just may not yet be able to eat one bite and so, for now, need to stay away completely. Or not eat after 6 or whatever works for them. I"m having lunch at Artisanal tomorrow, but I'm not sure I'll order anything with cheese as I'd probably then eat way more than one bite.

I sure wish I could control myself, but I don't trust myself! I'd say it is like book taste, everyone is truly different.

Laura (Pinot and Prose) said...

Absolutely, Monica. I read a book once that referred to certain foods as "key offenders"...those foods where you really lose control. I have those foods that I eat compulsively and I guarantee you they aren't in my house! And I'm still in metabolic heaven...I'm waiting for "that age" and mentally preparing myself to have to change my routine. And I so sympathize with you at Artisanal...I certainly indulged heavily the last time I was there!

I find the whole eat-everything-on-your-plate mentality so fascinating because it's so deeply rooted in our culture. My impression is that it stems from the days when our country was so much more agriculturally based, and people had to work hard for what appeared on their plates. That was the key, though: physical labor was put out for whatever was going in. Very generally speaking, we're still eating like a laboring culture and we're not really anymore. You make a very interesting point about Sierra Leone. On one hand, it would seem that we'd want to finish everything on our plates because, you know, people are absolutely starving in many parts of the world. Being exposed to such hunger would also, I imagine, make our rather gluttonous culture that much more...um...embarrassing. Or is that too harsh for me to say?

I absolutely agree with you: everyone is truly different. My ideal weight, for me to be healthy and comfortable in my body, could be 30 pounds heavier than I am now. That's fine, and that's a conscious choice. That's really what I was trying to say - a call to consciousness. In that way, I was pleased with the NYT article because it pointed out that the "Fat Pack" is becoming more aware that enjoyment can come from not overindulging.

Laura (Pinot and Prose) said...

As if I haven't said enough...but one more thing: why shouldn't you indulge at Artisanal? Have the cheese you want, enjoy yourself. Don't eat yourself to the point of wanting to puke, of course (I've done that before - never a good thing), but indulge a good amount. Do it guilt-free. Then compensate later. Have a light salad for dinner. Have a small yogurt and apple for breakfast the next day. Rather than sitting and reading during your lunch hour on Tuesday, go for a walk instead. Getting the bus home? Why don't you walk an extra few blocks to the next place the bus picks up? There's lots of ways, all enjoyable, to compensate for an extra indulgence. I mean, how many times do mortals like us get to eat at Artisanal?

Monica Edinger said...

Laura,

Sigh...I'll see. My friend wanted to go there especially because of the cheese (he's a wealthy foodie and has taken me there before). But I already walk and run daily and will be eating next to nothing.

When I was younger I thought people like me were annoying. I was fine being a little bigger (the one time I was truly underweight was in Africa due to constant illness), but now, as my doctor pointed out last month, not gaining at my age is like losing at yours. Sigh again.

Thanks for the good thoughts!

Nicole said...

This is a passionate and heated subject! I totally understand.

Let me tell you a great quote I learned from an old beau. "Everything in moderation, including moderation itself." SO just go indulge now and then! I love that quote. It is so true. While in everyday life, it is best to be sensible, it doesn't hurt to just go for it now and then.

I understand this debate. I was never a heavy person but nor was I ever a thin person... I was always between normal and 5-10 lbs. over that. Then I went to Paris for a few months when I was 21. Dropped about 10 lbs.! I ate chocolate and cheese and bread EVERY day. I had wine often and still I lost. Of course I walked that city up and down and back up again day after day. I kept it off for a while then a few years later a few came back. In my early 30's I found myself very thin again and dating a lot. I went to a lot of restaurants and fine dining. I stayed thin! I did avoid the bread most of the time. I also never ate all of the starch (potatoes or rice) but I ate ALL of my filet mignon or fish or sushi! Lots of walking and exercise did help.

Now unfortunately I am 40 with 2 little children and I have a hard time knocking down these last 10 lbs.! But I am hardly fat. One DEFINITELY has to exercise when you cross into this decade! Eating off of children's plates doesn't help either. I also grew up with the mentality that you eat everything on your plate. It is very hard for me to throw away food. But "diets" do not seem to work. I don't know if I can have just a bite or two either. But I DO know that when I have consistant exercise and work to alter my metabolism, it is feasible to eat well and very light during the week and have 1 to 2 decadent (light on the white stuff) meals on the weekends.

It IS embarrassing how gluttonous our country is. I know soooo many people (more men) that poo poo or mock high end restaurants and dining and say they can go to XYZ and get twice as much food for half the amount. But do you need twice as much??? NOOOOOOO!!!! Fine then... so all these Americans go to the economical establishment with large portions and then spend an average of what??? $20,000 or more a year in weight loss products and books and programs? I for one would prefer to have expensive haute cuisine (I don't find it snobby or pretentious) and eat a little less.

Another great option is to share 2 appetizers and a salad (even add a soup too) at a restaurant. A lot of great flavors and a lot less food!

But hey! I am certainly no expert. I just know that I love food but find it hard to keep to a "perfect" weight. It doesn't help living in the land of the beautiful people though!

Thanks for listening and having yet another great post! I love your blog!

Laura (Pinot and Prose) said...

Of course, Nicole! I appreciate your comments, and I agree with you. I can't believe you brought up those people who go out to dinner and complain about how little they get for the price they paid...that is SUCH a sore subject with me!!! I have had entire meals, fantastic meals, ruined by those people. And, oh, you make me pine for Paris! And I agree with you - when I go out with my husband or a girlfriend, we generally share an appetizer, have our own entrees, and then share a dessert. Even then, I tend to only eat half of my entree. But splitting is a good way to avoid food waste and overindulgence.

Monica, I was completely thinking of you on Monday! I hope Artisanal was amazing!!!

Nicole said...

Ha ha... I shouldn't laugh. I have had many a ruined meal myself. Sharing is awesome! Love to have all the different tastes.