The food photography epidemic

We have an epidemic on our hands: food photography. Guilty…

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Pathology: An admiration for and love of food, manifesting itself with compulsive photo-taking that often supersedes the eating of the food, and overshadows the company in which the food is eaten. Hang on honey, I just want to post this to Instagram.

Signs and Symptoms: Photographing your food before eating, ordering food that will photograph well, purposely arranging and rearranging food on your plate to result in a more photogenic meal, >;35% of your cell phone or Instagram photos feature food or beverage.

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Diagnosis: An individual presenting with one or more of the aforementioned symptoms.

Treatment: Take photos in moderation, and attempt to ensure that the photo shoot does not interfere with conversation and overall social etiquette. Put down the camera/phone, pick up the fork. Be in the moment.

Before I offend or alienate any of my readers, let me say that most of my photos are of food or beverage; almost all of which are posted to Instagram. I see nothing wrong here. πŸ™‚

Let me clarify: I think it’s fantastic that we are taking time to pause and capture a meal that took time, energy, money to create. If we (I) took more pauses to savor and enjoy, we (I) might focus more on satisfaction from the art, and not on eating till we (I) can’t possibly eat anymore.

Food is art. This is not a new concept. Some of the most famous paintings feature food and drink. It’s the motive behind the photo that separates art from “look at me and what I’m eating right now!! I’m currently rudely ignoring my date, but doesn’t this pasta look great with the Nashville filter?!?”

Jim Gaffigan does a pretty good job summing it up here:

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And the timeless Willy Wonka meme:

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And this guy:

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What am I getting at here… We are constantly on our phones. Texting, Facebook, Instagram… trying to see what interesting things other people are doing. Guess what: you are probably pretty interesting, too. I know I am. πŸ˜‰ Also, meal time is break time. You just spent time preparing a meal — enjoy it. You saved your money, picked out a restaurant, and selected the one thing you want — enjoy it. Don’t let another minute separate you from this. And if you have to take the picture, please turn off the flash, so as not to ruin the marriage proposal that is currently taking place at the next table.

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New Year’s resolutions

Happy New Year!

I hope you all are having a very happy holiday season. I have to admit that I’ve been slacking. And by slacking, I mean snacking.

Why is it that “the holidays” (which is pretty much a blanket term that covers any and all days between Halloween and Valentine’s Day, with a few breaks in between Memorial Day, the 4th of July, and Labor Day) is code for “overindulge in high calorie drinks and horribly delicious food“?

Each new year, we give ourselves a clean slate, and vow that we will make some improvements for the coming year. I’m not alone in this: for the past several years, my weight has been on my mind, but I have been unsuccessful with this resolution until this year. I’ve been hard on myself for being a broken record with wanting to lose weight. This time, I didn’t wait for January 1st to promise to get healthy. Still, after a few weeks of celebrating and not really tracking my points, I am welcoming the new year as a catalyst to help me in this final push toward the goal.

1. Rid the house of all things junk food.
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The celebrations are pretty much finally over. Time to get rid of the junk food. We can’t let it go to waste… there is really no diet-friendly solution here. I will be rationing my Christmas candy until it’s gone. I mean seriously, when your loving husband bedazzles your name in glitter onto a Christmas stocking and fills it with candy, you eat it. It’s in the marriage vows.

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2. Get more exercise.
I am a nurse on a neurology unit. It’s an understatement to say that I am active and on my feet for the majority of my work day. However, I’ve used this to justify not exercising as much as I should. On an average day, a nurse walks 3-7 miles on the unit, and lifts an average of 1800 pounds. Not joking. But… this is my “baseline,” and I need to do more outside of work. So I’m going to. πŸ™‚

3. Stay out of the break room!
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Every other week, I work 7 10-hour shifts in a row (which usually ends up being about a 75+ hour week). By day 6 or 7, you can bet that there is a buffet in the break room. We’ve earned it. We’ve been running all day. 4 cookies, taco dip, and 9 Hershey’s kisses later, I’ve already consumed my daily allowance of points. Better to pack some fruit and stay away. Out of sight, out of mind, right?!

