Monday, November 12, 2012

Could Paleo be it?


Weird day. Not one craving. And I actually felt like cooking.

Definitely not a normal day.

I started the day with a 2-egg omelet, loaded with veggies, and then headed to the store to stock up on Paleo-friendly foods. Before I knew it, it was time for lunch. Not once this morning did I even think about eating.

Lunch, a huge salad with a sliced chicken breast for protein, a tad bit of olive oil, and some great fig balsamic. Again, not one craving. 3 p.m. came and went without my stomach telling me I needed food.

I ate dinner around 7, spaghetti squash topped with a Paleo bolognese. Filling. Yummy. A true success.

Can it be this easy? I hope so. I liked today and the way I approached eating. I am sated. Happy. Full. But most importantly, I am convinced that I can do this.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Bring it on!


I've had it with eating foods that taste like cardboard, and not liking my eating life -- or my body -- very much. I also realize that Thanksgiving is only a few days away, and if I don't take control of my eating, 2013 will begin with me crying in my champagne.

I'm going Paleo, because of all the reading I've done recently, the Paleo lifestyle makes the most sense.

Paleo is about eating organic fruits and vegetables, grass-fed meat and chicken, sustainable wild fish, organic eggs from grass-fed chicken, seeds and nuts -- and yes, even some coconut and olive oils thrown in for flavor.

Topping the no-no list: grains, dairy, beans and wine. And of course sugar.

As for wheat, 15 years ago I discovered that wheat was causing my asthma, and within a month of eliminating it from my diet I was off my inhaler and weekly allergy shots. I do eat whole grains, but honestly, none are my faves.

Dairy is hard, as are beans, but there seems to be enough substitutions on Paleo to keep me sated.

As for wine: Impossible. When I cheat, it will be with a glass or two of a hearty cab. But I won't make it a nightly happening.

So Paleo it is. I planned our meals for the week, made my grocery list, and tomorrow I hit the market and start cooking. And sharing some of the recipes that I find especially yummy.

My goal: To cook again, because I've gotten very lazy in the kitchen. Our meals have reflected this for months.

Monday, Monday. A fresh start. But instead of wondering if this is going to work, I have convinced myself that it will work. My glass is half full. Bring it on!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Scale's going down!

I FINALLY lost 6 pounds, not a lot of weight but I am not complaining.

But -- and it's a big but -- I have begun to make peace with food, definitely a first for me. I also know that soon the scale will plateau, which is when I usually give up and go back to my old eating habits. How to keep motivated is key.

What follows are my reasons for losing weight, which are now posted on a sticky on my home screen. Constant reinforcement.

Here are my goals, which I am calling the big picture:
1. I want to get healthy.
2. I want my blood pressure to go down.
3. I want to exercise daily, because on days when I do exercise, it is easier to stay on an eating plan.
4. I want to eat a huge salad of greens and veggies before lunch and dinner, which will make me full.
5. I want to pay attention to my body. When it tells me I am full, I must stop eating. Just to make sure I am listening, I printed this visual button out -- three times. One for my wallet, one for my fridge, one for my pantry.

Five goals is a start, and together should be enough to keep me going. Notice that I did not include the number of pounds I want to lose, because I honestly don't know. When I get there, I know my body will tell me enough.

And although it is seductive to lose weight quickly, that is not my goal. Five pounds a month is fine with me. Add it up: By my birthday in April, that would be 30 pounds gone, plus the 6 pounds I just lost. I'll drink to that.

I have also decided that each day I will set one goal, which I consider my baby-step goal. For example, today I plan on drinking half my weight in water, which is easy to do in warm weather, not so easy now that the days have gotten damp, rainy and cold.

Tomorrow I am traveling, which means no time for the gym. But when I get to my destination, I will either convince my daughter to take a walk or hit her treadmill. I need to get my 10K steps in tomorrow.

Big-picture goals and the day's mini goal. It's a plan. And I always work  best if I make a to-do list.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Clean out time


They are billing today as our last warm day until spring. So instead of spending it outdoors enjoying the weather, I decided it was a great day to turn over my closet and clean out my files.

It was all going great until I came across a file marked "recipes." It almost made me cry. This is not an old file, probably started about six months ago. But there in the file was the recipe detritus of all the "eating plans" I have recently tried.

South Beach. Paleo -- actually four different versions. Beyond Diet. DASH. 7-Day Slim Down. Really sad.

I know I need structure, because without it I will eat inappropriately. But I also know that I need to make peace with food and stop following a diet with rigid rules that I do not like, or in some cases, know is unhealthy.

Starting this week, I am dividing my quest to lose weight into a three-prong attack:
1. Exercise. I actually am very pleased with what I am doing. I look at my daily exercise not as a hardship, but an enjoyable experience. I am making new friends at the gym, which is a totally new experience. And since I meet my friend Ann there daily, we keep each other going. No excuses. Our motto: Friends don't let friends not exercise.
2. Diet. Or eating plan. My nutritionist has signed off on Dr. Furhman's almost vegetarian diet, and I have to admit I am loving it.The food is filling, and the last two days, I have actually reached the full feeling and STOPPED EATING. Again, a totally new experience. Is it doable for life? Nothing I have ever tried has been doable. Which brings me to the third and most important prong.
3. Mind. I am working on this, which actually might be the key to everything I am doing. The book, "Intuitive Eating," is a start. I need to figure out a way to make the philosophy of the book my way of life.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Hard to swallow


My friends think I am nuts because I hate taking my blood pressure pill. To know that I have joined the ranks of people tied to their daily meds is not where I ever wanted to be.

I was proud that I took no medications. It's not that it is a bad thing. In fact, I am thankful that there is a pill that can lower my blood pressure to the point that I will not stroke out.

