I Am That Girl Now

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Developing the post-Thanksgiving plan

I have committed media consumption outside my budget, by which I mean that I bought stuff yesterday which, by rights, I shouldn't be purchasing for myself until after Christmas when I'm assured that I've bought everyone else's gifts. I really, really, really wanted to have Superman Returns on DVD the minute it was available, though (I have a great soft spot for well-done superhero movies), and while I was at it I picked up something called Get Ripped! with Jari Love, which according to some reviews was supposed to be like BodyPump. I have never taken a BodyPump class, but I've heard of them often. I watched the workout this morning without partaking, on the theory that if I didn't feel up to doing exercise I could at least keep my brain on it, and it looks murderous, but do-able. Nothing obviously annoying about it, which is very important to me in an exercise DVD. I'm planning to give it a whirl tonight; I'll report in on how things went.

Both the strength-training DVD and the yoga DVD have a significant cardio thing going on, so I'm thinking that I may interchange the two for six days a week in the future. On the seventh day I'll either rest or go jogging... although, granted, the abnormally warm weather in Chicago is about to come to a screeching halt, so jogging may wait for summer.

I appear to have hit my three-year healthy-living anniversary at some point in the past week and completely forgot about it. A lot changes in three years. What we eat these days is completely different from what we used to. The amount we go out to eat has plummetted. The amount of pre-prepped food that we buy has likewise plummetted. We're both comfortable enough with the concepts of good-for-us food to throw something together out of what we've got in the kitchen, and what we've got in the kitchen is generally good stuff. And, best of all, my Hub has been exercising and eating right for almost three months now. Incredible.

I told my doctor that I wanted to get off the Zoloft and she advised that I wait until spring, so that I don't get walloped by the seasonal darkness. (Note: working from 7:30 AM to 3:30 PM means that we actually get a wee amount of time out in sunlight in the mornings and in the afternoons. Changing to this schedule was SUCH a good idea.) So currently the plan is to call her in the spring and check in, and then switch to a full pill one day, half the next, and alternate accordingly for a while, then drop down to half-pills only, then eventually go off altogether. Eeee.

I love my doctor, by the way. I have to say that every year, because she is just the absolute best. She is small and wide-eyed and adorable and smart as hell, and we always have a good laugh at all my appointments. I told her about my Hub's sudden attack of wellness, and she was delighted. She suspects that he may be gearing up for eventual fatherhood by getting his act together. Hmm. Possibly. I don't understand what's in his head most of the time, but then again, neither does he.

Me, I'm unabashedly doing this in preparation for parenthood. I heard a doctor say once, regarding obesity, "Nature may load the gun, but nurture pulls the trigger." I've never been clear on what genetics are at work where the extra weight on me and my Hub is concerned, but obviously whatever we've got is no match for bad habits and a crummy environment for health. We've ducked a lot of the environmental issues lately by dropping cable TV and barely watching broadcast, thus missing a majority of the commercials. What remains is the home environment that we create, and I want that to be as healthy as possible when we bring kids into the equation. I don't want to be weird and militant, I don't want to roller-coaster back and forth from diet food to junk food, I just want healthy food and exercise to be part of what the kids take for granted as being how our family operates.

It has occurred to me that getting off the sugar-- and, as much as I can, the caffeine-- before getting off Zoloft is a good idea. As far as I can tell, those two things put stress on my body and are just extra dependencies; I'd like to be in as good a state as possible when I go off Zoloft, since theoretically that would make it easier on me. I'm already barely ever drinking alcohol; I had wine at a friend's house last week and that was the first time in more than a month. It's a monklike diet we've got going here, and I'm still sort of stunned that we've adjusted to it so well.

Also stunning: apparently the five pounds are staying gone. Even in the middle of PMS, the scale hasn't gone up past the five-pounds-gone mark. Wacky. This is the slowest I've ever lost weight, but it's also the easiest. No pressure, no rush, no sense of trying, no expectations. I don't know if I could have managed this at any other point in my life; I think maybe that going through all the hardcore weightloss programs and messing with your head is something that's kind of necessary, just to get to the point where you're tired of the bullshit and just want something you can live with.

Cut for length-- click to read more.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The post-Thanksgiving review

Family is great, folks. Ya gotta love 'em, and I love mine like fire. I would also like to take this opportunity to say this: when I'm wrong, I'm wrong. My family stepped up to the plate and batted damn well this Thanksgiving on the healthy-eating thing

I love my folks. They brought a righteous ton of fruit and vegetables to the hotel that we were all staying in, which ensured that I had actual nutrition in my diet every single day I was gone. I suspect that this may be because between me, my Hub, and my sister, they are now surrounded and outnumbered by people who are taking care with their health, and they're scrambling to get the hang of things. Bless them, the only sugary things they brought along were some chocolate-covered almonds, which I avoided but still counted as higher on the scale of Things Which Are Awesome than, say, cookies. Bonus points: they brought along a yoga mat and a laptop computer that plays DVDs.

