Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Eating the same thing day after day

Do you eat the same things over and over when you are dieting? I do. Whenever I find a diet-appropriate and tasty food combination I tend to eat it again and again and again. I’ve been eating the same food during work hours since I returned from my mat leave in May:

At home: glass of skim milk

On the train to work: peppermint tea

Breakfast: toasted whole wheat English muffin with peanut butter and a dollop of President’s Choice Twice the Fruit Jam.

Morning snacks: apple plus a handful of animal crackers and some chocolate chips

Lunch: roasted turkey and havarti cheese sandwich, coleslaw conservatively dressed with honey Dijon salad dressing, and a bag of veggies

Afternoon snack: another piece of fruit

On the train from work: if hungry and available, a piece of fruit

I know this is enough food to satisfy me, to give me enough energy to walk to and from the Go Train, work all day, perhaps go for a walk at lunchtime and arrive at home to eat dinner with hubby and my kids without becoming completely ravenous.

But yesterday, sabotaging thoughts started to creep back into my head.

For the first time since May, I opened my lunch bag and said to myself, “is this it? I want something different. Go to the food court now!”

I retrieved my therapy notes from my bag and read the following: feeling monotonous in meals can be a sign that the process is not going well.

Uh oh. I’ve been here before. I’m dangerously close to buying and eating junk food and in the worst case scenario, this feeling can turn into a binge.

But it didn’t. I stayed at my desk and ate the apple that I brought from home and thought about how cool, sweet and crispy it tasted. Eventually the craving for something else went away.
Knowing that the monotony of my food choices can lead to overeating helped me to defeat the temptation to buy junk food. And I keep in mind the words of encouragement from my friend Mandy: “Good things usually take a lot of work to achieve. I had no idea of the struggle you have... But having gone through struggle, educating oneself is the key to change.”

I’m learning how to think thin by handling one sabotaging thought at a time.

In addition, I need to change up weekday meals too. Any suggestions?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Intuitive Eating Review - Conclusion

Ten years ago, my cholesterol level finally hit a threshold that my doctor could refer me to a specialist for help with my eating issues. First stop, a nutritionist. The nutritionist agrees that I need more help than she can offer, so we review a list of clinics, therapists and doctors specializing in eating disorders. Some of the places have year-long waiting lists. I cannot wait this long for help. So I call a therapist that runs a group therapy program in Toronto; we meet and discuss my eating history. This was when I first learned of the intuitive eating movement.

After a few individual sessions, I joined an open-ended psychotherapy group. I hate to admit it, but I don’t remember much about the content or format of the group therapy sessions. I think we kicked off each session discussing how our eating went following the intuitive eating rules. Later on, we talked about our emotions, situations, food and eating; attempting to pin-point the reasons for our individual issues. Sometimes we had an activity; something to bolster your self-image. We closed the session with some sort of feel-good ritual.

Looking back, there were two main problems with group (from my perspective) therapy:

1) Despite being a part of this group for at least six months, I didn’t completely understand the intuitive eating rules, specifically, eat what your body wants. You would think that after participating in a group for this length of time, I would know that your body wants healthy foods, and it’s your mind that wants junk food. I also had trouble determining my specific hunger queues. After six months of weekly sessions, I don’t think it is unreasonable to expect that I would fully understand and capable of executing the intuitive eating rules without a thought.

2) Participation in this group did not bring me any closer to discover the reasons why I was a compulsive and binge eater. I had no answers. I assumed that I was eating for some sort of unresolved traumatic event or relationship. With no answers for my behaviour, I easily slipped out of the intuitive eating mindset shortly after leaving the group.

In cognitive behavior therapy, I discovered that my overeating and binge eating behaviors are reactions to dieting rules, or what I perceive as a dieting rule. So, a big reason why intuitive eating did not work for me is that there are seven rules to follow and rebel against.

Eat only when you are hungry? I’ll eat whenever I want.

Eat what your body wants? Forget about eating healthy, I’ll eat junk food.

Eat without distractions? I’ll eat in front of the TV if I want to.

Eat until satisfied? I’ll eat one or two mouthfuls more than satisfied just because.

