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Mindful Eating

Do You Splurge?

photo by Jamieanne at Flickr

Yesterday, a really interesting conversation popped up on my food blog. I used the word “splurge” twice – one to jokingly say I’d eaten a whole bolani instead of my usual half. And then again when I had a Skinny Cow ice cream sandwich after lunch.

In reality, I don’t consider EITHER of these things “splurges” and if I’d been talking out loud I would have used air quotes. But it prompted Mish to ask:

What do you think of the idea of ‘splurge’? I find that it can be a good thing to do, but also dangerous for me..because for me I find it’s wrapped with guilt.

Just wondering what you think of that.

To which I replied:

What do I think of “splurge?” Hmm. That is such a good question. I think I don’t use that anymore. For example, I had ice cream and cake on my birthday. But I didn’t think of it as “splurging.” I just thought if it as “ice cream and cake, which I am enjoying” rather than “something I don’t normally do.” It has the same emotional weight as “juicy plum.” It’s just one thing I’ve photographed in my day.

Does that make sense? I’ve never really thought of it in that way. I definitely USED to think of “splurge days” (Ha, usually the night after my WW weigh-ins!) but I just realized that I do not think in those terms anymore. Although a lot of what I eat would probably be considering splurging to other people (I’m writing this word so many times now it looks crazy, what a funny word). Fried food. Sweets. Cheese. To me, it’s all food.

I like that. :-)

Then Mary chimed in and said:

Interesting. I don’t use the word splurge at all. In fact, it’s one of the words I hate. I really honestly don’t think of food in that kind of way. I read a food blog once where a girl ate a hamburger with some sides (beans? don’t remember) and she talked all about how it was a splurge but she enjoyed it so it was okay. I was thinking about how for me that was a normal meal – the idea of that being a splurge just made me feel like it’s a word I don’t want to be using for myself or in general.

Sorry, that might not be totally on topic, but I hate the word. And possibly the idea. ;)

I know that many people incorporate the word, and the concept of “splurging” in their weight loss habits. I I used to.  Back in my earlier WW days, I used to splurge (ie eat with abandon) the day or two after my weigh-ins.

But I realize I really do not think so much that way anymore (even though! I know! I used it twice in one blog post -it was sort of ironic). If I’m coming up to a big event — a birthday or wedding or something like that – I’ll plan for it. I’ll never go all-out and eat everything in sight as if it doesn’t matter. And like I said, if I eat cake, I’m just eating cake. Another time I’ll eat cherries. No one is more splurgey than the other.

I’ve really tried to stop thinking of foods as good or bad, as splurgey or everyday. Each day is different. Today I had “real” cheddar cheese on my English muffin instead of my more usual Laughing Cow Lite cheese. Did I splurge? (because I’d just done a 2 hour workout? :-)) Hmmm, I think of it as doing a little math in my head and deciding that I’d go for the real cheddar. Just because.  Because I wanted to.

I think this is a real shift (and a good one) from the way I used to think before. What do you think? Do you still think in terms of splurges? What about “treats?” (another very provocative word)

Double Book Review: Battle of the Spiritual-Eating Stars

Disclosure: This is going to be an EXTREMELY personal and subjective (and loooong!) response to two recently-published books in the “spirituality/food genre.” Bear in mine that this is just my own opinion, which is, as I said, highly personal. Your mileage and experience may (and probably most certainly will!) vary.

I read Geneen Roth’s first book, When Food Is Love, when it was first published in the early 80s. I was pretty much blown away by it. But I have to say that every single book of hers that I’ve read since then has been a reiteration of that first book. And Women, Food and God is no exception. But I was excited to read it because people, including Oprah, seemed to think it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Many people said it made them cry. They felt that the book was written FOR them and about them. I think this is great (for them). However, this was not my experience at all.

I read through it quickly on my first read, and found myself feeling pretty underwhelmed as well as fairly irritated. But I couldn’t quite put my finger on why.

Then I read Savor, the latest book by Thich Nhat Hanh. And I felt the same way that others did when they described WFG. Now, I have been an admirer but not an active practitioner of Buddhism for many years. So the principles are extremely familiar to me. They are thousands of years old. And to have them applied to food and eating just felt very familiar and comforting to me. Many of the same ideas are also mentioned in Tomato Blessings and Radish Teachings by Zen priest Edward Espe Brown, and in the Zen of Eating by Ronna Kabatznik.

This weekend I took a long slow look at both books again. And I came to understand why I was so irritated by Women, Food and God.

