Thursday, July 28, 2011

Eating tips don't work for foodies.

Know what that is? It's a picture I took on vacation. I photograph a lot of food...memorable meals, recipes gone right and wrong. I plan trips around restaurant offerings. Right now, I'm thinking of hitting up Vancouver for days of seafood and evenings of training. Food is a big deal to me. I am genuinely, at my core, what you call a foodie (gourmand if you want to sound fancier.) Starting BJJ has me thinking more deeply about eating right. Now, healthful eating is real. Almost a necessity. And I feel conflicted.

This isn't my first dance with eating better though. Somewhere in my early 20s, I came to the realization that eating better wouldn't change who I was. I wouldn't become "one of those people"...chugging protein shakes and stuffing down chicken breasts (though I do both for a good percentage of my meals) and forever lose my relationship with the sense of taste. I could eat better and not lose my identity.

Still, I fully understand those who worry about never again tasting hollandaise or full fat dairy. There is a great divide between healthy eaters and those with a healthy appetite...and I think the latter is unfairly demonized. Somehow, it's ok for people self identify with their love for shopping, sex, TV, movies, music, but taste? We get tossed on the heap because the overindulgence of our preferences is...well...visible.

Because of this, the world of health is full of suggestions to help us eat better and live better lives. From applesauce in brownies to chocolate tofu silk pie. Straight up, I have yet to see one of these "substitute" suggestions that actually work. I don't know if the taste-buds of the super-healthful are slow or lower in number, but I can taste low fat, LOATHE sugar substitutes and I can spot carob a mile away. I've run across quite a few that I think are a complete waste of time:

If you're craving a cookie, have a carrot!
The rationale behind this one is that you crave foods based on superficial traits. In this case, cookies are sweet and crunchy, carrots are sweet and crunchy so they should be interchangeable? Let me know how that cod oil tappenade works out for ya.

Low fat
It's hard for me to accept, but some people are really ok with 1% milk. I don't even drink milk and I know the 1% is an abomination. (Go ahead and click. Yes, that's what I taste when I drink it.) I use either almond milk (in  shakes) or heavy cream/whole milk for cooking, and that's because I can taste fat levels in dairy. Substitutes don't work.

Food isn't a trophy
Yes it is. The deal with this one is that you shouldn't reward yourself with food. I'll go along with that sometimes. It's a good mantra if you're trying to change your relationship with food. In its stead, it's been suggested that you contribute to a vacation fund or massage. So being tenderized or traveling is a trophy and food isn't? Ok. Whether for negative reasons or not, some of us find a buttery lobster tail more fulfilling than a trip to the spa.

Fake sugar
Tastes like cancer. On top of that, it's completely devoid of all the subtlety of natural sweeteners. Give me desserts made of cane sugar, molasses, Splenda and stevia, I'll know the difference and the difference will annoy me.

Bland foods
Not happening. Subtle is cool, but rice cakes and the like? Nope.

What doesn't feel like punishment?

Portion size
If a person really is a foodie (prefers quality over quantity), this won't be a big deal. Cutting a third, or even half off my portion size is pretty painless for me.

Moderation of unhealthful stuff
Not gonna lie. Cream, animal fat, sugar, salt and the like...not good in high quantities. Used sparingly though they can be great. A little butter in olive oil for flavor. A small scoop of premium ice cream...quality.

High quality ingredients
No Kraft parmesan. The real stuff is much better and I use less. Scharffenberger instead of Hershey's. You get the idea.

Focus on flavor
Since we focus on taste, proper management is key. Boiled squash? Ew. Roasted squash with parmesan and thyme? Amazing.

Know what you like
I don't care if raisins are sweet. I don't like them, I don't care how they're prepared. Choking them down does nothing but make me resentful of grapes.

Know what you feel
A foodie gone wrong is frequently a person that eats to manage emotional stress. Jiu jitsu has helped me with being very aware of what my physical body wants, and distinguishing that from the emotional is of key importance.

It's all about being honest. I'll never be that person that eats perfectly for extended periods of time...and that's ok. The most sustainable and successful diet I've ever been on (not sure why I fell off) is one I stumbled on and referred to as "the food snob diet". No low fat cheese, low carb bread, fake meat or...Splenda. I ate well, watched portions and ate real (read: no fast or processed food). I stuck to the outer rim of the grocery store, ate more fruits and vegetables and I cooked a lot. I acknowledged my preferences and taste needs, fed them and walked out 60lbs lighter with normal cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure levels. to get back on that with some spiced orange roughy and roasted broccoli.


Deborah Clem said...

love LOVE this post. I am also a foodie and keeping healthy eating habits, especially before a competition, is practically a spectator sport.

Now excuse me while I get back to my bowl of mint chip and my double gin and tonic, which I am having as a reward because my day was completely out of control. By golly....:)) lol. I really am drinking a gin and tonic as I write this. I think my husband made it a triple. A double would be so junior varsity.

Anonymous said...

Aww this photograph brings back so many memories. What great travel that was. God I loved the desserts.

Interesting post. This will be helpful for those who love great food but need to be smart about it.

Combat Sports Review said...

Megan, I love this post! I too abhore "fake food" such as artifical sweetners, Margarine, and skim milk. I think real sugar in moderation is so much healthier and natural than artificial sweetners.

You are also right about enjoying food. You should be able to say, "I worked really hard this week. I deserve a REAL ice cream, I just have to skip out on calories some where else".

This was a well written, passionate post, and I love it!

Megan said...


I know@Trudy. Desserts really are the best part of traveling...the other food... chancy. Fun. But riskful.

@Combat...don't get me started on margarine. Plant oils and butters are the only options.

Georgette said...

But... cane sugar IS sugar. ????

Though I tend to agree with you on most everything else you said.

You should try to find a supplier of raw milk and cream. The unpasteurized stuff is.the.bomb. Especially in ice cream. Just make sure they have clean cows; you don't want to come down with TB, brucellosis, or worse, some prion-borne disease.

Megan said...

Ok...excuse my bovine ignorance, but how do you know if the cows are clean? I ask because there's a place here that sells it, but the cows are nowhere in sight.

As for the sugar, I was just listing different sweeteners. I like cane, don't mind molasses (if used properly), hate Splenda and Stevia can get me through in a pinch.