Obstacles

I had a text exchange with an online pal today about working with her trainer. At the end of their session on Tuesday, he told her they needed to have a serious discussion about her diet. It’s fascinating to me the different style of training relationships other people have with their trainers. For this pal, her guy is more of an accountability partner and suggester-in-chief with regard to her workouts. Very different than how I work with fab trainer J. Then again, I’m a little different in this regard.

But the exchange got me thinking. And rather than telling you all about the amazing session this morning, I wanted to capture this thought stream before it completely escapes.

The more time I spend working at improving my eating strategy for weight loss and better health lifestyle, the more I realize I do much better when I can address a specific obstacle about food, diet, exercise on a one-at-a-time basis. While it’s not always practical or possible, I’ve come to realize that gaining some mastery over all the little complications of adopting a healthier lifestyle does not happen all at once, at least not for me.

The easier parts were the healthier eating basics – cut out the junk (just don’t buy it), eat lots more fruits and vegetables (meal plan, eat at home, bring lunch), supplement with protein shakes, drink more water. All good things.

While I would also say become consistent about regular exercise, I was already doing that when I started my current eating strategy. For purposes of this post, I will confine myself to diet and food.

A few obstacles in my way right now:

  • Eating out just because or meals with friends.
  • The food concessions at special events.
  • Celebrations and special occasions.
  • Feeling the “deserve” whim because I have been good or I’m bored with my regular meals.

Each of these have their own triggers and emotions and become stand-alone obstacles in my forward progress. The holidays are also coming, and I’m already thinking about what I want to do, how I will handle the pushers and enablers of less-desirable-for-me food in my life.

Some of those obstacles I have mostly worked through, others will be addressed as they come up and feel like an issue to be addressed. Right now, I’ve fallen back into the habit of lunchtime convenience food with the demands of work. Rather than continuing with cans of soup and meat-and-cheese sandwiches from the deli, I’m going to experiment with making my own soup at home for lunches with my piece of fruit. It’s a small thing, but I’m playing the long game and upgrading my lifestyle habits for the balance of my life.

I often think I’m on a 7 days fast loss/20 days slo-mo loss plan. I have started, stopped, given up, restarted too many times to count over the last couple of years. With food and diet, sometimes I feel myself losing discipline and focus on just making positive food choices and meal templates and will go strictly compliant on counting calories and macros for a week, then slowly acclimate back to the habits of slo-mo loss mode. Since I’ve broken it down to “what’s bugging me this week?” I am doing far, far better with the balance. Frankly there is an emotional cost that I attach to falling off the wagon and then feeling as if I am watching it leave me sitting in the dust, so I have really focused on my personal “why” each time I feel myself falling into that dark abyss.

I am doing okay well with all this, and I am grateful every day for my less burdened frame and how far I have come in my lifestyle renovation. As I remind myself just about daily, I am in this for the long game that is the rest of my life.

Hunger

It’s said that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, but I don’t think I’m headed for Hell. At least not this month. That said, I really wish I had the time and energy to write all the stuff crowding my head right now. Since I don’t, only the loudest, most strident thought gets the 25 minute bucket I presently have available.

The last couple of months, I have found myself getting reaquainted with hunger and what it actually feels like. Part of me feels like an absolute moron for saying that outloud (to trainer J this morning) or in print (to my fat loss group yesterday), but apparently I am not alone in this particular defect. My doctor is an obesity specialist and hears this same sentiment a lot from patients. Honestly, just having him tell me that was a major relief. And trainer J, with his recent return to intermittent fasting as an eating strategy, knew precisely what I was talking about as well. It apparently comes up routinely when chatting with clients about weight loss.

Apparently it’s far more common that I realized.

For me, as I have been slowly falling into a better habit of healthier food choices and routines as part of following an outlined eating strategy, I am finding myself actually becoming hungry as my reason for eating. Before arriving at my present spot on the impulse scale, I would eat because I was bored, I was craving a specific (junky, sugary, salty) food, eating/food just sounded like a good idea, because of the time of day or the activity I was pursuing. None of those impulses have anything at all to do with hunger.

Now, I drink a protein shake before I go to the gym, because I feel like I need some fuel to get through my workouts. Distractions abound for me in the gym, and if I feel anything remotely like a food trigger, it is worse than any friend coming up to say hi and chat for a minute. I’m typically very hungry when I get home – a sign I am doing something right and burning calories – so I eat a piece of fruit. It’s kind of a 2 part breakfast. Lunch lately has been a sandwich with meat and cheese and a piece of fruit, typically about 5 hours after protein shake and 3 hours after fruit. The way my day goes, though, I don’t always get to eat my whole lunch in one sitting. So maybe it’s half a sandwich at 11 and piece of fruit at 1:30 in the afternoon. I feel hungry when lunch time arrives, and if I don’t eat both pieces at once I am ready for that piece of fruit when I have a moment to eat it. Dinner can be tricky – sometimes it’s 5-ish, more often it 6-ish. But since I now understand my hungry feelings, I can tell the difference between desperate hunger (blood sugar approaching 60, eat NOW) and regular time for dinner hunger (make something, sit down and eat it while it’s still hot).

