Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Kind of makes you think

Like many slightly whacked folks, I sometimes mentally entertain myself by having conversations or interviews with myself. Unlike most slightly whacked folks, I actually admit to it.

This morning it was about food, and I was asking some pretty tough questions, leading up to The Big One: So, with all this emphasis on healthy eating, and especially knowing how healthy and slender you were in your teens and 20's, how did you get so fat?

Of course my initial answer was the easy and fairly obvious one: Too much of the wrong types of food, and too little exercise.

Prodded (by myself) to expand on that answer, I explained further: Back in college, I ate very healthy foods, mostly from the local food co-op which I joined soon after moving out of the dorms (though I will admit that it was at first mostly motivated by the fact that I could work there 6 hours a week as a cashier and then get 40% off, plus lots of free stuff that were past when they could be sold for one reason or another). And I got a lot of exercise, though mostly by necessity, going to University of Cincinnati on its many hills, living off campus, walking everywhere.

After graduation, I continued shopping mostly at the co-op, and I began my exercise craze: I ran 3-4 times a week (well, plodded is more like it, but it still counts), and became workout partner to a friend who was an amateur body builder, so lots of serious weight lifting. Baby, I was strong, I was fit, and I was HOT.

Then came graduate school, no co-op I could get to or afford, poverty, depression, two different chronic physical conditions that made most exercise painful, and four jobs. My life and my health went quickly downhill.

Up until that point in this conversation with myself, my answers were rote, things I'd said and thought about many times. But it just happened that at that moment I was putting away the makings of my breakfast -- the fresh eggs from pastured hens, the scallions and cilantro I'd chopped to add to it -- and I suddenly realized what else happened at that time: That transition into graduate school and less exercise was also my big transition away from Real Food. My kitchen stopped being filled with lots of fresh veggies, whole grains, natural-raised meats, and raw-milk cheeses, and started being filled with ramen noodles and hot dogs; the closest I was getting to "healthy eating" in those days was white rice with black beans and jarred salsa, but that a result of poverty, not from any attempt at healthy eating. In those days, I lived for those times when I had a couple of bucks I could waste on a greasy cheesesteak from the local pizza place ran by an Asian family, with Mom at the counter asking "sah-peppah?" with a cheery grin as she slathered my sandwich with salt and pepper without waiting for my answer.

It's of course very true that high quantities of food and minimal amounts of exercise were key factors in my weight gain. But I'm wondering: How much can be attributed to moving away from Real Foods and into too many processed foods, all of my foods from industrialized sources, and too few fresh vegetables and naturally-raised animal-based products?

I wonder how my physical and mental health will be once fresh, whole foods from all natural, local sources are once again the majority of my diet. I wonder how life will feel when I'm cooking most meals at home using these types of ingredients instead of going out to eat just as often as I cook. I wonder what my energy level will be, whether my menopausal mood swings will be any less intense, if I'll find it any easier to focus, if I'll find myself naturally wanting to move my body more, to bike, walk, stretch, dance.

I wonder. I'll check back in a year or so on this one.

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