But that does not make my new little pill any easier to swallow. To me, it's a daily affirmation that I have eaten too much junk and had one too many glasses of wine. To me, it's a daily dose of failure.

My determination: In the next 18 months, I plan on getting off that pill. I'll do it through exercise and diet, although I am not supposed to be using that four-letter word.

My nutritionist suggested the DASH plan (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), which is promoted by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (part of the National Institutes of Health, an agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services) to prevent and control hypertension.

I bought lots of DASH books, determined to embrace this eating plan. I gave it a week, and it gave me such dietary distress I threw the books away. I know my body was rebelling against the combo of so much fiber-rich whole grains and dairy, two food groups I eat little of -- for reasons that became all too obvious.

Two weeks ago, Dr. Oz had Dr. Joel Fuhrman on his show, and I liked his approach to eating. It's all about filling up on the foods I love, what he calls G-BOMBS: Greens, Beans, Onions, Mushrooms, Berries and Seeds. You eat these daily. You fill the rest of your plate with small amounts of whole grains, and unlike DASH, there is no dairy. As I have always known, I can get all the calcium I need from the leafy greens I eat daily.

This is the way I have always liked to eat. I view meat as an occasional treat, although my husband would like to see it in every meal.

I am halfway through "Eat to Live," and although it is a restrictive eating plan, Dr. Furhman says that if I eat this way, I will eventually kiss my blood pressure medicine good-bye. Now all I need to do is keep  my eye on that goal.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Eat like a thin person!


I have been dieting all my life. It really is a compulsion, the essence of my being, which is so sad.

But the past few weeks I have been reading "Intuitive Eating" on the recommendation of my nutritionist, andreally thought I was beginning to buy into the no-dieting philosophy. Until Friday morning.
 
I was getting dressed for a luncheon, and of course nothing fit. In a moment of weakness I found a new diet site that I thought sounded great, and before my mind could yell at my fingers typing in my credit card number, I joined.
 
As I was hitting send, my brain screamed STOP! Too late. 
 
Since I was a member, I glanced at the diet, but much to my surprise I sent an email to the Help desk canceling my membership.
 
That started a rush of emails between me and the site's founder, who wanted to give me a one-on-one counseling session to convince me that his is not a diet but an eating plan that really works
 
Have I heard this before? Since diet became a bad four-letter word, everything is now an eating plan. I wouldn't budge, because no matter what persuasive words he was using to tempt me back, I remember looking at his diet and seeing breakfast for a week was a piece of fruit and three almonds.
 
Three almonds? Is he serious? Thirty minutes after ingesting that breakfast I would be back in the kitchen searching for something to stuff in my mouth.

So what did cancelling the contract really mean? For the first time in my life I think I am on the road to recovery. Saying no was a step in the right direction. I'll win this battle if my forward steps outpace my backward ones.

Friday, September 28, 2012

So embarrassing!


With what I am gong to admit, it is obvious that I have absolutely no shame. But I found a great way to add 500 steps to my walking total, and when your goal is 10,000 steps a day, every extra one helps.

I've made brushing my teeth each morning fun.

To the tune of the Happy Birthday song I sing (while brushing my teeth):

Happy Monday (or Tuesday, Wednesday, etc.) to me
Happy Monday (or Tuesday, Wednesday, etc.) to me
Happy Monday dear Valerie
Make Monday (or Tuesday, Wednesday, etc.) the best it can be.

I march in place when I silently sing this ditty. And I sing it 12 times, six times while brushing my top teeth; six times while brushing my bottom. (I also use an electric toothbrush, so I don't have to remember to move the toothbrush up and down.)

Here's how I get the 12 songs in:
Top left side of my teeth: Once while brushing the front, once while brushing the back.
Top front teeth: Once while brushing the front, once while brushing the back.
Top right side of my teeth: Once while brushing the front, once while brushing the back.

That makes six. Repeat on the bottom.

As I get better at this, my steps increased. When I started I was completing about 350 steps. Now, 500. Soon, who knows? All I know is that by the time I hit the gym every morning, I've already got a leg up on my steps.

Plus, the affirmation of making each day great helps my mood. I call it my tooth mantra. Now I'm even laughing at myself.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Avocados

                                  YUM! Shrimp, avocados, mango and couscous.

I used to avoid avocados like the plague because of the fat content. But the more I read about this fruit, the more I understand that it should become part of my diet. Avocados are rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, potassium, vitamin E, fiber, folate, and vitamin B6 -- all important components of a healthy diet.

So eat avocados I do. Added to my salad, they impart a creaminess impossible to find in any other food. Actually, it is kind of decadent.

I prefer Haas avocados, the ones with the pebbly green skin that turns almost black as it ripens. For me, they have more flavor than the green, smooth-skinned Fuerte. In my market, avocados have become so popular, there is a section reserved for those that are ripe and ready to eat. If not ripe, bring it home to ripen for a few days at room temperature. Unripe avocados lack flavor -- plus they are hard. You really want to eat them ripe.

Ripe avocados will yield a little to pressure. If they form a dent when gently squeezed, it has past its prime and is best left at the store.

Once ripe, they will keep a few days in the fridge.

To pit, slice lengthwise and twist it gently to seperate the two halves. I learned the next step from my California cousins, who have avocado trees growing the their backyards: Pierce the pit with the tip of a sharp knife and it will pop right out. If you are not using the whole avocado, squeeze lemon over the exposed flesh, wrap with plastic, and store in the refrigerator.

And now for an amazing recipe, which stars one of my favorite foods, shrimp. It's from the California Advocao Commission.