While it might not sound like much, it’s a major breakthrough for me with my eating consistency. At first the habit withdrawal from my routine snacking and mindless consumption made me think I was in desperate hunger, but testing my sugar stated clearly that no, I’m in psychological food withdrawal and body does not require more food.

I think I am taking the first cautious steps toward trusting body and the biofeedback it provides me. For years – years! – I have found that body would says things like “I’m hungry! Let’s have a cookie!” (or worse) all the freaking time. As I have begun educating myself and developing my self-discipline muscle, I am learning that mind is very powerful and addicted to its own hedonistic wants.

And it’s not so much denial as redirecting. I still eat the occasional cookie. I still eat pizza with a salad a couple of times per month. What feels different in my own head is that I can sometimes stop with the single cookie, but not always, so I limit my temptation to when I am somewhere and can obtain just a single cookie. The pizza – the only junk food I allow myself with any regularity – I have trained myself into only so much (1 slice if it’s a large pizza, no more than 2 if it’s a small or medium pizza), no more, and always with a salad. The compromise is working for me and makes it far easier for me to forego other less healthy choices.

But eating when I’m hungry is retraining my thinking and hopefully reshaping my relationship with food and the nearly lifetime habit of constant, unrestrained grazing. I eat A LOT of chicken and broccoli, but I happen to really like both chicken and broccoli. However, my range of foods and tastes I enjoy is pretty limited, so I tend to eat the same meals over and and over again, week after week. Most nights it’s chicken on a salad, or with vegetables and a smaller portion of rice or potatoes. I do not eat a lot of beef and even less pork, so I work with chicken and shrimp, both of which are mainstays on the grocery list every week. Thus far it’s helping me overhaul my eating habits.

Cutting out snacking has been a challenge, but a challenge I am overcoming. On the nights I got to the gym after work (in addition to my mornings), I have a protein bar or protein shake midafternoon, then eat a late dinner, typically a salad. Other than that, though, I don’t snack anymore. I might break my midday meal and eat my apple or whatever else I’ve brought in midafternoon, but I don’t really count that as a snack. It’s more like extending lunch.

It took more than a year to get here. In January 2015, I started thinking about and thinking I would work at overhauling my eating habits. I had done a pretty good job of getting consistent with the exercise and believed I was ready to address my eating. Maybe I was, maybe I wasn’t. I did better, but in truth it’s only been the last 3 or 4 months where my full attention was directed at the eating process and my own personal strengths and weaknesses.

To be clear: I do not diet. I am pursuing an eating strategy (higher protein, lower carbohydrates, LOTS of vegetables and fruits). I don’t have expectations of quick and easy results or quick fixes. My habits and behaviors have to change permanently, so I have to discern what I can and am willing to implement as far as feeding myself. Like with the exercise, I celebrate my tiny successes and work at evaluating circumstances that may cause me to backslide into old behaviors and habits. I accept it is also a process that spans the balance of my life, and no, I cannot live the rest of my life without a cookie or slice of pizza, so I try to be realistic and find the balance between moderation and zero self control. Right now, things where I know I have zero self control I simply avoid, period. It’s not forever, but I’m in a new phase of training and have to develop some discipline.

My reintroduction to hunger and what it feels like – a big step forward for me. Even if it does sound kind of silly.

 

 

Talking about food and healthy eating

Things have been busy, hectic, crazy hereabouts lately, and I feel so far behind in my blogging. Yesterday’s training recap is in progress, as are both from last week. I will most likely post them out of order, because last week was a train wreck with injuries and the emotions were kind of dark and dreary and a variation of negative girl – angry, emotional girl – was at the helm. I do want to get them finished and posted, though, because it’s important to me to maintain this record of my journey.

But as an aside, I belong to a Facebook group as part of a weight loss program. While this has been a thing for me for about the last 6 months, it as if someone suddenly plugged me in and powered me up. As it was when I started training with J, once I make the decision to move forward with something, I pull off the blinders and get gazelle intense about it. Such is the case right now with my healthy eating.

While I imagine there will be more written in this blog about it going forward, I wanted to memorialize a couple of posts I wrote for this group about what’s going on with me and with food this week. This is from Monday morning:

Crazy work week this week – 11 to 4 at a client’s office. No plans to break for lunch, so having to do lunch shake at 10 and then eat my lunch apple around noon while I work. I’m trying to plan ahead, because this client always has home baked muffins or brownies or other sugary goodness in their break room, plus a tempting snack box and assortment of sodas. I am bringing my own water bottle and will refill from their cooler, but going to do my best to stay out of their break room and avoid any/all temptation. Ugh. Just thinking about it now is giving me food anxiety.

