Envy Junkie

My birthday was this week. Oh yes…

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Which brings me to my biggest lifelong challenge: overcoming envy.

I have been watching Patrick Stewart’s “Sonnet a Day” readings on Facebook. And wouldn’t you know it? He read my favorite sonnet on my birthday: Sonnet 29.

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Imagine his oaken voice reading it out:

When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
Desiring this man’s art and that man’s scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
(Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth) sings hymns at heaven’s gate;
For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

 

So what’s more pathetic than Shakespeare, green with envy, feeling sorry for himself?

Envy has stalked me for as long as I can remember. As a child, I envied my brother his friends. I envied the other girls’ for their skinny bodies and pin-straight hair. I envied my infant sister for the attention she got from my mother. As I grew up, and pushed further and further toward  outsider status, these feelings strengthened. Envy turned to hate too often, especially of high school classmates with their good haircuts and expensive clothes and circles of friends, and also for anyone who was better than me at anything – sports, academics, arts.

As you can gather, I was lots of fun to be around. So that just made it all worse.

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As an adult, these feelings subsided a bit – let’s say I was less consumed by them – but still I’d avoid and scorn people I envied. 

Sometime in my early 40s, a change came over me. I lost weight and looked probably the best I had in my life (though I was still not 100% satisfied, of course). I had a great marriage, a great family, a great job, great community connections and great friends.

I became the envied instead of the envier. I didn’t realize this until three old friends basically said to me on separate occasions, “We started out in the same place, but look where we are now.” One friend who’d always been more fit than I suffered debilitating medical problems. Another who once had the same career trajectory as I was laid off and could not find work. The third, who’d once been my superior in business, was coping with misery at her own job and serious problems with a child.

I had no experience with being on top, and I didn’t know what to do. So I ignored it.

Soon enough, of course, my dream job turned into a nightmare. I had my own health problems, as did my husband. Some of the weight came back. We had family problems. Things piled on. And I found myself envying once again.

Perhaps “envy” is my natural resting state?

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I’d periodically dig myself out of my envy pit, only to fall back in again. I got a great new job, which I chose in part because I knew it would inspire envy in those left at the old company. I sought to best others at various professional and personal endeavors, but any gloating failed to satisfy me.

Last fall, I hit envy overload. I was enraged about something that happened on social media and tried to stir up some toxic drama over it. I had a meltdown at an event because I was so stressed out and envious of others’ abilities and friendships and achievements. A friend finally scored a great new job, and I was so envious that I could not be a good friend to her. I’d get involved in competitions, only to hate people who’d bested me. I tried to lose the weight I’d gained, not for myself, but because I wanted to inspire envy in others who’d tried and failed to lose weight themselves.

And then it hit me. I was intentionally exposing myself to situations where envy would rise up in me. I wasn’t just feeling the feelings as a natural part of life. I was triggering myself. I was becoming an envy junkie.

So I sought to remove sources of envy from my life. See ya later, Instagram. Unfriending you, Facebook. Unlinking you, LinkedIn. Yeah, social media was the worst for me. But also I stepped back from work things that tended to spark envy, avoided family issues that got me going, dropped out of competitive situations, and just tried to do what I wanted for myself without regard to how others do it, or how it might look to others.

Better yet, I also tried to help others. The best way to humble yourself and feel grateful for your fortune is to give a hand up to someone who’s struggling – not because you want to lord it over them but because you have an obligation to your fellow humans to give back. This change in me has been a bumpy road, but one well worth travelling.

I have not kicked the envy habit completely – I probably never will – but I feel more attuned to those times when, as Shakespeare put it, I’d desire this one’s art or that one’s scope, or even I trouble heaven with my bootless cries. I am working at being more grateful for what I have.

Ten-Year Anniversary of My Fattest Day

Ten years ago yesterday, I weighed myself and cried. I was 190 pounds. The heaviest I’d been in my life. I resolved that day to lose the weight, and I did. I have kept much of it off. But today, on this anniversary, I realize I need to try anew to get me through the next 10 years and beyond.

I don’t have any pictures of me from that day (like many overweight people, I avoided having my picture taken at all costs), but this picture was taken a few weeks before, because I got a new (not very flattering) haircut.

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Fat me – January 2010

I have a vivid memory of that red sweater. It was long – past hip length – and I wore it often because I thought it was flattering and because it covered my tummy and butt. I tend to carry most of my weight as a pear-shape below the waist, so this picture doesn’t get the full picture, but it will have to do.

I can’t remember if there was any one thing that got me on to the scale that day. Many people who recover from addictions or turn around unhealthy lifestyles say they had a “rock bottom” moment – that lowest-of-the-low moment when they knew they could not go on as they had been. When they knew they had to change or die. I don’t recall any :rock bottom”  it was more like I was walking barefoot along a bed of pebbles – minor hurts instead of a big pain – but hurts nonetheless.

