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Meeting with the Food Parole Officer Part 3

I meet with my Dietitian weekly. Over zoom. She’s lovely. Smart. Knows her science. Charming. But to protect her identity and to always remind myself it was my own behavior(s)/choices/whatever that got me in this mess, I refer to her as my Food Parole Officer. There is a confessional aspect to meeting with your dietitian weekly, and Food Parole Officer seemed better than Food Priest.

Anyway, I asked how she had been doing and she said, “doing well” and she had been doing some writing. I asked what kind of writing and she said they were working on doing a “Healthy Thanksgiving Cooking Class”. I guess I must have made a face, because she said, “What, doesn’t that sound good?”. “I don’t know, it kind of comes across as “Sex in a Public Library Class”. You can do it, but it doesn’t sound like fun.

Pleasantries can only go on for so long before she asks the “So how are you doing?”. She’s very consistent in tone, as I can’t parse out any of the variations, which all have different meaning, like “So, HOW are you doing?” vs “So how are YOU doing?” vs “So, how are you DOING?, which in all honesty is probably the meaning I’m wanting to escape. So it doesn’t always sound like a bad episode of that reality show, “Confessional Booth Superlatives”, I try to alternate between starting with “good news” and then “bad news”. Sometimes if the bad news is bad enough I’ll say, “Trigger Warning”. She’s learned to gird herself in the chair like when a flight attendant, 5 minutes after announcing severe turbulence, says “Brace in your seats”, milliseconds after the oxygen masks have popped out of the ceilings. ( I conjured this image the time I said “trigger warning” and then described my craving for my favorite mexican dip which is velveeta and salsa heated in the microwave till melted. You could definitely see the oxygen masks hanging from the ceiling on her face).

“I got a craving for my favorite cinnamon buns from my favorite bakers which I haven’t had in three months and the baker is next door to the greek place where I get my fresh ingredients lamb gyro so I popped in and got two and I ate the first one that day and it was amazing”. (somehow saying all that without breathing makes it seem easier. I’m relying on all the tricks my inner 8 year old remembers) But as she was looking up, which she now does anytime I tell her something that freaks her out (because I told her when I said something that freaked her out she would look left so now she only looks up), I said very quickly, “And I had the second one the next night and it gave me a horrible food hangover” hoping the pleasure that the second one made me ill would help with the whole freak out thing. Then, as she often does. She surprised me with, “That’s not so bad, next time you have a craving like that, you have to make the thing yourself. From Scratch.”

black smoke burst in brown open field at daytime

Is what my brain immediately did. Wait what? I can’t churn ice cream! Oh no, if I make a yellow cake with chocolate icing – I’ll eat the whole thing! OMG, this is going to eliminate 80% of my cravings. Crap. Apparently, as you will see below, she was still talking and as usual when my mind has this processing explosion, I heard nothing of what came after “make it yourself”.

Fast forward a few days later when sure enough, I get a craving for my fav cookie – oatmeal raisin. Gotta make it myself, I think. I’ve never made cookies in my life. Yes, I had a mother. Yes, I was married once. Yes, that’s another blog. Less funny though. Looked up a couple of oatmeal raisin cookie recipes. I thought, this is not so hard. Made my plan for Sunday. Here’s some things I learned. When they say “cream the butter” (which means mix the soft room temperature butter with the sugar until its “creamy”) and you don’t have a stand mixer, you DEFINITELY don’t’ want to use an immersion blender or a hand mixer. If you’ve ever been to the beach in a very skimpy bathing suit and gotten caught in a sudden hurricane where sand enters every pore and orifice in your body – that’s close to my experience. (My housecleaner is going to be really pissed tomorrow)

After putting the “balls of dough” (my thirteen year old brain loves the expression, “balls of dough” on a cookie sheet, I noticed the recipe said “refrigerate dough”. My not so quick thinking brain thought, “I can’t fit this cookie sheet in my fridge, so how important cant that step be” not realizing that I was supposed to put the MIXING BOWL of dough in the fridge. This is how important that step is…..

As I mentioned on my social media post, these cookies looked like a drunk driver took a car airborne into the living room of a home where the car burst on fire and burned. But they tasted good. Well,the first 12 I ate tasted great. I decided to send this pic to my food parole officer and mentioned we might need to discuss portion sizes when I found out that part I mentioned above where my head exploded and i missed what she had said after? Apparently it was, “make it yourself from scratch, EAT ONE AND THEN GIVE THE REST AWAY”. Wait. What? You mean like find a beautiful women, ask her out, hope she accepts, take her out to a lovely dinner, pray for chemistry, get invited back to her place where she gets naked and then say, “Hold on, I need to call a friend.”? We have some negotiating to do on Thursday. We have some very different ideas about “cookies”.

