Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Good girl, bad girl

You've said it, done it. You're a good girl (or boy) when you stick to your diet, or exercise, or stop-smoking program. You're a bad girl (or boy) when you screw up that program.

The reward-punishment cycle is hard to stop when it's so deeply ingrained in us, but it is possible to end or at least reduce the occurence of the negative stuff. One of the things that has helped me regain control over my eating behavior (on many levels) is keeping a food log.

Entering my food intake (including time of day, amounts, the eating environment, my physical hunger, any eating problems, and how I felt emotionally before, during, and after eating) has forced me to put on my scientist hat. I've always thought of myself as an intuitive, creative person, not a scientific one, but sometimes when I act a part, I become the part. When I've written down all this data about my eating, it's easier for me to see it with an objective eye. Patterns that are invisible to me when I'm in the middle of a situation become clear when I've backed far enough away from it. Things that I didn't understand when they happened to me yesterday have new meaning when I study them today.

Things that I don't want to understand also become clearer to me when I see them in my food log. For example, after my weight loss surgery it became increasingly difficult for me to eat when sharing a meal with my elderly mother. Twenty years earlier, eating with her was a joy because we both loved food and the conversation that surrounds a meal. As she grew older, fussier, more confused, more demanding, the joy drained away and I found myself in the middle of painful stuck episodes every single time we ate together. A few hours after each incident, I would find myself seeking comfort in food, like stopping at Baskin-Robbin's for a 670-calorie Cappuccino Blast after leaving Mom in the capable hands of her assisted living facility staff.

I loved my mom, I loved our old ritual of enjoying meals together, but it was just wasn't working any more. Time to make a change. After that realization, when it was time for family meal, I spent the time fussing over Mom instead of trying to eat my own meal. I ate my meal later, when Mom was safely tucked in bed.

The take-home message here is this. Try to avoid the extremes of "good girl, bad girl" thinking, not just in your eating but in your exercise, work, parenting, and anything else you undertake. Sometimes a little bit good can be good enough, and a little bit bad doesn't signifty the collapse of western civilization. Try to be a kind, tolerant, bur firm parent to yourself. Instead of screaming, "Bad girl!" when you fall off the bandwagon, give yourself a boost back up onto the wagon by saying, "That wasn't good, but I know you can do better, so go do it!"

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Hosting a holiday party

If you will be the host of a party this holiday season, you'll have plenty of control over the agenda and menu that you would as someone else's guest. Although your kids might clamor for your famous fudge, pecan pie or cornbread stuffing, you can plan a menu that also includes healthy choices. You can also drastically simplify the menu. When fellow humans somewhere are dying of malnutrition, it's almost arrogant to serve 3 meats, 3 starches, 3 cooked veggies, 3 salads, 3 beverages, and 3 desserts for Christmas dinner.

If you're Christian, think for a minute about the meals Jesus enjoyed in his, bread, water, wine...would he expect green bean casserole, pineapple ham, sweet potatoes with marshmallow topping and death-by-chocolate-cake for his birthday party?

If you present a simple, wholesome meal, you'll reduce your own food temptations and give yourself more time to enjoy the company of your family friends. This may be the first year in the history of your family that you'll be able to get down on the floor to help a child or grandchild discover the wonders of her or his new toys. Is a plate of cookies truly better and more lasting than that kind of miracle?

If you don't spend 4 hours eating at your holiday gathering, what else are you going to do? There are lots of possibilities: pose for and take photographs or videos, play charades, learn more about each other by asking and answering questions in a Chat Pack (, sing Christmas carols or karaoke style pop tunes, ask the oldest members of your group to describe the holiday celebrations of their youths. Don't waste your social time vegetating in front of the television for hours unless the program you watch will celebrate the season and/or stimulate interaction amongst your guests. If all else fails and the natives are restless, go for a walk together. We live out in the country now, but when we lived in a suburban setting, my husband and I liked to walk the neighborhood and admire (or critique) our neighbors' landscaping and seasonal decorations. It might be fun to take those antsy kids for a neighborhood cruise and ask them to vote for the best and worst outdoor holiday decorations.

