Thursday, February 26, 2009

To drink or not to drink

For years we have been hearing that drinking red wine in moderation - that is about a glass a night - is good for you. I embraced that research as I developed a taste for good wine. In fact, one of my favourite weekend activities is wine tasting and recently even went grape picking at a local wine farm.

Yesterday I heard about a new piece of research that more than 2 glasses of wine per week increased women’s chances of developing breast and other cancers. The research, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute followed over 1 million UK women (a reasonable sample size) for 7 – 8 years. The findings showed that through moderate drinking approximately 15 additional cancers per 1000 women were developed.

The Guardian article suggests that the findings from the study are reliable factoring in certain lifestyle factors like smoking, exercise and the Pill as well as body weight. Naturally, this begs the question, what will I do?

We as adults living in the developed world are armed with such a huge amount of information on how best we can lead healthy lives that the choices are paralysing. With so many studies regularly contradicting each other, it makes it impossible to know what to do. With this latest research, my first thought is that there is already a new study on the way debunking this one. While that is probable and we will most likely never know for sure the impacts of alcohol on our bodies, we can make a choice on how to live.

Oh, apparently this isn’t new anyway, with another study showing the same thing in 2002. Interestingly, this one suggests that below 60, the greatest risk for women is breast cancer so alcohol should be avoided up until that age, when the likelihood of heart attack soars. At the point, the protective effect of alcohol against heart disease means moderate intake can be beneficial.

So what do we choose? I’m curious to know if this research will change your habits. Is it worth taking the risk for that glass of wine each evening? Is this likely to decrease your consumption down to 1-2 units (about 100mL) of alcohol per week? Or are you about to email Oxford Uni and tell them exactly where they can put their studies?

Up and up we go

It must just be confessions week, because I have another confession to make: the only reason I went for the bushwalk was that I figured it would help me lose weight by making me stick to my exercise goal. Usually weekends are a write off for any form of exercise except renovating (that’s been going on for almost 2 years) so I thought it would be a good idea. Except I don’t actually like bushwalking, so call me a hypocrite given my preachings over choosing exercise you like. Lets all say that together: HYPOCRITE.

Well, I am going to try to vainly defend myself in this circumstance with the justification that I learnt from the experience. And I do really like to draw conclusions from all my experiences. In fact, I wonder if ‘normal’ human beans go around analysing everything and ‘drawing conclusions’. Let me tell you, it’s tiring! I wish I could switch my brain off more often then not, especially when….no I won’t go there! But I digress. I learnt three important things from the bushwalk.

  1. If you don’t like the pain of ‘exercise’ distract your brain from thinking about it. This isn’t very Zen I know as mindfulness is really good especially when walking. But it helps if you have to keep walking. Say you’re halfway up the mountain and you don’t get lunch until the top. So I kept my camera out and started taking photo’s of everything, mainly because I started noticing all the little details around me instead of the burning pain in my thighs. You could even say I enjoyed the experience and may consider doing it again.

  2. It’s ok to be slower than everyone else and not feel bad about it. My husband was reincarnated as half human half mountain goat and I usually get hung up about that. It’s difficult not to compare or feel guilty from holding him back, but I actually got over it. He dashed up the mountain while I regularly found myself lying on my belly taking photo’s or was that resting?

  3. Trust no one. If someone tells you it’s an easy 1.5 hour walk to the summit, do your own research. The view was pretty though – I guess they don’t call it the Scenic Rim for nothing.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Sugar and spice and all things nice

I must confess, it was a bit of a rough weekend on my body. Unfortunately, I was still recovering from it today. I kept up the exercise as promised to myself almost too well. My thighs are aching from an itsy bitsy bushwalk that was only 2 kilometres one way, but vertically straight up. After dangling from tree branches and rocks on the way down, even my arms were aching.

But no, it wasn’t the walk that was bad for my body, it was food (as usual). We had a very social weekend with three dinners and a morning tea. I loved catching up with friends I hadn’t seen for a while, but I wasn’t prepared for all the eating. The problem with having listened to my body lately has been that it just doesn’t need as much as I have always given it. So after an appetizer and entree I was pretty satisfied. It was awesome food too – mud crab from far northern Australia caught my friends. Yum.

Soon after the mains was served, already plated up in the kitchen. The portions were huge and as mentioned, I was already full. What to do? As previously said, I am a plate cleaner and I assume that if you like what’s served you eat until you are stuffed. It is after all only one meal and it would offend the hosts if you only ate half of it say. To me not eating implies that you don’t really like what they have cooked. But what do you do when you when you don’t have any control over how much is put on your plate? How do you avoid offending your friends without eating what they think is a serving?

