Wednesday, October 14, 2009

I'm a sociology major. Luckily I am not planning on doing anything with this degree, as I already know what I want to do with my life and I'm pretty much doing it at the moment, but I've always felt it was important to get a college education if you have the means to do so because it speaks of an ability to follow through and finish what one starts. Besides, I love sociology, and I seem to have an innate understanding of it which makes it an enjoyable course of study. One class I'm taking this semester is on the sociology of work, which seems to mean the sociology of the inequality of work; not that I'm complaining, as I seem to have developed a spidey sense for gender, racial and socioeconomic bias. No good discussion of the new American workplace would be complete without talking about Wal-Mart, which was our topic today. Among other things, I find Wal-Mart abhorrent because it has forced the very people who it put out of a job (domestic factory workers, independent business owners) to purchase their goods because they are the cheapest. These people are put into a very sad position, because they literally don't have the money to shop elsewhere, and so must buy their necessary items within the Jaws of Hell; it doesn't very well work for us to tell them to shop somewhere else. While we were making this point in class, someone piped up with, "It's like when we tell poor people to eat healthy, but they can't because it's cheapest to get a 1 dollar hamburger from McDonald's."

I hear this argument a lot. In fact, I think I actually made it at some point on the blog here (I say I think because actually looking to see if I did would require opening another tab on Firefox and I'm too lazy to do that.) I've done some thinking, though, and I was wrong if I ever said that. Yes, it may be cheaper that day to eat at McDonald's, but in the long run, you save a lot of money by cooking at home. To illustrate my point, I thought of how much it would cost to feed one person for a week with groceries. This list was made using groceries from Kroger, and how much things cost in Indianapolis. Some of these things were on sale if you used your Kroger Plus Card, which is free to get so you should get one. Also, always shop at Kroger because they are unionized.

Milk: $1.25/half gallon
Generic Cheerios: $1.88
8 apples: $2.00 (4/$1)
1 lb grapes: 93 cents
1 lb sliced ham: $2.19
1 carton eggs: 77 cents
1 jar peanut butter: $1
1 loaf wheat bread: $1
1 lb ground turkey: $2.50
1 lb box wheat pasta: $1.00
1 14.5 oz can Hunt's pasta sauce: $1.00
Salad mix: $2.50
Generic salad dressing: $2.00

Grand total : $20.02
Cost per day: $2.86
Rough price of a meal at McDonald's, off the dollar menu, which includes a protein, carb, and fruit/veggie: $3.00 plus tax

I'll analyze how I did the list: The milk, Cheerios, grapes and eggs are for breakfast- a handful of grapes, a bowl of cereal and an egg or two is grain/carbs, lean protein, calcium and vitamins from fruit.

The lunch meat, peanut butter, bread and apples are for lunch. Again, any combo of these will give you the essentials for a filling, healthy meal. At the end of the week you'll have an extra apple and likely extra meat or peanut butter to eat as a snack at some point.

And the pasta, turkey, sauce and salad are obviously for dinner. Again- trifecta of good carbs/fiber, protein and a veggie.

I get that this is not exactly the food pyramid, but no one will starve on this, and what you'd be eating is a hell of a lot better for you than fast food. Also, Kroger generally has a lot of 10/$10.00 specials every week- for example, this week in their ad I see tuna, English cucumbers, cottage cheese and 1/2 gallons of orange juice, and that's just the healthy stuff. Add those to your groceries for the week and you get a little more variety, for only $4 more (remember, food isn't taxed.)

As you can see, the idea of being too poor to eat healthy is crap. I don't know how many actual poor people use this excuse; it seems to be used more by broke (different from poor, as broke often has to do with poor money choices) college students/young people. Look at it like this: I will assume that the average college student, or single poor person, works 20 hours a week at a job that pays $9/hr. If you assume that 20% of the weekly paycheck is taken out in taxes, we are looking at an income of $144 a week. By cooking at home and eating healthy, you are spending a little less than 14% of your weekly income on food. Even if you sprung for the extra $4 in groceries, you're looking at less than 17% of your weekly income. If you are eating out at every meal, even the dollar menu, let's assume you spend $9.00 a day (3 items off the dollar menu, 3 meals a day.) That's 43% of your weekly income! Holy crap! Now, I'll go ahead and assume that most people don't spend $10 a day on food and eat at home at least some of the time- but still, if you ate at home for every meal, you could eat really healthily for very little money. Did I mention that the only thing you'd need to eat at home on this plan is a pot to cook stuff in? I realize that a lot of people don't have money to buy fancy kitchen things, so I controlled for that. You do need a stove/oven, but almost anywhere you rent or live in will have these

So, ain't nobody too poor to eat healthy. Thank God we have things like WIC and food stamps in the USA so that people who have to work low wage jobs can provide food for their families, especially healthy food. I appreciate that if it were not just you, but you and say, your two children, this $20 in groceries would not quite cut it. But I do firmly believe that eating at home and eating healthily are really easy if you're willing to do it.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Dried fruit- friend or foe?

Sorry about the title, but I couldn't resist. Do people still say foe? Why hasn't that phrase morphed into 'friend or enemy'?

This summer I've gotten really spoiled. There have been lots of awesome farmer's markets, both in town and in the other midwestern cities I've visited (Springfield, IL and South Haven, MI) and I've gotten my pick of all the fresh produce I can handle. Peaches, nectarines, cherries, blueberries, and cheap watermelons from the roadside stand near my neighborhood. Num. I also discovered Jazz apples, which on principle I should oppose because they are a weird hybrid of apples and pears and the idea of genetically engineering fruit always seemed a little weird to me, but nonetheless they are fucking yummy and I wept bitterly when Kroger stopped carrying them.

It seems so odd to me that I never used to like fruit. Whenever I voluntarily ate a piece, I'd congratulate myself for eating healthy and then take a three month fruit hiatus until the next time, so as not to overdose on vitamins or anything. I think this was because my exposure to fruit had been mostly mealy, bitter Gala apples and lame, wrinkly red grapes from when I worked at Steak 'n Shake as a teenager. The only way one could choke those down was to drown them in hot caramel sauce (they were classified in the menu under 'lighter options.') I just never really got into them. And it wasn't until earlier this year that I just decided I would start eating fresh fruit (yes, it really was as simple as just telling myself it was time to start eating them. I've come to think of eating healthy as something that adults do, like getting up before noon on the weekends and doing the dishes without anyone telling you to. I am now an adult, so I must do all of these things.)

In the interim, I discovered the stepping stone to learning to like fresh fruit- dried fruit! It started with dried pineapple, which is inexplicably sweet compared to fresh pineapple. In fact, all fresh fruits are. I don't know why this is, and it's mildly disconcerting- what the hell are they doing to it to make it so sweet? I know they dehydrate it, or something, right? Oh, hey, the Internet! The Internet can tell me things! And it tells me, courtesy of Wikipedia, that "Since dehydration may result in water loss up to seven parts out of eight, dried fruit has a stronger flavor than its fresh counterpart." Well, there you have it.

Uh, oh, there's more- "The drying process also destroys most of the Vitamin C in the food." Huh. Well, that's not good. In fact, one of my nutrition bibles, the Magic Foods guide (which I wrote about earlier in 'Required Reading') says that dried fruit usually lacks almost all of the vitamins that its fresh counterparts have, except maybe the fiber. Also, dried fruit can have up to twice the calories of fresh fruit, for less actual food: for example, an apple has 60 calories, but 10 dried apple rings (the serving size) has 110 calories.

So, is dried fruit really worth it? It's delicious, and it's convenient, but is it healthy? Also, dried fruit is pretty expensive compared to the fresh. Thank God you have me around to make up your mind for you.

In my humble opinion, dried fruit is worth it, provided you study the label carefully and choose wisely. My pick? Trader Joe's Dried Bartlett Pears, and also, Trader Joe's Sweet Dried Apple Rings. Have I mentioned lately that I fucking love Trader Joe's? God, they are awesome. I used to think only uppity people shopped at Trader Joe's, but I guess now I am one of those uppity people, buying my fancy cheeses and organic arugula and carrying it home in my trendy reusable grocery tote bag. I don't care because I get awesome dried fruit at Trader Joe's.

Why is this dried fruit awesome? Mainly, the fiber. Fresh apples and pears have a goodly amount of fiber in them, and it's all preserved in the dried version. For example: the pears have a whopping 10g of fiber per 5 slice serving. That's 41% of your daily needs. And for only 140 calories, that's a deal. And though I might have maligned the apple rings earlier for having too many calories compared to fresh, in fact 110 is hardly anything for something this healthy, especially because it contains 3g of fiber per serving. I've taken to keeping a bag in my car for when I am on my way home from rehearsal at 10:00pm and famished.

I will offer one caveat- be careful about things like dried cherries, dried blueberries, and my beloved dried pineapple. The serving size is usually something like 1/4 or 1/3 cup, and let's face it, unless you want to look like crazy Lifetime movie anorexic girl by measuring out all of your portions with measuring cup, it's pretty easy to get carried away and end up eating way more than you intended; generally, these are in the 140-cal per serving range, which again is really not much, but if you're eating twice or triple that, then it kind of defeats the purpose and you might as well have candy. Dried berries are good for salads, or trail mix, or for sprinkling in your oatmeal, but in general, not so good to take the bag along and munch whenever the urge hits ya.