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Plant Based Diet Conversion Aided by a Registered Dietitian PART II

October 10, 2020. The two month anniversary of my first appointment with my Registered Dietitian, who I now lovingly refer to a my “Food Parole Officer”. (She is, for the record, smart, good humored, supportive, non judgmental and full of good ideas). (I often wonder why it took me 63 years to hire one – but then I note with some amusement that our country that is 50% obese makes little use of the one science based medical provider that specializes in nutrition). Having bared all from the first two weeks of my journey here https://humorforthehorizontallychallenged.com/2020/08/30/moving-towards-a-plant-based-diet/ and here https://humorforthehorizontallychallenged.com/2020/08/30/moving-towards-a-plant-based-diet/ I thought I’d catch you up on the last six weeks.

Have you heard of the “gut microbiome”? If not, take quick peak at the 12,900,000 result of that term as a Google search and come back. Ok? Good? So you know your gut microbiome is integral to your immune system, weight, digestion, mental health, and probably every other system in your body. What you may not know is what it feels like to dramatically change your gut bacteria buddies by what you eat. I have now come to know and love them as a boisterous, loud, demanding, annoying, cantankerous bunch of terrorists. I mean friends

Within a couple of weeks I noticed my skin “youthened” (we have a word for aging – why not for getting younger?). My arms which long had dry skin had started developing the kinds of sores, marks, and coloration ive always associated with 90 ear old men. Or corpses. The dead kind Disappeared. All of it overnight. “Cool”, I thought. (Actually, it was more like “Holy Shit”!!!)

Likewise, “digestion”. Mine was already great but let’s just say I passed Jamie Lee Curtis on the activa yogurt track and left her standing still. Eat some oatmeal Jamie.

Swelling, bloating, inflammation gone. Almost overnight. Now, mind you, I’ve been crawling towards better health for a decade- quit smoking, diet sodas, took up regular exercise- but nothing compares to feeding your “good” bacteria buddies and starving the rest. If you’d like learn more in an easy approachable medical science based way, I reccomed the book Fiber Fueled https://theplantfedgut.com/book/

This really became apparent to me when I heard my dying sugar eating bacteria, say, in their best “Mr Bill voice” (for you missing this SNL reference see here https://youtu.be/ZgpEVzCUr3s) ….”Oh noooooo, we’re dying … need a doughnut, some cake, something…..oh noooooo. I felt a little sad for them really. Now I’m not “on a diet” so I’m not restricting myself from anything but these “good bacteria” are pretty sneaky in that they change your appetite, cravings, and desires. In 8 weeks, I’ve given them half a yellow cake with chocolate icing and 4 Apple fritters. I’m no monster. But they’re still crying.

Here’s the “icing on the cake”. Ok, maybe the nutritional yeast on the veggie burger. After a lifetime of being the poster child for “not a morning person”, I’m waking up earlier it’s more energy and less a desire to go back to sleep. I’m amazed

While on the one hand I’ve spent hours reading vegetarian vegan recipes, shopping for Asian and Indian spices and condiments, rearranging my pantry I’ve been surprised how much I’ve loved the veggie curries and stir fries I’ve learned to make. Like the one pan “basmati ice chickpea, cauliflower, spinach, green curry” casserole dump pictured above. I now consider myself a meat eater who identifies as a vegetarian. Think of it as I’m wearing the make up and clothes but am not getting the surgery.

There are some serious downsides. The good bacteria don’t like weekend binge drinking. Or French fries. Or tequila. We’re negotiating.

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Moving Towards a Plant Based Diet Part 2

The science is clear- eating a more plant based diet with fresh vegetables, fruits and whole grains will extend life span, improve the quality of life and substantially reduce the risk of most diseases. Unless one has been raised in a vegetarian home there are many challenges to making progress with this lifestyle change.

I am not willing to be a food related “…arian” of any kind. “Vegetarian”, “Pescatarian”, “Fruitarian”, “Pescatarian”, or “Pollotarian”. I was raised Catholictarian and from it I developed a Post Traumatic Stress Dogma. Veganism is not “Arian” but it is pretty dogmatic. And generally, I’m more inclined to “asms” then “isms”. I’m not an “Arian” word-ist. Love vulgarians, barbarians, libertarians, (hot) librarians, and contrarians for example. In fact, I’m a sexagenarian, although I was so disappointed to find out what that really means. Bottom line is I’m not giving up meat. Or cheese. Or eggs. Or ice cream. Or <sigh>

The second challenge involves learning how to cook plant based. Think of a food you’ve eaten that at worst, made you retch or at best you spit out. The “art” of cooking is learning how to cook that food so that instead of gagging- you think “YUM”. “Yum” like all your dopamine sensors are firing off like a 4th of July fireworks display over the Mall in Washington DC or you’re sitting in a bar with your friends for an afternoon of tequila shots and 4 local sororities swing in for the last stop of their pub crawl. Because, when it comes down to it, you are committing to many days when you think, “double bacon cheeseburger lettuce tomato on sesame bun vs black bean brown rice bowl” and your brain immediately says, “bean rice!!” See my point?

