Friday, May 31, 2013

Day 82 What constitutes food sobriety for me?

I've figured out what abstinence on this plan is. No wheat, dairy, or soy, as little processed food as possible, nothing with chemicals, no refined sugars. Abstinence I'm deeply familiar with. I've been abstinent from alcohol and drugs for more than 23 years and my life has been greatly enriched by that abstinence. But it is not possible to abstain from food. And more of the time than I would like, I am still overeating, albeit on foods on the plan.

So I'm in an inquiry to see if I can define for myself what constitutes food sobriety. Is it 3 meals a day? Is it a food plan for each day, that I do or do not tell a sponsor or trusted friend as one does in OA? Does it mean a certain number of calories a day or fat grams? I don't know the answer yet but maybe I'll do a 16 solutions on it and see what comes up as possibilities.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Day 81 What to do besides eat?

My coach sent me a link to this great list of possibilities from

When you recognize that a desire to eat is due to “head hunger” rather than true hunger, you can choose to do another activity to redirect your attention away from food until the urge passes—or until you feel hungry. Highlight the ideas that appeal to you and add some of your own. Remember, try to choose activities that are enjoyable, available, and preferably, eating incompatible. You’ll need both quick and involved activities. Create a “Distraction Kit” with everything you need and establish a pleasant Food Free Zone in your
home or office that is perfect to retreat to in these moments.

Imagine a healthier, energetic you * Walk around the block * Call a friend * Make a list of your Top Ten Reasons to get active * Read a child a book * Make a To Do list * Dance a little * Plan a vacation * Get a massage * Jot a thank you note to someone * Go to bed early * Read a great book * Write in your Awareness Journal * Give yourself a manicure or pedicure * Plan a healthy meal for your family * Surf the Internet * Finish an unfinished project * Walk your dog * Feel your feelings * Volunteer in your community * Start a hobby * Brush your teeth * Tape your favorite show to watch while exercising * Take 5 slow, deep cleansing breaths * Practice an instrument * Balance your checkbook * Plan a party * Say a prayer * Buy yourself some flowers * Do a few sit-ups * Make a phone call to someone you like * Chop veggies to
keep on hand * Set your priorities * Try a new hairstyle * Give a massage * Write about something you are proud of this week * Clean out a junk drawer * Play a game with your kids * Try a new route on your walk * Scream! * Plant fresh herbs to use in your cooking * Drink a glass of water * Kiss someone * Try on some clothes * Catch up on your reading for work * Look at old pictures * Rent a video * Smell the roses * Wash your car * Chew some gum * Plan a “date” for someone special * Swim a few laps * Read Eat What You Love * Take a hot, soothing bath * Update your calendar * Get it off your chest * Build something * Check in on an elderly person * Work in your yard * Start your holiday shopping list * Count your blessings * Write a letter * Fold some laundry * Listen to your inner conversations * Take a nap * Run an errand * Work on your budget * Take a bike ride * Check your e-mail * Make a positive statement about yourself—repeat often * Give your dog a bath * Start a project you’ve been wanting to get around to * Send a birthday card * Meditate * Try a delicious new recipe * Play cards * Set your goals * Freshen your make-up * Hug someone * Rearrange some furniture * Go take a hike! * Help with homework * Light a fire or some candles * Say “STOP!” out loud * Put your pictures in an album * Walk around your workplace * Try a new relaxation technique * Talk it over with someone * Get a head start on your taxes * S-t-r-e-t-c-h * Do a “Honey Do” * Say what’s on your mind * Go pick up your mail * Straighten a closet * Think * Do something nice for someone anonymously * Check the stock market * Plan a romantic encounter *
Clean out a files * Tell someone how you really feel * When you become truly physically hungry, Eat What You Love and Love What You Eat!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Day 80 A typical day's food

Here's what a day looks like on the food plan for me:

Large glass of sparkling water with fresh lemon first thing (remember to brush teeth after, not before, to avoid major puckering)

About 45 minutes later, 16 oz of green juice smoothie (juice = kale, cucumber, apple, parsley, romaine, carrots, cherry tomatoes) with banana, the other half of the apple, blueberries. I make a quart and drink half in the early morning.

About 10 (after the gym), I ate a bowl of steel cut oats with raspberries and banana (other half from the smoothie), a little maple agave and a splash of rice milk. Today's oats were cooked with a cap of vanilla extract in the water. Sometimes I add nuts but I didn't today.

About 12:30, I ate a big bowl of veggie soup (potatoes, green beans, corn, celery, spinach in organic beef broth) and a rice cake with some almond butter

About 5, I had the other half of the smoothie

About 6, I had a huge salad with many veggies, some black beans, a few black olives and 2 oz. of lean ham with 2 T. of salad dressing. I also ate a Larabar (dates and nuts).

I make the oats in the electric rice cooker and make enough for 3-4 days at a time. I make the soup in the crock pot and make enough for 3-4 days at a time.

