My Lenten Yogurt Journey

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how I’ve had an unexplained stomach complaint since about the end of January. Rather than be sensible and go to a doctor, I opted for an experiment. Would eating yogurt every day for a month make any difference? Since it roughly coincided with the season of Lent, I thought of this as my Lenten journey. The only ground rules was that I had to eat yogurt at least once a day, and I would try as many different kinds as possible with the exception that I wouldn’t try anything with aspartame, as it tends to give me a headache. Other than that, I had no rules. I kept a journal of the ups and downs of it all, and below are some highlights.

March 21, 2011

Went shopping tonight. Bought two different brands of yogurt and 3 different flavours. Greek style and Foremost stirred. Had Greek style when I got home. It was fruit bottom: the holiest of holies when it comes to yogurt. I usually shop at Superstore, with occasional forays into Safeway and even rarer visits to Sobeys. I think I may need to visit further afield to increase the sample size. The Greek style was amazing. I’m afraid I may have set the bar too high. It was thick, luxurious with peach and passion fruit on the bottom. It wasn’t cheap: $1.49 ea for 170 ml.

March 22

Began the day with a Foremost peach stirred yogurt. I like the size of the container. I’m not going to go any smaller than 175 ml from here on in. I don’t know why people bother with those tiny yogurt containers. Three spoonfuls and its gone. Are you really meant to only eat one of those, or should I be eating two or three?  The problem I’ve had with eating yogurt in the past is that it usually is an add-on to a lunch and is usually more trouble than its worth. I’m usually full from lunch, and then I see this little container little in the fridge, daring me to eat it. That requires me finding a spoon, forcing the yogurt down, and then washing the spoon. Too much work if you ask me. I think I’ve hit on a pattern that will work for me. I will eat a yogurt first thing in the morning. This kills two birds. I get the yogurt out of the way for the day, and it puts something quick and easy into my stomach on mornings that I would normally skip breakfast altogether.

March 25

I miscalculated how many yogurts I’ll need for a week. Forgot to factor in the fact that my wife will probably eat a couple each week too. Had to come clean with her about my “eating yogurt for Lent” scheme. She gave me a look that said: “You’ll never make it”. My resolve is hardened.

March 26

Spent part of the afternoon in St. James. Visited the Food Fare to see if they have different yogurt varieties. They are known for having niche beverages like Dad’s Rootbeer, Stewart’s Soda, Pop Shoppe, etc, but was disappointed to see that the only had Lucerne and Beatrice. The good news is that it was fruit bottom and on sale, so I loaded up with 6 175 ml cups. The bad news is that they only had Peach.

March 27

Talked to my friend Ed about my yogurt pledge. He thought everyone should be eating yogurt once a day. He’s apparently been doing it for years. “You don’t want to mess around with yogurt”, he told me. “You’re going want to stick with Balkan style. It’s what the sherpas eat”. Well, this was all news to me. First of all, I had no idea Ed ate yogurt on a daily basis, and I had no idea he had such strong feelings about the brand and style. I still remember him jogging to work across the Osborne bridge while polishing off a couple of A&W Mama burgers on mornings when he was late for work. I guess getting married and having kids changes you for the better. We have some Balkan style yogurt in the fridge, as it turns out. We give it to our daughter, who seems to love it. I’ve never tried it myself. It’s 6% m.f., which seems a bit insane.