My mother was a good cook. Of the things she cooked good. Her Italian food was fantastic but she had a couple of hundred years of recipes to rely on. Vegetables, not so much. She generally boiled them into submission. My Dad hated vegetables. My brother hated vegetables. I hated vegetables. I was in my 20’s discovering how much I liked vegetables when I realized nobody wanted to tell her she was a serial vegetable killer. A downright Ted Bundy of spinach. A Jeffrey Dahmer of escarole. Vegetables are significantly bettered when “s’d”. Sauté, Stir fry, Steamed, or Stewed. See, “s’d”? I think the “S” cooking words were invented to cook vegetables so you don’t think you’re eating drywall after licking a cast iron frying pan. I think many people who know how to cook learned from their parents grandparents. So, if you don’t have that tradition, you need to find another way. Learning is hard.

My third cchallenge is I’m a lazy cook and my 1200 sq ft condo does not have an1800 sq ft pantry. I bought a recently released, well reviewed vegan cookbook and began perusing recipes. Here’s some things I’m NOT shopping for or finding room to store: medjool dates, fenugreek seeds, dark agave nectar, persillade, tamarind. ..”. His recipes have recipes INSIDE the recipes for spice blends and sauces. I work for a living. I do not have all day to cook, shop, slice, dice, blend, purée, grate and plate. I can tell you how to make a meatball in a couple years of minutes with 8 ingredients, most of which you have at home. This is a lot of work to keep okra from being gag worthy slimy.

The fourth challenge is tools. The reason cooking is a “hobby” is because there is a never ending list of accessories and tools you want to do it well. I actually just bought a zester.

I’m starting to covet a food processor, immersion blender, stand alone mixer, an herb garden, a sous chef, a valet and a sex addict with ocd who likes to make shopping lists, grocery shop and organize pantries. Ok, I can shop and organize the pantry. But I digress.

Change is hard. I’m on the board of directors for a local charity that teaches teen volunteers commercial cooking skill while they make plant based meals for cancer patients delivered by other volunteers to their homes. Last time I did something like this, I was on the local American Cancer Society Board. I’d smoke in their parking lot before meetings. Their executive director got so angry with me. We’d have short conversations about the difference between “if you do something, you’ll die” and “you’re dying anyway. This executive director however, cooks us vegan meals for board meetings, is a yoga instructor, and has the personality of Mother Theresa. Who likes beer. Who always says, “You can do it,”. Maybe I can.

(I’m currently under probation with a registered dietitian. To see how THATS going see http://humorforthehorizontallychallenged.com/2020/08/11/e-mail-updates-to-the-dietrician/

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E Mail Updates to the Dietitian Part 1

Upon hearing of my 50 year struggle with my weight,

a provider friend referred me to a dietitian she had retained with glowing recommendations. I thought why not. As I was proofreading my first e mail update, I thought, “Oh, these are going to be good. I should save these. ALL of these. Rather than wait till I’m a month or so in, I thought I’d post now, letting you know to come back and check in periodically on my progress.

“Hi, Loved our first meeting yesterday. Looking forward to receiving Meal Plan on Wednesday. Instant oat meal this Morning. Dinner -Salad and I made some homemade lentil soup from scratch with sautéed mirepoix, garlic, thyme, rosemary, cumin, ginger, vegetable broth, chicken bone broth, white wine and simmered it for 4 hours. It needs some salt or Parmesan cheese.
Was good for first effort. Shopping list ready for Friday. Ive already had a fantasy about a grilled ribeye and a baked potato. Jesus

I did good with not eating after 9, of you count 9 as after the end of Daylight savings times in a few months. And, if we not mention the vanilla drumstick ice cream cone at 10:15.

Day 2

Thanks for your reply. Nice to know these ribeye steak food porn fantasy/hallucinations are in fact, bad habit cravings and that eating more like a bunny, in heat, will ease them.

By the way- good call on the oatmeal. It’s a real appetite killer!! Obviously, one can see it expand upon being doused in water or milk but I’m getting the sense it continues to expand in the body like spray insulation. That’s alive. And in mating season.

