Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Day 51 Taking extra good care of myself

I had a very melancholy day today in the aftermath of yesterday's upset, so I did things that I knew would help. I gave myself some extra time in bed this morning, I wrote out my thoughts and feelings in my journal. I did not skip the group meditation but I did turn down an offer for company while I walked on the beach. I knew I needed the solitude. I took a very long walk in the cool, windy sunshine and worked through some of my feelings and let some of them just be.

Two months ago, I would have handled this very differently. I would have eaten a lot and played and replayed the conversation in my head and then pretended to myself it hadn't happened. Today I was willing to sit with the tender sore heart that I have and cry some and just be sad. I avoided the group lunch so I wouldn't have to pretend everything was okay, and just did some things that felt engaging to me.

I did two other things. I opted for a second massage from Joe, the wonderful guy who comes to the house and works on all our aging bodies. He's a magician with structural issues and my foot and hip are much, much better.

I also fed myself extra nutrition. I had two big smooothies with greens juice and fruit instead of one. I ate a big bowl of vegetable soup. I fixed some extra veggies in the afternoon for a snack. I don't understand all the physiology of body and mood but I knew it couldn't hurt to feed my cells additional good stuff. Two months ago, that wouldn't even have occurred to me.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Day 50 A small victory

Today was an interesting day. I had a good morning with some writing, meditation, a long walk on the beach, and some reading before I fixed lunch for everybody. It was a well-balanced time between quiet and activity, between solitude and company. Then I had a big emotional upset right after lunch, a very painful conversation with another woman on the retreat. In the past, I would have tried to fix those difficult feelings with food, whether I was hungry or not.

But I could feel what was happening to me. That I was sad and unhappy and I wasn't hungry. I wasn't empty. I wasn't craving. I was sad and unhappy. I thought about food, about snacks but I knew I didn't need that. I needed comforting and I had to give it to myself. So I borrowed the master suite's bathroom and took a long hot bath and watched the sky out the huge windows. And then I finished what I had been working on and lay down on my bed for a while and just felt bad.

I still feel bad and I'm not sure how to resolve the issue that she brought up. But I didn't eat over this, I didn't go off the plan either at dinner (we ate out and my choices were extremely limited), and I didn't come back after dinner and eat either. Shifting things one day at a time.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Day 49 Devotion, not discipline

Several people have remarked, both in person and via email, how this food plan is easier for me because I'm a person with a lot of self-discipline. I think that's a false impression, especially if they've never seen me around a half-gallon of ice cream. And willpower and discipline never kept me sober for any length of time. It wasn't enough.

I do have a lot of energy and when I'm deeply engaged in something, I have a good capacity to stick with it. But it only works when I really want something. And I haven't been able to explain how that isn't quite discipline until now.

Yesterday I came upon a great quote from Luciano Pavarotti: "People think I'm disciplined. It's not discipline, it's devotion., and there's a great difference." His words were in a creative/artistic context but I think it applies to anything that matters to us. For more than two decades I have been devoted to maintaining my sobriety. And now I find myself devoted to a number of things: my writing, my art, my sobriety, and recently to a healthier, happier body.

I like the difference in the connotations of devotion. For me, there's something spiritual about it, something loving. That's a big shift from the punishing, militaristic connotations of discipline. Although one of my friends at dinner tonight pointed out that discipline and disciple have the same root meaning. So I like that idea too. That I am a disciple, a follower of good health and happiness.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Day 48 Treating my body like a good friend

I've been reading Phyllis Theroux's The Journal Keeper, a memoir. It's full of very wise sayings and one that struck me is in her discussion of her own lack of exercise. She says, "What if I saw my body as a good friend that depends on me to take care of it?" This seems so simple, such a no-brainer, but that certainly hasn't been my relationship with my body.

I have treated that friend pretty well when it comes to exercising regularly but I have not done so with food. Instead I've been treating my shadow self well, the self that cries out for treats and quick fixes and way too much of everything. My misguided treatment of this friend has led to some unpleasant consequences that I am now trying to clean up. Already feeling much better, I'm finding it so worth it to do so. I'm learning to eat to empower myself, rather than just to power through unpleasant feelings or fatigue.

Instead of asking what do I feel like eating (i.e., what would taste great), I'm asking what's the best nutrition I can give myself (i.e., what will make me feel great). I think this is going to have far-reaching consequences for the way I am with myself. As we say in AA, more will be revealed.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Day 47 Watching out for myself when others are cooking for me

Today was the second full day of the retreat and I'm learning that no wheat, soy, or dairy means one thing to me and another thing to some of my retreat mates. Last night's fruit salad dessert had a yogurt dressing, tonight's corn tortillas were made with wheat and the salsa had soy oil. I haven't made a big deal about it but I haven't eaten those foods. When they've asked, I've just said I'm abstaining from those foods to see how it feels. It's not their issue, it's mine.