COUSCOUS WITH SHRIMP, AVOCADO AND MANGO
  • 24 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 Tbsp. seafood grill seasoning
  • Olive oil, optional
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 (10-oz.) box plain couscous
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 2 ripe avocados, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes, see Note
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 ripe mango, peeled, pitted and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced on diagonal
  • 1 cup cooked edamame (shelled soybeans)
Mango-Lime Dressing
  • 1 ripe mango, peeled, pitted and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • ½ cup fresh lime juice
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2  cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. Dijon-style mustard
  • ½ tsp. sea salt
  • ¼ tsp. ground white pepper
  • ¼ tsp. ground cumin
  • 2 Tbsp. snipped fresh mint leaves
  • 2 Tbsp. snipped fresh cilantro leaves
  1. Toss shrimp with seasoning. Barbecue or sauté in olive oil for about 3 minutes, turning over once. Remove to plate; set aside.
  2. In a 2-quart pan, bring water to a boil. Stir in couscous, oil and salt. Remove from heat, cover and let stand for 5 minutes.
  3. In a bowl, combine avocado and lemon juice; set aside.
  4. Remove lid from pan and fluff couscous; cool. Pour couscous into a large mixing bowl. Add avocado, mango, onions and edamame.
  5. Pour dressing over salad, as needed. Toss to coat.
  6. Serve onto plates and top with cooked shrimp.
    Dressing:
  1. In a food processor, add mango, juice, oil, garlic, mustard, salt, pepper and cumin. Purée, using the pulse button; set aside.
  2. Mix mint and cilantro into dressing immediately before using.
Note: Large avocados are recommended for this recipe. A large avocado averages about 8 ounces. If using smaller or larger size avocados adjust the quantity accordingly.

Makes 8 servings, per serving: calories 270; total fat 16g (sat 2g,  trans 0g, poly 2g, Mono 1 g); cholesterol 30mg; sodium 560mg; total carbohydrates 25g; dietary Ffber 5g; protein 9g




Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Mindless no more


                                      I love this take on the government's
                                      Healthy Eating Plate, which shows you
                                      how to truly eat mindfully. It's from
                                      www.eatingmindfully.com.

Last October I spent a week at the yoga retreat, Kripalu, immersing myself in a mindful eating course. It was life changing at the time, but soon I was back to my old habits. Once again I failed.

Eating mindfully is all about paying attention to the food you are about to eat, before it passes your lips, smelling and enjoying its shape and texture. Next, you savor every bite, chewing each morsel for a long time, and listening to your body tell you when it is no longer hungry. A meal has to take at least 20 minutes, because that's how long it takes for your tummy to signal your brain that you have had enough food.

I learned the best way to accomplish this is to eat at a table, but trying to get Jack there each night for dinner is a losing battle: We have eaten in front of the TV for too many years. But I was using that as an excuse not to practice my mindful eating.

Two weeks ago, in the middle of a TV dinner, I started to pay attention to my food, so much so that I got up from the couch and got out a pair of chopsticks, the one utensil that really slows my eating down. It took me 30 minutes to eat this meal, and when I was finished, I was sated and content.

A few nights ago I put the chopsticks away, because I now trust myself to eat slowly. I like it better. I am a terrific cook, so why shouldn't a savor each bite, and stretch the food experience out a little longer?

The result: After every dinner now I am not thinking about food. No urges for a second helping. No cravings for dessert. Progress.

As I make every little change, I am hoping that they become permanent and last more than a few months. I know this is not easy, since I can -- and have -- reverted to bad habits in the past.

But so far, drinking more water and eating slower is beginning to pay off. Let's see where else this journey of self discovery will lead me.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Bottoms up!


 
I always thought I was terrific, drinking eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day and never complaining. Not anymore.

I have now read enough info to backup the fact that 64 ounces of water is fine for someone who weighs 128 pounds. Uh, that's probably how much my legs weigh. In fact, many nutritionists now advise you drink half your weight in water daily, and add an extra 8-ounce glass for every cup of coffee or soda you drink.

If I admitted how much water I now drink each day I would be admitting my weight, since I only drink a cup of coffee and no soda. Suffice it to say, it's a lot.

But now, instead of guzzling my water, I am sipping it through a straw throughout the day. Little sips that keep me well hydrated through all my activities, including exercise. And I have discovered four things:

1. I can keep exercising longer.
2. I have more energy throughout the day.
3. I am never hungry.
4. My skin is more supple, and some of my dry spots are becoming more moist.

I used to guzzle my water in large increments, only to be rushing to the bathroom about 20 minutes after I finished drinking that glass. My little sips have stopped that, and I can't help but think they are doing my body more good than the gulps. The water is staying inside me for a longer period of time. Instead of rushing to the bathroom, I make a few trips throughout the day, not immediately peeing it out before the water can grab internal toxins to come along for the journey.

I'll drink to this!

Monday, September 24, 2012

True meaning of binging

                                             Dr. Oz talks to two binge eaters.

Last Wednesday's Dr. Oz show was all about binge eating. I have said in the past that I am a binge eater, and then I saw the show. Binge eaters are people who cannot control their eating, every day, 365 days a year.

I am not in the category. I can go weeks eating a healthy diet, and then every now and then I start obsessing about food, go to the market, and usually come  home with one of two things: a pint of ice cream and cookies or a large package of Twizzlers. I open my binge du jour, and without thinking, sit on the couch and eat until the last morsel is gone. For me, that's a binge.

These women spoke of eating marathons, usually lasting at least four hours, in which they could consume whole pizzas, packages of chips and cookies, large containers of ice cream, corn dogs ... the list of foods go on and on.

So now I know my binges are  not really binges, but just breaks in good eating habits. If I had no weight to lose, I could maintain my weight with a few of these binges every now. Except....

Dr. Oz showed an X-ray of what happens to a person's stomach after any binge. That means me. It takes over the space in which the intestines usually reside, compressing them down. The pancreas gets displaced, as do other organs. That was the warm-up.

