Food and Happiness

"A Dinner Table at Night"  by John Singer Sargent, 1884

“A Dinner Table at Night” by John Singer Sargent, 1884

“The only time to eat diet food is while you are waiting for the steak to cook”
– Julia Child (1912 – 2004)

I’ve been changing how I eat. It’s happened slowly, more by intuition than by anything else. When I started losing weight, I did it with the MyFitnessPal app. At the time, I made a simple vow – eat whatever I want, just make sure to stay under the calorie goal. I did that and it worked. In fact, it worked beautifully. Several friends have not had the same success with the app, but people’s bodies work in different ways. For me, it was perfect.

As I went, I realized that grains (wheat, rice, corn, etc.) were really high in calories for the size of the serving. For example, I figured out that I could eat twice as many of my favorite homemade chicken tacos if I used romaine or cabbage as a shell over tortilla. Plus, because they are stuffed with chicken and avocado (and I was eating twice as many,) I felt full longer. Same thing with rice. I love white rice. For many, many years my breakfast of choice was white rice with butter and salt. However, once I started figuring the calories, the servings just didn’t make it worth it. Little by little, I gave them up, not as a conscious choice, exactly, but as a way of getting bigger and better meals.

I weigh myself daily and I’m pretty tuned in to how my body is feeling. I also discovered that my body takes a long time to metabolize meat. I did a little research on it and started figuring out things about how foods are used in the body, and slowly began another change – I began making breakfast my biggest meal of the day. I ate a lot of protein in the morning, a lighter lunch and a mostly vegetarian dinner. I found that I felt fuller longer throughout the day, but I wasn’t sluggish at night. My body seemed to really like the whole “Eat like a King at breakfast, a Queen at lunch and a pauper at dinner” scenario.

Then I ran across gokaleo.com. I’ll be honest, she rubbed me the wrong way at first. (I suspect based on some of the reactions she gets, I’m not alone.) Yet, many of the fitness writers I admire kept referencing her site. Eventually I added it to my log of daily reading. Slowly, her message started seeping in. It wasn’t that I disagreed with it, in fact, in many ways I was already doing what she was suggesting – working on incremental changes, getting a variety of exercise on a daily basis, and adding strength training as a key part of the mix. One of her other suggestions took a little longer: eating a gram of protein for every pound of bodyweight.

I decided to try it. I love experiments, and this was something I was kind of already working towards, although I was far below the daily goal. So, roughly 3 or 4 weeks ago, I started trying to do it regularly. 2 weeks or so ago, I started tracking it on the Lift app.

Honestly? I love it. I feel great. Here’s another interesting thing – for a very brief while I was trying to get an even amount of carbs, fats and proteins: 33/33/33. It was a nightmare. It was like when I had a container garden and I always ended up with too many plants and not enough dirt and pots, or extra pots and no dirt. Whatever I did, I could never get the ratios right. Trying to do that with food was much, much worse.

Then I saw on a forum that someone said they worked towards the protein goal and didn’t worry about the rest, that it somehow always worked out. Sure enough, it almost always does. Oh, for some of the day one part of the pie chart will be larger than others, but by the end of the day, it all evens out. It seems fairly easy to get carbs and fats into the diet!!

Here’s the important part – after I lost the weight, but before concentrating on getting the high protein, my weight was doing these odd little yo-yos. Nothing big, but weird: 2-3 pounds up in a night, 1 pound down the next day. Wilder swings that I would have imagined, considering the circumstances. Once I started eating the protein, the curves leveled off. Oh, I still have ups and downs, but they are more waves than cliffs – and I know why they are there. My weight now has settled down to where I love it, and doesn’t move all that much. It’s fantastic.

I’m not saying this is for everyone, I am just pointing out that this is what works for me, and works really well. This morning I had an amazing breakfast (New York Strip, anyone?) and I have a delicious lunch planned. As far as food goes, I am eating really well. And, I still haven’t cut anything out completely. I mostly stay away from processed grains at my house (except for the odd bit of granola or oats in an apple crisp) but will have them when I am out and being social. I watch my sugar, but I don’t regulate it too much. I drink wine (and beer), eat cheese, meat and vegetables with abandon.

Most importantly? I feel great and I’m happy.

Photo credit: “A Dinner Table at Night” by John Singer Sargent, posted by HumanSeeHumanDo on flickr

Lost Dreams, Found

Sleeping with the animals“What would an ocean be without a monster lurking in the dark? It would be like sleep without dreams.”

 – Werner Herzog (1942 – )

I am using the Lift app to build some daily habits. One of those habits is getting enough sleep. I’ve written before about how I do best with a full eight hours of rest. It isn’t easy, what with being busy at night and trying to get up and exercise in the mornings, but I’m finding that using Lift helps me stay on track. It pushes me to think ahead and plan out when to be in bed and when to set the alarm.

I haven’t hit the full eight every night. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out, but in the last month that I have been working on it, I have gotten more consistent rest than I have gotten in years. And I’ve discovered something interesting – I’m dreaming again. I didn’t realize it, but I had lost my dreams. It wasn’t until they started to come back that I realized they’ve been gone.