4.Blog more.
When I blog, I am accountable. I eat well. I lose weight. I haven’t blogged in almost a month. I have pretty much stayed the exact same weight since Thanksgiving… New year, new momentum.

Who wants to join me this year? Since I started this blog back in August, a few people I know have committed to healthy eating and weight loss. There really is something to be said about strength in numbers. Thank you, numbers, for helping me. πŸ™‚

Happy new year!
Lesleigh

what’s the deal with food allergies?!

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In my last blog, I talked about the science of eating. Some of us are just pre-programmed to have it a little harder when it comes to saying “no” to food. This is a big thing that stands in the way of a successful diet or a lifelong commitment to healthy eating. Still, it’s not impossible to put down the apple fritter and opt for an apple instead.

But what about those of us with food allergies? The beauty of Weight Watchers is that fruit and vegetables are zero points. Unlimited. Amazing. The bad news: I have a lengthy, almost comical list of food allergies. Let’s take a peek, shall we?

Apples
Carrots
Celery
Cherries
Nectarines
Peaches
Peanuts
Pears
Plums
The list goes on… and on.

“What? You can’t eat apples?!?” — said about 34,921 people, to date. Actually, I can eat some of these, just in different forms or stages of preparation. For example, I can have:

Apple cobbler
Apple juice
Appletini
Apple pie
Apple sauce
Carrot cake
Cherry cobbler
Cherry pie
Peanut butter cookies
You see where I’m going with this.

Dieting is hard when you’re allergic to a lot of the freebies. None of those foods will send me to the emergency room, but they will lead to any combination of itching, hives, post-nasal drip, and other very attractive side effects.

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In TV and movies, allergies seem to go hand-in-hand with being a complete braniac/nerd. The smarter you are, the more you itch/sneeze.

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At this rate, I should have graduated college at age 13. Actually, I was pretty intelligent from an early age (or, so my mom says). I could identify colors and shapes before I could speak, and I could read some words by about age 2. I guess when I was in first grade, one my teachers paid me a compliment about a grade or an assignment, and I replied “My parents thought I was going to be a genius, but they were wrong.” So, I accumulated the allergies and the endless amount of self-deprecating jokes in my arsenal, without the full scholarship to Harvard or Yale. However,Β I did go to Marian University in Fond du Lac, WI, which was lovely.Β 

Here’s my point: No matter how many obstacles or genetically pre-determined factors that stand between you and that pair of skinny jeans, just work to identify them early, and don’t let them define you. Don’t be afraid to make fun of yourself a little. Also, don’t be afraid to try new things. Sticking to the same routine meal plan can get boring, and can lead to “I’m tired of salad, I’m having fries. Supersized.” Broaden your menu. Grab the Epi-Pen and Benadryl, and get out there and start experimenting with some new foods.

Cheers!

Lesleigh

comfort food

The holiday season is upon us! I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. I didn’t go crazy on Thanksgiving, but I didn’t count my points. I ate potatoes. I had champagne. I ate dessert. It’s what the Pilgrims would have wanted.

Our culture is largely centered around celebrating with food. The majority of our culture is also overweight or obese. One of my favorite comedians, Jim Gaffigan, does a very funny (and very accurate) bit about the holiday tradition of overeating. A good way to sum it up is “well, I don’t normally eat a burger, a brat, and a steak, but… it is the Fourth of July… it’s what the founding fathers would want.”

There’s a celebratory component to food. When you do a good job at work, your boss rewards the team with a pizza party or baked goods. Co-workers bring donuts in on the weekend. (I pretty much stay away from the break room. No good can come from it.) The holidays go hand-in-hand with feasts.Β It’s not a birthday without cake. Food = happiness. This is an idea that’s been ever present for most of us from a very early age.

