Thursday, June 28, 2007

This really sucks

I just got a phone call from my new otolaryngologist’s office. (Wendy Smith in Blairsville, GA, is the doctor, and she is GREAT–which I rarely say that about any doctors.) It turns out I have regular and/or latent food allergies to eggs, dairy, tomatoes, soy, corn, and wheat . . . among other foods. If I remember correctly, she (the nurse) said my egg, wheat, and soy allergies were the worst food ones. She told me that I was very unusual in that I tested positive for everything she tested.

I know I’ll figure this out, but the question right now is . . . what the hell am I going to eat? And yes, I do realize, practically speaking, that I have options like rice, oats, etc. I think Dan and I are going to have to start eating meat at home again– meat from well-treated, no-hormones-added animals from sustainably practicing local organic farms, but meat nonetheless–because I don’t see a way around it. I have a tendency toward anemia as it is, so I don’t know what else to do for adequate protein if dairy, soy, and eggs are out.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Doing It the Bob Greene Way

You know, it's funny. I was getting pretty frustrated with myself about this whole weight-loss thing lately. Then I realized a few things:

1. Despite a pretty large stress load lately, the way I have been eating, I have been maintaining my weight loss, which is about 20 pounds lower than I was in December and about 40 pounds lower than my highest weight.

2. I tell everyone else that sometimes you have so much going on in your life that you can't expect yourself to exert a large amount of energy on weight loss as well as handle the other stuff--and I need to accept that I get into that same place sometimes (not long-term, just for now!).

3. Although running has been great for my body in terms of how I feel and how I look (even Dan's Ph.D. advisor, who is normally rather oblivious to me, recently commented, "Your training is really looking great on you"), when I started training for running a 5k, I went from exercising 30-45 minutes daily to exercising 30-45 minutes every other day. If you look at people who keep weight off long-term (according to the National Weight Loss Registry), over 80 percent of them exercise about an hour a day. I'm definitely not there at this point. Moreover, that's okay! Running has been moving me into a better appreciation of my body and its abilities. It's also done a lot for my self-esteem. But if I'm going to gear up for long-term weight loss and weight-loss maintenance, I will have to keep moving forwards into being more active in the long term.

I'm the kind of person who likes to act quickly. Sometimes I jump head-long into things just to realize they aren't right for me or won't work with me/for me. When I realized that I need to be exercising more to jump-start my weight loss, my first idea was to figure out something RIGHT NOW and start on it RIGHT AWAY.

Then I checked myself. The reason this post is entitled "Doing It the Bob Greene Way" is that in The Best Life Diet (the last diet book I read--in January--and the last one I intend to read for a long time unless I'm researching exercise), Bob says that one problem with many diets is that they have us jump into dieting in exactly the way I often respond to things (the way I have tried not to do it this time). We get really gung-ho, we go at the diet and/or exercise passionately for a short while, and then we start slipping up. We start slipping up because the diet/exercise we are doing isn't really sustainable in our lives; it's too restrictive, or too hard-core. When we slip up, we feel like we are failing, and when we feel like we are failing, we give up--either gradually or quickly. For us to create sustainable weight loss, he says, we need to ease into the process of losing weight instead of trying to jump-start it. Make a few changes, he says, and watch the weight start to come off slowly. Once you are used to those changes, make a few more. Work your way into being someone who exercises regularly. Work your way into being someone who eats meals that are high in veggies, fruits, and whole grains. Treat yourself gently and lovingly, not as someone who needs to be beaten or whipped into shape at a frenzied pace.

It works--it's just not a quick fix, and that's hard for people. But think about it: would you rather be 20 pounds lighter at the end of this year, or would you rather stay where you are now? Would you rather lose 15 pounds in three weeks, but then gain it back six months later? Would you rather be reliant on a diet or exercise plan that makes you miserable?

I sometimes think to myself that if I had lost something like 5 pounds a year from the time I was originally overweight, I would have hit my goal weight by now. Even now, I'm like, But 5 pounds?? That's tiny! And I am not suggesting that it's a huge loss. But a slow loss of 5 or 20 or 40 pounds in a year is a much better situation to be in than sitting somewhere, miserably thinking how you have failed at yet another extreme or odd diet (or how you have gained back that weight yet again).

I remember when one of my close friends was 185 pounds and trying to lose weight. I was somewhere like 215 and trying to lose weight. 185 seemed like a distant, nearly impossible dream. Now I'm the girl at 185! That is NOT a bad feeling.

