Category Archives: Normal Eating

On Eating

I have written and re-written the beginning of this post more times than I care to count, now.  So I’m going to skip the more nuanced introduction and sum it up so I can get to what I’m really thinking about, below: when I stopped dieting, I also stopped exercising, because it was making me crazy, despite my efforts to keep it from doing so.  It took 12 full months before I felt like I could think about getting healthier (not thinner, but healthier, and that will be important soon), based on what my body actually responds  well to and not based on the latest and greatest “21 Ways To A Fat-Blasting-Workout That Will Make You Look Like [insert celebrity name here] In a Bikini!  In Just! Six! Weeks!” workout.  (Oh, come on – you know you’ve read them, too.)  It bears saying here that in my teens I was diligent about doing some of those – and I always felt SO disappointed that I didn’t look like a celebrity in 6 weeks.  But did I ever think that it was unrealistic?  Nope.  I just figured I WASN’T TRYING HARD ENOUGH.  And redoubled my efforts when the next magazine came out.  *sigh*

BUT.  Ahem.  Random tangents aside, I decided this year to work on being *healthier*.  This is more challenging than I anticipated.  Even after a year “off,” it’s hard not to think in terms of weight loss.  I find myself thinking that I should get the scale down from the shelf – just, you know, to SEE.  For a STARTING POINT.  And then I have to stop and remind myself that if I didn’t lose weight after that, I’d be upset, and that if I don’t want to weigh myself regularly going forward, I won’t even KNOW if my weight changes, anyway.  So I’d have to go back to weighing regularly.  That’s usually where sanity kicks in again and I think, “Oh.  Right.  Weighing myself makes me kind of nuts, and I don’t really want to do that.”  And I leave the scale in the closet. 

I also find myself slowwwwwwwly phasing grains out of my diet.  Well.  Out of 80% or so of my diet, anyway.  I’ve noticed that as much as I love my toast in the morning, I do feel better if I’m fairly grain-free.  And I picked up a copy of The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson (blog and link to buy the book here), and realized that I’d been intuitively heading in the direction he advocates in his book.  So I made it a little more formal.  And I circumvented the Crazy (at least so far) by deciding I would commit to 80%.  That sounds like a lot when you think about it, but if you figure that I eat 3 meals and 2 snacks, 7 days a week, that’s 35 “eating times” every week.  Eighty percent of those should be grain-free (there are other “rules” to the Primal Blueprint, but that’s all I’m worrying about right now).  Twenty percent of 35 is 7.  So I have 7 opportunites to eat non-Primal every week.  That’s once every day.  Now, the reaaaallllllly funny part?  If I have permission to do something, it takes away the desire to do it.  (Why, yes, I AM a giant 5-year-old.)  If I decide to eat grain-free ALL THE TIME, NO EXCEPTIONS, I will immediately eat an entire pound of pasta with cheese sauce for dinner, just to SHOW YOU [me] WHO’S BOSS.  On the other hand, if I know I can have toast or ice cream (which is not grain, but is sugar, which I’m getting off of) or whatever else I want at least once a day . . . well, then I don’t really care if I have it today, because I know it will be there tomorrow.  I eat more healthfully overall when I’m allowed to eat badly (REALLY allowed – no guilt or anything).  Weird, I know. 

And the first week or so of actually thinking about what I ate was TOUGH.  Because my if-a-little-is-good-a-lot-is-better-brain was off and running: “If grain-free is good, well, grains are carbs, and if I’m avoiding carbs, I should also cut out sugar, and fruit has sugar, so I should stop eating fruit and if I’m not eating sugary-fruit, it’d probably be best if I cut out berries too, and if I ALSO cut back on the fat, that might help, I mean, I know a pound of bacon for breakfast wouldn’t be a good idea, so obviously all fat is bad, and maybe I should also start buying super-lean ground beef, or even better: chicken, and I wonder how many carbs are in nuts, because I know they have a lot of fat, and if they have fat AND carbs I should probably stop eating nuts . . . ”  So multiple times a day I had to physically STOP what I was doing, take a deep breath and repeat to myself, “GRAINS.  JUST avoid GRAINS.  Not fruit.  Not nuts.  Not even bacon at this point, just GRAINS.  And even then, remember that you still have 20% of your meals where grains are ok.  (And in fact, you can eat all grains, all the time, if you want to, even if you don’t feel all that good afterward: nothing is written in stone.)  So for the love of Pete, CALM DOWN.”

