Friday, March 28, 2008

I need to read my blog...

Very recently, I touted the virtues of logging food consumption in Write What You Bite. I should have reread that yesterday.

As much as I'm a free spirit wannabe, the truth is that structure really helps me a lot. I did fine at work yesterday, eating my planned foods (despite the presence of cookies in the conference room) and was successful in writing every last thing I ate in the little blue notebook that I keep for that purpose .

The glitch? When I left for the day, I forgot my little notebook in my office. I could have gone back for it or started a new log when I got home, but I didn't do either. I figured I would be fine. BIG MISTAKE. My amnesia eating reared it's butt-ugly head. I raided my Easter basket on several occasions, ordered a pizza (while I did eat three pieces, I didn't scarf the whole thing down), I had two pieces of cranberry bread and ate two handfuls of Sun Chips. Yikes!

That was yesterday and I can't change what happened. I'm back to planning and writing and I will remember my book today. If I don't, I'll just have to write all my food in blood on the refrigerator door. That should be pretty memorable.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Rising to a New Challenge

Recently when I take a walk I've felt this strange urge to go faster. I felt like my body wasn't getting enough out of walking. I thought this was odd because for the last year walking has been my only mode of exercising and I couldn't imagine doing anything else.

Recently, I decided to listen to my body. Why not? It tells me when I'm hungry and tired and thirsty. Why shouldn't it tell me when I'm ready to kick up the intensity of my exercise. I jogged for about a minute and was surprised that my legs didn't fall off, but I stopped because jogging/running have always seemed like an activity for hard bodied fitness gurus who came together in a tight community flying above me.

Last week, I decided to lay that aside and try to run the dreaded mile which has given me nightmares since high school. I figured that when I started trying to lose weight and get fit last year even walking short distances seemed impossible, so why not try.

I got all suited up in appropriately warm clothes and drove to the park so that I could make the five laps around the pond that would add up to a mile. I know my endurance is zero right now, so I planned to divide each lap into half walking and half jogging.

I felt like I could have jogged the whole first lap, but I held back so I could go the distance. The result? The first two laps were easy, the third was tough, and by the end I was making strange animal sounds and felt like I was going to toss my cookies all over the trail.

BUT I MADE IT!!! It took me around 14 minutes (I don't have a timing device that measures in anything but minutes). I know 14 mins sounds pathetic to anyone in reasonably good shape, but I never would have dreamed I could do it even 30 pounds ago.I felt so alive and excited when I was done. I've gone back twice since then and have ordered an inexpensive stop watch from Amazon so I can track my efforts.

It's given me hope for how far I can progress.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Write what you bite: The virtues of accountability

I can remember all the lyrics to the David the Gnome theme song. It's been almost ten years since I studied German, but the dative pronouns are burned into my brain and I'll never be able to shake the memory of the day I got my high heel caught in a rip in my pants cuff and did a spectacular faceplant directly at Mr. Lovely's feet.

So why is it that I have food amnesia? Did I have one cookie or twelve? Did I eat just a handful of peanuts or did I scarf down half the can? Not that I'm that drifty, but I'll be eating something one minute and....oh...what was I saying?

It's not intentional, but I do suppose that there are probably so many powerful psychological forces at work here that Freud would giggle with delight. Am I repressing memories of my overeating? Or is it just that eating has become so automatic for me that I don't even think about it anymore? I'm leaning towards the auto pilot explanation.

I brainstormed a few solutions. I considered wearing one of those shock collars that would give me a jolt every time I shoveled food into my face. I also thought about paying someone to monitor my behavior and give me a slap every time I started grazing. However, these options seemed a little masochistic and probably a bit pricey. Instead, I've decided to write down every last thing I eat.

The result? Even though no one else sees my food log, knowing that I have to record everything I eat makes me consider my choices more carefully. My biggest difficulty has always been my nightly snacking/bingeing. Now, being able to look back and see how much I've eaten all day helps me to determine what I can still afford to munch on.