That's all I got. Comment and tell me what sorts of dried things are not tasty!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

It's a magical time of year- the Indy Fringe Festival. This year I'm involved in two shows: Welcome to Blanksville, a long form improv show based on the Choose Your Own Adventure books with Indyprov, and Tortillo!, about a snack food company-cum-drug ring. We all know that snack foods are so not my thing. Being surrounded by bag upon bag of Fritos, Funyuns and Doritos at all times sounds like dieting hell, but actually, I don't even want to eat those things anymore. Put a big ass chocolate chip muffin in my face and we'll talk.

I've seen a few shows so far, including my friend Carrie's Stetson Manifesto (check her out at, a really neat modern dance piece called Gone, Gone, Gone (I swear one day when I retire from acting I'm just going to dance, because nothing makes me feel more light and free), and Wanda and Rhonda's Bitchin Bingo Bash, where I unfortunately did not win bingo.

But one show I saw happens to relate to the blog. It was called 'The Attack of the Big Angry Booty.' It's a very funny storytelling piece about both losing weight and watching others lose weight. It's told from the perspective of a gay male actor, and as such I really felt like I could relate to it. I don't think I can properly stress how much weight and body means to a performer. Your fat ass is on display for the world to see, and because you have voluntarily put said ass out there, it is fair game for anyone to comment on. The thing I told Les, the storyteller, that really stuck out to me was how every story was about a gay man or a woman- never a straight man. I really do feel that straight men have much more leeway with their weight; this is especially obvious to me once you get to the performance world. Hell, straight men get more leeway with their looks in general. I think of the show Roseanne- lots of people didn't like Roseanne because she was an opinionated lady, so to try to hurt her feelings, they called her fat. John Goodman was way bigger and I never heard anyone call him fat.

I liked this piece because it reinforces what I have been saying since God was a boy- control your portions and get some exercise, and you will be fine. If you don't want to control portions or exercise, you'll be fine, too, but you'll also probably be heavy, and if you are a gay man or a woman, chances are that people will not be okay with your decision to be heavy. Remember this, though- no one can make you feel like shit without your permission. Unfortunately, somewhere along the line, I was hardwired to be sensitive to comments on my weight. Hence this blog!

I admired Les's courage to get up there and talk about his struggles. I'd love to do a storytelling piece of my experiences with weight loss and dieting, but I find a lot of that stuff too personal, even for the blog. But Les's piece isn't super serious; it's actually very fun and easy to relate to, for anyone. Check it out! (After you've checked out my shows, of course.)

Sunday, August 2, 2009

There's an article in today's New York Times magazine called Out of the Kitchen, Onto the Couch by Michael Pollan. It is partly about Julia Child, who is awesome, and partly about "Julie and Julia", whose producers I swear must have purchased stock in the Times because it seems like every damn article lately has made some mention of it (Civil Unrest in Honduras Continues while Julie and Julia Opens to Rave Reviews), but mostly about how people no longer cook at home, even though as a culture we still seem pretty fascinated with food.

Read it. It was really, really interesting, especially if you like food or cooking. The stats, while sad, were not surprising- the average American spends 27 minutes a day on food preparation. I'm sure some of you are saying, "That's kind of a lot." And maybe it is, to you, because I'd wager to say that a good 50% of people "don't cook." Here's what I have to say about that- get over it and learn.

The article does get down on all of the many 'shortcuts' afforded to us now. I like convenience food as much as the next person- I don't know what I'd do without bagged spinach, sliced mushrooms, chicken buillon cubes, and refrigerated pizza dough. I'm glad we have these things, because without them, I probably wouldn't cook. The article talks about how Julia Child took the fear out of cooking- she showed the average home cook with a normal kitchen how to make fancy sounding things and proved that it was something everyone could do if you had the patience and the motivation. I think for most people, watching Julia Child in 2009 would actually make you more fearful- "You mean I have to do THAT?" The good news is, since the majority of us don't have one adult who stays home and whose main job is to run the house, I don't think anyone is expecting people to prepare an hour-long French feast every night of the week. In 2009, the article says, cooking in the style of Julia is pretty obsolete, except for those of us who truly want to spend hours cooking.

And I don't spend hours cooking, though I do cook. In fact, I cook almost everything I eat, or do some amount of preparation, even if it is just slicing the cheese and tomatoes to make a sandwich. But for the most part, I don't roast my own chicken, or make my own pie crust (Pollan calls this "real scratch cooking"), and that doesn't make me feel inadequate. I can make a mean Korean chicken or spinach and mushroom quiche or baked ziti. People ask me how I learned to cook and I say, "One day I was hungry, and there was no food, so I had to make something." I might be one of the cooks that Pollan is villifying here- the ones who rely a lot on shortcuts and are drawn to the concept of "30-Minute Meals." But what the article taught me is, if I am consistently doing 30-minute meals every day, I'm doing a hell of a lot better than most people. I think there are four levels of cooking- those who don't cook at all, those who can operate an oven enough to make frozen lasagna or a boxed cake mix, those like me who can make a wide array of everyday meals and some specialty things, and people at the top who are total whizzes and know how (and have the patience) to do everything from homemade cannoli to steak tartare. I think all adults should be at least a level 2, with the ability to at least feed themselves. I am saddened by people who burn frozen pizzas. I find cooking to be very intuitive- once you have the basics down, it's really easy. Just follow the directions. Why are some people too scared to attempt that?

But what really drew me to the article was the connection between obesity and home cooking. I have always known this but I didn't have the stats to back it up, and now I do. The bottom line: people who cook are less likely to be obese than those who do. Far less likely. I quote:

"The more time a nation devotes to food preparation at home, the lower its rate of obesity. In fact, the amount of time spent cooking predicts obesity rates more reliably than female participation in the labor force or income. Other research supports the idea that cooking is a better predictor of a healthful diet than social class: a 1992 study in The Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that poor women who routinely cooked were more likely to eat a more healthful diet than well-to-do women who did not."

Whoa. I think that is amazing. But why? Oh, hey, more quotes!

"When we let corporations do the cooking, they’re bound to go heavy on sugar, fat and salt; these are three tastes we’re hard-wired to like, which happen to be dirt cheap to add and do a good job masking the shortcomings of processed food."

SEE!!!! Before, you didn't believe me. When you said, "Taco Bell isn't that bad for you, it's just cheese and chicken and a tortilla!" and I said, "God, you are so wrong," you disagreed. Now it's in the newspapers, so it's true. Now do you believe me? I hope this serves as a wakeup call to a lot of people- when you eat fast food or pre-packaged crap, you have only a vague idea of what is actually inside it unless you read the label. And a lot of that stuff is really, really bad for you. It makes you farty and tired and large (being large is okay, but only if you got that way eating stuff that is awesome and delicious- and believe me, there are lots of delicious and awesome things you can make at home for much cheaper, that are way more worthwhile things to use to fatten up.) They are hard on your system, full of steroids and lots of other drugs with unfortunate side effects, and they are addicting.

This is why I advocate home cooking: you can control what goes into your food. And if, like me, you prefer to use the diet version of ingredients to get a lower-cal product, you can do that! You can make your french toast with whole wheat bread with extra fiber. You can use egg whites instead of eggs to make your breakfast sandwich, and you can use turkey bacon instead of pork bacon. You can use I Can't Believe It's Not Butter! instead of real butter on your grilled cheese, or substitute turkey for pork in your meatballs. Alternately, you can do awesome things like add dried apricots to your turkey meatballs or mushrooms to your lasagna. These are all things that fast food places either don't offer, or you'd feel like an asshole for ordering. But if you do it at home, it's not only cheaper, it's healthier. And even if you're scared to cook, there are usually frozen turkey meatballs and cartons of egg whites in the grocery store to make it extra easy.

I get kind of upset when people refuse to cook and go out to eat all the time. I kind of equate it with laziness and wastefulness, which I understand is probably unfair, but I can't help it because I know how easy and beneficial it is to make the switch (I think this is how ex-smokers feel when they hear their smoking friends complaining of having a constant cough or something- they know there is a simple solution for the problem, but their friends don't want to hear it.) I know for some people, it isn't realistic to cook- it's a lot cheaper to go to Taco Bell than to buy tortillas and chicken and cheese. But all of the rest of us who make enough money to cook at home should do so, at least part of the time. There are such a wealth of benefits to cooking at home and taking control of your food. And besides, cooking is really fun. I used to be kind of a fast food addict. If I could have eaten fast food for every meal, I would have. I never would have thought that, today, I routinely turn down the option to go out to eat because I've been dreaming all day of something I can cook at home.

The article says a lot of this better than I can. But the bottom line is this- I started this blog because I love to write, and I love food, and I especially love healthy or diet food. I wanted to show people how easy it is to eat even a little healthier. I would be remiss if I did not point out that one of the easiest ways is to cook at home. So try it. You might like it.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Soup! And other foods for toothless people

I finally did it. I got my damn wisdom teeth out. I've been putting it off for over a year now because I was just too terrified. Not of the pain, really- I've had jaw issues stemming from my teeth for years, and I doubted that the post-op pain would be worse than that (I was right.) I was really scared of the IV. I never used to have this huge needle phobia, and I still don't- I'm not thrilled to get a shot, but I can man up a little bit, with minimal tears. Getting blood drawn or having an IV placed is a different story. That shit ain't right. I just don't want anything in my veins; the very thought of it is horrifying to me. I was also terrified of the actual passing out- the counting backwards, that horrible feeling of falling and losing control. It makes me think of the people on Intervention, shooting heroin and then passing out and choking on their puke. Ew. I know it sounds really wussy for me to avoid this surgery that would have saved me a lot of pain and bullshit if I had done it a year ago because I was scared of the IV, but there you go. I even had gone to an oral surgeon at one point and talked about it, but when he told me I couldn't take a Valium before the surgery, I was out of there. But this time my jaw and mouth hurt so bad that my dentist refused to write me any more prescriptions for pain killers or Amoxicillin if I didn't just get them pulled, so I did. I asked them for the nitrous oxide before they even put the IV in, but when she told me, "Your fingers and toes might start to tingle," I started sobbing like I was going to the electric chair and didn't stop until a few hours after my surgery, because you best believe I was STILL CRYING when they woke me up.

