Cutting Out Cravings

crave cupcakes rachel kramer busselMy boyfriend Julian, who is studying Sociology and Psychology, shared something with me this weekend that blew my mind. It’s about cravings. (If you don’t suffer from cravings, stop reading this right now go read one of 23 Thorn’s posts on owls instead. He has several, and they are awesome.) If you do struggle with cravings, however, read on… I am about to change your world.

Julian has been reading and studying about cognitive therapy which, according to Wikipediaseeks to help the patient overcome difficulties by identifying and changing dysfunctional thinking, behavior, and emotional responses. The founder of Cognitive Therapy is Dr. Aaron Beck, who has written extensively on the subject. Dr. Beck also has a daughter, Dr. Judith Beck, who is a psychologist and who also is known for her work in cognitive therapy. Dr. Judith Beck has written several books, including works on diet and weight loss. I tell you all of this because it really helped me knowing this came from someone with authority in the field, if I had heard what I am about to tell you from some random person it would have been easy to disregard it. Here it is:

Cravings pass. Whether you give in to them, or whether you don’t, they eventually pass.

Seems ridiculous, right? Obvious. Think about it again though, let it really roll around your brain: Whether you give in to them, or whether you don’t, cravings pass.

How do you act when you get a serious craving? I have three methods of coping with them:

1) A Little Goes a Long Way: If I am craving something decadent like wine or chocolate, one way I deal with cravings is by having a small amount of what want, but of high quality. So, I might have a small bite of seriously wonderful, expensive chocolate from a local sweet shop, rather than having a full Milky Way bar.

2) Bait and Switch: instead of having what I want, I try to find something that is similar or has similar associations. Instead of having a bowl of ice cream, I might have a low-fat Fudgsicle instead.

3) All In: If the craving isn’t something I consider unhealthy, I will go ahead and indulge (and sometimes even if it isn’t.) In fact, sometimes, I will go ahead and deliberately eat more of the item than I normally would to “quench” the craving. I did that with fruit not long ago.

What I don’t do? Simply let it pass.

Since Julian told me that simple phrase that he had read, its been going around and around in my mind. (It seems so obvious, but that’s always the way with hindsight.) Every time I start to crave something, (and it is surprising me how often I have cravings,) I think of this phrase – like a mantra. “Cravings will go away.” You know what? Cravings aren’t a thing. They aren’t like a cold or headache. They aren’t a gremlin with a knife to your throat. It won’t kill you if you don’t give in. Cravings are simply thoughts, and these thoughts are made stronger by thinking about them. Once you choose not to give in to the craving, and I mean really decide, (no takebacksies) the craving starts to go away.

The thing is, we now live in a world where we can give into our cravings whenever we want. Pineapple in December? Done. Eggrolls at 3AM? Easy. Past generations never had this. If they wanted Grandma’s homemade cherry pie in February, it was just too darn bad. You had to wait until cherry season – and grandma to get around to making it. Now we can drive to a store and pick up whatever we want.

Here’s what I wrote back in January about cravings:

Usually if I have a specific craving, I figure my body is telling me something – sometimes it is a needed nutrient, (Craving steak? Maybe I am low on iron.) and sometimes it is a symptom of something emotional. (Craving chocolate? How are the stress levels?) I normally just have a bit of whatever it is and the problem is solved.

Now, I think it is something else. I think a craving is my brain’s way of distracting me from something else:

Last week a bag of sugared cinnamon almonds stole my soul. Someone had brought them in to work and left them on the “free food” counter. I thought I would have a couple with my morning coffee, and I decided to leave the sugar out of my coffee to balance it out. The almonds were delicious… and then, I could not stop eating them. All day I kept popping up from my desk to have just a couple more, long past when I knew I should stop. Thinking about it now, I think what was really going on was that my brain was desperately trying to avoid the big ugly work project that I have been procrastinating on. The whole “Will I? Won’t I?” battle in my brain kept me happily distracted from the work I was supposed to be doing. Our minds are amazing at finding ways to fool us.

