Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Vacation Notification!

My family and I are on our way to Newfoundland. I'm unsure how everything is going to pan out with food.  I've decided to eat as healthy as possible but also enjoy some of my favorite Newfie food such as:

  • Fish Tongue and Scrunchions -  kids may have trouble distinguishing a cod tongue from chicken nuggets. Scrunchions are served with fish, very tasty, very bad for you; fried pork fat.

  • Sally's Cove chip truck for deep fried clam strips and fries - I'm looking forward to this meal the most. The truck was closed for the season during our last visit, so its been five years since I've eaten clam strips! They also serve the best fish and chips, deep fried scallops and shrimp. No picture of the actual truck or food, but someone made a comment about the chip truck I'm referring to.

  • Jiggs Dinner - not my favorite meal, but it is traditional.

  • Wild Berries - namely raspberry, blueberry, partridgeberry and bakeapple - pies, jams, squares; yummy.

  • Lobster – it's the first time we’ll be there during lobster season...

Hopefully with lots of walking, the damage won't be too bad...

See you next week!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Intuitive Eating Review - Eat in full view of others

Rule 5: eat in full view of others

The complete rule is eat (with the intention of being) in full view of others. This doesn’t mean that you require an audience to eat, it just means that if you decide to eat chocolate for breakfast, you won’t hide said choice if your husband/mother/child walks in the room.

When I was participating in the intuitive eating group therapy sessions in 2001/2001, I was living at my parent’s house after graduating from school. One morning I decided that my body really needed to eat chocolate eggs for breakfast. So armed with the intention of eating with full view of others, I ate a handful of the Easter treats in front of my Mom and Dad. I can tell you that my Mom was not impressed by what I was learning in group therapy; I can still picture the WTF look on her face.

After I left the intuitive eating group, I made an effort to follow the spirit of this rule. I was more successful at home than at work. My hubby was understanding; I knew that he would not say anything to add to the guilt and shame I already felt after eating a bag of Oreos in a day. Work was a different story. Routinely, I ate a package of chocolate wafers, or a bag of Oreos or Reese peanut butter cups on the sly. There was no way I was willing to come out of the food cupboard to announce, hey – I’m bingeing, look at all the crap I can consume in an hour.

I’ve been on the receiving end of some embarrassing comments throughout the years and there was no way I was going to open myself up to more. A university friend gave me a loaf of her Mom’s Italian Easter bread (sweet, braided with an egg in it) and went on and on about how I ate it in two days, “OMG I can’t believe you ate all of it already!!!”

Of course, if I had been eating the healthy food that my body wanted, eating only when hungry and until I was satisfied, I would naturally have no problem with the eat in full view of others. Nonetheless, I was proud of the fact that I was able to be myself at home, which helped alleviate the tension and anxiety with food. I believe that hubby’s support and openness made me feel comfortable to seek the help of a cognitive therapist.

Disclaimer: I should tell you that I no longer have my copies of Geneen Roth’s earlier books on intuitive eating, Why Weight? A guide to Ending Compulsive Eating and Breaking Free from Emotional Eating and I have not read her popular, Oprah-endorsed book, Women Food and God. I haven’t picked up new copies to recall the finer points of each rule. My analysis is based strictly on my memory from 2001/2001 when I participated in an intuitive eating support group in an attempt to resolve my eating issues. In this particular group, we followed Geneen Roth’s seven guidelines for intuitive eating.

Quick Links

Rule 1: Eat when you are hungry
Rule 2: Eat sitting down in a calm environment
Rule 3: Eat what your body wants
Rule 4: Eat in until you are satisfied

Note: tomorrow I’m off to the Rock to visit my MIL and FIL. They live in a scenic town called Norris Point, which is located in Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland and Labrador. I’ll also be visiting L’Anse aux Meadows where the Vikings first landed in North America. Therefore, the intuitive eating review will continue on when I am back from my vacation.

Check back here for Newfoundland temptations, traditional Newfie foods prepared on the island. And let me tell you, fresh vegetables are scarce in this land of salt water, salt fish, tuckamore and rock.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Annoyed by Gatorade's Infomercial on SYTYCD

Excuse the interruption, but was anyone else completely annoyed by Gatorade’s infomercial on last night’s episode of So You Think You Can Dance?

If you don’t watch SYTYCD, or you missed last night’s episode, Heidi Skolnik, a nutritionist from Gatorade stopped by the dancers’ apartments and swept through their kitchens like a tornado, passing judgment on their food choices with a patronizing attitude.

