I’d say one of the questions I get most, a close second to “what’s your favorite thing to cook,” which I never seem to have a back-pocket answer to, is “how are you so skinny??”
The answer, which I’m always pained to give, is that I was born this way. Like Gaga.
I recognize that this is a really infuriating response. But if you saw pictures of me in middle school, you’d know it’s true. And if you saw my middle school B team basketball photos, you’d know how awkward that kind of skinny was back then.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t think about what I eat and don’t worry about how certain foods will affect my body. I’m a woman for crying out loud! I may have dabbled in anorexia for a week or so in high school – I grew up in New York City after all, and it’s hard not to give skipping lunch a try when everyone is doing it!!—but I’ve never followed an official diet. Unless, of course, you count the pizza-only diet I was on in college. (Those pictures reveal that the more weight I gained, the sluttier I chose to dress. Oh college.)
Since becoming a food blogger and eating most of my meals at home, I would say my eating habits now reflect my own philosophy of a balanced diet. At the beginning, this meant bowls of pasta packed with sautéed chard. Saucy, cheesy meatballs made with turkey. And the avoidance of any and all products or ingredients marketed as “fat free.”
When I was diagnosed with a Gluten allergy last summer, this all changed. The doctor put me on his version, the official quotation mark version, of “The Balanced Diet.” Instead of just listening to my body and not denying myself anything, there were rules to follow.
The first week of Dr. Morrison’s “balanced diet” was brutal. My body wanted pasta and coffee, and it wanted it like crack. But after the initial hump, when my boyfriend, Josh, was convinced Dr. Morrison was a sadist and a hack, I felt great. I realized that while emotionally I had been on a balanced diet prior, my body didn’t really think so. I wasn’t processing food properly. I wasn’t absorbing nutrients. And no matter how free I felt to indulge in my cravings, I recognized that I was hurting myself, even if it wasn’t apparent to anyone but the person running my blood tests.
I didn’t gain or loose weight. But my body transformed into a fitter, healthier version of what it had been. The pouch above my belt that housed all the gluten my stomach was unable to process, vanished. My lips got pinker. My skin got less teenage-y. I felt like a new person. I felt almost like I could pass up pasta on a menu without crying.
More importantly, it reinvigorated my cooking, and the way I approach my food in the kitchen. It got me experimenting with more complicated ingredients—amaranth and millet flour—but it also got me to start cooking simpler food again.
Now that we’ve discovered gluten to be the culprit, I’ve adapted Dr. Morrison’s balanced diet to fit my own life. The recipes that result from it, which I’ll share as part of the Balanced Diet column on this site, are filling, complete meals that cover all the food groups and don’t feel like health food.
Take this pasta for instance. I use quinoa spaghetti which is packed with good protein. If you aren’t gluten-free, you could use whole wheat noodles or any other white pasta alternative. It’s also packed with dark green, nutrient-rich broccoli rabe. The fat, and there is plenty, comes from glugs of good quality olive oil. If my mother, who spent most of my life eating gluten, sugar and dairy-free, has taught me anything, it’s never to skimp on the olive oil. Oh, and that cheating from time to time is okay. That’s why they call it balance.
So stay tuned for more balanced recipes, and if you’ve had success designing your own diet philosophy, please share all your strategies for eating equilibrium in the comments section below!
Spaghetti with Broccoli Rabe and Sundried Tomato Paste
- 1 large bunch broccoli rabe
- ½ pound spaghetti quinoa, brown rice, or regular, if you like
- 2 heaping tablespoons sundried tomato paste recipe follows
- ¼ cup grated pecorino cheese
- Olive oil
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.
- Trim the broccoli rabe stems, removing the thick bottom third. Remove any leaves from the stalk - you can leave some towards the top. Roughly chop the cleaned rabe into 1-inch pieces.
- Cook the spaghetti according to package directions. 3 minutes before al dente, add the broccoli to the pot.
- When the pasta is cooked to your liking, drain the pot in a colander in the sink and shake it to remove any excess water.
- Toss the cooked pasta and rabe with the tomato paste, half of the pecorino, and a drizzle of olive oil (if necessary). Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as necessary. Divide between two bowls and garnish with the remaining cheese.
Hi Phoebe, I’m loving the new site! The tone, the photos, the recipes, the design — perfection. Your thoughts on the relativity of balance are so familiar to me, and they also made me think of this post by Garance Doré about “New York skinny” vs. “Paris skinny.”
I kind of have too much to say about all of this to even open the floodgates, so maybe I’ll leave it at that for now and just say I’ll gladly be back to visit your new digs soon! xx
Phoebe Lapine says
Carolyn!! Thank you for the fabulous (and very sweet) note. I just read the Garance Dore post. It’s amazing. “I have so many other fascinating things to do in my life. Like smoking a few cigarettes, just to name one.” – hilarious! and so French.
How are you finding things diet-wise in London? Does London-skinny exist?
Looking forward to having you over again sometime soon 🙂
“Listen to your body” – you hear that a lot but how about if your body is WRONG?? That’s what I love about this post. If I listened to my body all the time I’d have a fistful of bacon in one hand and garlic bread in the other and soft-serve all over my mouth. I do notice, however, that when you listen to your body it never seems to say “No more” when it comes to vegetables. So maybe it’s smart after all.
Phoebe Lapine says
That’s very true, Frankie. Perhaps I should clarify that you must listen to your body before AND after you eat – and try to learn for next time! If your body feels bloated and uncomfortable for days after your lunch of bacon, garlic bread, and soft serve, maybe you should diversify a little next time!! xo
looks delicious, Phoebe, and a great alternative to the roasted broccoli rabe that has been a fixture for the last month. I will have to pick up some quinoa pasta!
You should try it, Steph! It really tastes like the real thing. It comes in the turquoise box. I made Gluten-Free mac n cheese this week with the spiral shape and Ed/Sophie gobbled it up!