Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Some thoughts on food and the body

It's 1:41 am so I'm not going to spell and grammar check this post after I write it, so I apologize beforehand.

As some of you may know, I have slowly left my vegetarian attempt. I FAILED. NO, well, it's not that dramatic, although I did feel like I failed in some respects. I adhere to what Michael Pollan recently put into so many great words: eat food, not too much, mostly plants. The fact is I always have eaten that way thanks to my mother. I love that I naturally stick to that mantra, and did so even before Pollan put it so well. I don't LIKE junk food. I LIKE veggies and fruit. I LIKE cooking from scratch, and have learned to do it well since living on my own. I see how this natural liking of what most people would consider "health" food makes me a very fortunate person.

My boyfriend is not like me. People think I'm exaggerating when I explain his diet, but I assure you I'm not. He eats:
Chicken fingers or nuggets.
French fries.
Mashed potatoes.
A traditional turkey dinner consisting of turkey, corn, gravy, stuffing and mashed potatoes.
plain pizza.
Chicken parm sandwiches.
Turkey sandwiches (turkey, bread. NOTHING else).
This is his entire list of what he will eat, excluding certain sweet treats. He will literally never eat anything that is not on this list. Nothing. No-thing.

However, his drinking habits are stellar. Lots and lots of water, with a diet iced tea thrown in here and there. This seems basic to me, who was brought up in a strictly water household. Soda was a treat, seriously. And besides, what else would one want to drink in a tropical country so hot and humid that people shower twice a day?

I am working very hard to improve my BF's diet for fear his health will deteriorate. Neither of us have health insurance, and either of us getting sick with diabetes, heart problems, etc, would be catastrophic in my opinion. This is a big failing in this country (no free health care/insurance). I see people I know all around me getting into (Again, I am not exaggerating) hundreds of THOUSANDS of dollars of debt from illnesses, either their own or a dependent's, even with insurance. This sickens me to no end and puts incredible fear into me.

I try to better my Bf's food. I have succeeded greatly in hiding a good amount of mashed parsnip and cauliflower in his potatoes. I only use skim milk and margarine in his potatoes (not ideal but better) even though he insisted he could not eat them without whole milk and butter. Sometimes I keep it from him, sometimes I tell him. As much as he insists he can always tell the difference, I if I don't mention anything, he doesn't notice. By the way, he's 35. We're not talking about a child here - but here I am hiding veggies. Thankfully however, he does take a multivitamin every day.

As for myself, Let me let you in on a secret. I make less than 12,000 a year now that I work only part time and am back in grad school. I eat fresh, home cooked food 99% of the time. My bills are: rent, cell phone, car payment, car insurance. Miscellaneous includes gas, the rare piece of clothing, household stuff and groceries. However, at the top of my priority list is food, and I always make sure it's healthy and whole (not processed).

I am not a saint. My weaknesses:

salt and vinegar chips
buffalo wings
the very occasional craving for cola

and that's really it. My goal now is to completely cut out soda. I have succeeded in only very very occasionally succumbing to my craving when I get one (I'm talking less than once a month). the rest of it makes up the 1% of food intake that happens to be bad.

I am aware that a large (vaaaast) amount of the food/obesity/health problems here in the USA stem from the horrible, sickening place we are in with subsidized food. Bad food is cheaper, good food expensive. The way I see it, when processed and fast foods came out (relatively recently in historical terms), they were fast to get, ever so yummy, and new. poeple loved it. demand was high. therefore more was produced, and it was subsidized and made cheaper for the consumer. I won't even get into how this screws many farmers etc, and this is a very very basic representation of the problem, but what I really want to say here is eating healthy does not have to be expensive.

I have a system, and I got this system from my mum. I don't know if it's a sri lankan system, or just one that my mum made work because she grew up so poor. I have a box of spices. These are cheap, very cheap, if you buy them from an indian/asian/latino/whatever store. If not,buy the cheapest brands in your supermarket. They may seem expensive at first, but guess what? they last for literally months.

