Thursday, December 29, 2011

Saying no to a Weight Watchers membership

I'm sitting with my parents on a beautiful summer day in late August. My Mom is concerned about my weight. She's tried various approaches to motivate me to lose weight since the huge pregnancy weight gain in 2008.

Unfortunately, my Mom is not one of those people in my life I can talk to about my food issues. She thinks that if I'm not losing weight on Weight Watchers, that I must not want to lose weight. She doesn't understand that I don't want to be overweight, but dieting had become an utterly impossible task.

My Mom did not know about the sessions with a cognitive behaviour therapist until almost a year into the process. From time-to-time I pondered how (and if) I was going to tell her about therapy. Luckily, she started the conversation herself:

Mom: I'd like to pay for a Weight Watcher's membership for you.

Me: Mom, I'll never go on Weight Watcher's again.
Mom: So how will you lose weight?
Me: By eating properly; balanced, nutritious meals, with lots of fruits and vegetables. I saw a person last year to help figure out my eating issues and the reason I overeat is because of my history of dieting.
Me:  I've changed my eating habits and the good news is that my cravings have decreased significantly. I don't think about chocolate and cookies and ice cream all the time now.

Me: I'm losing weight, but it's going to be slow. It 's important that I don't feel like I'm on a diet.

I didn't go into any more details. She responded to the news well. We haven't talked about it again. Thankfully she knows not to ask how I'm doing. I'm going to show her progress rather than talk about it.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Have yourself a Merry little Christmas

Merry Christmas and happy holidays to you and your family...

Try eating a salad before a big meal and remember there is no point in making yourself feel guilty if you overindulge. I'm going to make the healthiest choices I can, and perhaps you can do the same!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Thinking about food all the time

I've always found it curious how people assume that just because I'm overweight that I need a lesson on how to loose weight. When discussing my weight at a recent doctor's appointment, my doctor launched into the types of foods I should be eating. Fruits, vegetables, low fat milk, lean protein... yada, yada, yada. It took every ounce of my being to not roll my eyes.

How many magazine articles and TV episodes are dedicated to losing weight again explaining the foods that I should and should not eat and the proper portion sizes? And what about people who comment on a news article or tell me that "I just need to stop shoveling food into my mouth."

Why don't these thin people /doctors / crusading TV hosts understand that the problem isn't a lack of knowledge on how to diet? As a serial dieter, I know how to lose weight: the foods to eat, the foods not to eat, and the proper portions.

I believe that thin people don't understand what it is like to have fat thinking. And on the flip side, overweight, serial dieters like myself, don't know what it is like to not think about food all the time.

Munchberry recently commented that she is baffled by Mr. Munchberry's complete lack of interest in food. For a long time, I assumed that everyone thought about food as much as I do: my friend who keeps a box of cookies on her desk; the doctors that lectures me; and TV hosts touting the latest info on loosing weight. That every waking minute of every day is a marathon struggle to not eat something. That I just didn't have as much willpower to say no to chocolate and french fries as other people. That I was weak because I couldn't stop eating.

But, the fact is not everyone thinks about food all the time. Some people can go into a gas station and abstain from buying three chocolate bars for the price of one. Some people can go into a restaurant and order a reasonably healthy meal, some people can eat a bowl of ice cream without feeling guilty, some people can eat only when hungry and stop when satisfied. Because for some people, like Mr. Munchberry, food is just not a big deal.

How much easier would it be to healthy without constantly thinking of food and battling cravings? This is essentially why I decided to seek therapy to change my eating behaviours. I thought it would be much easier to just not have cravings rather than constantly drawing on "willpower" to manage cravings. 

So the next time you read an article, watch a television show or someone tells you how to lose weight, keep in mind that it's not just about the knowledge, it's also about your thinking. Not everyone thinks the same; there are those of us who think about food all the time and some people who just don't think about food at all.

And sometimes I think to myself: how well would my thin friends eat if they had my fat thinking?

Follow up posts

Previous post - Dietary Assessment: hot water

Friday, December 2, 2011

A conversation between hubby and wife

Me: Am I looking smaller?

Hubby: Yes, you do. Do I look smaller?

Me: Actually yes you do. Have you lost weight?

Hubby: Yes, about ten pounds.

Me: Just from eating the stuff I've been asking you to make?

Hubby nods.

Me: You're not even exercising!

Hubby laughs.

Me: I was close to catching up to you.

Hubby shrugs.

I mouth to hubby: b*st*rd!

Of course, I'm happy for hubby, but errrr....

Friday, November 18, 2011

I'm happy with my no diet diet plan

Here and there, I catch a couple of minutes in the morning of Gillian McKeith's healthy lifestyle TV show You Are What You Eat. Each episode Gillian transforms the featured guests' diet from a diet rich in carbohydrates, fat and sugar to a diet jam packed with fruit, vegetables and other nutrient-rich foods. 

There is so much to marvel about this show: the massive display of a week's worth of beige food, poop floating through a tube during a colonic irrigation, blood tests, tongue and belly examinations and of course, the fascinating segment, the stool sample analysis. There are aspects of this show that I find insightful and a little frightful.

The extreme change in diet is the part of the show that causes concern for me. Prior to the show, the guests' diet is not normal. All guests eat massive amounts of junk and highly processed food devoid of vegetables and fruit and nutrients. Gillian's diet is packed with whole foods: fruits, vegetables, grains, beans and all foods are completely unprocessed.

My concern isn't about the food she is suggesting; in fact much of what she says about processed foods really speaks to me (but that is for another post). What I find problematic about Gillian's diet is it realistic for these people to keep it up? Are they happy with what they are doing?

