Friday, July 22, 2011

Advice from a pro

When I was a newspaper features editor, weekly we ran Charles Stuart Platkin's terrific column, the Diet Detective. As often as I can, I try to read it online.

Recently, he addressed how stress causes you to gain weight, citing a study from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine that found that stress -- in addition to affecting your physical and psychological well being -- makes you want to eat more, which of course causes weight gain.

Platkin says we gain weight for two reasons:

Biological Interference: Biologically your body is designed for a “fight or flight” response to stress. So when you’re stressed, your body releases hormones to help you do either. And since most of our stress does not come from lion attacks, a simple stressful e-mail from your boss is all it takes to make you start eating.

The brain sends out a stress hormone called cortisol, which regulates energy by tapping into the body’s fat storage and protein, converting it into glucose and bringing it to muscles and to the brain. Additionally, it can move fat from storage depots and relocate it to fat cell deposits deep in the abdomen; researchers have shown that the abdomen is the best place for fast energy retrieval.

Cortisol may linger in your body long after the cause of the initial stress has passed and trick your body into thinking it has done something active in response to a perceived ‘threat.’ Cortisol also sends signals to your brain to refuel your body as soon as possible.

Eating Comfort Foods: When things are stressful, we reach for food that is comforting -- brownies, donuts, candy, ice cream, pizza, mashed potatoes, fried chicken?

Why do we crave these foods? First of all, your parents probably gave any -- or all of these foods to you when you were in pain. Carbohydrates make you feel better by releasing the hormone serotonin, which is a brain chemical that makes you feel good.

Now here's the terrific part of Platkin's article, tips to help you relax and stay the healthy eating course.

* Create a “Stress Snack Eating” kit that has healthy snacks. Have one anyplace you tend to overeat -- at home, at work, in the car. Fill it with portion controlled foods that are low in calories in case you over-indulge. Also put in a few non-food items, such as an iPod loaded with comedian sketches, a jump rope.
Keep Away Unhealthy Snacks. This becomes very important when you know you’re going to have a stressful day. Researchers have shown time and time again that snacks in sight are snacks that are eaten.
Enjoy Healthy Comfort Foods, like air-popped corn or a low-calorie and low sugar energy bar.
Exercise the Stress Away. Go out for a walk, take a spin class, go for a run — research shows that a bit of exercise can help you fend off unhealthy eating and reduce stress.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

Most of us don't laugh enough. We tend to take ourselves too seriously, and when we do, our life gets too boring.

We all should take some time out of our busy days to do something we really enjoy. Maybe it's a walk on a beach, watching your favorite show on TV, or taking the time to play with a child.

Laughter and fun break down barriers and reduce stress. And when you mix laughter with activities such as throwing a ball to your dog or chasing your toddler around the yard, you're loosening up your joints that are constricted by tension and poor posture.

These simple activities brighten our day -- and our attitude. We might be having fun, but we are also taking care of our inner bodies.

I think it's time for all of us to take time for fun. I'm headed to the beach to go fly a kite.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

On mayo

Mayo is in just about everything -- especially during the summer. So when I cam across this post on the Diet Detective, I thought it was worth a repost. First, because mayo is just one of those things we can really do without. But second -- and most important -- one tablespoon of mayo has 110 calories, which means we can substitute many foods for mayo and consider how much exercise it would take to burn off that 110-calorie food.

To burn off 110 calories, you will have to exercise:
•Walking: 28 minutes
•Biking: 16 minutes
•Running: 12 minutes

Talk about food for thought.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Great recipe

I probably eat too much chicken, but that's because I love it. I also love this recipe, which combines two of my favorite things: chicken and lemons. It is a remake of a recipe my mom made all the time. Mine has no added fat, which makes it a dieter's delight.

Roasted lemons3 medium lemons, thinly sliced and seeded
1 teaspoon reduced-sodium chicken broth

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, trimmed
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
1 1/4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, divided

Roasted lemons: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange lemon slices on it in a single layer. Brush the lemon slices with 1 teaspoon chicken broth. Roast the lemons until slightly dry and beginning to brown around the edges, 25 to 30 minutes.

