The Caterpillar Diet

Shallow

If you have proximity to a young one, then you’re already quite familiar with this diet — I mean healthy lifestyle. ( I’m sure the word “diet” has been canceled in this culture.) Or, if you remember reading Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar, then you absolutely know this healthy lifestyle. It’s basically a committed regiment of eating sensibly Monday thru Friday and then “Go Awf” (translation: really off) on Saturday. (And by Saturday I mean after work Friday until post brunch on Sunday.) And then you reel it in again by Sunday evening. The Caterpillar Diet is great because it aligns with my “Mommy Mogul” rhythm. Our family is on a M-F schedule with work, school, workouts, therapy, yoga, carpool, baseball and basketball practices, all worked in alongside personal training, grocery shopping, car washing, college prep this, middle school that… Basically, we are hitting it and high-fiving each other at the breakfast table. So, routine and schedule matter.

The meals are simple and routine, too. Always fruit, veggies, and simple proteins with rice in the rice cooker. We try not to eat past 9 pm. (It really should be 7pm but that’s hard for our busy household and our battle with LA traffic.)

For me, it’s inadvertent intermittent fasting… I mean, other than the must-have, extra hot matcha latte with almond milk or green tea every weekday morning, I don’t really eat until after 1 or 2, thus I am within the rules of fasting for 12-16 hours.  And honestly, it’s because after air-traffic controlling everyone’s life in the morning and getting focused about my day ahead, it’s lunchtime by the time I realize I’m hungry. That’s the meal that I usually order from a nearby restaurant to eat something I love and that is healthy (a Mediterranean salad with salmon is my go-to.) A constant pour of green tea and water sustains me for the rest of the day. My favorite caramel-flavored Kind Bar is kept stashed in a nearby drawer in the event that a hunger pain strikes. Or else I grab a piece of fruit from our mono-fruit bowl (that’s a bowl of one fruit for decorative purposes—yes I like to be both chic and healthy).

Then I’m home between 7-8 pm, where there’s always an opportunity to nibble or make a kiddie plate out of what Monica or Hubby has cooked for the boys. Again, a sensible meal with a protein, a vegetable, and pasta or rice. I try to avoid the snack drawer at all costs. Once it’s open, it’s hard to resist the chips and the kettle popcorn, or the granola that I will want with yogurt and honey, or a toasted blueberry bagel with cream cheese… I also try not to open the fridge where the Häagen-Dazs bars reside. Of course, they are not actually in the fridge, but they live just next door in the freezer.

It’s just that even going near the door of one places me right next to the door where they live, always calling my name, beckoning me with their siren-like sweetness! If I’m weak and go to the fridge, I try to keep green grapes washed and in a bowl to curb that sugar need. This keeps things refreshing and makes me feel like I’m still the caterpillar, casually eating four green grapes on a Thursday evening. So as not to tempt fate, usually it’s best that I simply grab some chamomile tea after I kiss my youngest good night at 9:30 pm, and then head on upstairs to bed so that I can start all over again at 6 in the morning.

“Then, with some playlist serenading me, I happily clean the kitchen to set us up for success for a 6 am start on Monday morning that takes us back to one red apple.”

Then it’s Friday. Game over. This is when it really begins. See, on Fridays the house gets cleaned, which translates to,“Please, nobody touch my kitchen!” So, a Postmates order from somewhere good is the go-to. And once you open the door to that option, it can go anywhere from a lot of Sushi to delicious Italian pasta dishes. This meal is also a regrouping time for the family to come together after an active and busy week of a lot scheduled. And with the extra energy (since we don’t have to clean the kitchen), someone suggests a movie for movie night. And that’s when we go AWWWFFF with the snacks.

I’m talking popcorn, chips, them Häagen-Dasz bars that have been calling me all weeklong, Yasin’s favoriteOreos, or maybe that piece of strawberry cake from My Two Cents that I tacked on to my Friday lunch order in anticipation of my hall pass to eat my ass off come evening. And because I’m all the way like “fuck it” after that bag of Simply Lays Sea Salted Thick Cut Chips, it’s a “yes please” to the tequila or some rosé to top it off. It’s a moment of gratitude, seeing us all gathered in front of the TV with our wrappers and a fully stocked pantry and fridge (s/o to Monica for always setting us up), so we can just do this — be together in abundance of love, togetherness, and yummy food.

Then by Saturday, somebody is getting driven around the city for some sport, and fast food is an option — the fast food joints all got a mean fried chicken sandwich now a days! Then, once I’m home, it’s champagne! But wait — did we actually have breakfast? So, a quick whip up of pancakes and turkey bacon is in order. (It also helps to “catch” the Veuve) 

A few hours later the tapeworm in our Saturday belly is hungry again and it’s time for grilling — hot dogs, burgers, chicken wings, lamb, or crab legs! Then it’s more chips, and more of whatever I want to eat, when I’m back on the couch binge-watching Naruto with my sons. Next up is a special run for Bob’s donuts or McConnell’s ice cream, when we are really feeling “froggy.” 

Sunday, after more basketball or baseball, comes more champagne and my favorite egg croissant sandwich — it is sooo good. Ask Nasir, he can eat two or three on average. And if I’m lucky, I take a nap instead of snacking more. I wake up refreshed and then cook a Sunday dinner of a yummy roasted chicken (My Mommy’s recipe) and a salad and two veggies — broccolini and Brussels sprouts or asparagus are the green staples. But it’s the “Thank you, Mom, that was good,” that follows that fills me up the most.  I fully digest that gratitude and offer a prayer of thanks for this life and the abundant blessings in it.

Then, with some playlist serenading me, I happily clean the kitchen to set us up for success for a 6 am start on Monday morning that takes us back to one red apple.

Eric Carle died at age 91 on May 23, 2021. May he rest in peace.

WORDS: Mara Brock Akil
DATE: 08.11.2021
PHOTOS: Samantha Carrie Johnson 

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