Last week a guest expressed concern with the four hours of prepping and cooking food in the kitchen each day. And just as regular (or irregular) as the poop samples, there is the obligatory scene with the participant gagging on some of the unusual recipes, such as the unusual juice concoctions (parsley juice?) and whole grain dishes such as quinoa porridge.

Yoni Freedhof of routinely says in his blog that in order to make a lifelong change, you need a sustainable plan, a plan that you keep up forever; and you are happy with what you are doing. And I can tell you, I would not be happy spending four hours a day cooking and eating foods that are poles apart from my current menu is not a plan that I could or would maintain forever.

So, this makes me think. Am I happy with my weight loss plan? Can I keep this up forever?

Yes, I am happy with my plan and I do think that I can keep this up forever. Here are the top ten reasons why I think my no diet diet plan is a plan that I can keep up indefinitely:   

1. No food is off-limits, no amount too much.
2. No food journalling.
3. I understand and manage my cravings.
4. It works with my family life and career.
5. Walking to and from the Go Train adds up to 50 minutes of exercise each day without much effort.
6. Swimming with a team is more fun and interesting than swimming alone or going to the gym.
7. I'm eating like a normal person.
8. I'm not in a race to get to my goal weight.
9. I'm not accountable to anyone but myself.
10. I don't feel like I'm on a diet.

Sure, change is needed. But why does the change need to be so extreme? I feel that these people are being set up for disappointment. I'm sure some people manage to keep up Gillian's diet, but I wouldn't be surprised if most go back to their food comfort zone. I know I would.

Do you watch You Are What You Eat? If so, do you think you could eat Gillian's recommended diet for the rest of your life? Are you happy with your weight loss plan? 

Previous post: Dietary Assessment - who knew the stomach flu was going around edition

Monday, November 7, 2011

You like me, you really like me!

She stands 5'6" and is 56 pounds lighter than she did just five months ago. She writes on average 20 posts a month and endeared me to her blog when she wrote of green poo from eating too many black gummi bears. If you haven't figured it out yet, I'm referring to Carbie Girl, and she has bestowed the honour of awarding me the Versatile blogger award.

Verstile:  ver-sa-tile [vur-suh-tl] or, especially British, [vur-suh-tahyl]:  capable of, or adapted for, turning easily from one to another various tasks, fields of endeavor, etc.:  a versatile writer.
Word information source:

So, as a recipient of the Versatile Blogger Award, I must share seven things about myself and pass the award on to 15 newly discovered bloggers.

Seven things about me:
1. My husband and I have the same birthday: same year, month and day.
2. I have a friend who actually likes the movie Waterworld.
3. When I was 12, I was in a Tampax tampons print ad.
4. When snorkeling in Tobermorey,  I discovered that I have a fear of ship wrecks.
5. Last night I discovered that fruit flies freak me out too.
6. I love to eat broccoli and feta cheese pizza.
7. I've had a bruise on my back in the shape of a pool filter.

Fifteen newly discovered bloggers 
1. A Mamacita @ Confessions of a Mamacita 
4. Brian @ The Angry Porkchop
6. Michelle @ Can't Fail Again
8. Bonnie @ Fat-be-gone
9. Miss S. @ Follow Me Down 
10. Miss April @ 30 Before 30
11. Poison @ A New Poison
12. Muchberry @ I'm just Puffy
13. Karen @ Waisting Time
14. Millie @ See Millie Tri
15. MB @ Why the Weight

I consider myself to be a new blogger, so everyone is newly discovered to me....

Thanks Carbie Girl and thanks to all bloggers for sharing your journey and point of view!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Chocolate season is here!

"I never met a chocolate I didn't like." - Deanna Troi, Star Trek: The Next Generation

There are tell-tale signs of the end of summer: colder nights, inopportune commuting delays due to school buses and the appearance of massive bags of Halloween chocolate. The end of summer means the beginning of fall, one step closer to the blistering winds and snow drifts of winter. But it's not only a sign of climatic change, it's the start of the chocolate season. Ah, yes, the chocolate season is upon us.

Chocolate season runs approximately eight months of the year from the first appearance of Halloween candy in late August through to the sale of Easter chocolate in April. In between Halloween and Easter, there is Christmas chocolate and Valentine's day chocolate; individually wrapped bits of temptation. 

Before the cartoonish (our pumpkin is carved in the likeness of Lightening McQueen) jack O' lantern is disposed of in the green bin, the leftover Halloween chocolate goes on sale and the Christmas chocolate arrives on the shelf of every Walmart, Costco, grocery store, dollar store and pharmacy. On boxing day, the Christmas chocolate goes on sale overlapping the arrival of Valentine's Day chocolate. After the romance of Valentine's Day is done, chic and cheap chocolate goes on sale with Easter chocolate. Finally, once the last chocolate bunny and eggs are sold at rock bottom prices, we are blessed with a four month reprieve from the chocolate bombardment.   

Damn you little Halloween chocolate bars, Christmas Santas, balls and bells, Valentine's day hearts and chocolate Easter bunnies. How I fool myself into thinking that I can eat just one chocolate per day and eat the 96 pieces over a three and a half month time span. Instead I consume you by the fistful, hoping that each time the cursed box/bag/net will finally be empty.

But this year is different you wretched chocolate. I ignored your summons in the store, I delayed buying you as long as possible, and in the end, I completely ignored you and bought licorice for the little trick or treaters instead.

Last year was the start of change and this year was easier; slowly but surely your grip on me is weakening.  Instead of an eight month season, it's morphing into four separate chocolate events; and perhaps in time,  chocolate will be just chocolate and no longer an event...

