Thursday, July 26, 2012

If Not That, This?

Today on Twitter, I saw a tweet that proclaimed 'is lack of sleep behind your weight gain' or something to that effect. If there wasn't one saying exactly that today, there was probably one last week or last month. If not about lack of sleep, it might have blamed soda, processed food, large portions, or just plain lack of exercise  - and if you 'just' eliminate 'X', ta dah! Problem solved.

I especially love the ones that tell me ' cut out one soda a day' and then they do the math based on calories  in the soda and calories per pound and then tell me I'll 'drop x pounds in a year'. As if our bodies work like a ledger sheet.

Don't get me wrong - I believe all these things can and do affect weight in individuals, but there is no one cause we can pin it on that fits every individual. And I believe it's vastly more complex than 'eat less/move more'. But in my case, none of the 'usual' advice fits.*

The fact is I get plenty of sleep. I have eaten a 'healthy, whole foods, mostly organic' diet for the past decade. I cook practically everything from scratch from the best ingredients I can afford. On the occasions we do go out to eat, we're picky so we're not talking the usual suspects here. I don't have a large appetite and I haven't had a 'soda' in years. As far as exercise goes, I do some strength training and love to hike, bike and play tennis. Lately I've taken up jumping rope. I'm no good at it, but I am adding more each week. I do have a desk job, but it's in a large building and involves up and down stairs and heavy lifting. I am careful not to 'overexercise' though. I used to do that but now I listen to my body as far as activity goes, too.

I don't have any answers and I'm not looking for a 'magic bullet'. I don't believe there is one. I'm certainly not jumping on the latest 'sure fire' diet craze. But I keep listening and learning. In the process I've learned that I stress seems to be a huge component for me. One of the few times in nearly a decade that my weight changed was when I was under a great deal of stress. Eliminating the stress, however, doesn't make it go down. My weight is now unchanged again, but just at a higher level.

I accept that this is how my body functions right now at this point in my life. It's just for some reason it has 'decided' to hang on to extra weight. Of course I don't like it, but that's just how it is. Maybe that will change. Maybe not. Maybe there are things I have control over that can alter it. Maybe not.

I just know there are no simple answers and no one answer that fits every one, and wasting time, energy, anger, guilt, frustration or whatever other negative emotions are tied up on excess weight would just be a waste of my life. Not to mention just plain no fun.

I'd rather just live in tune with my body - eat well, sleep well, participate in activities I enjoy and focus on good health and the 'moments' that bring joy to life, cuz whatever my weight, it's the only life I get.

*there are other less-usual explanations, like stress, that come closer but that's another post

Thursday, July 19, 2012


People who've never dieted would likely shake their head at the idea that some people actually don't know when they are hungry, what they want to eat when they are hungry, and when to stop. Okay, I know for sure some would shake their head. I've seen them do it.

I remember the days when I didn't know. I started letting other people (diets) tell me when/what/how much to eat when I was just a teenager. After a couple of decades, my head was so full of (often conflicting) rules, figuring out when/what to eat could be a real challenge.

Ditching diets changed all that and I've learned many things about myself. Some are important, some are merely interesting,  while others are (to me anyway), mildly amusing.

Take cottage cheese and candy for instance. According to most, if not all, diet 'food lists' cottage cheese = 'good' while candy = 'bad'. When I was dieting, I thought cottage cheese was awful stuff  but not nearly as awful as the cravings for a candy bar. Any candy bar.

Now that I have stopped dieting, I've learned that my dislike of cottage cheese  has nothing to do with it being 'diet food' or not. I just don't like it. But more surprisingly, I also don't like most types of candy. Halloween candy lasts forever in my house.

I have also learned I do not like bananas (not as fruit, bread, smoothies or even cake) or apple pie. I'm not crazy about salads - especially in the winter and while I really dislike all those snack foods that can turn your fingers orange, potato chips are something I can take or leave.

On the other hand I really like soups (even in summer); nearly all vegetables - especially brussels sprouts, artichokes, parsnips and beets; pate (liver) and various pickled vegetables and chutneys.

I've also learned I dislike the idea of 'grazing' or 'snacking'-  I don't even like the word. For one thing, I like food. Now I realize that's not exactly a surprise on a diet/non-diet blog that the author likes food. But I don't just mean, 'I like to eat', and anything will do (although there are times when everyone has to settle for what is available). For the most part,  if I'm going to eat something, I want it to be satisfying, enjoyable and totally worth it.  So, when meal time comes, I actually *want* to be hungry. I want to be able to sit down with my family and enjoy the meal I spent so much time, energy, money and (yes, cheesy as it sounds) love creating.

That can be a challenge, balancing 'eat when hungry' with 'being hungry at dinner time' and sometimes I don't get it right, but more often than not, it works out.  And when it doesn't, it's not like it's a big deal. And if nothing else, I've learned something else about myself that will make the next time easier.

Friday, July 13, 2012

You Might Be an Ex-Dieter if....

you eat the actual food you want, rather than a 'version' of it.

For breakfast today, I had french toast and sausage. Back in my dieting days it would have been a thin slice of bread soaked in a mixture of egg white or two egg whites and one yolk beaten with some skimmed milk and a dash of spices, and 'fried' with a non-stick spray. The sausage would have been more like 'sausage' - something low-fat,  or worse, fake. The syrup would undoubtedly been fake - (most are anyway) and probably low cal.

