Friday, December 07, 2012
Some people really enjoy the holiday season and do lots of decorating, baking, shopping & wrapping, sending out cards, and what-not. Some people hate it and do it anyway and become stressed to the max.
I gave up sending Christmas cards years ago...I think a phone call to out-of-towners and a personal visit to those nearby is so much better.
I have decorated less and less over the years. Last year was just candles in the windows and a wreath on the door, with a few special sentimental treasures on the mantel. It takes less time to do, takes up less space to store afterwards, and adds a little bit of festive without being overpowering.
Gift giving is at a minimum, which means no trips to the mall, no fighting crowds in stores or on the road, and no angst about what to get and will they like it. Also, no more staying up until midnight wrapping presents. The grandkids are older and appreciate money to go towards what they really want. DH and I either split the cost of a nice large item for the home or the cost of going away for a long weekend.
We've started a tradition of going to NYC for Christmas that I really enjoy. There is no place like the Big Apple that creates a more warm Christmas spirit. Last year we visited the 911 Memorial on Christmas Day and it was a very touching and spiritual experience for me. The following day we took a liesurely carriage ride in Central Park. Christmas is the most relaxing, unhurried time you'll ever experience in the city. My niece and her fiance just moved from Atlanta to Manhattan last October and we're going to enjoy a traditional Christmas Eve dinner with them, complete with homemade pierogies from my Slovak Russian heritage
I have baked less and less over recent years. All those different cookies on a huge platter were nice, but way too much. Less is definitely more when it comes to things like that. Better to indulge in moderation because it tastes so much better when it's not served up with a side of guilt. This year I'm limiting my baking to some white chocolate apricot scones to take to my niece's (which are delightful with coffee or tea).
My mom, my dad, and my sister have passed. I miss their physical presence this time of year and their spiritual presence is felt more strongly. It's hard not to visit the past to relive the happy moments I had with them. It's okay to visit if it's brief and warm, but lingering there too long makes it much too sad and unpleasant. I have to move on and appreciate the here and now. I have to focus on what I have, not what I have lost.
I am constantly changing as each year goes by; my hope is that I am evolving in a positive direction. I crave simplicity. I enjoy an uncluttered life. I don't need much - it's my wants that get in the way sometimes. I am working on taming my wants....it's a spontaneous compulsive thing when I want something. it's purely my childlike ego that feels it deserves this and that. I find that it passes if I just stop and take a deep breath instead of compulsively reacting to a momentary desire. So often I have purchased something I thought I couldn't live without, only to later toss it aside. It eventually would make its way into the yard sale. Having "things" gives temporary pleasure, but it's a never-ending stream of desire, like a bottom-less pit that never gets filled to the top. The more it continues, the less satisfaction is derived from it. It's exactly the same with food. In my experience, constant eating tends to dull my pleasure center. It takes more and more to make me feel satisfied. I feel it's better to eat enjoyable food and eat less. Ha! Much easier said than done, but I believe it to be a practice that can be acquired by mindfulness. Mindfulness in eating is not an easy trait either. My hope is that through meditation and continual awareness of all things that surround me I will be able to become more mindful in eating as well.
I chuckle to think back on all the years I would write out my New Year's Resolutions. The phrasing may have changed, but the two major themes were always losing weight and saving more money. They were the same year after year after year. Then I finally gave up on resolutions. I believe it's better to have daily intentions. A new practice I am working on is to start each morning writing out my intentions for that day. The very act of writing it out increases the chances of following through. Whatever comes to mind is okay. It can be something productive, something fun, something relaxing, or a combination of all these things. The point is to contemplate and plan the day such that it's a day of deliberate creation. The one thing we don't have an over-abundance of is time. Using the minutes wisely becomes more and more significant as we age. The older I get, the more I get a sense of how very fast time passes. Each day is a gift that must not be wasted.
I'm happy that I have transitioned from the hectic pace and disliking of the holidays to the now serene and simple holiday traditions. I used to say "I can't wait for the holidays to be over" and I would be relieved once January 1 arrived so things could get back to "normal". Now I feel tranquil as I cherish each moment of the day and do what gives me joy instead of what I feel is expected. I can fully immerse myself in the spirit of love, giving of oneself to family & cherished friends, and experiencing an ever-flowing appreciation of all that is. I now can say that I love the holiday season and feel more peaceful than ever during this time of the year, which continues to carry on throughout all the days that follow.
