Keeping the Line- 29 Wk Food Journal Check In/ Cancer Scare

In April, I received the news that I had a small patch of basal cell carcinoma (skin cancer) on my face by my right nostril.  A small pustule had been bleeding off and on and my wise husband said “You better go get that looked at.”  Though he had to nudge me several times before I made an appointment.  The dermatologist biopsied it along with doing a full body check for other possible skin cancers.  Considering I’m covered in freckles from my Irish side, everything looks like cancer to me.  I was sitting in my home office working the morning when the doctor called and said the dreaded words “It’s cancer.”

My mother died of metastasized colon cancer after an 8 year battle not only with colon but lung cancer.  To say this traumatized me watching her suffer so much is an understatement.  Aside from something tragic happening to my family, my biggest fear has been to get cancer.  Any kind of cancer.  I have nightmares about it and I’m always getting check or tested as much as I possibly can for different types such as getting a mammogram, colonoscopy, etc.  I do not want to die like my mother did, slowly wasting away, cancer taking over her bones where she was in constant pain.  We wouldn’t let our pets die this way, I’m not sure why we do our humans.  But that’s another blog post altogether.

I remember ending the call with the doctor and just staring out the window as my biggest fear had just come to life.  Logically, I knew it was a minor type of cancer, non life-threatening.  If I was going to have any kind of cancer, this was highly curable.  My unlogical emotional and fearful side just swelled and took over, stealing away my logic for about an hour or two.  I cried, I felt doomed, I was thinking but I used sunscreen at least from my mid-twenties when skin cancer advocates preached prevention.  Would I have a huge scar on my face?  Would that matter if it’s removed.  I just wanted that cancer out of my body and knew I would not hear from the skin cancer surgeon for a few days.

Then my brain kicked in and I calmed myself down.  Stop overreacting, I told myself firmly.  You’ve got this, you know people going through way worse than you, stop being a damned pussy about it.   Grow up, get a grip and get back focused with your life. The surgery was scheduled for the end of May, almost a month away.  I am an emotional eater.  I use food to comfort me and make me feel better.  Now that my mom is gone, I gravitate more toward food.  During this month, I was not as diligent about entering what I ate in the food journal, finally just giving it up until after the surgery.  Then I just let it sit until I weighed myself last weekend and realized I had indeed gained a few pounds back.  Nothing major but obviously left to my own devices, I don’t really pay attention as closely as I believe to what I eat.

I knew the time between the call telling me I had cancer until the surgery, I was eating when I wasn’t hungry.  I’ve read all sorts of books on emotional eating, I’ve tried the listen to what you really want and eat it only those things type of instruction they give you from that book.  I’m sure that works for some people.  But me, I always think I want chocolate or something not good for me or to eat when I am bored, upset but not hungry.  The problem is, I’m so good at lying to myself and excusing what I eat, that I am not a reliable source of recollection and tracking just in my mind alone.  My mind covers up my extra portions and little treats I think, oh those calories won’t count much.  Except they do.  Every single one of those little bastards add up and total much more than the 1800 calorie limit I set for myself daily.

To know your limitations is to know thineself.  My limitation is that I have spent so many years lying to myself about what I eat because I was in this binge/purge/overeating/under eating/dieting cycle that I still carry around my old habits.   Though this May, I quietly acknowledged my emotional overeating without coming down on myself.  I just noted that it was a rough period I was going through, I was eating to comfort myself and it’s not the best for me but I’m okay.  Several years back, I would beat myself up and then eat even more because I felt worse.  It’s an odd cycle, emotional overeating.   I also said things to myself like, well at least it’s a little extra food and not crack or heroin.  You could be self-medicating with way worse substances.  So I have come a long way but I’m still not quite in the zen of ony eating when I’m hungry mindset.

So the solution?  A simple one.  Back at the food journal 24/7, full time, recording every thing I shove into my pie hole.  That’s a lovely mental image isn’t it?  It’s been working and when I go off the journal, I regain a bit because even though I would like to believe that I am acutely aware of what I eat, I still tend to use food for comfort at times or I don’t remember things I’ve eaten.  Having the calories consumed in black and white on my phone is a continual reminder to adjust my eating habits.  I was hoping by the time six months had come and gone into this food journal experiment, that I would have the knowledge and wisdom to eat without the food journal.  While I have improved, I’m not quite there yet.  I have some old, latent issues to resolve.  Which is good news because now I can pinpoint them and work on them more specifically.  It took me years to get to where I am, it won’t be overnight for me to correct them.   It’s a journey like anything else.