These spices open up a world of flavors. use them on their own, combine them creatively, a different way each time. Use what you like. You will always have interesting food.

Right - the food. This is my system and it works for me. I buy rice in bulk. I try to get brown rice. I but fresh veggies, but you can buy frozen (not canned) and stock up for longer. I buy meat and freeze it. My meal will consist of one veggie, one meat, and rice. Occasionally I'll add a salad of cukes, tomatoes, onions, salt, pepper, white vinegar and lime juice. No, don't cringe. look up the prices, I swear you will be surprised. a bottle of white vinegar lasts me most of a year.

The meat and veggie will be boiled with spices, lime juice and lite coconut milk (and salt of course). The coco milk comes in cans and I buy loads when they are on sale.

boiled. what sounds healthier than that? never fried, boiled.

now I vary this system with other methods and dishes of course once in a while, but this system works amazingly with my budget. NO fresh veggies are not expensive. I swear. Buy what's on sale.

Now. I've been watching Jamie Oliver's food revolution (look it up, I don't want to explain it all) and in a nutshell here's what I will say right now:

If your kid won't eat healthy foods, keep putting it in front of them. Eventually they will have to eat it, what are they gonna do, starve themselves? If I dictated to my mum what I wanted to eat or not eat, she would laugh in my face and say "how sad."

Pack their school lunches. Yes, This is HARD for working parents, but working parents in Canada do it, and so can we. Yes it is a great thing that the US provides school lunches for kids whose parents can't afford it. The school food system needs to change and this is a bigger problem (related to how we feed the poor, the students, and the armed forces crap). Some parents don't even know to give their kids breakfast, they just think it's unnecessary. These parents are sadly uneducated.

If you think they will just trade their food at school, well guess what, yes they will. But the more parents pack lunches, the less crap there is to trade for, so it's a combined effort people.

It starts at home home home. I didn't like certain veggies when I was little. I loved McD's (evil corporation). Yeah. But because of my mum's eating environment in the home, when I became old enough to decide on my own, I made the RIGHT decisions. I had to learn in a slightly harder way because when I came to America, I was exposed to foods I never had in sri lanka. My lack of education regarding these foods kindly gave me 30 + pounds of extra weight, but this was my wake up call. I now know that even seemingly innocuous foods like a chicken breast could actually have come out of a cardboard box pre processed and injected. This is what I got in my college cafeteria. However, I inherently knew when I came to the US that all this cheese and fake looking food was definitely bad. It took a little more experience to learn about the other normal-LOOKING foods. This is why I cook all my own food now.

I am on self-motivated exercise routine now, and have been for about a month. I swim a mile almost every day. I bike and walk a lot. I need to lose about 40 pounds to get to an ideal weight. It's sad that someone like me who has always eaten relatively well (and used to be on swim teams all her life till the end of high school) is now 40lbs overweight (gosh that sounds bad), but I have some biological set backs that I have only recently learned about. I have poly-cystic ovarian syndrome, which is by no means detrimental, but is certainly unfortunate. It makes me: gather weight around my stomach and waist, digest carbs straight to fat (yay for all that rice), and some other hormonal things that I wish I didn't have to deal with but that I do. I have a very bad back which causes me constant pain, which is probably my primary reason for wanting to lose weight. I hope losing weight will relieve some of that pain. however, in the interim, it makes even light impact exercise very painful. That's why I finally found my home in the water once again.

I no longer offer excuses. I am 100% focused on reaching my goal. I will get there.

This post has been a lot of thoughts at once. I hope anyone who reads it will find some tidbit of use or interest. In any case, thanks for reading. My blog posts will resume regularity after the semester is over.

By the way I still do not eat pork.


  1. I think you're gorgeous - I always thought you were one of the most good-looking women at CIS. Good luck with the weight loss.

  2. Thank you - may I ask who this is?

  3. You may ask but I may not answer.