Cruise Control

So one of the things that cruises are notorious for —

Wait, did I ever mention that The Trip was a cruise? I can’t recall and I’m too damn lazy to go look it up. In case this is new news, and just to get this down on the record: The Trip was a cruise.

Display on the first cruise day, in the Windjammer (the buffet restaurant)So anyhow, one of the things that cruises are notorious for is the quantity and quality of the food you’re served. Actually, I’m not enough of a hard-cross cruise traveler to know whether all cruises are known for having good food, or if it’s more like the same rep an all-you-can-eat Vegas buffet has: food that’s notable  more for the available amount than for the flavor profile. (Even if most cruise ships have food that’s more adequate than exceptional, the ship we were on is on this list of the “best cruise ships for foodies,” so trust me when I say that not only was there tons of food available, it was tasty, tasty stuff.)

Now, there’s a whole lot of rhetoric out there about how it’s inevitable to gain weight on a cruise, with various fat-panic/fat-shaming suggestions on how to approach that “problem.” For example:

  1. controlling your on-ship behavior to minimize weight gain
  2. doing a little prophylactic weight loss ahead of time to build your “buffer zone”
  3. going on x, y, or z post-vacation diet plan
  4. deliberately infecting yourself with a parasite or the norovirus in order to stay skinny

(Okay, maybe I made that last one up. And, for once, no, I won’t be providing links to sources. I don’t feel like actively participating in Diest Culture, and you can find this kind of shit so easily with the simplest of google searches.)

It was an interesting comparison across the years, thinking back to the first-ever cruise Mr. Mezzo and I took back in 2007, right when I was at the verge of learning about fat acceptance and adopting that perspective for myself and my worldview. That first cruise also had lots of good food. I indulged, and I know I gained weight — though at this distance, I can’t recall what the number was. And I felt so ashamed for all of it. For my lack of dietary discipline, for my laziness in not becoming a cruise-ship gym-rat, and then for my inability to diet and lose the weight after I got back on land.

martinisThis time around, I decided adamantly against imbibing a guilt-and-shame chaser with any of the meals, martinis, or desserts I had while vacationing. I have no idea if my food was any less rich or sugar-laden this time around as in ’07. (I’d guess not much appreciable difference, then and now.) But I do know I’m feeling lots better than I did 7 years ago — if for no other reason than the fact that I’m not mired deep in a self-shaming and self-punishment cycle. ‘Cos honestly, when I let those voices loose in my head, it’s never to my benefit. Spiritually, emotionally, or physically.

Having said that, I am feeling a bit logy after-the-fact. I’m guessing, based on my HCG experience from the spring, that I’m mostly feeling the after-effects of the dramatic uptick in added sugar during those two weeks (read: desserts, martinis and Belgian chocolate). And I’m kind of fascinated by the way, as far as I can tell, that my spring detox journey helped me more attuned to my body so I could notice this change, but my history of fat acceptance work and my ongoing growth around overall self-acceptance has in a place where I’m not upset or blaming myself about it.

belgian-chocolateInstead, I’m just quietly moving back to some of the cooking routines and rituals I used during the spring, adopting something that’s closer to “clean eating” than I was doing recently. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not on some extreme ascetic kick. Beyond my own natural sense of fullness, I am setting zero limits on the quantity of food I’m eating.  I’m even having a little taste of “added sugar” each night after dinner (I say again: Belgian chocolate. You don’t think we were coming home without a small stash of that to enjoy, did you?)

I’m just trying to listen to my body. And if my body is craving greens and chicken rather than my cruise staples of pasta and red meat, I’ma good with that.

Plus a little of that Belgian chocolate. Yummy and absolutely guilt-free.


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Fruit buffet:







Cersei screams internally

Dueling Detoxes

I continue to make my way through the final phase of the HCG protocol and its food restrictions (1 week down, 2 to go).

I am also at the midway point of a 5-day process (Tuesday through Saturday) for a liver/gall bladder flush. And, as I mentioned in passing a few days ago, that process comes with its own list of food restrictions.

Where it gets a little interesting is when you compare the two lists.

For HCG (this final phase): Foods to prioritize: lean animal protein, eggs, nuts, dairy, fruit, and veggies. Foods emphatically to avoid: grains, legumes, carbohydrates.

