Weighty Matters

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Cooking, Eating, False Impressions

I really enjoy cooking.  My mother was a terrific cook.  Did you see the movie Julie and Julia?  In the movie you get a glimpse of the cooking school started by Julia Child and her cookbook partners.  The year we lived in France when I was a kid, Mom took classes at that school for six weeks or so.  She was a great cook before and those courses really elevated her ability and expanded the kinds of dishes she’d make.

My Sicilian grandmother wasn’t flashy but she could put together good, tasty, solid meals.  I smile when I go to the supermarket and see the expensive “fresh” pastas in the refrigerator cases.  Every Sunday at Grandma’s house, we’d walk into the kitchen and see her homemade spaghetti drying on clean dishtowels.  She didn’t have a pasta maker either.  Gram mixed up her dough, rolled it out thin and sliced it with sharp knife.

Mom’s mom, my Nana, wasn’t flashy either, but the woman knew how to do a roast.  Dinner at her house was usually either roast beef or roast leg of lamb.  In the summer time she sometimes made a clam pie.

We had a lot of great, basic, popular family meals and I learned techniques and basics growing up.  I really enjoy putting together a good meal, particularly when I cook for friends.  I haven’t done it as much in the last year with the weight loss surgery and new food plan and all.  I’ve tried some new soups and still have to make a good tomato sauce every now and then.  I think I’ve mentioned before that I watch a lot of Food Network shows.  My theory is that since I only eat a little, I want to pack as much flavor as possible into the foods that I eat.

Several of my friends are real foodies, too.  We love to talk about food and things we’ve prepared.  We often bring in samples to work to share with each other.  I drew the name of one of these friends in the work Secret Santa and found a deal on the new cookbook by one of her personal favorites – Ina Garten, aka The Barefoot Contessa.  When she opened her present, we enjoyed going through the pages at some of the recipes.

One was for meatloaf from a restaurant on Long Island.  My friend’s from that area and she was delighted because she’s actually had that meatloaf at that restaurant.

I love a good meatloaf and have been known to make the one that I learned from my mother.  The one in this book was a little different but it sure looked tasty, plus they recommended a garlic sauce to go with it.  Garlic sauce?  Oh yum!

So, that’s what I made for dinner tonight.  I knew from the recipe that I needed to cut down the amounts, because it called for three pounds of ground meat.  Three pounds!  I made it with only two pounds and the resulting loaf was still massive.  I decided to cook and mash a rutabaga instead of making mashed potatoes.  (Lower carbs, lower calories).  I made the garlic sauce. The sauce didn’t thicken the way that it should have, but it gets high points for flavor.

Everything was delicious.  It wasn’t loaded with fat or carbs.  I enjoyed every single bite.

So how come I still feel like I was “bad”?  I don’t get it.  I cooked good food and didn’t overeat, but somehow feel like I didn’t follow my plan.

Somewhere in my brain there still lingers the old, diseased thinking that you can’t be on a diet and enjoy your food.  This is such complete, total bull crap that I’m rejecting it even while I think it.  It’s important for me to remember that good food is not the enemy.   Eating too much, eating without thinking, or eating compulsively are the culprits.  Good food, tastily prepared, consumed in moderation, is what healthy, “normal” eating is all about.

I’m probably going to mentally and emotionally struggle with this for a while longer.  Old habits, including old thinking habits, do not change overnight.  At least, for tonight, I’ve identified it as an issue on which to work.  I can’t fix what I don’t recognize and acknowledge.

I also have to decide what to do with all of the leftovers.  I think I’ll text my friend and let her know that, if she didn’t also make the recipe over the weekend, I can gift her with enough to feed her and her husband.  I can keep enough for another dinner for myself.  I bet that what remains will freeze.  There.  Doesn’t that all sound like good, healthy, rational thinking?

There’s progress to be made.


