Weighty Matters

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Mary Does Disney

The last time I visited Disney World theme parks was in 1997. While still weighing more than 300 pounds, I was no where near my heaviest weight ever. I was a lot younger, had more energy, and my knee had not yet begun to really weaken. My friends and I had a great time.

A year later, after my Mom got sick, I’d put on about 35 pounds. I went to a theme park in Texas with a friend, got into the car for an old roller coaster and was too fat for the bar to come down securely, That pretty much ended any plans of going to a theme park ever again.

Since weight loss surgery, a trip to Disney has been on the Promise List. I have a conference starting today in St. Augustine and decided to come up a day early with a slight jog inland to Orlando for a Disney Day. I bought a one day park hopper pass and started with an 8 a.m. arrival to Animal Kingdom. Just going through a turnstyle without an issue is a mental relief. Climbing into a ride with a bar or a seatbelt and not giving the slightest, worried thought as to whether I’ll fit is a miracle.

I had a lot of fun. I didn’t do every ride that I wanted but caught different shows and attractions. I managed to hit all four parks at some point. According to my FitBit, I walked more than 14 miles, or 33,000 plus steps. Needless to say I was exhausted by day’s end. I confess that my body was sore and I treated my knee and ankle to an ice pack before going to sleep.

Unfortunately, my eating wasn’t stellar. I received some sad news about a foster dog that I care about while I was eating lunch. I was shocked to see that I’d eaten the entire sandwich completely mindless to what I was consuming. I so need to keep working on this! My mind blanked about my food as I was swept up in the emotion. I ate some other junk later in the day but I have to think that the day-long physical exertion will balance it all out.

Today I’m giving my body a day off to let it recover and I’ve begun the day with a mindfully-eaten, healthy breakfast. There were many yummy, off-plan choices that I could have made, as well as some overly abundant but healthier options. I actually spoke to the servers about the large quantity of food on the offered breakfast platters and asked if we could customize something smaller in portions. To my pleasure, they agreed and worked with me.

So, check Disney off of the Promise List. I’ve shown that I can do theme parks again and am looking forward to returning in the future. Booyah!


Positive Food Mind Games

Remember when I talked about buying a few high-end quality, handcrafted chocolates over the weekend and said that I planned to eat them one a night?

Raise your hands. How many of you are expecting me to say that I totally messed up on that plan and stuffed them all into my mouth the first night?

It’s okay if you raised your hand. I pretty much expected me to do just that despite my plan and great intentions. I’m happy to say that I surprised myself and that I also discovered something useful and important in the process. This commitment and practice helped me control other impulses. Let’s face it. I love chocolate. There is no way that I would willingly give it up unless you told me that eating even a single, minuscule piece would kill me faster than a dose of cyanide. Even then, I’d first ask, “How minuscule are we talking?”

I know that it is a mistake and completely sets me up to fail for me to keep a bag of M&Ms, or a bag of mini-candy bars, or anything like that in my house. I do not have the self control to limit myself on those particular versions of chocolate. If I’m at the supermarket and give into the urge to buy a small bag on my way out (You know, the bags they place right at the checkout line so you’ll see them, feel the urge, and buy?) I can tell myself forever that I’ll only eat some of the M&Ms and save the rest, but that’s complete b.s., even if I believe it at the time.

However, when I have good quality chocolate around, I absolutely can limit myself to one treat in the evening. I’ve now successfully done this enough times that I see a definite difference in my behavior pattern when the chocolate is high-end, as opposed to whether it’s the stuff I can grab at the supermarket. What’s more, when I know that I have that quality chocolate available to me for the one scheduled, permissible treat in the evening, it acts as a deterrent. I can talk myself out of other urges to buy and consume other candy or other sugary sweets like cookies, cupcakes, and ice cream. Seriously, I’ve had actual internal conversations with myself that go something like this.

Compulsive Me: What a stressful day. Ohhh, look at those cookies. They look yummy. I want one. (Hand reaches for package, about to put it in shopping cart.)

Healthy Me: They look yummy, but they’re junk. Don’t forget you still have those good chocolates at home and can have one tonight.

Compulsive Me: Oh, right! Those chocolates are so much better. I don’t need these processed things. (Hand withdraws from package.)