It seems to be working so far. 

Next time, exercise!

Is this thing on?

So.  It’s been a year (for all intents and purposes).  After I started my no-more-dieting project last year, I discovered that trying not to think about dieting while WRITING about trying not to think about dieting was sort of . . . well, impossible.  Kind of like the old line, “Quick!  Don’t think about an elephant!”  Aaaaaand, what are you thinking about right now?  Yup.  Thought so.

So I quit for a while.  And now my year is up.  And no, I’m not dieting (still).  I have a new thing that I’m working on this year – well, a couple of them, really.  I spent the last 12 months trying to get my brain healthy, and I decided to spend the next 12 trying to get my body healthy: not thinner per se, but healthier.  I also decided to write about the last 12 months, and probably the upcoming ones, too.  Not just here, but in an actual, honest-to-God book.  (NO idea if it will sell, but what the hell, right?  At the very least I’ll have something super-cool to leave my kids when I die.)  (Yeah, I know.  That was morbid.)  (And yes, I know I don’t even HAVE kids.  Just go with it, ok?  Geez.)

So posting here will likely be sporadic, just because I need to work on the actual book thing.  But I miss blogging – plus it’s a handy tool for overcoming writer’s block.  😉 Less structured than an official book, but good for getting things on the page and getting some feedback.  (Not that I’ve left anything worth feedback today, LOL.)

Aaaand . . . that’s it.  We’ll see how things go.

Kale Salad at the Farmers’ Market

Over this way!!  Really, REALLY good stuff.  And super-healthy!

Operation Normal – and Some Farmers’ Market Shopping

Soooo . . . Remember last May when I decided to stop dieting?  And then the whole blog went radio-silent?  As I mentioned before, that was because I needed the mental space to let my brain sort of . . . settle, for lack of a better word.

So for the last 6 months or so, I’ve eaten what I wanted, when I wanted it.  Then those 6 months got kind of stressful, as I started a new job.  So my eating wasn’t always the best.  In fact, I probably did more than my share of stress-eating – and let’s be honest, stress-drinking, too.  But I made an effort to at least eat when I was hungry, and to pay attention to WHY I was eating during those times I knew damn well I wasn’t hungry, but was eating anyway.

I took to calling this “Operation Normal.”

Over the last 6 weeks or so, I’ve started noticing that both my eating and my drinking seem to have leveled out.  I’m not drinking as much, and I’m not eating as much crap food – and I it wasn’t a decision I made consciously, just one that seems to be evolving.  But because back in May I decided to re-assess where I was in a year, and because I knew that year was almost half over, I started reading various food books.  I finally got around to reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and I read a BUNCH of Geneen Roth’s books, and one called Real Food by Nina Planck (that last one is AMAZING).  And the more I read, the more I started thinking that rather than focus on calories, fat, protein, etc., I really wanted to think about WHAT I was eating and WHY. 

So at the end of November I started transitioning to “real” food.  I’ve been eating what’s in my freezer, but am working toward only eating raw dairy, pastured meat and poultry (and eggs), and sustainably, humanely raised fish (whether wild or farmed, depending on the fish).  I decided that further, I was going to try an experiment: for 2011, I would eat from the farmers’ market.  I’m a good cook, so I decided I would go to the market, buy whatever looked good and then figure out what the hell to do with it when I got home.  Eating locally, seasonally and intuitively all in one go!

