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Avoiding Cheat Guilt

It will come as no surprise to regular or long term blog readers that I have a large and varied supply of different issues about food, eating, dieting, weight loss and having an eating disorder.  I’ve come a long way over the years but that doesn’t mean, for me, that the issues every go away.  I simply learn, or hope to learn, effective coping mechanisms so that the issues don’t screw me up and harpoon my positive effort.

Today what’s coming up for me is combating the feelings that I’m being “bad” on a diet, that I’m cheating, every time I eat some sort of whole fat or otherwise fat food item on this Always Hungry? plan.  Whole milk, whole milk yogurt, full fat cheese, eggs, nuts and nut butters (without added sugar) are absolutely allowed and are an important part of this food plan.  Take this morning, for example.  I prepared the book’s recipe again for non-grain pancakes.  (Did I talk about these last week?  I forget.  Bear with me anyway.)  They are made with garbanza bean flour, whole milk Greek yogurt, whole milk, an egg, and safflower oil.  (If any of you need to avoid gluten and you haven’t tried garbanza bean flour, it’s a revelation.  I want to find other recipes that use it, just because I think it’s tasty.)

These pancakes are delicious just as they are.  However, in lieu of syrup on Phase I, I topped mine with homemade whipped cream and a fruit sauce.  All kinds of awesome yumminess happening on that breakfast plate, my friends.  Great flavor, texture, mouth feel and, after, satiety.

However, even with that positive experience, I could not stop the thoughts that the meal was too decadent, that I was cheating.  I was eating full fat dairy.  My mental process kept trying to tell me this was wrong, wrong, wrong.  I stopped mid-way, put down the fork, and had a talk with myself.  It comes down to being willing to trust this AH plan with its process and the science behind it and be confident that I am not being “bad” or doing damage to myself.  Ultimately, I need to believe that the plan is helping me reach the goals of retraining my fat cells and losing weight.

Clearly the plan is working.  I will confess that I still have difficulty staying away from the scale and am weighing myself almost every day.  However, seeing steady results is at least turning out to be a tool to combat the feelings that I’m screwing up and cheating every time I eat some whole fat food.  (By the way, I’m down 11 pounds today.)

So, how can I stop the negative thoughts and worries from creeping in?  Here’s what I’m going to try.  Remember when I talked about the book’s recommendation that participants designate an amulet to help them refocus on their goals and Big Why?  I use the “Strong is the New Skinny” bracelet my friend gave me.   When I’ve been tempted to eat something not on the plan, it honestly has helped me to look at and tap the bracelet.  I figure if the tool has worked in that way, I could use it for this, too.  My thought is that it will create an atmosphere of even greater mindfulness.  When a negative thought about what I’m eating creeps in, I’m going to tap my bracelet and remind myself that I’m on track with the program and food plan.

 

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Believing in Efforts/Avoiding Diet Mentality

Day three of week two without processed grains and refined sugar and I’m still on track.  I’m not preparing every meal suggested in the book’s daily plan but still sticking to the percentages of protein/fat/carbs in every meal.  Physically I feel good.  Emotionally, the mood variations have settled down.  Mentally and emotionally, I’m happy.  It is a great boost to commit to a plan and honor that commitment every day.  Success breeds success.  I do this a day at a time, but each day that I stick to it becomes a building block in the foundation that supports more long term recovery.

I was never ever willing to abstain for a long time from breads, pastas, white potatoes, white flour products and sugar.   Even though there were many times that I followed extremely restrictive diets that removed all of those foods – or in one case ALL food period – I always hated doing so.  (Yes, I once went six months surviving on a godawful tasting liquid protein with weekly trips to NYC for medical monitoring.)  I felt freakish about my inability to sustain long term weight loss, and resentful that I could not eat like a “normal” person.  When I first discovered that I have an eating disorder and found the OA program, I thoroughly resented my past history of fad, harsh diets.  So, I rebelled from doing anything that reminded me of any old plans.

I don’t know why it feels different to me this time around and why I’m willing.  It could be as simple as the fact that while I gave up the “white” products, I’m still allowed colorful, tasty fruits and veggies of all kinds plus the higher fat content products.  Oh, and that wonderful treat of dark chocolate means a lot.  However, I think there is a more involved evolution at play.  Although I have not yet lost all of the weight that I would like to, the last four years have taught and shown me something about myself.  I am maintaining a significant weight loss and have for four years.  This is something that I have never been able to do for myself in the past.  I always yo-yoed up and down the scale.  I could diet like a fiend on specific plans and lose a great deal of weight, but I always always always put it back on, usually with extra pounds on top.  That’s how I gradually grew to close to 400 pounds.

