Friday, November 4, 2011

You Are What You Eat

Food has always played an enormously important part in our family life - and not always in a good way! The Husband, having pursued many, many years of weight training before his reinvention as a rower, has always been meticulous about the composition of his diet. He knows precisely what he has eaten, the percentage of protein/carbs/fat in most common foodstuffs, what to eat, and when to eat it for maximum benefit. Even when he lived at home (before he was let out and married me) his most excellent mother catered for his every nutritional whim to the extent of making packed lunches at 5am before he set off for work and popping to the shop to pick up extra gallons of milk for the protein milk-shakes if required. Bit of a shock then when setting up his own home to realise that a good diet required a great deal of forethought, effort....and money! Still, in those days we were both working, young(ish) and idealistic and as a couple still managed to hit the gym three or for times a week and eat a pretty healthy diet. Photos from our first foreign summer holiday together show us lean, toned and muscular. To be quite honest, we were pretty vain and narcissistic and probably bored the pants off everyone around us.
All that was to change with the arrival of our first child, a bonny bouncing thing who - having turned up with a bit of difficulty two weeks late - decided that sleeping was a Bad Idea. We became drawn, irritable and haggard and comforted ourselves with the thought that the second baby (who arrived placid and smoothly two years and two months later) could NOT POSSIBLY sleep less than the first.
How wrong we were! The Bright-Eyed Boy was not only just as bad at sleeping, but much worse, had some sort of hair-trigger motion-detector that sensed breathing three-foot distant and roused him in inconsolable wailing. Night and day this continued, one setting off the other in a constant round of baby-noise. Unsurprisingly NOTHING got done. I'd given up going to the gym as I was constantly shattered and, more than likely, somewhat depressed. The Husband still went occasionally as far as I remember (I'm not really sure) but when we had a major extension built on the house (cheaper than buying something bigger) he spent two years decorating and fitting stuff whilst I sat zombified and minded the babies. Pretty grim actually. The Husband looked like a skeleton, and I piled on the weight through exhaustion and an inability to care. At the same time the Bright-Eyed Boy developed some sort of digestive problem that made him throw up constantly: every night I'd have to strip off next to the washing machine, carefully pulling jumpers over my head that were covered in vomit. Just as the spewing got better he decided that eating was a Bad Idea altogether, and it was all we could do for a year to coax him to eat custard creams. This aversion to food persisted until he went (kicking and screaming) to nursery and saw that hey! Other Kids Eat! So he started to join in and although he still had quite rigid ideas about what he liked, he has got better and better and now at age 12 has a fairly sophisticated palate. I think the root of the problem is that he has an extra-sensitive sense of taste/smell so that what we would count as fairly bland and unremarkable flavours seemed to him outrageously bitter, sweet or sour, hence his insistance at age 5 on having a pizza that consisted only of the base and the cheese (I think they are now quite trendy and called 'pizza bianca' or somesuch) - absolutely NO tomatoes in ANY shape or form. The Daughter has always eaten like a horse and her diet as a rower needed only minor tweeks to make it fit for purpose (e.g.porridge for breakfast, lots of pasta, tuna, chicken etc.). Even the BEB, having taken up rowing this summer, has taken to eating more, although quite often this consists of attempted raids on the cupboard for chocolate biscuits before tea.
Anyhow, in our home food has gone in a complete circle: the Husband started really taking an interest in nutrition again when he took up competitive indoor rowing a few years ago (before 'proper' rowing was even a twinkle in his eye) and his interest rekindled my interest. Being told by the practice nurse that I had the beginnings of hypertension spurred me on to take stock and radically rethink and reform my diet. Drawing on all my former knowledge, which up until that point had been buried under the quotidien family crap that all families wade through, we decided to pull our socks up and Get Serious about nutrition.
Not that it's been easy - it's really hard to plan ahead for healthy dinners if we don't know who's going to be around at tea-time and who's got an activity organised. The slow-cooker is an absolute boon (thanks Sam!) allowing for stews, curries, pasta sauces, and chilli to be taken out as needed, but sometimes the best-laid plans fail and there is a certain amount of nutritional compromise. As I am the one who works on academic research from home, it falls to me to prepare the vast majority of the meals and although I am mostly OK with that, I have to admit that occasionally this particular worm turns. Hence fish and chips. But there was no excuse for my lunchtime lapse today when I am ashamed to admit I actually ate a Pot Noodle. I'd just come in from town, needed to fire up the computer for work and just could not be bothered to sort out something healthier. At least I know precisely how many evil calories I have ingested (392) and comfort myself that had I indulged my appetite with a panini, brownie and latte whilst out, the total would have been a great deal higher than that. On the upside, Friday night is sirloin steak night, eaten with mushrooms, salad, a few oven chips and a big glass of red wine. Food of the gods! And rowing training tomorrow to burn it all off....

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