Tuesday, October 29, 2013

How to handle a craving - step 3: prepare by visualizing the outcome

Looking for a simple, low-risk method for handling a craving? I suggest you try visualization, a technique I learned and practiced as an athlete.

The Collins dictionary defines visualization as a technique involving focusing on positive mental images in order to achieve a particular goal. Athletes use visualization to mentally rehearse and maximize their performance in competition.

As I type this, I can't help but to visualize my competitive synchronized swimming days. Right now I'm walking on the deck, in sync with my duet partner. Instinctively, I raise my chin and roll my shoulders back as the images run through my mind....

The best thing about visualization is that you can prepare and practice a new behaviour before you need the new behaviour. By mentally rehearsing a new behaviour, your brain develops the "same mental instructions as actions, and impacts cognitive processes such as motor control, attention, perception, planning and memory."

That means that you practice handling a craving without the actual craving! On Monday I listened to Get-It-Done Guy's Quick and Dirty Tips podcast on "How to create good habits." It dawned on me that visualization is a great way to prepare for my next craving; specifically this slight habit of drinking hot chocolate and marshmallows in the evening (recent habit since the weather has cooled). Since listening to the podcast, I'm on my second night of a snack-free evening.

To prepare for the evening, I visualized a new nighttime routine, one that included hot water instead of hot chocolate and marshmallows. Details included the exact routine such as turning on the kettle, retrieving my klean kanteen travel mug from my bag, pouring the water into my mug and adding three ice cubes to cool the boiling water to the right temperature.

Most importantly, I visualized drinking and enjoying my drink, feeling the warmth spread through my body. Hot water is both comforting and refreshing!

When the familiar twinge of hunger hit that usually nudges my feet towards the kitchen, I pushed the thought from my mind as I knew what to do, and I had decided and practiced my actions already. Sure enough, the hot chocolate craving was easily cooled.

If you haven't used visualization before, here are a few tips:

  • Breakdown one specific behaviour at a time. Drinking water instead of hot chocolate is specific. Stop all mindless eating is not.
  • Incorporate all the steps leading up to the new behaviour. Not only did I picture myself drinking hot water, but I also visualized turning on the kettle,  getting my cup, pouring the water and finally drinking the drink.
  • Visualize specific details such as the environment, clothes, people, and senses. Make your images as realistic as possible.
  • Include your feelings including satisfaction, happiness, confidence and motivation.
If you are wary of your next craving, practice the outcome you want by visualizing it!

Next post: How to handle a craving - Step 3: Reflect and prepare for the next craving continued

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

How to handle a craving - part 2: Distract your thoughts and don't over think it

I've made a decision. I've decided to not eat the ten pack of French Crueller timbits that I'm craving.

Now, I just have to stop thinking about those mmmm soft, smothered in icing, melts-in-your-mouth timbits.

After all, what is the point of continuing to think about these damn timbits if I've already decided to not eat them? Am I a glutton for punishment?

Looking back, I'm baffled that I thought that the relentless, internal debate triggered by a food craving was normal:

"I want to eat this timbit. No, actually, I want to eat twenty of them."

"I can't. I shouldn't. I don't need it."

"But, it tastes so good!"

"Timbits are fattening."

"I don't care. I'll eat it anyways. Nothing else will satisfy me."

My original resolve to not eat, to not give into the craving was continuously tested until I gave into the craving. This could take an hour, or two or could last for a few days or more. It was inevitable that a craving eventually lead to giving in and eating. It was just a matter of time.

Continuing to think about the food that you are craving only serves to extend the life of a craving.  Therefore, if you want to stop a craving, you have to stop thinking about it!

Therefore, once you've made a decision to not eat, the next step is to physically move away from the food you are craving. Physically separating yourself from the food you are craving helps to mentally banish the thought of it too.

