Give Me a Real Meal, Or Give Me…

Coach Dave Weiss Health Guide
  • In this blog, I usually try to dispense some vaguely helpful piece of advice based on a lesson learned from a borderline disastrous, self-inflicted episode from my life. Today, however I’m fighting back. Or, rather, I guess I’m just venting. See, for some time, one of the greatest incentives for me for completing grueling workouts has been the meal afterward. My life of extremes is far from an anarchical miscellany of unpredictable behaviors. No, my life of extremes is governed by a few unwavering principles that have evolved through the gradual harmonization of the few needs that govern my neo-caveman existence: food, sleep, exercise, etc. For example, I work out hard so I feel entitled to eat large quantities of food, and I eat large quantities of food so I’m motivated to work out hard. By no means am I suggesting that this pattern of behavior is advisable, prudent or even condonable for everyone, but it’s what gets me by.
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    And I know I’m not alone. There are others like me whose existences our calorie-counting, fast food-ostracizing, leafy-green-obsessed society has shoved smugly and condescendingly to the hidden aisles and back alleys of grocery stores and dining districts. I will never believe that eating sparingly equates to optimized health. To me, the Ironman Triathlon is a challenge; the Special K Challenge is an exercise in self-loathing. The point is that eating large quantities of food seems to have an almost omnipresent, yet unwarranted stigma within middle-to-upper class America, and society needs to stop condemning to culinary damnation those of us to whom the term “recommended daily allowance” is nothing more than a signal that’s it’s time to take out the calculator and multiply by three.

    It is for two reasons that I’m not going to illustrate my point with clear examples: first, I don’t believe entirely that I actually have a point; and second, even if I had one, I’m not so sure I could prove it. Instead, I’m just going to throw out a couple of complaints. So grab your family-size basket of cheese curds (oh, you don’t know what I’m talking about, do you?) or your side salad and prepare to regurgitate either one.

    1. I am convinced that whole, specialty and organic food grocery stores are the food shopping equivalent of waiting outside in the rain for six hours for Guns N’ Roses tickets (now, not before Slash and everyone except Axel Rose left). Everyone’s in a sour mood, the tickets are over-priced, and you know that the show is going to be a catastrophic letdown. The produce section in a specialty foods store is like a museum’s taxonomical exhibit on rare and endangered plant species. If your produce shopping list doesn’t include family, genus and species names, plus grocery item descriptors that can’t be found in an English dictionary, then you might as well be hunting for quail with a cannon ball. And may God have mercy on your soul if you ask where one might find lettuce (I recently perused the online produce offerings of a local organic grocery and came across 17 varieties of leafy greens but nary a single mention of the word “lettuce”). Like that ticket line, most of the shoppers are ornery, pushy and competitive. Well, of course they are, they’re always hungry! And they know, if even subconsciously, that soon they are going to pay way too much for an invariably unsatisfying amount of food. I could continue (don’t get me started on meat and poultry – in my next life, I want to be a chicken destined for a natural foods store), but I’ll move on.

  • 2. There is no all-you-can-eat ribs joint in Washington, DC. I know this; I’ve researched it at length. Last time I checked, our nation’s capital proclaimed itself a universal center of democracy, heterogeneity and tolerance. And yet, while I can find 17 varieties of leafy greens in a single store, a staple of the American restaurant scene is nowhere to be found? Please don’t tell me that, as with most industries, economics are solely responsible for determining the composition of the local restaurant scene. No, the nonexistence of an all-you-can-eat ribs joint is symbolic of the hijacking by yuppiedom of my beloved hometown’s fundamental mentality regarding what is an “appropriate” level of food consumption. Look, I understand that the successes of western, free-market economics largely have discredited communism, but I believe that the economic system holds value for even the staunchest follower of Adam Smith, as long as he has a decent appetite. For example, every year my mom bakes about 150 apple and rhubarb pies, and every year my dad and I eat about 148 of those apple and rhubarb pies. Without fail, my mom protests the apparent inequity of the situation. That is, until I remind her, “Mom, you are able to produce many pies, whereas Dad and I are able to produce no pies. On the other hand, Dad and I need to consume many pies, whereas you need to consume fewer pies.” The argument is bullet-proof, even if the perceived injustice remains. So, for anyone who cares, the increased happiness of society as a whole – even the fate of democracy itself – depends on the creation of an all-you-can-eat ribs joint in Washington, DC.
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    3. My final gripe concerns the downfall of the American university dining hall, a disturbing phenomenon tantamount to the extinction of a storied American institution. See, the university where I am a part-time employee doesn’t operate a single dining hall on its main campus and has no all-you-can-eat dining hall whatsoever. Let me get this straight – the second largest landowner in Washington, DC, among whose primary responsibilities is to attend to the well-being of its student body, doesn’t offer an all-you-can-eat meal option to any of its athletes from its 22 varsity sports teams? That’s like St. Peter’s not offering the sacrament. Just to clarify, the highlights of my college experience were (in order): rowing; a certain night at a certain bar involving a certain pair of sisters (but that’s neither here nor there); and my thrice-daily conquest of New South Dining Hall. By the way, to anyone who currently is lauding GW for saving its students from “the horrors of cafeteria food”: you shop exclusively at natural food stores, and I ask kindly that you leave this blog immediately and forever. Seriously, though, the rowers on my team work their tails off six days a week and expend ungodly volumes of calories in the process. The fact that, after a morning workout, they are unable to assemble into a single glorious, mountainous pile a wide assortment of breakfast meats, cheeses, potatoes, eggs, breads and condiments saddens me. They must feel like a five-year-old who spends an hour of unwavering dedication hunting for Easter eggs and then watches her mom and dad eat all of her winnings right in front of her.

  • Look, I have nothing against eating in moderation. It’s just that eating in moderation after a big workout usually leaves me only moderately satisfied. But I’m going to stop this rant now, because I’m still pretty confident that I don’t have anything approaching a point. You better believe, though, that until I get my all-you-can-eat ribs, I’ll still have my complaints.
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Published On: May 01, 2006

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