Sunday, June 30, 2013

Day 112 Being willing to be conscious

I came across this quote the other day from relationship psychologist Gay Hendricks: "Being conscious means being aware, questioning your choices and your behaviors, not allowing yourself to lapse into the familiar and unworkable simply because it is what you have known."

The challenge that lies ahead of me is the challenge of increasing consciousness around eating. I've changed what I eat and am developing a good consciousness around that part of it. Out to lunch today with my friend Susan and I made careful choices to avoid the things I'm abstaining from. I read menus, I read labels, I am conscious of what I am choosing to put into my body.

But I am not so conscious of how I eat and when I eat and how much I eat, all additional aspects of this shift in my life. I find myself lapsing into the familiar and unworkable because it is what I have known. And so just as in meditation, we notice our mind off course and gently bring it back, I'm hoping to develop a consciousness around the impulse to eat and then gently bring myself back to what it is I want: maximum health and well-being, which is not the same as the next tasty thing.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Day 111 Hitting the bars

At the noon meeting today, one of the men talked about how happy he'd been when he woke up today and then after a scone and a latte and 30 minutes had passed, he'd felt miserable and cranky. I wanted to rush over to him and say, "Stop eating that crap! You don't have to feel that way." But of course, I didn't. I'm zealous about the benefits of the program for me and I also know how long it took me to be willing to even try it. But it got me thinking about snacks and treats and how many places there are that we go that don't serve anything that's very good for us.

Fortunately, there are healthy bars. My coach turned me on to Larabars, made of dates, nuts, and other fruits (and some have dark chocolate). They are dairy, wheat, and soy free. Clif Bars now makes a version of those called Kit's Bars: same simple format. The Kit's Bars are a little smaller and thus a little less caloric.

There are decent bars made by Raw Organic and Two Moms in the Raw. And Raw Revolution makes some sinfully good ones that are also simple and don't violate the plan. And when I just have to have a cookie-like thing, I'll eat a Bobo's Oat Bar. It has a lot more ingredients than the others but all safe.

They are not particularly low-fate (nuts) or low-sugar (dates) but they are plant-based and minimally processed and that works for me. I keep two bars in my purse and two in my glove compartment just in case. I don't eat them every day but it's nice to know they're available. And I served two bars and fresh berries to my friend Isabelle for her birthday lunch today. They weren't cake but they were sweet and it was a nice treat.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Day 110 What some of us have known all along

How Carbs Can Trigger Food Cravings

By ANAHAD O'CONNOR

Are all calories created equal? A new study suggests that in at least one important way, they may not be.

Sugary foods and drinks, white bread and other processed carbohydrates that are known to cause abrupt spikes and falls in blood sugar appear to stimulate parts of the brain involved in hunger, craving and reward, the new research shows. The findings, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, suggest that these so-called high-glycemic foods influence the brain in a way that might drive some people to overeat.

For those who are particularly susceptible to these effects, avoiding refined carbohydrates might reduce urges and potentially help control weight, said Dr. David Ludwig, the lead author of the study and the director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children’s Hospital.
“This research suggests that based on their effects on brain metabolism, all calories are not alike,” he said. “Not everybody who eats processed carbohydrates develops uncontrollable food cravings. But for the person who has been struggling with weight in our modern food environment and unable to control their cravings, limiting refined carbohydrate may be a logical first step.”

Regardless of the diet they choose, most people who lose a great deal of weight have a difficult time keeping it off for good. For many people, despite their best efforts, the weight returns within six months to a year. But a few studies of weight loss maintenance, including a large one in The New England Journal of Medicine in 2010, have reported some success with diets that limit high-glycemic foods like bagels, white rice, juice and soda.

In addition to raising blood sugar, foods that are sugary and highly caloric elicit pronounced responses in distinct areas of the brain involved in reward. Earlier imaging studies have shown, for example, that the main reward and pleasure center, the nucleus accumbens, lights up more intensely for a slice of chocolate cake than for blander foods like vegetables, and the activation tends to be greater in the brains of obese people than it is in those who are lean.

But do rich desserts have a select ability to change our longer-term eating habits? To get a better idea, Dr. Ludwig and his colleagues recruited a dozen obese men and then fed them milkshakes on two different occasions separated by several weeks. In each case, the milkshakes were nearly identical: flavored with milk and vanilla, and containing the same amount of calories, carbohydrates, protein and fat.

