Tuesday, February 5, 2008

cleaning out

THE CHALLENGE - I decided to do a pantry challenge/ freezer challenge just after Christmas and we're finally getting to the end of it. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept a "challenge" is where you go on a shopping 'fast' in order to clear out old supplies. The downstairs freezer was unplugged around New Years and the upstairs freezer is getting pretty empty too - maybe one more week. The cabinets are starting to look manageably sparse as well. I have been buying groceries each week, but I'm spending about 1/2 to 1/3 what I normally do and only replacing perishables that are completely consumed and a few ingredients for specific dishes.

A CHANGE OF TASTE - One of the interesting side effects of this clean out is realizing that we are no longer interested in many of the snack and convenience foods we generally keep around. It's nice to have a little here and there but we're just not 'into' it anymore. As the snack foods disappear from the cabinets I'm just NOT replacing them. I've been buying more fresh fruit and making more homemade desserts. Another bonus - this is also freeing up some mental space when it comes to planning meals, allowing me to be a bit more creative with what I make since I'm not staring at the same choices every night. I actually need to think more.

FINDING A NEW WAY - I find myself buying more and more local and organic goods. I find it interesting to observe that people will say they can't afford organic food but will fill their carts with Doritos, Oreos, etc and not even consider the irony. I find myself observing peoples purchases in the grocery store and wondering about their health and lifestyles. Generally 'poor' or 'low income' families like mine will purchase what one would expect: lots of cheap prepared foods, chemical cleaners and disposable paper goods. I wonder if I will someday be able to help them find a new way like I am.

HOLDOUTS - We are BIG soda drinkers. We don't drink coffee but my husband takes 2 16 oz bottles of soda every day for work and will drink at least 2 12 oz glasses at night as well, and he only drinks regular soda not diet! I had given up soda but like a cigarette addict I got sucked back in. I decided to 'treat' myself the week of Christmas and now I'm drinking tons and tons of it. I only drink diet but I still would like to kick it again. I went out and got a faucet mounted water filter. My children are also big milk drinkers so I've been trying to improve our dairy choices. We can't generally afford organic milk so I compromise and buy local r-BST free milk.
I do occasionally splurge and buy 'the good stuff' (as they call it). They may be young but they know the benefits of organics! I made a smooth change from regular white sugar to "raw" sugar by telling everyone it was just 'unbleached' sugar. With 4 kids I don't think I can eliminate sugar altogether.

My mantra right now is "one more week, one more week" not because I want to restock but because I can't wait to see what else I've been able to get rid of in another week!

Keeping pace

Yes - I've been gone for a week. The weather around here has been... restrictive to say the least. I was worried that I would give up altogether if I missed even one day. I ended up missing almost ALL of last week. But yesterday was decent so I got up and went for my walk. I felt miserable and achy. Oddly enough the thought of missing my walk was more painful than the thought of getting up and going. I still don't feel like I've created a habit of it yet. Perhaps in a few more weeks.
I haven't lost any weight yet (as far as I can tell), but the children broke my bathroom scales so it's hard to tell.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Creating a habit and being patient

I woke up late this morning. I laid in bed and considered going back to sleep, just not going out today. It's so cold. I absolutely HATE January. I've lived here my whole life. You would think, by now, that I would have gotten over it. I gradually decided that I just have to do it. I'm afraid if I stop now that I just won't do it again. I got halfway home this morning before I even thought about what I was doing. I guess that means this is becoming a habit. It's just part of what I do.

I think the scales are starting to waver in my favor. I don't think I've lost much weight but I'm starting to. It's only been a few days so I don't expect much yet. In the interview I heard the other day Susan Powter said that the human body can only process 2 pounds of fat per week. I'd never heard that before. I'll have to do some research to see where that comes from. I have also heard that lean muscle weighs less than fat (or is it that it has less volume?) and it's possible to convert fat to muscle. I wonder if that's into account in the statement. I've seen people lose so much weight in just a few months, not on 'fad' diets; but just by making lifestyle changes. I'd like to think I could lose a bit more than 2 pounds a week at least to begin with. I must admit I'm into the whole 'instant gratification' thing and waiting is hard!

