If you know me at all you will be very aware that for almost 45 years of living I gave little to no heed to what I ate, other than to decide if I like the taste, or to determine if I was too full to eat another bite. I was that guy… the stick thin geek. The one who spent his high school and college years eating Nanaimo bars by the pan trying to GAIN weight. I was ALWAYS uncomfortable with my body because I was thin, gangly (and on my worst days) unattractive. I desperately wanted to be more muscled, more “filled out” Even the closest people I knew thought maybe 20-30 pounds “evenly spread” would be an improvement. For crying out loud, in my early 20’s when I was in nursing school, I often got called on to be the dummy in the nursing lab, because I was SOOOO thin that I was EASY to find anatomical landmarks on!!! Need to know where the second intercostal space is? Duane could show you no problem!! Need to try and palpate a liver? Well, it can’t always be done “due to body habitus” but…. never fail…. You could find MINE! I had a scaphoid abdomen for crying out loud!!! (for all you non-nursing folks…that’s the abdomen that curves IN toward your spine…. instead of OUT!).
I have lived through periods where fast food for one was just more convenient than actually stocking a fridge and making meals. Of course there were also periods in my life where despite my desire to eat something other than fast food, time constraints (damn those 12 hour shifts) or my life situation/stress (like my ex-wife’s car accident and protracted lawsuit) kept me from any real food. But it was never a major problem. For the biggest part of my life I was blissfully ignorant of the possibilities that I would one day have to actually take control of the things I ate just so that I would be able to do the simple things in life…. like put on my own socks every morning…..
One day, in my early 30’s something changed. My face filled out a little. I kinda liked it. I looked a little less drawn and tired. It was a good thing. I mean my arms were still stick thin, but no big deal right? Then my mid 30’s hit and my scaphoid abdomen flatted a little, then developed a slight bulge. I recognized it immediately as the “Stockley paunch.” My father had it, so I remembered. I was sure my brother was going to get it when he got a little older, but for right now it was just my turn. Wasn’t the end of the world….
By the time I had turned 40 or so though, it wasn’t just a little paunch. I had gained about 50 pounds since I was 30. Unlike all those wishes for “a little weight, evenly spread” though…. this stuff settled in exactly one place. Only one place. My mid section. Yup I had a spare tire. Not even a temporary one…. it was a FULL size spare! No even spread for me. DAMN!!!!
So. About 3 months ago the day came. Yes, just ahead of my 45th birthday I was forced to make a decision to take some CONTROL over my eating. Thankfully Todd was there to join me in this mission (oh, who’s kidding who, Todd started this journey, and I followed. Basically it boiled down to 51% for support of Todd and 49% out of shame for not being able to reach my own toes anymore. Whatever….. reasons are reasons… the important thing here is that in my head I’m still the guy I used to be 2 decades ago. I haven’t magically developed an aversion to the taste of fatty flavourful foods.
That of course is how we end up on the topic of potato chips. I love them. Always have. When I was younger I loved washing them down with a good cold Coca Cola. As I matured I enjoyed them curled up in bed watching TV, they seemed to compliment my red wine so well (I’m not even sure if that was supposed to be sarcasm….. cuz I do enjoy them with my wine!). All of a sudden I wasn’t supposed to have them anymore. That’s what I’m told by all the “experts”. So for the last 3 months I’ve avoided them.
I have spent a lot of time recently trying to figure out what dietary things I need to avoid. I mean, this whole thing is simple right? If it’s a “healthy” food you eat it. If it’s an “unhealthy” you refuse to eat it. In the end the health gods let you lose weight and all is right in the world. Correct? I mean how can you not understand this when you read labels and look at calorie counts practically non-stop?
Having walked away from potato chips about three months ago, I of course had not bothered to read the nutritional information on the label. Since I was convinced that they were “unhealthy” I had no need to know just HOW bad they were!! I immediately set about to find a more “healthy” alternative to those wonderful potato chips. After a bit of searching Todd and I found a nice crunchy alternative. PopCorners. They are popped corn chips. Satisfying crunch. Nice flavour (there’s 4 or five different flavours available at the same basic calorie count). The calorie count seemed reasonable so they became the go to snack for quite some time. Of course I would keep looking at other snacks at the store. Turn the bag over and look at the calorie counts. Try and make sense of the realities of the situation. We tried some Martin’s Apple chips. They had a nice crunch, were 100% apple (with no additives) had a nice flavour and were the lowest calorie snack of all we’ve found…. but they immediately turned to applesauce in your mouth when chewed! They weren’t the best replacement.
One day I was looking at other “healthy” options, and came across cassava chips. The calorie count wasn’t too bad (but higher than my popcorners)….. they were very crispy, the flavour was a little more bland than I liked, and they were very hard when you chewed them, like a kettle chip. Again not the best option. Last but not least we had also found some “veggie straws” at Costco. They were light and airy with a nice crispness but not a lot of bold flavour, basically ok in a pinch but not my “go to” snack.
Funny enough, just the other night we were running low on our usual crunchy snacks. I was trying to make up a nice bowl of crunchy things to go with my nightly wine, and as I gathered up all the cassava, apple, popcorners and veggie sticks I had on hand, I came across a bag of those wonderful RUFFLES POTATO CHIPS that I love so much. Admittedly, I had just recently bought them, with a plan to do a blog post about calorie control and the snacks that are BAD versus the snacks that are GOOD with all kinds of pictures to illustrate the tiny little amount of chips you’d be able to eat for the crazy number of calories you’d be consuming. Funny enough? I turned the bag over and read the details. I was a little surprised at the number on the bag. The Calorie count surely couldn’t be right….. I stared at the numbers again. Then I decided to write this blog post.
Why was I so shocked? Well. For 30 g of ruffles chips you are consuming 168 calories. (For reference, the same weight of cassava chips is 148 calories.) So much for my blog on the EVILS of potato chips!!! Let’s just say that I made up a nice mixed bowl of potato chips, popcorners and cassava chips. They went down very well with my wine. Now, don’t get me wrong. I still like some of the other snacks, AND the potato chips ARE higher in calories and fat by a degree. But it is nice to know that I don’t have to completely eliminate them from my diet all together. To help you understand I’ve compiled a table below of some of the snacks we’ve been exploring to illustrate their caloric values.
Let’s just all agree to disagree and meet somewhere in the middle. Somewhere between weight loss, and overindulgence, between “healthy” and “you must be shamed for your bad choices” there is room for my little treat. I promise to weigh them, and portion control them. I’ll promise Todd to not get their crumbs in the bed. I promise that I won’t tout them as a cure-all like the snake oil peddlers of old. But above all, on very rare occasions, I promise to truly ENJOY them!!!I think my point here is that sometimes the definition of what is good and what is bad can vary by purpose, or by perspective, or simply by media hype. Do not think for a moment that I am saying that my beloved Ruffles potato chips are the most healthy snack on the planet. Far from it. But, given that my current goal is WEIGHT LOSS and that the rest of my diet easily supports my nutritional needs, there is no fear of me falling prey to scurvy because of a serving of potato chips. Call them “empty” calories if you will, but think of it this way….. 30g OF SUNFLOWER SEEDS IS 171 CALORIES!!!! (You get a lot less volume in those sunflower seeds!! meaning I can eat far MORE of them at a sitting!). So. I can get fat on sunflower seeds even easier than I can on potato chips. I’d almost go as far as to say “this is a medical fact!” (but that would only be for dramatic flare).