But on one occasion, the shakes were made with high-glycemic corn syrup; on the other, a source of low-glycemic carbohydrates was used. “These test meals were identical in appearance and tastiness, and we verified that our subjects had no preference for one or the other,” Dr. Ludwig said.

As expected, blood sugar levels rose more quickly in response to the high-glycemic milkshake. But the researchers were especially interested in what happened several hours later, about the time most people are ready for their next meal.

What they found was that four hours after drinking the high-glycemic shake, blood sugar levels had plummeted into the hypoglycemic range, the subjects reported more hunger, and brain scans showed greater activation in parts of the brain that regulate cravings, reward and addictive behaviors. Although the subject pool was small, every subject showed the same response, and the differences in blood flow to these regions of the brain between the two conditions “was quite substantial,” Dr. Ludwig said.“Based on the strength and consistency of the response,” he added, “the likelihood that this was due to chance was less than one in a thousand.”

Previous research suggests that when blood sugar levels plummet, people have a tendency to seek out foods that can restore it quickly, and this may set up a cycle of overeating driven by high-glycemic foods, Dr. Ludwig said. “It makes sense that the brain would direct us to foods that would rescue blood sugar,” he said. “That’s a normal protective mechanism.”

Christopher Gardner, a nutrition scientist at Stanford University who was not involved in the new study, said that after decades of research but little success in fighting obesity, “it has been disappointing that the message being communicated to the American public has been boiled down to ‘eat less and exercise more.’”

“An underlying assumption of the ‘eat less’ portion of that message has been ‘a calorie is a calorie,’” he said. But the new research “sheds light on the strong plausibility that it isn’t just the amount of food we are eating, but also the type.”

Dr. Gardner said it was clear that the conventional approach of the past few decades was not working. A more helpful message than “eat less,” he said, may be “eat less refined carbohydrates and more whole foods.”

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Day 109 Hot, humid, old creepy feelings

We're moving into a heat wave, one of my least favorite weather events. I like it about 70 degrees. Today it was close to 80, tomorrow 90, then up close to 100 coming up. Usually when it is hot like that here, it is quite dry. But because we've had a lot of rain lately, the ground is saturated and the air is very humid, a fairly rare condition here. But that doesn't make it any more pleasant when it comes.

For 11 years, most of them drunk years, I lived in the heat and humidity of the South and the Northeast. The places I could afford to live in didn't have air conditioning and so iced bourbon was my coolant. And hangovers and humidity, common companions. So when the weather gets like this and everything is closed up against the summer, rather than open and spacious and cool and inviting, I get old feelings that are as uncomfortable as the weather.

They're not triggering me to drink and not even to overeat but I don't feel right in my skin and I associate that with a lot of bad memories. May the weather change come quickly!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Day 108 Having a food plan buddy

My Food Plan buddy Lily and I get together every two weeks. Lily is two weeks behind me; that is, she started working with Elisabeth Dunham, our coach, two weeks after I did. It has been fascinating to watch many of the same things happen to her, just a little later.

We don't follow exactly the same food plan. Lily's been off a number of the foods for some years as she healed up from Chronic Fatigue. And she does just fine with soy and I don't. But we are both committed to healthy relationships with our bodies and what nourishes them, and so we have rich and wonderful conversations along those lines for a couple of hours every two weeks.

At first we talked about all the changes we were experiencing. Deciding the green juice wasn't too bad. Confessing a week or two later that we craved the juice. Our favorite juice and smoothie combinations. The first time our clothes felt looser. Noticing how great our skin looked. Losing our missing for the old foods. Becoming obnoxiously cheerful. Settling in to the routine of it. Wondering aloud together if we'd get bored.

Now we talk about other things. The plan isn't new anymore. It's how I eat and I suspect how she eats. And we're finding that our parts of our lives are opening up--emotions, dreams, visions--and it's great to have someone to share that with too.

If you're thinking about doing the Plan, see if you can find a good friend to do it with you. It may make all the difference.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Day 107 Big encouragement from the numbers

Next Monday I have my annual physical. I already talked to my doctor last month about the plan. She had heard of the movie Forks over Knives; in fact, her teenage son had seen it and gotten his high school health class to watch it. She applauded what I was eating and that I was losing weight.