This reminds me a bit of early sobriety where people with no knowledge of alcoholism would offer me wine ("it's not really alcohol, is it?") or a liqueur-ed dessert ("it's not very much"). I have to watch out for myself.  In those days, I would often arrive at a gathering with a 6-pack of soft drinks and one of them open and in my hand. This week I brought plenty of food with me that I can quickly substitute if need be. Last night it was no problem to make my own cup of fruit. Today at lunch there was meat in the soup. I had a vegetarian soup with me and I quickly heated it up and ate it with the others as I knew there would be meat tonight and I'm only eating a very little animal protein. The salsa was easy to bypass, and I had corn-sweet potato chips that I could substitute for the tortillas, much to the delight of another participant, who eats gluten-free.

I don't know if a little bit of yogurt would be a problem or the oil in the salsa. But I don't want to find out. What I do want to find out is how terrific can I feel on this plan and can I eat this way for the long haul? Beginning to fudge at this point seems counter-productive, especially when I have other options.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Day 46 The vicissitudes of hunger

One of the more curious aspects of this food plan is the difference in my hunger level from day to day. Yesterday was a low hunger day. Each meal seemed quite satisfying and I didn't think much about food in-between. Day was a very hungry day and I wanted something every couple of hours, and sometimes that something wasn't enough either. I suspect there are many factors: metabolism, the amount of exercise, how busy I am or distracted. Or maybe it's just that I need differing amounts of fuel.

Yesterday I went to the gym and walked 30 minutes and lifted weights. I drove down through Salem into the wine country to visit my sister who lives down there now. A gorgeous drive on a gorgeous day. We had a salad for lunch. A gorgeous drive over to the coast. I arrived here at the retreat, unpacked my stuff, read a while outside, ate dinner with the others. Today I rose a bit early, wrote on my novel, wrote in my journal, walked 45 minutes on the beach, got a massage, read, wrote some more, had circle, had dinner, played some cards. Ostensibly not a lot of difference between the amount of sitting time and active time, the amount of deep engagement and satisfaction, the amount of enjoyment and relaxation.

I'm not stressed about these hunger differences. Just curious. On a diet, this would have been a disaster day. I ate two snack bars. I had peanut butter twice. I could beat myself up about that. But yesterday I had no snack bars and no peanut butter. The important thing is that both days, I stayed on the plan. I ate healthy. I exercised. I felt good.

Maybe there's a pattern that will reveal itself. Maybe not. And just maybe, it doesn't matter.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Day 45 Is there a food plan pink cloud?

For many of us who get sober, there is a euphoria that occurs in the first months as we drop the constant hangover and the constant self-loathing. It's a joy for a solution and relief at letting go of the old, hard life of addiction with its lies and the constant chase for something that couldn't last. In AA, we call this the pink cloud. And it eventually subsides and real life settles back in.

I drove over to the Oregon Coast today to the retreat. It was a spectacular day: clear, sunny, all of the fresh and myriad spring greens in the grass and trees, flowers in bloom, birds singing. The glory of the Northwest in full splendor and I was so happy. Happy to be stopping by to visit my sister Shannon in her new home on a vineyard, happy to be coming on retreat, happy to be seeing all the glorious colors, to feel the air on my skin, to be driving. Just happy.

And it reminded me of the pink cloud I experienced in the fall of 1989 and I wondered if this feeling will end and real life will settle in again. Of course the real life that I have now is infinitely better than the real life I had before I got sober. And it certainly seems possible that I could get so used to feeling this way, that the giddiness would wear off. Or maybe with prolonged eating of this kind of nutrition, my body will settle in to knowing this was it was made to feel like.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Day 44 Taking the plan on the road

Tomorrow morning I leave for a week at the Oregon Coast with good friends, the annual spring writing retreat on Netarts Bay. I've crammed in as much paid work as I can get done so that I don't have to take anything with me but my own writing, my own art, books to read, and naps to take.

And I am taking the plan with me. I've packed my crock pot (for easy veggie soups), my rice cooker (for steel-cut oats and brown rice), my juicer (for, well, juice), and my Nutri-Bullet blender. It sounds like a lot but it fits into two sturdy grocery bags and will support me in keeping to my routines. Besides, I'm taking my car.

Fortunately, I'm not going to a place where organic fruits and vegetables are hard to come by. Tillamook has a remodeled Fred Meyer's and a new Safeway and they both have organic sections. There may not be all the choices I 'd have here in Portland but there will be plenty and I'm taking enough veggies and fruits and plan foods with me for half the week.

I am the volunteer organizer of the retreat and therefore the general meal organizer. We do our own breakfast foods and cooking individually; then one of us fixes lunch and dinner each day. It works out well for costs and time. This retreat, I asked everyone to make a huge salad at lunch (a core item on my plan) and then each of us to bring lunch supplements as we wished. So people wanting a sandwich or cheese or crackers can do so and I'm bringing some plan foods (corn-sweet potato chips and hummus, chili, lentil soup, etc.). For dinner I've asked everyone to plan small portions of meat or fish and lots of veggies. We each bring our own salad dressing (that can be a landmine of foods I don't eat), contributions to the huge fruit bowl, and our own snacks and beverages.

