Wednesday, September 11, 2013
This entry is going to be a little bit darker in tone than my usual posts, which I try to avoid because I don't want to send negative messages to newer people who may stumble upon this little speck of the interwebz, but I also hope that it helps to see others struggle with things.
I am a TA for a university, and tomorrow I am giving my first lecture of the semester to my class (for those not familiar with TAs, I'm basically a Professor Apprentice right now, and this semester is my internship before I become a regular instructor and have my own class). After being a full time student and stay-at-home research assistant for over two years, it had been awhile since I'd worn any of my professional wardrobe back from my good ole' days of a traditional 8-5 job.
When I tried on a pair of my old work pants that used to be just a little too snug on me (because I bought them as 'motivation pants'), I couldn't button them. I tried not to panic, and tried on my old pencil skirt. It was a struggle to get it on, and looking in the mirror, it wasn't as flattering on me as it used to be.
I ignore the scale for the most part, especially since I've started weight training, but the uncomfortable tightness of these garments that formerly flattered my figure made me realize that I'd gotten bigger in the past two years. Granted, not much bigger- I'm still the same dress size. But the realization was enough to make me cry, and panic.
See, I struggle with three goals, and at times I think are completely at odds with each other. I want to be physically healthy, trim and fit, and I also want to overcome my extremely low self-esteem. On nights like this, I don't think I can have all three.
You see, when I don't fit into a pair of tried-and-true pants, the 'trim and fit' voice in my head tells me I should increase my workouts and not eat more than 1200 calories a day. That voice also berates me for recently allowing myself all natural, full fat cheese and avocados as part of my clean diet. That voice tells me I looked better when I ate 100 calorie packs all day and ate my horribly bland lite-dressing salads.
The part of me that wants to just be healthy argues that I should keep eating healthy, maybe cut out some of my margarita nights since liquor is poison anyways, but all my nutrient dense foods are worth the extra calories, especially since I still eat under 1800 calories each day.
The part of me that wants to have healthy self-esteem wants to be able to accept the person in the mirror without sacrificing my favorite biweekly respite-Margaritas- or worrying about needing to be 'skinnier'.
Logically, I know that physical health and self-esteem health > meeting today's beauty standards, but on nights like this it feels the opposite. I'm not one for self-diagnoses, but sometimes I think I have body dysmorphic disorder. I KNOW I am average sized, I eat fresh vegetables every day, and I drink half a gallon or more of water every day. I work out 5 days a week, I don't drink soda. And yet, there's nights when I look at myself in the mirror and my reflection makes me nauseous.
It's these nights that make so unsure of what path is right. The more I strive to lose weight, the more I feel I'm catering to my insecurities...but the more I try to not worry about dress size and just be healthy, the more often I have nights where I can't look at myself because I feel like I'm letting myself go entirely.
I know I'll feel better again, be it tomorrow or the next day or even next week, but I wish I knew how to handle things so that I could feel brave and confident and satisfied with my progress in health and appearance at least 90% of the time, instead of 60/40.
Here's to hoping I figure it out.
and in the meanwhile, at least I have my sparkpeople arsenal of support :)
Tuesday, September 03, 2013
Something strange and lovely happened to me last week. I was minding my own business, procrastinating on Facebook, and I got a message from a girl who lives in a completely different city than me. We had no mutual friends, there was literally no connection I could find between her and me. Her message simply stated "Hello, I was wondering if you could give me some weight loss tips".
While flattered, I still felt weirded out. My profile on Facebook is locked down, and due to my battle with insecurity, nearly all photographic evidence of my previous body have been removed from Facebook. So I inquired as to how she knew me, and she told me the name of a person I'd never heard of before. So, delving further, I discovered that her friend goes to the same dance studio that I do, and months ago had seen the post that studio had done highlighting my weight loss story. The girl who messaged me joked "see you have an online following and you didn't even know it!"
It was surreal, that a stranger would feel so impressed with my story that they would blindly recommend a friend to contact me for tips. It was a great feeling, and of course I referred her friend to Sparkpeople and told her how I lost my weight.
