Monday, October 5, 2009

You Can Eat Two Bites of Anything

A while ago, I alluded to a post wherein I'd discuss my ambivalence about cooking. Of course, it isn't ambivalence about cooking - or even about eating - but about getting totally carried away by the joy of creative, delicious food and getting fat. Note: I'm not even dead set against that model, that's how fun it is...

I know it's quite un-PC to imply, much less state clearly, that the only reason I don't want to eat everything in sight (or at least everything that I cook) is because I want to be slim by my own standards. But y'all who've been reading me for a couple of years (yes, it has been that long) know that, for quite a while after having my daughter, I was rather unhealthy and less svelte than I am now. Or than I was before I started cooking, at any rate :-)

I developed a healthy relationship with my naturopath - and rekindled one with nutrition via my food diary (a decade-long, on-again / off-again friend) and it's been good times ever since.

However, lest you doubt this, I am a hedonist from way back. I LOVE excess, debauchery, overdoing it. I get this from my father - who should be nicknamed Bacchus - a guy who thinks that one delicious, creamy thing is only improved by 3 more. My father embodies American joie-de-vivre, in my opinion. Send him out for some milk and you get 3 quarts, plus heavy cream and a pizza thrown in for good measure. It's always intriguing to see what he'll come back from the store with.

I love the mouth-feel of well-made pastry, the umami of perfectly-grilled beef, the painful sweet/saltiness of fleur-de-sel caramel, the berry and hay notes of good wine, the earthiness of mushrooms, the tart of apples tempered by vanilla (ok, vanilla ice cream, if you must). And just as much, as I've stated before, I love starting with nothing and developing something alchemic and profound i.e. culinary experimentation.

I don't want to seem obnoxious here. I want to explain how hard it is, on the one hand, to love cooking so much that I could spend all day doing it (lord knows, I spend all weekend) and on the other hand, to care about fitting into lovely clothes (another passion) and feel good about looking at my stomach in the mirror.

Egad, the bourgeois challenges which, daily, I stare squarely in the eye.

I don't have an answer for you yet. What I can say is that, despite inevitably loathing the outcome, I continue to track the calorie counts of my "art". And then, to the best of my ability, I eat 3 bites (which still amounts to rather a lot of damage, and I use this word loosely) and wait for the next meal.

Pls. don't assume that I'm one of those quasi-eating disordered counters. I recognize, after years of being me, that I experience homeostasis at a certain intake vs. output. Trust me, I eat the absolute maximum number of calories I can possibly justify while attempting to ensure that I'll continue to fit into my (rather expensive, all things considered) wardrobe. It ain't easy being a woman approaching 40 who freakin' lives to eat. And my diet is varied and healthy - maybe too much so! - not in any way limited by food group or type.

And yet, beautiful food seems so costly...

Par exemple: A serving of boeuf bourgignon (Julia Child's recipe divided by 7, no starch) has 500 calories. A glass of wine (5 oz) has 125. A small piece of pumpkin pie has 300 calories.

That's most of the suggested daily calorie intake for a woman of my size and shape (which by the way, I think is generous and does not take the uniqueness of metabolism into account). And it's not exactly beyond filling. Even for one meal.

Nonetheless, life is long peeps (if we're lucky) and things change. We change. Life changes. I have so much more time and energy now than I did throughout the last decade. As we know, the years of early parenting were not kind to K. But my forties - I'm feeling optimistic about having space and passion and joy for things. This is good.

I'm going to return to this topic as I come to conclusions about the best way to find balance. Of course, as with every life experience, it's about balance. That's tough for the excessives of this world, and yet it's an exercise in self-awareness.

I can't be the only one to face this conundrum. Pls. share your thoughts. Do you struggle with this too? Let's talk, shall we?


  1. As I was trudging into work this morning, I thought, "All I want is to eat mashed potatoes for three weeks and then sleep all winter. Screw this healthy living crap."

    But I'd also been thinking how eating rich, fatty food all weekend had created some serious sluggishness and I've finally reached a place where I want to eat healthy because it makes me FEEL better, not just because I think I should.

    So, like you, I vacillate. I don't care for cooking, so that part of the equation doesn't apply ... but the fighting desires to just enjoy good-tasting food without worry versus eat healthy food to look and feel good? Those butt heads almost daily.

    Let us know more of your thoughts!

  2. Sal: Oh, I hear you. I scarfed down the requisite 500 calories of boeuf bourguignon this morning at 10 am - took 22 seconds. I think, for me, it's that much harder because I want to make all these fancy things. Why California spa cooking holds no interest for me is really a question worth answering :-) I do go through times where I feel totally outraged by hidden fat and I measure out my olive oil sanctimoniously. But it just doesn't suit my nature...