Anywho, it does hurt, but nothing that sweet, sweet Vicodin can't control. What does suck is that I can't eat like I want to, and I haven't been able to since Tuesday of last week, when the jaw and wisdom tooth pain started and I stopped being able to open my mouth more than a few centimeters. Everyone knows that post-surgery, especially of the oral kind, you're limited to 'soft foods.' This generally means soup, pudding, and ice cream. For some people, this is really exciting- an excuse to eat all the ice cream you want! Not so for me. First off, if I want some ice cream, I'll just eat some fucking ice cream- I don't need an excuse. And second off, I don't want to eat nothing but ice cream. When I was a kid, I used to love Thursdays because that was the night my very health conscious mother worked late, so I was left with my dad, who doesn't cook. This meant I got to eat fast food. Sometimes, if my mom was out of town for something, I would get to eat as much fast food as I could ever want. As I got older, I realized that I wasn't really doing myself any favors by eating all that fast food. Yeah, it tasted good, but it wasn't worth it in the end. I feel that way about ice cream and junk food now. Yeah, it tastes good, and if I could eat it all the time, I guess I would, but I can't, so waiting until times like this to completely binge on it isn't really going to help me in the long run.

Plus, I'm used to eating healthy. It took me a really long time to get to where I am with my eating- to the point where I prefer to eat fruits and vegetables. I worry that I'm always on the verge of falling off the wagon, though. This week has proven that I am not. I MISS VEGETABLES. I think you can tell how nutritious a food is by its crunchiness. Usually, crunchiness denotes some kind of fiber, or at least a good high water content which means low cal. Watermelon? Apples? Peppers? Brocolli? Carrots? Crunchy. They take awhile to chew. Pudding? Soup? Ice cream? Un-crunchy. Fiberless, soft, and boring. But there is a reason they are recommended- I attempted to eat a salad the day before my surgery and found I was unable to get the fork in my mouth because I couldn't open wide enough, let alone chew the spinach to any sort of swallowable consistency.

Combine this horrible diet with an inability to exercise for my usual amount for a few days (Vicodin, while good at relieving the throbbing and tension, makes me a little sick to my stomach, and my legs sorta weak), plus the fact that I can't have any Coke Zero because I heard carbonation increases your chances of dry sockets, and I am ready to go Charles Manson on someone's ass. Seriously. Don't come to my house unannounced, because chances are I will be sitting on the porch cleaning my gun and looking for my next victim.

This presented a big problem. How do I eat healthy when I can't chew? It hasn't been easy, but I think I did a pretty good job.

1. Lentils. Lentils are miracle food. Packed with fiber, sometimes upwards of 40% of your daily value per serving, as well as lots of protein, they're kind of magic. Something this good should be illegal. And when cooked the right way, they're nice and soft and easy to gum! The way I've been preparing them comes from a recipe courtesy of a cookbook put out by Prevention magazine that I can't recall the name of (check out their cookbooks, though- I have a few and always get them at the library because they have some awesome creative and healthy, as well as easy, recipes.) Bring a cup of chicken stock and a cup of water to boil on the stove. Add 1/2 a chopped onion and a few good shakes of red pepper flakes. Add 1/2 cup of lentils while everything is still boiling. Simmer it, covered, for 20 minutes- if the lentils are dry after 10, add some more water. After 20 minutes, take off the lid, turn the heat on high and boil off the rest of the water if there's any left. Then add a shot of olive oil and some salt, pepper, and oregano. Delicious and soft. I added mushrooms and spinach to mine since my body needed things that had once been in dirt. Yum.

2. Smoothies. I'm not usually a fan of them, even though they taste good, because in general, they are nutritional nightmares. They usually involve some sort of frozen yogurt, hyper-sweetened fruit product, lots of excess milk and maybe a few shakes of protein powder. However, when you make them at home, you can control what you put into them, and save your five bucks that you would have spent on them somewhere else. I needed fruit, so I made smoothies. One I've grown to love is a few good handfuls of blueberries, a handful of frozen strawberries or cherries (or fresh is you have them, though make sure to take out the pits in the cherries), a generous splash of light vanilla soymilk (I like Silk brand), and either a scoop of light Activia vanilla yogurt or a scoop of chocolate protein powder. Voila- fruit, protein, and new chewing. If I had time to clean out my blender every morning, I'd probably drink these for breakfast pretty regularly.

3. Soup. It's a staple. I'm a sucker from french onion soup in particular, but it has to be the kind with a ton of croutons and a layer of cheese an inch thick on the top. I tried as long as I could to hold out on soup because it makes me feel like an invalid, but finally I couldn't take it and asked my dad to pick some up on his way home from work. Bless his heart, he bought all of the soups you use to cook with- cheddar cheese, cream of mushroom, etc. But he did get me a can of Campbell's Select Harvest Garden Recipes Harvest Tomato with Basil soup. I had never had tomato soup before- something about it just didn't seem right to me. It was too much like eating hot tomato juice. But I'll tell you what, it was good, and a bowl of it contains a serving of vegetables! I love anything sneaky like that. Each serving contains 100 calories, 5 from fat, and 2g of fiber and 3g of protein. Not bad for something you can essentially suck up with a straw. I dressed it up with some mozzarella and parmesan and it made a perfectly good breakfast. I'd eat it again, even if I weren't confined to only foods one can put into a feeding tube.

Exercise and the post-op

Unfortunately, I found that after my wisdom tooth-ectomy, I was a little more tired than usual- meaning I was so high on painkiller that I slept all damn day. Add to that the previously discussed shakiness and overall feeling of crap and I didn't do my usual hour of exercise. Luckily, a few weeks ago I bought Get Extremely Ripped with Jari Love. I love me some Jari Love- her DVDs all have titles like 'Get Ripped and Chiseled' or 'Get Ripped 1000' or 'Get Super Mega Hulking Ripped.' And she doesn't disappoint. She does high reps with few breaks and kicks your ass, with a focus on the arms. I especially like Get Ripped 1000 because you do step aerobics in between and by the end I'm so sweaty that I can barely see because it drips into my eyes. Most of her workouts are about an hour, but Get Extremely Ripped is actually 2 different 30 minute segments. I bought it for mornings when I have to do something early and don't have a lot of time; I figured they'd be good for my recovery since they're high intensity but not very long. And I have to say: damn. Just because they're short doesn't mean they don't kick your ass. I was sweatier than someone's swarthy immigrant dad after mowing the lawn (or my own swarthy dad after mowing the lawn.) It's mostly combination moves, with arms and legs, and you can use a step if you have it though there are modifications. I liked the little timer that pops up when you have 30 seconds to go. I don't recommend it for beginners, but I think people who work out occasionally (once or twice a week) might like it for an extra challenge. Do not think that all of her workouts are like this, though- her longer ones generally hit only one body part at a time, so while they are hard, they aren't as sweat-inducing as Get Extremely Ripped.

That's all I got! Comment and tell me if you give a damn about eating healthy when you're sick!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Peanut butter so good I wanna roll it in the hay

Well, it finally happened. I stopped counting calories.

Kind of.

It started right before my vacation. For a few months now I have been keeping a pretty close record of what I eat every day, and consequently, the calories; or I should say, the night before I would plan it out and follow it roughly. I did this mainly because I find a lot of comfort in the structure of having a schedule or plan, and I pretty much planned out in my head what I was going to eat the next day anyway, but by writing it down I could clear that space in my brain for more important things, like reality show contestants and Elvis trivia. I also did this because I love to grocery shop and thus always have a fridge that is full to overflowing, so by planning things out I could make sure I was eating the spinach before it went bad, finishing leftovers to make more room for new things, etc. But I will admit that planning to this extent is kind of unhealthy and a weird eating behavior, especially the calorie counting part, and it was pretty easy to get obsessed with it (kind of like the very special Full House were DJ got anorexia for a day.)

Of course the nutritionist agreed. "Blah blah, no food accounting, woo woo New Age-y Enya blah blah." I think that's what she said. So I struck a bargain- on vacation, I would resist the urge to plan and tabulate calories. This turned out to be the best idea, because as we all know, there ain't no time to count calories during vacation. I ate lots of red velvet cake, like I promised I would, and also some fudge, and other things that I don't usually eat. While on vacation I read two really interesting books that resulted in me not picking up my food journal at all since I got back. One was The Skinny: How to Fit in Your Little Black Dress Forever by Melissa Clark and Robin Aronson (I suggest you buy it on Amazon because not only is it cheap, there are lots of awesome and creative but easy and healthy recipes in the back that you'll want to have. For serious, it made me want to eat brussel sprouts, which I haven't eaten for approximately 15 years.) The gist of the book is to eat what you want and don't eat what you don't want, and to eat lots of fruits and vegetables and to eat in moderation. None of this should be news, but it really made me think.