To the boys: “one sleeve of snack crackers has about 570 calories,” and to the girls: “did you know when you eat a sleeve of these snack crackers you can could have actually had two ice cream sundaes?” “Who is claiming this?” she says holding a box of ice cream and all the girls point towards the offending owner (can’t really tell if that is Melanie or Sasha). “Pizza with meatballs?” she questions the boys.

Heidi is representing Gatorade, so she presents the line of Gatorade G-series fit thirst quencher drinks, protein shakes and energy bite bars for before, during and after training or performing. The dancers rush to claim the Gatorade swag. The cameras capturing their approval after sampling the thirst quencher and energy bite bars.

The package ends with the contestants throwing away the condemned food. The girls gathered around the garbage bin and Ashley sadly remarking, “I need a hug.”

I wasn’t annoyed by the product placement (although hopefully it won’t escalate to the point where the choreographers incorporate Gatorade-drinking and energy-bite eating into the routines) or the G Series Fit lecture (hydration, electrolyte replacement and carb loading; all very important for athletes) and gift bag (hey – they are sponsors of the show).

I was annoyed by Heidi’s disapproving no-bad-foods-for-you, all-or-nothing attitude; planting the seeds of diet mentality paranoia to the dancers surely training (burning off the 570 calorie snack crackers and a meatball pizza in no time) and / or performing most of the day.

What happens when you are told you can’t eat something? You want the forbidden food even more. I felt as if I was watching the girls taking their first steps towards an eating disorder.

This hit close to home for me, since I have anxiety associated with “bad” food and dieting and the roots of an eating disorder began when I was an elite athlete in competitive synchronized swimming.

I can only hope that the finger-wagging from Cat, the junk food inquisition along with a teary farewell around the garbage bin was put on for dramatic effect. That, in reality, Heidi emphasized the importance of choosing healthy foods as much as possible, offer healthy options for those with a taste for junk and remind them that they can have a bowl of ice cream if they really want it.

And for good measure, perhaps next year Gatorade can throw in a sports psychologist too.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Intuitive Eating Review - Eat until you are satisfied

Rule 4: Eat until you are satisfied

I’ve done it; many times. And not just at Christmas. Perhaps you have too.

I’m full. But there is more food on my plate. Hubby's roasted potatoes taste so good. I’m no longer hungry, but I just want more of hubby’s perfectly-seasoned roasted potato taste. I finish everything on my plate. Sometimes that includes food that I don’t really like but I eat out of obligation (children starving / wasting food is bad / wanting to be polite). It’s Friday; ice cream night. I’m way too full, but I want ice cream. I can’t say no. I don’t want to say no. MMMmmm ice cream. Oh no, I feel sick. I ate way too much.

Intuitive eating is saying no to a traditional, structured diet. Eat until you are satisfied is a guideline to help you know when to stop eating without calorie-counting or points-tracking. Again, you use the hunger scale to tell you when to stop eating. More specifically, you stop eating when you are comfortable and satisfied. So, if there is food left on your plate, leave it (and don’t feel bad about it).

I found it much easier to figure out when to stop eating than to start eating. However, it’s still a tough one to follow. My mind begging for junk is louder than the subtle whisper of my body hoping for healthy food. How do I say no when my mind takes over? Will I trust myself to stop when I'm comfortable and satisfied?

Sometimes. Of course, if I follow all the rules (especially eat when you are hungry and eat what your body wants) stop eating when satisfied is an easier choice to make. Of course, if I wait too long to eat; choose food to satisfy my mind over body and eat granola, ice cream and mini-cupcakes, it is difficult to stop, no matter what my body is trying to tell me.

Most of the time, it's an easy rule to follow. But, when I wasn't following the other rules I felt helpless against episodes of overeating or all-out binges. Simply following a rule and tell myself to stop eating when satisfied was not enough. I needed to follow all the rules. This is another reason why intuitive eating did not work for me.

Disclaimer: I should tell you that I no longer have my copies of Geneen Roth’s earlier books on intuitive eating, Why Weight? A guide to Ending Compulsive Eating and Breaking Free from Emotional Eating and I have not read her popular, Oprah-endorsed book, Women Food and God. I haven’t picked up new copies to recall the finer points of each rule. My analysis is based strictly on my memory from 2001/2001 when I participated in an intuitive eating support group in an attempt to resolve my eating issues. In this particular group, we followed Geneen Roth’s seven guidelines for intuitive eating.