He then showed a picture of a normal-weight person who binged for quite a few hours, and by the time he arrived at the ER, he was dead. His stomach in the picture was blue, which means it died, which caused all of his other organs to die. The picture of that open blue belly is forever imprinted in my mind.

Dr. Oz closed his show with some sage advice, which I have written out and placed on my desk: "What will life be like to feel my feelings instead of eating them."

When I can answer that question, I know I will no longer have any weight issues.

Friday, September 21, 2012

My new BFF


I have tried just about every diet known to man, but the one thing I never did was see a nutritionist.

My doctor thought it might be wise to do, so I now visit Courtney Sansonetti every two weeks. I erroneously thought she would be giving me a diet to follow, but Courtney is all about balance -- both in the way you live your life and the foods you eat to fuel your body.

Our first session was a get-to-know each other. We talked about food. I told her the foods I ate, but of course I was telling her about my "good" days, when I only ate nutritious, healthy foods, totally avoiding sugar and junk food, because honestly, that is how I usually eat.

But then there are my binge days, which I totally forgot to mention. At our second session I confessed about my binging because for this to work, I need to be honest. Courtney has many clients who binge, and although she knows it happens, has a hard time understanding how food can have such power. She is one of the svelte lucky ones in this country without any food or body issues.

So now, instead of writing down the foods I eat she wants me to journal my feelings about food, my emotions, and if I binge comes on, try to analyze why. In fact, she is hoping I have at least one binge within the next two weeks; she thinks it could help me uncover the reason why I binge.

I am praying I don't. I hate binging. It makes me feel out of control and the next day I spend mentally beating myself up. What Courtney is asking me to do is listen to the voice within that makes me want to eat foods I know I shouldn't. I know that if I don't listen to that voice and fight back, I will never win this battle.

My goal: To eat like a thin person, listening to my body cues, and when my body tells me I am sated, to stop eating. I want to be able to eat a cookie, have a dish of ice cream or a slice of cheesecake every now and then, and not make that cookie the reason to start eating everything in sight. I am so tired of telling myself I will wake up the next day and drink only three whey shakes the whole day to make up for my discretion the night before. (By the way, that NEVER happens.)

I'm praying my new journal will get me thinking about things I have been suppressing for years. Talk about scary! But I'm ready. Bring it on...

Thursday, September 20, 2012

An exercise in understanding

                                     My daily home away from home: LA Fitness in Trumbull.

I discovered yoga two years ago and it honestly changed my life. Made me calmer, clearer in my thoughts, and gave me the strength to leave my job and go out on my own.

And although I practice yoga daily, if I went on a bike ride or power walk, I knew my stamina was nil. In May, I decided to do something about that, and began going to the gym -- a membership I always had but rarely use. I also convinced my friend, Ann, who I walked with four mornings each week, to join. Some mornings it's hard to get up, but I know Ann will be there and I better make the effort. Our motto: Friends don't let friends stop exercising.

Now I'm a gym rat. I'm there daily, for at least an hour, doing aerobic exercise and strength training.

But that's not the lesson here. When my blood pressure spiked, I was told to stop exercising until they could determine what was wrong with me. I HATED THAT. I MISSED THE GYM.

And as soon as I got the all clear, I returned to the gym, more determined than ever to fix my weight and high blood pressure. Here's the key: If I hadn't been going to the gym prior to my health scare, I wouldn't have known where to start. I know myself well enough to understand that I never would have started exercising. I would have been frozen into inaction.

This journey I am now on is introspective, making me think about my actions -- or inaction -- and understanding what really makes me tick. And for the first time ever, I am beginning to like myself. Progress.



Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Wake-up call

 
                                    Three of the reasons I have to stay healthy:
                                    Sammy, Kiley and Bailey, the sweetest
                                    granddaughters in the whole world.
                                    Here they are in the villa we rented in Tuscany.
 
I've been so healthy all my life, even though I spent a great part of it eating too much of all the wrong things.
 
My luck changed this summer.

On a two-week vacation to Italy, 12 of those days found me with swollen ankles. I came up with all sorts of excuses for the swelling: the water in Italy is loaded with sodium, the heat, and what I was eating. Within two days of getting home my ankles started returning to normal, so it had to be the water.
 
Except that just about the time my ankles went back to normal I became short of breath. Not constantly, but enough to get my attention. After a month of denial, I visited my doctor's office and discovered my blood pressure was 190/110. After weeks of medical-testing hell, I just found out all is well, except I am on medication. My BP meds are how I start each day. But this is a good thing.
 
Every time I open that bottle, it reinforces three things:
1. That I have a chronic medical issue.
2. That I will try everything in my power to lose weight.
3. That I have to hit the gym.
 
Today, when I was meeting with my new BFF, my nutritionist, I also resolved to start writing my blog again.
 
I'm back, more determined than ever to lose weight, but this time, unlike other weight-loss adventures, I have a really good reason to shed pounds. It's called life. I plan to be around for many years to come. But even more important, I want my quality of life to be excellent. Change is the only way to accomplish this.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

The scale

I have a love/hate relationship with the scale. In the past, when I was on a diet du jour dropping weight daily, I would jump on and smile most days. It became a game, my daily dose of reality -- although it wasn't really. Although I was losing weight -- and vowing once again that this time was going to be different and I was going to keep it off -- in the back of my mind I knew I was lying.

And once I went off the diet and returned to "normal" eating -- Twizzlers, ice cream and whatever -- my poor scale was stuck in a corner like a forgotten friend.

Since I started eating truly like a "normal" person -- three meals a day filled with fruits, veggies and good protein -- I have stopped my need to jump on the scale. But today I did, and I have a big smile on my face. Without "dieting," I have lost 19 pounds. Sure, it's taken a few months, but those 19 pounds are mine. I did it through healthy eating and tons of exercise. I've sweated for each and every ounce.