For a long time, I associated any kind of 'bad' food, like white bread or cake or anything else 'empty' with no nutritional value with completely trashing my day, healthy-eating wise. Like, "Fuck it, I'm going to have the fudge, and because any hope of eating well today is now fucked, I'm fittin to eat all the fudge I can stuff into my food hole." I knew this wasn't the right way to approach it, but I honestly could never understand how other people could eat just one piece of fudge and then stop (this is a big part of my diet foods philosophy- I want to eat a lot of whatever it is that I want to eat, so it better be low-cal so I can do that without a ton of damage.) In The Skinny, the authors say that nothing is forbidden, which is common in almost every diet book. But they really focus on eating enough to satiate you or satisfy your craving, then stopping. Like, I only really wanted one piece of fudge, and I don't HAVE to eat the whole pan because if I really think about it, I'm good. The hard part about this is that they realize that it's really hard to say no when there's a plate staring you in the face, so they suggest you throw what you're eating away when you're done to keep you from picking at it. This is really hard for me, because I refuse to waste anything, to a degree that I don't think even people who lived through the Depression can understand. I think it comes from working as a costumed interpreter in an exhibit about World War II and rationing and having to pretend like I'd kill someone for the roast beef under their fingernails, and repeating the phrase, "Wasting food is like taking it out of someone's mouth" over and over. But they have a point. Most of us were raised, rightfully so, to clean our plates and not waste food, but most of us then grow into adults who eat waaaaay too much under the guise of 'not wasting it.' Important point from the book: if you cannot fit your sandwich into your mouth, you need to either throw some of it away or save half for later.

I also realized from the book that I really haven't been eating enough fruits and vegetables. This was kind of a surprise, because I consider myself a militantly healthy eater, never eating anything unless it has some sort of redeeming attribute, like lots of fiber or protein. But one of the main points of the book is to figure out what you really want to eat, and then building a meal around that. If you really want a piece of pizza, go ahead, but only have one or two and fill the rest out with salad or cauliflower. And when I started to think about it, yeah, I eat veggies and fruit every day, but it seemed like the majority of my diet was made up of protein and grain instead. Veggies I can sneak in anywhere, so I decided to start with more fruit. Oh, my Maude. I'm eating fruit I haven't eaten in years, and it is delicious. Plums, apricots, honeydew melon, all delicious and nutritious. So, I've been eating so many fruits and veggies that I know are low-cal that I'm not eating as much of the things that carry more weight, like bread and nuts or whatever, so I don't feel the need to worry so much about calories.

The other book was Breaking out of Food Jail: How to Free Yourself from Diets and Problem Eating, Once and For All by Jean Antonello. I picked this up at the library because I was interested in learning how to eat healthy but not think of it as a diet. Also, I wanted to see if it had any advice on the whole 'eating the entire pan of fudge' issue discussed earlier. The gist of the book is that most overeaters are actually undereaters, or at least started out this way. It's kind of a fascinating insight- a lot of people are dieting right now just to get back to the weight they were when they started dieting. That is a scary thought. The idea is that dieters are on a continuous feast or famine cycle, where they try to severely restrict their food intake to lose weight, but then end up fucking it all up by having a binge on chocolate frosting. And it is always something horrible like chocolate frosting, because your body is programmed to seek out the fattiest thing possible when it thinks it might not get to eat ever again. I started thinking: have I really been undereating that much? And the answer was: yeah, dumbass! The book says that by eating good quality foods (nothing empty, pretty much) whenever you are hungry to the point of being full (not just 'medicating' your hunger with a few little bites), that you'll pretty much be too well fed to ever binge or overeat. That makes a lot of sense to me.

So I'm trying it. By this I mean I'm definitely eating more, but as far as more calories, I'm not sure, because I haven't been keeping track. Basically, I try to eat something with fiber, something with protein, and some sort of fruit or vegetable with every meal, plus a snack between dinner and lunch. For example- old breakfast= a packet of oatmeal with a handful of almonds. Today's breakfast= watermelon, two egg whites with a torn up piece of turkey, and a bowl of shredded wheat. It looks like a lot more food, and it sure did fill me up, whereas my old breakfast, while probably containing roughly the same amount of calories, didn't keep me full for nearly as long. Also, I find that now, one piece of cake is good.

Note: this does not mean I have stopped counting cals completely, or that my love affair with diet foods is over. Diet foods and I are still meeting for a sweat sexy rendezvous in Argentina whenever we can and sending each other graphic e-mails. And calorie counting still sometimes sneaks in my oval office to give me a blow job. But the extent of it is picking up items in the grocery store, checking their calorie count and serving size, and then not really looking at that again. If I'm satisfied that I didn't buy anything with a horrifying amount of fat, then I'm secure in the knowledge that anything I choose to eat will probably be pretty good for me.

Peanut Butter- nut butter of the Gods

So on vacation, my dad and I made a little jaunt to Saugatuck, aka the Key West of Lake Michigan. I found all manner of quaint and adorable little shops, but one in particular stood out- a spice store that I wish I could remember the name of. I'm confident that it was the only spice store in Saugatuck so it shouldn't be too hard to find. I bought vindaloo spice and Asian spice and MOTHERFUCKING CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE DOUGH PEANUT BUTTER. It sang to me from the corner, and I found it and immediately after purchasing it began to eat it with my fingers. I have a thing for peanut butter. I flove it. I used to be satisfied with just run of the mill Jiff, but then I discovered Peanut Butter & Co. They make all kinds of scandalously flavored peanut butters, like Dark Chocolate Dreams and Cinnamon Raisin Swirl. They're pricey, but they're worth it. I didn't think it could get much better than dark chocolate flavored peanut butter, but I was so wrong. The purveyor of said motherfucking chocolate chip cookie dough peanut butter is P.B.Loco. Just looking at the website by now, I literally started to salivate. I mean, is there anything more orgasmic than caramel apple flavored peanut butter? Or white chocolate raspberry flavored peanut butter? The answer: no. The chocolate chip cookie dough flavor is so chunky, so deliciously both dry and oily, so chocolatey and delicious that to eat it with anything other than a spoon would be blasphemy. No bread, no jam, no chicken breast or pickle can compete with that shit. I was all sad, thinking that I would have to bite the bullet and order it online because I can't live without it, but lo and behold, my local SuperTarget carries it! Unfortunately, the only other P.B.Loco flavor they carry is Jungle Banana, but I bought some today and am happy to report that it is equally amazing.

Which leads me to: why don't they make fucking diet peanut butter?! Peanut butter isn't all that bad for you. The fancier ones, like Peanut Butter & Co. and P.B.Loco don't contain any trans fat, and it does have protein and the good kind of fat that keeps you full. But two tablespoons (the general serving size) generally packs between 170 and 200 calories, plus about 25% of your daily fat needs. A few weeks ago, I looked at a jar of reduced fat peanut butter at Kroger, and the bastard had the same amount of calories, only less fat! Fuck that! I want some diet peanut butter. But until they invent it, I will just have to keep telling myself that by eating peanut butter with a spoon, I am sparing myself the calories of eating it with crackers or in a sammich.

Lastly, stuff about exercisin'

I have my own fairly complicated but steady workout plan- I work out every day for an hour, alternating every day between cardio and strength training. My cardio used to come completely from my exercise bike, where I did my own form of interval training which involves counting to four a lot and riding standing up. Needless to say, my bike is now kinda fucked, so I needed to find a way to give it a break. I read a review over at Fit Bottomed Girls of Mindy Mylrea's step workout Interval Express. They spoke quite highly of it, even giving it their highest rating ever. I was reluctant. I used to work out exclusively with videos, even for cardio. I was a normal weight, yeah, but it wasn't until I started hitting the gym and eventually got my exercise bike that I got to my current size, where I am much happier. I just didn't really believe that a DVD could ever give me the kind of workout that machines do.

I WAS WRONG AND I BEEN BORNED AGAIN. This workout is the shit. You need a medicine ball and a step, so it isn't completely equipment free. And the moves were kinda complicated at first, even for me, and I take one or two ballet classes a week. But it worked me, and it worked me but good. The difference between equipment and aerobics-based workouts are that in aerobics, you move your whole body, and that tires you out a lot faster than just using your legs. This DVD is based on intervals, hence the name, and they sometimes seem to go on forever. I felt like I got every bit as good of a workout as I do on the bike, so this DVD is now in the rotation. Apparently it has been discontinued by the distributor, which is fucking stupid, so order it when you can, or get it off Netflix.

That's all for now! Comment and let me know about your best peanut butter orgasm!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Sugar Free Carmel Sauce! AKA- Why the hell did I think this would be good?

It's summer! Everyone around me is bitching nonstop about the heat, but I kind of love it. I routinely turn the air conditioning off in the house when I'm home alone, because I should not be forced to huddle under the covers in my bed at 3 in the afternoon, swaddled in a sweatshirt and sweatpants in the middle of June because it is the only remotely warm place. Summer also means vacation, which is where I'm going tonight. I'll be sharing a cabin in the boonies of Michigan with my parents, my sister, and her husband and children. I'm looking forward to a week with no TV; not so much looking forward to being without my exercise bike. But I'm going to enjoy myself by baking, swimming, reading, and sleeping as late as possible, because shortly after I get back I begin my Soul Sucking Office Temp Job. I don't think it will actually be soul sucking; in fact, it might be quite entertaining.