Quick Links
Rule 1: Eat when you are hungry
Rule 2: Eat sitting down in a calm environment
Rule 3: Eat what your body wants

Next posting Rule 5 - eat in full view of others

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Intuitive Eating Review - Eat what your body wants

Rule 3: Eat what your body wants

In my opinion, eat what your body wants is the heart of intuitive eating. No food is off limits, no food is forbidden, no food is bad. The idea is that if you listen to your body and your body will tell you what it needs to eat. However, your body doesn’t want junk food; it wants healthy food to work properly, efficiently and to provide energy.

Again, Geneen explains it best when answering a question from Janet:

As you are discovering, your mind likes chocolate! But that doesn't mean eating chocolate when you are hungry feels good in your body. And there's the real distinction: Your mind will go on and on all day long about what delicious, fabulous-tasting thing it would like next, but your body wants to feel good. Your body wants to have energy. Your body wants to feel awake and alive and able to do what it needs to do to provide you with what you need to do what you love. So, next time your mind says, "Gimme pasta and chocolate," say, "Uh-huh, I hear you, mind. I hear that if it weren't for this teeny thing called a body, we could eat chocolate all day long. So, thanks for sharing. Now I am going to ask my body what it wants." And then, Janet, ask your body what would give it the most energy. Ask your body what would feel good in it. Not what would be the most exciting thing to eat. Not what would thrill you, but what would sustain you, awaken you, make you feel satisfied and well-nourished. See what happens.

I’m Janet. Ok, I’m not Janet, but I’m like Janet. After waiting for hunger signals and body queues, I told myself I required chocolate for lunch, even for breakfast. Sometimes it came to me very clearly, like an out-of-the-blue overwhelming need for a glass of milk. But, most times, I kept waiting for an answer, but nothing came.

The other purpose of this rule is to address deprivation. If your body is telling you to eat something (even if it is unhealthy) just have it. The dieting mentality tells you that chocolate milk is bad for you; drink skim milk instead. So, you drink skim milk. But you still want chocolate milk. So you eat a chocolate chip cookie. Hmmm, this tastes good. You eat another few chocolate chip cookies. You know what goes well with chocolate chip cookies? Chocolate milk. You finally drink the chocolate milk. You can see why you would have been better off drinking the chocolate milk in the first place.

My problem with rule 3, is the same issue with rule 1; it’s difficult to know what your body wants and make it practical for everyday use. Christie Inge, HHC, an intuitive eating counselor, suggested to eat every three to four hours to recognize the hunger signals (in reference to my post on eat only when you are hungry), and perhaps the same logic can be applied to eat what your body wants. Your body wants healthy foods, so eat healthy foods as much as possible and perhaps then, you will be able to hear what your body wants.

When I started down the intuitive eating road, I was overcome with intense cravings for bad foods and equally overcome with feelings of guilt for eating them. I deprived myself of bad foods to avoid the guilt and shame. Perhaps it was because of that state-of-mind that the idea of not depriving myself spoke to me more clearly. Thankfully, intuitive eating alleviated my paranoia, depression and guilt about eating “bad” foods. However, this also was a turning point. I went from having an eating problem to having an eating and weight problem.

From cognitive therapy, I have learned that depriving myself of bad foods causes anxiety and anxiety causes hunger. But unlike rule 3; if my body tells me it needs chocolate, I actually have a choice. I can eat the chocolate, or I can decide to sit with the anxiety and let it pass.

Failing to eat what my body wants was one of the reasons why intuitive eating did not work for me. I focused on not depriving myself more than eating the healthy foods that my body wants. I needed to do both.

Thank you Karen, Rae Rae J and Christie Inge, HHC for your comments!

Christie: good point, I recall eating on a schedule at first to help with the hunger queues. Recently my cognitive therapist advised me to eat every three hours, which has allowed me to notice the more subtle hunger queues.
Karen: perhaps you could consider eating every three to four hours? Have you looked into how anxiety may play a role in your eating patterns?
Rae Rae J: if you aren’t wearing a watch, do you all of a sudden know when it is time to eat? Like me, you may notice the subtle signs of hunger now.

Disclaimer: I should tell you that I no longer have my copies of Geneen Roth’s earlier books on intuitive eating, Why Weight? A guide to Ending Compulsive Eating and Breaking Free from Emotional Eating and I have not read her popular, Oprah-endorsed book, Women Food and God. I haven’t picked up new copies to recall the finer points of each rule. My analysis is based strictly on my memory from 2001/2001 when I participated in an intuitive eating support group in an attempt to resolve my eating issues. In this particular group, we followed Geneen Roth’s seven guidelines for intuitive eating.