After noodling on that for a while, I decided that (given my history of thinking things must be PERFECT) I would shoot for accomplishing the above 80% of the time.  (Thus allowing myself the occasional heat-and-eat dinner, and things like frozen spinach, which I REFUSE to give up, even if it does get trucked in from across the country.)

So I’ve been working on cleaning out my existing stash of food, and in the meantime, I’ve got a bread machine (“inherited” from Mom) and A PRESSURE CANNER (for Christmas!).  I’m super-excited about that last one, because I really want to can my own tomatoes this summer!!!!  😀

And I started a companion blog to this one: Eating from the Farmers’ Market (More or Less).  The first post over there will go up Monday, the 10th of January (after I make a farmers’ market run over the weekend, because the markets around me were closed the last 2 weekends for Christmas and the Rose Parade).  I’ll split my posting between this one and that one – this one will still be my outlet for my freak-outs and internal dialogues, and that one will be more about what’s in season, what I’m cooking, how much it cost, that sort of thing.  (I’m kind of hoping that I might be able to cull the recipes eventually and get to writing that cookbook I keep blathering on about.)  There will be more personal stuff too, but the serious neuroses will be confined to this blog.  (Lucky, lucky you.  ;D)

So there you go.  That’s the new project.  I’m not deleting any of my old posts off of here, but I also won’t be talking about calories, fat, or any of that going forward.  “Operation Normal,” remember?  And I don’t mean STATISICALLY normal, but NOT-CRAZY normal (I think the latter is actually ABnormal statistically speaking, but let’s not go there).  So it won’t be about weight (although let’s be honest – that’s what the “neurotic” caveat is for), but about health.  Real health: physical, emotional and mental.  Because Lord knows I need me some of that.

Losing My Mind, Finding My Self

It’s been months since I wrote, I know.  At first it was just inconvenient.  I had other things to do.  And then I was just really busy, all the time, and I stopped really reading, too.  And then a month had gone by, then two.  I spent time going through the 1st phase of the Geneen Roth stuff, where eat what you want and work toward eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full.  And I put the scale on the top shelf in the closet in the guest room.  And I gained weight.  And then some more (I’m guessing about 20 pounds over the last 4-5 months).  And I didn’t get on the scale, and I didn’t read any blogs or write or anything else.  And even though the weight gain bothered me, I felt better. 

But I would think about blogging, and I it just made me feel . . . ANXIOUS.  I was trying really hard not to focus on my weight, and I was finding that I couldn’t even read general-fitness blogs without feeling like I should get up, go to the gym, eat better, eat less, lose some weight, it’s so SIMPLE, what’s wrong with me, I should just suck it up, get on the treadmill, cut out the carbs, it’s fine, I’m fine, I’m fine, fine fine finefinefineFINEFINE.

I’m FINE.

So I didn’t come back.  Not even to say, “Hey, I love you, I might come back or I might not, but I’m ok.”  I just couldn’t do it.  Everywhere I looked it seemed so simple to just lose! some! weight!  Not easy, necessarily, but SIMPLE.  And if I didn’t write, if I didn’t read, if I didn’t think about anything other than whether or not I was hungry or full or lonely or anxious, if I ate more mindfully . . . I felt BETTER.  Calmer. 

Anda few weeks ago I got on the scale at the doctor’s office (there was a possibility I’d broken my foot, although it turned out to be all soft tissue damage – all better now!), and even though I tried not to see the weight, I did (on a piece of paper I didn’t think would contain it).  And it bothered me.  A lot.  I haven’t been this weight since I was in my early 20s, and bingeing every night.  So I came home and cried.  I kept thinking, “I’m becoming what I’m most afraid of becoming.”  I kept thinking about how I should just go on a diet, and deal with it, and THEN I kept thinking about how doing that has NOT worked, so maybe I should give this Roth thing a shot for more than a couple of months. And then something else occurred to me: when you run from something, it controls your life.  Fear rules your thoughts and behaviors.  So maybe I need to be what scares me most so I can get through it.  Ok, then.