But you don't read this blog to find out about my boring mundane life. You read it to find out about something equally boring- diet food! Today I'm taking a foray into the often-scary world of diet dessert products. A big reason that people are terrified of anything 'lite' is because of a traumatic encounter with some sort of nasty, pre-Splenda sugar free baked good. That shit used to be nasty. But the times, they are a-changing, and now there are several not only adequate but sometimes downright tasty diet desserts.

Unfortunately, the one I'm reviewing today is not one of them.

Sorbee Sugar Free EatRite BeFit Caramel Flavored Syrup

In every grocery store, there is a little section of sugar free things. And I don't mean diet things, I mean sugar free things, generally marketed toward people with diabetes. At my Kroger, it is located between the canned and dried fruits and the international foods. Surprisingly, I had never really investigated this little enclave of the grocery store; I can pretty easily find healthy or lite versions of things I want to eat elsewhere. But a few weeks ago, I was doing a big shopping trip with my mom, and I happened to walk by them. There I saw it, staring me in the face- Sugar Free Caramel Syrup. Only 15 calories per serving!

I fucking love caramel. For four years I worked at Steak 'n Shake, and it was not uncommon for me to squirt a big heaping helping of caramel into a cup, cover it with nuts, and top it off with some whipped cream, then eat it with a spoon like a big ice cream-less sundae. I'm the same way with hot fudge. Everything delicious just tastes better with caramel on top. Something about the buttery aftertaste, I think. Just imagine a delicious turtle sundae. Nom nom nom.

Problem with caramel (or carmel, as I'm sure I will go back and forth with the title throughout this post since I don't really care what you call it, it's fucking good): bad for you. It's pure sugar that you heat with milk and butter. I don't have to tell you that that is a whole mess of calories and fat. However, most people don't eat caramel like I do, i.e. with a spoon like a container of yogurt. So most people don't care about the calories in caramel because they're not eating it by the bowl. But what if you are?

Then you solve your problem with a sugar free caramel syrup! Thinking back, I should have known I was making a mistake. Removing the chief ingredient in something with only two other ingredients does not bode well. But Mom was buying, and God help me, I can't resist the caramel. So into the cart it went. I should mention that several of the products in the sugar-free aisle were covered in a thin layer of dust. This should have told me something.

Later that night, I so excitedly made myself a little faux turtle sundae- Jello creme brulee Rice Pudding (btw, so good. Getcha some), a few almonds and a nice dollop of sugar free caramel syrup. Little did I know I was ruining some perfectly good pudding and nuts.

This stuff is NASTY. I do not say that lightly. I can't quite describe why it tastes so bad, but I'll try. First off, it is very thin- not thick and decadent like caramel syrup should be. Second, it has the distinct taste of Sweet and Low, even though it claims to use Splenda. Suuuuure. Third, it reminds me of those horrible containers of powdered creamer that cheap people put by their coffee machines. Why? Because non-dairy creamer is one of the ingredients, along with sorbitol, a common sweetener.... in cough syrups. This stuff was the definition of scary, plastic-y diet food. When your mom was on a diet in the early 80s, this was what she was eating, and is the reason why she decided dieting is not worth it and now is 50 pounds overweight. It's enough to turn you off diet food FOREVER. I beseech you, do not waste your money. In fact, I just put a little dollop of my finger to remind me of the taste, and now my throat kind of burns. There's something wrong with it. It is also, according to the bottle, "New." I wonder what the old kind tasted like.

Sorbee Sugar Free EatRite BeFit Caramel flavored Syrup has 15 calories per 2 tbsp serving, 0 from fat. However, it is kosher, so if Rosh Hoshana sneaks up on your this year and it's the only thing left in the grocery store, chug away.

Something else for you to read and eat!

I've taken up eating meat again. I just couldn't stay away from the foul. I still haven't eaten pork or beef and don't plan to, but damn, did I miss turkey. Turkey is one of those perfect foods- low fat, high protein, and tasty to boot. Lately I've been wrapping one in a tortillo slathered with blackberry fruit spread for lunch.

In keeping with tradition, I'll add an easy recipe here with some turkey.

Apricot Turkey Burgers
1 lb ground turkey
a handful and a half of shredded cheddar
a handful of diced dried apricots
a handful of breadcrumbs
garlic, onion powder, salt and pepper, and whatever other seasonings you're partial to

Combine all of this in a big bowl and mush it around with your hands. Form as many burgers as you want- I made seven, but you can make fewer or more depending on the size. Put them on a rack on top of a shallow broiling pan (to drain the fat) and stick them under the broiler for five minutes per side. They're tasty- just a hint of sweet with the savory, and juicy. Maybe you could add some brown sugar. That might be good. I ate mine without buns and dipped them in some delicious Premium Select Chipotle mustard. Dericious!

That's all for now! Comment and tell me the nastiest diet food you ever ate!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Sounds boring but isn't: Bread!

This weekend was hell on wheels when it comes to healthy eating. Two of my cousins graduated high school, which means open houses, which means, "Why yes, I would like a third piece of coconut cream pie." I even ate chicken. Nothing wrong with a little indulgence as long as you don't fall off the wagon completely (ed. note: not good advice for drug addicts or alcoholics) and get back on track, which is what I'm doing today, eating all healthy and doing countless mini-workouts from my new obsession, Exercise TV. It's brilliant! So many free workouts, and with forums, no less. Check it out at and be prepared to be overwhelmed with awesome.

Today I'm reviewing a staple in everyone's diets: bread. The much reviled (by me) Atkins diet and its many kin would have you believe that bread is to be avoided at all costs, but let's get real. We're Americans and we like our sammiches. But there is no doubt that sometimes bread and its ilk can wreak havoc on your diet, or at least your blood sugar. White bread is one of those foods that, IMO, should be at the top of the food pyramid with Snickers bars and pork rinds. It's a treat. That's why it tastes delicious. And like lots of things at the top of the food pyramid, the more you eat it, the more you crave it. Those yummy looking loaves of french bread with their perfect golden crust baked fresh everyday at Kroger taunt me, because they have no nutritional information, and that means they're hiding something. There's just not a whole lot of redeeming value in white bread.

The obvious solution would be to switch to wheat bread. Unfortunately, some wheat bread is really not all that good for you, either. Wheat is brown before it is bleached for white bread- thus sometimes you might be a loaf of wheat bread, thinking you're all healthy, but you are WRONG. I can't stress this enough: READ. LABELS. Just because a loaf of bread is brown and weighs about three pounds does not mean it will help you lose weight or even that it is better for you. As always, I recommend that you make sure what you're eating has some fiber. Real whole wheat bread should have at least 2g per slice; if you do your comparisons, you will find some with a lot more than that. Also: be aware that some of the denser, fancier wheat breads can pack up to 110 calories per slice. In fact, in front of me I have the half-eaten loaf of bread that my parents use to make their sandwiches, Aunt Millie's Multi-Grain Bread. I see that it has 60 calories per slice and only 1g of fiber (and this is on the far low end of the calorie spectrum when it comes to these kind of breads.) Might as well eat Wonder Bread.

But don't worry, because some people are awesome, and by awesome, I mean they created diet bread with redeeming nutritional value.

Healthy Life 100% Whole Wheat Whole Grain Bread

I first discovered this in high school, and it soon became a staple of my lunches- two pieces of Healthy Life bread with some turkey pepperoni and Swiss cheese. Why is this bread so awesome, you ask? Look no further than the label:


It don't get much lower than that, folks. I especially like this bread for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, which are pretty good for you, but the fat and calories from the peanut butter tends to add up. By balancing it with such a 'cheap' bread, calorie wise, you can enjoy them to your heart's content. And enjoy I do. For, you see, not only is this bread amazingly low cal. Oh no. It is also high fiber. Two slices? 20% of your daily fiber.

This bread is the shit. It even bills itself as the "Original Dieter's Dream." Even if you aren't on a diet, you'll still enjoy it. It's not one of those things you eat when you're only on a diet. I won't bore you with things like how it tastes, because it's fucking bread. Most run of the mill sammich bread tastes the same. It's pretty damn good. And cheap, to boot, so there's no excuse not to buy it. Use it for toast. Use it for french toast. Eat it plain. I like to make it into a little egg sandwich in the morning- two slices, an egg white or two, and a slice of Muenster cheese with some mustard. They make buns, too, and Italian bread, and even DOUBLE FIBER BREAD.

Another reason why I love this bread? On its website it has a little page devoted to the benefits of fiber. God bless Healthy Life Bread. But don't take my word for it: here is a testimonial from the testimonials section of the website.

I just wanted to say that this is the best bread, 100%Natural Whole Wheat, I ate the entire loaf in one week. I even ate the ends of the bread.
Lyneth N.
Chicago, IL

See that? She even ate the ends of the bread. That's hardcore. I picture Lyneth eating this bread plain and straight from the bag. She probably didn't, though. But it is that good. I'd do it. Okay, I've done it.

The one drawback? It's a tad flimsy. You can make a good PB&J, or turkey, or pepperoni sammich with these, but what about something that needs a stiffer bread, like a veggie sammich? Don't worry. I got you covered.

Arnold Select 100% Whole Wheat SanwichThins

My mom turned me on to these when she brought them home a few years ago. They're quite cute as a novelty item- little round pieces of bread, reminiscent of a bun but not as fluffy. And the nutritional info is something to write home about: at only 100 calories per roll and 5g of fiber, I can't see anything wrong with them. But I can see something right with them.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about performing at the Bean Cup in Greenwood and discovering their delicious vegetarian sandwich. I successfully recreated it at home, but it needs a pretty sturdy bread to keep from getting soggy, what with all the tomatoes and cucumbers. However, I really dislike some of the heartier wheat breads. What to do?

