A Tale of Two Magazines, or, More Weight Talk

July 28, 2007

On a trip to Borders today, I stumbled upon this book about overweight women and pregnancy. (Aside: am I the only one who feels like an interloper in the pregnancy and parenting section in the bookstore? As much as I might want to linger in that section and browse, I can almost never bring myself to do it because I feel conspicuously non-pregnant, kind of like how I once felt in the Wedding/Etiquette section at Barnes & Noble without an engagement ring on my finger. Instead of standing there calmly like a normal person with every right to shop openly in whatever section I like, I tend to skulk through at the speed of sound, skimming for titles that I can snatch down and take to read elsewhere, perhaps leaning against a shelf in the always-deserted Military History section. …But maybe that’s just me.)

The book was pretty interesting, although I only read the second chapter, “Fertility and Weight.” It was stuff I’ve heard (and mentioned here) before, noting that ovulatory dysfunction and PCOS are the two most common weight-related reasons that women have trouble conceiving. Since I don’t have symptoms of or a diagnosis for either of those yet, there’s no way to know whether this explanation applies to me, but I don’t need a diagnosis to know that I’d benefit from losing some weight.

The tragedy is that I love, and I mean LOVE, to eat, and to cook. This passion for food sometimes seems to be in direct opposition to my interest in health and fitness–as illustrated by my subsequent bookstore purchases. After I slouched out of the Parenting section, I resumed an upright posture and walked over to magazines. Fifteen minutes of browsing and I ended up with two periodicals to purchase–Self and Food & Wine.

Truly a tale of two selves, not just two magazines: The editors of Self seem to want me to live my fittest, healthiest life, telling me how to drop one size in two weeks doing aquasthenics and how to get my abs “Flat, Sexy, [and] Tight” while eating “slimming summer dishes.” My inner athlete (I know it sounds implausible, but I really do have one) finds all of the snappy, brief articles and fast health facts inspiring, and sometimes does things like tearing out the two-page workout plan-of-the-month for later use, or adding extra ingredients for a low-fat recipe to my weekly shopping list.

The editors of Food & Wine, on the other hand, seem to see me as a gustatory connoisseur, someone who deserves to eat and drink only the best. The F&W folks want me to celebrate life’s deliciousness to the fullest, so they suggest “18 food-friendly Chardonnays” and give me a recipe for the best summer seafood “feast.” My inner gourmand takes this all to heart, salivating over the gorgeous food photography and the detailed, thoughtful articles about culinary trends and unusual wine styles.

It’s hard, at first, to see what the two outlooks have in common, but maybe the two aren’t so far apart after all. Interestingly enough, this month both magazines contain recipes for a watermelon-based soup. F&W‘s recipe for watermelon gazpacho calls for tomatoes, watermelon, cucumbers, sherry vinegar, olive oil, and a scallion relish on the side. Self’s version, aptly called “watermelon soup,” calls for watermelon, mint, sugar, ginger, white wine, and lemon juice, with crumbled feta as a garnish. Both look like healthy, fresh recipes, both likely delicious and good for me too.

The devil, of course, is in the details. F&W‘s calls for olive oil, Self‘s doesn’t, and that feta crumble? Self‘s recipe calls for one teaspoon of feta per serving. ONE TEASPOON! I’m not even sure how to measure a single teaspoon of feta cheese. What’s worse, the photograph of the soup in the magazine…

Self Watermelon Soup Photo

…clearly shows about three or four times that much feta on top of each soup bowl. Way to mislead your fat, hungry readers, Self.

Still, there’s a lesson about portion control in here somewhere. Food & Wine‘s recipes are full of fresh, whole ingredients, just like Self‘s, and although some include “unhealthy” embellishments like cream or full-fat cheese, many rely on olive oil (“good” fat!), fresh herbs, and citrus for flavor. It’s not like the magazine is called Fast Food & Soda, and I’m not overweight because I’m overdosing on high fructose corn syrup and processed foods. I’m overweight because I eat large portions, rarely refuse myself second helpings of things that taste good, and love ice cream and homemade baked goods.

I don’t know what to do about the ice cream/baked goods thing, other than giving up sugar entirely (yeah, right) but I know I’ve got to learn how to manage portions. Is it possible to be a gourmand, a connoisseur, who keeps track of quantity as well as quality? Trying to measure out a teaspoon of feta seems like utter insanity to me–but maybe making and eating much less food overall, especially if it’s delicious, gourmet food, would at least be a step in the right direction.

(Well, that and getting in a LOT more exercise than I currently do, even if I’m having trouble figuring out how much exercise is enough or too much when TTC. But that’s a topic for another post.)

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