Friday, August 17, 2007

Rise and Shine Fatty

Where to start, where to start. I never really had any intention of learning anything about diet and nutrition, I just knew that I was overweight and would like to be otherwise. I'm a man of routine and building an eating routine was important. Living alone for so long, I've always had eating routines; unfortunately, they often consisted of microwave burritos and large amounts of cheesy garlic bread. My idea of eating right was to only get donuts twice a week. This worked well for me for quite some time. I filled out nicely to the tune of 315 lbs and began to make trombone-like sounds while I was sleeping, thus driving my girlfriend to the couch and eventually back to Hays.

Everyone has always said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, even though I had no idea why. So, the natural first place to start was by improving my breakfast lifestyle. For the longest time, I didn't even eat breakfast. I was never really hungry in the mornings, I was too preoccupied with extreme annoyance of being rudely awoken by my alarm clock, and one thing I do know, if you eat angry, no one really wins. Unfortunately, by 10:00 am, I was so hungry that by the time lunch rolled around, I would utterly destroy any food placed in front of me. Since I was ordering and paying for my own food, I didn't have that parental buffer of enforced control. I could knock out a slab of ribs and a super size order of fries and still have room for whatever the candy machine special of the day was. Pretty self explanatory, not eating breakfast is probably not the best for you.

Eventually, I started eating cereal for breakfast, but it really didn't do much more for me. I know now that that's because Cocoa-Puffs have no nutritional value. Also, I love milk. I can drink a gallon in two days and after learning a bit about the nutritional aspects of milk, I'm convinced that, not only is it not good for you, but for an adult who is not growing anymore, it's downright bad for you. It's high in fat, high in calories and high in carbs (it's also very high in total amazingness, but there you go). Those aspects of milk outweigh the level of calcium and vitamin C contained in a single glass (my 'glass' was a 32 ounce pickling jar for about eight years).

On top of that, even the healthiest cereals are very high in carbohydrates and calories and just don't have any real nutritional value outside of a small amount of fiber.

So there's kind of my first suggestion, nix the milk, nix the cereal. If you're eating those two things, you're doubling up on carbs and starting your day off with a glass of fat. Technically, you'd be eating healthier by eating a spoonful of Crisco in the morning.

Another thing that I learned about nutrition when dealing with breakfast stuff; the term 'fortified' shows up all over the place in the breakfast world (cereal, bread, my castle). Fortified means that the vitamins are not naturally occurring in the item, they're injected into it after the fact. These vitamin fortifications are usually in a powder form which your body basically treats as a foreign body and only processes a very small percentage of.

One positive benefit of eating a bowl of cereal in the morning was that I wasn't quite so hungry so early and the size of my lunches began to shrink some.

The next thing I tried was the fruit breakfast. I started taking two apples to work every morning and eating them at my desk while I surfed for new Pumas. The reason I choose apples was simply because all other fruits have a shelf life of about 20 minutes in the humidity that is southern Texas. I love oranges, but unless I wanted to eat eight a day or go to the store every morning, I just couldn't keep up. Same with bananas. After a while, I began to be curious of the nutritional value of apples. They were a good snack, but I really wasn't sure how carby they were for me (at this point, my idea of nutrition was still the fewest number of carbs in a day would be my window to smaller man breasts).

I found that apples really weren't all that healthy and probably shouldn't have been considered a 'meal'. They were very high in carbs and sugars compared to other fruits and they had very little nutritional value.

Additionally, they didn't stick with me for very long. An hour after eating them, I was hungry again. Thus began my quest for the perfect fruit. My goal was to find the healthiest fruits based on two things: Minimizing carbohydrates (thus calories and sugar) while maximizing nutritional content (vitamins and other stuff I don't know about).

Somewhere along the path to fruit awareness, I briefly thought I could achieve vitamin delight by making a morning vitamin shake. This took the form of a powdered supplement called 'Alive!' (Complete with the exclamation point). The stuff had 1000% of everything known to man and when mixed with water had the consistency of gritty snot, the color of slime and the taste of chalky Styrofoam. I immediately began to mix this with blueberries, raspberries and strawberries, the effect of which was to change the color to dark purple play-dough and upgrading the taste to slightly-fruity dirt. It also made my pee bright enough to light up a football game (which I'm still counting as a benefit, it was actually quite helpful that night I had a flat tire out in the middle of nowhere).