I love my sister. She brought pomegranates and mandarin oranges on the plane from California and made a simple salad out of them for Thanksgiving. It was, flat out, the most awesome part of Thanksgiving and I ate a ton of it. I adore pomegranate seeds and oh, my, they go well with mandarin oranges. My sister also did yoga with me and my Hub, and then demonstrated a bajillion of her bendy moves and taught my enthralled Hub how to do some of them. My parents were astonished. I was delighted.

I love them all because we used the hotel stairs all weekend, instead of the elevator, even though we were only on the second floor. I love that none of them asked questions or pestered me over the lack of sugary products on my plate. God bless 'em.

My aunt's Thanksgiving dinner was sort of a mismash. Lots of fresh veggies, which was good. Turkey, which is turkey under pretty much all circumstances. A vegetarian entree due to the fact that several of "the kids" in my generation have gone vegetarian, which I give mega-high points for because this is also the visit that spawned a ten-minute debate over what vegetarians eat (oh, my aching head). There were many pickles and brine-packed olives, both of which made me very, very happy. On the other hand, all the soda was full-sugar so I was stuck with wacky-tasting tap water. And the vast majority of the dishes available were just not on my eating radar, particularly the endless bags of chips and the vast variety of pie. I will freely admit that on the whole the food situation went better than I expected, and there was the traditional tromp-around-the-farm post-dinner walkfest, which is always a bonus.

Aside from the food stuff, it was days on end of going non-stop from pre-dawn to long-past-dusk. The thing about having the grandfolks' generation edging into their mid-eighties is that suddenly, they're no longer the hosts; they're the ones that the hosts are running around trying to take care of. We spent a lot of time in nursing homes and hospital rooms and getting a lot of experience helping old folks in and out of cars and repeating explanations endlessly to the ones who have lost their capacity for memory. It was odd. My aunt is now a grandma, at my grandma's old house, and that is just... wow. We spent a lot of time hanging out with my mom's aunts and uncles, and her cousins, and their kids, and now some of my mom's cousins' kids have kids, and my cousins have kids so there are about six hundred million relatives to chatter with. It's sort of awe-inspiring to be related to so many people, particularly since the vast majority of them are so easy to talk to and hang out with. It's a hell of a thing to be connected to so many people; I spent a lot of the weekend exchanging e-mail addresses and promising a place to crash if any of the cousins (a word which I am now generically using to refer to anybody related to my mother who's of my approximate generation) want to visit Chicago. My husband, who has just managed to learn the names of all of my aunts and uncles and cousins, spent the whole weekend baffled by the influx of new faces. My mom probably didn't make things easier on him by telling him that this was just a fraction of the numbers that show up to family reunions. I feel all connected and oddly comforted.

In other news, honeycrisp apple season is over for the year, leaving me bereft until next fall. On the up side, we're now in clementine season! Oh, clementines, tiny seedless easy-peeling sweet wonders, you save me from oranges and soothe my lunchtimes. No more shall I need to use a paperclip to scrape orange pith from under my fingernails, no more shall I be sprayed in the face with citrus oil from a particularly thick peel, no more shall I spend ten minutes picking connective membrane off the fruit sections. Oh clementines, sweet clementines, joy of my early winters, never leave me... at least not until blood orange season.

God, I love that I'm starting to get the hang of when things are in season, and look forward to them. Lots of things are available year-round, but so much of the time they're generic and bleah. On the other hand, stuff that I can't get most of the year gives me something to look forward to, to miss when it's gone, and to devour voraciously while it's available. I am still pretty ignorant, though... anyone know a good book or website that'll help to fill me in on when things are in season?

Cut for length-- click to read more.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Good thing I'm off sugar

The office holiday season sugarfest has begun. Items of note:

  • Two large variety boxes of doughnuts, visible from my very desk;

  • A pile of mini Butterfingers candy bars, also visible from my very desk;

  • A thing full of Swedish Fish, which I am forever shunning due to the day that I discovered, and deliriously enjoyed, them to the point where I burned the shit out of the roof of my mouth (true story; the whole damn top of my mouth later PEELED, all from Swedish Fish);

  • Various candy bars and whatnot, all in a pile (distinct from the pile of Butterfingers);

  • Leftover sugary baked breakfast items (cinnamon rolls, scones, and whatnot) from a morning meeting, now displayed in the kitchen).