I know, I know. This isn't really a fresh concept, but it takes me awhile to decide whether I want to make something my own. I also know that some people will find this obsessive, but for me it is quite effective.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Food's my cocaine: Can food be an addiction?

I once had a very candid discussion with an aquaintance who was very open about her status as a recovering alcoholic and drug addict. She told me she had struggled with her weight for most of her life and that she actually found it easier to give quit doing drugs, drinking and smoking than to control her eating. Her logic was simple: For the rest of her life, she never again has to set foot in a bar or take a drag on a cigarette, but she must eat several times a day.

Can food be as true an addiction as alchol or drugs? There does seem to be some validity to this claim. I'm by no means trying to diminish the accomplishments of recovering alcoholics, but my friend had a good point. To live a healthy life, I can't just stop eating, I must learn to eat in moderation and to make good choices every day.

That should be easy enough, but sometimes it doesn't even seem possible. That's because for some people, myself included, food is more about emotion than nourishment. When I'm frustrated or unhappy or nervous I go straight for the cookies. I've spent a lot of time educating myself about what I should and shouldn't eat. I've gone to a dietician and read widely on the subject, but it seems like all of that falls away when I'm given a piece of cake--that is until I've finished and feel overwhelmed by remorse.

That means that everyday I need to search for support and be constantly mindful. It may never be easy for me, but my motivation is solid and I know that I'll get there eventually.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

For the Love of Exercise

Exercise and I never got along. My unpleasant experiences with physical activity began very early on in the overweight child's fear factory: gym class. As a grade schooler, I could never quite keep up so the other children hated to have me on their team and the gym teacher openly belittled me.

The situation didn't improve in high school. Go ahead, just say the words "the mile run" and I break out in a cold sweat and get a lurching sensation in my stomach. An "A" student in everything else, I ended up just passing gym every quarter.

In college I at least got to pick my poison. I chose non-activity physical education course such as CPR to fulfill my requirement. I tried to schedule my classes so I wouldn't have to walk across campus for my courses. I was afraid to even try to exercise.

Then, I was diagnosed with pre-diabetes. My doctor told me that unless I started exercising to increase my insulin sensitivity, I could expect to become diabetic in the next couple of years. I had to exercise not because someone was standing there screaming at me, but because it was what was good and necessary for my body.

I bought a good pedometer (I highly recommend the Omron HJ-112) and measured my base line of activity. I discovered that on most days I was taking between 2,000 and 3,000 steps. I did some research and was not surprised to discover that I was considered sedentary. I read that while individuals should try to make gradual changes, those who take around 10,000 steps a day are considered active.

So over last summer, I set my sights on 10,000 steps. Nearly every day, I made it a priority to walk twice a day for about 60 minutes at a time. I loathed it at first. It was torture. It was hot and I got sweaty and tired and sore, but I was extremely motivated by fear for my health.

But around July something wonderful happened--I began craving my walks and day dreaming about being out in the air, stretching my legs in the park. It became the most enjoyable part of my day. I had often heard tale of mythical people who enjoyed exercise, but I never imagined that they could be real or that I would ever join their ranks.

Today, I'm still fairly out of shape, but activity has become more a way of life than something I do for 60 minutes a day. I still focus on getting my extended walks in, but I find myself always taking the stairs, parking further away and moving around more.

It didn't happen all at once and I didn't notice it happening. Somehow it did. I found myself jogging across an intersection, keeping up on walks with physically fit co-workers and dancing in my living room. I have even started attending a yoga class before work--not because I was required to and not because I thought I would burn a lot of calories doing it--but because I knew it would be good for my body and I thought it would be FUN!

I did this. I made and sustained an enormous change in my life and I reap the benefits everyday and in case you're wondering, you can too. You may not enjoy it at first; you may hate it so much that it makes you cry, but trust me that the return you'll get makes the struggle worthwhile.