Well, that’s not the reason why I am recovering either, but it did get me thinking since I will be dinning at friends places again this weekend and I would appreciate any advice for how to deal with oversized portions.

Apart from lavish desserts for 3 days in a row, the final straw came at morning tea on Monday. Some friends caught up over coffee and a platter of delicious sweets. As we chatted for hours, we each reached for the platter of treats many times. I lost count to be honest, but by the time I left, the plate was pretty empty. It was mindless eating at it’s best and my body told me all about it and still is for that matter.

On the way home, I started to feel a bit unwell in the stomach, which I reasoned was fair considering the amount of sweets I had consumed. Apart from the sweets, I hadn’t eaten lunch, but at that point I definitely didn’t feel like any, figuring that I would get hungry at some point later. Gradually the nausea got worse until dinner time came around and I still couldn’t stomach any food. Eventually, I made a vegetable broth just to eat something healthy and maybe settle my stomach. It didn’t work, even though I was hungry and even this morning I woke feeling lethargic, nauseous and puffy eyed. I had never heard of a sugar hangover, but it would seem I had one. Needless to say, I won’t be touching sugar again for a while and if anyone asks next weekend I have a great topic of conversation. Have you ever had a sugar hangover?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

When coffee isn't the answer

I was feeling a little sleepy when I started writing this morning. My yawns, deep and cavernous kept swallowing up my thoughts in a drowsy fog. Slowly my eyelids would close and as I struggled to open them my eyes watered. Coffee I thought! That will wake me up without a doubt. Needless to say I had already had one with breakfast, but apparently this morning I needed two. Maybe it was the grey day, with the sounds of rain softly tapping on the metal roof. It could have been the warm humid air that I was breathing into my body that made it feel like it hadn’t woken up yet. On the way to the coffee machine I had one of those aha moments. That was it; my body hadn’t woken up yet!

Moving your body first thing in the morning increases oxygen consumption and gets your blood flowing. The increased blood flow to the brain causes the release of endorphins that give a sense of well-being. This is what provides that feeling of being energized for the day that I just didn’t have when I flicked on the coffee machine. Realising this, as the water was warming I briskly walked around the house. Then I grabbed some weights. By around circuit 10 I was dancing. In the end, I had woken myself to the point that I really didn’t need that coffee.
In reality, there are many mornings when I wake, but struggle to get out of bed. Then the groggy feeling clouds my mind for the first part of the day. So is setting the alarm clock early for tomorrow for a quick lap of the block or some yoga moves worth it? I think so!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

You know more than you think you do

That was the message that Dr Benjamin Spock had for parents back in the 1960’s. This was the message I learnt last night on an ABC show ‘Bringing Up Baby’ which follows 6 couples bringing up children using last centuries most popular parenting techniques. Now I should clarify – I have no children, nor am I likely to have any children in the next few years. But a lot of my friends already have babies or are about to, so I have heard a lot about parenting recently. Facing up to the inevitable (children) I listen with interest to all their hardships and theories thinking about what I would do differently or wondering how I would cope.

What got me watching last night, was that phrase – Trust yourself: you know more than you think you do. Dr Spock’s message was that the strict parenting styles of the 1950’s that dictated for example that you should not pick up your baby or you will spoil them were flawed. He suggested that the one-size-fits all approach did not reflect that parents know their children best. He urged parents to use a flexible approach to parenting that would be reflective of each child’s individuality. That was exactly what some friends advised after the birth of their second child, when they threw away the ‘rule’ book and listened to their baby. The other thing that Dr Spock suggested was that parents have fun being parents and enjoy their child’s development.

Now how does this relate to anything about being healthy and losing weight? Well, it made me think even further about what I have mentioned in previous posts about listening to yourself. If the number of parenting books is in the hundreds of thousands, then the number of diet books must be double that. Everywhere you turn there are books, magazines, newspaper articles and tv shows telling you how to lose weight. Not only that but manufacturer’s are creating ‘100 calorie snacks’, all the fast food joints have their ‘healthy options’, cat food is advertised as ‘low fat’ and we are telling the government to introduce legislation over junk food advertising and blaming the media for showing us itsy bitsy models. Effectively, the control over our bodies is out of our hands and into the outstretched arms of the ‘experts’ that form the diet industry. There are so many diets and so much advice out there about every food under the sun (and those from laboratories), analysed based on all manner of scales like GI or whatsitmadooba. It’s enough that those who don’t need to lose weight are panicking over their food choices and hating their bodies.