Yesterday for lunch I had a small pork chop cooked in a South African curry sauce with zucchini, spinach, and apricots over brown rice with a kale salad. Last night for dinner I had a medium veggie salad and a bowl of black bean chili.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Day 79 16 solutions for workaholism

For some years, I've been using a technique called 16 solutions. It's a way of brainstorming answers to problems or queries, to get yourself thinking beyond the obvious. I use it in my writing, my painting, all my groups, and my life. So my Soul Strippers group on Sunday challenged me to 16 solutions on overworking. Here's what I came up with.

1. Do paid work only after noon.
2. Keep a running list of projects and how much time each will take to use for scheduling.
3. Plan two more vacations for this year.
4. Raise my rates.
5. Seek no new work. Accept only referrals.
6. Make a list of criteria for projects I want and consult the list before saying yes to a project.
7. Don't work and eat.
8. Walk around the neighborhood in the middle of the work day.
9. Create 10 fun things to do for a work break that don't include food.
10. Keep a sabbath.
11. Acknowledge openly and frequently that writing and painting are my real work.
12. Uncover what's under the need to work too much.
13. Reinvent myself as a spacious-living person.
14. Practice petting meditation more often.
15. Be online 10% less every day.
16. Take a siesta in the late afternoon every day.

Some of these really speak to me. I'll let you know how it goes.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Day 78 When no problem is a problem

I'm running out of problems. Of course, that should be good news. But if you've lived most of your life, like I have, with one or more major concerns at all times, there's a certain reluctance, I'm discovering, to being problem-free.

First there was shyness and adolescent awkwardness and not being popular and not having a boyfriend and then there was alcohol and too many boyfriends and more alcohol and the wrong boyfriend and more alcohol and way too many men and all of them wrong and then Mr Right, who had many girlfriends, and then I got fired and that was a big problem and then I got sober and got another job and left Mr. Right-turned-wrong. And for a little while it was okay but then I got fat and got fatter and sugar in its many guises became a huge problem and I worried about it all the time and then I gave up sugar and thought it was solved but I just went on eating other stuff and stayed fat. Now I eat better and may have found a way to be in recovery from food addiction but I'm so reluctant to give up eating whenever I feel like it that I'm worried I'm sabotaging the plan.

So I'm hanging on to that problem and I've just come off nearly 4 weeks of massive overworking (workaholism for sure) and I keep saying I don't want to do that anymore, just like I don't want to overeat, but I am attached to my current BFF (best fundamental flaw).  I don't know that I identify with my problems but I sure feel married to them. At the same time, I'm looking for a way to detach and be okay.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Day 77 Plants and our digestive systems

Some years back, I heard Michael Pollan of the indestructible Twinkie, speak. He’s written a lengthy article about intestinal health that appeared in the New York Times. Part of the article explores the huge importance of a plant-based diet for a healthy gut. Here’s an excerpt and a link to the whole article.
“The big problem with the Western diet,” Stephen O’Keefe, a gastroenterologist at the University of Pittsburgh, said, “is that it doesn’t feed the gut, only the upper GI. All the food has been processed to be readily absorbed, leaving nothing for the lower GI. But it turns out that one of the keys to health is fermentation in the large intestine.” And the key to feeding the fermentation in the large intestine is giving it lots of plants with their various types of fiber, including resistant starch (found in bananas, oats, beans); soluble fiber (in onions and other root vegetables, nuts); and insoluble fiber (in whole grains, especially bran, and avocados).
With our diet of swiftly absorbed sugars and fats, we’re eating for one and depriving the trillion (gut microbes) of the food they like best: complex carbohydrates and fermentable plant fibers. The byproduct of fermentation is the short-chain fatty acids that nourish the gut barrier and help prevent inflammation. And there are studies suggesting that simply adding plants to a fast-food diet will mitigate its inflammatory effect…the components of a microbiota-friendly diet are already on the supermarket shelves and in farmers’ markets.
The less a food is processed, the more of it that gets safely through the gastrointestinal tract and into the eager clutches of the microbiota. Al dente pasta, for example, feeds the bugs better than soft pasta does; steel-cut oats better than rolled; raw or lightly cooked vegetables offer the bugs more to chomp on than overcooked, etc. This is at once a very old and a very new way of thinking about food: it suggests that all calories are not created equal and that the structure of a food and how it is prepared may matter as much as its nutrient composition.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Day 76 The end of caffeine as I've known it

For more than a decade, I've been reducing my caffeine consumption. Although I didn't start drinking coffee until well into my 20s, I had a 6-coke a day habit when I lived in the South and with the advent of the latte, I did 2 or 3 a day for a long time. Then in the mid-90s, a naturopathic toxin test showed that my body didn't really want coffee anymore. While my liver quite easily processed all the environmental toxins in the test, after 24 hours, it hadn't processed any of the caffeine. Not a good sign.

So I started drinking the Why Bother: Decaf nonfat sugar-free vanilla lattes. But decaf coffee still has some caffeine and after a while, even that gave me the jitters. So I moved to black tea, a different form of caffeine. And that was my beverage of choice for a long time, especially after I discovered PG Tips, a delicious British tea. Having that hot cup with my journal in the morning was a thoroughly embedded ritual in my life. Many a writing retreat I drank cup after cup of black tea to fuel my creativity. And even on work days, I'd need a 4 pm pick-me-up.