Today's breakfast resembles that one in name only. Thick slices of two day old artisan bread, soaked in a mixture of free range eggs and fresh cream spiced with homemade vanilla and fresh grated nutmeg, cooked in grass-fed butter and topped with (real) maple syrup. The sausage is locally produced without the usual suspects (nitrates/ites, msg, etc)

I used to always feel like a failure for not being able to stick to my 'sensible diet'. Looking at this, I find it very easy now to understand why.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Savoring Summer

I think I've coped pretty well during the last hectic six weeks or so. However, I'm now in a period of relative quiet. Other than a few sports events for various members of the family each week, I have very little scheduled. For me it's a good time to really focus on some areas of my life that need attention.

I'm catching up on rest and relaxation; doing things I enjoy like reading, gardening and cooking; getting some sunshine and spending time making 'moments' with my family; and of course, listening to my body.

In the area of food/eating, I am taking advantage of the relative quiet to really listen to my body. To try out a variety of foods, in various amounts and different times and circumstances and paying attention to the results to find out what works best for me.

Listening to my body is about more than food, though. For instance, I am working to organize my home better - de-cluttering, reorganizing and making meals for the freezer, so that life goes more smoothly - and I'll be less stressed-  the next time things get hectic.

But above and through it all, it's summer where I live, and it will be over before we know it. I don't want to let it get by without making the most of it - getting out for bike rides, hikes and days at the pool, breakfasts on the patio in the cool morning air, BBQs with friends, camping, fishing and trips to new places.

I guess I'd better get started.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Food Rules

I overheard a discussion recently about what and how people should eat. It was the usual 'conventional Wisdom' that gets repeated. The things everyone 'knows' that are taken as truth simply because they are repeated so often.

One comment was that someone should stop eating bread. Bread is the 'worst thing you can eat'. I expected the reason to be carbs - but nope. It's because it has so many calories that you can't burn off.

Yep, that's what he said. While I waited for someone at the table to challenge this 'fact' I went through a list in my head of foods with more calories than a slice of bread. Yet mixed up as this statement was,  no one argued with it.

Next, the conversation moved on to when and how much one should eat. Of course, all heads nodded at the 'eat a large breakfast, the largest meal at lunch, and basically a snack for dinner'. All agreed that while this is the 'healthiest way to eat', not that they knew of anyone who ate this way, nor had they ever been able to do it themselves. Whether it was work schedules, or physical reasons, none of them explained why they couldn't do it.

Then there are those who eat by the clock. They decide what to eat or not eat based on what time it is. They prefer to go hungry rather than eat out of sync with the clock. And let's not even mention the idea of a non-traditional breakfast food at 8 am.

I don't want to debate whether this is a good way to eat or not. It was the nodding and acceptance without question that got me. No one asked 'why is this so?'. No one said 'Everyone is different. That may work for someone else, but it I tried it and it made me feel lousy'. No one said 'I eat when my body says, not when the clock says'.

I, however, can tell you why I eat the way I do. I don't follow anyone else's rules but my own, and my only rule is to listen to my body. I do what I do because it works *for me*, and I try to stay flexible. If my body tells me it's hungry I don't ignore it because it's not 'time to be hungry'.  If dinner leftovers sounds good to me at 8 am, I don't decide that's not appropriate breakfast food, and have an egg instead. And I know from experience if I eat too little at dinner I sleep badly and when I do sleep, I have nightmares, so none of that 'eat dinner like a pauper' thing for me.

I have to wonder what would happen if heads nodded in agreement at the idea of trusting our bodies instead of the latest diet advice. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Sticking to a Diet When Life is...

....busy, difficult, chaotic, unpredictable.....

All of the above?

I remember those days. I should, since I spent so many years of my life dieting.  How the lack of any semblance of a regular schedule or routine, like vacation, added stress that I really didn't need and took some of the enjoyment out of the experience. The eating at odd hours and the logistics of coordinating 'my' food and 'their' food, or worrying that a restaurant won't have food I'm 'allowed' to eat

Then there were the times I decided to put the diet 'on hold' of the duration. If anything, this was worse.  I would end up eating much more than normal - even more than I wanted to,  because of course, this was the only time I was going to allow myself to eat like this. And if I thought I was strict before - that was nothing compared to how strict I was going to be once I got home and found out how much weight I'd gained after a week or more of vacation eating. 

Our recent vacation was, at times, all the things I mentioned above. We traveled with a family quite different from ours, with different eating styles and habits, and we were often in isolated areas as well. Everyone had to adapt and compromise - and at times food choices were extremely limited.

More than once I thought about how stressful the experience would have been if I was trying to stick to a diet (and/or exercise program) in addition to everything else that was going on. Instead I was able to just go with it. Dinner at 11? Not ideal, but sure. Ice cream anyone? No problem ( and it was excellent ice cream, too). Spending hours (days?)  in the car? It will all balance out.

And it will.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

July First Check-in

My weight is still holding steady. It hasn't gone up or down at all this past month, which is actually quite a good result. Between visitors and a family vacation, it's been a crazy few weeks  - including spending several days in the car all day, eating out every day, dinners at odd hours - as late as 11 pm, lack of sleep, lots of stress and some darn good ice cream.