What’s on your plate Special Edition: Salads.

Life in terms of food in the Philippines wasn’t so bad, and it could certainly have been worse.  Where we lived, we had good access to a decent array of fruits and vegetables, and we eventually found a couple of places we could buy tofu (as it’s a common foodstuff, but not found in the supermarket) and learned how to make mungo beans.  But there were a few things we had to go without.  For C, I think the hardest of these was (what we consider good) bread, but he finally bit the bullet and started baking his own, which was awesome for both of us.

Some foods we couldn’t compensate for, though most of these were no big loss:  apples, oranges and grapes were on offer but out of the question.  The apples were tasteless and powdery, the oranges were juiceless and neither sour nor sweet, and I never got around to sampling the grapes…but I wasn’t bothered – we had mangos and rambutan and lanzones and jackfruit and like 4 kinds of bananas (though I’ve heard there were once hundreds of varieties in Mindanao, but due to monoculture there are only a few now – and there are far worse consequences, but I digress).

Something we absolutely never bought, though – except for that first time out of sheer naivety – was lettuce.  The lettuce was awful.  It was hard and bitter and dry…the climate just isn’t conducive to growing the stuff.  So upon arriving in France, I was ecstatic about salad.  The French love salad.  Most families serve it with every dinner and sometimes lunch, too.  The only problem is that for them, salade is the word they use for “lettuce”.  Which is to say that they eat lettuce with their meals, with dressing of course.  But rarely anything else, unless the salad is the main dish, which is typically only for eating out.  Not having lettuce in the Philippines had forced us to learn to love a whole bunch of other raw vegetables, and lettuce and sauce just didn’t cut it for me anymore.

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Weight loss hygiene Part III: The company we keep

When I was at university, I had about a hundred different jobs, one of which was tending bar in a karaoke bar that sat alongside a Chinese restaurant in Oceanside.  We had these two regulars, who I’ll refer to here as Dave and Sam.  They came in absolutely every night.  The nights I worked, the nights I didn’t – they were there.  They always sat at the end of the bar, about two seats apart, Sam nearest the exit so he could go out and smoke.  My boss was this knock-out Filipina single mom in her late 30s, and I’m pretty sure they and every dude in that restaurant were head over heels for her.

Sam was really smooth – almost like something out of a movie.  He smiled, but never too much, and was only really nice after he’d had one too many, so usually quite late in the evening, when he’d started buying rounds and killing my tips (he was a very bad tipper).  He was in his late 50s or maybe even early 60s by that point, and he was always well-dressed, in slacks and a button-up shirt, never jeans – I doubt he even owned a pair.  He drank something classic – martinis I think, or maybe old fashioneds – and he didn’t talk too much.  He’d go crazy when I’d sing “My Funny Valentine” – that was how I won him over, actually – and though he was reserved, he was a good guy.

Dave, however, wasn’t reserved at all.  He was one of those guys who just exudes generosity and kindness.  Dave was heavyset – probably weighed just under 300 lbs – and didn’t drink a drop.  He was in recovery.  He didn’t smoke, either, as he’d quit that not long after he gave up booze.  So nobody gave him any trouble for chowing down on as much deep-fried bar food as he fancied…Dave had already made some very difficult decisions in the name of his health and wellbeing.

Here’s the thing:  Dave was a recovering alcoholic who spent every single night (except meeting nights) at a bar, and never drank. Still, he was addicted to food – maybe before he gave up drink too – I wouldn’t know – but I imagine it got a lot easier to eat too much after he gave up drinking and smoking.  Meanwhile, Sam was also most definitely an addict.  Don’t get me wrong – he was very responsible with his addiction, always handed his keys over when he needed to and was never disrespectful to anybody.  But he was in that bar every single night. And every night he put back at least 4 or 5 of whatever highball it was he drank.

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What’s on your plate Part III: Lunch.