I used to be in denial. The diet world of pills, gimics, quick fixes and belts that sent impulses to make my belly to make me skinny loved me. I would jump at any slick shark selling the latest, greatest cure for losing weight.

AND IT WAS MAKING ME CRAZY. Although being on a diet made me feel in control, I wasn't. Today, I am.

Today, I am at peace with myself, with food, with life. It's a great place to be.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Stop the craziness!


When I decided to stop writing down every morsel of food that passed my lips and to just eat healthy, I felt as if the chain I have carried around with me for decades broke.

Journaling what I ate was making me think about food. All the time. It was the one constant in my life that never changed. And I hated it. I also blame it on my yo-yoing the past three decades.

In addition to making better food choices, I am also exercising. But here's another difference: Instead of looking at exercise as a way to lose weight, I view it as a way to keep me healthy.

When I was going to Weight Watchers, I never counted the exercise I was doing. You can, but then you get to eat more, which to me always seemed counter-productive when I was trying to shed pounds. If you are at the weight you want to be, that is a different story. Then, you can exercise away an ice cream sundae. Exercise for me is attacking the fat I have gained over the years.

I feel so much more in control. In most cases, I am making great food choices, filling up on greens and fruits. And when I allow myself a treat, I really am first asking myself if it is worth the calories. If the answer is yes, I eat it, and don't beat myself up.

This is not a quick fix. But then I didn't gain weight overnight. I am giving myself a year to get in shape. I look at it this way: I can be where I want to be weight wise this time next year, or I can continue to eat and stay where I am. The former seems so much more attractive.

And I have finally stopped the nonsense.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

This gorgeous globe

I am not following a diet plan BUT I am still reading everything I can about ways to make the body slim down.

I do lose weight, and quickly, on Dr. Ann Louise Gittleman's Fat Flush Plan. But my closest friends have told me I turn into a crazy lady when I am Fat Flushing. (I do not agree with them, but isn't that the first sign of insanity?) One thing is certain: she does know her stuff, and I pay attention.

Her latest blog post was about the benefits of grapefruit, and she says there is now scientific proof that says grapefruit can boost weight loss. She calls grapefruit a super food when it comes to weight loss. There are the nutritional perks: vitamin C, a decent amount of potassium and phytosterols that help balance cholesterol levels. Pink grapefruit has vitamin A, beta carotene and lycopene, a carotenoid that has been linked with a decreased risk of prostate cancer. To top it off, it's low calorie.

Gittleman says the reason it may help us shed pounds is because grapefruit controls insulin, which controls our blood sugar, which when in check, controls our hunger. Insulin also is a fat depositing hormone, so it controls the amount of fat we store.

Gittleman's recipe: Eat half a grapefruit before every meal. That's 10 grapefruits a week. It's a good thing I love those little round globes. I just bought six this morning.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

What if

I love Jennifer Hudson's new commercial for Weight Watchers -- one I see over and over at the gym -- the perfect place for inspiration. And for me, that's what this commercial is all about.

She lists the dieter's "what ifs" -- -- and I swear she is speaking to me:
What if I can't do it?
What if I can't lose the weight?
What if I'm not ready for change?
What if I fall back into old habits?
What if I lose control?
What if there is always an excuse for why I can't?
What if I gain it all back?
What if I can't follow through?

Then Jennifer puts her finger over her mouth and says: Shhhhh..... There's only one voice worth listening to and that is the one saying you can do this."

Of course, the commercial is for Weight Watchers, but I think it translates well into all facets of our lives. What we all need to do is quiet the voice inside our head that's telling us we can't do something. We can.

So now, whenever I have any doubts at all, I think of Jennifer with her finger over her mouth, saying "Shhhhh...." The past few weeks, it has done wonders silencing doubting Val. I can do it this time. And I will.

Monday, June 18, 2012

New attitude

In my last post, about eight weeks ago, I wrote that I joined Weight Watchers. That lasted about two weeks. Then life got really busy and WW was soon forgotten.

I've discovered exercise. Every morning I hit the gym and do an hour of intense cardio and 30 minutes of weight training. I am now in week six, and around week three discovered that I am actually liking this routine. I am there, pushing myself daily to do more.

The best part: When I work so hard at the gym, it is much easier for me to make excellent food choices throughout the day. I also have some new food rules:
1. I never let three hours pass between my meals. If I do, that's when I start getting the munchies.
2. Each time I eat, I include some protein. It might only be an ounce, but that little amount is enough to get me through to the next meal.
3. I look at my food before I take a bite. Really look at the food.
4. I put small amounts of food on my fork.
5. I chew and chew and chew. No gulping food down.
6. I drink lots and lots of water and seltzer throughout the day.
7. I always wear my pedometer. At the gym, I usually log around 8K steps. I do not hit the sheets at night until my pedometer reads 10K. Some days that means getting on the rebounder. Other days, just grocery shopping makes up the deficit.

And I jump out of bed each morning, put on my gym clothes, and hit LA Fitness. I really cannot imagine my life any other way. Yoga still soothes my soul. But the intense exercise is fueling my body. I like the mix.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Here I go again

Thursday, as my massage therapist was kneading my muscles, she confessed that she just started Weight Watchers. This divorced, single mom has had it with the way she looks and decided to take control of her life.

I applauded her decision, and when she asked me if I ever tried WW, I hesitated, because my WW attempts to lose weight have not been like Jennifer Hudson's. But I decided to tell her why I left the last time.

The newest plan lets you eat as much fruit as you want. Of course, the parenthesis tell you to eat in serving sizes, but if you allow someone with a weight problem to eat all the fruit they want, they just might.

