My Food Rules

Discovering the path the health by creating my own rules

Archive for the tag “Reflection”

Weekly Weigh-In: Chaos!

If you’ve been following my blog, you may have realized that I didn’t write a post last week about my weekly weigh-in.  I did weigh myself, I just didn’t have time to actually write the post, so this week is going to be a two-for-one.  Last week I weighed-in at 143.  Not a complete shock that there was a bit of a gain after a 4-pound weight-loss the week prior that didn’t really make sense to me.  This week I expected it to be about the same – I had indulged a little more than necessary and exercised my heart out, which usually equals no gain/no loss.  But when I weighed in yesterday, the scale read 146.6.  WTF!?!?  How is it possible that I gained 5 pounds in two weeks?  Just for the sake of curiosity, I weighed myself this morning and today I am 144.4.  Clearly my body has absolutely no idea what it’s doing.

I’m not going to lie.  This roller coaster has left me frustrated, annoyed, and with an “I don’t care” attitude – a very dangerous place for me to be.  Case in point: Today I brought a very healthy chicken quinoa stir fry to work for lunch.  Did I eat it?  No.  Instead I chose to buy a turkey and brie toasted sandwich.  And then my colleague brought in a flourless chocolate cake from a French bakery and I had a piece of that, too!  (Let’s be honest.  The cake was amazing and I would have eaten it regardless of my current attitude.  But a small piece of chocolate cake sandwiched into a day of eating excellently isn’t too bad.  But when followed by a lunch that included brie, it is no good.)

I need to get myself out of this funk.  I’ve lost somewhere between 6 and 11 pounds.  I don’t want to go back to a loss of zero pounds, which is what will happen if I continue to eat like I did today.  I can’t control the number on the scale, but I can control what I eat and how I exercise.  I know the decisions I made today were not healthy.  I also know that eating well will lead to overall good health, a long-life (and more importantly, a high quality of life!), feeling great, sleeping well, and being able to hike up mountains – regardless of what the scale says.  I need to continue to track my calories because that is my accountability right now (I even tracked today, with some guesses on the calories in the sandwich and cake), but before eating I also need to ask myself: Will this make me feel good?  If the answer is no – whether it be a piece of chocolate cake or one too many celery sticks (gurgle, gurgle) – then I shouldn’t eat it.  Easier said than done, I know, but I think it’s a good filter.  For the next week I commit to asking myself that question before putting anything in mouth.  If nothing else, I think it will cause me to become more mindful that I am actually making a decision when I eat.  I’m not just eating a cracker because I’m passing by the jar in the kitchen at work.  I’m not consuming chocolate just because a co-worker bought some to share.  I will pause, ask myself if the food will make me feel good, and then I will proceed.  Conscious.  I’ll report back next week on how it goes!


Weekly Weigh-In: Entering a Whole New Territory

This is how I feel writing this blog post today:


That’s me in February on top of Mount Amos overlooking Wineglass Bay in Tasmania.  The view was, without a doubt, one of the best of my life.  It was a short, but challenging hike to arrive at the top – we literally climbed on our hands and knees in sections to scramble straight up the rock face (and then had to butt-scoot back down!).  But it was worth every step for that view.

And so goes my weigh-in today.  141.6 pounds!  Not only is that a 4-pound loss from last week, but I can officially say I have never been this thin in my entire life.  That’s right – the last time I weighed 141 pounds I was 12-years-old and an inch or two shorter than I am today.   It’s a whole new territory and I don’t know what to expect.  I think that most people who have gained weight have an idea in their mind of a time they were comfortable with their weight and a specific number where they felt good about their bodies.  I have no such anchor, no number that I am striving towards on the scale.  I’m just meandering along, waiting to see how my body changes and at what point I feel good and want to stop.  I know that I’m not there yet, but that end point feels within reach like it never has before.