Knowing, acknowledging how much I have changed, learned, and accomplished with regards to my weight and health creates a belief in myself that I’ve always lacked.  Sure, in the past I always hoped that each time would be the magic effort that worked.  However, at heart I don’t think I really believed that my efforts would result in long term success.  My relationship with myself and with food has changed so much and for the better.  I no longer have any interest in atrocious fast foods and willingly cook with more fresh produce in healthier ways.

I love the positive changes in my body and my physical fitness.  It feels great to move, to see the muscle definition, experience my strength.

Most importantly, I believe that I will continue to be successful.  That I will continue to improve my physical health.  I’m committed to maintaining the new, healthier me.

These changes make it not such a big deal to give up more specific foods.  I’m not saying that I’ll never eat pasta or bread again, but I know for sure that I don’t need them in my every day diet.  Giving them up doesn’t feel like I’m sacrificing.  I’m not experiencing the resentful, “I can’t have it” feelings.  It feels like a positive, okay choice for today.

 

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Day 7 – Abstaining

Today is Day 7 of the first week of this plan that I’m following.  I’ve made it so far without any refined sugar (except that little bit in the occasional bite of dark chocolate that the plan allows) and without any processed grains.  Honestly, I’m pretty amazed.  I’ve resisted even the lightest coating of bread crumbs or a single crouton on a Caesar Salad.  I’ve passed up cookies and even chocolate that was less than 70% cacao.  In short, I’ve been abstinent of the substances that I declared I wouldn’t eat.

I’ve keyed in on my satiety, hunger and any cravings.  If I’ve craved something with a truly physical motivation, as opposed to an emotional craving, I’ve chosen to eat something from the plan, as suggested.  Nuts, veggies, hummus, even a small piece of fruit, are all part of the program.  I can eat them, remain abstinent, and also know that they are healthier choices overall.

I’ve been willing to try foods that I don’t normally eat, like tofu which I used in a black bean-tofu hash.  (Recipe in the book.)  It was delicious.  I bought some more tofu to use in other meals.  I’ve finally realized, after many years, that tofu will provide a great extra protein source for me.  This morning for breakfast, I followed the book’s recipe for gluten-free/grain-free pancakes.  They’re made with garbanza bean flour, egg, Greek yogurt, and milk (soy, almond, cow, whichever I want), along with salt, baking soda, vanilla and oil.  The whole garbanza bean flour thing to me initially seemed odd and I admit I was skeptical.

Happy to report that these pancakes were flat out delicious!  Seriously, yummy.  Oh, and I ate them without maple syrup but with peaches and some fresh whipped cream.  I think this week there are recipes that call for more of the flour for thickening a sauce, for example.  It’s a new staple in my pantry, for sure.

Abstinence for me isn’t just refraining from specific food items.  I also need to not go into the behavior of compulsive eating or binging.  That’s where paying attention to why I crave something matters, and then how much I eat if I’m physically hungry.  I’m getting in touch again with my stomach and feelings of fullness.  Learning how much is enough and when another bite or two is going to push me over into belly pressure and uncomfortableness.

The emotional waves have swelled and ebbed.  I’m doing my best to cleanly surf them and not wipe out.  Looking back, having that meltdown Tuesday night was helpful because it led me to identify what I was experiencing.  I had a few other intensely emotional incidences over the week, but knowledge and awareness helped me remember what was going on.  Sometimes I just let myself feel them until they passed; other times I shook myself out of them as appropriate.

The plan recommends reducing regular physical regimens for the first week.  I’m not 100% clear why, but I followed the instruction.  I did both Tai Chi classes but only rowed once.  The book does advocate a few minutes of “joyful movement” morning and night, so I stretch and do some additional Tai Chi at home as usual.  It also suggests short walks after each meal, so Nat and I have been out and about.

That’s the week’s summary.  All in all, it’s important for me to look back and reflect on the program and my commitment to following it.  I’m reviewing the chapters in the book and making my shopping list so that I have the foods in house to prepare.  That’s so key to me being able to succeed – prepping ahead of time for meals.  I also look at the suggested meals and know when I need to substitute something because of my schedule.  For example, on a day that I row, I don’t have time when I get home to make a frittata.  I have to shower, get dressed and get to work on time.  So on those days, I make a power smoothie or yogurt and fruit that I can bring with me and eat at work.  There are a couple of nights when I won’t be home to cook, so I’m substituting in leftovers from a previous meal.

I have another week of Phase One with no grains and no refined sugar.  I’m ready and committed to doing it one day at a time.

Oh, by the way, I jumped on the scale this morning.  (Yes, I almost made it until tomorrow.)  I’ve lost eight pounds.  Even figuring some of that is water weight, it’s the first significant weight loss that I’ve seen in a while.  I am cautiously optimistic that the program and my efforts are achieving what the book said it would… retraining my fat cells to give up the calories instead of hoarding them.  Fingers crossed!