We will eat out once and I'll check the menu. Most places serve a burger and salad and I can do that if need be. So I feel very confident and comfortable that I can take care of myself and stay on the plan.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Day 43 Ah, the scale!

Today, I had an appointment to see my doctor because I've been enjoying the discomfort of plantar fasciitis and I needed to see her before I could get an appointment with my PT person. I knew they were going to weigh me. The MA always does. So I had an opportunity to see where I am at 6 weeks.

It was very tempting. I flirt quite regularly with making this new food plan about weight loss like all the other diets. I lost a good number of pounds the first month, my clothes are fitting more loosely, I can see the weight loss in my face. And I could track my progress by weighing every day. But I know that's the road to disaster.

My first goal is to feel great. That's what attracted me to this plan. Going through the emotional ups and downs of the scale's ups and downs is not going to contribute to that. Knowing what I weigh once a month and on the same scale at the same time of day seems a reasonable measure of weight loss.

So I told Michelle, the MA, that I didn't want to know my weight and she had me get on the digital scale backwards. That worked just fine.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Day 42 The tenacity of diet mind

While I wouldn't call myself a yo-yo dieter (I never lost and gained the same 20 over and over; I mostly just gained and every 5-6 years I'd lose and get it back), I certainly have done my share of diets. When I was about 30 and weighed 155, a good weight for my frame, my partner at the time wanted me to be thinner. He liked very slim women and I wasn't. So I exercised a lot and ate very little for a few months and got myself down to a bony 134. It was impossible to sustain, of course. I was starving all the time and beginning to really drink and I put the weight back on. But that was, I think, the start of body image issues and weight manipulation for me.

Over the next 13 years of drinking, I got up to about 170. I dieted some (Slim fast, lean cuisine). All my friends dieted except the two or three who were struggling to keep their weight up. It was one of those inevitable conversations with friends. In early sobriety I lost some weight, gained a little, and then gave up for a while and gained a lot. About 12 years ago, I gave up sugar and over 6 months, I lost about 40 pounds and kept it off for two years. And I started eating sugar again and gained it all back and then some.

This isn't an unusual story. I include it just to show that I have had plenty of opportunities to develop diet mind and make it second nature. And I have seen diet mind show up in the last few weeks. Meat is limited on my plan, but my diet mind says to eat a lot of lean animal protein, that carbs are the enemy. So I have felt deprived without more meat and I was concerned about eating rice and beans when they got added to the plan in Week 3. I would find myself taking very small portions of rice or beans and no meat and then suffer from hunger. When I told my coach, she laughed and said "Old thinking." She told me to eat 1-1/2 cups of rice and 1-1/2 cups of beans every day. You will feel full and you will still lose weight, she said.

It's hard to give up the old beliefs, the old indoctrination, especially with so much conflicting "science" available. But the addition of the rice and beans has made a huge difference in diminishing the cravings I was having. A good lesson in trusting my coach.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Day 41 Giving up a reliable problem

I met today with two close friends. We call ourselves the Soul Strippers and we meet once a month to talk about life and what's going on and what we might want to change or enhance. After some pretty long check-ins where we catch up with each other, we started talking about what's up in our lives. We got into an interesting conversation about stepping more fully into something we want, like being a writer or a creative or more deeply connected to Spirit.

The other two then talked some about an ongoing problem that they each would like to solve. But when it came my turn, I was really hard-pressed to come up with something. For the last 20+ years, I've been complaining about, stuck on, planning to take action with, unwilling to shift, grousing about, reading about, seeking help with, and troubled by my relationship with food. It was my reliable problem. The 12 years before that, drinking was my reliable problem (that and my current dysfunctional relationship). Lots of conversational mileage out of that for I've bonded with a great many women over food and weight issues. It's a chronic topic of conversation.

So now that I've found what may well be a real and permanent solution to the food ISSUE, I'm going to have to give that up as my reliable problem. I wonder if I'll find another or if I have the courage to be problem-free.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Day 40 The reluctant cook

I haven't cooked much at all since I got sober and that's been more than 20 years. I used to cook with an open bottle of wine as my sous-chef. I didn't use it in cooking. I just drank it. And when I got sober, I just couldn't face being in the kitchen. So I stopped being a cook and became a fixer. I fixed food for myself: take-out, deli food, even had somebody else cooking for me for a while (way too expensive). Occasionally I'd steam vegetables or make a salad, but mostly I ate frozen food or deli food, especially once I moved to Portland and had access to the New Seasons deli.

Some of this had to do with taste. I wanted fancy dishes with many ingredients and didn't want to spend the time. I'd rather just earn more money and buy it. But all of that is changing now as both what I eat and how I feel are changing. Most of the foods I bought before have ingredients I'm not eating. They have cheese or butter or wheat or soy. Even at the New Seasons deli. I'm reading labels and I'm very careful. So while there  are still some things that I can purchase and do, if I want variety, I have to fix it myself.

And here's where the unrelenting cheerfulness comes in--or maybe it's the increase in energy and stamina--or maybe both. Things that used to seem such a burden don't anymore. They just don't. Almost every day I use the juicer (about 12 minutes from start to finish) and I'm making slow-cook oatmeal in the rice cooker. The last 3 weeks, on Mondays, I've made a soup or stew in the crock pot, and yesterday I baked yams and sweet potatoes and yellow peppers for one dish and chicken and artichokes for another.

