Category Archives: Eats

Misadventure At Jason’s

Misadventure At Jason’s

Having a horrible experience at a restaurant is a first-world problem; that, I acknowledge. Covid doesn’t factor into my latest mess. Few people working or visiting the eatery in question wore masks yesterday. That’s okay by me. Having survived attempted strangulation by my bowels makes it hard for me to throw stones at external threats beyond my control.

Yes, Tammy, I should have opted for Sam’s rotisserie chicken. : ) Now that I’m out of the hospital, I wanted to enjoy a calorie and flavor-rich simple meal prepared by a restaurant that c-a-n make delicious food. It was to be my first post-surgery restaurant experience. It was late enough past the post-lunch crowd that the most significant impediment would be circumvented. Or so I thought. After realizing that Renzo’s was closed on Sunday, my friend and I immediately agreed on Jason’s Deli. We used the app to simplify the process and paid online. I took a large cash tip with me to reward the employees involved. Curbside pickup would make it easy for me to avoid unnecessary strain and bypass any covid issues. (Not that I’m worried, as so many vaccinated people are getting breath-through cases.) I wasn’t in a hurry, and I left to go pick up the order.

Calling the number on the Curbside pickup sign, I immediately knew that I might have a bad experience. The employee answering the phone lashed out. My response was both surprise and a little laughter. I tried to picture what Hell she’d already experienced by 1 p.m. to motivate her to practice that degree of insult. Avoiding any humorous snark, I answered her as best as I could. The details don’t matter. I called my friend, laughing, telling her what the Jason’s employee had said. Since I work in an environment where customer service often morphs into malicious compliance when an employee gets angry, I easily recognized that the employee in question would have gladly jumped off a building to get out of there. I lowered my expectations and waited.

After 30+ minutes past the initial “order-ready” time, I went inside to the to-go area. I wasn’t upset, just confused. At this point, I was still laughing a little at the unlikely outcome I’d got myself into by choosing Jason’s. I called my friend who was going to share the meal with me. I apologized for laughing. It was so ridiculous I didn’t know how else to respond. I sent a picture of the lop-sided layout; 99% of employees on the dine-in side and one lone guy attempting to keep up with the to-go/curbside/driver end that comprised at least 50% of the business.

People were waiting, frustrated. A lone male employee was manning the entire ‘out’ portion of the long prep bar. He was hustling against piles of half-prepared sandwiches, missing items, and dozens of order tickets thrown and stuck everywhere. A dozen employees were helping dine-in customers get their food quickly.

A couple of food delivery drivers expressed their frustration and walked out. One announced, “Okay. I don’t want any of these orders. I don’t care about the money or the food.” And he left.

Twenty minutes later, I finally got to the to-go register. “Can I speak to a manager?” She looked at me, angry. “No. She’s working the line for dine-in.” And she answered the phone, ignoring me. I stayed in my spot. The woman looked back up to see me and walked off, leaving her spot. Another employee came up a minute later, and I said, “I’d like a refund, no harm and no foul, and thank you.” She rolled her eyes. “We don’t have time to issue refunds. You get what you get.” I’m paraphrasing. “Wait, ma’am, I’m sorry it’s so busy, but I’m tired and stressed. I need a refund.” She walked off.

Customers and delivery drivers watched and listened. For the second time, I thought maybe I was on an episode of “What Would You Do.”

When the first woman came back to the register, she didn’t make eye contact. “Move. I can’t help you. The manager is working the line and can’t come up here.” Stunned, I stepped slightly to the side as the employee helped someone else. I’m omitting things that would make this encounter worse. You can imagine the other words said to me and around me. Each time the phone rang, the workers recoiled and had an epithet to utter.

I waited a few more minutes. Order tickets, half-prepared food, and boxes continued to pile up as the single male to-go person fought against a tide of orders. Another driver said, “Hey, you’re supposed to treat this like a drive-through and process us out. I’ve been here an hour and have orders sitting in my car getting cold/hot/old.” No one listened.

I was sorry for everyone, workers and customers alike.

All the energy and enthusiasm I’d had evaporated. My body just wanted to sit down, even if I had to eat slices of bread for a meal.

I cut through and walked around to the dine-in register, now empty. The lunch rush was well over by then. No one wanted to come to the register. An employee walked up, exasperated. “Can I take your order?” I said, “No, I’m sorry. Look, I need a refund. I’m sorry.” I’m editing this portion, too. The employee, a young female, didn’t quite know how to do it.The long to-go order person walked up, answered the phone, and said, “#$#@ I’m working on it!” before I said anything. He threw a piece of paper at me. It said “$0” on it. It wasn’t a canceled receipt. “Sir, I’m sorry, I need a receipt cancellation, something indicating my order was voided.” Angry stare, followed by angry words. He waved me off, telling me to leave and shut up. Incredulous, I repeated, “Sir, I apologize it’s so hard here, but I need just a second…” He said something bizarre to the caller, held the phone against his chest, and screamed down at the manager working on the prep line, “Come take care of this asshole! He won’t shut up.” He shook his fist in the air in front of me. It was not a polite gesture. I took a breath. I remained standing there, waiting to give it one more try.

The to-go order employee screamed at the manager again. I won’t cite words here, either. Whether you believe me or not, I felt sorry for him. Work shouldn’t push anyone to that point. I’m pretty sure a few people in my position would have thrown a punch.

