Eating Used to be So Simple

Deep Background. Well, it all started when my friend Melanie McMinn, auteur of the wonderful blog, the Frugal Kiwi, embarked on a new diet.

(I call Melanie a friend. She is, even though we’ve never met in person and we live on opposite sides of the earth — she’s in New Zealand, I’m in Texas. But, reading someone’s blog, you get to know her. Melanie is always doing something revolutionary, as far as I’m concerned, like raising chickens or creating a wide variety of crafts or rebuilding her house — usually, all at once. Speaking as someone who can barely pry the lid off takeout containers, I’m humbled every time I see her latest marvel.)

Anyway, Melanie’s struggled with a number of serious health ailments and misdiagnoses over the past few years. She and her husband have scoured the Internet, looking for help. Most recently, adding salt to her diet has greatly diminished her crippling migraines. To alleviate other disabling symptoms, Melanie has begun a fairly radical new diet called the Wahls Protocol. (Read here about Terry Wahls, the physician who credits this protocol with dramatically improving her multiple sclerosis.)

All of which is well and good, but you might reasonably ask the question what on earth this protocol has to do with me. Hell if I know. But, once I read Melanie’s blog, I knew I wanted to try it. Or, more precisely, a watered-down version of it — since the diet requires eating three cups of kale-like vegetables, three cups of broccoli-like vegetables, and three cups of berries.

I mean, why not?

Even Deeper Background. I suppose I should level. Basically, I hate vegetables.

As my husband has very unhelpfully pointed out on numerous occasions, my preferred diet is white and beige, since carbohydrates are my life. He has also suggested I was a bad vegetable role model for our children (although, admittedly, I do have other good qualities, just about all of them non-dietary). I believe this relates to my native American blood; I have often thought I could live quite happily on an ice floe, eating blubber on a nonstop basis. But whatever.

Anyway, right now strikes me as the time of life when I’m willing to try almost everything — even vegetables. What do I have to lose? After all, I recently embarked on a gluten-free diet, since my friend Carol told me the regimen would give me more energy and cure my aches and pains. So, I tried it — kind of — for a few weeks, but never noticed much of a difference. (Update: said gluten-free diet hit the rocks when a new ramen restaurant opened nearby. Nothing can stand between me and a good noodle.) (Also, when I read that Gwyneth Paltrow was gluten-free, I knew I had made the right choice.)

Reality.  Kale seemed to be the answer to my new dietary regimen. Sure, I had never eaten kale, but everyone knows it’s a super-food. Our daughter, who was visiting, helpfully baked me some kale chips; they were quite good if you dumped enough olive oil and salt on them and tried to forget what they were made of.

I also drank smoothies made from kale and blueberries and yogurt every morning. I roasted broccoli, I tossed spinach, I sauteed brussels sprouts. At night, I even sneaked some vegetables so I could meet my cup-a-day requirement. I can’t tell you how low your self-esteem plunges when you realize you have become the kind of person who is sneaking cruciferous vegetables.

I went to Whole Foods to buy kale chips after our daughter left; I knew I was too lazy to ever make my own. Besides, how expensive could they be? Answer: They cost a frigging fortune. Five, six, seven dollars for a small package. I bought them nevertheless. I was still that naive, that hopeful.

I think it was the barbecued kale chips that did me in. Or maybe it was the zesty nacho kale chips. Whichever. They both sported the attractive appearance of animal vomit. They didn’t taste much better.

I gave up. I realized that even though I was at the time in my life when I would try anything, even kale, I was also at the time in my life when I could hoist the white flag and walk away if I felt like it.

Recently, I got an email from Melanie. She’s doing wonderfully on her new diet — feeling much better, pushing onward. I was thrilled to hear it. It made me realize one of the things I appreciate the most about her: She can do things that are impossibilities to someone like me. I’m going back to my white-and-beige diet, which is where I doubtlessly belonged in the first place.

(Copyright 2013 by Ruth Pennebaker)

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12 comments… add one
  • Whoa, Ruth. Can’t you keep up the smoothies? That part is easy. If you object to the color, try mixing pineapple, mango, and coconut. Not beige, but close. Or, blend half an avocado with a mango. Don’t give up entirely. Your friend’s diet does sound like a lot of veggies at once, but I’m quite sure there are benefits that would come with including even one or two a day with your carbs.

  • Well, Ruth, I applaud you for trying. And for having the courage to say you quit. Did you learn to like any vegetables, maybe a little? (I love Brussels sprouts – try them with bacon next time).

  • That is a lot of vegetables. I’m still trying to deal with the gluten free diet I’m on (absolutely necessary for since it turns out I am gluten intolerant) to complicate things any further. And I’m with you on the kale chips – pricey and they can’t hold a candle to a potato chip.

  • Bravo for trying!
    Homemade kale chips really don’t taste bad but they take some work.
    Wanna try again? 🙂

  • I’ve found that other greens are a bit easier to cook and love than kale. Swiss chard, for instance. Chop it up and just add it to whatever. I’ve also recently discovered chia seeds. They will keep you more regular than anything else.

  • I actually like kale. And Swiss chard is much milder than most of the other greens, plus it comes in a variety of colors which is quite enticing in the produce department. But I’m just no good at proscriptive diets. Just don’t like being ordered around, I guess.

  • I’m not a vegetable lover, sadly. I’ve gotten subversive about it. Finely diced kale hides beautifully in marinara sauce and even chili. Of course it’s not RAW, but that’s a whole ‘nother diet.

  • I’ve been trying to eat more veggies too–and I’m a wannbe kale lover. I went all out and bought a Costco-sized bag of frozen kale to put in smoothies, I actually like spinach smoothies. The spinach taste just melds into the smoothie. Not so with kale. Anyone want a gigantic-sized bag of frozen kale?

  • Good try, Ruth. How about a spinach smoothie? Those are tasty. I’ve never tasted kale but those store bought chips sounded awful.

  • You crack me up, particularly the comment about Gweneth Paltrow. I recently started seeing a Chinese acupuncturist/herbalist for some problems I’m having. He wants me to quit dairy, any baked wheat such as crackers and chips, nuts and most everything else, except fruits and vegetables. Um, no. While I agree my diet could be so much better. I cannot live by fruits and vegetables alone.

  • If the stakes (steaks) were high enough, you’d be right on it. Some days it is easy but not simple, others simple but not easy. Always worth it though!

  • Chris Link

    Was that 3 cups, 3 cups, and 3 cups EVERY FREAKING DAY?

    Ugh. Having said that, my local co-op makes a fabulous wild rice and kale salad – I wish there was more kale and less wild rice, even with 8 cups of kale – it’s the lemony dressing that makes this:

    I’ve seen those treasured kale chips for sale – they do look particularly vomitous.

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