I think it’s worthwhile to stop for a moment and reflect upon what has changed to supercharge my weight loss.  First, I need to point out that I don’t expect this rapid weight loss to continue.  In fact, if I lose no weight next week I wouldn’t even be frustrated.  For some reason my body is shedding weight right now and I will ride the wave as long as possible, but I know that it will inevitably slow down or even plateau before I hit whatever my goal weight will be.  But there have been significant changes in my behaviors in the last few weeks:

  1. Tracking: As I mentioned in my last post, I started tracking my food intake on My Fitness Pal.  Honesty in, results out.
  2. Choosing Veg: I have been eating beans instead of meat.  I made Mexican lasagna on Sunday with pumpkin and black beans instead of beef (recipe to be posted soon!).  I am eating salads with lentils instead of chicken.  I often start my day with eggs, refried beans, and salsa.  250 calories and it packs such a punch of protein and fiber that I don’t need to eat for hours!  I have read that beans keep your blood sugar steady and I find it amazing how slowly I get hungry when I eat a lot of legumes.  The hunger comes on gradually over many hours.  I’ll notice a twinge and an hour later be only slightly hungrier.  Compare that to before when hunger attacked!   I also simply feel lighter when I consume a large amount of beans, veggies, fruits, and yogurt.  Yes, it does take a bit for the digestive system to get used to that much fiber and I definitely wouldn’t recommend incorporating beans into every meal overnight, but my system adjusted quickly and now my body is happy.  Aside from losing weight, feeling good day-to-day is its own reward.
  3. Strength Training: Six weeks ago I met with a personal trainer to redesign my weight routine.  I had been doing the same thing for months and my body wasn’t challenged anymore.  She gave me a quick routine and each exercise works multiple muscle groups.  It only takes 20 minutes and by the end I am dripping with sweat and I can feel every single muscle I have worked.  Because my heart rate stays high, I am getting cardio at the same time as strength.  Not only is this good for immediate calorie burning, but I believe that I am starting to get the long-term calorie burning effects of having more muscle.  I am burning more calories all day long!

Biggest Loser Reflections

On Tuesday night the finale of The Biggest Loser Australia aired. During the finale the network showed clips of the contestants from their video auditions and their first days at the Biggest Loser house.  It was amazing to compare the contestants from the beginning of the show to the end – and not just in the shape of their bodies.  At the beginning most of the contestants looked down while speaking in front of a group.  Their shoulders drooped and their eyes were full of sadness.  In the finale the contestants walked confidently on the stage with strength in their hearts that was visible through the shine in their eyes.  They had looked inside of themselves and pushed forward from a place they didn’t know existed.  They had taken on the biggest challenge of their lives and succeeded.  Who knows what might be next?

I always get emotional watching these shows because it brings me right back to where the contestants are standing.  Since I started this blog I have lost seven pounds.  But since my highest weight I have lost 59 pounds.  I was nearly the size of some of the Biggest Loser contestants.  It has been 11 years since I topped the scales at my highest weight, but I remember the feeling of being obese like it was yesterday.  The feeling of being judged by others for my size, but even more so, judging myself for allowing myself to become so overweight.  Wanting more than anything to lose weight but feeling completely out of control with no idea how to get on track.

I have physically moved one, but there are still times I have to remind myself that I’m not the fat girl anymore.  More than once I have compared myself to a friend and believed that I was much bigger than her only to find out that we were exactly the same size.   When a guy glances in my direction, I have to tell myself that he might be looking at me – not searching past me for the prettier girl that just walked in the door.

I am improving and this recent weight loss is helping.  For eight years I teetered on an unhealthy weight and now I am finally normal.  But I know that it’s a mental game more than a physical one.  Seeing the number on the scale and logically knowing that I’m a healthy weight is different from truly feeling thin and beautiful.  It’s a continuous journey and for me, that journey will probably never end.  So today I am grateful for the journey and content to be moving forward.

Weekly Weigh-In: Back on Track!

You may have noticed that I did not write a weekly weigh-in post last week.  After having a minor cold for about 5 weeks, everything took a turn for the worse and I ended up at the doctor with prescriptions for a dual-antibiotic mix and an inhaled steroid.  Lovely.  For five days life was limited to working, sleeping, and eating.  No staying up past my bedtime to write the latest post – I needed to get better!  Working out became walking to and from work (still 80 minutes of activity a day) instead of walking to walk in the morning and then going to the gym for hard exercise in the evening.  I’m still not at 100%, but each day I feel better and I’m starting to realize how much that ongoing cold was dragging me down.  I have more energy, I’m happier, and my workout today had punch!  I was only on the stationary bike and treadmill, but I was gritting and pushing it and loving every second!