The manager walked up and said, “It’s always this way.” I said, “The details don’t matter. I just want a refund. I know it’s busy, but your employees have been rude, cursed at me, and treated me and others like we’re not human. I wasn’t in a hurry. I feel bad for everyone. Is this a receipt?” She looked at it. She gave me another explanation.

And I tried to make a human connection: “You know how you never know what someone else is going through? I’ve been respectful, calm, and patient. I waited 30 minutes outside and well over an hour here inside. I apologize that everything is impossible in here, I truly do. Let me show you that we have our own issues.” I lifted my red t-shirt and showed her my long, jagged metal staple wound. “I don’t think I’ll follow-up about this visit, but if I do, please remember that I was polite, didn’t raise my voice, and my only crime was trying to get food and celebrate. I’m so sorry for all of us.” I meant it.

She apologized. I felt terrible for her, the workers, and everyone else who found themselves in an unexpected retail Hell.

I left, feeling like I’d been at Jason’s for the equivalent of an entire afternoon, even though it had been at most two hours. Another Uber driver spoke to me outside. I told him a ten-second recap and wished him well, knowing his afternoon had already crashed. “I’ve got orders in the car, ones I’ve had over an hour.” I smiled. “I’m so sorry. There’s no fix for this.” And there’s not. The corporation won’t staff adequately, and the employees don’t know how to go from incredible anger to communicate the mess effectively.

I drove back to the apartment.

Within a little over 30 minutes later, a local Chinese restaurant delivered a mountain of dishes. I ate like a king. But the mess and melee of Jason’s stayed in my head all afternoon. More than anything, the most significant realization is how a retail encounter put so many people in the position of being lesser than any of us should ever be with one another.

I treated everyone I came into contact with kindness and regard. It was supposed to be a simple meal, one to celebrate being out of the hospital.

Instead, it was a reminder that staffing is too low everywhere – and that it’s easy to use stress as a lever to be hateful.

I’m not sure I can indict Jason’s Deli too harshly. But it now holds the title of worst retail restaurant experience of my life – and that’s quite the feat at my age.

Did I go too far showing the manager my surgery incision? Maybe. But we always hear that we don’t know what’s going on in another person’s life. I put myself into the shoes of every Jason’s Deli employee during and after the mess of yesterday. Except for the manager, none of them imagined why the soft-spoken guy in the red shirt looked so forlorn about humans being unable to stop the madness and reset.

I haven’t processed some of these same lessons from being in the hospital last week. People are stressed, understaffed, and unmanaged. Many of us don’t have adequate coping mechanisms to respond to situations that force us to forget that we’re just momentary flashes of life and need to do better.

Love, X
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My Date With Fast Food

Because I’d dropped to too low of a weight, I decided to have my first full meal at a fast food place: Burger King. I ate an impossible Whopper and fries. I’ve eaten the patty from an impossible burger about once a month, but never the sandwich and especially not french fries. I don’t count calories, but the Impossible Whopper is about 600-800 calories. I love them. (The calories and the burger.)

Most people who skip eating such things for a while say that eating it the first time makes them queasy. Not me. It was delicious. I didn’t feel nauseous. And I don’t feel guilty. I’ve said 1,000 times that I don’t believe that foods are intrinsically healthy vs unhealthy; it’s just quantity and frequency that cause us problems. I’m rounding the corner in a few weeks to making my health plan succeed for a year. I’ve paid a hard price for all of this and don’t want to compound those failures by derailing my success.

Even though I wasn’t hungry, I just ate a healthy meal of fruits, vegetables, and yes, meat. I also drank a V-8 and ate a banana. I drink 1 or two V-8 every day, take fiber, the best multivitamin I can find, and a couple of other supplements that were recommended for someone like me with my activity level.

I was so proud that I’d listened to someone who was telling me to “pull up” on the eating scarcity. Instead of conveying that message, I inadvertently came across as snarky. The dumb lesson is that I communicated with a picture instead of an explanation. I thought, for once, I’d forego torturing someone with my inability to say something simply. 🙂 Yeah, I failed. It turns out, sometimes needless explanations are preferable to succinct ones.

I didn’t eat Burger King to make a point: I ate it because it’s delicious and a great way to eat calories.

I went to Harps over by the campus a little bit ago. I finally bought a package of Oscar Meyer Smokies, which for a lazy vegetarian, are about the best snack item I can imagine.

I also limited myself to 500 pushups today. That’s another success, too.

The people, the noise, the traffic, the joy of people celebrating. I’m not a sports fan, but I was taken with the sheer enthusiasm in all the hubbub. It was so contagious even I’m beginning to believe we could pull off an upset.

What Is Too Thin?

This post is personal. Please forgive me if my tone is harsh; it’s not my intention. Like I always do, I write vaguely at times, use a word or adopt a tone carelessly. Read this with the idea that you’re getting to know me better. If you read it looking for errors or a fight, you’ll of course find motive.

I woke up this morning to find myself weighing 146.9 lbs. I was shocked. I knew my day yesterday had been intense. I walked over 40,000 steps and managed to do 2,500 pushups. Not to mention an insane amount of physical work during the day, too. I’ve always imagined 165-168 as the control setpoint, with 170ish as the upper limit.

I am a little amused that anyone would lecture me by saying, “You’ve lost too much weight.” From my perspective, it is a great compliment. Losing 35% of who you were makes for interesting stories.

I’m sorry you don’t see my weight as normal. That’s a problem.