I am known for having epic dreams; dreams with plots, characters, special effects and even the occasional musical number. These are full color, massive dreams, and dreams that I can (to some degree) control. In these dreams I am other people – men, women, children, even animals or beams of light. These are to the “went to work naked” dreams what Beowulf is to the Roses are Red poem. I’ve been having them since I was child, but I haven’t had one in a long time.

They are starting to come back.

Oh, I’ve had some dreams – I wrote about one I had about kayaking recently, but they’ve been simple, short dreams, not the monsters I have known in the past. The last few nights however, I’ve been getting glimpses of big dreams. I’ve had some that were loosely looped and hooked together like a child playing with yarn. I’ve had some that started to take me deep down into the brine, before letting up. It appears that my epic dreams come only under certain conditions, and one of those is copious amounts of sleep. A month of good rest isn’t quite enough, almost, but not quite. It will take more. I’m getting there.

With the resurfacing of my dreams, I feel creativity stirring inside of me. I think the two go together. Again, I haven’t missed it, I’ve been focused on other things, but I find myself thinking about drawing again, making things, building projects, at the very same time I’m starting to dream again. I can’t help but think they are connected.

I wanted to get more sleep for my health, but I think it is doing far more for me than I ever anticipated. It makes me look forward to night.

 

Photo credit: “Sleeping with the Animals” by Jonf728 on flickr

Dear Longview Hill…

The Letter, c. 1906, oil on canvas by Pierre Bonnard

The Letter, c. 1906, oil on canvas by Pierre Bonnard

This post is not written for you, dear reader, instead it is a note to my future self. I’m at that point in my weight loss where people are noticing and starting to give me quite a few compliments. It’s wonderfully nice, of course, but it also makes it really real. I did this. After all the years of thinking about it and trying different things – this is it. This is the start of a new me.

But I’ll be really honest, the more real it is, the more scared I am of gaining the weight back on again.

It isn’t a health thing; in December my physician told me that though I was over the weight she’d like me to be at, I was in excellent health. It has a little more to do with the physical looks, but just a little bit. After all, I haven’t gotten rid of all my old clothes yet! Mostly, it has to do with the fact that it is just so darn easy to fall back into old habits. That I know that while I have been at this for a few months now, I am not in a place of permanence yet. So, I thought I would write this post to myself if I ever found myself struggling again. I wanted to write down what has been working for me, so if I ever fell lost, I would know where to turn.

I should say, dear reader, that is not necessarily what you should do. This just my own personal weight loss code.


Dear Long View Hill,

Sounds like you are going through a rough patch. You and I knew this might happen. We’ve known each other all our lives, we know these things can happen. So this is a letter to you – my future me – from your past. If you are ever stuck, or feeling stressed and having a hard time staying on track. Here’s what we know what works for us:

#1. Walk the Dog.

Walking the dog won’t solve all your weight problems, Long View Hill. You had Hermes for over a year and were walking him for up to a couple hours a day there for awhile, and while you lost some weight, it didn’t start really paying off until the rest of the pieces of the puzzle were in place. However, getting outside is good for you. Spending time with your dog is good for you. They are good for your emotions, your sense of calm and your happiness. As a benefit, walking the pooch also burns calories, so if the reason you are gaining weight back has anything to do with stress, this is a good place to start. Hermes will love you for it.

We really should be on a walk right now.

We really should be on a walk right now.

#2. If you bite it, write it.

The moment things started to change for you is when you downloaded the My Fitness Pal app onto your phone. Trying to track calories on a computer doesn’t work for you LVH – we know, we’ve tried that. It is putting the food in your phone as close to having eaten it as possible, (without being super rude while out to dinner with friends,) that makes it work for you. You know you need that immediate feedback. There might come a time where it won’t be as important, but if you are reading this again, it is probably because you fell off the tracking wagon. Time to saddle up and get back on board.

#3. Do Not Go Over the Line

You lost your weight by sticking to the rules. Like tracking, there may be a time where you can be more relaxed with this, but again, if you are reading this, it is time to go back to square one. You know where the base is, My Fitness Pal will tell you where the max is, just stick between those two numbers. You can do it, you’ve done it before! If you get to the end of the evening and see you only have enough calories for green beans for dinner, well, it is time to do Rule #1. A 30 minute walk will buy you enough calories for a bowl of soup and a light salad! Best yet, leave some room – don’t walk the line. Leave some extra calories for the end of the day. Then, if you want a glass of wine or port before bed, you can have them. Remember Long View Hill, if you leave a cushion of unused calories, you won’t go over.

#4. Get Moving – Whatever it Takes

Well, if you are gaining weight, you might not be exercising. Figure out what it is going to take you to get back to it. Bored of running? Join a gym! Take some classes! Do something! Exercising makes you feel better, stronger and more healthier. Don’t forget to slide in a little extra exercise when you can. Keep running up the stairs at home when you do laundry, keep a smile on your face when it is time to shovel snow – and of course, keep walking that pooch!

