Category Archives: Nutrition

Week 15, A Love Story in 2 Parts (Part 1)

This post has been a long time coming.

Together, we have finally arrived at Week 15. Well, it’s Week 16 now, but we’ve reached/passed Week 15, and to me, that’s a big and special week. Long, long ago when this blog first began, I was struggling to keep up my motivation. In one of my posts, I wrote:

“One pound could be anything.

And so, it’s hard to celebrate 1.5 lbs.

It almost feels like the road to weight loss hasn’t started at all yet — it would be so easy to flail and give up now and go back to the world of non-obsessive eating habits. If a pound can fluctuate on any given day, how do I even know I can attribute its loss to my efforts? It’s so tempting to just “start next week,” or have a massive brownie “just this once,” and plan (and then re-plan, and re-plan) on starting tomorrow or next week.

But I suppose I’d never see week 15 then.

And I really want to see week 15. And week 30, week 54.”

In my head, I had a budding romance with Week 15 the way little girls dream of their Prince (or Princess!) Charming. I waited for it. I worked for it. I wondered what it would be like. I imagined myself squeezing into old clothes with ease. I imagined myself running MARATHONS. Actually, I’m kidding about the marathons. Back when I wrote that post, I really hoped in the depth of my heart that I would be able to run a mile or two at once. That was all I wanted. Week 15 became the Camelot, the Promised Land, blah blah blah. Week 15 would not be one ambiguous pound, I thought to myself, Week 15 won’t be able to be denied.

I wanted to see Week 15.

I wanted to see it so badly.

Knowing that if I hung in there long enough, Week 15 would roll around, I realized I had to continually put in the work if I wanted this little waystation/weighstation (har har har) to be what I imagined. So I did. And you helped me. And here’s where we are today.

Today is just past Week 15. We’re on Week 16 now.

And as of a midweek weigh-in, it’s looking pretty definite that I will have lost over 20 lbs by this Friday’s weigh-in, and I’m closing in on the 160’s after beginning this January in the mid-180’s, and beginning WW in general years ago at 198 before finally getting my act together. So that one ambiguous pound has turned into twenty. It cannot be denied.

As of today, I am sitting at my desk and wearing my very favorite shorts. They’re khaki shorts from Loft and they’re comfy and cute and can be worn to look classy or slouchy, depending on whether I feel like a preppy lady or a hipster Q. I love them dearly — and for the PAST THREE YEARS (well, since two full summers and a winter ago) they have not been able to even be buttoned. Today, I’m wearing them slouchily with a flannel and a knit cap, and I’m wearing them with a belt, and I look adorable, and this is the first time I have worn these shorts outside my house (or at all) in THREE YEARS, and it cannot be denied.

When I first began runnning, a “long run” was anything more than a mile. The 30 minutes of Couch to 5K left me beat, every time. The only way I was able to convince myself to keep doing it was to say “It’s only 30 minutes,” and then think of all the other things I could do in 30 minutes and how short it seemed. 30 minutes for Family Guy episodes, a phone game, petting Tag, scrolling through FB… So I convinced myself I could spend the 30 minutes another way. Time went by; I graduated Couch to 5K; I kept running. Now, my shortest runs are 4 miles; my medium runs at 5-6 miles, and my longest runs are 6.5 miles and up. I’ve also cut my per-mile time from 12 to 10. When I first started running, my weight loss was stubborn and I didn’t see immediate changes — and that made it so hard to stick with it. Now, I am losing (on average) 1.7 lbs a week. Now, I look forward to my run each day (well, 5-6 days a week). Now, I do with the treadmill what I used to do with TV: “Oh, five more minutes, please!” I am running, and loving it, and have breezed through most of the 160’s weight-wise with such speed that all I can do is wonder why I didn’t start running sooner. I am a RUNNER, now. It cannot be denied.

Back when I first began my WW-hustle, I used to say to Chelsea pretty much every day: WHEN WILL I GET TO EAT LIKE EVERYONE ELSE AGAIN? WHEN WILL I STOP WANTING SHITTY FOOD? These days, I love everything I eat. I don’t WANT to go back to eating crappy food — the thought makes me queasy. So if that’s how “Everyone Else” eats, well, too bad/so sad. As for wanting shitty food: I don’t, anymore. Aside from the occasional NEED for chocolate, I don’t crave bad foods or large portions anymore. To me, this is perhaps the most shocking victory of all.  I used to get frustrated by smaller portion sizes, by the need to sub ingredients, by the thought that I could never have my “favorite” foods again. Now, I feel as though I eat like a queen. And I feel happier and healthier than I’ve ever been. It cannot be denied.