There is an undeniable emotional component to eating. Eating makes us feel good. This happens on a chemical level: serotonin is a chemical in the brain that is released to alleviate physical and emotional pain. An imbalance or malfunction of the release of serotonin is a major cause of depression. When we eat refined sugars (CARBS!), our bodies manufacture and release serotonin. Quite literally, eating makes us happy.

We want to be happy. Eating makes us happy. Then we eat some more, and overeating makes us fat. And unhappy. So we eat more to become happy. And so on…

Once each month or so, the ladies have it worse than the men. We become emotionally-charged garbage disposals whose fuel is a combination of chocolate, fried food, and tears. Scary times.

This is something that I admittedly struggle with. This diet project has been successful so far, but the last few weeks have been rough. Stress at work. Holidays. Monthly cravings. I’m teetering around the same 2-3 pound window that will propel me into the home stretch, but I haven’t really been able to get past it. At this point in many past dieting attempts, I would go into “I’ve earned it” mode, or “this isn’t working, there is no point in doing this anymore” mode. Probably with some sort of carb a la mode. Ha ha…

I’ve been doing really well. I’ve also indulged a few times, and it’s slowed me down. Still, I’m discovering new things about myself and my complex relationship with food. I feel great to have finally named the blog, and I’m looking forward to a few months from now when I can post the before and after photos. The end is definitely in sight — I just have to keep it up. I’m getting back on track… tomorrow. Tonight, I am enjoying a glass of red wine. A large glass. πŸ˜‰

the Freewheeling Foodographer

I’m really excited about this post.

A few weeks ago, I put a call out to my friends and readers in hopes that you’d help me name the blog. There were a lot of great names. I really latched on to a few, only to discover that they already existed. I’m happy to say that I’ve decided on a name: the Freewheeling Foodographer.

I put this name together with the help and inspiration of two people: Jade Sylvan and Tony Memmel. Jade’s submission was “Home-Cooked Wheels,” which inspired the wheel element. Tony suggested “Foodographic Memory” (which I loved!), and I took the Foodographer element from that.

This name really sums it all up. Freewheeling: wheels, driving, travel… but the real definition has to do with being carefree. Once the official diet is over, I hope to switch gears and be more carefree, or freewheelin’, when it comes to eating. But not carefree enough to drop the G at the end of freewheeling.

Foodographer. This combines everything: food, photography, cartography, geography… Anything that has to do with exploring and documenting new territory, whether it be on the road, or in the kitchen.

I’m very excited for Jade and Tony to guest blog in the future. Jade is a multi-talented author/poet/singer-songwriter based out of Cambridge, MA. Tony is my husband, and a very talented singer-songwriter. He is also my official taste-tester and road trip buddy. A priceless combination.

Thanks so much for reading!

Cheers,
Lesleigh

P.S…. 29 pounds. πŸ™‚

Election day: drown your sorrows, or celebrate

I have to say, I received a lot of good input for the blog-naming endeavor. Some were really great. Unfortunately, Eat Pray Love is already a book. And a movie.

I’m very close to naming the blog. A few combinations of suggestions have been awesome, but like Eat Pray Love, they already exist. Back to the drawing board.

Today is the big election, so I feel that almost anything I post on here will be lost in the shuffle. Donkeys and elephants aside, I’m still here writing about what’s for dinner. Probably some homemade mushroom soup.

Just a bit of exciting news: Not only am I down 25 pounds, but I am back in familiar territory. I’ve had to put away some clothes that are now “too big,” a phrase that I haven’t used in quite some time. I’ve accomplished a mini milestone: that old pair of jeans. The jeans that required every ounce of strength to zip, admit that “just because it zips, doesn’t mean it fits,” and then ultimately decide to put them away because “I’ll wear these again eventually.” Three years later, eventually is now. πŸ™‚

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Thanks for reading. All food and frivolity aside, please vote today. We all feel small and might wonder how our one vote could make a difference. We question if anything will ever really change, even if our candidate is elected. No matter what, whether we re-elect our current president, or choose a new one, today is an important day. Make an informed choice, go vote, and then go drown your sorrows or go celebrate with some good food and drink.