 

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Emotional Impact of Carb/Sugar Abstaining

Two days into the two weeks of no grains, no refined sugar phase.  I am relieved that I am not feeling hunger and am not “white-knuckling” to hang on between meals.  So far I haven’t experienced big physical cravings either.  Thank goodness I’ve avoided that horrible, “I need a piece of bread right now or it could get ugly!” feeling.

I believe the reason that I’m not having these negative reactions is because I’m still getting some healthier carbs and sweetness from beans, legumes, veggies and fruit.  Plus, there is something wonderful to the “mouth feel” of quality fats added to a meal.

Physically, things are going well.  However, my disease has three components – physical, mental/emotional, spiritual.  Last night, I started to go through some emotional reactions that were stronger than I would expect on a “normal” day.  In retrospect, the influencing activity was sort of silly, or maybe I just describe it as such now because I’m viewing it through a clearer lens.  Here’s what happened.

I had a very hectic day at work, then ran home to eat dinner and get to Tai Chi class.  Unfortunately, in my rush, I forgot to change footwear to the shoes that I usually wear when doing Tai Chi.  Believe it or not, shoes matter.  We do a lot of pivots and other steps and, depending on the floor surface, the amount of tread on the bottom of your footwear can really affect how well you can do the moves, keep balance, etc.

When I’m home or at the beach, I actually prefer to do Tai Chi in bare feet, but that was not an option on the floor where we hold class.  I also wasn’t wearing socks, or I would have just taken the shoes off.

Anyway… the tread of the shoes I was wearing did not glide smoothly so my pivots and turns were hampered.  The shoes weren’t as stable in design as the ones I normally wear which also affected my balance, particularly on my bad knee.  A class that I usually love with its calming, flowing movements turned into one challenging chore after another.

Maybe it was the lack of cooperation between shoes and floor or the fact that I started to stress about my less-fluid-than-normal execution of the moves, but my body began to stiffen up — particularly that bad, weaker knee.  This increased my frustration.

About two thirds into the class, I was an internal mess.  Cranky, bitchy, upset, pissed off at my physical limitations — all negative.  At the very end, on the last sequence of moves that we were practicing, my knee locked, the plates of bone that kiss each other rubbed just the wrong way and hurt a lot.  I couldn’t finish the moves and had to walk off the floor.

At that point I was so internally upset that all I wanted to do was get the hell out of class and go home to an ice pack and ibuprofen.  I had a hard time not blowing past people who were trying to talk to me — people whom I like and am friends with.  I know that the few sentences I uttered were abrupt.

I got out of the building, into my car, drove out of the parking lot and started to cry.  It was awful.  I didn’t keep crying the short drive home but was just in a miserable and sad mood at that point.  When I got to the house, I knew that I had to put in work prepping meals to eat today, and I was entitled to my evening dessert.  Honestly, I was a little afraid to be around food at that point for fear that I’d fall off the wagon and eat compulsively to try to make myself feel better.  Yes, I know that’s completely inappropriate thinking because compulsive eating really doesn’t ever make me feel better.  It’s one of the lies that my disease tells me.

Thankfully, I was still wearing the bracelet that I’ve designated as my helpful talisman for this endeavor.  (As suggested in the Always Hungry book.)  Before I opened the fridge door, I looked at the bracelet and tapped it.  I purposely tried to connect with my reasons for wanting to stay on program and remain abstinent.  That simply action – the tap and reconnect – helped me step back from the edge of overwhelming emotion.  I was able to take a few deep breaths, calm my thoughts and try to look at what was going on.  About then is when I realized that the swingy emotions could be a result of the cold turkey abstaining from processed carbs and refined sugar. Having the realization calmed me down a little more  I sat quietly for a few moments with an ice pack on my knee and worked on settling myself even further.  Before long I was no longer emotionally ricocheting and the desire to bury my feelings with food had eased.

I went into the kitchen and prepared my planned dessert and then sat down at the table and ate it slowly while savoring the taste, texture and mouth feel.  After that, I felt like I could tackle the food prep tasks and have everything ready for a good day today.  Before settling into watch some television later on, I wrote emails to the Tai Chi friends and apologized for rushing off, citing the knee pain and need to treat it.

By the time I went to bed, I was back on an even keel and got a good night’s sleep.

This was a valuable experience for me.   From the beginning of letting the emotional reactions rule to acknowledging the impulse to eat to working through the process without eating, all the way to bringing myself back down, I re-learned a valuable lesson.  No matter what, I can be stronger than the compulsion.  I don’t have to eat, no matter how strongly compelling the urge.

