Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Conversation

The night I ate too much Chinese food, I called my husband over and told him, "I ate too much Chinese."

He replied, "So? I got it for you as a treat."

"It was so good, I ate too much."


"So, I feel like I've blown it. I feel like I might as well forget about it all and just eat whatever I want."

"That's just an excuse to give up."

"But what do I do?"

He looked at me like I was from another planet.

"No, seriously, I don't know what to do. I blew it. I'm a failure."

And then he said, "Why don't you just eat less tomorrow?"


"Why don't you just eat half or something of whatever you eat tomorrow."

"Is that all? Is it that simple?"

and so it was.

(PS: dental work helps.)

Saturday, August 20, 2011


Reading the blogs in my sidebar today I am reminded of how courageous these folks are to put it out there. The effort to lose (or maintain a loss) is formidable in some cases...I feel quite small in the face of it.

My struggles are hardly monumental--and I feel as though I give into them more than I resist-- (though I have no idea how accurate that is. If the scale is our measure, then I must be doing something right as I believe I'm now down more than 15 pounds from where I "started.").

Nonetheless. I want to take a moment to write down what they make me think.

1. Food and what I eat may always be the subject of an internal dialogue. Should I eat this? Should I not? Should I put in on the plan for tomorrow? (This is one thing I love about Beck--she advocates you can eat anything you want--as long as you plan for it--and work it into your allotment of calories for that day.)

As a result, I will, probably, always, make a food plan for what I will eat on any given day. A drag. Yes. But that's life. The only time food isn't a struggle is when I choose to ignore it--and my weight. That's a choice--and a valid one. Sometimes, it's a necessary one. I am glad that I have not been preoccupied with my weight all my life.

In the Spring of 2001 I was about 165lbs. My weight crept up and up and up until, as I recall, October of 2008. Then, I weighed around 200 pounds. I quit smoking--and the next thing I knew I had gained about 30 lbs. In less than 6 months. Then, somehow, I got up to 258. That really scared me--so I set out in May of 2009 to lose weight. By September, I was down to 217. By May of 2010 I was back in the 240's. That stabilized until this Spring, when I went back up to 257 and decided to do something about it again.

But that's it. My weight history hasn't been all that dramatic or even all that interesting (to anyone but me, I'm sure!)

For me, the truth seems to be that if I pay attention to what I eat, I can lose weight. If I don't--then I gain. It's just a fact I have to accept--given that I do not want to weigh more than 200 pounds for the rest of my life.

Oh well.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Soft Foods Plan for a Day

I knew this day was coming...and I didn't plan for it.

Today was the first of four sessions to treat my periodontal disease. In other words, the left side of my mouth was frozen all the way up to my eyeballs while someone took sharp metal instruments and scraped away at the roots of my teeth for two hours.

Yeah. That bad.

And it will happen three more times.

I didn't have a food plan for today: and so I scrambled around to figure out what to eat. Next time, I'll be ready.

(Breakfast does not need to be a "soft" food.)

Breakfast: 1 cup Oatmeal with fruit.

1 cup Black bean soup, pureed
or 1 cup Brody's lentil soup, pureed
1 cup vegetable juice,
1 piece of soft, ripe fruit, or canned peaches, or applesauce.

1/2 medium sweet potato boiled with 1 carrot. Mash with a fork.
1 cup boiled potato (without skin). Mash with skim milk and butter.
Poached salmon. (2 oz)

Snack 1: The infamous Dr. Oz green drink: (I'll make half of it.)

Dr. Oz Green Drink Recipe

  • 2 apples, cored
  • 2 big handfuls of spinach
  • 1/2 cup of chopped parsley
  • 1 celery stick, chopped
  • 1 thumbnail length of ginger root, peeled
  • 1 lemon - juice only (use peel slice for zest)
  • 1 medium cucumber
Place ingredients in a blender, add 4 oz. spring water or a handful of ice cubes, then puree quickly for one minute. Makes two glasses of Dr. Oz’s green drink.

Snack 2: 1/2 cup yogurt with soft fruit, blended if necessary.

All I'm missing from this food plan is 1 serving (about 60 calories) of carbohydrates/starch/grains. I could use 1/2 cup of oatmeal, or 1/2 cup of mashed potatoes, possibly another 1/2 cup of bean soup (though my plan, unlike others, counts beans primarily as a protein and not a starch).

Here's a site I found with some great whole-food options: Soft Food Diet. Here's another from diettriffic

My next appointment is a couple of weeks away. Too soon for me.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

In Relationship

When my son was yound and in distress, my first thought was always, "He's hungry." I would sit down and nurse him. He would calm and nurse for a while.

I did the same for my daughter. But, sometimes, she wouldn't take my breast. Eating did not calm her.

Later, when the kids would hurt themselves, I found myself offerring a cookie to them. My son would take it. My daughter would look at me as if I were nuts with that clarity only a three year old has. That was when I realised I was perpetuating my family's cycle of using food for comfort.

Comfort: It is only one aspect of my relationship with food. Our relationship needs to be redefined and renegotiated in order for me to lose weight--and for it to stay lost.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


I am losing weight.
But I don't deserve it.