What I think we need more of is trust in our own wisdom and knowledge of our bodies. In reality most people know that potato chips and cheesecake aren’t all that good for them and vegetables are. No diet book is required to tell you that – after all I just did! But even with the knowledge we have, we relinquish control and follow the various prescriptions of low carb, no carb, high fat, low fat, or no snacks.

My aim this year is as stated ‘to end the war between mind and body’ and the only way to do that is to listen to what my body says. Since tunning in at the start of the year, it’s been pretty clear what it wants. At first my body was a little timid, but soon it gained confidence and started speaking out. It tells me loud and clear when I need to get up off the computer chair or it’s eaten enough or it really isn’t interested in food at the moment. In fact in the past, if I haven’t done any exercise for long enough, I would start having repeated dreams about jogging! So, I am going to keep following Dr Spock’s advice for myself and who knows maybe one day listen to it raising my children.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Getting ready for the weekend

It’s been a beautiful summer for those not affected by weather extremes. We’ve had lots of beach days, picnics in the park and bush walks. That’s a lot of time in the sun and although we should all be getting our fair share, too much is definitely not a good thing. Often when I look around on the beach, I see a lot of Australians who just don’t seem to be looking after their skin. Obviously the message of slip, slop, slap isn’t getting through, so now we have new graphic ads showing skin cancer development. But I don’t think it’s just Australians that aren’t sun smart – just look at all the tourists sun baking at noon on the beach. I noticed in Europe, the minute a ray of sunshine popped it’s head out between the clouds, everyone would rush to expose their ghostly winter skin.

I confess, I worry when I see people baking in the sun. I see dark spots on their bodies and I feel sad for them. I worry about my own pale skin and the number of moles that appear each year over the summer. I worry because a family member has been touched by skin cancer and is no longer with us to share love, happiness and tears. I worry, because it wasn’t the Australian sun that caused the cancer, but the European one.

On the Australian Bureau of Meteorology Website, they state the UV alert together with the days weather report. Shown is the predicted maximum on a scale of 1-20. Every day I have checked, it’s been in the extreme zone, which is 11+. They also state times between which your skin is at risk if no sun smart measures are used. I try to avoid being in the sun at these times, or completely cover up. It isn’t very cool, but then how cool is skin cancer? So wherever you are, have a great weekend, enjoy the outdoors and don’t forget the sunscreen.

Friday, February 20, 2009

The most magnificent machine on earth

My dear body,
You are an amazing thing. You have grown from a single cell into a tiny baby in your mother’s womb. You suffered the trauma of birth to come into this world, to be mine. You do what my consciousness asks, you hold me within you. My emotions are expressed through you with your smile, hands that speak for me and warm tears that flow when I am sad. My feelings and hormones rage through you, you allow me to feel, be touched and caressed. Through you I can experience pleasure and I can feel pain. My thoughts, fears and hopes resound in your cells. We are one, mind and body, relying on each other as we grow together.

Yet, when I look at your reflection, I criticise you as all I see is flaws. I wonder how anyone could find you lovable, beautiful or attractive. When we wake, I touch you, not gently and with reverence for all that you are, but squeezing and poking, unable to face another day looking at what you have become. Often I measure you, sometimes I photograph you and occasionally I weigh you. Some days when I really don’t like you, I claw you and scratch you, maybe even hit you. Regardless of what I do, I blame you for what you are and how you make me feel. I can’t accept you until you are perfect. I have told you that I will not love you until then because what is there to love?

I’m sad for us my dear body, because I have made us both suffer. Please believe that there is still hope, that I will make better choices for us, so that we may both work together to be healthy and happy. Please believe that I will learn to love you regardless of the reflection. Please believe that you are beautiful not because of how you look, but that you are a miracle and you are mine.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Stoking my Metabolic Fire

At least I think that is what I’m doing! The highlight of my day is becoming the mid morning snack of colourful, crunchy veggies and fruit which also helps the metabolic burn. I definitely like this habit and it really isn’t difficult for me to keep up. Usually 3 hours or so after breakfast I get very hungry, to the point that I can’t think about anything but food. In the half hour leading up to lunch time I check the time every 2-3 minutes because my stomach can’t wait till lunch.

