What Have I Learned

I’ve been on diets since I was 10 years old and I know a lot of tips and tricks; the problem has been applying them and staying motivated. So I’m really surprised and pleased that my first two weeks on the program I selected have resulted in weight loss, increased movement, and behavior change. Just as promised, I’m learning things, or learning to apply what I already know. So what have I learned?

Food needs to be measured and weighed. Not forever, but while I’m reminding myself of portion sizes, I have a new food scale sitting on the counter next to a set of brightly colored measuring cups. Using them isn’t hard when I don’t have to hunt. A bowl of yummy cherry tomatoes sitting there makes it easier to snack on something healthy.

My breakfast needs to be bigger. Not eating enough is why I’m hungry all morning – duh, that makes perfect sense but somehow I hadn’t computed how to deal with not wanting to eat breakfast at 6:30am. But I think I’ve figured out a few options in trying to front-load the food, calories, and protein so the day gets off to a better start. I’ve started either making scrambled eggs with 1/4 cup shredded cheese and herbs with salsa to eat before I leave home, or having a cup of oatmeal made with milk and fruit. Then I have my usual Fage 2% yogurt with fresh fruit for “Second Breakfast” at work. Lots of protein and more energy, and I stave off the hangries until lunch.

I’m moving more. Well, this isn’t hard when I’m coming from being an armchair slug. My program has a pedometer to count my steps. While I’m a long way from 10K/day (although I did have a day of almost 7K), it’s better than it was, and I have more stamina already. I’ve set a reward for myself of going to First Monday in Canton in April, something I’ve always wanted to do but avoided because it’s so much walking. After April it will be too hot. I want to get regular walking into my day before I ramp up to adding exercise at the gym – but I do belong to one.

I gave up coffee. I only really liked it when it was doctored up with flavored creamer and sweetner; now I’m drinking tea and Diet Coke. Yes, I know too much diet soda is Bad and have a plan for moving away from this. I did it before, when I was preparing for lapband, and I know it can work again. But making a zillion changes at one time means that something will fall through a crack. So I’m being realistic.

I bought a new Ninja Foodi Grill to help me with meals. I need to eat more fish, especially salmon and tilapia, but I hate cooking it. But grilleed and air fried from frozen would taste yummy and vary up the flavors. I’m looking at recipes and researching foods to add variety and be sure that I’m maximizing protein as I put my meals together.

What am I eating? Real food: Oatmeal. Eggs. Yogurt. Fresh fruit, especially clementines and grapes. Broccoli (lots of broccoli). Sweet potatoes. Cheese. Vegetable soup. Pork. Chicken. Lean beef. Cherry tomatoes. Lettuce. Carrots. Hummus. Most low fat, low carb, low calorie food also has no taste, so it’s not satisfying and I eat more of it trying to make it taste better, which it never does. So I’m not going there with some exceptions such as milk and yogurt, which I simply cannot consume as full-fat without gagging, and my choice of “table butter” used sparingly on sweet potatoes and sometimes veggies. Very little bread enters my house but I have a recipe for 2-ingredient bagels that I want to try. Very little processed foods, though I do like some frozen pre-packaged entrees.

Is it working? Yes. I’ve lost 15 lbs in the first 16 days on the program. I know that’s not a pace that can be sustained, but it really got me off to a great start with a sense of accomplishment – and with a heightened awareness of how much junk I’ve been stuffing in my face. I’m not very hungry, my food is balanced, and I have more energy.

Do I have a goal? Yes, but I’m not telling you. It’s realistic, though and something that I am confident that I can maintain. There is no universe in which I will ever be skinny, but that’s not what I want. I want to be healthy, and I can do it.

Fitness Assessment: Pitiful

Chubby LadiesI followed through on my promise to go to the fitness assessment. In a word (my word, not theirs), it’s pitiful. But it was objective and they were kind. I already know I’m fat and completely out of shape. My balance is off and my strength is minimal. Before I moved, I walked a lot to/from parking lots, out to lunch, off to meetings, up and down stairs. But now … well, now, that doesn’t happen. And my assessment showed it. I had to stop to sit and catch my breath and couldn’t even go 6 minutes walking without it. Granted, I started out going at a faster pace than I could maintain, but it was pitiful.

The good news is that there is PLENTY of room for improvement. The program they laid out for me seems minimal – but then, so did walking down a hall for 6 minutes. I’m to go 1-3 days/week and do 10 minutes on the walking track upstairs (where I can look out the window), 12 minutes on the NuStep recumbent cross trainer (working arms and legs but not weight-bearing), and 12 minutes on the arm bike, which Mom used to call the “coffee grinder” because it’s upper back and pectoral. They use it for pulmonary therapy so that should help me with my breathing.

Then in 6 weeks I check in with the fitness specialist who did my assessment. We’ll make adjustments to what I’m doing and add in weights (I hope – I like weights). This is doable. And it will get me out of the house to do something specific and focused, that I can control and that will make me feel better.

Yesterday I followed through on another commitment to myself and registered for a one-day conference in New Orleans in September for lovers of a series of books that I adore. Plus, New Orleans. This will not only be fun but also gives me an incentive for building up my stamina because there’s so much to do and see in NOLA.

Meal Planning a Week Before Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving tableThe week before Thanksgiving, folks in Weight Watchers meetings practice picking the foods they want to eat for the big holiday meal. I’ve done this several times now and it’s still a useful exercise because the mind cleverly forgets how fast it all adds up.

There are three different things to consider in building the meal: the item, the portion size, and the frequency. Because we all know Thanksgiving food tends to generate leftovers and therefore repeated temptation.

