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Archive for May, 2012

A year and a really hardcore personal trainer, that is. And a lot of commitment and hard work on my part.

Last year, when I started my current job, after leaving the one I’d previously been at for four years, all that change spurred the demise of the short-lived attempt at healthy eating I had been pursuing via an iPhone app where I logged my daily food and calories. This sample day of eating came from near the end of that time, when I was still logging food daily and staying within a certain calorie count. Here’s what I ate (all italicized comments are written by me now):

Breakfast:
1/2 cup lowfat yogurt
1/2 cup blueberries
Cereal – Oatwise Life, 103 calories’ worth
Lunch:
10 steamed vegetable dumplings (which I – probably erroneously – thought were worth 383 calories in all)
2/3 cup green beans
a serving of shanghai rice cakes (which is this AMAZING dish at probably the best Chinese restaurant ever – it’s basically pork, spinach and round flat rice “cakes,” but which is probably not so healthy)
Dinner?
pinkberry froyo (150 cal worth)
pretzel sticks
peanut butter (1 teaspoon)
Snacks
cadbury cream egg
1 pack of hi-chew candies (210 cal worth)
a gluten free cupcake

My calorie record for that day showed me going over by a mere 6 calories. Looking back, I can see better now why that diet attempt wasn’t going so well. I don’t know what kind of fuzzy math I was using to make a day that featured several kinds of candy, a cupcake, AND frozen yogurt a more or less acceptable food day, but clearly I was fooling myself.

Here’s what I ate on the same day this year:

Breakfast
1 slice Ezekiel bread
2 slices chicken breast
2nd breakfast
yogurt with banana and cinnamon
1 slice Ezekiel bread
black coffee
Lunch
chicken and vegetable stir-fry with brown rice (1 cup)
small green salad
Snack
apple
Snack at 7pm (b/c I had to go to a middle school play)
Kind bar
Dinner
big ole salad with grilled chicken
1/2 banana

It wasn’t a perfect day (see the Kind bar) but it’s a day of all real, healthy food that nourishes me and, significantly, doesn’t have much sugar in it (even though I still totally want sugar). I eat smaller meals and more of them now. I eat balanced meals throughout the day. I’ll admit that the old way still seems “sexier” to me at times – more alluring and bad. But I also know now that it’s just bad bad. That it made me feel bad about myself and that it made me feel bad physically. The food I eat now makes me feel good, all around. And on days when I deviate from it – which is always just a little bit when it happens – I can feel the difference. And it helps me realize and remember and appreciate just how important these choices about how I fuel my body are.

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My weight hasn’t changed in six weeks. It’s REALLY annoying.

I know plateaus exist, but I hit one 10 pounds ago, so really, I thought I had awhile to go before I hit another one.
Also, all I can think about it is: really? I mean, REALLY?

I exercise 6-7 days a week every week. All exercise is at least 30 minutes of intensive cardio, and two of those days are always an hour and a half of intensive personal training with lots of cardio and cardio intervals. Also, my diet mostly consists of dead birds (lean protein), vegetables, fruit, whole grains, legumes, and vegan meat substitutes. I eat no refined sugars, fried foods, cheese, butter, red meat, pork, and have only minimal processed carbs (I have a real weakness for bites of bread). I almost never drink alcohol.

So you know… put that in your pipe and imagine how you’d feel if you did all of that, all the time, consistently, and you still stayed the same damn weight. And imagine that life in comparison to one where you exercised maaaaybe once a week, had anywhere from 3 to 6 desserts in a given day, and also ate just whatever the fuck else got in your path.

I mean, I feel like I should lose weight just for not having the destructive-dessert-buffet daily-living plan anymore. There were days (most days), when I’d start my day with a waffle or sugar cereal, have some M&Ms from the evil jar of treats at work, eat something high in cheese and fat for lunch, wash it down with a cookie or fro-yo, have more M&Ms (at least two more handfuls) in the afternoon, maybe also eat some jellybeans, then go home and convince my boyfriend to go get a giant bowl of fro-yo. That was a day! A normal day!

I’m a fucking saint now.