I have tried in the past not to snack, because apparently that was what contributed to not losing weight – just ask any ‘why you’re not losing weight’ article. By not snacking, the outcome for me is total distraction for the entire morning and that’s not very productive. I’ve tried eating healthy snacks like a piece of fruit which has made me really angry at fruit because I usually just felt frustrated because I feel even hungrier. And then a gym enthusiast friend suggested the 6 portions a day approach which he said would help speed up my metabolism. I’m not really a fan of breaking bigger meals into two and it doesn’t fit well with a regular day especially if eating leftovers or if you have specific lunch hours. But I have had great success with these plates of chopped veggies and fruit. They are sufficiently large to actually fill me up without a huge hit of dreaded calories; provide a big boost of vitamins; and ensure that I get enough veggies per day which I am the first to admit can be difficult. Just adding a big healthy snack like this without changing any other habits has led to weight loss in the past. I’ve always heard its because it speeds up your metabolism, but some studies show that there is no correlation. The thing I am learning about the weight loss process though, is it’s about my body and what works for me, regardless of the advice of the day. And besides, I’m really enjoying feasting my eyes on this tasty food too! Have you got any great snacks that you love?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Fastest Way to Quit Healthy Habits

It hasn’t hit yet, but give it a couple more days and it will. After all past behaviour is the best predictor of future results right? Previously all my best laid plans for health have fallen to the wayside through this dreaded form of self-sabotage – fat days.

Whenever I start a health regime I become fairly obsessive in checking progress; I’m talking on a daily basis. Body loathing creeps at the end of a few days, when no apparent changes have manifested. I begin to feel horrible about myself and cruelly look at my body. t’s that feeling of frustration, of failed attempts and of having let myself become…..this.

Change in diet and exercise happen one meal at a time, one day at a time, but the thoughts towards my body are constantly bombarding me. What I see in the mirror today has derailed me time and time again. It doesn’t matter that if I keep up the exercise and eat better I will look better, maybe in a few days, or weeks. If I hate the way I look now, I can forget about any hard work that I have put in up to this day, because I will self sabotage all my efforts, ending even the best intentioned ‘diet’ I may begin. No one talks about it (perhaps because others don’t have this problem) but maybe the very first step of any ‘diet’ should look at the way you feel about your body.

I took this quiz and yup I have a fair way to go. The question is, how do you improve your body image? Every article I have read on the topic has made me think, ‘sure, I will like the way I look just after I lose 15% of my body weight’. Sadly that isn’t the case – I still didn’t like my body that much when I could fit into my Europe pants. So how do you love your body even when you think it’s ugly? Here is an interesting article about body mania.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Good Re-Start

Exercise – tick.
Conscious eating – tick.
Healthy snacks – tick.
Dark chocolate treat – haha.

All systems go, I’m back on track. It’s a bit of a deja-vu though – I have been here many times before. Whenever I have tried to lose weight in the past, I‘ve never tried a fad diet. Somehow asking my Mom to only cook cabbage soup for me for the next month would have signalled ‘look at me, I’ve got a weight problem’. I admit that I have never, unless joking shared my body issues with anyone except my husband. Generally, I’ve pretended that no one has actually noticed that I’m a little heavier than I was, or that I no longer wear clothes that I once adored. Usually, after a spate of healthy eating or exercise friends and family would admiringly point out that I’ve lost weight. Proud as I was of my success, this has always embarrassed me because it meant that they had noticed that I’d gained it in the first place. To be honest, posting all of this online for the whole world to see makes me feel ashamed. At the same time through writing about it, I have had the opportunity to really think about my issues and how I can change my habits to lose weight and lead a healthier life.

So, as I said, I’ve been here before. Exactly where here is, is healthy eating Ville. That’s always been my strategy in the past, fill up on healthy fruit and veggies, put less sugar in my tea and reduce my portion sizes a little. I don’t pretend that this time is necessarily going to be different. I have tried though to look at the reasons why I eat and avoid falling into those familiar traps. But the other main thing I need to look at is my body image, which is sitting on ‘unhealthy’ on the scale. Usually a couple of days of healthy eating goes by before the negativity kicks in. I need to stop that before it happens. I will write about that tomorrow.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Eat Dark Chocolate and Lose Weight

The next article that tells me to ‘savour a piece of velvety, rich, fabulous quality dark chocolate’ is going to have the stuff smeared all over them. As my closest link to ‘them’ that would be the computer screen. I don’t read many things telling me how to lose weight anymore, but each time I dip my toe into that vast ocean, some writer suggests dark chocolate. Apparently this is the fashion at the moment, rewarding poor unfortunate sods on a diet with dark chocolate. This is everything that is wrong with the weight loss world and all those that peddle their theories on the latest way to lose weight. It’s the one size fits all philosophy which is rampant and ironic given the numbers of people trying to lose weight and therefore not fitting into a particular size at all.

