My name is Ryan Black and I’m a comfort food junkie.
Is it even possible to NOT like comfort food? I have no idea. I have no real grasp on that. Anything that has butter or cheese or sugar or flour is usually on my daily menu. My friend Aimee is allergic to Dairy AND the only meat she eats is fish. I don’t know how she does it?!! I just can’t imagine my life without dairy and lots of it. No cheese? No butter? That’s one of my worst nightmares!!! I need my dairy fix and I need it now!! How do I do it and keep my girlish figure? I don’t. 1 year ago I was 40 pounds heavier. Gaining weight is definitely not a problem for me for as long as I can remember. I’ve also always been afraid of gaining weight for as long as I can remember. I come from a family of weight gain. Both of my parents have yo yo’ed. My Dad’s done the most yo yoing of both, but both have maintained being overweight my whole life. My younger sister is probably the most overweight, while my older sister & I have maintained our weight fairly well. Fat runs in the family I guess. My Grandparents were fat, but oddly my great grandparents weren’t. Is it the crap in our food now? Is it the go go grab & go of our daily life? I’m sure there are many contributing factors. I can pretty much only speak for my own eating habits. I can say this though about my younger sister and that is she is almost completely unaware of what she eats. She lived with me for a short while a couple years ago and she always talked about how she didn’t eat any more than any other person. Then she would have 3 doughnuts and a coke. I love my sister, don’t get me wrong, but I think one of the biggest problems is that people aren’t aware of what they eat. This is why they tell you to log the food down that you eat in a journal. I think most people would be shocked. You hear it all the time “Everything in moderation” & “Balance”.
I’m not exactly worthy of calling my daily meals balanced, but I can say I am acutely aware of everything I eat and take full responsibility for it! I started becoming aware of weight and eating at a very young age. I can remember all the way back to summer camp when I was 8 and I didn’t want to take my shirt off at the pool because I thought I was fat. This stigma went on for many years. I remember my Mom saying time and time again “You don’t want to grow up to be fat like Mom and Dad do you?”. Yes Mom, it’s my dream to be fat just like you and dad. Of course not! Hello!?! Who wants to be fat?
Growing up I was teased for the junk in my trunk. Even my parents called me bubble butt. Although when I grew to be an adult I fully embraced my bubble butt and realized it was an asset (pun intended). I remember when I was in little league, yes I played baseball and was pretty damned good thank you! Back to back home runs & a triple in one game to lead my team to division champs! Anyhow, when I was in little league I can remember this kid looking at my legs in my tight white baseball pants and I said “what are you looking at?”. He said “you have fat legs”. I think my response was “yeah well you’re gay”. I think he was actually and wasn’t that the pot calling the kettle Ryan Black. I can remember back to 1st or 2nd grade when little Mark Emmons saw my Mom after she dropped me off and said “your Mom is fat!”. I never saw her that way and I went home that day and cried to my mom about what he said. It really disturbed me. Besides my Mom wasn’t obese, she just had a lot of junk in the trunk.
In High School it got worse. I was always dieting one day and eating a Hostess Cherry Pie the next day. My Grandmother always shopped on HSN and was a sucker for gadgets and deals. One time she bought Richard Simmons Deal A Meal. It was this little pocket-book folder with cards on one side and slots on the other.
Each card had a food group on it and every time you ate something on that card you moved it over to the slots. When your cards were gone you couldn’t eat anymore. She used it for a week and then I took it. It actually taught me a lot about eating. My cards were usually folded by lunch. EEK! Well…schools have horrible menu items and snack bars. It’s too easy to eat like shit in High School. Endless amounts of sugar and fat.
The straw that drank its last milk shake was when I was in college in a dance class and my ballet teacher Casey Colgan said I needed to lose ten pounds. We wore tights in class which was completely mortifying to me to begin with. They showed everything! I even had cellulite! That was humiliating. A boy with cellulite? I’d ask God “Why God? Why me? Why cellulite?”. Yeah I was pretty dramatic. A couple months later I left school and came home. When I got home I got my first gym membership at 18. That was it! No one anymore is going to comment on my fat, my ass, my legs or anything else negatively related to my body. I’m taking control!! Kind of. At least control of me.
