Putting an End to the Hate!

love

As many of you know, I have a lot of experience trying to lose weight.  I’ve tried every fad diet imaginable.  I’ve failed to lose weight on Slim Fast, Weight Watchers, calorie counting, low-fat, low-carb, South Beach, paleo, and the Perfect Health Diet.  I’ve binged after starving myself, and I’ve failed at “intuitive eating.”

I overate when I was stressed, and I overate when I was happy.  I’ve overeaten after skipping meals to make up for a binge the day before.  I’ve overeaten and made numerous trips to Goodwill to buy larger clothes.  I’ve looked in the mirror and hated what I’ve seen, which contributed to my not joining a gym the first 6 months we lived here.  I rung in the new year weighing 6 pounds less than my full-term pregnancy weight.

So when I made a New Year’s Resolution to lose 35 pounds, I knew I had to do something different.  All of my efforts at using willpower and muscling myself had failed, so I needed to move beyond the “tough self-love” mentality.  And I would have to invent a program myself, because there is nothing out there that takes this approach.

What is out there?  After my friend, Lois, referred to an “expert” recommending punishing yourself by eating a can of dog food, if you don’t stick to your diet, I did some research.  Sadly, I found that punishment is strongly recommended by the diet gurus.  Here is an example of the thinking behind the “willpower and discipline” approach.

Of course, this self-hate based mentality has had a backlash.  Many people advocate loving your body as it is, and not worrying about diet and exercise.  The Healthy at Any Size movement does make some excellent points.

By now, you’ve probably figured out that I disagree with both of these approaches.  First off, why would willpower ever be necessary?  Just using muscle ignores the reasons that I have for overeating.  And self-hatred and beating up on yourself triggers the fight-or-flight response, which drowns your brain in stress hormones.  And guess what those stress hormones do?  Yup, they make you want to eat more.  Here is an article about stress and weight gain.

But I also wasn’t ready to just eat whatever I wanted.  I know there are health risks involved with being overweight.  Heart disease and diabetes run in my  family, and I do know that my blood sugar already runs high when I don’t stay on top of it.  I know that my energy level is lower when I am overweight, and I experience a lot more muscle and joint soreness when I am carrying extra weight.  Loving my body as it is means that giving it the care it needs to return to health.

So, based on that premise, I have invented my own diet plan, which I will share with you now.  It’s a completely different approach, based on self-love and understanding.  Of course, I am not a registered nutritionist or doctor, and this is not meant as a substitute for medical advice from one of these professionals.

My weight-loss approach is based on the following ideas:

1.  Weight gain is a symptom and not the cause. Being at an unhealthy weight is not natural for my body.  It is a sign that things are out of balance.  In my case, it is likely the result of years of being bathed in stress hormones.

2.  For that reason, my focus is healing rather than punishment.  Rather than just cutting calories and watching the numbers on the scale, I am focusing on healing my body from those years of stress.  And so I eat a nutrient-rich diet full of protein, fruits, and vegetables.  My focus is on loving and restoring.  I make sure I eat enough calories, and I determined the amount I need using numerous calorie calculators found on Google.

3.  I treat exercise like physical therapy.  I did a great job sticking with an exercise regimen when I went to PT for a shoulder injury.   And that was because the focus of my routine was healing, not punishment.  I took it easy when I experienced pain, I rested when I needed to, and I measured progress in months, not days.  I am taking the same approach at the gym.  I am no longer ashamed of modifying when I need to, taking short rests, and really listening to my body.  With this approach, motivation has followed–I am easily able to go 6 days a week.

4.  I eat for my mind.  Eating a high-protein diet with some healthy carbs and lots of water helps to stabilize my mind.  And when my mind is calm, I overeat less.  I make sure that my protein amounts are in the double-digits everytime I eat–and that means breakfast, one or two snacks, lunch, dinner, and possibly a bedtime snack.  I only drink coffee in the morning, then switch to chamomile tea if I need a warm beverage, and I consume very little alcohol.  Listen to your body and mind, and feed them what they need.

5.  I focus inwardly when I want to overeat.  There is a reason I’m wanting that snack, so I’m curious with my mind about it.  What need is unfulfilled, that I am trying to meet with that candy bar?  This is a time when I am gently curious with my mind, and compassionate.