I really am seeing the scale go down nearly every day. But I am not exercising with my Leslie Sansone videos every day and I'm not following my plan exactly right every day either.

Today, for example, I had a small bowl of potato chips. Yesterday, it was a half cup of chocolate chips and peanuts. The day before that --well, that was Monday. It may have been a "perfectly on-plan" day.

But there's that word. That horrible word. That word which derails more attempts at change than any other, I'd bet. That word which has destroyed more than it has ever created. What word?


Yeah, that one.

I think that rooted in my feelings of undeservedness is this feeling that I cannot possibly derserve what I want and am working towards unless my efforts are perfect.

So, while I may not be doing my Leslie Sansone videos evetry day, I am getting out in the evening and walking with my husband and the dog. I walked from one end of the mall to the other today without feeling like I had to collapse. My feet didn't ache, even though I wasn't wearing the "right" shoes.) I couldn't do that two months ago.

And the food? Well, it isn't perfect and I do need to reign it in: but it is perfectly acceptable, for example, to compensate for the unplanned "treat" (like the peanuts and chocolate chips) by not eating the one I had planned. It still counts as taking the right steps in the direction I want to be traveling.

When I look at it like that, "derserve" actually seems like an odd notion. Weight loss is not something I "deserve" as a result of my efforts: it IS the result of my efforts. One day, maybe, a plateau will be the result of my efforts--or a gain. I won't "deserve" those either--they will simply be the results of my actions--no more, no less.

I am responsible for my actions and thus I am responsible for their consequences, to a point. Teasing out that point is a brier patch of problems. The whole rhetoric of "personal freedom" and its accompanying language of "dessert" and "worthiness" around obesity and weight loss is a decidedly thorny issue.

But tonight, I can say this much. I am not doing this weight loss thing perfectly. Not by a long shot. But I seem to be doing it well enough.

And that's good enough.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Ending the Downward Spiral

This one.
This time.

It started with Tuesday's post, actually. I got hold of an article called "Obesity and Energy Balance--Is the Tail Wagging the Dog?" --a long and complicated thing (well out of my expertise) arguing that perhaps all the reasons Dr. Sharma lists as causes of weight gain (eating too much, feeling lethargic and not exercising, having cravings, etc) are actually symptoms of eating too much fructose--or something. They extrapolate to glucose, too, which confused me. (Maybe the whole chain of unfortunate events is set of by a combination of glucose and fructose, such as found in table sugar and HFCS? Could be.)

In any event, even though the authors were careful to say that their particular explanation of how obesity happens does not rule out making behavioural changes to manage it, I find myself completely demoralized and disabled by this approach. I felt the same way when I read Taubes back around Christmas time.

Perhaps one day I'll be able to "hear" whatever it is they are saying, but not right now.

The downward spiral, unfortunately, really began when my children got home. They were away for a glorious, quiet, and restful week and now they are back with their noise and their demands. It's been a difficult transition.

As well, I'm in the midst of planning my son's homeschool year. I want to start tomorrow. Neither of us are ready. As a result, I let the house go, this week, so it is now extremely difficult to find things and to maneuver. Fortunately, my husband took the kitchen in hand this morning before I got up and I was able to make breakfast according to my food plan. (Onion and mushroom frittata with rye toast and 1 cup of mixed berries topped with 1/4 cup yogurt. Coffee. Yum.) I didn't eat well yesterday at all. I couldn't figure it out. There was no counter space to prepare anything. I couldn't think what I wanted to prepare. I couldn't get my food planning sheets off the computer (more on that below.) I felt helpless and overwhelmed. I ate chocolate chips by the hand-full from the bag.

I didn't exercise this week. I need to do it more for mood control than for weight loss. I really could have used it on a week like this!

And sleep. The family, somehow, is back to going to bed at midnight (and myself later, since I need/want a completely calm house before I settle) and the kids and I aren't getting up until quite late. It's hard on my husband who has to be up at 6:30am. But somehow, in spite of my nagging, we get busy in the evenings and it is hard to get away. (My daughter won't go upstairs alone. She doesn't like to be in her room without me, so if I get busy--as I was with planning this week--she doesn't go to bed until I drag myself away. My fault, but I resent it.) My husband and son will take a bath--up to an hour each--every evening. We have only one bath tub--and my son waits for his father to be done so they can say prayers before he will go to bed. I often have to "remind" them that there's no TV allowed after ten o'clock and get them moving every single night. If I don't, things just drift. I should be over my anger about this, shouldn't I? It hasn't changed the situation in over 13 years.

Last, but not least, the computer started giving us major grief a few days ago. It was acting very slowly: programs, if they even started up, would run for a bit--and then not run for even longer. As I was trying to condense an extremely complicated Poetry unit from 24 weeks to twelve (and trying to determine whether hymns like "All Creatures of our God and King" are in short, long or common meter, what trochaic meter is and whether The Tyger by William Blake is an example of it or not. (It is). Of course internet access and the ability to construct spreadsheets were crucial for this task--and I worked on the hiccuping monster until I was forced to stop and run diagnostics. (Thank you, Major Geeks!)

My weight this week: 244.0lbs.