My life right now is like this: I was promoted recently and am learning that job as well as taking on the stress and responsibility of being the head of my department. There are people who clearly think I should not have the position I have at 26 years of age--I don't let them stress me out, but I know they are there waiting to see what happens. I am working two jobs until I find the replacement for my previous job, which means I am juggling the paperwork, the office visits, the phone calls, the questions from homeowners, etc., that two people normally handle. I am interviewing for that previous job I held. I have worked a pretty decent number of late nights lately, and even when I get home from work at a normal time, I am completely exhausted--completely exhausted. I, who normally enjoy cooking, have come home too tired to cook or do anything day after day. I have gone to bed at 8 p.m. several nights, 9 p.m. on others--and still have felt too tired to get up to run some days, choosing instead to sleep 10 or 11 hours a night.

So is now the time to try to push myself to a new level of exercising to make sure my weight loss shoots up? No, it's not. I can--and have been trying to--be aware of what I eat on a regular basis, continuing to keep sweets in check as an occasional treat, not using enormous levels of fat in foods, not eating fried foods too often, focusing on having at least 5 fruit and veggie servings a day. In other words, I can and have been trying to maintain my current level of commitment to my health. But that's the limit of my energy when it comes to weight loss right now. I'd still like to lose weight by my birthday (a month from today), so I have changed my ticker from 10 pounds (which ain't happenin', honey) to 5 pounds. If it happens, great. If not, but I maintain or lose a bit before my birthday, I will certainly consider that a success. Sometimes maintaining your pace is an enormous success; I know that all too well from the times I've dieted and given up! . . . I know all too well that feeling of anxiety and sadness when the weight starts creeping back up and you go, "Oh, here it goes" and don't feel the energy to stop the upward change. If I maintain or lose just a bit now, I'll be doing very well. It's going against my personality to think that way, but it's true.

In a few weeks, I will have hired my replacement for my previous position. I will train her (all the final candidates are women), she will start to attend some of the evening/weekend meetings I currently attend, and my stress will ease. Some of the stress will ease in the coming month, and the rest of it should ease up some in 2-3 months. If I have to wait a month or two to gear up my exercise to a higher level and start seeing a regular drop on the scales, that is okay.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

C25K Update and a Party!

First of all: last weekend's 5k. The course was advertised as easy, but it turned out to be up the side of a mountain! (I'm not joking--my running shoes were sliding on the steep inclines.) I made it halfway before I--while very upset--gave up. But my mother, husband, and hard-core-runner sister-in-law all told me that running half of that course was an awesome accomplishment. Still, I'm ready to finish a 5k now. That will be this coming week!

I have a-whole-nother post to write about my life and stress and food and exercise lately. But before that . . .

Last night, my husband and I hosted a “Summer Harvest” party. Each guest was asked to bring a dish or drink that featured locally produced foods. I had asked Dan to take photos, but he was too busy helping me host. We all had a great time, though, eating dinner–slowly working our way through appetizers, then soup, then drinks, then the main course, then dessert–and playing a couple of rounds of Apples to Apples, a very fun party game when people get into it.

Here were our locally inspired items:

Sweetwater Road Trip (Atlanta microbrewery beer)

Mojitos with AL cane syrup (in lieu of simple syrup) and local organic mint leaves

Bruschetta with local organic tomatoes and herbs from our kitchen (windowsill) garden with French bread and Bulger Creek chevre

Sweet Grass Dairy Green Hill cheese with my mother’s triple-berry jam and whole-wheat crackers

Koinonia (South GA) cinnamon/sugar pecans

Yellow pepper soup (a pureed soup with yellow peppers, potatoes, and other ingredients I can’t remember–delicious!)–I forgot to ask my friend Becky which of her ingredients were local

Tofu quiche with local organic broccoli, tomatoes, and herbs and crust made from local buckwheat flour

Tomato/cucumber salad with local organic tomatoes and cucumbers (from the Saturday farmers' market in the town where I grew up!)

A zucchini/squash/garlic medley from my friend Melissa’s garden

Cheesecake with a raspberry sauce

And peach cobbler made with Georgia peaches and a local flour mix crust

We certainly did not feel deprived by eating locally derived foods!

Did you know that food in the US, on average, has traveled over 1500 miles to reach us? That means that the foods we buy in the grocery store have used a lot of gas, created a lot of pollution, and often have required a lot of long-term refrigeration to reach us. Locally produced vegetables and fruits are often higher in vitamin content when they reach us, their short trip times are far less polluting, and their freshness makes them taste a lot better!

If you are interested in finding local food sources near you and you are in the US, I encourage you to visit Local Harvest to check out CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) and farmers’ markets in your area.

Then you can host the next harvest party. . . .

Friday, June 22, 2007

Blah! So busy! (And local foods)

I promise I will write a real post this weekend. I have been working so hard, and I'm so tired when I'm not working. I went to bed at 8 p.m. last night and slept over 11 hours!

