Friday, June 26, 2009

Belated post, My reply to the question "why do people eat too much?" on another blog.

I'm late, I try to get my post up by Wednesday every week but things got out of hand. I was reading blogs today and came across this one. It was a good question and one that I've thought about a lot recently as I've worked towards overcoming this tendency in myself. Here's what I answered:

You know, this is something on my mind a lot lately as I am under strict orders from the doc to loose at least 50 pounds, and perhaps even 100 or so, for health reasons including high blood pressure and potential diabetes.

I think you are right- people over think food sometimes, get obsessed with what they can and can't have. I also think that most people have forgotten how to listen to their bodies. If you listen it will tell you when it's had enough and you can learn what the rest of your body wants- not just your taste buds. They've confused appetite for hunger, fullness for satisfaction and comfort for energy and well being. At least that's what was happening with me for the past 18 years. I was a healthy weight until around the time I turned 12 or 13, and then the weight gain slowly began. It was probably partially hormonal, but I know for a fact that I had skewed ideas and attitudes about food and exercise. By the time I graduated High School I was a size 22, and I've gotten as high as a 26 in recent years.

So, when the doc said loose weight or I'd continue slowly killing myself I sat down and thought about what my usual pitfalls had been, and how to fix them. Here's what I came up with:

Any time I've tried to "diet" it's involved avoiding certain foods all together and it just made me wildly crave them and binge on them when I couldn't take it any more. And you're right- it did make me over think my food. I was obsessed with what I could and couldn't have. I didn't really enjoy my food any more and I felt guilty if I ate something I "shouldn't" which lead to more eating to soothe the guilt. Plus I couldn't maintain it for more than a few months at a time. At which point I would relapse and gain it all back and then some. More guilt, more food, more weight. Basically I thought of certain foods as "bad" and that was a big mistake.

I've never really added a decent amount of physical activity to my routine either. I've just been too lazy or tired or whatever. I thought if I "wasted" all my energy doing exercise I would get worn out and run down and not have the energy to do anything else. I thought of exercise as hard, and no fun and too much work.

I also set my goals either unrealistically high, or ridiculously low. So I would either fall short and feel defeated or not get anywhere at all.

The reality is- the only way to loose weight is to take in fewer calories than you burn. This is accomplished by eating less and/or exercising more. I'm doing both. To keep from having to think about food too much in the future I am relearning some things, like how to listen to my body, what portions really look like, and about how many calories that most foods have. I'm also relearning the difference between appetite and hunger and satisfied and full. I read somewhere that you should only ever eat to about 80% of your capacity. Basically, you should feel satisfied but like you could eat more if you wanted to. Once these are ingrained in me I won't have to think so much about it, eating prudently will become a habit.

Here's my plan- since the forbidden fruit is always more attractive nothing is forbidden. If I want chocolate I have some. Chips? Chili cheese fries? Hot wings? No problem. I've just learned that I can enjoy a small square of chocolate, a couple of chips, a bite or two of fries, or a couple of wings just as much as the large portions I used to eat. I choose to fill up on fruits, veggies, whole grains and lean protein and keep my treats as simply small little morsels to enjoy. No guilt as I loosely monitor my calories and try to keep them between 1200 and 1400 (for now) and I get as much physical activity in as I can. If I have 90 calories of chocolate (about 2 dove squares) then I just eat 90 fewer calories somewhere else. And I often decide that the chocolate isn't worth it. If I'm hungry I'm more likely to go for the 90 calories worth of salad or protein with dinner instead of a tiny treat.

The second part of the plan involved finding a physical activity that I LOVED. Something I would keep doing even if it got physically uncomfortable just because it was so much fun, and I remembered hula hooping. So now I hoop a half hour 4 to 5 times a week or more and I walk every where that I go in town since my town is small, I like the outdoors, and I don't have a car. (Thank goodness for the small town part!) The best part? Not only does it NOT sap my energy- it gives me MORE! Not to mention the effect it has had on my mood. I am remarkably happy as opposed to mildly depressed for the first time in years. I love my life and that's been a wonderful thing.