Amazing, that's still less than it was last week. By exactly how much, I don't know. I have to clean up the dining room/home office to find out.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Causes of Weight Gain

Dr. Sharma is posting articles from his archives this week. This one, What is Obesity? lists some factors which contribute to weight gain. I wanted to reproduce them here for my own reference.

Firstly, though, I have one small quibble with Dr. Sharma to put out of the way. When one is 250 pounds, (female and 5' 5"), and one remains at that weight for several months: is there something wrong with the body's "energy homeostasis'? Dr. Sharma assumes there is--
one can look at excess body fat simply as a sign or symptom of the fact that there is a something “wrong” with energy homeostasis.

But I thought homeostasis refers to whether or not one's weight is stable, not how much body fat is being stored. There is absolutely nothing wrong with one's "energy homeostasis" if one's weight is stable--even if it is "too high" by some measure.

To say what Dr. Sharma said is to assume that there is a "correct" or proper amount of fat to be stored on each and every body and that it is the job of whatever it is that contributes to "energy homeostasis" to achieve it. If body weight is in excess of this "correct" amount, then something is broken. I agree there is something broken, however, if someone is carrying too much weight--and it could be my marriage as much as confused satiety signals.

What exactly is not working to produce this "correct" or proper amount of body fat in each person's body could be any number of things, as Sharma says:
Only when we find what is causing the excessive intake will we have made a diagnosis of what is causing the problem - a few specific examples could include: poor meal planning, peer pressure, hedonic overeating, depression, obesogenic medications, binge eating disorder, defective satiety signaling, etc. The point is that till we know what is causing the overeating, we can’t fix it, which means we will have little success in treating the weight problem and will be limited to a “symptomatic” approach - just eat less! (emphasis mine)

On the other side of the "energy equation"
when the problem appears to be lack of activity, again the question is what exactly is causing the problem. Obviously if the problem is lack of time our approach will hopefully be very different than if the problem is back pain or lack of motivation (a possible symptom of sleep apnea, exhaustion or depression). A “symptomatic” but useless approach would be to simply recommend 10,000 steps. No better than offering an ice-pack to someone with a fever.(emphasis mine)

So, here's a check list for periodic review:

1. Do I have a food plan?
2. Is there anyone "pressuring" me to eat other than what is on my plan?
3. Am I eating for the rewards it brings me? Do I have a plan to cope with that?
4. Am I using food to treat my emotions, specifically, depression?
5. Am I on any medication which causes weight gain?
6. Do I have binge-eating disorder? If so, am I getting effective treatment for it?
7. Do I find myself unable to feel full after I eat? If I do feel full, do I continue to eat anyway? Do I want to continue eating?

As for exercise:
1. Have a scheduled time for a workout--or do I just hope to make it a part of my day, some where?
2. Is my back pain an impediment? Do I have a treatment plan for it?
3. If I'm not motivated to exercise, what are some of the ways I can motivate myself?

I am having trouble getting in my planned exercise: so I think I may make up a list of advantages for that and read that 2x a day!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Now what?

I decided to clean up the house today.

As it gets closer to being clean, I find myself asking, "What if I get it all done?" What if I manage my life so that I live in a clean house, most of the time, that I make healthy choices about my food, most of the time, that I take care of health concerns as they occur, most of the time and that I control my anger and have positive relationships with my family most of the time?

I've been struggling with all of these things for years. I feel close to the end of the struggle.

What will I do with myself, then?

Ugh. This is an extraordinarily uncomfortable place to be in.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

So, A Patient Walks into the Dentist's Office

When I walked into that dentist's office eight years ago, I was full of shame. I had periodontal disease. Not a life threatening disease, but a disease all the same. Moreover, I was told by looks and words, a disease I could have prevented.

It was true I didn't floss. I had many excuses for that. And I smoked--with no intention of quitting.

I went in for four excruciating sessions of scaling and root planing (Novacaine and I do not always get along) and at the last appointment, the hygienist sighed and called me "non-compliant" (I remember that clearly) and pronounced the whole procedure "unsuccessful."

Well, with respect to the latter, maybe she did and maybe she didn't. It was a long time ago. I do know that I felt helpless. I did not start flossing--and after a final cleaning in October of 2008 (about a month after I'd quit smoking) I stopped seeing my dentist and her hygienists entirely.

A few months ago, I receive flyer in the mail from a dentist in the neighbourhood. I have an aching tooth. I want to start a diet, but I want to start a weight loss diet--not a soft foods diet! So, I make an appointment. After a good cleaning and an x-ray, they tell me that I have two molars, one on either side of my mouth which should come out. Nothing else to be done. The dreaded periodontal disease is back, never went away in fact, and it has eaten away at the bones holding the roots of those teeth and there is nothing left to hold them in. My bones? I've lost bone mass?

This new dentist doesn't blame me. He says some people are prone to it, some aren't. Then he said something interesting. It seems that periodontal disease is now regarded as an auto-immune disease. That is, the antibodies my body produces against the little buggers on my teeth don't attack them so much as they attack me and my bones (or something like that). Odd. Weird.

I mourn the loss of my two teeth.

Yesterday. I walk into the same office as eight years ago. I'm there for a consult on putting in an implant so a new tooth can be built on the right side of my mouth so I can chew there again.

This time, the periodontal disease is worse. The pockets are deeper.