1. It’s like a party that I didn’t go to. Eighty percent of this book is an extended description of Geneen Roth’s retreats. She describes the women who attend them and how they are dramatically transformed, some within the space of minutes. It felt like, “Look at me! I am such a guru! All these people love and follow me! And by the way, sign up for my next retreat!!” It was also like watching someone else’s interminable vacation slideshow. You had to be there.

I found myself being strangely unmoved by stories of women weeping and having tantrums and growling over their food bowls and such. It just didn’t do anything for me.

2. Her message has basically unchanged since her first book in the 1980s. And neither has her approach. Why write a new book NOW then?

I had read earlier this year that Geneen Roth had been tragically fleeced by Bernie Madoff. This is really sad and unfortunate, but it also tinges the book with desperation. She NEEDS PEOPLE to sign up for these retreats, and to buy this book as if it is a brand new thing. Which it is not. So the book is basically a 200 page ad for her retreats.

3. She takes several unnecessary and incredibly inaccurate swipes at Weight Watchers. Now it’s no secret that I work for WW. But these little vignettes just PISSED ME OFF.

I received a letter from someone who enclosed a WW ribbon that was embossed: I LOST TEN POUNDS. Underneath the gold writing, the writer added, “And I Still Feel Like Crap.”

Now, everyone knows that it is certainly possible to lose 10 or 100 pounds and still feel like crap inside (or outside). But to LINK this in such a blatant way with Weight Watchers implies, even subliminally, that if you lose weight with Weight Watchers, you will feel like crap. To which I say, bullshit.

When I was on WW in the early 70s, I made dinner out of the remaining allowable foods for the day: two servings of cold tomato sauce (REALLY? They had to be COLD?) and a serving of ricotta cheese. I was scooping my dinner into a bowl when my friend said, “Is that really what you want to eat?” “Yes,” I said. But the truth was that “No” was not an option. Eating what I wanted was not allowed. Wanting what I wanted was not allowed. I needed to sacrifice, atone, make up for being myself. For being fat.

Now this made me want to SCREAM out loud. Again, she is linking ridiculous degrees of deprivation and “not eating what I wanted” with Weight Watchers. She does say this was in the “early 70s.” Does she take the responsible route and say, “Weight Watchers has changed and evolved radically since then.” No. She doesn’t. So again she is linking this conspicuous brand name with sacrifice, atonement, punishment. SO IRRESPONSIBLE.

She receives a letter from a reader who says, “Each time I start trying to follow what you say, I get afraid and then go running back to the security of the Weight Watchers points system. And every time I try points, I inevitably fail a week later and spiral into a new rash of binges and beating myself up.”

Message here? Of course! Weight Watchers causes bingeing and beating oneself up! GREEEEEEATTTTTT!

But the biggest bullshit moment came when I came to the golden Secret, the grand finale, Geneen’s sacred Eating Guidelines, the reason people pay hundreds of dollars to attend her talks and retreats:

1. Eat when you are hungry. (Weight Watchers Book #1)
2. Eating sitting down in a calm environment. This does not include the car.
3. Eat without distractions.
4. Eat what your body wants.
5. Eat until you are satisfied. (WW Book #1)
6. Eat in full view of others. (foodblogging! ☺)
7. Eat with enjoyment, gusto and pleasure.
When I read this I was incredulous. Like, THIS is the big secret? Who hasn’t been saying all of these things, like forever??

The thing that alarms me, too, is that #3 and #4 are where a lot of people, depending on where they are in their process, are going to take that as a major green flag for EAT WHATEVER YOU WANT! NO MATTER WHAT IT IS!

Geneen Roth herself talks about people reading her books and then getting pissed off because they then eat with abandon (“whatever they want”) and gain weight, some as much as 100 lbs. (Yikes)
SO the other problem with this book is that it is extremely new-Agey and Vague and abstract. There is nothing specific in it.

Okay, enough about that one. Now, on to Savor.

I loved this book. I loved loved loved it. Perhaps because it echoes everything that I myself believe and strive to do, and when I do these things, I am more the better for it. Geneen Roth also talks about meditation and how good it is, but Savor is very very specific about HOW to meditate, what to meditate over, what one might say or think while washing dishes or picking a piece of fruit from the market or… eating.

I loved it because it is not afraid to “go there” and say, yeah, part of being mindful is knowing EXACTLY what you are eating, which is why food journaling (tracking or blogging) is an important and useful part of mindfulness. Yay. Which is exactly the feeling I have had since I began foodblogging. It IS a form of meditation for me. It’s that pause before the eating, that momentary mindfulness that can make all the difference in the world.