I joined Weight Watchers, started a blog, and wrote this:

“I wasted my beauty on food.”

shoes15 (diane) on 2/17/2010 10:44 AM | COMMENTS (0)

I am a lifetime member who is back again after a hiatus as reckless as a two-thumb texter driving 100 miles per hour. I weigh 190 pounds – nearly obese and totally disgusted with myself.

Anger motivates me today, but I hope this blog and my new WW attempt will turn that around into optimism. I have to try – the obese alternative stares at me from the corner, licking its lips.

To put it simply, I hate dieting, but I also hate my destructive habits with food. I simply cannot get control of myself, and I am so **** sick of it. I quit WW in disgust in 2008 after about two years of back and forth – 178 pounds, 177 pounds, 179 pounds, 180 pounds, 178 pounds, 181 pounds… I plateaued at around 180, so I thought if I could just maintain 180, I’d be OK until I was motivated to drop more. After a while, outfitted in 14s from Liz Claiborne and Chico’s, I got comfortable with it.

This winter, I clambered up from that plateau and hit 190. Those 14s pinch at the thighs and fall short of the wrist. Even my winter coat doesn’t fit right anymore. I look in the mirror, and I do not recognize myself. I will be 40 in April. I’m one of those gals about whom people used to say “She’d be so pretty is she only lost some weight.” Those days are long gone. I wasted my beauty on food. Today, I’d settle for healthy.

I am trying yet again. So much about the WW experience rings as pure cornball to me, but I do like the saying “Winners are losers who gave it one more try.” I know I can do it – I was down to 135 on WW in college – I just need the motivation and energy. And I need to be good to myself. I need to give myself permission to misstep – to succeed and to fail – while keeping the goal in mind at all times.

You may think that my negative state of mind will hurt my chances to succeed, and you may be right, but what I really need right now is honesty. I am starting this blog to be honest with myself and to give myself an outlet for all my frustrations and triumphs.

Thanks to WW for setting up this feature, and thanks to you for reading it.

Looking back on it, that’s a pretty florid write-up of my state of mind. I put the “self” in “self-loathing.” But I totally recognize the woman who wrote this, because she’s always been with me and lately has been making her sad “self” ever more present in my day-to-day life.

Today I weighed myself at 163. That’s halfway between what I weighed at my heaviest and at my lightest as an adult. I don’t want to get back to the 135 I weighed in college (I mean, I would take it if I could snap my fingers and make it happen, but I know it’s too much work).

Here’s what I looked like at my goal weight of 145 pounds in July 2013 (in a designer dress from Narcisco Rodriguez):

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Thin me – July 2013

Yes, it took me more two and a half years to lose 45 pounds. I actually lost the first 40 in about 18 months. The stubborn 5 pounds at the end took forever to disappear, and they reappeared pretty fast. So, 145 is too hard to maintain. I can do 150. So that’s my goal. The plan is to lose about a pound a week:

  • 4 pounds in February
  • 4 pounds in March
  • 4 pounds in April
  • 2 pounds in May (vacation will be tough so cutting myself some slack)
  • 4 pounds in June

It’s important to write down your goals, or it’s easy to just go from one day to the next without really taking the steps you need to get what you want. So now I have written it down. It. Is. Written.

 

Seven-Day Plan to Kick Sugar

Sugar has been my lifelong enemy. Ever since I was a child, my sweet tooth would get out of control. Cavities, weight gain, headaches, low energy – all the bad stuff that follows a sugar binge have ridden bitch on my life, all my life.

I have been able to kick sugar for a little while, but it always roars back. I can go for a few weeks without having anything, and then I start up again. I am trying again to find a system that sticks.

So I am trying a Seven-Day Sugar Challenge published recently in The New York Times. It has been hard going with a lot of fits and starts throughout January. In brief, the seven-step challenge is:

  1. No sugar or grains of any kind at breakfast (fruit is OK).
  2. Avoid packaged foods (and reject any that have added sugar of any kind).
  3. Eat fruit (but no bananas or grapes – sugar bombs that they are).
  4. Drink only water, coffee or tea (no added sugar or flavorings).
  5. Eat spicy food to ward of sweet cravings.
  6. Eat roasted vegetables to heighten natural sugars.
  7. Reward yourself with a small piece of dark chocolate (80%-90% cacao, low sugar).

I have never made it to #7, so I can’t attest to how that goes. But here’s how the other six steps have gone for me, from hardest to easiest.

Hardest: #2 – avoid packaged foods, especially those with added sugar.

In the United States, sugar is in everything. I mean, everything. And not just one kind of sugar, either – usually several varieties of sugar lurk in the most unlikely places. Food manufacturers do this to hide the amount of sugar in a food, since ingredients on he label have to be listed by volume.