Not for me. You. 🙂

My cousin is concerned, and rightly so, because she recognizes how easy it is to let a goal turn to obsessive madness. I’m not anorexic or suffering from an eating disorder. There are days when I burn as many calories as an athlete. Work alone is so intensely physical that I look back over the last 16 years and wonder how I managed to be obese so many times. My cousin has earned the right to be the chiding voice in my ear. Her voice is in my head, reminding me to eat a wider variety and more calorie-rich foods in the process.

It was in part due to my cousin that I started doing pushups on June 1st. If you’d told me that I’d do 2,500 in a day 13 weeks later, I would have said, “You’re crazy!” But I did learn an invaluable lesson: there is no upper limit to how many I can do. At the outset, I had to be careful of my right shoulder. Work is intense and taxing. The pushups have largely eliminated the pain. I’m going to do my best to limit myself to 500 a day for a while. Yesterday will be in my head for years, though, because I surprised myself. That can’t be taken away from me when my body finally gets old and surrenders.

In October of last year, I had an epiphany. I saw myself as thin. Explaining the certainty of it doesn’t translate well when I talk about it. While my goal shifted increasingly downward as my vision became a reality, I didn’t plan on going past 170 in my wildest fantasy. While other parts of my life exploded, whatever happened to my head in October didn’t fade. As the months passed, I was amused that people attributed my success to willpower. It wasn’t that. It was clarity and stubbornness. Looking down at the scale and seeing “155” is a fantastic feeling. 146.9 is a bit disconcerting. I’m working on that without succumbing to many bad eating choices: Doritos, thick pizza, cheese, 54 pieces of chocolate, that sort of thing. I eat “unhealthy” food at times. (I hate labeling food as healthy or unhealthy; it’s volume and frequency that are the culprits.)

There are a couple of precursors to my “moment.” In February of last year, I started the process of losing weight, in part due to Covid. Stress took its toll, and I regained most of the weight I lost. Not all of it, thank god. At some point, I replaced the relatively new stove in the house with a bigger, better one to be able to more easily cook batches of healthy food. That drive to finally kick the fat bucket was brewing inside me. I know that reeks of an excuse. In October, my brother Mike died. Thereafter, I thought I had Covid and felt like I was dying. That morning is when the light bulb went off with an explosion in my head.

I often think about what would have happened to me had I not lost the weight. Would I have experienced a health issue? Or died? I know that losing weight during the long stretch of the Covid run saved my bacon on countless days. It let me stop feeling my knees hurt and my back. The converse of that is whether or not the rest of my life would have blown up had I stayed obese. It’s a real question for me. How much did my massive weight loss and attitude change have to do with my marriage imploding? There’s no question that staying so fat was going to cost me a part of my mobility – and perhaps forever. Being so overweight takes away a bit of so many corners of a person’s life. It’s because we gain incrementally and in ways we don’t notice. From there, we realize, “I’m fat. Oh my god.” We choose the hard that we’ve learned rather than embracing the hard of making positive choices.

For anyone who hasn’t experienced it, the feeling of eating healthy and making endless good choices is sublime. It’s a self-reinforcing mandate. This is true for any personal goal.

Today was the lowest weight I’ve hit. I got close Monday night after foolishly running five miles. Upon returning, I had to drink a gallon of water and then attempt to sleep. I think I dreamed about a running river, and that made me nervous for reasons that should be obvious.

For weeks, I’ve been in the low 150s. This week has been a barrage of work, running, walking, and pushups.

I get a lot of compliments. Questions. And some criticism. Some people are waiting for me to balloon back up. When I started, I repeatedly objected with, “Let’s see in a year.” The year is coming fast upon me in October.

One morning, the wife of a friend passed me in the hallway. “You look amazing, X!” We both laughed. Yesterday, someone said, “If you lose any more, you’ll dry up and blow away. You look great.” She lost a lot of weight herself for health reasons not too long ago. There’s rarely a day that passes where someone doesn’t notice that I’m thin. Today, a security guard who resembles me was standing by the elevator and saw that it was ME standing there. He thought I was someone he didn’t know. “You need to tell me your secret and how to do it.” He patted his stomach. “I’ll call you,” he said. He’s going to be disappointed when I tell him the big secret is to choose healthier food and to listen to what his body actually needs. “Keep your mouth closed” is a terrible name for a diet book.

On a recent morning, someone asked me in all seriousness, “How did you do it? You’re not sick, are you? Or did you have the surgery for weight?” I told her that it was simply eating well and that I didn’t have a secret. I told her about my friend Tammy, who managed to do what I did and that she was also about my age- and that if she could, I had nothing except excuses. I indeed started doing pushups on June 1st. But I had already hit 150 by the time I started.

“Just don’t lose any more weight, X.” My coworker meant it in kindness.

I have a couple of people in my life who resent that I lost the weight. It’s a bit bizarre to me, even now. I made it clear when I started that I was a bystander to my transformation. While I did adopt a diet that I experimented with, a big part of what happened was as if it happened to someone else while I observed it. All I can is that obsessively following a system yields results.

I’ve tried to avoid being too evangelical about weight loss. Some people do have medical issues that make it impossible or difficult. For those who’ve been less than enthusiastic about what I’ve done, I attribute it to that odd human proclivity toward pettiness. Watching someone do it renders many objections that it is difficult or impossible to be completely moot. With enough motivation to move from ‘wanting to’ toward ‘making it a reality,’ most people can do it. Anyone who decides that it is a ‘must’ will find a way. Or try. I remember a cartoon from years ago. A man was sitting on the pavement, having stopped halfway through the race. He said, “It’s too much. I can’t run 26 miles.” The next panel showed a man with prosthetic legs racing past. The people with the “sitting on the pavement” mentality often don’t appreciate it when people go racing by, ignoring objections. I used to find myself being that type of person, too.

