Monday, August 4, 2014

What I've Learned From Ignoring My Body

Dear Imogen Lamport:

I know you don't run in my circles.  You don't seem to have run into Health At Every Size, or eating disorder recovery. Clearly you don't read Dances With Fat.  So when I read your seemingly random discussion of weight loss on your usually fashion- and style-oriented blog, I thought it was out of place, but I gave you the benefit of the doubt for the moment.

You are absolutely correct, you know.  Most people have to stay hungry to sustain weight loss.  They have to know hunger and embrace it and move through it.  For some people, it might just be the edge of hunger.  For others, it might be more.  You're also correct that our bodies don't understand that we generally have access to more food than any ten of our distant ancestors ever saw in their lives.  More food, safer food, it's lovely.  What a wonderful world.

However. I'm here to remind you that hunger is an important signal to the brain.  Hunger, pain, anger, sadness, sleepiness, these are all things we need to pay attention to.  Yes, as adults, it's important to be able to accept them at times, to learn ways to deal with them when we can't or shouldn't do anything about them.  Just as adults don't burst into tears in public unless they have absolutely reached their limits, we don't find ourselves binge eating unless something has gone haywire.  And powering through these very important signals is a fantastic way to take us to haywire, to take us beyond our limits.

Diet gurus- excuse me, lifestyle change gurus- champion willpower.  Even if in the beginning, as you said about your client's diet, they claim we won't be hungry, in the end they always circle back to "Just do it!"  But willpower is a two-edged sword.  Willpower is fuel for eating disorders, with the perverse pride that people get from doing what they know from experience sickens them.  Willpower is one of the things that keeps people with mental illness from getting help until their internal signals are on Red Alert and they're to the point of breaking down and hurting themselves.  Willpower must be tempered with wisdom to be worthwhile.

I know you didn't mean for your client to scream "THIS IS SPARTA!" and dive into eating disorders.  But your advice was dangerous.  I won't speak to your choices: you are the boss of your underpants, and that's fine.  (Although I will point out that putting "500 calories" and "not a starvation diet" in the same sentence will make nutrition nerds laugh at you.)  But advising a woman on a diet who's struggling with her hunger to embrace it is a hard thing.  She's at high risk of falling face first off that stupid, expensive diet into a bowl full of pie and ice cream and shame, and that isn't a healthy place to be at all.  That's not a place where she can nourish her mind and body. (Please note, I fully support pie and ice cream.  Just not garnished with tears.) Not to mention that you don't know her body: you don't know her medical conditions, her hunger, or whether she's actually getting the nourishment she needs from this one-size-fits-all deal.  If she needs food and she's not getting it, that needs to be addressed. But you're not her doctor; you're not her nutritionist; you're just shaming her for being naturally hungry.

And what does that make you?

I hesitate to answer that with anything other than, "A blogger with one less follower."

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

It's Awesome time!

Since I've been feeling somewhat better(since my doctors got my meds straight and I've been eating better), I've had more energy for working out.  I may look like a couch potato, but I knows my workouts, and most of the workouts that are recommended are either too easy or too hard for someone like me.  For example, I've got pretty strong muscles in some groups, compared to other people; some isolation exercises are easy as pie for me. But I've been deconditioned for so long that for me, I'm extremely weak- most importantly, my core and the muscles that tie it all together are weak, so that compound and bodyweight exercises are tough.

Anyway, I invented a program for myself called Awesome!  I start out every day with some Awesome Walking.  Then, I alternate days between Awesome Workouts and Awesome Yoga.  I finish up with some more Awesome Walking later in the day.  I'm wondering about working in Awesome Dancing, although maybe I should give it a while.  To be fair, I will be taking every fourth week off from the workouts, so maybe some dancing would fit in there.  Rest time is very important here; I can't afford to stress out my body excessively or hurt myself.  So just three days a week and every fourth week is a rest week.

This is the system I came up with for doing the workouts and alternating them without getting too confused.  I made up a list of essential exercises that work the whole body, starting with basic exercises likes pushups, pullups, squats and plank and including lots of core and hip strengtheners, since I have back and hip pain regularly.  So I'll do these essential exercises each time, always looking to reach a goal; once that's reached, I'll move the goalposts.

There are also lots of other fun exercises that work all sorts of muscles, and I made them into a deck of cards. Every time I'll pick a new exercise from the deck and incorporate it into the routine.  All these exercises, essential and otherwise, require little or no equipment and are mainly bodyweight, compound exercises that hit a number of areas.

For the yoga portion, I also created my own yoga practices in lieu of trying to keep up with someone else's ideas.  The yoga is focused on gentle, restorative stretching and strengthening without the strong focus on putting on muscle that the workouts have.  I do have the goal of getting back to where I used to be in yoga: comfortable swinging into down dog from a forward bend, intimately familiar with my feet.  But, concurrently I have the goal of accepting myself where I am.  Lots of gentle backbends and twists.

