The Silver Lining to a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Well, my weekend kind of sucked. Sorry. There it is. I spent most of it in a funk over some personal stuff and I really just wanted to eat all of the chocolate in Nashville, then get in bed, pull the covers over my head and sleep.

I didn’t do any of those things.

Instead, I washed the windows in my house, washed existing curtains, hung some new ones, cooked a double batch of Jamaican Black Beans with Pineapple Chutney (from the Forks Over Knives cookbook), got rid of some junk, hung a new light, watched a couple of superhero movies and cooked a vat of tomatoes down to sauce. And, I rode my bike each day and did yoga or Tabatas, depending on what day it was. I stuck to my calendar and kept working towards my goals.

And that felt GREAT!

For some reason, I have felt really brittle the past couple of weeks. I don’t know what the deal is. I don’t know if it’s related to the changes in my diet, the changes in my activity, or maybe I’m approaching menopause. I don’t know. I just know that I’m taking my meds daily; but, I’ve still bitten my poor sister’s head off about three times. I’m struggling to get a handle on it.

Throughout the struggle, I’ve stayed away from my bad, old habits and that, frankly, feels pretty freakin’ awesome! I have been known to drown my sorrows in an Oreo Blast or a pint of Phish Food; but, so far, I’ve stayed away from the bad stuff. Honestly, my food diary and my little calendar on the fridge have been great helps in this. I can easily see what I’ve already eaten for the day, how many calories I have left for the day and I can quickly get the calorie count of whatever thing it is I am thinking of eating. I can also walk to the fridge, check out the calendar and see what tasks are marked off and what I still need to do. Having those physical reminders is proving to be really instrumental.

I’m choosing to see my brittle and/or decidedly cloudy mood as a test of my resolve to ditch my old, unhealthy habits and replace them with new, healthy ones. So far so good! And that’s a silver lining I’ll take any day of the week.

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Building A Solid Fort(night)

First of all, let me say that I think American English really should include the word fortnight. It’s so much more succinct than two weeks. Anyway….

In our last visit, I told you that I had started to build some new, healthier habits. To date, I have ridden my stationary bike for 30 minutes on each of the last 16 days (fortnight plus four) – today being number 16 and I got it out of the way this morning. And, yes, I marked it off on the 21-day calendar that I have hanging on my fridge. That visual, while perhaps childish, is a really good motivator. I see it every time I walk into the kitchen. It reminds me to ride the bike on days when I haven’t done it yet and on days when I have, like today, it gives me a great sense of accomplishment to see all of those days marked off. I have five more days on this calendar and I will have completed the 21 days.

Even now, I can already see a MASSIVE change in my attitude! In the first few days, I hated it – like I started hating it 30 minutes before I even did it. I had to force myself to do it and I pretty much trash-talked myself into completing the 30 minutes. This morning, I had to encourage – not trash talk – myself only through two minutes of the highest intensity setting. (Have the bike set on Rolling Hills so the intensity changes from level 3 to level 5.) And yesterday! Let me tell you about yesterday. But, first, I have to start with last week.

Last week, the hot water knob in the shower was stuck; so, I had to fix it. Saturday, my computer showed no password box on the login screen. After a full day of trying all the fixes I found on the HP website and on YouTube, I had to reformat the thing. Monday, the dryer died. All of those things joined a thousand other stressors in my life resulting in a full-on anxiety attack at work yesterday. I called Dad to talk me through it, which was SO great I can’t even tell you. When I got home after work, I did something I haven’t done in a very long time – I did not respond to stress by eating.

As I’ve told you before, I’m a stress eater among other things. If I’m stressed, I take a lawn chair and a spoon to the Publix frozen food section and make myself at home. Okay, so I don’t actually do that, but I do hit the ice cream aisle pretty hard and I eat the whole pint at one sitting on my couch. Yesterday, I didn’t do that. When I got home, I did some chores then I rode the bike. And I felt better. I felt better because of the endorphins and because I won an enormous battle over my own bad habits. It felt truly fantastic.