Eat with enjoyment? I’m too busy watching TV and chomping down multiple servings of ice cream to enjoy it.

Eat sitting down in a calm environment? Well, I’ll eat my McChicken combo in the car if I want to.

Eat in full view of others? I’ll eat healthy food in front of others, but if I want to pig out, I’ll hide my box of Oreos in my desk.

Again, it’s the all-or-nothing, diet mentality. I had to follow completely or there was no point in trying at all.

Now I know that I overeat and binge to rebel against years/decades of dieting. As a result, I’ve had to alter my ideas on weight loss. I had to come up with my own set of guidelines. And looking back on it, funny enough, I think I may have actually become an intuitive eater by accident.

I eat when I’m hungry (mostly). I now recognize the more subtle signs of hunger (inability to focus, thoughts drift to food) and I am prepared with a healthy snack.

I eat until I’m satisfied. Somehow, through the CBT process, I don’t seem to mentally need food as much anymore. This is a result of telling myself that I can have it if I really want it.

I eat what my body wants (mostly). I’m choosing to eat lots of vegetables and fruit. I look forward to eating healthier meal options. Now that I’ve convinced myself that I can eat anything that I want, it took the magic away from “bad” fat and sugary foods. If I have a “bad” food every once in a while, I don’t worry about it and move on.

As for the other rules (eat with enjoyment, eat sitting down in a calm environment, eat without distraction and eat in full view of others) I would say that I now do those things naturally. I enjoy my food more now since I’m no longer in a frenzy to get to the next mouthful. I will eat a baggie of goldfish in the car, but the need for binge eating has decreased dramatically, so I no longer feel the need to binge in the car. Now that I have children, we seldom have the TV on at mealtimes, but I also don’t worry about it if I have a snack while watching the Bachelorette. It’s relaxing, I enjoy my snack; but it’s not mindless either. And lastly, now that the need for bingeing has decreased, I don’t feel the need to eat in secrecy.

So, there you have it. I did not fully understand all the rules and the group therapy did not help me get any answers as to why I overate and binged on food.

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
Rule 5: Eat in full view of others
Rule 6 & 7: Eat with enjoyment, gusto and pleasure; eat without distractions

Monday, July 18, 2011

Can I learn to think like a thin person blog on facebook

Let's connect on facebook!

I've created a facebook page for my blog. I'm not entirely sure how I'm going to use this page, but I thought it would be a great place to chat, share thoughts, ask questions etc. I'll microblog about specific food choices and eating behaviours.

Please search for "Can I learn to think like a thin person blog" and "like" this page. Help me get a username; I need 25 likes!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Intuitive Eating Review - Eat with enjoyment but without distractions

Rule 6: Eat with enjoyment, gusto and pleasure & Rule 7: Eat without distractions

It’s lunchtime. I’m working on a big project at work. We’re implementing a new online loan application. My day is spent testing, reporting, responding to emails and figuring out how each element should work. The days are long due to the time crunch; there is a hard deadline with lots to do. There is no time to think of anything else.

I power through lunch at my desk. Apparently I’ve eaten a container of pasta, a baggie of baby carrots with hummus and a handful of animal crackers. I should be satisfied. I shouldn’t be hungry, but I am. Oh well, I guess I didn’t bring enough food today, better go down stairs to get something to fill me up. I should buy some fruit. I don’t; I buy three cookies from Timmies. Hopefully three cookies will be enough to satisfy me...

I'm discussing rule 6 (eat with enjoyment, gusto and pleasure) & 7 (eat without distractions) together as they go hand-in-hand to help you to become a mindful, conscious eater.

How many people can say that they truly enjoy every morsel of food they put in their mouth? I can consume so many calories without a thought. I’ve eaten multiple handfuls of Oreos, bags of Reese’ Peanut Butter cup miniatures, large bags of movie popcorn, my lunch, my breakfast and dinner without really thinking about it; enjoy eating it; or savoring it; or even tasting it.

My pleasure of food seems to come only when taking in large quantities. It’s like there is a strong need to get to the next piece of food as quickly as possible. I’m getting better, taking my time, slowing down and enjoying the taste of food. And you know what happens when I slow down and actually taste food? I eat less.