Quick Links
Rule 1: Eat when you are hungry
Rule 2: Eat sitting down in a calm environment

Tomorrow Rule 4 - eat until you are satisfied

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Intuitive Eating Review – Eat sitting down in a calm environment

Disclaimer: I should tell you that I no longer have my copies of Geneen Roth’s earlier books on intuitive eating, Why Weight? A guide to Ending Compulsive Eating and Breaking Free from Emotional Eating and I have not read her popular, Oprah-endorsed book, Women Food and God. I haven’t picked up new copies to recall the finer points of each rule. My analysis is based strictly on my memory. Having said that, I’m now moving on to Rule 2: eat sitting down in a calm environment.

Rule 2: Eat sitting down in a calm environment

When eating, make sure you are sitting down. If you are eating (even if it is a box of Oreos) in front of the fridge or the pantry, make sure you are sitting down. And even though you are sitting down, the car does not count. Eating in the car is not allowed.

The purpose of this rule is to become a mindful eater. Geneen explains it best on her website when she explains what the title of the book When You Eat at the Refrigerator, Pull up a Chair.

Most of the people with whom I work "graze" at the refrigerator while standing up. They pretend they are not really eating, they just happened to pass by the fridge on their way to the phone and thought they'd check if the contents have changed since the last time they looked.

My message is: If you are going to do something, bring all your attention to it and enjoy it for all it's worth! Pleasure is good! Stop sneaking around. You wouldn't think of inviting a friend over for dinner and standing with her in front of the refrigerator picking out of Tupperware containers with your fingers--there is no reason to treat yourself that way either. Also, people eat MUCH less when they allow themselves to focus on, taste and enjoy their food

I’m not a refrigerator grazer, but I do graze the pantry: a handful of chocolate chips, animal crackers, Cracklin’ Oat Bran (when it’s around, they don’t sell it in Canada) and on occasion, I’ve even made a batch of graham cracker crust to munch on with a spoon and bowl.

Eating in the car is another story. I’ve had many binges and episodes of overeating in the car. It’s private, you have access to any food you want with minimal contact with your supplier (fast food restaurant, corner store, grocery store) and you can easily dispose of any evidence.

This was an easy enough rule to follow. I believe this rule can help anyone become a more mindful eater. However, once I left the intuitive eating support group, I no longer cared if I was standing up, sitting down or driving my car. Car eating and pantry surfing started again.

Following this rule on its own isn't going to make you an intuitive eater and not following it isn't going to break you from becoming an intuitive eater. Following (or not following) did not contribute to why intuitive eating did not work for me.

Quick link to Rule 1 - eat only when you are hungry

Tomorrow Rule 3 - eat what your body wants

Monday, June 20, 2011

Intuitive Eating Review - eat when you are hungry

With the increasing popularity of intuitive eating, I thought I’d take a closer look as to why this approach to weight management was not the answer for me. From my last post, I wrote about participating in an intuitive eating support group. I started at the end of the summer 2001, and left the group in spring 2002.

When I left the intuitive eating group therapy, deep down, I knew that my eating issues remained unresolved. I suppose I thought I had the answer and the tools I needed; I just needed the strength to follow through on the seven rules.

Until now, I never really thought about why intuitive eating did not work for me. Throughout the next several posts, I’m going to examine the seven rules of intuitive eating (according to Geneen Roth) to determine why intuitive eating did not work for me.

Rule 1: Eat when you are hungry

Intuitive eating uses a hunger scale to help you figure out when to eat and when to stop eating. (Here are a couple of links regarding hunger scales for more info: Recognizing Hunger Signals, A New Hunger Scale.)

When I was a practicing intuitive eater, I believed I always needed to wait for the hunger pangs. But from the bagel experience described in my last post, sometimes those pangs would take hours and hours to come, causing stress and anxiety. If it takes more than three hours for hunger pangs to come, I’m marching into binge potential zone. I now realize that I need to be in tune to other signs of hunger such as losing focus, diminishing patience and a growing need to eat.

Two weeks ago, I found I was hungrier during the day at work. I planned the same meals as the week before, but it didn’t seem to be enough. So, I experimented with my hunger. Was I actually hungry or was it anxiety?

The hunger came in the afternoon after lunch. I had eaten enough food to be satisfied, so I decided to sit with the hunger a bit. Surprisingly, the hunger didn’t grow; it just stayed the same, a constant rumble in my tummy. Eventually, it just went away. It was anxiety, not hunger after all. If I were hungry, it would have escalated until I was a raving lunatic on the hunt for chocolate and mini-cupcakes.