6.  I use relaxation strategies.  Yoga is a major part of my workout routine, as well as mini-breaks throughout the day.  Keeping the body calm helps prevent stress hormones from being released.

7.  I avoid all approaches based on rewards and punishments.  This is difficult, because it is so ingrained in our culture.  I am not using “accountability” as a strategy, for example.  Having someone else tell me to keep going, is just enlisting help to muscle myself.  I used to participate in the “Greatest Loser Challenge” at work, but I can see how this was just a way of muscling and punishing myself.

So this is my strategy, which I have implemented for one week so far.  And the results?  I will eventually stop weighing in, because weight is no longer my focus.   But for now, the scale is a useful tool, because I will naturally lose weight if I am truly healing.  If I gain weight, that means I am not meeting my body’s needs for healing in some fashion.  And so far that is not the case, as I have already lost 3 pounds.

Time for Some Resolutions!

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That’s right.  I’m rocking it old school this year and making resolutions.

For the past two years, I’ve chosen a one-word theme, in lieu of resolutions.  Two years ago, it was “love.”  At that time I was just learning to accept love from those around me, and my mind was beginning to entertain the notion that I might be deserving of it. 2013 turned out to be a year of big changes, and I learned about love in so many different ways.  In fact, love has continued to be my guiding light, and it really could be my one-word theme every year.

My word for 2014 was “surrender,” and this was also very appropriate for the year.  In accepting myself as I am and in accepting life as it is, I’ve been able to grow more than I ever knew I could.  Surrender is really just an extension of love.

And so love will be my focus once again, but I will be making some concrete goals to guide me through this journey to love.  In 2012 I made 5 resolutions.  While I wasn’t perfect in meeting these goals, they did lead us closer to creating the lifestyle we wanted.

At that time, my goals were to eat less poison, get off the grid completely, generate one plastic shopping bag of garbage per month, put together a 12-piece wardrobe for myself, and have Christmas shopping done by January 1.  Some of these goals can be elaborated upon to help me meet my goals now, some of them are not irrelevant, and some are things I will work on later.

These are my resolutions for 2015:

1.  Lose 35 pounds.  Weight-loss had eluded me for years, but this will be the year I make it happen.  I’ve learned that willpower is a limited tool that can be counter-productive in the end, so I will be relying on other strategies.  I will work on staying organized with my meal planning and food preparation–and this includes delegating and using convenience foods (such as pre-made salads) when life gets in the way.  I will also look deeply when I am wanting to snack, so that I can learn to address the emotional need that is leading me to overeat.   I will join the gym that is walking distance from the marina, and begin attending classes there 3 times a week, eventually moving up to 5.

2.  Amass $10,000 in savings.  Living on Breaking Tradition is great, but we will eventually want something with a more comfortable layout.  Our plan is to save up for a center cockpit boat, which we will live on until we are ready to cruise full-time.  Then we will need something faster and more practical for long runs (our dream is to get a cruising catamaran!).  I don’t have a great history with money management, due to disorganization, feeling mentally overwhelmed, and fear of knowing our true financial situation.  There is less pressure now, so I am going to take baby-steps to get more comfortable in this area.

3.  Develop small income sources outside of my job.  If we’re going to cruise full time, we will need income.  We won’t need as much money as I make now, but we will need something.  So I will be experimenting with ways to make money through my writing.  I’m piloting an e-course and will try self-publishing, simplicity coaching, and other creative ideas.

4.  Spend structured time with Beanie.  My happiest memories have been of outings and art projects with her.  I actually joined Pinterest, so that I can find more potential activities!  My ultimate goal is to do an activity with her everyday, but we’ll start with 3 times a week.

5.  Do something social once a month.  I’ve always felt like establishing community was important, but the truth is that I’m kind of shy about actually getting together with people IRL.  So this year, I’m going to do something with a friend–have them over for dinner, go out or coffee, etc. once a month, at the very least.

January is an excellent time to start new habits, and I will be updating you on my progress on each of these goals, at least once a month.

May this be a new year where we all learn to love ourselves better!

My Week in Food

Well, folks, I have finished the first week of my diet, which is kind of a low glycemic/Perfect Health Diet/Nourishing Traditions hybrid.  I did well, and enjoyed a burrito from Chipotle for my once-a-week cheat day.