Funny part of this – I had this engagement scheduled for over a week and had not really thought about the culture of their office. Every single time I have been there, their break room is a sugar addict’s version of Hell. Cookies, brownies, pies, cake – always something yummy. Or there is home baked bread and honey butter, or muffins or cinnamon rolls. The business owner’s mother loves to bake and makes this stuff and he dutifully brings it in every day. What’s worse, there is a subtle pressure to partake, and a real sense you have offended him/his mother by refusing even the smallest taste.

My discipline with food is nonexistent right now. I know this about myself, that moderation is not a word I can successfully utilize when it comes to me and foods I love. Right now, avoidance is my only option. By obsessing about it and making a plan in advance, I felt more fortified to decline. I even told the owner that I am diabetic and my doctor has me on a pretty strict eating regimen that has me watching my macros and absolutely no gratuitous sugar. Doesn’t matter that I have no idea what “my macros” are for me, but it sounded really official and ominous. And I was able to successfully report the outcome last night.

Survived the day at the foodie client site with just my apple and several refills of my water bottle. I was able to escape the apple pie, blueberry cobbler, and homemade vanilla ice cream. Second workout and saw my friends, now home for a BAS (big ass salad) for dinner. Hopefully I don’t have to ask Dr. Spencer for doctor’s note to avoid having the conversation that no sugar, no carbs really does mean no sugar, no carbs.

Maybe not everyone needs an outlet, but I find the need to talk about and write about my struggles, setbacks, and ultimately, my successes is part of my process. I credit blogging with being an integral part of getting me off the couch and in the gym every day. Otherwise I’d probably have to train with J every day he works and paying my therapist to let me bleed out my insecurity week after week.

The FB group is extremely helpful for me right now, because we are all striving to follow the same pretty strict kick-start program based on protein shakes as meal replacements twice daily and one reasonable meal. For anyone thinking that’s not sustainable for the balance of our years, it’s not meant to last forever and ever. However, it is meant to be a jumping-off point to teach us how to make better, healthier food choices and curb our cravings for fat, sugar, carbs, processed food, etc. Such critical commentary is partly why I rarely (read: never) discuss this stuff with anyone outside of J and a couple of others in my life who understand that food remains a big giant trigger for me.

But I’m sharing some of my own FB posts here because I think its valuable for me in the long haul, and maybe someone else who reads this will find some value or insight with their own mindset and struggles.

As context for this next message, M and I are heading for the state fair today. Like all fairs and festivals, the food offerings are all essentially crap. High in sugar and fat, and ridiculously expensive to boot. But it’s a fun tradition for M and I, something we look forward to doing every year. This is what I posted about it:

This is apparently my week for needing extra food help and ideas. My husband and I are headed for the state fair tomorrow, and it has traditionally been the one time per year I gleefully overindulge in super junky fried food and sugary treats. That said, this is my year for beginning new traditions, so I am mentally preparing my game plan tonight.

We’re going midday, so I’ll have been through my gym workout in the morning and be fully fortified with my lunch protein shake and apple. I’ll be drinking a lot of water or unsweetened iced tea while we stomp around through the exhibits. Because this is a fun even we look forward to every year, I am planning one midafternoon snack food purchase – the fresh fruit on a skewer dipped in chocolate, only without the chocolate.

I am surfing a 5-day streak of 90% on track with the program – homemade pasta last night at a friend’s home was my glaring glitch. Hubby’s skill with food moderation and restraint is far more powerful than my own, and he has agreed not to tempt me with french fries or corn dogs and does not like the roasted corn on the cobb – traditional favorites for me. He has a meeting tomorrow night, so I’ll likely be in the gym doing a huffy-puffy (cardio-based) practice and then home for a reasonable dinner.

Any and all tips, strategies, thoughts are welcome. This make-a-plan stuff seems to actually be working for me. Who knew?

Some of the replies were very thoughtful and helpful and representative of a hopes and suggestions to utilize a “flexibility of mindset” regarding food. Intellectually, I get the concept. Emotionally, I am not there yet. This final message is my thought for the day:

I like the concept of the mindset of flexibility, and it is certainly something I hope to develop in time. Despite having been part of this group since February, it’s only been the last week or so that I have truly decided that I want to gain some control and mastery over my eating and nutrition. For me, weight loss is almost an afterthought, a by product of better food choices and more balance in my eating habits. What I want most is to develop a reasonable relationship with food, where my habits of a lifetime do not short circuit my ability to make wise decisions about what my body and long-term health require to function optimally. This week is representative of challenges that occur for me a few times each year. I’m doing 1000% better because I’m thinking about what lies ahead and trying to strategize in advance, so when faced with the actual choices, I will not simply react and eat crap food but be prepared to consider the consequences of my choices. Next year, next fair season will likely be very different. But right now, I’m surfing a learning curve. It’s like my first weeks in the gym, trying to learn a basic goblet squat and not getting it at all. At that time I would meet with my trainer weekly but not practice in between, and every time he would go through goblet squats with me again it would be reinventing the wheel. Once I decided I was serious about learning exercise fundamentals and began practicing on my own between sessions, I got better. Now, seeing “goblet squat” on my training program of the day does not make me stop and think about what is required of me to make it happen. Time and practice – I believe I can make the same habits happen with eating. But right now I am thinking about it, talking, reading and writing about it to strengthen my resolve to educate myself about my own body and making better, smarter choices with food.