I also learned again that processed carbs and sugar can be addictive so getting away from them can wreak a little havoc.  However, that havoc is temporary.  It doesn’t, and won’t, control my life.

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No Grains, No Sugar

I’m on a two week endeavor to abstain from eating processed grain and refined sugar products.  As I shared in my previous post, I’m involved in a plan created by an endocrinologist/weight loss/nutrition researcher named Dr. David Ludwig.  The book is Always Hungry?  I’ve suspected for a long time that my metabolism is screwed up thanks to years of binge eating disorder, yo-yo dieting, my now post-menopausal self, etc.  The first two years after my weight loss surgery, it feels like all I had to do was think about losing weight and the pounds evaporated from my body.  The last two years have been much more of a struggle.

When I struggle, I do so on various levels.  There’s the whole frustration of working really hard to follow my food plan but then not seeing results.  Plus there’s the whole daily struggle that I have simple dealing with an eating disorder.  There is no cure for an eating disorder.  It will always be part of my life.  However, I have a program and tools that help me cope with it.  Sadly, however, when my physical body does not cooperate, it messes with my head a lot and that makes it much more challenging for me to work my tools and stay on track.  Vicious cycle.

Anyway, when I heard about this book and read it, pretty much all of what he said made sense to me about our body chemistry, insulin production, how our fat cells function and react to different types of food and diets, etc.  After a lifetime of trying every possible diet and nutrition plan – including some that, in retrospect, were incredibly unhealthy or just plain whacko, I don’t choose to try something new or unfamiliar without a lot of careful thought.  So, I really considered this plan long and hard before making a commitment.

This might come out sounding stupid, but I’ll share it any way.  One of the selling points for me on this plan was the fact that I can still eat fruit, nuts, beans and legumes.  For me there is a fine line between when a plan is restrictive to the point of impossibility and when it offers me enough variety to maintain my sanity and still enjoy what I’m eating.

A couple of years ago when my post-surgery progress began to slow, I’d go to my monthly doctor’s appointments and talk about what I was doing or trying to do.  The surgeon was very cut and dried.  On one memorable appointment, he said, “Cut your calories by 25%, increase your exercise.  Don’t eat any carbs or fruit.”

That effectively would have meant that I restricted myself to between 600 and 750 calories a day with very little variety in my daily food.  I was pretty freaked out by the suggestion, and when I freak out like that, I tend to want to console and calm myself with a hot fudge sundae.

There are other very low carb/high protein/high fat plans around that also restrict you on starchy vegetables and most fruits.  I’ve never tried one before.  This plan takes a different approach.

For the first two weeks, Phase 1, it asks one to stay away from grains, starchy vegetables, and tropical fruits.  It also restricts refined sugars (even honey or maple syrup, and sweeteners) with the wonderful exception of the small amount of sugar contained in good quality dark chocolate of at least 70% cacao.  Yep, I can eat small amounts of dark chocolate on this plan.  That enough could save my sanity along with still being able to eat berries, apples, peaches and the like.

After the first two weeks, I can add back in some whole grain products and additional vegetables and tropical fruits.  Basically, the doctor recommends keeping away from white flour products (bread, pasta, cookies, etc.), white rice, white potatoes.

The doctor maintains that the full fat foods help balance out the body’s reactions and also lead to increased satiety, reduced cravings, more stable insulin production, etc.

Starting yesterday, I began the program.  So far, so good.  Let me tell you, I savored last night’s dessert of berries and a half ounce of dark chocolate.  I’m trying to be aware of any cravings.  A volunteer delivered pastries to every department this morning.  Every time I walk into the kitchen, I see them.  If I get the urge, I tap my bracelet and remember why I’m making this effort.

The biggest challenge for me so far is that he advocates preparing a lot of different foods and supplies recipes that fit the plan.  Honestly, I don’t have time to cook so many things, or to cook every night after work.  So, I’m learning to adjust and focus on the key elements – making sure I have quality protein at every meal or snack, and that each meal includes fats and carbs.  Those last two areas are unfamiliar but I’m not freaking out over them.  I want to see how and if this approach works.  In order to do that, I need to commit and follow the suggestions.  I’m doing my best.

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Hello! It’s Me.

Thank you so much for missing me, folks!  I’m so sorry that I went MIA for the beginning of 2016.  After my last post on New Year’s Eve, I feel like I hit the ground zooming at warp speed for the first two weeks.  Those first 14 days were completely wrapped up in several work projects that required maximum attention, focus, and extra hours.  I usually write my posts at night after dinner but there were so many nights where I was barely capable of babbling to my dog I was so tired.  Composing my thoughts and putting them into a coherent thought? Totally beyond my abilities.