It is not afraid to say that weighing yourself, too, is a part of being mindful: of knowing what you weigh. It’s just a number. If the number freaks you out, then it’s a thing to meditate on and understand why.
It’s not afraid to say that moving/exercise is important and a VERY important part of taking care of one’s body and being mindful. It describes the many barriers and obstacles to mindfulness in our culture and why this is so very challenging (quotes from The End to Overeating, which I also really liked).

Mostly what I love about this book is the tone of it. It’s gentle, compassionate, yet firm and honest. It’s real. It’s not mushy or New Agey. Often as I was reading I would find my eyes filling up with tears.

The Buddha teaches that … insight cannot begin until we stop and focus our attention on what is happening right in front of us. This stopping, or shamatha, allows us to rest the body and the mind. When we have calmed ourselves, we can then go on to look deeply into our current situation. We need to step off our frantic life treadmills, to stop unconsciously doing the same things over and over again that have allowed our weight to creep up. We need to stop, rest, and reflect on a constructive way forward… We need to be fully aware of what is going on in our daily living. Only then can we begin to change.

Every time I read the word “rest” I would stop and sigh. Because that is so much what I have been needing. To rest. So I feel a deep comfort and a soothing tone to this book that just makes me feel… grateful, and rested. I think that this feeling is what helped me off my comfort-food train the other day.

This book is very, very specific about what to do regarding emotions, food, exercise, meditation. There are lists and there are recommendations. They are nonjudgmental and gentle. And honest. I appreciated that.
The grounding in Buddhism that shapes this book was very familiar, comforting and relaxing to me. It made me feel very receptive. Others may not feel this way and that’s cool.

The bottom line is, that I think BOTH of these books actually have the same exact approach to food and eating. It’s about mindfulness and looking inward. It’s all good.

If people out there really resonate with WFG and feel as if Geneen Roth is the answer, then I say that is wonderful and go for it. Especially if you’ve never read any of her work before, I think it could resonate very powerfully. If you’re a hater of Weight Watchers, it will certainly validate those feelings.

If people like Savor, and it helps you slow down and find some rest among the mindfulness, then hooray.

That was just my two cents. I’m glad that I read both of these and I am glad that people in general are going in this direction. I think it’s good for all of us.

Fake It Till You Make It

Trainer DJ and the mad ropes

I’ve been all kinds of wiped out/off track/tired/disoriented since coming back from camp last week. I’ve been majorly “off my game” so to speak.

But I’ve been trying really hard not to let my inner Stuff get in the way of my outer Behavior. So even though I haven’t particularly been EMBRACING the idea of fitness or eating really well, I’ve been trying to do it Anyway. The “fake it till you make it” approach. And I think it may be working just a bit.

On Monday evening I went to the cemetery for trainer workout. I was sooo soo soooooooo not feeling it. But I felt like if I waited till I felt like it, I could end up not working out for weeks or more. So I went, and told myself I would go at whatever pace I felt like. It would be okay to be The Last One (my customary position during all of elementary, middle and high school phys. ed.).

I started out last. We were doing a 3.5 mile circuit up and down hills, at very fast racewalking pace. When I got there, I needed to go to bathroom BAD. But the cemetery public restroom, in the main building, was closed. Wahhh! Trainer told me there was a port a potty about halfway up the first hill. So I stopped there. The rest of the group kept going. Which put me at a good 2-3 minutes behind the whole crowd. Greeeeeeeeat. I gamely attemped to at least keep them in SIGHT.

I finally caught up with the last person right before the highest point. Then I figured it was my time to make up time. When we began the downhill stretch, I started slowly jogging. Surprise: it didn’t kill me. I told myself I’d keep jogging until I no longer felt like it. Surprise: I ended up passing everyone eventually, even the trainer, and ended up back at the starting point FIRST. Well, whaddya know.

I was glad I’d gone. I didn’t feel like any great endorphined ball of energy when I left, but  I was glad I’d gone.

Yesterday I just worked all day. I didn’t work out at all.

Today, I went to my semi-private session at the gym. Trainer DJ was excited because he’d gotten some brand spanking new Ropes of Doom. All I wanted to do was lie on the floor and roll on the foam roller, but he wasn’t gonna have any of that. Me and my buddy ended up doing a ton of lungey things, then 25 Burpees (UGH!), more lunges with 10-lb weights (bicep curls into straight up in the air presses, while lunging/walking), then 50 raised leg butt lifts, then crooked pushups, then… he took the brand new Ropes out of the box. Shiny white! But not as long. But HARD! TOUGH! INflexible. Yow. They were truly killer. We ended up doing a totally kick-ass workout, in spite of my lack of oomph. Again, I did not leave feeling energized, but I was very happy I’d gone.

I feel like I’m beginning to get a bit of groove back. I ate vegetables for dinner tonight. I feel like I’m on my way back.