If you are unable to physically move away from the food, move the food so you can no longer see it. I place frozen food in the downstairs freezer, place cookies for the kids in the absolutely useless corner kitchen cabinet or behind the extra ziploc baggies in the hard-to-reach shelf of the pantry.

Once you've eliminated the visual reminder, turn your attention to something other than food. Anything to distract your thoughts will work. Prepare a list of ways to distract your thoughts so you aren't scrambling when a craving hits.

Here is a list of some of the ways I distract my thoughts:

  1. Refocus on the task at hand when the craving hit. If I'm in the mall running errands, I reconsider my list to determine if I missed any additional errands that need to be done.
  2. Google random questions. What happened to the actor who portrayed Jake from Sixteen Candles? What happened in the Lost finale?
  3. Go for a walk with a colleague to discuss non-food related topics. 

Step 2 is simple, distract your thoughts. But, in order for this to work you need to allow your brain to think about something else and forget about the food you are craving.

Don't over think it! Don't hold onto your craving – just let it go!

How do you distract your thoughts away from food?

Next post: How to handle a craving - Step 3: Reflect and prepare for the next craving

Thursday, August 8, 2013

How to handle a craving - step 1: make a decision

Reprogramming my thoughts with cognitive behaviour therapy has significantly decreased the number of cravings I experience on a daily basis.

Ironically, the fact that I don't experience as many cravings means I have less opportunity to practice handling cravings during those spontaneous food moments during the day.

Such as when the manager asks if I'm interested in a piece of leftover black forest cake from the department potluck. OR when I grab an extra arrowroot cookie for the kids and grab a few for myself (same goes for chocolate chips from the pantry). OR when you are camping and there are enough snacks for a five families instead of two.

I'm not really thinking about what I'm doing - it's completely mindless eating. What I've noticed about mindless eating is that I don't make a decision to eat or not - I just eat. Eating just seems to happen.

So the first step to handle a craving is to make a decision - am I going to eat or not?

By making a decision on whether or not to eat allows me to slow down and consider whether or not I want to eat. And come up with a plan based on my decision to eat or not.

This is not as easy as it sounds. Sometimes I consciously avoid making a decision. Sometimes I completely forget to make a decision. It's difficult to overwrite a 30 year old behaviour with a new behaviour.

My strategy to make a decision first is to write down the food and amount of food that I'm going to eat before I eat. By writing it down in my Evernote food book, I'm forced to think about my decision:

- Do I really want to eat this food? Why?
- If I decide to eat this food, how much am I going to eat?
- If I decide to not eat, what do I need to do to ensure that happens?

Once I make a decision (and write it down in my notebook) I live with the decision, I don't feel guilty if I decide to eat and I don't obsess about the food I'm not eating.

Here are a couple of things to consider:

- When I'm really struggling with a craving, I make a series of short-term decisions. For example, I can decide to not eat a piece of cake, but if I still want to eat the cake in five minutes, I can make another decision to eat (or not). Each time I decide to delay eating the cake, I am closer to riding out the craving.

- Establishing a new behaviour takes time and practice. If you don't make a decision when a craving hits, don't be discouraged, figure out if you can do anything different the next time and try again.

First post: How to handle cravings - pt. 1
Next post: How to handle cravings - distract and don't over think it

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

How to Handle Cravings - pt. 1

Do you think about food all the time? Do you spend an abnormal amount of time battling cravings? Or does giving in to a craving seem like an forgone conclusion?

I began obsessing about food when I was a kid. Mostly, I fretted about the food I wasn't allowed to eat. I fretted about the food I had to eat. I remember how my friend Mandy would eat her smarties one at a time, and I just wanted to eat the freakin' smarties by the mouthful!

For thirty more years I continued to obsess about food, with the added weight loss/weight gain worries. By the time I started cognitive behaviour therapy in 2010, I experience food cravings all day; as long as I was awake, I wanted to eat something.

Having gone through therapy, I now understand my cravings. I can tell you that the best way to battle a craving is to just not have it in the first place. And to eliminate cravings all together you have to change how you think about food - you have to change how you think about everything.