It's difficult to determine when to eat. Of course, it’s simple for some, just like breathing. But, for others, like me, hunger isn’t just hunger. Hunger can also be anxiety masquerading as hunger. And this is why rule 1: eat when you are hungry was difficult for me. I was unable to figure out when I was hungry enough to eat, but not so hungry that I would overeat.

Tomorrow the review continues with Rule 2: eat sitting down in a calm environment

Friday, June 17, 2011

Eat every three hours

I mentioned in an earlier post that in 2001, I attempted to resolve the psychological reasons for my binge eating. I participated in a support group that followed Geneen Roth’s seven guidelines for intuitive eating: eat when you are hungry, eat sitting down in a calm environment, eat what your body wants, eat until you are satisfied, eat in full view of others, eat with enjoyment and eat without distractions.

At the time, I worked out at the gym before going to work and decided to buy a sesame bagel with peanut butter at the Bagel Stop for breakfast. The bagel was big, not massive, but a good size bagel. (Let me tell you, bagels are not a great choice to practice intuitive eating.) I waited, and waited and waited for hunger. I wanted a break from work the tension from not eating was becoming intolerable.

Finally, the hunger came at 2 pm. But, hold on; I can’t eat yet. I have to wait for my body queues to tell me what to eat. No food, no break in six hours. No wonder I convinced myself that my body wanted chocolate for lunch.

In 2010, my therapist observed: “I noticed that you overeat if you don’t eat for long periods of time.”

We reviewed my food journal and sure enough, a pattern became clear. Not eating for an extended period of time would trigger a binge. Typically, this occurred while running errands with the kids. Since it takes so much time to get a baby and a toddler in the car, I would leave the house shortly before lunch time.

As time passed, my hunger and anxiety level would grow. My son asks, “Mommy, can we buy mini-cupcakes?”

Hubby and my son were lucky to eat three or four; I would eat the rest by the morning.

To overcome this, she advised me to eat every three hours. It works well. When I’m at the office, I know when it’s approaching ten o’clock; the need for food rises. But I don’t get alarmed now. I know that I’m approaching the three hour mark and I need to eat my snack. After that, I’m fine until lunch.

Now that I think about it, this is another no diet dieting rule. Please click here for the updated rules..

In regard to intuitive eating, obviously eating a bagel for breakfast was a bad choice. Not eating for six hours caused stress and anxiety that I can still remember ten years later.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

How do I lose weight & eat what ever I want?

Eat whatever you want. Eat whatever I want. Eat whatever I want?

How on earth will I ever take off this weight? I’ll always want to eat three bowls of granola for breakfast.

Then something happened in November. Instead of choosing granola for breakfast, I decided to have a bowl of Wheetabix. Wow - didn’t see that coming. Once I let go of what I could eat and couldn’t eat, the cravings for unhealthy foods declined.

“I’m ready to choose healthier foods,” I said to my therapist in January after two months of feeling liberated from the cravings, the confusion, and the struggle. “Great!” she answered enthusiastically. She must have known that I would eventually come to this conclusion.

I was surprised by her reply. I thought that in order to keep cravings and food obsession to a minimum that I would need to eat all the junk food in binge quantities that I desired. This, of course, would mean that I would always be overweight.

When I asked her how I actually lose weight, she said that many of her clients lose weight naturally since they eat smaller quantities and choose better foods. So from January until May, I started making healthier choices. But, from my clothes (and later confirmed when I actually weighed myself in March) I could tell that my weight was fluctuating, but not really go down (or up).

It took me eight months of thinking to figure it out.

Before therapy, I believed that in order to lose weight, I must be on a structured diet with strict rules and guidelines. I must count every calorie or point, meticulously plan every spoonful of food that went into my mouth and write everything down in order to control my eating. But I knew that this approach didn’t work (weight loss was never permanent) and is a big reason why food and weight is such an issue for me now.

I need to diet without a diet.

However, it’s not a diet. It’s a concept, a philosophy: eat healthy and if possible in smaller quantities. Vague, I know. Like something a doctor or a well-intended friend would say. It may not be a quick way to lose weight, but I think this is the only way to stay sane. And with 110 pounds to lose, I have to be in it for the long run.

MB, a like-minded blogger posted on her blog this morning her reasons for joining an online Slimmer this Summer challenge. One of the coordinating bloggers was curious as to why MB (as a no rule dieter) would choose to join a weight loss challenge with a set of rules. Her response sums up how I’m feeling right now about a structured diet.

