Food Journal – Week 7 Check In/My Nature Prescription

Almost seven weeks have passed since I started using the food journal app consistently.  My goal is to make it at least 3 months or twelve weeks so I am over half way there.  It has started to become a habit so it seems less cumbersome.  In essence, using the food journal has started becoming a habit and not a nuisance.  I am snacking much less and when I do, I am much more selective about what I eat as a snack.  The best thing is that it has stopped my mindless eating which I believe was one of my biggest challenges.  The other challenge was we eat out a lot and now we have shifted to cooking more just because it is easier to control the calories you ingest.

The other benefit of the food journal is planning.  For New Year’s Eve, we knew we were going out to dinner at a nice restaurant.  We went online to see what they were offering on their NYE menu and we planned it out ahead of time what we wanted to eat and the estimated calories.  Then the rest of the day, we ate lighter to allow for a heavier meal.  Though to be honest, I ate too much.  I really didn’t need either the few small slices of rye bread (mmmm) and butter or the triple chocolate cake we split.  I think I would have given up the triple chocolate cake before the bread.  It was simply too sweet.  But the main point here is making choices and thinking ahead.  And not depriving yourself.  If I deprive myself, I binge and I also feel rebellious which in turn makes things worse.  The key is to know yourself, your triggers and figure out what works for you. You can try to follow expert advice or mine (not expert) but really I find you have to do what works for you. And no deprivation.  No foods are off limit.  No restaurants you can’t eat in.  Depriving yourself doesn’t work as a lifestyle change.  This for me is exactly that.  It has to be otherwise I will slip back and gain the weight (and more) back.

Actually I don’t really care about the weight, I am using it and measurements as a marker but mostly it is how my clothes fit.  Because I can shrink inches and not lose a pound.  I can actually gain weight while losing size because of muscle gain especially if I am training or working out hard.  However, since I am keeping track of my weight, I have lost 11.8 lbs in that 7 weeks or about 1.5 lbs a week average.  My highest weight recorded was this past May (I didn’t record it often then) and using that number, I have lost 15 pounds.  Which means I have made a 50% dent in the ~30 pounds I gained over last winter.

They say how hard it is to lose weight when you get older and especially when you edge into menopause.  However, I have been really surprised how fast and dare I say, easy, this has been.  Other than the annoyance of getting into the habit of using the food journal which with smart phones really isn’t that hard and just adjusting how I eat, I really haven’t made huge changes other than not overeating and being more cautious about eating out.  I still eat ice cream and chocolate and candy bars and popcorn at the movies (small no butter – but I don’t miss the greasy butter which used to make me sick).  I’ve reduced my soda drinking and replaced it with oolong tea in the morning and early afternoon.  The crazy thing about the oolong tea is that I haven’t had a migraine since I started drinking two (large) cups of it a day.  Sometimes if I decreased how much I ate, I would get a searing migraine.  But I haven’t had one in weeks.  I think the second benefit from the tea is that it makes me less hungry due to the caffeine content.  This is not something to drink late afternoon or bedtime.

Also, my husband finally set up our rower in the basement.  It is one with the water tank (House of Cards viewers will know the one) and even on the lowest resistance, I find this to be a touch workout.  It’s not quite been set up a week but I can only do 15 minutes with frequent breaks.  The nice thing is I can take the breaks whereas on my bike rollers, I couldn’t do so as easily.  They claim it works 85% of your muscle groups and I really think it does.  But the best benefit is I’m getting a good cardio workout without having to go to a germy gym and fighting for equipment.  I watch Netflix or listen to music and row away.  Well row a bit then stop, row, stop, row, stop.  You get the idea.

My app (My Plate) credits you earned calories when you workout (it also will link to other apps or you phone if it counts your steps and automatically calculate estimated calories burned).  Though I don’t use the adjusted added calories usually, I try to stick right around the prescribed number allowed each day before exercise, I know that working out affords me more fudge room.  I row, bike and hike for ice cream.  And to feel better.  I am feeling much more energetic, less tired and I’ve accomplished a lot more around the house than I normally do.  Last winter, I turned into a slug.  This year, I’m keeping active though not in the intensity that I do in the warmer months.

