I just ate a bowl of cardboard. Well, it might as well have been cardboard. In my never-ending quest to keep my weight below cruise-ship tilting, and to attempt to live past the grand old age of 2-years-from-now, and also to try to stem the ever-growing number of aches and pains and body parts that have decided to just pack it in, I am trying to eat healthy. But that is no easy feat.
As I poured the whole-grain cereal into my cereal bowl, I noticed that if I squint just a bit, or take off my glasses, I could not discern the difference between the cereal and the cardboard box it came in. The cereal is a dark coffee-brown, with specks of something lighter running through it. The cardboard is a dark coffee-brown, with specks of something lighter running through it. I suddenly lost my appetite and gave in to a powerful desire to eat food that actually had taste. So I began scouring the fridge. A leftover pizza, perhaps? Tuesday’s pasta? A tomato? An onion?! But, alas, there was nothing else to be had (because when Steve and I eat, we leave no morsel untouched – when the trash man picks up our trash, I notice how he stares at the pizza delivery boxes, wondering why they are all lick-stained).
So, whole-grain cereal it would be, topped off with, no, not milk – I’m allergic to milk – but with Almond Milk. Whenever I look at the label, I question just who decided to name this concoction milk. Are there tiny little milkmaids sitting on tiny little stools in tiny little factories in Holland, pulling at tiny little teats on the almonds to extract what must be miniscule amounts of “milk” from them? And just how many almonds does it take to fill a liter box? And the taste! Oh, the taste. It’s not bad enough that the cereal tastes like stale cardboard; I top it off with this thin liquid that hints of water mixed with tree bark (not that I’ve ever eaten tree bark, but if you made a liquid out of it, almond milk tastes like how I would guess it would taste). I drank Soy milk for a long time (you think milking an almond is tough!), but then I heard that it causes man-boobs, and I don’t need any extra help in that department, thank you.
The only saving grace of this horrendous breakfast is that it is crunchy. Somehow, the cereal companies have discovered how to keep cereal crunchy in tree bark water. All that crunching and chomping keeps your mind off the fact that you are eating flavorless wood pulp. And it takes a long time to chomp and chew all that wood and get it down your throat, which actually has one other advantage: it takes 45 minutes to grind it all down to small enough pieces to swallow, so that after all that time you feel full. But at what price? There is no satisfaction in eating tasteless pieces of plywood coated with sugar. And what about all that sugar? In my attempt to eat healthy, and the cereal companies’ attempt to make a crunchy cereal, a lot of sugar leaves the factory and enters my gullet. That’s healthy?
Steve and I began this quest to change our eating habits over 25 years ago when we were living in D.C. We listened each morning to a Dr. Mirkin, who prompted his listeners to eat healthy and exercise regularly. He got us to eat a lot of brown rice and beans…a lot of beans – and we didn’t even notice when our small circle of friends shrunk smaller and smaller. Was it something we did?
We cut meat out of our diets and ate lots of fruits and vegetables. And we did keep the weight off. But something about the good doctor began to peeve me. Hard as we would try, we could not live up to the colossally-high standards set by Dr. Mirkin.
|Dr. Mirkin and his wife Diana (so smug!)|
Dr. Mirkin was always bragging about riding his bicycle everywhere. Big deal. If I was a rich doctor, raking in the cash with a lucrative medical practice and supplementing it with a radio program and endorsing all kinds of “healthy” products, I would have time to ride my bike everywhere, too. But we are working stiffs, and healthy eating and regular exercise sometimes makes way for paying the rent. (I looked up Dr. Mirkin on the Internet, recently, hoping he had met his doom crashing his stupid bike or being crushed by a barbell that came crashing down on him. But, no such luck, he is still healthy, still has his radio show (and an internet presence), and he and his wife continue to bike all over the place, putting me to shame still today.)
For breakfast I have begun to buy two are three different cereals and mix them together so as to make the healthy cereal go down easier. These days I eat half a bowl of some whole-grain something or other, and half a bowl of super-sugar-coated-infused-with-honey-and-freeze-dried-syrup-corny-ploppers (“They’re corny-licious!”). Healthy, no? And if you sprinkle it with 14 tablespoons of Splenda® sugar substitute, you have the added satisfaction of adding a man-made substance that sweetens the mess all the more (I guess “Mary Poppins” DID have some lessons to teach). I just wonder what kind of cancer I’ll end up with.
Splenda® is the only sugar substitute I can stomach right now (I’m still pissed off about that cyclamate ban in ’69). We now know that aspartame, the substance in Equal®, converts to formaldehyde in the body. I used to use a lot of Equal®, until I awoke from a 2-year cycle of migraines and realized it might be some miracle-of-science sugar substitute causing my pain. It was. I have not had aspartame in 10 years and I’ve had no migraines since. So now it’s Splenda® and now I spend my life questioning every little ache, pain, and failed body-part for evidence of what problems Splenda® might be causing.
My problem is that aspartame is everywhere, in almost everything. Diet Coke, Diet Pepsi, sugar-free cookies, sugar-free candies, diet and sugar-free anything. So I’m consuming a lot of it. When we go to the movies, I naturally want my popcorn and Coke. But all that sugar can’t help me keep the cruise-ship upright, so I sheepishly ask the person behind the counter if they could mix half-and-half, Coke and Diet Coke, and voila! I’m fooling myself that I am eating healthy - even at the movies! Instead of 64 teaspoons of sugar I’m only ingesting 32; I’m certain my liver thanks me.
And with the calories I save I don’t feel so bad taking advantage of the 10-peso refill of that wheelbarrow-size popcorn, dripping with what I am certain is real butter and not some oil-based flavored amalgam.
But being the first meal of the day, I find it difficult to begin the day fooling myself. It’s like awakening on New Year’s day every day. I make my new day resolution to begin eating healthy and to get more exercise. At least I can stick to it through breakfast – some days.
This morning, as I filled my bowl with the luscious brown cardboard, I snipped off a corner of the cereal box and tasted it. With a bit of Splenda®, it wasn’t so bad. I think I’m on to something, here. The taste is the same, it’s a lot cheaper (I have an endless supply just buying eggs and ordering pizza), and just think of all that fiber! My body is definitely going to thank me for this. And even if I run out of egg cartons, I can fall back on the cereal boxes. I just wonder what to do with all that cereal.