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March 2009

My Experimental St. Patrick’s Day Feast

I’m a real sucker for holidays. And after reading about Michelle Obama’s St. Patrick’s day celebrations, I thought, we are going to  have a St. Patrick’s day FEAST! Whole Foods was having this big SPD extravaganza, so I went down there and basically went wild. (no, I did not cook all of this myself, in fact not one bit of it!) I got:

  • corned beef and cabbage
  • mashed potatoes
  • roasted root vegetables
  • turkey shepherd’s pie
  • beef stew
  • Irish soda bread
  • Guinness Stout (for hubby, I don’t drink beer of any kind)
  • cute little mini cupcakes with green sprinkles

I also made a lovely mache salad when I got home. (my only contribution to the meal!) I think my family was a bit stunned by the spread. It looked awesome!

I had a plan. I was going to taste everything, not eat anything I didn’t love, and savor in small amounts what I did love. Oh, and attempt to put down fork in between bites. That is a TOUGH HABIT to break, people. I don’t think I’ve unclenched my fork-holding fingers since I was about… two.

So. First off, the corned beef wasn’t very good. It was brownish rather than pinkish, which is what I recall it’s supposed to be. I didn’t like it. STOPPED after one bite. Then, the root veggies, which were so colorful and pretty. But they were undercooked and hard. One bite, done.  Didn’t even go to the cabbage; I don’t eat it unless it’s cole slaw.  Ate a bunch of mache salad because it was super fresh and yum! With french feta crumbled in. OK, on to the beef stew. YUMMMMM. Heaven. MMMMMMM. Ate it very very slowly. Ate a bite of turkey shepherds pie. GOOD. Focused on really enjoying those two things. Took a little mashed taters to mix with the yummy savory gravy from the beef stew. MMMM. Decided to pass on the bread because I knew I’d want butter, and then I’d go all “If You Give A Mouse A Cookie” on it.

The other family members tasted the cupcakes before I got to mine. The review was “dry, and the icing is funny.” NO THANKS. I didn’t even taste it.

So ultimately, I really had a bunch of salad, about a cup of beef stew and 1/2 cup of turkey shepherds pie (and 2 TB of mashed potatoes). Also had a big glass of sparkling water. So I finished just FULL. And happy that I had had a yummy dinner. And not gross feeling!

My goal was to “thoroughly enjoy a special St. Patrick’s Day Feast and STILL LOSE WEIGHT this week.” Weigh in is on Saturday, but I am feeling pretty darn good.

I have to run now, but just want to give major props to Dinneen at Eat Without Guilt for even introducing the concept of eating like this.  It was an amazing and new experience!!

Assessment: Two Months Today

Two months ago today, on January 17th, I got my wake-up call and thus began my… what? My New Life? My Healthy Journey? I keep trying to think of how to describe it. I think I shall call it my Turnaround. Also Turnover. I began turning over all of my old habits, thoughts, fears, activities (and lack of) and really trying to examine what got me to that point. It’s been a very busy two months.

Here’s my little self-assessment after two months have passed. In the tradition of the maddening “narrative progress reports” that my kids used to bring home from school, because the poor little darlings were’t thought to have enough self esteem for letter grades:

What’s Going Well:

  • Well, I’ve actually lost 16 lbs! That’s no small potatoes. And I intend to keep going. I’ve been through a plateau or two, and a day or two of discouragement, but the trend is steadily downward. And that can’t help be encouraging.
  • I haven’t had a major bout of Emotional Eating since Jan 17th. I can’t even describe how shocked, incredulous and frankly moved I am by this. Previously I would not have thought this possible. I truly have found ways in which to ride out the emotions, write them out or talk them through. And they have passed. In the many times that I’ve dieted in the past, THIS part was never really addressed. So it’s huge. HUGE, I tell you.
  • I am pretty happy most hours of most days. Which I can say has not been true for YEARS. I mean, I used to have some happy moments in what were either “regular” blah or downright bad-feeling days. NOW, I have moments of absolute ECSTASY within days that are mostly happy or at least content, with little blasts of unhappiness now and then. I don’t know whether to attribute this to the endorphins from exercising, to the fact that it just feels comfortable and nicer to be smaller and fitter, or the fact that I am channeling my emotions properly rather than using food. Probably ALL of the above.
  • Most importantly, I think I am improving my health. I have been able to discontinue my blood pressure medication that I have been on for over five years. I think I’m going to have more improvements when I next see my doctor in April. I’m moving in the right direction.