To date I have been very sparing with my posts on diet and nutrition, because I have been very wishy-washy and inconsistent with my efforts in this regard. I am presently very engaged in trying harder, and it is neither pleasant nor easy to eat in this manner. However, exercise was the same at first – hated it, dreaded it, wanted more than anything not to have to do it. Persistence in pursuit of consistency has its rewards, and I have fallen madly in love with my daily exercise routines. Yep, exercise-hating woman ha learned to fully embrace the ways body responds to movement and increasing strength and capability. The process has had a lot of unexpected lessons as well; it has taught me about myself and my own adaptability, that I am not such an old dog incapable of learning new tricks. It is difficult to imagine a world where I love vegetables more than a cookie, but I know it is possible for me to develop the reflex and “muscle memory” to be more habitual in bypassing the cookie without pangs of loss shooting through my heart and mind. Or being mindful and conscious of the why when I choose to indulge and have the cookie.

The adventure continues. I’m excited to see where I take me next.

 

 

 

#blogging, #diet, #exercise, #fitness, #happy, #health, #healthy-eating, #inspiration, #motivation, #weight-loss

28 Days

Today is Thursday, July 6, 2017. I’m coming off a long-ish week period of unrestrained eating and drinking because of work-related events and the independence day holiday. Nothing big or crazy (with regard to the eating and drinking), but enough to feel the impact of the excess calories and richer foods that are now more foreign to my day-to-day eating patterns. On top of which, it has made me feel utterly crappy about myself and released my inner negative girl from her bottle. And as anyone who has battled back from the demons of poor self-image, she’s a bitch to get contained once more.

That particularly phenomenon – it is and was enough to want to not just restart healthier eating patterns but to also step-up my efforts and build some insurance against this happening again in the future. After all, Labor day and it’s abundance of BBQs and such is not far away.

My 28 days eating strategy started today.

I decided to blog about the journey a little differently than my training recaps, because I do not plan to talk about it much in real life. Except possibly to poor trainer J, who has the misfortune of spending 2 hours per week with me talking about this, that, the other things on the better health quest. Plus it’s kind of boring when I eat pretty much the same thing day after day after day for weeks at a stretch. It also inspires concern that (1) I’m not eating enough, (2) I’m not eating “real” food, and (3) some reason to be named later. My answer to all of that: I am under the care of an obesity physician who designed this program, and I will be checking in with him every week or even every single day if it seems appropriate and warranted. I have done this off and on for several months, but in truth this is my first honest effort at sticking with it for an extended period. Merely mentioning it here and having a structured plan to post about it in the future is a powerful accountability tool for me, even if no one else ever reads another post.

Rather than writing a daily recap describing my menu, calorie counts, etc., I am going to combine the posts into a weekly log. Format is still being drafting in my head, but I know I will summarize calories in (tracking in MyFitnessPal.com; it’s only 28 days – I can do it) and exercise calories burned in the gym (judgmental Fitbit must be good for something, right?) type results at the top with the nitty-gritty details underneath. Also, I plan to post the weekly blog posts all at once. It seems more impactful for me to write them in week by week post format and then publish them all together so the progress (or lack thereof) is more readily apparent. Sort of like binge watching a whole season of a TV show.

But I am hoping to see actual positive progress rather than a rehash of why I am mostly spinning my wheels.

Perhaps I shall surprise myself with my amazing, stellar success, but I expect there will be plenty of setbacks and backslides, probably tears and angry outbursts as well. And I’m okay with all of that – no perfectionista impulses here in this regard. I want to be clear the potential setbacks and backslides have little or nothing to do with about the ways I will write these chapters. Because I know myself and my blogging style very well by now, the good, the bad, the extraordinarily unflattering will always be included. Because I am pretty Jane Average with all my warts and flaws in the self-improvement realm.

Why am I doing this? Raw truth is the feeling of negative self-worth for this part of my better health quest has never completely faded. The big and small successes with regular exercise and becoming more active have been so much easier to focus on than the lifetime habits of being such a picky eater and being self-indulgent about food. Where I thought exercise would be the biggest hurdle in the better health quest, I was staggeringly incorrect and misguided. The longer I put off getting down-in-the-weeds real about my relationship with food the bigger the issue of monitoring and adjusting my eating habits becomes.

Being fair to me, I am so much better about food choices than I was when this journey began. That said, being better has become an inadequate rationalization; I desire to not rest on my laurels and continue to celebrate the anniversaries of past achievements. More and more, I am either growing restless, dissatisfied, and paralyzed in my efforts to reshape my eating habits or mentally and emotionally giving up and giving in to more destructive food choice impulses and feeling crappy – physically and emotionally – afterward. While once upon a time I thought raw sugar was my sole enemy, I am realizing the flaw in my reasoning is bigger, broader, much more insidious. Essentially, like so many others, I am addicted to highly processed and hyper-palatable foods. Being realistic, there is also a lot of sugar and fat and unhealthy stuff in all that I enjoy and that hits that carnal satisfaction button in my head.

