Monthly Archives: January 2014

day 18/30

I haven’t written about this because I wanted to get to the halfway point before posting about it, but I am currently participating in a Whole30 challenge. This is 30 days of strict Paleo: no grain, no legumes, no dairy, no sugar…and no alcohol. My goals for the 30 days are:

1) re-evaluate my relationships with food, and my emotional response to food. I have always been a terrible stress eater.
2) re-adjust my body to burn fat, not glucose, for fuel. I want my body go to my fat stores for fuel more often rather than telling me I need a carb-based snack to keep going.

I wasn’t sure that this was working until today. The first week, I was tired all the time, because I had pulled a lot of the easily digestible the carbs out of my diet, and wasn’t supplying as much glucose. I was replacing carbs with caffeine, which wasn’t a good idea, and wasn’t entirely working. I was also kind of in disbelief, because I didn’t think I had been eating that many carbs, but then I started noticing times when I would normally have eaten something: sushi, potatoes, extra servings of fruit, sugar-sweetened Kind bars, dried fruit, Greek yogurt. And I was checking those impulses more often. I also started checking my impulses to snack on sweet things at night, even on paleo approved things like berries with coconut milk, or an apple. And the foods I had been going to for stress eating, things like popcorn, chocolate, Pinkberry…all those things were suddenly completely off limits. If I get an impulse to stress eat now, I have to really think about it to find something to meet the craving, and usually, while I’m doing that, if I drink a cup of tea and distract myself, I can get past it,

But I was getting discouraged because I kept reading that I would get more energy shortly, and that I would feel much, much better by Week 2. That was NOT HAPPENING. A week and change in, I was still falling asleep at my desk, or on the subway, and I was struggling to climb stairs to my apartment at the end of the day. I was also discouraged because I was still ragingly hungry in the afternoons, and was counting down minutes to my 4pm snack every day. According to It Starts With food , the basis for the Whole30, I shouldn’t have felt that kind of blood sugar drop telling me to eat RIGHT now at 4pm after a week focused on protein, fat and vegetables.

But I kept going. It was hard, especially in social settings. When my team went to dinner with a vendor at an excellent restaurant, I couldn’t have the wine, or the amazing looking desserts. When my friends were here this weekend, I couldn’t drink with them, and when they had grilled cheese sandwiches at midnight, I had leftover kohlrabi slaw. But I kept going, because after the first ten days, every day, I felt a little bit better.

And then, finally, this week, I went back to energy levels I used to have to maintain with a steady routine of coffee and snacks. And at 4pm today, I wasn’t even hungry. I actually never ate an afternoon snack today (Ok, I had some fruit gelatin, but it was a lot less of a snack than I usually eat). And now I see this whole project coming to fruition, as my body adjusts it’s hunger cues, away from the usual time-based cues. The theory is that my body will now pull glycogen out of my fat stores, since it is getting used to burning fat, not glucose, for energy.

This has, obviously, taken a huge amount of organization and planning. I am basically running my own meal service now, where I’m cooking and preparing in batches for the week, and setting aside pre-made meals for later in the week. A lot of this is inspiration from Well Fed, my new favorite cookbook, which explains a weekly cooking routine that works really well in our household. Also, the author of that cookbook is a former roller derby girl. I can get behind that.

But I actually really like eating this clean. I like knowing that every single bite I take is one made of the best components possible. I eat soup made with bone broth that I make by cooking bones in a slow cooker for days. I eat two servings of vegetables at every meal, with ethically raised protein and clean, healthy fats. Everything I eat is nutritionally dense food. And now more of what Paul and Ben eat is nutritionally dense as well. They may add rice to a broccoli, cabbage and chicken stirfry, or add bread to make a leftover roast beef sandwich (while I eat mine in lettuce wraps), or put cheese in their eggs, but they are still eating more foods that have really solid nutrition because they’re adding on to my planned meals. I even made Ben some lemon blueberry Paleo muffins, with eggs and coconut flour, which he loved, and which gave him three times the protein of his morning toaster waffles. I see my baby little boy eating foods that are what his tiny increasingly bigger body needs to get bigger, and I know, I’m doing the best I possibly can for him.