Since I have been back on the food journal wagon, keeping the line, I’ve lost a few of the five pounds I gained.  Two steps forward and one step back.  The important thing is to keep going forward and learning along the way.  I could easily get pissed off and discouraged so I quit but that doesn’t do me any good nor does it fix the problem.  If I give up, then I lose.  I fail myself.  I’m not doing that.  I’ve done it enough in the past.  It’s time to keep the line, keep going.  Keep using that annoying app and record every little dang thing I eat.  Mostly it’s annoying because I want to think I eat better than I really do and having that pointed out to me pisses me off.  It really isn’t the app’s fault.

Food journals work, if you use them.  Kindness to yourself works as well.  I could be ranting at myself that I am a failure for my weight gain but I am not.  I’m just getting back on the horse and back into the food journal groove.

With the manta – Keep the line, keep the line.  I’m not even sure what that means but it sure sounds good.  Ciao!

PS – The surgery went well, it was a tiny spot and I only ended up with minor scarring.  I was being a big weenie about it all because of my fear of getting cancer.

 

Slow Like a Turtle – 23/23 Weeks – Food Journal Check In

As with most weight loss journeys, you will reach a tough point or a plateau or both.  It’s just the nature of the beast.  You start out and the weight seems to come off easily at first.  Then you hit that point where it feels like you are not moving forward at all. This is the most crucial point.  My best advice – DON’T QUIT!  Keep on course, make some adjustments.  Double check your portion sizes, make sure you’re being fully honest about what you are recording in your food journal, take your measurements (which can show progress even if your weight is stagnant or has gone up a few pounds) and maybe make a few simple changes to spark further weight loss (or size reduction because weight isn’t all the best metric).

Look at what you are eating, maybe you need to eat more fruits and veggies, did you remember to count the sugar in your coffee, etc.  Are you exercising or have you slacked off?  There is also the paradox that I fall into which can be very frustrating if you just use weight as a metric  When the weather gets nice, I’m exercising more in the form of cycling and hiking which means I put on muscle weight which is why measurements are so important. Today’s results:

23 weeks – 23.0 lbs lost / 23 inches lost (8 measurements/ 9 inches from 3 core measurements.

Average 1.0 lb week or 1 inch a week (8 sites) or 0.39 inches per week (3 core measurements)

At 13 weeks – lost 17.2 lbs (1.32 lbs per week)/ 10.75 inches (8 sites) – 0.83″ per week/ 6.25 inches (3 core sites) – 0.48 inches per week

So if you look at the averages of loss in weight and measurements from 13 to 23 weeks, there are some differences but the surprising thing is though my weight loss slowed from 1.32 lbs per week to 1.0 lb per week, my average measurement reduction was higher in all 8 sites (1 inch per week at 23 weeks) as compared to 0.83″ per week at 13 weeks though my weight loss had slowed.  Okay, I’m a big numbers nerd.  But my point is, KEEP GOING!  Also, don’t let the number on the scale deter you.  Especially if you have started exercising more, picked a new or resumed a seasonal activity like cycling.  When I start cycling, my thigh measurements increase for awhile as does my weight.  This is simply a gain in muscle size and muscle weight for awhile.  

The problem with just using weight as your metric is you don’t get a full picture.  And don’t even get me started on BMI the most useless measurement there is especially if you are athletic at all.  Elite athletes who can have single digit body fat percentages will come up as “Obese” on the BMI chart.  BMI is a faulty metric. A pound of muscle is much more dense than a pound of fat.  See the photo below I found on the internet:


That’s why my measurements can shrink much faster than my weight when I start up my cycling season.  I naturally tend to put on muscle quickly.  I have measurements in my spreadsheet that go clear back to 2004 and in my current spreadsheet from November 2016 until now, I took my largest and smallest measurements recorded and put them on this particular sheet for reference.  Yes, I am seriously a nerd!  So here is an eye opener:

At my largest measurements I only weighed 7.4 pounds more than I do today (in Jan 2007) but the difference in my current measurements to those measurements is -25.75 inches (8 sites).  So what is different between 1/2007 and today?  I’m incredibly athletic and fit at 47 compared to how I was at 37.  I had just started riding bikes back then and could barely ride 4.5 miles on a bike path without feeling like I was going to die.  Now it takes me 50 miles on a bike path to duplicate that feeling of I am going to die (or never sit down again!).  I could barely hike my favorite trails which I coast along now as if it’s nothing putting in 4-5 miles as if it’s nothing when I could barely hike 1-2 miles (with multiple rest stops).