I readily admit that I am still taking short cuts. The yams and sweet potatoes were already peeled and cut up. The artichoke hearts came in a jar. The broth base was organic and from Pacific. So in a sense, I'm still fixing. But I'm being much more creative and I'm much more interested in it all.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Day 39 Being willing to wake up

I had a session with my spiritual director today and I was trying to describe to her the changes that are happening because of this food plan. I've been seeing Anna for about 5 years and I first went to see her because of my inability to really do anything about food addiction and I was hoping that a spiritual approach might be helpful. And it has been, for bit by bit, I have come to the willingness to make the kind of changes I am making, and she has patiently asked the right questions to get me here.

I was talking about my unrelenting cheerfulness these days and how it is a cheerfulness in my body as much as in my mind. My body feels different to me, or rather I am in it in a different way. And I realized that my body is waking up. I have eaten and then drunk and then eaten to disconnect from my body. Numbing my feelings has meant numbing my body, since the feelings manifest physically.

Now my body is coming out of hiding, out of that numbness, and I am awake in it. That's the best way I can describe the sensation. It's curious, it's odd, it's cheerful.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Day 38 Taking the next big step

I met today with my Feel Great project buddy, Lily Gael. We meet every two weeks for an hour or so to check in with each other, report on our food experiences and our non-food commitments as well and then set new goals.

Lily was telling me today about her recent experience of waking up feeling better, happier and more energetic. She has been practicing eating earlier in the evening and then not eating again until breakfast, so that her body can rest, instead of digest, during sleep. That would seem like a no-brain-er to anyone who wasn't a food addict, but having food restrictions of any kind is a panic-inducer for many of us.

My coach has, of course, been encouraging this, but just like in the 12-step arena, her recommendations are suggestions, not orders or requirements, and I've been pretty resistant until today. In talking with Lily, I was intrigued and so I dredged up my willingness and committed to two weeks of eating by 7 pm and nothing after. As I go to bed at 10 and Lily goes to bed at midnight or after, 3 hours may not be enough to feel the effects she's taking about, but at least it's a step in the right direction. I'm trying to look on this as an adventure, an experiment. And as Lily said, it's a positive use of will-power to hold this kind of healthy commitment. I'll see what happens and keep you posted.

PS The last of the non-plan foods left my house today, including the rest of the dark chocolate, which I have had no desire for whatsoever.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Day 37 Something I'm realizing about hunger

I've been emailing with my health coach about foods and quantities. I'm conscious of eating more than is on her plan. I don't eat non-plan foods but I am eating more than 3 meals and 2 snacks. And what I'm noticing is that I am fine being hungry if I'm active: at the studio, cleaning up around the house, doing errands. But when I'm sedentary, sitting in front of the computer in particular, editing and doing the work I do, being hungry just isn't okay.

I'm beginning to discern the difference between hungry and restless, though they have some physical similarities, but I'm used to eating a great deal more and much more satiating foods. Two hours after a big salad, I'm hungry again, and if I'm sitting at the computer, working, I can't forget about it. My long-standing habit has been to fix that with food.

So a dilemma I'm facing is can I not only change what I eat but when and how much I eat all at the same time? Or do these need to be two different phases of change?

Monday, April 15, 2013

Day 36 My addict self showed up on the clean-up crew

In a related activity to my new food plan, my women's group, called Soul Strippers, has been taking on decluttering and cleaning challenges, so appropriate for the spring. Our  first week the challenge was called "Yessir, yessir, 3 bags full" and the challenge was to discard 3 grocery bags of stuff (garbage, Goodwill). the next week it was to get rid of 10 chotchkes/objets d'art/knickknacks (my family calls these STDs--shit to dust). This last week our challenge was to clean out the medicine cabinet of drugs, remedies, supplements. To take stock and discard stuff. I got around to it today, just under the wire. I hadn't been dragging my feet. Just didn't find the time. 

I couldn't believe the dates on some of the stuff in my medicine cabinet and how many unused supplements I have. So I set in and got pretty ruthless about discarding stuff until my addict self showed up. In the cabinet were several mind-altering drugs: an antidepressant/sleep aid and a muscle relaxer. It didn't matter that they were expired or prescribed for conditions I no longer have. There was a part of me, a very noisy and logical part of me, that didn't want to throw them away. Just in case. 

That old self hasn't been around in quite a while. I didn't listen for more than a minute to what she had to say. Out they went but it was interesting to have her come for a visit. 

Next week the challenge is linens. I don't think she'll come for that one. :)

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Day 35 Intentional living, intentional eating

If you've been following my blog for a good while, you know I've been taking on each January an intention for the year. No resolutions, no big list of give-ups, rahter being willing to take on some way of being that will enrich my life. The first year it was "Never be in a hurry again." I practiced and practiced. I stopped going through yellow lights, I stopped answering the phone on my way out the door, I stopped cramming in one last task before I left for an appointment. I started leaving 10 minutes early for those appointments. And it worked. I am seldom in a hurry and when someone apologizes to me with a "thanks for waiting" or "sorry to keep you waiting," most times I can honestly say, "I'm never in a hurry."