So now I’m on Day 18. I cook a lot, I eat a lot, but it all adds up to 1,500 calories a day or less. My nutrition is split fairly equally between carbs, protein and fat. Let’s see if this kicks off more fat burning. After all, I have a DietBet to win

Why I Let My Kid Watch Top Chef

First of all, I’m going to talk about my kid in this post in a way that sounds like bragging.  I apologize for that.  If you are of the STFU parents school, I apologize in advance.

Many people watch Ben eat, and then tell me that my child is a good eater.  Even on the Park Slope scale, Ben is a good eater.  He prefers the same junk food every other kid likes, and is especially partial to mac’n’cheese.  But he does eat a lot of different vegetables.  His favorites include roast parsnips, roast Brussels sprouts, and baby spinach side salads.  He also eats a lot of different carbohydrate sources beyond wheat and white potatoes: yams are a favorite.  He loves tofu, and will eat almost anything if it’s in soft taco format.  And his favorite snack is an avocado with soy aminos.  He eats platefuls of food, especially when he’s growing.  He occasionally refuses to eat something – he does not like raw tomatoes, raw green peppers, overly spicy food or anything radish related – but I can always slap some guacamole or hummus and raw veggies in front of him and watch them disappear.

This said, there are two things I credit for my child’s eating habits:

1) Best quote ever from our pediatrician: “Just put the food in front of him”.  This has consistently worked for years.  Sometimes, we offer him the food five or six times before he likes it, but he always tries it.  Yams are a great example here: he loved them as a baby, decided he hated them as a toddler, and now, after extensive offerings (starting with fries format, moving on to mashed), he loves them again.  

2) Top Chef

I’ve been letting Ben watch Top Chef for two years now.  Ben, for some reason, LOVES cooking shows.  This may be because it is TV, and screens of any kind are Meth For Kids, but he does show a special interest in cooking reality shows.  And I realized that, as TV goes, Top Chef is probably more educational than a lot of kids offerings.  It teaches him about cooking & what flavors go together.  It teaches him about how people work really really hard on the show, and that success is driven by hard work and practice.  And, most importantly, it teaches him all kinds of new foods that he is actually willing to eat.

I was kind of surprised at the motivation the show provided for Ben when I first saw it, but it’s consistently worked over the last year.  Ben will see a dish made with a new-to-him food: cherry tomatoes, polenta, a new kind of fish.  I then cite the episode when I serve the food to him.  Ben then willingly tastes the food with an open mind, rather than his usual “I’m going to claim I hate this just to prove a point” stubbornness. Sometimes, it becomes a new staple, as polenta did (until we found out about Ben’s mild corn allergy).  Sometimes, as with tomatoes, it does not.  But he shows an interest in new foods, and an interest in tasting the flavor combinations.  He shows an interest in how food is cooked and served.  And he is willing to try new things because that’s how the show works.

The other surprise that came out of Top Chef was that Ben is now a huge fan of Tom Colicchio.  I managed to parlay this into a Good Behavior In Restaurants incentive last year. I told Ben that, if he could behave in restaurants and prove to us that he was a good diner, I would take him to Craft during Restaurant Week.  This allowed us to go to restaurants like civilized people throughout the end of 2012 and early 2013, until I finally took Ben last February.  Ben is not only a good eater, he’s now a good diner, and has managed to keep up a consistent measure of restaurant behavior ever since.

My next use of cooking related shows will be leveraging Masterchef Junior into teaching Ben to cook so he can be more helpful around the house.  We already let him use the stove to scramble eggs, but after watching the entire season of children ages 8 – 13 cooking, he sees that it is possible for small children to start learning to cook.  He doesn’t want to cook as a career, but the sheer possibility of cooking was opened up to him when he saw these kids competing on TV.  And it gives me even more leverage to get him to eat different things: I just remind him that all the kids on Masterchef had to try everything so they would know how to cook it. 

So there is one of my secrets to Raising A Good Eater: reality cooking shows.  I honestly don’t understand how this isn’t a Thing with parents.  It’s not UN-educational, like most reality shows, and I think it actually has more merit than a lot of the childrens-shows-masquerading-as-education, like Backyardigans or Doc McStuffins or whatever else is on Disney or Nickelodeon.  Letting Ben watch forty five minutes of a cooking competition and then talking about the dishes served has truly helped us explain food to our son.  And while he may still prefer a bowl of pasta to a plate of vegetables and protein, at least now, he’s willing to eat the vegetables and protein.  

Provided someone used those same ingredients in a Quickfire, of course.