My diet at 37 was crap and more crap.  My diet now is moderate crap as treats.  Okay, I’m not giving up ice cream (did reduce the portion size significantly without any deprivation) but I did substitute my occasional craving for greasy potato chips with veggie chips where I can have 30 of them for 120 calories rather than a few regular chips for the same calories.  I loved whipped cream and at 20 calories a tablespoon, I can add it to my 3/4 cup serving of pudding in a generous dollop and enjoy it.  Or on ice cream.  Always on ice cream, that’s a law by the way in my house.  When the can of Reddi-whip is empty, I go into panic mode so I always keep a sparse can.  No, I am not joking.  I love it that much which gives my family plenty of fodder for jokes.

I have incorporated in yoga 3-4 times a week as well.  My life in general is much more healthy than at 37.  So on your journey to being more fit and healthy, look at the big picture.  Celebrate all the little improvements because they add up to big changes and results.  Plus just use weight as one piece of the puzzle not the only one.  Part of a healthier lifestyle is exercise and depending on what you do, it could make you weigh more because you’ve added muscle weight which helps boost your BMR (basal metabolic rate) or resting metabolism.  Plus exercise (in moderation – don’t go crazy) is great for your memory, building new capillaries (depending on exercise – cycling is a great one), reducing stress, getting you outside (really important – use sunscreen!) and improving your lunch and heart functions.  Our bodies were created to move and so many of us have jobs where we sit all day.  Or come home and watch tv or sit on our devices cruising social media.

I will be honest, this last 10 weeks since my previous post have been a struggle.  I had to adjust what I was eating, look at my food journal with an eagle eye to see where I was cheating myself (not recording a big enough portion etc.) and to remind myself that I was back into cycling up to 50 miles a week and my body composition was changing because I was getting back into riding (adding more muscle weight).  It sucks to see the scale go up 5-6 pounds when yu worked so hard to lose that 5-6 pounds.  It is easy to feel discouraged but step back and look at what is going on.  For me it was not being as honest as I could with my food journal entries.  I also cut out making big bowls of steel-cut oatmeal with a little cream, nuts and berries.  While healthy foods (okay not the cream but it was just a little), the calories I consumed didn’t abate my mid morning hunger so I was eating more calories.  I reverted back to my packets of oatmeal, precisely 160 calories per packet and saw the weight slowly start going back to what it was 13 weeks ago.

Though I dreaded writing this post because it felt like I was failing myself, once I really sat down with today’s measurements, weight and crunched the numbers, I still saw improvement.  The joy is in the journey not the final destiny.  So they say.  But it is true,  I was surprised to see my body measurements had decreased and then when I compared them to my former unhealthier lifestyle (I still can make improvements), I felt buoyed and the dread dissipated.  This still gave me a sense of an accomplishment that I kept plugging away even during the rough part.  That I analyzed my choices to get me back on track and while it can still be a PITA, I am still using the food journal app almost six months later.

Though it’s hard, trust me I know this because my husband’s weight loss has really overshadowed mine (60+ lbs), keep going.  It becomes more habit after awhile as you adopt this new lifestyle.  I don’t really deprive myself of anything.  Last night my daughter and I went to one of our favorite diners that has the best patty melt and hand cut fair fries (that I drown in malt vinegar), but we split a plate.  We used to order one full plate for each of us but we found that we were more than satisfied by splitting their huge single portion.  We stopped and got one scoop of ice cream.  Last year I would have ordered their version of a Snickers Blizzard which is like 650 calories at least because it’s huge.  I enjoyed that one scoop of peanut butter cup ice cream immensely and didn’t feel sick afterward.  It was more than enough.  Much of our battle is in our own minds.  Don’t deprive, use portion control, if you can find healthy swaps that satisfy you – use them.  If you can’t find a healthy swap, then just use moderation.  Deprivation only makes it worse and you will end up bingeing.

I’m so excited at my improvement that after writing this, I’m going to go buy myself something fun (non-food related)!  Keep the course until net time, friends!  Lots of love, I’m on the journey with you.  

Food Journal – Week 9 (2+ Month Check In)

For some reason, I was thinking I had passed the 3-month mark on my food journal journey but I’m just at nine weeks.  I think it is because that it has become second nature to me, recording everything I eat and watching portion sizes, calories, etc.  I don’t feel rebellious against it anymore because it is providing real results.  I have not made any food off-limits, everything is fair game but it does require some trade-offs if what I want is high-calorie.  This has also forced me to see if I really want to eat that particular food.  I find myself thinking or saying out loud “That isn’t worth the calories” which means this journal is forcing me to make better food choices and in the end, hopefully, making me healthier.