I resolved the bulk of my cravings by working with my therapist by reprogramming my thoughts. I no longer think of food as good and bad. It's just food. I don't restrict the amount or kinds of foods that I eat. After all - if I'm told I can't eat chocolate - I'm going to want to eat chocolate. If I'm told I can only have one serving of rice, I will want two servings.

The remainder of my cravings are truly spontaneous, typically a social situation. It's taken a while to figure out a good plan for these cravings, but I've got a plan that works, but I am still practicing.

For the next few posts, I'm going to write about what I've learned about cravings and provide you with some ideas on how to handle your own cravings.

How do you handle cravings?

Next post: How to handle cravings - make a decision to eat or not

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Me, the big bear and the Go Diego Go! bike

"How about you and I go for a walk tomorrow morning? I walk and you ride."

A big smile breaks across big bear's face. 

Hubby and I have been struggling since big bear started getting up early - anywhere from 2 am to 5 am, eager to start the day. 

"I want to play Mommy!"

"Good grief big bear, please go back to bed!"

With bloodshot eyes and sizable pillows under my eyes, I stumbled to Chapters Indigo at lunch to buy the OK to Wake clock that glows green at the agreed time when the big bear can get out of bed. Thankfully it works - mostly. Hubby and I are lucky if we can get the big bear to sleep in until 6:30 am; typically he is ready to go at 5:30 no matter what time he goes to bed.

Then last weekend I had an epiphany. Since big bear is ready to move at an early hour, why the heck don't we go do something together?

The one thing that I miss the most from my pre-child days is starting the day with a workout. Running, walking or cycling in the morning was a great way to start the day. It injected my morning with energy and it was a great feeling knowing that I didn't have to go back out at the end of the day. 

Most friends can't imagine working out in the morning. However, I feel the same way about working out in the evening.  I just don't have the drive to do it at the end of a long, busy day.

Once the little bears arrived, morning workouts no longer fit into the morning schedule. I currently get out of bed at 5:15 on a weekday and I'm physically unable to get up any earlier. So since the arrival of the bears, I'm stuck exercising after work, after family time, and after the kids go to bed. 

So, on Sunday morning my big bear quietly tip-toed to my bedside and asked if we were going for a walk. I nodded slowly and moved to an upright position. I grabbed my clothes laid out the night before; we left my sleeping hubby and little bear.

We both changed from our pajamas to our clothes. I grabbed a snack, water and Kleenex and headed outside to put our shoes on. I quietly fetched his helmet and bike from the garage and off we went.

We talked as we explored the streets and houses of the less explored parts of our neighbourhood. He marveled at Toronto's skyline and I showed him the Niagara escarpment. We stopped by a playground he hadn't seen before.

I smiled thinking at how great it felt to be outside moving in the morning while so many people are sleeping. It was awesome to be sharing this moment with my son. And I couldn't believe I hadn't thought of this earlier!

For our first outing, we walked, talked and cycled for 2 hours and another hour the following day. Last Sunday we overdid it with a three hour jaunt, but we discovered a few shortcuts and watched the fisherman fishing at the Oakville harbor.

Ah, life is good. I'm exercising in the morning again and now I have company!   

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Exhaustion caused by potential iron deficiency?

After three months of complete exhaustion, I feel like I've finally woken up out of a fog.

I had trouble getting up in the morning; I was unable to stay awake on the train to work. I dragged my behind through the workday and I could barely keep my eyes open on the train back home.
I perked up slightly at dinner with hubby and the bears, but my energy level quickly plummeted during story time. On more than one occasion I nodded off in the chair before the little bear fell asleep in his bed.

Swimming ended in June for the summer, but I missed practices more than I went for the final two months. I had absolutely no energy for anything let alone swimming late at night only to get to bed even later which only compounded the lack of energy I felt.