And so Part 1 of this “Love Story” is the story of all the things I’ve just shared — the weeks we’ve muscled through together, my body and I, and emerged victories. The one pound that has become twenty. The “changes” that became “habits.” The “running goal” that became the best part of my day. Wellness is the slow and beautiful journey of falling in love with yourself. I’m not quite there yet, but I do see more strength and conviction in me than I’ve ever seen before. Finally, my outsides are matching my insides: determined, proud, nuanced and hard-won.

It cannot be denied.

Sodium Sleuthing

Today, I am feeling ponderous.

Here’s what’s up:

Yes, I ate more than usual this weekend. But I did stay within my flex points/activity points even with the extra noshing. At the same time, I do think I gained a little — nothing I couldn’t lose again through some long runs this week, but a gain nonetheless. Meanwhile, for the first time in forever, Chelsea and I made cabbage soup and planned on eating it this week for dinner. Our cabbage soup recipe is divine, yes, but it is also profoundly salty. My weight has shot up in the past two days, despite me going for a nearly 7-mile run, having a functioning digestive system and eating within my points. I think sodium and water retention are the culprits — but how can I be sure?

For starters, I need to make sure I’m drinking enough water to both 1) keep my tummy working and 2) flush sodium out of my system. But then, I still need a plan.

I think my plan for tonight will be to make tuna salad or tofu or something for dinner tonight and eat it instead of the cabbage soup, and see if it changes my water retention or if my weight goes down. Maybe a less-salty option will improve this retention situation. It’s not like I care if the gain is just water and if it lingers awhile, but I don’t want to be marching forward into a bad pattern or bad habit and leaving said pattern/habit unexamined. If sodium is going to take this significant of a toll (nearly 3.5 lbs!) on me, it’s probably a sign I should back off the sodium. Of course, this won’t be hard to do. I can simply eat what I’ve been eating all spring long, and when I make the cabbage soup, use less salt and less bullion. Maybe add some oregano or chives to season in an alternate way.

If switching to a lower-sodium dinner doesn’t do the trick, I’ll assume the weight was gained this weekend — as confusing as that would be. As I say to Chelsea every now and again: I really can’t lose sleep over things like this. If running between 18-25 miles a week and eating within my points won’t cause weight loss, what will?

I’m confident the problem will resolve itself; I just think it would be helpful to pinpoint the problem so that it doesn’t become a problem again.

Recipe: PB&J Chia Seed Pudding

As you all know, I’ve been experimenting with chia seeds lately. They’re low PP and high nutritional value and surprisingly versatile. I’ve been racking my brain for low-PP recipes, and came up with a winner.

Because I’m on WW, I generally avoid processed carbs and useless sugars — which means that peanut butter and jelly, delicious though it is, is a no-go for me these days. It would be one thing if the sandwich had ANY nutritional value, but it doesn’t. (Oh, spare me the peanut butter argument. We both know that’s like saying “Well, chocolate cake has eggs in it! And milk!” A high-fat butter between slices of bread does not a healthy lunch make.) it would be one thing, too, if PB&J made me full. But it doesn’t. It would be one final thing, then, if PB&J were low-PP. And it is not. Three strikes and you’re out, delicious childhood confection!

That is, until now.

I tried this two times, and the second time through got the recipe right I think. It won’t taste exactly like a sandwich — no bread and a softer texture for the PB — but it’s pretty close and kicks a craving, tastes decadent and is actually good for you. Everyone wins!

Ingredients:
— 2 TBSP dried chia seeds
— 1/2 cup water
— 4 TBSP PB2, unprepared (PB2 is a powdered peanut butter; for this recipe, I’m asking for four scoops of the powder.)
— Sugar-free jam

Steps:
— Whisk seeds, water and PB2 together. Allow to set. Setting can take anywhere from ten minutes to overnight. Wait for the seeds to congeal.
— Dollop 1 TBSP of sugar free jam of your choice on top.
— Enjoy!

PP value: 4 PP, depending on what jam you use. Mine is 0 PP for 1 TBSP.

Spaghetti Squash: MY CHANCE AT LOVE.

Fellow WW-ers, you know we ain’t ’bout that high-carb life.

At first, that was tough for me. I love bread. I could care less about rice or pasta, but I do love bread. These days, I eat NO rice, NO pasta and my bread is very limited. And, really, it doesn’t bother me. I’m strong; I’m healthy; the food pyramid that says you should eat a ton of grains is full of crap. Plenty of people eat no grains and get their protein elsewhere and are healthy, happy people. So, haters, take note. You don’t need to patronize me with tales of how I MUST eat rice, etc.

I’ve noticed that most WW-folks who still want rice and grains used in their diets multiple times a week aren’t including those things for nutrition’s sake anyway — but rather because they don’t want to give them up. Makes sense. But I had a realization and the realization led to a firm stance:

If what I’m putting into my mouth isn’t 0PP, it has to “do” something for me. It has to have some nutrients or antioxidants or fiber or protein. It can’t just be useless.