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I need a name!

I need your help. My blog remains nameless, and it’s time for a christening.

When I first started this blog, it was primarily to make me accountable during this dieting project. Like I said in my very first post, I started Weight Watchers online. Since I’m not attending the meetings, I wanted something to keep me on track and make me have to report to someone with my progress, other than myself and my husband. “Hey Tony, guess what! I lost another 0.2 pounds!” would start to wear on a less patient man.

Once I get to my goal weight, my main focus won’t be weight loss. I’d like to transition it to a food/travel blog eventually. I think that’s why I struggled to name this blog in the first place — the central theme will remain, but the focus will change. Several Google searches for some magic, intuitive blog-naming wizard have left me nameless, still.

So, who wants to name the blog?? POSSIBLY YOU!

If you’ve been reading since day one, you get the idea. If you’re brand new to the blog, here are some components to keep in mind.

1. Themes: food, weight loss, healthy eating, travel, Wisconsin/Midwest culture. I plan on keeping it a food-based blog, even when the weight loss is done. A big part of my “voice” is my Wisconsin upbringing, so bonus points for finding a subtle way to include that.

2. I love to cook. More recipes coming in the future, although it won’t strictly be a cooking blog.

3. I also travel a lot, and love to try local foods and brews, so it doesn’t have to be strictly Wisconsin-themed.

4. Photos. Food is fuel, but it is also art. More photos coming, too.

NOW… the person who comes up with the most creative, short and sweet, straightforward-yet-subtle brand name for the blog gets to write a guest blog! The guest blogger can write about anything (hopefully food/travel/etc related). I have a lot of creative friends, and I’m excited to see what you come up with. Most of all, I’m excited to have a brand for this blog that reflects who I am and what I like.

You can submit as a comment on this blog, or email me: lesleighmemmel@yahoo.com

Thank you so much. Cheers!

Lesleigh

milestone #2: 20 pounds down

The big weigh-in day, after being on the road and off the scale, was a bit delayed. My Sunday flight home was cancelled due to severe weather in the Midwest. Stranded in Sioux Falls and at the mercy of bar food, I knew that it would be another 2 days before the much-anticipated weigh-in.

Today, I stepped on the scale, and had to re-check it 3 times, unsure if the batteries had been playing a cruel joke on me. I managed to not gain, not plateau, but lose 3.2 pounds on the road. I’ve met my second milestone: 20 pounds.

How did I do this?!? It’s not a secret. I really prioritized my days as best as I could.

Subway. Lots of Subway — hold the cheese, mayo, oil, etc. Bread, meat, veggies, mustard. Mmmm.

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Salad. Lots of side salads instead of fries (I’ve mentioned once or twice that I love potatoes).

Sitting. Lots of car time. Long drives, very little time to do anything but get to the gig, set up, eat, play, mingle, tear down, drive, sleep, repeat. I am reminded of this exercise show that used to be on TV when I was little: “Sit and be Fit.” Great title.

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The Miller Lite vs. Craft beer battle. What a battle it was. I did indulge a few times. It is Oktoberfest season, after all. And when you end up at a karaoke bar and strangers buy a pitcher (or 2) of beer for you and your friends, you don’t want to be rude. Don’t worry, I was polite.

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Free food and drink! Burger joints. Pizza parlors. Wineries. Home-cooked feasts. We were so fortunate to be so well taken care of by our friends, families, and venue owners. It’s hard to plan your day when you don’t know what’s for dinner. Still, it can be done.

Tracking. I tracked everything. Even the days that I thought “I am way over, I’m not going to count my points today,” I did. It really wasn’t as bad as I thought.

