Pandemic Snacking…I Ate the Whole Thing

The Covid-19 pandemic appears to be winding down, and I’m reflecting on how I survived the quarantine and isolation; pandemic snacking. First, how about a little background. I am tall at 6’7”, and when I was young I played sports and could eat whatever I wanted without gaining weight. Then I turned 50, my metabolism actually reversed to the point where I’m pretty sure it started making calories on its own. One day I looked in the mirror, and a 300-pound man looked back at me. “Hello. Who the hell are you?” I got winded getting out of a chair, and my back and knees were killing me. That same rude little voice in my head said, “Lose weight, Idiot, or you’re gonna die.” Lo and behold, I actually listened to someone for a change. Pandemic snacking

What does this have to do with the Covid pandemic, you ask? Well, at age 50 I went to weight-watchers, started counted calories/points, and lost 60 pounds over the next year-and-a-half. I maintained a sleek 240 for the next 17 years through a combination of daily exercise and counting points to limit food intake. I struggled from time to time, but I persisted, and my back and knees felt great. Then…wham! Here comes the pandemic! Pandemic snacking

My wife and I are in that age group fondly referred to as the elderly, as in over-65…as in the age group that Covid tried to wipe out completely. This seems a little like ‘age-i-cide’ to me (kind of like genocide for old people, but I don’t think it’s really a word). But, I digress. The point is, in order to survive this nasty little gift from Communist China, we had to quarantine for over a year. Pandemic snacking

There’s not a lot to do in quarantine, so we watched the news for a while. It became obvious that ALL of the talking bobbleheads on the 24/7 news cycles, and the government nincompoops that constantly fed them crap (not a great snack), were nuts. So, we stopped watching the news. My wife crocheted and knitted, and I wrote, escaped to the world of VR with my Oculus Quest, and worked out for two hours a day. We both binge watched murder mysteries (the British ones are especially good). Pandemic snacking

This was all well and good, but the one thing we discovered early on in our quarantine was how often we had been eating out. St. Augustine has wonderful restaurants, we love seafood, ribs, steak, etc. and we began to go into withdrawal. We missed the comfort that special food provided, and we needed to find a replacement, or two, or six, or ten. So, in addition to the activities mentioned above, we spent a great deal of time 1) driving our cars up and down A1A to charge the batteries and 2) answering the questions “What’s for breakfast?” “What’s for lunch?” “What’s for dinner?” “What snacks should we include in our next grocery home delivery from Publix?” “Are there any calories in that quart of butter pecan ice cream in the freezer?” This might be where quarantine went off the rails, just a little. Pandemic snacking

Fortunately, my wife is an excellent cook, so I could have pretty much anything I wanted in the way of breakfast, lunch and dinner. I thought that as long as I counted my points, I could eat pretty much anything I wanted and maintain my weight. While this was true, other problems reared their ugly heads. I kept trying to find the perfect combination of foods to meet my nutritional needs, maintain my weight and provide adequate comfort in this time of pandemic stress. This unfortunately led to my development of two different diets, the diabetes diet and the high blood pressure diet. Please keep in mind that I am not advocating for either of these diets, unless you have a death wish. Allow me to explain. Pandemic snacking

I have a sweet tooth, I find sweet foods to be comforting, and there are lots of yummy foods packed with buckets of sugar that a person can eat for breakfast. So, when my wife asked what I wanted for breakfast, I chose pancakes, loads of syrup. Or, a couple of glazed Krispy Kreme Donuts (for a treat, I can create a jelly donut by dipping it in black raspberry jelly, an old family favorite). Or, Entenmann’s wonderful coffee cake, coated with a mountain of powdered sugar. Pandemic snacking

For lunch I would have a small lunch meat sandwich, a few chips, and perhaps a small portion of ice cream. And, for dinner there was always steak and baked potato, hamburger and French fries, chicken and dumplings, or some other scrumptious dish followed by a small piece of pie or cake. Then there were the snacks I will discuss below. Pandemic snacking

In spite of Covid, our general practitioner required that we have a yearly blood panel. When my sugar values came back elevated considerably, I realized perhaps I might possibly, maybe be overdoing the sweets a bit. I was maintaining a weight of 240-245 pounds by counting points, and I was happy as a clam, but diabetes was just over the horizon, thus the ‘diabetes diet’. So, I went to plan B. Pandemic snacking

I love popcorn. It’s one of those comfort foods from my youth. Almost every night when I was a kid my family would make popcorn and munch on it while watching our little 9” black and white TV (probably why I need glasses). So Plan B. To maintain my weight at 240-245 lbs., I would have popcorn for either lunch or dinner every day. Since popcorn has so few calories, this would provide me the comfort of popcorn and allow me to eat more of my favorite foods for the other two meals. So, that’s what I did, popcorn for lunch or dinner every day, cut back on the sweets, and eat whatever I wanted for the other two daily meals, staying within my weight-watchers points limit. Pandemic snacking

