7 January

Honing My New Understanding Of Food And Meals. But Will It Last?

by Jon Katz

Since signing up for the Mayo Clinic weight loss plan, Maria and I have begun to think about food differently. We talk about it often and are excited about what we are doing.

We shop together, but also make dinner together. Maria loves food and creative cooking, but she doesn’t need to lose weight.

We are having fun, something we didn’t expect to be doing with a radically different diet. Tonight’s dinner(above)  was an Asian-style mix of turkey, broccoli, mushrooms, carrots, and beans mixed with rice noodles, hoisin sauce.

We don’t follow the recommended meal plan precisely; we add something and leave some things.

But it’s pretty close, and this idea of mixing brown rice and barley and rice noodles with a stir-fry vegetable mix is working for me.  I like it a lot. It’s not a chore or a grind.

I’m losing weight every day, and mostly in small amounts, the best way to lose weight over time. I avoid the weight obsession, which can throw healthy eating off balance.

This way of shopping and eating is a huge change, and every day I learn to love things I rarely ate before, and my previous diet was almost always healthy. But not this healthy. The elimination of all sugar and white carbohydrates is one big chance; the other is making vegetables half of my daily diet.

But will it last? Meals were a battleground in my family; they were unpleasant and often frightening.

We were expected to eat every drop of what we were fed, and I developed an earthy floating for slimy vegetables. There were lots of heavy red meats and huge pies.

Food was just something to keep me alive and working; I never really gave it much thought. It is exciting to learn more about and begin to enjoy things I never bought or ate or learned to cook.

But my nature – impatience, distraction, impulse – is working against me. I understand that I am my own worst enemy here, so I need to come to a new understanding of myself.

I love new challenges, but sometimes I get bored with them when they get old. That has not happened much since I married Maria. I never tire of writing,  working at the Mansion or Bishop Maginn, or blogging or taking photos or reviewing movies or living with Maria or the dogs and donkeys and sheep.

So perhaps I can stay with this as well.

Tomorrow, I’m making one of their recommended breakfasts. The Mayo people call it an Apple Spice Smoothie.

It is made by blending nonfat plain Greek Yoghurt, a small apple, a banana, old-fashioned rolled oats, almond butter, and cinnamon, and blending it all. I’ve come to love these fruit smoothies; I look forward to making them and eating them.

I’m seeking to lose 30 lbs. This will be difficult and require patience, willpower, discipline, and focus. I’ve had a great couple of weeks, but most people who set out to lose weight lose it in the first few weeks. Six months later, it’s back.

It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and will require thought and planning.

It’s not really about counting calories; it’s about seeing food in a completely different way. The first week had been a hoot. Let’s see where we are in a month or so.


  1. This kind of diet is familiar to me. My husband and I lived in an ashram for a year and a half which followed a macrobiotic diet of brown rice, vegetables, tofu, beans. It was very simple and nourishing and my health improved. In fact, this diet was used for cancer patients to recover. There were no dairy foods. Since coming back into regular life, I have added eggs, some fish, chicken, and non-dairy yogurt and cheese, as well as oat milk. In the morning, I make an Asian egg-drop soup with kale, chard, carrots and cabbage, and sweet potato or rice noodles. I eat this for breakfast and lunch. It’s delicious.

  2. Rice noodles are pure white, unrefined carbs, so you can’t accurately say that you’ve eliminated ALL of that from your diet.

    1. z-z-z-z-z-z You must have something better to do than this, Jill…There are carbs in many of the vegetables I eat. What matters is how many and how often. A healthy diet is one in balance, not one that obsesses on nits.

      1. You’re back-pedaling, Jon. You didn’t say that you were eliminating SOME white carbs and SOME sugar–you said ALL. If you’re a writer, you should strive for accuracy. Rice noodles are pure white carbs (they’re exactly the same as white rice), and, for that matter, hoisin sauce is almost pure sugar. Don’t say “all” when you don’t mean it. Of course I agree that what matters is how many carbs you eat and how often you eat them, but that isn’t what you wrote. Have the grace to own your words and not play the gas-lighter.

        1. Jill, I’m not pedaling with you at all. I am not interested in this conversation or your lecture about my responsibilities as a writer. I have little respect for the people who roam the internet looking for nits to pick with people and lecture them. I have no idea what your responsibilities are, but I am not one of them. This is exchange is not worth 30 seconds of my time, or hopefully, yours.

  3. Curious about Maria. She wrote on her own blog that she was glad you didn’t expect her to eat what you were eating and that she was happy to have pizza and wine for dinner on her own. You’ve also always said she hates cooking and all domestic chores and would just eat hunks of cheese on her own. When exactly did she become an enthusiastic and creative cook?

    1. Billie if you want to know what Maria is thinking – we both change quite often, which is great – you ought to ask her. I don’t speak on her behalf or explain here. [email protected]…I suspect the answer is that we are both happy and willing to change and evolve. Rigidity is no virtue.