Knowledge is power and knowing more about food allows me to make informed decisions. Is it working? You betcha! My weight has gone down by about 25 pounds in 5 weeks and my blood pressure is normal for the first time in my adult life. And I'm doing it the right way and for keeps. I'm not on a "diet" I am changing my attitudes and habits towards food and exercise to create a life long pattern of health. At the moment I do have to think about food quite a bit, but it's getting less and less all the time as I relearn how to eat. Eventually I will be to the point where I can trust my body enough to not have to think about it at all. I'll automatically make better decisions, have smaller portions, not eat simply out of appetite (as in, boy that slice of pie looks good instead of man my stomach is rumbling) and stop when I am satisfied instead of so full I am uncomfortable.

I look forward to a longer happier healthier life :D

I know that some of this repeats some things that I have already said, but it's all stuff that bears repeating, and besides, I think better on screen or paper or out loud than I do in my head, so this helps me solidify things that I am thinking about and learning and realizing.

Good health and god bless to all!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Move your body!

I've spent the last month examining and working to change my eating habits and attitudes. I think I have made huge strides in that area, so now it is time to focus on the next thing- exercise.

Yes, exercise. Many people cringe at the word and imagine tight leotards, sweating profusely, pain and suffering. The thought of walking several miles is daunting. Excuses are made. I am guilty of all of the above. I have never been fond of sweating or getting short of breath. I haven't really RUN since I was a small child, and even that wasn't terribly common. Exercise is one of the best things that you can do for your body, and a key part of loosing weight effectively while increasing strength and stamina. It must be done.

What is a tired, hard working fat girl to do?

Well, that's exactly what I have been pondering all week. I promised an article on exercise, and I intend to deliver. I know that I need to do better in this area myself, so perhaps I will be motivated to improve by writing about it.

So, What to do? I've already started with small steps. Things like walking anywhere I go that's a mile or less away, but I really feel that it's time to up the intensity a bit. I want to build up some muscle for strength and increased calorie burning. I want to work my heart and help my cardiovascular system. I need aerobics and strength training. Problem is, I've never been the type to go to the gym for a class or to lift weights. It bores the living daylights out of me. Some people do well with that sort of thing, and more power to them, but I want to have FUN! I want to do something that I look forward to, that I can't wait to do, and I think I've found it.

My activity of choice? Hula hooping!! I LOVE my hoop. It's so much fun and it's aerobic AND strength building because it's weighted. I work my core muscles hooping, I work my lower body dancing around while I do it, and I work my arms by swinging the hoop around when I need a breather from the hooping. I first got started hooping a couple of years ago and was hooping for about 2 hours once a week at the park with some other hooping enthusiasts. That lasted until I severely twisted my ankle (not hooping, I was running in the rain and slipped) and had to stop. Recently I dragged my hoops out for the first time in almost a year and while I'm a bit rusty it's still hugely fun. Now I just have to up the frequency from more than a couple of times a month to maybe 2 or 3 times a week. Combined with the walking that I already do and perhaps some bike riding or swimming I think it's a good start.

I think the best advice I can give in this area, considering that I have a long way to go yet, is find something you enjoy, find people to share it with and get to it. The hardest part is just getting started. Momentum is a hard thing to fight- objects at rest stay at rest and all that. The opposite is true as well though- objects in motion tend to stay in motion. Get going, build some inertia. The smallest step forward is enough to start the ball rolling. Hopefully with time I'll have a better idea of the whole subject, but for now that's it!

So, what's your activity of choice and what inspires you to keep moving?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Food attitudes, tips, "tricks" and thoughts

Today I am going to talk about food. Specifically some of the difficulties that I had with changing my eating habits and the ways that I found to cope with them.

My main challenges are:

-I work with food all day. It is often very tempting to snack when I am cooking, and I often gave into that temptation. I would snag a pepperoni, some fries or an ice cream cone without even thinking about it. It was just there so I blindly ate.

