Food for Thought

winter vegetables by Muffet

“A good cook is like a sorceress who dispenses happiness.”
– Elsa Schiaparelli, Shocking Life 1954

The Weight Update

I’ve had an interesting, and very successful, couple of weeks. Honestly, it comes as a bit of a surprise to me, since things have not been easy.

Last week, I was traveling for work. I, and two of my coworkers, drove to another state for a trade show. There are all sorts of landmines in that scenario. To start with, I am traveling with other people, so that means I have a limited control on things like where we will be eating, how often we are stopping and how the day is structured. This added a whole other dimension to my ability to pick healthy food. On top of that, traveling is always a little stressful, and add in that I was travelling with two other people – both of whom I get along with, but both of whom cause a certain amount of stress. (One has a personality that is diametrically opposite of my own, the other was my boss.) My stress level was certainly increased.

Then there is the trade show. I work a fair number of shows and some are definitely better than others. Though this one is a great show for business, on the personal comfort level, it is at the bottom. Some of the shows I work have luncheons for the attendees, all of which almost always have a healthy option – this show only had the concession stands that were located in the hall: soggy looking pasta, pork products, beef products, and an over priced coffee stand with muffins and danishes. Now don’t get me wrong, I love me some beef and pork, but having it prepared from a convention center concession stand just did not appeal. So, that pretty much ruled out lunch.

The restaurant in the hotel where we were staying was quite nice, but the menu was almost universally Southern comfort food. The upside was that they also had a small kiosk that offered yogurt, fruit and granola bars that I could take over to the trade show. That was a lifesaver.

Trade shows, especially successful ones, are hard on the body. I am standing for roughly 9 hours a day with only minimal breaks. I am talking continuously, (after the first day I was hoarse) and having to be quick on my feet and constantly thinking. I am switching gears, answering questions, helping current customers, selling new ones – constantly. That is hard on the brain, and the brain is like any other muscle and it uses up energy and sucrose. By the end of each night, I was exhausted; I crashed into bed by 8:00PM .

Following all of that, I had a great weekend with my boyfriend. We relaxed, ran errands and… ate. He is also working on his weight, and before he took the plunge try a new way of eating, there were a few foods we wanted to indulge in first. And we did indulge.

Then there is this week – more stress piled itself on. There was the post-show busyness of work, and then there were bunch of other issues that popped up. Despite all of this, I still lost weight. Normally, I would have just written this last month off and blamed it on circumstances outside of my control. This time, I didn’t. I treated the situation as a particularly hard level in a game – how can I best navigate through this? What losses can I take so I earn more later? How can I manage all this?

Here’s what I did:

I kept on tracking. Some foods are hard to track – lunch at my favorite Vietnamese restaurant for example. Everything is homemade, most of it I don’t know how to pronounce, much less spell and calorie counts don’t exist online. Sometimes I tracked it by breaking dishes down into their individual components and estimating the quantity, other times I found things in My Fitness Pal that seemed comparable to what I had.

I was flexible. One of my friends told me to take it easy on myself while travelling. I took that advice to heart, even occasionally repeating it to myself like a mantra. I didn’t stress if the only food available was high calorie, I just did what I could to make it a little healthier. (Avoiding fries and cheese on burgers, for example.)

I tried to plan ahead. My boss always takes us out for one big, fancy meal when we travel. I planned for that day by eating a light breakfast and smuggling in fruit and yogurt to the trade show for lunch. I stayed away from the endless bowls of trade show candy and kept my early calories to a minimum, then when we went out, I completely enjoyed myself – had a big meal (including desert) and enjoyed every bite. I still was able to squeak in just under my calorie goal.

I still exercised. This was a hard one. I had brought my swimsuit, hoping the hotel would have an indoor pool. They didn’t. I also brought cold weather walking gear, figuring I could walk around the hotel. Turns out I couldn’t. The hotel was situated on the corner of a major expressway and a highway. There were no sidewalks, and the way the grounds were set up, there weren’t even large parking lots I could do laps in. So what did I do?

I jogged in place, in my hotel room. I admit, I felt a little silly doing it, but it worked! I put on Snap Judgement, one of my favorite NPR podcasts to keep me moving and keep my brain occupied, set the timer on my phone and went to work. I jogged 15 minutes in the morning and then another 15 before bed. It was enough to increase my heart rate a bit and get me moving.

So far I am really happy with where things are going. My systems aren’t perfect, but they are keeping me on the right track, without feeling deprived or frustrated. I feel like I am headed towards a healthier, stronger me.

Photo credit: Muffet

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