So I need to first break that cycle and habit. Even a little or a taste is too much right now. Developing the discipline to just say no and follow through completely is imperative. Will it last forever? I hope not; I hope it does not have to be quite so black-and-white. Like my exercise and gym habits, I hope to be able to learn some limited form of moderation. But right this minute it feels like a life-and-death emergency to me to conquer this bad food choice addiction and tendency, so I need to do whatever it takes to make that objective happen.

To kick-start myself, I’m following my physician’s 27-day fat loss prescription program, modified for me to 28 days for a nice, even 4 week cycle. This also coincides with my next scheduled lab appointment in early August. While I am not expecting any major surprises with labs that might be affected by improving my eating in these 28 days, having a reasonable schedule and timeline always works better for me. I am a planner; it’s why Lists works so well for me.

I have heard it said that if you do something for 30 days it becomes a habit. Hopefully I will be close to that after only 28 days. While I do not plan to follow this eating strategy forever, it will give me a good baseline of my basic caloric needs and (hopefully) curb some of my triggering cravings. It’s also coincides with a different style of work-related planning and scheduling, so the stressors that come with that will have to be addressed directly and incorporated as part of the cycle.

While I anticipate revisiting and writing about this subject daily for the next few weeks, this is likely the last I’ll be saying about food and drink until or about August 4. Wish me luck?

And so as I find myself saying a lot lately, let the adventure begin.

#diet, #emotional-health, #exercise, #fitness, #food, #gym, #happy, #health, #healthy-eating, #inspiration, #mental-health, #motivation

Pinterest is tormenting me

Over the weekend I was browsing Pinterest for recipe ideas for a celebratory cake occasion. I am the most unimaginative baker and must have a recipe or invite food preparation disaster. I found a couple of ideas that looked manageable, printed them out (because I am old school like that and would rather not have to clean my iPad or laptop screen of random bits that go flying off the mixer) and filed them away (i.e., posted them on the side of my refrigerator) with notes of ingredients I do not have on hand and must purchase next time I go to the grocery store.

Now every day Pinterest is sending me tempting looking things. I have new pins all over the place, all of them food-related and laden with sugar, fat, carbs.

It is food porn at its very worst.

Thankfully none of these things are items I can just buy equivalents of in at my local grocery store bakery section, and any and all bakeries I enjoy keep banker’s hours, are far from me, and the closest is closed on Tuesdays when my resolve may be weakest.

The struggle seems real enough, though. Just don’t open, look, or allow myself to be sucked into that particular rabbit hole of time-sucking browsing.

Since I am writing about food today, I have been doing very well lately with my healthier eating patterns of late, which is now surely jinxed because I am taking step toward victory lap. But my biggest sin was eating cheese and crackers when I got home starving last night while I was cutting up a salad. The streaking of not giving in to temptation is enough to keep me mostly on the straight and narrow with regard to healthy food choices.

If anything, I find myself extraordinarily tempted by saltier foods, dill pickles and tangy salad dressings probably the worst offenders. But my latest salad dressing of choice is a vinaigrette and much, much lighter than my beloved ranch. I am very picky about pickles and they are limited in their food pairings. The reason this seems remarkable to me is because typical salty junk food is usually too much for my tastes, yet right now I seem to want to eat more salt than it likely healthy.

Yeah, I know – me and my first world problems. But it is a pretty quiet week in my better health quest world. Trainer J is on well-deserved vacation and our next training is not until next Thursday (June 1), so unless I get really ambitious about writing about my Wednesday morning exercise malaise (as in: really not much enthusiasm for whatever reason), it may be a pretty quiet week on the blog.

All is well, though. And Pinterest will stop sooner or later. I can wait it out.

#better-health, #diet, #happy, #health, #healthy-eating

Training myself to be hungry

Food and diet seem to be the final frontier in my better health quest. Probably if I had my way, it would be The Thing I put off until the very last minute … like 60 seconds before drawing my last breath or my last rational thinking moment. But life is unfair, and unless I want that very last minute to be far sooner than absolutely necessary, I need to pull myself together in the healthy eating realm.

I kind of thought 2016 would be my year, that I would do better figuring food and portion control out and implement it for me. This did not happen. While at one point I would have characterized this as a complete and utter failure, reality is that my expectations might have been too extravagant and reality of how much change I am capable of processing is limited. Curiously to me, I feel no guilt about it, nor do I beat myself up for not trying harder, doing more, being more successful. If anything, I am mostly philosophical. My big win – being well controlled diabetes without medication and a completely normal A1c – continues into 2017 despite not feeling like I made much progress toward overall healthier eating and food portion control. The much smaller win of eating significantly less junky food is imperfect, but it seems doubtful I would be this healthy if I were still had my old eating habits with lots of processed foods and gratuitous sugar.

