:: WHY WE BE ::

Boo to false, self-imposed limits, we say. These champion oracles want to live enthusiastically. Follow our trip through projects that challenge, frustrate, and/or scare us. In the end (which is really the middle) we want to live like big bright free and authentically awesome people.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

why runners should not be potato-arians. (Amy)

“A person cannot coast along in old destructive habits year after year and accept whatever comes along. A person must stand up on her own two legs and walk. Get off the bus and go get on another. Climb out of the ditch and cross the road. Find the road that is where you want to go. ... A person can grab hold of her life and change things for the better. This happens all the time. We are not chips of wood drifting down the stream of time. We have oars.”—Garrison Keillor

Part 1, Once upon a time.

Once upon a time (2004-2006, to be exact) I could run one whole mile without stopping. I did not enjoy running one whole mile without stopping, but when I was finished running one whole mile without stopping, I would mentally pump my fist in the air and silently chant “Power to the Amy!” three times.

Once upon a time, I ran/walked the Peachtree Road Race. Two years in a row, and not once along this 6.2 mile course did I stop for a McDonald’s hamburger or fries (apparently, there is a McDonald’s 3.1 miles into the Peachtree Road Race route, and people (not seriously) running this race will stop and enjoy a Happy Meal before finishing their last half). Oh, I smelled the greasy lure of coronaries and clogged arteries in the air. But not me! No, no. I kept going when I ran/walked (heavy emphasis on the walked) my Peachtree Road Races. And I walked up Heartbreak Hill like I intended to break its heart.

I was not a runner, but I liked to be outside, and I liked to MOVE.

Four years later, I am still not a runner. And I still like to be outside, but I do not like to move. I like to sit on my couch and think about being outside and moving, occasionally wondering: What the heck HAPPENED to you?? Which I imagine is very similar to what a beached whale must think under more tragic circumstances.

The craziest part about my running phase (2004-2006) was that in addition to not being a runner, historically, I am not an athlete in general. I mean, I quit ballet when I was 5 because there was too much dancing involved. I quit the marching band in high school because there was too much marching involved…and I played the bells. On the sidelines. I’m simply not exercising’s number 1 fan. Not even its number 999,999,999,999,999th fan.

And yet, for a brief moment in my history? I could run! A whole mile! Without stopping!

And so, my primary project for the next 6 months is to re-visit 2004-2006 and run a whole mile without stopping. And to complete a 5K, which I like to think is the goal of every not-runner, I don’t know why.

Also, due to an unfortunate obsession with all things dairy, my body will thank me by starting the process of dropping about 50 lbs extra I gave it, surprise! as a post-birth present. You can read more about that HERE on my other blog if you’re interested.

Which, speaking of extra 50 lbs/food obsessions, brings me to the 2nd part of my challenge:

Part 2, Don’t be a Potato-arian.

In February, my husband C was diagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer (he just finished chemo for this). There’s a long history of high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes in both our families. C’s doctors want him to stay away from red meat, eat more vegetables. And I know, for example, I’m a fast track to poor health myself if I don’t lay off these M&M’s (which, currently, I am eating after a soul-depleting experience with my last class this afternoon) (and I've had a lot of these soul-depleting experiences this year with this particular group of children, and so you can just imagine how many afternoons I've spent commiserating with my M&M friends. They're really the only ones who understand.)

Plus, C loves steak: before his cancer diagnosis, he was on a quest for THE perfect steak in Atlanta and I was dragged along with him (not unwillingly).
This is not good; we do not have familial genetic histories which will support these poor dietary indiscretions. And so if I’m going to run a 5K, I thought: I might as well overhaul what goes into my body. And by doing so, make C’s doctors instantly proud and happy. Win-win!

And what better way to overhaul than to surprise my family with the challenging news that guess what everybody! WE’RE going vegan! HOORAY!!

When I casually mentioned my Big New Eating Plan to my brother and sister in law, this is how that conversation went:

Sister-in-law: Wait, isn’t it pronounced VEE-gan?

Me: You say it "VEE-gan"?! But we don’t eat VEEG-atables. We eat VEJ-atables. Why do they pronounce it VEE-gan? That makes no sense. Everybody ought to say it like it looks: VEJ-un. Doesn't that sound better?

Brother: I don’t know, but whatever you do, stay away from Tofu Shirataki.

Sister in law: Yeah. We tried that once when we went low-carb. Our first red flag should have been all the warnings to open as many windows in your house as possible before cooking it. It took us a whole week to get the smell out.

Brother: And it tasted like plant doody. Stay away from Tofu Shirataki.

Here’s the other thing I gave deep thought to after re-thinking my vegan plan a bit: I’ve been vegetarian before. With questionable results.