This morning I went for blood work so we would have the results when we meet next week. I was amazed by the results that came in an email this afternoon. My cholesterol is down 72 points, from 226 last fall to 154 today. My triglycerides were done an equally huge number, from 166 to 84. My HDL came up 7 points, which is good news, and my LDL dropped from 137 to 94. Everything else was in the normal range for the first time in probably 15 years. Even my glucose dropped 6 points back into the normal range.

I am ecstatic and looking forward to talking with the doctor about getting off of some of my prescriptions. The Plan is working for me! Hurray!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Day 106 Move away from the table

Yesterday was a big family breakfast to celebrate my nephew Alex's graduation from college. There were about a dozen of us and some family friends who hadn't been around in a while so we sat at the table for a long time. This is not so good for me.

Yes, I enjoyed the conversations and it was great to be with everybody. And yes, I had taken my own foods so that I could bypass the quiche and the bagels and cream cheese. I took some deviled eggs and a spinach and black bean salad. There was also a great fruit salad. So I stayed on the plan.

But I ate too much. And I realized that I have trouble not continuing to eat if I'm at the table and food is present. I ate fruit and that was okay but I just kept eating and I watched myself do it and I let it be okay. But I felt better when I got up and started doing the dishes. Then when I came back to the table for the last of the conversations, the food was gone. I need to move away from the table in those circumstances.

Day 105 Financial aspects of being on the Plan

Yesterday I met with my monthly money group, women who have been getting together for years to reorient our relationships to earning, spending, and saving. For the last couple of years, I've been reporting on my spending for food, which has been pretty enormous. I both ate out a lot, which is expensive, and I bought a lot of prepared foods and shopped sometimes 2-3 times a week. My food planning was solely of the "that sounds good" or "I'd like some of that" variety.

While I haven't done any kind of a systematic study of food spending in the last 3+ months, I know several things. First, I'm eating out 1-2 times a month rather than 8-10 times a month. Second, when I get together with friends for a meal, I'm much more likely to suggest we eat here and I fix something. Third, while organic produce is not cheap, I'm not buying prepared foods or much meat and no junk food (I have an admitted fondness for Cheetos).

All these things are adding up to some substantial financial savings on the Plan.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Day 104 Curbing my appetite: My resistance to vigilance

Curbing my eating in any structured way (smaller portions, eating on a scheduling, weighing or measuring foods, counting calories or grams of fat) has always raised the red flag of resistance in my emotions. And I've realized over the last few days, as I begin to consider making additional changes, that the resistance has to do with vigilance.

At the age of 9, I became hyper-vigilant after a period of sustained stress and trauma. I became acutely attuned to those around me and my environment, always watching, always calculating. And while drinking eased that somewhat, I still had to be vigilant about getting too drunk or appearing too drunk. Once I stopped drinking for good, my hyper-vigilance slowly began to ease up. I simplified my life greatly and worked to stay on an even keel and to surround myself with people I could trust. The only thing I stayed vigilant about was protecting my sobriety.

Now trying to sort out how to manage when and how I eat has raised up some of that old anxiety about having to always pay attention and how tiring that is. So I'm looking for a simple plan that will help me stay on track and out of stress around food.


Friday, June 21, 2013

Day 103 A wave of Friday night nostalgia

I drove down to Salem late this afternoon to attend the artists' reception for my friend Lily. Saw some cool stuff and had a good chat with several of the artists and then headed home. My route took me through a neighborhood and past several convenience stores. Out of each one walked a guy with a 6-pack or two and in one case, a case of beer.

And I had a wave of longing. Not for the beer. I wasn't much of a beer drinker except when I was hungover and craving carbonation or if that's all there was. No, what I longed for was that feeling of safety and comfort that a Friday night stop at the liquor store would bring me, knowing I was going home with plenty of anesthetic.

After I got sober, it took a while to figure out the right substitute, but eventually I settled on ice cream, to my mind the perfect food: sugar, fat, cream, flavors. Having several gallons of my favorite flavor of the moment in the fridge gave me that same secure feeling, that physical and emotional sigh of relief.