  3. I'm missing the cooking gene -- the other day I was worn out from boiling some ravioli.

  4. i think you've hit upon the Ina Garten question...'to ina or not to ina?'

    as a twentysomething who is a self-professed sartorial/style-obsessive, i try to strike a happy balance between my mm6 margiela skinny jeans and the heavenly, therapeutic process of making a 6-serving pot of mark bittman's coq au vin after a long day.

    in spite of my sartorial obsessions and love of all things totokaelo, rick owens and slim denim, though, i'd still like to think that in my middle age i'll be happily cooking up a storm of fleur-de-sels for my friends and gardening with abandon in my rambling country house, a la Ina Garten...all while rocking some chic slim jeans. but a part of me really envies Ina for giving herself so completely over to her passion for food.

    so...sometime between now and my fantasy future, i'm going to get on some pilates/yoga/spinning routine to balance things out. which hopefully will mean that i won't need to cut too much out of my life in order to fulfill my sartorial and culinary appetites.

  5. K, I hope you will continue to enjoy your food and your body just the way you are. You are just right.

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  7. you know, i'm not much into cooking, but i'm REALLY not much into going makes me feel sluggish, greasy and thirsty.

    so for me cooking is the lesser of two evils. in reality, i wish food just appeared whenever i felt peckish, but that technology hasn't been invented yet.

    i know what you mean about wanting to eat/control/and wanting to be thin, it's a battle i go through every day, but what seems to work is just indulging in things that are blatantly bad. like a bar of chocolate every day. eating that is just stupid and pointless. good, but pointless. when i reserve it for special occasions (pms??) then it's soooo much better.

  8. K.Line you are right, I don't think we have to deprive ourselves and I veer off track (almost at goal but not there yet) having been "bigger" before- I loathe the idea of being THAT ever again, not that women of size aren't beautiful, but I hated myself then, so I have learned to just have ONE, have on taste on the good stuff and load up on the healthy, that and only eating when I'm hungry, and drinking tea when I want to snack...

  9. Hmmm, I'd have to say that I'm currently in a fairly reasonable position - breastfeeding and pushing/carrying 11kgs of baby around all day mean that I have a few more calories to play with.

    That said, despite my love of cheese, wine and almond croissants, I am pretty nuts about my fruit and veg. And, er, nuts. If my jeans get too snug for comfort, I just try to eat more of the 'supposed to' foods, and less of the 'heart-attack-y' ones.

    And I second April's idea of drinking tea instead of snacking. Go tea!

  10. This is an interesting question and one I've struggled with for a long time. I love to cook, I love to bake, I love to eat, and I love clothes; these loves can be difficult to reconcile.

    I was fortunate that I was able to pretty easily maintain my slender self for a few years after my 40th birthday. That was before I blogged and you will have to take my word for it. After that age, hormones, stress and a lot of other stuff in my life helped lead me down the path of giving up and now I am finding my way back to a happy stasis. I don't kid myself that it will be the same body I had then; I think this is something we have to come to terms with. But I generally feel better when I eat more healthily.

    Portion control and writing it down seems important to me right now, but I am losing weight which needs losing. If I want to lose weight I have to watch calories although I do find I can get away with more calories if I sharply cut the carbs; I can also get away with more fat if I cut the carbs and still lose weight. So my choices by necessity become choices of balance and what I crave on a given day or week. I could have the beef bourgignon and the wine if I skipped the pie and ate mostly lean protein and veggies the rest of the day. I could have the pie if I skipped the beef bourgignon and wine. I think when I level out I will have more choice. But I think it is a choice.

    The nice thing about loving to cook is that often, after cooking it all, I have less desire to eat it all and a taste suffices.

  11. Wendy: That's why it's so good you live in NY where you can get excellent food everywhere!

    Miss Sophie: Love that comment. And it's nice to know that women of all ages are considering the dilemma (and not just me!). I wish you luck on your journey.

    E: Thank you. It's amazing how much thought goes into "just right" and then I second guess myself still...

    Jennine: Do you find PMS lasting 2 weeks these days? :-) (Somehow, I do...)

    April: It's all about one's own comfort level, yes. We might think someone looks great at a weight that really doesn't appeal to her.

    Iris: You have an excellent attitude and game plan! OK, I'm going to try the tea. Thing is, I only like the kind with caffeine and I really like to snack at night.

    Mardel: LOVE your comment. So well-considered. I know what you mean about making those choices. I don't love to have to make choices, but I do love that cooking provides the creative outlet that sometimes mitigates the urge to eat. I've created the beautiful objet de manger, so I don't need to eat it to experience it. I really wonder how I'm going to fare through the menopausal timeframe.