Tahini’s Take on Tuna Fish

High school was tough for me, as it was for most people I assume. Within these bizarre four years I was completely inundated with unhelpful hormones that attacked my brain, making me at once a giggling, drooling horn-ball AND a Type A overachiever freak. Let’s not even mention the everyday societal pressures of trying to be smart, pretty, and cool all at the same time. With all this swirling around in my 16 year old head, high school wore me out.

I went to a very competitive private high school in the San Fernando Valley. My graduating class had 35 people making it cozy and definitely a place where everyone (including all the mothers) knew your business. I’d never been one for unnecessary conflict, so I tended to hang out with the boys in my grade to avoid girl drama. Even though I wasn’t into the ladies daily emotional blood bath, I certainly created my own internal carnage by vowing to be both valedictorian and the hottest, thinnest girl in school. (Neither of which happened.) It all happened innocently enough. A month before starting my junior year I decided to lose 5 pounds. That’s it, just 5 little pounds. However, being born with a nature heavily dosed with obsessive tendencies, I took it a little too far.

By January of that school year, everything started to fall apart. I was class president, prom committee chair, cast in the school play, and I felt like I was in a padded cell. In four months I shaved 25 pounds off my 5’3″ frame, putting me at 99 pounds. I had this bizarre notion that if I could control my weight I could control everything. My grades, the college I got into, the boy I liked, everything. When people said I looked skinny, I took it as a complement. When the boy I loved picked me up and said I weighed “nothing”, I could have died from sheer joy. Every day was a battle against my body and the gnawing hunger inside my belly. Instead of giving into the hunger I turn it into a game. I decided hunger pains meant I was doing well, on the right track and that all my sacrificing would pay off. My diet did not ever waiver. Grain in the morning, fruit (ie sugar) before lunch, and only protein and vegetables for dinner. For almost a year I ate:

Morning: 1/2 cup of oatmeal with 4 chopped walnuts
Mid morning snack: 1 small apple or orange
Lunch: romaine lettuce with 1 can of tuna fish and fat free Asian dressing
Mid Afternoon snack: 1/2 cup cottage cheese
Dinner: steamed broccoli with turkey marinara sauce

I sat in the breezeway at lunch watching my friends and teachers eat. I put on a happy face and cracked jokes, but every few seconds I’d sneak a glance at the forbidden morsels they all put into their mouths. “How could they eat that?”, I thought. “Don’t they know subway sandwiches and rice crispy treats will kill you!” The worst though was when Jacqueline sat with us. Entire rooms quieted when she walked in. With her long thin legs, blond hair, and unbelievable rack, everyone including teachers, couldn’t help but watch her. I stared at her like I stared at food, with desire and hate. Jacqueline’s favorite lunch was a veggie sandwich. This leggy vegetarian had the balls to sit in front of me with cheese, avocado, sprouts, and hummus squeezed between two pieces of, dare I even say it, BREAD. These were foods on my “DANGER, WILL MAKE YOU FAT!” list (minus the sprouts) and she ate them without gaining an ounce. To make matters worse, she took each bite with painstaking slowness. First she looked lovingly at her sandwich then finally took a long slow bite, making sure to gently push back in any renegade avocado. Then came the chewing! She chewed each bite somewhere around 30 times, making sure to let out a little squeal of joy at every 5th chew. I dreamt of eating like her. It baffled me how someone could take so much joy in their food without remorse or guilt. I on the other hand, ate a quickly as possible, with the thought that if I did it fast it was like it never happened.

My actual anorexia only lasted a year. Pretty short as those things go. It finally ended when my mom sat me down and confessed she hadn’t slept in months over my weight loss. I found a great therapist (after my first one told me to drink Ensure!) and began to unravel the pain and suffering I had created. Let’s be honest, I still occasionally struggle with negative self talk, comparing, and jealousy. Old patterns die hard but I now have the perspective and tools to quickly get me out of that downward spiral. Life certainly is a delicate balance between holding tight and letting go. Of knowing that every experience, though sometimes painful, is a gift. It is my past experience that allows me to support and guide my clients the way that I do. My new thoughts also remind me how good it feels to be emotionally free and love my food for the nourishment it provides. I’ll take that any day!

Tahini Tuna Fish in Lettuce Wraps

Serves 1

After eating canned tuna fish every day for an entire year, I was tunaed out! In fact it took me 8 years to come back around. I’m not a mayo fan so this is a delicious Mediterranean take on the mayo-based classic. Feel free to toss in a few kalamata olives or capers. So good!

1/4 cup tahini
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 garlic cloved, finely minced
1/2 – 1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons warm water
1 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley
1 can line caught tuna or boneless skinless sardines
4 large red lettuce leaves, washed and dried

In a small bowl mix together the tahini, lemon juice, garlic, salt and warm water. If the sauce is too thick for your liking, at a little bit more water. Mix in the fresh parsley. In a separate bowl add the tuna or sardines. Break up the fish with the back of your fork. Begin to add in the tahini sauce, 1 tablespoon at a time until you’ve reached your desired consistency. Tear the lettuce leaves in half. Drop a few tablespoons of the tuna-tahini mixture into a lettuce leaf half, roll it up and enjoy!

**If you want to be particularly decadent, top each lettuce wrap with shaved carrots, avocado, and tamari pumpkin seeds. So good!

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One Response to Tahini’s Take on Tuna Fish

  1. Shona July 19, 2010 at 7:05 pm #

    >Wow Jamie, what a great blog entry. Totally endearing! It's funny because you come off so centered and steady, it's hard to imagine you dealing with those kinds of feelings and food issues. I feel like knowing that about you will surely make people feel even more inspired and empowered to make the necessary changes to a healthier and more balanced life. I know I do :0)

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