I haven't had ice cream in nearly four years. And nothing gives me that same feeling of safety and comfort now although most of the time, that's okay. I can eat my vegetables and a piece of chicken and be okay. But tonight, driving home, I missed the comfort of that feeling.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Day 102 Ten things about eating that I'm pondering

1. Once a food addict, always a food addict?
2. What's a healthy amount of time between eatings?
3. Should I eat on a schedule regardless of hunger level?
4. When is hungry hungry enough?
5. What if I hate being hungry?
6. What would food sobriety look like for me?
7. Now that I've settled on a healthy "what," can I find a healthy "when" and "how"?
8. Is there a discernible difference between body fat and mind fat?
9. What are foods that I need to control and is control possible?
10. What would my prayers for willingness look like?

Day 101 When I'm doing what I love, hunger isn't an issue

Last night, I was the featured speaker at a fundraising gathering for DePaul Treatment Centers. I'm not sure how they heard about me. The new Development Director had found my name in a file of possible speakers and looked me up online. I got a chance to speak about the importance of creative self-expression in my recovery from alcoholism and encourage not only all those who were there to get creative but also to encourage everyone they knew as well. I sold a lot of books and talked to a lot of folks.

I'd had a later lunch (1:30) and when I got ready to leave home at 5, I wasn't at all hungry (a little nervousness was part of that, I'm sure). I didn't get home until after 8:30 but I was never hungry while I was there. There was food but none of it on the Plan--nearly everything had dairy or wheat or both. It looked great and in times past, I'd probably have eaten a lot. But I didn't miss it or feel deprived. I was happy doing what I was doing.

I find the same thing is true when I'm at the studio. A couple of hours there goes by and I don't think to drink the tea I brought or eat the snack I have in my bag. I'm just really engaged in what I'm doing and food isn't an issue. I wish I could bottle that indifference for other times of my day.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Day 100 Recipes I can still use

Two of my favorite recipes for retreats or potlucks are happily on the Plan, with some modification. Here they are:

Chicken Marbella

Combine boneless, skinless chicken thighs with a jar of marinated artichoke hearts, a jar of pitted green olives (I like the kind with garlic), a cup of dried prunes, an 1/8 cup of capers, a cup of chicken broth, and big splash of balsamic vinegar. Marinate overnight. Put in a Pyrex baking dish and bake at 400 for 20-25 minutes, until chicken is thoroughly cooked. I also zucchini rounds or fresh spinach at the cooking stage. Serve with brown rice and steamed chard.

Black Bean Salad

Drain 2 cans of black beans and rinse. Put in a large bowl with a diced red or yellow pepper, a large diced apple, 2 cups of frozen corn (the roasted kind from Trader Joe's is good). Add 1/2 diced red sweet onion. Toss with a simple vinaigrette. In the old dairy days, I'd add crumbled feta, but it doesn't need it. You could also add quinoa or walnuts for more protein.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Day 99 Being prepared: The Plan on the road

Today, my family drove to Eugene, about two hours away, for the graduation of my nephew Alex from the University of Oregon. We left about 10:30 and I got home at 8. I had scouted out a place for lunch along the way, an Indian restaurant that came recommended by a friend. Indian food is usually on the Plan although the white rice isn't the most nutritious. There were plenty of choices at this place although none of it was very good  but I ate enough. I also ate a Larabar, a safe Plan snack, a bit later in the car.

Our original plan was to be through there at 5 and home by 7 for dinner. Well, that didn't go as planned. The program ran late, we took a lot of photos, and then we waited for the shuttle bus for a half hour and then spent another half-hour in traffic inching towards the big lot where we had left the car. At 5:30, I was ravenous and ate another Larabar on the bus, though two in a day is not on the Plan. I could easily have eaten a third or a fourth, but I didn't. But when I got home and got some dinner fixed, it was 8:30 and I was too hungry and that means I keep eating until I'm stuffed.

My friend Bob Wilson, who has been happily thin for decades after weighing close to 400 pounds in high school, always, without fail, carries a food bag of real food with him. And I realized this evening, that I could have put salad in a tupperware or had carrots or cucumbers or radishes in a baggie. I'm the one who has to be prepared for the unforeseen to keep myself fed. A good lesson today.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Day 98 How is my discomfort with hunger impacting how I eat?

I've never enjoyed being hungry. I know some people really like it. It gives them energy and maybe a sense of control. It's always just made me uncomfortable, which can morph into misery if I have to go too long without eating.

Like many infants in the late 1940s, I was bottle fed and on a 4-hour schedule. That was the prevailing wisdom. I've never understood exactly why, although I suspect it had to do with the same ideas of regimentation that had us sit in school desks all day long and have only the most miniscule of recesses. I've wondered if my discomfort with hunger goes back that far. My small self not understanding why I had to be hungry.

