Friday, August 12, 2011

The importance of being honest

  How many of you have ever kept a food journal?  Raise your hands (unless you're reading this on the bus; no need to encourage questioning looks from strangers).  Okay, now how many of you were completely honest with those food journals?  If you ate something unhealthy – say, a cookie or 3 potato chips – did you record it in your journal?  Or did it become “If I don’t write it, I didn’t eat it?”

  I’ve tried to be a good Food Tracker.  I’ve tracked electronically and with pen & paper.  I’ve used pre-printed journals, loose leaf paper, note pads, and downloaded worksheets.  I’ve reinvented the wheel a thousand different ways, and yet I have usually fallen into the same traps:
·         Boredom – By the end of the day or week, or after several weeks, food tracking is boring. 
·         Shame – There have been times I’ve eaten things my body didn’t really need.  I’ve eaten out of emotion or for the pleasure of taste and texture, then found myself too ashamed to acknowledge the binge.  I’d bury that binge deep inside and pack the pounds on outside.  (Note: What you eat in private you wear in public.)
·         Uncertainty – I haven’t yet developed the knack of tracking meals I didn’t prepare.  It’s easier to just skip it altogether rather than try to figure out ingredients.    (Note: I think that by baby steps I can work on writing the foods I can identify, then describe guesses.  Not perfection; progress!)

  This week I began keeping a food journal which will be evaluated (scrutinized?) weekly by my trainer.  By the end of the second day, a day during which I’d eaten a couple unplanned snacks, I was faced with the dilemma: Do I record them in my food journal?

  What would happen if I didn’t record those foods?  I’d cause confusion and frustration.  If I only listed the on-plan foods and ended up maintaining or gaining weight this week, my trainer would probably tweak our original plan.  I’d probably end up stressed and eating even farther astray till I was in a seemingly endless mixed-up cycle of lying and tweaking.

  So I wrote those foods down.  I wrote what I ate as well as why I ate them.  I had felt nauseated during the day, so I ate some Saltines.  Hours later my hands were shaking, so I grabbed a couple cookies (we were away from home, no fruit or veggies were available).  Are those excuses?  No.  They’re explanations I want my trainer to know so that we can  a) look at why those symptoms occurred; and b) have an honest picture of my calories in vs. calories out.

  Late in the evening when I was plum tuckered out, I wanted to eat.  There were no more nutrients or fuel my body needed for the day.  My body was tired and wanted comfort; it needed rest.  Loading calories into my body would not have made my body less tired; it would only have kept my body awake longer, postponing much needed sleep, and leading to an even more tired morning.  Plus, I didn’t want to write it down.  So I didn’t do the Unhungry Eat.

  I’ve tracked honestly and completely for two days now.  I had no idea it would be so challenging and enlightening.  I’m even finding myself motivated to track better and eat healthier.  I'm curious to see what happens when I do the best I can.  How about you?  Are you ready to give it a whirl?


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Choose your own adventure

  As a child, I enjoyed reading a series of books called Choose Your Own Adventure.  They were action stories about  kids, and the neat part was that when the characters faced a choice, the reader would be instructed to turn to one page for choice A and to a different page for choice B.  Usually I played by the rules, but occasionally I’d cheat and take a peek to see which choice resulted in a better outcome.

  As an adult, without the luxury of peeking into the future, I can’t be guaranteed of always making the right choice, if there even is such a thing.  And yet there are times when I’m pretty sure what the best choice is.  Take today for example.  The thunderclouds in the sky had nothing on me: I was a bad mood on two legs.  Feeling overwhelmed, powerless, and hopeless, all I wanted to do was feel sorry for myself.

  Unfortunately for those thoughts, this was the afternoon of my first workout with a trainer, Charlene Sintic at Slim & Fit in Mayfield, who recently and graciously volunteered to work with me.  How could I call her, after she reached out to me and set aside time for me, and turn it down because of a bad day?  With adrenaline and stress coursing through my veins, my body needed to work out; it was up to my mind to make the healthy choice.

  I’m happy to say that I did work out with Charlene today, and that it was definitely the right choice.  She took time to talk with me about nutrition and goals, and then she led me through cardio and strength work that left me with a sweaty shirt, limp noodle arms, and lungs working hard for breath.  If I’d exercised on my own today, even in my foul mood there’s no way I would have pushed myself as hard as Charlene pushed me.  I wouldn’t have set goals, and it probably would have taken me longer to find my way back to hope.

  Are problems still weighing heavy on my shoulders?  Yes, and they’ll continue to do so.  That’s part of life.  But life is also about seeking out and finding joy in the adventures of life.  Monday night I had a wee adventure that kept me in smiles for hours: I tried an aqua kickboxing class.  It was absolutely fun, and now I can not only power frog, but I can even do a power frog pyramid.