Last week I received a clear sign from body. My body said, "EAT SOMETHING ELSE." So, that day I decided to forgo my lunch of salad, chick peas, fruit and other stuff for a sandwich and salad from Fast Fresh Foods. 

After lunch, I was telling my friend about this lack of energy and struggle to get anything done. I noted that I was feeling more awake - more energetic - after eating a sandwich instead of the lunch instead of my usual fare from home. That's when she suggested a possible iron deficiency. 

I thought back to the time when I changed my recent weekday food routine, substituting a meat-based protein for a plant-based protein. I'm fairly certain that the exhaustion came at some point after the food change-up. 

And while I can't say for sure that an iron deficiency is or is not the reason for the lack of energy, I've come to realize that I need to better educate myself on plant-based proteins, I've learned that the food I decide to eat can have a direct impact on my energy level and the importance of eating a variety of foods. Plus I decided to add a once a day multi-vitamin to my eating regimen for good measure.

So, I feel better - my energy level is up and I'm excited to get back to writing. 

How are you doing?

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Catching Up yet again

Oh me oh my.

It's been busy here. So busy that until a few minutes ago, I didn't even have a chance to login to blogger. I haven't been swimming and a true sign of a hectic schedule, I bought my lunch a few times over the last couple of weeks.

My husband was away for a week visiting his parents in Newfoundland. Before he left I pictured quiet evenings of blogging. In reality I was too pooped from cleaning up and getting ready the next day. There was very little time and I had no energy to do anything other than go to bed.

I've also gained a couple of pounds (my jeans are slightly tighter) since we ate more prepackaged dinners. My parents helped me by picking up the bears after school/daycare. We ate dinner at their house when I picked them up after work.

Plus, I've been interviewing for two new jobs that has meant time buying interview clothes, preparing, and even completing a test/assignment for the more promising opportunity.

My interest is turning back to the less healthy food, which is a signal that I need to change my food routines. Frankly, there isn't enough time to figure that out right now, but I should have more time next week. Currently my attention is focused on baby bear's birthday party today. I can hardly believe my baby bear is three now.

That reminds me, the next big event is my parents' 50th wedding anniversary party next month.

Anyhow, these are challenges we all face and all that any of us can do is to muddle through the best we can.

I'm looking forward to getting back in the pool....

How are you doing?

Monday, April 22, 2013

Catching up - how are you doing?

Hey, how are you?

It's been a while.

Stuff has been going on.

My laptop crashed permanently. The motherboard burned out. Who knew that laptops only last 3 to 4 years? I'm sure many people knew that, but I didn't. Interesting to note that the cost to replace a fried motherboard pretty much buys a new computer. So I bought a new computer, with a bigger monitor (yay!). It's taking time getting used to a new keyboard and Windows 8 (what the heck happened to the Start button?).

There has been news; good and not-so-good. I was shocked by the horrific bombing in Boston and tragic fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas. My heart go out to the family and friends touched by these events. However, I primarily think of my wonderful mother-in-law and father-in-law who are experiencing their own health crisis far away in Newfoundland; I think of you always and I am glad that your son, my DH will be coming home to be with you soon.

Eating has been going well. Tackling my issue with social eating has led down an interesting road. I'm annoyed by all the junk food everywhere. Yoni Freedhoff recently called it second hand junk food. I'm formulating a plan to make it easier for people at my workplace to not eat food. I'm excited, but I know my suggestion is controversial.

I've been reading Michael Moss' Salt, Sugar, Fat. I'm adding a new eating trigger to list of triggers. The newly discovered trigger is processed food. Why? Because processed food tastes too good. It is engineered by chemists in a lab, supported by research to guarantee that we eat too much, buy more and induce cravings.

It is time to challenge the traditional ideas on why we we overeat.

I've also decided to push my comfort zone when it comes to this blog. I intend to write more controversial posts or write in a more controversial voice. I've changed how I think about food, dieting and weight loss; now I want everyone else to change too.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Feeling judged for eating grapefruit

Today it became apparent that my truly, very lovely new cube neighbour and I share a different set of boundaries.