I should be feeling horrible, right? I should be feeling helpless. I should be flat on the couch, moaning my plight, mourning the lack of corn on the cob in my future, anticipating the discomfort of dentures, right?

But no.

Something happened in that office. The seed planted by new dentist (it's not your fault!) and the recognition by the specialist that it is a chronic condition but it can be managed ("The patient can have significant impact..." was as far as he went, bless him, "but without regular professional cleaning it's impossible," he continued...) somehow inspired me to be hopeful. I felt as though I suddenly understood how the patient is supposed to "partner" with the health professional in the management and treatment of the disease. I finally understood what everyone means when they say the patient's attitude is critical to the success of treatment.

I can't explain it, though.

The world is a different place for me now than eight years ago. The situation may actually be worse, but the prognosis is better. (I have to insert a quick note here that it's not all just mental. The fact that I have quit smoking, I believe, has made a significant difference).

Bottom line: I have hope. I didn't have it before. I could have had hope, but I didn't. I now see it was a choice I made.

But I can choose differently, this time. This time I choose hope and all that goes with it. I like hope.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

No Choice

On Day 16 of The Beck Diet Solution, Train Your Brain to Think Like a Thin Person, Beck has us confront the thought that we cannot eat off our plan. No spontaneous eating allowed!

I am of two minds: 1) I can't do it--how on earth can I make a plan everyday--and then stick to it--everyday.

And of course, the response is, you can do it today. It isn't helpful to think of the future, just today, just now is all that is required.

2) It isn't fair. Because, of course, it is true. Whenever I eat "whatever" I like, I tend to choose whatever is easy, whatever is quick and whatever takes up the least amount of prep space and dishes. In this, I am not alone. But I don't make wise choices for my body or my health. Making a plan and sticking to it is going to keep me healthy.

I resent that this is true. Oh well. I'm a grown-up, not a two year old.

So, my "No Choice" advantage card reads as follows:

I cannot eat whatever I want whenever I want and be slim. I just have to plan my food if I want to be thinner. The more often I choose to stay on plan--to say to myself--there is no choice to be made, it's been done--the easier it will get. Being thinner is more important to me than eating spontaneously.
And that's true, too.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Weekly Menu Plan

I am no stranger to planning my menus: in fact, I usually do it monthly to take advantage of what Safeway calls 10% Tuesday. I try and get everything I need for the freezer (including meat) and the pantry for the whole month on the first Tuesday. Safeway offers 10% off the entire grocery bill, including sales and coupons.

This month, however, we were away for 10% Tuesday, so I need to create a menu plan--and use up what we have in the freezer.

I also want to include two vegetables with each evening meal.

Here are our dinner plans for this week:

Balsamic Chicken with cabbage and carrot salad.
boiled potato, cooked spinach and acorn squash

Pork with apple and onion
steamed green and yellow beans
brown rice

Honey-Mustard Chicken
steamed broccoli, beets
corn (it's a grain (or starch), not a vegetable)

Citrus Fish
roasted sweet potato and zucchini
brown rice

Chicken and Peppers
Spinach and Tomato Salad

Basil Burgers
Cucumber and Tomato salad
grilled zucchini

Rotisserie Chicken (from the grocery store)
Homemade potato salad
Red Barn Corn and Bean Salad

From these plans I'll be able to plan the rest of my eating day. Let's take Tuesday as an example.

These are the daily servings recommended by the Mayo Clinic Diet for 1400 calories:

Fruit: 4
Vegetables: 4
Grains (and Starches): 5
Protein and Dairy: 4
Fat: 3

Firstly, 3 ounces of pork, trimmed of fat = 1 "protein and dairy" portion.
apples = 1 fruit
Onion, carrots, green and yellow beans = 3 portions of vegetables
It's all browned in olive oil (finished with braising in chicken broth) = 1 fat.

So, for lunch and breakfast I'm left with
Fruit: 3
Vegetables: 1
Grains: 4
P&D: 3
Fat: 2

Lunch will be a whole wheat wrap with 2 oz of Montreal Smoked meat with shredded carrots, mushroom and tomato with and 1 tablespoon of hummus for a spread: 2 grain, 1 veg, 1 fat and 1 P&D leaving me with

Fruit: 3
Vegetable: 0
Grain: 2
P&D: 2
Fat: 1

Breakfast will be Oatmeal with 1/2 a diced apple and 2 tablespoons of raisins and 1/4 cup of yogurt. (1 grain, 1 1/2 fruit, 1/2 P&D.)

Left for snacks:
Fruit: 1 1/2
Veg: 0
Grain: 1
P&D: 1 1/2
Fat: 1

Snack 1:
1 1/2 oz of cheese with crackers (4 Dar Vida = 1 grain)

Snack 2:
1/4 cantaloupe with either 1/3 cup cottage cheese or 1/4 cup yogurt.

Now, that will be a good eatin' day!

I'm really not sure I'll be able to plan in this much detail for a whole month. On second thought, it's not really necessary as breakfast and lunch will consist mostly of fresh produce, anyway. I can still plan and shop for that weekly--as I do now.

Still, I think that, for now, I will make my food plan for the day the night before--and not do it for a whole week all at once. Maybe in time.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Honeymoon Phase

I am definitely in the honeymoon phase of this commitment.