What surprised me is that I haven’t felt hungry at all.  In fact, I’ve slightly reduced the portions from what the Perfect Health Diet requires.  I had to eat 4 fist-sized servings of allowed starches, and in the end, I ate 2-3 a day.  Actually eating carbs did a lot for keeping me full, and for my energy level.

The next requirement for the Perfect Health Diet (I am adding one requirement per week) is to eat “up to 3 servings” of sugary vegetables (carrots and beets) and fruit.  Since I’m not feeling hungry, and I want to keep the sugar level low, I am having one serving of either a sugary vegetable or fruit per day.  I am also adding the requirement of eating seaweed. I eat nori quite often, but I will begin eating it everyday.

What has made the diet fun, is the large variety of vegetables available in Houston.  I have made it my rule to buy any vegetable that I see at the store, that I haven’t eaten before.

Here are some new foods I’ve experienced this week:

Green Cactus Leaves - csp8222094

I’ve already told you about the cactus leaves that I found at Kroger.  To eat them, you scrub the spines off, then slice them into sticks.  You can fry or boil them.  I fried them up in coconut oil, with some onions, and they were quite good.  I think I will make cactus casserole (like green bean casserole, only with cactus leaves) for Christmas!

jicama

This is a jicama root.  They are a lot like potatoes.  I diced them, and threw them in the pressure cooker with a chicken.  The leftovers went very well in a chicken soup!

Daikon radishes isolated on white background Stock Photo - 17743792

These are daikon radishes.  They are huge, and look like elephants’ tusks.  They are traditionally used as garnishes in Asian food, but I’ve found that they also work well as potatoes.  Their texture is stringy, so they don’t mash well, though.

Close up view of the cassava root isolated on a white background. Stock Photo - 9942765

This is a yucca root.  They must be cooked, as they are toxic if eaten raw.  I thought this was quite delicious steamed in the pressure cooker–don’t forget to peel the bark off, after it’s cooked!

In addition to these great veggies, I have had the opportunity to try a number of varieties of sushi, which of course is my favorite food on the planet!  (And it is allowed on my diet).

So, after all this healthy eating, what’s the bottom line?  There are now 10 pounds less of me, and I am a quarter of the way to my goal!

The New Life – New Diet Challenge

I am once again speaking to you as an expert in failing at losing weight.  I’ve dieted frequently, often with limited success.

However, I do have to say that my most recent failure was probably inevitable.  With my brain bathed in cortisol for so long, and with us being in survival mode during the two months we were packing, and then with all the family visits that involved GREAT, sinfully sugary food, I don’t think there could have been any outcome other than me gaining a significant amount of weight. 

So, now that we’re settled in and no longer under such a tremendous amount of stress, I thought it would be a great time to focus on eating healthier.  There are plenty of nutritional theories out there, so no two people are going to agree on what “eating healthier” is.  I have spent a lot of time reading, and trying to find the one perfect way to eat.  Of course, involving the word “perfect” invokes perfectionism, so I would immediately give up, if I slipped up and deviated from my “perfect” eating. 

But maybe, no two people’s bodies are exactly alike.  And maybe we would be better off viewing nutrition in the same way we view philosophy and spirituality–that there are multiple roads to good health.  So I am going to pick and choose, from the knowledge I have and from my own experiences, and find the road that works for me.  I will share my ideas and experiences with you each week, but do keep in mind that your road might be slightly different.

So, here is what I am doing:

1.  My blood sugar tends to run high, so I usually feel very good eating a low-carb diet.  I will use my usual low-carb diet as a base, then gradually add to it, to increase nutrition.

2.  Fats affect my mood, in a huge way.  I am avoiding trans fats, as they cause me to have depression symptoms (they are also just horribly unhealthy), and I am choosing oils that are not high in omega-6’s, since those are far too prevalent in the Western diet.  I’ll fry in butter and coconut oil (omelets made in coconut oil are delectible!), use olive oil for salad dressing, and eat lots of nuts and avocados.  Fatty meat is fine too.

3.  We’re going organic as much as possible.  We are fortunate that organic produce and meat is readily available and inexpensive in Houston.  If that is not the case where you live, I would recommend going organic with the “dirty dozen” vegetables and fruit, and not worrying about the rest.  Actually, back in Michigan, lettuce was the only vegetable that I obsessed over getting organically.  I had read about Monsanto’s genetically modified “Round-Up Ready Lettuce,” and that grossed me out enough to only buy organic leaves.  My biggest priority, however, is meat and eggs.  Not only is organic healthier, but animals in factory farms are treated so cruelly. 

