Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Getting back in the zone

As I posted earlier, I am up (or should I say down?) to a 7-pound loss for the month of January, which is wonderful. For the first time in my life, I am using a sense of nurturing myself to be very conscientious about the number of fruits and vegetables I put into my body; the amount of dessert, fats, meat, and added sugar I eat; and the level of exercise that I undertake. I have lost 7 pounds without once calculating my daily calories, fat grams, carbs, or anything else. Instead, I have tried to be conscientious about what I put into my mouth when I actually am hungry; what might lead me to think I'm hungry when I'm not; and what, other than food, might make me feel better when I am stressed out. Instead of being angry or frustrated with myself when I have a craving, I try to utilize the sympathetic but logical part of me--a part of me that is outside of my cravings that can be sympathetic to the confusion causing the craving without giving in to the craving. I am waking up with more energy in the mornings. I am, for once, looking forward to my daily walks and the stress relief they provide. I'm crying less often. (I'm not depressed, but I am emotional, so I cry pretty often.) I'm feeling generally peppier during the day. Overall, I am feeling like I am taking care of myself instead of feeling like I am punishing myself like I usually feel when I am dieting. Instead of feeling like I am someone who is out of control and needs strict controls on her life when it comes to food, I am trusting myself as if I am someone who has good intentions and capabilities when it comes to her own body--and then I am living out that trust.

So what happened this weekend? Well, things are going really well, so I started to feel anxious. Creeping into my mind were thoughts and emotions that were not this clearly formed, but went something like this: "Seven pounds is a lot for you to have lost--maybe you need to start counting calories to keep it off?" "You don't actually know what you're doing! You're going to regain it all and then some!" "What if you really can't trust yourself without some stricter guidelines?" "What if, this week, you've GAINED weight instead of losing it?" "Something's wrong, because this isn't as hard as it should be!"

I spent the weekend feeling this somewhat vague doubt of myself. I told myself that it was normal to feel this way, because I'm trying something new and it's working, and my brain doesn't know how to handle dieting that works without punishing me. Part of my brain is still catching up. I tried to be sympathetic to the part of me that is anxious, and to remind myself that after this many years of reading about diets and nutrition, being an intelligent person, I certainly know how to eat and how not to eat.

I put myself on auto-pilot, thinking these thoughts and feeling these emotions but trying to continue my new habits. Due to circumstances partly outside my control, we ate at restaurants three times this weekend, and while I made better choices than I could have (low-fat buffalo instead of beef), I didn't make the best choices I could have, calorie-wise (vegetable soup). I also walked the bottoms of my feet off, though. I was wondering if I was using walking to justify higher calorie consumption or if I was just being wise to exercise more if I ate more. I told my husband I wasn't sure I could trust myself to go with him to a drinks-and-apps function tonight after work--I thought I might eat way too many calories.

Yesterday, I decided to go back and reread all of my posts to this blog as a way of reminding myself how competent I've been so far. As I was re-reading, I had these thoughts: "Wow, see, it is okay to treat myself occasionally in moderate amounts. I did it on X day and still lost weight that week." "I do know what I'm doing." "This is a hazier way to do things overall, but it does feel pretty clear-cut on a day-to-day basis." And you know what? That's how we lose weight, firm up our muscles, and get healthier: by making good decisions on a day-to-day, moment-to-moment basis.

When I woke up yesterday morning, with doubts still in my head, I ate the breakfast I eat daily now: 1 T of natural almond butter on toasted whole-grain bread with sliced apples on top and about a teaspoon of honey drizzled on top of that. I ate that despite being in a rush; my health is worth more than a little rush.

I took one of my friends to a doctor's appointment (we think she may have MS), and then I drove her to a point where one of her other friends were picking her up to take her home. (She lives 2.5 hours a way and does not feel safe driving now due to her symptoms.) We went into the mall at that exit to find somewhere to eat lunch, but--I am proud to say--nowhere in the mall sounded good to either one of us. (I sat this friend down last spring--when she was eating horribly and miserably gaining weight--and explained the reasoning behind cutting the consumption of meat and processed food and increasing vegetable intake, and she has really taken to all of it!) We left and eventually found our way to a Panera Bread Co. (St. Louis Bread Co. to some), where she ordered a veggie half-sandwich and tomato soup and I ordered a turkey pesto half-sandwich and French onion soup. Despite the fact that Panera is a better "fast food" choice than many places, the foods there are still high in calories. I ate my soup and a couple of bites of my sandwich, and then I stepped outside to call and change an appointment time. As I stood up, I realized my pants are looser around the waist--always my first sign of losing weight--and when I got outside, I realized I was pleasantly full. So I quit eating: I left half of my tasty sandwich sitting on my plate untouched.

When I got back to work, I realized that I might struggle to feel motivated about going for a walk on this below-freezing day, so I emailed several of my girlfriends in Atlanta to see if any of them were interested in joining me for a walk through the large park in Midtown. One wrote back to say she was, so I was then set for exercise.

I got home rather ravenous, and we had no extra fruit in our apartment, so I ate about six gingercrisps (60 calories), and I headed out the door to meet my exercise partner. We had a good walk and talk--walking quickly enough through the brisk air to keep me a bit winded after a while, but not so quickly that we couldn't manage a slightly breathless conversation most of the way. I got home feeling good from stretching my muscles; we had walked for about 45 minutes.

My husband was off at a class, so I turned on the living room radio to a new country station--I listen to a huge variety of music, and country's one of them--and I started chopping and peeling as I sang along.

