Larder in Order

Don’t like to think of it as a New Year’s resolution, but rather a project that I’ve been putting off for a while now, one which just so happens to be starting in January. I am finally embarking on a diet. One that is well planned, one I have read about and researched, a diet that I in fact did myself years ago and lost 20+ pounds in a relatively short amount of time. (Then I had a baby and kinda undid all that.) This is a diet that just looks wrong at every turn. It is the most counter intuitive way in which one could possible approach food. Healthy inclinations must be ditched, quelled, ignored. This is the diet of protein and fat, the diet that hardly allows the meagerest ration of carbs in order for success: the Atkins diet. Can’t refresh myself with a peach, nor an apple, nor a fistful of blueberries on my cereal. And cereal – with milk, heaven forbid – that’s entirely out of the picture. Really, just what the hell is this diet about? Some may know well, others may have a faint idea. In a nutshell? Turn your body from a machine that burns carbs for fuel into a body that burns fats and proteins. Simple. And yes, it does work. But like I said, it sure don’t feel natural… there’s a tiny voice in my head the whole time saying ‘your cholesterol will skyrocket… what if it backfires and I end up gaining fifteen instead? Sigh. Only thing keeps me going is knowing I’ve done it before, and successfully.

So yeah, you simply deprive your body of ALL carbs (ok, maybe not ALL carbs, but maybe like 99% of the carbs you’ve been accustomed to eating for your entire life) and you honestly do force your body to shift it’s source of energy. Seems kinda sneaky to me. Kinda not right. But hell, it works – and although it’s certainly not a way in which I intend to live years down the line, for now, it’s just what I need. See, I’m turning 50 on May 7th, and by then, I’d at least like to feel good in a dress again. It’s been years since I’ve worn the dress of a real, grown-up woman. And that aint right. (Oh, does anyone remember my dresses? I remember gowns upon gowns in my closet – and yes, I most certainly enjoyed and wore them all!) So, enough pussy-footing around here. I quit the cigarettes in earnest, now it’s time to get back to the body I feel represents me. I’m still kinda dragging my feet on the working out thing. I just can’t seem to find the time… and I know that sounds like a huge excuse… but I’m working on it. Created an enormous to do list (which I add to moment by moment) so that I may know what I face and plan my life better. So goddam much to do! But I’m gittin there… If it kills me…

It began in earnest with a tidying up of my pantry. I realized that I knew where just about everything else in my house was, but my pantry was an unknown to me. If I was going to organize the way I ate, I’d have to organize my food first. Cans from the year we moved here still hid in the back, there were empty storage containers way, way in the back on tippy-top shelf… So I did it. Had a Sunday of domestic tasks (venting the birds was one) and so it was time. Pulled everything out, relabeled tins and tubs, and most importantly, got rid of the crap we’ve kept ‘just in case’. Plus got rid of things we had only the teensiest bit left of. I had two goals, the second of which didn’t even become clear until the first was met: feed the chickens. I didn’t have enough money to buy feed, nor gas to get there and back, and so had to become clever about how I was to keep the galls alive (and laying) for another day or two. Everything I found was boiled or just dumped into a couple of huge pots. Warmed and softened to a pleasing (it’s relative) gruel-like consistency, it was the perfect answer for our gals. They even seemed to be having fun, picking out favorite bits and running all around the hen house with large, choice pieces hanging from their bills. And lots of variety – and flavor. Mama added some salt, cuz it may as well taste good, right?

With all this purging of the ancient foodstuffs and all the identifying of containers going on, I began to get clarity. About food. What I had, and what I tended to use most…. I stood back and could see my pantry well-labeled, easy to see all shelves, all contents. A good, solid start. Every container was boldy and neatly labeled in sharpie so that even Elihu, with his limited eyesight, could find things for himself (thereby reducing my temptation when making him snacks.) Only problem is that 99% of my pantry was off my list. I needed protein. I needed fat. And here before me was a closet mostly full of white foods – rice, flour, pasta, sugar; all carbohydrates. The big no. My larder had no lard!

My new go-to food source will have to be the fridge. Lots of vegetables, meat, cheese, and – how fortunate for me – eggs. These little miracles of nature will really end up helping me out the next couple of months. Thankfully, I love em, and I enjoy savory things more than sweet. A variety of hot sauces and I should be good. It’s just the cost of the rest that worries me a bit. The main reason I chose the Atkins diet was because I could simply not afford the $150 fee for Weight Watchers (with which by the way, I have experienced the most weight loss – 55 pounds – and had kept it off the longest…that is, until Fareed made his big announcement a few years back). Atkins seemed doable, after all, we get food stamps, so that removes some of the burden. But only one week of shopping into the new plan, and I’m beginning to worry. Meat is expensive. So is produce. It’s gone faster than I’d thought, in spite of my conservative approach and waste-not consumption. (My second reason for Atkins, btw, other than cost, was that I knew I had a pretty good chance of knocking fat off quicker – and there’s just not a lot of time before my 50th to go slow and steady like WW does.)