Anyway, that's where I am with working out these days!  I'm looking forward to hiking and swimming more in the warm weather.  I'm on a medication that has caused an unnatural weight gain, and I don't know if I can or need to lose the weight per se, but building muscle and being more active will certainly make me feel better!

What about you?  Where are you with moving these days?

“Paleofantasy”: Stone Age delusions

“Paleofantasy”: Stone Age delusions -

'via Blog this'

This article makes a compelling case for the science- or more precisely, the hypotheses- behind Paleolithic diets and lifestyles being off-base, since evolution is ever working on us and we are always adapting to our conditions.  I haven't ever considered Paleolithic ideas to be the be-all and end-all, and I knew the science was pretty bad.  I really love the way the evolutionary biologist here analyzes it.

Still, the one thing I will stick up for is that the Primal Blueprint got me really thinking about what and how I eat- and also how I sleep, move and play. Now I'm eating probably five or ten times as much fresh fruits and vegetables now, and doing almost all my cooking from scratch.  I focus more on fueling my body, resting it significantly, and moving it in meaningful ways.  The Paleo folks reminded me to reconnect my brain to my body and my body to my environment, and that's key to well-being.

It's important to separate the wheat from the chaff, and in the arena of health, there is a lot of chaff going around.  But almost all diets come back to some basic fundamentals:  protein, fresh fruits and vegetables, avoiding processed foods.  It's easy to get confused when every faction, from the zero-carb group to the raw vegans, is waving "scientific results" that show happier, healthier humans!  But not everyone is built the same, and for most people the healthiest diet is a variety of fresh, homecooked or raw foods, covering all the bases of the food groups.

For me, I avoid grains because I'm avoiding sugar, and I've found I can't manage the one without the other.  And that works for me.  It's possible that at a later date I'll add in whole grains like quinoa and wheatberries, but for now, ditching grains entirely has been the best way of avoiding processed foods and added sugars for me.  Sugar really makes me feel sick- mentally and physically.  I find it's the number one culprit of my irritable bowel syndrome.  So, heave ho!

What do you think?  What has worked for you in trying to eat a healthier diet, and what constitutes healthy for you anyway?

Monday, March 11, 2013

Hulk out with green quiche!

So I'm back on the Paleoesque diet these days, with some forays into raw veganism- green smoothies make taking the leafy greens much less time consuming!

I made this absolutely delicious spinach and broccoli quiche the other night with a quirky side effect of being green.  Here's the recipe, and why it's green:

11 eggs
2 cups milk, divided
salt and pepper
2 bunches spinach
1 cup chopped broccoli
1 cup grated or shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Beat the eggs and 1 cup milk together.
Blend the spinach, broccoli, and remaining cup of milk together until chunky.
Beat the spinach mixture into the eggs.
Pour into a greased casserole dish and mix half the cheese in, topping with the other half.
Bake for 40-50 minutes.

You may find you need more milk, I eyeballed it.  The blending is what makes it green- it's not enough to make it smoothie-like, but it does disperse the veggies evenly throughout the egg mixture.  I don't care for meeting whole broccoli florets in my quiches, much as I love them elsewhere, and I didn't want to take the extra time to chop everything fine- but I love the way this turned out.  A+++, would eat again!  It's a great dish for kids, very tasty and nonthreatening but full of nourishment.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Food issues

This is my first posting in ten days! Aiiieeee!

There is a most excellent reason for that. I'm on this medication for intracranial hypertension called Diamox and the side effects are too much for one heart to bear. Ya got your tinglin' in yer hands, feet, lips, head an' neck. Ya got yer metallic taste where e'erthin' taste funny. Ya got your fatigue, confusion, and e'er thirty minnits peein'. But best of all ya got yer unholy diarrhea, yer nausea an' yer utter lack of appetite.

Note that these are all side effects on top of the as-yet-undiminished symptoms. Anyway, haven't been eating much lately. To be fair I am eating four times a day, because I take it four times a day and I wish to cushion my tender digestive system. But today, for example, I had two sticks of string cheese. For dinner I had two more.

I can't defend this as a healthy diet, nor as an interesting one. I have had mad dreams of rosewater and devonshire cream- actually, at this point I am taking in so little, and using so much energy, that I'm straight up dreaming about candy. Feh.

Anyway, can't let you go without a recipe, and this one has been very dear to my heart lately.  This one is from my dad- maybe the only recipe of his worth handing down!

Ice Water

Two cups ice
Water to cover

Find the biggest cup you can. Think 32 oz or bigger.
Pour in two cups ice.
Cover with tap water.
Drink heartily!

Okay, so that was a little joke- haha-not-really. But here is the only real recipe I've been using lately.

Huevos Rancheros

2 eggs
A pat of butter
1/2 cup salsa
3/4 cup refried beans

Melt pat of butter in pan on stove at medium heat.
Break eggs, put them in.
Immediately top with salsa.
While that's cooking, microwave refried beans(with a cover, may God save your soul.)