So beyond that little self-esteem and motivation boost, I also realized that I have serious beef with salads (and I don't mean a large steak- bwahahaha- god I'm lame).
Don't get me wrong, I LOVE salads. I eat a salad almost every day of the week now, for pleasure. My problem is how other people view salads, how I used to view salads.
When I was young, salads were my mortal enemy. I choked on some iceberg lettuce when I was little, so for years I was convinced the tasteless vegetable could only do me harm. And my mom, well-intentioned, thought the only solution was to let me drown my lettuce in a half a cup of fat free dressing. Every time we had a salad, it was simply lettuce, tomatoes, and an assortment of fat free dressings. I was taught that romaine and tomato with lite dressing was just about the healthiest thing you could do.
Fast forward to the overweight version of myself, trying to figure out what I could eat and still have 'enough calories for dessert' (I KNOW you've had that conversation in your head, too). So I would order/make the plainest salad possible, and dump a large amount of 'lite salad dressing' on it, which I know now is just a bunch of chemicals artificially flavored to taste like honey mustard.
This still might not sound so bad, right? I mean, I have awful taste in salads, but that's not the end of the world....but all of this is building up to this: my night at Chili's.
In 2008, Chili's still had a super lame excuse line-up of 'health items'...I think maybe only 2-3 menu items that were under 500 calories a pop. Trying to be calorie conscious, I had started in the salad section, and hot damn did those salads look good. But, they weren't on the diet menu. So, I abandoned a plate full of assorted vegetables, fruits, and nuts for a meatless burger on a wheat bun with a side of steamed rice simply because the latter was less calories.
5 years later, I have finally realized the error of my ways: a good salad is not necessarily a low calorie salad. The salad should not be my 'out' so I can eat a cupcake later. These days, my lunch salads are often 300-400 calories a piece, as opposed to the creepy 60 calorie salads I would begrudgingly eat in the name of weight loss 5 years ago. The salads of today have crumbled goat or bleu cheese in them, pine nuts, peas, corn, avocado, sprouts, spinach, arugula, dehydrated veggies (for that crouton-like crunch!), and salad dressings that you have to buy from the refrigerated section because they'll spoil on the shelf. REAL FOOD.
I could write odes to my salads. They are that good. I also make a delicious taco salad using a special oven mold to make a baked whole wheat tortilla shell.
I don't eat dessert anymore. You know why? Because for the most part, the foods I eat are satisfying in themselves, so I don't feel like I need to 'splurge' on something that I actually enjoy the taste of at the end of the day. I look forward to my salads, to all my meals really, because I only prepare food that I LOVE.
I still count calories, don't get me wrong. But rather than the 'salad mentality' of ordering things that are just going to have the least calories, I now also make decisions based on the overall nutritional value of the food, and how much I think I will truly enjoy it.
It's taken me so long to realize that calories aren't everything, they are just one piece of the [healthy and delicious] pie. :)
Monday, August 12, 2013
Whenever I tell people I try to eat clean, they do one of two things:
a) blankly stare at me while probably envisioning me violently scrubbing all my food before consumption
b) tell me I must spend a lot of money of food.
Regardless of initial response, after both options a & b, people ask me what sort of food I eat and keep in the house. I thought it might be helpful to give a brief overview of things I *always* keep in the house since I started this eating clean lifestyle. A caveat: it's always a process, and I'm nowhere near my clean-eating nirvana, but I do eat very well. And I'm a struggling grad student living solely on a very measly stipend and some equally measly roommate income, so if I can do it, you can! :)
So here are my top 10, in no particular order:
1) dry legumes. I purchase black beans, pinto beans, and lentils in bulk, and store them in recycled glass jars. If you have a slow-cooker, you can make 'refried style' beans for burritos or stuffed peppers, and if you're afraid of using lentils, the 'herb lentils and rice' dish on sparkrecipes is a pretty wonderful place to start. Legumes are also great in stews.