What do you put on popcorn that makes it so good? Why, salt, lots of salt (and maybe a little butter once in a while). What does salt do to your body? It causes you to retain water/fluids. What effect can that have on your body over time? Why, it can increase your blood pressure. Due to a health crisis many years ago, I monitor my blood pressure, heart rate and blood oxygen from time to time. After three weeks of my so-called ‘popcorn diet’, I happened to measure my blood pressure, and found it to be elevated several points. Pandemic snacking

I thought about this for a while, and the light came on. “John”, I said to myself. “You have been eating popcorn every day for three weeks. You put lots of salt on your popcorn. Perhaps this is a bad idea.” Thus Plan B went out the window. The good news, I have since managed to balance Plan A and Plan B into a feel-good diet that is not lethal and allows me to maintain my desired weight. Just in time for the restaurants to open back up, of course. Pandemic snacking

I finally solved the problem of what to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but that’s only part of the deal. The other part of the feel-good-food thing involves the dreaded SNACKS. (Please keep in mind that I consider popcorn a food staple, and not a snack, so there’s that). Even after coming up with meals that include less-than-lethal comfort food, the issue of snacks presented a major problem. Pandemic snacking

First of all, when one is quarantined, one is stuck at home (no duh?). Even if one is working out, or writing, or even in the VR world, I found myself to be constantly thinking about food. That little voice inside me, “Food, food, food, food. Snackage. Chips. Cookies. Twinkies. Ho-Ho’s. Snickers. Ice cream. Gummy Bears. Licorice.” That little voice just would not shut up. It must have had something to do with the Covid quarantine, because my wife had a similar little voice. I somehow needed to work daily snacks into my food routine, without going back to the diabetes or high blood pressure diet. And, I had to keep it within my points. What to do? Pandemic snacking

I discussed this with my wife. We each have our own favorite snacks. I favor Snickers bars, strawberry licorice, butter pecan ice cream, Klondike ice cream bars and any kind of chips (and a pretzel or two). My wife enjoys strawberry licorice, any flavor of ice cream but butter pecan, gummy bears, and cookies. With this stupid juvenile voice constantly yammering in my head “food, food, snack, eat, hungry, feed me”, I knew that I wouldn’t make it if we kept all my favorite snacks in the house at the same time; we’d be back to diabetes city in no time. So, I got the brilliant idea that we should each choose a snack of the month, and keep a supply of only that one snack. This way, I could limit the amount that was in the closet, keep an eye on consumption, and thus handle the snackage (also not a real word) problem. Pandemic snacking

The first month, I discovered the fun size Snickers bars. I ordered a bag or two from Publix, kept them in the closet, and munched on one (or two) a day. My weight, blood pressure and blood sugar held. Next month, I went with snack sized Klondike ice cream bars, only 3 points and a wonderful treat, delicious vanilla ice cream coated with crunchy chocolate. I ordered two boxes of six each and made them last for three weeks. My weight, blood pressure and blood sugar held. Pandemic snacking

Next month, I went a little crazy and ordered ten packages of strawberry Twizzlers for my wife and me to share. My weight and blood pressure held, but I’m honestly not sure about my blood sugar; I haven’t had it measured lately. The next month I ordered ten bags of gummy bears to share with my wife, and we finished those off. (Notice a pattern here, how this might be starting to escalate?) Weight and blood pressure still holding, not sure about the blood sugar. Pandemic snacking

Then, I remembered Hostess products. I loved those things. Hostess cupcakes, Twinkies, those giant coconut cake things…Wow! And, they all came with an extra helping of preservatives. You could leave a Twinkie sit for years and it would be just as fresh as the day it was constructed…made…baked…whatever. They were tragically taken off of the market for a while, but they’re back. I ordered a box of ten Hostess cupcakes and ate them over a month. I felt proud. This provided a delicious and comforting tidbit from time to time, and who knows, maybe all the preservatives will help preserve some of my old interior organs. Pandemic snacking

It came time to order my snacks for next month. I remembered how much I love Hostess Twinkies. That soft, sweet cake filled with delicious creamy filling, and more preservatives than one could possibly imagine. So, I asked my wife to look online, find me some Twinkies, and order some for July. I spoke to her this morning, and she reported that she had found Twinkies in the Amazon market place. I asked her how many she ordered for July. She said, “Honey, I got a great deal. I got you 60 Twinkies for only seventeen dollars.” 60? Help me! My weight! My blood sugar! I don’t have the discipline to resist Twinkies, and 60 in one month? Oh well, with all those preservatives my innards will probably last forever. Pandemic snacking

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