I like these served in a bowl, so I just microwave the beans in the bowl, then when the eggs and salsa are done, plop them on top.  You will know when the eggs are done when the egg white on the top of the yolk has turned white.  Well, that's how I like 'em- I like my yolks runny.

Delicious!  And not too much work!  In fact these are all I've had to eat today.  Excuse me, I need to back to fighting the good fight against exhaustion and malnutrition.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Banana ice cream!

I have discovered a newfound love for fruit.  Clementines?  Delicious!  Grapes?  I will eat all your grapes.  Apples?  Can't get enough!  Although I'm still using Splenda(mostly for chai), most of my sweetness comes from fruit.  This is going to sound especially strange to people who knew me back when I was still picky as hell.  I had a knock-down drag-out battle of wills with my mother over eating a peach once.  I finally took a bite and then threw it up.  I was 13.

Anyway, thank goodness I came to my senses.  One of the reasons I chose to do Paleo-ish was that I knew that including all whole fruits and vegetables would really increase the variety in my diet- one of the things I got sick of with Atkins was the unvarying mouthfeel, almost always the smoothness of fat and protein and the occasional crunch of lettuce or nuts.  Not to mention the health benefits!

I'm not one of these people who wants to replicate grain or sugar-based recipes with Paleo ingredients.  I'm not opposed to trying "Paleo" waffles once in a while*, but in my mind, it's better to focus on whole foods and not "faking it".  Plus, the sheer amount of honey and maple syrup used is pretty ridiculous.

* Although those do look incredibly tasty!

Anyway, aside from that caveat, I do enjoy finding new ways to enjoy some of the things from my old life.  Something had been nagging at me for a while, and I finally realized- it was a silly infomercial I saw years ago:

Now, I don't appreciate the fat-shaming or the mention of "superfoods", and this totally belongs on Unclutterer's Unitasker Wednesday, but I think it's a great idea!  A food processor would work just as well- it's too bad mine just died.  But I love bananas, and there are so many things you could add in:
  • Berries
  • Peaches
  • Mangoes
  • Pineapple
  • Pears
  • Melon
  • Coconut milk/shredded coconut
  • Chocolate
  • Vanilla
  • Peanut butter
  • Other nut butters or meal- hazelnut would be awesome, but so would macadamia nut, almond, cashew...

Here's a simple recipe if you want to try it out.

Doesn't it seem like a blast? I'm going to give it a try and report back!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Delicious veggie stew

Today was long and productive, but also tiring.  I was pretty cranky when I got home, and I needed some comfort food.  So I whipped up this veggie stew, which I have named Delicious Vegetable Stew. (I'm quite the namer, eh?  Better than one of my earlier efforts- Pig Stew.)

Originally I was going to make this a chicken veggie stew, but it didn't really need the chicken- plus I was hungry.  (I am the best chef ever!)  So I roasted a chicken thigh, with bone and skin on, and all I ended up adding to the soup was the schmaltz.  (Chicken fat, for goys.)

I love this stew because it turned out perfect, because it's lovely and warm and perfect for fall, and because it's easy to alter to one's taste- e.g., add chicken, use bacon fat, veganize it, whatever you want.  The only "problem" I had with this was that it's really just begging for a hunk of fresh homemade bread to go with, and that's just not happening right now.

So let's get to it!

3 stalks celery, diced
3 carrots, coined
1 red onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
4 oz mushrooms, minced.  (I used an "earthy and exotic mix" starring crimini, shittake and oyster mushrooms, some of which I had never encountered before.  Manager's Specials are a great way to meet new foods!)
A hunk of butter (oh, all right, 2 or 3 Tbsp.  I used butter because I was really going for the comfort food feel- olive oil or coconut oil would work just as well.)
1 sweet potato, roasted, skin removed
Chicken broth to cover (Obviously you can sub vegetable broth here.)
Pan drippings from one roast chicken thigh (optional)
1 Tbsp Frank's Red Hot
2 tsp dried thyme
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425.  Roast sweet potato(skin on), and if you choose, a chicken thigh, for 45 minutes to an hour.  In separate pans, preferably.  This will give you time to do all the veggie chopping.

I sauteed the rest of the veggies on medium high in the butter(in a huge pan!) for a few minutes- just long enough to get that nutty butter smell and start wringing flavor molecules out of the savories.  (You may prefer to sautee part of the veggies at a time- that is certainly a respectable choice.  The way I did it, it wound up more like sweating the veggies.  I'm no great sauteer.)  I kept stirring it and flipping it and generally not letting any one bit sit on the bottom too long.

Dump sauteed veggies into a pot and put in enough broth to not quite cover.  Everything should be wet, but veggies should be peeking up at you still.  Turn that to a boil, give it a good stir, and turn it back down to a simmer.

Add thyme and hot sauce.

When the sweet potato comes out of the oven, de-skin it, mash it and stick it in the pot.  If you're using the chicken drippings, dump those in when the chicken thigh is done.  Stir well!

Add salt and pepper.  Allow stew to simmer for an hour, covered.

Serve, and laugh at the chilly weather outside!