I also think cravings are habits, as in “at this time, I aways want (x).” I’ll give you an example – after Julian and I had this talk, I kept thinking about it. Then Sunday night he and I went out for Asian cuisine. I had an amazing dish of spicy green beans. Afterwards, I found myself craving something sweet. The little fortune cookie that came with it was not nearly enough. I almost suggested going out for ice cream, and then I thought: cravings go away. I really looked at what was going on. I wasn’t hungry – far from it – I was stuffed with a great meal. There were two things behind this particular craving: 1) I was having fun with Julian and didn’t want the date to end, and 2) I have a bad habit of always following up spicy/garlicky food with something sweet. But that’s all it was – a habit. I didn’t need it. I sat with it and just reminded myself that the feeling would pass. It did, and our date kept going because we wanted it to, not because I had to throw something else in there.

When I got back to work on Monday… there were still some sugared almonds on the break room table.

I didn’t have one, and the funny thing was, it wasn’t even a struggle. Part of it was that I had gotten that dreaded project done, and part was that every time my brain would send up a little craving thought, I noticed it… and then went back to work. Instead, I set times throughout the day that I would eat. I decided what I wanted to eat, how much, and when, based my goals, not on cravings.

I want to eat well. I believe in eating delicious food. However, I am going to make those decisions consciously. And as for the in between times when I have a cravings?

They will pass.

Photo credit: Rachel Kramer Bussel

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More than Strength – Building Confidence

Leap of Faith by Hamner_Fotos

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately: I feel far more confident today than I did 8 months ago. I am more willing to take risks, try new things and speak my mind. The interesting thing is that it has almost nothing to do with losing weight or my body at all, but it has everything to do with working out. I started to notice the change a couple of months ago. Julian commented on it as well. I originally assumed that it came from losing weight. I looked better, so I felt better, so I seemed more confident. But you know what? That isn’t it. I’ve spent some time really looking inside myself and I’ve come up with a completely different answer.

Taking risks enables me to take other risks.

When I started running, I had no idea what I was doing. (Truthfully, I still don’t.) So, quite literally every step of my way I’ve been pushing my own boundaries. Having hated the idea of athletics for most of my life just getting out and exerting myself in public was a huge risk. Taking a Run Clinic was a big deal for me. It was a great class and I loved it, (and will probably go back for a refresher sometime soon,) but I had to run in front of other people – something I hadn’t done in years. It is good that my fear of injuries is greater than my shyness! Each time I run, I am taking risks – whether they are external (new locations, other people, weather conditions, etc.) or facing my own internal fears and self imposed limits.

And it isn’t just running, buying a kayak and going out on the water solo for my first time was a new experience. Lifting weights has been a building challenge. (Each time I feel confident in a weight, I go out and get the next one!) Julian asked me if I’d ever consider taking a martial arts class, and I have looked at gyms and other fitness centers in my area. I even went some while out of town – a complete first for me.

I haven’t achieved everything I have set out to do. Sometimes despite my best efforts, my plans go awry, things happen I don’t expect. But here is the important part – working out (running, kayaking, etc.) is getting me to continually try new things, and every time, I feel great for getting out there and giving it my best shot. That’s lead to me feeling more confident in myself overall. I am speaking my mind more and tearing down a number of long held beliefs about myself.

Interestingly, that was what this blog was supposed to be about – seeking new paths, learning more about myself, trying new things, and figuring out what matters. I just didn’t expect to find it this way. I’ve been thinking that weight loss and working out and all that were one path on my journey, but now I see that it actually is the path. It’s leading me, emotionally and mentally, towards being able to take leaps of faith in other parts of my life.

Who would have thought?

Photo credit: Hamner_Fotos on flickr

Note: after writing this, I realized it also belonged on my About Me page, so I have added it to both. It seems to really encompass a lot about me right now.

Sweet Like Candy

If you’ve been reading my blog, you know I am not a big one for rules, but this little quip made me laugh.

eat less sugar

I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, but I do have something of an addiction to sugar. By that I mean I don’t crave traditional sweets – cakes, pies, cookies or anything like that, but if I choose to have a piece of candy or chocolate, I get really intense cravings for more. So, as long as I stay away from it, I don’t want it and I’m fine. However, if I decide to have something with sugar, it gets a grip on me that is hard to shake. The cravings last for days, and if I give in, they seem to get worse.