In spite of my concerns about cost, I do feel pretty good about my prospects for staying the course. I have now a small paycheck from the Waldorf school which will help me cover the extra food costs, and I also have a new student starting next week. We’ll butcher a few of our chickens, and that will help a little too. And eggs, got those for sure. ! Having money helps, yet having hope is really what’s key here – I feel like I’ve lived with so very little of that these past few years. I have up moments, and I am grateful every single day for the amazing little homestead we have, yet being socially isolated and having nothing much on the horizon to look forward to has kept my overall mood since living in New York a bit down. So this is good. I now have a picture of myself effortlessly slipping on one of my old dresses. I have a goal. I’m beginning to get brave enough to dare to remember how good it can feel…  How good it feels not to be winded, to actually tuck in a shirt, to wear knit fabric…

Folks often say that you have to go through emotional pain, not around it, to arrive on the other side. Ok, I’ve done some of that. I’m doing a lot better than a couple of years ago. So onto the physical part of the equation… Ironically, it looks like I may have to consume the fat in order to ultimately lose it. Still seems all wrong, but I’m committed for now, and thankfully I finally have the resolve to push ahead. Onward and upward…


Hookay. I admit it. Today I would like a cigarette. I mean REALLY like a cigarette. Been clean a while. The past three years I’ve been a casual on again, off again smoker. Whenever I feel it’s too much, I just back off. Haven’t bought any in a long time. But I’ve smoked em. New Year’s Eve, after dinner at my friend’s house, on her back deck in the unseasonal forty degree weather, as we listened to the coyotes up on the ridge, their eerie hoots and yowls oh-so close by, we enjoyed a post-meal smoke. That well-placed cigarette hit the spot, I can tell you. And yet it also sounded the ‘too much’ bell somewhere inside. I’d had my fill of indulgence over the holiday, and this cigarette heralded a run of clean living to follow.

It started out well. With my basement cleaned out and a good measure of physical space restored plus aesthetic appeal to help motivate me, I’ve used my treadmill most days. It wasn’t so much part of a New Year’s campaign; I myself never choose to publicly – or privately – proclaim a New Year’s resolution. I am done with the disappointment and the feeling of failure that follows. Instead, I keep some new goals and values at the front of my awareness, encouraging myself to make baby steps towards them. I finally get that as a human, I’m encouraged by tenderness and understanding, and I choose to treat myself with such on the treacherous road to better living. I allow myself failures, and praise myself at small achievements. While it’s perhaps a more realistic approach to self-betterment, it can also provide too lenient a path to casual relapses. Hence today’s search for a cigarette.

I’m not going to buy a pack. I’m fairly broke, and that’s just not right. Can’t do it. Besides – if I did, I’d smoke the whole thing. No. I don’t even want a pack. I just want one. Just one. Ok. I’ve always been able to find just one when I wanted – I know the places to drive past; the homeless guys on the parking lot wall across the street from social services, the ghetto chopper parking lot, the Pakistani-owned gas station, maybe even the working men in their trucks at the local Stewarts shop. Usually, one’s a hit. I always offer a dollar, sometimes they accept, sometimes they don’t, sometimes they even give me ‘one for the road’. Once I even met a very engaging gentleman through my pursuit of a smoke, who I later learned to be a maxillofacial surgeon. I spied him leaving the all night pantry, tapping the bottom of his unopened Marlboro Lights package. After I’d learned more about him, I asked why in hell was a fellow such as he pondering this cigarette, when he’d been months without one? When he, as a doctor, should know intimately the dangers? He too was bothered by an ending relationship, and like me, he too was simply searching for some relief. He’d ended up giving me two, which yes, I did smoke. I often wonder about him. Did he succumb as well? I’d begged him not to, but what a two-faced, flimsy entreat. I was weak, I hope he was not.

This morning I made all the usual stops to procure my fix, but not a one of them panned out. I ended up making some rather desperate attempts at finding one; I asked at the shop where my car’d been worked on. Not one of the men there smoked. Some never even had. Grease under the nails, cute chick auto parts posters on the walls and not a Marlboro between them. I stopped by the other shop in town – greasier and grittier by far – thinking it was done. But no – even Beetle quit six months ago. I heard how he’d shoved gum in his mouth til his cheeks were as big as my head – he wasn’t going to smoke ever again. Even threw his pack out unfinished. Wow. Beetle quit? Geez. Joe gave me a little pep talk – how a pretty girl doesn’t want to go and get all wrinkly… It wasn’t his pitch nor the story of Beetle that really did it for me. After my fruitless yet highly motivated town-wide search I was fairly confident that the universe had intervened. Apparently, today I’d needed some help.

The day is nearly done now. My son sits at my feet, building with his new blocks, singing an improvised, operatic narrative of everything that enters his head. Dinner soon, then to bed where we’ll get down to the really scary parts of Treasure Island. I’m over the hump.

For now, that is.