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Archive for September, 2013

The fury I felt from reading the following article sub-head basically just caused my head to explode:

The Sugar Association — up until the mid-1970s — aggressively advertised sugar as a healthy weight loss and diet aid.

Yeah, you read that right. Go ahead and click on the link to get REALLY angry. You’ll see such gems as this one:

via buzzfeed via motherjones.com

via buzzfeed 

It’s an apple – obviously! Those three teaspoons of highly processed sweetener crack are MUCH better for you than an apple. That fattening terrible apple that came from nature and has nutrients. Gross. If you really want to succeed on your “reducing plan,” make sure you have some sugar:

via buzzfeed

via buzzfeed

…because it give you energy! More so than that crappy old egg. I mean, an egg has almost 80 calories in it, whereas a teaspoon of sugar only has 18. And everyone knows that it’s all about calories. The nutritional value of the food has no bearing on anything at all.

via buzzfeed

via buzzfeed

This ad is perhaps the most horrifying of them all, and the text is probably too small to read, so let me just share the biggest gem from it:

“There’s a useful psychological effect, too. The good natural sweetness of sugar is like a little reward that promotes a sense of satisfaction and well-being.”

There, at last, is some truth in advertising. It sure is a useful psychological effect – that little reward just keeps you coming back for more. And more and then some more. I know that’s how it worked for me for years. Things didn’t turn out quite like these advertisements (which I was not alive to read anyway) claimed they would.

Of course, I find this all so infuriating because the years of research since – and my own personal experience – have shown just how damaging the consumption of sugar is. And yet, here it is being sold as a nutrition supplement. It’s a good reminder – and one that still applies today – not to believe anything being sold as a weight-loss cure. Or really anything that’s being sold. There’s always a spin and always a hidden motivation, and that motivation is profit, not our well-being.

 

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Pumpkin Bar with Coconut Cream

Pumpkin Bar with Coconut Cream

I am working on being kinder with myself in my relationship with food. In that vein, I was offered the challenge last week of baking something just for fun.

I love to bake, but I rarely do it now that I don’t eat most of the ingredients that go into baked goods. The idea of baking a traditional cake/cookie/bread/etc that I either would not eat or would feel bad about eating did not sound fun to me. So I set out to find some recipes that fit my dietary parameters.

I knew this would be challenging because of the sugar. I don’t believe in sugar at all. It is a toxic substance, and while I’ve certainly still eaten it from time to time, my goal is not to. Further, I do not think that chemical sugar substitutes are acceptable, nor is agave (the ways in which agave is not at all what it’s sold to be deserve their own post, but suffice to say that it’s really pretty terrible). At this point, I’m basically okay with maple syrup, honey, dates and fruit as sweeteners. And none of those in large quantity. Also, I like to avoid any kind of wheat flour. And dairy.

So it took some Internet sleuthing, but eventually I found my way to a wonderful site called Spoonful of Sugar Free. The author has a whole section of desserts, and I fairly quickly found one that fit my parameters: her Grain-Free Pumpkin Pie Bars with Creamy Frosting. The ingredient list for this recipe is great in its simplicity: pumpkin, coconut flour (and only a 1/4 cup at that), spices, vanilla, a little almond milk, and eggs. I find all of these ingredients to be totally acceptable, so I was really excited to try the recipe.

And it turned out great! It was easy too. The prep time really did only take about 10 minutes. The resulting bars were tasty – like a milder, less sweet version of pumpkin pie filling. Since I don’t really eat sugar, they tasted sweet to me. My husband, whose diet is less restricted, also liked them though. And one of the best parts? The whole tray totaled just over 400 calories, making a piece a very reasonable snack.

The author also provides a frosting recipe, which is ingenious. I tried it the next day (because it involved overnight refrigeration), and I found that adding the creamy coconut concoction to the top of the bar gave it a little extra punch of flavor. With the frosting, it is a dessert I think almost anyone would enjoy. The frosting also doubles the calorie count because coconut milk is intense. So I’ve approached that part of the dessert with a little more reserve.

I really enjoyed making and eating a treat a felt good about, and it’s something I intend to do again. I love treats, and I don’t really want to live a life without them. I just want them to nourish and support the life I’m choosing.

 

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For many years, until relatively recently actually, I treated my body like an unwieldy appendage attached to my head at my neck that I had to suffer through because it was what lugged me around. When I thought of myself, I truly only considered me from the neck up. This perspective is evidenced by an endless quantity of neck-up head shot photos of myself, years of me telling whoever was taking my picture to just take it from “here up” (hand motion to my neck). I didn’t want my ugly and unsightly (to me) body being immortalized in any picture. I didn’t want to have to see it or acknowledge it. I was told I had a pretty face and that I was smart, so if everything could just be about my head, it would be all right.

