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.

Why I Hate the Term Plus-Sized…

A recent article about how Amy Schumer tweeted against Glamour magazine’s “plus-sized” issue grabbed my attention this week. Amy isn’t “plus-sized”, she’s a size 6-8 which is probably larger than normal in Hollywood but her point was that what if young girls look at her photo and feel that she is plus-sized?  Then there is all the photo-shopping which people are talking about.  Or the April Fool’s joke that Aerie played using “normal” men in their ad which people thought was a serious ad campaign and so they (me included) were applauding the company until they found out it was only a joke.  Assholes.  Really, that was an asshole thing to do because it’s not just women who are struggling with their body image, men are under the gun as well thinking they need six-pack abs and look like Thor out of the Avenger movies.  Eh…

My first rant is something that I’ve noticed women are speaking out against. Why have a plus-size designation or label at all?  I hate when people say oh you’re plus-sized or even worse, the term BBW or big beautiful woman.  Why not just BW?  Beautiful woman.  At what point do I become “big”? Yes I’m larger than a size 6 but I’m smaller than a size 24.  I’m in the middle of the spectrum actually.  Maybe I should be ABW or average-sized beautiful woman.  I don’t mind the designation of “curvy” or “voluptuous” because this is more a shape than a size.  But curvy could be a size 6 or 24 again…  And who decides what is “plus-sized?”  If the average clothing size is a size 14 then the average woman is considered “plus-sized” and by whom?  I don’t get who makes any of these determinations.

One of my favorite places to shop is Old Navy for multiple reasons, the clothes are reasonable, they are usually more classically and simply styled (I’m not particularly trendy) and all the sizes are put together. At one time Old Navy did like many of the other stores (though a good majority of specialty clothing stores do not have sizes over 16) and had a plus-sized section hidden away in the back of the store as if you had to be ashamed to go in that area to shop.  But eventually their plus-size section disappeared and my sizes (because it depends on what I’m buying) are mixed in with, gasp, the 0-2’s.  God help this fat girl if she rubs elbows with the elusive tiny woman (yes, I am rolling my eyes as I write this).

My other beef with plus-sized sections of department stores and especially the stores who are considered more upscale is that they assume that “plus-sized” women want to wear nothing but the color black and having elastic waistbands along with gold lame that my even my grandmother wouldn’t wear. In other words, I do not have the fashion sense of an elderly woman (and thank god most ‘elderly’ women are rejecting this stereotype as well).  I do not want a pair of lavender polyester pants with an elastic waist with a matching blazer that looks like it was manufactured in the 1970’s.  Are you kidding me?  I ride the escalator down to the “normal” sizes and sigh as I pass the cute and fashionable clothing I am deemed too big to wear.  Then I feel pressure to lose weight so I can wear pretty clothes and not shop only at Lane Bryant (who also seems to fall into the black is the only color for fat category) where much of the clothing to me is overpriced and not very well-made.

So has the fashion and clothing industry not realized that they have missed a gold mine of manufacturing clothing in more sizes and just putting them all on the same racks? I would buy more clothes if I was offered better selections and not sequestered to a dark, dank, humid and overheated corner of the upscale department store. Certainly I would enjoy not being hidden away from the other shoppers because I am considered “plus-sized” and having the same choices that skinny women do.  It always feels like I am being punished because I’m bigger but I can bet considering my bone structure and muscle mass from all my athletic pursuits that my body fat percentage is less than some of those who are size 10-14.  Oh and BMI, you can stick that measurement too.  It doesn’t work for someone like me who has the thigh muscles the size of a male body builder after years of cycling.  I have turkey drumsticks for legs and I’m proud of them.  I can leg press 300 lbs on a good day.  I’d rather be strong than skinny and weak any day.  And by the way, my blood pressure is 110/74 and outside of a bit high on my bad cholesterol (due to hypothyroidism and genetics), all those blood tests come out smashingly.

Okay, since I’m on a roll, let’s talk Photoshopping. I’m happy to see people speaking out about these images that are clearly retouched until the person doesn’t look like who they are in person.  That magazines and ad campaigns are now featuring “real” people. I can remember being a teenager and looking at magazines like “Seventeen” and feeling like a complete and utter failure because my skin wasn’t porcelain, my thighs weren’t thin and my shoulders were broad.  My hair was never that perfect.  I walked around feeling like I had to be embarrassed for my very existence.  You have enough pressure at that age without adding perfection on every screen, page and billboard.  Why can’t we just be real?  What is wrong with that?  I don’t get it.

I remember being in my early 20’s, with a baby, watching Oprah Winfrey one day as I rocked my daughter to sleep for a nap. Jenny McCarthy was on the talk show and she held up a poster-sized picture of herself that had been dramatically retouched.  I remember sitting there on the couch with my mouth hanging open because I didn’t realize how much they could change a person in a photo.  She took a big black Sharpie marker and started circling everything in the full-body photo that had been re-touched.  I loved that she was so frank and honest about it because I never looked at magazines and advertisements the same again.  I no longer felt so inferior because I wasn’t perfect and according to McCarthy, neither was she.