What is Going Better But Could Be Improved:

  • Low-level anxiety that This Cannot Possibly Last.
  • Insecure in my new habits (this is echo of first point)
  • Probably too much focus on the scale

What Needs Major Improvement:

  • Eating breakfast. I’m getting tired of eggs, not wild about many other breakfast foods, etc. I KNOW it is the most important meal and that it jump starts your metabolism and all that! I really need to work on this one. I am going to experiment with eating lunchy/dinnerish foods in the morning and see if that helps any.
  • (more echo of point one) “Breakfast like a queen, lunch like a duchess and dinner like a pauper.” This is what I’ve read repeatedly but still dinner is THE MAIN EVENT around our house. I wonder how much it would help if I could actually implement this style of eating. We did eat like this in Latin America, where the main meal is at noon, then dinner was more like what we’d call a “snack.” And I did lose 26 lbs while living in Central America, but that was probably the hard labor and turista. 🙂

Conclusion: All in all, things are going shockingly well. I have to say that I am cautiously optimistic. But nervous, you know, because I’ve never done this before.

The Zen of Eating

After reading this article, I was inspired to buy the book The Zen of Eating by Ronna Kabatznik. I am really liking it a lot. I’ve been very attracted to Buddhism for a long time and this book just calmed me down and made me feel hopeful. I think that this is going to be very useful for me. A few passages from the book have already made me a little tearful, they resonate so much.

The Buddha defined suffering as a ravenous appetite to find peace and security in places where it can’t be found.

The nourishment that comes from being kind to yourself and to others is the kind of food that stays with you.

Some suffering is inevitable, and some is optional. This is an important distinction. A certain amount of sadness, loss and frustration are built into the framework of being alive. This is inevitable suffering. Optional suffering is within your control: it comes from your reaction to situations, inevitable or otherwise. Optional suffering is what you add on to whatever happens.

It’s good food for thought. (no pun intended) I also just decided to sign up for a beginning meditation class nearby, starting in April. I can’t help but believe that it will help me in this journey.

This “Fullness” Thing

So I know that the mantra of mindful eating (and also Weight Watchers, BTW) is that one is supposed to “eat when hungry, stop when full.” Sounds simple, right? But for me it is one of the most difficult things to grasp.  I guess for so many years I did no such thing – I ate for ten million other reasons than hunger, and went way beyoooooond fullness, that it’s like trying to learn how to knit on a unicycle.

Last night we went out to this fantastic Italian restaurant. (daughter was out with friends so I skipped the pot pie thing for another time) I was all prepared. I’d had a fairly light lunch. It was after my weigh in. I’d accumulated many “activity points” from my nice long walk/run.  I told myself I’d have plenty of points to spare, so while I was not going to pig out, I would relax. And yet try to remain mindful.

When we got there, I was thirsty. I drank a big glass of sparkling water with lemon.  I had a teeny little piece of bread about the size of a biteful. This restaurant brings things Sicilian-style, which means family style and everyone shares. I didn’t have a problem with that, in fact I thought it sounded like a good option. Appetizer one arrived: eggplant rollatini, which I adore. I divided it into four little sections, each one about two bites.  I took one little section and thoroughly savored it.  Lovely. Then we had an antipasti plate. I had a wee little strip of prosciutto, and about a tablespoon’s worth of marinated bell pepper and eggplant. Nummy.

But then, guess what? I was full. Or at least satisfied. I think my stomach was so full of bubbly water, that those five BITES of food were literally enough. But our entrees hadn’t arrived. I started feeling bummed out, like knowing I was supposed to stop there, but not wanting to miss the main courses. I was confused. I didn’t know what to do.

The main stuff arrived: homemade linguini with clams, and a big tureen of mussels. I’m sure I had enough points to enjoy both of these things. I really wanted to taste them. I took about 1/2 cup of linguini, about four clams and four mussels. You know how big clam and mussel meat is? It’s TINY. Probably totalling about three tablespoons. Max. The linguini was absolutely divine, but as I ate I was conflicted.

Mind you, I was much LESS full than I ever would have been normally – I was just MORE full than “satisifed,” which would’ve stopped after the appetizers.

So while I loved the dinner (I really, really did) I also felt distracted and confused by what I was “supposed” to be doing.

I guess I’ll figure it out someday, and be able to eat in relative peace.

Meanwhile, my copy of the Zen of Eating arrived in the mail. So far, I am loving it.  I think it might give me some help with this area.

Good Day!