And so a few weeks ago, (when the new pants I’d bought that were a little too big in August became almost too small) I decided that maybe it was time to stop wondering if I was hungry, deciding that I wasn’t, and then making a conscious decision to eat anyway.  (Yeah.  I know that’s not how it’s supposed to work, but I was willing to do it if it was something I needed to get through, first.  And it was.) I finally got to the point where I decided to start thinking about nourishing myself, not just feeding myself.  So I’m trying to meditate every day and drink more water.  That was what came to mind, rising up out of my unconscious when I asked myself, “What do I need next?”

I’ve been reading various blogs here and there again.  Just lurking.  And most of the time, it’s ok.  Some days I don’t read, and I don’t know how often I’ll write.  I’ve taken to calling this project, “Operation Normal.”  😉  And I don’t go the gym, but I do go to my dance classes, and I even bought some new ballet shoes, although I haven’t sewn the elastics on yet, so I haven’t been to class.  But even buying the shoes was a victory: ballet was what made me the craziest, way back when.  And now I stand in a studio, where I’m the biggest girl (even in jazz class), and most of the time, it’s ok.  I feel a little bit like I’m not so much reinventing myself as re-finding myself, or reclaiming myself.  I’m not actually sure who it is that I’m reclaiming – I haven’t seen that person in years.  But I’m kind of curious to find out.

Jury duty!

Yes, that’s right: I’m on jury duty at the moment.  Fortunately I got an interesting case (THAT I CAN’T TALK ABOUT, WHICH IS KILLING ME), so it’s not completely mind-numbing.

In the meantime, I’ve been trying to figure out what I want to write about here.  It’s funny: since I haven’t been writing, my food neuroses are much quieter.  When I don’t spend time every day thinking about them, my eating and exercise get easier, both mentally and scheduling-wise.  I dropped a few pounds just before ShoWest by adhering to the “Sort-of-Like-When-I-Was-In-College-But-Without-the-Crazy-Part” diet, and a central component of that was to stop thinking about it so much. 

Does that make sense?  It’s like I spend so much time THINKING about it that when it comes time to DO something, I’m already tired.  I feel like I’ve already spent so much time on it that I can’t bear to spend any more.  And when I don’t think about it so much, I have energy to do something about it. 

I’m not sure what I’m going to do about this.  It’s a puzzlement, as they say (sing?).

Too Much Stuff, Squashed Into a Little Ball

Things are crazy around here.  (Then again, when are they NOT?)  So I’m going to space some of this stuff out over the next few days, and you’ll just have to come back if you want to read the whole post!  Muahahahahaha!!  In the meantime, I’m trying to stop by and read at least a couple of blogs a day, but when push comes to shove and I have to choose between reading and exercising, I have to choose exercise.  So, apologies in advance if I’m not commenting so much.  (I might have to go back to working out in the morning, although that comes with its own set of hassles.  Meh.  I’ll figure it out.)

ANYWAY. 

I was at the bookstore the other day about 2 weeks ago (what can I say, I’ve been thinking about this for a while), loitering in the cookbook section (which I do way, WAY too often).  Having browsed the Food Network section and the vegetarian section and the cook-it-fast section and the slow-cooker section, I made my way over to the “healthy” section.  I found a lot of good stuff there: a Best of Cooking Light book that had some yummy-looking stuff, a “Comfort Food Made Healthy” book by Eating Well that was definitely a jackpot find, a Williams-Sonoma “Essentials of Healthful Cooking” that was ALSO a jackpot find. 

And then I glanced down toward the bottom shelves, where I found books with titles like, “Eat Everything You Want Without Gaining a Pound!” and “Gain Taste, Lose Weight!” and “Eat Like a Devil, Look Like an Angel!”  and “The Skinny Girl’s Guide to Gluttony!” and so on.  And on.  And on.  You know the ones I’m talking about.  The books that manage to make you feel bad about yourself before you’ve even THOUGHT about food.  The books that basically boil down to one title: “How to Pretend to Stuff Your Face (Using Lettuce) So You Don’t End Up Looking Like the Fat, Disgusting Cow You Are.”  Books about food that simultaneously scream “Embrace it!” and “Run away, run away!” 