-I had an unreasonable idea of what portion sizes should be. I would heap my dinner plate with spaghetti and meatballs and garlic bread. I would go back to a buffet 4 or 5 times before I was finished, then have dessert. I wouldn't blink at eating 1/4 of a cheese cake. It was absolutely worse than I ever believed it was. It was denial, pure and simple. It was me saying over and over "But I really don't eat that much"

-I had to relearn what actual hunger and satisfaction feel like. I'd been operating on cravings and appetite and needing to feel "full" for so long that I had actually forgotten how to tell the difference between appetite, that "boy that looks/sounds/smells good! I want some" thought process, and actual physical hunger. I also had to learn the difference between full, that "I'm getting uncomfortable so I'd better stop eating" feeling, and satisfied which is more of an "I'm not hungry any more so I don't need to keep eating" feeling. I was shooting WAY past satisfied and stuffing myself to discomfort. It was ridiculous.

I was already fat, tired and miserable, but I never did anything about it. Then I saw my doctor. It was an appointment to discuss my sleep apnea issues that turned into a discussion about my weight and general well being. She took some blood and had me come back the next week for the results. I pretty much expected the high blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Comes with the fat territory. What I wasn't prepared for was how close I was to being diabetic. I was one tenth of a point away from being diagnosed that day. It scared and shocked me terribly. She told me that if I didn't make some drastic changes and loose a fairly large amount of weight I was headed for heart disease and quite possibly diabetes, among other problems. She gave me a prescription to help curb my hunger and increase my metabolism, kind of a little nudge to get things going, and told me to try to start by cutting out sugary drinks and not snacking at work. She said to just remind myself that I wasn't really hungry and stop myself. So I listened, and worked hard at it, and managed to loose 7 pounds my first week. That was it, I was totally motivated and encouraged and on my way.

Pretty much a typical day now goes like this:

Breakfast: a fruit, a fat free dairy or a protein and a whole grain. Example- fat free plain yogurt with Truvia and vanilla or almond extract with Kashi Go Lean cereal and frozen blueberries. Or an omelet made with liquid egg substitute and fat free cheese with a slice of toast and an apple. Cereal with skim milk and strawberries or an egg with toast and an orange etc...

Lunch: usually either something frozen (Lean Cuisine, Healthy Choice etc.) with a sliced tomato or a salad, or a Special K protein bar with a fruit, or a salad with grilled chicken etc... Sometimes leftover dinner from the night before. Usually a convenience meal since I am tend to be at work when I eat lunch.

Dinner: I am trying to have dinner with my family as often as I can, just having what they have but maybe bulkier on the veggies and lighter on the meat and carbs. So if they have spaghetti I have some too, but I mix my pasta with a veg like broccoli or zucchini to get more veg and less pasta. Also, portions are crucial. I eat off of a small lunch plate now. If they're having something I really don't want to attempt (like biscuits and gravy or something else completely fat and carbs) then I revert to the type of food I would eat for lunch, or leftovers from another night or perhaps a low calorie soup with some fruit or a veggie.

Snacks: I try to make most of my snacks a fruit or veggie, but sometimes snacking is where I give myself a little leeway- if I really want chips I'll have some, but I only have 3 or 4 just to get the taste. Or I might have a little soft serve, again, not much, just enough so that I don't go hog wild with cravings later. Sometimes I do beef jerky- it's a good way to get protein into my diet without a lot of fat, I've found beef jerky with less than 100 calories an ounce. (sounds like a lot of calories for an ounce, but with it being mostly protein it's very satisfying and keeps me filled up for quite a while)

Now, here are some of the tips and "tricks" that have helped me to maintain these eating habits:

-Drink drink drink! Sometimes when you think you are hungry you are actually dehydrated, you should always drink something before you eat, but don't drink calories. The only calories I drink are from my coffee in the morning, and that's because I simply can't give up the creamer. I am using sugar free and trying to use less so that helps. I tend to drink a lot of diet sodas or other diet soft drinks. I know they're terrible with artificial sweeteners, but at this point they are helping me avoid other temptations, and I am always on the lookout for drinks sweetened with stevia instead of aspartame or saccharin. The stevia based sweeteners that I have heard of are Truvia, PureVia and Sweet Leaf. At the moment I can only find the Truvia in packets at the store, but the new zero calorie SoBe Life Water drinks are made with PureVia, and are quite good. I don't have any experience with Sweet Leaf, but I have heard good things about it.