National Heartbreak

This afternoon I nearly whined in my doctor’s office because my sleep test results weren’t what I hoped.  Yes, the apnea and hypopnea are greatly improved; just not enough for me to stop using the CPAP machine.  As I departed through the waiting room, I looked up at the television and saw the news report of the horrible murder of children and their teachers in Connecticut.  Suddenly, my upset over having to use a machine to help protect my health felt insignificant.  How stupid of me to whine over needing to use a machine to protect my health when 20 children and seven adults were shot to death.

This is so horrible.  It’s senseless.  The heartbreak shared by everyone is so huge, it’s like there are weights pressing on all of our chests, making it difficult to breathe.  I’m sure that somewhere I should find some compassion for the killer.  If it hasn’t already, then in the not too distant future we’ll probably learn that he had “some problems”  I’m sorry, but right now tonight, I’m fresh out of compassion for the young man.  All that I have or can generate belongs to the families of the shooting victims and their friends and neighbors in the community.

Maybe in the days ahead I’ll find an extra prayer to say for the soul of the killer.  Tonight, my prayers are for the fallen, their families, and all who love and care about them.

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General Stuff

Last night was the first holiday gathering.  I got through it in pretty good shape, meaning without overeating or eating totally off plan.  I had a single glass of wine, didn’t pig out on hors d’oeuvres, took small portions of the main course and then didn’t eat them all.  There were cupcakes for dessert.  I scraped most of the green frosting off of one and ate about half of the cake.  All told, that’s pretty reasonable party eating spread out over a few hours.

Today after work I dashed home to let out the dogs and then get up to the salon for a hair appointment.  I was really tired and thought caffeine would help.  You’ll be happy to know that I made through the Dunkin Donuts drive-through with only a hot tea.  No sugar glazed crack doughnuts for me.

I have another doctor’s appointment in Miami tomorrow so I took the day as a sick day.  It takes me a couple of hours to drive to the appointment, if there are no traffic tie-ups, etc.  I’m going to treat myself to an early morning Zumba class before I shower and change to get on the road.

It amazes me that I’ve come to think of an hour of exercise as a treat.  I’m actually happy that the opportunity is there for me to enjoy tomorrow morning.  I’m going away for the holidays and have already scoped out the locations of Zumba classes where I’m going.  There’s one at my sister-in-law’s gym the morning after Christmas.  I plan to go.  It will likely be the first time I’ve packed two different pairs of sneakers for a vacation.  I wear cross-trainers for Zumba because there are pivots and slides in some of the moves.  Walking shoes have too defined a tread and aren’t the best choice for this class.  However, I’m sure that I’ll also take some walks while away and I don’t want to wear down my cross-trainers.

Good Lord, don’t I sound all athletic and stuff?  😉

Tomorrow’s appointment is the follow-up with the pulmonologist to review the results of my recent sleep test.  Please send some good vibes my way.  I dearly want the doctor to say it’s okay for me to stop using the CPAP machine.  It’s already been a banner week for me with health results.  This would just pin a gold star on the banner.

If I don’t get the okay, I know I’ll be bummed, but I won’t drown my feelings in calories.  It will be one of those times when I need to practice the Serenity Prayer and accept the things I cannot change.  There are people who aren’t overweight at all that still have sleep disorders that require a CPAP.  I can only keep doing what I’m doing, listen to what the doctor recommends, and hope that when I lose all of my weight I can be reevaluated.

Sometimes I wish there were days when I didn’t have to think of things in terms of whether or not I’ll want to eat over them, but that’s my reality and it does me no good to ignore the possibility.  That’s just another kind of denial.

It’s hard to change what has become an instinctive reaction.  I need to continue to be vigilant and self-aware.  That’s my goal for tomorrow:  To be aware that situations might come up that trigger my urge to emotionally eat.  The be vigilant in my determination to not give into the urge.

I can do that for the day.


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Great Report

I had an appointment with my primary care physician today.  She hasn’t seen me in several months.  Several months and 70 pounds to be exact.