The bottom line is I’ve lost 13.2 pounds and 12.80 inches (8 different measurements) or 4.25 inches from bust, waist and hips.  Just right around 1.5 pounds a week average.  This doesn’t quite happen like that.  My weight goes up and down like it’s a see saw and then will suddenly drop out of the blue when I feel like I need to reevaluate what I am doing.  Weight isn’t a great measurement anyway it’s just a marker and nothing more.  I have no idea what my ideal weight will even be but since I am athletic now, I imagine it will be higher than I might guess due to muscle mass.  That’s where the measurements and clothing size help.  And why elite athletes are considered obese by BMI standards.  Muscle simply weighs more than fat.

The biggest difference is how I feel.  Not only as far as having more energy, I just feel better about myself in general.  I feel a little healthier.  I feel a little extra self-confidence.  My ‘fat’ jeans that I bought this past spring when I couldn’t squeeze into my regular size are now almost too big to wear without a belt.  I wore them to work yesterday and spent more time pulling them back up than normal.  Another positive sign.  The pain I was having in relation to my hip nerve has dramatically improved and my knees aren’t protesting quite as much now.  I did some grocery shopping on Monday and I picked up a 30 pound bag of cat litter and realized how heavy 30 pounds really is on your body.  Just almost 15 pounds gone and I am sure that is much less stress on my joints, muscles and body in general.  No, I’m not going to be like that old Oprah episode where she brings out the little red wagon full of fat to represent how much she lost.  Unfortunately, she gained much of it back not long after but has since lost and gained and lost.

That is the biggest caveat I am trying to avoid.  Losing and then gaining more weight back.  Which is why I refuse to limit or banish any food.  Am I going to go my whole life without eating ice cream?  Um, no.  I’ll just be fat.  Am I going to spend the rest of my life starving myself?  Nope.  Again, I’d just be fat.  Am I going to work out an hour every day. Nope. I can’t keep that kind of exercise regimen for life.  Yesterday, since I am in full-blown PMS and am craving Doritos, I bought a single serving bag from the vending machine at work to eat with my otherwise healthy lunch.  I savored every single chip and then realized, Doritos don’t really taste as good as I remembered them to taste.  That satisfied my craving and for the first time, I really tasted what Doritos are like.  Corny, salty, chips of limited flavor.  The chips seemed a bit of a let down after my lunch of a boneless pork chop topped with a herbed Gorgonzola butter and green beans/shallots leftover from dinner from the previous night.

I have become more picky about what I eat.  I consider restaurant meals before I even leave the house, looking up their menu, finding nutritional information if it’s available online and plugging it into my food journal app.  This is a great tool to keep me from overeating which is really very easy to do when eating out.  If there is something I really, really want that is going to blow my day’s calories, I adjust my other meals and snacks to less caloric choices.  Give and take, trade and plan.  Sometimes when I’m into a peak day where I am eating too much, I go down and use the rower to hopefully offset some of the calories.  Supposedly that is supposed to work but who knows with my metabolism but so far, it seems to keep me at least level.  If nothing else, I’m getting extra exercise which can’t hurt.

So as I round into the third month, I have no great expectations, no numbers to achieve except staying in my calorie goal range via my food journal app.  Exercising most days as I can fit it in.  Nothing earth shattering.  Just keep on keeping on.  Learning how to eat better (my biggest challenge over exercise anyway) and being mindful of what I put in my mouth.  The other change I have made is eating all my meals at home at the dining room table so I pay more attention to what I am shoveling in my face.  I’ve read all these tips 100 times in articles and books but seldom put them to use.  I would scoff and say ‘whatever’ in my mind but dammit, they actually work!   So much for being a rebel, it didn’t work in this case.

So until my next post… moderation, moderation, moderation!

U-hauls, Empty Nest (Sorta), Food Journals and Next Chapters…

A lot has happened since my last blog post.  Yesterday, I moved my two oldest daughters into the house my oldest bought.  Her first house!  I’m so excited for her (and a little melancholy) and immensely proud of her.  This is a house that she bought all by herself by saving up for a long time to build up her savings.  When I was driving a truck load over to her new house, I started thinking of myself at that age, 25 almost 26.  At her age, I had been married for 5 years and was pregnant with my 3rd child and we had just moved into our first house that we bought.  

