I don’t do resolutions in honor of any new year, and I am not about to start. But on looking back at 2010, where you could consider “harried” the single best word to describe me, it occurred to me that I might wish to aim in a few directions away from what caused me to spend so much of 2010 in such an uncomfortable fashion. (I should note that in addition to all of the places I listed as having been for work in 2010, I was also–for “fun”–in Brighton and Horsham UK, in Paris, and in Baltimore, Minneapolis and in the Outer Banks of North Carolina within the US.) So clearly travelling too much is a problem, and I am working on that one. Aside from a trip to Spain next week with my sister (come on, it’s an early celebration of my upcoming 35th birthday and involves Gaudi, my favorite architect ever) I have nothing planned until April, and after that trip nothing planned until the summer. So one direction for 2011 is to stop travelling as much. No jollies to Australasia unless something in December maybe comes good but that’s a long shot. Fewer trips over to the continent. Fewer nights away from home. Or something like that. Now that I have a shower in my flat I can no longer use travel as the excuse to get a good shower. Ahhhh England.
Twice in 2010 I nearly fainted because I let my blood sugar drop to dangerous lows when I skipped breakfast to get to work and had to do something that required a “performance” and thus energy. I have never fainted, and I had never nearly fainted before. I’ve been playing dangerous games with food for years; I’m a carbohydrate addict (thus my obsessions with American junk-food crackers like Cheez-its) and my distaste for sweet things means I sometimes struggle with eating healthy things like sweet fruits. I also live alone and thus eat whatever I want, whenever I feel like it, which sounds fun but after awhile can build some rather undisciplined habits. I will not confess what my typical breakfast was for much of this year but UK people will understand when I say the brand name on the packet was “Walkers”. (Don’t judge me!) So 2011 is the year I will take control of what passes across my lips and start eating better.
I don’t diet. I could stand to lose some weight, but dieting is deprivation which leads to bingeing and eating disorders. What I am going to do is two-fold: to adjust the blood sugar problem by watching the intake of high glycemic-index foods, and to try and follow the “is it food” rule when shopping and only buy actual food.
For part one I am cutting only two things out of my diet, but people who know me will get that these are two of the things that I eat muchly, so this will be interesting. I will avoid white bread/flour and white potatoes. Wheat or other nutty bread is fine and often tastes better anyways. Corn chips are allowed, and they are great with hummus which has about the lowest glycemic index of any food around. Sweet potatoes are fine, and I recently made a perfectly passable celeriac puree that was actually better than mashed potatoes (!) And I can’t get good crackers here in the UK anyways. So that’s thing one.
Thing two is more interesting. If you have not read Michael Pollan’s “In defense of food,” I highly recommend that you do. I picked it up, ironically enough, in Singapore in the summer of 2009 and read it cover to cover in one sitting. Living in hotels grants one that sort of time and freedom. His argument was excellent, that much of what we eat is NOT actually food, but is chemically engineered and over-processed. (While the natural white potato cannot claim that, refined white flour certainly can!) I’ve spent the last year and a bit since reading the book growing increasingly influenced by it. At the beach this year, when I cooked I started giving everything I made a “food score” from 0-10 where 0 was something highly processed and with lots of artificial ingredients and a 10 was something with only real natural food in it. And it does not have to be just fresh veg to qualify: corn chips, which make it in my new guidelines as an acceptable snack food (especially with hummus!) contain, I kid you not, corn/maize, oil and salt. That’s true of the Tostitos I had at the beach when I discovered this, and the generic Tesco chips I bought this weekend. So coming in a package does not necessarily make something get a low “food” score, but having lots of ingredients that you can’t pronounce, does. Now I run into slight trouble here as a former strict vegetarian, in that I have a taste for soya-based processed artificial meat products. I’ve been eating less and less of them as (a) the availability in the UK is total crap (aside from if you visit lucky Kat on the base) and (b) I switched to being a pescetarian and eat fish now, which is real food. So I’m working on it.
Given the fact that I moved and now walk 2.3 miles to work, the combination of that, less travel (and thus less hotel room service and restaurant meals) and this set of new eating guidelines might be a positive step in terms of my weight, but that’s not why I’m doing it and it’s not how I’m judging myself. I spent some time quite by accident the other day reading some musings from Lesley Kinzel about focussing on weight loss versus on being healthy and I think she has a really good point. The story about the overweight girl who the ER docs didn’t believe had an eating disorder was particularly poignant.
But these are guidelines and guidelines only. In a crisis, I’ll eat a crisp. If I’m at a work dinner and a white bread roll is the only thing on offer, I’ll probably have a bite. I’m quite pragmatic that way. One of my group members at work keeps bringing up–in total disbelief–the fact that I ate some fois gras in early 2010 in a social situation in which rejecting it would have been very awkward. But what I am not going to do any more is consider that coffee and Walkers is an appropriate breakfast, or that packaged food of any sort is an acceptable substitute for actual food. And the food I eat is going to be tasty, and I’m going to be documenting it on my new food blog with my sister.
I’m also going to try to get myself better organized to go to the gym, or else quit my gym membership and rely on the walk. I haven’t decided which is better, just that the need for regular exercise–again, for my sanity, not necessarily for my weight–is too important to keep ignoring. My walks to work really allow me to clear my head and it’s about the only time I have to think without any distractions, these days.
Watch this space and let’s hope for a less harried NFAH in 2011. Because I don’t think I could survive another one like this one.