F is for Fast Food and Fine Dining

F is for Fast Food and Fine Dining.

As a single girl living alone that didn’t cook, I ate a lot of crap. Fast food was a staple for me because I didn’t like cooking and didn’t do it very well. I didn’t eat fast food every day but too often. On the nights I didn’t get fast food for dinner I would eat the pre-packaged dinners. Things like frozen pizza, frozen pot pies for example. I also made a lot of stuff out of a box. I liked those “Helpers” where you just cook the box. Mac n’ Cheese from a box. Lots and lots of processed foods!

I had my favorite fast food places. I loved the Dairy Queen Blizzards. I’d get several a week–and not the small ones either. My favorite flavors were Butterfingers or Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. I’ve talked ad nauseum about my addiction to Pizza Hut. Sometimes I’d get a pizza once a week.

I loved Taco Bell. Soft Taco Supreme baby! Taco Time was good too. When I lived in Portland Burgerville became a favorite. I didn’t eat meat all that often but if I did, it was the Burgerville Tillamook Bacon Cheeseburger with fries and an enormous seasonal milkshake (theirs are pretty fantastic):

Do we even have to speculate why I weighed over 250 pounds? The diet in combination with no exercise did a number on my body and my brain. When it became time to lose the weight I stopped eating fast food. Cold turkey! It was hard. I wanted pizza so badly but I resisted and the only “fast food” I ate was Subway. Or was it?

NOPE! I was still eating fast food–just in a different form and in lower calories. For three years I ate Lean Cuisines in order to lose weight and yes, I realize they aren’t healthy. But it did the trick. It was portion controlled, low in calories, and honestly didn’t taste that bad. It was also good because I hated cooking. Funny how things change, huh?

Then something happened. I met this guy:

Michael is a foodie. He taught me to become a foodie. He was all about eating real food. He nagged me to no end about the “crap” I was eating and how it was poison to my body (so true). The other thing he taught me was fine dining. Before, “fine dining” meant Red Robin, Azteca Mexican Restaurants and Chevy’s. Hmmm. Not quite.

Chez Machin

Michael exposed me to REAL restaurants. Not chains. Not fast food. Fine dining doesn’t have to mean expensive, either. One of the things I love most about the hobbies that we share is that we can go out to restaurants and try new things. I found that I loved trying new restaurants! It became a thing to do.


And we are lucky to live in Portland where there are some pretty amazing restaurants here. In three and a half years of being together we still have not tried all the fantastic restaurants here yet. We have some favorites and I have to admit, the highlight of going out is trying somewhere new.


The way Michael first exposed me to fine dining was in Vegas, honestly. I was there with a friend and he was there with a friend playing poker and the four of us went to Tao in the Venetian. It was one of the most amazing meals I’ve ever had. I wasn’t a huge sushi fan then yet so it was a completely new and foreign experience for me.

It opened my eyes to another world, though. There was something better out there. There was a reason to eat food! It tasted GOOD! It didn’t have to be crap ordered from a window. Or something frozen and reheated. A year later when Michael and I went back to Vegas together as a couple he surprised me yet again with the best meal of my entire life:


Craftsteak in the MGM Grand Casino, owned by the awesome Tom Collicchio from Top Chef (my favorite show)! I was floored by the surprise and completely blown away by the food. This is what food tastes like. Wow. It changed my palate. I suddenly became picky about eating crap. I wanted to eat REAL food. The kind of food that was healthier; whole foods, fresh foods. It was a huge, eye-opening experience for me.

This also lead me to want to make better food. I started practicing in the kitchen. With Michael’s help I learned how to cook. They aren’t all winners, of course, but most of the time the meals I make turn out pretty good. Michael is a patient teacher in the kitchen. He understands that good food takes patience and practice. I’m learning that. Now if I’m given the option between quickie meals from the freezer or something fresh and lovely, I’d rather spend the time cooking that instead.

It’s been a life changing journey.

QUESTION: What is your experience with fast food and fine dining?


A-Abstinence * B-Balance * C-Calories * D-Vitamin D * E-Emergency *

Eat Real Food

The hardest part about relearning how to eat right was portion sizes. I used to eat Lean Cuisines because the portions were measured for me and it was a finite amount of food–no risk of gorging myself. Every night for dinner I ate a Lean Cuisine/Smart One with a salad. I’d mix things up once in awhile and eat fresh fish with a salad or use my George Foreman Grill to cook chicken but for the most part I ate processed foods because I knew how many calories I was eating.

This worked for me. I learned portion sizes. I learned to STOP EATING when the food was gone. I lost the weight. After keeping the weight off for about a year I starting eating Real Food. I moved in with Michael and no longer ate the Lean Cuisines for dinner. Instead I ate them for lunch at work and then Michael and I ate Real Food for dinner together. We practiced trying new recipes and mastered homemade pizza.

As time went on and the more I read about processed foods, cancer, unhealthy eating, etc the less I wanted to eat food out of a box. This REALLY changed once I started training for big events (like the Portland Century) and I started growing my own vegetable garden.

When I saw the above photo about Real Food on a friend’s Facebook profile I loved it. It’s so simple. It’s how I strive to eat. Less processed food. And less drinking my calories. No sodas–even diet, sweetened iced tea, no juice.

My body just feels better now that I eat Real Food. And I found that I really like cooking.  Another reason I ate so much processed food was because I thought I hated cooking. I didn’t like the work that went into it, nothing ever tasted good. All I needed was some guidance from some good cooks (like my friend Star and Michael) and lots of practice.

So what is real food?

Have you noticed that food in grocery stores are no longer selling “food”? Now they sell buzzwords.

  • Enriched
  • Organic
  • Fortified
  • Super Food
  • Whole Grains
  • Light or Sugar Free
  • Vegan  (Michael recently bought some flip flops and they came with a sticker on it that said “Vegan.” Really? His sandals are Vegan??)
  • All Natural (yet the ingredients list is a mile long?)

Food in grocery stores are plastered with labels and buzz words. I see “organic” everywhere and wondered exactly how organic a box of crackers can be…To me, real food is something that comes from a garden or a farm. Our typical dinner now is a protein with a salad and a vegetable on the side. No more rice, processed foods, pasta, etc. Just natural things that don’t come from a box.

There were a lot of really great comments on the post Is Obesity Contagious? I loved that the topic sparked so much discussion.

Skinny Emmie said: “it just has to do with your environment. If I hang out with my social butterfly friends who hang out all hours of the night and drink cosmos like they’re going out of style, I’m probably going to engage in the same behavior.”

This was true for me, too. Certain friends I had were people who also liked eating at restaurants, or going dancing in clubs and drinking a lot. It’s easy to fall into that behavior when everyone around you is doing it.

Diane said: “Misery loves company and so do most of us who have a tendency to overeat. My friends and I would goad each other on. Not good.”

It’s sad, but true, and I’ve written about this in the past. Sometimes not everyone joins you on your journey to health. It’s important to stick to your guns and not let someone else’s food struggles bring you back down.

Sara’s comment really illustrated the topic: “I used to go out and party HARD every weekend. It was why my friends invited me out – they could count on me to be the party even if it was a party of 1. I was the entertainment. When I stopped drinking as much and wanted to be healthier (and actually remember the times with my friends) I noticed I didn’t get invited out much. And when I did I felt almost chastised for not getting wasted and being crazy. I also started to notice how NOT FUN those friends really were. “

Great comments guys!


QUESTION: How much processed food do you eat? How do you feel when you eat it?