March 28

One full week on the yogurt. Last night things came to a head at home. My complaint was specifically vexing me, and I had to tell my wife. She had no idea I still had it. “I thought that went away weeks ago”. She was angry that I hadn’t made a specific doctor’s appointment to address it, and only after I promised I would make that appointment did her attitude change. (Why is this starting to sound like the diary of Samuel Pepys?) She asked a few questions and believes that it has nothing to do with my stomach at all. She thinks I’ve pulled a muscle or something. I do recall noting the complaint shortly after a heavy snowfall in January. Could it be something as simple as a pulled muscle? Could a pulled muscle lead to the nausea and lack of appetite? She recounted many stories of her ballet days where injuries happened due to poorly warmed up muscles. The upshot is that in the process of telling me these dancing injury horror stories, I believe she found new sympathy for my plight. Before I knew it she was filling a hot water bottle for me to use. I have never used a hot water bottle in my life. I don’t know what to do with them. Well, let me tell you after about 20 minutes of this hot water bottle treatment on the affected area, I could actually start to feel the tightness abate! It’s not gone completely, but I’m telling you I’m feeling better than I have in weeks. Today at work I could get down on my haunches to retrieve a book from the bottom shelf. I haven’t been able to do that in weeks! I felt like Gary Carter.

March 31

The cat’s out of the bag. My wife gave our daughter some Greek Style Yogurt by mistake. She devoured it. She now knows Greek Style is code for delicious. Will she ever return to Balkan style? Incidentally, I tried some of that Balkan style myself. In a word, awful. In two words, bloody awful. It actually tastes like sour cream, but sour cream that’s been mixed with vinegar or something. I don’t know how my daughter has been eating it all these months. Sherpas, my ass. And another thing, how could Greek style and Balkan style be so different? Geographically, they are neighbours. It’s as if you could notice differences between Regina and Winnipeg ice cream. Now, come to think of it, I’ve never had Regina ice cream, but next time I’m driving through I’m going to try some. Now I shouldn’t malign all Balkan style yogurt. To be fair, Astro brand Balkan style fruit bottom with honey is one of the nicer yogurts I’ve tried. The shit we’ve been feeding our daughter for over a year however is plain. I’m talking PLAIN, not even vanilla flavoured. The weird thing is, is that our daughter seems to still love it. Are taste buds slow to develop?

April 3

Thought I was buying “Pina Colada” flavoured yogurt at Safeway today, but must have grabbed the wrong one. I ended up with “Spiced Apple” instead. Points for being fruit bottom, but the taste was a little off. I think it was supposed to taste like an apple pie, or maybe an apple crisp, but I could taste the artificialness of it. I could barely finish it. I asked the guy at Safeway why it was so hard to find fruit bottom yogurt. He said people don’t like to stir. I don’t buy that. Are these the same people who don’t like to grind their own coffee beans, cut their own slices of bread and make their own ice-cubes? Sure, it may take a second or two more, but it’s also more fun. Don’t these people understand the sense of accomplishment?

April 9

Hectic day. No time for yogurt until I got home at about 11 pm. It’s not sitting too well. Opted for the Activia tonight. In positive news, my wife is behind my pledge, now that she recognizes that she can use the 175 ml containers to germinate seeds, or some crazy thing. I’m just happy that she’s not bothering me anymore.

April 11

I need to talk for a little bit about Activia. I’ve realized its much cheaper to buy the 650 ml containers and dole a little out in a dish rather than go for the individually packaged yogurts. True, I’m missing out on the fruit bottom, but the cost savings cannot be ignored. I do realize that its taken me about 3 weeks to come to this conclusion. I’m a librarian, not an economist. A was talking to a co-worker about yogurt and she swears by Activia. “You need to get pro-biotics, and Activia is the only yogurt that has them”. I did a little research and I’ve come to the conclusion that “pro-biotics” is just a fancy made up term for “bacteria”, and Activia doesn’t hold the monopoly on bacteria, thank you very much. In fact, there seems to be a lot of half-truths and pseudo-science out there when it comes to yogurt’s health claims, and Activia is at the forefront of the propaganda machine. In fact, it wouldn’t be wrong to refer to Activia as the Goebbels of yogurt. They claim to have a special strain of “pro-biotics” that are better than anyone else’s. They’ve even given it a name. Bifidobacterium (animalis) lactis, or BL RegularisTM. Designer bacteria. I don’t know how I feel about that. I’m not usually a big “label” guy, unless that label is Apple or L.L. Bean. These bastards are so cocky they even offer an “Activia Challenge”. You’re supposed to eat Activia yogurt for 2 weeks, and if you do not notice significant health improvements, you’ll get your money back. You can even enter to win an iPod nano, a Lulu Lemon gift card, and some iTunes credits. I was actually kind of excited by this. I’m eating yogurt daily anyway, so why not get credit for it? The more I thought about it, I began to wonder how would I know if my health improved. I honestly don’t feel any different, health wise, than I did before I began the yogurt treatment. The main change is the end of my complaint and I think I can attribute that to the hot water bottles rather than any digestional improvement brought on by yogurt. Would I have to lie or at least exaggerate and tell someone “Well, my diarrhea is not so debilitating anymore.” or “My bowel movements are a pure joy these days” or “I’m no longer experience the winds on an hourly basis”? Would my transformation need to be documented or evidence provided. I decided to forget all about it, and then I read the fine print on the website and I found out the “Activia Challenge” officially ended in 2008. So it goes.