Things are still bugging me--but, somehow, they are of no account. In The Beck Diet Solution, today's skill is learning to respond with, "Oh well" when things aren't the way you would wish. I feel like I am in the perfect, "Oh well." phase.

I have a workbook on anger called, The Anger Control Workbook by Mathew McKay and Peter Rogers. I began working with it before our family vacation but I haven't been angry since we've come back. I'm annoyed by things, of course, unsure about others, but angry? Feeling instantly enraged by something (usually someone else's behaviour). No, thank heaven. Am I yelling at people? No, not at all.

My first week of following my food plan is complete. According to the scale I have lost 5.2 pounds. This is astonishing.

Was it inconvenient to plan my food out everyday? Yes. Emphatically, yes. It took so long the first night, I fell asleep before I finished. However, it is getting easier. Going shopping helped, too. Here's the food record I designed:

(click to enlarge. It's filled out for today and showing what I ate for breakfast)

Preparing my meals is tiring and difficult. Oh well. My counter space is minimal and I'm running into the usual competition for space with the unwashed dishes. Do I care? Not at the moment! I'm just continuing to wash the dishes, cut veggies, fry an egg, wash dishes, cut fruit, cut veggies, wash dishes, assemble a sandwich, wash dishes, make supper. We're just about caught up (meaning there's only as many dishes on the counter as would fill one drying rack when washed--when those are done, we're caught up--until the next time we eat!)

I haven't been able to exercise as much as I would like. Oh well. I will get to it.

I like this phase. I wish I could hang out here all the time.

weight: 247.2 lbs
from June 25th to July 24th, net change: -9.4lbs

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

More than Just Diet and Exercise.

Diet and exercise may make me slim and fit: they won't change my life.

And I do want to change my life. No, that's not quite right: I want to change myself.

I want to be more content with what we have.
I want to be less angry.
I want to have more joy.

I was reading some blog entries at Exploring Life today. I came across this, credited to Joseph Pilates:
It is the mind itself which builds the body.
(The entire article is wonderful. If you are intrigued, do check it out here.)

Brian Alger goes on to write:
If the mind builds the body, then the body is a result of what we choose to think about. This means that the body responds directly to what we think, and therefore how we feel. source.
My body is the manifestation of my mind--it is what you get when you live with anger and without contentment and joy.

The path to a leaner body, then, is through my mind (but not necessarily my thoughts. Exploring my thoughts and examining them and wrestling with them is fine, to a point, but I am coming more and more to the conclusion that it is an indulgence. How I love my insights!). Rather, I'm beginning to suspect, the path through my mind may be no more complicated than what Buddhism calls the practice of mindfulness. (I'm reading Savor; Mindful Eating, Mindful Life, by Thich Nhat Hanh and it is messing with my head.)

How I feel is the result of my thoughts--but not just my thoughts. That, I think, is a Western conceit (and limitation). How I feel is also the result of the way my body reacts to those thoughts. That is the case most literally: my endocrine system interacts with my brain and most definitely creates joy and satisfaction, anxiety and panic and so on.

Thus, I can change how I feel either through changing my body--or my thoughts--but most probably--through changing both simultaneously.

No idea how. On the look-out though for both a method and a teacher.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Plan

First, I have to say that my breakfast this morning--
1/2 cup of Rogers Porridge Oats, cooked
1/2 a Delicious apple diced,
2 Tablespoons of raisins,
4 pecan halves chopped and
a sprinkle of cinnamon felt like eating candy for breakfast. It was wonderful: and I wondered if it would satisfy my sweet tooth after supper.

All that food is allowed (and encouraged) by the Diet Plan I have chosen -- the Mayo Clinic Diet. It is a portion control/food exchange program based on the food pyramid. (The servings in the diagram below are a range--at the calorie level proscribed, the servings for me are all at the lowest end!)They recommend I consume about 1400 calories a day (which actually seems low to me) and exercise 30 to 60 minutes (which I will work up to). I'm using Leslie Sansone's "Walk Away the Pounds" videos for now. I plan to add weight lifting and yoga (for flexibility and relaxation) to the mix.

In addition, I'm using the cognitive therapy techniques outlined by Judith Beck in The Beck Diet Solution. Train Your Brain to Think Like a Thin Person.

This approach is conventional. On the face of it, this approach does not "fire" food as the *Star* of my life. It does not help me towards the goal of making my issues with food into "non-issues." Not in the short term, anyway.

Yet I have a couple of reasons for approaching things this way. If it all blows up in my face and I end up regaining whatever I lose, then I guess I'll start again with a different approach.

I'm thinking of the paradigm of psychotherapy. When you hire a therapist, you agrees to focus, fairly intensely, on whatever it is which is disturbing you and holding you back from living your life fully. There comes a point, (at least in therapy that works for me) when the therapy --or rather-- the focus is over. At that point, you have tools to deal with the things which disturb you and you have had enough practice implementing them that you don't have to pay someone to hold your hand any longer.

So with that in mind, these are the reasons I'm using a diet plan to address some of my issues with food.