Next came "be more rested," then "work differently for less stress," and then "step more fully into my creative life." All of these have manifested in some profound ways over the last years. I still work at them, reminding myself of my intentions but they have changed my life.

Now I find myself entering this phase of intentional eating, eating for health, eating to feel great. And I'm finding that this way of eating is good support for my other intentions. I'm going about my day differently. I'm keeping my schedule more open, spending more time in the studio, more time reading and relaxing. I don't feel that hurry of anxiety that was a constant companion.

I don't know if living into the other intentions made intentional eating more possible but I'm delighted that they are interacting in such a positive way.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Day 34 Some things that make my food plan easy to do

1. I like vegetables. I like them a lot and almost all of them. (I'm not crazy about lima beans.)

2. I love the juicer. I love the juice and the process of making it and don't mind cleaning up afterwards and it is a way to consume many, many more nutrients.

3. Maple agave syrup. A great flavorful substitute for brown sugar on my every-other-day oatmeal.

4. I live close to two New Seasons markets, a Whole Foods, and a revamped Fred Meyer's with a big organic section.

5. I have a great coach. (elisabethdunham@aol.com).

6. I have a great buddy in this project (my good friend Lily).

7. I have a lot of experience making big changes (giving up alcohol 23 years ago, giving up dessert 3 years ago).

8. My body is responding well. I feel better and better.

9. I don't have to count calories, measure portions, or keep track of anything, with the exception of limiting animal protein to one 4-oz. serving a day. And that's not as hard as I thought it would be.

10. All of my friends and family are supportive and flexible about eating with me in places that accommodate my plan.

11. Some of my friends are getting on their own plans.

12. Eating this way is making a lot of things in my life easier.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Day 33 A different kind of energy

For a long time, all of my childhood, my youth, my young adulthood, I was a very high energy person in a bounce-off-the-walls kind of way. I was very thin, very active, very busy. I was also very unhappy, very anxious, very nervous. So when I heard that more energy was an effect of the new food plan, I got pretty concerned. For decades I'd been drinking and then eating to deal with that energy, to tamp it down, to drown out or stuff the anxiety, the restlessness, the jitters. Why would I want to eat in such a way as to have more of that?

My coach explained that the effect of a plant-based program had a different impact on the brain. Calorie-dense foods like burgers, fries, pizza, milkshakes cause a spike in dopamine. We get high and then we get low and we want another high. But eating lots and lots of plants, your body produces steady levels of serotonin, which has a calming effect. In addition, it produces clarity and stamina, or at least that's what I'm experiencing.

I'm not sure I can say that I have "more" energy, but I certainly have more stamina, in a slow and steady kind of way. I don't need caffeine, I don't need a nap. I feel strong and capable. It's a nice change.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Day 32 I won't be doing that again

It's been decades since I had a hangover and today sure felt like one. Queasy stomach, the jitters, just generally yucky. I suspect it was my liver trying to deal with all the caffeine in the chocolate I ate yesterday.

I gave up caffeinated coffee more than 15 years ago because I just couldn't process the caffeine. One cup of the real stuff and I was miserable for hours. I moved to decaf lattes and even that got to be too much so I moved to tea and would have one cup of black tea in the morning and one in the late afternoon. Then that got to be too much and I'd have decaf tea in the morning and maybe a cup of black tea in the afternoon or maybe not.

Since I started the food plan, I've had no interest in caffeine and little interest in tea at all except as a hot beverage. I don't need the jolt and my liver has been happier without it for sure. So it must have been overwhelmed by all I ate yesterday. I felt like crap all night and only started feeling better about 4 this afternoon. In a way, as I said last night, I'm glad it happened for two reasons.

One, there's no fooling myself that I can eat candy of any kind in moderation. I just can't stop once I get started. And I guess every once in a while I have to have a reminder. I'm on this food plan to feel great and chocolate isn't going to help that happen.

Second, and probably more important, feeling so crummy for 24 hours is going to be a good help. I've been feeling so great and I just don't want to feel like crap, not certainly voluntarily, which the past 24 hours has been. I can play that tape of how I felt and choose something else, just like I used to play the alcohol hangover tape any time I was the least bit tempted to drink. Those tapes are useful tools.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Day 31 Even though I knew from experience...

that candy and I are not a good combination, I thought I could handle dark chocolate bars in the house. Small amounts of dark chocolate (1-2 squares) are okay on my food plan. They are plant-based, low sugar if you pick the right ones, and have some potential health benefits.

I love milk chocolate, not dark chocolate, and so I thought it would be all right. And I conveniently forgot all the warning signs. I found a dark chocolate bar with sea salt that I really liked. For 3 days, I eat more than 1-2 squares but still pretty moderately. Then I found myself thinking about that kind most of the morning and then "needed" bananas and limes at the store that carries that particular bar and I bought not just one, but four. And I proceeded to eat two of them this afternoon in about 15 minutes. And since about 4 pm, I've felt pretty awful. I have a serious caffeine buzz going, a bit of nausea from the sugar, and just general yuckiness that is not what I want.