Google dark chocolate and the top results all tell you how healthy it is. No, not Google against me too! But in any case, that’s old news. What annoys me is that everyone repeatedly advocates a ‘treating yourself’ with a square of dark chocolate as the ultimate reward. Apparently French women savour only the best quality dark chocolate.

Unfortunately despite the superiority of this food substance, my tastebuds don’t seem to agree. I just can’t accept it as a ‘treat’. Usually when it enters my mouth, it is immediately chewed and promptly swallowed to minimise the bitterness in my mouth. In all fairness, dark chocolate contains plenty of antioxidants that the other varieties don’t, so if choosing a treat it’s better to opt for something healthier.

The real problem I have with dark chocolate is the way it is pushed by anyone currently peddling a weight loss methodology. Chocolate may be the flavour of the month at the moment, but given time, there will be a new ‘wonder food’. Each time a new study comes out touting the benefits of a particular food, it paralyses me in my decision making process. I begin to wonder if I can actually select recipes, buy food and cook it for myself without expert knowledge backed by years of scientific research. Perhaps at the entrance to the supermarket they should have dieticians checking your weekly menu plans and ensuring you are stocked up on the current ‘wonder food’.

Maybe I’m just annoyed by the number of magazines on my book shelf whose covers predictably have catch phrases like “Foods you must eat to lose weight”. Or the authors of diets who tout a specific food as their magic diet snack. Really, it’s a matter of choosing something healthy that you really enjoy as a reward or a snack. Everyone is different and no amount of science is going to make me eat dark chocolate (or plain low fat yoghurt for that matter) again.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Wait. Add R to the List

Somewhere along the line I picked up a love of talking about the weather. It must have come from spending time in European, problem is in Australia it can be a rather dull subject. And then at times, it shapes the whole nation. Just take a look at what has been happening in the last week – catastrophic bushfires in Victoria, destructive flooding in North Queensland. My thoughts go out to all of the people suffering to the north and south. Those that have lost their families and friends and those that have lost their homes. I hope you can slowly piece your shattered lives back together again and move forward from the tragedy that has touched you.

Elsewhere, we have had sunshine and warm days for the last few weeks, which is why the weather can be a very boring subject. Unless of course you mention the drought or lack of rain, then there is lots of potential for conversation, tips on beating the drought in the garden, plants that have died and stupid council regulations. Anyway, the irony is, that although we need rain, frequently people finish a conversation about the weather with, ‘well I hope it doesn’t rain this weekend because….’

Our sunny spell ended a few days, when we woke to a grey day and the sound of gentle rain on the roof. Essentially, the perfect day to role over and go back to sleep. It would seem that for people used to sunshine most of the time, even a single raining day brings a certain lethargy. Explains a lot about the English. Well, this rain seemed to bring with it deep philosophical ponderings. The bushfires have sparked debate over wether or not global warming has contributed to the tragedy that has unfolded in Victoria. In the meantime scientists are warning over and over that we will be seeing much more extreme weather to come. But it would seem the public is quite sceptical over the role of global warming has played in this situation. The debate over wether global warming even exists has reared its ugly head. I had mistakenly thought that that debate was pretty much over and the next step was action. So I began to ponder what role could I play in reducing my carbon footprint. Could I cycle more, eat less red meat or switch to eating Skippy. I wondered wether I could set a career direction that could help create a more sustainable future. And then the depressing thoughts of why bother came flooding leading me to finish my entire bowl of pasta. It didn’t just stop there either, with further ‘therapeutic’ eating at dinner that night and the following day.

All had been going well up to this point. Since I decided I was going to begin this project about a month ago, I have been doing pretty well, being conscious of my moods and eating, but these last few days have gone right off track. On the grand scheme of things though, I guess it doesn’t matter. Besides, the forecast for tomorrow is fine and over 30 degrees!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Exercise. Fun. Two words rarely in a sentence together.

The one obvious habit that can help you lose weight and creates a healthy life is exercise. Actually, getting active has so many benefits besides weight loss that if you want to lead a healthy life, it is an absolute must for all, fat or skinny, old or young. So, lets get out there and hit the pavement starting with 30 minutes each day this week of exercise.

Despite everything you know about how good exercise is for you, you won’t do it. First, there’s all the excuses, then you might start but give up half way through the week – something important might happen, or you will lose motivation. You might get through the whole week, but what are the chances of continuing for another week? And if you are really motivated that this time will be different you will keep going and you do, will you continue for the rest of your life? I know I wouldn’t last.