No fucking WONDER our culture is so neurotic about food.  On the one hand we have the eliminate-a-food-group dieters and the Calorie Restriction dieters (though some are doing it for health, not weight, which is a whole ‘nother discussion for a different day), and on the other hand we have Nigella Lawson, described by the Los Angeles Times as “the queen of come-on cooking.”  Food is both fetishized and forbidden (triple points for alliteration!), something we dream about and something we “pay for” at the gym.

Really?  I mean, come on: REALLY?

I wrote a couple of posts back about going back to pre-crazy dieting: about eating off the cuff, on the fly, not worrying SO MUCH, not planning out all my meals and snacks a week in advance, not counting calories, not devoting all my waking hours (or at least a sizable number of them) to pursuit of the RIGHT numbers, the RIGHT exercise, the RIGHT Way To Live (TM).  And what that basically boils down to, for me, is to acknowledge that every meal matters, but that no single meal matters.  That I should get some exercise every day, but the kind doesn’t really matter too much.  It’s just not that big a deal.  It can’t be.  It’s when I let it BECOME a big deal that I slip down into craziness.

And hand in hand with that comes the knowledge that I need to start cooking again.  It’s weird to pore over cookbooks while eating a diet frozen dinner.  It’s WEIRD, ok?  I need to remember that food really IS more than just fuel, at least for me, and to acknowledge that THAT’S OK.  I think food is more than fuel for most people, and honestly I’m not sure I’d want to be any different about it.  Frozen dinners don’t carry that sense of nourishment that real food does.  (I hadn’t realized until recently just how much I’d been relying on pre-packaged food again.)

So Sunday night I ate an enormous dinner: I roasted a chicken and mashed some red potatoes with olive oil, garlic and Parmesan cheese.  I roasted some asparagus with prosciutto.  And sat down at the table and ate.  Now, don’t misunderstand: for some reason, I was ravenous last night – I wasn’t eating just to eat.  But pulling chicken off the bone, sitting in a house full of the smell of (literally) Sunday dinner, it wasn’t just food.  It was a symbol of self-care. 

And in our culture, if you are fat or plump or chunky or even just carrying a LITTLE extra weight, you are not supposed to care for yourself.  Oh, you’ll be told, “take CARE of yourself – lose some weight!” but the very process proscribed for weight-loss is so often to DENY ourselves that most basic symbol of care: eat less, eat diet food, eat non-fat, low-carb and whatever you do, restrict.  Slash your calories, cut your food intake.

The irony there is that for ME, when I eat food that nourishes me – not just my body, but my emotions too – I eat less.  I don’t need food to fill that hole inside because there is no hole.  And so my calorie intake drops, and my portions get smaller (last Sunday notwithstanding!) – all without feeling that I’m missing out on something.  But it’s astonishing (and appalling) to me how HARD it is to do that – how hard it is to take care of myself when I’m surrounded by conflicting messages like “Food is decadent!” and “Food is fuel!”  How hard it is to tune out the chatter and the hyperbole used to sell books and magazines and movies and the Latest! Greatest! Celebrity Diet! EVARRR!!!  This is a seriously schismed culture when it comes to food.

Argh.  I don’t have a good way to wrap this up, either.  I’m all over the place tonight.  This is why I haven’t posted in the last few days.  It doesn’t seem to be sorting it out in my head any better with time though, so for now you get my disjointed ramblings. 

And now it’s a little after 8:00, and I’m going to bed.  I have to get up at 4:00 to go to the gym, and me on fewer than 7 hours of sleep is NOT a happy thing.  😉

*I have to interject here that there are many “diet” books I don’t have a problem with, even if I don’t always like the way they cook.  I’m objecting specifically to the types mentioned at the start of the post.