A FINE BALANCE – MY RELATIONSHIP WITH FOOD

We’ve come a long way. I do think food and  I have formed a relatively great relationship. Over the last few years, I’ve tried my utmost best to listen and comprehend most of the dietary needs of my body.

You see, in the earlier years, it wasn’t so. I was way too immature and often worked solo. I surrendered to the cravings of late night eating; meals that were loaded with high saturated fats, sugar and sodium. I’m still not entirely out of the ‘woods’.  Alcohol was one of my vices. And because I could guzzle down quite a few without feeling the early effects, this led to over-indulgence.

My carbohydrates were predominately simple ones like white flour, pasta, rice, crackers and bread. Though my body was speaking to me, (I guess I only heard whispers), somehow, I didn’t hear; toned-deaf comes to mind.

It was later on that I noticed a shift; a shift in my energy level. Though I kept physically active, I didn’t alter my dietary intake. Clearly, something was out of sync.  I was poisoning my body with the wrong types of food. I didn’t like the lethargy and void of zest shortly after consuming a meal.

Observations:

Because I love to scribble, I made a concerted effort to keep a food diary along with a mental log of the effects of different foods on my body. I observed that whenever I consumed the simple carbohydrates like flour, rice, pasta, etc. my sugar level would spike which would leave me quite listless for sometime.

Processed foods like crackers, bread had similar effects. So did store-bought cereals that are loaded with high sugars. Soda,diet sodas, orange and fruit juices were also culprits to my overall well-being.

At one point, I thought I was diabetic. After all, both my dear parents passed away with complications from this chronic disease. Thankfully, a visit to the doctor dispelled my fears. However, the sluggish feelings didn’t dissipate after consuming these meals.

That didn’t stand well with me.   Healthcare practitioners and doctors can only do their job and order batteries of tests and other blood work. And, may I state, they’re ready to write the prescriptions if you don’t follow orders. They’re not there monitoring me twenty-four seven. I knew I was flirting with danger. I used to consume a huge amount  of ice cream on the week-ends. My favorite was and is still butter pecan.

I had to take responsibility of my well-being. I was responsible for me. I did my research. I also did reflection on my entire family’s life in respect of food. I realized that in the earlier years as a child, my parents and other family members were full of life. However, later on, things changed.

And, it altered because of life-style practices. During the earlier years, my family raised our own chickens. I can still taste those amazing creamy scrambled eggs. And those came from our dear hens that doled out those warm and nutritious eggs. My mom, Beryl had the extraordinary ability to make things grow. That  ‘green thumb effect’ afforded a flourishing backyard garden. We grew Jamaican spinach (callaloo), watercress, peppers, peas and a host of other veggies and fruits. Our foods were wholesome and organic. It was a ‘farm to table’ kind of a life.

Chopped Jamaican spinach (Callaloo)
Chopped Jamaican spinach (Callaloo)

Later on throughout the years, when we somewhat deviated from the wholesome foods, the health issues began. I realized that though I may not have diabetes, my triglycerides (the fat in the blood) could be the culprit in causing the lack of energy. I understand that the effects of this mimics diabetes. I wasn’t satisfied with same.

A new ‘Sheriff’ in town:

I had to embark on an overall of my health. Of course, I continued my physical activities. I tried to eliminate the simple carbohydrates from my pantry. Some of the moves were drastic while some were gradual. For instance, when I prepared and cooked a dish that required all-purpose flour, I substituted half or more for whole-wheat flour.

It took sometime to get adjusted to a new me. But today, there’s an overall in my daily dietary plan. It’s not perfect; however, I try to consume and incorporate lots of plant-based foods. Garden salads are huge part of my meals.

In order to enjoy and gain exciting taste from root veggies, I sometime roast or grill them.

GRILLED CORN ON THE COB, ZUCCHINI SLICES AND BELL PEPPERS
GRILLED CORN ON THE COB, ZUCCHINI SLICES AND BELL PEPPERS
ROASTED APPLES/CARROTS
ROASTED APPLES/CARROTS

Instead of fried chicken, I opt for grilled or baked.

TARRAGON/LEMON CHICKEN
TARRAGON/LEMON ROASTED CHICKEN

Lean protein like fish, I grill, roast, bake or broil.

