It’s been weeks since I’ve blogged. And now that Vegan MoFo (Vegan Month of Food) is upon us, I need to get back in the game. Over the summer, I quietly dropped meat and “obvious” dairy from my diet. I’m still eating fish and seafood, and I’m not one to turn down the occasional pastry, but summer’s quintessential burgers on the grill? pizza for movie nights with my boyfriend? neither of these, nor even my beloved fro-yo, has graced my palate in months.
Despite my love of elephants and other wildlife, my dietary shift actually began as an experiment in anticipation of the Yoga Weekend with Kino MacGregor. “You’ll be amazed at your flexibility!” people claimed. To be honest, any gains I might have made in flexibility are probably due to the lack of air conditioning in my house. BUT, my pores have never been so clog-free nor my sinuses so unaffected by pollen, and my often jumpy, nervous stomach has been pretty calm all summer. Now the weather has turned a bit cooler, a new school year has begun, and I’m teaching three writing seminars per semester in addition to those thirteen fitness classes a week. I’ve never consciously tried to control my eating, so maintaining my summer standards will be a new challenge.
One problem that I’ve sort of ignored all summer but really need to face is my fruit addiction. I kid you not. About mid-summer I switched our CSA from weekly to bi-weekly deliveries. To a certain extent, the shares were so bountiful that we were finding it difficult to consume everything quickly enough. Sometimes social engagements meant eating dinner out. Sometimes I was just too lazy to get creative in the kitchen after coming home from the gym at 8:30 or 9 pm. Sometimes I didn’t plan well enough and was left with random items that didn’t work well together (a bag of radishes and an eggplant, for instance).
But let’s face it, the biggest impediment to finishing farms shares lies in the explosion of Farmers Markets across Philadelphia. There is one happening practically everyday, somewhere in the city–which means ubiquitous offers of fresh, seasonal fruit.
As a self-confessed fruit addict, I have a hard time resisting a box of sun-warmed blackberries or mounds of fragrant peaches. Just imagine, there I am cycling to or from work, when I happen to see people unloading crates and crates of plums from a truck. Pebble-skinned black plums … tiny yellow shiro plums … gorgeous, juicy “elephant heart” plums. Years ago I almost crashed into a curb while staring at a satin dress in a store window. Sure, it was a strapless, ruched, satin cocktail dress in a color somewhere between seashell and smoke, but it was still just a dress. And dresses cannot compare to fruit.
First I reach for a small box of blackberries … but the strawberries are so tiny, so perfect, and they smell so sweet. The donut peaches just look happy, and since they’re not quite ripe, we could let them ripen while we eat the berries. Then the guilt begins to creep. Although my boyfriend likes fruit, he is at heart a tomato man. “This is selfish,” I think. “The fruit is so obviously a treat for myself.” Next thing I know my bike is leaning to the right because the berries and heirloom cherry tomatoes cannot balance the weight of the peaches, which have somehow rolled across the bottom of my backpack. When I get home it takes all my spacial-organizational skills to fit the fruit around the corn, beets, basil, and zucchini already populating the refrigerator. But it gets worse. Every time I open the refrigerator door or walk by our hanging basket (where the peaches are ripening) I smell fruit. Breakfast, lunch, dinner? It doesn’t matter. I think, “I’ll just start with a small bowl of fruit and move onto a proper meal from there.” Right.
While fresh fruit certainly lies within the parameters of my diet, a bowl of berries–even with a dollop of coconut-milk yogurt and a sprinkling of nuts–doesn’t make a meal. And consistent substitution of fruit for meals results in unused items from our farm share, a tendency to lose weight, and stalls on strength gains. Ironically, despite my efforts at cleaning up my diet and getting even healthier, at last glance I ended the summer two pounds lighter than I began. Yes, I know what you’re thinking, “Two pounds? My weight fluctuates an average of five pounds on a daily basis!” Well, at barely five feet tall, size 5.5 shoes, and a size 3.5 ring finger, I’m just plain tiny. If I’m averaging a few pounds less, not only does my face look drawn, but I just don’t feel as strong. Most troubling, weight loss at my age could signal losses in muscle mass and bone density.
I used to say that I spent my 20s “getting smart” (3 post-graduate degrees), my 30s getting fit, and my 40s really confused. I’m not yet 50, but it’s high time I started putting the same long-term planning and care into my body that I put into my IRA. So in addition to working on prepping food over the weekends and maintaining our CSA, I’ve purchased a foam roller and committed to weekly chiropractic visits ($35 co-pay, 30 min massage included). Does chiropractic work? Do I believe in it? The jury is still out. Like my non-dairy experiment over the summer, I’m going to give it a shot and tell you what I think.
NOTE: I cannot tell a lie. It is nearly impossible for me to watch films from Asia and not crave Asian food. For what seems like a year I’ve been anticipating the release of Wong Kar Wai’s The Grandmaster (click on the link for the trailer). We caught the film opening weekend and stopped at one of my favorite spots, Meritage, on the way home. Chef Anne Coll specializes in an artful blend of East and West. By the time we got to Meritage my brain was swimming in soy, so I ordered pan-fried dumplings (pork-filled, of course) and gleefully ate all four (click on the image for a recipe).