Now I don't feel the need for the caffeine, for the drug of it, anymore. I wake up, well, awake and ready to start the day. Even if when I don't sleep particularly well, I'm awake and energized. I usually start the day with a big glass of sparkling water with fresh lemon and then a huge glass of green juice smoothie. Sometimes late in the morning I'll have a cup of tea but always decaf and I don't often finish it. And the 4:00 slump is gone. I just don't feel like it anymore, neither the need nor the desire for a cup of coffee or a cup of tea. I find that very interesting.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Day 75 Rest and digest; digest and rest

For a long, long time, I've been eating whenever I get hungry or, more accurately, whenever I get the urge to eat, whether that's from physical hunger or restlessness or the need for a reward or a diversion or fuel to keep doing what I'm doing. I always listened up at the suggestion that a number of small meals were better than 3 bigger ones and I turned that pretty much into non-stop grazing.

I'm finding it hard to stop doing this. It's a well-worn groove in my brain, my system, my habits. But I'm finding some additional incentive in something my coach said recently. When we eat late at night, we ask our digestive systems and our livers to go on working during the night, instead of giving those systems a chance to rest and repair. When they rest, we rest better. Similarly, when we eat all day, they also work harder.

In 1975, I contracted Hepatitis B from my boyfriend and had a very poorly functioning liver for a few months. There wasn't much known about Hep B in those days and I had no insurance, just the university health system. But I lucked onto a doctor there with less conservative ideas. And he suggested I eat solely carbohydrates to rest my liver. Carbs are processed in the stomach and intestines, while fats and proteins require the liver's involvement in their digestion. I did what he suggested and ate only carbs for 3 months, and my liver came back unscarred.

So it makes sense to me, this idea of rest and digest in cycles. Now if I could only convince my addict self to cooperate...

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Day 74 Some of my favorite meals

I'm discovering that there's a lot of delicious simple food. I used to be a big sauce user: from butter and salt on most things (many foods were basically butter vehicles, like popcorn, baked potatoes, toast) and a variety of curries, ketchups, salad dressings, you name it. Now I eat most things plain and I'm developing a whole different kind of preference for flavors. Here are some of my favorite things on the plan.

Hamburger patty with a little salsa, a baked sweet potato, steamed chard.

A big bowl of vegetable/potato/white bean soup with rice cakes and black bean hummus (can't do the chickpea thing, blechhhh!)

Steel cut oats, blackberries, banana, maple agave, pecans, rice milk

Chicken marbella (boneless/skinless chicken thighs baked with artichoke hearts, zucchini medallions, prunes, capers, and chicken broth), brown rice, kale and carrot salad

Amy's Sonoma Burger (quinoa/walnuts) with avocado, dill pickle, sauerkraut, raw turnips and radishes, and roasted beets

Amy's black bean chili with 2 cups of spinach wilted into it in the heating process. Served with half a small ripe avocado

Amy's golden lentil soup over brown rice and steamed cauliflower and greens

A gigantic organic salad from New Seasons or Whole Foods salad bar with 2 oz of healthy ham chopped and mixed in.

Favorite snacks: heirloom orange, rice cake with almond butter, apple and a few nuts, rice crackers and salsa, a Larabar or Kit's bar (dates, nuts, flavoring), cup of veggie soup and of course, a huge glass of green juice smoothie!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Day 73 Breathing a lot easier

Today I had my fifth session with a breathing therapist. A decade or so ago, I had a respiratory virus that did some scarring that impacted my exhale and I've had some fears and tensions around breathing since then. I'd heard some good things about Margaret and signed up for a series with her. The work has been both easy and difficult. It involves a more conscious attitude about breathing and has felt a bit tedious at times. But I've learned some good things and today I saw that my body is really beginning to shift into easier breathing, less knotted up in the diaphragm, and more able to relax. While Margaret's exercises are certainly a part of it, I know that the new way I feel in my body is part of it too. I feel better and I am more relaxed.

One of the impacts of all these nutrients is to make my nervous system healthier. I know what it's like to have an impaired nervous system. For nearly 20 years, I ran on alcohol, caffeine, and sugar. Whatever B vitamins I consumed didn't have a chance to help my nerves so old patterns of panic and anxiety just ruled. But in the last couple of months, I am much less anxious. I'm not irritable or annoyed. I have more patience, more energy.

Yesterday, my friend Melanie called to ask me to pick up our CSA box. It was 5 pm on a cold, rainy afternoon and three months ago I'd have said okay and hated every minute of the trip. Yesterday, I said okay and it was fine. The traffic was bad, the weather worse, but I just was okay. No impatience, no resentment. It wasn't too much trouble.

And I found that same calm on the table in Margaret's office today. Where I could just breathe deep and easy and relax.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Day 72 A friend's experience with the Plan

Here’s a guest blog from my good friend and Plan buddy, Lily. I asked her to tell you all how she’s doing with her changes.

