How to Overcome the Will to Sell the Things Your Loved Ones Love in Order to Satiate Yourself
From alcoholism to abstinence, from overeating to meal prepping, and three recipes to get you started
How did I get to the point where I would trade my newborn niece in for a piping hot plate of enchiladas, or a freshly pulled pork sandwich with just the right amount of BBQ sauce? Two words; Quarantine diet.
Thinking back to a not-so-distant past
I haven’t eaten out since March 12th where, at the time, I had no idea those enchiladas I was having would be my last for the foreseeable future. They were slathered in a cheesy tomatillo sauce and filled with the best flat-top-cooked chicken you can get outside of Mexico. Almost 11 months later my mouth still waters when I think about that meal. From the chips and salsa I devoured before the enchiladas, to the icy coke served with it, how I took the simplicity and safety of the whole situation for granted!
When I think back on that day, I remember how straws were beginning to become such a big concern in the restaurant industry. Oh to travel back in time and have our biggest worry whilst eating out be whether or not we asked for straws! And before you ask, yes, I took my coke without a straw because I thought I could do a little bit of good. I try to be cognizant of the things I put out into the world, which is the main reason I have been doing my civic duty in staying home.
I’ve cooked every single meal for my fiance and myself for 11 months now. She eats the occasional processed foods every now and then, but lets not be too harsh on her, she has enough dietary restrictions as it is and we don’t need to further punish her just because I’m trying to get a hold of my health.
On December 23rd, 2019 I had my last sip of alcohol. I wasn’t your everyday drinker. I didn’t need alcohol as soon as I woke up, in fact, the thought of it often made me sick due to the fact that I drank the neighborhood‘s’ fair share the night before. You see, I developed a system that allowed me to keep drinking in a way that wouldn’t affect my productivity, and if my attitude had gotten that same benefit, I may have never quit drinking.
My Old System for Surviving Hangovers
On any given workday I would wake with the pain in my head serving as my alarm clock. After gaining some semblance of equilibrium I would then stumble my way into the bathroom. Then I would lie in bed with my head pounding, counting down the hours until I had to show up at work with a smile on my face, ready to serve the people their appetizers, drinks, and entrees. I had a whole system down:
I would take 600 mg of Ibuprofen after waking while drinking as much water as I could stomach, and depending on the severity of the hangover, maybe even a Gatorade or two.
For the next few hours, I would try and be as still and relaxed as possible while begging for the pains running through my head and stomach to abate. My shifts didn’t start until 4 or 5 in the afternoon so I often had time to recover to the point where I was only mildly irritated by everyone who would try and hold a conversation with me.
Thirty minutes before my shifts started I would take another 600 mg of Ibuprofen, shower, do my hair in an attempt to look like I have some sort of control in my life, put on my chef’s coat (we serve in them for some reason) and head to the gas station. The gas station is where I would make the most crucial purchase in order for my day to really start; an energy drink. Full Throttle was always my go-to, but if I was feeling particularly bad I would upgrade my choice and go with a monster. I didn’t drink every night, so it was only every other day that I would be plagued with these events. I did this for 13 years.
Step Four: Abstinence
In 2019 I got tired of having to maintain this toxic system, and I decided to quit. I quit smoking three years prior to this decision so I sort of knew what to expect, but I only smoked when I drank, so I wasn’t your two-pack-a-day smoker who would have a much harder time kicking the habit. I did have to stop drinking for a month in order to quit smoking, but it went smoothly enough. Quitting drinking was much, much harder for me.
You Have Arrived at Your Destination: Overeating
Going without alcohol for the first few days was pretty easy as I was still motivated to quit, but then the first week rolled around and my stomach was back to screaming for alcohol while my liver was demanding to be abused.
After ordering a pizza late one night — I still can’t get on a normal sleep schedule after so long in the service industry — I realized that I could just eat right through my alcoholic cravings. Because, if your stomach is full to the point of explosion, you don’t exactly have any spare room for alcohol! Problem solved. Moving forward, every time I wanted to drink, I would just eat until I was about to burst.
Three to four times a week I would overeat in order to quash the unrelenting nag of addiction. If I got the craving to drink, I would sneak off to the nearest restaurant or drive-thru and order as much as I thought I could eat and then some. That was OK for the first few months, but then the pandemic happened and I didn’t feel good about leaving the house anymore and endangering those around me. I felt this especially for those in the service industry who weren’t as fortunate as I and were not able to quit their jobs and had no choice but to be exposed to the public every day in order to pay their rent and put food on their tables.