  • This is just the beginning, folks, and does not take into account the candy bowls displayed on various desks. Immediately following Thanksgiving, it will get worse. That's when we'll start receiving suck-up Christmas gifts from the various companies we deal with, almost all of which are a) cookies, b) chocolate, c) candy, d) flavored popcorn, or e) combinations of any of the above. Occasionally exceedingly salted nuts are also included. Happy fuckin' holidays, y'all.

    I'm not looking forward to Thanksgiving. It's for a different reason than usual, oddly; usually I'm not looking forward to having so many temptations at my very fingertips and having to sort through the gravy-drenched dreck for gems of nutrition while wanting very much to misbehave. This time through, I'm just tired of the concept of having to deal with this stuff. I've reached the point where a lot of this food is just stomach-turning to me, the dry turkey and the watery mashed potatoes and greasy gravy, the only green vegetables available being the green beans in that horrible fried-onion-topped cassarole, and pie, which I have always had a problematic relation with due to some early traumatic memories of bad pie crust. There's going to be chips and dip and crackers and sausage and cheese, and I swear to God I'm getting vaguely nauseous just thinking about it all. I do not want this food. I fear this food. I realize that it is the food of my family, the food of my home, but there are very good reasons that high cholesterol and diabetes are starting to pop up in my family, and the fact that we apparently lack an ability to make tasty food and thus rely upon commercial products for taste, commercial products which are high-fat, low-fiber, involving refined flour and refined sugar and a hell of a lot of chemical flavorings which ARE JUST NOT NATURAL, PEOPLE. My family, my family, we're victims of cooking ignorance. I swear, I live for the day that we can stay home for Thanksgiving with a few relatives and show how the damn thing should be done to show off nature's bounty.

    We're going to be arriving, by plane, ON Thanksgiving, which means that the amount of healthy food we'll be able to purchase is nill (traveling on a federal holiday is for shit, y'all), and the amount we'll be able to bring along with us is very limited. Argh.

    Anyway. The point being: this is going to be a very long weekend.

    Cut for length-- click to read more.

    Monday, November 20, 2006

    Rant day!

    It's rant day, kids!

    I may have mentioned (often) that I've gone off sugar. I may not have made it clear that by "sugar" I mean refined sugar, or frankly anything that contains sugar as an ingredient and not as a natural part of the vegetable matter-- i.e. I'm not eating cookies, candy, brownies, cake, and so forth, but I am eating carrots, beets, apples, pineapple, oranges, etc. I came to the conclusion that I'm a refined sugar junkie, that my system is treating it like an addictive substance, and that I've had more trouble, diet-wise, from refined sugar than from any other kind of food. Therefore, fuck it; I don't need it, I hate what it does to me, I hate the hold it has over me (well, that's getting toward "had"), and I don't like the stuff well enough to suffer this sort of treatment at its hands.

    So, anyway. We had some friends over last night and one of them brought brownies. Low-fat, but full-bore sugar. I was offered one, and I politely declined. An explanation was requested, so I said that I was off sugar. After some consideration, I went to the kitchen and got a bowl of fresh pineapple; when I got back to the living room my friend was baffled. "You're off sugar, and you're eating pineapple?" I clarified my earlier statement down to refined sugars, and that seemed to go over better. There was still a sort of implication going on that I was fooling myself by choosing pineapple.

    The thing is, I have a natural stopping point with pineapple. I eat, I enjoy, I'm done. Eating a brownie, on the other hand, is like putting a boulder into motion on a slight incline; my natural inclination is to eat one brownie, and then upon further consideration eat some more, and then some more. I can, if I put my mind to it, exercise enough willpower that I stop at one brownie, but it's like having to keep my back to that boulder to keep it from rolling; I have to keep my feet dug in, and I often start to resent having to hold up the damn boulder, and I figure that if things are this hard, then I might as well go with the flow and eat another one, and if I manage to avoid eating any more brownies then it's still on my mind for hours afterward. Even when the brownies aren't there anymore, I feel the pull. Days later I may find myself eating something that I shouldn't, and feel like I deserve it because I gave up the chance to have that brownie. If that's not an addiction, I don't know what is.

    The other thing, as my Hub said later, is that pineapple does things for me besides just being sweet. It's got fiber, it's high in vitamin C, it has zero fat, and no tinkering with it has to be done to give it all those benefits and still keep the taste wonderful. (He can rattle this stuff off the top of his head now. I'm so proud.) But mostly, for me, it's that I can stop eating. I eat and then I'm done. The monster doesn't have to be sated because the monster doesn't show up.

    My Hub had a brownie. Based on this, our friend left more brownies with us. Shortly after she left, my Hub chucked them in the trash. I'm so proud.