Jill and I have spent lots of time talking about food, the corporate food industry, our own eating compulsions, weight gain, and the waxing/waning desire to make a change around food that is realistic and has a spiritual component. So when Jill said she was going to work with a nutritional coach, a woman she knew, trusted, and was affordable, I said, sign me up.

I’m a member of OA and for 6 years I’ve not eaten sugar or wheat (and numerous other foodstuff from time to time), and I’ve been on a food plan. This constitutes what OA calls “being abstinent.” I get it that my relationship with food can be transformed, because mine has. I lost and keep off a chunk of weight (pun intended), learned the size of my real (vs imagined) stomach, a normal portion size, and I now eat, most days, 3 times a day, with a snack now and then. Bonus is I also found a deeper, more honest relationship with myself and with others in my life, replacing people and their support for the (faux) comfort of food. But over the past 6 months, I began to sense that there was more to know about my relationship with food and eating. So I welcomed Elisabeth, the coaching, and the Plan into my life.

After my initial interview with Elisabeth, I felt like I’d found a coach who just might move with me toward what my body was telling me it wanted now: more green things, less meat, please (that’s a begging please, by the way). I got clear info in my coaching sessions that I was entering a process, a shift toward fulfilling my body’s needs with different, more nutritionally dense, whole foods, not a diet. I’m finding that I’ve entered a process for a whole life change that is actually more radical than any diet, an essential realignment with what I do or do not put in my mouth that allows my body to have it’s way with me (wink wink).

Each coaching phone call, we talk about how it’s going, what worked, what didn’t, and what I’m resisting or loving. I think I’m about 9 weeks in, about 2 weeks behind Jill. As of the last coaching call, I can now explain to others, when they ask, that I’m eating “vegan” while occasionally eating meat (2-4oz a day)! Big change from even a year ago when I was wondering if Paleo might be a plan I could benefit from, since it was already so close to how I ate (meat, oil, veggies), though I was also eating dairy products then, too.

I feel humbled by the way my body now speaks to me, letting me know the Plan is good medicine for me. After 2 weeks, I was waking up and running to the mirror to see if it was still true that my eyes were no longer puffy, then I’d notice my joints didn’t ache after I’d jumped out of bed, and that I could breathe freely before I used my prescription nasal spray. Yippee! And imagine, this was even before I reached week 6, when the relentless feeling good all the time set in. 

Lily Gael

Monday, May 20, 2013

Day 71 I'm cooking!

With a few exceptions (family and old, old friends), most of the people I hang out with are PS friends (post-sobriety). They didn't know me drunk and they didn't know me when I cooked. When I got sober, I just couldn't cook anymore. I was used to cooking with wine. Not in the dishes. I've never particularly liked wine sauces or liquored desserts. But I always had a drink or six while I cooked. And I just found it too much of a trigger to spend much time in the kitchen without that support.

So I became a fixer. I fixed meals, much of it frozen at first and then from the wealth of excellent delis in Portland's foodie grocery stores. I ate well and had no complaints except for the slowly creeping poundage adding itself to a frame already well padded already by sweets and a fondness for Cheetos.

In those old drinking days, I was actually a pretty good cook with a knack for throwing stuff together (I was never one for recipes--too exacting, too tedious). But I never thought I'd cook again and now look at me. Twice a week or so I make soup in the crock pot (today's:  potatoes, green beans, bok choy, green lentils, lemon salt, tuscan herbs, organic vegetable broth). Hey, it's what I had and it's delicious. Most days I create juice and a smoothie. I'm learning all kinds of things about cooking with vegetables.

I find it very creative and exciting to put these combinations together, just like I do with the juicer. Sometimes, it's not so successful (don't put radish greens in the juicer, trust me on that one) but mostly it's great fun and delicious. Who knew I'd enjoy this so much?

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Day 70 I could never have imagined

Today for the first time, I didn't have a green juice smoothie for breakfast. I was making fresh oatmeal/chia/hemp/buckwheat cereal and it was ready and so I ate that (my favorite combo is the hot cereal, rice milk, half a banana, a few walnuts, berries, and a splash of maple agave). It was very satisfying and I moved into my morning.

Later I drove out to my friend Susan's in the country and we had a great conversation, made some lunch together (she's also trying out the plan) of white beans, a few olives, roasted red peppers, romaine, parsley, chopped onion and a lemon vinaigrette, all heated up. Really delicious. We played some canasta and I headed home a couple of hours later.

I did a few things around the house and then realized I was hungry or needing something. I ate a rice cake and an orange but I wasn't satisfied. And then it dawned on me that I needed green juice. My body needed feeding. So I juiced and made a smoothie with apple, blackberries, and banana. I drank a big glass and felt so satisfied.

I could never have imagined a craving for green juice. Ice cream, yes. Candy bar, yes. Cheetos, yes. But green juice? How things have changed!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Day 69 Unhooking guilt, shame, and fear from food

There is, I think, a special relationship that we addicts have with shame and fear and guilt, the triumvirate of yuck. For nearly two decades I felt ashamed of my drinking, guilty for the lies I told, fear that I was killing myself. then I got sober and for a few years, I didn't have those three malevolent stooges in my head anymore.