Pound chicken breasts with a mallet until it is about 1/2 an inch thick. Place in large saute pan.

Mix cayenne and cumin and sprinkle on chicken.

Add broth and bring to a boil. Boil about 8 minutes, turning chicken halfway through cooking. Add the roasted lemons and the parsley. Simmer until chicken is cooked through, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a platter.

Monday, July 18, 2011


This weekend was all about celebrations. I weekend away with family and friends, lots of great food, and a baby shower in a wonderful restaurant.

I tried to make healthy choices, but it was often not possible. And I gave in and had a glass of wine, which immediately lowers my resolve. But although I was not perfect this weekend, I certainly was not horrid. And it did make me think about why I decided to have that glass of wine.

My answer is that I was feeling deprived. Big time. I love good food and wine. And when I am relaxed and having a good time, I love sharing both with friends.

So I gave it. Hey, that's life.

But Sunday I was back on track, and that made me very proud of myself. It also reinforced in my mind that to truly succeed at losing weight, some days I will not be perfect. But that's OK. This is not a race. If it takes an extra month or two to get to my goal, who cares? The important thing is that the day after I digressed, I got back on track. If I can keep this up, I will win.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Why lose weight?

A few months ago, I learned one little fact that I think about almost daily: For every extra pound of body weight we lug around, our hips and knee joints suffer five times the impact. Five extra pounds adds 25 pounds of impact every time you take a step. So I want to drop 45 pounds, which means my knees and hips will consider it 225pounds lost, more than I weigh. There will be a spring to my step!

Since I am determined to stay the diet course this time, I am always looking around the Web for other facts, like the one above, that will keep me on true. I found such article on EverydayHealth, which should help on days when Twizzlers and ice cream calling my name.
• Extra pounds can worsen asthma and allergies since weight burdens the adrenal glands, which are involved in managing asthma and allergies. Extra weight also strains the respiratory system, which can make asthma worse.
• Less weight takes the pressure off your feet. A recent study found that after bariatric surgery, those who lost 90 pounds found foot pain dropped by 83 percent.
• Diets high in carbs and sugar can cause skin pallor, dark circles around the eyes and skin tags.
• Arthritis is tied to inflammation in the body. A number of studies have found that dropping pounds improves arthritis pain.
• Losing weight lifts your mood, increases your sense of well-being and decreases depression.
• A recent study found that people who underwent bariatric surgery had significantly improved memory than a control group.
• A recent study of 264 people with sleep apnea and diabetes discovered that those who lost the most weight showed a significant decrease in sleep apnea symptoms. In fact, the weight-loss group saw their sleep apnea symptoms cut in half.
• In a recent study of 424 gastric bypass surgery patients with type 2 diabetes, 83 percent were able to reverse the symptoms of their disease. A second, smaller study, showed that 11 type 2 diabetes patients on a severely calorie-restricted diet were able to get their blood sugar levels and insulin secretion activity back to normal within seven days.


Thursday, July 14, 2011

My closet

Yesterday it was all about my temple aka my body.

Today, it's all about my closet, one of my least favorite places in my house. At 10-by-12-feet, it should be one of my favorite places. Why do I hate it so much? Because it is jam-packed with clothes, most of which I can't wear because they are too small.

I often look at my closet and think how nice it would look if everything fit in the space perfectly, with lots of room between outfits so nothing gets wrinkled. But when your closet is a mash of 7 different sizes divided into fat, mid and skinny clothes, there really is no room for anything. My closet really is a most depressing place to hang out.

So here's my goal: Get down to one size. I have picked size 10, because my 5', 10" frame looks best in a 10. When I get down to an 8 -- and yes I have lots of clothes in that size and even smaller -- I look sickly. So 10 it is.

And as I begin this diet journey yet again, as one size starts to hang, those clothes are getting tossed. I am not keeping them "just in case," because I really can't go through this again. In the past, I always kept my fat clothes. I hated when I had to wear them, but they were there, old friends, waiting to see the world via fat Val!