For the liver/gall bladder flush: Foods to prioritize: grain, legumes, nuts, fruits and veggies. Foods emphatically to avoid: any animal product (meat, dairy, eggs).

The attentive reader will notice that, with the exception of nuts, there’s no real shared protein source between these two mirror-image exclusion lists.

So what’s a gal to do?

Cersei screams internally

Well, first off, this gal is going to have a quietly self-contained freakout about it all.

I mean, the inner opera was pretty much Wagnerian in its epicness. The teenage frustration about having just crossed the finish line with my shots, having just “earned back” the chance to have full eggs and dairy and real salad dressing only to have to “give all that freedom back.” The identity who so strongly wants to do things properly, with care and attention, who feels completely undone by a structure where the self-contradictions ensure that one set of guidance is going to be disregarded and disrespected. It’s a cast of thousands in my brain, sometimes…

Okay, most of the time.


This is the part of the story where it’s good to have coaches and supports for one’s detoxing movements. Which, luckily enough, I do.

Someone at my center has actually done this gall bladder flush in the midst of her own HCG cycle, so I was able to get the immediate reassurance that yes, indeed, it is possible to do both of these things together and do them “right.”

My coaches also helped me get a clearer mental context around things. The gall bladder eating suggestions are designed for people who have been eating the customary fat/oil/salt/sugar laden stuff. So, as a quick way to lessen the fat and oils you’re taking in (which is necessary for the flush to work), it makes sense to call that 5-day halt to eating animal products. For someone like me, who hasn’t actually HAD any fat or oil for the last couple months, I’m starting in a different place.

So my approach for these few days has been simply to revert to the eating guidelines I was using during the shots: lean protein, egg whites, produce — and a few cashews, just for variety’s sake.

I’m grateful to have found a solution. But I am also really looking forward to a time where I’m not wasting so much brain space thinking about the food I’m eating (or not eating). I don’t want to be asleep to how I (don’t) take care of my body, but I don’t want to be obsessed like this, either.

Not quite sure when and how I’ll pull that next transition off, but I had best to find myself a way. Because I am getting truly bored with myself for all this obsessive food talk. And if I can hardly stand listening to myself, I can only imagine how tiresome this is to my near & dear.


Tonight’s soundtrack: Goldfrapp, Supernature


Plate of hummus with veggies and pita chips

Transitional Thoughts

So the shots are done, the super-low-calorie transition days are behind me, and I’m now officially into the next (final?) phase of the HCG experience.

A few vignettes, mostly food-related:


Plate of hummus with veggies and pita chipsI had understood that sugars, grains, breads, and starchy veggies (corn, carrot, potatoes) were all still forbidden during this phase. What I didn’t wake up to until yesterday was that things like beans, lentils, and chickpeas are also verboten. So my fantasies of enjoying celery sticks with hummus or making a batch of my three-bean chili are on hold for another few weeks.


I’m trying to get a bit more understanding of the body sensations around hunger and satiation. At this stage of the protocol, there’s no limits on the amount of food you can have — just a strong recommendation to be conscious of eating only till you’re full, rather than going into any addictive eating patterns.

Being aware of actual hunger and stopping points is something I haven’t always (often?) been paying attention to in the last couple years, so it’s kind of a new sensation.


Now that I don’t have to monitor my portions so obsessively, Mr. Mezzo and I can go back to doing some cooking together. Which is a nice return to form.

We’re probably going to use my HCG cookbook for a good stretch of these weeks. The flavors are good, we can figure out how to adjust the portions to make things with a full package of chicken or beef, and that way we’ll know that I’m avoiding sugars and starches like I’m supposed to.


I’ll be doing a gall bladder/liver cleanse late next week into the weekend. The first step of that? Cutting all oils and fats out of your diet for a few days.  Just a few days after I was allowed to bring them back into my diet after a six-week break.

Yeah, there’s some flavor of irony to that.


The first use of Chapstick was every bit as blissful as I had hoped it would be.


I am astonished to see the sheer quantity of foods that have added sugar in them. It took me a LONG time reading labels at Whole Foods to find mustard, spaghetti sauce, salad dressing and almond butter that don’t have added sugars and are thus permissible to me right now.