Sunday, November 04, 2012
If I can thoroughly convince my mind that I am a slender person, do you suppose I will act like a slender person? That's what's behind the power of visualization. This is a tool that I intend to use every day.
Today I went for a walk with my dogs. The area is lovely. It's a nice path around a pond that is beautifully landscaped. All the summer flowers and the fall leaves are gone right now, but it still has a lot of character. Each season brings it's own special signature. Once around the pond is half a mile and we did 3 laps. Today was brisk and Zac, Ziggy, and I had the whole place to ourselves. They are great walkers. They stop and sniff every so often, but mostly keep up a nice pace. I was able to get lost in my thoughts. In the past, I would do a long walk in the neighborhood alone with my ipod music. This was more like a walking meditation. I got lost in the silence and enjoyed it very much.
When I got home, I roasted some delicata squash. That's my newest food discovery and a wonderful one indeed!!! If you've never had one, you are truly missing out! The skins are thin enough to eat. This is what a delicata looks like:
Cooking them is a breeze. Here's what I did:
While pre-heating the oven to 425 degrees, 1) scrub the outside with a vegetable brush; 2) cut in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds; 3) cut into 1/2-inch slices (they look like little half moons); 4) drizzle 2 Tbs. olive oil over them (measure out because too much oil makes them soggy); 5) sprinkle some salt & pepper; 6) Put on large cookie sheet covered in aluminum foil (I use the non-stick kind) in a single layer; 7) roast for 10 minutes; 8) take out and turn each one over with tongs; 9) roast for another 10 minutes. Both sides will be golden and resemble french fries but taste WAY better.
Here's my result:
A few of them in the back browned a little more but I have to admit I like them best. I was tempted to eat all of them, but decided to share them with my dear hubby who really enjoyed them too.
Back to my original thought....there's something to be said about "fake it 'til you make it." Act AS IF, and before you know it, you ARE.
I believe that your thoughts and emotions can either work for us or against us. It's our choice and it works the same, whichever we choose. I know because I had been allowing myself to get lost in the wrong direction over the past few months. The hole gets deeper unless the thoughts change. It hasn't been easy to change directions. I've had to work hard at it. But now that I have turned around and headed towards my desires instead of away from them, it's become a lot easier. Whatever direction you are going in, you pick up momentum. Habits are nothing but the result of repetitive thoughts. There's always a thought before an action, if you don't realize it at the time because you are not practicing awareness.
I can feel a shift and I have to say it feels good. Every day, in every way, I am better and better.
Thursday, November 01, 2012
Okay, confession time. I've been spiraling out of control for a couple of months. I've worked my way though the Downward Spiral from frustration/overwhelm/disappointment/doubt
/worry/discouragement...skipped hatred, jealousy, & guilt....and went straight to fear/grief/depression/powerlessness.
Part of it is the aftershock of my sister's passing a year ago on October 2. Fall was OUR season. We both loved it and got together every weekend and did the most fun things. It's so lonely without her. I have some great friends and we have gone places this year too, but it's never the same. I need an army of people to replace my precious sister.
Today is November 1 and I always look at the 1st of the month as a new beginning. Fall is officially over in my mind. After the strong winds on Tuesday, the trees are completely bare of leaves. It's gotten colder and definitely feeling more like pre-winter.
Yesterday I started cleaning and organizing closets and cupboards. That always makes me feel good. Today I am hovering between contentment and hopefulness in the Upward Spiral.
Time to get my eating under control. November and December are usually difficult months for me and I can conceivably gain 5-8 lbs. by January 1. I'm already back up to an all-time high. I hadn't weighed myself in 2 months and last Sunday a.m. I was 196.6 which is back to where I was last February before I began the 17 Day Diet and lost 20 lbs.