I’m also happy to announce that my weight this week is 145.6 pounds.  Yeah!  That is a total loss of 7 pounds since I started My Food Rules at the beginning of April.  I feel like I am back on track.  I’m experimenting with different foods, eating more vegetarian meals, and my cravings for chocolate and bread have decreased.  I also started tracking my food intake again.  After years of Weight Watchers I was tired of tracking, but following my last blog post about the frustration of working hard and not losing any weight, a friend emailed me with a suggested weight-loss program to try.  While I don’t want to do the exact program he recommended, one thing he wrote struck a chord with me – the program determines how many calories you should eat based on your activity, height, etc.  You eat those calories and then exercise to burn more, go into calorie deficit and lose fat.  Simple, yes, but it made me realize that I was probably consuming more calories than I realized.  I started tracking my food on My Fitness Pal on Saturday and have been eating between 1200-1600 calories per day, depending on exercise and hunger levels.  Let me tell you – for me to feel satisfied on that number of calories takes some planning!  There’s no room for chocolate because I need those calories to feel full!  I know that I won’t track forever, but right now it is bringing me greater awareness to my behaviors.  We can only change once we see and understand the obstacles in our way and tracking is one tool to helping me to move past the obstacles towards my goals.

I’m looking forward to the week ahead.  I hope you have a great week as well!

Weekly Weigh-In: Finding Success Without Results

I want to lie and tell you that I had a great week at the scale, but the truth is I’m annoyed.  I followed through on my action plan and I went 5 entire working days chocolate free – a major feat with a stash readily available less than 15 feet from my desk.  I ate carrots, apples, yogurt, and popcorn for snacks.  I ate my one meal of indulgence and it wasn’t even all that indulgent.  After a 4-hour hike on Sunday, my hiking partners and I went to a café.  Carrot cake, hot chocolate, a blueberry muffin, and a chocolate muffin were all ordered.  I had a peppermint tea.  I worked hard and I was happy with my decisions.  This is why it was so frustrating to get on the scale and see a downward movement of only .2 pounds.  There is a part of me that wonders why I put in so much effort for virtually no result.  If I’m not going to lose weight anyway, why not eat chocolate?

But I have to ask myself – is this only about what is on the scale?  Before getting on the scale on Tuesday morning, I was pleased with the week.  I made healthy choices.  I ate fruits and veggies, worked out 6 days, walked to work 4 days, and enjoyed a walk by the bay and a hike to a waterfall on what may have been the last warm weekend of the autumn.  Isn’t this success?

Over a year ago I bought a pair of pants at The Limited.  The store clerk convinced me that they were the right size.  Although they did fit well in the legs, the muffin top that ensued was both unsightly and uncomfortable.  I can now wear those pants and a tight shirt with comfort, ease, and no visible muffin top.  Isn’t this success?

I was on the elliptical trainer last week and in my reflection I could see my biceps flex with each pull of the arm handles.  These biceps didn’t exist six months ago before I started my weight-training program.  Isn’t this success?

Today I find success in the small achievements.  I’m still frustrated that the number on the scale didn’t move, but I will get over it.  If it continues to stay put, I will reassess my goals.  But for now, all I can do is make decisions every day to become the best, healthiest version of myself that I can be, no matter what the scales tells me.

Ask Yourself: What Are Your Trigger Foods?

There are decadent foods that I can eat, enjoy, and then move on without wanting more.  Cheese falls into this category.  I buy small quantities of great cheese at the market, savor it in tastes, and rarely overeat.

And then there are foods where one taste is like opening the flood gates.  Eating a single slice of banana bread with fruit or an egg for breakfast would be reasonable.  But put a loaf of banana bread in front of me and it will be nearly impossible for me to stop at just one piece.