But I can do better. I ponder weight loss and I ponder other health markers. While everything about my blood tests says normal and healthy, my BMI, scale (when I can bring myself to utilize it), and waistline say otherwise. Playing the long game, I do not see this as a sustainable situation. And even if it were, there is likely a lifestyle cost to carrying extra weight. Ultimately it impacts my gym time and exercise pursuits. Not sure I am willing to allow that for the longest haul and whatever objectives I may choose to pursue into the future. Will my knees and hips continue to be fully functional with this much extra weight on my frame? What about my shoulders and arms if I ever become entranced with the idea of pull-ups? My thoughts about future endeavors do not include power lifting or supersized weighty weights, but I would like to be the most efficient with the strength gains I will achieve. And yes, maybe there is some super flashy thing that does not interest me at all right now that will evolve into a future obsession.

Sometimes my association with trainer J is almost frightening, like some sort of mysterious and invisible mind-meld. While I have not specifically said “hey, I really need to overhaul my diet and eating” recently, I have been thinking about it. This month was blood tests month. My A1c is holding steady at 5.0, everything else within the normal range. However, there is room for improvement. My “good” cholesterol is squeaking into the normal range and my triglycerides are on the higher side of the normal range. Some miniscule progress in 3 months, but frankly, it feels inadequate. I want better, and I am capable of doing better. These factors are entirely within my control; I just have to pull up my big-girl pants and start taking the steps to improve these healthy markers.

But the mind meld thing with trainer J. Thursday he was telling me about a tribe member who has been having challenges with pain and gym tweaks as well as with weight fluctuations. I want my fellow tribers to be successful no matter what their goals, and from my own struggles with healthy eating and exercise consistency, not being a baby about gym tweaks, etc. I know it’s not easy or fun. The discipline and the hard work is not glamorous, sexy, or all that much fun. Combine that with the day-to-day business of living with the demands of work, marriage, family, friends, and life very quickly gets even more complicated. I sympathize. But I also appreciate J’s tough-love realism about the choices that have to be made to implement sustainable change.

Even before that, he had shared with me a Facebook post from a very sensible woman who writes regularly about diet and fitness. She is infinitely sensible, very down-to-earth and exhibits a common sense approach and “let’s be realistic” attitude. Refreshing. This particular post, she was talking about food. Her opinion that foodies who tend to struggle with their weight like food enough to overeat, and thin foodies tend to be either moderators (a bite, a taste of rewarding food) or possess extreme will power. Truthfully, from where I’m sitting and my own relationship with food, I think being a moderator about food is in and of itself an ongoing example of extreme will power.

While I’m likely watering down and garbling the message of the post, I can still feel the defensive reaction it inspired within me. For all my advances in exercise, confidence, healthier body image and acceptance, a random post written by someone who does not suffer from food triggers practically drew emotional blood from me. It was not upsetting so much as enlightening, a stark reminder that I still have work to do in this area.

Despite my visceral reaction, I am quite happy J brought it up and to my attention. The more we talk about it, the more open we can be about our individual struggles, the less taboo and the less shame attached to not being perfect with our eating and successful in the lockstep death march toward mainstream thin right out of the gate. While there is no taboo about what I talk about with J or even here on the blog, not everyone feels that way. Obesity is no joke, the struggle to achieve and maintain a healthy weight is real for so many of us. On top of those general, everyday feelings and thoughts on the subject, I had just gotten my test results and was meeting with my endocrinologist and was in the mindset of what big and small changes are needed to improve some of my test results.

Because while being leaner would be swell, my eye remains firmly on the being healthier prize. While I am within the normal range on everything, I am not comfortably enough in the normal range for cholesterol to have wiggle room for setbacks. This is nothing new; it has been going on for at least a year, occluded by my victory lap surrounding diabetes control. My vision is clear right now, though, and my focus is turning toward the cholesterol and triglyceride results and taking the steps necessary to improve.

The regular, consistent exercise has had an enormous impact. To take it to the next level, though, will require greater discipline with food first and foremost. My particular body type and build, further reducing or outright eliminating any remaining processed food I consume, lowering my carbohydrate intake, and controlling calories are likely a first steps. And already, I can feel mind and body simultaneously reacting with disdain to the mere thought of further cuts and changes to diet, not to mention the immediate rebellion launch at the idea of tracking/controlling calories.

It has to be done. Body has no idea what it’s like to be tolerably hungry because mind’s insistence we are starving at the first twinge of hunger or stress/boredom/other random emotion masquerading as hunger and insisting we must have an immediate snack. Or worse, my using whatever willpower I possess to avoid snacking, only to massively, uncomfortably overeat at my next meal.

I know I am not unique in this cycle. I also know my snacking choices are technically not terrible – multigrain seed crackers with a piece of cheese or a tablespoon of peanutbutter, piece of fruit – eat enough snack food and the calories become a major impairment to the better health quest. What I already know very well – carbohydrates are not my friend. *sad face* (I love my carbs!) Looking at the stark reality, the overhaul is not complicated to plan, but implementing and sticking with it is hard. Ask anyone who has ever successfully changed their lifestyle and they will likely agree with me on that. Or they are somehow far more superhuman than I am.

