Archive for July, 2011

What I Need

I’ve come to realize that what I need in life to be happy, is much different than what I always thought I would need. For most of my life I believed that hard work and sacrifice meant pain, uncomfort, and burnout. I would avoid these feelings  by quitting. This isn’t to say that I wasn’t a hard worker or a good employee, student etc. I just never applied myself, as they say. I knew how to complete a task for something else, but not for myself. I would get so far as the first or second bump and decide it wasn’t for me. Move on and continue the cycle.

Coincidentally, my adult life has been filled with bouts of anxiety, depression and insecurity. Just a slight feeling of unease that I was always trying to suffocate with excesses. Material items, food, and neediness have all been the way that I would cope. Often I would just hole up and wish the pain away. I thought these feelings were a result of what I was missing in my life, rather than what I wasn’t doing.

But lately, as in, the past couple of months. This course has changed. I’ve come to realize that my past actions of inactivity made the feelings worse. And thus the cycle of never being fulfilled. What makes me happy now is so far removed from what I wanted to believe would make me happy. Shopping or a pint of ice cream. They are like alcohol to the flame. They are good in the moment, but never filled the gap.

Today, as I write this, I’ve found that completion makes me happy. If I set out to do something in a day, I’m not content until it’s done. Inactivity makes me anxious. I notice that when I slide out of my good habits, old feelings begin to creep up again.

The funny/weird thing about all of this, is that I’ve rejected the notion that energy=energy. I always thought that I needed to reserve my energy to gain it, but I only get positive energy when I put it out there.

Today happiness looks like this to me:

- A balanced diet. This means eating when I’m hungry, stopping when I’m full. Eating what I only truly love to eat, not because I used to think it was indulgent, but genuinly enjoying the meal. Vegetables and fruit are also very important for this balance.

- Exercise. Any sort of movement is absolutely neccessary for me to deal with stress and anxiety. Even if the movement is cleaning the bedroom, clearning off the deck, or washing a load of dishes. Movement in all forms makes me feel better.

-Focused work. Everyday I have a set list of tasks. I’ve gotten in the habit of setting a timer for 30 minutes just to get started. If I am overwhelmed with projects I say to myself “just do something–anything”. Checking off items on my to-do list brings me so much pride and contentment.

- Time to relax, alone. I find that my work/life balance is only in harmony when I have time to do absolutely nothing. It feels better and is more appreciated when it’s earned. I have never been bored a day in my life. I could sit on the couch and read for hours and be totally happy. I could sit with a notebook and pen and write and draw until my hearts content. I look forward to doing nothing, I cherish the art of inactivity only when it’s balanced with work.

- Making things happen. I’ve always struggled with the notion that things just happened. Growing up we are sent to school, then we are sent to high school and then, sometimes we make our way to college. This course is set out for us. And the whole “making things happen” idea missed me. I had no concept of making my dreams come true. When there wasn’t a clear path or map to my destination I got lost. I didn’t understand how the world worked, how businesses were ran. I just assumed that I was destined to follow course and just move on to a normal job with a steady paycheck. And then I woke up and realized that everything is totally up to me. And I was scared, am still scared, but figuring it out anyway.


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Food History: The Founding Foodies

Since our trip to Monticello a week and a half ago, I’ve been a little consumed with all things Thomas Jefferson. I’ve watched two documentaries (though I’ve fallen asleep- a habit of mine), and am now reading The Founding Foodies by Dave DeWitt.

I’m very interested and slightly obsessed with knowing how and what people ate. Did food taste the same? Where did they get their food? I know that Thomas Jefferson was a big fan of ice cream, wine (and making wine jelly), macaroni and cheese and ate more vegetables than meat. During colonial times pigs, followed by fish were the main sources of protein.

I’m not someone who believes that we should eat exactly like our ancestors (yes, another contradiction) mainly because food wasn’t regarded as it is today. They ate what they had access to and just didn’t have the information that we have today. Food history, like all history, is complex. It weaves and turns and sometimes, like now, it just doesn’t always make sense. Though, I will say that I’m even more convinced that the modern overeating/fat issue derives from having too much convenience food. It’s easier now to pack away the food than it was a hundred or more years ago.

I don’t believe that history makes something authentic. It’s easy to get caught up in the “good ol’ days” mentality. That unless people were doing it, listening to it, or eating it a hundred years ago means we should be doing the exact same things today. I wouldn’t trade my modern freedoms for the past, but I will happily pick and choose lessons from another time.

Before, if you wanted ice cream you had to find a source of cream which wasn’t always available. Then you had to find sugar which was heavily taxed at certain points in history. And then you had to churn it (or in Jefferson’s case, have it churned for you) with a hand crank. And then after all that, you probably didn’t have a whole gallon to yourself.  There were guests, and children who were vying for a scoop too. It’s not ice cream that is the problem. It’s the abundance and ease to which ice cream comes today. I could plop down $5 at my local grocer and get a decent pint, or gallon of ice cream depending on my mood. And if there’s  a sale, I could buy one and get one free.

Not to mention that most of the cheaper varieties come from abused and medicated cows. The sugar is replaced with corn (did you know that Benjamin Franklin loved corn and may have started the corn crop popularity in America? He often made beer from corn sugar among other things.)

This is what Michael Pollen means, in Food Rules, when he says if you want junk food, make it yourself. This is why I’ve often said to people what you see me eat, isn’t the reason for my weight. A normal portion of pretty much anything won’t make you fat. My excess weight comes from the indulgences you don’t see. The abundance that is hard to control. Because it is so easy to just eat and eat and eat. It’s cheap.