I still haven’t found any ketchup or flavored yogurt that would work.

Even though I haven’t been strongly focused on this detox movement as a way to “create healthier eating habits” for myself, I had been quietly toying in the back of my mind with the notion of making this experience the starting point for a longer-term reduction in the quantity of added sugar in my life.

On the one hand, my recent label-reading has me thinking that could be a really important step, considering all the hidden ways sugar’s been pushed into the cultural system. On the other hand, there’s a whiny child part of me that’s feeling annoyed with how hard it’s going to be if I do keep moving towards sugar reduction, because of all the ways it’s hidden in the food supply.


I have not succumbed to old addictions by coating myself with cheese sauce. Yet.

But I am so making some form of cheese omelette for myself this weekend.

I also have fantasies of getting a Dunkin’ Donuts iced coffee — no flavor, no sweetener, just ice coffee and cream. If I add my own Stevia drops, I think that might just be within my new set of restrictions.


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This Is Not Munchkin Food

I saw an ad years ago — I think it was for some burger-n-beer type food chain? Anyhow, the setup is like this: husband and wife have been waiting months to go to the hot new restaurant in town. (Cos you have to make reservations all that way in advance, don’t ‘cha know.)

Smoked Salmon-Cucumber Amuse Bouche
To be fair, this dish is actually an amuse bouche, not a miniaturized entree.

So they show up in their fancy clothes and the snooty haute cuisine waiter sets down plates in front of them containing something along the lines of one pea and an inch-square piece of salmon, artfully arranged.

Hubby and wife look at each other, abashed. “This is Munchkin food!” one of them declares, and then they go off to eat at whatever chain was really being advertised.

I’ve transitioned into the main phase of the HCG protocol, when I’m in that no-sugar, no-starch, no-fat diet I mentioned earlier. It’s also designed to be a very low calorie diet: though my doctor (thankfully!) has worked out a system where you track portion sizes of the allowable foods and don’t have to slide down the obsessive calorie-counting rabbit hole.


Sidebar: even though I wish there were more resources that talked about HCG through the detox lens rather than through the weight loss one,* here’s a trend I’ve noticed in the different ways doctors and HCG centers talk about why HCG works as a weight loss aid.

In my little bit of research out in the field, the centers/practitioners who just vaguely talk about HCG as some almost-magical cause of weight loss — those are the ones you may want to stay clear of.

To my perception, most of the more reputable practitioners explain it more in this way: Of course the extreme low-calorie diet causes the weight loss. The HCG helps that in two key ways, 1) by keeping you from losing your mind from hunger, and 2) by keeping the body feeding off of the energy in your fat cells, rather than going into starvation mode. (Hair falling out, lean muscle mass disappearing, etc.)

(End of sidebar.)


Before I decided to take this HCG journey, I talked to six different friends who’ve done HCG from a detoxing perspective. Every single one of them said that living within the portion (calorie) restrictions of the protocol would be a lot easier than I feared.

Obviously, I trusted them enough to choose this path for myself. But, knowing my own system, and my patterns and tendencies towards over-eating and comfort food, I still had a bit of a question mark as to the level of internal challenge I would feel around living and eating within the protocol’s restrictions.

Well, after two days of eating within this structure, all I have to say is: this is NOT Munchkin food.

As I’ve been working with my nutritional coaches on how to shop and cook in harmony with the protocol’s restrictions, I’ve learned about all kinds of options and variety that’s available within the structure. I mean: serious options. And there have literally been a few meals that, once we had them prepared and plated, inspired me to look at my coaches and exclaim, “This is HUGE!!”

I understand that I still have the enthusiasm of a newbie, and the tremendous benefit of being here with coaches to guide and support me. There may be moments a few weeks from now when my culinary creativity is flagging, or even just a few days from now when I’m feeling the stretch of trying to rewire eating and cooking habits that I’ve set in over the course of months (or years).

Still, even if I have some less-easeful meals on this protocol than the last two days have offered, I am well-relieved to know that this structure will not be flipping me into all my fears around scarcity, punishment and deprivation.

Much to be grateful for around that.

* Hence my re-entry into the blogosphere and JALC’s resurrection.


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