It was a great appointment.  We went over the results of the bloodwork I had done last week and my numbers are terrific!  My fasting blood sugar is below the “at risk for diabetes” range.  My cholesterol levels are in the normal range with a great ratio of good cholesterol to bad.  Great results — and I haven’t been on my blood sugar or high cholesterol medications since the surgery last January!  Clearly, I no longer need them.

All of my vitamin levels checked out in the normal range.  My iron count is a little low but that’s actually normal for me.  I have something called thalassemia trait.  If a doctor didn’t know that, then sometimes my bloodwork might look like I’m anemic, but that’s not the case.  It isn’t anything that I need to worry about and only would have been if I’d wanted to have kids with someone else who also had thalassemia.  My doctor evaluated all the numbers that provide information about the number and size of my red blood cells and concluded that there’s nothing that I need to do about the iron level.  More good news!

I’ve been on a beta blocker and another medication for high blood pressure for several years.  Over the last several months, I’ve continued to take them, but I’ve also monitored my blood pressure a few times a week.  I saw the numbers dropping, so I wasn’t surprised at the reading the nurse got today in the doctor’s office.  After reviewing the numbers, my doctor took me off of these medications.  I’m to monitor three times a week and see her again in a month for a follow-up.  However, for right now, I am 100% prescription drug free!

This is exactly the outcome for which I’d been hoping.  The main co-morbidities I had previously, all of which were attributable to my obesity with some impact from family history, are currently resolved.  It’s remarkable!  Technically, I’m still obese but it’s almost like my body has acknowledged that I’m swiftly moving in the right direction, so it jumped to the front of the train and improved at an even faster rate.

Needless to say, I could not be happier with today’s report.  It provides even more hard data that I’m doing exactly what I need to do to improve my health and fitness.




Habitual Eating aka The Doughnut Lure

These are not technical, official, or medical terms.  I made them up just now, but they seemed right in light of my current pondering.  You might wonder what caused this topic.  Simple answer.  After many, many months of applications, planning approval, permits, construction and delays, a new gas station opened in town with a built-in Dunkin Donuts.

I love Dunkin Donuts.  Won’t touch a Krispy Kreme product because I think they’re overly sweet to the point of gross, and I find that most supermarket doughnuts are flavorless, textureless fluff rings, but a Dunkin Doughnut makes my taste buds sit up and sing.

I am pleased and proud to say that the local DD has been open for at least three whole days and I’m yet to steer into the drive-through and cave into temptation.  This is harder temptation to resist than most people can imagine, but I’m soldiering through and have been successful so far.

It got me thinking about eating habits and associations.  Prior to this week, I only saw Dunkin Donuts on my way out of the Keys.  They have one in Key Largo and another in Florida City, both of which I have to pass when I go up the Keys.  There’s only one road, so temptation must be faced.  For years, I always stopped at the one in Florida City.  It made for a good bathroom break and a good place to get some hot tea for the road.  Unfortunately, I’m not one of those people who can order only the tea and leave.  I usually got their beverage plus two doughnuts deal and happily chomped down on those fried, sweet confections.  Yum.

When Starbucks opened in the same area, I switched allegiance.  Mind you, I didn’t stop buying a baked good with my tea, but at least I showed that I could break the doughnut addiction.  I’m well aware that my reasoning is faulty — junk carbs are junk carbs — but I’m going with it.

So, the habitual eating was still there.  I think if we look at the way that we eat, we probably find a lot of choices that are driven by force of habit rather than actual hunger.  If you go to the golden arches and usually order a #2 value meal, chances are you’ve programmed yourself to do that every time.  There are even some fine restaurants that have certain dishes that I love and I usually order one of them each time.

The habits can be anywhere.  If you’ve always slathered pancakes with butter and poured a river of maple syrup on top, it’s a challenge to cut out the butter and reduce the river to a stream.  How hard might it be to cut back on diet soda if that’s always been your drink of choice or switch from regular milk to skim in morning cereal?  I bet if I worked on this for an hour, I could find 100 food habits that I used to follow by rote.