But after about five years of consistent candy consumption, I was deeply hooked into the sugar addiction that had begun when I was a child and I expanded my horizons and became thoroughly habituated to using food as a sedative. And as I put the weight on and more weight and ate a lot of fat and sugar and salt, I felt out of control (shame), and worried about my health (fear), and angry that I couldn't stop myself (guilt). And the Larry, Moe, and Curly of emotions came back from their extended vacation and took up residence again. Although I've been off sugar for more than three years (with one month of relapse), I've been stuck in this place of self-loathing around food, loving it, hating it, fearing it, being ashamed of it, being defiant around it, for way too long.

Even on the plan, I can overeat and I did that this afternoon and for no good reason. I had a good lunch and instead of putting the low-fat corn chips away, I just kept eating them. I was half-aware I was doing it and I didn't care. And I certainly didn't stop myself. But curiously I didn't feel ashamed or guilty. I just felt too full. I ate too much and so I didn't eat too much tonight and maybe I won't eat too much tomorrow.  I don't want to entertain the stooges anymore. And just maybe I have some say in that.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Day 68 Things that work and things that don't

Here are some of the things that make eating this way a pleasure and some that just don't!

Great discoveries: 

  • Adding almond extract or vanilla extract to my steelcut oats before I cook them.
  • Baking root vegetables with vegetable or chicken broth instead of roasting them with oil
  • Guacamole made from avocado, baked sweet potato, and salsa
  • Pacific organic beef, chicken, and veggie broth
  • Heirloom naval oranges
  • Seedless grapes in a smoothie
  • Chia, hemp, and buckwheat mix (Qia) added to the oats before I cook them
  • Maple agave
  • Kit's bars from the Clif Bar folks (simple, organic nuts and dates)
  • Celery: juiced and in soups
  • Lemon-infused salt
  • Trader Joe's 8 chopped vegetables, sunflower seeds, and a little vinaigrette
  • New Seasons and Whole Foods salad bars
  • Amy's Sonoma Burgers, Black Bean Chili, and most of her soups
  • Vanilla rice milk
  • Udi's bread
  • Baby turnips
  • Fava greens
  • Reboot with Joe's website tips and recipes
  • Nature's Path Sunrise cereal (corn, rice, quinoa, amaranth, flax, and buckwheat)--low-sugar, low-fat
  • And, of course, my pals: the crock pot, the juicer, and the Nutribullet
No thanks:

  • Brown rice tortillas
  • Stevia
  • Most rice bread
  • Sunshine burgers
  • Lima beans
  • Cilantro (I've got the soap gene)
  • Juiced mustard greens
  • Rice flour pancakes

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Day 67 My two overeating challenges

All of my overeating behaviors have not vanished although I wish they would. I had my phone consult with my coach, Elisabeth, this afternoon. She had sent me back an edited version of my food diary with a very few tweaks (less nut butter, skip the dried fruit and eat fresh) and we talked about that and how things were going. I told her I had two challenges around eating more than I needed.

The first was when I got too hungry. I had a couple of experiences over the last two weeks where I had lunch too late (breakfast at 8 and lunch at 2). In both cases, I was out and about and just got busy and diet mind kicked in and I said wow, I can eat less by not eating until I get home. But once I got home and fixed some lunch, I was ravenous and a bowl of soup and a big salad and I was full but not satisfied. It took a fair amount more food to get me even enough to stop. So we talked about things I can carry with me to eat in such cases.

The second challenge is tougher. Some of my paid editing work isn't the least bit riveting. I have to pay close attention and that can be tedious hour after hour, so for a long time (like 18 years) I've been using food rewards to get me through the restlessness that comes with the boring parts of the job. The thing about food is that I can eat while I work so I go on earning and getting things off the to-do list. I can't walk around the block and keep working or read a novel and keep working or call a friend and keep working or take a shower or any of the other things I can think to do. For so long, food has been the perfect work buddy! But I really don't want to go on overeating even if the food is healthy and low calorie. I want to stop using food as a drug. Elisabeth didn't have an immediate answer but we both agreed to give it some thought.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Day 66 Moving out of the easy/difficult conversation

In my morning meditation readings this morning, one of the questions was this: What would your life be like if things were "easy" or "difficult"--they just were? And I've been thinking about this all day. How we color what is with an evaluation of good and bad rather that just is.

When I talk to people about my food changes, they often want to know if it's difficult. I wonder if they want it to be so that they don't have to consider changing for themselves. Of course, I'm not asking them to change. I'm just talking about what works for me. As we say in AA, attraction rather than promotion. And I remember that from the film Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead--that the people Joe Cross interviewed mostly said, "I can't do that. It would be too hard."