So as I do everything like this, I am creating a basic plan and starting small. As I did when I began my exercise consistency, I set an objective for a set time period, in hopes it will stick and become a habit.

My first appointment with my new doctor is on May 10, and I would like to have taken some practical, trackable steps to advance my better health quest objectives. With that in mind, my first little change is actually twofold: cut back on snacking AND track food consumption in MyFitnessPal. The snacking will be a walk in the park compared to the food tracking. I have started and I have faltered within a very short period, mostly because it was sort of a random piece in my overall long-term strategy. But I know it needs to be done in order to have a productive and candid conversation about what I need to do to improve my cholesterol numbers (again, presently in the normal range, but lots of room for improvement), become leaner and ultimately healthier.

As much as I shy away from the concept of goals, I have an achievable, measurable objective to improve my next set of test results in a few months. I have not set a specific number or range of numbers improvement to be satisfied with my progress. At this point, any higher numbers in HDL (good cholesterol) or lower numbers in LDL (bad cholesterol), total cholesterol, and triglycerides than what I achieved this month will be a win for me.

I am also prepared to be prescribed at least a couple of dedicated cardio sessions per week and am factoring that into my time management calculations, because I am absolutely unwilling to give up my present weight training schedule. By the time our first appointment arrives, I will absolutely be prepared to discuss his recommendations and have at least the framework of a plan prepared to get started.

To that end, trainer J himself has embarked upon a 30 days of dedicated cardio burning 500 calories per session. For someone who lifts most days as well as works in the gym, this is no small undertaking. I respect his dedication to gaining insight and improving at his craft. Do I expect him to start converting the tribe to cardio bunnies? Not hardly. But I can imagine him suggesting some dedicated cardio sessions in addition to pursuing regular, consistent resistance training depending on individual goals. Mostly, though, I am looking forward to the outcome and his conclusions from the process. In the meantime, I am reading his regular updates and enjoying his comments on this process. I believe his experience will have a direct benefit on me, generic training client.

For now, I’m enjoying my lunch and then taking a walk around the block with my cohorts here in the office. Day 2 on my limited snacking quest – thus far I survived 1.5 days without gratuitous snacking and dutifully logging in MFP. I suppose it helps that I am someone who can eat the same things, day after day after day, thus making it easier on myself by using the “copy yesterday” feature for each meal. That’s something. And it’s not cheating; it’s good use of my time and resources.

Happy weekending everyone!

#diet, #food, #health, #healthy-eating, #inspiration, #lifestyle

Food shopping and our evolving eating patterns

Once upon a time, M and I were notorious fast food, take out, and convenience food consumers. Between our jobs and the hectic nature of our lives, we just had little energy or interest in food preparation. Then M left the work force, temporarily at first, and his running began to take hold of him, and we went from eating out a lot of the time to eating out/take out about 15 of the time, 50% convenience food, 35% of cooked meals at home. The eating out/take out dropped significantly, probably less than 5% now, and the convenience food and regular cooked meals percentages slowly flipped and then convenience food dropped as M settled in to not being stressed about work 24/7 and started shouldering more of the food preparation burden.

In the last 3 years, our convenience food and take out food consumption has dropped to less than 10% of our eating. We order pizza once or twice a month, eat a meal out at least one day of the weekend. M still eats a can of soup or chili on occasion, but these days it’s simply what it was meant to be – a quick and convenient meal.

The process of cooking and preparing food at home has not been the easiest transition for us, because neither of us like cooking as a hobby that much. M does enjoy it more than I do, but he is a taste adventurer and likes trying a lot of different foods and experimenting with spices and flavor combinations. Me, not so much. Left to my own devices and without anything in particular available to eat, I have been known to chow down on a peanut butter sandwich or a can of green beans. Bread, peanut butter, cans of selected vegetables are nearly always available in our pantry.

Unfortunately our freezers and pantry somehow became overstuffed with stuff. The food experimentation led to new spices and ingredients appearing, and unfortunately the recipes were not always a hit or were sort of meh and then quickly forgotten when something more favorable was prepared. Where I used to be fairly organized about what went into the 3 refrigerator freezers and what was in the chest freezer, between the cooking flurry and my own work schedule things quickly got out of control and remained that way until this year.

Freezers and pantry turned into this disorganized, overflowing mess. Before the new year began M and I agreed to go through our whole stockpile and do an inventory of what we had and figure out ways to use it up before buying more. I will be honest – a lot of food thrown out in that process. Some was freezer burned from sitting way too long, some pantry stuff was so far out of date for our comfort, and some was stuff we’d bought to try and found we didn’t like. Still, by the time we were finished getting things sorted and reorganized so we knew what we had on hand, I estimated we might not actually need to buy food other than fresh produce and transitory staples (bread, eggs) for at least a month.