It's SandwichThin time, bitch.

They're perfect. Sturdy and dense enough to house even the wettest of lunch meat and lunch meat accoutrements. My favorite thing to put on it? Aloutte makes a yummy lite dill spreadable cheese, which I put on one slice and top with spinach, red onion, and cucumber. Sometimes some red pepper. Altogether it's less than 200 calories for a good serving of fiber, veggies, and protein. Doesn't get much more awesome.

Now, some stuff about exercise

Lately I've been reading a lot of buzz about the Couch-to-5k program online. The idea is to get you from a couch potato to someone who can run a 5k without stopping in 9 weeks. From everything I've read, the program is completely doable and really life changing. I've read countless success stories.

I used to run, but only briefly, for about three months, and only because my elliptical machine was broken and it was my only means of cardio. I hated it. I really, really did. Maybe it was because I had no iPod, or maybe it was because I had improper shoes, or maybe it was because I had to run up and down huge hills in my rural neighborhood and past construction workers who would hoot and holler even though I was a sweaty mess in an oversized T-shirt with Garfield on it and a bright orange headband. Either way, having my elliptical back was the happiest day of my life. My route in those days was roughly three miles, with lots of hills, and I rarely ran the whole way- generally I would run a mile, walk for a minute, run another mile, walk for a minute, then finish.

The thing is, even though I hated running, I still really envy runners. My mom is one, and I'm really jealous of her strength and endurance. Every year around the Mini-Marathon I wish that I was still running so that I could do that. Also, I find the idea of having a form of exercise that you can do anywhere with just your running shoes to be very appealing. In fact, soon I will be heading out to a very rural town for the weekends to do some summer stock theatre, and I'm freaking out at the idea of having nowhere to work out. So, I'm considering doing C25K to kill two birds with one stone.

The only problem is, that whole running episode was over a year ago. These days, I am much more fit. I mean, waaaay more. I exercise for an hour every day, and generally do at least one other physical thing in addition to my workout, whether it is yoga, walking the dog, or ballet class- and of course, my beloved ExerciseTV mini-workouts. And I'm not talking about some namby-pamby pansy workout, either. I like my workouts HARD. I loved Jari Love's Get Ripped 1000- that's about the intensity I'm used to. So, as crazy as it sounds, I'm worried that C25K may be too easy.

I realize that running is a whole different ball game, and that my body will have to work to get used to it. But I'm kind of nervous that if I cut back my exercise to 20 minutes a day (which is how much you do on C25K) that I'm going to lose all of the strength I've gained. I've been considering maybe shaving a few minutes off my hour a day and doing C25K in addition to my normal workouts, but that seems like a lot and I don't know if I'll have the dedication. But either way, it's something to think about.

That's all! Comment and tell my your favorite sandwich fillings, or your experience with C25K. Hopefully next time I'll have some updates from Bill on P90X!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

It's been awhile.

It's not that I haven't been eating my diet food, because God knows I have. It's that I've sort of lodged myself into a routine with my diet foods and nothing particularly promising has shown up. So I will open myself up to the readers (of which there are.... um.... four or five?) and ask you to throw any diet foods that you want reviewed my way. I ain't picky. If it has the words 'low fat' 'whole wheat' 'diet' or 'Splenda' in the title, then I'll ingest it.

I have some other more interesting stuff to write about, but since I did start this to review, I'll put in a short one on a diet food that has been in my house since we got our membership to Costco (the health food-obsessed girl's equivalent of VJ-Day; imagine me French kissing an unsuspecting Costco employee from underneath my jaunty sailor's hat.) This food does not bill itself as diet, which means I hesitate to review it as I promised myself I would only review the 'lite' version of regular things. But I think as a service to people everywhere, these deserve to be in the public consciousness.

FiberOne Chewy Bars

Remember one of my number one diet rules, always eat breakfast? Well, there's a caveat. Yes, you should always eat breakfast, and if you have never done so before, I don't give a shit what you're eating, just shovel something in. If you already eat breakfast and have gotten into the habit, now I will tear you a new one. What are you eating for breakfast? Chances are it is a bagel, some sort of Cornflakes or Cheerios, some variation of McMuffin, or a Nutri-Grain bar. Now, all food has some sort of value, in that it provides calories, at least. But here's a secret. Anything you get at the Panera drive-thru is probably not as good for you as you'd like to think. Here's why- first off, anything that you purchase at a restaurant is probably going to have twice the amount of fat and calories as something you buy at the grocery store. That's what makes it taste good! Fat is delicious. But unfortunately, it tends to migrate to your ass and next thing you know you are me, a victim of 'skinny fat' (skinny person with one fat body part- mine is the upper thighs.) SO. Try to limit your buying breakfast on your way to work from a drive-thru window, unless you have no other options. You will thank me when you suddenly have fifteen extra dollars every week. Amazing how money adds up when you don't eat out every day! Some people still have not grasped this.

ANYWAY. Now I will berate you for your choice of eating at home. Again, Cornflakes and Nutri-Grain bars are a good start, and if it's all you can stand or something, then they will absolutely do. But I have another secret. Lots of people eat Nutri-Grain bars, thinking they are some super healthy brain food and feel all self righteous; oftentimes these are the people that refer to a meager bowl of white iceberg lettuce drowned in bacon bits, cheese, and ranch as a 'salad.' But let's look at the nutritional value. I have in front of me a box of strawberry Nutri-Grain bars. Kristi Yamaguchi is smiling back at me from the front of the box. I don't hate her, but I hate Kwan. Raymond and I applauded when Kwan fell during the Olympics. We don't like her. Not sure why. Anyway, by studying the nutritional info I see that each bar has 130 calories, 30 from fat. Not bad at all, but let's consider the real important part of all of this. If you've ever read my blog, you know that I believe that lots of fiber and lots of protein are essential to a good diet. They keep you full, keep your muscles working at their peak and they help you poop. Is there anything more important than that? Hell no. And Nutri-Grain bars only have 2g of fiber, or 6% (this should be 8%, actually, so it's more like 1.5 grams) and 2g of protein. And the first ingredient here is the ominiously vague 'filling', which consists of high fructose corn syrip, strawberry puree concentrate, glycerin, sugar, and then lots of big scary words and some food coloring. You do get a decent amount of calcium out of these, and some vitamins, but really, this isn't that good for you. You could probably eat Sprees or something and it would be roughly the same. But they're so convenient! And it's a granola bar, right?

It's time to let the real fucking granola bar around here come in and take over.

FiberOne is a company after my own heart. I mean, they are dedicated to fiber. I am dedicated to fiber. I really believe it is magical, mystical, healing, and probably was the gift of one of the wisemen at the birth of Christ. Why is fiber so awesome? Well, first off, you can pretty much subtract the calories in your food from fiber from the total, because your body doesn't really digest it... it just sort of passes in your poop. Which leads me to- fiber makes you poop. In my opinion, you can attribute a chronic shitty attitude in a person to two things: lack of sex and lack of poop. This is why chronically shitty people are sometimes called 'tight asses.' Which leads me to- math. Put food in, poop it out, voila, food is not settling on your lower back to create love handles. Also, it's good for your heart or something. Bottom line: fiber is good. Things with lots of fiber are especially good for you (wheat bread, Grape Nuts, veggies- please refer to my fun graphic.) This means that everything FiberOne makes is good for you (FiberOne representatives, feel free to send your complimentary merchandise my way for this free advertisement.) Just how good are these FiberOne bars? Well, they contain.... wait for it....


That's a lot. I would wager to guess that for the majority of the American population, these 'chewy bars' contain more fiber than they consume in an average day. And even better, these have a mere 140 calories per serving, or 10 more than a Nutri-Grain bar, but 7 more grams of fiber! AND high fructose corn syrup isn't even on the label for at least three or four ingredients (This might matter to you. To be honest, I don't care about high fructose corn syrup. Maybe it's those incredibly persuasive commercials. It's just corn! Makes me wonder why we don't sweeten things with green bean syrup.)

But how does it taste? We've all seen those commercials for Baked Lays are some sort of 'healthy' version of Lays potato chips involving the cartoon ladies. I don't like those commercials because they perpetuate all sorts of food penance/food is morality unhealthy behaviors, but one of them is sort of true- the one where the lady is eating some sort of fiber-y snack and choking it down because it's so dry and dusty. I think this is why a lot of people are scared of fiber- traditionally, things with a lot of fiber are kind of cardboardy. At least according to other people, they are. I have made it my lifelong mission to find delicious sources of fiber, and I am happy to report that these 'chewy bars' are on that list. And chewy they are. These take a while to eat because you gotta masticate the crap out of them, but it's worth it. They are held together with some kind of viscous honey-like deliciousness and drizzled with chocolate. They taste nothing like cardboard and everything like yummy. My only complaint is that they are just a little bit short and leave your fingertips a little sticky, but nothing a good licking won't fix.

Now that I have showed you the path to a healthy bowel and a healthier breakfast, you have no excuse for not eating the FiberOne bars. If I see you eating a Nutri-Grain bar, I now reserve the right to slap it out of your hand.

FiberOne Chewy Bars have 140 calories per bar, 35 from fat, with 9g of fiber and 2g of protein.