Eating without distraction means no radio, television, newspapers, books, intense or anxiety-producing conversations or music, and although it’s not listed, I would assume this also means no internet. For most people, I think the biggest distraction while eating is television. I’ve eaten countless meals in front of the television, both as a single gal, and a married gal. Before we got married, hubbie and I decided to eat dinner at the table. Now that we have children, we eat all meals at the table. On the other hand, with snacks, I’m not quite as consistent. Especially at night; I’m always watching TV if I have an after-dinner snack.

I’d say that for the most part, I eat without distractions. I do need to work on eating with enjoyment, gusto and pleasure, which is easier to follow when I’m less distracted. But, it is just another rule to follow and worry about when eating. It should be simple to follow, but mindless eating (as opposed to mindful) is a hard habit to break. And sometimes it is just hard to eat with gusto while munching on celery sticks and zucchini spears.

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
Rule 5: Eat in full view of others

Next posting - conclusion on why intuitive eating did not work for me!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

What's the big deal with the Yoplait yogurt TV ad?

A thin woman looks longingly at a large raspberry cheesecake in the refrigerator. The woman attempts to decide whether or not to eat a slice of the cheesecake:

“Oh cheesecake! What if I had just a small slice, I was good today. I deserve it!

Or I could have a medium slice and some celery sticks and they will cancel each other out. Right?

Or… Ok I could have one large slice and jog in place as I eat it.

Or…Ok. How about one large slice while jogging in place followed by eight celery slices?”

The thin woman is joined by a thinner woman who says she’s been thinking about raspberry cheesecake all day and grabs a cheesecake-flavored Yoplait yogurt. The first thin woman comments to the other thin woman that she has lost weight and also grabs a Yoplait yogurt.

Recently, NEDA (National Eating Disorder Association) in the United States managed to get this ad for Yoplait yogurt pulled from the air. From some of the comments regarding this article, many people do not understand the problem with the Yoplait’s television ad.

So what is the big deal? What is wrong with this ad?

There are two issues that I have with this commercial:

1) What message does it send when Yoplait picked these thin actresses to represent their target market? Both women are thin and both these thin women were hired to play the role of women still wanting/needing to lose weight. When is thin thin enough? The media continually reinforce the idea that you can never be thin enough.

2) The first woman is trying to figure out how she can somehow eat less, eat differently and/or exercise so she can have a slice of cheesecake. Although this behavior is common, it is not normal. I frequently negotiated with myself to eat desserts (including cheesecake), movie popcorn and even an extra serving of arrowroot cookies. And showcasing this language, this behavior in a television ad only reinforces the belief that this is normal.

The second point is the reason why NEDA asked for this ad to be pulled. From NEDA’s press release: “The language in this advertising campaign was seriously problematic for those affected by eating disorders and anyone who may have a predisposition towards developing one.”

You may do this food bartering now. I think it’s safe to say that this is common practice in the dieting world (common enough for an advertising agency to develop a 30-second TV spot). Until cognitive therapy, I thought this rationalization was a normal dieting strategy. But it is not healthy or helpful in weight loss. It is just another symptom of the psychological damage of serial dieting.

A raspberry cheesecake would not cause such an obsession and turmoil in a normal eater. A normal eater would decide to have a slice or not and quickly forget about it. For others who are not normal eaters this internal debate shows the stress, anxiety and obsession that restricting oneself to eating only “good” foods, no eating an "bad" foods and eating in limited portions. And as I’ve said previously, anxiety makes you hungry, eating relieves the anxiety but perpetuates the gain/loss, anxiety/hunger cycle.

This is not to say that every person following a diet will end up with an eating disorder or has an eating disorder. Many people can forgo a slice of cheesecake and not give it another thought. Obviously, to lose weight, one will need consume fewer calories than the body burns. Eating the raspberry cheesecake flavored yogurt instead of the real thing may be a suitable compromise.

Before therapy, if I said no to the cheesecake, I would obsess about the deprivation for days. This obsession would trigger a binge; eating everything available to make up for the cheesecake. Now, I make a decision to either eat a slice or not. If I eat a slice, I’ll ensure that enjoy and savor the flavor and creamy texture. If I decide to skip the cheesecake since I'm trying to lose weight, I say no thanks and forget about it.