    I think the main thing that frustrates me about this friend is that for her, food will always begin and end with calories and fat content. And, yeah, it gets complicated and brain-bending to have to hash out all the information that's out there, but it boils down to something fairly simple: moderate amounts of lean protein, moderate amounts of whole grains, moderate amounts of low-fat dairy products, moderate amounts of unsaturated fats like olive oil, moderate amounts of fruit, and lots of green vegetables. Eat your beans and legumes and squash and sweet potatoes. Drink your water. Keep alcohol consumption in check. Discover the glory of vinegars, mustards, fresh herbs, and fresh-ground spices. Eat when you're hungry, just make sure you're eating stuff that will fill you up. The less your food has been processed, the better. Free your plate, and your ass will follow. And for the love of God go exercise; if five minutes a day is all you have time for, then do five minutes.

    I guess the problem is that it's hard to get the hang of cooking that way and eating that way, and, weirdly, it's easier to count calories and have your diet consist of lower-fat, lower-calorie versions of the same things you were eating before. I totally understand that; I've done it, many times. The problem is that the things that made the old-school versions of those foods satisfying are missing in the new-school versions, and it leaves ya hanging; there's just no there there. Fuck it. We must move on. The fast-food nation has screwed up our bodies and the diets have failed to satisify; screw them both, eat real food.

    I just wish, I wish, I wish I could convince her to move past that little box that she's put "diet" into. I don't think I can.

    I'm in the midst of an experiment, I guess; an experiment to see if eating well without strict counting on anything, but with exercise, can result in slow fat loss. I believe it will work, and I have heard from other people that it has worked for them, but since I've never tried it before, I'm sort of nervous about the whole thing. I seem to be edging toward five pounds lost in about two months, which on any of my official diets would have hurled me into a pit of despond, but which I feel oddly okay with right now. My Hub has confessed that he likes this style of eating and would be satisfied with sticking to it for the long term. I hope we can; I'm enjoying it. Besides, if I keep this up, in a year or so I'll have lost all the weight I need to lose, without having to think constantly about food or count anything or pay that much attention to things. I can think of few things better.

    As an extra incentive, we got our cholesterol screening results back and had a neat class from a nurse-practitioner on what all this meant. My "good" cholesterol is freakishly high-- about twice normal-- and the "bad" cholesterol and triglycerides are both on the high end of the acceptable range. They're fine now, just something I'll have to keep an eye on to make sure they don't get high as I age. Yet another reason that this lifestyle is a keeper.

    My Hub has, out of nowhere, gone jogging. Since I was sick, he went on his own. Loaded up the MP3 player, laced his shoes, and vamoosed. This from the man who once declared that he found it ridiculous to go on a walk without there being a clear goal in mind. I gotta tell ya, when the guy decides to do something, he damn well does it. I am in awe.

    I am weaning myself off coffee-- more importantly, off caffeine. I've currently dropped back to green tea. Still caffinated, but less so. I may make it down to herbal tea, maybe not; a step, nonetheless, is still a step.

    Still no alcohol. Weird. Very weird. My Hub bought a four-pack of his very favorite beer a few weeks ago, and three of them remain in the fridge, apparently forgotten.

    Still no white bread, still no potatoes, no white rice, no white... pretty much anything. My Hub has become a huge fan of the Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Grain Bread, which-- bonus!-- has no sugar and no flour. I have to admit, I was very dubious but it's nutty and very filling. 80 calories per slice, which is a good deal by any standard; 4 grams of protein, 0.5 grams of fat, 3 grams of fiber, zero sugars, certified low-glycemic, and dig the ingredients list: Organic Sprouted Whole Wheat, Filtered Water, Organic Malted Barley, Organic Sprouted Whole Millet, Organic Sprouted Whole Barley, Organic Sprouted Whole Lentils, Organic Sprouted Whole Soybeans, Organic Sprouted Whole Spelt, Fresh Yeast, Sea Salt. THAT'S IT. TOTAL. I am enthralled.

    Besides my rant of the morning, I want to mention that I really am starting to feel good about going off refined sugar. I hated it the first week. HATED. There were several days when all I wanted was to land face-first in a candy bowl. I relied heavily upon a hypnosis mp3 from HypnosisDownloads.com and my little carton of apple juice. Second week: less bad, although I did have some very odd dreams about stuffing my face with chocolate. The third week has produced some interesting results: I find that I care less about sugary treats, and it's a lot easier to go with naturally better-for-me options. I'm trending toward only eating when I'm actually hungry. I think about food a lot less; I mean, I love tasty foods, and I love making them, but I don't get all obsessed. (Note: this line subject to change if this turns out to be a temporary effect.) I've been leaning away from "munchy" foods that are more about the repetetive hand-to-mouth motion (popcorn, chips, etc.-- although chips are also on my no-go list). And, like I said before, I think that a lot of my problems with food come from a weird addictive reaction to refined sugar, so sticking to our chosen diet has come a lot easier to me lately. Occasionally I have been known to leave food on the plate. On my Hub's so-called "eating days" I've stopped eating before I got to the nasty, bloaty, stuffed feeling.

