Counting…

I am extremely guilty of counting. Whether it’s counting calories, points, carbohydrates, grams of sugar, I feel like I’m always counting. And it’s exhausting!

Me, circa 1997-1999

I remember the first time I dieted. I was 17, and was at my boyfriend’s house when his mother mentioned that she was going on a diet to reduce her carbohydrates, and that I should join her because i could stand to lose a few pounds. At the time I  was your typical self conscious teenager, but I didn’t have many hang-ups about food. I felt comfortable eating just about anything, and pretty much just ate when I was hungry. For the first time in my life, I thought I needed to lose weight. I had no idea what sort of long-term impact this would have on my life.

The first time I dieted on my own, it was the Atkins diet when I was 17. To say the least, it was horrible. The concept at the time was to remove carbohydrates from your diet, and step-up the animal protein. It could be anything (music to the bacon-lover’s ear). It left me feeling tired, sluggish, and I was always broke.

The next trick I tried was with my sister when I was 18. She and I started taking Hydroxicut pills, containing the potent hydroxin. I didn’t actually lose any weight, I just felt like I was having a heart attack all the time.

By the end of these first three diet attempts, I actually weighed more. I went from about 140 to 180 during that year and a half. I became obsessed with food, I struggled with cravings I had never had before, and am just now learning to understand.

At the age of 19, I was up to 210. I walked into a Jenny Craig convinced that i was severely obese, and that it was critical I lose weight immediately. This worked for about 3 weeks before I gave that up (along with my $350.00).

Since then I have spent my life either binge eating, or calorie counting to counter-act the binge eating. I have read countless books, watched countless documentaries, purchased countless pieces of exercise equipment, and countless exercise videos. I have driven those in a relationship with at the time absolutely mad at the amount of money and tears I would waste.

I’m tired. Actually, I’m exhausted. I came to this realization this morning when my wife was talking about the book she was reading about food. She expressed that she thought I would like it, and I sort of… snapped. Not at her, mind you. I just started to ramble on about how tired I was to be so wrapped up in food, and it’s meaning, and it’s control in my life.

I don’t want to count calories. I don’t want to eat 6 times a day (it doesn’t feel good to me). I don’t want to restrict myself, it only leads to me crashing and “giving in” to my craving.

I could think of a million other things I could be doing with my time. I could actually be preparing breakfast, being creative with the vegetables in my eggs, rather than spending that time counting how many calories those vegetables will be. I could be doing an extra set of dumb bells at the gym instead of counting the number of calories I would be burning doing that extra set.

Do you see the sheer insanity?

I forsake you, calorie counting. And dieting can go die in a fire.

So, what do I do? I count something else.

Looking For A Fitness Challenge…

Let’s be honest. I’ve been sparse at best with posting in my blog. I have all of these fantastic ideas I want to write about, but when it comes time to committing on a regular basis, it doesn’t seem to stick.

That’s about as close to an apology as we’ll get, I suppose :).

What have we been doing lately? LOTS of walking! The wife and I recently invested in a neat little device called the Fitbit One. It tracks our steps, our sleep, our active calories, and links to our MyFitnessPal accounts.

This little device has really challenged us to do things differently. We’ve started going to the gym again, we stopped taking the elevator (99% of the time), and I am being crazy diligent about what I put in my mouth. It feels good.

Anyway, I’ve been hunting for a fitness challenge at home, something that is more than just squats, more than just lunges, but still needs to be something that meets my current fitness level (not exactly Arnie-worthy). I called our EAP to see if they had something, or could direct me to an online location, but didn’t come away with very much. In the past they did send me some great reading materials, but the unfortunate thing was it contained things I already knew (such as good fat vs. bad fat, portion control, balanced diet, etc). I’m great with my food, but need help in the exercise department.

I’m not interested in joining any groups, or hiring another trainer. I just want something to supplement my cardio, preferably while I’m at home.

Any ideas?

Oh, and NSV, new notch on my belt, woo!

Intuitive Eating…

We have entered this phenomenon in which we have scheduled our eating. Whatever happened to listening to our bellies? At this point in my life I’m not able to distinguish between hunger, boredom, emotions, and schedule. I’m just completely messed up with it comes to my hunger intuition!