However that may be, I find it hard not to eat something when I'm hungry. And the idea of being on a schedule of 3 meals only or 3 meals plus specific snacks is pretty nerve-wracking. Not sure how to move over this hurdle.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Day 97 The challenge of the quick meal/snack/fix

When I started the Plan, I wasn't sure how I'd feel about not eating so much meat. Like most things we eat, I knew it was a habit to eat animal protein at most, if not all, meals. Kind of the American way and promoted by the meat and dairy industries. Of course, I knew some of the problems with that habit; weight gain, cholesterol issues, etc. But it just seemed easier.

Now I don't eat dairy at all and I eat no more than 4 oz. of animal protein (1/4 pound) a day and sometimes I don't eat any. My need/interest/desire seems to be fading for it. With one marked exception. The quick meal/snack/fix.

I didn't realize how often I relied on cheese, yogurt, and meat (cold cuts, leftover chicken) to make a very quick meal until that wasn't an option. I'd come home after being out running errands and be really hungry and grab a piece of chicken or several slices of deli turkey or deli ham and I could be pretty satisfied in a few bites and a very few minutes.

With mostly plants, there's little that's so quick. I do keep a hearty veggie soup on hand most of the time, some cans of organic chili, and there's almost always some green juice leftover in the fridge. But those don't satisfy in the same quick way that the protein and fat of meat does. So I need to watch my hunger and not go too long. It takes more planning and most of the time I'm okay with that. But every once in a while, I'd like that quick fix of crackers and cheese or baguette, butter, and ham.



Friday, June 14, 2013

Day 96 Shifting my focus back to what's working

I got a great email from my food plan buddy Lily, reminding me to appreciate myself for all the good work I've done over the last three months in switching to a much healthier food plan. Sure, there are more changes ahead perhaps but she reminded me that it's more important to focus on what's working well than on what's not working.

So here's what's working well:
1. I've stayed on a mostly plant-based diet for over three months.
2. There are only Plan foods in my house (with the exception of some brown sugar and some organic sugar. Looking for someone to take them).
3. I have stayed off wheat, dairy, and soy all this time.
4. I have lost over 20 pounds.
5. After the first 10 days, I have felt great emotionally, even when I was tired or sore or suffering from some minor aging ailments.
6. I've cut way back on animal protein and fat over these 3 months.
7. I drink juice and smoothie with many veggies and fruits every day.
8. I eat about 5x more veggies than I did before.
9. I have eaten almost no processed food in three months.
10. I have blogged every day.

Hurray!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Day 95 Compulsive overeating: is it time for the rubber to hit the road?

I've been overeating. No excuses. No rationalizations. I could tell you my circumstances--some work overwhelm in the last few weeks, not enough days off, not enough exercise because of strained back. Or that our incredibly beautiful weather got cool and rainy and that seems here to stay. Or that one of my cats barfed on the carpet and I stepped in it. Or that it was Tuesday. Or that it was 3 pm.

None of that matters. What matters is that I'm still compulsively eating more than I need to. Not every day, not every hour. But food is still running a part of the show in a way I don't like.

The truth is that while I made a firm commitment to changing what I eat, I have not made any kind of real commitment to changing how much I eat and how often. And I have a huge resistance to taking that next step. So in conversation with my coach Elisabeth today, I agreed to sit with that, to write about it, and see what it would take to be willing to be willing.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Day 94 At the moment, the thrill is gone

I've been a bit low the last couple of days. First, after two glorious weeks of warm weather and sunshine, an anomaly for Portland in June, we're back to normal weather: cool, cloudy, some rain. My body and mood are susceptible to swings in the barometer so I've been a little out of sorts. But I also realized today, as I was getting ready to meet with my Plan buddy, Lily, that the novelty of the Plan is wearing off.

Of course, it was going to. A new way of eating is only new so long. A new way of feeling becomes the norm and isn't so remarkable anymore. We get used to things, both bad things and good things. And after 94 days, the Plan is how I eat. The challenges aren't mystifying, the green juice and smoothies are a constant. I plan ahead and have lots of salad and veggies available. I'm still experimenting with the crock pot and making interesting things, but none of this is so revolutionary.