These triggers food can put a serious damper on weight loss efforts.  No matter how well we eat 95% of the time, if that other 5% is spent binging on hoards of food it’s going to be hard to meet weight loss goals.  Here are a few questions to ask yourself to identify and manage your trigger foods:

1.  What foods do you consistently overeat?

My trigger foods are white and fruit breads (wholegrain is fine), milk chocolate, homemade cookies, sweet cereals, ice cream, and corn chips (particularly the lime chips – my god, they are good).   For you they might be Doritos, gummy worms, pretzels, or peanut butter.  They don’t necessarily have to be foods that are bad for you in reasonable quantities.  The goal is to identify the foods that cause you to lose control over your portions, eat more than you planned, and derail your goals.

2. What are your gateway foods?

I love wine.  To me, a great meal is not complete without a glass of red wine.   Turkey and stuffing without Beaujolais Nouveau and it wouldn’t really be Thanksgiving.  While I don’t usually over consume the wine itself, I know that when I’ve had a glass or two of wine, I am more likely to munch on other foods I don’t need.  I’ll find myself eating the leftover slice of bread while cleaning up after the dinner party is finished or running down the street to buy ice cream for dessert.  This is one of several reasons that I no longer consume a glass of wine with dinner every night.  I absolutely still drink wine, just not daily.  Does this happen to you when you consume any foods or beverages?

3.  How can you enjoy your trigger foods without overeating?

This is the third time in this single blog post that I have written about bread.  That gives you an idea of how much I love it.  Particularly toasted in the oven and dipped in olive oil.  My mouth is watering just typing that sentence!  But having an entire loaf of crusty, gushy, fresh bread in the house is a recipe for disaster.  I’m definitely not ready to give up bread, though, so I have learned that I need purchase it in small quantities – one dinner roll from the bakery or a demi-baguette from the grocery store.  When the dinner roll is gone there isn’t an option to eat more – perfect portion control and I still get to enjoy!

Identifying and learning to manage my trigger foods has helped me immensely in becoming healthier and moving towards my weigh loss goals.  I hope it helps you, too!

Weekly Weigh-In: The Chocolate Onslaught Continues…

It’s probably not a surprise reading the headline of my post to know that I haven’t lost any weight this week.  Same old, same old at 148.4.  At this point I have to ask myself: Do I really want to change?  The answer, definitively, is yes.  My yearning to be at a healthier weight where I look and feel good is no less than when I created My Food Rules.  But clearly something needs to change to get there or I will be stuck here, forever writing Tuesday after Tuesday about how I want more, but never actually seeing the results of that desire.   I am a person of action, so I created a plan of attack.  This is what I am going to do:

  1. Buy a bag of apples to put on the chocolate table in my office.  Without a healthy option readily available, my two choices were chocolate or nothing.  Now the choice is chocolate or apple.  Yes, I realize the chocolate will still be tempting, but I think the constant visual of the fruit will help me make the right decision.
  2. Refresh My Food Rules and update My List of go-to meals (Here’s a link to read My Food Rules:  I have been having a great time experimenting with different recipes and even creating some of my own recipes for the first time in my life.  This is a good thing for me – I love variety and if I eat the same thing day after day I will get bored and stray from healthy choices.   But the whole purpose of having The List is to know how I should plan my meals.  By straying from The List, I have given myself permission to break My Rules.   And since I’ve already broken them once, why not again?
  3. Bring a ton of healthy snack options to work.  It doesn’t matter if I don’t eat everything I bring each day.  Fruits, veggies, and yogurt will always last until tomorrow.

There it is.  This week I will do my utmost to make healthy options available to me at all times.  I will re-commit myself to My Rules because I know that they work – I just need to follow them and the results will happen.

Ask Yourself: When you do feel bad?

I usually like to focus on the positive, but when it comes to food, I think it’s equally important to examine what makes you feel bad in addition to when you feel your best.  Thinking back on the last month of eating, when have you felt low-energy after a meal?  When has your sleep been interrupted?  When have you just felt blah? My trends are pretty easy to pinpoint – overconsumption of sugar and refined flour are the biggest culprits.  Alcohol is another, particularly wine.  If I don’t consume any alcohol, I nearly always sleep through the night.  With even one glass of wine at night that percentage plummets.   More than a glass and I wake up dehydrated and with acid reflux.  It’s awesome.  I love wine and sometimes decide it is worth the side effects, but I have stopped drinking a glass of wine with dinner on a nightly basis.