April 17

Realizing I’ve been obsessing over yogurt a bit too much recently. I was over at a friend’s place and when I opened her fridge I commented “Ah yes, I see you’ve opted for the Astro Balkan 2%”. She looked at me like I was nuts. “What!?“, she said. “Um, your yogurt. It’s a good one. It’s not like the 6%, um you know. It’s like the champagne of yogurts,” I stammered.  I realized how insane I was sounding, but I was powerless to stop it. Her response? “Whatever, it’s only yogurt.”

April 22

Good Friday. Almost at the end! Tried Liberté yogurt today. I know its 6%, but unlike Balkan plain, this yogurt is designed to make you feel like you’re not eating yogurt. It’s a dessert yogurt, for sure. I had the Lemon version, and it tasted like Lemon meringue pie. No joke! I remembered that it was this brand of yogurt that my cousins gave to my aunt when she was recovering from a stroke in the hospital. My aunt hated yogurt, but my cousins told her it was “custard” and she ate it up like nobody’s business. I can now see why.

April 24

Easter Sunday, and the official end of my “month of eating yogurt daily”. Conclusions:  I don’t think I’ve lost any weight, but I guess if I was smart I would have weighed myself at the beginning of all this. Oh well. I don’t think I look any different, and most importantly, I don’t really feel any different. True, my complaint is lessened, but that may have just as much to do with my mid-month hot water bottle treatments than anything else. It hasn’t completely gone away. Like a Karma Chameleon, it comes and goes. I never did make that special appointment. A minor victory, I know. I guess I’ll wait until my regular appointment at the end of June unless things take a turn for the worse before then.

My favourite is still fruit bottom, but not just any fruit bottom. I can’t stomach the Safeway brand, but Neilson, Astro Balkan, or President’s Choice Greek style are delicious. I’ve come to accept that the large Activia containers are good for the every-day morning portion, even though I don’t believe in designer bacteria. The humbling thing is that I’ve been eating a variety of yogurt on a daily basis over the last month, and I can still go into any grocery store and still find brands and styles that I haven’t tried. It feels like new styles are being marketed every week. I don’t know if I’ll continue eating it on a daily basis. I probably should, but if there are any recognizable health benefits, they are all behind-the-scenes. I think at 2300 words, I’ve said all that I can say on yogurt…..at least for now. It’s only yogurt, after all.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “My Lenten Yogurt Journey

  1. No mention of the field trip here either…also you seem to love fruit bottom! But I’m thinking you just like saying “fruit bottom”?

    • Wow! I really DID like Fruit Bottom back in 2011. I think my problem was that as a kid I never knew the correct way to eat fruit bottom. I’d eat all the plain terrible yogurt off the top first, and eat the remaining fruit alone on the bottom. The plain yogurt smelled (and tasted) like the yogurt factory. I’ve since corrected that behaviour: I stir it all together, and now I guess I like it? I also kind of love that blog posts from almost 5 years ago are still getting referenced…

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