Friday, October 28, 2011

Weight watching in gain mode

Karen @ Waisting Time wrote how the numbers on the scale affects how she feels depending on the direction the number is going (going down feel great, going up feels fat). I was reading the comments from her post (Karen's warped theory of relativity) and could completely relate to Muchberry's comment, "I travel to the land without scales when I gain weight" because I too avoid the scale when I'm in gain mode.

But then I remembered that is not entirely true. I'm at the heaviest weight in my life and I witnessed the pounds piling on and the numbers on the scale going up; weigh in after weigh in.

Of course, I would have happily avoided the scale, but unfortunately when one is pregnant, one's doctor weighs you. I was nervous for my first appointment, I had not weighed myself in a year so I knew the number was going to be a shock. Shock it was, I gained 30 pounds in a year (after a year of restricting, I followed up with a year of overeating).

Considering how the hunger hit like a cement truck in the first trimester, I was pleasantly surprised that the weight gain in the second appointment a couple of months later was only two pounds. But after that, the scale indicator didn't stop moving to the right. I even managed a five pound gain in one week. The nurse was positive it was an error (that can't be right) and weighed me again (wow, that is not a mistake).

Not all the weight was a true gain. I was trying to finish some stuff before the baby arrived; complete another class in the magazine publishing certificate program, finish upholstering a pair of club chairs in a re-upholstery workshop plus we were implementing a new online application at work which meant 12 to 14 hour workdays and overtime on weekends. Apparently it is important to put your feet up as much as possible, I retained a boatload of fluids: the swelling in my legs came to my my knees, I was unable to sleep properly during the third trimester and the water in my arms induced carpal tunnel syndrome so I wore wrist guards all day and all night.

The weird thing was that with all that weight gain, my senses dulled to the perpetually increasing number. I was thankful when the gain was limited to one or two pounds and downright delighted on the single occasion that there was no weight gain. But it was impossible to comprehend what I was seeing on the scale, I dismissed it by telling myself that I'd lose it after I was finished having children.

Now here I am, two little boys later and 75 pounds heavier than what I weighed on my wedding day five years ago. In stark contrast to the time that I put on this weight, I'm acutely aware of every pound that I lose and have yet to lose.

I'm kicking myself for not getting help for this eating disorder before I got pregnant - well, sort of - the important point is that I did get help.

Did you gain your weight slowly over many years or did you gain your weight quickly?

Previous post: Dietary Assessment

Thursday, October 20, 2011

That's me the one with the zipper down

Damn it. I did it again. I've been walking around for two hours with my zipper down. Thankfully I put on black undies to go with my black pants this morning.

The funny thing is that this is not an isolated incident. I'm forgetting to zip up my pants all the time, usually an incident or two per week.

I'm unsure exactly when this new behaviour began, but it seems to have coincided with the pregnancy weight gain and the resulting Mommy pouch from two c-sections.

You see, since the expansion of my girth, I changed how I put on my pants. Prior to pregnancy, I would slip pants on, pull up pants, zip the zipper, and finally button the pants around the waist. Post pregnancy, I slip pants on, pull up pants, button up pants and then zip the zipper. The problem is that after 35 years of zipping first and buttoning second, it's easy to forget to zip after buttoning.

What I can't figure out is why I changed the zip/button order in the first place. I do know that this change was not a conscious decision, one day I just started buttoning first and zipping second. I suspect that this change in pant dressing procedure has something to do with my post pregnancy body shape.

Before pregnancy, my pants stayed up with the zipper zipped. Buttoning the button(s) of my pants was really a formality (and to make sure my pants stayed on when moving around and such). After pregnancy, my abdomen melted and pooled around my waist in the form of the Mommy pouch. Now, there is no way the pants will stay up without buttoning, so I need to use the buttons to hold the pants up over the bulky hips and waist area.

Ho hum. Does anyone have any suggestions for me to stop this perpetual embarrassment? Does anyone else have this problem? In any case, if you are in the Toronto area and see a woman in her late 30s walking around with her fly down, say hello, mostly likely it's me...

Previous post: Last night's chicken burger

Monday, October 17, 2011

Last night's chicken burger

Interesting dinner last night; certainly not the menu, but my eating behaviour.

I'm not the cook of my household. But my husband and father were working on a backyard project for most of the day, so I donned the chef's hat for Sunday's dinner. In the morning, I noticed three zucchinis and a large fennel in the refrigerator. I absolutely love roasted vegetables, so I put the produce on the counter for dinner (I easily forget stuff right now - Mommy brain is in full swing) to go with the main entree.

I'd like to tell you that I cooked something really fabulous worthy of Saveur magazine, but I didn't. I went the easy route: PC menu chicken burgers with a slice of havarti cheese, roasted zucchini and fennel washed down with a glass of milk (still tasting like 2%).

The vegetables could have stayed in the oven for a bit longer, but when the toddler needs to eat, we eat. My husband wasn't too jazzed about the fennel ("I'll look up how to do fennel properly"), but I enjoyed eating the big pile of roasted zucchini and fennel. So much so that I favoured the vegetables over the chicken burger. In fact, I didn't finish the chicken burger.

But I wonder; what if I told myself that I could only eat the roasted vegetables and two-thirds of a chicken burger for dinner. I bet that I'd eat the entire chicken burger, even if I was full.

Previous post: Learning to tolerate the bathroom scale

Friday, October 14, 2011

Learning to tolerate the bathroom scale

The bathroom scale and I didn’t have a problem until the day my coach began to weigh my teammates and I. She weighed us on a physician’s scale in the equipment room. Actually she measured us as well, but the number that mattered was the one on the scale. After a family trip to Florida, my weight dipped and the following week it jumped back up. At that point my coach discussed with me about going on a diet.