Neck up, please!

Neck up, please!

Except that it wasn’t. My body is a gift. Just like everyone’s is. What it can do is biology and also magic. Just the muscles working in unison for me to type these words, how my hands move, the signals that my brain sends to direct them are all phenomenons of immense complexity and brilliance. Computer scientists spend years creating robots that can do what my hands do without me even thinking about it. And as I sit here on the couch typing and breathing there are so many amazing functions happening: my heart beating, pushing blood, my lungs filling with oxygen, my eyes, skin, ears, and nose sending signals to my brain. The feel of the couch under my legs and the hardwood on my bare feet – miracles all of it. That I spent most of my life wanting to disregard this amazing vessel of my physical self is so sad. That I wanted to do so because I felt shame in it is heartbreaking.

My body is worthy.

This is my body, and it is worthy.

My body is my home. It is my guide also. Through my body I feel and experience; everything I know of the world comes to me through my physical self. Everything I experience, I feel in my body; all my emotions have sensations that go with them: the bubbling joy of seeing people I love, the racing heart of excitement, the constriction in my chest when I am scared, the heaviness of grief.

I ignored my body for so much of my life because it was also a way to ignore my feelings and what I experienced. It’s a coping mechanism that worked well when I was young, when I needed to escape, when it was the best way to protect myself. I was taught in many ways that it was not okay to be myself, that some, but not all, of my feelings were acceptable. So I hid the ones that weren’t. I hid parts of myself and then I hid from myself.

I was so detached from myself that I could eat huge portions of food, gain weight and not understand how or when the weight gain had happened. I could eat until I felt sick and then wait just enough time for the nausea to pass before I ate some more. I ate my feelings instead of having them, feeling them, and expressing them. I ate to stay separate from myself.

And it worked. Really well. Feeling numb and separate and hidden had benefits. It was harder for me to get hurt (even though, somehow, I felt hurt most of the time), and I felt protected from the world (even though I was just isolating myself). Eventually though the costs were too high and the pain (of trying to avoid pain) was too great. So I started the long journey of coming back to myself.

I’m still understanding all the ways in which I disregard myself, how I dismiss my body instead of honoring and loving it. It takes constant consciousness – which I don’t always have – to be kind to my body, instead of judging it. The judgment comes so immediately, and it is mean and ugly. But more and more I realize that there is no true health and no true care for myself without true acceptance of myself. Right now as I am today and however I will be tomorrow.

Always

Always.

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I am in a place of great frustration. I am not losing weight, even though I am working hard to do so.

After months of being unfocused, I have gotten back down to business: I am working out hard; I am eating well. I have cut out the little delicious cheats that sustained my food addictive ways for so long. No more dark chocolate, no more macaroons made only of coconut and cacao, no more Lara and Kind bars as just for fun snacks, no more cheating and pretending I’m not. And it’s really hard for me.

So I am also doing the work of considering why it’s so difficult for me to stop snacking for fun. I am looking at the compulsions behind my eating habits. For the first time in my life, I’m really understanding how little my eating has to do with when I am or am not hungry. I like to eat so much that I do it whenever I can. In the past two years, I’ve switched to healthier, real food, and it has made a massive difference in my life. But it has not changed the fact that I most often eat because I feel like being comforted, distracted, and entertained. Now it’s just that apples or (until recently) dark chocolate distract me. I am finally starting to pay attention to my hunger level, and if I’m not hungry, stopping long enough to question why I want to eat something.

In the meantime, I am working out so hard. My trainer has redoubled her and my efforts, and once again, my workouts leave me covered in lakes of sweat, often feeling nauseous from the levels of exertion. I am strong, and now I am breaking through to get stronger.

I am doing everything the way I should, and every day it is work. Every day, I am choosing not to eat the desserts that are presented, to join my friends for Mexican food and not drink the margaritas or eat the chips or anything else not healthy, to buy as much produce from the farmer’s market as I have cash for and to cook and eat it (or eat it when my husband has cooked it), to work out daily, hard.

And nothing’s changing. It has been three weeks. Three weeks since I stepped on the scale and saw that my little slips and lax ways had caused my weight to jump up a couple more pounds, making me 10 pounds heavier than my lowest weight. Enough to rattle me into action. In three weeks, I should have lost between 4-6 pounds. Instead I have lost 1. It was 1.5, but I stepped on the scale this morning, and for reasons I can’t explain, my weight went back up.

I know I just have to keep doing it. I know it will work eventually. But it frustrates me that it’s not working better despite how much work I’m putting in. Also it frustrates me to be this focused on numbers when I want to focus on a healthy life. But I don’t know how to do that without the numbers because when I stopped paying attention to them before, I stopped paying attention in a lot of other ways too. And right now, I really don’t feel like I have all the answers I once thought I did.

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