“Nope, I can’t eat that.”–Lent for a Non-Catholic

Living in New Orleans is great for any number of reasons, but one of the biggest reasons is the FOOD. It’s just so good between the oysters, crawfish, beignets, cafe au lait, po boys, muffaletas, sno balls topped in condensed milk, shrimp and grits, all the fried variations, all the drinks, and the list just goes on and on.

What it’s not great for is your waistline. Especially as a student where you sleep irregularly and stress eat/drink. It’s worse if you’re one of the majority of Americans, like myself, who doesn’t just have one of those miraculous metabolisms and can eat copious amounts of food all day and never change weight. I’ve gone up and down over the years–never anything too drastic–but enough to notice the way clothes change their fit (or don’t fit).

When I moved down here I was in pretty great shape. I’d just moved from NYC where I was going to dance class 2-3 a week, did a stint with bikram yoga, and was “bodyrocking” every other day while cooking some great meals for myself. Plus NYC is just a very walkable city. I still cooked a lot when I first moved down here, to the point where I really hadn’t tried many restaurants, and was still working out modestly, but the weight started creeping up. It was noticeable by my first mardi gras that I wasn’t where I was a few months prior. And it became painfully clear after the mardi gras–spring break–finals triad. I finished up my finals and went straight to Taiwan where in 2.5 weeks I probably gained 5 pounds just from all the noodles, fried street food, and daily bubble milk tea consumption. From there I went straight to South Africa for 3 months where it was winter and I just wasn’t about working out, especially with the lack of indoor heating.

So by the time I got back to New Orleans in the fall, none of my clothes fit. I was reduced to jeggings and skirts and dresses because pants were just not going on. I’m happy to say after resuming some sort of schedule for working out and eating a little more predictably all of my clothes fit me again. In fact, I just recently tried on a pair of pants that I’d hidden away in the back of my closet, and it was like having new clothes since I hadn’t worn them in like 5 months.

But I really want to push myself to take it to that next step of not just maintaining a size that I’m satisfied with, but really getting fit, toned…cut, so to say. Having some muscle definition. So part of that is really making a diet overhaul. I know myself, I don’t do well with gradual change. I can’t do the step by step of taking one item out and then a few months later adding something else. For other people, that’s the perfect way to go about it, but it just gives me too much wiggle room and too many opportunities to “cheat” and say it’s just a little bit, or just this time. I go to the far extreme and then work towards moderation and I’ve been more successful with that.

My plan was to go paleo, but that was too much for me, so I scaled back to being gluten-free and dairy-free. It was supposed to be for the month of February, but mardi gras happened, and while I didn’t go crazy, I wasn’t as disciplined as I would’ve liked. So instead I made it a lenten thing so as to have a definite start and stop, and because it’s easier, living in a Catholic city, to schedule around Catholic religious traditions. So while it’s become almost an every other day annoyance to explain that I can’t eat most of the things that are offered to me, or at restaurants, because I gave up something for lent and am NOT Catholic, I’ll live. Besides, I feel like lent has become the perfect time frame/excuse for many non-catholics to get themselves together by abstaining from those vices or over-indulgences–especially as it affects our weight.

The bad news is going out to eat has been a bit painful–watching people eat pasta, bread, cheese with their wine, and, OH! the dessert menu, which has become completely inaccessible for me at restaurants. BUT the upside is I can still eat at most ethnic restaurants–Vietnamese is almost all rice based and Ethiopian injera is gluten free–and I’ve discovered many other very tasty gluten free/vegan foods that I probably never would’ve tried. Today I even found a GF/DF bakery (unheard of in New Orleans, right?) and chowed down a “cheddar” biscuit for breakfast. So there’s hope for me yet to get through lent and maybe to even make this a more permanent dietary change….0_0…well maybe after a short beignet and pizza binge on Easter.

I’ll keep you posted.