Here’s the list of some traditional Thanksgiving foods with their point values:

1 slice turkey – 2 points
1/2 C. stuffing – 4 points
1/4 C. gravy – 2 points
1/4 C. Cranberry sauce – 2 points
1 C. Green beans – 0 points (but 5 pts if you eat green bean casserole)
1 C. salad – 0 pts (but add whatever points you’d use for dressing if you use it)
1 C. fruit salad – 2 points
Dinner roll – 3 points
1 large Sweet potato – 3 points
1/2 C. Mashed potato – 2 points
1 C. Winter squash – 1 point
1 slice pumpkin pie – 9 points
1 slice apple pie – 9 points
1 oz. mixed nuts – 4
Glass of wine – 3 points
Coffee or tea – 0 points

Realistically none of us is going to eat all of that stuff, not any more and not after seeing how many points it all works out to be! There are some things that are not negotiable for me and they won’t be the same things that you decide are worth having. I want stuffing and only have it twice a year so it’s on my list, but can live without dinner rolls or nuts. Turkey is also necessary (duh). Wine is nice but not necessary and not drinking it is not nearly as conspicuous as it used to be. I can use the points for other things.

Pie is a problem because I rarely have it, so when it’s around, I want to eat it. But I never really liked pumpkin pie so if that’s the only choice, I can have just a tiny bit and be fine. Apple or mince? Much bigger problem. When I build my plate, I make sure to allow points for a slice of something and then don’t feel guilty about what I do eat.

Some strategies to think about and consider:

  • Focus more on people than food
  • Lighten up some of your traditional recipes
  • Don’t skip other meals on the holiday; you’ll just eat more
  • Use smaller plates
  • Wear fitted clothes – not skin tight, but enough that you feel full faster
  • Drink water
  • Exercise – go for a walk sometimes in the day, maybe with others in between courses or by yourself in the morning
  • Plan to see some of your plate around the food you put on it
  • If you’re hosting, prepare sensible quantities so you don’t have excessive leftovers
  • Eat lots of veggies to help control portions of food with higher points value
  • Share leftovers with guests
  • Freeze leftovers in portion controlled containers to enjoy later

No matter how yummy something tastes, the last bite of it will taste the same as the first; it won’t get better. So I really don’t need to eat until I am so stuffed that I can’t move; there is no point to it and it won’t make me feel better about myself. I have a lot to be thankful for and I’d rather focus on that than on beating myself up over food.
I have a week to practice. What are some of your strategies and tips?

Halloween Candy Alert

CandyThe last thing I expected to see today was a huge orange and black store aisle display of Halloween candy. I mean, really — it’s AUGUST, people! We’re not even at Labor Day yet, the traditional end of summer/start of fall. And the bleeping bags of chocolate are sitting in the store, just at eye and hand level, luring the unwary.

Over in the office supply store things are hopping with parents stocking up on school supplies for the kids who are basically ignoring it all and running around to get their last bits of summer. They’re not thinking about Halloween and we shouldn’t be either. Oh sure, I spotted kids costumes over at BJ’s and thought that was a bit odd but it didn’t bother me. A costume can just hang in the closet until it’s time to wear (assuming the wearer doesn’t grow out of it in the intervening two months).

But chocolate candy? No one in their right mind is going to buy candy now for The Candy Holiday! It will just sit in the pantry and call to you and before you know it, one of those little mini bars finds its way into a lunch bag or becomes a snack after dinner – because we all know that food eaten standing up has no calories. Then you look at the bag, realize it’s almost empty, and rush out to buy another one to replace it, without stopping to realize that you’re still weeks and weeks away from actually needing it to give away.

There is no excuse, not one single one, for buying Halloween candy this early. Do not succumb to the temptation. For those who are counting Weight Watchers points, print off this great list of candy points values from Dottie’s Weight Loss Zone. In fact, go do it right now. I’ll wait. Once you have it, put it somewhere very visible. Those little fun-size mini boxes are so easy to pick up and nibble and most of them have two points each. Do you really want to waste your points by eating a bunch of them mindlessly just because they’re there? I didn’t think so.

Beware, the temptation is lurking as close as your grocery store. Now. It’s totally not fair or right but it’s happening so be prepared.

Party planning

Party tableToday is my going away party at work and with it will come culinary challenges. Most of our staff going away parties (and pizza parties and birthday parties and welcome staff parties – you get the idea) are held in my department’s space because it’s the only place really big enough.

But today is different. I’ve been in this position for 17 years and have many friends and contacts throughout the school and the university as well as professional colleagues in Boston. So instead of partying in my department, we’ll be in the larger, nicer-looking meeting space on the ground floor with access to a kitchen. Believe me, this is a big deal; if you’ve spent years washing dishes in the bathroom sink, you’d appreciate it, too!

Because this is my own going away party, I want to be able to enjoy what I eat, which mens planning for it. I had high hopes for a chocolate fountain but that was never realistic, just a nice idea. But I fully expect that there will be chocolate cake on the table at the party – my colleagues know my tastes well. They also know that I’ve been doing WW for almost 5 years and am known for my fresh fruit salads at other staff parties, so I’m hoping that fruit will have a prominent place on the tables as well.

Really, though, the party isn’t merely an opportunity to stuff my face with “forbidden” food, using my own departure as an excuse to eat them. No, this event is about seeing people I’ve known and worked with in assorted ways over a long tenure, to touch base and say hello and goodbye, to thank them for the chance to work together and share laughs as well as hard work. And for them to do the same with me.

So my big party plan is to drink lots of water today, have salad for lunch, have some cake and fruit – and to make the food the least important part of what will be a nice party. It’s about people, not food (even chocolate cake), and I want to celebrate my time here and friendships I’ve made over the years.

I’m planning to do just that.