I've tried so many different plans and read so much conflicting info that it's difficult for me to know WHAT to eat anymore. Three years ago I never heard of gluten intolerance and wheat-belly. Some say dairy is bad...some say you should have yogurt everyday. Some say eggs are good for you... some say just limit the yolks...some say avoid them completely. Some say fat is bad...some say it's the type of fat that's bad. Some say coconut oil is saturated and clogs your arteries....some say coconut oil has fatty chains that are good for you and burn fat. Some say eat unlimited fruit...some say limit your fruits to low glycemic and don't eat them after 2 pm. Some say all meats are bad...some say poultry and fish are okay, just limit beef and pork...some say you need even red meat in moderation because otherwise you'll be too deficient in B vitamins and become anemic.
Every single plan has only two principles in common; and that is: 1) vegetables are the supreme health food. They are loaded with nutrients and fiber and low in calories. They fill you up and protect your body from illnesses. 2) all processed foods are loaded with chemicals that create illness and a desire to overeat them.
The one thing that makes total sense to me is to ADD. Add lots of veggies, especially greens. Add so many veggies that they crowd out the bad stuff (i.e., processed food). Tosca Reno's "Clean Eating" makes sense to me. I guess that's a start. I won't worry so much about anything other than increasing veggies and decreasing processed. Just doing that will take a lot of effort for me, and just doing that will take me to a better place.
Sunday, September 30, 2012
You will either find this blog very depressing, or very inspiring. Sometimes the truth hurts, the truth will also set you free.
I think as a society we’ve all come to the agreement that “diets don’t work”. The problem is, we’ve repackaged dieting and are now calling it “lifestyle changes”. Who’s kidding who? If you are measuring out food, logging what you eat into a journal, counting calories-carbs-points-whatever, you are dieting.
Lots and lots of people lose weight. You can see inspiring testimonials all over. There are as many different ways to lose weight as there are different people. No matter what plan you read about, they all have a common thread—you consume less and you exercise more…calories in/calories out….the law of thermodynamics which has ruled the diet industry.
The problem lies not in the losing of weight; it’s in the keeping of it off. Yes, you hear about so-and-so who lost 50 lbs., 100 lbs., “half their body size”. But how often to you read about the person who has maintained their weight loss for 5 years or more? I’ve lost the same 40-60 lbs. many times over the years. Yet, here I am still working at it. That goal weight is always just over the horizon. But as I keep traveling the same road towards it, that horizon keeps moving forward as well and I never quite get there.
I am impressed with the Biggest Loser show because it does bring back former contestants and tells the truth about who is maintaining and who has regained. A lot of the winners have maintained a healthy weight; a good majority gained back 20-30 lbs. from the final results show, but they are maintaining a weight that is more reasonable for them to sustain. A lot of those people now work somehow in the fitness industry and obviously have changed their lifestyles. There are also many contestants who did gain all the weight back.
Studies done of people who’ve lost weight indicate that 95% of them gain all or some of it back. Those are really bad odds! I’ve been on Weight Watchers the past couple of years (off and on) and read a lot of the blogs on the site. I’ve been a member of SparkPeople for 5 years and read similar blogs. More often, the blogs are written about despair. Not being able to stay consistent is a common theme. Yes, there are the 5% who got to their goal weight and are learning to maintain. But the other 95% are still trying to find the answer. So many are starting over fresh…beginning again…striving to keep positive. Everyone wants to succeed, but I can feel their self-doubt when I read. The statistics are daunting. Sometimes it seems as though it’s better to just stay the same instead of going up and down over the years. I just read that in mice they studied, yo-yoing is actually better for health than staying obese. Well, that may be true, but it does raise havoc on the psyche. I’ve been through it so many times. I lose a considerable amount of weight and the compliments flow often. I gain back the weight and there is silence….the deadening silence that speaks so much louder than words.
It’s a mental thing. “You cannot solve a problem with the same mind that created it” ~Albert Einstein. Another Einstein-ism: "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results". Yes, he truly was a genius!
It’s often difficult to view a problem with different eyes, to try something new that doesn’t feel natural, to accept a philosophy that’s opposite of the belief system we’ve had since we were children. For many of us who have been working on this quest for slimness for a long time, we think we know what to do but we feel it’s this illusive thing that is just beyond our grasp. This time I will do it, this will be my year! Every time we don’t make it, we feel like we’re the failure. But the fact is that it’s our method that’s really the failure.
Okay, so I’ve gotten through the depressing bad news part of the story. The good news is that there really IS an answer. I’ve read it SO many times in various books and articles. It’s so simple and yet I haven’t yet fully embraced the principle.
