Another healthy (?)…

Another healthy (?) eating note. Yesterday, when Kat was over for writing date, I asked her if she wanted salad or pasta for lunch. It was a little chilly in the house, so I wasn't surprised when she opted for pasta -- it was what I really wanted too. I had some rotini and meat sauce left over from dinner the previous night -- I'd made a fairly standard sauce by browning onions and garlic, adding ground beef, a can of chopped tomatoes, and a leftover half jar of brand tomato sauce. Fine as far as it went, but I wanted something even yummier for lunch.

So I reheated the meat sauce, added crushed red pepper to amp up the spice level, a cup of wine, and a cup of alfredo sauce (I like the Rana brand, that come in little plastic cups). Now *that* was luscious. Let it simmer for a while, tasted, added some red wine vinegar for a bit of tang, and then it was pretty much perfect -- exactly what I wanted, anyway. I stirred in the cooked pasta noodles and served.

Now, here's the healthy eating part. I wouldn't normally have a meal that was that heavily weighted towards carbs and fat. But as far as I can tell, I do best on an overall balanced diet. I was planning on a salad + protein a few hours later, so I was okay with having this particular meal tilted in the other direction. This is one of the guidelines doctors give us for feeding kids -- they don't have to eat a balanced diet at any given meal, but over the course of the day, you want to aim for that. Maybe that means a mid-morning snack of blueberries and strawberries, a mid-afternoon snack of cucumber and bell pepper slices (with a little ranch dip or hummus), and a pre-dinner sliced apple. You don't have to force vegetables directly onto the lunch and dinner plates, which can save a lot of anxiety and effort all around.

So I was okay with the balance of the meal -- which left the calories. I did a quick count, and my best estimate was that this was roughly equivalent to a spaghetti bolognese, on the richer side. About 550-600 calories / cup. It might've been less, but better to estimate high, in case. That's a ton, but here's the thing -- I had half a cup for lunch, and another half cup for dinner (with grilled shrimp caesar salad in between around 3), and I felt really full and satisfied. All that yummy protein-carb-fat was very filling, esp. with a little parmesan on top.

The only problem was that when I took my half cup of super-rich pasta, it didn't *look* like a lot of food, which meant I was really tempted to take more. This is where measuring implements are your friend. I wasn't in Weight Watchers for more than a month or two; it's not quite my thing. But one thing I actually found helpful from them was a set of measuring implements they sell -- what look like large serving spoons, the sort you'd have out at a dinner table, even at a party, but which have cup measurements discreetly inscribed under the handle.

I had allocated myself 300 calories, so I took the half cup of pasta, sprinkled it with cheese, went to go sit down with my work to eat, trying to eat it slowly and savor each bite, accompanying it with a cup of tea. There was, of course, the temptation to go back for seconds -- but I was actually full -- it was just the taste in my mouth that was really making me want to keep eating. So I put my bowl in the dishwasher, transferred the rest of the food into a Pyrex and put it in the fridge. I could, of course, go in and heat some up again, but I made it a little more difficult. And I peeled and ate a clementine -- the tart sweetness did a great job of refreshing my mouth and making it not crave the creamy spice flavors. Then I went back to work, satisfied, and even though I ate this super-rich food for lunch and dinner, my scale is a little bit further down this morning. (3 pounds down since I started this three weeks ago.)

I feel like I want to write a longer essay at some point about *why* people who lose weight tend to put it back on again. A lot of people can be super-disciplined about almost anything for a restricted period of time, but if you're not making changes that you can continue practicing long-term, in a somewhat less-restricted fashion, you'll probably gain weight again.

And I want to link that idea to something about community support -- it's much harder to lose weight if you a) have to cook differently for your entire family on a daily basis, b) live in an area without access to fresh produce, c) can't afford to buy healthy, appealing food, d) can't afford to buy yourself a set of smaller plates (American plates are generally oversized), e) have social activities that are all centered around food, f) have a job that keeps you sedentary much of the day, etc. and so on.

I mean, these aren't new observations, but I think about it in the context of welfare, actually -- it's one thing to have food pantries, or give people WIC money, so they can buy milk. That's the bare minimum, that's what keeps them alive, and it's certainly better than nothing. But if you can give them six months of basic income so they have time and energy to job hunt? Or maybe give them free childcare so they can take those classes to finish up a college degree? There are better ways to do this, ways that involve changing the system around us, in bigger and smaller ways, practices that make life so much easier and more manageable.

The first time I was dieting (I'd gotten up to two sizes heavier than I am now), Kevin would cook in the middle of the night sometimes, and I'd wake up to find pizza or other tasties in the fridge -- but he'd portioned them out into reasonable sizes and labelled them with calorie counts. It was so incredibly helpful. I find requiring restaurants to post their calorie counts also helpful -- I've been more than a little shocked by how many calories are in things I like (like the Wendy's spicy chicken sandwich). Now I know that if I want that food, I'd better split it with Kevin, or at least portion it off and save half for another meal.

Rather than blaming people for lack of willpower, we need to recognize that our society is currently geared heavily towards weight-gain, and consider what can systematically change, at least on the individual / family level, where you can control it.

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