Thursday, October 23, 2014

Shake it off?

One of the perks where I work is that the school provides lunch for us every day, free of charge. We eat in the dining hall with the boys, at separate tables marked “faculty,” and the teens have by and large learned to make way when an adult moseys up to the buffet. I was thrilled when I learned about this benefit, as I saw immediate savings along with not having to even think about what I was going to eat for lunch each day. I can burn a lot of time thinking about lunch. It’s ridiculous.

When I first started here, the lunch program was good. Really good. A nice salad bar every day, a deli bar with lunch meat, cheese and condiments, a hot entrée with sides, and soup. It was virtually impossible to go hungry at lunch.

Then, some of the school moms got involved. They thought the lunch here could be better. And now, thanks to them, it is. We have an executive chef who puts forth meals that even the mothers can’t argue about. Each day, there is a full salad bar that includes things like feta cheese, fresh cut bell peppers, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, sunflower seeds, and four different kinds of dressing. There is cut fruit salad and whole fruit. There’s a deli bar that rivals Jimmy John’s (salami, roast beef, turkey, three kinds of cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles, etc.). Fresh made hummus, tuna salad and sometimes egg salad. Artisan bread. Further down you’ll find the steam tables with not one but two hot entrees and sides, along with steamed vegetables and homemade soup. Should none of those suit your fancy, the other wall contains the build-your-own pizza station with flatbread, the cereal/bagel station, and good ol’ PB&J. At the end of the line is the freezer that contains the day’s frozen treat for dessert.

The lunch selection does not include the food mines that pepper the landscape outside the dining hall. For instance, right now, the Headmaster’s office has homemade chocolate chip cookies, Starburst candies, M&Ms, and Darth Vader holding a container of Halloween Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. His secretary has a candy bowl filled with Twix and KitKats. The faculty lounge has a box of Papa John’s pizza someone didn’t finish, doughnuts from yesterday, Chex Mix and birthday cake. The IT office routinely stocks seaweed snacks, deer jerky, Twizzler’s and Diet Coke. (The seaweed snacks are awesome. Really.)

This means that at night when we talk about our days, the conversation goes like this:
A: What did everyone have for lunch?
Zoe: Turkey sandwich and chips.
M: Turkey sandwich and pretzels.
A: Bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin with baby red potatoes, General Tso’s Chicken with sticky rice, three crab rangoons, a salad, some chicken noodle soup and a bomb pop. Later, I had a Twix, a cookie, some seaweed snack and a piece of deer jerky.

This means that I have gained about 30 pounds and now have only two pairs of pants and one skirt that fit. And those are tight.

Tuesday, as I was cleaning out my coffee mug in the faculty lounge (I’ve been trying to remedy my cluttered desk problem), I had a conversation with the head of our math department, a wicked smart woman who is also funny, kind and generous. She was mixing up some sort of shake. “Whatcha got there?” She explained that she does not fare well with buffets, and has taken to avoiding the dining hall. (Reference my earlier comment that she is wicked smart.) She has been bringing in flavored shake mixes and drinking them for lunch. “They’re healthy, they keep me from over-eating, and they make me feel full. Plus I have more time over lunch.”

It gave me pause to think. Perhaps that’s the key? Just because it’s free doesn’t mean you have to take it, but for those of us with food issues, there’s no stopping at a meager salad with no cheese or dressing.

She went on, “I’ve managed to maintain my weight by doing this. There’s no way that’d happen if I was heading up to the dining hall every day.”


A little while later she stopped by my office with a shake packet and a cute shaker bottle with a green lid. “Here. I have an extra packet and shaker. Try this tomorrow and let me know what you think.” Cool! I get to do a test drive! The packet has been sitting on my desk, leaning against the cute shaker bottle, just to the left of my computer screen. It’s beckoning me with promises of being able to fit into my pants again. And time over lunch to write. Double bonus.

Yesterday morning, though, I realized it wasn’t a good day to try it. I had a morning meeting at Starbucks so breakfast was nothing more than a stripped down coffee treat (it would not have been appropriate to inhale a bagel with cream cheese at this meeting, as much as I wanted to). I knew that by the time I hit lunch I’d need something solid. Sure enough, at 11:45, I realized I had the shakes and therefore couldn’t stomach the shake. I scurried up to the dining hall, ate way too much, and slogged back to the high school with my tail tucked between my legs. I realized that my friend would be eager to hear what I thought of the shake, and that it’d be better for me to go confess than to wait for her to pop into my office and see the unused packet and mixer sitting there.

I took a deep breath, and headed over to her desk. As I rounded the corner with my excuses ready on my lips, I couldn’t help but laugh. There was my friend, sitting at her computer with a piece of Papa John’s pizza in one hand and a Mr. Pibb in the other. She looked at me and cracked up, and I confessed, and we both let each other off the hook.

So here I am today, eager to try the shake lunch. I did get some food in me this morning, so I shouldn’t have the same issue as yesterday. Thursday is Doughnut Day at Priory, so I had a glazed doughnut with my creamered-and-sweetened coffee this morning.

It’s good that I planned ahead to have my healthy shake for lunch.


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