Somewhere along the line I picked up the idea that no pain means no gain. Since I only exercise to lose weight, I figure anything less than jogging is pointless. I hate jogging, so I guess my exercise habits are pretty clear.

Just like with eating where some foods are ‘super foods for weight loss’ and others are bad, we’ve created a distorted view of what exercise should be. If I took up jogging, or any activity that I don’t like today and continued until I was 60, I would need to do it 10 920 times. If I struggle to motivate myself once, or even twice what’s the likelihood of doing it over ten thousand times. Plus what will I do for the 40 years I plan to live after I turn 60?

A life full of ‘should because it’s good for me’ is an unhealthy life; you never quite get around to doing the should items. If exercise is to become a want, then it needs to be pleasurable. The time I have felt this way about exercise, I never labelled it as healthy or fat burning, I did it because it helped make me feel alive, happy and free. Coincidentally, I could fit into my Europe pants at the time. That is what exercise should be, fun.
So this time round, I am going to get that pleasurable feeling from the activities that I love doing, but that have never seemed worthy – an after dinner walk, a dance in the lounge room or a casual game of tennis. I’ll ease into this habit with, at least a half hour session each day. In fact, I’ll book that court now!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The End of Super Expanding Girl

The only way to put a stop to an expanding waistline is to end the war that started it all, the war between mind and body. My plan isn’t about cutting calories, going to the gym for hours or subscribing to a crazy diet. It’s about starting a dialogue between what my brain wants and what my body needs. My problem isn’t so much what I eat, but all those reasons apart from hunger. Yes, too much homemade vegetarian lasagne leads to super expanding girl.

Deprivation has never worked for me. Every time I have decided to actively try to lose weight, the battle between my brain and my stomach begun. As soon my brain decides that I shall eat less food at each meal, I’m starving an hour later. No snacks means I only think about food especially during the morning. No sweets and the moment I think of that slice of cake in the fridge, it’s gone, mysteriously. Yes, limiting foods seems to have the opposite effect of contraction.

And then there is counting kilojoules. I recently figured that I surely would be successful if I knew how much energy I was eating each day, so I gave it a try. I calculated what I had eaten the previous day and was shocked by the figure of around 10 000kJ. Well actually, I wasn’t at first, since I had to find out what that number actually meant for me. It turned out it was quite high, which surprised me because I thought I had eaten well that day with plenty of veggies and fruit as snacks. So for the following 3 days I vigilantly weighed and counted and estimated. It wasn’t difficult to reduce the total, but I was constantly thinking about food, or really the kilojoules in that food. Finally on Friday evening I cracked. I was going to three social events on Saturday and I knew I couldn’t control what I was going to be served. I lost it – crying and abusing myself for looking the way I did. I went to sleep miserable and woke feeling helpless, angry at myself that I was living in this body. When I calmed down that day, I decided that I would never again look at food and see kilojoules.

So, to avoid feeling deprived, my plan is to eat anything I desire, meaning no food is excluded or labelled as “bad”. The idea behind this is that I start looking at food today, the way I want to look at it if I was 13% smaller. But the catch is I must be hungry and stop when I no longer am. If it’s for any other reason than hunger then I have to find some other way to feed that need. Basically, it’s all about being conscious of my emotions and dialogue between my mind and body as well as physical hunger cues. To keep myself honest, I am going to keep a journal of all the emotions and thoughts behind my eating. Listening to all of me so that one day super expanding girl will be “now 13% smaller”.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Reality and it's unfortunate association with weight loss

I hate setting “realistic” goals when it comes to my weight. When I am trying on outfits that highlight all the wrong places, I want a solution right now. Sometimes I wish I could just have a hot shower and the weight would simply “melt away”. Well that quick fix would have to be the cabbage soup diet. And that would be why the weight loss industry is worth the huge some of money it is. But unfortunately no matter which diet you look at, because their success lies in weight loss, none of them teach you to be healthy, much less deal with the reasons why you’re in the body you are in. Some weight loss advocates provide solutions that are drastic, some are punishing and some are really quite sensible. But even those that focus on healthy eating, delivering appropriate food don’t teach people to make the right choices for themselves when not provided with specifically sized, calorie controlled portions neatly packed in huge amounts of plastic. At least one such company advises clients that food choices are a greater contributor to weight loss than exercise. That is true, but the reason it’s called weight loss is that fat and muscle are lost, particularly with rapid weight loss. If the only goal is to lose weight, then that’s ok. But reduced muscle mass makes it more difficult to maintain a steady weight. Even some gyms advise hammering the cardio and doing less strength training. A friend once told me the reason women don’t like strength training is that when they start, their weight goes up. Perhaps that’s why diet companies don’t want people to do strength training – it’s hard to lose a kilo a week when gaining muscle. Imagine, what could they put in their ads then!?! “Jenny only lost 5 kilos in 12 weeks on our program, but she has toned her body and her clothes are looser.” Twelve kilos in 12 weeks sounds a lot better doesn’t it. But at the end of the day, there seems to be so much conflicting advice on what needs to be done to lose weight, that I often throw my hands up in the air for months at a time figuring that it is just to complicated.