There is only ONE way to guarantee both weight loss and maintenance. It involves eating, and sometimes lots of it. You never have to weigh and measure a bit of food again! You don’t have to keep track of calories, count points, log food into a journal. You don’t even have to be concerned about portion control. You can eat as often as you like. Because of the way you now eat, you will no longer think obsessively about food. You don’t have to fear social events and you definitely don’t have to fear gaining weight back. That got your attention, didn’t it?
You know the saying, “if it sounds too good to be true….” Well, there IS a slight catch. You must eat high-nutrient food the majority of time. Notice I didn’t say ALL of the time; although that would be optimal, I think somewhat unrealistic. You can’t go from 0 to 100 in one second. I can see your face wincing and your disappointment. I felt the same way too. Heck, if that was easy, we’d all be thin! Another saying comes to mind, “I didn’t say it would be easy, I said it would be worth it”.
ALL excess sugar is stored as fat. Period. ALL empty calories are fat calories. Your body just doesn’t need sugar. It’s not one of the major food groups. However, if you eat nutritious foods, they will be used by the body and not stored. Further, the more you feed your body nutritious food, the less it will crave food. Hunger and cravings are two entirely different things. Feeding your body addictive foods increases the need for these foods, which results in constant cravings that are never really satisfied…the more you eat, the more you want. Feeding your body nutritious foods satisfies the needs of the body and satisfies hunger. You naturally eat less because once the needs are met, the desire of food subsides. The other part of this is that if you are truly hungry, you enjoy your food more. If you are constantly eating due to cravings, you don’t reach the same level of enjoyment—it’s just a habit and something you do in a coma-like state. Add to that the fact that regular consumption of sugar, salt, and other chemically processed additives will dull the taste buds. I haven’t drunk soda in many years and have had the experience of tasting a soft drink and hating the heavy, syrupy taste of it. The same thing happens when you go for an extended period of time without eating sugar, excess salt, and processed foods. People talk about how their taste buds re-awaken to the sweetness of fruits and yes, even vegetables.
I’ve read this simple principle too many times to ignore. It requires me to take off my rose-colored glasses and come to grips with the real truth. A little bit of certain foods CAN hurt you. Moderation/smoderation - food addiction is real. There are chemicals in the foods we eat that are more dangerous and addictive than heroin. There’s going to be an uncomfortable withdrawal period when eliminating these foods. The longer I can hang in there and keep them out of my diet, the easier it will become. Any time I re-introduce these foods…no matter how long I went without them…I will become re-addicted and will have to repeat the grueling process of abstinence all over again.
My own brother lost 100 pounds in a period of a year. He was on a doctor’s program and he completely, 100%, gave up all bread and sugar. He sat right there in my kitchen and told me that he would NEVER go back to those foods, and I quote: “Those foods cause me to gain weight. I’ve lost weight before, went back to eating them, and gained the weight back. I do not miss these foods”. Man, was I impressed with his conviction. He sent me a picture of himself on a vacation in California where he looked the happiest I’d ever seen him and brimming with health and vitality (truth be told, I was kinda jealous). When I went to visit him 6 months later, my trim brother was grabbing a few tortilla chips, sampling cheesecake at dinner, and eating a large amount of trail mix at the ballgame. I was shocked and concerned. Rightfully so, because 6 months after that we spoke on the phone and he was bummed out that he’d gained back half of the 100 pounds he’d lost. Six months after that, he’d gained it all back and was back to being entangled in food addiction and feeling hopeless and ashamed. This story is not meant to discourage anyone. It’s to demonstrate the power foods have over us. He was as committed as he could be when he’d abstained for many months. All it takes is that first bite. It’s dangerous because it sneaks up on us slowly when we THINK we’re in control and we can handle it. Reminds me of the analogy of how to kill a frog. If you put the frog into boiling water, chances are it’ll jump out. Put the frog in a pot of cold water and heat it up slowly to a boil and that’s it for the frog. These foods are doing the same to us. By the time we realize the damage, we feel powerless to get out.