My method of madness, avoiding reality by overeating, was no longer sustainable. In the name of public safety, I told myself I now had to get a handle on my overeating. The number of meals I would have to cook for myself if I kept this up would be unreal, and the cost prohibitive.
I continued to live in denial for the first few weeks of quarantine by making spaghetti and buying frozen pizzas. I would make pounds of spaghetti at a time in order to be able to eat gigantic portions at dinner while still having leftovers for the next few days. I ate entire pizzas in a single sitting. Freschettas Four-Cheese pizzas were my go-to. Just over 5,000 mg of sodium in one meal and I put em back like nothin’.
Five months in, including a month into the pandemic, and I was still sober. As Charlie Sheen would say, “WINNING.” But actually not. Sorry Charlie. As it happened, I just traded in one vice for another and possibly a much more dangerous other, at that. I had high cholesterol as a child and this was always itching at the back of my brain. In order to scratch this itch, I told myself I was getting enough exercise, therefore I was burning off everything I was eating. It turns out it’s much harder to burn cholesterol than it is to burn the calories that come with the gigantic meals.
Cue Quarantine Diet
I exercise anywhere from 30 minutes to 4 hours a day. I play a lot of disc golf, enjoy bike rides (the longer the better), and enjoy running. All of these things are great, great for burning calories and fat that is. What I needed was a cholesterol cure-all, and after some research, I discovered that the easiest way to do this, in addition to exercise, was by changing my diet. I already knew what I was doing was unhealthy, I just didn’t think it was as unhealthy as it turned out to be.
I found two amazing articles relating to my situation. The first is titled “7 Harmful Effects of Overeating,” on Healthline’s website that helped me decide it was time to get my eating in check by informing me that all the things I was experiencing — brain fog, fatigue, weight gain, difficulty breathing— were in direct relation to overeating.
The second article is titled “High fat intake, overeating create high cholesterol,” that I found on the Jackson Sun website. This article uses dietician Nicole Hancock as its primary source and goes into detail on what cholesterol and triglycerides are, along with how to know what foods are healthy to eat, and what having high cholesterol and triglycerides can do to your body. These two articles were my final push to get to the doctor and try to get healthy.
My New System for Sticking Around
After a much-needed trip to the doctor, I discovered that my triglyceride levels had skyrocketed to just under 500, and I had high blood pressure. The doctor recommended I start on the DASH, or Mediterranean, diet. After doing a fair amount of research I came to the conclusion that the diets wouldn’t be too bad, and were completely feasible.
Prior to the pandemic arriving, I was only making one trip to the grocery store every two or three weeks, depending on how many times a week I would eat out. But my new diet called for all fresh foods, and nothing processed. Goodbye, convenient meals that involved no forethought whatsoever. Goodbye, sweet drive-thru lanes, only requiring a swipe of a card to unlock a hot meal. And hello meal prep.
Meal prepping was the only way I was going to survive this debacle as I could not see myself cooking every night, and it would require more trips to the grocery store than once every two weeks. Two trips a week turned out to be the sweet spot. From now on I would only be snacking on, eating, and cooking with fresh items that didn’t last nearly as long as the high fat, high cholesterol processed ones did.
Per DASH diet instructions, I was only to snack on fruits, nuts, and grains. Fruits were my go-to choice as I thought of them as the most palatable. For my entrees, whether they be lunch or dinner, I stick to these three:
I use all low sodium and no salt added tomato products.
1. (2) 32 oz cans of crushed tomatoes
2. (1) 32 oz can of diced tomatoes
3. (1) 10 oz can of Rotel brand diced tomatoes with green chilies (I call them my spicy dicy’s)
4. (2) pounds of lean ground turkey
5. (2) whole white onions (diced)
6. (3) whole red peppers (diced)
7. (5) tomatoes on the vine to be diced chunkily (it’s a word, don’t question it).
This requires a large cooking pot. Once you cook the 2 pounds of turkey you add everything else in and let it simmer for about 6 hours, stirring every 30 minutes or so. I don’t saute the peppers or onions beforehand since I’m letting them simmer for so long, but that is just a personal preference. When I go to reheat this for my actual meal I will add a whole diced avocado and some diced red onion once it comes out of the microwave.