-Add flavor not fat. It is such a bad habit to add butter to things that don't really need it. I have bought light margarine, but I still don't want to use it if I can figure something out that works just as well. Some of my favorites are lemon juice, garlic and onion powder and even olive oil. I know that olive oil is still a fat and has lots of calories, but used sparingly it's much better for you than butter or margarine. One of my favorites is to add some lemon juice, olive oil, and a bit of salt and pepper to spinach, tastes so good. Works well on other veggies and on pasta and rice too.

-Fill up on fruits and veggies. Fruits and veggies are usually low in calories, high in fiber and water and loaded with nutrients. They're nice and bulky so they fill you up and are perfect for filling up if you feel like your dinner or whatever is too small. Example: the lower calorie frozen dinners are all fairly tiny compared to what most people are used to eating, so I'll eat a whole tomato or a side salad or an apple or something with it. Viola, I am full!I try to make sure that half of my plate is veggies and 1/4 each is protein and whole grain carbs. My husband complains that he often feels hungry too soon after eating a lot of just veggies. This leads to my next tip:

-Fiber and protein are your friends. They are the things that will stick around in your tummy the longest, protein because it just takes longer to digest and fiber cause it doesn't really get digested at all (at least that's what i think is the case, feel free to correct me if I am wrong!) And having something staying in your tummy means that you feel fuller longer. If you have a bit of protein with your veggies and fruits you won't get hungry again as quickly. Foods high in protein and fiber will not only keep you fuller longer, but they are also very important to your bodily function. Protein will keep you from loosing muscle mass and fiber helps keep you regular and maintains a healthy digestive system. So add some peanut butter to your apples, or some fat free cheese to your veggies, eat fat free cottage cheese with your strawberries, add a bit of chicken to your salad, or some lean beef to your stir fry etc...

-Make as much of your carb intake as possible whole grain and/or unrefined. Whole grains have more fiber and nutrients than white, processed and refined versions. So whole grain bread, whole grain pasta, whole grain cous-cous, brown rice, steel cut oats etc will keep you fuller longer and are all around better for you.

-Chew gum. Seriously, this has been a godsend for me. I work around food all day and the temptation to taste things is tremendous. Chewing gum makes tasting nearly impossible, who wants to stick a pepperoni in their mouth when they already have a mouth full of minty or fruity goodness? Even if you don't work around food, this is handy when cooking meals at home as well. It also gives a little bit of sweet taste if you are having a sweet craving. One caveat- too much of the sugar alcohols in sugar free gum can cause digestive issues like gas and diarrhea, so be careful!

-Don't deny yourself anything, but don't keep temptation in the house either! Basically if you want something badly enough, have some! Just keep the amount small and savor every bite. I get cravings for chocolate or potato chips fairly often. For chocolate I have a couple of squares of Dove chocolate, or a couple of Hershy's kisses. If I am craving chips I have 4 or 5 chips. The trick is, I make it an occasion.I don't let anything else distract me, I take small bites, savor them slowly, really experience the flavor and texture of it, enjoy the heck out of it, then stop. I don't have to eat a whole bag of chips or chocolate to enjoy the experience of it, and that's all I really need. I have learned not to keep it in the house though, if it's there it's too easy to grab out of habit and just nosh away. If you MUST keep some around, pre-portion it into reasonable portions and stick to them. I have beef jerky bagged in 1 ounce portions and it really does make a difference, there is less temptation to take more than I should if it's a matter of grabbing a small bag rather than trying to grab some out of a large bag.

-In relation to the above tip- savor your food and don't do other things while you eat (like say, watch television?). Take your time, put your fork down between bites. Really get into it. Make each meal an occasion. If you eat slower you give your brain and stomach enough time to communicate with each other and you realize that you are satisfied a lot sooner than if you are wolfing down your food as fast as you can in front of the T.V. It's also a good idea to eat together as a family or with a friend. You'll eat slower and enjoy the experience more if you are talking with someone you love.