So there it began; a fear of the scale escalating to a history of scale avoidance.

I can easily avoid the scale, for months. When my therapist asked me to weigh myself, it took me three weeks to step on the vintage Borg scale to confirm that my weight was over its limit and another five months to find out my actual weight. I was so anxious about the number on the scale, I joined TOPS (a nonprofit weight loss group) to ensure that I weighed myself on a weekly basis. (I’m sure I’m not the only dieter that feels that accountability is necessary.)

That first weigh in on the cold Monday evening in March was a shock, but I was thankful that I was lighter than my final weigh in before I delivered my second baby. I hid my feelings of distress by joking about all the darn baby weight to lose. The TOPS member warmly smiled and replied that we’ve all been there and not to worry, I too will lose the baby weight.

I discussed the weekly weigh-in results with my therapist. She pointed out that your body can easily fluctuate a few pounds up or down. A quarter pound increase is not a reason to distress; a two pound gain can equate to a missed or late bowel movement. “Your body decides to dispose of weight or keep it and decides where to put it. What you want is an overall downward trend; don’t worry so much about the week-to-week results.”

In May, I decided to kick up the effort to actually lose weight. Interestingly, this coincided with returning to work following a year-long maternity leave. I admit it’s easier to see my weight, my number; I’m no longer shocked (sharing that number with everyone is another matter entirely) by seeing those three digits on the scale.

As the summer progressed, a curious thing happened. The need for accountability; to weigh in somewhere other than at my house that seemed so critical only months ago was no longer important. I decided to continue to weigh-in at TOPS until this week, when I weighed in at home for the first time with a borrowed Salter digital scale.

Today, I’m feeling better about the scale, it’s a tool showing a number; one method of measuring progress. But I know I can easily slip back into scale avoidance. I missed the October 3rd weigh-in at TOPS and ate a few rich meals over the Thanksgiving weekend. I was worried about the number. Have I gained weight? I was apprehensive about gaining weight and losing ground in my long journey.

In the end, I weighed myself and kept the results inperspective. Sure the number was loss. But I changed the weigh-in day (Wednesday instead of Monday), the time of day (after I wake up instead of 6 pm) and the attire I’m wearing (a pair of socks instead of well, an outfit).

A final thought from Yoni Freedhoff. I’m going to keep in mind the next time the scale freaks me out:

The thing is, scales are truly frustrating devices because they don't simply measure caloric intake vs. caloric expenditure. Scales also measure clothing, water retention, constipation, time of month, and time of day differences.

Here are two things you need to know.
Firstly, there are 3,500 calories in a pound, and while bodies are definitely not mathematical instruments whereby, if you do or don't eat 3,500 calories, you'll see a pound change on the scale, bodies do obey the laws of thermodynamics. Weight is mass, and mass is energy. If you step on a scale on a Wednesday and it's 3 pounds heavier than Tuesday, unless you consumed the caloric equivalent of at least 19 Big Macs more than you burned, the scale is weighing something other than true weight. You can't gain mass without putting in the energy.
Secondly, your weight doesn't matter.
What do I mean by that? To put it simply, what moves the number on the scale is not the act of standing on the scale, it's what you're doing and choosing during the times you're not standing on the scale. It's your lifestyle and your choices that change your weight. You need to determine how you're doing by evaluating what and how you're actually doing by asking yourself questions such as: What have your dietary choices been like? How's your fitness? Are you being thoughtful? Are you organized and consistent? 

Here are the links to his blog postings on scale addiction and gravitophobia (irrational fear of the bathroom scale). Along with his blog at, Yoni also has a blog called Weighty Matters.

Monday, October 3, 2011

You are drinking skim milk

"This is 2% milk, not skim milk." I tell my husband.

"No, it's skim milk. I bought 2% for the kids and skim for us." He replies.

"Did you buy the skim milk that tastes like 2%? You know I can't drink that stuff. It's disgusting." 

"I know you won't drink that milk, it's skim milk you are drinking."

I swirl the milk around in my glass, checking to see if the fat from the milk sticks to the sides. I do the same with my son's glass to compare.

"Are you sure you didn't put a bag of the boy's milk in our jug?" I ask.

"Yes, I'm sure. That is skim milk."

I've been drinking skim milk my entire life. (Yes, my doctor recommended skim milk for babies back in the seventies.) I've always found it to be refreshing and cold. Any time I drink milk other than skim milk it never seems as cold and the texture is too creamy and too much fat. Same for the skim milk that tastes like 2%, I just can drink it. I practically choke on the butterfat.

Every glass of milk that I drank on the weekend tasted like 2% milk. It took quite the effort to down a glass. All I could taste was the butterfat. And hubby was right, it's skim milk, not 2%. I bought more milk on Sunday, placed the skim milk in the correct pitcher, poured a glass from said container, drank from the glass and it still tastes like 2%.

Are my taste buds changing? Am I beginning to crave different foods? I've decreased the chocolate and baked good eating and recently increased the fruits and vegetables consumption. In the grocery store, I'm gravitating towards the greens section contemplating which box of salad to buy: baby spinach or spring mix? We hosted a casual pizza dinner on Saturday and I made a salad to accompany the pizza (usually I wouldn't bother). For lunch Sunday, I made myself a grilled cheese sandwich, along with a big salad and a plateful of beefsteak tomato slices.

I'm hoping this is some sort of a positive sign that I am making real and lasting changes to my eating habits. Like any sane person, I turn to the internet for a possible explanation. I googled "has the butterfat content for skim milk changed recently?" Nothing came up; I guess there wasn't some sort of shift in the dairy industry last week. After decades of struggling with food, it seems hard to believe that change (temporary or permanent) is possible.