    I'm a sucker for looking for a cure-all, so take this with a mighty big grain of salt. So far, though, it really looks promising.

    Cut for length-- click to read more.

    Monday, November 13, 2006

    Wild wild weekend

    I have felt oddly content and one with the world all weekend. Our financial planner is proud of us and we're getting life insurance on the Hubster, which is the last piece of the puzzle in terms of what we were supposed to start up, and our little IRAs are picking up steam. I went to Trader Joe's and discovered that they have pepper-rubbed (and, based on how it turned out, nicely brined) pork tenderloin, which my Hub broiled on each side and then covered and let the heat left in the iron pan cook it gently the rest of the way; it turned out GORGEOUS, perfectly done, not a bit of dry. Also picked up a wee bit of steak, which is enough for us now that we're both eating much smaller portions of the red stuff. I got fresh broccoli, broccoli rabe, and zucchini, too, and informed my Hub that it is his sworn duty to make sure that we use them for dinner ASAP.

    This is going to sound very odd, but I had the greatest celery last night. I chopped some celery sticks up for a veggie side to my cold pork mid-meal, and was startled to discover how it tasted. It might be that going off sugar is adjusting my tastebuds, or that I've gone mental, but I swear that I haven't tasted celery like this before. It was peppery and tart and had a strangely sweet smell to it. I became verbally enthusiastic over it and my Hub decided that I had gone insane. What the hell, as long as I like it, right?

    I am utterly in love with Kathleen Daelmanns' cookbooks again, having tried out another one of the recipes therein. I may have mentioned this before-- it's a shrimp, cucumber, mango and black bean salad, with a lot of garlic and ginger and phenomenal Asian tastes to it. I made it again yesterday and this time I upped the amount of cucumber and mango, and cut out the olive oil (which hadn't, as far as I could tell, done a damn thing for the flavor in the original recipe). EXCELLENT. I'm going to try another new-to-me recipe from her books tonight, a broccoli-spaghetti fritatta with parmesan cheese on top. My Hub is thus far dubious, but we agree that thus far all the ingredients are things that we like, so we might as well give it a shot.

    There has been an ongoing argument re: dinner at our household. The whole reason that we switched our work hours was so that we'd be home earlier and have a longer evening, thus making it so that we didn't have to immediately cook dinner upon walking through the door, and making it easier to deal with the concept of going to bed at nine PM. This was fine until my Hub cut his calorie intake to the point where he gets ravenously hungry every three hours and was demanding that we have/make dinner immediately upon getting home at four P.M., for pity's sake. I told him that if he wanted that, he'd have to do it himself, because I wasn't going to cook anything under that kind of pressure; I hate few things more than having to think of something to cook when someone else is peeking woefully into the kitchen and asking how long it will take. When my Hub gets very hungry, though, he can't concentrate on what to cook, either, so between the two of us neither one wanted to think of what to cook, and both resented it.

    The current solution: my Hub has agreed to have a midmeal snack upon getting home, and to move dinner to seven PM. I've agreed that on the nights I'm supposed to cook (since we alternate), I'll get the planning out of the way before work, and that way I can just go on blissful autopilot when we get home and not have to do all that thinking at a time of day when my brain wishes to take a rest. Thus far everybody's happy.

    My Hub found a folding weight bench that adjusts to all sorts of shapes and angles, and promptly upon purchasing it he beat himself up like mad on it, and also did pushups and crunches on his yoga mat, and did pull-ups on the bar he's attached to the bedroom doorframe (assisted pull-ups, pushing off a little on a stepstool; he is determined to be able to do unassisted ones by Christmas). He's getting some arm definition and bulk going on there, which is sort of astonishing; he showed his "guns" off when his ex came over for dinner with us the other night, and she was completely gobsmacked. (Let me have a moment here to neener. NEENER! Okay, I'm done.) He's started picking me up all the time again, which he hasn't done in a while (granted, an extra 20 lbs on me made that a bit more difficult) and in general he's all Mr. Muscle & Fitness. It is a hoot.

    Also, in the big news of the weekend, we've got a tentative plan in place re: babies. I have my annual doctor's appointment in two weeks, at which point the process of getting me off Zoloft will commence. One year from then, when I go in for my next annual, I'll go off birth control. Our theory being that this will give us a full year to get used to the idea and have our freak-out in advance. I'm already in the midst of the freak-out, but I'm also starting to hit a point where I'm looking forward to the whole baby thing. It's like... I love us being us so much that I want more of us.

    So, that gives me a year to hash things out financially. I'm hoping that'll also give us time for the housing market to settle down; we have just enough space for a baby in our apartment, but only just. I'd like to get us settled down in this neighborhood, hopefully in a two-bedroom condo that's decently close to the El and to our church (and, hence, the associated day-care and pre-school program).