The worst of these addictive substances/foods are:
White sugar in all forms, most especially dangerous is high fructose corn syrup. This includes the obvious candy, cookies, cake, pies, donuts, pastries, ice cream. The number one offender of high sugar, nothing-but-empty-calories is something that’s not even eating….soda pop! The not-so-obvious are things like cereal, ketchup, bar-b-que sauces, and a whole array of packaged foods…you MUST read labels. Dr. Joel Fuhrman said it best: "The most important thing to remember about food labels is that you should avoid foods that have labels."
White flour, and in some cases even wheat flour
In fact, all refined foods including white rice. Any food where the nutrients have been stripped away and they are now just empty calories.
Fried foods…fried chicken, chicken tenders, French fries, fried onion rings, potato chips, etc.
Saturated fat – and did you know that cheese has more artery-clogging saturated fat than even butter?!
Trans fats, the worst of all fats. You have to be cautious of labeling. The package may say zero trans fats per serving, but that’s merely because a serving is a teaspoon. Biggest offender in my opinion is Cool Whip….I used to be able to eat an entire container in one sitting. Anything with partially-hydrogenated on the label has trans fats.
(While I’m talking fats, unroasted nuts and seeds are healthy. They have many good nutrients and it’s good to have them daily. Unfortunately, they’re not unlimited because they are very high in calories and the deliciousness of them makes it easy to over-consume. A handful is the maximum portion. Portioning them out is key – freely eating them out of a container makes them turn from healthy to fat-producing.)
Processed foods. There are chemicals added to packaged foods to preserve freshness and increase shelf life. The longer the shelf life, the unhealthier the food (remember Twinkies!). There are also chemicals added to enhance flavors, which are especially dangerous because they cause us to be satisfied with less and want more, more, more. Proceed with caution anything that comes in a wrapper, bag, box…read the labels and you may be more inclined to put it back on the shelf. Ignorance is NOT bliss.
Oh my gosh, you say. What CAN I eat? All vegetables & fruits are unlimited. So are whole grains because they’re not only nutritious but they contain a lot of fiber that will fill you up faster. The secret to this eating style is to not focus on what you can’t have; rather, replace these things with all the great foods you can and should have. If you HAVE to have bread, sprouted grain bread like Food for Life Ezekiel is perfect. I rather love the nutty taste of Ezekiel English muffins. Bake instead of fry. I enjoy cutting up sweet potatoes into fries, sprinkling with garlic powder and Mrs. Dash’s spices with a small drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil and baking them into crunchy fries. You can do the same thing to make kale chips, butternut squash chips, etc. Let your own creativity be your guide. I’ve given up cereal for the filling, yummy flavor of pure oatmeal cooked with chopped apple, blueberries, & cinnamon with chopped walnuts and a dash of pure maple syrup on top. A natural sweetener that is often overlooked is dates. I throw a few into the blender for my smoothies. I even make an outstanding sorbet by blending a frozen fruit (strawberry or mango are my all-time favorites) with unsweetened almond milk and a few dates. It’s far better than ice cream because it not only tastes great but it fills me instead of leaving me wanting for more.
Once you’ve cleansed your body of the bad stuff and experimented with ways to enjoy the good stuff, you’ve crossed over the threshold into a whole other world—the land of Never Having To Worry About Weight Gain. But it’s so much more than even that! Science is finding more and more benefits to eating fresh veggies & fruit. They contain phytochemicals and micro-nutrients that aid and protect our bodies from diseases…not only heart disease and type 2 diabetes, but even the mysterious and scariest of all: cancer! I’ve even read about some foods preventing dementia and Alzheimer’s in older age. Who wouldn’t want all of that? Normal weight naturally AND protection from illness! It doesn’t seem as insurmountable a task to forgo sickly sweets and fats anymore, does it?
You know, I can read and read about this stuff ‘til the cows come home. I can talk about it and all the benefits. It’s all well and good, but it’s meaningless if it’s not put into practice. I wrote this blog mainly for me. I wrote it to read and re-read and remind myself of what I want most. What I want most is to not just reach a particular goal weight; in fact, I've come to think that number is also meaningless and how I feel inside physically and emotionally is more important. My biggest desire is to change my habits permenantly - to conquer the internal demons that taunt me and laugh at me when I stumble....sometimes just yards from the finish line. It's a cruel joke. It feels the same as when all the bullies in my Junior High school class teased and laughed and took pleasure in the pain I felt inside. Those years partially shaped who I am and are hard to let go of completely. I know I have to let go because those memories stand in the way of my success so often.