Sarah, thank you for bringing my attention to this story and for commenting on my SYTYCD/Gatorade post; I sent an email to NEDA and I will post when I get a response.

So what was the damage from my french fry and baked goods filled Newfoundland vacation? Shockingly I lost a quarter pound.

Next post, I will continue my review of intuitive eating...

Monday, July 11, 2011

What's the damage?

Tonight is the night I find out what the damage is (or isn't) from my trip to Newfoundland. I am prepared to roll with it, not let the scale stress me out.

Before I continue on with (a) the final posts of my intuitive eating review and (b) documenting what I learned through cognitive therapy, I'm working on a post regarding Yoplait's TV spot that was pulled from the air. I was hoping to finish it today, but alas... no.

So have a good night all!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Grease, fat and sugar oh my!

I’m home from the beautiful province of Newfoundland and Labrador. For the next week, I’ll be going through grease, fat and sugar withdrawal. I’ve been on a week long, quasi-socially accepted, food industry endorsed bender, with moments of food sobriety.

My goal for my week away was to eat healthy as possible, but also enjoy traditional newfie foods too. I started off with the best intentions. We drove 30 minutes out of our way to reach a bigger grocery store in Cornerbrook. We picked up healthy breakfast foods, snacks, vegetables and fruit. I stocked up on peppermint tea and packed my stainless steel water bottle for day trips.

With the exception of two days, breakfast was always healthy, peppermint tea, whole-wheat English muffin with peanut butter and jam (home made by MIL), plus apple and orange slices. The rest of the day kind of fell apart after that.

It started at the airport; the irresistible urge to order French fries. We had heaps of time before our flight and decided to eat Fionn Macool’s pub food. I should have realized that this was one of my last opportunities to eat a vegetable. Instead my mind focused on three words: sweet potato fries. After that, the fries kept coming.

Of the 24 meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) of our vacation:

- 48% of my meals included some form of potato (French fried, mashed, boiled, baked)

- 25% of my meals included French fries (on a positive note, one third of those servings were shared)

- 38% of my meals included either fish or seafood

- 10% of my meals were at the Sally’s cove chip truck (clamstrips and French fries - yummy)

- 21% of my meals included vegetables (however, 60% of those servings were starchy vegetables)

- 25% of my meals included desserts (including chocolate cake, blueberry grunt, a tasty concoction called flaky, blueberry pie and rice pudding)

- 4% (one meal) was steamed lobster and garlic butter cooked by my fabulous hubby who will cook lobster and crab, but won’t eat lobster or crab

My original plan also included packing my own healthy snacks for daytrips. I managed to accomplish this for my boys, but for the adults, not so much. Snacks have always been my downfall, and this trip was no exception. Snacks included: delicious field cookies, coconut/chocolate squares, blueberry muffins, coconut cookies, timbits, soft serve ice cream, cream puff pastry and funny enough Lay’s fries n’gravy potato chips.

So what happened? Vacation happened. Through therapy I’ve learned that one of the reasons I binge is when I feel like I’m limiting myself in some sort of way. The chip truck is literally a treat that I have once every few years. I’ve only found the field cookies in Woody Point. The rest? I can only chalk up to the fact that I was on vacation. It was a finite amount of time and now it’s over.

I would have gladly eaten more vegetables, but the fact is that most of Newfoundland’s vegetables are shipped in. Newfoundland is also known as “The Rock” meaning that there isn’t a lot of soil for growing veggies, so the available vegetables just aren’t as appetizing. On the other hand, I was happy that most mornings I sliced up oranges and apples to eat. I can tell you that I really haven’t done that on a vacation before.

So, the grease, fat and sugar detox begins. At least it will be a little bit easier since I’ve had so many French fries in the last week, that I have no interest in ingesting a deep fried potato for a long time.

Oh yes - completely unrelated, but I saw a massive iceberg (approximately 500 ft in length, 80 ft in height) off the coast of St. Anthony in the northern tip of Newfoundland... Pretty cool!