    That also gives me a year to get my habits squared away. I want us to be solid on the healthy lifestyle, together, before bringing a baby into the picture. We've both had problems with bad eating and lack of exercise (to say the least), and neither one of us grew up in a household with a sound approach to nutrition and staying active; I don't want our kids to have that problem. Or, at least, I don't want it to be our fault; at least we'll have given them the right tools, you know?

    On the one hand, I just want to go ahead and dive in and get pregnant ASAP. On the other hand, oh dear God do I have a lot to do to while we're still childless. Ack.

    Cut for length-- click to read more.

    Friday, November 10, 2006

    And now, a Weight Watchers rant

    I have now remembered, via the WW rant on Lose the Buddha (all hail Erin!), that Weight Watchers drove me freakin' INSANE. I know it works, but the thing is that I have a tendency toward obsessive behaviors, and WW triggered all of them and spiraled me into binge eating. I tried to explain this to my therapist once, but I don't think I was really able to get past my anger at the time to actually articulate what happened. I'm going to try again, here.

    Keep in mind that this is to be taken with a giant grain of salt, and based upon my experiences. I lost 60 pounds on the WW Flexpoints system, but it also caused me to lose my mind a bit. Your milage, as they say, may vary.

    First and foremost, the WW thing with the SCALE UBER ALLES infuriates me. Seriously, this is the thing that mindfucked me the most, and for many reasons. First of all, while there's a lot of "oh, it's okay, you're probably just building muscle/retaining water/growing an extra spleen", the point remains at the end of the day that what you are, essentially, "graded" on every week is your weight. Not your choices, not your lean muscle mass, not your education, not your fitness: YOUR WEIGHT. The one thing that you have zero direct control over. I can't even begin to explain how angry this makes me.

    I cannot even begin to count the number of times that I have heard (or seen online) conversations about what people do pre- and/or post-weigh in. The most common tendency is to be very, very, very good before weigh-in, and then splurge all those FlexPoints right after. There are all sorts of things that people talk about for their pre-weigh-in rituals, and all the criteria that must be met for them to dare to weigh themselves. Folks, this is screwed up.

    There's a focus on food, and not on a balance of food + fitness. Yes, fitness is part of it, but I gotta tell you that the main reason I ever saw for working out was to "earn" more Points. That takes it out of the "thing that is good to do just in and of itself" and makes it part of the food thing. Yet another thing that fed into my obsessive nature.

    Baby steps are talked about, but for the most part, when you start WW, you fuckin' START. There is no way of edging in. There is no baseline established except for the weight (SCALE UBER ALLES), so you are either on-Plan or you are off-Plan. Dudes, switching gears in a big hurry is difficult. It gets you started, yes, but for pity's sake think about it in terms of what you're looking at if you fall off and have to get started again-- it becomes intimidating as hell.

    Oh, and I have ranted in the past about the mythical fairyland of MAINTANANCE. I have a bit of a grudge against WW for leading me to believe that I only had to push as hard as I was until I got down to a certain weight, and then I could find a holding pattern. Because it's all about the scale, of course. Without the scale moving, suddenly all motivation has to come from something else, and, really, there's not much to fall back on. I am still so angry about this that I could spit. For all the talk about "it's not a diet, it's a lifestyle!", WW is not a lifestyle. The things I do and the choices I make and the habits I have: those are a lifestyle. Adhering to a system is not.

    Here's the main thing: counting and tracking are not the way people actually live their lives. Life is made out of habit and choices, not counting and tracking. Tracking Points is an artificial lifestyle; you aren't making your choices based on a firm knowledge of what will be good for you, but on how many Points you have left in the day. Which is great, if everything is about food intake, but it's not taking into account a lot of other things-- such as what will fill you up in a healthy way. Which means that there's nothing to encourage people to eat two Points worth of bean salad or fruit instead of one of those 100-calorie snack packs, and frankly either the beans or fruit will burn a lot slower and longer than the snack pack.

    The Core Plan on WW is a lot better-- a LOT better-- in terms of learning to make choices, but again there aren't baby steps leading you in. You're either on-Plan or off-Plan. It's still all about the scale. Exercise is still a means to an end. Maintenance leaves people without a goal and without their previous form of encouragement. These are all serious flaws, from my point of view, in the Weight Watchers system.

    If it was up to me... wow, I would completely re-do this. Whole different story.

    For starters, this would be a weekly class that you sign up for and commit to for six months, at least. Baselines would be taken at the beginning for things that can be improved via fitness and good food choices (heart rate when doing something like walking up a flight of stairs, blood pressure, cholesterol), and then not checked again for three months. Everything measured on a daily and weekly basis would be about something controllable, and all of these would focus on choices and habits. Also, they would start based on where you are right now, and improve slowly. (No, this wouldn't make you drop twenty pounds in time for swimsuit season, but FUCK SWIMSUIT SEASON, we are talking about making habits for life, here.)