Honestly, that scares me a little. Health reasons aside, I don’t like anything that has that kind of control over me. I make my own decisions, and no chemical is going to dictate that for me! So, yeah, a little less in my diet would be a good thing – after all, I am already sweet enough!

Magical Wishes

Genie Lamp by DavidD on flickrI ran across this article on Fit, Feminist and (almost) Fifty on the fallacy of weight loss miracle cures. (They have so many great articles over there, check them out if you get a chance.) Anyway, it reminded me of something that’s been happening in my own life in regards to my weight loss: dealing with the question: So, what are you doing?

It comes up almost every time I bump into someone who hasn’t seen me for awhile. I have a small frame, so my weight loss is fairly obvious. Inevitably the So, what are you doing?question comes up. The frustrating thing is that they don’t really want to know. No one wants to hear the real answer. If I start to tell the truth, “I used the My Fitness Pal app on my phone to track calories.” their eyes glaze over and they look away. I have actually had someone, a friend, turn her head and start a new conversation with someone else while I was in the middle of that sentence, at about “on my phone to track…” The truth is what everyone already knows – there is only one way to lose weight: burn more calories than you are taking in. It doesn’t really matter how you do it. Different methods work for different people, but what it comes down to is, you have to work out a little more and eat foods that are (mostly) good for you. But, of course, that isn’t what people want to hear. What they want is a miracle cure. They want to take a pill or an extract and have the “pounds melt away.”

The other thing that happens is that people hear I am running and think that is how I lost weight. It isn’t, and frankly, it really irritates me when people leap to that assumption. I know what they’re doing. They are finding a reason they can’t lose weight themselves. It goes something like this: Oh, she’s a runner now and lost a bunch of weight, but I can’t do that because (insert reason for not running) so therefor, I can’t lose weight like her. What I try to explain is that I lost the weight first. I was not running at my heaviest. Don’t get me wrong, I admire the heck out of people that are out there running while overweight. Talk about being brave and strong! I see those folks out on the trails and I always want to run up and shake their hand and tell them how awesome I think they are. (I don’t because that would be weird, but I think about it.) But that wasn’t me. Instead, I waited until I was at a size where I felt more comfortable, and that’s when I started running. I don’t run to lose weight. I run to keep the weight off. I also run to increase my stamina, my endurance and my confidence in myself. I run because I am finding I can do a lot more than I ever thought possible – but that all came after the weight.

I was venting to Julian about all this and he came up with the absolutely perfect solution. He gave me a phrase to use:

Well, I have two wishes left… and you know what?  I am taking offers…

I’ve used it a bunch. It never fails to get a laugh – usually accompanied by an eye roll. It directly confronts the magical cure mentality in a harmless way. If they press, I typically following it up with “I eat a little less, I work out a little more,” and leave it at that. Weight loss is a really personal journey. I have a few dear friends I can talk about it with, but otherwise I try not to talk about it too much, except here on my blog with you, dear reader!

Photo credit: davidd

I Used to Hate the Sun

The road near my cabin... so much sun.

The road near my cabin… so much sun.

I didn’t always hate the sun. When I was a kid during the summer, sunshine meant days I could go out and play: run around the woods behind our house, build forts, climb trees. My neighbors had a pool I could use, so sunshine meant days of swimming and making up games in the water.

I think I started hating the sun in Junior High, those terrible preteen years. That’s when we started paying attention to our bodies and our appearance back then. (I know it starts much younger now.) I’m old enough that tanning was still popular. Girls I knew started “laying out” to get that perfect summer tan. I tried it a time or two. I hated it.

My family weren’t beach goers, so laying out, if it was to happen, was going to happen at home. As I mentioned, our back yard was in the woods, so it was shaded and full of bugs. That meant one had to lay out in the (very exposed) front yard, something I was far from comfortable with in those awkward years. On top of that, it was dead boring, uncomfortable, and the minute I found a good position, it felt like an ant was crawling on my exposed skin. (Sometimes they were, sometimes it was my brain playing tricks.) I’m also pretty darn pale by nature, and of course, I had no idea what I was doing, so I inevitably got burned, and burned bad. Sunblock had a long, long way to go… and back then I knew girls who swore by tinfoil shields and cooking oil to get even darker.