First I sliced an African (similar to butternut) squash, and I used a grapefruit spoon and a pumpkin tool to scrape the seeds and pulp from the inside. I sprayed a pan with sides with non-stick spray for good measure, and I put the squash interior-up in the pan. I preheated the oven to 400 degrees F and mixed together some walnut oil, maple syrup, whole-wheat flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger, and I spread that over the interior of the squash pieces. I put it in the oven to roast for about 40 minutes.

I took a package of extra-firm tofu out of the freezer and defrosted it for about 4 minutes in the microwave. (Freezing tofu before using it gives it a firmer texture.) I drained off the fluid and took the block of tofu out of its package. I put the tofu on the plate with a high rim, put a piece of plastic wrap on the tofu, and put my heaviest cutting board, topped with several books, on top of the tofu and plastic wrap. Then I left it to press the tofu. Within 20 minutes, a good bit more water was extracted from the tofu, making it much more firm.

I washed and half-way peeled some fingerling sweet potatoes and sliced them into long, skinny pieces like French fries. I tossed them with olive oil, Mrs. Dash garlic-and-herbs seasoning, and two dashes of Lawry's seasoning salt. I sprayed a cookie sheet with a dash of non-stick spray and spread the sweet potatoes on it. I then baked them, as well, for 20 minutes at 400, flipping the fries after 10 minutes. I timed them to go into the oven to be ready at the same time as the squash. (For a crisper texture, I might try a higher temperature if they were the only thing in the oven.)

I put water in a steamer pot on to boil, and I got out a bunch of asparagus. I rinsed them and sliced off the bottom third of each stalk--the tough part of the stalk that some people eat but that I prefer not to use. I set the asparagus aside. (As I was waiting for my husband to be on his way home, I occasionally tossed more water into the steamer pot to keep it from boiling away.)

I put two teaspoons of peanut oil in a non-stick pan and heated it to medium-high. When it was good and hot, I pan-fried the tofu in the oil for about ten minutes, tossing regularly. Then I added some Whole Foods peanut sauce to the tofu, stirred it around, and turn the heat on that eye to low.

When the squash and sweet potatoes were done, I turned the oven to 200 degrees and left them in. (Unfortunately, my squash seasoning all slid off the squash and caramelized to the point of burning in the bottom of the pan.)

I called my husband to find out he was a couple of miles from home. I waited a couple of minutes and then put the asparagus into the steamer pot to steam for about 4 minutes.

I grated two tablespoons of strong Parmesan Reggiano and mixed the cheese with a bit of salt and pepper. I pulled the squash and sweet potatoes out of the oven. My husband arrived just as the asparagus was done. I tossed the asparagus with the cheese, salt, and pepper mixture, and we served ourselves dinner with big glasses of tasty alkaline water. It was all delicious--the sweet squash, the sweet-and-savory combination of sweet potatoes with garlic, the slightly sour asparagus with the salty cheese on it, and the comforting flavor of peanut sauce on crispy tofu.

And I thought, "You know--I can do this; I really can."


Mal said...

hell yes you can do it. look at that beautiful squash. YUM.

ArleneWKW said...

Thanks for visiting my blog. I was a vegetarian for about 3 years and, though no longer one, still eat mostly veggie meals. I can understand the concern you express about trusting yourself as you are doing. It seems to be working well for you. I've considered something like that for myself since, right now, counting points doesn't seem to be working for me. I think that I probably need the structure of ie. counting points. The next 5 days while I'm Austin and partying bound, will be an opportunity for me to play with a freer approach.

lisa jane said...

I am glad that you stopped by my blog the other day, it has taken me this long to pop over and "meet' you.But I'm glad you did.I'm happy to see someone else experimenting with the intuitive eating process,Im glad to see other women learning to trust themselves to make their own food and body decisions.

Turns out i'm just happy happy :)

Turtlechic said...

7 pounds is amazing! I am jealous!! I need to start eating like you do!

Tina said...

There is so much to be said for healthy eating and not 'dieting' I know that's why I have failed in the past.

I have read some amazing blogs lately about this subject.

Thanks for visiting my blog. I really look forward to reading your blog.

Grumpy Chair said...

Congratulations on the 7 pound loss! Yay for you! I want to run to the grocery store and buy every variety of squash!

the veggie paparazzo said...

Lol thanks for the support, Mal.

Arlene, there is certainly nothing wrong with needing structure. I in no way want to denigrate the weight loss work of any other person, because we all need support, not "but instead you should. . . ." I'm just trying to find if I can be happy losing weight instead of feeling the unhappiness the strict outer controls give me. I support other people in whatever works for them, as long as they are healthier for the effort!

Lisa, thanks for dropping in. Intuitive eating still feels a little strange, but mostly in a good way!

Turtle, certainly the food I'm eating is helping, but the best thing is a greater feeling of peace of mind by doing it this way, rather than beating myself up. If you want to email me, I will be happy to help you figure out ways to incorporate whole foods and extra veggies/fruits into your diet. It seems the stress of working a different shift than your husband is impacting you, as it certainly would me in a similar situation. I have a lot of sympathy with you for that.

Tina, thanks. We'll see how this experiment continues to go! I know it won't always be linear progression, but I feel so much better this way.

the veggie paparazzo said...

Grumpy, winter squash, with its natural sweetness and low calories, is a dieter's best friend. I don't mess with spaghetti squash (it doesn't taste like spaghetti--I don't care what they say), but acorn, delicata, butternut, etc? Hell yeah--they rock.

Linds said...

Thanks for stopping in at my blog! Wow, a loss of 7 lbs! That's fantastic! And you're losing it in such a healthy way. Lol looks like I need to visit your blog more often to get some idea's!

Keep up the good work, you are doing fantastic!!

doublemom said...

I linked to your blog from the comment you left on mine. Thanks for all the details of the food you made. The sweet potatos look like fries! Interesting blog...I'll be back!