After a few weeks of actively attempting to lose weight and reading MB’s posting, I realize that there are some rules that I’m following:

- No food journaling

- Flexible meal planning is helpful; meticulous meal planning is not

- Drink water as much as possible

- No food is considered off-limits, no quantity is too much

- Eat three balanced meals a day with reasonable portion sizes

- Eat three healthy snacks in between meals

- Eat every three hours

- Indulge in the occasional unhealthier food choice

- Choose the healthier food option as much as possible

- Choose smaller portions when possible

- Tackle cravings using the distract and delay technique

- Sign up for, train and complete 5K run

- Blog as much as possible

In any case, with or without Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig, you have to do what works for you.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Distract and delay: easier said than done

I was aware of the six fresh, bakery-baked cookies resting on the kitchen counter all weekend. Slowly, the number of them decreased. A treat for my son; hubby ate one or two.

I knew the cookies were there, because I bought them. It’s like the automatic pilot was on and I couldn’t stop. I read the sign for the cookies; buying a half dozen is cheaper, so instead of getting one or two, I bought six.

I tell myself: I can have one (or all for that matter) if I really want one. But I will feel better and look better if I chose to not eat anything or eat something healthy. I’m not going to dwell on the fact that I am not going to eat these cookies.

Easier said than done.

My anxiety level rises. I can’t seem to shake the focus on the cookies. So I decide to take a new approach.

I tell myself: I can have one (or all for that matter) if I really want one. But, I have to wait until I drink my chamomile tea.

Interesting: once I finished my tea, the need to eat the cookies waned. All weekend, when the need to eat a cookie rose to an unbearable level, I would find more tasks (do dishes, put kids in bed, eat lunch) to delay eating those cookies.

Delay and distract is not a new weight loss strategy to me, but somehow knowing that I am feeling anxiety and not hunger made this approach is easier to apply. Previously I would think to myself: what is the point of delaying something I’m going to do anyway? Now I know that: the need to eat may go away and whatever I eat will taste better if I wait.

So, of the six cookies, I ate one and a half. A quarter of the cookie on Sunday afternoon and the remaining one and a quarter cookies on Monday night; after the kids went to bed and I enjoyed my chamomile tea.

1 week / -4.5 / -8.0

Friday, June 10, 2011

The problem with bad foods

Eat normally, snack horribly.

For years I’ve known that I eat proper meals (balanced meal of protein, bread and vegetables), but I snack horribly. After reviewing a weeks’ worth of my eating patterns, my therapist agreed that I ate well balanced, normal meals, three times a day (thanks Mom for implanting this into my DNA). However, I also experienced both objective and subjective eating.

In basic terms, objective eating is eating a large quantity of food (example: eating a box of granola) and subjective eating is when you perceive yourself as eating a large quantity of food (example: eating two bowls of granola). Both types of eating are accompanied by feelings of loss of control.

I know I’m not the only one with a list of good and bad foods. The problem with labelling food as "bad" is that is human nature to want the something you can’t have. So a perfectly natural reaction to a bad food is to want it even more, developing wicked cravings. Over the years, cravings for bad food increased and my ability to resist those temptations decreased.

I couldn’t win: resist bad foods and I’d crave it more. Giving in to bad foods and I’d have feelings of guilt and shame: guilt for eating a bad food and shame that I was not strong enough, or in control enough to resist. No matter what I was doing, resisting or giving in to a bad food, my anxiety level increased. Anxiety makes you hungry; making it even more difficult to resist and perpetuating an endless cycle.

Limiting myself to a small portion perpetuates the same problem (say no to more, you want more even more). Wanting more but denying more increased cravings resulting in more anxiety and hunger.

I now tell myself:
  • I can eat it if I really want to.
  • I can have/buy/make more if I really need it.
Over time, knowing this and practicing this helped to decrease my obsession and cravings. Looking back, I estimate that this process took approximately three months, six therapy sessions and countless assurances from my therapist that eating bad foods or any foods in certain quantities of food was not as bad as I thought (such as a eating a whole box of Kraft Dinner)for my cravings to decrease.

In practice, if I decided that I really needed more (let’s say another bowl of granola), I would try to delay or distract myself with some other type of activity before consuming another bowl of granola.


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Eat whatever you want?

“Eat whatever you want. No foods are restricted and you can have as much as you want.”

My heart sank when my therapist said this to me. I assumed that at some point after therapy that I would be able to go back to Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig and lose my weight. After all, chapter 5 of the Beck Diet Solution is called, “Pick Two Reasonable Diets.” I figured face-to-face therapy would work the same way.

