Three years ago, the time came to sell my trusty red Mercury Cougar. She'd lasted me a full decade, ever since my parents bought her for me as a college graduation gift. At the Honda dealership, we were given a large garbage bag to empty out our trunk before trading her in. Back there, I found a Best of Britney Spears Beta tape, some old sports bras, a beat-up Locker Room Diaries manuscript and... a package of Hillshire Farms Deli Select sliced honey ham.
The expiration date on the ham was February of 2008. It was currently October of 2008. Now, fat-free packaged deli meat is generally so pumped full of preservatives that the expiration date tends to run about five months ahead, which means I had likely purchased said pork in October of 2007, a full year earlier, when it must have fallen out of my grocery bag without my noticing. It languished there during a Chicago summer, when the temps often climb to Bikram Yoga levels.
And yet, this ham was not moldy. It did not smell at all. It was perfectly preserved. My husband turned to me and said, "I hope you never, ever eat this crap again."
I haven't. If a "food" is flooded with so many preservatives that it can withstand a full year in both sub-zero and 100 degree-plus temps without decomposing, what kind of havoc might it be wreaking in my body?
Inspired by my meaty memory, I present to you a list of eight other "foods" I used to eat:
1. Low-cal yogurt
Look, I know Yoplait believes their product can deliver a better orgasm than The Rabbit, as evidenced by their ridiculous ads, but fruity low-cal yogurts are basically just liquid sugar with a pinch of gelatin mixed in for body. I used to eat one a day, thinking, "I'm eating lemon cream pie for only 80 calories!" Now I go for Oikos 0 percent organic greek yogurt drizzled with a little honey with flaxseeds, sliced banana and cereal mixed in.
2. Fat-free cheese
Despite the fact that it took three minutes to kind of melt a single slice, I would add this to omelets, wraps, sandwiches, salads, all in an effort to inject some calcium into my diets. Now that I'm older, wiser and not petrified of anything with fat, I won't touch the rubber garbage.
3. I Can't Believe It's Not Butter
Do you ever find yourself thinking, "Oh, this fake butter spray has zero calories and 0.1 grams of fat -- therefore, I can douse my broccoli in three coats of it, the culinary equivalent of Lady Gaga and her foundation. Spray! Spray! Spray! More is more! Spray! Spray! Spray..."
I did, too -- until an RD friend opened my eyes to the errors of my slutty buttery ways: A single bottle of spray butter actually contains 900 calories and 90 grams of fat. (The label says it has 0 calories and 0 grams of fat because the Food and Drug Administration allows companies to put zero on the label if a product has less than 5 calories and 0.5 grams of fat per servings.) I don't buy butter unless I'm making challah; now I just spritz on some olive oil -- an actual food.
4. Reduced-fat peanut butter
Are we sensing a theme here? As an anorexic freshman in college, I wouldn't even sleep in the same room as a jar of PB, for fear that eating fat would make me fat. Today, I practically mainline the stuff. When I'm hungry, sometimes the only thing that will truly satisfy me is a few spoonfuls -- big, heaping ones -- of peanut butter. A dead giveaway that I've been dipping: I get what we call in our household "the PB sweats." They're like the meat sweats, only nuttier, and they surface in the Clearasil T-Zone. And yes, I am trying to be sexy.
5. Diet Mountain-Dew
It's the color of Plutonium and has as much caffeine as an espresso, but calorie free and syrupy sweet. I'd chug this on my way to 7:45 a.m. chemistry lab in college, then pray I didn't singe my eyebrows off with the Bunsen burner. I no longer drink soda, with the exception of a rare Diet Sprite when I'm gassy (again, I know... I'm sexy).
6. Long Island Iced Teas
Vodka, gin, rum, tequila, triple sec, lemon juice and a splash of cola. 'Twas my drink of choice in my early 20s, back when my motto was -- I kid you not -- "The only things I drink with calories are Long Islands and skim milk." I was a nutritional sciences major, obviously.
7. Fat-free ice cream
Delude yourself all you want, but no, it most certainly does not taste like the real thing.
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