I've only reached this state of diet nirvana once before. After a long run of being consistently on plan with Weight Watchers, I couldn't stand the taste of ice cream; all I could taste was the fat from the cream. Instead of Dairy Queen, I preferred TCBY instead. (Unfortunately, with the appropriate determination, I managed to rejuvenate my taste for ice cream.)

Is it possible that my taste buds are changing? Is it possible that my thinking is changing? Is it possible that I am starting to think like a thin person?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Setting goals to eat more fruit

I figure we were eight years old. It was the summer and my best friend and I were playing at her house. It was snack time and she picked a plum from a fruit bowl on the kitchen counter. She asked me if I wanted a plum too. As she inspected the plums and picked the one she liked, I distinctly remember wondering why she would choose to eat a plum, rather than the Oreos that were in the cupboard. (Her mom bought Oreos, mine did not.)
Looking back, I suppose that mind-set has never really changed in 30 years. Given a choice, I’ll eat Oreos over a plum (baked goods rather than fruit) any day of the week.
I’ve struggled with picking healthy foods for years. Sure, I eat the stuff, but I would rather be eating the mind-satisfying fatty and/or sugary foods. So, when my therapist and I discussed goal setting, increasing my fruit consumption was one of the first items to tackle.
Like any seasoned dieter, I set the bar high and initially set my goal to eat a piece of fruit after each meal. My therapist pointed out that it might be better to start small, such as committing to eating a piece of fruit once a day and build from there. After all, if I start to feel like I’m on a diet, I also start to overeat. (Of course, this is a minimum - I can eat more fruit if I want to.)
We set parameters for what qualifies as a fruit: whole pieces of fruit, my husband’s berry crumble, and fruit with milk. Of course, the majority of time, I ate a piece of fruit, but if hubby happened to make a crumble, I counted it as a fruit. So I started eating a piece of fruit a day; if I didn’t make my goal for some reason, I started again the next day. (Feeling badly for not eating that piece of fruit would increase my anxiety and trigger overeating.)
After two months of eating a minimum of one piece of fruit a day, I increased my goal to include eating a fruit for dessert at dinnertime three times a week. (Note: we don’t have dessert after dinner – but I wanted to get in the habit of eating fruit after dinner or any meal for that matter). This actually worked very well; eating fruit with Daddy on the couch watching the Backyardigans is now a part of my older son’s bedtime routine and I’m happier to choose an apple or plum over a processed dessert now.
When I headed back to work in May after my maternity leave, again, I made a goal to increase my fruit consumption. My new goal is to eat all the fruit I bring to work by the time I get home. (Previously, I brought only one piece of fruit to work and it was not unusual for said piece of fruit to be shuttled to and from work for a week.) 
I’m pleased to report that I've achieved this goal; a peach on the train to the office, an apple in the afternoon and another apple on the train home. When I’m hungry I usually reach for a piece of fruit first.
Yesterday, I met a friend for lunch. I brought my salad, bun and fruit with me. She looked at the peach I was eating and noted that it didn’t look very tasty. Having eaten a whole bunch of not-so tasty fruit lately, I told her that I’ve had better, but this peach is actually not too bad.
That’s progress, I’m eating more fruit, and I’m no longer overeating on junk food if my peach happens to taste like cardboard.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

When fruit just doesn't taste good part 2

“Fruit is sweet. It’s very tasty when it is in season.” I said to my therapist. “Not like chocolate, but it’s still sweet.”

“Yes, in comparison, chocolate is much more sweet.” My therapist replies.

I consider this silently for a few moments.

“I should keep in mind that fruit at one time was considered a treat and not widely available. If I want something sweet I should reach for an apple not a cookie, because an apple is sweet and better for me.”

“Just not as sweet as chocolate, cookies or ice cream.” She reminds me.

I don’t really know why I think that at some point in history that fruit was considered an indulgence (couldn't find any articles in a Google search). But to be honest with you, telling myself that I shouldn't take fruit for granted helps me reach for fruit instead of a chocolate bar to satisfy my sweet tooth more frequently.

My fruit-eating history is uneven. As a kid, I hated eating pulpy, dry oranges or navel oranges with the weird twin fruit nub. Sometimes apples seem to cut my gums and even though grapes are great, sometimes they had yucky seeds. My Mom would be absolutely appalled if she knew how much fruit I threw out from my packed lunch.

As an adult sometimes I’d eat lots of fruit, and sometimes next to no fruit. Before therapy, fruit eating (and salad eating) went in cycles with weight loss and Weight Watcher’s memberships. On plan = eating fruit; off plan = no fruit.

Thinking back, I've always considered eating fruit an unwanted obligation rather than a source of sweet food choice. I’d quickly forget about a good fruit eating experience and dwell on the well, let’s just say the tasteless, dry bad apple. So, I suppose it’s not surprising that whenever I thought that fruit didn't taste as it should, I’d eat a cookie or a chocolate bar to make up for the lack of taste; the lack of sweetness.

So now, in the maintenance phase of therapy, I eat anywhere between two and four servings of fruit a day. If I want something sweet, I eat a piece of fruit first. Although my choice of fruit (which I mix up to avoid overeating due to boredom) doesn't always taste good as I hope, I remind myself that is OK and focus on the health benefits.

Thank you Sarah at Fat So Sarah: A Weight Loss Journey for awarding me the Liebster Blog Award! Once I figure out how to copy and paste images to posts and my blog, I'll pay it forward too!

Next Post: Setting goals to increase fruit-eating

Friday, September 16, 2011

When fruit just doesn't taste good

“Don't buy peaches this week; they aren’t lasting very long and half the basket is going out to the recycling bin.”  My husband and I were discussing the weekly trip to the grocery store. The peaches were so delicious this year, dripping with juice and peachy sweet. I could have eaten them all day; with one exception, a dry, tasteless peach that left more disappointment than satisfaction.