4.  I friend of mine recommended the Perfect Health Diet, and I would like to incorporate more of that into my diet.  It is more sustainable than a low-carb diet, since it includes the nutrients that are missing, when carbs are reduced significantly.  I plan on introducing one “rule” from the Perfect Health Diet, each week.  I will deviate from it only in my number of servings (since I would be forcing myself to eat more than what is comfortable, if I followed it to the letter) and my handling of grains (PHD bans all cereal grains, beans, and brown rice, but soaking or fermenting them eliminates the toxins that are the reason for their banishment.  We will avoid gluten though, when we get to that “rule”).  For more information on soaking and fermenting, I would recommend the book Nourishing Traditions.

5.  I will not adhere strictly to the “rules.”  One “cheating” meal will be allowed, per week. 

So how are we beginning?  The first rule for the Perfect Health Diet is to eat four fist-sized servings of “safe starches” (ie root vegetables, rice, and squash).  When I tried to eat four servings, I found that all I had room to eat were starches.  So I’ve reduced it to 2-3 servings.  For the higher glycemic veggies, such as potatoes, the book recommends boiling them with vinegar.  I have found that this does get rid of that “sugary” feeling after eating them.

So far, I have been eating this way for three days.  I am feeling more energetic, and my mood has been improving.  Add to it the fact that I have lost two pounds already, and I would say things are going well!

healthy food cartoon characters

Getting Rid of Some “Body Clutter”–Who’s In?

Note: “Body Clutter” is a term coined by the Fly Lady.

Every year, around this time in the winter, thoughts of weight loss fill my head. I’ve counted calories, done low glycemic, low carb, eaten whole foods, tried to just eat until I was full, etc. etc. And I often can lose, a bit. But it inevitably comes back, with friends.

I am definitely not a nutritionist. I’m not a doctor, or any sort of expert on weight loss. I’m not an exercise guru or even enthusiast. In fact, I’m not even an average person who has had success in this area.

So why am I giving you advice on this? Because I’ve had a lot of experience failing at it.

And with each failure, I’ve learned something.

So, let me show you what I’ve learned so far:

1. Examine the “why.”
Ask yourself, why do I want to lose weight? If you want to look good in the summer, that’s great. If you want to be more agile, feel younger, that’s great as well. If you want to be healthier and happier, that’s even better. But if what you’re seeking is approval from others, even your significant other, forget it. Seeking approval is a worthless pursuit, and you’re not going to succeed if that is all you are after.

2. Examine the other “why,” and deal with it.
Now you have to ask, why am I overweight? Maybe you recently had a kid, have just been making poor food choices, or have not been active. But, most likely, you’re using food as an emotional crutch. Do you gnaw for stress relief? Use comfort food to reward yourself? Are you using the comfort of food to cope? Emotional eating is pretty common, I think, because we’re so disconnected. Connect with others, in ways beyond Facebook, and you will find ways of coping that don’t involve food. This is an area that has been a challenge for me, definitely.

3. Choose a good food plan.
What is going to work for you? It doesn’t matter what you choose, so long as it is something you can stick with. I tried counting calories many times, but found it to be too much work and too uncomfortable. Low-glycemic seems to be what works for me, because it keeps me full, helps my blood sugar, and is something I can keep as a lifestyle.

4. Get moving.
Yeah, you can lose weight without exercise, but I’ve found that a good workout program is so empowering. I’ve enjoyed running, strength training, and right now, yoga. The trick is to be patient with yourself–I look at monthly progress, when it comes to exercise. Otherwise, I’ll burn out.

5. Get support.
Old-school Weight Watchers was onto something with this. A little encouragement and accountability can go a long way. The important thing is that everyone helps each other. There can be a leader who directs the discussion, but nobody lectures or acts superior to everyone else. It’s not a matter of seeking the other person’s (people’s) approval, it’s about support. I had a lot of success when a group of us from Michigan Natural Parenting e-mailed each other everyday. Some people (including me) listed everything they had eaten, and their exercise, for the day, everyday. Other people just checked in and said how they were doing, good or bad.