I don't really have an answer for the "isn't it hard" question. I don't think about it in that way and haven't from the beginning. I think about the fact that it's important, that it's a possible solution to something I've struggled with for a long time. I think about the fact that it's working in the ways that I want. And I wonder what else I could apply this to in my life. Dropping the difficult/easy conversation, and just being with what is.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Day 65 My food diary experience

Yesterday, I forwarded my food diary to my coach. She asked me to keep track of what I ate for 2-3 days but I knew that wouldn't be long enough to tell the whole story. I know myself pretty well and I can be "good" for 2-3 days. I knew I could just eat the right things in the right amounts and look like the perfect client if it was only a couple of days.

So I kept the diary for a full week. I put down what I ate when I was being cautious and compliant and what I ate when I was not. I found myself eating more than I needed at some times and just doing it anyway. I didn't want to write down what I had eaten but I did. Rigorous honesty does really serve us. I've found that out in the years I've been sober. It always helps me to say what's so.

I don't have Elisabeth's analysis yet (our next coaching session is on Thursday afternoon), but I can see where the hungry times are and the role that work at the computer seems to play in my hunger. I may have to think about rearranging my schedule in some ways. Hmmm.

I didn't find the diary tedious. I kept it in a Word document and just opened it up and wrote down what I had eaten the last couple of meals. I don't know if there's more to learn from it by doing it persistently. I don't know if it will modify behaviors in and of itself. Something to think about.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Day 64 Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead now on You Tube

I found out today from my coach that one of the films that inspired me to make the eating changes I've made is now available on You Tube for free. Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead follows Joe, a rather charismatic and overweight Australian, as he travels across the US by car talking to people about their weight, their eating habits, and their health. During the 60 days of the trip, he drinks only fresh juice that he makes on a juicer in the back of his car.

As my coach said in her note, the juicing isn't nearly as important as the fact that Joe takes charge of his own health (he's been on steroids for an auto-immune skin disease for 9 years!). He convinces a few people he meets to try the juicing and eating differently and they too have marvelous results, both in weight loss and in energy but also in happiness and clarity. That is what inspired me: they all felt terrific! And I wanted that. Attraction rather than promotion. It works!

PS You can check out Joe Cross's web site:

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Day 63 Flirting with the past

After yesterday's post, my good friend Lily sent me an email. "It's very humbling to feel how much I want to just EAT sometimes, how much food is, and unconscious overeating, is a set of behaviors I have ingrained in me that can still seem so desirable & I can so easily forget the real consequences. Like having a drunken boyfriend I've kicked outta the house, whom I still compulsively think about and I want to call him & meet up again. Maybe it will be different? maybe I didn't give him a fair shake last time? maybe  just one more time? maybe this time it will be different..."

Boy, have I played that tune. Maybe this time I won't eat a dozen ice cream sandwiches in an afternoon. Maybe this time I'll notice each time I put my hand in the bag of caramels. Maybe this time the Cheetos won't call to me from the cupboard at 8 in the morning. Maybe this time I'll throw the rest of the giganto chocolate bar away when I get full.

Lily's comments also made me think of how often in AA I've heard and said to newcomers that it's natural to think about drinking, to want to drink. That's what an alcoholic does: thinks about drinking, wants to drink. And what's natural for a food addict: to think about food, to keep eating. It will take more than 63 days to undo decades of habit and response. I just keep asking for the willingness.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Day 62 My controlling self showed up today

So much for wanting to not think about food. I was hungry all day today, or so it seemed. I had my smoothie before the gym but my second breakfast at 10 wasn't enough and I had a second helping. Then I got busy and went to a meeting and went to Trader Joe's and by the time I got around to lunch, it was 2:30 and I ate a normal lunch and then some more salad and then some dried fruit and finally felt okay.

Tonight it all feels okay but during the morning and afternoon, I felt out of control around food. An old, old feeling. I wasn't eating anything not on the plan and I probably wasn't eating too much of anything. But it was how I was eating it that didn't feel good, that I wanted somehow to control instead of just letting it be. Sometimes I find it so hard to just let things be what they are.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Day 61 What I really want from this food plan

Yesterday I was talking to my spiritual director about all the changes that are happening to me from this new way of eating. I mentioned a number of things: cheerfulness, weight loss, a different kind of steady energy. All things that my coach said would happen have happened. It's a bit like having some of the AA promises come true. You look at the list after a few years of sobriety and realize that all those things are actually at work in your life now.

Don't get me wrong, all this is fabulous. More than I had expected.  I think, I hope, I may just have found a solution to my long-time issues with food. And that brings me to what I really want. I want the food I fix and eat to satisfy me in such a way that I don't think about food again until my body is hungry. I have spent years of my life thinking about food: what I want, what I can't have, what I shouldn't have, what I am eating anyway, what I just ate, what I shouldn't have eaten. Many of you know this drill.

I guess I want to move towards a normal relationship with food, if there is such a thing in our culture. Where other satisfactions are satisfying. Where dissatisfactions don't automatically lead to the kitchen. Where old behaviors fade away. This is what I really want.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Day 60 Loving the slow cooker

Several years ago for Christmas, I asked and received a slow cooker, aka crock pot. For years I'd been borrowing my friend Melanie's to keep cider warm at my annual holiday open house and having my own seemed more convenient. I also thought maybe I'd start cooking in it. That didn't happen. Not until I started this food plan and began to think about how I was going to eat more vegetables and not slave in the kitchen.