So, I gave it up. I never did tan properly. It didn’t help that when I turned sixteen I got a car, thereby removing the last reason I would willingly ride my bike. Most of the popular girls, the ones who came to school sun-kissed and gorgeous, also played sports or were in summer cheerleading programs. If they didn’t have those, they had access to tanning beds, cottages or beaches. That wasn’t me. I was happier curled up in the shade with a good book, or in my later teen years, spending my spare hours working inside at my job.

It wasn’t just my pale hue that kept me from fitting in with the popular crowd. I was always too bookish, too artsy, too… odd. I had friends, but they were all like me, second or third tier odd ducks that were all funny, smart and great to be with, but also frequently socially awkward or a little too unfashionable to really fit in. At the same time I was meeting and spending time with a group of kids with dyed hair, white skin, and thick black make up. This post punk precursor to the goth movement defied the sun by only going out at night. My other friends, a bunch of theatre geeks, were too busy running from school to rehearsal to worry about things like getting sun, or “a little color” as my Mom always called it. (“You’d look nice with a little color.” she’d say.) All of this sort of snowballed into an extreme dislike of the sun.

Oddly, it wasn’t people who were tan that I didn’t like. My sister has that perfect skin that tans beautifully, my Dad did too. I knew plenty of people who worked outside or played sports that were tan and I didn’t think twice about it, but personally, I started to deeply hate the sun. Then all the findings started coming out relating sun exposure and skin cancer, and it cemented it for me. The sun and me – we just didn’t get along.

There are other factors as well. I‘ve mentioned before that because my legs have always been fairly thin, (despite me being larger everywhere else,) that I didn’t wear clothing that showed them off. The end result? From my freshman year of high school (when it was mandatory for gym class) until this May, I did not own or wear a pair of shorts. In the summer I wore jeans or skirts… long skirts. I didn’t even like capri pants much. Also, thanks to my fair skin, when I went out in the sun I covered up, either with clothing or super sunblock – the higher the spf, the better. (My sister called my sunblock “sweater in a bottle.”) Also, I didn’t “gleam” or “glimmer”, I sweated, a lot. Essentially, summer sucked – and it was all the fault of the sun.

I never got as bad as my mother, who (out of a fear of cancer) avoids the sun so completely that her doctor had to put her on Vitamin D supplements. I like nature and being outside – I just like it in the shade of a big tree, or in the spring or fall when it isn’t so stinking hot.

Then something happened…. I started running.

I started in the spring when it was still cold outside, but of course, that only lasted for so long. Then one day last month I went for a run in the middle of the day. I had appointments in the morning and plans in the evening, so I went out around noon. It was hot. The sun was high in the sky and there were no clouds. As I sat in the parking lot of the park, I realized that I hadn’t packed sunblock. I decided to go anyway.

It felt crazy and a little risky, but as I ran, I thought “How bad can it be?” It’s true, I was only out for a half hour and roughly half of that was under trees, so I don’t think I got any “color” at all. It was on that run that I started thinking about my relationship to the sun. For so long I fought for my pale skin that I had turned it into a point of pride. I considered the whole lot – athletics, tanning, shorts, exercise, sports, summer – all of it, as something that wasn’t me. The fact that I avoided it proved that I was different, and I embraced that difference.

But then I started running and it all changed. Later that day I stopped at the store to pick up some sunblock for my running bag. I went straight to the “sport” shelf. I ended up buying a small bottle spf 30 lotion for my face, but a spray on can of spf 15 for the rest of me. I have never in my adult life bought a spf below 45.

A few days later, I bought my first pair of running shorts.

Today, I’m sort of tan. Not dark tan by any means, but you can tell I spend time outside. (Admittedly, usually at 6:30 AM and 6:30PM, so we aren’t talking about a ton of exposure here.) I have three pairs of shorts and three pairs of outdoor walk/running capri pants and one pair of jean capris. Considering I own probably less than 5 pairs of pants, this has become a high proportion of my wardrobe. The sun doesn’t bother me now, and frankly, neither does the heat. I’ve mentioned that I have been running on days in the high 80s with 100 degree heat indices. I’m okay with all of it.