It’s tough to be around someone who steps into a new motivation. Though I never intended my weight loss to be an insult to anyone else, it did happen. This sort of journey inevitably changes a person. A success in one arena drives them into others. Of course, the person is going to change. Sometimes fundamentally, especially as behaviors become habits and a new way of life. A common complaint in relationships is “You’ve changed.” A trite but true rebuttal to that is, “And you haven’t.” We’re not meant to be static. If you’re in a relationship and one of you will transform themselves, my word of advice is to have frank conversations about it – and go to a counselor if you see that it’s becoming a wedge.

One critic insisted that people were constantly saying how ill I looked. That I am too skinny. Relentlessly adamant. They quoted the anonymous “they” to me. When I’m ready to hire a consultant about my choices, I’ll let them know immediately. IF such people care for me, they will find a way to communicate it to me. Since they didn’t, I have to attribute what ‘they’ allegedly said to a polite conversation with my critics. There’s no crime in honestly talking to someone about their weight if you care about them. The bigger sin is not to do so.

So, of course, despite having the tools to show otherwise, I visited a nutritionist. She said, “Oh baloney!” She agreed that some of it is attributable to the fact that I was obese for so many years and that the change was abrupt and substantial. She looked at my pictures at 252 and 232 and then as I am now. “You’re great, X. If you do add muscle, your BMI will seem off. But it won’t mean you’ve become unhealthy. You have to balance your body against more than a simple BMI. If someone still incorrectly tells you that you are underweight, send them to me. I’d be shocked if they don’t realize how overweight most people tend to be now.”

If I continue to be as active as I am now, muscle mass will increase, resulting in a higher weight without the associated fat content.
I chose 168 as my set point. My job is very physical, and I’ve kept my leisure time activity rate higher than average, too, without going to a gym. I’ve channeled my anxiety into exercise. As the counselor I saw told me, short-term measures are warranted; if they become long-term measures, you’ll have to figure out that, too.

I lost a lot of weight that year, as part of an intense 3-way weight loss bet.

Most of us don’t have a realistic idea of how much we should weigh, nor how many calories we should eat on an average day. I look back at my pictures and shake my head. I missed out on a lot by being so overweight. I can’t get that time back, so it’s on to the next goal of ensuring my habits remain permanent – without risking developing a food issue. They are rare in men who are 54 years old. Food is too damn good and calls me by name like everyone else.

The majority of people around me don’t think, “Ugh, he’s TOO thin and looks terrible.” They think, “X looks normal.” So, if you’re in the minority who feel like I’m too thin, get online or talk to your doctor.

Or get a hobby.

The consensus is overwhelming: I’m at a normal weight, with a buffer of loss and gain comfortably on both sides.

This is how I’m supposed to look, so get over it and be enthusiastic for anyone who can do it. If you love me, of course, you should step in and tell me I’ve got my head up my ass if I continue to lose weight.

To be clear, I’m not talking about my face; whether that’s normal is up for the monkeys to decide.

My weight, though? I’m good. It’s not just my body saying so. It’s science.

In time, people will see this as the new normal. It looks normal, but it feels fantastic to be able to move with agility, walk for miles, do pushups, and run even if I stupidly decide to do so.

There’s always the danger of forgetting the lessons I learned.

One of those lessons is to stop letting critical people get inside my head. They can make fun of my brooches all they want. Just not my weight.

And if I get off track or fail, I proved to myself that my objections and excuses about why I couldn’t do it were all dumb. And that I could do it again. We all fail until we don’t.

No matter who you are, you can do something today. That’s enough, no matter how small. Tomorrow, a little more. The law of increments seldom disappoints.

If you see someone finally get past their excuses? Take the time to applaud. We need it. We’ll return the favor when you succeed.

PS For my cousin: I don’t plan to stay quite this thin. I love you. Please keep an eye on me, though.

Love, x

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Extras…

In Cancun…

Cigars and Sashimi

I got accused outright of having a sheltered life earlier in the week.

The accuser wasn’t wrong. I thought quite a bit about it, and to sit and steep myself in the allegation. I indicted myself in agreement with the conclusion.

To be clear, I have witnessed some sh!t in my time. All of us have in varying amounts. Most of our lives probably overlapped a great deal. Thankfully, not everyone had a wild ride of it and each of us disparately experienced what I would label as “fringe” events.

But there’s a lot I don’t know. Obviously. My spell checker reminds me every day, as do my co-workers, neighbors, ex-wife, and even the mailman drops by every couple of days to shake his head in bewilderment at me.

Even at 54, I’m still finding out that there are worlds within worlds all around me. Words, foods, drinks, ideas, a cauldron of ceaseless wonder.

When you don’t eat sushi, for example, the barrage of specific vocabulary one must learn to order it for someone else becomes overwhelming, like signing up for Beginner’s Spanish only to later realize that it was in fact “Belgian Spanish.” I have no problem insisting that I’m ignorant and therefore need guidance. Otherwise, people will be eating a can of tuna and crackers. I won’t even get started on how they price the stuff. The sushi, not the canned tuna.

Food and flavor are 100% opinion.