For example, we had friends for brunch last weekend and served up some bloody Marys. I didn’t have any, but I listed to everyone rhapsodize about how delicious the bloody Mary mix was. Why so tasty, you wonder? It’s basically candy in a bottle:

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Sugar bomb bloody Mary mix

Sugars of various kinds appear seven times on this label. Yes, fruit concentrates and molasses count! If all those sugars were counted as one “sugar” on this label, it would probably be the third ingredient after water and peppers.

The other problem in the United States food system are foods that have health halos – basically foods that are packaged as organic or otherwise “healthy” but in truth have a lot of shit in them. Cereals are the worst – my husband is constantly buying so-called “healthy” cereals that have as much sugar – gram for gram – as a candy bar.

Breads are tough too. I sometimes bake my own bread, so I know that a bit of sugar helps the yeast get busy faster. But there’s no excuse for something like this:

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Bread – with sugar added

This organic bread has two kinds of sugar – right after the wheat comes “organic cane sugar” (seriously – it’s the THIRD ingredient if you don’t count water) and further down the list of all these grains and seeds you get some molasses.

I found some French bread that had no sugar in it, but it went stale after two days. Sugar is a preservative too. There are these so-called “sprouted” breads in the freezer section that have no added sugar, but I am sorry to say the texture and taste didn’t thrill me.

Finally, I hit on tortillas – I found some with no added sugar, so I am doing wraps and burritos instead of sandwiches for a while to see how that goes.

Hard: No grains or sugar at breakfast

Most important meal of the day, ’tis said. And hard to avoid grains and sugar.

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Cherries, 2% fat plain Greek yogurt, almonds – a no added sugar breakfast

I often have breakfasts like this with plain Greek yogurt, and don’t ever eat sugar-sweetened yogurt or sweetened fruits. Luckily, I have been a black coffee or tea drinker for a while and never go for sweet coffee drinks. But I always crave carbohydrates in the morning, and I often reach for some toast or other carby thing later in the morning if I have none at breakfast.

It’s really important to make this effort because if you start the day with sugar, the rest of the day tends to go downhill quickly. Think of each day as a blank slate – you don’t want to crap up that slate first thing, do you?

Other breakfasts I have enjoyed include eggs in various forms, apple slices with peanut butter, roasted veggies with olive oil, and ricotta with berries. You have to be careful with breakfast meats such as bacon, ham and smoked salmon, because a lot of it is cured with – you guessed it – sugar!

The Times got pushback for putting the kibosh on oatmeal for breakfast – plain whole oats, no sugar added. People are really devoted to this breakfast, apparently.

This has been HARD for me. Whine whine whine. I soldier on.

Easier: Basically the rest of the list is pretty easy and even enjoyable.

Water – no prob. Once in a while – maybe once a week – I used to drink a Vitamin Water Zero. Now I have zero Vitamin Waters, and it’s all good. If I crave something bubbly, some Pellegrino with a lime or lemon wedge does the trick.

Spicy food – also no prob. I can’t say if this trick has really curbed sugar cravings, but in general, the more flavorful your food is, the more it satisfies you. Of course, it was hard to find spicy condiments without added sugar. Finally I found this salsa:

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No sugar salsa – and spicy!

Ingredients are just tomatoes, hot peppers, onions, vinegar, garlic, spices and herbs. It’s sooo good – I put it on everything!

Roasted veggies – I had been doing this anyway, so it was an easy win.

I roast up a batch of veggies a couple of times a week. The roasted tomatoes are delicious as a topping on meats or pastas. Roasted larger tomatoes put through the blender make a great alternative spaghetti sauce too – with no added sugar. Jarred sauces are loaded with sugar!

Easiest by far: Eat Fruit!

I love fruit. I eat 2-3 pieces every day and will reach for fruit first if I crave something sweet. Often fruit packs a bigger punch if I pair it with a bit of protein or fat, like whole-milk ricotta, peanut butter, or cheese.

It’s easy to get stuck in a rut with fruit, so I like to buy different things every week. Out of season fruits are sometimes good frozen (just be sure there’s no added sugar). I keep cherries, blueberries and strawberries in the freezer at all times in case the craving strikes.

Next step – No-sugar February

I have been playing with these sugar-busting tactics all month and am ready to go for it 100% in February. If I make it the whole month I will reward myself with #7 – a piece of dark chocolate.

Who’s with me?

Meatless Monday Ideas for Carnivores

As part of my sustainability goals for 2020, we’re doing Meatless Mondays as a family. Except for the dog, that is.