As far as I’m concerned, most processed carbs are useless. I like quinoa and bulgur, but am pretty much phased out of everything else. And everything else, friends, includes spaghetti.

UNTIL NOW.

My sister-in-law, Jill, mentioned to me that we should explore spaghetti squash. Recently, we decided to try. And boy, were the results delicious!

I can’t really post the recipe, since Chelsea made it — not me — and so she’ll need to guest-post to tell you her process. I know it contains tomatoes, spaghetti squash, mushrooms, spinach, vegetarian “chicken” strips, and seasonings. I know a whole massive bowl makes me so full I could die, and is only 5PP. I know I have had it for dinner twice this week and loved it.

If you’re unfamiliar with spaghetti squash, here’s a brief description: It’s a squash that you cut in half, scoop out the guts, bake, and then peel out the flesh. It comes out looking like little spaghetti noodles. It’s as simple as that.

The texture, of course, is only sort of similar to spaghetti. It doesn’t taste like a bowl of carbs. But if you’re already not eating much by way of noodles, it doesn’t really matter — gave the same effect to me, for example. And because it can be served heated, you can make any pasta-esque dishes using it and not have to sacrifice flavors or heat. Not everything can be served over a bed of greens, ya heard? As much as we love salads at my house these days, we were interested in finding a low/zero PP way to make hot mixed dishes like the one Chelsea’s been making this week. Now, we have a way!

The squash are deceptively filling and go a long way, portion size. We initially bought two small squash. That ended up being enough for FOUR dinners. So, word to the wise: Don’t over-buy. The squash is a totally reasonable price though and keeps fine in a fridge one prepped. What’s not to love?

Mostly, I’m excited because I’m a gal who loves a hot dish. I’ve learned to like salads, etc. as meals, but my favorite thing to dive into after a long day is a steamy bowl of, well, anything.

The texture and flavor of spaghetti squash means I can make warm meals with savory elements that are low or zero PP – healthy comfort food ahoy!

All in all, finding new ways to enjoy foods that grow right from the earth is always exciting to me, especially when they open doors to new aspects of cooking (or, should I say, offer a return to the preparation of certain types of dishes). Eating “clean” is a great way to make sure that you get nutrients and all that good stuff from the earth instead of a factory — I truly feel better since I cut out processed stuff and looked for more earth-based foods.

If you’ve not yet tried spaghetti squash, I totally recommend. It seemed intimidating at first to bake and prep the squash, but Chelsea swears it was a breeze. SO THERE ARE NO EXCUSES.

I command you, dearest readers, to go find spaghetti squash at your local grocer RIGHT NOW, so that you too can experience its glory.

You won’t regret it!

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Waging War with the Frenemy Within

This year hasn’t been an easy one.

Before I go on, I’ll preface with this: I’m blessed. I am nearly miraculously blessed. I am living one-in-a-million odds in many ways, from my family’s continued (or newly re-begun) health to my arrival in a PhD program at age 24 to my stable, wonderful, soul-affirming relationship and its fast approaching trip down the aisle. I am blessed with two wonderful jobs (three, if you count side work and four if you count being a student) and while we are far from wealthy, there’s always some extra cash around for frozen yogurt, or a trip to the movies. I know I am blessed.

But this year has been really hard, even with those blessings in tow.

For even the most stable person, the beginnings of a PhD program are stressful. Coupled with my teaching college classes for the first time, preparing for my wedding, and trying to live my life on a budget — well, it’s kind of like having caffeine or kryptonite injected straight into my heart most of the time whenever I think about how much farther I still need to go to get to where I eventually want to be. I try to take things day by day; I try to focus on the moment. And sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t, and always I have a fresh slate in the morning upon which to try again.

I am — some of you may know — a person who lives with depression and anxiety. Not the fidgety-ness that many folks blame their inadequacies on… rather, the kind that grips my whole body and whole brain and makes it hard for me to feel, do, or grasp anything. For the past several years, this problem has been under control. I don’t require medication; I use a variety of mental and behavioral coping techniques that keep me in control of my own body, mind and life. This past school year has been really hard; this spring, I knew that my depression was skulking around in the back of my brain. I could sense it. As I’ve learned to do, though, I would not let it dictate a moment of my life.

Why am I telling you all this? Because I want you to know — whether you are a fellow WW-er or just an interested family member/friend or an adventurous cook or maybe you’ve even just stumbled upon my blog by accident — I want you to know that the best thing I ever did for myself was begin to take charge of my health. Specifically, when I began to exercise more — and even more specifically, when I began to run — I found a new and powerful way to manage the things that make my life uncommonly hard.