If I were to be exactly on schedule, this is what it would look like:

  • 08:00 – Breakfast (usually fruit, protein, and carb
  • 11:00 – Snack (usually fruit)
  • 13:00 – Lunch (usually leftovers with a salad)
  • 15:00 – Snack (usually veggies)
  • 19:00 – Dinner (usually protein and veggies)

What my day actually looks like (sitting down at designated times can be completely sidetracked with meetings and time-sensitive demands in my line of work)

  • 07:00 – Coffee
  • 10:00 – Something small, usually with protein
  • 11:00 – A piece of fruit
  • 12:00 – Another piece of fruit (should have been with breakfast and snack)
  • 15:30 – Power down parts of my lunch and some veggies
  • 20:00 – Some sort of leftover

These types of days leave me feeling closer to fulfilled (meaning I often don’t think about food, the choices I made, or punish myself), and these are the days that I am less likely to make poor choices. Essentially my body tells me when it’s hungry, I eat, drink tons of water, and keep going. By the end of the day I am perfectly ready for bed by 22:30. Did I eat exactly the number of calories I need to eat at my weight and height to healthily lose 2 Lbs per week? What is that garbage even about? I’m telling you, I cannot eat 2,000 calories per day. Gah.

Yet, I continue to return back to a schedule (brainwashed much?), which only works for a short period of time. Within two weeks, I am scratching at the doors of the meal structure trying to get out. This is where we can insert the poor choices I make in the actual food I’m eating (gimme some sugah!), and the portions I consume.

I am most successful when I pack a lunch packed full of fruit and vegetables, and health snacks. When I’m hungry, I snack on these things, I feel fulfilled, and I feel a sense of pride, which carries me through another day, and keeps me digging in my lunch bag for a snack rather than the cafeteria or the vending machine.

So what is intuitive eating?

“Intuitive eating is an approach that teaches you how to create a healthy relationship with your food, mind, and body–where you ultimately become the expert of your own body.   You learn how to distinguish between physical and emotional feelings, and gain a sense of body wisdom.   It’s also a process of making peace with food—so that you no longer have constant ‘food worry’ thoughts.  It’s knowing that your health and your worth as a person do not change, because you ate a food that you had labelled as ‘bad’ or ‘fattening.'” – IntuitiveEating.org

Apricot Tortilla Stacks

Stacks of fresh apricot, apple, and goat cheese for quick and easy prep.
© 2013 Leanne Vogel, HealthfulPursuits.com

Meet Leanne Vogel, Registered Holistic Nutritionist, and creator of Healthful Pursuit. Not to mention, she is an amazing foodie extraordinaire (just look at those delicious recipes)! Leanne has this amazing concept. Intuitively eat whole and allergy-free. Not to mention, she openly shares all of her knowledge… FOR FREE!

If you’re interested in coming to terms with your body, mind, and spirit, wanting a clean slate with all you thought you knew about diet, and want to make peace with food, I recommend you start with Leanne. Head on over to her website, from there you will find links to her Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest feeds. Love, love, love her updates!

Why am I sharing this? You mean, besides the fact that she is AWESOME?! Naturally, because I’ve stumbled across what feels like a gem to me. By taking in some of what she teaches, and mulling it over, my life choices have slowly been changing. The more I realize that there is another option besides dieting, and punishing myself for the rest of my life for choices I made over the last 29 years, the more I yearn to live in such a freeing way.

So this, I share with you. While you’re there, share some love Leanne’s way. If you like what you see, like her Facebook page, follow her Twitter feed and Pinterest boards, and sign up for updates from her website, and get access to a free copy of her Healthful Living Guide.

Worst case scenario, you find a couple of tidbits, and the time you spent reading some of her insights, that’s time you didn’t rot your brain in front of a television set.

Best case scenario (and most likely), you’ll be exposed to some refreshing choices, great recipes, and realize that you don’t have to choose between choice A and choice B, that you have more choices than what advertising spends billions of dollars convincing you of.

Enjoy!

The Power of “I Will”

Also known as Willpower.

I was recently perusing my twitter feed, and came across a tweet @Livestrong_com for the article Strengthen Your Self-Control: How to improve your willpower and overcome urges. The first sentence alone sucked me in,  reading it to the wife on our drive to work.

The thing is, it made sense. It first discussed the idea that willpower acted similarly to a muscle, lower weight over a long period of time results in an energized muscle with high stamina, as opposed to a higher weight over a short period of time results in a short term gain (water retention) that often results in exhaustion.

At this point you should read the article for yourself and then return to this post.

I will often start out strong, change my entire diet, attend the gym every day, and track, track, track. After about 30 days I peter out because I’m so tired and bored with the whole routine, I crash, and undo the work I have perceived myself to have done.

I usually say that my main goal is to be healthy, and it is, but my real, hidden agenda is to lose weight and look good. Who doesn’t have that secret agenda?

I decided to try this. I cleaned my desk at work and was determined to keep it organized for the rest of the day. I did it, and not only that, I didn’t once touch the candy stash on my neighbour’s desk, which is unheard of!

Okay, let’s try this again. I made a goal to complete some house work, but instead of trying to get a week’s worth of work done in one day, I simply set aside a period of time to do it, and stuck to the time goal. Again, it happened! I said no to grazing in my fridge all day.