Whatever you do, remember the reason for the season: the birth of Jesus, the festival of lights, the seven principles of Kwanzaa, the turning-point of the winter solstice...

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Just a Little Thing

I've been looking for a long-sleeved light or medium pink tee shirt to layer under other clothes because I'm so cold all the time. JC Penney's juniors and misses departments have dark pink in various shades, but too dark for me. So the other day I wandered over to the children's department and found the perfect shirt, marked down to $5.19. It's a girl's XL and it fits perfectly!

I felt triumphant about that for 10 minutes or so...then I thought, hey, you're not child's kind of sad that today's children need sizes so large that a medium-sized adult can wear them.

According to a customer I helped earlier this week, I'm "just a little thing." When customers are shopping for gifts and don't know what size the recipient wears, they use my body as a point of reference. This customer was holding a misses size small pajama set and didn't believe me when I told her I wear a medium. Apparently, I'm the size of her granddaughter..."just a little thing."

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Weight loss without exercise?

People often ask, "Why do I have to exercise? Can't I just eat less to lose weight?"

I asked fitness expert Caroline Duncan, BS, CFI, CPT about this. Her response? Of course you can lose weight without exercising if you drop your food intake enough. But that victory comes with a big price tag: your health. Losing weight that way is equivalent to starving yourself. You lose water (which you can and must replace) and bone (hard to replace), and you cause an electrolyte imbalance that makes it impossible for your body to maintain important functions in your heart, muscles, nerves, kidneys, and so on. When you lose weight without exercising, you're not building the muscle mass you need to power your body's everyday movements and boost your metabolism.

Caroline explains:

The human body is truly unique in that it has internal built-in mechanisms in which it communicates on an intracellular level to function and respond to specific needs. For example, during times of dehydration, the brain signals to the cells and kidneys to conserve water. While thirst becomes evident, the kidneys conserve water and the energy level slows. During weight loss, the brain communicates to the body organs and other cells by sending messages as if to say, "Hang on to every ounce of water, fat, and other valuable nutrients" as it senses that "famine" is about to take place.

For some individuals, it is the first few pounds that are the lardest to lose. Afterwards, the body adjusts and adapts by slowlty responding to the change. The human body takes on a mental and physiologic preparedness in times of stress whether it's from weight loss, illness, or body assault such as surgery or traumatic injuries.

While the human body was meant to move, not everyone enjoys exercising. Exercising as we know it comes in different forms; it can be strenuous or not. The most important message is to do something active daily - without exercise, muscle atrophy occurs. Think of exercise like brushing your teeth. If you don't brush, plaque forms on your teeth, and if you eat and don't move your body, plaque forms in your arteries. Find something you like to do - walk the dog, do body stretches while watching television, or simply walk around in the house. You don't have to belong to a gym to move your body or become active. The combination of proper nutrition and movement of the body will make you stronger. It's the small, subtle changes that can make a significant difference.

The take-home message? As Caroline says, to date, there is no man-made, engineered machine that can replicate the uniqueness of the human body. You only get one body in this lifetime. If you take care of it, feeding and exercising it well, it will help you accomplish all your goals, not just in weight loss but in every part of your life.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Back to my fighting weight

This morning I weighed 133.6 pounds....only 1.6 pounds away from my lowest post-op weight. When I got dressed for work, I thought, "Dang, girl, you're looking cute!" So I had my husband take these photos of me. Aside from the turkey neck (I am 57 yrs old, after all), I think I look pretty good for an old broad. This is an outfit I never would have dared to try before now, never mind wear it to work. And speaking of work, here's a funny story that falls into the NSV category.

Many of my coworkers are college kids, each one cuter than the last. I saw one of them in the break room and said, "Kassyndra, I haven't seen you all day. Have you been avoiding me?"

Kassyndra (who is black) occasionally speaks ebonics, usually for dramatic effect. She said, "Miss Jean, you just too fly for me today. I ain't want you around me cuz nobody be noticing me, all they eyes be on you!"