This time around, they are going to have to see the world on someone else's body.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

My temple

From now on, when I think or talk about my body, I will use the word "temple." Just symantics, but a word change that really is life-altering.

Would I throw garbage in a temple? Would I trash one? Of course not. So why not treat my body like a temple?

My temple loves good food, it craves exercise, and it only wants to be around people it finds inspiring. When I don't eat well, my body usually tells me so about 2 a.m., when I wake up feeling horrid. Is this how I want to spend my life? Not anymore.

I really, really like the way I've been feeling for almost three weeks now. I wake up ready to face the day, and around 3 or 4 p.m., I'm not sitting at my desk looking for something sweet to give me extra energy. I arrive home happy, ready to cook a healthy meal that will keep me on plan.

This really is a new me. I've done this before, but as I have admitted, I have always lost weight for a reason, an event, something that I wanted to look great for.

I want to look great everyday. I dream about a closet filled with only one size of clothes. I dream about getting up each morning knowing every piece of clothing I own will fit me comfortably. And soon, this dream will be my reality. My temple told me so.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

When I started this blog, I was determined to diet my own way, without any help. That lasted a few months. I need help.

But I also need a more structured diet than Weight Watchers, so I began changing Weight Watchers to meet my goals. A few weeks ago I was ironing, and my eyes glanced at my bookshelf and settled on the Fat Flush Plan by Ann Louise Gittleman, a diet I used to shed pounds before our oldest daughter, Caitlin's wedding in 2004.

I actually liked that diet. It is very healthy and balanced, based on scientific research. Gittleman is a nutritionist, and I like that. In 2004 I used Fat Flush for five months, and lost about 50 pounds. This time, I have been steadily losing weight, exercising, and feeling much better than I did before I started. When I got weighed in at WW last Wednesday I had lost 4.6 pounds. Success!

When Jack reads this he will be angry, because he really feels that the only good diet is Weight Watchers. I still plan on attending weekly meetings, because I think the support is necessary. They are also motivating, and I think that's important.

But Weight Watchers is slow. And when I started to tweak the WW diet, I realized that what I had produced was actually Fat Flush. So why not go all the way?

I am so looking forward to tomorrow's weigh-in, something that hasn't happened in years.

Monday, July 11, 2011

This time, it's about me!

Finally! I am about to start putting my needs first. And believe me, that is a huge departure from my usual MO.

Last week really got me thinking about my weight. Motherhood is the best thing that ever happened to me, but it also made me lose focus because I was just so busy. Work, cleaning, getting the kids to activities, shopping, cleaning -- there was precious little time left over for me. I'm not complaining. Just the facts.

In the past, when I decided to lose weight, there was always a special occasion I was losing for. And once that event happened, I started eating that day and would never stop.

I never really went on a diet because of me. I might talk a good game, and say it is all about good health, but down deep there is some date lurking that I have circled in my mind. And might I also add that although I always lost weight, I never lost enough to get to my goal.

This time, there is no date. All our kids are married, so there is no more walking down the aisle. This time, it is all about me and my health.

Last week's exercises really made me think about weight like I have never thought about it before. It made me face facts, and although I really didn't learn anything new, seeing it all written out really scared me. Like nothing else I have ever done.

So I have a choice: To lose weight and take care of myself so I can have a thriving senior experience. Or, continue on the way I am going, and find myself an old, shriveled couch potato with no zest for life, the kind of person I swore I would never become. Two weeks ago, that was my direction.

Not anymore.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Fresh beginnings

I look a tad better than I did this time last week. And see, there is a beginning of a smile on my face.

I am finally understanding the power of photos. I have always hid in photos. I'm the one in the last row or grabbing a child to sit on my lap or hold in my arms. And I ask you: Who am I kidding?

When I look at myself in a mirror, I look at my face -- real close -- so I don't have to see how round it's become. I never look at my body -- and if I do, again it's real close, so I don't actually see how all the rolls of fat.