I'm glad it happened quickly. I didn't go weeks of holding back and then jump in. I just jumped in and I don't want to feel this way or be run by food like that. I want to go back to feeling good and I mean right now. So I'm going to bed and hoping the hangover won't be too bad tomorrow and that I will remember this yuckiness as the "how it used to be" tape that I can replay when I'm tempted.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Day 30 Eating with the Tribe, then and now

After I posted about the family dinner party, my friend Lily sent me these thoughts: "I wonder if this desire to eat what's put out to share at a family or family/friend meal isn't a throw back to being part of the Tribe, a way to identify deeply with the other bodies we share so much of everything else with, including love. Maybe, in transforming our eating, we will become part of the new Tribe that is forming to meet the new and important challenges that are so critical to both our human health needs and to the needs of our planet. Challenges to our ecosystem and climatic sensibilities that are not coming sometime in the distant future; they are happening now. Seems in all good conscious we need to become true, and awake sooner rather than later. Sometimes it sucks to be (yet again?) a pioneer, the comfort of the Food-Home we're leaving behind is tempting to return to, especially when we join-in again, share a meal and find that we still very much desire to be one among many, a part of family, something greater than our individual self.
I wonder if I can sink into feelings of being a part of the group, the family, the Bigger Life, and still stay awake and loyal to what I've committed to and what my body is responding to like the spring night-Moth responds to the waiting Trillium blooms."

I was moved by Lily's thinking: the desire to be part of the old way, the old group. I remember mourning the demise of our family's pie events. My sister Kerry makes fabulous pie and we used to gather in the summer every few weeks for a pie fest. Huge slabs with ice cream. We'd laugh and joke and thoroughly enjoy the pie and each other. It was a celebration of food and us.

This kind of celebration is harder somehow to have over a big salad at New Seasons or small bowl of lentil stew and beets. Maybe some day that will feel celebratory. Maybe not. But I do want to stay awake and loyal to what I am committed to and what my body is responding to, as Lily says. Maybe the challenge is to live in two tribes: the old and the new. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Day 29 Where I stand four weeks in

Today marks four weeks on the new food plan so a good moment for an assessment.

First, I have found it surprisingly easy to stick with the whole foods plant-based program. After the first 2 or 3 days, I no longer wanted or craved any of the old favorites, the old must-haves. I attribute that to the nutrition of a quart of green juice every day (kale and spinach plus a variety of other veggies--cucumber, celery, parsley, tomato, carrots,--and apple, banana, and blueberries). I have not craved other carbs or sugar. I have some days been hungrier than others. Sometimes, the quart of juice, the big salad, a snack, and a supper of a small amount of meat and veggies have not seemed enough, but I am content with another snack on the plan. I'm not thinking about pizza or candy or cheese or chips. It's not what I want.

Second, I have found myself rather unrelentingly cheerful. I wake up cheerful. I haven't had any anxiety and I haven't had any panic attacks. Sometimes I'm more cheerful than others but I am always cheerful. I'm not only cheerful in my mind but in my body. It's the only way I can explain it.

Third, I am losing weight. I have lost 14 pounds in this month without portion control (with the exception of animal protein) or measuring or counting calories.

Fourth, I do not feel like I am on a diet. This program is about what I do eat, not what I don't. Yes, I'm not eating wheat or dairy or soy, but it doesn't feel like a restriction. It actually does feel like a choice. Like I'm choosing to put these other foods into my body because of what they can do for me. It's hard to explain.

But I am very pleased.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Day 28 Planning and flexibility

I've never been much on budgeting, not money, not time, and certainly not food. I don't make shopping lists, I don't create a week's menus. I stopped doing OA when they wanted me to write down what I was going to eat and then stick to it. Food is an area of my life where I have always wanted maximum spontaneity and zero restrictions. But as I move deeper into this new food plan, this new way of being both with food and in my body, I can see that some changes in that direction might be helpful. 

First, it is proving very helpful to have only healthy foods on hand: vegetables, both cooked and raw; fruit, some nuts, rice cakes, gluten-free bread, vegetarian chili, soups (homemade and Amy's organic canned), and green juice. When I can't ride through a craving and I just have to eat something, I can eat something good for me. 

Second, I'm finding it a good idea to figure out in the morning what my meals are going to look like as I figure out what my day is going to look like. This morning was a steel-cut oats breakfast with berries and pecans and almond milk (and a little maple agave). Lunch could be a smoothie or a salad. I knew I was having dinner out with a friend and that we'd get gourmet Indian (chicken and rice and salad). I had the oatmeal, was hungry before lunch came around and I just didn't want a salad or a smoothie. So I had a slice toast with measured-out peanut butter and an orange and two hours later a bowl of homemade soup (cauliflower, celery, spinach, and potato). My need to eat settled down then and I was good until dinner. But knowing I would have meat for dinner meant no meat at lunch as I keep meat down to about 4 oz a day. 