That’s why I am taking responsibility for my own health through a the strategy developed by me based on my own experience. My focus is on permanently changing my habits as opposed to dieting…for the rest of my life. Depending on what your sources are, lasting changes to habits may take either 21 days, 6 months or a year. I am inclined to think that since I need to lose weight and keep it off for the next 75 years or so, it might take closer to 6 months than 3 weeks to change eating habits of a lifetime. My commitment is to really work on creating a healthy lifestyle for all of 2009. That’s right a staggering 12 months. Well compared to 15 years, it’s actually not that long!

I must confess that it does hurt to accept that I may not have “rock hard abs” in three months. Unfortunately sensible weight loss is defined as about 10% of body weight over 6 months. It’s painful to go that slow, but the idea is to keep it off forever. Deprivation will only lead to the ‘finally now that I have lost weight I shall celebrate with that chocolate cake I haven’t eaten in 3 months’ result. So my goal this year is to be exactly 13% smaller at the end of the year. Specifically I have a favourite pair of pants – my Europe pants - I want to fit into by the end of the year. It’s been 4 years since I last wore them.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Hungry? That's not when you eat

Today I am looking at all the reasons why I eat, or at least the ones I have identified in the past. I wish it were the times when I don’t eat – it would be a much shorter list. I could sum it up simply with; when I feel content and fulfilled. So, in alphabetical oder;

B is for Belgian Chocolate when bored
Chewing is doing something. So eating while watching tv probably increases my brain function beyond what it would be if I just sat there like a zombie. I’ve come to realise that when I walk to the kitchen while watching tv, it’s not that I’m hungry, just bored even when I think I’m enjoying and learning. I don’t think the brain is used to spacing out in a vegetative state – just try not thinking for 5 minutes. For an equivalent or slightly higher mental state, I should either be asleep or meditating. During sleep my brain does lots of exciting things like dreaming; when meditating it’s doing cool things like not thinking about anything. Especially food.

C is for Chocolate Cake when in need of comfort
If I’m stressed, I eat. If I just got through a difficult day, I eat extra as a reward. Upset, jealous, lonely, I eat. When feeling fat, I eat. Angry, exhausted or anxious, that’s right, I eat. So, you get the picture. In fact the only time I don’t eat that much is when I feel really content.

F is for Filling up just in case
I don’t like being hungry, really hungry, like when I haven’t eaten in about 4 hours. My primitive brain tells me, that while times are good (this meal) I should eat a little more so when times are lean (before the next meal) I have some in reserve. And because I am good at stockpiling, the system is working great! I keep some ‘in reserve’ for times when I’m not within 30 minutes of being able to acquire my next meal. I think that only happens on international flights on certain airlines.

O is for Orgasmic food
Perhaps I’m unusual, but the thing I never understood in “French Women Don’t Get Fat” is that I don’t get bored when eating amazing food. I just want to keep eating and eating and eating and eating and you get the picture. In fact one of life’s blessings is tastebuds. Eating is the simplest pleasure I can image, simply because it has to be done, but it’s actually enjoyable…unlike doing tax returns…unless you are an accountant. I think that goes under P for procrastination.

P is for Pecan Pie when Procrastinating
What’s the best thing to do when staring at a blank page on the computer screen? Indulge your creativity with some chocolate cake. It always seems that on the way to the fridge, ideas just seem to flow! Generally while the page is still empty, but all other sources of procrastination have been expended like reading other blogs, reading the news, checking out what the celebrities are doing, food is my saviour. Yes, that would be the old avoiding technique – eating to avoid other challenging activities. Eat cake or do tax…eat cake or do tax…which would you chose?

V is for human Vacuum cleaner
If it’s on my plate, I’ll eat it. Simple. I can’t stand food waste. There is so much environmental damage done by food production. Worse still is leaving meat on a plate. I cannot leave meat on a plate in a restaurant even if my stomach is threatening explosion. If it died to be on my plate, I couldn’t bear the thought of it’s flesh being thrown away. Animals destined for food production already suffer enough, it seems an insult to kill them and then have their meat go to waste.

