I got up late – most likely due to the fact that I woke up choking in the middle of the night. Ugh. I also felt like merde. My breakfast of black coffee didn’t seem to bother me much – my body is far too used to this to consider it abuse – in fact, I sometimes find black coffee *settles* my stomach – but I don’t know how THAT works.
Lunch was a Fage yogurt with EZ-Sweetz and by then I felt a heck of a lot better. Not 100%, but not like I did when I rolled into work. Mid afternoon I felt a slump coming on and treated myself to Dunkin Donuts coffee with cream – of course I always get the largest container they have.
Late afternoon was 3 pieces of American cheese and 2 hard-boiled eggs with ketchup.
At home we had a friend over and my wife had ordered pizza. I came in a bit late after having to detour to the high school to pick my daughter up from practice. I said my greetings, avoided the pizza and garlic knots with mariana dipping sauce and went for my oldest avocado. I mixed it up with some salsa and sour cream and sat down with them at the kitchen table next to a plate of my younger daughter’s half-eaten pizza and knots and ate my dip with chip.
My friend knows of my – ahem – peculiarities – in eating but it came into the forefront because I was sitting there eating like this in front of him for the first time.
“So what do you eat?”
“Well, I tend to eat a lot of fat. I feel better this way. I try to get 70% or more of my diet from fats.”
“You avoid saturated fat, right?” He smiled.
“Oh no – I eat plenty of saturated fat.”
His smile froze. He was born and raised in France and is one of the nicest and most gracious people I know, and he wasn’t going to be impolite and tell me that I was insane.
“Saturated fat isn’t actually all that bad for you, its seed oils like sunflower oil and peanut oil that you find in most processed foods that contain way too much Omega-6 that I believe is bad for you.”
“So I suppose you don’t eat a lot of nuts.” He offered.
“Well, some nuts are worse than others. I avoid peanuts but I eat macadamias. It depends on the nut. I drink almond milk, which isn’t that bad. I really can’t eat the way most people eat – I feel awful and get fat doing it.”
I then said: “I suppose you can call me a food faddist. Yes – my diet is a bit extreme. But before I ate this way I was 265 pounds. I ate this way and lost 80 pounds – and the only reason I’ve gained weight is because I DON’T always eat like this.”
“Look at me.” He said. “I eat whatever I want.”
“You are a product of a culture that always ate freshly prepared whole foods. You’ve always been athletic. You moderate your intake of sweets. this stuff was ingrained into you from childhood. I lived in a culture where you grab a box of processed crap, add water, microwave and you have Mac & Cheese. 30 years of you eating and living your way left you thin and fit. 30 years of eating my way left me metabolically-damaged.”
“I’m not telling you to eat the way I do.” I continued. “You’re fine. Me – I eat they way I eat and avoid a host of problems.” I then told him this story that I wrote but never became a blog post but now it is.
I go to the grocery store and the woman at the checkout asks if I’ve ever tried the grass-fed frozen beef I’m buying. I tell her no, and say that I sometimes buy the grain -fed organic. She answers: “I *only* eat grass-fed.” For the brief time it took for me to check out, we found common ground in keeping grains to a minimum, shared a laugh over one of her fat-phobic customers, but differed on whether low carb is ‘going too far’.
In work, a pair of perpetual dieters do the low-calorie, low-fat diet and exercise. Not being one of ‘them’, I diet alone. Lean Cuisines and low-fat yogurt populate the fridge at work, brought in by others who keep their dietary habits more mainstream.
On a business trip, at dinner, the person to the left of me told us they were a vegan raw foodie who ate whatever they wanted when they traveled, but at home lived on vegan paleo smoothies. A strapping, handsome guy – it apparently suits him well. The person across from me was into Crossfit, the exercise cult, and was being pressured to go full-blown Paleo but was only doing it part way, to the chagrin of her trainers.
To the right of me was a fellow who ‘ate meat only when offered’ and said he ate a lot of hummus.
My wife inundated me with daily diet tidbits from her social network, apparently filled with people beginning to feel their age and catching glimpses of the spectre of death for the first time: “if you avoid/eat X you’ll live 20 years longer.” She’ll say sagely.
On the phone with a colleague I noticed her speaking about 30% faster than normal. I didn’t recognize her voice initially and told her.
“Oh, I’m doing a cleanse and it must be the energy shake I take every morning.”
Maybe it’s me, but it seems like everybody is following – or trying to follow – a diet routine chosen somewhat haphazardly or even randomly – a friend recommended it, Dr. Oz recommended it, or they just cherry-picked a bunch of rules and rolled their own diet.
The French culture has a healthy relationship with food for the most part. My friend never *had* to think about these things because the habits he was raised with are by their nature healthy and come to him without much thought.
“You mentioned you have a blog – what is the name?”
Now I got uncomfortable.
“I keep it anonymous. This way I can write freely. I wouldn’t be able to write it if people I knew read it – it’s an experiment in authenticity. It’s really a sort of private diary that I should probably keep to myself but instead I post it.”
“It’s really quite boring.” My wife chimed in.
“It is.” I agreed. But people still come. There are a lot of little niches out there and some people – especially people trying a low carb diet – find this stuff interesting.”
“I think it is also somewhat voyeuristic.” My wife added. “People like to look into the lives of other people.”
“That’s true. People have admitted that to me. But I also get comments about how a particular post resonated with them, or how my blog keeps them going on their own diet. Because I post frequently, Google is very kind to my blog and people who are starting low carb stumble across mine. One post I dashed off years ago has gotten 70,000 hits – some famous authors haven’t gotten that many people to read their stuff in times past. This year I am on track to have 750,000 page views.”
Thankfully, the subject got dropped about this time and we moved on to other topics. As I might have mentioned before, my anonymity is important to me. If I know my friends were reading this I would censor myself – and there would be little point in continuing. Discussing my waking with GERD the other day is TMI for my circle of friends. Unlike most miscreants, I don’t use my anonymity to be an idiot to other people – I use it to express myself without the burden of my public persona. If you think about it, this is how it was for the vast majority of writers even 50 years ago. Few people would ever tie them to their work. Even using their real names, they had an expectation of anonymity for the most part.
Today with the Internet, maintaining an Internet presence becomes a part of your public persona. Before you go on a job interview, the HR person is going to Google you. I think this has led to a very great loss: the pursuit of unattractive authenticity. Honest, deep feelings get left on the cutting-room floor because we need to meet certain societal norms. To some extent we’ve become an Internet of ‘posers’ and are constantly warned through stories about people posting honest opinions that sometimes there is a price to pay for honesty.
It’s why I hate Facebook: my friends – who are my friends because I felt a deep connection to them – seem like cartoon cutouts of their real selves. There’s a community pressure to conform and breaking this means you can be forever typecast, labeled, and once labeled, discarded. Labels are a way of drawing conclusions and moving on. You become: ‘the lady ow always posts cat pictures’ or ‘the guy who posts bible quotes’. All the rich complexity that is ‘you’ disappears and you become as deep as a minor character in a bad sitcom.
All that aside, after our friend left I ate a bit of the cheese my daughter pulled off her pizza and went to bed to read.
It sucks not having pizza. It sucks not eating the raspberry ice cream my daughter left on my nightstand – but I felt a hell of a lot better by the end of the day than I did at the beginning.
And that truth would not be posted for those of you who find value in it without my anonymity.