At the same time, three months isn't very long at all, compared to more than 50 years of a not great relationship with food. There's lots to learn, lots to be careful of, one day at a time. And I'm hoping there will be more thrills ahead.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Day 93 A mild missing of restaurant freedom

There's a lot of terrific food in Portland. In fact, we're becoming one of the major eating cities of America. In a mile radius of my apartment, there are probably 40 restaurants, 20 of them top-notch. But most of them. as far as I know, are not catering to those of us on the Plan.

Breakfast may be the hardest meal to eat out. Restaurant breakfast is heavy on wheat, dairy, and animal protein: eggs, toast, butter, sausage, bacon. While it is possible to get oatmeal in many places, it's almost impossible to get rice milk or almond milk (the alternative is invariably soy milk here). So when my friend Diane and her husband Doug showed up for brunch on Sunday, I briefly mourned all the places we weren't going with their 3-egg/sausage/cheese scrambles and their buttermilk pancakes and their homemade biscuits slathered with butter.

We ended up walking over to a restaurant a few blocks away that caters to people with sensitive diets. I ordered two poached eggs, steamed spinach, and a rather wretched gluten-free English muffin (which, by the way, bore no resemblance to an English muffin except that it was white and round). The eggs and spinach were fine but they weren't enough and I ended up eating the pathetic muffin with jam. Next time I'll order a big bowl of fruit, a much better alternative.

I'm not unhappy at all with what I'm eating but I do mildly miss a wider choice of eating-out options.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Day 92 The old tyranny of the scale

I've passed the three-month (13 weeks I've been on the Plan) and I weighed myself again today. Actually, I've been weighing every Monday for the past 5 weeks. I lost 14 pounds the first month (my coach attributes this to getting off dairy), 4 pounds the second month, and 6-8 pounds the third.

Why the indefinite number this last month? Well, last Monday my total weight loss was 22 pounds. Today two of those pounds showed back up on the scale instead of the additional 40 pounds I was hoping to lose last week. I've actually been up and down on the scale on Mondays the last week so I'm not concerned, not really.

But that 40 pounds I hoped to lose last week? That's the old diet thinking. I want the loss to be steady, huge, healthy, and permanent. Only two of those are probably realistic: healthy and permanent.

Did I eat more last week than I did the week before? I don't know. Have I reached a plateau? I don't really think so. I think there are some vagaries of metabolism and body responses. I haven't exercised as much the last week, after injuring my back mowing the lawn for my sister. Does that make a two-pound difference? I doubt it. Will the weight be gone next week? Maybe so. Am I quitting the plan because I gained two pounds back. No way. I feel too good.


Sunday, June 9, 2013

Day 91 Living into our potential

Since I got sober 23+ years ago, I've been in transformation. I don't see this as constant change but rather an attitude of openness to the possibility of change, of difference, of the new. And recently I came across a great statement by life coach Gay Hendricks:  "I am here today because my commitment to living my potential is greater than my commitment to the familiar."

I was solidly committed to the familiar for a long time: drinking and its increasing misery, a bad relationship where my love and affection were disrespected, an academic job with its petty politics and dedication to the status quo of poor pay and unsatisfying support. I stayed a long time in those places and heavy drinking made it possible.

But in these last decades, I've gotten sober, I've changed careers, I left that man behind to become the woman I was meant to be. And now I've added a very real and possible solution to the captivating hold that food addiction has held over for me for as long as I can remember.

Am I cured of food addiction? I wish. But no, I know more than enough to know that this is another one day at a time of conscious choices and decisions. And that's okay. Because I have solid evidence that one day at a time adds up to big changes. And I do believe, after 90 days, that this food plan is a potential I can live into.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Day 90 Finally getting food to do for me what I've wanted all along

For as long as I can remember (close to 50 years), I've wanted food to make me happy. I became an emotional eater in the 5th grade, after a lengthy traumatic experience and a move to a new school. I discovered that chocolate bars and other candy from the little store down the street made my anxiety recede into the background. I wouldn't have defined it that way then, of course. I just knew it made me feel better. So I spent all my allowance on movies (another escape) and candy. And when I got to college, I added donuts and hot fudge sundaes and french fries and all kinds of foods to that numbing arsenal.