Everyone who’s into fitness will tell you that working out releases those happy endorphins into the brain. I think that’s probably correct, except my endorphins never arrive until after the workout is over. That’s okay. I know that on bad days, if I can get myself to go for a good run, I will walk back up my basement steps feeling calmer and in control.

And “control” can be a double-edged sword, I know; wanting to “control” my body might sound like dangerous language to be using. It can be seen as the language of disordered eating, of body dimorphism, etc. — but for me, I promise, it is nothing so insidious. Taking charge of my health has allowed me to maintain the vessel that HOLDS my poor Brain; Brain, who, for me, works overtime every day — whose goal in life is to work beautifully and well. I am an academic and a scholar. If my mind isn’t on the right set of tracks, nothing is. And protecting my body has served my mind well. Having control over my daily routine and my health has allowed me to plow through the most difficult academic year of my life with aplomb so far.

There are days where teaching is overwhelming. There’s a line in an Ani Difranco song — something like, “No one asked me if I wanted to be everything to someone.” I’m not “everything” to my students — but the responsibility of answering their never-ending emails, guiding them, teaching them and being a mentor and authority figure is SO MUCH HARDER THAN I THOUGHT IT WOULD BE.

There are days when my coursework is too much. Independent study, coupled with a psychotic history class experience that has forever soured me on branching out from my department — blah. I am drained most days just by the struggle to keep up.

There are days when the future is TERRIFYING: the job hunt in the awful academic market, the baby that Chelsea and I will struggle to add to our family,  the difficulties of paying for school and paying for life on grad student salaries, wondering if our marriage will ever be legal in PA or if I’ll have to live a state away forever, wondering if everyone I love will stay healthy, wondering if I will stay healthy…

My brain latches onto all these things and can’t let go. I get stuck. I get overwhelmed. For the past several months, though, I’ve found a temporary re-balancing cure: I go for a run; I take care of my body, so it can take care of my mind.

By eating enough nutrients — through foods like kale, berries, etc. — I have avoided being ill for most of the winter and spring. This is new for me; I’m usually decrepit by now.

By exercising, I’ve boosted my weight loss and my self-confidence. I’ve also, interestingly, boosted my comfort. For those of you who have never been overweight at all — you can’t really imagine how uncomfortable it is to carry extra weight around. Not when walking, etc. but moreso when there’s no type of clothes that are wholly loose and cozy. Moreso when there’s no way you can lay where you don’t get in your own way. Moreso when you feel like you just have too much space that you’re occupying and you wish it were different. Roughly 18 lbs down, and my cozy clothes swim on me. My couch feels comfier. I think less about moving my body around obstacles it faces during the day. I am comfortable.

By getting enough sleep, I’ve given myself the energy and stamina to tackle the above two things.

By mindfully tracking points and never giving myself the ability to make excuses, the plan continues to work for me. It might seem to you, readers, that I lose slowly — but at 5’3, if I lost more quickly, there’d be major problems.

All in all, this wellness journey hasn’t just healed my body (or hasn’t started to heal my body, I guess I should say, since I’ve got 35 lbs to go) — it has helped to heal my mind. Who knew these changes in lifestyle would heal something that pharmaceuticals struggled to manage?

I’ll end with a little anecdote.

Yesterday, I was sitting on my bed and getting increasingly anxious and frustrated about how much work is left in this semester — particularly because one of my professors has continually made life difficult. I started thinking about how busy this week will be, and about how I don’t have my usual day off on Friday and won’t be able to run, and about how we have company coming this weekend and what if I can’t run then, etc. etc. and my thoughts twisted and spiraled and wound around me like a vise. I got to a point that’s not unfamiliar to me: I felt like I couldn’t move. But instead of giving in to that anxiety, I asked myself this question: “Will you really feel better if you sit here?” The answer was no, and I knew it. Then, I asked myself, “Will you feel better if you run?” Stubbornly, I said, “I don’t know” (in my head, to myself). Through brute force — and those of you who have anxiety issues too will know the force it takes — I stood up and grabbed one of my workout tops from my closet. I flicked it at the bed and announced to Chelsea: “If I don’t go for my run, the anxiety wins. And it will not win today.” Off I went to the basement. It was a short run — 3.7 miles in 42 minutes, counting that 5-min walking warm-up — but I came back upstairs feeling better and feeling more in control. It changed the tone of my day and of my week.

Choices like the one I made yesterday? They have changed the tone of my life.

In short, I have begun to save myself from myself.

KNOW THY ENEMY, they say.

I’ll add: Yeah, know the enemy. And then, win.

 

Chia Seeds

Way, way back in the day when Chelsea and I first started eating flax seed, we had heard somehow/somewhere that chia seeds were comparable. I think we ran across flax seeds first at the store, and bought them, and remained deeply in love with them as time went by. Like healthy little graham cracker crumbles, they are.