I struggle with consistency. I know WHAT to do and I know why I want to do it. I never lack motivation. I still am working on lining up my analytical mind/thoughts with my subconscious habits/emotions. The desire and the follow-through seem to be in constant conflict. That's my roadblock and what I'm working on the most right now.
Sunday, August 26, 2012
I'm 3 weeks into my program. I've been steadfast and determined. I went from feeling grouchy, depressed, and anxious....to feeling energetic, happy, and jazzed....and then....back to feeling lousy and discouraged ???? What's up with that?
As I blogged before, the last few days I had lost my appetite completely. I mean, I didn't even want to eat my meals. Of course, I did eat and felt better afterwards. But then yesterday I hit a wall. I didn't feel well when I got up and had to force myself to eat breakfast. I felt overall yucky. I started questioning the plan. Is this right for me? Why do I feel so awful? Is this way of eating causing OTHER problems? Am I eating TOO much protein? TOO much fat? What if I end up sick?
My thoughts really worked a number on me! I had a stressful day and felt whipped by late afternoon. When my husband suggested we go out to dinner at the Red Lobster, I jumped at the chance.
I actually stuck pretty close to my program, having the flame grilled lobster, scallops and shrimp - no potato and extra broccoli. The ONLY things I had off program were a couple of those scrumptious biscuits (the first time bread in any form has passed my lips in 3 weeks - can you spell H-E-A-V-E-N-L-Y?) and I got the Caesar salad that has a sprinkling of grated parmesan, croutons, and I'm sure a non-compliant dressing. I felt very satisfied after my meal. Not stuffed but comfortably full.
Then....the coup de gras..........after I got home, I got out one of the speciality chocolate candy bars that some friends had given us. I knew I was treading on dangerous territory there. I had a bite. Oh my gosh, it tasted like plastic to me!!! I threw the rest away. OKay, now that was a huge victory!!!
After my "cheat night", I guess my entire resolve was fading (just a bit), so first thing in the a.m. I actually got on the scale for the first time in 3 weeks. I lost 8 lbs. That was good, but somehow I had expected a little more. I am okay with it, though.
I felt MUCH better this morning than I had felt the last several. I got to thinking, do I need to "tweak" this program a bit? Then I decided that I only have 9 more days to go to reach the full program, and one evening of indulgence is not going to undo 3 weeks of effort. So I was back to eating my compliant breakfast and will continue to swear off bread, sugar, and the like. Just move forward and not look back.
Interestingly, I get a daily email from Whole30 that serves to motivate and educate me on what's happening and what's to come. They addressed the VERY THING I just went through! Here's an excerpt from the email:
"You’re so close to finishing your Whole30. You’ve nearly banished your cravings, and it’s been easier and easier to pass up desserts and sweet treats—even the Whole30-approved ones. You’re practically a healthy-habit-machine these days! And then…
Your brain rebels. You get the worst case of cravings you’ve experienced to date. You’re practically sitting on your hands to avoid raiding the pantry, and you cannot believe that this far along into your program, your Sugar Dragon is breathing fire right down your back… again! What’s going on?
The science-y term for this phenomenon is “extinction burst,” and the good news is that this is totally normal—expected, even. And if you know it’s coming, you can brace yourself for it.
Any time you quit something cold-turkey (as you do when you give up old habit-foods during your Whole30), your brain will make a last-ditch effort to return you to your habit. Once you become accustomed to reward, your brain gets really upset when you can’t have it. So when you expect a reward and nothing happens (it’s after dinner… dessert must be coming! But wait… it doesn’t come? What’s going on!) your conditioned response starts to fade away… and your brain freaks out.
This is actually good news. It means that you are on the brink of giving up that long-term habit (dessert) for good! Your brain is going through one last-ditch effort to keep getting that reward, so the cravings come back in full effect. But you are smart. You know they’re coming, and you’ve prepared for this. You have strategies in place for dealing with cravings and boosting your willpower.
You will resist… and kick that habit to the curb. Winning!"
WOW! That explains it! I feel much better because I'm even more motivated than ever. This has been quite an experience and I'm feeling more and more confident that I will slay this devilish Dragon once and for all!
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