NO, I don’t care what the various kinds of sushi, sashimi and blah, blah, blah are actually supposed to be called. That you like it is all that matters. I don’t have to like it. I like it that YOU like it. That’s pretty much how all of us should respond to friends and family when they love the stuff we wouldn’t eat if the human race depended on it. I know for a fact that some of the stuff I eat would make Bill puke until next Tuesday. Sorry, Bill. It’s true. Besides, you’re definitely not busy next Tuesday anyway. Yes, I read your calendar, the one by the fridge.

But the prices? I know for a fact that in a dark basement, probably in New Jersey, there’s a really big man who spins a wheel and randomly determines the definitions for both ‘quality’ and ‘price’ of sushi. The worse it looks, the more it costs. (Note: it’s a shame that isn’t actually true for a lot of things, right?)

For those who aren’t around smokers, there are twenty-two million kinds of tobacco and specialty products available now. I remember in the early 70s when you could easily memorize the main twenty or so tobacco products. Now the racks look like Heidi Klum’s makeup room. There are so many adjectives you need to know to ask for the right thing that I feel like I need a thesaurus when I’m around it. Things that look cheap are obnoxiously expensive. Things that look expensive… well, they are expensive too.

The point of this is to forcefully point out that I am very ignorant about more things than you’d realize. I am very knowledgeable about a lot of things, too. But it is a lot of work hiding my ignorance – not that I make much of an effort. I’d need a big box for that.

Because I’m rejuvenated, I’m going to share another vow with you, exactly like the one that allowed me to lose all this weight…

I am going to say, “I don’t know” a lot more often.

I am going to say, “You probably need to show me this again, for the fifth time, unless you’d like a disaster.”

And if you need me to go buy good seafood, lord help you until my ignorance abates.

I’ve always been quite ignorant. You just might not have realized how much. I’m here to help you with that misunderstanding.

Meanwhile, be yourself. Smile, laugh, and growl sometimes if that is what is needed. Eat the foods you love even if your mom vomits, and let everyone eat the foods they love. Take that same acceptance and throw it into all the other areas of life where we encroach needlessly on people’s ability to live freely.

P.S. I have not been drinking. But I am going to have a bit of vodka and homemade sweet and sour.

And those index cards on the floor leading the rocking chair were part of an elaborate ruse that I couldn’t execute today. I have optimism for tomorrow. You’ll note the rocking chair is in front of an open door, leading to a balcony and a whole new world.

Love, X
Amen

Pico De Too Much Good Food

Pardon my great photography.

This is a pound of pico de gallo, iceberg lettuce, Tajín seasoning, and coarsely chopped aluminum-foil wrapped/baked lemon pepper chicken breast, along with two bags of Popchips. Of course. Grilled chicken is preferable, and if given a choice, I’d use shredded lettuce. Iceberg lettuce is less expensive and seems to last a day or two longer than shredded lettuce, especially once opened. Foil chicken is infallible to make, too. Since I don’t reheat the chicken, it’s very convenient, too.

Although I don’t count calories, it’s somewhere around 350. And it’s a LOT of food, so much that it is difficult to eat it comfortably. But because I’m dedicated, I, of course, devoured every bit of it.

I ate a very similar lunch yesterday, using Mr. Taco Loco chicken as the foundation.

I had a can of diced tomatoes, hot sauce, and tomato-chicken broth for my early meal today. It might sound ludicrous, but I can eat it on the go. It’s also inexpensive and impossible to make incorrectly unless you stick your tongue in the microwave outlet.

People are constantly surprised I don’t really get hungry.

Sometimes, I tell them outrageous lies just to see how they respond.

I experimented with variations of this until I realized how much of the things I might have previously thrown in there were superfluous.

I still take fiber and other basic nutrients apart from my natural diet too.

I’m evaluating everything I do as I go. And even if I make a few missteps, anything is better than when I had another 65 or more pounds on me.

I’m confounded by people who can’t get full without indulging.

PopChips (A Love Affair With Food)

“Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the ‘Titanic’ who waved off the dessert cart.”
― Erma Bombeck

I thought I had already posted about Popchips. This food item is one of the go-to secrets in my arsenal of food choices. I know I’ve raved about them on social media. In the last year, I estimate that I’ve eaten 30 cases, more or less. It’s an addiction at this point, much like lemons and tajin seasoning. I’m almost a bit evangelical about how good these things have been for me, minus the sweaty on-television confession.

Locally, I can get a box of 30 bags for about $12-13 at Sam’s Club. The 30-pack includes barbeque, sour cream and onion, and sea salt in individual serving bags. Each bag is 100 calories. Not that I count calories – but I am generally aware of calorie consumption and use the information to initially decide if it a long-term food for me. For those who must count calories, I am sorry; that sort of thing would derail me quickly. Generally speaking, process derails me.

I’ve tried several other chip options. All of them fall short for either flavor, availability, or price. Given how volatile the food market can be, I await the day when Popchips disappear from Sam’s. It’s happened to several other healthy options for me. Lord forbid if I had to forego trickery and learn to cook small healthy portions!

If you visit the Popchips store on Amazon, you’ll see that other flavors and varieties are available. The cost is much higher than the Sam’s Club offering. While they are delicious, especially the bold & crunchy kind especially, part of my routine demands that cost and convenience be part of the equation.

For me, it is the texture that makes these so appealing. Don’t get me wrong, they are delicious. For those critics who describe them as bland, I simply point out that they are a hell of a lot more healthy than saltines and other crackers. IF you use them as crackers, you will absolutely get more bang for your buck with these compared to any cracker. Having said that, I get tickled when people say, “They don’t have a lot of flavor.” Mostly, they are referring to the sea salt flavor. When someone tells me that, I ask them how much flavor a boring saltine cracker has. Invariably, they don’t know what to say in response.