  1. My home scale showed the lowest number yet this morning, which happens to = the number that is on my DRIVERS’ LICENSE. YAY!!!!  I am halfway to my weight-loss goal. 🙂 I think I can safely say that the “step it up” approach was a good choice.
  2. Went to Weight Watchers, (SO much better to go on a Saturday morning than Sunday morning), lost 2.0 lbs on their scale, and got a star for losing 6.2 total since I joined up with them. (I had already lost 10 on my own before going to WW) My inner five-year old was very pleased with the star, and the applause.
  3. About to go for a walk in the nice cool woods. (edited to add: it was so cool out, and my iPod was so hopping, I ended up racewalking 60 minutes and jogging 20! and it felt great)
  4. Going to celebrate by making daughter’s favorite chicken pot pie tonight. Just calculated the points at the WW site and realized that a serving (INCLUDING PIE CRUST) is only 4 points!! Woo hoo!!! It’s back on the menu rotation. She’ll be thrilled. Now what I have to remember is to only have one serving (rather than 3) and to NOT serve it over a big heaping mountain of rice. 🙂

Food Substitutions

I was thinking a lot about “food substitutions” when I was at the grocery store today; what sorts of lower calorie switchoffs “work” for me, and which don’t. I’m still experimenting with a lot of things, but here are a few things I’ve figured out.

  • my morning coffee: I have to have half-and-half in my coffee in the morning. That’s about 100 calories. Ouch. So far I’ve been just using my WW weekly “extra” points on that. I’d seriously rather skip any sort of dessert than go without my coffee OR my half-and-half. I can’t even deal with whole milk in my coffee, so skim or lowfat milk is out of the question.  But today when I at the store I picked up a little can of Sugar-Free Chai Latte. I KNOW. It’s all chemicals. They are nasty chemicals. But it’s only 30 calories. Is it better to have 100 calories of cream, or 30 calories of chemicals? Hmmm…. I first started drinking that stuff many years ago, when I was living with a family in rural Nicaragua. There was no fresh half and half there (ha!), no refrigeration to speak of, and I just can’t drink black coffee, so I brought a big ziplock bag of this. They used to laugh and tease me and call it “cafe de mentira,” which translates to “coffee of the lie.” HA.  Wow, that was a long rumination on my morning beverage, wasn’t it?
  • Tuna melts. I happen to have a longstanding love of tuna melts, which I prepare open-faced on an English muffin. If I use Light English Muffins, they are 1/4 of the calories. I actually think the light ones taste better. And if I use light mayo and lowfat cheese (rrr, not so sure) it is a VERY acceptable, even very delicious facsimile. Hooray!
  • Dessert: I have developed an inordinate fondness for Kozy Shack no-sugar Tapioca Pudding. Mmmm. But I’ve been learning to really “check in” with my hunger and often after I eat dinner I am full. But still craving something sweet. I can have a hard candy which totally satisfies, and lasts about 15 minutes. Yay.
  • Lasagna: ha. I learned something this week. I made a super healthy whole wheat lasagna-with-veggies this week. It was good. But you know, NO WAY was it what I call “lasagna.” I could call what I made “layered pasta veggie casserole” and feel fine with it, but if I was getting psyched up for lasagne, it could make me CRY. I declared that I would rather have two bites of “regular” lasagne, than a big plate of the veggie kind.   So, that one was basically a thumbs down.
  • Egg beaters: For some reason I find yellow dyed Egg Beaters objectionable. It’s sort of like fat-free Half and Half, which I find unfathomably icky. I would rather have pure, regular egg whites. Or just a regular whole egg.
  • Lowfat cheese: I can accept this in a quesadilla, or on a tuna melt, but if I’m just plain.. eating cheese, I need the real thing. Lowfat or nonfat cheese tastes like candle wax to me. The only exception to this is this, which my family affectionately dubbed “moo-moo cheese” when my kids were in preschool. Still love them.
  • Hamburgers: I am totally psyched and happy to switch-out a hamburger for a portobello mushroom “burger” – not a real burger, but an actual mushroom on a bun. It’s super delicious and JUICY. Yum.

Things for which there ARE no acceptable substitute and so I must sadly do without for now:

  • macaroni and cheese. See low-fat cheese, above.
  • pizza. I think it also has something to do with the cheese.
  • chicken pot pie. One night we had grilled chicken breast, with diced veggies on the side, and my daughter sadly said, “This is like chicken pot pie without the crust isn’t it?”  The original light chicken pot pie recipe I got was from Weight Watchers. But what to do about that crust?

Give Up, or Step it Up

I decided, in the interest of honesty, to adjust my weight-loss meter downward to reflect reality. It wasn’t just a temporary bump, apparently. This two pound leap has lasted more than a week so I have to call it real. However, the one pound bump from yesterday is gone. 🙂

Yesterday was a real turning point for me. I have been at this point so many times before, and so often I take it as a cue to sigh heavily, (no pun intended), throw in the towel and say, “I just can’t lose weight.” It actually sort of astounds me now to think that I believed it would magically melt away with a minimum of effort. But then again, there are countless promises out there that this is exacty what will happen.