The thing is, back then, I’d never thought about buying my own house.  You were programmed to think that you went to school, got married (maybe college) and then the house came.  At least in my family.  While the 1970s still encompassed women’s liberation from the 1960’s, even in the mid-late 1980’s when I was a teenager, the old ways still clung.  Though I was an independent person to an extent, it never dawned on me to buy my own house because very few women I knew had done so unless they were divorced or “weird”.  Fast forward 21 years and here is my daughter buying her own house.  And watching the social media feeds, so are a lot of people her age, male or female without the trappings of having to get married first.  

Had I been in a better situation had I just worked and bought my own place, rather than marrying someone that I did not really want to marry?  I think so though I would not have the great daughters I have today.  A lot of it has to do with the Christianity that I was familiar with growing up.  The male was the head of the household and the female more subservient.  Which I am not saying is good or bad, but maybe it just wasn’t the only way.  I think of the potential in life that I had not developed because I was stunted by a patriarchal mindset.  Not blaming anyone, or being a victim, but you are influenced by those ideals swirling around you.  It simply had not dawned on me to just focus on my own education and career like my daughter has done.  Then buy my own house and when love arrives in your life, you don’t feel dependent on that person.  You know you can take care of yourself which is what I really pushed for with my daughters, as it is miserable to believe that you are dependent on another person for your life.   

Being independent means you have to face the fact that you are in charge of your own failures and successes but that is the reality of life.  I spent a good part of my life feeling that I needed someone else to help me achieve my goals.  Someone like a parent, a boyfriend or a spouse.  But they weren’t really in charge of my life the way I depended on them.  I was so miserable and unhappy tying my future and my goals to someone all the time.  Not that you don’t have joint goals with your spouse but when you let go of your individual goals, the things that make you happiest, you are not living authentically.  Luckily, I have a husband now who doesn’t want to control every little thing in my life and he actually steps back and forces me to do it on my own sometimes.  Which is good, because I’ve spent way too much time in the shadows.  My former spouse’s shadows, my mom’s shadow, etc.  I reached a point in my life when all that had faded away and I was left standing there thinking, OMG, who am I? 

That’s the problem with hanging your shingle on someone else and not yourself.  You lose yourself and who you are or in my case, maybe I never really took the time to figure out who that was or I thought I knew already.  And that doesn’t mean you can’t be in a relationship to get there either.  You can, you just have to pick a relationship with mutual respect and where each or one partner doesn’t want to control the other.  Yes, it’s scary when you do something on your own especially if it’s important to you.  It doesn’t mean you don’t have a good support system or people who encourage you but you realize that you are the one driving the bus so to speak.  I’m 46 years old and this is finally dawning on me.  That my fear and lack of self-confidence kept me from going after what I loved.  Instead, I stood by my man (which for 18 years of my life was disastrous) and never really did enough for myself.  I hid behind other people.  It was easier that way.   Well nothing good ever comes easy.

As my house empties a bit, I am now sitting in what once was my middle daughter’s bedroom that overnight became my office.  A place to write and work on projects where I can focus and fight my urge to be up cleaning and so on.  I’m a bit ADD that way.   in a way I was sad they left, but proud at the same time.  LIke any change, it takes me a little to adjust to it but I usually make the best of it all.  in a way, it is exciting because I can focus more on my goals.  I miss my daughter a little but she’s just ten miles away and having my own “room” for the first time in 26 years is actually nice.  I woke up this morning and was running different room configurations through my head.    

On the food journal note, yesterday marked my monthly measurement milestone.  I have lost 9 pounds and 6.5 inches (8 different measurements).  It’s been hard to stay focused on journaling.  Many days I want to blow it off but I’m forcing myself to stick with it for 3 months minimum.  I was excited yesterday by the loss of inches because my weight fluctuates.  It can go up and down 5 lbs in a day or two.  Weight isn’t the best method for me, mostly I am doing it more on a scientific outlook but the measurements give me my actual progress.  That and how I feel.   I feel really great inside and out so that is worth the hassle of logging everything I eat.  Three months is what they say you need to create or break a habit.  So I’m going at least 3 months on this food journal journey.  We will see how I feel when I reach that point in February on my oldest’s 26th birthday! 

Well, I need to close as I am having my first volunteer day at the local nursing home.  Im a little nervous but I always am when it ones to something new.  I’m excited about the fact the Winter Solstice has passed and the days will start getting longer.  I’m excited for 2017 and what all it can bring.   I’m excited for the next chapter of my life.  Cheers!