I’m excited about this attitude change and I want to keep this momentum; so, I am making another 21-day calendar with the same habits I’ve worked on this month plus a couple of new ones. My first two weeks were solid with this cycle and I am feeling psyched about the rest of it. To be honest, I’m feeling kind of psyched about getting the next challenges started!

 

There’s Always a Reason to Cheat

On your diet, that is.

Last week, I told you that I had given up ice cream for my OktoberFast. I don’t really know that you can appreciate just how big a sacrifice that is for me. I used to say that Little Debbie was my homegirl; but, y’all, Debs ain’t got nothing on Ben and Jerry. If you don’t understand that, then I can safely conclude that you either: 1. don’t like ice cream (and what kind of mutant are you?) , or 2. have never tried either Phish Food or Karamel Sutra. (Side note: this Spring, I started cheating on my boys from Vermont, though, by taking the High Road. Their Aztec Chocolate is transcendent. Seriously.)

But….that’s not really my point, plus I’m drooling on my keyboard.

My point is that I love ice cream and that I notice its absence acutely. In spite of this – or rather, because of this – I gave it up for OktoberFast…..totally not thinking about my friend’s birthday being in October.

Traditionally, what do we have for birthday celebrations? Cake and ice cream! Yes! So, when discussing his birthday dinner, we agreed that I could take a “time out” just for that one night. After all, it was just one night. And it was his birthday, for pity’s sake!

Right. It was still cheating.

I made a commitment to myself at the beginning of October that I would keep the sinks clear of dishes and that I would not eat ice cream. Neither commitment really matters to anyone else but me; so, who really cares if I lapse? No, not lapse. Cheat.

I care.

We were celebrating. That’s a good reason to have something special, right? Sure. It’s as good an excuse as any to cheat. So is having a bad day, having a good day, or Thursday. There’s always an excuse to cheat if you look for one.

I’ve regained 80 of the pounds I lost six years ago with just that kind of thinking. “I can have it just this once.” But it wasn’t just once, was it? That one cheat day became a cheat weekend, then a cheat month, then fat pants with elastic waistbands.

It’s just like several of the times I quit smoking. I would go for months and even a couple of years without a cigarette. Then I would be with a group of smokers and I would think that I could have just one. BAM! I’d soon be back up to a pack a day on regular days and over two packs a day on the weekends. The truth I had to face was that I couldn’t have just one. I was (and still am, I suppose) a nicotine addict. One hit of that Camel Light and I was hooked again. Intellectually, I know that my body responds to all addictive substances in basically the same way – the pleasure centers of my brain go nuts. And my brain doesn’t really care if the cause is a cupcake or a crack pipe. It just knows that it’s getting something it likes and it wants more of it.

Ultimately, my addiction isn’t to ice cream. It’s to sugar and to casein, the protein in milk that, when broken down during digestion, releases opiates called casomorphins. To be fair, there is some debate on how much of an effect casomorphins have on the human body; however, sugar is still there so my issue remains. In the end, I have to break my addiction to sugar by drastically reducing my intake of refined and added sugars. Ice cream is just the first step.

And, just so you know, I bought the container pictured above for my friend to enjoy ice cream with his cake while I limited myself to cake. Hey, it was chocolate ganache and I never claimed to be a saint. I obeyed the letter of the law. Obeying the spirit of the law will come later when I’m a little stronger.

As for OktoberFast? I’m still faithful and going strong.

 

The Wheel

…and why reinventing it is unnecessary.

I am an idiot. Let me just start with that.

The past several months I’ve tried all kinds of different strategies, tricks and ridiculous things to get this weight off again. And, guess what. None of those strategies, tricks or ridiculous things worked. Why? Because I was listening to other people – diet “experts.” See all those diet books in photo at the top? Those are my books. I own them. Those aren’t even all the ones I’ve read. Those are just the ones I own. (Some of them are recipe books, but they contain meal plans or advice on how to build them. Since I’ve used them like diet books, I’m counting them as diet books.) And I’m going to run it down for you. For losing weight, the ONLY two that have had advice that worked for me are Sybil Ferguson’s The Diet Center Program and Erin Oprea’s The 4X4 Diet.  Years ago, I used Bill Phillips’ Body for Life book, which was also helpful; but, not in the long term.