The second two weeks of January I traded the stress of work for a fabulous vacation in Hawaii.  But even before I jetted west, I began the time off with a great Garth Brooks/Trisha Yearwood concert in Sunrise and a night in NYC to see Les Miserables.  (I planned that Broadway trip specifically to see the amazing Welsh tenor Alfie Boe perform as ValJean.  Unfortunately, he got sick and didn’t appear, but we still had a great time.)

The very next day, my friend and I boarded the plane to really start the vacay.   You know, so many times you put strong focus on what you’ll do and what you want that you can really build up super high expectations.  It’s not surprising that very often the reality falls short.

I’m delighted to say that didn’t happen to us.  Hawaii was everything that we’d dreamed up, hoped for, and planned about.  Highlights included doing a night snorkel to see giant manta rays, more snorkeling and whale watching, hiking some parks and just enjoying ourselves and relaxing in one of the most beautiful places in the world.  I love, love, love Hawaii and can easily see myself visiting and exploring the state every few years, if I can arrange the time and finances.  Sometime several years in the future after I retire, I’d like to spend most of a winter there.  Maybe I’ll get a temporary job as a naturalist on a whale watching boat!

Once we returned from Hawaii, I barely had time to do laundry and catch up at work before repacking for a week in Mexico for an industry meeting.  Very brain intensive and busy with long days of meetings, but the facilities who were close to the meeting hotel were wonderful hosts and arranged some fun evenings.  My boss and I also extended our trip by a day just so we could relax a little after the busy week and we had a chance to do something special.

I’ve been home now for two weeks and I think… think… that I’m caught up.  Even though one trip was vacation, being away three out of four weeks took me out of myself.  I’ve needed some time to decompress, readjust, and reconnect with my life.  I believe I’ve accomplished that now.

Amid the jetting around, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and studying on myself, my health, and my recovery.  One thing that I have noticed is a definite increase in pain and stiffness in my problem knee – the right one.  Even with my dedicated rowing exercises and other fitness activities, it is definitely weaker and less steady than my left knee.

Although I have not gained weight since September, I haven’t lost any either.  Maintaining is more positive, but it isn’t enough for me.

I am hungry for good health and determined to optimize my physical condition.  There have been times in recent weeks when I was almost resigning myself to going back to the orthopedic specialist to discuss whether it’s time for a knee replacement.

Fortunately, I big dose of truthiness hit me.  I cannot appropriately assess the condition and future capability of my knee until I take off the 50 pounds I’ve been wanting to shed.  According to a Harvard Medical article, the force on your knees when walking on level ground is roughly 1 1/2 times your body weight.  (More force when going up an incline like stairs.)  So, someone who weights 200 pounds puts 300 pounds of pressure on his or her knees.  Even a 20 pound weight loss would reduce that pressure by 30 pounds and so on.  If I lose 50 pounds, I’m reducing the impact on my knees by 75 pounds!  That’s a big improvement.  I can practically hear my knee joints begging, “Yes please.  Do it.”

As we know, losing weight is not easy, even for those of us who have had weight loss surgery.  I’ve realized for a while that years of an eating disorder have screwed up my metabolism.  However, I’m accustomed to seeing results when I follow a plan.

I am not seeing those results, which absolutely ramps up my frustration and increases the difficulty I have in remaining on a plan.  It is very confusing.

However, I have hope.  In January, I heard about a book called Always Hungry? by a well known endocrinologist, researcher and professor of nutrition at Harvard.  I started reading about it and then bought the book to read in depth what this doctor had to say.  When he talked about how many traditional approaches to weight loss end up confusing our bodies and triggering the exact opposite reaction in our fat cells than what we want, he did it in such a way that it made sense.  At risk of oversimplying, he advocates cutting way back on processed carbohydrates (particularly white flour/non whole grains, white sugar, white potatoes, and those families of foods), saying yes to whole fats and healthy fats, going for lower glycemic load, not just glycemic index, and not drastically restricting calories.  He claims that with his approach, one can conquer cravings, retrain fat cells and efficiently lose weight.

Disclaimer:  That really is a vast oversimplification of the doctor’s ideas, which he has based on research, studies and experience.  I truly don’t want to do him an injustice.  Please, if interested, go read up about it yourself, okay?

So, Dr. Ludwig said a lot that I found interesting.  I freely admit that he also won a great deal of my interest when he made the differentiation between the white bread/white potatoes/white pasta/white rice type of carbohydrates and carbs found in beans, legumes, fruit and some other veggies.  When he said that eating good quality dark chocolate  was not a diet sin, I wanted to applaud.

Anyway, after studying the book and his plan, I’ve decided to give it a try.  I just finished the seven day preparation phase.  I did a massive clean out of my pantry and refrigerator.  Not that they were loaded with inappropriate foods, but there were some in there.  I actually found a lot more items that needed to get tossed because I’d gone way past their expiration dates. Armed with the extensive shopping list, I loaded up lots of ingredients to prepare the recipes that the doctor includes in his book.