    Baby steps would be instituted one by one. Drinking water; cutting out regular soda; working down to skim milk; adding a serving of vegetables to each meal; eating breakfast every day; cutting out sweets and junk food. Every week people would learn to cook something new that they would be working in for their baby step that week. Beans. Fish. Whole grains. Lots of education would be in this, including how to prep "kit meals" for nights when cooking is so far down the top of your list you could just kill someone.

    A pedometer would be part of the program from day one. First the baseline, then trying to do better than that on a regular basis, all week. Pedometer numbers and goals would be talked about and praised. Another part of the class would be an introduction to other forms of exercise-- lifting weights, yoga, stretches, aerobics, Pilates, spinning, whatever-- so that you get a low-key introduction to it among a lot of other people who've never tried this before.

    Nutrition and the "whys" and "hows" of things would be discussed. Stress-reduction techniques would be learned and practiced. How to listen to your body would be a big one-- finding the point where you're comfortably full without being stuffed, for example.

    Okay, so, yeah, pipe dream. On the other hand, these are all things that I've had to learn myself and patch together from various sources, many of which I learned from other places while I was paying WW so that I could track my meals and get weighed and discuss my flabbitude. In the long term, all the things that I learned myself are doing me more good than six months of tracking my food and weighing myself. And really, the long term is the whole point here, isn't it?

    So. Anyway. That's my rant. I need to go think about something else now.

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    One week, no sugar. WOO!

    Okay, so I've heard (and said) the whole "baby steps" thing, but this may be the only time I've really got my head around it. (Come back a year from now and I may be saying the same thing again; I either have to re-learn every time or I learn something new every time.) One week into the no-sugar thing and I am okay. No candy, no cookies, no cake, no nothin'. I've given up the 100-calorie packs and left them for my Hub, but since he's on his own dietary kick I suspect they will be gathering dust on top of the fridge until one of us gets a craving.

    Still on 100%-juice apple juice, just a 200mL box with small sips throughout the day. I'm not sure how good this is for me, but it beats the hell out of the sugar cravings so I'll take it. Eventually I'll get off of excess fruit sugars, or start watering my juice, or something.

    I gotta do this now, though. Halloween was bad enough for office temptations, but I know from past history that if I don't get control of this now, I'm facing another four months of gifty candy and cookies sitting in the office kitchen just begging for me to eat them. Someone left a pile of Snickers bars in the kitchen yesterday-- seriously, A PILE OF SNICKERS BARS. I've never seen such a thing. They were the big ones, too, not the regular size or the cute little minis that are sold in bags. Today there are piles of nuts and chocolates, a gift from some client. It just keeps going, too; Halloween leftovers, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Christmas leftovers, Valentine's day. Madness.

    My Hub has gone all suspicious when it comes to carbs, so we're on legumes, whole grains (although he has something against brown rice at the moment), fruit, and veggies. For the record, we need more veggies. I'm trying to train him to remember to bring the damn things for lunch-- and the hilarious thing there is that before starting his new health kick he brought veggies as a matter of course, but now that he's re-learning everything he has to re-learn that, too.

    The new fun these days is trying to convince him to eat enough. He's at that wacky stage of learning where he knows enough about nutrition to be paranoid, but not quite enough to scout a clear path and be confident in his choices. His paranoia about carbs has led to him not getting enough, along with not getting enough calories, and he's been tired and in a weird mental state which, I must say, is hard on both of us. He's concluded that peas, corn, and black beans are acceptable forms of carbs, so I'm trying to feed him a bunch of those. We're going one food at a time. I'm working on the whole grain thing, which for some reason he accepts when it is part of a piece of bread but is very suspicious of when it's just a whole grain. Since my whole thing is "things in their natural state are vastly more likely to be part of a healthy diet than ANYTHING which has been processed", we are butting heads.

    He can pull the waistband of his pants up to their proper position over his belly button, though. He's still buckling most things under his belly out of habit, but the time is fast approaching when we'll have to buy him some new pants and, very likely, they will have the waistband at his actual waist. It's a heck of a thing.

    I managed to tweak my knee in some kind of evil way when I re-started weight training, so my lower body is out of commission for all kinds of anything this week. I forgot how much my triceps hate everything that I do to them.

    It really feels like butting my head against a wall, especially considering that I've only gone down two pounds-- maybe-- in the past month. I'm trying to look at it from a whole-life perspective, though; our diet has improved drastically in six weeks, and the education of my Hub in all things nutritional means that this is becoming a shared hobby (for lack of a better term), which means that it's more likely to stay part of our lives in the long term. Improve life, and the body will follow suit. It's just kind of taking a while. I'm coming to terms with the idea that even if I end up just losing one pound a month, it's still the reverse of what I was doing before, and I feel a lot better.