I used to eat a lot of saltines, especially ones I jazzed up with seasonings. I do sometimes miss making little individual cracker pizzas, usually with a modified version of olive tapenade on them. 70 calories for 5 little square crackers is a bit crazy, though. And especially so when I remember that I could easily eat 20 times that amount.

It’s true that Popchips aren’t stuffed with vitamins. Neither are saltines or most crackers. But they contain staggeringly fewer calories, without the fat. I already eat 100% of my daily fiber everyday through both food and supplements. Popchips are the filler workhorse for me, which satisfy my cravings for texture and flavor. I don’t eat them for their nutritional value. I eat them because they are considerably healthier than what I would otherwise eat. They mitigate my urge to eat a lot of potato chips. As for criticism that Popchips are made from potatoes… well, that’s the point. Potatoes aren’t the enemy, unless you prepare them to be unhealthy. I get tickled with the complex rules and “no” associated with some foods. People are ridiculous. (Which also applies to me, critics.)

When I eat at Mr. Taco Loco, a local Tex-Mex place, I order chicken tacos, prepared with onions, cilantro, and pico de gallo. I discard the tortillas with them and use the Popchips as little scoops for the taco contents. (After a liberal dose of Tajin seasoning on top of it all, of course.) Doing so, even while eating two bags of Popchips with the mix, results in a moderately healthy lunch or supper – while giving me texture, flavor, and a lot of food to satisfy me.

Confession: sometimes, I just eat a bag of chips if I’m on the go or need something to hold me over. The texture works in my brain exactly like Aim toothpaste does, which is difficult to explain to normal people. If I eat a bag of Popchips and drink water, I feel full.

I also eat Popchips like a cracker with tuna and dill relish, or as a filler with Olé healthy tortillas, the kind with a LOT of fiber and about 50 calories each.

Did mention that the texture and crunch are incredible with this chip?

If you’re lucky enough to have a supply of Popchips, give them a try. If you can get the more exotic flavors, I will be jealous.

I will be surprised if you don’t find them to be delicious. If you try them and hate them, feel free to curse me. (No black magic curses, though, please. I’m still growing hair in weird places thanks to the last curse.)

IF you’re looking for a snack that will help you stop eating unhealthy alternatives, Popchips can be the thing that helps you.

It’s Going Fadulous!

This picture amuses me!

“I would lose weight, but I hate losing.” – unknown

Regarding my weight management goals, my body is holding me hostage around 175 lbs. It doesn’t stress me because I expected a plateau. Maybe not at this weight, but it was inevitable. Among the factors at play are insufficient sleep, stress, and my body shifting to defensive mode. I’ve been overweight too long to expect my body to throw in the towel and let me get to my goal weight easily.

So far, I have to say that one of my biggest achievements is that amidst a lot of turmoil and upset, I’ve yet to feel like I’m a victim to my choice to be thinner for the rest of my life. Nothing calamitous has knocked me off course. I am surprised by that, given my history with stress, rough times, and food.

As for continuing to make healthy choices and eat much less, it is still a success. I’m taking the long-term view of the process anyway. Treating food like a heroin addiction helps remind me that I’m not eating healthy for a short-term goal. I’m just finally being the person I should have been my entire adult life.

While I’m getting used to being smaller, I still find ways to surprise myself. I laugh when I catch myself thinking, “Is this how a normal person is supposed to be able to move? What is this bone?” And so on. I don’t want to embarrass anyone, but it’s wildly interesting to be able to touch parts of my body without effort. (I didn’t write that sexually, although I am sure it went there for most people.)

Part of my simple system is an insistence that I wouldn’t do anything I might not be able to do the rest of my life. With that in mind, I had no interest in starving myself or letting junk ideas knock me off course. Now that we’ve made it to February, I’ve seen many people crash and burn with their resolutions. I try to take a minute to ask them to consider my way to lose weight. Most people think it has to be hard. It is not. It is math via reduced consumption. That’s it.

The worst consequence of a plateau, even one that lasts a few weeks, is that I will maintain a good weight. While it is not my goal weight, it’s good. I’m about 50 lbs lighter than I was in October. Try picking up and carrying around 6 gallons of milk – which is about the weight of what I’ve lost in that period.

“I’m not losing weight, I’m getting rid of it. I have no intention of finding it again.”  – unknown

I have yet to have a ‘bad’ day regarding eating. I haven’t binged on anything markedly unhealthy since October. Same with sugar, desserts, and other miscellaneous foods.

Most of the opportunities for me to fail have been exposure to foods and people not focusing on healthy choices. Pretzels, cheese slices, regular chips, etc. It’s not their fault. Making healthy choices is a personal choice and until they see the need or benefit, it’s a losing battle. If I look at those foods as heroin, they are always going to be around me. I will say that if all food where I live was chosen by me, the process would be ridiculously easy. It is an “If only” fantasy, though. I know I would be relentless if I were the only one bringing food where I live. Work gives me the structure to make choosing wisely easy.

I do rely on a routinized selection of foods. In my case, I have a wide variety that keep me full and without experiencing hunger found in almost all healthy eating systems. I’m not deprived. I ate Tex-Mex a couple of days ago, choosing as many better options as possible – not to mention a plate of pico de gallo. Yum! I eat at another Mexican place about once a week. When I do, I eat a delicious yet copious amount of healthy alternatives. That’s part of the danger of going somewhere new: you lose control of the unknowns.