Oh, and my winter depression or (SADD)…  Initially I had been using the idea that vigorous/moderate exercise alleviated my year-round struggle with depression.  I noticed big changes when I felt depressed then got out for 30+ minutes riding my bike.  Similar to a runner’s high.  Two winters ago, I tested that theory by joining the Y again.  I could work out on the elliptical for an hour, hard, and not see the same results.  That was frustrating.  I tried the stationary bikes that they use for  the cycling classes.  I tried walk/running on a treadmill.  Never did I get the same result.  It didn’t help my depression at all.

Then I figured it out.  I have to be outside, in nature for 30+ minutes several times a week to help my depression.  Sometimes it’s so cold (Ohio weather), I have to do short walks out into my back yard and breathe in the air and notice the landscape around me (I’m fortunate that I live in the country).   This seems to help as well.  Just multiple shorter trips outside make a difference.  It is even better if I can do it on a sunny day.  But the prescription seems to be not vigorous exercise so much as the outdoors.  Breathing in the fresh air, seeing the sun, and so on.  But it is not just the outdoors, it’s being away from urban areas and into nature.

Stanford University had some encouraging findings about my theory http://news.stanford.edu/2015/06/30/hiking-mental-health-063015/.  That is why when I lived in town and would walk in the winter, it never seemed to help my depression.  Now I live in the country and I can just walk into my back yard and be surrounded by nature.  But there are parks I visit as well.  My cousin experiences this phenomenon as well.  He gets ancy and depressed if he can’t get away from the city and into nature.  Maybe out genetic makeup is more sensitive to being indoors or urban places.

I have deemed it my “Nature Prescription” which is a hella lot better than Zoloft and all its side effects.  As long as I get outside 3-4 times a week for about two hours total (my guess), my depression (SADD) seems to stay at bay.  So it wasn’t so much the vigorous exercise as I first believed (though there are studies to prove this) but being out in nature that really triggered my brain to act right.   I am still forming my hypothesis but so far based on my experience, this seems to be what works for me.  I am not a physician or a psychologist so I really can’t shell out medical advice.  This is simply my experience.  Exercise also helps regardless of where I perform it as I can feel a big difference in my attitude when I am not active.  That and I feel like a fat slug.  A juicy one that looks like it’s gonna pop at any minute.

As I write this, the sun is out glistening on the new fallen snow and the temperature is 1 degree which feels like -10 degrees  with the windchill.  I will get my nature dose simply by bundling up and taking the dog out to potty.  For like 2 minutes at a time.  Whatever works.

That’s the key, do what works for you and Happy Damn It’s F’ing Cold January!

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The Numbers Game

We humans seem to love numbers.  They are a tangible way to measure progress or failure or fortune, just about everything.   Individually, we value ourselves by our weight, the size of our clothing, our height, our waist measurement and things like our net worth, etc.   These increments help us determine if we are being successful or failing.  But really do any of these numbers really, in the big scheme of life, matter?

The past eight months, I have struggled with an unknown and painful medical issue that just recently resolved itself, at least for the time being.  I saw every type of doctor I could think of and was getting ready to move onto voodoo and witch doctors.  I was getting desperate.  Pain kept me up half the night, lying in the fetal position on the living room carpet with pain so sharp I wanted to just do surgery on myself. Give me that steak knife, I can’t take it anymore! (Seriously, I had a moment where that sounded feasible).  On top of chronic pain and sleep deprivation, I was finding certain foods made my pain worse and slowly became dairy and gluten-free because it seemed to kind of help.  Not a lot, but again, I was trying everything.

Being dairy and gluten-free is a big challenge.  Basically it’s meat, potatoes, veggies (but I had to be careful with anything fibrous) and fruit.  Gluten-free food substitutes are passable usually but half the time is gritty and taste of dirt.  I had moments, where I just gave up eating because I was so dismayed.  Other days, I would watch the number on the scale go down and think oh well there is one positive.  At least I’m lighter, I can ride my bike further and faster.   I was trying to look on the bright side.