We actually did our first significant grocery shop of the new year today.

The great eat-down-the-pantry-2017 has been a good exercise for us, and we have done really well with getting things back under control and to a more manageable food stockpile. Our trip to Costco today finally included more than just eggs and our weekly produce haul, so our food budget looks oddly skewed the last couple of months. January spending was less than $120, and February we are ramping up to the $400 range (protein sources are expensive). In my effort to continue our focus on weaning ourselves off overly processed and convenience food, I started breaking down our grocery purchases by category in our budget. Categories are fairly broad:

  • Beverages – Getting its own category next month for juices and the flavored selzer water we drink instead of soda.
  • Carbohydrates – Breads, cereal, rice, tortillas, crackers.
  • Convenience – This would be the occasional microwave meal; happily we do not seem to be eating anything of the sort thus far in 2017.
  • Dairy – Cheese and the occasional milk purchase.
  • Junk – Anything sugar-related, chips and other salty snacks.
  • Pantry – Spices, canned items, juice, salsa, etc. Yes, in M’s world salsa is considered a pantry staple.
  • Proteins – Meat, fish, eggs, nuts.
  • Produce – Fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables only; canned goes into pantry.
  • Sundry – Non-food, clean supplies, paper products. Everything except for fluffbucket supplies (they have their own line item).
  • Supplements – Protein powder and speciality protein shake add-ins.

It’s an imperfect and somewhat labor-intensive system, but since we usually only shop once a week it’s not as horrid as it sounds. Plus I’m an accountant; this sort of thing is second nature.

I started this experiment to get a better idea of where most of our food-related dollars were spent. While we’re only 6 weeks into 2017 and have been eating out of our food stockpile, I am estimating that most of our grocery bill is spent on fresh produce and protein sources. While I list supplements here – M and I both consume at least one protein shake per day and the protein powder we use is not cheap – it is a separate line item in the budget. Eye-opening was how much we spend on crap food, usually when we are on the go or planning to go somewhere. M and I agree it is not so much the cash we are spending as much as the fact that we are were spending at least 10% of our grocery budget on crappy food neither of us should be eating, or not eating that much of it. While not all of it is terrible kind of bad – juice bars, lemonade, greek yogurt with added sugar – it is still junk food and not in line with our healthy eating objectives. We agreed that we want to cut that spending in half, which will also mean our consumption of it should technically decrease by the same percentage.

Which does not mean our gratuitous junky food eating is going to be completely curbed. Probably just snuck in one ingredient at a time.

Sometime last year I decided that if I want a cookie or a cupcake or a muffin, I had to bake it from scratch. Since then I have experimented with various blueberry loaves and muffin recipes. I have made cinnamon streusel coffee cakes and my own cinnamon rolls (disaster – never again). Banana bread I have down to a science. Thing is, baking is part of cooking and not something I particularly enjoy. But if I want that cookie, I haul out the apparatus and make it happen. Then I eat/keep a few and give the rest away. So much easier and safer that way.

It’s an illusion of control which is not necessarily all illusion. I probably make muffins and bread loaves the most, and I try to choose healthier alternatives with less sugar and fat than the processed versions in the stores and bakeries. Since we always seem to have fresh blueberries in the house – M really enjoys them in a variety of things – I have experimented and found a few recipes that I really like. Most of it freezes nicely and I have treat foods for a month.

Overall, I feel as if I am doing some things right and on my way to some things better.

Protein consumption – oh my I wish this were simpler for me. My former registered dietician is still an RD but now just my friend, since he relocated to SoCal last year and I left the Kaiser system in November, is always telling me that I need more protein. M is the same way. So I’m trying. Since I do not track food consumption, I am kind of unclear as to how much I am eating, but from my general descriptions of meals RD is certain I remain deficient.

*sigh* It’s always something.

I completely understand my shortcomings in this area, and if I were hard-core in weight loss efforts I would be far more invested in monitoring my eating. As it is, my interest lies primarily in eating both a wider variety of foods and a more balanced diet. The process is a slow slog of learning about nutrition and not getting bogged down in the details. I do read food labels. I do look at the nutritional values of recipes I try. But I admit to being undeterred by the information if it is something I really want to eat or a recipe I really wish to try.

It is so easy to get discouraged in lifestyle change efforts. I get this about myself and have removed most of the obstacles that will trigger some sort of destructive spin cycle. Calorie counting, food tracking, getting on the scale frequently to measure progress – these are things that will wig me out in the worst possible ways. Only by throwing out those measuring devices have I enjoyed any success or sense of peace about the better health quest. While my financial tracking of our food costs is not for everyone, it makes sense to my accounting brain. Small tweaks, tiny changes add up to something more significant and impactful over time.

In the traditional, mainstream senses, my progress is nonexistent. In the real ways that matter to me, I am successful managing my health for the first time in my life.

That is my version of progress, and in this, mine is the only version that matters.

#diet, #eat-more-protein, #food, #food-shopping, #happy, #health, #healthy-eating, #lifestyle