2) Quinoa or couscous. These are a bit more expensive, but I love them so much. You can mix couscous with a little bit of milk and vanilla flavoring to get your own rice pudding. Quinoa goes great in stuffed peppers or to make an assortment of bowl-style meals (see: black bean and tomato quinoa on Epicuous if you doubt me!). Because they are more expensive, I tend to just keep one or the other, and alternate for variety.
3) brown rice. I don't use this anywhere near as often as couscous or quinoa, but brown rice is dirt cheap, easy to cook, and I use it most often with my lentils, in burritos or burrito bowls, and stir fry.
4) seeds/nuts. Currently I have almonds, peanuts, pine nuts, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and chia seeds in my pantry. I use these suckers in EVERYTHING. They are a great addition to homemade granola bars (yes, I do that, and it's easier than you'd think), they add spunk to salads, a handful of them will often satisfy a hunger craving, excellent topping to stir fry, and hell, chia seeds can even be used to make a bubble/tapioca style drink. Again, I buy in bulk and store in jars.
5) Greens. I go through about 4 bags of either lettuce mix or baby spinach in a week. I have salads almost daily, I make spinach quesadillas, I toss greens into all of my smoothies.
6) whole wheat tortillas OR bread OR pitas. I have a problem with carbs. If left to my own devices, I would eat bread with every meal and also for snacks. No matter how much bread-product I purchase, I go through it in about 10 days. So to pace myself, I try to only allow myself one of these at a time. I check the labels to make sure they are truly whole wheat and only buy products that I can understand the ingredients on said label.
7) Fresh produce. Mostly I just get whatever is seasonal because it's cheapest, but oh lawdy I will always have onions, garlic, and bananas in the house (although I don't eat them all together). Onions and garlic go with nearly every warm meal, and garlic adds a punch for those who are worried clean eating = flavorless eating. Bananas are great for you, and I use them almost daily in my green smoothies. I try to plan my meals out based on all other ingredients I have at home, and then buy produce that supplements those meals.
8) Frozen produce. I always keep frozen strawberries for smoothies or dessert munchies, and some sort of green vegetable. Last purchase was frozen peas.
9) hummus. I cheat and buy prepackaged, because my food processor is dying a sad death and I can't afford to get a new one yet. But hummus with carrots in amazing, hummus makes a great substitute for mayo in sandwiches, and there's so many flavors and varieties, I have yet to get bored of it.
10) whole wheat pasta. I rarely eat pasta, but I always keep it in the house. It's become the quick-and-easy solution any night that I work late or forgot a pivotal ingredient for another recipe. Pasta cooks fast, you can mix nearly any sort of vegetable with it, and can be delicious with as little as some garlic, fresh pepper, and olive oil.
So those are 10 things I tend to buy when I go grocery shopping. Of course, I also have a small patio garden that gifts me with fresh basil, spearmint, jalapenos, and (fingers crossed) sweet potatoes, and an assortment of dried spices I've accumulated over the years. But still, my grocery bill (for 2 people) ranges from $50-120 for about 10 days' worth of food. I know I didn't mention meat, and that's because I rarely buy it. I try to buy ethically-gained food, and the price of grassfed beef, free range chickens, and wild-caught salmon is too high for me to do on the regular. When we do splurge, we'll often buy a large piece of meat and then serve it different ways through the week. For example, a whole chicken is only slightly more than a bag of "chicken breast cutlets, with rib meat ", and after roasting the chicken we'll have the chicken breasts one night, freeze some of the leftovers, and then shred the remaining meat to toss into soup, burritos, or a rice dish.
Hope this helps clear up some of the mystery as to what clean eating looks like for those who are new to the concept...and for those who are clean eating veterans, please comment and add some of your grocery staples...I'm always looking to mix things up :)
Sunday, July 28, 2013
So as I mentioned in my last entry, I went to visit/meet my boyfriend's family last week. And as I had feared, we ended up encountering his ex girlfriend. This encounter made me realize some pretty important things.
I'm secure in my relationship, I trust my partner completely. And yet, for every moment that 'the ex' was in sight, I was filled with gut-wrenching anxiety and insecurity. Why? Because she was skinnier than me.