“Successful weight loss takes programming, not willpower.” – Phil McGraw

In the last couple of weeks, I also decided to finally try plasma donation again. Not at the burdensome twice-a-week rate that many people choose. If you approach plasma donation correctly, it forces you to focus on eating well and drinking fluids appropriately. One of the wrinkles of donating plasma is that the donation amount is based on weight. My weight is slightly above the lower limit. Going through the process has given me a LOT of stories about the process and the people I’ve interacted with because of it. Because I wasn’t donating primarily for money, I didn’t have the anxiety that usually comes with donation. I could take it or leave it. That’s a privilege, one I recognize and appreciate. I helped a few people feel better about doing it, including one couple who stayed for their first donation because of me. They were using their donation money to buy groceries, which humbled me.

Going through the weight loss exposes me to a lot of crazy ideas, fad diets, and weird science. If it is interesting, I will look it up. So far, none fare well when compared to the known science of just eating healthy – and less.

I eat fiber. I don’t fry. In general, I don’t eat desserts. I eat a LOT of vegetables. I find things that I LOVE and that are also healthier – and then try to eat them as much as possible. I use a LOT of seasonings, sauces, and flavors. (More than you can imagine.)

In conclusion: the problem is that food is just damned good! That is not going to change, so you’re the problem until you recognize it. And reduce.

“He who indulges, bulges.” – unknown

Can You Handle The Truth Sauce?

Truth sauce is a product made right here in Arkansas by a proud Arkansan.

I didn’t hear about this product until yesterday. Miraculously, I ordered it, and it arrived today, just in time for lunch.

I heard about it through a social media friend. Something about it beckoned me to try it. Maybe it’s the halo-topped logo or the catchy product name. Whatever the impetus, I am glad I gave the product a try.

This isn’t a paid endorsement. I have never met the company’s owner.

The signature sauce is a subtle blend of flavors akin to barbeque sauce and Thai chili sauce, except that Truth Sauce tastes velvety and does not cross the line into excessive heat. For fans of barbeque sauce, you owe it to yourself to give this one a try.

If you need an excuse to try it, buy it for someone who loves good food and invite yourself over to try it.

The sauce can be used as a glaze, as a traditional bbq sauce, or as a dipping sauce. Though I have not tried it with egg rolls or rice, I am convinced it will be delicious. The fact that it tastes like a hybrid product in no way lessens the number of ways it can be enjoyed. The same cannot be said of sauces geared specifically toward one kind of food. Barbeque enthusiasts will insist it is the perfect glaze or sauce, while Asian fans will shake their heads in disbelief, knowing it is obviously for their type of eating.

The brown sugar, lime juice, and lemon oil in the sauce combine for something entirely different. Please trust me when I reiterate that the sauce isn’t designed to be hot. “Sweet Heat” is the perfect description, unless the owner wants to add “Sweet Velvety Heat” to the label, which I think more accurately describes the taste and texture.

The sauce and seasoning can be ordered online or picked up in a few locations around Little Rock.

The seasoning is 6.5 oz. The sauce can be ordered in 15oz or a gallon. You might as well save yourself some trouble if you’re an eater and buy the gallon jug. You’re going to need it.

After I ate Truth Sauce for the first time, I found myself in the kitchen, pouring a tablespoon of it and tasting it repeatedly to detect the flavors. You’ll be doing the same.

The seasoning can be used on anything: hamburgers, popcorn, french fries, fish, beans, and probably a hundred things I haven’t thought of.

Below are pictures for nutritional information and ingredients.

https://truthsauceinc.com/

Company Website

160: I’m Fading Away

I’m fading away.

A week ago, I admitted my goal shifted to reaching 168 lbs. I’m chunking that again. My new goal is 160. That is what success does: it stains other areas with the desire for more.

In the last week, I went to 175, a weight I always imagined as something wildly desirable but impossibly difficult. I haven’t weighed less than 175 since after high school.

Losing weight is supposed to be more challenging with age.

I guess it is. I just wouldn’t know.

In 3 months, I dropped over 50 lbs. It’s not the best way, but fighting from the middle ground would have been another failure for me. Lucky for me, this time followed an episode of realization. Absent that realization, and this wouldn’t have happened. I still don’t expect people to ‘get it.’ After explaining it a few dozen times, it’s this: I saw myself as thin and also pictured that it was ‘the’ me I should have been my entire adult life. I couldn’t see myself making poor decisions that led me away from the vision of that life. So far, it has been entirely sufficient. That ‘me’ in the indefinite future continues to free me from the pangs of willpower.

It was also in that moment that I realized that despite biting my nails for 50+ years, I didn’t do that anymore, either. It’s a shame I didn’t visualize being a millionaire in that moment.

I still can’t figure out how to write a book and make millions.

“Have an LSD trip without the LSD and just do it” would undoubtedly result in a lawsuit. “Don’t put stuff in your mouth” is another possible book title. (You have to appease the vulgar-minded, too.)

Today, I watched a naysayer’s eyes as he realized that I don’t possess superpowers or anything he doesn’t. Previously, he preferred to snark at me. Now, he is considering finding himself at my age and being overweight. “It’s all choices,” I told him. “For most of us,” I added, being reminded of what a friend reminded me of a couple of weeks ago. “So what if you fail. Each day that slides past is another day that you won’t know the answer.” And I offered to help him figure out a way to do it. “Choose your hard,” I challenged him. I don’t expect my system to work for everyone. But a modified version of it will work for a hell of a lot of people.