Now the crock pot is a favorite appliance. Once a week, I make a soup with different combinations of vegetables, organic beans (canned) and or lentils, and broth. I love the soups, I love the combining, I love how easy it is. Soup is a recommended snack on my plan and I find it very satisfying and soothing. Here are some combinations I've tried and the shortcuts I use to keeping it really simple. Each soup takes about 4 hours to be delicious and will keep for a few days.

Soup #1

Chopped celery and red pepper
Sliced small yellow potatoes
Can of organic white beans
Box of Pacific organic beef broth
As much spinach as I can stuff in crock pot on top of everything else
Any seasonings you like

Soup #2
Chopped celery, onion, orange pepper
1/2 head of cauliflower in small chunks
Cup of lentils (I like organic sprouted lentils)
Box of Pacific organic chicken broth
Handful or two of baby kale
Any seasonings you like
Great over brown rice or quinoa

Chopped celery
Chunks of sweet potato
A small apple chopped
1 can organic black beans
Chopped Swiss chard
Box of Pacific organic vegetable broth
Seasonings including a little curry

Bon appetit!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Day 59 An added bonus: letting go of shame and fear

I spent about 20 years in the county jail of overeating and an earlier 20 years in the prison of alcoholism. Much of both of those experiences was driven by shame and fear. Shame that I couldn't stop doing what I was doing and fear that I was ruining my health and some nights that I was killing myself. When I got sober in 1989, the fear and shame went into hiding for a while. I was at a healthy weight and didn't worry about the massive amounts of numbing sugar and fat I begin to eat in substitution for the numbing effects of alcohol. Then probably 4 years into sobriety, all those calories caught up with me and I was deep into addiction again, one that seemed even harder to kick than alcohol in some ways. How do you abstain from food?

As I've said in earlier posts, my diet experiences had been full of deprivation, craving, misery. The joy of being thin or thinner never felt better than being numb. I looked better maybe, but I sure didn't feel better. I knew when I got sober, that I couldn't just stop drinking. I would have to have a life where drinking was no longer needed for survival. And yet how could I stop eating? I never imagined that it was what I was eating that was the problem, not just how much.

This week I'm keeping a food diary. I'm keeping it for my coach so there's a little bit of anxiety there about what she'll think, but no matter what I eat or how much, I don't feel shame or fear around it. I'm not ashamed of eating too much healthy food or afraid it will kill me. What a relief!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Day 58 A sneak attack of Diet Mind

Yesterday was 8 weeks on the plan and my agreement with my coach was to weigh every four weeks on Monday morning, same time, same scale. The first Monday I weighed I was very excited because I could tell I'd lost some significant weight and the scale showed a loss of 14 pounds more or less (my scale is old and it's not digital). And I felt very proud and happy and that set an impossibly and most likely very unhealthy bar for yesterday.

So I was apprehensive. I didn't feel much thinner although I certainly wasn't gaining but I wanted another impressive win, another big loss. It was suddenly all about the numbers. I'd lost another 4 pounds but it was hard to see that as great. There wasn't huge excitement, a huge sense of victory. And it took me a little time to get over that, to see that as a visit from Diet Mind.

I was glad to get reassurance from Elisabeth, my coach, that this is all great. That things are moving in the right direction. At the same time, it's hard to give up the old way of thinking, the measuring, the comparing, the expectations and just stick with my goal of feeling great. And step back into devotion.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Day 57 After years of resistance: the food diary

There's a lot of anecdotal evidence that people who keep a food diary stay on their plans with considerably more success than those who don't track what they eat. I've always resisted a food diary, not wanting anything to be that exacting (e.g., four grapes, two olives, six walnuts), but part of the motivation behind that resistance has been a desire to avoid really being truthful with what I eat and how much of it I eat. Some ice cream was always easier to admit to than a half-gallon.

Now that I'm in this new relationship with food and, more importantly, with my body and its health, I'm finding myself willing to do things differently. So when my coach suggested this morning that I keep a food diary for a few days, I agreed right away. In fact, I'd already been thinking about it. It's one thing to report to her in general what I'm eating. It's another to share exactly what I'm eating and when. So for the next 7 days, I'm going to practice this: writing down what I eat, and how much, and at what time, and see what she and I can learn from it about what's too much, what's not enough, what's missing, what's out of balance.  

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Day 56 Why my food plan works when diets didn't

As I wrote some weeks back, I'm no stranger to diets. I was exposed to Weight Watchers and Slim Fast and all the fads over the years, from family and friends, magazine articles and diet books. I tried a bunch and I always lost weight through deprivation and I always let it creep back on because the restricted eating was so hard to keep up. I also did a lot of anxiety weight control in my young adult years. Emotional upsets would kill my appetite for some weeks or even months and my weight get to a place where I thought I looked better. Then I'd get happy and eat more and put on weight.