I remember now what it was! You can lose inches without losing weight. I think I saw that on Fat March or Dr Oz on Oprah maybe. In any event... I can't stand waiting so I'm glad I'm seeing physiological changes - that should keep me satisfied for a few days until I (hopefully) see some weight loss.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

more changes

Well - walking is great. But by itself, it's not enough. I know that intuitively. I'm just working on the practicality of it.

My family eats fairly well, but we have too many 'holes' in our eating habits. We do eat out at least once a week - usually McDonalds or something like that on Friday while I'm running errands. We eat alot of organic and local foods (more than most families I think) but we also still eat alot of processed foods. I have a HUGE weakness for dairy products. If it's got cheese or sour cream in it then I'll probably eat it.I'll eat reduced fat cheese but NOT reduced fat sour cream (tastes more like cream cheese - too sweet!). I also ONLY use real butter (for flavor as well as avoiding transfats), but I use it in moderation where ever possible. We don't eat alot of cookies or pastries, or chips, or even ice cream. I have a weakness for sweets that varies by season, right now it's conversation hearts but a month ago it was York Peppermint patties. Worse yet I tend to crave them at night after dinner. The absolute worst time of the day for cravings!!

It seems everywhere you look there are different opinions of what you should and shouldn't eat. I've even seen a website dedicated to telling you that milk is a poison. I've read that drinking water is over-rated. A truly well balanced diet gets plenty of water in the foods it consumes.If you look far enough you'll find negatives to everything.

I think that it is far worse to try to live on diet foods or excessively restrictive diets. It's expensive and unsafe to completely eliminate entire categories of food. I don't buy diet books or exercise equipment. I don't have the money and if there were truly a miracle item we'd all know about it. I considered joining a gym but if I'm too lazy to get up and move at home why would I be MORE motivated to get up, dress up, drive somewhere, and exercise in front of strangers?

My general policy is common sense and moderation. Sure I'd love to kick the diet soda completely, swear off sugar, eat nothing but fruit. I think my ideal diet would consist of fresh fruit (especially berries), cheese, bread (real bread not the white airy stuff you get at the supermarket), and butter with a smattering of meat (sorry - I'm a steak lover!), but until the day I can be perfect I'll settle for common sense and moderation.

Day 4 - victories and next steps

Another cold morning. I have decided to embrace the fact that I hate this. I hate walking in the cold. I really don't care much for walking period, except for the solitude and occasional bird singing. It's actually a love/hate thing. I love the peace and quiet, the time to myself. I've always hated exercise.
I love the way I'm starting to feel. My body is starting to respond in ways I had not expected. The constant ache is going away. I'm not tired anymore. I wake up earlier in the morning and I feel more rested. I have alot more energy during the day. I've been pretty out of shape (weight aside) these past few weeks... probably even longer than that. My body hasn't wanted to move (i.e. flex). My arms didn't move well. I couldn't bend and reach well. Standing up was starting to be a bit of an ordeal (just a little). It reminded me of watching my grandmother get up. I'd brace myself against a wall or the back of the couch and try to lift with my arms but they had no strength.

I started all this (walking) because I've started noticing that I have to move out of my own way sometimes, lifting and tucking rolls of fat so I could get in certain positions. I just started thinking "Well that's not good!". I've never been uncomfortable being overweight - it's just a part of who I am. I'm not into the whole self loathing thing.

Yesterday I mentioned the ache. My body always aches, at least a little; in the knees, calves, back. Those seem to be going away along with the initial ache of starting to exercise. I had expected just the opposite, more aches and pains, more tired from more exertion; but that's not the case. I heard a bit of an interview with Susan Powter yesterday (I didn't even know she was still 'around' [i.e. in the public eye]) and she said something that really stuck with me. I can't remember how she put it but basically she said that inactivity begets inactivity and activity begets activity. Meaning that if you don't move you tend to be more tired but if you DO move you get more energetic. I would never have guessed that in a million years. I think that's a BIG point that's not emphasized enough in the diet/health/fitness world. As an overweight, out of shape person I spent alot of time trying to conserve the little bit of energy I did have for important stuff like managing my home and children. If I had realized 10 years ago that just a tiny change like a 10-15 minute walk could have such a HUGE effect I would have done it then! That's another thing that's been on my mind. Most people who talk about getting into shape really emphasize the 20-30 minutes 3-5 days a week. I think that's a great goal but it should be emphasized as a goal. I think people hear that and think - I can't do that much so I just won't bother. We need to emphasize small changes and celebrate the small victories. For someone like me a 10-15 minute walk is great and will show immediate gains. Yes - more would be better, but for now what I'm doing is great and I'm getting ahead. I'm already starting to look for new landmarks that I can progress to. Today I didn't even notice the mailboxes as I walked. I didn't even look up til I was past the corner.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