Immediately I considered amending my original plan (step 1: reprogram thinking; step 2: lose weight) to (step 1: lose weight; step 2: reprogram thinking). The only problem is that dieting had become an impossible task. Every minute of a dieting day is difficult and angst-ridden. I had been down this road before with intuitive eating and frankly the idea of no structure scared the hell out of me.

And then she added: “But, you must write down what you want to eat first.” Well, I thought. At least there is some sort of structure.

Here were my guidelines:

• Prepare a meal plan for the day.

• Include details such as portion size and number of helpings.

• No foods are off-limits as long as I write it down in the meal plan first.

• If I want to eat something that is not in the meal plan, I had to plan that food or additional helping into a future meal.

• Plan my meals the day before, or any time during the day.

I already found meal planning and journaling difficult, so my first week was challenging. Even though I could plan to eat whatever I wanted, I remained paralysed from making food choices. So, with the help of my therapist, we planned a few days of meals together. I allowed for reasonable portion sizes and planned for a good mix of healthy and not-as-healthy snacks and balanced meals.

As for following my own meal plan, it went fairly well. Sometimes I found that I wanted an additional helping of something (let’s say granola) that was not planned for. The need for more granola would grow, and become focused; the only way to satisfy this need was to give in and eat the additional helping of granola. That is when I learned that the need, the feeling I was experiencing was anxiety. Anxiety from 20 years of dieting telling me that granola is bad for me. That I shouldn’t be eating one bowl of granola, let alone two or three bowls.

I asked my therapist: “What do I do to handle the anxiety? How do I make it go away?”
She replied: “You have to learn to sit with it. It will pass.”

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Anxiety: the weight loss saboteur

Souvlaki on Monday. Roast Chicken on Tuesday. Baked Fish on Wednesday. Frittata on Thursday. Chicken Pizza on Friday.

Hubbie and I sit at the dining room table planning out the menu for the work week. For most families, this is a one person job. I, however, am unable to plan meals without assistance. My thoughts are paralysed when it comes to food. I have such a hard time making a decision about what to eat. It’s even worse if I have to make a spur of the moment decision.

This food is unhealthy. This food is too healthy. I can only have a little bit of this food. This food doesn’t satisfy me emotionally. This food is only for special occasions. I don’t like how this food tastes. This food tastes too good and I may eat all of it.

With all the diet speak and rebel against the diet speak floating around in my head; you can see why I have a tough time with meal planning.

Through therapy, I discovered that I have a lot of anxiety when it comes to food. This comes from 20 years of flipping between diet mode and planning to diet mode. You may be familiar with planning to diet mode: eating big helpings of all those off-limit foods because you will no longer be able to eat said foods once you go into portion-controlled, restricting-your-food diet mode again.

The problem with anxiety is that it makes you hungry. I suspect that many people like me do not like feeling anxiety and eat to make it go away. To tackle anxiety, I had to learn (and believe) the following:
  • I can eat it if I really want it. (But, I will try to delay or distract myself before having another helping.)
  • I can have more/buy more/make more if I need it.
  • I'm feeling the anxiety because I think I must limit myself.
  • I must learn to sit with the anxiety. It will pass.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Two apples too many?

“Go to the left, go to the left. TO THE LEFT. Damn.”

I was willing the physician’s weigh scale indicator to move to the left. It didn’t. It moved to the right. Two and ¾ pounds to the right to be exact. “That’s ok.” I remark to the two members of my TOPS branch who measure and record my weight gain. I had a feeling that I was going see a gain, but I always hope for loss. I hope I sound upbeat, but I’m disappointed. I quickly review a week’s worth of eating in my head. Doubt starts to set in. This is nuts. I need Weight Watchers to lose weight. Where did I put the program material for TOPS?

I was riding high from last week’s loss and the absence of intense cravings for junk food. My goal for this week was to build on last weeks’ success. I brought my lunch to work each day, adding vegetables to the workday menu. Again, at work, I only bought food at Metro that I needed. Plus, I racked up more than 6 hours of walking.

On the flip side, the weekend was dotted with decisions involving high-calorie foods: a caramel pecan square from the Glen Oven Bakery, BBQ pineapple and cool whip for Saturday night dessert, chocolate and nut covered ice cream bar brought home by hubbie for a Sunday afternoon snack, just hours before consuming two helpings of birthday cake. Oh yes, I almost forgot about the mini cupcakes on Friday night.

