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.)