She moved in to the cube beside mine the week of Valentine's Day. Her husband sent a massive basket of chocolate and she continually attempted to offer me chocolate with an imaginative sales pitch including referring to said chocolate as "healthy." 

After a day of continually saying "no thanks" she accepted that I won't eat her chocolate. However, today she went to the other end of the spectrum and questioned my decision to eat a late afternoon snack - a grapefruit.

"I'll be back, I'm just going to cut up my grapefruit." I said.

"I can't eat a big fruit like that," she replied.

I nod and offer an uncomfortable smile. I'm unsure what to say to this. Naturally, I can't help but to think that she is inferring that I'm eating too much; but perhaps I'm just too sensitive. I head to the kitchen to cut up my grapefruit.

Ten minutes later, I return to my desk. Before I'm finished eating my grapefruit she casually asks if I'm leaving soon. It's 4:55. My workday ends at 5 pm:

"Yes I am leaving soon."

"Then why are you eating when you will be home for dinner soon?" she replies.

Slightly miffed I say, "So I don't bonk on the commute home."

I must admit that I deleted a big long paragraph explaining why I had a snack before heading out on my hour-long commute home. But, it doesn't matter. It is none of her business why I eat food (or not). I can eat grapefruit an hour before dinner (or any food, in any amount, for any amount of time, before or after a meal because it is my decision).

Isn't it funny how some people aggressively push food one day and then pass judgement the next? How those people expect us to eat the food they offer to be polite yet be a target for judgement anytime we decide to eat food, especially if said food or timing appears inappropriate?

Yes, I'm feeling a bit cynical (and sensitive) today. Hope you had a good one!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

No need to admit that you are serving a WW recipe

I have a couple of social occasions coming up (one that I'm going to host) and plan on doing WW friendly recipes. We'll see how it goes, I feel a little anxious about it, I don't know why... why wouldn't anyone want to be served something healthier I think I'll hold off on tell them until after the meal.

Hi Cheryl!

You are anxious about serving WW friendly meals at dinner parties; I can completely understand those feelings. I've only recently started to rethink the type of food I serve to friends and family.

I think you are anxious because there is a perception out there that healthy food is not tasty food and our society on the whole is obsessed with taste. No one wants to serve food that doesn't taste great to their guests. But, healthy food does taste good, perhaps in a different way from a full fat recipe.

In any case, for your upcoming social events, serve food that works for you. You don't need to consult your guests before the meal and you don't need to admit (or apologize) for anything after the meal. After all, your guests are important so wouldn't you rather contribute to their good health instead of detract from it?

You may actually find that some (or perhaps all) of your guests may be thankful and relieved to be eating lighter and healthier food.


Cheryl is a newbie blogger, and we have been friends for almost 20 years now (where did the time go??). We were on the same rowing crew gliding up and down the credit river. Check out her blog Chering Change.

If you have any suggestions for Cheryl, please add a comment below.

Also, check out this interview with journalist Micheal Moss about his new book Salt, Sugar, Fat about how the food industry got us hooked on processed food. Fascinating!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Why I don't want to serve cheese as an appetizer

I opened the compartment of the refrigerator that holds the deli meat, cheese and other bits of food. There, I saw it. I groaned and rolled my eyes. I spied a large brie. Hubby must have bought it as an appetizer for our friends that were coming for dinner that night.

Had I not told him that I no longer want to serve cheese as an appetizer?

I've been tackling the issue of social eating for the last six months or so; coming up with various tactics. I've come to the conclusion that one of the best ways to combat social eating is to serve food that works for me. While serving (or bringing food) that works for me is not always possible, I am in complete control of the menu when we're hosting the dinner party.

While I love cheese, ultimately cheese is not a good choice; it's too easy to overeat and if I do serve cheese, there is a chance that I'll be too full to eat dinner.

