You Can’t Trust a Skinny Chef
I own a restaurant. So that makes me a professional food lover, which gives me the right, no, the obligation, to eat whatever I want. I’m always testing, tasting, and re-tasting, thinking I’ve skipped meals when really I’ve already eaten plenty while working my way through an eight to twelve hour shift surrounded by food. Great food. Our Cafe serves mainly healthy fare, but that doesn’t mean calorie free. Three years after the birth of my second child, I didn’t like what I saw in the mirror. No justification could fix the fact that I thought about being overweight way too much. My low came when I found myself at a dear friend’s birthday party, stealing her camera and deleting all the photos of myself I didn’t find flattering.
Eating is a funny thing to be addicted to. Other substances must be shunned forever, but we have to eat to live. Food was a big part of my life growing up. Nearly every activity had accompanying side dishes, and I looked forward so much to dinner that I would cry if it was something I didn’t like (hello fish). I loved cooking from a young age, and would make treats (and enormous kitchen messes) for my family. I ate for comfort, and I ate out of great love for the flavours I was discovering. I ate for a living, getting my first cooking job in a Saltspring Island kitchen at age 18. So there was a real love and passion for food (positive) coupled with a tendency to overeat, especially when I was stressed out (negative). And I hated the idea of dieting, and how annoying people on diets could be to committed overeaters, especially when their diet worked.
Because I’m a big ol’ food nerd who reads cookbooks in bed, I have a favourite cookbook author. As a cooking obsessed vegetarian teenager, my mom had given me “Still Life with Menu” by Mollie Katzen. I had already read cover to cover my neighbour’s copy of the Moosewood Cookbook, also by Mollie, and loved her writing style, her recipes and food guidance. So I was stunned one day while searching online to discover that she had Co-Authored a Diet Book! I thought, “if this woman who has shaped how I cook and feel about food has something to teach me about losing weight, then I want to learn!” I bought it.
I realized I knew lots about food, but so little about how to really eat for health and well-being. The book, titled Eat, Drink and Weigh Less was co-written with Walter Willett, head of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard. It cleared up a lot of my confusion about calories and metabolism, as well as providing a blueprint for long term health. Among Mollie’s contributions to the book were many wonderfully simple and tasty recipes. It worked. I lost forty pounds over six months.
Of course, the authors insisted I exercise, and I did. I went to fitness classes a few days a week at our Town Hall (I’ve never been self motivated, so paying in advance for those classes really got me there). I met inspirational instructor Maggie Travis and joined my amazing cousin Melyssa Hutchinson’s fitness Boot Camp. I was just ready, so ready, to shed the old tired me and get moving! So now I’m strong and lean, too. And so grateful for having made the change.
My friend and co-worker, Annette, reminds me constantly to try to be happy with what I have. Like she says, a negative body image can’t truly be overcome simply by changing the body. She attends classes, too, and we have a great time trying to outdo each other. It really helps to have that kind of support.
Part of this journey has been rediscovering breakfast. Here are two of my favourite ways to get things cranking in the morning:
Maple Almond Bowl (serves two people who are resolved to make this day a great one)
If you are eating solo, wrap up the second bowl for tomorrow….or the next day.
½ C. 12 Grain Cereal
1 ¼ C. Water
pinch of salt
2 T. toasted and chopped Almonds
2 Medjool Dates or 6 regular dates, diced (I wet the knife so they don’t stick)
1 small Apple, diced (I like Boates, VanMeekeren Farms, and Suprima Apples)
2 t. Ground Flax Seed
2 T. Maple Syrup
Combine the cereal, water and salt in a small pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes, until nicely thickened. Pour into two bowls. Sprinkle each with the almonds, dates, apple, and flax seed and drizzle with the maple syrup.
Spanakopita Eggs for two (multiplies easily, but use a larger pan)
2 t. Olive Oil
½ small Onion, diced
1 clove Garlic, minced
pinch each Salt and Oregano
two big handfuls or more Spinach, chopped
4 good Eggs
2 T. Feta, crumbled (I love Holmestead)
Heat the oil in small pan over medium high heat. Add the onion and garlic, along with the salt and oregano. Cook 2-3 minutes, until the onion has softened. Add the spinach, then toss and stir until it wilts. Transfer to a plate, and return the pan to the stove. Beat the eggs with a pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper. Pour them into the hot pan. Now stir gently for a few minutes, scraping the bottom of the pan (I use a silicon spatula). When the eggs are mostly set but still wet, shut off the heat and fold in the spinach mixture and the feta. Allow to sit on the heat another minute if you like them cooked more.
Divide between two plates and serve, with toasted pita bread or on its own.