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.)