So, I decided to no longer serve cheese (or bring cheese) as a dinner party appetizer. What is the point of serving food that will increase the possibility for overeating? There is a wide variety of food choices out there that I can serve and I can easily choose food that is tasty and a healthy choice that works for me.

I know this seems like a very simple solution. But until recently, I either didn't think of it or I didn't want to impose my healthy choices on guests or on some level I wanted a break from the healthy food that I eat day in and day out. My guess is that the answer is some sort of combination of the three that changed depending on the occasion.

In any case, a week after the dinner party, the brie is still in the fridge. We're saving it for a larger dinner party when there are more than four adults to enjoy it.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Eat food not products

I had an a-ha moment last year as I walked around the concourse of my office building. I realized that the bulk of the food sold in restaurants, fast food shops and grocery stores is junk food. More importantly, I stopped thinking of prepared meals, fast food or restaurant food as a valid eating option. Some sort of switch flipped; I lost interest in buying food and preferred to eat food prepared at home.

I realized that it is too easy to overeat food that is prepared by food manufacturers and restaurants.

(In general, I'm referring to manufactured meals - meals made by someone else and/or somewhere else. Of course this includes snack foods and "healthy" fast food places that serve enormous salads.)

If you think about it, food manufacturers have teams dedicated to creating convenient meals that are so tasty that you will like it enough to buy again and again. They test, use focus groups as guidance to perfect a product that will appeal to the the most consumers. This team also works to overcome obstacles such as an ingredient list constrained by a budget and projected pricing and a manufacturing date that is weeks/months prior to the consumption date.

Plus, let's not forget that the food business is a competitive market. Luckily, the food marketers work on a plan to develop product awareness so you will remember to buy their frozen lazagna at the grocery store and again the following week. If the product happens to be low-fat and doesn't taste all that great - the food marketers will market the health benefits and let the health halo do the rest.

In the case of fast food and restaurants, it's a bit of a double whammy - there is the taste thing and the huge serving size thing. Servings are massive, even the children's  meals are too big and in the wrong proportions for healthy eating (ie. vegetables rarely take up half the plate). I'm even wary of the healthy fast food places that sell big salads heaping with various prepared toppings with mayonnaise and cheese.

Of course, some prepared meals are healthier choices than others. On the rare occasion that I buy my lunch  (once every couple of months), my first choice is a place where I can get a gourmet salad and a sandwich.
And while I realize that it is one of the healthier choices, the sandwich is big, and I'm certain the salad dressing in full fat.

In my eyes, food made in factories, fast food/restaurants meals are treated like chocolate bars and should only be eaten occasionally.

If you are interested in controlling your eating, control what you eat by making the food you eat.

Eat food and be wary of eating products.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Dealing with food pushers - insight from a thin person

A former manager is one of those naturally thin people who does not have to work at staying thin. She has a naturally low appetite. I swear she can nurse a muffin all day long. One day when we were chatting after a meeting, she told me about a particular pair of pants that must go in the dryer before wearing as the material needs to be shrunk in order for it to fit. I replied with a laugh and told her that is not a problem that I've experienced.

During a more recent conversation we talked about the massive amount of food at our new workplace (the company we worked for was bought and merged with another financial services company). I was shocked by all the food at work: pizza, burrito day, breakfast day, ice cream, cake, cupcakes, continental breakfast, popcorn, candy. Some brought in by colleagues, but most of it provided by management as a way to motivate and thank employees. 

So my naturally thin manager shares this interesting tidbit of information: if you say no to offers for food, eventually food pushers will get the message and stop offering food.