Pictures don't lie. And although this weekly exercise is one of the more painful I have ever done in my life, it's important for me to see myself as other people see me. What I should have done is take pictures from each angle -- but I really need baby steps here. Full-frontal is about all I can manage right now.

I am facing one of my great fears -- pictures -- head-on. I'm not liking what I see, but what a chronicle!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A dose of reality

Years ago I read that if you want to get to the bottom of what's bugging you, it's time to make a list.

So here's what I did. At the top of the page I wrote:
"The Results of Compulsive Eating."

Then I stared at it for a long time, before I started to write down all the negative things that will happen to me if I continue to binge eat. We're talking worse-case scenario here.

I am not going to bore you with my whole list, because it took up one side of an 8 1/2-by-11-inch piece of paper. The top three will show the direction I was headed:
1. heart disease
2. diabetes
3. cancer

As you can see, those three would be enough to make anyone sit up and take notice.

It's the next part of this exercise that is so very important: Reframing, looking at the worst possible outcomes of any situation and deciding whether you can live with these outcomes. In most cases, when the issue is minor, you can, which makes you feel less stress and helps you solve the problem.

In this case, I could live with these issues -- but not one of them is something I would want to be facing. So I better reframe my emotions in order to get on with my life.

Now this is really important: By writing down the consequences of binging elevated binging to a different plain. All of a sudden binging is not about the moment -- it's really about how that moment is impacting my life, not only now, but in years to come.

By making that list, I was confronting binging in a way I had never done before. For the first time, it was not about an uncontrollable behavior. It was about what that uncontrollable behavior was doing to my body.

That list scared me. Whether it scared me enough to never binge again is something only time will prove. But I do know that list will never be far from my grasp. I made copies of it, and put it in strategic places, the places where binging always begins.

That list is my motivator for change. Right now, it's giving me faith in my ability to cope with binging.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Recipe time!

One thing I have not done enough of in this blog is share recipes. Now is the perfect time to start, because although I am being really careful with what goes into my mouth, I need interest in my diet. My food's got to taste good.

Last night I whipped together I really terrific quick salsa to top my grilled grass-fed-non-antibiotic-containing-93-percent-lean hamburger without the bun. I have cut out sugar -- so ketchup right now is out. I am also not eating any fake sugars -- so sugarless ketchup is not an option. So what to put on my burger? This salsa.

Thank goodness I had a can of Muir Glen no-salt fire-roasted diced tomatoes in my pantry. Here's my recipe, although I would advise using it as simply a base and adding the veggies you love. What I used was in my fridge.

1 15-ounce can Muir Glen no-salt fire-roasted diced tomatoes, drained
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
4 scallions, green and white parts, diced
1/2 green pepper, diced
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced (adjust according to how hot you like it)
Zest of one lime
Juice of one lime
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, diced

Just mix everything together. You might want to wear plastic gloves when preparing the jalapeno.

P.S. It is so good, I wish I had doubled the recipe, because I know it will be topping lots of my food this week -- fish, poultry, even scrambled eggs.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Hard on myself

Reading over yesterday's post, one thing stood out: I am very hard on myself. I need to start a campaign of self-loving, of showing the respect and consideration to myself that I show to other people.

Guess I better lose some weight really quickly, because that is really the way to my heart. Time to get a handle on my compulsive eating.

I just did a search on eating compulsive/binge eating -- and it's actually one of the big three eating disorders -- right up there with anorexia and bulimia. How come I didn't know that?

It seems that people like me have issues understanding and distinguishing various feelings and needs. If we are bored, angry, stressed, tired or disappointed, we experience these feelings as hunger. And so we try to fix these feelings with food, thinking it will make us feel better. That quick fix.

But wait: Where does that quick fix leave me? Sometimes 2 to 3 pounds fatter, which just compounds those feelings of disappointment, anger and tiredness. Vicious circle? The worst.

Time for me to get off this merry-go-round. Of course, everything I read says I need help -- psychotherapist, drugs or maybe even an extensive treatment program.

