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Sunday, November 22, 2009

I'm puffy. The "popcorn hangover" and other morale saboteurs.

I woke up today looking like I partied all night. I went to bed early and slept just fine, but I have a headache and I'm quite puffy. I look like I gained 5 pounds in my face, my eyes are almost swollen shut, and I can't get my rings off. And I had to go to the DMV today for a new drivers license (I'm officially a Fox!), so I'm stuck with this puffy face for several years now. Ah, the "popcorn hangover."

Did you know that popcorn is a whole grain? Done right, it's a filling and healthy snack. Done wrong (say, at the movies), you're better off eating fast food. Anyway, I usually make my popcorn with an air popper, a bit of spray butter and salt. It takes a little getting used to, but after a while, you don't miss the grease-laden kind from the normal popper or the microwave bag. But even the healthy way, I have my rules -- no popcorn after 8 p.m. I know it sounds silly, but it never fails. Popcorn after 8:00 makes me puffy.

Even the scale reflects the increase. Yikes! I know it's just water retention from the salt, but talk about a morale killer! All day, people look at me strangely and say things like, "What happened to you? Late night?" "No, just the popcorn again...I know...I'm trying to quit."

Oh, and just a side note -- be careful with that spray butter! Companies can boast zero calories if the serving (in this case, 1-5 sprays) has less than 5 calories....but really, who uses only 5 sprays? Not me! That entire bottle has around 900 calories and 90 grams of fat. You do the math. Spray judiciously!

This puffiness problem happens to me at restaurants, too. I can order the lightest thing on the menu -- even ask them to cook the chicken or fish with no grease -- and I still wake up the next day looking like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. It is SO disheartening. Have you had this experience, too? Vacations and business travel kill me...even when I try hard to eat right, the obnoxious amount of salt in prepared food sabotages me. And I know they're sneaking grease into my grilled chicken somehow. It's a conspiracy!

I've found that this is a common problem with so-called "light" or "diet" foods. I try to stay away from them and cook myself -- hence, The Svelte Gourmet! -- and that way, I know exactly what's in the food I'm making. But sometimes, eating out is unavoidable. While the "light" or "diet" food may be low in calories, fat or carbs (or whatever the diet trend du jour), oft times they are loaded with salt. Why? Because salt makes food taste better! It actually amplifies the taste of food by awakening or opening up the taste buds. If you take away the butter and oil, you have to add something to make the food edible, right?

As we all should know by now, excess salt can lead to a variety of serious health problems. I'm not a doctor, of course, so I'm not going to get into all that. Suffice it to say that too much salt is bad for us. Plus, it makes us puffy!

I consider puffy the opposite of svelte, so I try hard to avoid it. I drink a lot of water and I use a lot of robust flavors in my recipes. While not all of them may seem entirely svelte, I use them sparingly to add punch to every dish. Strong cheeses like blue cheese and Parmesan, different varieties of vinegars, lemon juice, fresh herbs like basil and rosemary, capers, and olives are among my favorites. You'll get acquainted with many of these in my cookbook, which I'm finished writing and is now the taste-testing stage! Anyway, the point is that if you use herbs and spices to your advantage, you won't need to reach for the salt shaker!

Popcorn isn't the only thing that makes me puffy. I know Thanksgiving dinner will. Don't worry, I'm not even going to try to suggest a svelte Thanksgiving -- it's my favorite meal of the year and I wouldn't trade my family's incredible stuffing for anything! Let it be known that I will be tired, puffy and happy on Thanksgiving. Tired because I ate too much. That tale about the tryptophan in turkey making you tired is just a myth -- it has about the same levels as other meats. We're tired on Thanksgiving because we work too hard and eat (and drink!) too much. But that's ok, it's a holiday. We can just work on getting back to living and eating svelte on Friday. This is what making a lifestyle change is all about. Being good most of the time, but still enjoying life. Besides, shopping on Black Friday is exercise, right?

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


Depnewshound said...

Wow. I thought this was just happening to me. I'm thin and fit but if I eat popcorn (even if I prepare it myself with healthy oils) two days in a row -- I look fat. I don't care if it's water retention. It's inflammation and I look like a cow. For me, it doesn't go away quickly either. Every time it happens, I say I've learned my lesson but I always eat more. I'm sitting here now and my pants are tight and my face is puffy. Ugh!

Anonymous said...

This happens to me too. I topped my last batch with unsalted butter and 0 additional salt and it still happened!!!

Mrs. Ximenez said...

Microwave popcorn and Chinese food have that effect on my eyes too. I'm learning about what preservatives and flavour enhancers can do to your body. So, even when I love the flavour of those two things, I have to be really moderate. Thanks for sharing your experience.