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I must have… meat…

My husband is a carnivore second only to the dog, so I have been working on ways to keep him satisfied and not deprived. Here are some ideas for magical meatless meals:

Chick peas (aka garbanzo beans) – Protein and fiber in one place – what’s not to like? Sure you can buy them canned, sure, but for really nice chick peas, buy them dried and cook them yourself. It’s a lot cheaper ($2 or $3 / pound) and the texture is better. Soak them overnight in plenty of plain water (for at least 6 hours), drain, and then simmer in salted water for about 1 hour, or 30 minutes in the Instant Pot. They have a buttery texture and take well to spice – try some crushed red pepper in a hearty sauce!

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Italian style spicy chickpeas in tomato sauce

Lentils – Another protein and fiber one-two punch. These cook more quickly than chickpeas and have a texture that lends itself to soups and stews. I like the French style lentils, as they’re a bit more durable than other kinds, but it’s all good.

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Curried French lentils with butternut squash and spinach (and a few chick peas for good measure)

Chili – Purists will argue that chili should NOT have beans in it, but who cares? When you’re making a vegetarian dish, it’s a given that beans will star. I like to use either black beans or kidney beans, plus some plant-based meat substitute to bulk things up, plus lots of onions, peppers, tomatoes and corn. And a lot of spices – smoked paprika really works wonders to bring flavor to anything. Feel free to top with cheese or sour cream and some thinly sliced scallions.

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Vegetarian chili

More cheese, please! You need to be careful with cheese because it can pack as much saturated fat and calories as red meat. For Italian dishes, I like to buy part-skim ricotta and mozzarella to save some fat and calories, but I always use good imported Romano or Parmesan. Here’s some manicotti in a quick tomato sauce, getting ready for the oven.

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Vegetarian manicotti in tomato sauce

Go for grains – A lot of less-common grains make the base for salads and soups. Barley in particular is filling and satisfying, and its texture stands up to whatever you throw at it. I like to parcook barley in plain water until it’s almost done, then take it off the heat, add a generous amount of salt, and let it stand covered for 15 minutes or so. This barley salad is great for summer with watermelon, feta, cucumbers, peppers and other goodies.

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Barley salad

What kinds of meatless meals do you enjoy?

One Year, 7 Pounds, Lessons Learned

I have been trying to lose weight for a year. I have lost seven pounds. This is a good news story. Many people might say, “Seven pounds, in a YEAR? That’s not much.” Those people would be misguided. Seven pounds is a lot, especially for me, for two reasons:

  • I have around 15 pounds I want to lose, so seven pounds is about halfway there.
  • If I had continued on the road that caused me to gain seven pounds in the first place, I’d be even more overweight now.

To lose this weight, I tried two commercial weight-loss programs. I like the structure and accountability they offer. Here’s my quick review of them.

Noom

Summary: A weight-loss mobile app that provides daily articles to read and activities to do, plus tracking of food intake and exercise, and pairs you with a coach and a group for support. I learned a lot from this app, but I didn’t actually lose any weight during the four months I tried it. (I would lose a pound, then gain it back, on a repeat cycle, that is.)

What you eat: The diet itself is just a calorie-counting app, which breaks foods down in a stoplight system – eat lots of “green” foods, such as fruits & vegetables with high water content, some “yellow” foods, such as lean meat and dairy, and few “red” foods, such as sweets and fats. The app provides 1,200 calories a day, which left me starving and irritable most of the time. I think this very low calorie limit set me up for failure. There is such a thing as eating too little and putting your body into “conserve” mode. I often ate 1,400 to 1,500 a day, making sure the “extra” calories were for filling fruits and veggies. Still, every day I felt like I was one scary moment away from this:

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What you do for exercise: The system sets an activity goal that ramps up gradually to 10,000 steps a day (the app has a pedometer built in) and X minutes of exercise a day after that. I had no problem here. If you exercise more, you get to eat more, which seems to defeat the purpose of exercising.

What you learn: The best parts of Noom are the articles and activities, geared to change behaviors around weight loss. You learn not to fear the scale by weighing yourself daily. You learn your “big reason why” you want to lose weight – a very good exercise if you want to get at your real motivation.

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You can’t hide from the scale.

You learn how to deal with temptations by exposing yourself to them, to the point where they lose whatever meaning they had for you. You learn to identify triggers for overeating, how to deal with difficult people and situations, how to eat mindfully and how to cope with all those hormones and other bodily systems that conspire to frustrate weight-loss activities. The first two months the articles, activities and quizzes were great. And then the program changed and each day you got a lot of random crap, repeated articles and “duh” kinds of stuff.

Support: This was a big letdown. The so-called “coach” was really just someone who’d text you once a week and ask you to set a goal. If you reached out for support, the “coach” would get back to you, eventually, but would not offer any real guidance beyond asking you questions so you could figure out for yourself what to do. The coach did not seem to remember my issues or struggles – each week it was like the first time they’d ever met me. I looked up the coaches on LinkedIn and Glassdoor. They all looked to be thin people in their 20s, and some had training as dietitians or nutritionists. They said they coached up to 300 people at a time, which means they have only a couple of minutes each week max to spend with each person. The “group” support also was very lacking, as new people were coming all the time and others were dropping out. It’s hard to connect with anyone.