And she is right. Now that I've said no thank you enough times, no one tries to push food on me and I'm also finding it easier to say no thank you when the offer for food comes up.
I kept this in mind when a group of new employees started last week and a truly very lovely lady offered (enthusiastically) a basket of valentine's day chocolate to her neighbouring colleagues (including me).
"Please, have some chocolate, help me to not get fat by eating all this chocolate!" she said. "Look, have some of this chocolate, this chocolate is healthy!"
Nice. She doesn't want to get fat with chocolate, but it's ok to push chocolate onto colleagues and make them fat?
I wasn't interested in her chocolate; I kept my steely resolve with a cheery, "no thank you" and "perhaps later, but I don't want any right now thanks." She got the picture that I just wasn't interested and moved on to more interested colleagues.
So the next time a food pusher approaches you with a plate of cookies or a basket of chocolate, remember the words from a naturally thin person; if you say no enough, food pushers will go find a new target.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Choosing fresh fruit instead of chocolate cake

Chocolate cake with a thick layer of icing piped along the edges; apple crisp with a lovely gooey filling topped with a crisp oatmeal and brown sugar topping; mint chip ice cream with chocolate syrup and sprinkles. Mmmm, so sweet, so good.

If I'm supplying a dessert for a dinner party, I can guarantee that I will bring something along the lines of cake, crisp/pie or ice cream. After all, who doesn't love to eat tasty baked foods or cold and creamy ice cream. Convenient too, it's so easy to pick up dessert, the bakery department and the freezer is always stocked at the grocery store.

However, something changed this week; I decided to do something different. I decided that any occasion when I'm tasked to bringing food, I'm going to bring food that works for me; I'm going to bring healthy food.

Tonight we went to my brother and sister-in-law's house for dinner. The plans came together quickly, so SIL suggested ordering pizza; I offered to supply the rest.

There wasn't going to be much time before dinner for appetizers, so I bought a small container of Japanese Rice Crackers. To help fill up my stomach with food other than pizza, I made a salad. For dessert, I put together a platter of fresh fruit (orange slices, grapes and strawberries) with vanilla flavoured Greek yogurt for dipping. To break the fruit platter ice, I brought frozen cookie dough that happened to be in our freezer.

Japanese Rice Crackers- can't overeat on these

Source: google.com via Karen on Pinterest

I know many of us are uncomfortable with the idea of serving healthy "diet" food to friends and family.Why is that? Why do we put ourselves in the position of deciding between sabotaging our own effort or missing out? Why do we assume that no one else would want to eat a healthier dessert? Why do we assume that fresh fruit won't taste good enough?

I don't have all the answers, but this is what I know: I don't want to sabotage my eating or miss out. No longer will I assume that a lighter, fresher option will not be appreciated. And I know that fresh fruit with Greek yogurt will be devoured just a quickly as an ice cream sundae and I figured, if dinner guests don't want to eat the fruit - they can always eat a fresh baked cookie.

How about you? Do you serve "healthy food" to your dinner party guests?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Getting together for a brown bag lunch

Kara: Hey Jen, do you want to get together for lunch?

Jen: Sure! When? Where?

Kara: My schedule is wide open, let me know what works for you.

Jen: This week is full, but I can get together next week.

Kara: Works for me! Do you want to do a brown bag lunch or go somewhere?

Jen: Brown bag is good.

Kara: Excellent!

My brown bag lunch

My brown bag is in fact, green. 

On Friday, I'm meeting my friend Jen for lunch. Literally. She is bringing her lunch, and I will bring mine. It's a win-win situation - we get together to catch up on our busy lives and we eat the food the food that we want to eat.
I always had mixed emotions about going out for lunch. I love going out for lunch, but I saw it as a drain on my wallet and invariably derailed healthy eating for the day. Of course, restaurant food is tasty - but is it worth it?
After I returned to work after mat leave (and 9 months of cognitive therapy), I decided to put it out there - hey girls, instead of going out for lunch at a restaurant, why don't we meet in the food court and bring our lunch?
They agreed. We came. We chatted. And we ate our own food.
In the last two years of getting together with my friends for lunch, I can only think of one occasion that we actually went to a restaurant.   