The last time I was a vegetarian, I was 20, had severe emotional boundary issues, and I was actually a potato-arian (and I do not advise, this all-potatoes diet. You get rickets and your parents wonder aloud over family dinners if all that money spent on therapy in your teens was for naught).

Eventually, I realized that, for me to be a true vegan, I would probably have to start consuming tofu or something like it, on a semi-regular basis. Here's the thing with me and tofu (and things like it): I love animals and want to save them all from needless suffering and pain...but not enough to eat tofu on a semi-regular basis. Also, throughout my potato-arian period, my dad pointed out to me often: you can’t go around saying you’re a vegetarian but every time someone serves bacon for breakfast you eat some. And so I started eating chicken and pigs again. And several years later, slid back into the full-fledged meat eating segment of society once again by admitting: Okay, okay. Cheeseburgers don't taste that nasty. Just don't think about what they were before you eat them. Just pretend somebody found them in nature, on a cheeseburger tree.

And now? Here I am. With a McDonald’s cheeseburger in my hand. Right next to my M&Ms and chocolate milkshake.

So I went back and re-tooled my healthy eating/vegan plan a bit, knowing myself and my past history. I decided to head the more semi-lacto-ovo vegetarian route. Which means my family, unbeknownst to them, will be enjoying meat 3 nights a week, and some type of lacto-ovo vegetarian concoction the other nights. But no more cows. Cow meat is bad for your arteries, bad for your colon, and (my sources say) increasingly bad for the health of this entire planet (actually, later, I'll write some stuff you may or may not agree with about how I don't think cow meat in general is terrible for the planet, just the way we currently manufacture it and treat all of our food animals).

This focus on vegetables will make my husband’s doctors too happy; they all keep insisting you simply can’t eat too many vegetables. I’m not sure how happy C will be when I unveil the culinary adventures I intend to embark us all on, because occasionally I do think meat is like air for him; no day is complete without it. But I bet I’ll get a bunch of love letters from the Georgia Cancer Center’s doctors and nurses with lots of high fives for my less meat/more vegetables dinner productions.

The other challenge to this will be the fact I’ve got a 2 year old who lives for Fridays, because Friday afternoons? That’s when the daycare teachers put out the gigantic bowl of Dum-Dum lollipops by the door. She likes to run and grab a big greedy handful on her way to the car. “Pop pops” is what she calls them. And if you ask her what she’d like for dinner on a Friday, she’ll matter-of-factly suggest: pop pops. Because in a 2 year old’s brain, really. Why not?

And I deeply empathize with her. Because really. We’re simply not big vegetable fans in this family. I can usually stomach a green bean here and there. And spinach if it’s disguised enough. And salads are okay if I’m in the mood and they don't have a lot of weird stuff in them. But really, just give me extra buttered up mash potatoes and skip the broccoli. Broccoli = gross. Potatoes = good.

See? Total scary challenge. In fact, I really feel like this vegetables focus is going to way more of a scary challenge for the next 6 months. Running a consistent mile or completing a 5K? Cake! Turning to spinach as comfort food and getting a 2 year old to eat a piece of broccoli? Skilled hostage negotiators would be brought to their knees.

Part 3, Stove arsonists and botulism scientists should NEVER be Chief Chefs.

In addition to all of that, please know: I’ve almost burned my house down (twice) while cooking and I once served an undercooked/semi-raw chicken to a pregnant friend and her husband--I simply do not have the Rachel Ray gene, or even a skilled McDonald’s burger flipper gene. And so I thought: why not? I mean, if I have to be the menu planner/chief chef, why not learn to cook really, really WELL? (I would like to note here: this role of Chief Chef was foisted upon me without my consent, and how the heck it happened I have no frickin' clue; people who've attempted stove arson and botulism poisoning in the past should NEVER be elected chief chef officially or unofficially.) And so. My house will thank me for learning to cook in ways that will not send it into flames, I can wow my family with mad knife skillz, and future dinner guests can eat with confidence. Learning some more appropriate cooking skills is a mini-side project of my large healthy project.

And that's my project: all health! all the time! (for the next 6 months.)

Putting it all together.

For the next 6 months, off the blog, I’ll have several journals-in-one going: a food journal, an emotional journal (I connect food to emotions, and vice versa, unfortunately, which is probably one reason I turn to M&Ms for emotional support and make friendly references about them), and a 5K training schedule of some sort. I’ll share some of this just to keep myself accountable (I'm notoriously lax if I think I'm unaccountable.) But I’d also like to take a cooking class and write about it, and possibly throw up a Bobby Flay-like cooking video here just so I can pretend I'm on Iron Chef. And I'll be researching/writing about things like the politics of food, body image, gym rats, and balancing health with work and family.