Thankfully, it’s a lot different.  Weight loss surgery is definitely a game-changer.  Most of the time, I can go to Starbucks and depart with only the liquid beverage of my choice.  This is excellent progress.  It doesn’t mean that I don’t think about the old ways or that I don’t feel the habit attempting to reassert itself.  I sure wish that the surgery had also removed those impulses when it changed my actual stomach capacity.  It didn’t.  There isn’t a way to remove the impulses.  We can only learn to counter them when they rise up.  Vigilance remains important.  You’re probably tired of hearing me say that, but I need to keep reminding myself.

If I don’t, I’ll only set myself up to fail.  I have to pass that DD at least twice a day now.  Will I never drive in and have a doughnut?  I doubt I’ll win the battle every single time from here on out.  However, I can — MUST — resist most of the time.  In the grand scheme of my plans for long term success, my desire to stay on plan has to be stronger than the lure of the doughnut.


Holiday Eating

My week is slowing down a little, I think.  I did several errands this morning, but they were fun and now they’re done.  I’m taking a break before I go outside and put up some holiday lights.  Tonight’s the annual Holiday Lighted Boat Parade and it cruises right by my house.  So much fun to watch!  I always string lights around the porch to make my house a little festive.  I also got out my tree and can either set that up and decorate today or do it tomorrow.  Ho! Ho! Ho!

‘Tis definitely the season.  Like most holidays, there’s a lot of food and eating associated with the time of year.  I’m experiencing a mix of emotions over this component of the season.   A lot of joy and happiness, a pinch of resentment, a big chunk of determination, and a dusting of wistfulness.

Food should not be such a big issue, but it is.  It always is, so my resentment is two fold.  I resent that food has so much influence on my emotions at the holidays and, to be completely honest, I have some anticipatory resentment that I will not be able to eat everything I want in selection and in quantity.

I never claimed that an eating disorder was logical and reasonable.   It’s insidious, destructive, and a pain in the ass.  However, it is not all powerful unless I give it permission.

So, I’m doing my best to be vigilant and remember what’s most important about holiday eating.  Here is the rock bottom truth:  Holiday eating is not different than any other eating.  It’s not special or magical.  Food is food, whether dressed up for Christmas dinner or served any other of the 364 days in the year.  I don’t need to overeat or eat lots of crap to celebrate and enjoy a holiday.  In fact, I can celebrate even more if I succesfully eat on my plan and don’t overeat.  I don’t have to deprive myself completely.  There are certain treats that I honestly enjoy and that I can still have without pigging out.  That’s my plan for holiday eating.  Eat on my plan.  Allow myself the occasional treat.  Do not deprive, but don’t overeat.

Damned if I’m going to ruin my holidays by letting myself get out of control.  I have a lot to celebrate this year.


Hit the Ground Running

I hit the ground running today and am only now slowing down.  I had a dental appointment at 9 to get my crown installed.  I told people that I was disappointed that getting a crown did not accord me princess status.  All I want is a day, folks.  Is that too much to ask?  Have I mentioned that I have an uber-cool dentist?  He’s to restorative and esthetic dentistry what Da Vinci was to art.  Yes, he’s that great, in my opinion, and I have a lot of experience to draw on for that assessment.  Plus Jimmy Buffett is a friend and was a guest at his wedding last year.  Jimmy even got up and jammed with the wedding band for a few songs.

It’s an odd thought that my dentist’s hands have been in both of our mouths.

Yeah, I said it.  🙂

Anyway, usually the office runs like a clock but today, for some reason, things were way behind.  They’d told me I’d be done by 9:50, so I’d set up a conference call at work for later in the morning.  Unfortunately, the dentist didn’t even begin working on me until 9:45.  Instant stress as I started counting in my head whether he’d be done in time for me to make it to the office in time for the call.  I sure don’t want to pressure someone who’s using pointy or drilling tools in my mouth.  You don’t rush genius either.  When he finished, I had 30 minutes to make a 40 minute drive, so I wisely called my colleague, who was also going to be on the call, and asked her to stall the other party until I arrived.  Luckily the other person called in a little late.  I made it to the office just as they completed the initial pleasantries.