This is a whole different experience, because none of those diets were about excellent nutrition. They were about weird food combinations, or portion control, or fake foods. They were about how much, not what. Changing what I eat has put the how much into a new perspective. This is not a food plan about not eating, but about eating a great deal of the right things. It's not about suffering but about feeling great with weight loss as a bonus. I'm so glad I found this path.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Day 55 Won't you get bored?

Several friends have asked me this recently when I described the simplicity of the plan. Smoothie, salad, meat and veggies. How does one get enough variety? My answer has to be that I don't know. But I realized the other day,that what I am eating now is no less varied than what I was eating before. And I'm eating some of the same foods, just not the cheese and the milk and the bread and the mayo and the waffles and the butter. In fact, I am probably eating a wider variety of items since I now am consciously eating many more kinds of vegetables, beans, seeds, nuts, fruits, and meats.

Still, it is possible that I will get tired of all this fresh food and want pizza or some other Italian pasta dish. Or that I will get a hankering for ice cream or a grilled cheese sandwich. But I don't think I will get bored with feeling great. I don't see why I would, and in order to eat those foods, I'd have to give that up and I don't want to.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Day 54 What my food plan looks like

Breakfast:  16 oz. of smoothie made with green juice (e.g., kale, romaine, cucumber, carrot, parsley, apple) and a banana, blueberries, and spinach

Hungrier day:  Second breakfast: steel cut oatmeal, a few pecans, berries, a little agave, and rice milk or almond milk

Lunch: BIG salad with greens, chopped veggies (e.g., cauliflower, beets, carrots, cucumber, avocado, corn, peas, artichokes) with 2 T. vinaigrette OR a big bowl of vegetable soup from the crock pot. On a hungrier day, I'll add some baked corn chips and black bean hummus or guacamole

Snack: 2 T. of nut butter and a rice cake or an apple, or carrots and hummus, or a Larabar (dates and nuts in a variety of flavors) or more soup, or a small bowl of gluten-free granola and rice milk, or a few nuts and an orange, or more smoothie. On a hungrier day, two or three snacks during the day.

Dinner: 4 oz. of meat or a veggie burger, steamed veggies, steamed greens. Still hungry? A piece of fruit.

What I don't eat: dairy, soy, or wheat. Refined sugars. Anything with chemicals.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Day 53 An appropriate quote from Michael Pollan

In response to yesterday's blog, my friend Judy sent me this quote attributed to Michael Pollan, a food environmentalist. Eat food from the plants, not the [industrial]PLANT.

Many of us unwittingly consume a great deal more sugar, fat, and salt than we may think. As Kessler explains in The End of Overeating, ordering a plain chicken breast in any chain restaurant, including upscale chains, like Stanford's or Red Robin or TGIFriday's, is an exercise in getting more than you think. That chicken breast was soaked in oil, salt, and sugar and partially precooked, then frozen. It got thawed in another solution of oil, salt, and sugar before cooking. Similarly, most frozen french fries have been soaked in salt and oil and some sugar before freezing. This helps them to separate easily for cooking and serving. They also make foods hyper-palatable, and that has become a new standard. No wonder people I talk to about the plan don't want to give those foods up. I didn't either.

I heard Michael Pollan speak several years ago. He was very informative and entertaining, and what I remember most was him showing the audience a wrapped package of Twinkies that he had had for over 20 years. It had not decomposed because there was nothing in it that any creature could eat, including the bacteria that normally decomposes stuff. No chemicals are on my food plan, no matter how benign they seem. It takes a devotion to label-reading but I'm worth it.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Day 52 Convenience, taste, and changing the way you feel

Last night before bed, one of my friends on the retreat and I sat down so I could give her a better idea of the food plan. She was thinking about giving it a try. She has struggled with weight and food issues probably as long as I have and she was intrigued by the results I was getting. I gave her the basic rundown (no wheat, no dairy, no soy, little sugar, little oil)--lots of plants and more plants and a little meat. I talked about the juicer and the blender and the crock pot and the rice cooker, all my new-found buddies.

"I don't think I can do this as strictly as you do," she said finally. "It sounds like too much work and I just like some things too much to give them up."

I didn't argue with that. I'm not trying to convince anybody to do this. In reality, this new eating plan is no more or less convenient than the way I ate before. It took some getting used to because it was different. But it isn't too much work for the benefits I'm experiencing. But she won't know that until she tries it for herself.

And today driving home, I was thinking about whether it's more important to have foods that taste good in a certain way or to feel good. The foods I eat now taste great, but it's a different kind of great. They taste fresh, clean, sweet. They don't taste rich, heavy, creamy, yummy in that way that ice cream and cheese do. Our palates have been seduced by the food industry, which has made a science of making foods irresistible by amping up the combinations of sugar, fat, and salt (The End of Overeating by a former US Surgeon General is an eye-opening book on the retail food business). So when you drastically reduce the amount of those three you eat, it's a big change. It takes a while to adjust. But for me it's been so worth it.