January 20, 2008
I’m going for a walk. My husband keeps saying to the kids “As soon as (Sports - basketball, soccer, etc) is over we’re going to start walking. All of us.”… “As soon as the snow is gone, we’re ALL going to start walking.” It’s always later. Why not now? There will always be something in the way. We have four children. There will always be something. I use to think “Oh, I’m pregnant, it’s too hard. Once I have the baby, then I’ll walk”. There’s always something.
We have to be at church at 8 this morning. I still have to get all the children up, moving, dressed, fed. I only have an hour and a half to do it all. There’s no time for a walk today. I need a shower. My son didn’t finish the dishes and he forgot to wash the stove. There are 4 loads of laundry to fold. It’s Sunday, didn’t God tell us to rest today? Why am I doing this? I don’t have time and really, what sort of difference will it make in my day. I’m just going to be tired, cold and achy. I don’t want to do this.
I guess I could at least go to the neighbors mailbox, it’s not that far, then I could just turn back. At least that’s better than nothing. Well it’s just a bit farther to the turn, I’ll go there and decide then. Another mailbox, just a few more feet - really - I’m already out here so I’ll do it. I can see the end of the road. I think I’ll go for it. It’s uphill a bit and my legs ache but I’m almost there. Do I want to stop at the mailbox or go another 6 feet to the tree on the corner? The tree, I think. It’s tall and old. It can help me bear this burden. I pause and look at it - I honestly don’t know if it’s an oak, maple, elm. It’s my silent witness. In the cold gray still of a frigid January morning it is my solitary ‘fan’ standing there waiting for me to cross it‘s path. I consider unloading my burdens there, just considering is enough, they fly away like a flock of birds in the autumn sky. I’m so glad, I’m not sure my companion could bear all my pain, sorrow, frustration.

January 21, 2008
A subzero morning. I really don’t want to do this. I have to take my husband to work. I’m outside anyway. My better thinking tells me it’s much too cold to be outside. Even a dedicated athlete might reconsider going out today. I drop him at work and come home. I sit in the van for a few minutes listening to the radio. I finally decide to get out. As my feet hit the ground they decide for me. Of course I’ll walk. This is only day two. If I don’t go today I might just quit. I know it’s freezing but I set my bag on the front step and head out. First mailbox, corner, second mailbox… I look up. The corner seems so far but the wind is at my back. I decide I should zip my coat but find that I can’t. So I tuck my hands into my sleeves wrapping myself against the cold. I reach the corner and start to feel a bit dizzy. Maybe I’ve tried too hard. Maybe I should have turned before or not gone at all. Maybe this isn’t safe. As I head into the wind I watch as ice begins to form on the hair on my cheeks. It’s colder that I had thought and now the wind is in my face. Not a strong Nor’easter but just the breeze. On a subzero morning it might as well be a billowing wind. What will I do when the next storm comes, as they inevitably do? What if they don’t plow my road til later? I can’t walk in a foot of snow. My legs ache and I observe my footprints in the snow as I walk past them. I’m not even picking my feet up far enough to come completely out of the dusting of snow on the road. Each footprint is followed by a ‘tail’ where my foot didn’t quite get above then snow. It seems like I’m taking normal strides so why do they look like that? I guess I’ll worry about that some other time. I’m walking and that’s enough.

January 22,2008
I walk… It’s freezing outside and I walk. Because I can’t afford the gym, I walk. I weigh 300 pounds so I walk. I hate to walk, but I can, so I do. My body aches, but it’s a different kind of ache. I used to think “I’m so out of shape. My body can’t take this.” So I wouldn’t do it. I was afraid my heart or joints couldn’t take it. But the ache I feel now… it’s an able ache. It’s my muscles screaming out “I CAN do this. Please let me do this”, like a screaming fan at a football game whose voice is so raw they can barely scream anymore - but they do - for the pure joy of it. I walk because I am able, and that is a joy.