Despite the fact that the peach growing season is coming to a close and the quality is shrinking, I decided to buy a basket of peaches. They looked delicious and thankfully, not too ripe. They should last for the remainder of the week. Unfortunately, the next morning, I was disappointed. My lovely peach was hard; my front two teeth didn't even break the skin. Immediately I knew my eating plan for the week in jeopardy.

One of the earliest discoveries in the cognitive behavior therapy sessions was realizing that if the food I eat doesn't taste good I eat additional food to make up for the lack of taste. Fruit is usually the common culprit in this scenario. But, it can also be triggered when eating new/different foods, or when a dish is prepared differently for some reason.  (This is another draw to processed food – I know what to expect, the taste and texture is always the same.)

An example: I decide to eat an orange because it’s a sweet, juicy fruit and a healthy food choice. However, instead of a juicy sweet orange, all I taste is the thick membrane, dry and tasteless pulp, and it’s overflowing with seeds. After eating the orange, anxiety-induced hunger washes over urging me to the convenience store (at work) or the pantry (at home). I’m unsatisfied, and the need for satisfaction grows. I head to Shoppers Drug Mart and buy a bag of mini Reese’s Peanut Butter cups, head back to my desk and slowly sneak chocolates for the next hour or two until the package is empty.

My therapist and I talked about this situation – the need for all food to taste good - pointed out that sometimes food is not going to taste as good. I have to keep in mind that it is just food and when the anxiety hunger comes I have to sit with it and resist the urge to eat to make up for the lack of taste. After all, another meal and another opportunity to acquire the taste satisfaction are only two to three hours away.

As for the peaches, they have ripened slightly for the past five days. I ate one while writing this post, utterly disappointed that there was no juice and only a hint of taste. But, I’m living with the disappointment and sitting with the anxiety.  My anxiety level has been up and down this week since the oranges I picked up have also been tasteless.

Apples may not be the most exciting fruit, but it is a consistent choice. It’s easy to spot the tasty from the tasteless. If only the tasty oranges, melons, peaches, pears and plums were as easy to spot.

Ho hum.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Back in the bike saddle

The bicycle is a curious vehicle.  Its passenger is its engine.  ~John Howard

Everything changed in the spring of 1998. A 10 year-old red Toyota Tercel came into my life. For the first time in 26 years, I owned a car. Biking, walking and public transportation were no longer the primary modes of transportation. Grocery shopping, visiting friends and getting to work was easier, faster and less sweaty.  On the flipside, I no longer benefited from the exercise of getting from one place to another. After acquiring a car, my bike was no longer a way to get around; it was an option for recreational activity.

Truth be told, I never counted walking to the store or riding my bike to work as an actual workout or worth tracking for dieting purpose since it was so effortless. I found out this weekend, that I took that day-to-day activity for granted.

I haven’t been on a bicycle since my first pregnancy four years ago. You never forget how to ride a bicycle, but I was very surprised at how difficult it was to pedal the darn thing less than a kilometer after a four-year absence.  My toddler lost his hat during a walk on Sunday and I hopped on my husband’s hybrid mountain bike to find it.

Once in the saddle, everything felt wobbly; the bike itself, my arms and legs. The back tire seemed to be melting into the road (Flat tire? No, that's me, I'm just heavy) and I was painfully aware of the diminished squeezing ability of my gluteus maximus. This little 10-minute bike ride on flat terrain induced beads of sweat on my forehead and under the helmet.

I can’t believe I allowed myself get to this point, so overweight and so out-of-shape. But, I have to look forward not back and spend more time on a bike saddle tightening my a**!

Previous Post: Salad vs. the McChicken combo

Friday, September 9, 2011

Salad vs. the McChicken combo

I’m at the end of the second week of eating salad and a small bun at lunchtime instead of a sandwich and coleslaw. It’s surprising how satisfying this new lunch choice is. Instead of traditional salad toppings such as carrots and celery, this salad includes baked chicken breast, sliced tomatoes, walnuts and sundried tomatoes (no oil) with Renee’s low fat poppy seed dressing on the side.

But, yesterday my lunchtime routine was disrupted. I booked an eye examination with the optometrist at 11 am at an office across the street from where I work. I haven’t had a check-up in a long time, so I thought I should go. The exam went well until it was time for the eye drops. Apparently I can add eyeballs to my list of body parts that make me queasy. Thankfully, I didn’t pass out, but I was nauseated for at least 15 minutes. While recovering, the optometrist saw other patients, and in the end, I returned to the office just before 1 pm, absolutely famished!

One of my no diet diet rules is to eat every three hours. Yesterday I had a light snack at 9:30 am, but I was unable to eat my lunch at 12:30. After returning from the exam, I reached for convenience food instead of assembling my salad. I gobbled down my bun quickly and met up with my friend and colleague as we had plans to go for a walk (I assumed the eye exam would take only a half hour).

I asked her if she had eaten anything for lunch; I told her I was famished, and I was no longer interested in my salad. We decided to go to a food court down the street and get something there. There were the usual fast food options: Subway, The Teriyaki Experience, a Greek joint, a Taco joint, an Italian joint and of course, McDonald’s. I was close to picking Subway, but we ended up at the golden arches.

It shouldn’t be surprising that I decided to order a McChicken combo instead of my usual order of a cheeseburger, small fries and a diet coke. I need more than a cheeseburger I rationalized.  I need more than a small fries. Need, need, need or is it want, want want?