Tiptoeing away from Sugar

First of all, just another shout-out to Mary who, at her tender young age, has managed to be an amazing mentor for me in so many ways. First, she introduced me to foodblogging which has proved to be nothing short of miraculous. It stopped two binges in their tracks yesterday. Amazing.

Another thing that Mary does, which I observed during her visit with me, but did NOT PARTICIPATE in, is her practice of only eating sugar (processed sugar) on weekends. I was like, hmm. Okay.

Now, as a diabetic person, I probably could benefit from not eating sugar at ALL. And I know plenty of people who do not eat sugar AT ALL. But cutting any food out of my repertoire completely just freaks me out. And it is important to me to feel like I can 1. maintain my weight loss, and 2. maintain good diabetic health, while continuing to enjoy certain sugar experiences once in a while. (cupcakes, anyone?)

I never eat large amounts of sugar. Mostly they are very small amounts of things- a teaspoon of ice cream, a sugar-free candy, (I’m going to count that as “sugar” for now because it does contain a certain type of sugar), some low-carb chocolate or a Skinny Cow. I do not go all out and have a hot fudge sundae.

Anyway, this week, after the big wedding weekend, I decided to come back to “basics.” And I noticed that I didn’t eat sugar on Monday or Tuesday. (today is Wednesday) I noticed it didn’t kill me. Or upset me. Or make me feel deprived.

So I’ve decided to gently see how this feels. I’m not doing it as a Challenge, or a Vow, or anything like that. I’m just doing it out of curiousity, for as long as it lasts. I’m not putting a time limit on it or anything. It’s just…. an experiment.

By the way, I don’t notice any difference (after 2 days) in how I feel. It’s not like I feel lighter and happier and free from the Evil Substance. I’m more noticing how I don’t feel like I’m suffering. Which is fine.

Week 2 of Foodblogging: What I’ve Learned, Part 2

I’m still at it. I’m having fun. I’m liking it. And I’m still learning new things.

This weekend, for example, I learned that it is possible to take photos of your food and still gain weight! (ha) Saturday was a perfect example of Too Much Of A Good Thing. (well, actually, NOT too much, but perhaps too much to LOSE weight) I don’t regret a single bite of anything. I don’t feel like I binged. But I know, and especially looking back, that that was a day that I ate really healthy food (perhaps with the exception of the bread and butter, and the cream puff at the end!) but more than was necessary, um, physiologically speaking. I mean: grilled vegetables! Salmon! Shaved zucchini salad! It was all good good food. It was delicious. I ate “in moderation.” All in all, I’d consider it a Success. I did  not feel deprived; I ate good things, I was happy.

I also learned that it is possible (well, I knew THIS one already) to eat not enough of Not Very Good Food. This was pretty much yesterday. I was still really full from Saturday AND I was really busy so I did not eat very much. But what I did eat wasn’t the most ideal stuff. A lot of carbs, not enough produce.

Last week I took some photos of lunch while at work. I think my co-workers thought I was a little, um… special. As my daughters would say. But I took them anyway.

I’m excited that since I’ve started this process, a few of my blogging buddies have joined in and are photoblogging too. I’m having a great time following their food, and learning all sorts of things. Here’s Karen’s, and Pubsgal’s, and Sweeter’s. Welcome to foodblogging, friends!

The process is continuing to fascinate me and every day I notice more and more new things. Onward!

Cream Puff Heaven

I went to a wedding with most amazing food! Including cream puffs instead of wedding cake!! All I can say is it’s a GOOD THING I started at a low.

creammmmmmmpuffffffffffs!

More later.

It’s Working.. And I Didn’t Even Ask It To

Remember my “wish” to lose ten pounds maybe, like sort of?  Well, after much deliberation I decided to not sweat it or “try” to do anything; I’d just keep doing whatever I was doing, and whatever happened, would happen.

Then Mary came to visit and I watched her take pictures of all her food. For the first 3 days, I just watched her, and I ate all the yummy things she was eating PLUS MORE. The weight started creeping up. Then on her fourth day, I started foodblogging as well.

See what happened? That’s my weight up there. From the very first day. This was not on purpose, ie I wasn’t “trying” to lose weight, I was just trying to be more mindful and accountable for what I ate.

The one little uptick you see there is the day I forgot to take my medication which allows me to not look like a watery bloated sausage.

The difference between the top of the graph and the bottom of the graph (today) is 5.2 pounds.

Just sayin’.

I’m taking my camera with me EVERYwhere from now on. 🙂

EDITED: Hmph. Facebook tells me that this blog post has been rated as “abusive” by Facebook users and so they have disabled the link. What is THAT about? Am I being boycotted by anti-scale people??

