Monday, November 8, 2010

Epiphanies of Conflict; Or Why being an aspiring pastry chef make me Fat.

I had an epiphany the other day at the gym.

I frequently have deep thoughts and clever observations,those who are on the "Cari's Random Musings" Text list can attest to this fact. (Yes, I have a roster of friends who are mass texted my silly thoughts on life. None have blocked me...yet. Win!) Anyway, while I often have keen observations on life, it is rare that I have a full-on "I can see the light, Praise the Lord, I understand the meaning of life" epiphany where I start shouting my realization a la Southern Baptist Church style. However, I recently had one. And it is one that is causing me great inner turmoil.

It all started when I visited my wonderful doctor. He noted that my weight loss has plateaued and was curious if I was settling for a life of obesity-almost overweightness, or if there was something more to it. I explained how I've been feeling, what's been going on and long story short (And I mean long story, this doctor blocks 3 appointments worth of time for me because a simple check up quickly turns into a talk therapy session of all things I'm struggling with a la Taxi Cab Confessions style. Thank God for HIPAA laws otherwise a hidden camera in that office would have my doctors appointments at the #1 spot on NBC's Thursday Night Lineup.)

But I digress. Long story short, the Good Doc told me that since I am an analytical person, (HA!) I should keep a log of everything I am eating, and there's a good chance that I will see I am sneaking in a lot of stuff I did not realize I was consuming. He figured I would see the data and change my ways. So I kept a pocket notebook with me and documented as my day progressed.

This exercise was supposed to be enlightening and I thought that I would find I do eat well. All I discovered was that I need to change careers. Again. Let's take a look at a few of these logs, shall we?

Day One-a day at work
1 Large Banana
1/2 c. red beans
Large mixed greens salad with balsamic vinaigrette
1/2 c. corn, carrot and tomatoes
1/2 c. Macaroni & Cheese with chicken
Small spoonful of mousse
3 creme puffs
1 slice of bacon
4 french fries
Random pieces of cheese poached from the pantry
2 more creme puffs
More mac and cheese
2 spoonfuls of whipped cream
More salad
Mixed Veggies
2 beers

Day Two-Another day at work
1 Banana
1 Kiwi
1/2 grilled cheese
Large salad
Few spoonfuls of rice pudding
Roasted Veggies
Whole-wheat pasta with salmon
2 spoonfuls of whipped cream
More rice pudding
An Apple
Cheese scraps swiped from pantry
Even More Rice Pudding

Good lord, this was depressing. I realized I am essentially subsiding on stolen cheese and pastry product. What was really depressing about looking at this log was that I started off each day with great intentions, both in documenting things and trying to eat well, but once I started in production, I just fell apart. The worst thing about this, to me, was that none of the sweet stuff was stuff I could really avoid eating, as I have to taste every product I produce. Five cream puffs in one day seem ridiculous? Absolutely, but when they have 3 different fillings and different ganache toppings, you have to make sure it works together. Note: the cream puffs were only slightly larger than a marble for you asshats going to tell me I only need a bite and don't need to eat the entire puff. And the rice pudding tastings? I had to try it while in production, once cooled and once set. However, I probably used a bigger spoon than necessary (ie a shovel) because that stuff was amazing!

Anyway, this little exercise made me realize my eating habits have slipped WAY off base. I remember when I started this whole project that I would not eat food that had been processed before 6 p.m. Not so much anymore. I realize I am 98% at fault for this, but I do think my environment plays into it to. I go to school and work in a kitchen. And at work, we are encouraged to taste EVERYTHING. And not just your own stuff either. Chef frequently calls me over to taste new cheeses (Cheese may be the perfect food) or the dinner special, just as I am always asking the line cooks for their opinions on my black cherry mousse and whether it's better with brandy or amaretto. Note: Instinct says brandy, but amaretto is the true winner. Trust me on this one.

Despite seeing these facts, it was not enough for me to realize I need to keep myself in check. No no, my Coming-to-Jesus moment came at the gym a few weeks ago.

A bit of background here: I am pretty shameless when I work out. I sweat, and I suspect I smell despite Secrets best attempts. I huff and puff loudly. I wear spandex shorts despite the fact I am too fat for spandex (Hey, they don't ride up and get all bunched together in the crotch area like regular shorts do and don't even pretend you don't know what the hell I am talking about ladies because you know damned well what I am talking about, when your thighs eat your shorts and next thing you know you have a thigh rash from the massive amounts of friction caused by the fat-on-fat rubbing when running....) Anyway, I try my best to pay minimal amount to what those around me are thinking of me when I work out. Getting my fitness on at the YMCA helps a lot, because it seems to mostly be middle-aged men trying to look good for their mistresses and soccer moms fighting gravity that work out there, so I hardly stand out.

However, one day I was peddling like the beast that I am on the spin machine and doing some reading for school, and I notice I keep getting odd looks from people. I check to make sure all personal parts are properly covered and nothing popped out that shouldn't have. The looks continue. I wipe my face down, concerned I might have a renegade streak of mascara running down my cheek. Nope, not that. Finally I turn up my tunes, try to ignore the weird looks and focus on my school reading.

And then it dawns on my and I realize why everyone must be giving me weird looks. Here I am, a fat girl in spandex and a t-shirt that keeps creeping up as I spin, peddling like I am in the Tour de France despite the fact I am only doing Level 5 on Interval Training, breathing so hard my lungs might explode and am intensely reading a book with the title in big, bold letters across the front; "BREAD." Truly let that image soak in of an obese young woman working as hard as her chubby little stump legs can go reading a book called BREAD. It's hilarious and disturbing on so many levels. I would've laughed at me, and also probably made some smart ass comment about the obesity problem in America.

But it wasn't some other fat girl reading a book about carby starchy goodness, it was me, and that is when I had my epiphany. I know that I am always going to have a lifelong struggle with my weight, I've accepted that and have made it a source of entertainment and encouragement in my life. However, I never really considered how much harder I made my struggle when I decided to pursue a career that brings me absolute happiness and makes my soul feel alive. I love food, absolutely love everything about food, but not only do I love food, I want to spend my time around it constantly. No easy feat for a fatty trying to get the hell off of Lane Bryant's Preferred Customer List.

I've got a lot of challenges in the coming months. I have two 5ks scheduled in the next month and more to come, am doing an Indoor Triathlon at the Y, have signed up for a race up the Hancock Tower (This is a story for another day) and of course have that half marathon looming. I am not smoking, but it is a struggle literally every day to not stop off at a gas station and buy a pack or bum one off someone. I go to school full-time and work almost just as much, making it a challenge to work out 5 days a week. And now I am dealing with the fact that my passion and love in life of pastry is in direct conflict with my major goal of losing more weight and living a healthy lifestyle.

I need to figure out how to strike a balance of enjoying my work and not overindulging it in. I'm half tempted to say nuts to caring about the weight loss and just living up the stereotype of the fat and happy chef that we all know and love, such as Mrs. Butterworth, The Pillsbury Doughboy, Emiril Lagasse, etc. If that doesn't work out, perhaps I could consider leaving the culinary world.

Sharing my epiphany took much longer and was much more serious-toned than I intended, and I apologize for that. For now, though, I must be going as I need to research what the annual salary and benefits are for carrot farmers.