So yesterday I had the choice to either wring my hands and give up, which would lead to me gaining all the weight back, OR I could step it up. I decided to step it up. Today I went to the gym and did 45 minutes on the elliptical, including one nice hard sprint, followed by 2000 meters on the erg machine just for extra. I was GOING to go to a yoga class after that but instead decided I’d be better off going to the shoe store.

I have super flat, painful arches in my feet. The first 15-20 minutes of any workout, even plain walking or using the elliptical, is excruciating for my feet. My running shoes, which were once lovely, are now three years old and basically I might as well strap a couple of pancakes on my feet. They’re worthless, and yesterday my trainer told me very sternly that I am doing damage to myself by working out in these shoes. I got some new ones. They feel amazing. I can’t wait to work out tomorrow!

After getting my shoes, I realized I had not eaten much anything yet. I decided to take myself out to breakfast. This place across from the shoe store advertised breakfast for $6, including eggs and something mysterious called mamounia, or “middle eastern cereal.” I ordered steamed eggs with mushrooms. It came with a bagel (which I did not touch), and a little bowl of this lovely looking brown hot cereal. I thought, if it’s brown it must be healthy. (OK, are you laughing at me yet?) I gingerly took a spoonful. It was sooooooo good! Mmm, I love mamounia! Whatever it is! Finally I asked the waitress, “What is in this?” and she said, “Cream of wheat, cottage cheese, butter and brown sugar!” Ohhh. So that’s why it was so delicious. Thankfully I only had 3 spoonfuls, which was actualy quite satisfying. Saved by mindful eating. I murmured a little prayer of appreciation to the mamounia and then did not touch it again.  I noticed I was not totally wild about the eggs, but ate them anyway because they were the only thing on my plate I could eat. I ate about half. I hate throwing away money (and I was already throwing away the bagel and the mamounia) and I knew if I didn’t eat it, I would be really hungry pretty soon. So I ate half. What would mindful eaters do in this situation? Somebody tell me.

The Tyranny of the Scale

I had a mini-meltdown this morning when the scale bumped up one more pound. This is after it bumped TWO pounds last week and I assumed it was “water weight” but it did not go away. I had a moment of feeling completely frantic; ie, feeling like, HOW can this be happening? I am trying my best, I am eating really well, I am exercising 6 days a week. COME ON.

Luckily, I went to my trainer and had a good workout. But still. I was semi freaked. But what is the alternative? Throw it all to hell and gain the 12 lbs back?? And then some?

I pulled out my Beck book. She basically writes there are 3 possible outcomes to weighing oneself:

1. losing weight

2. staying the same

3. gaining weight

Since #3 is the least desirable outcome, and what has indeed happened to me, I’ll outline what the two possible responses are to this.

Sabotaging Thought: I can’t believe this! See, I just can’t lose weight. (YEAH THIS IS WHAT I WAS THINKING ALL MORNING)

She recommends the Helpful Thought “My weight might be up temporarily for hormonal or other reasons.  If my weight doesn’t go down next week, I’ll call my coach and see if s/he can meet me to go over my food plans. Maybe I made some mistakes. Maybe I need to decrease my caloric intake or exercise more. I just need to stay problem solving oriented.

Big quote regarding the scale:

Once I learn to use the scale as information to guide my efforts, dieting will be easier.

I noted this week that Someday’s trainer has advised her to toss her scale altogether. I think this is an impressive approach, I really do, and I wish I were that brave. I think I am not. I am afraid that if I threw away my scale, I would make wrong assumptions about my weight, which would cause more mistakes, more weight gain, and before I know it I’ll be back up there. That’s how I got into this trouble in the first place: I didn’t weigh myself because I “didn’t want to know” and I was in denial about how bad things really were. I think I need my scale still.

I did decide to put in an extra workout tomorrow, and to be super careful about staying within my points/calorie limits. One thing that could be going on: I remember using hecka lot of salt last night. We had these steamed veggies that were so yummy they almost tasted like dessert. But I salted them a LOT. My trainer asked me all these questions and I kept saying, “Yeah! I’m doing that!” and when he mentioned salt, I was like.. “uhhhh…” Whoops.  SO I am also cutting out/down the sodium as much as humanly possible and we’ll see how that goes.

And the winner is…

Deborah R wins the copy of The Instinct Diet!! Congratulations, Deborah, I hope this book gives you the boost you need!

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