Except. I still sometimes eat carbs at night. Because it’s just easier to not pick out the brown rice or to have that bite of bread because it’s so yummy. And I guess, really, the freeze-dried fruit is kind of like a carb at night. It’s certainly a fruit at night. (My trainer told me not to eat fruit at night anymore, and in my mind, I was all like, oh please. If I could see that froyo I used to eat, you’d know this is nothing.) But maybe it’s not nothing?

Maybe my body really really needs perfect harmony? Like, it could handle some night carbs and bites of bread for the first minus-44 pounds but now it’s like, “Oh thanks, I can use that as something to hang on to.” Maybe I’m just that “lucky”? It’s hard for me to move much passed being pissed if that’s the case. Because come on. Just… come one. I’m exercising. I’m healthy. I would just like a little bit – just a little bit of leeway.

I don’t even remember the taste of frosting!!! I’m so good now. And I do know that my body is changing, that it’s stronger. I can feel that. And it looks different. I can see that. I just need the numbers to work with me now.

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It’s a constant struggle for me to not just stuff food in my mouth at every random, empty moment. I fight with myself to eat a handful of freeze-dried fruit instead of the whole bag. I chew gum until my jaw gets sore. I eat full meals. But still, I want more. I just want to chew. Chew, chew, chew and swallow and then do it some more.
It’s not the first time I’ve felt this way. In fact, I’ve felt this way, wanted to act this way, and have acted on these wants for most of my life. But some things are different now.

For one thing, I can identify it now. I know that I’m eating (or wanting to eat) for reasons other than hunger or true need. The need I feel is an emotional one, and the food doesn’t actually satisfy it; it just dulls it. If you’d asked me five or even two years ago, I probably could have come up with the same answer. It doesn’t take a brain trust to figure out that I’m an emotional overeater. But I didn’t actually understand it. Which is to say, I could not identify it or stop it when it was happening. I could identify emotional overeating as if I were watching something happening on TV, but in the same way as with something on a television screen, I had no way to interact with or influence what was happening. Now I can recognize it as I start eating. I can say to myself, “You’re not actually hungry. You don’t need to eat this food. You’re just eating to be eating. Because eating makes you feel in control of something. Also it distracts you. Also, it blisses you out for a moment, lets you float away from whatever more challenging things are really going on.” The fact that I can understand that while it’s happening is huge because it means I can – more or less – stop it.

But there’s another important thing that helps me stop it: what I will eat now. Changing what I eat has been instrumental for me understanding how and why I eat. Because if there’s a bag of M&Ms, or a pint of ice cream, or hell even a store within driving distance (and there are MANY), then there’s no reason to take time to reflect or process. There’s no reason to stop going because my fix is right there and I can get it and it’s delicious and it is good and I’ll just keep cramming it in, everything but the pleasure centers of the brain shut down and uninvolved.

But what about when all those treats are gone? What about when the best stimuli for overeating are taken away? Those foods that feed the desire to eat with their addictive, satiating, biologically from-an-evolutionary-standpoint satisfying sugar and saltiness and savory goodness. Those food that just make you want more more more – like, for real, on a chemical level in your brain. What do you turn to when you can’t have a sleeve of thin mints or a giant grab bag of nacho cheese flavored chips, or a king-size container of Mike and Ikes?

Well, I eat nuts, fruit, maybe some kale chips, maybe some plain, unsweetened yogurt. It’s not nearly as sexy, not nearly as stimulating. And then it’s also nourishing, and filling, and sends my body the correct signals about being satiated. So it’s harder to binge eat.

At the top I talked about eating freeze-dried fruit and nuts. These – along with whole sprouted grain bread – are my great weaknesses now. And it changes the conversation. Eight months ago, when I made an agreement with my trainer that I would stop eating sugar, refined carbs, fried foods, processed, packaged foods, cheese, meat, etc. I began to level the playing field for myself. It’s not sexy or cool or exciting, and a lot of times I don’t like it. A lot of times, I would like a goddamn donut. But each of those times the desire comes from a twisted, clawing place of need, anxiety, and fear and every demon I’ve ever struggled with. It’s not about nourishment or the simple joy of good food that’s real food. And so to have told myself I no longer have the option for that donut or any of its brethren frees a part of me. It’s a harsh freedom at times. At times, it feels like a strong wind on an open plane with a sky that’s wider than everything I can take in. But it’s still freedom. It’s still me standing.

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