Running, and losing weight, first brought me to a place where I felt more comfortable taking risks. By taking those risks, I’ve started challenging my own long-held beliefs. Not just about the sun, but about how I dress, how I look, what I do – and don’t do. I know the fact I bought, own and wear shorts doesn’t seem like a big thing, but you have to realize that the last time I owned a pair it was 1986. It is a big deal.

We have these personal manifestos of all things “me” and “not me.” They are the very definition what we like, what we do, even who we are. They serve as mental shortcuts. When something new comes up we can check it against the list – is this me? Will I like this My taking up running is challenging, and changing, that manifesto. At first it happened subtly, but now I see it, and I embrace the change. When a friend recently suggested a climbing gym, “the old me” instantly started to demur, but I caught myself, and instead I said, “tell me more – where is it located again?” 

I’m not throwing away every long-held belief about myself, but I am holding them up to the light. I’ve decided to let the sun shine through.

 

Photos of Long View Hill

All right, I’ve been thinking about doing this for a while – I guess now is the time… deep breath….

I’ve compiled a few photos so you can do some “before and current comparisons” that I am going to post. I admit – I’m a little nervous about all this for a whole bunch of reasons, but I figure it’s time to put my money where my mouth is. So, here we go!

Through the years

2005

Good gracious, I have mixed feelings about this photo. On one hand, it was taken on a wonderful trip to Las Vegas with my best girlfriends. We had a great time, and if I look a little tipsy in this photo, that’s because I undoubtably was. I actually have another version of this photo that isn’t quite so… bosomy that I like much better, but this one, (despite my awkward pose… again, lots of alcohol was involved,) shows my figure in all it’s ummmm… glory.

At the time, I thought that shirt was so pretty on me…. sigh….

2010

This is pretty much a standard “me” shot. Nothing fancy, just my day-to-day look. If I look a bit pale, it’s because I had a horrible case of car sickness that day. A friend of mine (the one whose hand you see on my shoulder) and I had taken a long, long drive that day. When we got to our destination I was sick as a dog.  Ah well… Anyway, this is pretty much what I looked like for years.

2012

Me in my new glasses

September 2012

In the photo up above I am all dressed up for a fancy event. This was taken in October of last year. I had a new haircut and brand new glasses at the time. I was lookin’ (and feeling) good that night!

Also in September of last year, I had a good friend take some head shots of me. I needed some photos for work. This is one of the series she took. I love this photo, despite the fact it was hotter than blazes that day and I look a little flushed.

I am not sure of my weight in these, as I’ve said, I have always been a bit slapdash in recording that kind of thingbut I would guess I was roughly in the range of 180 -190 pounds at my heaviest and 170 at my lowest. I am 5’6″.

Yesterday

Last Night - New Dress

So, these were taken last night. The first one I obviously took myself in my dining room mirror (note the crazy number of books piled in front of it) and the second was taken by my best gal Cee. I’m rocking a brand new dress I bought at Target the other day. My boyfriend Julian is out-of-town this weekend so I took some photos of my new dress to send him while he was away. They turned out so well, they were the final push that got me to post all of these.

I honestly don’t have a lot of photos of myself. I have a hard time taking them. If you saw all the struggles I went through with the photographer that took my head shots, you’d laugh. (Let’s just say that tears were involved.) It’s not that I am so particular or even that I don’t like having my photo taken, it is just that I am the most awkward photo subject on the planet. I have dated 3 amateur photographers in my life. Not one of them could get a decent photo of me. All of them threw their hands up in the air and gave up! Of course Cee nailed it on the first shot!

Me and Julian

Julian and Me

Finally, here is a shot of Julian and I, taken just last month. (Hi hon!) Now you can see what we both look like!

Note: I am 135 pounds in the in the one with Julian and 133 in the one above from last night, but I don’t consider these “before and after” photos. They are just past and present. I consider myself still a work in progress, and I am expecting my body to continue to change. (In fact, if anything, I expect my weight to go up some as I continue to lift weights!)

Fit, Feminist and (almost) Fifty had a great post today about Measurements, Counting and Motivation. It’s more on tracking the numbers (like running speed), but along with that, I regret now that I didn’t take more photos of myself back when I started – just for comparison. Maybe I will take some more soon so that I can track my changes as I go forward… and now that I have posted these, I’ll feel more comfortable keeping you all up to date!