  It is our choices… that show us what we truly are, far more than our abilities.
– J.K. Rowling

Monday, August 8, 2011

Neither Diet nor Dye It

  I wonder whether there are still people in the world who believe in diets.  The books I read, the people I speak with, and the shows I watch tend to emphasize that weight loss happens not because of short term diets, but because of long term lifestyle changes.  The idea is that living on a diet of cabbage soup or powdered drink mixes isn’t sustainable or healthy.  Rather, in order to ensure adequate consumption of vitamins and minerals, as well as to prevent boredom and bingeing, we need to eat a variety of real food in the right amounts.

  And speaking of lifestyle and reality, the fact is that my hair is no longer the blonde it was when was a child.  Most of it has darkened to brown, and some of it has turned flashy silver.  For years I’ve colored my hair, experimenting with shades of blonde, brown, and red – anything but grey.  Have I had any personal objection to grey hair?  No, not really.  I have, however, been conditioned by the media that just as my overweight body was unacceptable, so was my brown and silver hair.

  Once again, recent reflection and action have changed my mind.  Operation Beautiful by Caitlin Boyle was instrumental in opening my heart to accepting myself.  The mission of Operation Beautiful is to change not the way we look, but the way we see ourselves. 

  So, now that I’ve accepted that I’m overweight with brown and silver hair, what does that mean?  Do I stay overweight?  What do I do with my hair?

  I tell my kids again and again that we need to appreciate what we have while we have it, and to make the most of it.  I am overweight, but I also love to be active and with other people.  So in my imperfection I appreciate the relative health I have, and I work to make the most of it, ideally resulting in better health and more joy. 

  My hair?  Okay, so it’s not the youthful color I might wish it to be, but that’s no reason to douse it in chemicals.  I can have it cut in a style which suits me.  Rather than hide my true self, I can embrace my self.  I have enough to worry about without worrying about showing my roots.  When I see friends with silvery hair, or silver and brown hair, they seem to have an extra sparkle, not just from their twinkling hair, but from the confidence with which they wear it.

  In the back of my mind I’ve long held this picture of myself as an old lady.  I want to be one of those earth mothers, with long skirts and peasant shirts, with an herb garden and a comfy rocking chair and books and friends and joy.  That picture isn’t based on hair color, but when I think about it, my hair then must be sparkling silver to match the twinkle which will undoubtedly be in my eye.

  Diet?  Only if we mean a healthy diet of a variety of wholesome foods.  Dye it?  No, thanks. 


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Planet Plan It

I’ve got a plan and I know how to use it!  I’ve thought about what helped me drop 55 pounds (which I have kept off) and I’ve found a way to bring those tools back into my life to help me lose more. 
Calories IN – Meal Planning:  I’ve been really good about planning dinners, but unlike during my 50-Pound Drop, my breakfasts, lunches, and snacks have been catch-as-catch-can.  Planning lunch and snacks will be of particular importance since that’s where I usually find myself hungry, baffled, and on a carb hunt.  I’ve set a daily calorie goal, and I’ll map each day’s way there.  From a very helpful web site ( I’ve found just the food diary to help me.
Calories OUT – Exercise: Fortunately I really do love working out.  Biking, swimming, cardio equipment, hiking, step aerobics: you name it, I’ll try it.  As a matter of fact, this week I’m going to try my first Aqua Kickboxing class and my first Zumba class!  I need to stick with it, but push myself harder in my workouts.  Also, I need to figure out how to get good cardio workouts after surgery.
Measure – Not just food, but ME!:  One bit of weight loss I never followed on my own was measuring my body with a tape measure.  I guess I thought that monthly change changes in inches wouldn’t be as noticeable as changes in pounds.  Yet when I look at the past six months, I lost just over 7 pounds but more than 20 inches.  I need all the motivation I can get, so bring back the tape measure!
Pictures:  Pictures of me are always a huge weight loss motivator for me.  Whenever I get complacent, I just look at a recent photo, and Oy Veh!, I’m off and running again.  Think about it.  I’d just finished a triathlon, feeling strong and accomplished, when I saw this:

Ack!  Is that what I look like on a bike?!?  All descriptors kept to myself, let’s just go with the fact that this motivates me to up my cardio and keep unpacking my saddle bags.
Goal – Before I learned that surgery was in the works, I’d set a Dec. 31 goal of partying like it’s 1999.  That is to say I was aiming for 199.9 pounds.  Now I’m at a loss of what sort of goal to set.  A number goal is actually something I cannot control.  My goal will need to be food or exercise related.  Any ideas out there?
Accountability:  In addition to blogging at least 3 times each week, at the end of each month, I’ll dedicate a blog to pictures and measures.
So there’s my plan.  What’s yours?