You know what? I didn’t enjoy eating the McChicken sandwich. I admit, the fries were tasty, but after eating all those calories and all that fat, I wasn’t satisfied at all. What I needed, and actually craving was my walnut, tomato and chicken-topped salad with poppy seed dressing. So when I got back to the office (again) I assembled my salad; and finally I was satisfied.

What did I learn from this experience other than to ensure that I eat every three hours? Now that I’ve removed all the psychological roadblocks associated with salads and highly processed fast food, I know that a big leafy salad with interesting toppings is actually more satisfying than a McChicken combo.

Previous Post: Returning to the pool after 20 years

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Returning to the pool after 20 years

I push off the wall and glide underwater. Slowly the top of my head reaches the surface and I blow out the air from my lungs. I turn my head to the left and breathe in air that fills my lungs. With each stroke my arms reach farther down the pool, stretching from my shoulders to my fingertips. I take one last strong stroke to the end of the pool and using the momentum; I flip my legs over and push off the wall and head back down the pool. I feel strong as I power through the water.

Or, perhaps I feel like I’m lifting concrete arms barreling through class 2 rapids.

I was happy that my speedo fit for last Monday night’s swim practice. Or at least I thought it fit. Once I arrived at the pool and pulled off my t-shirt, all I could see were the specks of rotten lycra flakes everywhere. Hopefully my suit will make it through this practice I thought to myself.

The coach wanted to see me swim to assess my technique and speed. I had been on the waiting list for a year, so I didn’t want to oversell or undersell my capabilities. I described myself as a former, out-of-shape, national level competitive synchronized swimmer with baby weight to lose. My goal for the workout was to keep up as much as possible and make it through the hour-long workout.

The workout felt great and crappy all at the same time. The power from my arms wasn’t there and my breath control is no longer at the capacity it once was. But I had fun; I loved the workout (which is much more interesting than just swimming for an hour) and swimming with other people was motivating. Considering I haven’t had a proper swim workout with a coach in twenty years, I achieved my goals for the evening. For the most part I kept up with the other three swimmers in my lane and I made it through the whole hour.

Besides swimming in a rotten speedo, the other funny moment for the night was swimming 25 meters underwater. Usually, this is not a problem for this former synchronized swimmer. During my competitive years, I could swim 50 meters long course underwater. Since my synchro days, I’ve added on a whole lot of natural buoyancy to my body. So only after five strokes and 12 meters prematurely, my head popped to the surface. After that little snafu, I switched from breast stroke to dolphin kick to go the rest of the way underwater.

Even though I was slow, and out-of-shape, the coach saw potential. From my technique, she could tell that I was a former swimmer and assured me that many swimmers have been in my situation, attempting to get back in shape after pregnancy weight gain.

A week later, my arms feel stronger and I can still feel effects of last Monday’s workout. I’m looking forward to next week's start of the weekly practices. And with time, whenever I turn my head for a breath, I'll take in more air and less water. (I burped for 15 hours after the workout ended from inhaling so much water.)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Switching to black forest ham is not much of a change

Last Sunday, my three year old son points at some low-fat bran muffins, “Mommy, can we get some of these?”
For some reason beyond me, I tell him we’ll come back to the bakery section. Obviously I didn’t want to make a decision. Perhaps I was hoping that he would forget about the muffins. Of course, he reminded me that I promised to return to the bakery. Unfortunately, the brownies, instead of the muffins, caught his eye.
Yes, I bought the brownies. It was a small package, and he easily forgets about treats in the house. I figured that it was an opportunity to practice having sweets (treats, restricted/ bad food) in the pantry.  
The brownies lasted in the house from lunch Sunday to Tuesday evening. My son had one brownie, my husband had two, and I had the other five.
At least the consumption was spread across a 72 hour time period.
What happened?
Almost a month before, I wrote how eating the same thing day after day triggers overeating. Unfortunately, I’m slow to change. At the time, I changed the deli meat of my lunchtime sandwich. Instead of eating a roasted turkey and havarti sandwich, I switched it up to a black forest ham and havarti sandwich. Daring eh? Not surprisingly, this deli meat swap was insufficient. 
Finally, I've completely changed my lunch. For the next while, I’m eating a salad comprised of spring mix lettuce, tomatoes, baked chicken breast, walnut pieces, pumpkin seeds, sun dried tomatoes (no oil), and minimal salad dressing at lunchtime along with a small roll, and fruit. And it was surprisingly tasty and filling. I imagine that the salad will lose its spark quicker than a sandwich, but perhaps when I recognize the signs, I’ll implement change faster and perhaps prevent another rapidly depleting brownie situation at the house.
Speaking of change, the amount of exercise is increasing tonight. I’ve been on the waiting list for the local masters swim club for a year now. I may have a spot, but the coach wants to see my swim tonight to see how fast I am. I haven’t trained consistently in the pool in years. I’m hoping I haven’t oversold her on my swimming ability. More importantly, I’m hoping that I can last the hour-long workout!