As you can imagine, I just couldn't do the vitamin gruel for very long. I think it lasted about 2 months and, while filling me up in the morning, I just didn't enjoy it (which is the my favorite thing about eating – the desire to consume) and I wasn't too convinced that these extra vitamins were actually doing anything to my body (the pee was the first clue). Upon further internet research (not done at work of course…) I found out that a body just isn't set up to process these intense supplements. If taken in a pill form, your body can only get around 10% of the stuff that's in there, and in a powdered form, it increases, but not enough to justify the taste.

After I gladly shrugged this phase of breakfast off, I resorted to something that came highly recommended from my boss – oatmeal. Every morning, I had a single bowl of oatmeal with strawberries and a very small spoon of Splenda Baking Sugar. Now, that shit was GOOD! After a couple weeks, I modified it to contain a full banana (dropped the strawberries, mainly because they just didn't stay good long enough and frozen strawberries get kind of old) and a small handful of walnuts.

I know it took me two pages of rabble to get to, but that is my daily breakfast. Some of the benefits that I can identify are as follows.

The oatmeal is high in fiber and non-sugar carbs. These carbohydrates serve to keep me full. I no longer am hungry by mid-morning (I wake up at 5:45 am, and am usually good to go until 11:00 for lunch). The fiber is good for getting you on the toilet. Disgusting, I know, but as I get older, I'm less and less regular (this is also an effect of keeping down the saturated fats and other stuff that tastes really good). Oatmeal has been shown to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol, something that I plan on writing a whole 'chapter' about sometime soon, because it's super important (if you like living, if not, you can skip ahead to 'lunch').

The banana is high in sugar and carbs (which isn't good), but it's packed with potassium, which we will go over when it comes to the whole blood pressure thing, and fiber (which is good for the bathroom magazine industry). Bananas taste great and are a good sweetener for the oatmeal on whole. However, if you gain weight easily, like me, I probably wouldn't eat more than one a day. Of course, if they're going bad, like they tend to do in Texas, I've been known to eat four of them in a row just so I didn't have to toss them.

The walnuts are high in protein, which I wasn't getting enough of and we'll probably go over when I talk about my favorite subject – eating meat. Nuts in general are high in calories, but they have no sodium (except for peanuts) and no cholesterol and are typically low in carbs.

As to the rest of my fruit research, I have identified three fruits that are possibly the best for you nutritionally. Strawberries, cantaloupe and grapefruit. These three fruits are low in sugar (which is why they don't taste as sweet as, say an apple or an orange) but they're more packed with natural vitamins than nearly all other fruits. I put these fruits in a guilt-free category. I eat them nearly every day when I get hungry (I take one grapefruit to work every day and have a sliced up cantaloupe in my fridge at all times).

I have also stricken several things from my morning diet (or whole-day diet I suppose), which sucks because I like nearly all of them. All juices are gone. Even if they say 'natural', they've got added sugar and you'd be better off just eating the fruit itself (or drinking a bunch of Kool-Aid if you're on a high-sugar diet, let me know how that works). Cereal and milk, for the above reasons. Toast, for carb/nutrition ratio (all carbs, no nutrition to speak of).

I have also backed way off on my egg consumption. Eggs have never been a part of my typical breakfast just because I'm too lazy, but I LOVE eating an omelet on the weekend at a restaurant while reading a book. I still love it, but whenever I can, I substitute egg-whites or egg beaters. They taste the exact same, but have two very important things removed from them – sodium and cholesterol (they're also lower in calories and fat).

I still drink coffee like the antidote is at the bottom of the cup and will probably not stop. Everything I could find about coffee was positive (or at least not negative). It's got no calories to speak of, no sodium, fat, cholesterol, carbs etc. People often say that it raises your blood pressure, which is true, but all research points to this raise being minimal and short-term at best (like less than an hour).

So there it is. My breakfast. Written on flight 3307 from Kansas City to Houston. I'm not very good at positive reinforcement or being a good role model, hell, for all I know, all this stuff is horribly wrong, but it's helped me.

Stay tuned for my next chapter, which I'm thinking will be the chapter where I break it down blood pressure style, followed by something about eating lunch. If you don't want to wait, I'll give you a sneak preview:

Blood Pressure – high is bad and it will kill you.
Lunch – Saladbarsville baby.

I just want to be the oldest man in Pilgrim Village.

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