Cost: $99 for two months, with no extras to buy.

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Rollerblading like it’s 1999.

Best takeaway: The best thing I learned from my coach was to think back to when I was at my ideal weight. What did I do back then? How did I feel? What was an average day like? What were my struggles? I spent a lot of time thinking about this, and it helped me see my present a bit more clearly. When I was at my goal weight, for example, I did a lot more cardio exercise than I’d been doing lately, so I got back into that, in addition to my Pilates, walking and gardening.

Worth it? Not for me. If you are clueless about how to lose weight – that is, you have no idea how to eat healthy and you never exercise – Noom might be good for you. If you think this might work for you, I’d try the 2-month program. Be very careful to cancel before the renewal period if you plan to quit!

Slimming World

Summary: This British weight-loss system uses a proprietary restricted food list, online recipes, articles and support, and weekly group meetings led by a coach where members help each other in real-time chat sessions. I lost my seven pounds using this system and I recommend it, with reservations.

What you eat: The restricted food list is idiosyncratic but leans toward low fat, high carb. It includes unlimited “speed” foods such as most fruits and nonstarchy vegetables – you’re supposed to fill your plate 1/3rd with these foods every meal. You also can have unlimited lean proteins, starchy vegetables, pasta, rice, beans and a few other things.

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Curried chickpeas and couscous – fill ‘er up!

People freak out at the idea of eating as much pasta and potatoes as you want. This is ridiculous, of course, but the “all carbs are bad” school is pretty persistent.

You can also have one serving of whole wheat bread, certain cereals nuts and the like a day, and two servings of dairy. Finally, you can spend a very limited number of “Syns” on whatever you want – chocolate, alcohol, oils and butter, etc.

This system means that you eat very little prepared or processed food and almost no sugar. Since I like to cook, it was pretty easy for me to prepare my meals and avoid “Syns.” But it makes it very hard to eat out without asking for lots of adaptations, since most restaurant food has a ton of oil in it. And you can forget about pizza. I quibble with the tough stance on oils. A little healthy oil is very important for nutrition, and healthy skin and hair. I spend at least 2 Syns a day on olive or sunflower oil.

gold

What do you for exercise: There’s a “Body Magic” component that encourages activity. Do X number of minutes, X days a week, and you get an award. I got the awards pretty easily. The hardest one – “Gold” requires at least a half hour of exercise 5 days a week.

What you learn: Each day is a new day at Slimming World. You’re not meant to save up your Syns for a big splurge, but rather do the best you can each day. This was hard for me, as I have tended to think about weeklong blocks of time, but now that I am used to it I realize it’s better to focus on the present. I liked weighing in once a week though. You also are meant to plan, plan, plan so that you know ahead of time what you’re eating. This is not a diet for people who do things at the last minute or open the fridge and say “what should I have for lunch?” They have some handy tools, such as a “For and Against” list where you write down all the reasons for and against losing weight. Sounds dumb, but if you spend some time on it and revisit it from time to time, you learn a lot about yourself.

Support: The coach and groups are much more involved and high-quality experiences than with Noom. You choose a day and time for your hourlong group meeting – I happen to do Wednesday nights. The meetings happen in a chat format on Slimming World’s website. The coach leads the meetings, but the content is whatever you want it to be. Members can pose questions to the group and we’ll all chime in to help. Sometimes this gets tedious, especially when people have asked for breakfast ideas for the 10th time. But we often have real discussions about real problems, such as planning for holidays, dealing with food pushers and fitting exercise into daily life.

sw of the weekThe meeting also includes a lot of pep talks and awards. I’ve been “Slimmer of the Week” three times. The group and coach also are available during the week on a special landing page, or you can reach out to the whole Slimming World community. A few membersof my group exchanged personal numbers so we can text each other during the week. My one complaint is the website and mobile app are both very wonky – hard to use and prone to crashes and bugs.

Cost: The initial joining fee is $30, which includes access to the online community, articles and recipes, and a booklet. After that, it’s $10 a month. I paid $14 to buy a three-month meal and activity planner book because the website annoyed me so much. This was totally optional.

IMG_20180719_184423Best takeaway: I really like the planning. Each week I make a lot of modular foods that mix and match for meals. For example, I’ll grill or roast several chicken breasts and a pile of vegetables, boil a pound of shrimp bake a few potatoes, cook a pot of couscous and a pot of pasta, hard boil several eggs, and prep veggies for salads. Dinner of grilled chicken,  grilled veggies and corn on the cob one day becomes a pasta salad for lunch the next day and fajitas for dinner, etc. I almost always bring my lunch to work now, and I never have a day when I am hungry, there’s not much to eat in the house, and we end up ordering takeout.