Notice the lack of the letter H?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Why am I in this body?

My health is a product of the choices I have made in the past. It has seemed so easy to deny that in the past – they were not choices! I have thought countless times that if I was already at a healthy weight, I would be able to maintain that body. Sadly, this just hasn’t been true, because times when I have lost some weight it’s come back again. There’s those damned choices again! But unless you know what they are, then how can you change them? Here’s a look at where all my body issues began.

When I was still in primary school, a classmate suggested one day that if I lost some weight, perhaps I would look better. It’s funny what an impact a cruel comment from one child to another can have on their life. I have never forgotten that day when I first began to be insecure about the way I looked. I was 10 years old.

It would probably be around 15 years now since I first read a “Reader’s Digest” article about how to lose 5 kilograms. Funnily enough, we never had bathroom scales at home, so I didn’t know how much this would be, or even what and ‘ideal weight’ was. I began to focus on how to lose the baby fat I had but as my body matured, I gained weight. Looking back, my weight was actually never excessive even through my teenage years. Unfortunately, the more you obsess about certain things the worse they get, which was the case with my body. Why? Because I developed the habit of eating to dull the pain of the dislike I felt towards my body. Later on food dulled the stress I felt through exams, or when I was unhappy, or when I fought with my boyfriend. But most of all it dulled the pain of looking in the mirror and not liking what I saw.

Food is my drug of choice for alleviating inner emotional turmoil. That’s pretty normal for women, apparently it’s related to the comfort and closeness we felt to our mothers as babies breast feeding. But it’s effectively a drug because it creates a vicious cycle – I feel unattractive therefore I eat and then feel worse because I know my choice to eat is helping to make me feel unattractive. When eating is used for every emotional state, then that becomes the choice you make to end up living in the body you are in.

What can I do to change my eating habits?
1. I recognise that initially it was my poor body image that resulted in eating as medication. Nothing has changed there, so I need to improve my body image.
2. I need to identify all the triggers for my emotional issues and find ways to address my emotions without resorting to food.

Is it possible to lose weight without addressing emotional issues first? Yes, it is. And I have in the past – healthy weight loss over a reasonable length of time. But I never addressed the reasons behind my emotional eating or poor body image. Believe me, it’s easier to join a gym than it is to stop and face yourself. The problem was though, that the moment life threw some challenges at me, I returned to my old friend food. That’s why it’s 2009 and I’m still trying to lose weight! So, I’m celebrating the slow road by going for a walk.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Is it just me, or am I going too slowly?

Maybe I am just tired of endless contemplation of my body, perhaps it’s that I feel hopeless. I would like to think that maybe I have just reached a mature decision this year. A little while ago, sometime before New Years I stood at the crossroads of choice, in this case, a busy four way intersection. You wouldn’t believe the number of people who were there at the same time as me – it seems to get particularly busy at the start of the year! Straight ahead I could see the road I was travelling, it stretches on for miles and miles, it’s undulating, sometimes a little bumpy, but above all, it is fairly predictable. It is filled with lots of criticism and self-loathing for my body, but at least it’s easy, except on fat days!

On the right is a road that I have been down before. It’s the short cut, starting with a big hill right at the beginning but promising to get you to your destination fast. I never enjoy this road because on it I have to do all the things I don’t like. It may be the quickest route to “rock hard abs”, but as soon as I get half way up, my willpower gives out and I slide back down to that intersection.

Then there is the road on the left – this is the scenic road. I’ve been down this one as well, but I turned back too soon. This is the road where you can enjoy the journey as well as the destination. You can take things as slowly as your body requires. In the end you still get to the place you are going, but sometimes it feels like it will take forever. You might not make it by your birthday, cousins wedding or that beach holiday because you are a Sunday driver. Unfortunately, as slow as it may be, this is the road that you will be happy to be on for life! Standing at this intersection once more, I came to the conclusion to try things differently this time, to take it slow. Others have started well ahead of me, it is after all already February, but this time that’s ok.

I read some words of wisdom from Peter Crone about the journey;

“You’re not fat, but your choices in life may have led you to be living in a body that is. Start to make choices for the body you want to be living in”.

I know what those choices should be, seeing as I have been working on it for a long time, but I always seem to find them difficult to implement. In light of ‘going slow’ this week I will do some self-awareness exercises to work out what I need to change in my lifestyle to become healthier. It’s not as simple as too much energy in and too little out that is holding us back.

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