In my early 20s, I added alcohol to the survival kit. I didn't stop eating. For some unknown reason, I could eat all I wanted and drink too and get numb and stay that way. Eventually the drinking became the primary anesthetic and in 1976, I crossed the line into alcoholism and stayed there for another 13 years of increasing misery and illness. When I got sober in 1989, I went right back to food. My treatment center made sweets and caffeine available at all hours and candy helped me through the awkwardness of those first sober years and consoled me as I broke up with my long-term partner and moved and changed careers and walked through the deaths of my parents and several beloved pets and loneliness and overworking and financial insecurity. Food was a faithful friend but it never made me happy, just numb.

I was attracted to the plant-based food plan because of the energy, vitality, and happiness I saw in the people in the documentaries I watched. I wanted all of that. And I've gotten it. Eating mostly fruits and vegetables, a little of certain grains (quinoa, brown rice) and a little meat, I am happy. Happy in a sustained way, in a wake-up-happy-every-morning way, in a relentlessly cheerful way. At last food is doing what I wanted it to do all along. I was just eating the wrong foods.




Friday, June 7, 2013

Day 89 An inexplicable week and a bit more of eating less

Three weeks ago, I seemed hungry all day every day. That lasted most of a week. Even though I never varied from the Plan, I was eating snacks that were more like meals and I felt a bit of despair that that would never change. At the end of the week, I'd regained half a pound, rather than continuing to lose, and while "discouraged" is too strong a word and I wasn't really worried, I wasn't happy with what was happening. At the same time, I didn't want to fall into dieting, the old eating as little as possible no matter how miserable I feel just to get the numbers to budge.

I'd like to say that I found the solution and will be eating sanely forever more, but that's not what happened. Instead, the next week and this week, I've just not been as hungry. I don't have any explanation for it. I've still had some restless urges to eat and some I've ignored and not eaten over and others I've eaten something but for the first time with a real consciousness that that's not what I really want.

I've been putting less on my plate, leaving portions uneaten, not needing the 4 pm snack every day and less concerned about whether I eat meat every day. It's very curious this shift. I don't know if it's temporary or is something in my body is regulating itself differently. But I'm glad for it.


Thursday, June 6, 2013

Day 88 Thinking inside the box

My neighbor/friend/sister Melanie, who's also my gym buddy of long standing, is sharing a CSA box with me this summer. In Portland, there are a number of ways to do community-supported agriculture and we bought a half-share to split in the 47th St. Farm, which is on our side of town. On Tuesdays wego and pick up our stuff (one bunch of this, two bunches of that, 1/2 pound of this, and so). Of course, we get what is in season, not what we necessarily are looking for.

She and I did this years ago but I wasn't ever cooking then and most of the produce just went to rot in my fridge. I didn't juice and I didn't eat a big raw salad most days like I do now. We thought at first that there wouldn't be enough and of some things, there aren't. I go through 3-4 bunches of kale a week and an equal amount of spinach, apples, and cucumbers for my juice, but there is a lot of other stuff to play with.

This Tuesday there was a ziplock bag of huge white beans. I had never cooked beans (except to heat them from a can) so I read a few recipes online and decided to cook them in chicken broth in the crock pot. I didn't know if they were dried or fresh (turned out they were fresh) and in about 3 hours, they were done.

They were actually quite tasty. I mashed up some of them and mixed them with Trader Joe's guacamole, so the dip would have more protein and less fat. I ate some of them in salad and some as a main course of protein. I was very proud of myself. For those of you who cook a lot and enjoy it, this would be no big deal. For me, a confirmed non-cook, it is a very big deal.

Day 87 Finding more baskets for my eggs

For more time than I care to admit, I have put most of my pleasure eggs in one basket: food. Sure, I enjoyed other things but none so much as ice cream or caramels or cheetos or chocolate or cookies or you name it. I always kept a good stock of my food drug of choice close at hand. A reliable pleasure. A best friend. Now, I have to expand my horizons. I have to invest in other pleasures.

For several years, I have eyed porch swings at our local superstore, Fred Meyer. And a month into the Plan, without any specific plan, I was there shopping and on an impulse that BP (Before the Plan), I would have indulged in the candy aisle, I bought one. With delivery (it weighs 90 pounds), it cost about two months worth of ice cream ($225) in my bingeing heyday. It was delivered two days later and I spent two hours assembling it (quite proud of myself for doing that) and figuring out where to place it on my patio. It has become a popular seating item during the groups I hold here and other gatherings of friends.