But this weekend, my Aunt Maryjane was telling me about her love of chia seeds. She said they are a great energy boost, that they can congeal, that they are fibrous, that they are tasty. She told me that runners often love them as an energy boost — and ya’ll KNOW I’m ’bout that life. I investigated further and found that TWO TABLESPOONS is only 1PP!

And so, we shall soon be trying chia seeds. I’ll let you know what we do with them first! Probably we’ll pick some up some time this week; depends on when we get to Wegman’s. Although I guess I could make a trip to Down to Earth on my way home today… Hmm!

The more I read about chia, the more intrigued I am. Can’t wait to give it a whirl!

How I Conquered Holiday Dinner

If you don’t already know, I should tell you: I love my family. I love my family — both immediate and extended — with a love so big it could eclipse the sun. I love our traditions. I love our holidays. I love our chats and our laughs and our memories. I love the way we protect one another and lift one another up and celebrate one another. My family — brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandma, my parents, everyone — means the world to me.

And so holidays, then, are an important time. As you’re probably aware, this past weekend marked the Christian celebration of Easter, which is a big day in my family. My aunt and uncle and their daughters drive in from Virginia; we have a blessed breakfast at my mom’s house where my dad’s side of the family comes and joins us; we sing in the church choir at all the masses of the Easter Triduum. We have a big dinner at my gram’s.

Though I’m a Unitarian Universalist now, I love the Catholic celebration of Easter and have been looking forward to seeing my family and experiencing the rich and beautiful traditions of the season.

What else was I looking forward to? THE FOOD.

We are VERY Polish, and so Easter is a time for kielbasa and raisin bread and potato salad and ham. And my Aunt Maryjane, who drove in from Virginia with her husband, daughters and very sweet little dog (Antony!), is an incredible cook and an even more incredible baker. And so the Easter feast is not to be missed!

As the weeks near the holiday drew closer, I thought about how I might manage my WW skillz while still enjoying the holiday. Should I count points? Work out extra? Eat less? Party down and eat whatever for a day? I didn’t want to set myself back, and I didn’t want to miss out on some of the best food of the year. What to do?

Here’s what I did.

I ran 25 miles in the week leading up to Easter, and did not run (but did go for long walks both days with my mom and Gracie) on Saturday or Sunday.

On Saturday, I ate things I would normally eat. AKA, no weeklies or activity points consumed.

On Sunday, at my mom’s absolutely delicious blessed breakfast, I limited myself to two small kielbasa pieces, one slice of raisin bread, a small slice of ham, two egg whites, and cottage cheese. Everything was divine.

At dinner, I made sure I filled half my plate with salad (the salad was a delight — apples, berries, mixed greens, etc.) and I filled the other half with the treats I wanted most: more kielbasa (so Polish, I know), and a few slices of homemade raisin bread (AAH SO GOOD) and some sweet potato casserole. Then, for dessert, my aunt had made this layered, berry-having, light-cream-cheese-and-pudding-having, shortcake layered concoction — I don’t know how else to describe it. I do know, though that I had some of it and it was WORTH. EVERY. POINT.

I calculated what I ate for the day and was shocked to find out that every 3 oz of kielbasa is 7PP. I weighed out five pieces of kielbasa (since I’d eaten 5 throughout the day) and got the weight and calculated it.. I HAD EATEN 17PP OF KIELBASA. Oh well. #noregrets. I calculated everything else, too, and all told, I ate all my dailies and about 17 of my activities/weeklies, which left about 60 of those points left untouched! I was pleased.

Then, this morning, I decided to weigh myself to see what the weekend’s damages had been.

And lo and behold: I lost 0.3 lbs! An Easter miracle indeed.

All this is to say the following: If you exercise, plan ahead, save your points, and don’t starve-then-binge (what a foolish thing to do, fellow WW-ers, starving all day then eating holiday dinners until you’re sick — so many people posted online that they did exactly this and felt like crap after. Well, no wonder! Your body wasn’t designed for that!) but rather eat calmly and with control throughout the day — then you, too, can eat your fill at Easter dinner and even have dessert! And still, somehow, end up lighter than you started.

No need for holiday anxiety. I am the captain of this ship. I’m in control of this journey. I plan the work and work the plan. And, if the way I felt about seeing pictures of myself from this weekend are any indication, that effort is paying off.

 

Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me: It’s OK To Be Hungry

Hey everybody!

I think I’d like to start a new occasional series of themed posts on here. Oh, you’re all sitting there with baited breath biting your nails, eh? Wondering what, pray tell, will she prattle on about next? Well I won’t keep you in suspense long. 