GRILLED SALMON READY FOR GLAZE AND BROILER
GRILLED SALMON READY FOR GLAZE AND BROILER
FINISHED DISH OF WILD SNAPPER IN PARCHMENT PAPER
FINISHED DISH OF ROASTED WILD SNAPPER IN PARCHMENT PAPER

On my downtime, I sometime chop up assorted root vegetables.  I sprinkle with herbs like thyme or rosemary, pinch of salt, black pepper. Then, this is roasted until they expel their nutty flavors and natural sugars. I pair this with a lean protein of fish or chicken. Or, sometimes I place roasted veggies in blender of food processor along with chicken broth, water and spices and make a hearty soup.

ROASTED ROOT VEGETABLES
ROASTED ROOT VEGETABLES

Soups – Soups are filling and I try to prep and cook a variety. Example, squash (pumpkin), barley, split-peas, lentil, etc. These soups are loaded with great fibers, protein and other beneficial nutrients that keep me satiated for an extended period.

ROASTED PUMPKIN/CARROT SOUP
ROASTED PUMPKIN/CARROT SOUP
DISH OF LENTIL SOUP WITH DOLLOP OF SOUR CREAM AND GARNISH OF CRISPY BACON/PARSLEY
DISH OF LENTIL SOUP WITH DOLLOP OF SOUR CREAM AND GARNISH OF CRISPY BACON/PARSLEY

Having a cup of one of these soups on the onset of a meal enables me to consume far less when I get to the main course or dessert.

Juices/smoothies – I love fresh fruits, berries, and veggies. Instead of drinking sodas and other store-bought juices that are loaded with fructose sugar, I blend up home-made juices like: carrot/beet/ginger root, watermelon/ginger root/lime/lemon and cucumber/ginger root/lime.

HOME-MADE MELON, BEETROOT, CARROT AND GINGER ROOT AND CUCUMBER DRINKS
HOME-MADE MELON, BEETROOT, CARROT AND GINGER ROOT AND CUCUMBER DRINKS

I never go hungry:

I try not to deprive myself of food. I never go to bed hungry; otherwise those pangs have a way to remind me to feed the need. I don’t just eat anything. My main ‘go to’ foods at night are: apple, apple sauce, nuts, peanut butter on a piece of whole-wheat toast or sliced apple, fresh blue berries or popcorn.

When traveling or en route to work, I like to ‘arm’ myself with healthy snacks like: trail mix, nuts, apple, ripe banana, etc. and of course water. These snack keep me satisfied until I get back to base (home) for a hearty meal.

Work-in-progress:

Like most of us out there, I’m constantly battling the good/bad of it all. What makes it even more challenging is that I’m a huge foodie. I admit, I have a salty and sweet tooth. As a result, I’ve to be cognizant of my choices and habits. I do this by making a concerted effort not to store large quantities of these foods in my pantry and refrigerator.

Don’t get me wrong, I do indulge; otherwise, I become ‘bananas’. I’ve given myself ‘cheating’ days mainly on the week-ends. Saturday is my ‘hot’ french fries day along with a burger. I do think I’m good most of the week; however, on the week-end, I surrender to the naughty food cravings/needs. I do love my occasional succulent baby-back ribs. I can’t ignore a finger-licking oxtail and dumpling/beans dish. As for fried chicken, count me in.

If I could grade myself, I would hand me a (B-). I think I’ve it. Finally, I understand the way different foods affect my body. It’s far from being perfect; however, I must state that things are becoming clearer to me.

Physical activities:

Most of the time, I feel tremendous energy and great zest for life. I try to be active and constantly move my body. I’m involved in speed walking, light jogging, a few yoga and pilate moves that keep me flexible, fit, strong and agile.

Recently (about three months ago) I started “MOVE/S OF THE DAY”. It’s a ‘buddy’ system with friends and family of Facebook. This allows me and others to be accountable about our physical activities throughout a day.

My body and I’ve formed a beautiful union. Most times we’re in synchronized fashion. I’ve realized that as long as I can feed it wholesome foods majority of the time and be physically active, we’re both happy. It’s all about a fine balance.

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