I might not have mentioned that the one thing I’ve tried all year is to ensure that I consume enough fiber, both in food and through supplements. Though you might not believe it, I get my RDA through eating. I take fiber supplements to ensure I do. While I can’t know with certainty, the fiber seems to have worked wonders for me. I mix both psyllium and gummy fibers. Find a mix and diet of high-fiber foods that work for you.

And because I mention this in every post, every bit of my huge weight loss came through diet. No gym visits, no costly supplements, no specialty drinks, and nothing outside of my usual scope of living. While my job is very physical, I would still have realized a significant weight loss if it weren’t. I’ve stuck to the idea that it is unwise to start a habit you can’t continue for as long as you live. If not, as soon as the practice stops, the benefits stop, too.

I like to imagine surviving the last few months at almost 230. I can’t. I’d be on statins, blood pressure medication, and almost certainly facing some calamity with my feet or knees. Taking 50+ lbs off of them rescued me. I don’t want to think about my cardiovascular system, especially against the backdrop of this pandemic. Stress? Forget about it?

I’m almost at my statistical weight. Soon, I will have to turn to my next goal: don’t be a jackass. That one’s going to take a lot of work.

It’s all lemons.

Choose your hard.

Whoever you are, if you want to do something like this under your control, please do. Start today, in the smallest way. Your life is sweeping past you. You are not trapped in the prison of your previous decisions. Those choices and those years cannot be recaptured. It’s gone. Stand up. Embrace. Try. And try again if you fail.

168

Note: writing these types of posts inevitably comes across as selfish. For that, I’m sorry. Anyone who can lose weight in this crazy world gets a little slack.

I started this healthy eating journey somewhere in the upper 220s less than 3 months ago. I should never be so overweight. It’s part of the reason that I look at my yo-yo eating in the same way someone else might look at heroin. I don’t deserve credit for trying to control something that should have never started.

In other words, this current success is also an accusation of my previous failures. “Look! I stopped doing this stupid thing I’ve been doing.”

A few years ago, in 2017, 2 of my co-workers joined me in an epic weight loss challenge. It contained several layered bets, some monetary, some hilarious. I started at 250, which is ridiculously large. I lost 30 lbs in less than 3 months to finish the challenge over 3 months early. It was a reminder that I’ve always believed that losing weight isn’t hard. It’s keeping it off that’s the terror. Over time, I’ve convinced myself that almost no diets work because people have to return to a sustainable way of eating. Otherwise, it’s a temporary cycle that will plague you for your entire adult life.

Since then, in 2017, I managed to mostly stay inside a range. Still fat. Just not as exaggerated.

In February of 2020, the pandemic gave me the motivation to try again to drop. For all the reasons you’d expect, I got derailed spectacularly. I was lucky! In October, I stopped toying with the idea. Though I’ve written about it before, this occasion was marked by something breaking inside of me. I just knew I was going to drop a lot of weight – and certainly below 200. It wasn’t willpower. It was a certainty. Seeing other people do it, regardless of ‘how,’ demonstrated that I would become one of the success stories.

As for entropy of the potential for eventual failure, it always lurks ahead. We are all complicated, and opposing forces muddy our lives. It doesn’t help that food is incredibly delicious.

I chose my hard. The truth is that it wasn’t hard to begin to eat like a healthy person. And that’s what I did. I had the idea in my head that I wasn’t fat anymore. Everything aligned with it. I melted away. For anyone who has struggled to do something similar, you know what I’m describing. Waking up and realizing I had a sternum, for example. Feeling a space between my thighs. Seeing my face and suddenly realizing part of it was gone. When the comments begin, you intimately understand that people notice that you’re different.

Now, I’m hovering around 180. I weigh 45-50 lbs less than 3 months ago. Yes, I lost weight too fast. Science tells me that losing weight more slowly tends to encourage the body to maintain long-term loss. I initially joked that I was trying the stomach staple diet without the surgery or mimicking a prison camp diet. It’s not inaccurate.

All along, people asked me what my goals were. “Eat healthily and effectively” sounds trite. “Be the person I know myself to be” sounds like a self-help guru has hypnotized me.

Well, here’s the next goal: 168 lbs. While I don’t subscribe to the BMI charts, 168 is the upper region of a healthy weight. (Not giving myself credit for my age.) 168 will put me at losing 1/4 of my total body weight. Can I do it? Yes. Will I? I’m not sure. The absurdity of being unable to make this goal after doing so much would be tragically stupid.

I owe it to myself to get to the weight even if I can’t hold at that weight or drop further. The BMI charts support the idea that my healthy weight range is an absurd 125 to slightly over 168. I don’t know how 125 would be possible. I’d be skeletal. And I don’t plan on running marathons.

I don’t know how long it will take to reach 168. I can calculate the number of calories. But I also recognize that my body is fighting back and resisting at this point, which makes it more interesting, given that I am almost a witness to myself at this point.

For anyone keeping track, I’ve added no exercise. My job is physically very demanding, with a huge range of motion, walking, and lifting. It was that way before, though, and I still got fatter. The only changes I’ve made have been diet, which is the single most significant factor to control for weight management. My insistence on saying so continues to draw criticism. Exercise is essential for a lot of reasons. But you get a bigger bang for the buck by focusing on learning new eating habits without succumbing to changes or diets you can’t maintain.

I’ll see you at 168.

Hell or high water, choose your hard, folks.

It’s all lemons.

Love, X