I lost about 60 pounds using the Diet Center Program when I was in college. When I lost weight successfully five years ago, that’s pretty  much what I used then, as well. Rather than keeping a paper food diary, though, I used the LoseIt app. Since I lost 94 pounds, I’d say it was a good combination. Wouldn’t you? So, why in the world, when I decided to get back on track, did I try these other methods?!

The only answer that makes sense to me is that I’m just thick-headed.

Even though I know that only hard work and diligence will make me leaner and fitter, I still buy into the hype and marketing. I still want to believe that there is a Magic Pill or a Get Thin quick fix.  There’s not. There’s just not. Even a whole food, plant based diet may make me healthier; but, unless I stay away from starchy carbs and excess oils, it’s not going to make me leaner.

So, for the last 30 days, I have successfully logged all my food intake, and I mean every morsel. I’ve been weighing and measuring my food again to make sure I know exactly how much I’m eating. Because I had a cast on my foot when I started this, I did not weigh in and I haven’t weighed now. But, in those 30 days, I’ve lost at least two inches around my ribs and at least an inch from around my waist. And that is just from watching what I’m eating and from watching WHEN I eat it.

Erin Oprea’s The 4X4 Diet added some practical advice to The Diet Center Program. Erin (who has never had a weight problem herself; but, who writes with the empathy of someone who really gets it) advocates watching WHEN you’re eating certain foods. As a result, I plan my meals better. If I’m going to have toast, a sandwich, or potatoes, I make sure that in addition to eating a controlled portion, I eat that portion before 3 PM. No starchy foods after 3. (Well, except when my sister and I went to see Beauty and the Beast. I totally chowed on the popcorn. But it’s DISNEY!)

Erin also advocates a periodic cheat meal – not a cheat day, a cheat meal. The idea of a whole day of eating whatever I want scares me from the perspective of a sugar addict; so, I allow myself just the one cheat meal each week, and I usually plan it for several days. I count the calories for that meal in my food diary; but, I eat whatever I want. I’ve had three cheat meals now. I truly ate whatever I wanted and as much as I wanted; however, I’m noticing that I don’t want to blow it out quite so hard. Next week, I’ll still eat whatever I want; but, I’m going to control the portion on it. I believe that I can get the same enjoyment out of that meal without consuming quite so many calories.

I’m really excited about the progress I’ve made in the last 30 days – neither my bra nor my shorts are cutting me in half, and I can bend over to tie my shoes without huffing and puffing.I still have a long way to go; but, I’m finally on track and have been on track long enough that I feel comfortable sharing it with you. I had to throw out all the “great, new ideas” and get back to what I know worked (with a tweak or two). I was failing because I was trying to reinvent the wheel.

Now, I’m rolling along just fine.

(dis)Courage

You don’t hear from me in forever, I write three weeks, then I disappear again. I know. But, really, it’s just like me. Last time we talked, I was super excited that I had gone on a couple of walks with Ellie and that my foot felt fine. Progress!

Except that it wasn’t.

After the third walk, I began to experience significant pain again. Thankfully, no swelling, but I could not walk without limping, not even to just do normal things like walk around the house and maybe do something really crazy like go to the grocery store. I cannot walk a mile and a half without pain and that makes me want to just sit down in the middle of the floor and cry.

If you’ve known me long, you know that I have always said – with clear self-awareness – that I am no Caroline Ingalls. I would have been a horrible frontiersman. The Oregon Trail started in Missouri and ran about 2000 miles to either California or Oregon, depending on your paradise of choice. The average trip lasted four and a half to five months. Ummmmmm. I’m really more of a Boeing-type girl than a covered wagon one. I’d have probably been turning around at the Kansas state line. I just don’t have the patience for that. Zen? Not so much.

I’m more frustrated that I can even say at my injury. I have place to go, things to do, and people to see. I don’t have time for all of this nonsense. Yet, I cannot wish it better. Staying off of it completely didn’t heal it. Using it only sparingly hasn’t healed it. And my weight loss is going much slower than I’d like; so, I don’t have the confidence that even getting all the extra weight off is going to heal it.