      1. I don’t think you realize just how much of a drag it can be when a spouse suddenly gets evangelical about eating and turns the world upside down. I doubt Maria is really LOVING all the barley and vegetables when two days ago she was relieved she was “allowed” to eat pizza–she’s doing it to be supportive. It’s kind of selfish of you to expect it of her, but it’s very typical when the husband is the one who decides to go on the diet–the wife goes along. (When the wife is the one who wants to go on the diet, she usually ends up having to cook two and sometimes three different dinners for other family members!)

        1. Rachel, this should be funny, but it just strikes me as sad. How harsh your view of marriage is.

          I never cease to be amazed at the arrogance and presumption of total strangers who roam social media telling other people what to think and what their wives or husbands are thinking as well.

          This is a day for pomposity, I guess, it seems to be going around. Maria is laughing out loud at your revelations about what she is really thinking or feeling. She doesn’t recall ever speaking with you. You are telling us quite a bit about your marriage, not mine. I’d think about counseling if I felt that way about my wife, or if she felt that way about me. I’m sorry.

  4. Have you looked into the Zatarain company’s dry mixes of rice and beans? They have different varieties and we enjoy them all the time, courtesy of Amazon.com. I am not sure of the salt content. This is something I don’t have to worry about as I sometimes come up with salt deficiency whenever I have been in hospital. Cooking from scratch all the time can do this to you.

  5. I went back to Amazon. Zatarains are now producing low salt varieties and giving carb counts etc. I have promptly put in another order as our stock is running low and these use brown rice also. The mixtures taste wonderful and 1 box does 2 meals for us with salads or green cooked vegetables on the side. I can’t recommend them more highly.

  6. It appears that you are doing an excellent job in changing your diet. I know you hate comments from the peanut gallery, but I suggest you cut out nearly all animal products. All meats are not necessary at all in the human body. Such things as beans and other legumes, Tofu, broccoli, whole grains are sufficient for protein needs. Besides, if you cut out the animal products, you will save a hell of a lot of money grocery shopping!

    1. Thanks, I actually love comments from the peanut gallery (I was actually in the pg during a howdy doody show, I threw up). I just don’t like nasty ones. Big difference. But no, I don’t relish medical advice from people online. I pay no attention to it. But I accept that some people need to do it and it will never stop. Make sense?

  7. Jon, hope you don’t mind if I respond to Erika W.: I LOVE Zatarains Red Beans and Rice! I cook it up and make stuffed green peppers with it then top them off with a little shredded cheddar. Easy and delish!

  8. I’m smiling (sort of) at the exchanges here……… as for me? I’m just happy to hear that you have embraced a new, healthier way of looking at food and its preparation…..and that you and Maria are both embracing the challenge, and enjoying it (sounds like). That *has* to be a good thing, all in all! I have no opinions on what you eat………I just like the fact that you are willing to bring change to your life and become a healthier person than you already are! Two thumbs up for you!
    Susan M

    1. Blessings to you, Susan, there is nothing one can write about on social media that someone won’t nitpick, hate or criticize. The carbs in noodles are just about the least important thing in this whole dealing with food thing and I should smile at the idea that some stranger things Maria would get involved in my food change against her will or wishes. Good Lord. And also some lectures on how to be a writer. You are right, of course. I should be smiling. I’m trying. It’s a goal to strive for. Thanks for your sanity and sense of humor.

  9. Smoothies are a great way to get some extra veggies into the diet. Spinach, kale, and cabbage mix in and don’t add any flavor…it’s amazing! Enjoy your new way of eating.

  10. Jon, I’m with Susan. How can people criticize you when you’re losing g weight and not just eating better but changing how you look at food. You don’t… need to be a vegan and if you say you go out tomorrow and eat a really unhealthy meal, so be it. As I stated before I’m delighted she’s along for the ride, but if she doesn’t want to she’s a big girl and won’t. I don’t know or care if the pizza she ate was one of the healthy ones you make or a cheese laden meat filled store bought. I have made suggestions for things you might explore but to criticize your choices makes me cry or laugh. Probably both.

    1. Barbara, I don’t think I ever wrote anything that somebody didn’t criticize, I can’t post all of them. Something about the social media culture makes people think they have to right to criticize other people and tell them what they should be doing. I think because it’s free and simple and anonymous, it just brings out this odd trait in people. It’s so common I don’t really take it personally anymore, it’s just part of being public. Sometimes it does bother me, as it did today.

      I was very excited to be sharing this interesting and good news about what I’m eating now and someone is irked because I didn’t say rice noodles had white carbs and someone else is telling me that Maria really hates helping me out and doing this with me – honest, we are having a lot of fun – I’m not sure how to even reply..But it’s just a part of life here in America and it’s my job to deal well with it.

  11. Good grief.
    I hope that my entries don’t sound like some of these? Especially as I am in the same place–having to watch what I eat like crazy. Some of the responses you get sound like teachers admonishing a small child and we have probably all had a bucketful of that in our early lives
    (Erika, putting out a packet of Zatarain’s garlic Parmesan beans and rice, for our main meal today. Which will also have sliced avocados and tomatoes. I’ll have some grapes while my thin active husband will probably Also munch some Scottish shortbread)

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