Last night, Chelsea and I were talking about how there are so many things that could have changed my journey so far if I knew them sooner. 

Now, to clarify: Weight loss is an intensely personal journey. I know that; you know that. Further, there are a ton of things that no matter how many times someone tells you the thing, you won’t absorb it until you’re ready to do so. I get that. But when I started WW, I wasn’t someone who was eating three Big Macs a week, and I wasn’t someone who never ever worked out. I wasn’t someone who ate a gallon of ice cream because i was feeling my #feelings. If you ARE that person, then that’s okay too — but so much of the dieting/healthy eating literature out there (I hate the word “dieting,” because I’m not “dieting,” I’ve changed my life) focuses on how to like, avoid eating 3 McChickens for dinner rather than what to do if you’re someone who already eats baked chicken at home, who doesn’t mind salad, etc. 

Finding advice for someone like me was harder, because though battles with weight are always both mental and physical/behavioral, it’s hard to advise someone whose most obvious struggles are sins of omission or things that exist only in his/her head. I read a ton of advice about drinking more water — but I’ve always drank enough water. I read a ton of advice on how to avoid full-fat cheese or fried food. But I was already DOING those things, and was unhappy with my weight. Where was the advice out there for someone like me?

The purpose of these “Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me” posts will be to share with you guys some of the things that I learned the hard way — things that (though some of them I wouldn’t have been “ready” for had I been told before I discovered them) might help you NOW, instead of months later. Things that might help you re-think behaviors or habits you’ve been stuck with so far. Things that, maybe, if someone tells YOU, you’ll change sooner and smarter than I did. 

Here’s the first thing I wish someone had told me in 2011, the first time I tried to start WW: It’s OK to be hungry.

Some of you are thinking, “Duh.” Others are thinking, “Go on…” and for the sake of the latter, I will.

For my ENTIRE LIFE so far, I’ve had this weird kennel-dog mentality about food. I could never explain to you WHY, but I spent about 24.5 out of my almost-25 years of life being so terrified of becoming hungry. I would eat big lunches because “What if I get hungry before dinner?” At dinner, I would want seconds, because “What if I’m hungry before bed?” And the cycle went on and on.

I wish someone had said to me, “Karen, so what if you’re a little bit hungry?”

So what? 

We’ve talked about this before, on here. I say often the awkward and privileged (but no less true) phrase: “In a first-world country where you are living above the poverty line, you absolutely will not die between lunch and dinner, or between dinner and breakfast.” I mean, will you? What is the WORST THING that will happen between when lunch ends at 1 PM and dinner begins at, say, 7? WHAT IS THE WORST THING? I wish someone had asked me that.

I wish I hadn’t thought to myself, “Well, I don’t know what time dinner will be tonight, so I better eat this now, right?” OM NOM NOM.

I wish I hadn’t thought to myself, “This piece of chicken can’t POSSIBLY be enough. I’ll be hungry in a half hour! I’d like two pieces, please.” OM NOM NOM.

I wish I hadn’t thought to myself, “There’s no way a salad can be filling unless there’s shit that’s not salad on there, too. Gimme some croutons. Gimme more of that chicken. Oh, and salad dressing please. Gimme more of that corn. Those black beans. Those weird little Asian crisp strips. More. I need more. Salad for dinner is gonna leave me starving in an hour, so I need more in it.” OM NOM NOM.

I wish I hadn’t thought to myself, “If my plate isn’t full, there’s not enough food on it.”

I wish I hadn’t thought to myself, “Feeling full is the same thing as having my stomach be hurting because it’s so stuffed.”

I wish I hadn’t thought to myself, “If you’re hungry, you absolutely need to eat right now.”

But I did think all those things. I still fight not to think them. I still remind myself that though it’s always very smart to keep a healthy snack in my backpack or purse for in case I’m hungry and in danger of making a really bad choice, I don’t necessarily need to plan my life around making sure I am a constant eating machine. I still remind myself that if I’m hungry in the evening before bed, that’s not dinner’s fault — and that I should go eat some berries or an apple, and get over it: BECAUSE I WON’T DIE OF HUNGER BEFORE BREAKFAST THE NEXT DAY. 

Honest to goodness: I have found, in the real core of my heart, that my biggest problem with food was never type or even specifically portion control — but rather some strange, never-ending, body-gripping fear that I wouldn’t have enough. It makes very little sense, since I grew up in a house where I always had enough to eat — without question. SO where does this weird neurosis come from? Don’t know. Doesn’t matter. What matters is knowing that these thoughts and the behaviors they incur don’t reflect reality or genuine situations; instead, they just reflect a disordered pattern of thinking. 