Third, I'm reflecting each day on what I ate and when and why. Nothing systematic, nothing rigid. Just looking for patterns of hunger: what's enough, what's not. What might be emotional instead of physical. Just getting to know myself better instead of just sticking something in my mouth with little to no thought. 

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Day 27 A brief yearning for the old way

Just came back from the first family dinner party since I've been on the food plan. I'd checked with the hostess and knew there would be salmon, a quinoa dish, roasted brussel sprouts, and I was making a big mixed green salad with raw veggies. I asked the hostess if she could forego butter for olive oil; no problem!

I'd not eaten much during the day: green smoothie, a bit of oatmeal with fruit and almond milk, so I was hungry when I got there. I passed on the sparkling cider (too much sugar) and just had sparkling water. Then I got a medium piece of salmon and a big helping of salad. But when I helped myself to the quinoa , I discovered it had cheese and then to the brussel sprouts,  also with cheese. I had to pass on the baguette and  the butter going around with it. I passed on the yummy-looking cookie crust/blueberry/whipped cream dessert. Just me and some salmon and salad (and a few brussel sprouts from the bottom of the bowl free of cheese).

Don't get me wrong. It was very tasty--the salmon just perfect and I'd made a great salad. But I had a few minutes of yearning. Not for the foods themselves, but for the nonchalance of eating whatever I wanted without thinking about ingredients or how much olive oil was in the sprouts or putting the quinoa spoon down after I saw the feta cheese in it. I missed being heedless, thinking only about the enjoyment of my mouth and not the health of my body.

Then I helped with the dishes and headed for home and a cup of tea. My commitment was not shaken but my old yearnings were stirred.  

Friday, April 5, 2013

Day 26 Expanding my buddy system

For years, I've been blessed with a great exercise buddy. My good friend and backyard neighbor Melanie and I have been working out at the same gym for 8 or 9 years now. We go 3-4 times a week for an hour. We set the times and days for each week according to her work schedule (mine is the most flexible) and she shows up at my house on time. We are very reluctant to use the "get out of the gym" free card and remind each other of our motto: ambulatory at 80!

Although I've exercised pretty steadily since 1980, having a buddy has meant longer and more frequent workouts and so I know that it works. So I was delighted when a friend was willing to buddy up with me on the new food plan. She is also working with the same health coach although she has a somewhat differently plan tailored to her needs and goals.

My friend and I serve as phone support for each other and we are getting together every two weeks to share ideas, set mini-goals, and talk about our experiences. Our Feel Great project (my name for it) has more than just food and weight loss components. We have 12-step experience in common and so we are looking at this through emotional and spiritual lenses as well as the physical.

Being able to share the challenges and the good results is a huge help to me.

Day 25: At some of these we balked

I'm finding myself bumping up against the authority figure (my health coach) and my own intuitive knowings. Each coaching session she has a wealth of suggestions to make and some of them seem contradictory to me. They come by me so fast during our hour on the phone that it takes some time for me think about them later. I have to remember that they are suggestions and that in the end, it is my body and my food plan.

I don't think I'm balking at her ideas because I want to find an easier, softer way, as we say in the program. I think I'm balking at having it be more complicated than it already is. Even though I've expressed no desire to go vegan or even vegetarian, she keeps bringing that up. She keeps talking about a low-glycemic index plan although I've said I'm not interested in that either for now. Now she's talking about an alkaline diet and a yeast-overgrowth-killing fast and my head spins and I'm thinking, wait, wait, I just want to eat better for my body and lose some weight.

Perhaps like many converts to an enthusiasm, she has so many ideas, so much she wants to share that it tumbles out unbidden, like Bible verses in inappropriate moments from the born-again. Fortunately, I have my own set of brakes and know how to use them. So I'm learning to take it all with a grain of low-sodium salt and just keep on my plan.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Reposting a pertinent blog that came my way today