Worth it? Yes, I recommend this plan. You will get out of it what you put into it (as with most things in life, right?) It’s easy to follow, you get support if you want it, and you can lose weight.

 

Going Sugar-Free

I am trying this week to go Sugar-Free, and I am not talking about switching to Diet Coke.

I am trying not to eat any added sugar at all, in anything.

This is harder than you might think. You can’t go sugar-free just by avoiding sweets. In the U.S. anyway, sugar is in almost everything. I went through my cabinets and fridge and marked with a sharpie all the sugar-laden foods with an X.

Why is there sugar in mayonnaise? I’ve made it from scratch before, out of only egg yolk, oil, mustard, lemon juice and salt. Same deal with spaghetti sauce. Aren’t tomatoes sweet enough? I definitely don’t add sugar to my homemade sauce.

 

Obviously, all cereals are out. I am not a big cereal eater anyway (this is my husband’s hoard), but I checked just for fun. Cheerios has only 1 gram of sugar per bowl – that’s about 1/4 of a teaspoon – so the best of the lot. Some of these so-called “healthy” cereals have 13 grams per serving – about 1 tablespoon of sugar.

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Oddly enough, the “Crispy Cocoa Rice” cereal is not the sweetest cereal in my pantry

I’m also astonished at how sweet foods have more than one kind of sugar in them. A barbecue sauce, for example, had two kinds of corn syrup, brown sugar, and plain ol’ sugar in it. Yuck.

Food companies do this mostly so that they can hide the amount of sugar in foods. U.S. regulations require food companies to list ingredients by volume, most prevalent to least prevalent, in the food. If they just used, say, corn syrup, that item would appear high up in the list, maybe even first. You think you’re eating tomato ketchup, but the label would reveal you’re eating corn syrup flavored with tomatoes. So they spread out the sugar content among several different types of sugars to hide this reality. There are more than 60! Common ones you see are: sugar, corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, invert sugar, maple syrup, brown sugar, molasses, honey, agave syrup, cane juice, beet sugar, sucrose, fructose, etc.

Some people think that some kinds of sugars are “healthier” than others. Not true. It’s all basically the same. Just because honey and maple syrup come from nature doesn’t mean they’re less sugary than corn syrup that comes from a factory.

I stumbled upon another reality of processed foods – things tend to get sweeter over time. I had in my pantry two boxes of Kashi Cherry Dark Chocolate granola bars – one “original” and one “improved.” Obviously, these have sugar in them. I have been bringing them to work sometimes if I want a sweet treat to have with coffee, because it’s a better option than, say, a pastry or doughnut. I compared the old nutrition ingredients to the new, and look what I found:

The “new and improved” is actually “new and worse.” There’s more sugar and fat and less protein now, but more chocolate! The bar is denser and also stickier from the extra sugar. Brands like Kashi have a “health halo” around them. They use packaging and advertising to make people think their products are good choices, but they’re not.

Finally, here’s a Tale of Two Salsas.

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The one on the right is a Peach and Mango salsa. It’s sweet, yes, because there are peaches and mangos in there. Yet there’s also sugar and agave syrup, which is supposed to be “better” than corn syrup. As if.  WHY? The salsa on the left is a roasted tomato and pepper concoction – no added sugar. Its 1 gram of sugar occurs naturally in tomatoes. So it’s what I am going to have.

Everything Sucks

My sewing room garbage can is stuffed. I put in there the muslins and pattern pieces from the Burda trousers 127 from the December 2017 issue. The fit just looks awful, no matter what I do. I will spare your eyeballs the ugly pictures from my third muslin attempt. It was a serious shitshow. The idea to do a “full thigh adjustment” did not work. Excess fabric pooches out in the thighs and just looks absurd. So yeah, I learned that lesson.

Also in the bin is my skirt from New Look 6326. This had two problems – dodgy fabric and a backside fit that just baffled me. The waist was enormous but when I put in another set of darts in the back, I got this bizarre pleating effect. Could I fix it? Maybe. But fuck it. I don’t even want the skirt anymore. It’s made of wool crepe and it’s already mid-February.

Basically, I struggle mightily to fit the bottom half of my body. I can make tops and jackets all day. I can make a fit-and-flare dress or skirt. But I have to deal with my thighs, butt and waist in any way, I fail. This is serious disappointment. Half the point of sewing apparel for me is to get clothes I want but cannot buy because RTW cuts don’t remotely fit me.

I have always hated my legs. Even as a child I hated them. I seriously had cellulite and stretch marks on my thighs when I was 12. I have spent my entire life trying to deal with this. Even at my thinnest as an adult, my legs looked terrible. Now I have gained back some of that weight, and I think every fucking pound of it went to my legs and my ass.