Healthy Me: Good choice. You’ll enjoy the chocolate so much more.

Compulsive Me: And I’ll feel better about it after, too.

Healthy Me: Smart woman!

Really, folks, as strange as it sounds, that’s my thought process sometimes. Sure, it’s a mind game to divert from the compulsive act, but it works. There are additional bonuses and benefits, too. When I buy good quality chocolate, I end up with food that has fewer calories and less sugar, but more of the healthy qualities for which chocolate is touted. I also eat less of it. That’s an extra win.

Here’s another food mind game that I discovered this week. I love certain nuts. Walnuts, peanuts, pistachios, and almonds top the list. Nuts can be a healthy, nutritious snack — as long as I don’t totally pig out on them eating multiple handfuls. With the exception of walnuts, which I prefer to use in cooking instead of snacking, I have learned that I can’t eat nuts in healthy ways if I keep a jar of them already shelled in the house. The habit is there to eat them mindlessly.

Thanks to the baseball game last weekend, I realized that I exercise good portion control if I buy the nuts still in their shells. Sounds simple and logical, doesn’t it? I can’t grab handfuls of nuts and eat them when I need to shell them first. Yesterday and today, I measured out an appropriate portion of shelled pistachios, brought them in a container to work for my mid-morning snack, and ate them in a healthy, appropriate way. I didn’t overeat and I was completely satisfied. Booyah!

My takeaway on these lessons is that while we were taught as kids to not play with our food, developing and playing positive food mind games can actually aid my plan and recovery!


Keeping Off the “See-Food” Diet

I can’t emphasize this point enough with myself. Stay mindful. It is incredibly easy to fall off the food plan wagon in an instant if I don’t stay vigilant. I’ve done mostly great since returning from my cruise and been really happy that I continue to lose weight, but I also saw that I was giving into impulse when around foods that are not on my plan.

I went to friends’ for a Super Bowl Party. There were a lot of different foods set out and I wanted to taste almost all of them. That’s okay, as long as I do it mindfully without stuffing in the food faster than I can think about what and how much I’m putting in my mouth.

Oddly enough, it is more difficult for me to refrain from compulsive eating or snacking at home than it was when I was on the cruise. That sounds surprising because there is so much food available all of the time on a cruise ship. However, and this is a big however, it is only available in the restaurants. So, out of sight, out of reach and, mostly, out of mind.

Here at home, food is as accessible as my kitchen and fridge. At work, we have a kitchen and people love to leave out treats and snack foods. Sometimes just seeing food out triggers a “want” in my head. That’s where the vigilant mind comes into play. “Want” is not “Need”. “Want” is not “Should Eat”.

I do not want to slip up and halt my terrific momentum. I’ve talked before about hating to write down my food, but I know it’s a very helpful tool. The goal is to be willing to write it down in the morning, before I eat, rather than rely on logging it after my meals. It’s a good way to stay mindful. If the food isn’t on my list, then the choice is simply to not eat.

The smart phone makes it easy. I can do this either in myfitnesspal or on the Notes feature. I chose Notes today. Breakfast – a fruit/protein smoothie. Mid-morning snack: granola/sunflower seed mix. Lunch: Egg salad on baby lettuce with two small toast crips. Mid-afternoon snack: apple slices with natural peanut butter. Dinner: Lentil soup and salad. Evening snack: Greek yogurt.

I packed my day time snacks and lunch so I’m prepared at work. I feel strong and confident that I can stick with this food plan today and not give into the “See food – eat it” compulsion.

My takeaway from this is that it is always important to protect and nurture my recovery. I have to keep using the tools even when I’m rolling along. Sometimes it might feel easier but it never really is easier. Ongoing success requires ongoing work.


Cruise Day Four – Mindful Eating and San Juan

I slept in and missed the morning Wellness Program but still took a good four-five laps around the promenade deck to make up the steps. I’ve focused on mindful eating (reading that again in my journal reminds me that I still need to do this all of the time, whether at home or out) which means that I stop before I eat, close my eyes and remind myself to eat slowly, chew thoroughly, and stop eating when I’ve had enough. Doing this demonstrated to me that it is indeed possible to be satisfied with one small waffle and two skinny sausage links. Yes the waffle is just a carbohydrate and I had a little bit of syrup on it, but I figured that I would more than compensate with the one hour line dancing lesson. Besides, after my deck walk, I’d skipped the elevator and taken the stairs to the buffet restaurant — up six decks!