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Pre-washed lettuce isn't all that convenient

The most amusing thing that I discovered since I started eating salad at lunch is that my cat loves lettuce. The little fur ball comes running whenever he hears the salad spinner whirling as it separates water from the leafy vegetable. See, here he is below, eating lettuce. I swear he can't seem to get enough.
My kitty loves lettuce!

Same goes for me. In 2012, I processed at least 104 heads of lettuce in my salad spinner. That's a minimum of two per week that I buy, wash and dry. Typically I pick up green leaf lettuce or red leaf lettuce. I also buy a package of romaine hearts as a back up (it seems to keep fairly well) for those times that I run out of lettuce. If I had a bigger kitchen, I'd seriously consider buying this salad spinner; from the amazon product reviews, it is primarily used by farmers.

When I began eating salad at lunch, I bought the pre-washed lettuce in a bag or box. After a few months, I noticed that I spent too much time separating the good from the spoiled lettuce. It was such a waste of time and money. I notice that pre-washed lettuce isn't really convenient. So at that point I decided to wash, spin and store my own lettuce.
The replacement salad spinner - wow, I need to moisturize!

Ready to eat lettuce in rubbermaid produce saver container

The picture above is the salad spinner that replaced my first salad spinner that I melted the week before Christmas. The whole melting of the salad spinner was a deja vu moment. Days before the incident, I was asked myself what I would do if something happened to this faithful kitchen gadget. Next thing I know its got a big rounded dent in it.

In any case, the next time I melt or otherwise break my salad spinner, I'll limit the replacement search to a couple of days instead of a couple of weeks. I just can't go on without one!

How about you? Do you use a salad spinner or do you dry your lettuce some other way or do you buy pre-washed lettuce? Have you broken a favorite kitchen gadget lately?

Friday, January 18, 2013

Lessons learned from holiday eating

Wow - I can hardly believe that it has been (or perhaps more?) a month since my last blog post. I had planned writing through the Christmas holidays and New Year's, but I always seem to forget how busy it is at this time of year and how much time it takes to get ready. I was exhausted (still am) and I needed to take a break.


Happy belated 2013! Anyone else going through baked good withdrawal like I am?

Despite best intentions, holiday eating did not go exactly as planned. I forgot and/or severely underestimated the sheer amount of food that accompanies Christmas/New Year's and all the days before, after and in between. The meals, the gifts of food, food from school, food from colleagues, food from dinner guests, food from neighbors, food from Santa. Food, food, everywhere food!

And busy. Shopping, wrapping, cleaning, Christmas cards, cooking and preparing took so much time and energy. 

Fortunately, I had the week before Christmas off from work, so I assumed there was time to make my healthy lunches and snacks each day. In reality, I was too busy and too tired and too hungry to wash lettuce, assemble salads and other food preparations that I should have done on the weekend. So I ate whatever food was readily available, be it a sandwich, Kraft dinner and um, frozen cookie dough.

In any case, what happened happened; I have no regrets, but there are a few post-holiday lessons learned:
  1. When the neighbors bring a big tin of European chocolate cookies to the house, talk to hubby about not opening said box.
  2. If I melt the salad spinner while cooking Kraft Dinner for the little bear again, just go buy a new one. Interestingly, salad spinners are considered a seasonal product and are not widely available (let alone on sale) in stores.
  3. It was a relief to decide to not bake Christmas goodies; I didn't miss it, even though baking is one of my favorite holiday traditions.
  4. It worked well to exclude cheese as an appetizer.
  5. Frozen cookie dough is handy, but when I unexpectedly end up with a bunch of boxes of frozen cookie dough from big bear's school; keep said boxes restricted to the downstairs freezer.
  6. Whether I'm at work or at home, prepare lunch and snacks so healthy choices are readily available.
Thankfully, I'm back at the pool and my taste buds and are getting back to normal. Life is getting back to normal. I can spin lettuce. It's all good.

What about you? Did you learn anything about your holiday eating? Did you decide to challenge any Christmas traditions?