This is a string of failures. I am also having problems with this graduate class I am taking. Work is boring. I can’t seem to lose weight. And our dinner party last night didn’t turn out well either.

Part of me knows that failure is inevitable when you try something new or hard. “Give yourself permission to suck,” I say to myself. Well, I suck all right. Everything sucks. I feel like I just need a good long cry, but I can’t bring myself to do it. I thought maybe if I wrote this – just put all the shit out there – it would release the floodgates.

Nope.

 

Blogging About Weight Loss

When I lost 50+ pounds several years ago, I ate controlled portions of real food, I exercised, I recorded everything, I weighed myself once a week – all pretty standard weight-loss disciplines. I also kept a blog that I updated almost daily. This blog was a big factor in my success. It was hosted on a platform restricted just to dieters, so I never encountered trolls, but rather took in a lot of encouragement and good ideas. I made a few friends, although I don’t hear from any of them anymore.

I kept the blog from 2010 to 2016, when the blogging platform shuttered. Right before it did, I copied all my blogs (more than 1,500 of them) into several Google Docs files, so I could have them for all time. I even copied many of the comments.

I was looking for some info in an old blog recently but I found myself reading every blog I wrote in 2011. It took a couple of hours. At that time I weighed a little less than I weigh now, fluctuating 8 pounds or so. It seems like a long time ago, and it seems like yesterday.

How many of the same issues still bother me? A blog about a binge. A blog about a fraught family meal. Some health issues. Some work stresses. Shopping trips full of joy at smaller sizes and stylish looks. Resolutions to swear off sugar, or alcohol, or whatever else ailed me at the moment.

I will never change. I will fight to keep the weight off as long as I live. It’s part of the deal, sorry to say. I have accepted that.

I have not written much about weight loss here because I feel like I said it all already in that other blog. Besides, who cares? It’s one thing to write in a dedicated platform, but quite another to put struggles and ideas out there for everyone to see.

I realized something, however, when reading my old blog. I really wrote the thing for myself. If other people read it, commented, and formed friendships with me, that was great. But mainly I wrote the blog so I could remember what the weight-loss struggle was about, because I was dedicated to the idea that someday I would lose the weight, and on some distant day, I would not remember what it was like to be so overweight and unhealthy.

That has been 100% true.

So, I may post about weight loss from time to time. It’s definitely a distaff-side pursuit anyway.

“That’s a lot of money for something that’s going to end up in the toilet.”

That’s my reaction to eating at fancy restaurants these days. We were on a long weekend trip and wanted to get together with some friends. They suggested their favorite restaurant. We said “OK.” We ended up spending about $350 for the meal.

Sheesh.

I am so over restaurants. I feel like restaurants are the worst kind of indulgence.

  • You stress about getting a reservation, which is basically permission to spend your money at the restaurant. You’re all happy like you won the lottery if you “get in.”
  • You show up and everyone fawns over you and waits on you like you’re the queen of something.
  • There are all these little stupid euphemisms, like how the menu says “crispy” instead of “fried,” and when the waiter goes to take away your mostly empty plate and he says, “May I clear this, or are you still enjoying it?”
  • The menu descriptions have to say the lettuce is “local” and the tomatoes are “heirloom,” like there’s no way you can get this stuff at your local supermarket.
  • The waiter congratulates you on your menu choices. Like he’s going to say, “I wouldn’t get the duck if I were you.”
  • Someone refolds your napkin when you get up to use the bathroom. Why?
  • Maybe the chef comes over and really piles it on. In this case, the chef overheard my husband remarking that there were not many red meat choices on the menu, so she offered to make him something special. He took her up on it.
  • You get a freebie, like an extra dessert, and you’re sooooo impressed.
  • You can’t get over how the food is so good. Of course it is! You would never put this much fat, sugar and salt in food you make at home. You would never spend hours prepping vegetables, making stocks, reducing sauces and everything else. Nor should you.

We had one of these marathon sessions of eating and drinking and all I could think was “I would so much rather spend this money and time doing anything else.” The pleasure for me was in visiting with friends, not stuffing my face. I would have been just as happy having a meal at a little ethnic restaurant, or a picnic in the park, or best yet, eating at home.

When we left the restaurant, my husband kept gushing about it. He went to the bathroom to turn some of the $100 bottle of Pinot Noir into urine, so when he returned, I said: “It was nice, but that’s a lot of money for something that’s going to end up in the toilet.”

His face fell. I have to remember that line for next time.

Dealing with a Hungry Day

Even after years of (mostly) maintaining a big weight loss, I sometimes still have hungry days. You know, those days when you are truly hungry all day and you can’t do anything about it. Actually, you CAN do something about it. You can just stuff your face with whatever and accept the consequences. Or you can fight through it and be miserable all day.

