Toronto’s Freshman 15

Toronto’s Freshman 15

I hail from a small town where dining out, take-out and eating on the go were all rare occurrences. My family always made time for three square meals a day. We relied on fresh produce from the local farmer’s markets and all of our meals were prepared from household ingredients. Imagine the culture shock I experienced when I found my way to the big bad city of Toronto.

I declared it the most beautiful city in the world and it captured my heart from day one. I turned a deaf ear and a blind eye to the warnings about “rude Torontonians”. I was just so thrilled to have made it that I didn’t care nor did I notice if such accusations were even warranted. What I did notice was the abundance of exotic and unique foods that were all in need of thorough analysis. It only seemed responsible to appoint myself the “Christopher Columbus” of food- I was on a mission, a food exploration mission. Every new meal I introduced to my unseasoned palette became an intoxicating quest of new discovery and sophistication.

Before I knew it, I too was blossoming into a true Torontonian. I had mastered the subway system, I was functioning on less sleep, my cupboards and fridge were perpetually empty and I was eating the majority of my meals on the fly. I was addicted to the heavenly flavours of Indian spices, bento boxes and Starbuck’s breakfast sandwiches. My appreciation for different cuisines grew, and so did my waistline.

At first I was a living breathing testament to denial. I kept blaming the dryer for shrinking all of my clothes. My older sister (who I lived with at the time) shared the same clouded judgement. Both of us were shocked by our temperamental collection of fabrics; they continued to shrink, even when they were dry cleaned!

After the denial subsided, we realized that Toronto’s initiation had gotten the best of these unsuspecting country gals. The inability to button our flies served as living proof. My family coined this tragic episode “Toronto’s freshman fifteen”. We had become so accustomed to this shiny lifestyle that we unwittingly traded in our former well rounded eating habits for a well rounded something else…and large saucy servings with leftovers for breakfast.

Only when we accepted that we needed to strip back to basics did our waistlines begin to recover. I made a point of grocery shopping and food prepping during my days off. I would commit to the excruciating 30 mins of cutting veggies, making rice and organizing my meals into individual portion controlled tupperware containers to span the bulk of the working week. The difference in relying less on grabbing food on the go and depending more on eating my own prepared meals was astonishing. I also used the fact that Toronto has a million food options and healthy alternatives to my advantage. For every latte, there’s a low calorie latte and for every burger there’s a no bun alternative to appeal to the health conscious city folks.

This time when sister number three of my family made her way to the city and also surrendered (too often) to the delectable food choices, I was better equipped to assist in her road to recovery. Soon after her arrival I received a frantic phone call from my parents wondering if my younger sister was pregnant (don’t worry, I have her permission to mention this) due to her rapid weight gain. I assured them that the fluctuation in question was purely food related. They chirped the familiar, “ahhh, it’s just the Toronto 15?”

Presently, the three of us work endlessly towards striking the balance between our past eating habits with our city girl dining out tendencies. Whenever we find our choices tipping too much in the direction of eating on the go, we scale back and revisit the basics. We’ve negotiated these living terms with Toronto: less succulent dine-outs in exchange for not tripping my parents’ pregnancy alarm.