I believe it’s obligatory to play Bingo at least once when cruising, so I did. Lost but had fun, which was also pretty much my reaction to my less-than-successful visits to the ship’s casino. After Bingo, I ran over to the line dance lesson. Then I went down several flights of steps to take my cowboy boots back to my room. I then went up four flights again to grab a light salad, again eating mindfully. (At this point, those waffle calories were definitely gone!) We were pulling into port in San Juan, Puerto Rico which is an American territory. So, for the first time since leaving Ft. Lauderdale, I turned on my phone and did a quick check of personal email and Facebook. I did not, however, check my work voice mail.

I’d taken my salad outside to the sundeck since it was such a pretty day. On my way to get more water, I ran into country start Jo Dee Messina. In her concert she’d shared that she and her siblings are caring for their ill mother. She’s very nice and we ended up chatting about being caregivers to our parents. I also ended up giving her and her husband a quick tutorial in QR codes and how she could use them in her Facebook marketing. (Yes, you can take me away from work but you can’t take marketing instincts out of my brain. If her soon-to-be-released album has a QR code on it, you’ll know why. 🙂 )

My excursion for San Juan wasn’t scheduled until 3:50, so I simply sat in the sun for awhile, writing in the journal and reflecting on what I terrific time I was enjoying so far. It’s like I carried around this little bubble of happiness. I was having fun and also feeling incredibly good about myself, my eating, my activity level, and everything else.

I had this big realization while sitting on that deck. Nobody on this cruise knew me as a super obese woman. I’m not sure why, but that wowed me. It was both exciting and cool to think about it, even if I’m not exactly sure why it tickled me so much. Maybe it was the complete absence of lingering shame. Maybe it was the fact that I wasn’t doing any of my leftover projecting. Whatever the case, it was extremely freeing.

When it was time to gather for the excursion, I got in line with everyone else and just started meeting the people I’d be with for the next several hours. We’d signed up to go on a night kayaking trip to the bioluminescent bay. To get there we had to first take a 90 minute bus ride from the ship. This meant we had lots of time to get to know each other. I first met a 30-something year old woman named Emily. Since she was also a solo traveler, we paired up to paddle together in the two-person kayak. This cruise was filled with lots of friendly, interesting people. Emily is a project manager for construction companies and had recently quit her job to return to school. her goal is to work for nonprofit organizations, preferably Habitat for Humanity.

Also on the bus was Dave, a sound engineer for the Gatlin Brothers. The three of us talked a lot.

Kayaking at night was fun and I was thrilled beyond measure to discover that I no longer have the slightest bit of discomfort sitting in a kayak. My legs used to go numb after a while, but not anymore. My body has strengthened even more in the last year than I realized, at least for kayaking. We paddled out through a mangrove channel to get to the bay. Emily and I cracked jokes, sang river and water songs, and I did my impression of narrators for BBC nature shows. The bay itself was cool! Dinoflagellates in the water fire off a photon when disturbed — one sparkle of light per 24 hours. When you stick your hand in the water, or your kayak paddle, the water starts to glow. Not so great for pictures, but pretty to see.

The kayak trip took about 90 minutes and then we had another hour plus back to the ship. We were very late and missed most of the Vince Gill concert. As it was, we ran to the theater in our kayaking clothes. Thankfully, my bathing suit bottoms had mostly dried in the towel I’d wrapped around myself so they didn’t dampen my shorts when I pulled them on. I’m sure I looked like a sticky, salty hot mess, but we just stood in the back of the theater. If anyone gave us funny looks, I didn’t notice.

None of us had eaten any dinner to speak of so we went up to the buffet for the late night offerings. Seriously, if there is food put out, people will eat — even if they don’t normally show down at 11 p.m. when at home. A light snack satisfied me and we spent most of the time chatting some more before calling it a night.

Remember when I said I thought I’d work off the morning waffle? Well, before I went to bed, I looked at my FitBit. For the first time ever, I logged close to 21,000 steps in a single day! 21,000 steps plus 90 minutes of kayaking. Booyah to the nth degree!