I need to find another way. I'm not opposed to seeking help; I just want to try to work this out myself, because in the long run, I can't be using crutches. I know what started my eating issues, and I'm too old to focus all my attention on blaming mom. She was a wonderful mother. She just thought that bones showing was attractive and told me so from the time I could walk.

Today, when faced with a food I should ignore, I am going to look at it and say "killer." Because if I keep eating the way I am, that is exactly what these foods will do to me. Graphic enough? We'll see.

I'll also be one of those people with a bottle of water in my hand everywhere I go. If I want to eat, I'll take a sip. Or a gulp, depending on what food is calling my name.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Compulsive Eating

I have admitted before that I am a compulsive eater, that I know I have an eating disorder -- the same addiction that plagues alcoholics and drug addicts.

I am not talking about anorexia or bulimia -- neither pertains to my issues. I am talking about my inability to stop eating once I start. Nothing anyone says can derail me. Once I start, watch out. And once it ends, I not only feel physically horrid, emotionally I am a wreck.

I know thin people look at me with disdain, asking themselves why I have no will power. They assume many things, including:
1. I am not a strong person.
2. I don't care about how I look.
3. I am a failure.

None of those three items is true. I am an extremely strong person in most other aspects of my life, although when I am at the point I am now, insecurities start impacting my life.

I do care about how I look, but when I am eating uncontrollably, I am not thinking about lovely clothes.

Failure? I have a wonderful husband and three terrific, educated, thriving adult children, who all chose exceptional mates to spend their lives with. Failure? I think not.

So what is it that keeps me from dropping weight? I'm not sure, but I think this blog is going to be the perfect place for me to try to figure this all out.

Friday, July 1, 2011

What did I do?

It was very scary opening my blog this morning to see my fat body staring out at me. What is really sad is that I thought I was smiling when Jack took my picture. I guess I am in pretty bad shape internally as well.

Time to fix that.

We are planning a trip to Tuscany next summer, and I swear I am not going to Italy in fat clothes, if for no other reason than they take up too much space in my luggage.

Weight Watchers is a wonderful diet, but this losing .2 pounds a week is really getting me down. It's a wonderful maintenance plan, and when I finally lose the weight, I will keep attending meetings.

But right now I need desperate measures, which I swore I would never again result to. What I am basically doing right now is the old Weight Watchers -- really restrictive but healthy. I am eating lean protein -- mostly chicken and fish, with a little red meat from time to time -- lots of green vegetables, and limiting myself to three pieces of fruit a day. But I am counting the veggies and fruits into my daily PointsPlus, something you do not have to do on the new plan.

I love the new plan. And one day, I hope it can be the way I eat. But it's not working for me. Bottom line: I have an eating disorder. Tell me I can have all the fruit I want, and portions be dammed. I think that info hit me when I ate a whole watermelon recently. I am not talking about the seedless varieties that run small. I'm talking about the watermelon with seeds, almost impossible to find, that weigh more than a small child. Unfortunately, that watermelon was just one of the fruits I consumed that day. There was also bananas, strawberries, an apple and a peach.

Is there any wonder why I am not losing weight? It's not a good thing to tell a compulsive eater that she can eat something to her heart's content, unless that something is celery or iceberg lettuce.

Right now, I don't want choices. I want to get up each morning and not think about food. I want to know that each day I will have a salad that contains grilled chicken or shrimp and an apple, and for dinner, a green vegetable, some protein, and another piece of fruit for dessert. Because I really dislike breakfast, fruit is my new way to go. If I am feeling energetic, I might make a whey fruit smoothie. And if I am famished, which for some reason I have not been since I started eating this way on Monday, I will have a few pieces of Melba toast, because I will never overeat those. Sort of like eating cardboard.

I have not got on the scale this week -- Monday morning was too much of a shock to my psyche -- but I will this coming Monday. I also did something I haven't done for years: took my measurements. I will also do that every Monday, because losing inches is so much more important than what the scale is telling me.

I'm back! Let's see how far I get this time.