-Be aware of the calories in what you eat. Not the exact number all the time, but at least a general ball park. Then you can reason with yourself. Do I really want to eat that 150 calorie tiny bag of potato chips? Is it worth 150 calories? Maybe a one serving bag of light popcorn sounds better at 100 calories? Sometimes the chips will be worth it, most of the times not. It also helps of you're like me and at least trying to keep calories to a general number.

-Related to the above- be aware of what portions really look like. Use a scale or measuring cups for a while until you are used to seeing what portions really look like, it's all about relearning what's reasonable. You won't have to measure like this forever, just till you retrain yourself.

-Use smaller plates. It's a simple trick but a good one. There's a saying that we also eat with our eyes, and it's true. If you take the same amount of food that swims around on a large dinner plate and put it onto a smaller lunch plate it just looks more satisfying and filling, and it will feel that way too. Your eyes will tell your brain that you are eating a full plate, and your brain will believe it.

-Finally, have a clear idea of what you are trying to accomplish and why. I am not doing this to be thinner or skinnier and thus more attractive, although that will probably be a side effect. I am doing this because my health, even my life, is in danger if I keep on the way I am going. My blood pressure is too high, I am borderline diabetic, my heart is working too hard, I can't breathe properly at night without a machine and oxygen, I don't even want to contemplate the state of my cardiovascular system. I can't keep up with my son when he is running around and playing at the park. So for me, that's what it is. I am trying to save and improve the quality of my life.

I know it's weird to take eating advice from a fat girl, but bear in mind that I am loosing weight, and that everyone has to start somewhere! I don't claim to be any kind of expert, most of these tips and "tricks" are just things I've known about but was too lazy and careless to put into practice. I'm still figuring it out as I go along as I work towards finally taking back my body from myself, making an effort to be healthy and happy. I want to be able to run and play with my son while he is still interested in running and playing, I want to see my son grow up, fall in love, get married. I want to see my grandchildren and watch them grow up too. I am in danger of not accomplishing that at the moment unless I drastically change my lifestyle.

Just remember, like I said above, I'm not any kind of expert. I'm not a doctor or a nutritionist, I am simply a woman on a mission. I am sharing my thoughts, ideas, progress and techniques in the hopes that it may inspire someone else to take back their lives. Any major changes in diet or activity should be discussed with your doctor to be sure that it is in your best interests.

Until next time, when I will talk about the physical activity side of things (an area that I definitely need improvement in!)

In the beginning....

Here it is, my first post in my brand new squeaky clean blog!

In it I am going to share my journey on the road to better health.

One reason that I am doing this is that I think better on paper, or the screen, or out loud. Anything to get my thoughts outside of my head and look at them a bit. I am hoping that this will help me in the making of decisions, and also in motivating me to follow through. If I am writing about what I am doing where anyone can read about it I had better make darned sure I am following through!!

Another reason is that I am hoping that my journey is successful and perhaps even beneficial to others. I want a chronicle of what it took for me to get to where I hope to end up- healthier and with a better quality of life. If I make it I don't want to EVER forget how much work it was. If I forget then I might allow myself to fall into it all over again. I am striving for a life long change in how I look at food and exercise, something that will stay with me no matter what.

I have a few plans for the near future, but for now I'll keep things simple. I need to learn my way around blogger and figure out what I can and can't do before I get complicated. Eventually I want have separate areas to share recipes that I enjoy, write reviews (unsolicited) of products that I find useful, and answer questions from those that will hopefully read this. For now it will simply be a general record of my progress and what I am doing to work towards my goals. Feedback will always be welcome and appreciated. I want the opportunity to learn from others, and the accountability to learn and share the truth.

So for now, I will leave you with the thought process that started it all off for me-

I have one body to live this life in. I can make decisions that are destructive and harmful or I can make choices that lead to vitality, health and a better quality of living. It's up to me to take control of what I put into my body and what I do with it. I can continue to let it all go, or I can take back control over my life.