The diet industry astounds me.  Every week there seems to be a new way to get fit fast, until another comes along and blows the last one out of the water…each and every one promising the journey will be that much less painful (lose weight and eat what you want!), and that much more effective (bikini body in 30 days!).  I know this stuff sells because A) there are magazines upon magazines at the grocery store, always with the same headlines, and there have been for decades, and B) because we all want to believe in happily-ever-after – we want amazing things to happen to us.

But the truth is that while some amazing things do happen to us, weight loss isn’t one of them.  Getting fit and feeling well means actively changing our lives every day, establishing new priorities and letting go of old, destructive patterns.  There is so much joy to be found in this process, but it isn’t overnight – it’s long and slow, and sometimes really frustrating.  When the going gets tough, we must remember what we love…

And I love lunch.  Lovelovelovelovelove.  When a day’s going well and I’m flying from one task to another, it’s a welcome opportunity to slow down and breathe.  Conversely, when a day is absolute shite and I don’t think I can handle another minute of it, sitting down and eating can be as medicinal as going back to bed to start fresh.  But lunch is tricky, because most of us aren’t home at midday.  I think that’s a damn shame, because this really should be the time to sit down to a nice, big meal and a siesta, but that’s just not how the world works.

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Do it for the feeling

Today I went for a jog…and it was hard.  I’m not a natural when it comes to exercise at any rate – it’s just never come easy to me – but today kicked my arse.  I was thirsty, I felt like my breakfast was still digesting, I was out of breath too soon and my legs felt like bricks. It reminded me a lot of when I first started.  But I’ll start this post a little further back than that.

After I broke my leg, the doctors said I wouldn’t need any physio because the breaks were in the tibia and fibula, not the joints.  So although they had operated on me three times to insert, re-set (because my foot was pointing in the wrong direction the first time), and finally remove the nail that extended from my ankle (joint) to my knee (joint), and although a good part of the trauma my leg went through was at these joints (owing to the two screws at either end to hold the nail in place), no follow-up therapy was carried out.  Consequently, I had a lot of pain, particularly in my ankle.  I couldn’t walk for more than half an hour before I began limping.

It didn’t help at all that I’d begun putting on weight.

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What’s on your plate special edition: what’s in your cup?

It’s just past 9:00pm, and C’s sat across from me enjoying a cup of herbal tea (or an infusion, as the British and French more correctly call it) something that’s been an evening ritual of ours for some time now.  Except I’m not indulging.  This is not, as you may suspect, because C is mean and didn’t make me one.  It is instead because I get a bizarre case of heartburn if I drink anything hot at night, even those herbs specifically known for their antacid properties.

Drinking is such an important aspect of wellbeing.  I could go on for days about this one…how drinking what’s good for me has helped so much, while how drinking too much of what’s not has hurt me and those I love.  Yes, I do refer to alcohol here, but also caffeine and sugar.  While they don’t intoxicate, they do contribute either to our health or our lack of it, and I’m a huge proponent of all three chemicals!  In moderation, mind…

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Weight loss hygiene part II: Savor the same old

I never fancied myself someone who held the notion of “routine” in high esteem.  Quite the contrary, in fact…I have lived in too many flats and houses to count, had so many jobs (and different kinds of jobs, too), I could fill up a whole post just with that.  I’ve lived in four countries on three continents and hope very, very much to see that list grow exponentially (as does C, for that matter).  But routine is not to be scoffed at entirely.  Turns out it’s profoundly important to well being, and to weight loss in particular.

Starting with scales…I’m not a big believer in scales, but they do work for some, and shouldn’t necessarily be thrown out as ineffective.  It’s just that I have such a negative relationship with the contraption.  For gauging my weight, I tend to go by how my jeans fit.  But for those who do use them, it’s really super important to use them at the same time every time.  That is, if you weigh yourself at 10:00, make sure you always do, because weight fluctuates by a couple of pounds every day naturally due to water retention, and you don’t want to start feeling cheated by the experience.

However, if you feel a sense of dread when you look at a scale, ignore the above and throw the damn thing out the door.  Losing weight is about numbers, but more about how much nutrition you got today vs. how much junk, how far you walked today, how much water you drank, and how much you slept…  Which brings me to my next point: Continue reading

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