Well, I was never really that consistent at it, but it was a start. I started learning about running and weight lifting and cardio and heart rates and body fat ratios. I wouldn’t say I became obsessed, but I definitely started to notice a difference and I liked that. I’ve continued over the years going back and forth to gyms. In the last year I’ve been my most successful. 2 years ago I was at the fattest I’ve ever been. I know exactly how it happened. I was depressed. I was unmotivated. I felt empty. Food ah my lovely friend. It’s always there for you isn’t it? I know it’s always there for you because there’s a 300 pound homeless man that stands outside of 7 11 all the time asking for food or money. I usually opt to give him money. Back to my weight gain. I am a control freak and a perfectionist and I’m cast as type A. So this can go one way (or weigh) or the other. When my career is down, my weight is up. When my career is up, my weight is down. When my love life is down, my weight is up. When my love life is up, my weight is down. Some of these things you’d think would be the opposite. As a control freak why can’t I control it all. I think because I give up control to try to control the other. Why can’t they coexist? They can. We just try to fill voids in our life. Things get boring, monotonous, redundant, repetitive or any other adjective you’d like to choose as an excuse. I had to choose to control it all. I’m not happy being over weight. I’m not even that happy eating that horrible food, well that might be a lie. I love a big mac, a hostess cherry pie, pizza blah blah blah, but I realized I could have my cupcake and eat it too. I had to get control of my life and my weight again. For the clothes buying experience alone! There’s nothing more frustrating than not being able to fit into anything because your eyes still see your old waist size. I’d eyeball jeans and try them on only to be shocked that they didn’t fit! I didn’t understand. I didn’t look that much fatter to me. I have the fortune or misfortune of gaining weight fairly equally on my whole body with a special nod to my legs and ass. It takes me a while to notice my weight gain. This is why it became imperative for me to measure my own body. Sounds like a pain, but especially when you’re working out it’s important. Muscle does weigh more than fat and the scale does nothing to show you that. So each week I would log my measurements head to toe. Contrary to popular belief my head never increased in size. This was excited to me. Seeing the progress or lack thereof was both motivating and fun. I don’t always like to workout but I started to find things that I love. I love to hike our local canyon called Runyon. I love to see the difference in measurements. I love the pina colada protein smoothie at the end of my workout (wish it had rum in it though). I love the music on my ipod. I shudder to say I love my orgasm more tee hee. I love getting out of my home office and seeing the world. I love a good stretch at the end of working out…so peaceful and tranquil.
You have to find the joy. It’s work like everything else, but it’s all in how you set your mind. I’m not saying I don’t fall off or have a day where I don’t want to, but you have to find the joy in it. And everything for that matter. It’s too easy to bring the negative into everything and I’m as guilty as anybody if not more so of that. There are very few things we have total control of in our life. We can’t control that annoying person on their phone in the car in front of us. We can’t control our friends who make the wrong choices. We can’t control the person who has 20 items in the 15 items or less line. We can’t control the people who don’t pick up their dog shit. We can’t control the idiot at my gym who clearly doesn’t believe in bathing. I could go on for hours BUT we can control our own bodies. Isn’t that empowering to think? We spend so much time trying to control so many things around us while paying little attention to the one thing you can control the most and that’s you! You are the most important person in your life. Without you, you can’t make a difference in the world. Without you, you can’t make the company you work for better. Without you, your kids or your dog for that matter wouldn’t have a better life. It all starts with you. It’s like when they tell you on an airplane if we’re going down put your mask on first then put a mask on your child. That always sounded odd to me because your child should always be first, but your child is history if you pass out from lack of oxygen. So you have to take control of your own air first so that your child has someone to rely on. That bachelor wall street guy sitting next to you’s not gonna be thinkin’ of your kid while he’s cryin’ for mama.
So enough of the Oprah hour and back to comfort food. I guiltlessly present to you last nights comfort food. I had a couple t-bones in the freezer and really wanted a meat & potatoes meal. I made Au Gratin Potatoes and OH MAH GAW. All in moderation right? That’s why both Dana & I paused American Idol to get seconds. I’ll give you the recipe here for both that & my candied carrots I call Kettle Carrots. Then I will go work out for 2 hours.
OHHH Gratin Potatoes
serves 8 (or 4 in my family)
5 med. white potatoes
1 white onion
6 pieces bacon
1 1/2 c. milk
1/4 cup cream
1 1/2 c. extra sharp cheddar cheese grated
1/4 c. sour cream
3 tbl. flour
2 tbl. butter
1/2 tsp. Paprika
Preheat oven to 400F
First I slice the onions & potatoes with a mandolin. I bought my first mandolin a couple months ago and I LOVE it. I don’t know how I lived so long with out one. It’s OXO brand and it looks like this
So either slice both potatoes and onion thin or on the mandolin I do 1/16th cut. You may like them thicker depends on your taste. You’re in control! See?!
Put a pot of boiling salted & oiled water on the stove for potatoes. In the meantime fry the bacon to a chrisp. Remove to paper towel. Reserve 2 tbl. of bacon grease and put into a medium sauce pan. Over medium heat put the butter into the saucepan and melt with bacon grease. Slowly whisk flour in to make a roux/thickener. Immediately whisk in milk and cream bring to a simmer and turn off heat. Mix your cheese into this and then your sour cream. Add paprika, salt & pepper to taste. If you think it’s too thick add a little milk and heat on low for a minute or two. Chop two tbl. parsley and crumble bacon. In your boiling water add the potatoes & onions carefully. Boil only for 2 minutes and completely drain being careful not to break the potatoes.
In a gratin or casserole dish sprayed with cooking spray layer potatoes, bacon, & sauce in that order twice. Then top with parsley & more paprika and pepper if you like. Bake at 400 for about 35 minutes until golden and bubbly on top. I like it a little more done so I bake for about 40-45 mins.
1/2 pound carrots (i get the already peeled & prepared kind)
1 tbl butter or margarine
1 tbl. brown sugar
pinch of salt
Boil the carrots in a medium sauce pan for about 10 minutes & drain. In the same pan melt butter, then add salt & sugar. Blend until combined completely about 1 minute or less. Add carrots, toss & swirl around in pan. Serve.