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.

 

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!

Food Journal – Two Week Reflection & Progress

Today marks the 2 week and 1 day journey into utilized a food journal to help me see what I am eating and be more aware of my habits as well as my tendency to emotional/bored eat.  As I mentioned in my last post, I do not see this as a “diet” but as a tool for lifestyle changes that will help me be healthier and hopefully live a better life.  I don’t believe in dieting because you can’t sustain those habits for the rest of your life unless you have extreme willpower.  I don’t.  Personally, I don’t want to think about eating all that much and would rather I teach myself better habits so I don’t have to sit there and think, “but I exercise all the time, why am I not losing weight?”.  That answer is simple.   I eat like crap.  

Using the My Plate app on my smart phone, I’ve tracked most everything I’ve put in my mouth for 14 days.   I’ve seen where when I’m sitting to watch tv, I start getting bored and want to snack even though I’m not hungry.  If I get upset or stressed, I start wanting something sweet to eat even if I ate less than an hour ago.  As much as I hoped I conquered emotional/ stressed/ bored eating, I really hadn’t.  Though to be fair, I have overcome bingeing though.  I may eat when I’m not hungry but I don’t do it in a way I’m sick as a dog after downing a half gallon of ice cream or a whole family-sized bag of barbecue chips.  Baby steps.  

The food journal has forced me to look at how and what I eat.  I’ve instantly become more aware that my idea of portion sizes is wrong and I overestimate them.  Dammit health magazines, you were right!  I’ve started to adjust for eating a heavier meal.  The next meal I eat, I go lighter.  Most days I stay within or under my calorie goal.  I made sure to pick a calorie goal based on my weight, age, gender and activity level but mostly I’ve been weighing myself daily (I know I swore I wouldn’t weigh myself but this is for science) to see where a good calorie range may be for me.  Too restrictive and I lose weight too fast.  Too generous and it stalls.  

My goal is to roughly lose a pound a week but I have no magic weight that I want to be.  I know that since I am much more athletic than my younger years and I carry more muscle than ever so I have no idea what I may weigh when I reach the general size I think would be healthy for me.  And no it’s not a size 0 or 2.  I’m aiming for a misses size 14-18 range.  Since size 14 jeans vary from manufacturers , this isn’t a great tool either so I picked a range.   I have no hard fast size or weight goal.  Just to eat healthy, exercise, be fit and strong.  To feel good and not like a slug.  To be able to ride my bike faster and longer, to hike harder trails, to just look in the mirror (without being a self-critical B) and like what I see.  To feel good about taking care of myself rather than feeling like crap because I don’t. 

Results.  After two weeks of using the food journal to stay around 1800-2000 calories (I used a range because it feels less restrictive), I’ve lost roughly 7.6 pounds.   The jeans I bought this spring one size up because I gained weight over the winter are getting too big and I went back to my size down jeans I had been wearing before the weight gain and they fit good.  Progress from just two weeks.  Of course this won’t be the case all the time as you tend to plateau which requires you make some adjustments which I will deal with when that time comes.  The best result is not weight loss or wearing my smaller size jeans, it’s the fact I feel better in general.  I have more energy, the nerve issue in my hip (which can come from obesity) is starting to see drastic improvement and I feel more positive about myself.  Okay, I also feel a little more sassy and sexy!  

I’m not sure what the next two weeks will bring but if there is anything fun to report I will post a follow-up then about my next results.   I’m looking forward to what those may be!

Food Journal & Not Dieting

As anyone who knows me knows, that I’m not an advocate of dieting.  I have tried ‘intuitive eating’ but my intuition seems to want chocolate, snacks and sometimes just plain out junk food.  Eating this way has yet to help me get to my natural weight as they proclaim.  Not that I doubt it works for some people, but maybe it just doesn’t work for me.  Or maybe I just haven’t figured it out exactly.  I am not sure what the issue is.  I wonder with all the stuff in my past that revolved around food, my intuition isn’t a bit off still.

I gained weight last winter not exercising much and when my thyroid stopped working just a little bit more so I become even more hypothyroid (aka a slug).  Even when you get your medication adjusted to put you back at normal TSH level, your body doesn’t magically shed the pounds it’s gained.  I wish that were so.  I gained roughly 25-30 lbs over this period that even with all the exercising I did this summer, I’ve lost 0 lbs.  Exercising isn’t an issue for me because I am one of those freaky people who loves certain kinds of exercise (not a gym rat).  Eating is my issue.  So I went back to “My Plate” app and started using the food tracking option again to help me see what all I am eating.