More stuff and things

This summer I've been largely unemployed, except for 75 bucks a week for a show I'm doing and sporadic monies from what I call my 'contracting business' (whoring myself out in all manner of costumes or what-have-yous for events, etc.) And with school only six hours a week, I've been trying to find things to do rather than sitting on my duff all day. I've taken up knitting- really, and it is HIDEOUS but I'm getting the hang of it- and become interested in alternate day fasting (see, it is relevant.) I first heard about this a few months ago in Shape magazine. The concept is that you eat nothing one day and eat whatever you want the next day. Everyone agrees that this is absolutely NUTS and not something you should do EVER. However, it has been shown to be extremely effective if you modify it slightly. The idea is that you eat about 20-50% of your average calorie intake on your 'low cal' days and eat whatever you want (in moderation, so don't go eating a whole box of Twinkies or something) on your 'normal' days. Studies have shown that most people actually eat only 10 to 20 percent more on their on days when doing ADF. Apparently, ADF can unlock the 'skinny gene', or SIRT1, which basically tells your body not to store certain things as fat... or something. I'm not a doctor. Look it up. Also, there are all kinds of studies out there anyway that advocate an extremely low-cal diet for its positive correlation with a longer lifespan. The thing is, can people deal with a diet that leaves you hungry as hell all the time?

Well, the answer, for me at least, is pretty much. I have a tendency to get really obsessed with healthy eating and feeling all sorts of nasty guilt when I eat something 'bad.' This is not a healthy attitude at all, and the ADF is actually easing it. The way I keep from getting ravenous is to plan to eat between 100 and 200 calories every two to two and a half hours. That way I'm stoking my metabolism while also avoiding getting weak with hunger. Plus, I always know that food is le
ss than two hours away, which prevents what would be an inevitable binge if I were completely fasting. And the next day, I eat pretty much what I want. I eat really healthily anyway, but on the 'off' days I can ease up on portion controls a little bit. Let's examine Sunday- before church I had some watermelon and wheat bread with soy milk, and then went out to Bob Evans (I know, I know, but goddamn it was tasty) and got a big egg-white omelet full of veggies with biscuits and hashbrowns. Of course I had to sample half a piece of banana bread and half a dinner roll as well. Later that night I ate almost an entire margherita pizza from Bazbeaux and some salad and finished it all off with a piece of coconut creme pie. Normally, eating like that would have left me absolutely distraught, no matter how good it tasted. But the beauty of ADF is that I don't really feel guilty because I know that being 'back on track' is only a day away. In essence, you never really get 'off track.' Granted, I just started doing this a week ago so I don't know how long it will work in the long run... but I'll let you know. It's certainly better for you than starving yourself, and more feasible for a lot of people than doing a low-cal plan every day. And I think that it may be helpful for people who compulsively overeat, because over time you may find a balance. Just a thought.

Guest blogging!

Now, I love working out and eating healthily as much as the next person with way too much time on her hands, and I'll try anything that will make me sweat, but I have never gotten around to P90X. You know, those commercials with the people doing insane push
up variations and getting washboard abs in 90 days? It always looked like a fad or a scam to me, like Metabolife or Atkins, but then I did a little research and found that a lot of normal folk had had great success on the plan. I even talked to a personal trainer friend who said that the muscle confusion theory is really successful- the idea is that if you are constantly changing up the ways in which you work your muscles, they will never become complacent and bored and thus you will always be making them stronger. The DVDs also come with a nutrition plan, so they don't market themselves as a quick fix- you've gotta be invested in the total program to see those kinds of results. So I've been very interested but didn't think I'd have the time or money to do it.

Well, luckily for me, my friend Bill does! Bill is going to be guest blogging here over the next few months while he does P90X. He's been getting back in to exercise and wanted to jumpstart it with the program, and I'm
just pleased as punch that he's going to be sharing his experiences here on the blog. He's going to be so buff that we won't be able to resist him. Please refer to the graphic for what Bill's abs will soon look like (except I think that model is probably some sort of Latin, and Bill isn't... but who knows the power of the P90X?) I'm really excited to see how he likes it and to get his opinion out here (and, let's face it, I'm excited to see if it works so I can borrow it when he's done), so look for some material from him in the coming weeks.

And a recipe, because I'm awesome.

I've been fronting and saying I'd post recipes for some time now, but I think so far I've only posted one. So here's one. I made this the other night and invented it out of thin air, but it turned out pretty good. I usually shy away from raviolis because they are often laden with fat and calories, but I used special ones here. This is Italian food without feeling like utter ass later that night from being too full. Also, it has so many veggies that you may not even feel the need to add a salad. It's
kind of a meal in itself. So read on.

Baked Ravioli with Veggies
1 package of wheat ravioli (I like Buoitoni, but you can use whatever, with whatever filling, but you want pasta with some fiber)
1 bell pepper, any color
1 red onion
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
two handfuls of mushrooms
about 1/3 jar of pasta sauce- I used the super chunky mushroom from Ragu, because you get a full serving of vegetables per serving
1 minced garlic clove
Italian seasonings
shredded cheese- I used Parmesan, mozarella and Gouda
olive oil
two handfuls of spinach


Chop up your bell peppers and onions and put them in a bowl with some olive oil and Italian seasoning. Shake the bowl to coat them, then roast them in the oven/toaster oven for 10 mins at 400.

While those roast, start your boiling water for the ravioli.

While you wait for that to boil, put your olive oil into a sauce pan and heat it up. Then put in your minced garlic clove and mushrooms and saute them for about three or four minutes. Then pour the can of diced tomatoes over it, stir it up, add some Italian seasoning and put the lid back on. Let it simmer while you put the ravioli into the boiling water and cook it according to the directions.

While you wait for all that, cover the bottom of a casserole dish with the spinach. Cover the spinach with some shredded cheese. By now your peppers and onions and ravioli should be done or close to it, so take the veggies out of the oven and drain the ravioli. Use the pot the ravioli was in and dump in your pasta sauce. Pour the mushrooms and tomato mix in with that; let it heat for a minute or two, then add the ravioli and the peppers and onions to it so everything is all mixed together. Add some Italian seasoning and let it sit on the heat for another minute or two. Now, pour half the mix on top of the layer of spinach. Add some cheese. Then pour the rest of the mix in and add some more cheese on top of that. Pop it in the oven at 450 for about 15 minutes, or until the cheese is all melty. If you use low or no fat cheese and wheat ravioli, this is a relatively low cal dish (probably serves four people.) But you can use all manner of cheeses and raviolis to make it as decadent as you wish. My version is meat free but you can certainly use turkey or sausage stuffed raviolis.

I love pasta. I could eat that shit every day.

Thus concludes the longest entry ever. Comment and let me know if you've tried P90X, ADF, or tell me your favorite way to get fiber!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Required reading

Ah, my last day of freedom with no responsibilities or 'better things to do' before summer school starts tomorrow. Five days was a nice break but I go crazy without actual demands on my time, such as a job or a class. No, this blog does not count as a legitimate obligation.

It's becoming fruit season around these parts so I've been basking in the glow of in-season cherries, pears, bananas, peaches, etc. and not eating quite so much diet food (I know, I know. I'm still me, I promise!) Or maybe I've just settled in to something of a pattern with my food and haven't sampled any diet stuff of note lately. But rather than just wait until I actually have something to write about, I have a better idea. Book reviews!

Required Reading for the Low Fat Sugar Free Whole Wheat Diet Blog!

I never really offered a good explanation of my nutritional pattern and the patented Erin diet. It goes a little something like this: lots of protein, lots of fiber, lots of whole wheat, not a lot of animal fat and oils, sugar in moderation, and lots of color. Notice how nowhere does that say 'low carb' or 'points' or anything like that. It's pretty much sensible. Don't eat shit that's bad for you. And if you're like me and the stuff that's bad for you is what you really want to eat, then find the diet version of it and eat away. And exercise, for the love of God.

I arrived at this plan through a lot of reading- of labels, magazines, websites, and books. If you're like almost everyone in the country, you've struggled with your weight or your attitude toward it. These three books pretty much changed my life. I don't say that lightly because I don't have a touchy feely bone in my body. They are straightforward, no bullshit, and body positive. I started this blog because I wanted people to realize that eating healthy is not all that hard. Believe me, for years I refused to even try to eat healthy because I didn't like it. Well, that's too fucking bad. Pull up your big girl panties and deal with it. The best way to stop feeling negative about yourself is to eat a little better and exercise a little more. Once you've got these habits then the obsessive thoughts and negativity start to subside and you can move on with your life and stop worrying so much about your body. It's just your body, anyway.

Now on to the books!

Magic Foods: Simple Changes You Can Make to Supercharge Your Energy, Lose Weight and Live Longer By Robert A. Barnett and Denise Webb

This manual comes to us from the fine folks at Reader's Digest. It is pretty much a Bible for my diet. The book first offers you some pretty basic tips to healthy eating, like making the majority of your bread servings whole grain, avoiding too much sugar, etc. Then comes the bulk of the book, the Magic Foods (I kind of wish the book were called Mystical Foods, because that would be awesome.) The idea behind the 'magic foods' is that all of them have a low glycemic load, which means something like 'it keeps your blood sugar stable.' This is important. You know how they say if you eat Chinese food you'll be hungry an hour later? It's because all of that soy and sodium and whatnot gives your blood sugar a quick spike and then a crash. This is also why you feel hungry after you eat a candy bar and why a Snickers for lunch, even if it does only have 180 calories, is really stupid. It's pretty much a beginner's guide to healthy eating, which is where a lot of us need to start. There are a few things I love about this book.