What the heck is this all about? I keep setting all of this goals, as small as they are, and I feel accomplished, and when realizing that I made other, better choices around my lifestyle, feel even better, and this brings me back to setting more small goals.

I’d be interested to see if this has longevity, and based on the research (I try to ignore the second half of the article because it’s such a downer), this new and lovely behaviour should stick around!

What have been your experiences of willpower?

iPost: Tweeting The Truth

Posted from my iPod

While reading my SELF magazine, I came across a page inquiring about what I would do for a million dollars. One of the suggestions was to tweet everything you eat for one year. Well, a year is quite a commitment, but what about 30 days?

For the next 30 days you will see me tweet about every bite I put in my mouth over at @theheavytruth, #everybitecounts. Yikes! Wish me luck!

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Craving Less Bloat

When I want to lose weight, I can behave kind of… desperately. I will switch everything in my cupboard for a low-fat alternative. Somehow I expect this will assist me in losing the weight 108945 times faster than simply removing junk food and increasing my exercise.

What actually happens? I gain a bit of muscle, I retain every ounce of water I drink, and I don’t lose a pound. On top of that, I start to feel extremely bloated and gassy. And it seems to last forever. When I’m done, I still crave the same old foods that I always craved, despite having stayed away from them for weeks.

Recently I indulged in some… not-so-wholesome eats, and had to face the bloat head-on. This got me thinking, what in the world could chips have to do with this? They weren’t flavoured, just potato and oil. I eat both of those things in various home-made combinations, and I don’t swell to two times my size.

I took a look at the ingredients list, and saw the usual seemingly whole ingredients (as whole as a processed food can get, that is). What I did find was sucralose.

It kind of has this sweet, innocent ring to it, right? Something you would find in “lolly pops, candy, and rainbows.” You’ll find sucralose in two of those things, and the idea of it being good for you as about as likely as you finding a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.

Sucralose is an artificial sweetener used in place of sugar. The taste is often much sweeter than other artificial sweeteners. Sucralose is not found in nature, but is synthesized in manufacturing plants. It is about 600 times as sweet as sucrose, about 3 times more sweet than aspartame, and about 2 times more sweet than saccharin. Oddly, it will not degrade (really?!), and it cannot be easily absorbed by the human body (surprise, surprise).

And, Sucralose can be known to cause gas and bloating. I have tested this theory over the last week, and what I have discovered is anything that contains sucralose, I get bloated.

There you have it! Stop eating food that contains sucralose. If you’re looking to eat a whole food diet, cutting out sucralose will also help to cut out a huge percentage of processed foods.

At the end of the day, it is my opinion that when we replace sugar with artificial sweeteners, we’re not giving our bodies a chance to take control of our cravings. By eating something that is “sweet,” regardless of whether it has a caloric value or not, our brains are not going to know the difference. It’s no different than any other addiction. With smoking, if I use a replacement that still simulates my old routine and habits, I will still crave that cigarette long after the nicotine cravings have left my body, and more often than not I will relapse.

If you do want to cut out sugar, but still want to maintain a sweet tooth, I would recommend Stevia. Stevia is derived from about  240 species of herbs and shrubs in the sunflower family, and is considered to be the new, safe ingredient to use when artificially sweetening. Be careful, though, it is quite sweet (as most artificial sweeteners go), and does not pack cup for cup with sugar.

At the end of the day, if you’re going to eat something processed, read the ingredients list. If there’s an ingredient that you can’t pronounce, look it up. Take control of your health, and be responsible for making the decision on whether to put a chemical into your body or not.

 

The Quest For The Cookie

Last weekend while sitting on the couch, watching television with my wonderful wife, I got a craving. I suddenly wanted a cookie very much. Specifically a double chocolate chip cookie. A big one. In fact, no amount of italicized text will come close to emoting how much I wanted this damned cookie! I tried to take mind off of it and think of something else. Didn’t work. I tried to breathe through it the same way I would a particularly tough work out. Didn’t work. I even tried eating a piece of fruit. Surprise! It didn’t work. I finally brought it up to my wife, and in an effort to support my (completely insane) choice to clean up my eating habits, she offered to help satiate my cookie craving by finding me something else. We went through a myriad of alternate options (none of them actually resembling anything close to a cookie, or chocolate). I won’t get into all of the options we cycled through, but we did eventually settle on a small plate of homemade nachos to share. Delicious as they were, they did not come close to fulfilling my desire for my double chocolate chip cookie.

We’ve all tried to chase the elusive cookie (no, that wasn’t a lesbian joke, although it would have been a good one). What most of us didn’t know was why. When we all said it was “glandular,” despite receiving no medical advice, we meant it, we just didn’t realize there was more to what some would call a bullshit excuse.