Pressure Cooker


Steaming cooker

Originally uploaded by Intrudēr

The next three weeks are going to be the most pressurized, intense weeks of my entire year. I run a camp, that takes all year to prepare for, and it takes place the last week in July.

I’ve been doing this for six years now. For the first several years, I viewed this period of time (actually, all summer) as an opportunity to completely throw in the towel and give up on any remnants of fitness or healthy eating. It was really just an excuse. I’d cancel my trainer, eat like there was no tomorrow, and it was just stress piled on stress. It felt inevitable. When camp itself came, I would literally inhale the crazy carbs they served: sloppy joes and mac and cheese and tacos and hotdogs and french toast and ALL OF IT, and I believed the more I ate, the calmer (read: more anesthetized) I’d feel.

Last year was the first year that I tried to get through the summer without my customary meltdown. It went pretty well and I managed to get to my Lifetime status at WW in the summer. But the ghosts of past camp seasons are always around to haunt, and it’s so easy to just succumb to the pressures and just say “I give up!” for now.

I really don’t want that to happen this year. This year is the biggest camp in our whole history. We’re in a brand-new site that is giving me HIVES with their incomprehensible difficulties and insane little rules. So I am just prime for all sorts of falling down.

Today we had a staff powwow to assess all we need to do in the next 2 weeks. It is a LOT. And either it will get done, or it won’t. But just making that list almost put us all over the top.

One of my co-workers ordered a sandwich with extra bacon. I suddenly thought, what can *I* have?? I deserve this! I need something extra-special!! All the old song and dance. I spied a triple-decker Havarti grilled cheese on the menu of my favorite takeout place. THAT’S what I want! I thought. But I was deep in a task which kept me busy for a while longer. During which time I got to really think about what it was that I wanted.

I wanted to eat something that would not stress me even further, or put me to sleep, or make me feel bad about myself. I thought. I needed PROTEIN. So I went to the Thai place and got a cup of chicken coconut soup, and some chicken satay skewers. I didn’t touch even a grain of rice. I had the cucumber salad and a little dollop of peanut sauce. Then I was able to go back and face the rest of my afternoon (and evening, as it turns out) of work.

It’s going to take EVERYTHING I HAVE to remain conscious, and present, and healthy, during these next weeks. If I can emerge August 1 in a good place, I will be very grateful. Cross your fingers for me. Or leave me lots of comments for strength. ❤

It’s An “Energy Imbalance”


balance

Originally uploaded by hans s

Back in June, I went to a staff training for Weight Watchers; it’s part of a series on the science of weight loss. How awesome is this, I ask you? It was hard to get excited about a 12-hour work day especially on a Friday, but I was hoping to learn a lot and learn I did.

On one hand, it was simple and basic and nothing I hadn’t heard before, but on the other hand it felt totally illuminating. Or maybe confirming.

There was a lot of talk about metabolism. What IS “metabolism,” anyway? It seems like this mysterious and complicated mechanism that nobody seems to clearly understand. But as we learned, metabolism is actually a NUMBER. It’s the difference between the calories that one burns and that calories that one takes in. That’s it.

And if we are trying to lose weight, then we want the numbers IN to be fewer than the numbers OUT.

It was kind of stunningly simple. My mind was kind of whirling around like crazy, thinking of my own understanding of my own numbers in the past few months. I’ve been wearing this little gadget called a Philips DirectLife which measures the calories OUT every day. For the first few weeks, I was going gangbusters and burning 150-180% of my goal every day. I was knocking the socks off that thing.

Then I hurt my ankle. Again. Everything slowed wayyyyy down. I could see by the charts on the gadget that even when I tried to walk, I was averaging about 200 calories less per day (burned) than before. On top of that, at the same time, I started a new job that was kind of mentally exhausting. I was going out for coffee 1-2x a day more than previously. And you know, I put cream in my coffee. So there’s 100-200 calories more IN per day. Even if everything else stayed the same.

And suddenly it became glaringly obvious (in a way that just had not clicked before) that this was WHY I was unable to just shake off the last 5-10 pounds I was wanting to lose.

I mean I KNEW it, on some level, that walking was just not the same as running or banging out long sessions on the elliptical. But my little DirectLife was ticking away and showing me in very graphic terms exactly what was going on. Add the extra coffee and there you have it.

So now, my ankle is feeling better and I am able to do more again. AND I’ve been tracking my food carefully on my food blog. And… voila. Happy scale days again.

There was more good stuff in that metabolism lecture; about the different ways we burn calories, and metabolism as we age and metabolism in men vs women, but I’m going to save that for a later post.

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