#1. I know how to eat. In the past I chose a whole foods portion controlled diet plan in order to learn how to eat. I know how, so that's not the reason this time. This time, I need to establish the habit of eating a variety of whole foods once again. I get into a rut of eating mostly carbs, protein and fat when left without a plan. Beck exhorts me to plan what I will eat the next day every night. I've done it for two nights now and it's a struggle to come up with enough fruit and veggies. But that's obviously what I need--so it's great.

#2. If I have an imposed limit of what I can eat, I am forced to find non-food ways to handle my emotions. I'm afraid that if I continue to rely on my hunger cues alone to manage my food intake --they'll be overridden by the urge to eat when I'm upset like the land is flooded when the rain swells the river. I need sandbags on those banks--and a food plan with a caloric limit gives me the boundaries I need around how I eat.

#3. I need to learn not to be scared of being hungry. With a food plan written out and in place, I can reassure myself at a glance that there is food available to me, I will eat again, and that I don't need to stand in front of the fridge (or the baking cupboard) for reassurance.

This plan in particular encourages eating a lot of fruit (four servings of about 60 calories each)--and I must remember that fruit is as plentiful as candy bars whenever I'm out running errands.

Reducing hunger is a worthy goal, though, too. Food has volume. Energy dense foods, like raisins, provide a lot of calories in a very small amount. That's why they're great snacks to pack while hiking.

But, if I want to feel full, I need to eat foods with a lot of volume for the number of calories they have. Veggies are great for this. I was shocked to learn that 2 cups of spinach is equal to one serving of veggies. Two whole cups! Yikes. I had a huge spinach and tomato salad for "dessert" last night (dressed with a teaspoon of olive oil and two teaspoons of red wine vinegar and salt--the fat is important too) and I was full right up until bed-time. I didn't need a sleeve of crackers and a hunk of cheese to satisfy my hunger before bed.

I was grateful.

So, this approach, should help me manage my food issues as well as help me lose weight. I have resisted "going on a diet" for months and months simply because I did not want to focus on food. It felt like taking many steps backwards. I don't want food to be an "issue" in my life--but it is, whether I deal with it up front or try my best to deny it and sweep it under the rug. A "diet" directs my focus onto food, yes. And I make better choices that way--not just about food, but about how to handle those other things I use food to (inappropriately) manage, too.

At least, that's the plan.

Sunday, July 17, 2011


I'm down 5.2 pounds since July 1st.

Woo hoo!

I have been focusing on two practices:

1) being mindful while I eat, and
2) eating only when I'm hungry and stopping when I'm full.

The first was easier than I thought. At first, in order to stop myself from grabbing a book while I munched, I grabbed my son, or my daughter, even my hubby, to come and sit with me. I think all four of us may have even sat down together to eat! (We used to do it all the time but fell out of the practice since the beginning of this year.) Then I just forced myself to pay attention to my food. Interestingly, that started to have an effect on what I ate. I began to realise I'd really rather have an egg salad sandwich with spinach than oven-fried chicken nuggets with honey.

The second took longer to incorporate and frankly, I'm still learning how to do it. I began with keeping a record: when I sat down to eat I would record how hungry I was: when I was done, I'd record how full I felt. Then, we left for vacation and I had to gauge it "on the go" as it were. I began not knowing when I was hungry--to the problem I have now of suddenly realising I'm not just hungry but absolutely famished. I even start to feel a little faint. Sometimes, I make a wise choice and reach for a banana, a few times I've grabbed a candy bar.

I haven't yet begun a "formal" diet, though I've been looking through The Mayo Clinic Diet. I want to look at it more closely and compare it to Bob Greene's Best Life Diet (which I've used sucessfully before) before I decide how to continue.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Good Food vs Bad Food, Part 1


Beck wants me to rid my house of "bad" foods--defined as any food not on my "diet."

There is no such thing. No food is a "bad" food.

Many years ago, when I was about 100 pounds less than I am now, I remember an incident where I was chatting with a group of women about my favourite bed-time snack: a bowl of ice-cream with a brownie or two on the bottom, chocolate syrup and whipped cream on top. One woman said to me, "I wish I could eat like that." My thought was, "Of course you can eat like that, if you are willing to accept the consequences."

Obviously, I knew exactly what I was doing.

One way to accept the consequences with eating a bowl of ice-cream like that is, well, get fat. Been there, done that.

The other is to include it as a part of what one eats for the day. It's simply a matter of balance: if I splurge on this, I must restrict, well, everything else.

So, technically speaking, it is inaccurate to say that "ice-cream with a brownie, chocolate sauce and whipped cream is bad."

It may also be dangerous. To say that a food or certain foods are "bad" is to set off a rebellious, child-like reaction which is harder to avoid than the big bad bowl of ice-cream.

But it goes beyond simply reacting to being told I can't do something--it's more like I don't want to accept the fact that I cannot (or should not) eat certain foods.

Because, of course, I don't want to restrict my eating in other ways. I'm as spoiled as they come. It's like I want to be able to walk in the rain without getting wet. I want to deny that the laws of physics apply to me. To tell myself that I "can't" eat something puts me in a frame of mind where it's possible I'll eat it out of pure spite. Isn't that odd?

But I'm a grown-up now--and I don't want the insanity of my thoughts to rule me any longer.