I did. I ate a watermelon. Not the small round seedless variety. I ate the big seeded one, and it took me less than an hour to chip away at all that red flesh. If I had stopped there I might have been OK. But I ate all manner of fruit that week in quantities many people would never eat in a year.

When I got on the scale that week, I gained .2 pounds. My leader asked me how my week was. I confessed to the watermelon, and she told me that actually there is nothing wrong with that, that my body is simply getting used to a new way of eating. She did suggest that I try to stick to fruit portions, but added that if I was going to reach for anything sweet, fruit is the way to go.

That was my last week at WW. I am a compulsive eater, and eating a watermelon is not right. Period. I wanted her to tell me that.

But as I was relating this story to my massage therapist, I realized that I was angry at WW. And it's not WW's fault. It's mine.

When i got home from my massage, the first thing I did was to sign up for WW online. I've been to enough meetings.

The WW app is on my iPhone, and three times a day I get a reminder to record what I have eaten. It's better than the weekly meetings. That alone has kept me honest this weekend.

About this weekend: I lost 6 pounds since Friday. Of course, those are the six pounds I gained recently on a three-week vacation, but at least the scale is going down.

And although I find myself dieting once again, doing Weight Watchers the way I am doing it really could be a way of life. This weekend I attended a baby shower and ate out twice, and I still managed to shed some pounds.

That translates into success. Plus, I've stopped being angry at WW.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Word power

Researchers at Boston College and the University of Houston found that dieters who say "I don't" when asked if they want a slice of pie are more likely not to eat that pie than dieter's who say "I can't" or  those who "just say 'no.' "

The study was small, however the researchers say the "I don't" participants had greater success than the other two groups because they felt empowered and in control after uttering those words. And this group also said they felt they would continue this experiment because of their success.

So today, I am giving this  a try.  It's certainly easy enough to do. Plus it's free, an unusual concept in the world of diets.

And when I really think about it, saying "I don't" is something many of us do all the time. I don't want to step on the scale. I don't want to diet. I don't want to exercise. But I know I should.

In most cases, it has a negative connotation. And eating foods that I know are not healthy is one of the most negative things I can do for my body.

So, "I don't" it is.

Friday, March 23, 2012

All about ME

I got an email from a friend yesterday that made me laugh -- yes, out loud!

She is having trouble with chocolate and has asked ME for help. I must also add that this friend is my most disciplined one -- she can actually have a box of chocolates in her home and eat only one a day. But recently, she says, her chocolate eating is out of control.

Did I also mention she is very thin?

I've been through this with her in the past, and her out-of-control eating is usually having two pieces of chocolate each day. To her, that's horrid. I think not, but it's her reality, and it makes her crazy.

And I know what she needs: a pep talk about how she really has improved her eating habits the last few years, and she needs to look at her diet as a whole and applaud the good things she is doing to make herself healthy.

But as I was thinking about what I am going to say to her today, I started to think of my own diet. I also began to think about how hard I am on myself -- that when I take a break and eat something I know I shouldn't, Ms. Negativity starts rearing her ugly head, I start feeling like a failure, and guess what: I throw all caution aside and usually start an eating binge.

I'll be a s positive as I can be when I give my friend her pep talk. So what if I started to treat ME like a friend? If I stray -- and I know I will -- instead of looking at ME as a total failure, what if I did the opposite and pumped ME up? Told ME what I had just done is human, and shows I am not perfect. Instead of starting an eating binge, why not convince ME that ME really wants to lose weight and eat mostly healthy food. Tell ME that these food bumps in the road will come and go. It's what's after the bumps that will either keep ME on track, or derail me sometimes for months.

So, now my eating disorder has a name: ME. I need to be kinder to ME.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The all-important first meal

I've never been a fan of breakfast. Probably because I don't especially like eggs, and because I am allergic to milk, cereal has never held much interest. Of course, if I could have a stack of pancakes each morning, I would. But I can't.

But everything I read says that to diet successfully you have to eat breakfast. This week's experiment was to do just that. Eggs really do fill me up, so I gritted my teeth Monday morning and made myself two eggs, loaded with scallions, basil, mushrooms, grated ginger and a touch of tarragon. There was hardly room for the eggs, which was fine with me.

I set a placemat down complete with cloth napkin, and sat at our kitchen bar slowly eating my eggs. I did not stand and gulp them down as I usually do. I sat and savored every bite.

Today was my fourth day on the experiment. But today I limited the egg to one to see if this will get me through the morning. So far, so good, and I am more than halfway through the morning.

But the really important lesson: I never once thought about food any morning this week. Usually, around 10 a.m., I am looking at the clock, counting the minutes until lunch. This week, I was eating lunch around 1:30 p.m., simply because I was not hungry.

So maybe there really is something to breakfast after all.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Bright idea!

All day yesterday I thought about what I wrote that morning. Great sign. But right before bedtime, I started to think about another list I should make.

Why do I want to lose weight? Many people my age decide to give up and accept their bulges. I am definitely not one of them. I really, really do want to lose weight.

But to do so, perhaps I need to verbalize the why. So here goes:

1. Health. Always health. Especially as we age, the yo-yoing is just not healthy.
2. My closet. It's big. 9x12, which makes it a room. But I have no room for all my clothes. I still have to turn it over seasonally because I have at least 5 sizes of clothes. That's insane. My dream: One closet, all my clothes on view, in one size.
3. My looks. I really am not a vain person, but I really hate the way I look now.
4. My stamina. When I eat better I have more energy.
5. My feet. I have lots of feet issues, and I am sure the extra pounds have a lot to do with my aching feet.
6. Ditto my knees. Although they do not hurt as much as my feet, they hurt.
7. My self-esteem. When I am thinner, I have a lot more self-confidence and I like myself better.
8. Yoga. When I am thinner, my body transitions through the poses better.
9. IBS. I just wrote a magazine article about Irritiable Bowel Syndrome, and halfway through my interviews I realized I have been suffering from this for years. And I know what aggravates it for me: wheat and dairy. So give those things up, already.
10. My grandchildren. I want to have the stamina to crawl on the floor, ride bikes and play sports with them.