But ultimately I’ll be sharing what it’s like to lug one’s self off a couch and outside into the fresh air to move around (which I imagine will be similar to the process a walrus goes through when it decides it’s had enough sun now and let's haul this blubber into the water for a mollusk hunt).


Tanner May said...

Well..... I am INSPIRED by you, Amy. I think you will explode that 5K, unearth a deep and suggestible love for veGGies, and you will be posting Amy Recipes in no time! You rock.

patresa said...

Oh Amy. I SO look forward to reading your adventure! You are one clever bean! So funny!

(am also quite excited about cooking video demonstrations!)

T-Free said...

I can't wait to hear all about your new healthy lifestyle! Go Amy! :)

amy said...

Thanks, you all! If I get my own semi-lacto-ovo-vegetarian cooking show on the Food Network, you people are aaaallll my first victims/guests.

Tonight I had beef chili for dinner and Georgia enjoyed thunderstorms all day and so I came home, fell asleep, and then ate more cows. No salads. We are off to a slooowwww start.

But I'm still excited! And that's all that matters.

Tanner May said...

And.... excitement is so contagious. I LOVE it!

Valerie said...

You rock girl! You need a good blender and some rockin smoothie recipes... I can help you there! It's one of the only ways I can actually make sure I consume veggies. They are not my friends, sad to say.

Katie said...

Amy, Amy, Amy. If I can read any conversation that includes the phrase "plant doody" then I'm hooked for life. I sympathize completely with this refocusing, and will be cheering you from my own hellacious pasta valley. Can't wait to read more - and slow starts? When thunderstorms run interference it can be hard to do anything.

Stephany said...

Hey... when you DO get that Food Network show, each of us better be in the audience when you shoot your first episodes! :)
Keep on keepin' on... Am so looking forward to being a party to your journey!

amy said...

Yes! Stephany! You will be in my audience! And I apologize because I just spelled your name with an "ie" at the end of my other comment to you! I will make a concoction containing your most favorite vegetable as one of my first experiments.

Val: Expect an email begging for smoothie recipes disguising vegetables! (I hear there's also a book out there called Deceptively Delicious (or something) by Jerry Seinfeld's wife. She bakes spinach brownies. This also sounds like a good experiment to subject my family to!

Katie: Doody of all kinds is funny to me. It's a real problem. Especially when I find out I have 1st graders (typically boys) in my class who find doody funny too. We waste a lot of time cracking each other up about doody.

And so everybody can just think of me as that doody girl who wants to run a mile. Yay!

Wendy Jans said...

Amy, that quote gave me chills and you are a true wordsmith. Loved this!!

amy said...

Thanks, Wendy! (Garrison Keillor is one of my most favorite people ever. He really makes me wish I lived in MN, on a lake. Except I would refuse to eat lutefisk. Sorry, Minnesota.)

only a movie said...

Very inspirational. I need to do something similar. I am always worried about my bad food choices. For instance, I just ate some contraband chocolate, and felt like I deserved it. Ack.
When people go vegetarian in our family, we call them noodletarians.
I was a bit vegan this summer - way easier to do in warm weather.
Up here, right now, it is too cold to abstain from yummy things like cheese, and potatoes (and noodles).
I am envious of your running goal as well. I always feel like if I purchase fancy running shoes, my hips and knees will just start enjoying running. But they never, ever, cooperate.
Good luck, etc. xo

Michelle said...

Hi Amy!

I lol'd so much at this post, especially the convo with your brother and SIL, ha! And the McDonald's. (Soooo pissed that they have McRib again when I can't even think about eating anything like that)

Tofu sucks, in any form. Well ok I've heard the Tofutti is good but I can't say cause I can't bring myself to try it. But it still can't be better than potatoes, c'mon.

Best of luck to you! I'm already getting burned out with the food and meds tracking. sigh...

You will definitely feel better going the more healthy route. I've been forced to go off caffeine during my ordeal and I gotta say, I actually sleep at night (other than getting up 2x to pee, grrr) and feel more rested & generally... better.

Michelle said...

Dangit, I keep meaning to tell you that I also hope your hubby is doing well! ??

amy said...

Erin--Ha! about the noodletarians. Because I'm finding that's what so many lacto-ovo-vegan dishes happen to contain. Also cheese. A lot of cheese. Glad I'm not lactose intolerant (because then I'd have to switch to soy and that's one step away from tofu consumption...ew!).

I really want a new pair of running shoes, too. But I've told myself I actually have to START running first...and then we'll look into those.

Michelle: Let's see...no McRibs, no caffeine, and constant monitoring of meds & foods? That is WAY more challenging than hauling my butt off the couch and eating less sugar.

My hubby is doing good so far. He just wrapped up chemo a couple of weeks ago and has a PET scan test on the 17th. We're hoping he gets an A+ on it. Thanks for asking!