Which brings me to this invitation. I’ve had people approach me about accountability, and I would also like some accountability partners. If you’re interested in losing weight, for good this time, just like I’m trying to do, then I would like to put together an accountability group. Please let me know in the comments (you will need to include your e-mail–just put it in your signature, if you want to avoid the whole registration thing), if you are interested in joining in. Or you can send me an e-mail: brosselit at gmail dot com. What I am trying to establish is a non-judgmental group, supporting each other, that checks in once a day.

Also, if you’ve had success losing weight, and keeping it off, please share your story in the comments. Positive stories are always good motivation!

The First Day of the Rest of my Life (again)

It starts with a stressful day.

During that day, perhaps, there is a trip to the teachers’ lounge. And perhaps, on the table, there is some homemade banana bread. Or a box of doughnuts. What matters is not the specific food, only that I grab one and eagerly gnaw on it in my frustration.

Then, on the ride home, my gas tank is empty. We use cash only, so I must go in to pay. I’ve eaten refined carbs and sugar, which was reawakened new cravings. That Three Musketeers Truffle Crisp bar looks much more tempting than it ever did before. It’s on sale for 50 cents too. Well, I’ve had a stressful day–I deserve it!

The next day, tired from the stress, I forget to pack my lunch. Ooh, I think, I can order out. I spend all day fantasizing about my Subway veggie pizza (I’ve got them perfected! Too bad about the sweetened sauce and white flour crust).

Finally, after a few months of this, I realize that some of my dresses are a bit short to wear to work. And my blue jeans just plain don’t fit anymore.

For most of us, yo-yo dieting is a fact of life. In this country, it’s hard for it not to be! Just one serving of something full of refined carbs, and I start craving them all over again. That’s the way those foods work–they’re addictive! It takes an incredible amount of willpower to eat differently than the standard America diet, and to stick with it, with no backsliding.

By now, you should have figured out that I’m not exactly overflowing with willpower.

So, while we’re getting the boat ready, we’re also getting ourselves ready to be running around in bathing suits. Right now, the popular diet is Weight Watchers, but I haven’t had much luck on that. I burn out, having to figure out and count points, and I need something that actively discourages the sugary foods that are making me fat.

With that in mind, we’re doing a modified South Beach diet. Yeah, remember that–it was the fad diet of choice 5 “Phase One” detox at the beginning. What we don’t like is the use of artificial sweeteners and the way fats are handled (low on saturated fats, high on omega-6’s). So we use some Stevia in the Raw, but not as much as the book advocates. And we don’t worry about fats, except for trans fats and omega-6’s (which we need, but if we consciously try to avoid them, we will eat the right amount…they are in EVERYTHING in this country!).

Our plan was to start today, but I started yesterday. I had cheese sticks for breakfast, cottage cheese with tomatoes for lunch, and chicken for dinner. Oh, and since it wasn’t officially our first day, I had one last Truffle Crisp bar (if you’ve never eaten one, don’t start!), and we had one last glass of wine (don’t worry, it’s just banned during the 2-week detox period). The result: this morning, I’m two pounds lighter!

So, we’re on the detox phase. No grains or starches are allowed, so it’s really low-carb. I’m not into making actual meal plans, but I’ve filled the fridge with salad greens and veggies, cottage cheese, one chicken, boneless chicken thighs, ground beef, cheese, and two packages of fish. Oh, and eggs. Lots of eggs.

I will update you on my progress, next Saturday!

Avoiding Poison at Work

Well, midway through January, we’ve done a good job of avoiding poison at home. We’ve stocked up on organic food, and enjoyed lots of fruits, vegetables, and iced tea.

It’s a different story at work though.

In the mornings, I rush around and often forget eat breakfast or pack lunch. I’ll just eat when I get home, I tell myself. That doesn’t work. I end up rushing out to Subway, or getting a Hot and Ready pizza. And don’t get me started on the delicious treats that are often sitting in the teachers’ lounge!

One of my co-workers told me that she keeps salad supplies for the week at work. I made up some cashew salad, with the dressing in a separate container, and that took care of lunch for a week. Snacks were still a weakness, so this week I’ll make up some granola and yogurt to much on.

Preparing enough food for the whole week is important, because it prevents the stress of having to prepare something everyday. Also, I bring foods that we can eat cold. They have a microwave at work, but I prefer not to use it. Salads are great ideas for lunch, or any of these whole convenience foods.

For a beverage, I brought in some organic coffee. I also plan to start filling my water bottle with iced tea.

So, here’s to a healthy week!