I have to admit that it feels a little strange to buy whole milk, real cheese, and Greek yogurt that isn’t fat free.  Don’t get me wrong; the plan does not advocate eschewing bread but eating all of the bacon that I want.  He really is much more balanced.

The first two weeks are the most restrictive.  No grains, starchy vegetables, tropical fruits, high carb sweets and snack foods, and sugar except for the small amount in high quality 70% minimum cacao dark chocolate.  Every meal will have high quality protein, fat and acceptable carbs from non-tropical fruit or beans, legumes, etc.

I’m pretty psyched up for the effort.  For me, having the right attitude is so important.  I need the mental and emotional oomph to power through the physical effort.  I’m pretty confident in my ability to do this, one meal at a time.  Honestly, I’m less concerned about craving bread than I am about having to give up the sole packets of sweetener that I use in my cups of tea.

Lunch and snacks are all prepared and waiting in the fridge for the morning when I’ll put them into my lunch bag.  I have what I need to cook dinner for the next three nights, too.  I’m committed to following the eating plan and also doing the other things that he suggests, such as getting enough sleep, doing some stress relaxers each day, and so on.  I’ve even designated my “Big Why” amulet.  The doctor talks about identifying our Big Why – specific goals that are the motivation for losing the weight and changing our lives.  Right now, my Big Why is to be healthy and, more specifially, relieve knee pain.  My amulet is a bracelet that my good friend gave me that says “Strong is the New Skinny”.

When I want to reach for that Splenda packet, I’ll look at the bracelet again.

So… that pretty much sums up what’s been going on for me for the first two months of 2016.  I promise to keep you all posted on how things are going.  I hope that all of you are doing great.  Thanks for checking in!

(Folks, I tried to include some photos from my recent trips, but Chrome kept freezing on me and I gave up after three tries.  Sorry!)

 

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Food Calling

Where did December go?  I sort of saw the days fly by but I was so darned busy I couldn’t latch on for the trip.  In addition to being ultra busy with work, I also managed a week’s vacation up to the Northeast for my annual holiday time with family and friends.  I wish I could say that I also maintained my good eating habits while I was away, but I don’t want to lie, particularly not on my own blog.  Holiday cookies might as well be crack.  That’s how addictive they are for me.

Emotionally, I had a wonderful time away.  I love spending time with so many people whom I deeply love but whom I don’t get to see so often.  Physically, between the cookie binges and not working out for a week, I ended up feeling pretty crappy by the time I was on my way back to Florida this past Sunday.

I think it’s a good thing that stubbornness is part of my DNA and mental makeup.  I refuse to give up on myself.  I immediately began eating more cleanly, sticking to my plan, and even drinking more water.  Yesterday morning, I was on a rower at 7 a.m.   It’s only been two days and I already feel better.  I always try to remember that each day is the opportunity for a new beginning.  I don’t have to repeat bad behavior.  I can always choose differently.

My boss and friend and have shared a couple of discussions about this the last two days.  At some point yesterday I said that it isn’t really about the food for me.  It’s about my behavior with food.  Apparently that stuck with her and she’s been looking at, or raising her awareness of her behavior too.  We talked some more today about what it feels like to have an eating disorder and why, when we know our goals and our desire to follow out plan and eat responsibly, we go off track.  “It’s like there is an alien being in my head sometimes,” I said.  “The alien takes over and I grab at food that I don’t want because the alien being wants it.”

The alien being is my eating disorder, of course.

She then, sort of plaintively, wondered why only the bad foods call to her.  “If I have the food around, it screams my name,” she said.  “Why don’t the good foods ever call me?”

That lead to more discussion about behavior and thinking about how we can set ourselves up for success.  I’m glad we had that talk because it put it all in the front of my mind and helped me later on.  Every year I end up shipping home a box with the gifts I’ve received.  The box arrived today and in it was a package of white chocolate and dark chocolate mixed with peppermint.  I unpacked the box, looked at the candy and thought, “No problem.  I’ll just have a nibble now and then put the rest in the refrigerator.  I’ll be okay.  I can control this.”

I honestly don’t know if that’s my ego talking or my misguided illusions.  I broke off a piece and ate it so fast that it barely registered.  I did go so far as to stick the rest in the fridge, but I also went back to the fridge to eat another piece of chocolate.

That simply would not do!  I knew that my eating disorder wouldn’t stop thinking about that chocolate until I’d returned again and again and, eventually ate it all.  I had a choice to make and, this time, I made the healthy choice.  I grabbed the box from the fridge and marched it to the outside trash cans.  Bingo — One large chocolate bar rendered unable to tempt me any more.

