Food is My Friend

I am sick of dieting, cleansing, refraining and abstaining from certain foods. Food, like life, should be enjoyed. Sometimes I’m just not in the mood for baked skinless chicken breast sprinkled with juice from half a lemon, and side of steamed broccoli; I want fried chicken—leg, thigh and wing with the skin intact—with mac & cheese and/or mashed potatoes with gravy, if I so choose. Just to be “good,” I’ll add spinach or broccoli, sautéed with Italian dressing.

It pains me to order a salad or a side of vegetables aka rabbit food when I dine out. I went through the effort of getting dressed and going out, I might as well enjoy all aspects of it. I have a tight budget. In my case, “budget” is a misnomer because it makes me sound fiscally responsible. The truth is each month after I’ve paid my bills, padding the minimum payment due just a little so “they” don’t win, I barely have any money left for fun stuff. I’ve got to have fun.

As a single woman, I’m constantly told that I won’t meet my special someone by staying in my apartment. So I go out. Often I am solo, but there are times when I go out with others, like my monthly book club brunch, or with friends or co-workers. Outings with co-workers is “drinks” (I order food anyway); with friends it might be a movie, concert or dinner. If the non-food event wasn’t preceded by dinner, one of us will inevitably ask “Do you want to get something to eat?”

I live for moments like these. I hate eating alone in public. So, even though I cringe a little on the inside because I’m already robbing Peter to pay Paul, and now I have to find  a way to pay Philip, I’m happy that I’ll get a chance to enjoy some delicious goodness cooked by someone other than myself or an aunt.

I’m usually the one to suggest starting with an appetizer. Can’t go wrong shareable foods like chips and guac, spinach-artichoke dip, potato skins, chicken wings or mozzarella sticks. Moving on to the main course, which is usually chicken for me, but not a healthy version of. I avoid ordering red meat from restaurants because I don’t like to see any pink or red, not even a sliver. I don’t understand how my aunties can cook a steak well done and preserve its juiciness, but at a restaurant a well done steak or burger order means I end up with a dry lump of meat.  If I’m on a date (far and few between), I try to keep it light-ish to limit the lower belly bulge as much as possible. I order salmon with a side of veggies. I don’t order salad to mislead my date into thinking I’m a light eater.

Because I grew up eating rice almost daily, I prefer to try different types of pasta dishes instead of rice at restaurants. After the main course, if there’s room and even if there’s not, I’ll try dessert. It’s a guarantee I’m getting dessert if I spot cheesecake or red velvet cake on the menu. My saving grace of skipping dessert is if the options contain chocolate, fudge, or caramel. I have to be in the mood for the first two, and I hate caramel.

By the end of the night, I’ve consumed more calories than I want to admit. The only time I care about calories is when I’m on some type of voluntary and self-imposed food plan.  The one time a special diet was necessary was when I had high cholesterol. I was in my early twenties, working 2-3 jobs, attending college and had cholesterol in the 200s. Dunkin Donuts and Burger King owe me a huge thank you.

I’ve never been overweight, but like everyone else my weight fluctuates. I know I need to get a handle on my eating habits when my clothes become snug and Muffin Top resumes its starring role in my life. This usually happens during the fall and winter months, when I overindulge in pumpkin pie and creamy hot soups.

I think I have normal and healthy eating habits. Year round on weekdays I make a different smoothie almost every morning with my NutriBullet or have a bowl of cold cereal; weekends I enjoy eggs or hot oatmeal. I buy and cook chicken, turkey, salmon, red snapper, king fish, vegetables, quinoa, seeds, nuts and granola for snacks, but I also enjoy Doritos or Cheez Doodles every now and then. I drink tea sweetened with honey. Admittedly, I should work on my water intake because I doubt coconut water counts.

My calendar is booked with a slew of trips and in the coming months. I’m not going travel away from home to feast on…salad. Even if I weren’t going to warmer climates, summers in New York are brutal. The Concrete Jungle traps heat and makes outside feel like an inferno. Higher temperatures mean lighter and more revealing clothes. No hiding under layers, thick sweaters, blazers and turtlenecks. A maxidress covers me down to my ankles, but there’s no way to camouflage a gut.

Even so, I don’t want to do another diet or cleanse where I have to “be good” and not enjoy my ongoing friendship with food. Our bond is stronger when I’m stressed, which because of work, is quite often. But even without spikes of stress, I’m prone to random cravings. I  joke that I’m going to be a mess when I’m pregnant. I’m stepping away from the 6-Week Shred Diet, 10-Day Juice Cleanse and 7-Day Slim Down. The key is moderation and portion control, not deprivation. I want to eat whatever I want, when I want, within reason of course. I’ll keep working out because it makes me feel good. After the workouts, I’ll reward myself with a delicious snack.


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