#5. An Ounce Weighed, is a Pound Saved.

Don’t forget to measure. You don’t need that fancy scale, girl. You can use that $.50 thrift store find you used for the first 3 months of losing weight. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but you have to have a fairly good idea of what is really going on. This is why you have three sets of measuring spoons and had to wash them every day. Don’t forget about that.

#6. Every Day – Weigh

Oh my!I heard the groans across the internet as I write this. We’ve all heard the countless reasons why you should never weigh yourself every day. “You’ll get depressed! You’ll quit! It doesn’t help!” The fact is, there are very few scientific studies to back “what everybody knows.” There was, however, a study with college students that showed those that weighed themselves daily were better able to lose weight and keep it off. But regardless, this is not about other people, this is about you. I’m not saying you have to do this for the rest of your life Long View, but I am saying that prevention is the best way to nip problems in the bud. Like Rule #2 and #3, this is one of those things that might change with time, but you know what works for you. If you think the scale is going up – check. Then start following these rules again.

#7. There Are No “Bad” Foods

One of the reasons we’ve been successful is that we decided not to exclude any food. You have to follow rules #2, #3 and #5, but with that in mind, nothing is off limit. I put this here, because I know us. One thing that could happen is we could get all overly into it and start restricting yourself to a particular way of eating. I can see us trying to make all the daily summary numbers on My Fitness Pal come out absolutely perfect. If we’re doing that, knock it off!  It is only a matter of time before we get all frustrated, mad and rebellious and quit everything. Don’t do that, me! Keep in mind you can eat what you want, and you will never feel like you have to eat to prove some kind of point.

#8. This is the most important one of all – Don’t Listen to Everyone Else.

I saved this one for last because I suspect it is the one that is most likely to go wrong. Already we’ve weathered this. Remember the day that Weight Loss Guru Coworker spent 10 minutes telling you different ways to cheat? Remember how the next week she was upset because at her weigh-in she was far short of her goal?  Remember the person who sent you the article about how calorie counters don’t work because they are not perfect. Remember how much weight you lost using one?* This is the most important rule: Do What Works For You! 

There is no magic pill. Different things work for different people. Some people hate My Fitness Pal, other want specific diets. But don’t listen to them – do your own research. Look gal, I know it is fun to talk about weight loss with people, but how many of them have already given you bad advice? I bet the reason you are back here in your blog archives looking at this letter is because you listened to someone else, just because they said something with a lot of confidence. Ignore weight loss advice that conflicts with your own code. Triply ignore advice that goes against your own code that comes from anyone who is still struggling with their own weight loss.

There are three exceptions to this rule: your sister Em, your friend Cee, and your boyfriend (who shall now be known as) Julian. They love you, they know you. They know what you have been through, your history, your temperament and your struggles. They understand you and want the best for you. If you want advice, go to them. Everyone else – tell them to blow it out their ears.

This also is true for articles, blogs and even things on NPR. No matter what someone is doing, there will always be someone in the background being *helpful* saying, “you aren’t doing it right!” Don’t listen to those people. Turn off the news, only read positive blogs, and trust your gut instinct, Long View Hill.

Eat well, exercise, and be happy, Long View. I am depending on you for it!

Love,

Your Past Self.

 

 

* The article basically said that calorie counters aren’t accurate, sometimes because of the information put into them, sometimes because the manufactures make servings bigger than they claim. I say, that’s why you leave a cushion of calories.

Photo credit: cliff1066

so she took the road less traveled

so-she-took-the-road-less-traveledImage and quote from the wonderful blog: we wander and wonder.

Weight Update AKA My Coworkers Hate Me:

In the couple of weeks, the following items have appeared in my company break room:

Pizza (x2)
Chocolate covered macadamia nuts
Potato chips (x2)
Waffles (Including chocolate chip, my favorite – with real syrup.)
Donuts
Coffee cake
Cookies (Lofthouse sugar cookies and peanut butter fudge no bake cookies)
Cake
M&Ms
Tortilla Chips
Hershey’s miniature chocolate bars
Tootsie pops
Tootsie rolls
Klondike ice cream bars
English muffins with a variety of toppings
Almond Joy coffee creamer
Chocolate covered granola bars
Chocolate covered malt Easter eggs
Homemade, gooey chocolate and nut cookie bars

These are all free, left on the “help yourself” table.

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Art That Makes Me Smile

I saw this article on a friends’ Facebook page today: The Story Behind Banksy. Banksy is an interesting artist and I like the way his mind works. But, I have had a couple of stressful days, so though I appreciate his political works, the ones that really hit me today were the ones that made me smile. These made me happy:

Artwork by Banksy

Artwork by Banksy (Photo credit: Matt Keeble / Alamy )

Artwork by Banksy

Artwork by Banksy (Photo credit: AP Images )

Head on over to Smithsonian Magazine to check out the article and see the other photos of his work in the gallery.