I didn’t have a whole lot of time to blog while I was gone. Let me just recap and say that I tried a lot of food. Sometimes it was really hard to say no to make room for what I wanted. Sometimes it was no problem at all. I really and truly feel that if I can do this, anyone can. Once I got over the hump and started seeing results, getting out of the woods (past the 10-pound mark for me), I really started to feel like I’m going to do it this time.

Thanks so much for reading, guys. I really appreciate it! πŸ™‚

Cheers,
Lesleigh

Oktoberfest

Breaking news: dieting while traveling is hard. Dieting while traveling during Oktoberfest season is just plain rough.

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This is the best time of year, if you’re a beer-lover like myself. Coffee drinkers know that it’s the fall season when cafes start selling Pumpkin Spice lattes. Beer connoisseurs know that autumn is imminent when they see the Oktoberfest hit the shelves.

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When I was going to school up in Oshkosh, we had a grocery store with a liquor department that was – quite literally – the size of a Walgreens. Aisles and aisles of wine, not only separated by “red” and “white,” but by grape and by country. Amazing. Every kind of liquor from the boku bucks top shelf stuff, to the $8 – 1.75L of Aristocrat vodka. Pure class.

A few times during the fall, I’d find myself drawn to the wall of beer: 6 bottles for $6. Twist my arm. I’d pick out 6 different Oktoberfest beers and enjoy them over the next few days. A few of my favorites: Sam Adams (Boston, MA), Leinenkugel’s (Chippewa Falls, WI), and Sprecher (Glendale, WI).

So far, we have been to and stayed in Wichita, Dallas, Texarkana, Tulsa, and Amarillo. Most things are either deep-fried, barbecued, or slathered in the restaurant’s “world famous homemade sauce.” Sometimes all three. I’ve been skipping the homemade sauce (or getting it on the side), and doing my best to estimate portions. Licking the plate clean is not advised on the Weight Watchers plan.

There are lots of local brews on tap, with different regional takes on the autumn seasonal beer. As traveling musicians, a part of our payment for performing is food and drink. I haven’t had my first Oktoberfest yet — a pint averages 5-8 points (or a 6 inch Subway sub…). A girl’s gotta eat.

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I have decided that today is the day. The Packers are playing. We have a show tonight at a place called the Dirty Bourbon Western Dance Hall & Saloon. I’m going to order my first Oktoberfest of the year, and officially kick start the fall season. Better late than never. πŸ˜‰

Pictured: New Belgium Hoptoberfest

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On the road: first stop, Kansas!

6:07am — I left the house this morning, protein bar in one hand, luggage in the other. The sun is coming up later and later these days, which makes it easier to sleep in. Not today. πŸ™‚

I got to the airport by 6:30am (thanks, mom and dad!), and boarded a flight to Kansas City to meet up with Tony for 3 weeks out west.

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I weighed in before I left the house, and I’m happy to say that I have lost 17 pounds so far. I’m working hard at it, but I’m starting to feel really optimistic that I will actually do it this time. A handful of people have started to notice. There are few sweeter words than, “Have you lost weight?” Thank you all. πŸ™‚

I’m curbside, waiting for Tony to pick me up. It’s a gorgeous day. Day one of the tour, and day one of the diet on tour. So far, so good. We are playing at a place in Wichita, KS tonight called The Pumphouse. Part of the deal is a free meal. Thank God for online menus. I’m planning my day in the back corner of my mind, but mostly, I am just so excited to see Tony and to see a whole new part of the country.

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Now the challenge will be to have an awesome time, maintain the self-control and determination I’ve kept for the past 7 weeks, but not erase all the progress I’ve made.

My posts will probably be shorter. More focused on food, travel, and one of my favorite things: regional food. Photos to come. πŸ™‚ Until then, thank you so much to everyone who’s been reading and encouraging me — it means so much!

Cheers!

Lesleigh