Back to work now, but in the meantime, here's an article about the benefits of eating local foods.

Monday, June 11, 2007

C25K--5k registration!

Back for another crazy workweek, but . . . I registered for my first 5k today! It will be next Saturday in Blairsville, GA (up in the mountains where my mother lives). I felt a little thrill registering for it!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Happy low-fat cookbook times

As a way of enjoying the season and having a bit of peace, I sat down with Julee Rosso's cookbook Great Good Food on Thursday night and Saturday morning. It might sound a bit odd to many people for me to sit down to read a cookbook for pleasure, and it's not something that I usually do except the day I first get a cookbook. But Rosso's cookbook--which is divided up by seasons and holidays--is full of anecdotes, quotations about food and the seasons, edifying blurbs about healthy eating, and lots of food/plant/kitchen-related pen drawings. It's a beautiful book, relaxing to read. It reminds me of the relationship I am trying to develop with food--a celebration of healthy, seasonal eating. Seriously, go look through it at the link I gave, and you will see what I mean.

I've made a few recipes from the cookbook but have never made the cookbook a staple. That may be changing! After looking at it on those two days recently, I decided to cook recipes out of that cookbook all week. Because I shop in the farmer's market here on Saturdays, using a cookbook that's divided by the seasons works well for me. Rosso and I don't have exactly the same produce in season at the same time--she's in MI, I'm in GA--but there's enough overlap to make our seasons and produce match up well enough. (You could also just use the index to search for the ingredient you need.) I was also intrigued by some of Rosso's ideas for healthy eating, like using what she calls her "low-fat blend" as a staple. The low-fat blend is just equal parts nonfat yogurt and nonfat cottage cheese put in a blender (not a food processor), but Rosso uses it as the low-fat basis for a variety of dressings, sauces, and recipes in her book. I wasn't at all sure I would like it--I'm not a yogurt person--but I decided to try it out anyway. The first low-fat blend recipe I made was a reduced-fat blue cheese recipe. I wanted a blue cheese recipe but did not want to drown my salad in gobs of fat. Here's what I made (altering her recipe a bit):

Reduced-Fat Blue Cheese Dressing

1/2 c. non-fat cottage cheese
1/2 c. non-fat plain yogurt
1/4 c. Roquefort or other strong blue
2 tsp. grainy dijon mustard
few grinds of salt and pepper

Blend it all together in a blender. Store in a closed jar in the fridge for up to a week.

Two tablespoons of dressing, tossed in well, was plenty in our meal-size salads (butter lettuce, onion, tomato, and cucumber with garlic toast on the side). My husband and I were both really impressed by how blue-cheesy the dressing was without being overwhelming.

Last night, preparing to take a dessert to a party tonight, I mixed together some GA-grown berries I picked up at the farmer's market yesterday morning with a bit of raspberry wine and honey. Then I put together this low-fat blend mix for a topping, per the book's suggestion:

Maple Cream

1 c. nonfat yogurt
1 c. nonfat cottage cheese
2 T. maple butter or maple syrup

Blend in blender until well-mixed. Store in a covered container in the fridge until you are ready to use it.

I was concerned the mixture would taste too yogurty for me, but I was very pleased by the only slightly tangy, sweet, rich-but-not-overwhelming combination that was so tasty my husband and I just couldn't resist trying out on the berries once I'd made it. Delicious!

This morning, we tried a third recipe for a peasant tortilla--a layer of pan-fried potatoes topped with beaten eggs and vegetables, baked until firm, and then flipped over. It was also great.

So right now, I'd say I highly recommend this cookbook.

The only caveat with it is that you do have to look at the intended serving sizes, which we find to be on the small side sometimes. Nutrition info is given, though, so it's easy to figure out the new calculations.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

What a long week this has been. Twice, I came home from work and went to bed by 8 p.m. The first night, I tried that thinking that maybe exhaustion was the real reason behind me thinking I wanted chocolate even when I wasn't hungry. I went to sleep almost immediately. . . .

Today, I am taking the day to just enjoy life and not think about work one bit. My husband and I are going to see Knocked Up now, and maybe tonight I'll actually have time to do a real post! I'm also going to make us a vegetable plate for dinner--delicious.

I've added a new ticker to my blog to count down until my birthday. My weight has been fluctuating--yet hovering around 185--since early April! It's time to move past that stage, although from a positive standpoint, I'd much rather hover around 185 than shoot back up to 200 or higher.

Off to the movie now. . . .

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Brief Update

I got the promotion.

Oh, and while my weight fluctuation is driving me a bit mad, my body fat is down 2% more.

Good times.

Back to doing 2 people's jobs now. . . .