The Weight Update

skinny blue by inger maaikeI haven’t written about my weight loss in a while. Here on the blog, I’ve been writing a lot more about exercise, however, weight is still a focus for me. Let’s start with a breakdown for the new readers:

I began my weight loss journey in earnest on January 15, 2013. At that point I weighed 171.2. This was actually a bit of a low for me. I didn’t have a scale for several years prior to that, but I roughly know my weight fluctuated between 190 and 180. I had tried a few times before to lose weight and got down to 165ish, but didn’t keep it off. In August of 2011 I adopted my furry pal, Hermes, and that started to change things. I still didn’t have a scale, so I don’t have any actual records of pre- and post-Hermes, but I know that’s when I started to buy slightly smaller clothing sizes.

In May, I hit my goal. That is, I hit my “stated” goal, which was 140. I was very happy with it, but I confess, I still had a super secret goal… which was 135. Why 135? I have no idea. I think that at one point in my life (high school? early 20s?) that’s what I weighed and somehow that number got stuck in my head. If you can’t tell – weight loss and tracking have always been a bit slapdash with me, (until recently, that is.) In fact, when I decided to lose weight and use My Fitness Pal, one of the first things I had to do was go out and get a scale! While I have tried on-and-off to lose weight, I can’t say that I ever put all that much work into it. I played with South Beach and a few other diets. I had a treadmill and some other exercise equipment for a bit, but I can’t say that I was ever very dedicated. Of course, that’s all changed.

Once I hit 140, I decided to change my goal. Permanent maintenance seemed really scary, so I broke it down into a more manageable plan – my goal was simply to keep the 31 pounds I had lost off through to Jan. 15, 2014. That was my stated goal, but I figured while I was at it, I’d just keep going and see what it felt like to get to 135. I mean, it is certainly easy enough to put more weight on, so why not take off what I can and see what feels best?

I hit 135 in June. Since then, I’ve been riding between 131 and 135. I’m still tracking calories, though I don’t have any new goals (stated or otherwise.) My focus is learning on how to keep the weight off, and keep it off. Again, my target is Jan. 15th – I’d like to have a year of this under my belt before I make any other drastic changes. It’s enough that I am adding in running, weight lifting and other exercise! Even though I’ll have been working on my weight for almost 6 months, I still don’t feel like I have this down. It makes sense – I ate one way for 38 years, six months of change is still pretty much a drop in the bucket.

In fact, here are a few things I am still struggling with:

Ordering in Restaurants

What’s easiest is if the place is big enough that they have their nutritional values online. Then I can scope out the menu beforehand and walk in knowing what I want to order. However, I prefer locally owned little interesting eateries and their menus get tricky fast. Mostly, I just pick the best I can and try to eat roughly half. Servings are usually so large, it seems like a good rule of thumb. This is kind of hit or miss with me, though.

Not Drinking Enough Water

If I don’t focus on it, it doesn’t happen. I know I feel better when I am hydrated, but unless I make an effort, I just don’t drink water. I don’t drink soda or anything else either, which is good, but I am probably under hydrated most of the time.

Making Time for Working Out

I love what I do, but I hate not having more spare time. It absolutely needs to be a focus for me once I get through this round of freelance work. I need more time so that taking some out to go for a run doesn’t feel like I am using up my only free hour that week.

Too Much Sugar

I’m on a sugar kick lately and I am not sure what is up with it. I’ve never thought of myself as someone who was particularly interested in sweets, but man, lately it seems they are all I want. I don’t want to cut it out entirely, but sugar has this weird way of creeping into my diet and then producing stronger and more frequent cravings.

Portions

Portions are still tricky for me too. Thanks to buying a food scale and tracking things in My Fitness Pal, I am getting a better feel for it, but my default is always a larger portion than what I need. Growing up we ate HUGE portions. My Dad had one of those metabolisms that let him eat whatever he wanted and stay the same. (Ex: 4 quarter pound hamburgers, 4 ears of corn and a salad at a single meal, with room for dessert.) His way of eating effected all of us. I know it was one of the reasons I gained weight in the first place. I’m learning and getting better, but it takes time.

