Nutrition labels certainly make you work for it, don't they? I had put on some weight this past winter, as I usually do, but this time I seemed to gain more than usual, enough I was worried I might be pressed to lose it this summer (there's nothing like a 110 degree kitchen to shed some weight quickly. Trust me, fat chefs are in the minority. Why they're proportionately more famous than thin chefs is beyond me.)
I have some bad habits, to be sure. I smoke. If there is anything that's truly vicious, it's the slow, insidious erosion of health nicotine addiction merrily layers upon your body like a Hungry Jack biscuit of cancers. The lack of energy and wind from smoking was impeding exercise, so I knew I had to quit smoking. I worried though. The last time I quit smoking I gained 45 pounds (which had everything to do with Ken's Wok in Norfolk, VA having the tastiest Crispy Garlic Chicken on earth and being one mere block from where I worked.) So I knew I also had to change the way I ate, lest heart disease, diabetes and a much more limited wardrobe reduce any gains I might make.
There are two kinds of chefs (not just fat and skinny): those that truly love cooking so much that it permeates every facet of their lives. Not only do they create masterpieces at work, but their efforts at home rival the finest restaurants in the world. Then there's me: after busting tail all day or night in the aforementioned culinary sauna, the last thing I want to do is cook for myself. Hot Pockets has made a fortune off of me. The walk to and from the China King buffet just ain't long enough to burn off Crab Rangoon soaked in General Tso's chicken (dreamy!) If it can't be prepared in 2 minutes in a microwave and doesn't have enough preservatives in it that I could rub it on a wound as an antibiotic, I'm not interested.
So, eating junk, whether out or in, was a serious impediment to all my plans of being reasonably healthy (of course I'd love to be Brad Pitt, however reason dictates small steps and reality is a harsh mistress: I'm 35, not Brad.) Incidentally, it's expensive too! One wonders how I can afford cigarettes. Oh yeah, I live in NC: they give away welfare checks for cigarettes. So, step one: change my eating habits to start weight loss in anticipation of quitting smoking (was I putting quitting off? Of course I was...still am, but not forever. It will happen. This is my year. That's right, mine, not yours. Sorry, it's my turn.)
So where to start? Oh yeah, I need to buy food. Sad when your refrigerator has an echo. I walked in one morning to a crew of spelunkers gearing up in my kitchen. "Um...what are you doing?" I asked. "We're touring your pantry." Ouch. People have definite expectations about my kitchen. I turn out some pretty awesome food at work. They expect a rack of polished knives, gleaming copper cookware, a pot of stock simmering on the stove, boxes of fresh herbs in the windows and pictures of Bobby Flay and Emeril on the wall. I have one word for you: Digiorno, baby.
So off to the store. I knew where I wanted to start: detox. I looked at my current diet and saw what was missing and what I needed and what I had in abundance. While I had a lifetime's supply of Sodium Benzoate in my cells, I lacked vitamins. I had the price is right showcase showdown of fats, but no protein. On and on. I wanted to start incorporating things I needed and start flushing out the residues of sloth (sloth is excellent...tastes like Breyers Mint Chocolate Chip.)
So, how to get rid of toxins and which toxins anyway? Ionic foot bath? Those Japanese foot pads? Colonic? What about those pills you take that scrape plaque from your intestines? Funny how you start even a little research into those and suddenly everything smells like snake oil.
