Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Salad Days and Nights

I nearly cried into my dinner last night.

It had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that our favorite local Italian restaurant was filled with loud-mouth rednecks sporting goatees, massive beer bellies and construction company teeshirts. It also didn't matter that, while Michael, Madeline and I dined on our entrees, a woman whose g-string was conspicuously displayed well above her butt crack and outside of her jeans was so hammered on a Tuesday night that she had to be carried out of the bar by her three girlfriends. It was 7:45pm. And it was no consequence that the ratio of dudes with neck tattoos to dudes without was surprisingly lopsided.

We come to expect those things in our town, which is why we eat dinner at home most nights and when we do splurge on restaurant food, it involves calling ahead and taking out. The world is just too full of ignorant, racist, very loud douche bags for us.

I nearly cried into my dinner last night because I am officially, 100% sick and tired of eating salad. Which sucks, because I actually love salad. Which seems lame, because how can you love a salad? I love salad because it's easy to make and endlessly versatile, completely portable and an elegant way to get several servings of vegetables in one sitting. Green leaves provide an excellent canvas for everything I like to eat: Black beans, bell peppers, onions, tomatoes, all manner of cruciferous veggies, nuts and seeds, and even a little bit of good cheese. I bring one for lunch every day, and frequently have one for dinner many times a week. And since I'm a vegetarian, it's a pretty reliable fall-back option when we go out to eat, and a lot of the places we go will be fairly flexible with what I want to add to a salad that I order.

And that's what I ordered last night when we took Madeline out to dinner to our favorite local Italian restaurant. It's a good one, too: A giant pile of romaine with a house-made garlic and red wine vinegar dressing with feta, blue cheese and Parmesan sprinkled in. Madeline ordered penne with marinara. Michael ordered spinach and cheese ravioli with pesto cream sauce.

"Why do you keep looking at my plate," Michael asked.
"I didn't realize I was looking at your plate," I answered.
"Yeah, you're staring at it like you're in a Bugs Bunny cartoon and you're trapped on a desert island with Daffy Duck and he's starting to look like a giant porkchop."
"Sorry. It looks good."
"Do you want a bi..." Before could even finish asking, I grabbed his fork and sawed off a bit of cheesy, spinachy, basily, creamy goodness and shoved it into my mouth.

It was so good. There's just something about pesto that delights my tastebuds. And I can only get away with using "delights my tastebuds" for a few things without worrying that I'll sound like a moron. Pesto. Any time lime is added to something chili-based. Indian spices. And that's about it. That little creamy bite melted onto my tongue like a tiny cloud of tasty sin. I instantly wanted more.

"Is your salad okay," Michael asked.
"Yeah, it's good. As usual."
"Why are you just pushing it from one side of the bowl to the other, then?"
"I don't know. It's just not the same now. Your bite ruined me."

It was true. One bite of that pesto cream sauce had destroyed my appetite for my salad. Suddenly, my dinner seemed cold and soulless. Devoid of pizzaz, empty and thin and completely without body or substance. It seemed so pointless. I hated my salad. My salad represented all of the frustration I've been feeling lately in my struggle to lose weight. All the hard work and sacrifice and deep, DEEP life changes I've made in a commitment to shed these pounds so that I can feel better about myself and live longer for my family. All of the advice I've taken that has failed to yield results, all of the time I've put in working out, the special meals I've prepared, the things I've wanted but have turned down. It all culminated in the salad that I tried to eat last night in our favorite local Italian restaurant. I pushed the half-full bowl away, unable to stomach another bite.

Perhaps this makes me sound weak, but I'm not sure how much longer I can keep going like this without seeing any change in my weight or at least the way my clothes fit. It's not the working out that's getting to me. I've actually grown to love that part of it. I'm in the best shape I've been in years. My energy is almost boundless now. I feel so strong, and I am stronger. I sleep better at night. I love the feeling of sweat pouring off my of me and my legs burning during spinning class after I've completely maxed out the resistance, the release and relaxation I feel from yoga, even the sore muscles I get in the morning after lifting weights and doing crunch after crunch after crunch. When the snow melts, my feet will be hitting the concrete again, like they used to many years ago, and I'm looking forward to it.

It's the food I miss. I'm tired of the constant preparation and organization involved in planning every single thing I put into my mouth. If I was at least SLOWLY losing weight, it would be enough for me to hang my hat on it, to keep going. But the fact that the scales have not budged in two and a half months has made me contemplate chucking it in. Remaining active will not change, but the restrictive eating is becoming too much, all the time.

Can I do it? Can I stop making it about weight loss and focus on simply being healthy? Can I stop counting every calorie and carbohydrate? Can I accept my size and be happy? Can I not worry that people will look at me and think, "She must be super lazy. Look how fat she is" and be satisfied in the knowledge that I am most certainly NOT lazy, and that this fat girl could probably run circles around them? Can I act as an example to my daughter that size and shape ultimately don't matter as long as you are the healthiest person you can be? Can I fight years of toxic reasoning that drives me into obsessive behaviors and focus on the big picture, which is being completely present, both in mind and body, for my family?

I don't know right now, but I feel like I'm the closest I've ever been in my life to being a whole and complete person, not a pointless, aimless being cobbled together with self-hatred and justifications and diet pills. It's going to be a one meal at a time type of deal, so ask me again at dinner, which will almost certainly not be a salad. And oh yeah, I brought soup for lunch today.


  1. Working out makes you trade fat for muscle, thus keeping the same weight. Be patient. Keep going. You'll be fine.

  2. The vegetarianism alone means that your diet is healthier than 96.8% of Americans, myself included. I'm no expert (quite the opposite, actually, with a lifetime of experience in general physical laziness and myriad junk consumption), but it seems if the additional dietary restrictions and the yoga and the regular exercise is yielding every desired result save a self-idealized body image, then perhaps your body isn't the part of the equation that's problematic.

    I don't mean to be an ass. I know it's never that simple. I know you can't just ask yourself "What is healthy if not this?" and have that be the end of it. It sounds as though you've struggled with this for many years, and that won't simply evaporate, regardless of how you look in a full-length mirror. But try to remember that if no one else is in the race, then nobody knows where the finish line falls but you.

  3. I've only just found your blog, so not sure if you addressed this earlier... Have you been to a nutritionist? If so, stop reading here. If not, allow me to encourage you to do so. It made a quite a difference in my own weight loss goal. I wasn't eating enough calories(!) and not enough of the right stuff. After my visit and adjustments, I lost another 8 pounds in 3 weeks. I also found out that sometimes taking a break from the working out, and letting my body rest also resulted in some weight loss. Its been 18 months of concentrated effort and I've lost 25 pounds. I would say it wasn't until the last 6 months that I really saw the difference I was hoping for.

    Hang in there. And eat some ravioli, dear. You'll be happier and sleep better. :)