There are one or two other things that I struggle with too, but those are going to get their own posts. Suffice it to say, I’ve had friends tell me that now that I have been doing this for a while I should be able to “lighten up” and not have to be so meticulous about calorie tracking and so forth. I have also read a heck a of a lot of blogs and articles about how calorie counting doesn’t work. I can see that – I know it doesn’t work for everyone. It works for me, though. I do think that day will come when I can maintain my weight without it, but it isn’t here yet. Me, I’m going to take all the time I need. It’s just too important not to.

Photo credit: inger maaike

Rough Roads

Bumpy Road by Hiroshi MiyazakiA few weeks back I was getting down on myself because I hadn’t been able to work out the way I wanted too. It was one of those periods where I was having problems squeezing everything in, and I was getting pretty discouraged with myself. It seemed like every moment of free space was taken up.

Then, while walking Hermes, it hit me that I work out every single day. That seems like something you should know, right? But in my case, it was such a part of my routine that I didn’t include as working out. I’m talking about dog walks, of course. And it cracks me up that in the middle of mentally beating myself up for not working out, I looked around and said, “Heeeeeyyyy wait a minute… I’m working out right now!” As, I’ve written before, Hermes gets walked about a half hour in the morning and another at night (a little longer on the weekends or when the weather is really nice.) So, almost every day I walk between four and five miles.

I realized in that moment that I was being silly for beating myself up. Instead of looking at it that way, I needed to turn it around and feel great about every extra workout I can get in – not be upset about the ones I can’t. I was walking every day, running two to three times a week and lifting weights three times a week. It wasn’t everything I wanted, but it was pretty solid.

Then life kind of exploded.

Shortly after this incident, a bunch of things happened all at once. A very important person in my life passed away. My freelance work became very busy. Then my day job got extremely busy. Then the nonprofit Board that I am on got some news that kicked us into high-gear super planning mode. On top of all this, I had to be out of town for work for a week. Then, when I get back, and things start to settle down, my dog Hermes was injured. My lunch hours started consisting of me running around taking care of freelance and Board business, my evenings filled with more freelance work. Plus, Julian is moving this month and I really want to help him if I can, as well. June quickly became a month of priorities. People I loved and things I cared about needed me. Working out and eating well had to go even further back on the burner for awhile.

You know what? That’s okay. I am working out because I want a better life, but sometimes a better life means I can’t work out. I can accept that as much I would like to be a woman who has her routines, that there are times those routines need to go out the window. It’s hard, because I read fitness blogs that get me motivated and I have all these goals and things I want to try, but I have decided that fitness is going to be a way of life for me, which means I have plenty of years ahead to get those goals. Not everything has to happen right now.

The trick, (and it is a tough one,) is not to let momentary departures from the path completely derail me. I have some things that help though. Writing here in my blog makes me want to get back out there, as does writing in my daily journal. Hermes is definitely on the mend and we are starting our walks again. They are a lot slower and a bit shorter than they were, but just the act of getting out there makes me want to do more. I also have some things I that love doing – namely kayaking and my boxing DVD. They are so fun and I love them so much that it doesn’t feel like chore. I miss them when I can’t do them.

It would be nice if life was smooth and easy, or at least if life could space out the bumpiness so it didn’t all hit at once, but it just doesn’t end up that way. All we can do is take one moment at a time and do the best we can.

 

Photo credit: Hiroshi Miyazaki

 

Why “Eating Clean” Makes Me Angry

Eat clean, get leanYou might have noticed that I enjoy motivational fitness sayings. I post ones that really strike a chord with me here on the blog. I’ve noticed something though – if you look at fitness motivation often enough there is a phrase that pops up over and over: Eat Clean.

I get the idea. I understand that the fitness community is trying to find something motivational that works for everyone regardless of their diets. “Eat Clean” can cover Paleo, Atkins, Vegetarian, Vegan or whatever your plan is. Basically, eat the foods that fit your plan and stay away from those that don’t. In particular, of course, things like lean protein and vegetables seem to fit under “Eating Clean” and sugar, caffeine and white flour usually don’t. I also understand that there has been a lot of baggage tacked onto words like: “Healthy”, “Fit”, and most especially, “Good.” All of that totally makes sense to me.