It was a heck of a way to start a busy day.  I constantly felt like I was trying to catch up from there.

Wednesday evenings I take a Tai Chi class at 6:30.  I usually have ample time to get home from work, play with and feed Nat and Pyxi, and then change to get to class.  Tonight, however, was the annual Pet Pictures with Santa event at the veterinarian’s office.  I don’t know why I think it’s sweet and fun to take my dogs.  Trust me, they wouldn’t miss it, but I’d decided we needed to go, even though I couldn’t find their holiday collars.  I dashed up from work, let them out, changed for Tai Chi, and then quickly leashed them up, loaded them into the car and beat it back up town to the vet’s office.  Luckily, the line wasn’t too long at that point.  The kids were very good, or possibly just stunned with bewilderment, but their pictures were snapped, they got a treat and we were done.  (I can’t wait to see if they have twin WTF expressions in the photograph!)

We ran home and I realized I had a whole 40 minutes before Tai Chi class.  I could actually make dinner ahead of time so it would be ready when I got home.  I had planned to experiment with some of the coconut oil that I bought for the detox/cleanse.  I swiftly stir fried some boneless, skinless chicken thighs in coconut oil, mixed in some broccoli and carrots, and when everything was cooked through, drained it, and then finished with a little pineapple juice and a tablespoon of peanut butter.

Does that sound gross?  It wasn’t!  Honestly, it was tasty.  Unfortunately, I was still in rushrushrush mode and decided that I needed to eat dinner then instead of waiting.

Mistake!  I know not to eat a meal before Tai Chi and I really know not to eat in a hurry.  Somewhere, the ramped up pace of the evening overcame my common sense.  I ate.  I ate too fast.  I ate more than I would have if I’d not chowed down too fast.

While I didn’t make myself sick, my stomach was darned uncomfortable during the entire class.  Lesson learned!

It’s like this whole day has been lived on high-speed.  I didn’t even really relax when I got home.  Even though I sat in the recliner, I was busy working on a craft project that I really need to finish by the weekend.  That done, I remembered that I needed to write out checks and pay bills so that I can mail them tomorrow.  Then it was time to write a blog post.  🙂

A woman’s work is never almost never done.  In about five more minutes, I’m going to log off and shut down the day, run a hot bath, and finally let it all go.  I might have hit the ground running, but tonight I’m going to hit the bed ready for a good, relaxing sleep.

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Feeling Punky

That’s an expression held over from my Mom.  When she sensed that I might not be feeling well, she’d ask, “Honey, are you feeling punky?”  I don’t know where she got it from, but it’s a good memory.  Particularly because she’d usually then be happy to make me a grilled cheese sandwich and some tomato soup.

I defrosted some of my Giada-recipe tomato soup and had it for lunch today, sans grilled cheese sandwich.

Honestly, I’m feeling better than I did yesterday.  Mostly I’m tired which is an improvement over feeling tired and like crap.  The cold is moving down into my chest which makes me cough more.  This is not fun after an hour of Zumba where we did a lot of crunches and other ab work.  On the plus side, I was able to breathe through the entire class.  Booyah!

Okay.  Enough whining.  It’s just a freaking cold.  It’ll will pass in a few more days.  In the meantime, I’m functional.

My day started early.  Every few months, the surgeon requires extensive blood work.  In addition to the regular stuff like a CPC, lipid panel, and blood sugar, he wants to check a number of vitamins in my blood.  Makes sense, since I’m eating so little.  He needs to know that I’m nutritionally balanced.  I know that it takes a while to draw all of the blood needed for these tests, so I was at the hospital when the outpatient check-in opened at 8 a.m.  I was the first patient.  The phlebotomist was a jewel, but understandably curious about why so many tests were ordered.  As she lined up tubes (10-12) and prepared to stick me, I explained about having surgery.  We started to have a really nice, empathetic discussion about being heavy and needing to lose weight.  (She’s slightly more than 300 pounds.)