1. It represents all types of food. Some stupid people have recommended you don't eat carbs, or don't eat fruit, or avoid peanut butter and avocados because of the fat. These people are WRONG. All of those foods have nutritional value and you need them. Variety is really important. I think this is where a lot of us fall off the wagon and never get back on- we get tired of eating carrots for every meal. Well, guess what. You don't have to!

2. The book gives you portion sizes. This is hard for a lot of us to grasp so it's pretty helpful to get an idea of how much of something to eat. It also lets you know if something is particularly good for you so you can have more.

3. The 'make it a magic meal' section. This is probably the best part. It gives you a ton of different ideas for making a normal meal into something similar but way healthier. Example- converting that salami and American cheese on a white roll with chips and a Coke into a roast beef with lettuce and tomato on whole wheat with pita chips, a peach and water. That's not so hard, is it?

Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works By Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch

Deep in the grips of a cycle of binging and crash diets, my friend from high school, Mary Kate, gave me this book and told me it changed her life. At first I concerned the book diet poison and propaganda. I mean, DON'T diet? What the hell kind of philosophy is that? But the book really does make a good point. The main concept is in the title: eat what you are craving (as long as it isn't constantly chocolate cake or something), because more often than not, you will find yourself satisfied with a little of it and able to eat healthily otherwise. Honor your hunger. The idea here is that, by obsessively dieting, we often diet ourselves to a higher weight or completely wreck our metabolisms. The book also points out how our bodies will eventually defeat us if we try to lose weight in a way that isn't healthy or sensible. There are lots of 'Eureka!' passages in this book where you realize that you've been sabotaging yourself all along. To wit: the concept that if you are really craving something, you should go ahead and eat it, because otherwise you'll end up trying to fill that hole with other things until you've consumed more calories than you would have if you would have just eaten the fucking corn bread in the first place.

The thing I like about this book is the idea that we all have a natural weight; if you eat sensibly and exercise in moderation, you will reach the natural weight that your body wants to be. If you try to push yourself past that, get ready to fail a lot and be in a lot of pain. Also, don't be a dumbass. Eat when you are hungry.

FAT!SO? Because You Don't Have to Apologize for Your Size by Marilyn Wann

My sister was reading this book during one of her breaks from college when I was 12 or so. She had never been a pound over thin her whole life, but I was a pudgy girl who had hit puberty early and was bigger than her peers. Finding this book was really a life safer for me. The idea here is that IT'S OKAY TO BE FAT. Pretty revolutionary, right? And it is. The book does not use euphemisms. You are not chubby, portly, big boned, whatever. FAT. And they, or you, or we, or I, am fat and proud!

The main idea is that some people are just naturally fat. You can eat normally and get moderate exercise and still be fat. This sentiment is finally coming around to the American consciousness with the Health at Any Size movement. Fat people aren't gross, they aren't stupid, they aren't lazy or ugly. We come in all flavors and fat is one of them. Stop and think about this for a minute: are fat people the last acceptable group to marginalize? How many times do you hear people saying, "I hate fat people"? It's not okay. Fat people aren't hurting you.

I can't say enough good things about this book. If you are skinny, it will make you want to gain weight. It's wonderful. There are essays from fat people, man, women, teens, etc. There are tips on how to reply when someone criticizes your weight. But mostly, this book is about breaking free from the restrictions people put on us and refusing to bend to their standards. I can honestly say this book changed the way I view the female form and I'm so glad I discovered it when I was young and impressionable. I think a big, healthy fat lady is sexy and beautiful. There really is more to love. There used to be an awesome website where plus sized women could send in their photos and have them drawn in a very stylized and sexy comic book theme; it was awesome. We need more of that. Say it loud: I'm fat and I'm proud!

That's all I got. Comment and tell me how awesome you think these books are!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The puddin and the jello and the koo koo ka choo!

The quote above is courtesy of Raymond, doing his Bill Cosby imitation. No matter how many times he does it, I laugh and laugh.

Anyway! I do have a point. And that point is pudding, the least pointy of all foods. That staple of salad bars and Chinese buffets. I mentioned it in my last post, how I like my yogurt to be as thick as pudding. There is something infinitely satisfying in a nice big spoon of inexplicably jiggy-yet-stiff puddin. The last time Raymond and I went to Beef and Boards, we got a huge plate of nothing but pudding. It's like ice cream, but it doesn't hurt my sensitive front teeth (of the five or six episodes of Friends that I've actually watched in my life, only one exchange actually made me laugh- some guy was telling some other guy he was weird for not liking ice cream, and the guy replied, "It's too cold!" I feel you, man.)

I used to really love making the Jello Pudding from a box because I could mess with the chemistry to get it as thick as humanly possible. I pretty much want a cheesecake-like consistency. I would use half the amount of milk and a nice healthy dose of heavy cream. I tell you what, that thing about beating for two minutes? I rarely made it past one. It was that thick. And delicious.

But since then I have developed a grocery shopping and cooking habit, and since I can't control myself from cooking in bulk (I must have inherited my inability to make any dish that serves less than 8 people from my mom, who was one of 7 kids), I have very limited fridge space. So, no more making huge bowls of pudding unless I wanted to buy another Maytag. Also, the purpose of buying sugar free yogurt is kind of defeated when you use heavy cream.

But wait, what? You mean they make puddings in individual sizes? That are DIET? Oh, surely you jest.


Jell-O Sugar Free Dulce de Leche Pudding Cups

Just in time for Cinco de Mayo, it's that favorito Mexicano, dulce de leche! In case you hadn't noticed it, despite my mentioning it every two fucking seconds, I lived in South America for a few months (Uruguay and Brazil.) Though I was subjected to a smorgabord of disgusting edibles (mayonnaise covered pizza, for one, and pizza never deserves to be violated in such a way), I did eat a hell of a lot of dulce de leche. If I remember correctly, it's made with a lot of brown sugar and condensed milk. There's a lot of dulce de leche in the States now, so I don't need to explain it to you, but it's pretty much carmel. As a side note, I had more delicious pudding-like desserts in Brazil than I can possibly relate to you. One of my favorites was torta da bola, which amused my friends to no end because it means 'ball cake' and it sounds funny with an American accent. It was a shit ton of egg whites, sugar, and condensed milk with pieces of chocolate 'balls'. Holy eff, was it ever yummy.

Anywho, these pudding cups are not just little bowls of dulce de leche (though that would be delicious and exactly the kind of thing I would eat, as I often prefer condiments to their vehicles.) That is the topping, and the rest of it is some sort of flan-like custard. You don't get a whole lot of topping, and it's a little thinner than I would have liked- the dulce de leche I am used to it so thick that the spoon gets stuck by the end of the stirring. However, I suppose that would make it kind of difficult for the little robots to put dulce de leche into the cups without their mechanical arms getting gummed up, so I'll forgive them. Because these things are really good. I don't know that I would call them delicious, but they are pretty damn tasty. The custard part is satisfyingly thick and if you use a small enough spoon, they actually take awhile to eat (in my quest to stop eating two desserts I have taken to eating my pudding with a baby spoon that belongs to my two year old niece. If that isn't pathetic, I don't know what is. But it's working.) They aren't some paltry, pansy-ass tiny pudding cups. That is a rip off and I wouldn't reccommend them if they did that to you.

The most awesome thing about these pudding cups? 60 calories. No lie. That means you can ditch those pathetic little Oreo 100 calorie packs that contain 3 sad little Oreo cakes. If you ask me, those things only serve to whet your appetite and make you MORE hungry for dessert. One of these pudding cups is enough for me. They are also sugar free, which is whatever to me, but you might care (maybe if you are on the Atkins diet? If you are, stop right now and e-mail me so I can give you the secrets of the patented Erin diet that actually works and doesn't involve eating mayonnaise covered bacon.) They do, however, contain 6g of something called 'sugars alcohol', and I don't know what that's all about but I do likes me sugar and me booze, so count me in. Hey, eat it with some margaritas and you've got yourself a regular fiesta! Cue the maracas and me wearing a headband and a deadstock bikini, doing the Frug with Elvis on the sandy beaches of Mexico. Ole!

Jell-O Sugar Free Dulce de Leche Pudding Cups have 60 calories, 10 from fat.

Other stuffs and things

In a shameless attempt to promote my blog, I joined Twitter. You can follow me by looking me up under the user name kodachromerin. If I get some followers I'll try to post mini-reviews or diet/fitness/food related stuff. Or just other boring updates about my life, but I'll try to keep those to a minimum.

Also, I am looking for some tofu suggestions. I had a block of extra firm that's expiration date was today so this morning I cut it up and fried it. So far I have attempted to eat it with a fork and some Trader Joe's garlic aioli mustard sauce for dipping. It's been... interesting. So any ideas would be appreciated.

I found a great website for healthy recipes: Eat Better America. A nice feature is their 'healthified' recipes- taking traditionally atomically fatty or unhealthy foods and substituting ingredients to make them healthier. I don't know about you, but my poor body is so used to eating super healthy everything and diet versions of things that I get a little sick to my tummy when I eat out and they use all real butter, fat, etc. (This is either a good thing or a bad thing.)

That's all for today. Follow me on Twitter! And comment and let me know how you use tofu. Bonus points if you can tell me how to make tofu pudding.