I eat cleanSo, a few weeks back, I tried my own experiment with eating clean. My boyfriend Julian and I had gone up to my cabin. One of the things I love to do up there is try new recipes, as I typically have more time to play and experiment in the kitchen, (which is one of the many reasons I love being at the cabin.) Two of the recipes I wanted to try were for salads. One was for these: Avocado Egg Salad Lettuce Wraps and another was for a Thai Salad. I don’t have a link to the recipe, but here is one to the dressing.

Anyway… the salads were terrific and when we came home, I had a lot of leftovers, plus a whole refrigerator full of other fresh veggies. I decided to try eating clean for a week. It was both an experiment in changing my diet and a practical way to make sure all the delicious produce got eaten and didn’t go to waste. I thought I might try eating Vegetarian for a week.

Eat CleanBut then the words “eat clean” started getting in my brain. I decided that I would also give up dairy. I eat a lot of Vegan meals – why not a week of them? It wasn’t long before I also decided to give up caffeine, alcohol and sugar. It sounds extreme, but these aren’t things I have every day. Oh, I usually have a cup of coffee, but I am just as likely to have herbal tea instead. As for alcohol, I have a glass of wine or port occasionally, but it is easy enough for me to skip. Chocolate, which hits a couple of these categories, is another “couple of times a week” thing, but again, not essential. The tough one was dairy. I am fond of cheese as a midday protein snack, so I knew that would be a little bit of a struggle.

I’m telling you this not to brag, but rather to explain why I thought “eating clean” for a week would be a snap. I decided not to exclude eggs so I could still get that protein for breakfast, plus I had a whole fridge full of awesome food that I loved. My goal was simply to make sure I ate it all, and stayed away from some of the other things just for seven days. I mean, how hard could that be, right?

I lasted one day. And at the end of that day I was an angry, angry woman.

eat-cleanThe problem was that phrase, “Eat Clean.” I’m a person who likes rules. If I was going to do this, I needed to know what those rules meant to me. What about those eggs? I usually have locally raised organic eggs in the house, but it just so happened I had used those all up in the egg salad and now just had some plain old grocery store eggs. Were those clean? What about egg yolks? Should I do just the whites? What about my herbal tea? Could I use a name brand tea, or did I have to have the local peppermint tea? I like the peppermint, but is that the only one I could have? I said no sugar, but what about organic agave nectar or local honey?

how to eat cleanThen there was lunch. I realized my Thai salad dressing had sugar in it. It also had fish sauce. Is fish sauce clean? I didn’t have any more bacon for the avocado salad, and that was okay, but wait… should I eat eggs at two meals? Also, what about La Croix? At work our office fridge is stocked with it, and I enjoy a sparkling water at lunch. It doesn’t have the things I was avoiding, but was is clean?

This just kept happening over and over and over. I know the intent of the phrase is not to make people paranoid, but that is exactly what was happening to me. As the day progressed I went from confused, to frustrated, to grumpy to downright pissed off.

After eating my dinner in a huff, wondering how clean it was, a simple thought popped into my brain: I didn’t lose weight by limiting the kinds of foods I ate… so why in the world I am I doing it now? In fact, I know that one of the big reasons I was able to lose weight at all was because the only thing I limited was calories – not the type of food I ate. If I start putting arbitrary rules on myself, it isn’t long before my inner rebel comes out and goes crazy with demands and cravings… which was exactly what was happening.

Once that hit me, I walked back into the kitchen and poured myself a glass of port and grabbed a bit of dark chocolate. It was delicious. The anger disappeared like magic.

The next day a coworker, (who had no idea about my “eat clean” experiment,) placed an entire bag of York Peppermint mini patties and one full-sized patty on my desk. They are one of my absolute favorites. I assume she did want to work next to Grumpy McGrumpPants anymore.

I think that eating clean can work for a lot of people. I also think most people can just use the phrase as a simple shorthand reminder to eat well and not eat stuff that makes them feel bad. They don’t get as tied up in knots about it as I do.

As for me, over the past couple of weeks I have been trying a few different dietary things. I’ll write about them soon, but what I’ve found is that if I am going to be successful, I have to be myself. Manageable changes that aren’t too restrictive are fine, but I can’t try to live by impossible rules, even for a day.