Yesterday, I chose option #2. Here’s how I got through it, with only a little misery. (This is a detailed run-down of the day, maybe TMI for you but important for me to remember what I did and why.)

I was hungry when I got up. I am often hungry when I get up, but since I had a good protein-packed dinner (restaurant meal of mixed grill of 3 ounces each steak and chicken, plus 3 shrimp, a big tossed salad, a half a sweet potato and some brown bread), I was a bit surprised at the hunger pangs. I always plan ahead and build in enough time before I leave for my 6 a.m. train to cook and eat a good breakfast, usually an egg sandwich and some fruit or plain Greek yogurt with sliced almonds and fruit. Yesterday I was tripped up by bad outfit planning and I needed to iron a pair of pants at the last minute. No time to eat, so I grabbed a package of Kind Peanut Butter Breakfast Bars to have on the train.

A word about Kind Peanut Butter Breakfast Bars: They’re better than nothing, better than a pastry or fast-food breakfast. But that’s about all I’ll say. Some liken them to “eating peanut butter cookies for breakfast.” Not quite that bad, but still, there are three kinds of sugar in them (cane syrup, raisin paste and honey). Nutrition info here if you like gory details.

With Kind bars, I make a little deal with myself. I eat them in a pinch, and I agree when I eat them that I will be hungry a couple hours later and will just tough it out until lunchtime. That is, I won’t eat these bars for breakfast on the go, and then eat a second breakfast when I get to the office like some white-collar Hobbit.

Right on schedule, I was hungry at 9 a.m. I had packed my lunch the night before, including some grapes for an afternoon snack. I tried my usual ways of coping. I had some water. I had some hot herbal tea. I tried to concentrate on work. At 9:45 I broke down and ate the grapes. So I considered myself in a deficit.

Lunch could not come fast enough. I had a glass of water and tried to immerse myself in work until 11:30. Then I heated up what I thought would be a pretty filling, protein-packed lunch – 3 ounces each of leftover chicken and steak, plus 1/2 a sweet potato and 1 cup of green beans with olive oil.

I was hungry again at 3. This was getting ridiculous. I mean, the morning I could see because of some dubious choices, but that was a big lunch. I had more herbal tea. I took a 15-minute walk outside to get some air and distract myself. By 4 p.m. I had a headache, which is the usual outcome of being hungry all day, but I knew if I took something for it, I’d have an upset stomach. My back-up plan – the grapes – were gone. I grabbed an apple from the office fridge. This was not my apple, but it had been hanging around in the fridge for a couple of weeks. I stole it. Yes, I am that person. (I replaced it today.)

At 4:30 I left work for home. The apple made no difference. I had to decide: do I eat something caloric but guaranteed to fill me up, or do I tough it out? I told myself: I’m tough. I can take it.

I got home at 7, ravenous and with a brain-splitting headache. My husband prepares dinner Thursdays. He bought a rotisserie chicken from Costco – no veggies, no salad, no sides, no nothing. So I quickly steamed some asparagus, tossed with olive oil, and defrosted 1-cup chunk of homemade macaroni and cheese. I gobbled down almost half a chicken, half a pound of asparagus and half the mac and drank two big glasses of water. I still felt hungry, but at this point I knew my brain and my body had not caught up, so I waited. The headache subsided but did not go away completely.

I wrote down all my food for the day and was a couple calories shy of my daily intake plan. I also hit my exercise goal (walking 10,000 steps).

At 9, still feeling hungry, I had another choice to make: do I tough it out or eat something else to try yet again to stop the hungries? If I tough it out, I risk insomnia and a worse headache. If I eat something, it might work, it might not. There’s no guarantee the hunger will end, but maybe my brain will finally realize I have had plenty to eat. If I say “the heck with it” and pig out, I won’t feel hungry anymore, but I also might sleep poorly and will feel pretty lousy tomorrow just the same.

At this point, I was feeling desperate. So I ate a small piece of leftover frozen pizza that had been in the fridge since the weekend. I was over my calories for the day by about 200. I brushed my teeth and went to bed. It was 9:30.

I woke up this morning, very hungry again, with a splitting headache again. I am in for a second day of this torture. It’s almost lunchtime, my head hurts, and I am very hungry, despite a good breakfast.

I am telling this story not to get your sympathy or to just vent about how hard weight loss and maintenance are. I am just trying to show what happens, some days, when you do the best you can and you feel like nothing goes right.

I was in a hole from the minute I woke up. I tried to fill the hole as best I could. I made a lot of great choices and a few not-so-great ones. The simple act of eating – the most basic bodily function that most of us enjoy and many of us take for granted – utterly exhausted me. I don’t feel defeated, but I do feel humbled and angry. Even after years at the weight-loss maintenance game, I get down sometimes.