Cravings – How They Work and How to Manage Them

Cravings570x299 Cravings – How They Work and How to Manage ThemWhat are cravings and how do they affect your plan for healthy living? Cravings aren’t “bad.” They are just signals that you want something. When you are tired, you crave sleep. When you are thirsty, you crave liquids. And if you are getting good signals from someone really attractive, well, you know. So most of the time, cravings are operating as they are supposed to and not causing any mischief. The problem comes with cravings for unhealthy things, like junk food or drugs. Cravings direct us to close the distance between ourselves and the target stimulus, essentially pulling our behavior toward satisfying the craving. That’s how it’s supposed to work. Unfortunately, cravings don’t know the difference between healthy, natural targets and self-destructive ones. Worse yet, self-destructive ones can be especially powerful because of the vividness of the images that drive them.
Our cravings live and work within a web of images. The targets and goals that drive us are often visual images in our minds. When we think about eating a piece of candy, we actually see an image of it in our minds and then imagine the taste. If you watch your mind work, you will observe that visual images are generally driving the show. You “see” options for your next move and if you then imagine how it will feel to reach the goal (chomp on the candy), then it starts pulling you toward doing it. Your cravings are derived from images for pleasurable things. They are just the minions of your imagination. If the imagined targets involve artificially intense pleasure ­– that is, those pleasures that are beyond the intensity we would have experienced in our evolution ­– those cravings can lead us to unhealthy decisions and lifestyles. For example, soda and ice cream provide us with a hyper-normal amount of pleasure and can trigger destructive cravings.
So what is the best technique for managing these types of cravings? The very best technique is to basically not have the cravings in the first place. How is that possible? It is possible when your mind can’t create a good image of what the stimulus ­is going to feel like because it’s been a long time since you have actually been exposed to it. The longer the amount of time since you had, say, your last hamburger or fudge sundae, the harder it becomes for your mind to create a vivid image of eating these unhealthy foods. Images depend on memory and memories fade with time. An alcoholic sober for one week has a significantly more difficult problem to manage than an alcoholic sober for a year. Over time, the vividness of memory fades and loses a lot of its destructive influence.
This is why healthy living can get easier and easier, the better the job you do at it. When you are struggling, you can begin to notice that your cheats tend to come in little streaks. If you have a cheat on Monday, then for the next several days the image of that cheat is forceful since it is very clear in your memory. But if you don’t indulge that cheat again for a couple of weeks, the images start to decay in your memory and lose a lot of their power. It can be hard to start a good streak, but well worth it. The people who have the best “willpower” hardly use it at all, since they have rid themselves of their cheats quickly. Keep this in mind the next time you are thinking about skipping a little indulgence and living clean for the day – because you don’t just win at that moment. You also make tomorrow easier to live healthy and well.
Doug Lisle, Ph.D.

Doug Lisle, Ph.D.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Day 23 Lowering my expectations

I was talking to my friend Carole yesterday about our respective food plans (several of my friends are now making some food changes too), and she was talking about the difficulty of reconciling never having certain foods again. And I was reminded of the perfectionism that so easily sets in. The attempt to adhere perfectly to a food plan, to a resolution, to a new commitment, to breaking an old habit.

And I reminded her, and myself, about the importance of lowering our expectations. I can't say that I'm never going to eat cheese again or a piece of pizza or a french fry. Right now I'm not eating those things. For the next 5+ months, I plan not to. I'm trying something different to see how that feels for my body, trying something healthier that might have some pretty good consequences.

It isn't exactly one day at a time as I'm making a longer commitment. But I'm not saying "never." There's only one thing that's in the never category for me and that's alcohol. I hope to never drink again.

But as I feel my way into this new way of eating and feeling in my body, I'm finding that absolutes aren't nearly as important as paying attention. Absolutes are easier--that's probably why all or nothing can be so appealing. But paying attention seems to be the way to go.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Day 22 The siren call of the old ways

The last couple of days I've been struggling to stay on the food plan. I'm not tired of what I'm eating. I've fallen in love with the endless possibilities of the juicer and all the combinations of flavors that can be mixed and matched. I love the smoothie every day and again the possibilities of fruits and vegetable combinations are great. There's a lot of variety and many food possibilities for the other meals so I'm not bored. And, surprisingly, I don't have a particular craving for a food like candy or butter or cheese. I don't have an urge to run down to the Plaid Pantry and buy Cheetos or a Snickers or to go get pizza.

In essence, it isn't the foods that are the issue. It's the plan. It's 3 meals a day and a snack and most of that vegetables. A big salad at lunch fills me up but doesn't sate me. And I want to be sated. I want to feel that what I've eaten is enough and stop thinking about it and it doesn't happen. Oddly, it's not sugar I want but fat or maybe it's animal protein. If I eat meat, I feel sated. If I eat a couple of eggs, same thing. If I just eat vegetables, no.

I'll be talking with my coach this week again and this will be on my agenda. Of course, my impatient self thinks that my many decades of eating one way should have subsided by now and the new way, all 3 weeks of it, should be running the show. Patience..not my strong suit.

Day 21 Moving into nourishment

The Truth about Pleasure

The truth is, we don’t really want to be free from desire or to admit that clinging to the pleasures of the senses—the taste of delicious food; the sound of music, gossip, or a joke; the touch of a sexual embrace—ends unavoidably in disappointment and suffering. We don’t have to deny that pleasant feelings are pleasurable. But we must remember that like every other feeling, pleasure is impermanent.
- Bhante Gunaratana, "Desire and Craving"

The quote above came into my mailbox yesterday morning. And I found it very true. I have seen the impermanence of my desires for certain men, even for alcohol. They have faded. I suspect my desire for certain foods will fade too. I no longer miss ice cream with the deep craving I had for it three and a half years ago when I stopped eating it. 

But I do not really want to be free from my desire to be sated and sedated. That is so much bigger an issue for me than another Almond Joy or scalloped potatoes or four-cheese pizza. I want relief from the agitation of life, whether that agitation is external or internal, and I want a surfeit of pleasure to fix that. I have ample proof that that fixing too is impermanent. Everything arises and passes away. 

So now I am sitting in lessons of learning how impermanent both pleasure from food and the need for more than enough really is.