An even 10. I am sure with a little more thought I can add to the list, but this is a start. I'm printing it out, and carrying it around with me. When I am tempted to eat something I shouldn't, if I whip out the list, maybe it will give me the strength to resist.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

It's spring!

I love what spring symbolizes: Rebirth and a time for new beginnings. Sounds like the perfect time to get serious about healthy eating.

Yesterday I wrote about consistency, so why not consider this season as my month to be consistent, to eat healthy every day now through June 21 -- three months for me to develop terrific, new habits.

This morning, an e-blast from Kripalu arrived with this suggestion: Spend 15 minutes writing about what I need to accept about my life right now. That seems like the perfect exercise to assess what I am thinking and the direction I need to take.

So here goes:
1. I am definitely not at the weight I want to be.
2. Many of the clothes in my closet that I am dying to wear do not fit.
3. Until I lose weight, my fat clothes are it.
4. My foot still hurts, but I need to stop using that as my excuse not to exercise. I just have to be aware of my foot issue and go slowly.

Now for the good things about my life.
1. I am one of the luckiest women in the world: I have a wonderful family, a true support system that I can turn to whenever I need help. I need to use them more often.
2. I no longer have to go to an office to work. What freedom that is. My office is in my home. I am working for two fine editors, and I love getting up each morning to work on the articles I am doing for them. My work is my passion once again, and for that I am forever thankful.
3. Yoga and meditation: They keep me grounded.
4. I have to stop being so hard on myself. Eating healthy is a journey, and I plan to take it one day at a time this spring.

I need to also remember that there is only one person in the world that has control over what goes in my mouth.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Another Monday

Yet again, I am starting over. Hate this.

Sure, life is all about do overs, but honestly, enough is enough. Today, I woke up determined to eat only great things today, and so far, so good.

But I am only halfway through the day.

Even I know that losing weight is not about one day. It's about a string of days, all filled with only good food and lots of exercise that will get me to my goal.

One day? That's only a start. Consistency is what counts. Seven days a week, for many months. They say it takes at least a month to develop a new habit, but once that month is over, the habit is with you to stay. I do buy into this philosophy when it comes to most things. Not eating. For me, it takes more than a month.

It will take the rest of my life.

I just reread what I wrote, and I felt as if I was slapped in my face. Yes, to lose weight, and to keep it off, will be a lifelong battle.DUH! However, there is no better day than today to begin.

If I wait till next week, Monday the 26th will be another do over. I really don't want that to happen.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Curb that hunger

A very wise person once told me that dieting is not about giving up but adding -- leafy greens, whole grains, fruits and lots of water -- so the good eventually crowds out the bad. There's just not enough room in your tummy for everything.

What you crowd out are the highly processed carbs found throughout the grocery store -- the fiberless, nutrient lacking foods that major food companies love the jam down our throats. And we can't resist because they taste too damn good.

High-fiber foods, good fats, and lean protein work together to help slow the digestion of the sugar in carbs. Fill your system with the good stuff and your body produces less insulin, and less insulin means fewer swings in blood-sugar levels. And why is this important? Because if we keep our blood-sugar levels on an even keel, our cravings and hunger just goes away.

We feel satisfied: What a concept!

Fiber: We all  know we should eat more. Abut a month ago, I began starting and ending the day with a teaspoon of pysillium (the natural stuff not the manufactured Metamucil, Benefiber, etc.) dissolved in a cup of water. It really gets things moving, which for me is always an issue. I like to follow my morning pysillium with some steel-cut oatmeal -- and I have to say I often have to remind myself that it's time for lunch. I did some research and learned that before my stomach digests the sugars in the oatmeal, it has to separate the sugars from the fiber. Then the fiber passes undigested through my system, naturally slowing down digestion. That promotes satiety.

Fat. For years I avoided fats like the plague. Low-fat diets were the rage -- and I was starving most days. It's one of the reason I am enjoying the Sonoma Diet: It is teaching me that fat is my friend, especially when it's the good fats such as olive and nut oils. But fat also helps in digestion, slowing the speed at which my small intestines access the sugars I've eaten. Fats are a chef's best friend, simply because they make food taste better. Mono and polyunsaturated fats are the best kind. And of course, when you are trying to shed pounds, there really can be too much of a good thing. However, used sparingly, friends are becoming my new best friend.

Protein is digested slowly and keep blood sugar from spiking -- so again, you feel satisfied for a longer period of time. If it's not oatmeal I am eating for breakfast, it's two eggs scrambled with lots of veggies. And just like the oatmeal, it keeps those late-morning hunger pains away. For lunch, I add either grilled chicken or beans to my huge salad, and dinner is always a protein, a small serving of brown rice and lots of veggies. For me, this way of eating works.

Acidic foods. Before I take my morning psyllium, I squeeze the juice of half a lemon in a cup of warm water. My mom always started her day - and mine -- this way, so it comes naturally for me. But what I have since learned is that acidic foods -- lemons, limes, grapefruit, vinegar -- slow the digestion of carbs and the rate at which the stomach empties. So, lemon juice in the a.m., and vinegar dressing my salads at lunch and dinner.

If I ate like this every day, I would be svelt in no time flat. If -- that little word that always gets in the way.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Arthur Avenue!