So, a colonic. No doubt I have years of impacted icky clinging to my intestinal walls, impeding the absorption of nourishment and providing haven for bacterial orgies. So if a power washer can clean moss and mildew off of my deck, it stands to reason, right. No. [ I must pause for a public service announcement: I strongly recommend cooking your lunch over LOW heat when writing your blog.] Firstly, any legitimate use of the term "impacted fecal matter" implies a serious medical condition, which can quickly kill you. Secondly, while meat can take longer to digest than other foods, it doesn't stay in your intestines for years on end. No one has ever been autopsied with a 10 year old piece of meat (or gum) in their guts. This is actually the source of the phrase "This too shall pass." Thirdly, the only licensed use of the machines that hose your insides out like a colon carwash is for pre-surgical or testing (think x-ray) use. They are not licensed in the US for a potentially dangerous procedure of dubious medical benefit. Yes, that's right...dangerous. People have died from the introduction of bacteria into their intestines, most likely from improper sanitizing of the equipment. So, one begins to wonder (especially as I could find no endorsements from any doctor online as to the validity or benefit of introducing a hurricane to my guts) who are the people practicing this form of colonic waterpark? How did they get this equipment? What exactly are their credentials, where did they get them and for pete's sake what do you call them? Aquacolonic technician? Hydrointestinal therapist. I don't know anyone personally who's had one, but I hear tale of people who swear by them and even I must admit, after the discomfort (for the love of it all, an enema is uncomfortable, I can't imagine a kiddie pool up my bum) it might be refreshing. I would be curious to know if this feeling would be enhanced by Fresca. Sorry, believers, it's just not enough for me. If I must stick something up my ass (outside of a consensual, recreational context) I'm going to have to insist on it being done by a doctor for a necessary medical reason in a hospital where I can be reasonably sure of its sanitation and a whole hospital awaits if something does go wrong.
How about those pill thingies that remove that hideous plaque that supposedly coats the insides of our bowels with industrial horror? Surely you've seen those pictures, of long, ropey, yellow ahem "movements" that people taking these products for some unimaginable reason fish out of their toilets, pose and photograph (often with objects adjacent to show size) and then post on the internet as testimonial for my friend Jon to call me over and say "Hey Neil, look at this!" OK. Ew. The main ingredients in these products are a type of clay and another chemical whose name now escapes me,similar to gelatin. Once in the body they combine and with the dietary guidelines for all intents and purposes make a cast of your intestines, which comes out looking both appropriately horrific and bizarrely impressive. Basically, it's the chemicals you take that transform into that thing I was forced to look at. As for the "plaque" they claim to remove? Not a single known autopsy has turned up this mysterious plaque...no ropey yellow things coating someone's intestines. Pure snake oil. Those of you who fished one out of your toilet? How do ya feel now?
Those baths and foot pads? They never mention what toxins exactly they're supposed to remove, which is annoying as I firmly believed I was riddled with all the poisons of the developed world...but...uh, what exactly are they? But...but...those baths, can't you see them drawing out the toxins from your feet, turning the water an icky, 20th century brown? Well, yes and no. Yes, the water turns brown, but it's been shown that once you add the special "ionic powder" the water turns brown anyway, regardless of whether your feet are in or not. Crap. Snake oil. What about those pads? Full of vinegar that soften your skin overnight and pull off all the old, dead skin on your feet, so of course they'll look dirty, as if they sucked all the shallowness from our souls. Duct tape does that too (the dead skin part. Yes, duct tape fixes many things. It can improve a relationship...wink...wink...but it can't fix it or your soul.)
Also, with these two products, they never state the mechanism wherein toxins in your body bypass your liver and kidneys and are sucked through your feet. And here comes my point...our bodies come perfectly equipped to handle the overwhelming majority of "toxins" and other indigestible goodies we consume.
The liver is a truly amazing organ that literally transforms harmful (or unneeded) chemicals into fairly inert products that are then filtered through the kidneys and out they go in our urine. Some toxins aren't even absorbed into the body and pass out with our feces. Yes, there are some modern chemicals that do tend to stay and can cause problems, especially in large doses and/or with prolonged exposure. Don't use solvents like acetone or gasoline to wash your hands. Not good. But overall, our exposure isn't as much as we fear and on the whole our marvelous bodies, while they betray us whenever we treat them to Ben and Jerry's, are always cleaning us and looking out for us.
So, I thought to myself, "Self, why don't you focus on eating better and start off with foods that support and enhance the body you already have. What could possibly replace those marvelous products you now know you will never use? Oh yeah, fiber."
Yes fiber. Beans, whole grains, brown rice, yada yada. I've already covered far more about the digestive nether regions than either you or I truly wanted to, so I'll cut to the chase, because it's not about making a long story short (except in Jon's case) it's about whether anyone wants to hear it in the first place (insert bubble here: private joke: uninitiated may ignore.) Fiber: add slowly to diet, drink lots of water. Bummer when you find this out a week into it, after you've spent that week taping your blankets down so you can live through the night. As it turns out, I like food that's good for you almost (almost) as much as junk. But that, that is another post. Part Two Later.