La Crosta, the Doc’s take: The mysteries of losing weight aren’t really mysteries.

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What, you thought that the Doc would be out painting the town red, or any other color, on a Saturday night? No, no no. The Doc is at home, writing about pizza. For you, our readers. Our dedicated, nay, fanatical, readers. Fans of the Maestro and the Doc. Hardcore, obsessive, take-no–prisoner Maestro-and-Doc-o-philes. That’s who I’m writing this for tonight. I love you all.

LaCrosta is a little place down on Lincoln and Fullerton, in the heart of Lincoln Park, right on the periphery of the DePaul campus. Parking, as is the norm for the neighborhood, ranges from problematic to non-existent. It’s a nice part of the north side, though. Pretty college girls, real-Chicago-north-side-atmosphere, and a church fall festival up the street (Lutheran variety, womp womp). It’s a couple doors down from the notorious Insomnia Cookies that used to doom most every weight loss effort I attempted from 2015 until late 2017.

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The interior of La Crosta has all the hallmarks of little rustic(ish) Italian joints– lots of weathered wood, cans of tomato sauce and bottles of wine used as decor, soccer on the TV adding an extra touch of authenticity. Thanks to the magnificent HBO series “The Young Pope”— which the Maestro tried to get me to watch for years before I finally did, and fell in love with it and can’t recommend it strongly enough– I now consider soccer fan-dom to be the defining characteristic of true Italian-ness, thanks to the unforgettable character of soccer-obsessed Cardinal Voiello.

The dude who took our orders was laid back and attentive. I was the pain in the ass customer who asked if they could do a red-sauce version of what appeared to be their local vegetarian tour-de-force, the Le Verdure, which was ordinarily a white-pizza pie with mozzarella, artichokes, portabella mushrooms, red onions, black olives, and topped with olive oil and walnut pear glaze. Dude didn’t bat an eye, and said of course it was possible. Sadly, La Crosta’s menu isn’t all that vegetarian friendly overall, but they do have a make-your-own-pizza-or-calzone option that at least opens up some cruelty-free possibilities for my fellow veg-heads.

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No doubt about it: the pizza I was served was a picturesque creation. It had the wood-fired crust of which the Maestro is so fond, and the assorted veggies gave it an interesting menagerie of textures and tastes. The walnut pear glaze was, eh, a little bitter for my taste buds– kind of on the vinagrete spectrum– but I really dug the veggies, particularly the chunks of mushroom and the whole black olives. Crust was chewy but not chewy enough to be troublesome; if I had any complaint, it’s that the slices were pretty thin and a little floppy. Like, I liked everything that was on my pizza; I could just deal with more. Of everything.

I’m an American. I’m not into nuance. MOAR! MOAR!!!!

Conversation revolved around the Maestro’s and my ongoing fascination with how effective intermittent fasting is in maintaining our respective weight loss goals. He enthused that even his legendary diet cheat days don’t seem to do so much damage if he sticks to the IF schedule. I related how I had accidentally given myself an even smaller than average eating window than usual yesterday, and woke up a full pound lighter.

Even better than any of this is, committing to an intermittent fasting schedule doesn’t– at least after a period of adjustment– feel like we’re particularly depriving ourselves when we shut off the intake valve at a certain point in the evening. Like, I’ve done diets where I was aware that my level of obsessiveness was verging on “disordered eating” territory; IF doesn’t feel like that. It feels like giving the digestive system an appreciated break.

God forbid, it actually feels like being, I don’t know, kind and attentive to one’s body– WHAT A CONCEPT!!

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The Maestro and I also tossed around the subject of how maddening it is to read articles on the internet huffily proclaiming “diets don’t work,” supposedly because there are people who experiment with reduced calorie intake– sometimes drastically reduced– and still don’t lose weight. This has always puzzled me. Calorie restriction, it seems to me, is like any other self-improvement intervention: there are healthy and less healthy ways to do it. If the way you do it is to eat virtually nothing so your body is starving and miserable all day, then when you do eat you eat low-quality stuff that doesn’t meet your nutritional needs and spikes your insulin…well, then, no, that method of “calorie restriction” is not going to help you lose weight. But we’re in 2018; we know that calorie restriction is only part of the equation.

All of which is to say: diets do work. They’re kind of the only thing that works, when it comes to weight loss and management. But they have to be done intelligently, consistently, and with attention to bodily feedback and needs. This doesn’t seem a particularly controversial proposition to me.

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La Crosta’s wall decor blatantly pandering to my literary tastes.

The Maestro’s diet cheat days are interesting to me. He says that part of his dieting experience is a near-constant battle with temptation; he’s aware of being beset on all sides and in all places by opportunities to eat poorly. This, then, results in his epic cheat days, which, per his description, seem to be a race between the clock and the capacity of his stomach. I remember I used to feel this way, back about ten years ago (the FIRST time I successfully lost weight, but was still a good thirteen pounds heavier than I am right now): I saw temptation everywhere, and when I crashed, I crashed HARD. Nowadays, I’m not nearly as anal about what I consider “cheating” on my diet; unlike the Maestro, I don’t have “cheat days,” though every day I do stay within my caloric budget and stick to the time boundaries of my intermittent fasting schedule. Knowing that I CAN eat basically whatever I want, provided it fits within my calorie and time limits, seems to take away the “OH MY GOD I’M BEING DEPRIVED” urgency of any particular craving.

(That said: I’m planning an EPIC cheat day on the day after the Outer Banks Marathon in November. Believe you me: no time or calorie limits are going to apply on November 12, kiddos. I already have a running list of what I’m looking forward to consuming, which includes, but is not limited to, pizza, pancakes, and whole bags of marshmallows. Yes, bags. Plural. This list continues to be work in progress, and I welcome suggestions in the comments.)

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La Crosta’s a nice little north side neighborhood joint, and I can recommend it. Be mindful of the pain in the ass that Lincoln Park parking is, and maybe be smart enough to plan your visit for off-peak hours– I can tell you these places get nuts when the Cubs are playing or on weekend nights. But nobody who visits La Crosta’s going to come away with much to complain about.

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