Our trip to Arthur Avenue was a resounding success. Lunch at Rigolleto was amazing as always, and although we got there at 2 -- what in most restaurants is an off period -- it was jammed: a bridal shower, a CYO team celebrating a win, cozy tables for two, and large tables filled with multi-generational families.
The latter would be us. This restaurant has been our go-to place for years, the place we go to celebrate all manner of special occassions. And there we were Sunday -- just celebrating life -- with our son, his wife, their darling little baby, Kiley (she's the one in the picture!) and our youngest daughter and her husband.
My food choices could have been worse . Although I decided to skip an appetizer, I ate freely of the complementary hard cheese, bread and bruscetto topping. My lunch -- gnocchi bolognese -- was incredible. But I ate each bite slowly, and in fact, was the last person to finish dinner. And yes, I ate every last bite.
The mandatory stroll down Arthur Avenue came with a stop at a local pastry shop for one small cannoli. I could have eaten a large, not to mention the biscotti that was calling my name, but one little pastry was it.

Our day had started at a track meet in New York City and a stop at the Guggenheim. And of course, our walk through the Arthur Avenue neighborhood, so we were on our feet a lot. On the way home, we drove through my old neighborhood in the Bronx, and when I saw the apartment building I called home for 22 years, a few tears leaked out.

It was a perfect day. And when I got on the scale the next day, I was the exact weight I was the morning before. I would call that a trememdous success!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Here's to omega-3!

We all need essential fatty acids, and Dr. Andrew Weil has come up with some easy ways for us all to add omega-3 fatty acids. He recommends eating several servings of oily fish, such as wild Alaskan salmon, per week as a dietary strategy to help decrease the risk of heart disease, inflammatory conditions, cancer and other health concerns. However, if you find fresh or frozen wild Alaskan salmon is too expensive, he suggests these more economical choices:

1.     Canned salmon. Sockeye salmon is always wild-caught, costs less than fresh or frozen salmon, and has the added benefit of the canning process, which softens the bones, making them an edible source of calcium.

2.     Canned sardines. Another fish-based source of omega-3s, choose sardines packed in water or olive oil.

3.     Walnuts. A good vegetarian source of omega-3 fatty acids that promote cardiovascular health and tone down inflammation, and contain ellagic acid, an antioxidant compound that helps support a healthy immune system and that may help protect against cancer.

4.     Freshly ground flaxseed contains both omega-3s and soluble fiber. Grind flaxseed daily in a coffee grinder at home (buy one specifically for this purpose) and sprinkle one to two tablespoons a day on salads or cereals.

5.     Chia seeds. An important part of the diet of ancient Aztecs and Mayans, chia seed is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, as well as vital minerals including calcium, phosphorus and magnesium.

Monday, March 12, 2012

A week of reflection

At the end of October I spent a week at Kripalu, a glorious yoga retreat in the heart of the Berkshires. While there, I made two decisions:
1. To eat mindfully, relishing each bite that passes my lips and eating slowly.
2. To leave my job in public relations.

No. 2 I accomplished Feb. 28th. It's not that I didn't like public relations. It's just that I enjoy magazine writing so much more, and thankfully, have enough freelance assignments to make this move possible.

It's No. 1 that is a work in progress.

Today, I start Wave 1 of the Sonoma Diet, and today's message that arrived in my email hit a nerve. It was the message I heard over and over again at Kripalu: Slow done, and be mindful of what I am eating and how I am eating it. I feel as if a hammer has just struck my head.

Today, the Sonoma Diet is reinforcing what I learned during that glorious week at Kripalu. That week was life changing for me professionally. Why didn't the eating part of it stick?

Simply put: I was not ready to accept the message. I thought I was, but obviously I wasn't. Today, I am.

I am about to go downstairs to make myself a healthy breakfast: scrambled egg with veggies. I will also set a place for myself at our breakfast bar, complete with placemat, napkin and vitamins. I am going to eat silently (as I did every morning at Kripalu), focusing on each bite and chewing slowly.

And I will repeat this for lunch.

Watch out Jack: Tonight we are eating dinner in the dining room. We will enjoy our dinner, and talk about our day. It's in my power to bring back the family meal, an important part of our day when the kids were growing up. Now, we eat our meals in front of the TV. That's stopping today.

According to the Sonoma Diet, every extra second you take eating any meal makes it that much easier to keep your weight down. Sounds like a plan to me!

I have also made three prints of the photo at the top of this post. It is the view from my window at Kripalu -- that freak October snow that blanketed our region. One photo is going on my fridge. A second in my pantry. The third will go on the side of my printer, so I can look at it many times each day.

Friday, March 9, 2012

What's wrong with the word diet?

Has it really been five months since I even opened this blog? Of course it has, because I've been on a binge. Eating out of control. With no end in sight.

That's why I'm back.

But I have a problem. The name of my blog is Diet Not Again! because when I started it, I was determined to lose weight without dieting. I bought into the concept that the word diet is a bad four-letter word, and that to really succeed at weight loss, my eating had to become a way of life. I get that. But for me, saying the word diet keeps me honest. The truth is my perfect way of life would be eating as many Twizzlers as I wanted without them ever affecting my weight and my health. Ha.

So today, I say: I am starting a DIET Monday morning. Why am I not starting it tomorrow? Because Sunday we are headed to Arthur Avenue, that little slice of Italian heaven in the Bronx, and there is no way I am eating lightly at my favorite restaurant, Rigoletto's. In fact, this weekend, I am eating everything I want to eat because I want to.

Monday morning, Sonoma Diet here I come. It even has the word DIET in the title. I've looked at just about every diet out there, spending hours in the bookstore, and chose this one because -- dare I say it -- the recipes really are how I like to eat. And except for the first two weeks, I can have a glass of wine with dinner, and that works for me.

Will it work? Who knows? But at least I'm still trying. That's my way of life. And if I ever lose the weight I want to, the Sonoma Diet recipes would be a great foundation on which to build my recipes for life.

But first I have to diet.