What if we had to source the ingredients for all the food that we overeat today? What if I had to kill a cow and clean it every time I wanted a burger? What if I had to grow the potatoes, harvest them, cut them, fry them every time I wanted a french fry?  Or milk a cow, skim the cream, find the sugar, hand churn the ice cream? It would take real work and maybe a better appreciation for food when actual work is involved with consumption.

Taking a peak into history helps shift my perspective. And I’m left wondering how I can apply some of these principles to my modern life? Leave some of the stuff in the past, like heavy drinking, because I know better, but picking up the extra work involved with eating.


Other updates. I finally lost my water weight and am thinking I’m going to add another 2-3 pound loss this week. I’ve gotten better at moderation, even with a couple of days off on the weekends. I’ve found that I can have moderate, portioned treats on the weekend without feeling guilty or totally derailing my efforts. More on all of this time come.

I’m going through a few personal/career changes, that are all very good at the moment. This means that I won’t be able to post or analyze my food and exercise consumption like I would like in the next month. This could be a good thing! I will still post when I can, and update my weight losses, but I won’t be able to document every time I exercise or eat eggs for breakfast. Just know that I’m still around doing what I need to do, I just have a little less internet time until things settle in around September.

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As usual you guys never cease to amaze me. Who knew so many women would show up to yesterday’s conversation and share their experience? I’m not alone. And we can figure out a way to cope. And more importantly keep going. I found that  the act of writing about my issues with PMS helped tremendously. Coming clean, as to say- here it is, this is where I’m going to need help. Writing is the best therapy for me. It makes me lighter.

I’m doing well. Hell, I’m doing good even. Yes I am dealing with 4 pounds of water weight, but who cares? 4 pounds is not the big picture. It’s silly. It’s water. It will go away and then more will go away and I will be a better person for sticking it out. My weight does not make me a bad person. This is a daily reminder. Being obese is not a crime.

And this brings me to my next topic: contradiction. I would say 100% that my beliefs and ideas contradict each other. This may be confusing to some people that know me. “But you said yesterday…” yes, but I changed my mind. Or I’ve decided that this and that need to go together. It’s just how I am and the way I eat is no different.

Case in point: Since starting “paleo/eating better for me” I’ve taken grains and sugar out of my diet. I’ve cut down on dairy, starches and simple carbs. But. But is big here. I will eat them. And have eaten them. While traveling and dining with friends over the weekend I realized how insane we sound. “No thanks, I’ll pass on the bread. Sure, I’ll have a drink. Gnocci? yeah, sure why not?”. What?!!?

Call it justification, but here’s the deal. I’m learning that rules can be broken and personalized. I know what is and isn’t a good idea for me. I skipped on bread and chose to eat a sensible portion of gnocchi. I was hungry, it came with my meal, I ate it. Yes it’s a starch. Yes I said no to bread. Aren’t they one in the same? Technically, yes.

Here’s another example. On our way home we stopped at Cracker Barrel for dinner. We both chose the home style fried chicken. Skipped the bread and skipped the starchy sides. Drank water and didn’t have dessert. In the past, I would have had the fried chicken with mashed potatoes, a house salad drenched in ranch, two biscuits, sweet tea and bring on the apple cobbler! The difference is notable and real. Is the chicken breaded and deep fried? Yes! I ordered it with green beans and a salad. Skimped on the dressing and gave some chicken to the husband.

Want another example? In Charlottesville I had frozen yogurt from Sweet Frog. A planned treat. I can’t tell you how long I’ve wanted a big cup of frozen yogurt topped with candy. So what do I do? I eat a very light breakfast of eggs. Skip lunch (not hungry). Have a light dinner (the gnocchi one from above) and then indulge in frozen yogurt. And topped it off with a long walk. I was even under my calories for the day.

I will have the occasional iced latte. I have brown rice almost every single day for dinner. I will put feta or goat cheese on a salad. I’m okay with all of these decisions because they aren’t what brought me here. 1 cup of brown rice a day didn’t make me obese. I don’t sneak around with salads with feta and the iced latte without sugar? We have a solid friendship. If I said no to all of these things, I wouldn’t last a week. I would be sad and cry a little. They aren’t the problem.

Pints of ice cream. Large frozen pizzas. Ordering meals with the most food. Stuffing myself. Snacks. Eating without hunger. Starting over…tomorrow will be better. I will be healthier next week. This mentality brought me to obesity. Consuming so much that I can’t move is the problem.

I’m slowly getting the point. Making better decisions. Planning. And while it may all sound like one big contradiction, it’s working for me. I know where to say no and where to say yes and the biggest point? I’m okay with it all. Being okay with the decision to eat a big bowl of frozen yogurt stops me from wanting more. It keeps me present. I’m here, I’m enjoying this and when it’s gone I can go on with my life.

I have events and dinners going on all the time. If I go to a friends house and they serve me a big plate of grains or lasagna, I’m not going to turn my nose up and say “ewww carbs!” I will enjoy, stop when I’m full and move on. I may eat lighter during the day or make sure I exercise or say no to dessert.

This is why I don’t like telling people what I’m doing because it doesn’t make much sense. In total. I’m eating less. I’m being pickier. I’m avoiding triggers. And if faced with something particularly delicious. I feel like I can enjoy it and move on with a plan of action.  I can stick with the low grains/sugar thing most of the time. At home, it’s no big deal. And that’s when it matters most. What I do most of the time is more important than what I do on occasion.

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