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!