Previous Post: A post about "Maggie goes on a Diet" 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A post about "Maggie goes on a Diet"

“Hey Tania, there is a new children’s book coming out this fall. It’s called, ‘Maggie goes on a Diet.’ Izzy left a link to the CTV news piece on my facebook page.”
Tania’s eyes widen in disgust. Tania doesn’t have a weight problem, but we often talk about weight issues, eating disorders, walkable communities and the North American eating culture.
“It’s about a 14 year-old girl named Maggie who decides to go on a diet after being bullied and teased. She exercises and eats well and loses weight. In the end she is popular and becomes the star of the soccer team. It’s aimed at girls as young as five.”
“Five?” she says in shock.
“Disgusting eh? Sure, there are good messages in the book such as eating well and exercising. But why does the author need to focus on stereotypes? There is the bullied, ostracized fat girl; the thin, popular athletic star; girl bingeing in front of the refrigerator. Why does the book need to be so obvious? The book can focus on the eating and exercise but you don’t have to call it a diet.”
 “Why couldn’t the story be about Maggie getting on the soccer team?” Tania says.
“Exactly! That’s a great suggestion.”
“But it’s a business. It’s easier to market and make money with a straight-forward message.”
“It’s not even published yet and look at all the free publicity! Apparently the author is shocked by the controversy about his book,” I reply.
“Well, many people including the author don’t understand the negative implications of dieting, especially at such an early age.”
“Agreed. Dieting is one of the most common environmental triggers for eating disorders. I’ve battled two types of eating disorders since I was 15, set off from the pressures of dieting. Sure, not everyone who reads this book will develop and eating disorder, but I suspect that many at risk children will be drawn to this book like a moth to a flame.”
“Like the little girl in the CTV news piece. She wants to read the book because she ‘feels fat about herself.’ She’s not remotely overweight. She looks younger than 12.”

Monday, August 22, 2011

Sandy Naiman: How I got an eating disorder at 62

If you haven't had the chance, please read this article, "How I got an eating disorder at 62" by Psych Central's blogger Sandy Naiman. I found many interesting points and provided answers to my EDNOS diagnosis.

Here are my thoughts from the article:

I’m 62 and 5-ft. even. I’ve been an extreme yo-yo dieter my whole life, but it’s growing harder and more oppressive every day.
Harder and more oppressive every day is how I see my own dieting journey. Losing weight and dieting became increasingly impossible, my motivation and "willpower" to succeed was slowly replaced by anxiety and disdain of deprivation.

Disordered eating is defined as any sort of irregular eating behaviour that, while not exactly healthy, doesn’t fit the characteristics required for an eating disorder diagnosis. Chances are good that you’ve observed disordered eating at some point while listening to a group of women agonize over restaurant menus.
Recently, NEDA (National Eating Disorder Association) successfully pulled a Yoplait yogurt ad from the air due to the portrayal of diet negotiating language as healthy and normal. It's very common (I too, thought this was normal and healthy) but it's not healthy or normal. I blogged about the Yoplait ad here. 

"Anorexia, bulimia and what are known as “eating disorders not otherwise specified (EDNOS)” – including binge-eating disorder – are serious, potentially fatal mental illnesses, according to a 2011 report by the Academy for Eating Disorders (AED).
Once I stopped purging twenty years ago, I was no longer bulimic, but I knew that nothing changed psychologically. But if I didn't have bulimia, what was wrong with me? It wasn't until I entered into therapy that I learned about EDNOS, and now I can at least put a name and get treatment to get out of this hell hole.

“It’s well accepted by leading researchers that eating disorders are genetically pre-disposed, tend to run in families and have nothing to do with metabolism,” Tartakovsky says.

"Your metabolism is just slow," is a common catchphrase many well-intended people would tell me. I'm glad to know that the genetic aspect of my condition has nothing to do with my metabolism.

“Furthermore, genes turn on and off all the time,” Woodside explains. “Some genetic loading may be activated by dieting – this may be the most common environmental trigger – and other loading may be activated by other factors, such as the biological changes that occur in puberty.”
Holy cow, this is me. I discovered in cognitive therapy that all of my overeating, bingeing and obsession with junk food is directly related to decades of dieting. I can recall the feelings of dred and deprivation when my synchronized swimming coach told me to lose weight at the age of 13.

In her clinical practice, Bulik has seen adults with three manifestations of eating disorders. The illnesses can: start in adolescence and persist through mid-life, start in mid-life, occur in adolescence, with a recovery period, then recur in mid-life.
I'm the first manifestation, starts in adolescence and persists through mid-life. After 23 years, I'm tired of food and weight ruling my life.

Wow, I may be on the way to becoming a normal, healthy eater who is not ruled by cravings, anxiety and five wardrobes spanning various sizes, but that can come undone by a major life-event. Good to know. 

“I didn’t want to preach against obesity,” Gura said. “I wanted to move to a better place in my life, to stop struggling, to accept myself.”
Yes, I want the struggle to end.


These disorders are obsessions. They are not choices. They’re an irresistible urge to behave in a certain way, against your conscious wishes.
Obsession is how I often describe myself. Obsessed with the food I eat, obsessed with food I shouldn't eat, obsessed with my weight.

The addiction is to the behaviour of dieting, not the food, explains Woodside.
I didn't understand this statement until a friend said, "I know what makes me overeat, it's all about the carbs." That's when I understood it's not about the food (sweets, bread, french fries) it's about the behaviour that comes from dieting. If a diet tells me to limit carbs, I think about carbs, I crave carbs, I develop anxiety stemming from a fear of eating carbs, anxiety increases feelings of hunger, and I eat carbs to relieve the anxiety. It's not the carbs, it's rebelling from restricting yourself from eating carbs.

Both Bulik and Woodside say they are upset by the shortage of clinics and psychiatrists and psychologists treating eating disorders because they are misperceived as illnesses only affecting adolescent girls and young women.
In addition, do doctors recognize the more subtle signs of EDNOS in their patients? My family doctor completely dismissed me when I tried to get help a few years back telling me that, "dieting is hard for a lot of people."

The average waiting time for an assessment is now four months at Toronto General Hospital.
Wait times at clinics far from my house always deflated my resolve to get help. I went to a private cognitive behaviour therapy clinic. I called and had an appointment shortly thereafter. Expensive, but I was worth the investment.

What do you think? Does this article speak to you?

Previous post: French fries vs. the chef's salad