I put as much kale as I want to eat in a bowl, then I add some olive oil and lemon juice (to preference) to form the healthy homemade dressing. I toss this up a bit to get the kale coated and softened a bit, then I add almond slices, raw unsalted peanuts, blueberries, apples, shredded carrots, raw broccoli, avocados, and chicken (chopped and sauteed). Sometimes I substitute the chicken for salmon, and sometimes I go without both. If I’m feeling wild, I will add a bit of feta cheese, but this will put a heavy dent in your total sodium count for the day.
Veggie, rice, and chicken:
I just found out how much sodium yellow rice has in it, and I was forced to switch to the low sodium yellow rice. Unfortunately, the low sodium version isn’t anywhere near as good as the former. But, for your health! And all that jazz.
1. (1) 8 oz packet of (low sodium) yellow rice
2. (1) zucchini (quartered)
3. (1) squash (quartered)
4. (1) white onion (diced)
5. (2) red peppers (diced)
6. (1) lime (juiced)
7. (1) cilantro bunch (chopped)
8. (1) 16 oz bag of crinkle cut carrots (soft-boiled to soften)
9. (x) amount of seasonings
While I’m cooking the rice, I start chopping the chicken and veggies up. Once they’re all chopped up and ready to go I season them. I don’t measure anything here, but once I add some olive oil I am very generous with garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne powder, and cumin (less so on the cumin). Once they are seasoned I throw them into a saute pan and saute em, man.
Ideally, the rice finishes first and you can add it to the bottom of a giant Tupperware container. Once you finish cooking your chicken and veggies you add them to your rice bed. Then I just put the lid on the Tupperware and shake it up to mix everything together.
Pounds Down in Diet Town
Before I quit drinking I was up to 189 pounds. Through exercise alone I was able to get down to 180 pounds. I plateaued at 180 for a long time, six or seven months, and was questioning if I should be pushing myself to exercise even harder. My body would have given out if I tried to do that; 15 years of skateboarding — throwing myself down stairs, off of ledges, and over gaps — was all but kind to my fragile frame.
When I made the decision to develop a healthy eating habit and stick to the DASH diet my doctor recommended, the pounds started falling away. I was down half a pound on just the second day. I finally made it into the 170’s. Just a few days after that I fell below 178, and so on and so forth. When I weighed myself this morning, only a month and a half after getting serious with the diet, the numbers on my digital scale displayed 169.6 pounds. My burgeoning beer gut has begun it’s slow retreat from whence it came, and with a little persistence, it is there that it shall remain.
My fiance used to call me “Daddy-bad-snacks”
The diet works great, but I’ve begun having cravings of a different nature now. I NEED CRUNCH. I miss my unhealthy snacks, I miss sandwiches, I want restaurant-style, terrible-for-you, pizza! But most of all, I want my Enchilada Suizas!
My favorite Mexican restaurant is less than three miles down the road and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to talk myself out of making that trip. I can’t watch cooking shows without screaming at the TV anymore, and I love all things Guy Fieri. Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives is by far the hardest one to watch. All the pub, fried, and BBQ style foods just make my mouth water and my stomach roil.
As I stated in the introduction to whatever this piece turned into, I would give up my newborn niece in order to taste the sweet tang of the barbecue covered pulled pork sliding down my throat. I would auction off my two cats, my dear fur-daughters, in order to destroy a basket of chips and salsa with the warm comfort of knowing that four delicious and steaming hot chicken enchiladas would soon be sitting in front of me on a hellaciously hot plate.
For these facts, I have to apologize to my sister, whom I assume would put up a fight once a stranger showed up at her door demanding her newborn daughter because her uncle sold her for a sandwich. And of course, to my fiance, to whom our fur-daughters mean the world. BUT THERE’S NO TURNING BACK.
In all honesty, I can’t thank my family enough. I put them through Hell before locking up my alcoholism, and my poor fiance. She put up with me even when I would wake up in different places all over the house, usually with one or both cats eyeing me as a snack if, perhaps, I were to not wake up. My mom and sister have also been there for me when I have needed someone to talk to, and my sister knows I would never sell my niece or nephew, not even for a never-ending buffet of enchiladas with chips and sal — fuhhhhhhhhh. OK, I’m under control. I’m OK.
Don’t worry folks, no children or cats were bartered away in the name of assuaging an addiction.
And yes, I purposefully left beans off of my chili recipe, deal with it ya bunch of pooters.