Then my issue resolved itself, suddenly.  As the pain disappeared immediately, a week later I tried a piece of dry toast.  Food wasn’t seeming to trigger anything now.  Nothing.  I got more brave.  A whole sandwich with not just one but two pieces of bread.  No side effects.  Hmmmm.  My daughter made rice krispy treats.  I devoured several of them.  Mmmmm.  Eventually I got brave and tried a small bit of vanilla soft serve.  Waiting, waiting, waiting.  Nothing.  No pain.  I wasn’t doubled over almost crying.  So I didn’t really have food intolerances.  These foods just make me a bit gassy and that was irritating my medical issue, just that simple.

Holy smokes!  I wasn’t intolerant or I might be a little but it wasn’t causing me pain.  It was if I was let out of food prison.  My middle daughter and I ordered a small pizza and cheesy breadsticks to eat on the beach at the lake we like to visit.  We spread out the blanket and put the two small boxes between us.  I hadn’t eaten “real” pizza in months.  My fingers were almost shaking when I opened the box.  Angel song surrounded us as did the greedy seagulls who realized we had food.  My first bite of cheesy goodness was like heaven.  I closed my eyes, listening to the waves gently break on the shoreline and the gulls squawking angrily at us for not sharing our bounty.  When did pizza ever taste so good as today?  I couldn’t remember when.

Last night, my husband and I were working on our house trying to get it ready to sell, I offered to order pizza and he had become so used to my narrow diet that he looked at me funny.  I assured him I could actually eat pizza from anywhere now.  Not just gluten-free crust from Dominos the next town over.  I ordered from a local place and added a half-order of nachos because I saw them on the menu and they sounded wonderful.  Anxiously I waited for our dog to go batshit crazy signaling the food had arrived.  I completely ignored the pizza and dug into the nachos.  They were the best nachos in the world.  Well, probably not but to me, at that moment, after not being able to eat them for months, they tasted amazing.  I’m not even a big nacho fan.  I rarely ordered them anyway but not being able to have them had made them a delicacy.

As I sat in my recliner after showering off the dust and dirt from our project (and probably some nacho cheese I missed from dinner), I thought why have I spent so many years worrying about my weight, what I put in my mouth or how much I work out?  Why have I joined gyms that I don’t go to, tried to follow the latest diet or exercise fad just to be ‘thin’.  Why not enjoy the food I truly want?  Granted I don’t want to eat nothing but junk because it makes me feel horrible.  I want to be healthy but not enjoying nachos once in awhile isn’t worth it to me.  I want to enjoy what I eat like I have been these past few weeks after a long hiatus from dairy and gluten.

I have found some different ways to eat that I actually like. I won’t reintroduce dairy like I used to eat it because I found my seasonal allergies have disappeared for the most part.  Candy like Twizzlers that I couldn’t have because of gluten, when I tried them again, I realized I don’t really like them that much.  If nothing else, this whole experience has made me realize that life is too short to deprive yourself for the sake of a number whether it be the scale or clothing.  That I like to eat better, more fruits and veggies and way less processed foods.  This showed me how much processed foods I really ate even though I would tell you that I avoided them.  That I had grown extremely lazy about cooking and how bad fast food really tastes.

Today I pulled the scale out from under my bathroom vanity and put it in a bag to be donated.  I’m on it most days, the number fluctuating up and down but never really making me happy and usually making me feel bad.  I won’t suddenly blow up into a parade float if I give this away.  I have to just trust the way the clothes fit.  Because as I showed last year, my weight barely budged with all the cycling I did but my body size shrunk greatly.  I’m also retiring my measurements spreadsheet.  I’m going to save it off onto my external hard drive and make it less accessible.  I’m not keeping clothing too small or too big.  If it doesn’t fit, I will donate or toss it.

Life is too short for the numbers game, I’m gonna eat nachos and enjoy every last greasy, cheesy, crunchy bite.