Day 4 August 14, 2020

Made it to grocery store yesterday. Bought Dr Bobs Redmill extra thick rolled oats. I noticed Dr Bobs oats compared to Quaker Oats are like corn kernels compared to grains of sand. I followed your plan and put 3/4 a cup of oats in a bowl with a cup and a half of milk. This looked like ALOT to eat to me but I put in the fridge for 20 minutes as instructed. Upon removal I added the fresh blueberries and banana as instructed. Now I’m sure this is two much to eat. So, oats do not absorb cold milk as the do hot fluid. First discovery – partially hydrated oats taste like … (are you thinking cardboard)…drywall. Cardboard actually has some flavor. Think bowl of chalk in milk. The fruit just acted like a really beautiful woman on an unbearable Tinder date. Definitely back to hot oatmeal tomorrow.

Day 5 August 15, 2020

It’s a pandemic Saturday and my calendar is filled with…..nothing. “Hey”, I say to myself, “why not clear out the freezer a bit of some of the things I’ll be eating less of to make room for veggies and fruits and stuff”. I found a beef shank cut for Osso Bucco (which I’d never prepared) and thought – yum. So I spent all afternoon cooking this Osso Bucco. I also fixed brown rice and roasted vegetables which I am supposed to be eating.

This was going pretty well until on a pantry trip I found two boxes of betty Crocker fudge brownie mix. I always make a double box.

Day 9. First follow up call with Dietitian August 19, 2020

(For the benefit of public health, this particular dietitian could not be sweeter ….um.. maybe wrong adjective for a dietitian…. could not be more accepting and non shaming so any references to my negative feelings are strictly internally generated. And possibly magnified for humor sake)

Anyway, a picture is worth a thousand words. I can tell I’m going to be in timeout once a week for the next 11 weeks. Next week, I intend to start with, “Bless me dietician for I have sinned; it has been one week since my last confession.” (Note to self- never see a sex therapist). She asked how the oatmeal was going – I admitted it was life changing (never in a million years could you have persuaded me this would be a description of oatmeal). She was fine with my not eating it cold or with milk. She asked how I did fix it. I said, “Hot, with cinnamon, a teaspoon of brown sugar, a table spoon of maple syrup and the fruit you suggested”. I saw this look flash over her face as she started to say something, stopping cause her filter blocked her (I know this look because it happens to me dozens of times a day, looking left and which point I said, don’t be shy. I can take it. “Try the oatmeal without the sweetener she said, giving some options to help with the flavor”. After that, I worked up to the double box of brownies.

It occurred to me this relationship is going to be very disappointing for her. Women are used to that with guys, aren’t they?

Day 16  August 26, 2020

E mail updates have been supplanted by Zoom follow ups on Wednesday.  I like to start with “forgive me dietitian, for I have sinned, it has been one week since my last confession”.  She asked how I was doing, I asked if she wanted the good new or the bad news first.  She thought a long time. She decide to go with the good news.  I went with being consistent with my oatmeal, eating plant based almost every day, cooking and trying her black beans/rice bowl, etc. 

Here’s where it started to turn.  My four friends and I go out to dinner once a month.  We usually go to a really nice place, although we did go to waffle house once ’cause one guy moved here from “off” and had never been.  Anyway,  what I wanted to order was the steak…. 

BUT, what I ordered instead was the wreckfish –

She was completely less jaded about this than I and commented that both plates had lovely vegetables. Ah, yes, my vegetables. Here’s where I shine. “I had 5 more versions of vegetables – I had Tequila than night”. “Tequila is not a vegetable serving, ” she said. “What?!?! It’s made from Agave! Thats a plant. That’s plant based!” “No,” she said softly. Almost with a hint of sadness. So what about Rye Whiskey? Not a whole grain?” “Nope”. “Bourbon – Corn?” “Nope”. “Potato Vodka?” “Nope”. “Wine Grapes Fruit”?? “Nope” Boy and they worry about elections being tainted. These science dietitian rules are kinda shady, if you ask me.

“What’s the bad news?”, she asked.  I told her of the morning I had a meltdown.  In a triggered, irrational, anxiety attack, trauma from food and a lifetime of dieting kind of way.  I said I thought I needed a food therapist.  “Is there such a thing as a food therapist?”  She said, “You can talk to me”.  Oh, boy.  Is there “dietitian client confidentiality?”   Also, this Tequila thing is going to be a problem. 

September 3,2020. We’re settling into a comfortable rhythm of mentor and mentee, coach and trainee, probation office and food criminal. I usually horrify her at least twice in a 30 minute follow up call. We’re we’re discussing how to tackle my late night eating issues when my once a day sugar addiction raises its ugly head. I was describing what I ate after my dinner salad Some Roasted vegetables and purple rice (good) and then some Fancy Nancy chicken salad from the “chicken Salad Chick”. (Not good). As the look of horror spread across her angelic face, I explained my manicurist mentioned it to me and I had to try it. “Think if me as a crack head who’s best friends are all drug dealers). <sigh>. Making progress.