And yesterday, about 4 pm, weary from editing, I went out and took a nap on the swing. It was warm out, lightly breezy, and Sammy, the kitten, who loves the swing, came and napped with me. I slept for a blissful half hour. This is a good swinging basket to be putting some of my pleasure eggs in.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Day 86 Eating out on the Plan

My friend Pam came over this afternoon. We had a nice long chat and then she suggested that we go out to dinner. I knew she was coming and I had a great veggie soup already to go, but she wanted to go out and that was fine with me. Except, where to go on the Plan?

Portland has hundreds of wonderful restaurants and my neighborhood itself has a good number but I realized I haven't scouted out the vegetarian/vegan possibilities since I started to eat differently. In the last 3 months, I've only been out half a dozen times and I usually just get a burger patty and salad. But I'd had that for lunch  at home. We chatted a bit and decided on an Indian restaurant up the street. We ate well though I would have preferred brown rice to white. But it reminds me to start doing a little research so that when the opportunity comes up again, I've got some good choices that help me stay on track.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Day 85 Overeating vs. compulsive overeating

I'm fascinated by all the ways I'm experiencing food and the urges to eat as I work my way towards a healthier relationship with what I eat, when I eat, how much I eat, and why. 85 days on the plan has given me a much better handle on what I eat. My intake now is very healthy, pretty low fat and low sugar, low meat, heavy, heavy on vegetables and other plant-based foods. And I'm reaping some real benefits from that.

And some of the time, I'm still overeating. Or at least I think I am. I eat a good meal and sometimes I'm not satisfied and I keep eating until I am. Am I actually still hungry or is the urge to eat something else? I don't think it's emotional. I'm not conscious of being bored or restless or unhappy or lonely. I'm just not satisfied. Is that overeating? Is that compulsive overeating?

Something similar happens some afternoons. About 4 or 4:30, I feel hungry and I get a snack. And sometimes that's enough. And sometimes it isn't. I don't feel full. I don't feel satisfied. And so I eat another snack or two more snacks. Is that overeating? Is that compulsive overeating? Today, I had a big salad for lunch about 12:30. Wasn't needing food until 6. What was different from a day when a big salad is not enough and I eat some nuts and then something else before I'm done? It's a puzzlement.


Sunday, June 2, 2013

Day 84 Thoughts about abstinence

I did not struggle with abstinence when I got sober. I had cravings that I had to deal with, quite a few in the first months, but I had been a terribly sick drunk--daily vomiting, nausea, headaches--and I learned from an early sponsor to play the memory tape of that sickness any time I felt the urge to drink. When a drink sounded good, I'd play out the whole tape: drinking one, drinking a bunch, waking up sick, hungover, miserable, and unable to stop again. My aversion to that has been an extremely useful tool.

Abstinence with food is a much trickier situation. As I've said, I'm not finding it hard to abstain from wheat, dairy, and soy. I even sent back some asparagus at a restaurant today because it had come with a pat of butter on top (I'd asked for no butter). Not eating those things is keeping it simple for me. But I'm still learning what hunger is and what hunger isn't and I don't think I'm abstinent in the OA sense of the word:  free from compulsive eating.

I wasn't miserable before I got on this food plan. I felt okay. I didn't feel great and I do now. But I don't have the same tape of remembered horrors to play out that will keep me from another rice cake with almond butter or an extra helping of cashews. It's the future possibilities that are the issue (health problems from obesity) and that's a different kind of carrot and stick to hold out in front of me.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Day 83 Less fat, less sick, and much more alive

I'm up in Mosier in the Columbia Gorge, visiting my sister for the weekend. She's eaten mostly vegetarian for a long time and has always gently encouraged me to eat as healthy as I can. And I think for all those years, even when it wasn't very healthy, it was still the best I could do--at least it was what I was willing to do.

Tonight, we watched Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead, the Joe Cross film about juicing and micronutrients that was part of my inspiration for getting on the Plan. It's a good film and very inspirational and I was glad to see it again. I have not done the juice fasting that Joe recommends, his Reboot program, but I bought a juicer after I watched the film and green juice has become a staple of my plan.

I'm completely convinced that a diet heavy in fruits and vegetables is the best thing for me, and seeing the film again and noting not only the physical transformation but the emotional transformation of Joe and the people he introduces to this way of eating made me glad again that I got willing to step onto this path.