FOOD TALK

Please, I'm flab­u­lous

Epicure - - CONTENTS -

I’ve done it all. Atkins, Cab­bage Soup, Macro and the silly egg diet; the lat­ter had me down­ing up to eight taste­less, boiled eggs a day. What these di­ets had in com­mon were how short they lasted. A bowl of spaghetti ca­cio e pepe with co­pi­ous shav­ings of Pecorino Ro­mano (and a glass of Chi­anti Clas­sico, please) would al­ways win out in the end. It comes as no sur­prise that my weight yo-yoed over the years. Noth­ing, how­ever, weighed me down more than my ob­ses­sion to be thin.

Join­ing the pub­lish­ing in­dus­try was a dream come true for me, yet it pre­sented an ad­di­tional hur­dle. The nu­mer­ous work en­gage­ments aside, my so­cial cir­cle nar­rowed to those in the same line. I couldn’t risk whis­per­ing the word “diet” for fear of be­ing sneered at. I was spread­ing word of how amaz­ing a restau­rant was, but, in­ter­nally, I was filled with crush­ing guilt. It went be­yond gain­ing a few pounds or hav­ing to give up wear­ing those body­con dresses the Kar­dashi­ans can’t seem to leave the house without. Adding calo­ries in my body made me feel like I had done some­thing wrong; some­thing to be pun­ished for. Iron­i­cally, I’d in­dulge even more to bury my un­ease. It was a vi­cious cy­cle. I needed a way out.

Old habits die hard. I jumped onto an­other fad diet. In­ter­mit­tent fast­ing sounds easy. Fast for 16 hours a day – in­clud­ing eight hours of sleep – and eat as usual dur­ing the eighthour eat­ing win­dow. Erin Wa­then, au­thor of Why Can’t I Stick To My Diet, sug­gests that its ef­fi­ciency boils down to our body not hav­ing to con­stantly process food and us­ing stored fats as an en­ergy source. A thin­ner physique and a more fo­cused, en­er­getic mind just by skip­ping break­fast? And, if Dwayne 'The Rock' John­son swears by it, who am I to say no?

No re­search on­line, how­ever, pre­pared me for the hunger pangs. Sin­ga­pore’s foodie cul­ture wasn’t help­ing ei­ther. I could barely get through the day without a whiff of shal­lot oil, splashed onto freshly steamed chee cheong fun, or the en­thu­si­as­tic slurp­ing of fish ball noo­dles, with ex­tra lard on the side.

The sil­ver lin­ing? It worked. Three months in, I shed an es­ti­mated three kilo­grams. Even as I was mov­ing from one restau­rant menu to the other, I was keep­ing the weight off. My en­ergy lev­els were at an all-time high. No longer bogged down by food co­mas, I was ready to hit the gym at 7am. I felt amaz­ing. I've re­gained con­trol over my body. I thought I would be able to shed the re­main­ing ki­los.

Then, I hit a wall. My weight re­mained the same or, worst, went up. Wretchedly, my flabby self isn’t one to throw in the towel that eas­ily. I in­creased my fast to 18 or 20 hours while squeez­ing the most out of my gym mem­ber­ship – to no avail. I was crushed. I started scru­ti­n­is­ing what I ate – no carbs, and only white meat and greens – and skipped din­ner. It moved the scale down a minis­cule 250g, but no as­pir­ing epi­curean could feel happy do­ing this. I was wav­ing good­bye to the dreamy burst of sweet and sour in a bal­samic straw­berry donut, and an unc­tu­ous, well-mar­bled steak.

Was it worth it? I wasn’t sure. I had un­wit­tingly hinged my hap­pi­ness on the un­for­giv­ing num­ber that ap­peared on my weigh­ing scale ev­ery morn­ing. And I couldn’t stop.

Per­haps, it was serendip­ity. I took a solo week-long trip to Syd­ney. The city's gas­tro­nomic of­fer­ings, from its fine din­ing restau­rants to up-and-com­ing bars, were en­tic­ing; reser­va­tions for Matt Lind­say’s es­ter and Cory Camp­bell’s Bea Restau­rant were made way be­fore my ar­rival.

I had no one to split my meals with and I couldn't ask Camp­bell to pre­pare smaller por­tions be­cause of my tighter jeans. (It would been funny to watch his re­ac­tion to my re­quest.)

Strangely, I felt fine. There was no ob­sess­ing over the calo­ries I raked up. Syd­ney had a dif­fer­ent view on food and it in­fected me. “How could some­thing so de­li­cious be bad for you,” chuck­led an old man I hap­pened to share a ta­ble and glasses of Pinot Noir with. “It’s all about bal­ance. That crack­ling’s only bad for you if you eat too much of it.” I didn’t have to change what I ate. I had to change the way I thought about food. Rather than deny and binge, I had to make a con­scious de­ci­sion to en­joy what’s on my plate. It’s not about the amount, but – as cliché as it sounds – the ex­pe­ri­ence. I didn’t have to gorge my­self to re­mem­ber how de­light­ful the tamari but­ter sauce that drowned Lind­say’s grilled king prawns were, and how he in­ge­niously used ikura and two-year-old ke­fir cream for an umami bomb of an ap­pe­tiser.

I’ll ad­mit. My fraught re­la­tion­ship with food is far from over. I still prac­tise in­ter­mit­tent fast­ing, al­beit with a more care­free at­ti­tude. (It's not the end of the world if I eat five min­utes be­fore noon.) I shouldn’t let the vague idea of a per­fect body stop me from en­joy­ing what brings me joy. When I feel good, I’ll be sure e to look (darn) good as well.

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