We also commiserated about some of things that well-meaning friends, co-workers and family say.  While the intent might be to help, a lot of people don’t realize that their words actually hurt.  Seriously, folks, no overweight person needs to hear that things would probably improve if they lost weight.  Likewise, if anyone is ever tempted to tell an obese woman, “You have such a pretty face.  You’d be so beautiful if you only lost weight.”

Actually, any statement that could end with the phrase “if you only lost weight”, should probably not be uttered.

It’s not like we don’t know these things.   I don’t know too many people who don’t try to lose their excess weight, unless they’ve completely given up.  Stating the obvious often just makes us feel worse about ourselves than we already do.

I know that not saying anything is difficult.  People that love us, or at least like us, naturally worry about our health.  There is a need to say or do something with the hope that what is said can encourage us to do something positive.  I know that I never figured out a way to do this for the long term until I had the surgery.  I don’t think that surgery is the only way for everyone.  I hope that I continue to be successful.

I hope that the sweet phlebotomist is able to find her way.


Baby Dolphin!

Gang, this cold is kicking my ass. In place of an insightful or interesting post, how about I share a video and picture of a baby dolphin that was born earlier today? Click herehere!


Feed a Cold, Starve a Fever?

Show of hands — which is it?  Feed a cold, starve a fever or starve a cold, feed a fever?  Who thinks that either is total claptrap and has nothing whatsover to do with making us feel better when we’re sick?

I have a cold.  I’ve been battling getting sick since last week and thought that I successfully kept illness at bay by boosting my immune system with Vitamin C dosing.  After a week of the cold coming in and receding like some germy tide, I honestly thought I’d won.  Then I woke up this morning, started sneezing and felt the cold symptoms progressing through my nose, into my head.  I’m made of tough stuff, however, and don’t easily give in.  I had plans today, damnit, fun plans.  Fun, going to swim with dolphins while wearing a Santa hat for my holiday photos, plans.  I went, had a great time, got adorable photos (Yes, I will share them when I finish my photo holiday card.) and then came home and wanted to melt into bed like a rag doll.

Ordinarily, I have a powerful immune system and, thankfully, do not often get sick.  I think all of the travel and running around finally undermined me and left me susceptible.  I’m sure this was not helped by the woman two seats over in my row on the flight to Jersey who hacked, coughed and wheezed for two hours.

The few times that I do get sick, I usually crave specific foods:  extra crisp bacon, tomato soup, grilled cheese sandwiches.  I figured that a couple slices of extra crisp bacon would not throw me off track too badly, so I made some for breakfast.  I then fed at least half of it to the dogs.   The hot cup of tea, however, was excellent!

I went off to the dolphin swim and was gone for a few hours.  When I returned, I still wasn’t hungry after my shower  but knew that my body needed sustenance.  I don’t have bread in the house, so grilled cheese was not an option, and defrosting some homemade tomato soup was beyond my ability.  I took out two small stalks of celery, dipped one in a scoop of hummus and the other in some soft Brie and called it lunch.  Followed by another cup of tea.

At that point I really wanted to collapse in the chair, so I did for an hour or two.  Then I remembered that I had an assignment due tonight!  Yikes.  I brewed more tea and forced my brain to concentrate.  This is a little more difficult with a low grade fever and frequent bouts of sneezing, but I kept going.

A few more hours passed.  Dinner time came.  And went.  Totally not hungry, darn it, and I had really been looking forward to some deliciously grilled tri-tip beef!  Finally, I got up out of the chair and grilled the meat with a zuccini side dish.  Next to chocolate, I love really good beef more than any other food.  Do you have any idea how frustrating and annoying it was to lose all appetite after three bites?  I couldn’t force another forkful down on a bet.  Nat and Pyxi were quite pleased to receive the remainder of my paltry serving.

So, here I sit, forcing fluids like a good patient.  I’m not going to say that I’m starving.  One would actually need to be hungry and deprived for that condition.  I know this condition won’t last long.  For now, I guess I’ll just be satisfied to have fed by need to whine.

Thanks for listening.