Mark Bittman Or Eating Less Meat in 2013

Mark Bittman Cookbooks

Mark Bittman Cookbooks

I have long settled my demons about being overweight.

Last month, I attended Mark Bittman’s lecture at the California Endowment for Center Scene. He talked about a lot of stuff. Mostly don’t drink soda and eat less meat. He encouraged everyone to seek out your local farmer — I’m going to say in a big city, at least know your butcher.

Some of it made sense for me. I pretty much stopped eating ground meat this year though an occasional burger or meatball sneaked in. I only began eating ground turkey again (I stopped when there was a salmonella scare) but that’s mainly as a stop-gap. I get weirded out by the idea of ground meat is made up of multiple cows (or pigs or turkeys) rather than from one. Odd, I know.

A few years ago, I went through a program called Lifestyle Redesign at USC. I had just turned 30 and then broke up with someone I thought was going to be my life partner. I immediately lost 20 pounds. Breaking up sucks, you know. But I was glad for the weight loss. Not going out all the time helped enormously. Then I did the program and lost another 20 pounds. And then I lost over 20 on my own. Yet, I was still unhappy. I was 3 pounds over what was considered the healthy weight range for someone my height. That’s right, I was still technically overweight. My goal was to lose another 20+ pounds to be in the middle of the healthy weight range. I never made that goal.

When I was in junior high, I lost my best friend and favorite relative, my grandfather to stomach cancer. A few months later, my dad suffered his first stroke. He would later die at age 55. When I was on my quest to lose weight, I was very conscious of why I wanted to be healthy. I wanted to live. Yet, as hard as I worked to lose the weight, it came slowly back the last few years of blogging. I no longer followed my own lifestyle redesign program. I no longer worked out regularly. It should be no surprise much less to myself that the weight crept back on.

And it wasn’t shocking to go to my recent doctor’s appointment and be told I have high blood pressure. It’s always been a little high. However, it was a lot higher and given my family history, my doctor put me on medication temporarily.  I had an echocardigram and that’s scary as hell. They found nothing but I’ve been feeling odd twinges here and there.

But my doctor told me not to freak out. It’s not the end of the world. With some adjustments, I can get through this. And I will. Maybe this time I even get to my goal weight. As much as I love food and writing about food and drinks, it does not hold as much pleasure spending time with my friends and family.

Mark Bittman at the California Endowment Center Scene Lecture

Mark Bittman at the California Endowment Center Scene Lecture

I’m not saying The Minty is changing right away. I’m not going vegetarian or vegan– sorry, Mark Bittman. In a lot of ways because I’ve done it before, I’m hoping it’ll be easier this time around. I know what to eat and what to do. When I was at my lowest weight, I was doing these things:

  • Eating breakfast- usually oatmeal with a dab of peanut butter or 1 piece of whole grain bread w/ a slice of low sodium turkey (with mustard, lettuce and tomato occasionally– I was never much of a sweet breakfast fan)
  • Snacks- always fruits and vegetables (helped with my goal of 7-9 servings of veg a day)
  • One vegetarian meal a day (this was easy when I did an oatmeal breakfast)
  • 2-3 liters of water a day
  • Exercise 3-4X a week
  • Sleep/rest more

Mark Bittman lost weight when he basically ate vegan during the day and then it was anything goes after 6PM. He also stopped doing dairy but that was for his heartburn. I was never much into dairy. I never eat it at home. And so I think that’ll be easy. But I don’t like the idea of being so restrictive. Although I guess eating one veg meal a day isn’t really that restrictive. I am plenty satisfied when I have veg meals. But I have to say some vegetarian/vegan restaurants aren’t really that healthy.

I am lucky, I don’t smoke or drink soda. I liked sweets but could never be considered a sugar fiend and it’s been pretty easy to give up dessert. And when I do eat it, it’s never more than 2 or 3 bites. That’s when it taste best anyway. I had all sorts of little tricks; adding a lot of acid to my food (to lower the glycemic index of the food), unlimited vegetables, working out before meeting friends for dinner. But I never counted calories. Oh, I was aware of what they could be. It was a horrible day when I discovered a serving of fries was 9 fries and a serving of ice cream was a half scoop. I read every diet book and then took away what I felt was important.

I have found in general society does not want you to lose weight though. Sure, I have some supportive friends but they sometimes forget and think that one dessert isn’t the end of the world. Or that a drink isn’t going to hurt. I have plenty self control but I wish people wouldn’t test it. And then there are some friends who are just negative. They have their own health or weight issues. They very plainly want to lose weight and are envious if you do or even announce you’re going to try.

When I lost all that weight, I said I wasn’t going to be fat again. Clearly I was wrong. And I have to accept that I’m human and need to try again. I know my body likes being this weight. I’m a woman. It seems to think I’m storing fat for an eventual famine. If you lose weight, your body responds by trying to keep the weight. So, it has to be done slowly. It is as if you have to trick it. I know I can’t do my 2 hour workouts every day like I used to right away. And it’ll be a while before I find some sort of normalcy. I have read some food writers who eat terribly in anticipation of large meals at night. I can’t do that.

And then there’s the booze. I tried to stop drinking but it was my only vice left. Not that it was really a vice. I have gotten old enough now that I drink because I like the taste but also because of the history and upsurge of craft cocktails. I don’t and never have drank to get drunk. The program told us we could “reward” ourselves with 1 or 2 glasses of wine a week. I never followed that– I don’t believe in cheat days. If you change your lifestyle, every day has to be consistent. So, I decided that if I still wanted to drink, I had to deal with it by working out more. Except in my heart of hearts, I really am a very lazy person when it comes to exercise. I never get that “high” from working out. I don’t mind when I’m at the gym or hiking but getting there is the hard part. I did go to the gym recently and felt great after. I need to remember that.

So, in 2013 the main changes I am aiming for:

  • Getting back to one vegetarian meal a day. I did that this morning. Check.
  • Going back to the gym. Why am I paying for a monthly membership if I don’t use it?

I am not going to try to stop going out as much. I’ve been trying to do that all year. But I will make time to work out. And the effort to eat better. I definitely don’t want to go back on pills for high blood pressure. And mostly, I am going to try to be “healthy.”

Time to go for a walk. Every little step counts, right?


© The Minty  2012