I texted the tale to my boss.  She texted back, “Well played.”

The chocolate called to me, but it got the wrong number.

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Wisely Challenging Myself

Yesterday morning’s rowing class workout called for rowing 600 meters, then jumping off to do 8-10 pushups and 20 penguins.  (Penguins work the oblique muscles.  You lie on your back, knees bent and feet on the floor.  Lifting shoulders slightly off the floor you reach with each hand toward your heels, alternating side to side.)  We were allotted between 1:30-2:15 to do the floor exercises.  If we didn’t use the entire time, we could rest a little before starting the next round of rowing.  The objective was to do as many rounds as possible (AMRAP) in 45 minutes.

I love rowing class and the all over workout it provides.  Great cardio and some strength building combined.  The trainer changes things up and challenges us.  Each week, I try to do a little more or a little better.  Like in this session, I wanted to go lower on my pushups and reach further on my penguins.  That kind of challenge is good.

But I wasn’t quite so smart on the rows.  On these machines, you can pull on the back motion with different amounts of strength.  Everybody is different, depending on where we are with our bodies.  I usually average between 115-125 watts of power when I’m in the groove.  I’ve pulled higher watts in short spurts before — even more than 200 watts for a couple of strokes in a sprint one day.  However, 115-125 is a pretty steady range and gives me a good workout.

Today, for some reason, I decided it was time to boost my average range of power.  From the first round, I tried to rip 135-150 watts of power with each stroke.  That first round, I was all caught up in my strength and the goal of pushing myself with the challenge.  The second round, I kept it up.  I concentrated on maintaining form, driving power with my legs and ripping those watts.  When I finished the 600 meters, I’d jump off the rower and go into the push ups, followed by the penguins, then end up with about :20 of rest time before starting the third round.  What a rush!

Mid-way through, I got hit with nausea.  Serious, “uh-oh-I-could-throw-up-right-on-this-machine” nausea.  The poor trainer stopped by my machine right at that moment to comment on the football game this past weekend.  I sort of held up my hand in a “Give me a second” gesture and squeaked out that I was trying not to hurl.

God bless that man.  Apparently, he’s seen it all in his sports and training career.  He very calmly told me to concentrate on my breathing and back off of the workout.  He also very reassuringly said that if I lost it, it wouldn’t be the first time and the floors were easy to clean.   I choked out something along the lines of, “Easy to clean, but not so easy to get over the embarrassment.”

I tried to gut it out.  I finished the round, working with far less power.  I completed the floor exercises.  I then got back on the rower and pushed for one more round of rowing. My stomach was jumping and my arms were trembling.   I knew I was done about half way through.

Thoroughly disgusted, I climbed off the rower.  Again, bless the trainer.  He told me that I had to listen to my body.  Unfortunately, at that moment I was listening to the voice in my head that was thinking “Workout fail”.  Some of how I was feeling emotionally must have showed on my face.  He said that I come to every class and work hard.  While challenging myself was a good thing, I need to do it in stages.

I probably felt lousy for another couple of hours afterward.  For awhile I wondered if I was actually coming down with a bug.  I wasn’t.  Gradually my stomach got over the upset.  It took significantly longer for me to get over feeling like an idiot.  Eventually, however, I could look at it with more logic than emotion.  It’s okay to challenge myself, but next time I need to do it wisely.

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Changing My Mind is Okay

There are a lot of different things I could title this post.  Traditions Can Change; Abandoning Tradition; Choosing Wellbeing Before Cookies; Holiday Health.  They all came to mind when I opened up the window to start writing.  Here’s what’s going on.

I always travel to the Northeast to spend the Christmas holiday with my brother, sister-in-law and nephews, and also to see as many friends and other family members as possible.  A couple of weeks before I fly up, I ship my family’s gifts so I don’t need to lug them on the plane.  For the last few years, I also rekindled a family tradition of baking delicious Italian fig and date cookies.  My grandmother made them for us every year for all of my life that I can remember.  When she passed away, Mom and I continued the tradition.

Sometimes, I bake them once I get to my brother and sister-in-law’s house, but there isn’t going to be time this year.  So, I thought I’d make them today, seal them up really tight, and ship them with the presents.  (I know the cookies will not go stale if packaged correctly.  My grandmother once sent a batch from New Jersey to France when we lived there for a year.  They were perfect on arrival and this was in the days before overnight or even two-night shipping.

I added the ingredients to my weekly shopping list and off to the store I drove.  I even bought a new rolling pin and pastry mat to help with the baking.  That’s how fully engrossed in the holiday fa-la-la I was this morning, anticipating the process and reveling in continuing the tradition.