    I'm going to do another batch of pre-cook cookery this weekend. I need to find some recipes. The pre-prepared chicken stirfry continues to be a huge hit at our house, in terms of taste, quick prep time, and easy clean-up, so I believe another batch of those will be in order. Some form of easy stew, maybe; the weather is turning cold.

    Cut for length-- click to read more.

    Tuesday, November 07, 2006

    Such excitement we have

    First of all, whatever political stripe you come from, if you're in these United States GO VOTE. It's just damn silly not to.

    My Hub has discovered the joys of fitness accessory shopping. He bought a chin-up bar and new work-out clothes, the latter because I told him he'd feel better about working out if he had an appropriate outfit. He dismissed this as "girly" but bought a pair of shorts and a shirt anyway, and I found him posing in the mirror and checking out his own butt. Do I know this stuff, or do I know it?

    He's lost 15 pounds now, which puts him solidly in the 180s for the first time since I've known him, and besides YRG he's changed up his off-days to work on muscle. We are now squabbling over who gets to do what when, since both of us can't use the freeweights at the same time. A compromise is in the works; basically, we need to figure out how to coordinate so that I'm doing my reps while he's doing chin-ups, and then he can do his while I'm doing crunches and whatnot, or one of us getting the exercise bike before the other, yadda yadda. It's wacky.

    I have shifted my one "off" day per week to Monday, because that's when it will usually happen anyway. Weekend workouts are more fun anyway.

    There's a certain amount of studying the glycemic load of foods going on at our house, and trending back toward the six-meals-per-day concept. Ye Olde "Eating For Life" BFL cookbook has come back out. Brown rice and whole-wheat pasta have booted out the white varieties (which shall shortly be headed to a food bank nearby). All the whole grains that I tried to introduce into our household last year are now getting a second look, now that my Hub is into the whole fitness thing. Oddly, this is all happening at a slow, meandering pace, so it's only been lately that I've looked back and thought, "Hey, a lot has changed in six weeks."

    Basically, I've quit sugar. I've been dabbling with it all week and now I'm making it official: no more candy, cookies, cake, or whatever, because they just make me mental. Weirdly, this comes about a month after I realized that I'd stopped drinking alcoholic beverages-- heck, I've phased out almost all beverages besides water, tea, and coffee (I am so totally not ready to quit caffeine); I think I had some diet soda in there somewhere, when my stomach was upset, but that's pretty much it.

    As a crutch for getting myself off sugar, I'm resorting to apple juice. I know, I know, but it's in a controlled container-- a 90 calorie 100% juice drinkbox from Trader Joe's-- and I can keep it at my desk and take a sip a few times every hour. It beats the hell out of my damn-near-uncontrollable urges to hit the vending machine or snitch Halloween candy. (Which is still EVERYWHERE at our office. I hate people, I really do.) NO MORE SUGAR, man.

    Here's the weird thing: there are some foods that I refuse to eat because even the thought of them gives me a very visceral reaction, based on bad experiences in the past. Burger King Whoppers are on that list, because they give me a horrible, nasty intestinal experience afterward. Fried chicken is also on that list, thanks to a terrible experience with food poisoning whilst on a very long flight a few years back. I'm trying to put sugary foods on that list, because they make me feel like I have the flu: achy, irritable, and exhausted (probably due to the crash at the end).

    Back to the glycemic load thing: thank you, NutritionData.com, for having the glycemic load of foods listed on there with everything else. I had been irritated at the glycemic index for making carrots and peas and corn look bad (dude, I'm a girl from the Great Plains, I live on sweet corn in the summer), but the glycemic load thing changes that so that life makes sense again. Corn is better for you than pasta, watermelon is not the devil, and I can rest comfortably in my knowledge that in general I can stick to my "the less processed, the better" rule of thumb.

    Happily, I seem to have re-discovered my motivation, due to-- I'm sort of ashamed to admit this, it's so shallow-- seeing myself in pictures. Ack, argh, aiee. It was one thing when my Hub was still tubby, but he's slimming down fast and looking visibly better than in recent pictures, and I feel like I must catch up. He already has several advantages: 1) he's a boy, and boys lose weight easier than girls, 2) he's new at this, so the shiny hasn't worn off yet, and 3) he needs less sleep than I do for lord only knows what reason. Bah. I must get a move on.

    In other news, RIP my darling pedometer, which developed a crack in the casing and, yesterday, disintegrated all over the stairs. I need to get a new one like NOW.

    And that, my friends, is all the news from this end of things. Later!

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