So, truly, I can eat whatever I want as long as when I eat it, I do not sabotage the goal of getting to and maintaining a healthy weight for myself. Given my goal, then, I have to cut back on something else--whether I like it or not.

So, my first diet rule is this: I can eat whatever I want as long as I know what it will cost* and I include it as part of the calories I have set for that day.

So, just how much of a splurge is that "favourite" snack?

1/2 cup of ice cream: 130 calories.
But, let's be honest, I probably ladled in one cup or more. so: 260
1 tablespoon of chocolate syrup: 70
2 (Two-Bite) brownies: 180
4 tablespoons low-fat whipped cream: 30
Total: 540 calories.

Dear heaven.

Just having the ice-cream with chocolate sauce is outrageous. I can see now why my grandmother called it a "treat."

My mother called it an indulgence--and lived with guilt.

I am of the generation who has been culturally conditioned to believe that we are owed treats-- that indulgences, should indeed, somehow, be risk free.

This road to personal responsibility? I've a feeling we're in for a long and bumpy ride--with only the occasional stop for ice cream.
* There may be other psychological and subsequent behavioural costs to consider. For example, eating that bowl of ice-cream may set off uncontrollable urges to eat more ice cream (or more high cost foods) --or it may set off a hard to resist habit of eating ice cream (or other high cost foods) on a regular basis. I don't know. It's something I'll need to be on the look-out for. I wish I didn't have to. But that's really neither here nor there, is it?

Friday, July 1, 2011

Reasons to Lose Weight

I am incredibly reluctant to post this out here, in public. All of these "reasons" point to things I can't do now, or, at least, can't do very well. They point to things I don't have, pleasures and activities I have had to give up as my body has become larger, my joints weaker.

I feel ashamed of my size and weight like never before--and I want the shame to end. I want to be proud of my body and what it can do. I want to be strong and free.

The recommendation to create a list of reasons comes from Judith Beck's book, The Beck Diet Solution. Beck uses her training in cognitive therapy to address issues surrounding dieting. It is a bit disappointing, in that way. I had hoped she would use cognitive therapy to deal with food issues more generally--but perhaps she will. I'm not too far into it, yet.

I was introduced to cognitive therapy when I was in high school, if you can believe it. I used it fairly successfully to counter catastrophic thoughts. I was in therapy a lot in my twenties!

Nonetheless, others recommend making a list of advantages, or reasons when setting out to change. So without further ado, here's mine.

Reasons to Lose Weight:

1. I'll be more mobile--better able to ride a bike and walk.

2. I'll be able to stretch and reach my feet to tie my shoes and clip my toenails.

3. My knees won't hurt as much.

4. My back won't hurt any more.

5. I'll have more energy.

6. I'll enjoy sex more.

7. I'll be able to do my business better.

8. I'll be in better health.

9. I'll look better.

10. I'll be more attractive.

11. I'll be able to wear smaller clothes and thus have more options about what to wear!

12. I'll be pleased and proud when I look in the mirror.

13. I'll get joy out of shopping for clothes.

14. I won't feel so self-conscious everywhere I go.

15. I will enjoy swimming again.

16. I'll be able to set an example to my children of self-change and empowerment.

(Beck recommends I read these 2x a day. I have set the site 43things to send me an email with this list every day.)

Thursday, June 30, 2011

I Can't Lose Weight with a Messy Desk.

The Many Roles of Food

It's practically a one-man show! Food is the Star of my life--driving any others right off the stage. But it's time to turn the tables. It's time to yank the overblown blowsey actress with her hoarse ageing voice and dropped lines, time to give her a smaller, more dignified role and and start looking for better supporting players.

In Beyond Metabolism; Understanding Your Modern Diet Dilemma, Scott Abel suggests my goal shouldn't be to lose weight, necessarily, but, among other things, to make eating and food issues into non-issues. Food has two legitimate roles in our lives, he writes. The first is personal: it provides the body with nourishment for renewal and growth, and fuel for activities. The other is social: it offers opportunities for celebration and interaction with others.

If food is being used outside of these two roles, it is being used inappropriately. The thing to do is not diet, per se, but to discover what it is food is doing for you other than these two things--and find something else instead, something appropriate to take over from food. Hard to explain, but the cliched example is "eating to calm emotions." There's lots written about that--and it is fairly clear that something else, say exercise or meditation or prayer may be more appropriate responses to being upset.

I can certainly do a lot to reduce the inappropriate roles food plays in my life. But I don't know it is reasonable to assume that I can make food into a non-issue for the rest of my life. For example, no one would ever suggest to a recovering alcoholic that his or her goal should be for alcohol to become a non-issue. As far as I understand, it's always an issue. To say otherwise is to dangerously underestimate the power of the beast. So, too, in my case, perhaps.

Nonetheless, food plays an inappropriate role in many areas of my life. Let's see, I use food:

1) yes, as cliched as it is, to calm myself when I am upset--especially when I'm upset with my husband. It is inadvisable for me to speak with him when I am upset--I need to be calm in order for him to hear me. So, I'll use food to "buy some time" to calm myself. Plus, I really do think that some food just calms me down physiologically. This behaviour is new, by the way. I used to use cigarettes to do this in the past.