In my head, I had everything planned.  I could envision myself happily wrapping gifts while the aroma of melty-fig cookies perfumed my house.  Then, a funny unexpected thing happened on the drive home from the supermarket.  An alien thought entered my head that said, “You know what?  I don’t really want to bake those cookies today.”

This really surprised me and it triggered not only an internal debate, but also a scramble of different emotions.  Happiness that I acknowledged that I didn’t want to bake.  Guilt that I didn’t.  A healthy dash of, “Oh, but you should!” spiced the mix, sharpened by the trepidation of knowing that I would overeat samples of the cookies.

I went back and forth on the decision a couple of dozen times.  Bake, don’t bake.  Yes, no.  Do it, don’t.  Thankfully, when I pulled into the driveway, the wise voice overrode the clamor.  It said, “It’s okay.  You don’t have to bake the cookies, and you don’t need to feel bad that you don’t want to.  The family enjoys them but they aren’t holding their collective breath waiting for them.  What’s more, they might like the cookies but they love you.  They’ll be happier that you’re making the choice you need to make for yourself.”

That was the decision maker.  I’m in a good place right now with my food plan, eating, and exercise routine.  I know if I start baking today, I’m going to throw myself off.  Changing my mind about making cookies is not only okay, it’s the right, healthy choice.

I’m so glad that I listened to that first thought when it popped up and that I didn’t let the other thoughts and emotions overrule my instinct.

Holiday and family traditions are wonderful things, but they don’t take priority over healthy choices.  In fact, me making healthy choices is a new tradition in itself.

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Feeling Fit Again

Another thing that has been contributing to me not feeling great about myself in recent months is the fact that I wasn’t feeling as physically strong and fit as I had been.  After discovering the joy of physical activity over the course of the first couple of years and really embracing different types of exercise, last spring I started to hurt more.  My right knee gave me chronic pain.  Then I developed the horrid heel pain with plantar fasciitis plus slight tears in my Achilles tendon and plantar fascia.

I began to gain some weight back which made everything even worse.  Emotionally and mentally, the combined affects of the injuries, the arthritic knee, and the extra weight slowly eroded my enthusiasm for exercise.  I backslid into more sedentary ways.  I lost my excitement about all the great things that I could do with my body that I couldn’t before my weight loss surgery.  I couldn’t even do my Tai Chi, which I absolutely love.  Overall,  I just felt like more of a blob as time went on.

As soon as possible after the foot doctor cleared me to restart more physical exercises, I went back to Tai Chi.  Then I discovered the wonderful, amazing rowing classes.  Somewhere along the line, my spirit rejuvenated and I became determined to reclaim the level of physical fitness that I’d achieved before.  That led to me committing to three rowing classes a week – even getting up extra early to make it to the 7 a.m. classes!  (If you knew me, you’d know that this was alien behavior for me.  🙂 )

For the last couple of months, I have consistently rowed three days a week.  I guess it’s about a month and a half since the trainers started incorporating some additional strength and conditioning exercises in the classes.  I give every class all of the energy and effort that I can muster and push myself when I feel like I can’t.  In the last few weeks, even while I struggle with the number on the scale, I can see and feel physical improvement in my body.  Last week I experienced that wonderful realization of how much stronger I am in my core, as evidence by my much-improved form in sit ups.

Recognizing the improvements is having an incredibly positive effect on my emotions and mental attitude.  This really became obvious to me over this Thanksgiving weekend.  Even before, I prepared by going to rowing classes Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.  (We knew the rowing studio was closed Thursday through Sunday.)  I think I shared before that on Thursday I not only took Nat out for a long walk, but I also did some exercising at home with free weights, push ups, sit ups and planks, then even a full set of Tai Chi.

I kept my activity going on Friday with another long walk.  Today, I rode my bike to and from Tai Chi class and around town a little doing some errands.

Before dinner, Nat and I went out for a long walk.  As we were walking, I tuned into how my body was feeling.  I felt the regular slight twinges I get in my knee, but really acknowledged how great I felt overall.  Strength in the muscles; a free and easy stride; from head to toe, muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments, lungs and other organs all smoothly work together.  In that moment, I realized that I finally feel fit again.

This, my friends, is glorious.  Not only does it lighten my spirit, it energizes my heart.  I am truly enjoying my own physical ability.  Glorious and wonderful, indeed.  I’m inspired to keep it all going.  I’ve already signed up for my three rowing classes next week.  Tomorrow morning, even though it’s Sunday, I’m meeting a friend at her condo community.  We’re going to workout together in the community’s gym.  They have great machines.

I’m inspired as well to not waste the effort by making poor eating choices.  Maybe this is the piece I needed to reclaim in order to finally break through my long lasting plateau.  We will see!

 

 

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