It turns out that when we consume our favourite junk foods (or rather ingredients in our favourite junk foods), our brains experience a “high,” very similar to smoking, drinking, drugs, and participating in high-risk behaviours.

How can you compete with an addiction? As someone who is addicted to nicotine, quit several times over 10 years before finally succeeding, I still spend days whispering to myself, “I really want a cigarette right now.” As time goes on I become stronger at denying the addiction. But it’s something I can label. I can look at a cigarette and know that it’s bad for me, and make an effort to put it down, walk away, and never smoke it again.

What do you do when your addiction is to food? You can’t exactly put it down and never touch it again. You can’t not eat. It’s one of two actions that keeps you alive, second only to drinking water. Not only do you have to try to make better choices with your food, resisting your addictions to whatever your kryptonite is, but you also have the challenge of wading through what I like to refer to as non-facts. To me, non-facts are the contradictions that PR/Marketing have created to either make you love a particular brand/food, or doubt a competitor. Or both! One phenomenal example is eggs.

  • Fact: Chicken eggs are high in cholesterol, and a diet high in cholesterol can contribute to high blood cholesterol levels.
  • Fact: Eggs don’t increase levels of bad LDL cholesterol and actually boost levels of good HDL cholesterol.

Both of these statements are technically true, but without the correct understanding or education, the first statement would lead you to believe that eggs raise your blood cholesterol. The second statement is more concise in which cholesterol it raises, and it turns out is your HDL cholesterol. Can you believe that they actually advised people to stop eating eggs because they were bad for them? I mean, I have my reasons for not eating eggs, but it’s not because they are bad for me.

This is just a minor example of what we contend with. Can we please add the plethora of dieting ads we see? Whether it’s radio, television, or the internet, we are constantly faced with these ideas that we must be a certain way, and this is how we get there. Not only is this how we get there, but it’s the fastest way! Let’s dissect…

First, there is no quick way to lose weight and stay healthy. Any diet that recommends restricting (reducing significantly or removing something from your diet) will help you lose weight, but please understand that you will gain that weight back once you reintroduce whatever it was you restricted. In addition, why would you want to restrict? Your body needs protein, carbohydrates, and fats to live.

Secondly, it’s important to educate yourself. This has literally taken me 10 years of wading through fact, fiction, and opinion. I have made countless mistakes on countless diets, and every pound I have lost has been regained. Don’t get me wrong, this has been completely necessary to be where I am today. If I had not made the mistakes I did, I would never have gotten here on my own (here being a place where I’m educated and fluent, and confident in the choices I make).

Long story short, if you find an “expert opinion,” chances are there will be another equally valid opinion stating the exact opposite. Or you’ll find someone recommending major surgery, such as gastric bypass, but I’m not going to go there… I’ll just lose my temper.

With food addiction, it’s not something that is born overnight. It’s typically brought on by a catalyst such as an emotional, traumatic event or series of events. For example, you experience a trauma, and instead of dealing with the emotions of the trauma, you consume drugs, alcohol, or food to dull your senses. Every time the emotion surfaces, you repeat. You do this enough times, and you have an addiction. It seems to me that the key to recover is to deal with the underlying emotions that have been buried beneath your substance of choice.

I’ve often heard from those who have lost weight, gained it back, and lost again that the reason they regained was because, despite weighing much less, they still viewed themselves as overweight. They took time to heal the outside, and not the inside, which resulted in their weight returning, often times faster than before.

Just as with any addiction, you can often find a 12 step program to assist you. When it comes to compulsive overeating, you have Overeaters Anonymous. From their website:

“Overeaters Anonymous offers a program of recovery from compulsive eating using the Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of OA. Worldwide meetings and other tools provide a fellowship of experience, strength and hope where members respect one another’s anonymity. OA charges no dues or fees; it is self-supporting through member contributions.

OA is not just about weight loss, weight gain or maintenance, or obesity or diets. It addresses physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. It is not a religious organization and does not promote any particular diet.”

When do you decide that something is so big that you can no longer do it on your own? I love that there are resources for all addictions, not just conventional ones. I love that one day someone decided that they would no longer accept the stigma that obesity was directly related to lacking willpower, a physical act that was not attached to anything except someone’s inability to say no. I am personally a fan of talk therapy, and have found it to be extremely helpful in dealing with issues that I cannot discuss with those I have the issue with.

All of this stemmed from a desire for a cookie. Since that day I have had very similar cravings, whether it be a cookie, or a cigarette, and in some moments I have won, and others I have lost. I will continue for the rest of my life in this manner. I can only hope that I will continue to learn and grow from the experience, and hopefully one day find that moment where it all clicks, and I am no longer held prisoner by my addictions.

Question: Do you have an addiction? If so, what is it, and have you mastered it? Why or why not?