My friend Arielle tells me all the time about how it takes about thirty days to make or break habits. That if you can get yourself to do something for that long, it feels more natural. Same goes for breaking habits. My biggest WW break throughs came at times I forced myself through those 30 days with every bit of strength I had. One of the things I had to do without giving in for that amount of time: limiting my between-meals snacking AND my meals. 

And letting myself get a little hungry.

Here’s the progression of how it went, back in the day: I would eat my meals, have my meals be pretty big, then I would eat a TON of zero point foods, especially fruit. Then, I scaled back my meals. Still ate a huge amount of fruit. Then, I realized that much fruit was still too much sugar and was stalling my weight loss. I began to eat a TON of vegetables instead of fruit. Then, I realized I was only eating out of habit — not because I needed the food (I realized this because when carrots are all you have in your bag, they don’t always seem appealing whereas pretzels always do, and so if the food wasn’t appealing enough to eat then certainly I wasn’t actually hungry, just bored). Then, I realized I needed to scale back my between-meals zero-point fiestas. So I did. And now, I eat fruit and vegetables freely, but only when I want ’em. And while it took me two years of yo-yo-ing and about 5 months of solid effort this time around to get it right, it has changed my eating habits and my life.

All this being said: I absolutely think that getting ravenous is a dangerous thing. Ravenous people make heinous food choices. WE ALL DO IT, GUYS. So don’t let yourself become ravenous — keep snap peas in your purse. Bring carrots with lunch. Have a CUP of grapes. Have some watermelon, an apple, etc. Don’t starve or let yourself get dangerously hungry.

But try to realize that if you are a little hungry between meals, or you think a portion can’t possibly be enough… think to yourself: So what if I get hungry later? So what if this isn’t the most filling thing I’ve ever eaten?

I promise you — I bet anything I have — that if you ask yourself those questions, do not over-indulge, and stick with it for thirty days, by the end of the thirty days you will literally almost NEVER think about being hungry. Nor will you BE hungry very often. 

Of course, the caveat to the above is you’ll need to eat “real food,” not TV dinners or frozen stuff or snack packs. Eat real food, eat 3 meals a day, limit snacking, and stop being afraid of hunger… and you’ll see that, like most phobias, hunger stops being scary the less you live your life in deference to it. 

These days, I drink a protein shake for breakfast, maybe snack on some berries and almonds during the morning. For lunch, Greek Yogurt with flax seed and some snap peas. Mid afternoon? Beef Jerky. ONE SERVING ONLY. Post-run? A banana or a protein bar. Dinner? Whatever nutritionally fortified concoction we’re eating that day, usually about 7-10 PP worth. Snacks: an apple, a frozen Greek yogurt, or blueberries and creme (see my previous posts for the recipe). That’s it. That’s genuinely all I eat. And I run, on average, about 25 miles a week. And I work 4 different jobs. And I am busy all the goddamn time and stressed all the goddamn time. I just stopped eating to make my stress go away, and stopped being afraid of being hungry.

I wish someone had told me that I could sometimes be hungry, and that it would be okay.

I wish someone told me that if I limited what I ate, after awhile I wouldn’t keep looking for what wasn’t there anymore.

I wish Arielle had told me years ago that if I made it through thirty days, I wouldn’t keep looking back!

But I know these things NOW, and that’s better than never having known. And so I’m telling you.

If hunger is your mental boogie man, you are far from being alone. Being afraid of being hungry is a real phobia that makes weight loss super hard. However, it can be faced. Face it with the knowledge that you will not die between meals. Face it with the knowledge that clearly, if you are trying to lose weight, something was wrong with your eating/working out efforts so far — so STOP MAKING FREAKING EXCUSES, and put down the extra cookies (or extra chicken, or extra… anything) and sit with that hunger for a hot minute and question if it’s real, if it matters, and if it’ll kill you before your next meal. If the answer to any of the above is “Yes,” then drink a glass of water instead and move on.

The boogie man can’t get you if you’re not afraid of him anymore.

Evolution AND Creationism: A Wellness Tale

Alright, yeah, I kind of faked you out. I have no interest in formatting this as though it were a story.

But I guess I’ll begin with an anecdote.

When I was a kid, I loved (and STILL love) Saul Bellow’s book, Henderson The Rain King. If you’re a Counting Crows fan, take note: they wrote that song about that book! In the book, the protagonist — Henderson — feels frustrated at all the things he has not yet become or accomplished in his life. “Time to burst the spirit’s sleep!” he shouts. “I am tired of becoming! I want to BE!” He then rants awhile about how the world is made up of two types of people — be-ers and become-ers. He wants to be the former, but fears he’s wasted too much time “becoming.”

I hear that, Henderson.

There’s something to be said for creating yourself. Also, for just being whoever you are. Also, for the process that creation requires.