2) to reduce stress. I get so overwhelmed. I get anxious when I'm overwhelmed. I'm overwhelmed a lot. I don't quite understand it. It seems I live at the threshold of being overwhelmed and the smallest things pile up and push me over.

3) to stay awake. My children have poor sleep hygiene. One can barely get to sleep at all, (and never before midnight) the other needs me to sit with her until she falls asleep. Every night. It can take a couple of hours, sometimes and often goes far past the time I want to be in her room rather than my own settling myself for sleep.

I have developed a habit of eating protein and carbs before bed--and often, a lot of it! My favourite for a while was an entire sleeve of crackers with cheese thinly sliced into perfect squares to fit on top of each one.

That's just off the top of my head. Perhaps that's enough to work on for the moment.

Auditions: Things to Try.

I need to fire food and hire something else to take on these roles. And, eventually, I need to re-write the play.

1) It is probably a good idea to find another way to calm myself when I'm upset with my husband (and my kids, and my mom, and anyone else for that matter!) Writing comes to mind. That's quite confrontational, though, and sometimes I'm not ready to process whatever is causing me to be upset. What I want is a better delay tactic. Is that a googlable phrase? "How do I delay responding when I am angry or upset?"

2) This is going to sound very weird, but I can reduce my feelings of being overwhelmed if I stay on top of my clutter. This is tough, though, as it often means I'm cleaning up after other people, too, and I find that that makes me angry.

Right now, I am overwhelmed by the fact that we are leaving for our annual camping trip in four or five days. When we get back, I have only a week to get my kids ready to leave on yet another camping trip: my son is leaving with his Scout troop to go to Newfoundland and my daughter is going to a Girl Guide camp in B.C. To say I am panicky is to put it mildly. You know what? I need to make lists. But first, I need to clear off my desk.

3) I have no clue how to keep myself awake. I need to figure it out, though, as tonight will be one of those nights. My daughter started summer vacation today: so she slept in. I have no idea how I am going to get to bed at a decent hour. I'll look things up on-line later.

Right now, I need to clean off my desk.

Just looking at it makes me want to hyperventilate.
Cue chocolate.
Helping Me Help Myself, by Beth Lisick.

So, it has been done.

Someone woke up one morning and decided to change her life. She'd consult the experts, write it up and sell a book.

It's a fast read. Lisick is compelling, but in the end, oddly dissatisfying. She gets off to a slow start questioning whether she has any faith at all in self-help gurus. Jack Canfield's book, The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You are to Where You Want to Be convinces her to suspend her disbelief enough to get started.

In each chapter she decides on an area to "fix" consults a well-known expert and reads a book or attends a conference (or both). She has thoughts about their ideas, their personalities, their work. She writes about that--and it's interesting, thoughtful and quite often amusing.

But, except for two chapters, one on Morgenstern and organizing her house, the other about her four year old son and discipline, the thoughts do not seem to be translated into any sort of lasting, ongoing action. That's where, I think, this book falls short. It may simply be because her life is a bit too far from the mainstream, it may be because she really couldn't get over her skepticism (except, oddly, for the chapter on spiritual medium Sylvia Browne). I wanted to know more about the process of implementing the ideas and programmes of the self-change gurus. I wanted to know more about how it would be to change. And that's not here. Not overtly, anyway.

I recommend it, though, for anyone going on the journey of self-change. It's good to have company, no matter how quirky.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Tuna Sandwich Filling

Original recipe courtesy of Micheal Smith at the Food Network

1 can water packed Tuna (170 g)**
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon low-fat mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon minced onion
1 tablespoon minced celery
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley or 1/2 teaspoon dried
salt and pepper

1. Flake tuna with fork and add lemon juice, mayo, mustard, onion, celery and parsley. Salt and pepper to taste.
2. Spread 1/2 mixture on a slice of whole wheat bread. Top with thin slices of cucumber or lettuce or both. Top with another slice of bread.


Calorie Count: 152 total or 76 per serving.

Based on the cans and jars used:
tuna: (Ocean's) 100 calories
mayo: (Hellman's light) 45
everything else (based on 7

**Greenpeace has rated Canadian brands of Tuna for sustainable fishing practices here.

The Goal(s)

Let us be clear.

The goal is not to lose weight.
The goal is not to lift weights.
The goal is not to run, walk or jog.
The goal is not to meditate, or write out my feelings or, even, keep the blog.

The goal isn't even happiness.

The goal is to find my body in balance.

No, not even that.

The goal is to find a life in balance which is manifested by my body. For my body is a reflection of my thoughts as they determine my actions towards health and joy--or away from it.

In two and a half years, (the target date is my 50th birthday in January 2014) my mind is free from thinking about and obsessing about eating. The what, when and how will all be resolved, a matter of habit, on automatic pilot.

In two and a half years, my emotions are being handled appropriately. I am processing and responding in ways that promote health and high function--not death, dis-ease and dysfunction.

In two and a half years (and hopefully sooner) my body is free from pain and awkwardness, it doesn't hold me back from doing anything I wish and it looks the best it possibly can given that this is my body with my history and genetics.

They say I am what I eat: but I am also what I think, what I feel and how I act.

And so we begin.

weight: 256.8 lbs