Temptation is strong and I hear the sirens’ call from the frozen cashew milk. The Girl Scouts at the grocery store entrance are singing me straight into the rocks with their prepubescent calls of “Thin Mints! Tagalongs (kryptonite)!” I have been really having a hard time. Finally, yesterday, I bought myself a treat – a bouquet of flowers.

purple-bouquetKroger had bouquets containing lisianthus, one of my favorites. These blooms were deep purple and were paired with ornamental cabbage for a really striking arrangement – one that I find myself staring at, enjoying it tremendously, and not adding one calorie to my diet. I think I just added another weapon to my craving-fighting arsenal.

Now if I could just figure out something for this frustration…..

 

So Tell Me What You Want

What you really, really want.

(I know and you’re welcome.)

The problem is that I don’t know what I really want. I’ve been hungry for something; but, I don’t know what it is. Normally, when I have this kind of gnawing feeling for something, I can usually think about different things to eat and arrive at whatever it is my body is looking for – usually, it’s a pork chop or chicken salad. Weird, I know. But I just cannot narrow it down this time and it’s maddening!

Last night my friend showed up with nearly every side dish Bojangles Chicken sells trying to help me. While I certainly enjoyed the Cajun beans, cole slaw and mashed potatoes (in a small portion), none of those really scratched this itch either. I’ll just have to keep bouncing around in my safe foods until I find what I’m looking forward. In the meantime, I’ll be as puzzled about this craving as I am about the song’s lyrics:

Ha ha ha ha ha
Yo, I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want
So tell me what you want, what you really, really want
I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want
So tell me what you want, what you really, really want
I wanna, (ha) I wanna, (ha) I wanna, (ha) I wanna, (ha)
I wanna really, really, really wanna zigazig ah

If you want my future, forget my past
If you wanna get with me, better make it fast
Now don’t go wasting my precious time
Get your act together we could be just fine

I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want
So tell me what you want, what you really, really want
I wanna, (ha) I wanna, (ha) I wanna, (ha) I wanna, (ha)
I wanna really, really, really wanna zigazig ah….

Zigazig ah? Wha?

New Plan, Old Budget

When I was in the Inspiration phase of my new plane, I watched lots of food documentaries – you’d be surprised at the number of them out there – and read a couple of Rip Esselstyn’s books – The Engine 2 Diet and The Engine 2 Seven Day Rescue Diet. To tell you the truth, I haven’t quite finished either book. They both contain essentially the same information and much of that information I’ve already gotten in Forks Over Knives, which I did read cover to cover. All of these contain great recipes, diet results from others and lists of foods to buy and foods to avoid.

The thing is, I already have a bunch of food in my kitchen that I’ve already paid for. Now, I don’t have a lot of the bad stuff like ice cream or cookies; but, I do have butter, white potatoes, white rice, white pasta and white flour. And I’m not throwing all of that out. It’s paid for. So, what I am doing is mixing it in with things. When I serve the rice, it’s half white, half brown or black or red. (The black and red varieties are also whole grains. I don’t notice them tasting any different really, they’re just pretty on the plate.) When I make pancakes, I used half whole wheat flour and half white. I will eat the white pasta and potatoes until they are gone; I just won’t buy anymore. In this economy and being on medical leave, I can’t afford to just through my cupboards throwing food out. I don’t know anyone who can, frankly.

So, as I consume what is already in the larder, I use those lists of safe foods provided in the book to restock. I’ll admit straightaway that I won’t be restocking whole wheat pasta. I’ll just remove pasta from my diet because I just don’t like the whole wheat variety. There has to be some balance for me because I live in the real world with real budgets. Eating fresh fruits and vegetables is no more expensive than eating prepared foods, although I don’t get coupons for the fresh stuff. I just do what I’ve always done – I shop by circular, I check the discount bins, I chop everything for myself (although prechopped onions are SUCH a temptation) and I go to Aldi first.

There are lots of way to eat healthfully without breaking the bank. I just have to pay attention so that I can get the most of out my old budget for this new plan.