I know that sounds like a lot of sweets for a Mom trying to lose her baby weight, but I actually thought that I handled it quite well; like a thin person. I split the caramel pecan square in half and ate it on two separate occasions. Hubbie’s BBQ’d pineapple and cool whip dessert tastes delicious and is much lighter than other desserts such as a mini cupcake. I ate one mini cupcake with my son at dinner time and had another one after he went to bed. I wanted third one, but decided that I did not need the extra 110 calories.

The ice cream bar was an “oops” moment, but like a thin person, I’m not going to dwell on it. Regarding the birthday cake, my plan was to ask for a small piece; unfortunately I lost my thin person voice when a bigger piece was offered. For some reason, I decided to have another piece once we got home (oops, moving on).

But I have to keep things in perspective: weight fluctuates throughout the day, perhaps more dinner and water was sitting in my stomach than last week. Plus, I learned from my son’s paediatrician that apples are a binding food. One apple a day keeps the doctor away, but perhaps two apples are too many. An overdue BM could easily account for the gain.

It took a long time to put on this weight, and it’s going to take a long time to lose it. I need to remind myself that gains are going to happen frequently in this process, and what is important is that my net weight decreases with time.

1 week/+2.75

Monday, June 6, 2011

Nothing says "I'm dieting" more than a food journal

Ah – food journals. Recording one’s food intake is a loathsome part of dieting. It’s just another side of dieting that offers daily opportunities for feelings of guilt and shame.

Dieting motivation is always high in the beginning. It courses through my veins like a sugar rush; it’s easy to journal, kind of fun in a way. “Look at all the healthy food I’m eating!” “Look another glass of water I can check off!” I say to myself.

But as time marches on, I start to believe that writing in the food journal is not as important as originally thought. I begin to skip this task; a meal here, a day there.

Motivation wanes. Unplanned eating begins to increase and goes on undocumented in the food journal. Soon there is less recorded eating and more unrecorded eating.

“What’s the point?” I think to myself and journaling stops altogether. The dieting effort stops shortly thereafter, as terminating journaling always seems to be the beginning of the end of dieting.

So I was hesitant when my therapist asked me to record my food intake. “Eat whatever you would normally eat. No restrictions on your food or in the amount that you eat.” Immediately I felt my body going into a diet mode and every fibre in me wanted to rebel against the task. However, I reminded myself that I had come for help and apparently journaling was going to help in some way.

The therapy food journal required far greater detail than a regular dieting journal. Along with the usual documentation of food and drink consumed, I was also required to note: time of eating or drinking; indicate episodes that I considered binge eating; any compensatory behaviour (such as purging or laxatives); and events of feelings that influenced my eating. And, record my weight.

Although it took me six more months to actually step on a scale to record my weight, the therapy food journal provided a new perspective into my eating issues.

I was shocked to learn that a lot of my problems actually came from dieting.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Not a normal eater

“You just have to stop eating so much.”

My friend’s words irritated me. Of course I know that. I’ve been dieting on and off for years. It was the final trimester of pregnancy, and I was starting to think about the daunting task of losing all the baby weight.

I responded: “I’m telling you, there is something different between you and me. You don’t think about food the same way I do. You don’t obsess and think about food every minute of the day. There is something wrong in my head and I don’t think there is any point in attempting to diet unless I address that first.”

My friend is one of these people who can have a box of cookies sitting on her desk for weeks at a time. She has never struggled to lose or maintain weight. She is a thin person and thinks like a thin person. I have no doubt that if her brain and thin thinking could somehow be inserted into my head that she would have an easier time losing the baby weight (and more) that I’m currently lugging around.

I was going to do things differently this time. This time, I had a new plan: step 1: go to therapy and reprogram my thinking. Step 2: start diet and lose weight. In September 2010, I was ready to implement the plan.

In the first appointment we talked about my eating/weight issues history, including bulimia, perpetual cycles of weight loss and gain, countless Weight Watchers' memberships, and previous attempts at therapy to address these issues.

I developed bulimia shortly after retiring from seven years as a competitive synchronized swimmer. Even though I stopped purging twenty years ago, I continued to binge-eat (or perceive myself as binge-eating) and never resolved the underlying issues of the eating disorder. I learned that my suspicions were correct and that I am not normal eater, and I have an eating disorder. It's called Eating Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (EDNOS).

We discussed what I wanted to get out of therapy and setting goals; having a normal relationship with food. I want to be a person who can have ice cream in the freezer, chips in the pantry and a bag of cookies on my desk. I don't want to be ruled by cravings and feelings of guilt and dissatisfaction. I told my her that I wasn't hopeful that I could change. Without skipping a beat, she told me that I should be hopeful.