My BMI is in a healthy category, I wear a size 8-10 depending on the brand, and generally people have stopped making fat jokes about me. I also knew (from my partner, from hearing his friends talk about her) that she was so crazy thin because of years of drug abuse, but none of these things mattered to me in that moment. All I had registered was that she was thinner than me, and therefore was prettier. And by 'being prettier', she was therefore the obvious better choice for my partner, and I was sick with insecurity that he would realize this now, seeing his past and present partners in the same room.
It's not the first time I've felt these things, in fact quite the opposite, but it was the first time I saw it juxtaposed so completely. There I was, in my partner's hometown because he wants me to meet his family, see his past, be part of his future. And all of that good sentiment was completely washed away in my mind because this girl happened to wear a smaller dress size than me.
Thankfully, my relationship is one in which hard conversations are easy to have, so I told my partner how I felt. He looked at me strangely, and told me that while he felt she couldn't compare to me, whatever I saw when I looked at her was not what he saw...he saw her soul, and it wasn't pretty. Mine is.
This trip made me realize so many things. Body type doesn't designate beauty, it is only one subjective factor of many. Someone can be thinner than me and be pretty, someone can be heavier than me and be pretty. It all really depends on what someone considers beauty to be. I need to stop using "weight" as my only indicate of beauty AND my only indicator of health. I eat very well, I exercise multiple times of week, I'm sure my bloodwork is pristine, and yet I feel like a complete failure at health just because of the number printed on my jeans.
I also realized that beauty isn't everything, or even the most important thing. Even if his ex girlfriend is prettier than me, that doesn't mean she is better for him than me, or a better person than me. It just means she happens to have some different traits than I do, perhaps some for better or for worse.
Moving forward, I'm going to continue to do my best to love me for my soul, and appreciate the journey I've already been on, but I also want to work hard to realize that my end goal is NOT to be "prettier" or "prettiest", just to be healthy and to feel good. Outer beauty only goes so far and gets you so much, I want to be a more complete person than that.
And on that note, I'm going to go make dinner- garlic shrimp tossed with couscous, peas, and green onions.... it's not so bad, being healthy :)
Saturday, July 13, 2013
I come to you mildly frustrated, but attempting to maintain high spirits.
The past few weeks, the scale (and tape measure) have told me I'm getting bigger. 7 lbs and 1 inch [on waist/hip], to be exact.
This is NOT what I'm trying to do, here.
I am still eating clean, although I tend to splurge when I'm around family (story of my life)...but we're talking fresh salads daily, dressings with only 2-3 natural ingredients, homemade granola bars, home-cooked meals, spinach and fruit smoothies, and healthy fats [in small doses] like avocados and coconut oil. I even eat about 90% vegetarian, these days.
So what's changed? Well, two things.
1) Thanks to a fellow sparker, I discovered that because my goal date was set to like January 2012 (oops!), no matter how much I was working out, my calorie range was set fast to the minimally safe calorie range. I set my goal date for something more reasonable (Feb 2014), and for the first time in almost 2 years, my calorie range went up. So for a month now, I've been eating 1500-1800 calories instead of 1200-1500.
2) I've started weight training. Don't get me wrong, I've always done strength training, but it was more of the 3-lb-dumbbells-and-Jane-Fonda-video style of strength training. So I went from literally only lifting 3-5 lb weights in high reps, to using 15 lb dumbbells at home for free weights and WAY more on the machines at the gym.
I know that weight training can add weight initially, but I've never heard of it adding inches. Still, I'm hoping this gain in size is temporarily. Nonetheless, I will continue to monitor it carefully. In the meanwhile, I'm staying positive. I feel there's simply no way I won't be healthier if I continue to strength train and eat clean. All roads have bumps in them.
With that being said, my boyfriend and I are going to visit his father in his hometown next week, this will be the first time they've seen each other in 3 years and the first time I've ever met him or been to my boyfriend's old town. The idea of meeting his family, oldest friends, and even potentially some ex-girlfriends have caused some deep-rooted insecurities to bubble to the surface, especially since the visit is happening during this little weight gain. So wish me luck and courage, I want to be confident in myself, both inside and out, and make a good impression :)
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