Food journals tend to feel restrictive to me in general and then I rebel against the whole idea of them which means I eat too much.  I really don’t like anyone telling me what to do very much anyway, even if it’s in my best interest.  I am trying hard to look at the food journal as a tool to help me eat better.  I started using it on Sunday and today is Friday so for 5 days.  Each day I weigh myself and record it which I have to look at as simply data.  Weight is just a number, it may or may not show progress.  Which is why I have also added taking my measurements once a month.   I will be cautious of anything that makes me feel anxious which can send me back to eating poorly and bingeing a bit.

So over five days, just keeping within 1800-2000 calories a day as per what my app has chosen for me.  I’ve also done BMR calculations and checked a few other sources so that seems to be a good start.  The purpose of weighing and measurements has to be looked at purely scientific.  Is the way that I am eating good for my body?  Is it making me healthier?  Not that I weigh X amount or am a size 0.  In five days, I have lost three pounds which tells me, I need to eat a little closer to 2000 calories rather than 1800.  That 1800 calories may be too restrictive and I don’t want to do something to slow my metabolism further.  This is all just guesswork to be honest.  I am certainly no expert.  This is simply to teach me better eating habits and show me where I might be sabotaging myself.

The biggest thing I noticed is that I think I eat pretty good.  I don’t do bad but I definitely was not eating as healthy as I believed I was by using intuitive eating.  This is what makes me think that at least my intuition about what my body needs may not be quite as keen as other people or I am still eating emotionally at times or out of boredom.  I’ve noticed that when I am sitting still is a time I want to just eat for the sake of eating.  I want to get into the ice cream, cheese and crackers and so on.  At this point, when I’m sitting and not doing much of anything like watching tv or even reading, these are moments where I am not hungry but yet the desire to eat is extremely strong.  Or if I get stressed or upset at work which can be quite frequently.

So far the food journal is a good tool to help me figure out where I need work as far as the food I consume.  Mindless eating, bored eating, stress eating and simply poor food choices are the top of my list to work on.  Considering I haven’t lost any weight for months and the moment I start paying attention to what I am shoving down my gullet I start losing weight shows me that yes, obviously what I am eating isn’t the best.  Nothing all that complicated and really pretty simple as well as the fact that its easy to tell yourself that you are a healthy eater when in reality, you’re not.

My only goals are to eat healthy and become much more fit.  I do not have any size or weight goals.  Frankly, I don’t care what size I am or what I weigh outside of it would be nice to shop in Misses rather than Plus size only because the selections are still pretty limited with plus size.  If I go into a store that carries both plus and misses sizes, I inevitably end up staring longingly at a top or dress that does not come in plus sizes.  If a clothing retailer wanted to really make a bunch of money, carry everything in both ends of the spectrum so the plus-sized gal isn’t standing there feeling “Damn, I wish I was smaller so I could buy that super cute pair of jeans or sexy dress”.   One of my favorite Lutheran pastors is a very nontraditional woman and she runs a church called “House of All Sinners and Saints”.  I think I would name a store like that “House for All Sizes”.  Wouldn’t that be cool?  Then when you shop with your girlfriends, if you aren’t all the same size range, then no one is left standing there feeling a teeny bit awkward as they browse the scarves or accessories because there is nothing in their size in the store.

I want to be healthier and fit because I want to be able to do more physically.  I want to ride my bike further, faster and longer.  I want to hike faster and longer.  Maybe even run if my crickety joints will allow me.  I want to look in the mirror and see someone who is even stronger than she is now.  I want to have more energy and feel better.   Already five days into tracking my food, I noticed that I feel less sluggish and tired.  It is all about self-care for me.  Taking the best possible care of myself whether it be eating healthy, exercise, trying to get enough sleep, saying no to things I do not want to do, do things that I enjoy and get more out of life in general.

I’m not going to be posting weight updates or anything of that nature, but I may do a follow-up to how the process is going.  I’m really excited about this which is unusual because normally using a food journal feels like a diet, like prison.  This time my mindset is that it is simply a tool to help me be the best I can be and feel the best I can.