Now back to the sugar and flour.  Hot cross buns are a traditional Easter treat in Australia.  Being American, this was a new food to me (if you would have asked me two months ago, I would have told you that Hot Cross Buns was the first song I learned to play on my recorder in fifth grade!) and I wanted to taste – and taste I did.  Hot cross buns are sweet cinnamon and raisin doughy goodness that only improves when toasted and covered in butter.   Hot chocolate chip buns with Nutella aren’t bad either.  This wasn’t just a one-day affair – hot cross buns showed up at work every day the week preceding Easter.  Oh’ and there were chocolate eggs daily as well.  By the end of the week I felt like I needed to go on a vegetable juice fast to rid my bod of the hot cross buns and Cadbury chocolate toxins.

When do you feel this way?  Choose to eat these foods sparingly and try to remember the motivation to feel your best when saying no.  It’s not easy and I am still working on making the right choices, but I’m always rewarded when I do!

Ask Yourself: When do you feel your best?

I originally created My List of meals and snacks to have a quick reference of healthy meals so that when I didn’t have time to think about what I was cooking for dinner I had a menu full of healthy choices.  Deciding what made it on The List and what might be better saved for a meal of indulgence was somewhat about fat, fiber, and protein, but it was even more about what foods make me feel good and what I find satisfying – and delicious!

I know that I need some protein at every meal otherwise I will go off the deep end with carbs.  But I also know that a high-protein diet, particularly one high in meat, leaves me feeling blah.  Legumes are a wonderful thing for me – high in protein and fiber, but not so much roughage to mess with the digestive system.  Fruits or veggies are a must at every meal.  I often modify my recipes to include more vegetables – for example, soup might call for onions, carrots and celery and I will add swiss chard, zucchini, and red peppers to the mix.  I also know that I need to feel full from each meal so that I’m not reaching for a snack 30 minutes after I’m finished eating.

Keeping this in mind, I started to create My List.  Breakfast is often oatmeal with cinnamon, blueberries, banana, and walnuts or scrambled eggs with fruit.  Some of my favorites for dinner are Moroccan spiced tomato stew with chickpeas and lamb meatballs, chicken stuffed with spinach and feta, roasted vegetables with chicken koftas (bought from my local market), and chana masala.  These take a fair amount of time and work, so I also have salad with grilled chicken, soup, and veggie burgers on my dinner list.  Lunch is usually leftovers from dinner the previous night.  Snacks include plain yogurt with fruit, hard-boiled eggs, and veggies with hummus.  Eating these foods keeps me going, makes me feel good, and most importantly, I look forward to eating them!

What are you eating when you feel your best?  When do you have the most energy?  Feel the most satisfied?   Use your answers to create your own list of meals or perhaps to start discovering your food rules.

Ask Yourself: What is your motivation?

I’m a firm believer that before embarking on any purposeful life change, we should take a moment (or more) to think about the driver behind the change.  For weight loss, the initial motivator is often an event.  Are you in an upcoming wedding?  Do you have a class reunion this summer?  Sometimes the motivator is an immediate reaction to unpleasant news, like getting your cholesterol levels back from the doctor.  While these are good initial motivators to lose weight, I urge you to dig deeper.  What do you really want?  From this perspective you may be able to define how your eating positively impacts your life, creating long-term motivation for change.

A few years ago I went to the North Shore of Lake Superior with a few friends for a weekend of outdoors, relaxation, and socializing.  One afternoon we decided to hike to a nearby vista overlooking Lake Superior.  It was 3 miles round trip with a gradual incline the entire way to the overlook.  Most of us were healthy and regular exercisers and had no problems with the hike.  One of my friends, however, was significantly overweight and did not exercise.  He made it to the top, but it wasn’t easy.   That evening at dinner we were talking about our highlights of the weekend.  My friend stated that his highlight was completing the hike because he really wasn’t sure if he was going to make it.  I was simultaneously floored with feelings of pride in him for overcoming the challenge and the fearful thought “I never want that to be me”.  This is my motivation for getting and staying healthy.  I want to be able to hike to the peaks of mountains on vacation, take long bike rides on the weekends, and keep up with my nephew when he visits.  This is a motivation that doesn’t come and go with seasons or events.  It is life-long.

What is your motivation?

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