Recently, I remarked to Chelsea than in another twenty lbs or so (down 17 since January, looking to be down a total of 30 more) I’ll “look the part” of a runner more. Right now, my saying I go on 5 mile runs and the body that does those runs doesn’t really match — to me. I know it’s not a really factual experience of the world. But I feel like I am “becoming,” instead of just being.

It occurred to me this morning that by running at all, I am BE-ing a runner. Already, I have fashioned myself into a runner. I might not be as thin or as fast as I want, but if running five days a week doesn’t make you a runner, what does?

And so, there’s a little corner of my life where I AM.

Of course, it was a process to get here, wasn’t it? There were 9 full weeks of Couch to 5K. Lots of time agonizing over the scale. New workout clothes. Better-fitting-old-workout-clothes.

The bottom line, though — the “who I AM” part of it all — wasn’t an evolution, really, when it comes down to it.

The day I committed to running 5 days a week with no excuses, I stopped “becoming” and started to “be” someone who runs.

OKAY OKAY. This is starting to get very “meta” ( #someta, as one of my best friends, Susanna, might say).

I don’t mean for it to be. I do have a point!

Weight loss is certainly a process. It’s a process that can sometimes feel like an ENDLESS cycle of becoming, becoming, becoming — never small enough, ten more lbs, messed up today, setting deadlines, new clothes, old clothes, people’s reactions — a never-ending evolutionary process where we are always in flux.

That “becoming” sometimes becomes a pair of blinders on our eyes. We remain so focused on what we might be soon that we forget what we are right now.

The minute you make one right choice, you are healthier. The minute you track your meals without exception AND WITHOUT MERCY ON YOURSELF, you are healthier. The minute you decide you are not going to throw it all away at this holiday or that, you are healthier. 

Try this: Instead of saying “I am trying to become healthier,” say to yourself, “I am someone who does makes healthy choices.” And then when you make those good choices, instead of telling yourself those good choices are novel, just see them as a part of who you are.

You are evolving, sure. You’re learning new things about yourself and your body, probably. I mean, I certainly am. But there’s something in you that has already decided to BE — it’s your spirit’s sleep bursting. Your Henderson moment.

Pretend, if you will, that you are a book. Pretend this week is a chapter. Pretend it’s being taken and put in an anthology or is the only preview available on Google Books. Envisioning it? Ok. What would someone know or see about you, if this week was all they’d be working with? Would they see you twenty pounds ago, or twenty pounds from now? Nope, they’d see you this week. Would they see the yo-yo-ing that came before, with your weight bouncing around for years? Nope, they’d see you this week. Would they see you feel embarrassed about eating a cookie? Nope, they’d see you this week eating an apple.

We are a summation of our histories, our stories, our memories — they’ve shaped us; they’ve made us. I know. Obviously, right? But we are also RIGHT NOW. Who you are, RIGHT NOW, is who you are.Not who you were or will become.

And so from now on when I get discouraged about the 35 extra lbs that I WANT GONE, I will tell myself: “Self, I know where you want to go. But look at yourself right now and enjoy the ride. You weigh 166.3 lbs, not 190 anymore. You’re a runner. You make good choices. You’re not adrift in the ocean; you’re steering the ship. You’re someone who steers the ship.”

I will work hard on having that notion feel true, and be enough.

Something tells me it will count for more than I can imagine.

Recipe: Hidden Valley Ranch Dip

This one isn’t so much a recipe as it is a suggestion/pro-tip.

At SAMs Club, near the spices and baking supplies, they sell a fairly big bottle of ranch powder.

The nutrition facts on the side are for 1/8 a teaspoon which is useless since half the values are set to zero, but I’ve done a little figuring and I think it would take over two tablespoons of the powder to make one PP. Which is really not bad, considering that for 8 oz of dip, you only need 1.5 tablespoons.

The directions suggest milk and mayonnaise.

I KNOW you guys aren’t dumb enough to think I would use mayonnaise in anything except maybe poison.

So here’s what I did:

1.25 cups of plain Greek yogurt (I used fat free chobani)
1.5 TBSP ranch mix
3 TBSP water
A pinch of salt

Then I mixed it together with a whisk in a bowl.

I tell you: it did not taste like diet ranch dip or low calorie ranch dip. It tasted like delicious, creamy, mmmmm ranch dip. Not as thick as a full fat store brand but not at all thin. Store brand can be clumpy. This wasn’t. Think, Greek yogurt consistency. Because #obviously.

For 4 PP total this dip was a hit at my house — we ate some with snap peas and celery stalks while watching Pretty Little Liars. We’ve eaten some of it two more times and are still on the original batch — so the above recipe makes a fair amount.

All in all, a really richly-flavored and fun to snack on dip for movie night or get togethers. I’m keeping it in mind for if we ever go to a party and need to bring a dip or veggie tray!