We are slaves to these companies that want to sell us products and such to achieve perfection whether its cosmetics, diet products, clothing, cars, etc. The diet industry alone is in the billions of dollars per year.  Billions.  Think of what we could do if we took the money we spent on diet this and diet that and put it toward helping the homeless or people who are starving…

As I wrote in my last post about slipping back into the diet mentality, we make ourselves miserable trying to achieve something that we think we should be and not really focusing on what we want, what we really need and what really makes us happy. After over a week of eating exactly what I want, when I am hungry, I’ve lost 3 lbs.  Not that I’m keeping track or even care about weight anymore, I just felt different and was curious.  It’s amazing how much power diets and expectations are driven into us by media outlets and how they can make us unhappy and actually in my case, bigger because diets don’t work for me.  When I quit obsessing over what I eat, I really enjoy my food and I don’t eat as if I’m never going to see a meal again.

So, in conclusion, I’m glad to see the status quo being challenged when it comes to size and labels. I realize that this isn’t a major deal such as world hunger, but I don’t know why we have to be labeled at all.  I would love to go into a mall and walk into any clothing store and find my size and clothes I really want to wear without having to compromise.  I shouldn’t have to feel grateful because a few stores cater to “plus-sized”.  

I just want to be Laura, not plus-sized or BBW Laura.  I don’t want to be defined by my body size or my weight.   I want to be defined by who I am.  I want to wear the red dress!

I Give Up (But in a Good Way)…

Many of my earlier posts swirled around my struggle with body issues and image.  I’ve never been a petite girl.  As my husband says, I have good German genes.  Growing up in the late 70’s and all throughout the 1980’s, it was everything to be thin.  Tiny and thin and here I was, large-boned, large framed and for a while taller than every boy in my class almost.  Thank god those guys hit puberty.  Sometimes in middle school I felt like a giant among my peers.  I wasn’t fat growing up, maybe a little chunky from time to time but when the majority of your friends are in single digit sizes, and you are wearing 12, 14 and sometimes 16’s, well you feel much like the names you’d hear whispered or sometimes if they got brave, said to my face.  It seems our job as adolescents is to prepare our peers for getting our butts kicked by real life and grow a thicker skin.

When I graduated high school, I pretty much starved myself my junior and senior year.  And I got down to a size 10.  Not quite single digits but almost.  I literally ate like what I assumed a model would eat.  Pretty much little to nothing.  I was tired a lot, didn’t have a whole lot of energy but at least I wasn’t “fat”.  Looking at photos of me back then, I think I really would love to go back and slap myself for thinking that.  Hindsight though… I got married young to someone who was very emotionally and verbally abusive.  When I got pregnant at 20, I gained 70 lbs with my 8 lb 1/2 oz baby so I really didn’t lose the baby weight after her birth.  Sixty-two of those pounds were pretty much still mine to carry.  I gained 50 lbs with my second child.  I lost some but not very much.  My third child, I worked out and ate better and only gained 30 lbs.  And then came the divorce.  Nothing like a good life changing event to help you lose weight, even if it’s not on purpose.

In my mid 30’s, married for the second time and miserably married to someone even worse than the first husband, I turned to eating for comfort.  My knees started to hurt going up the stairs to the bathroom.  I was out of breath easier.  I felt like shit all the time, in a nutshell.  Since we didn’t own a scale, I finally bought one and stepped on it then immediately started crying when the digital number popped up.  The display read 282.  I was less than 20 pounds shy of 300 pounds.  Well, there was my problem.  Around this time I was also first diagnosed with depression and started treatment.  Everything finally clicked into place and I started taking better care of myself.  Except I still didn’t feel right and finally when I was 40, I was diagnosed by my OB/GYN with hypothyroidism.

Though people believe if you get treated for hypothyroidism the weight comes peeling off but in reality it doesn’t.  The only thing I found is losing weight is even harder than before though my advancing age has a bit to do with that as well.  And the fact I like to eat.  I’ve maintained the same range of weight/size going a bit up or down since I was 38.  Recently I saw were a plus-sized model was angry with Victoria Secret because of what she sees as an unrealistic body image.  I read the article and then looked at the comments which were mostly cruel due to her very large size.  People screaming how unhealthy weight is but weight doesn’t always determine health.

I know thin people with many more health problems than I have but I also try to eat healthy 80% of the time and I exercise doing things such as cycling for 40 miles at a shot, hike, practice yoga and once in a while kickboxing.  My last checkup and blood work there weren’t any issues other than my LDL was not where he’d like it to be but it’s common for those who are hypothyroid.  Being larger doesn’t automatically mean you are unhealthy.  I can’t speak for the plus-size model, she is much larger than I am but I also am not her doctor.  I can’t speak for the thin VS models either.  I just feel like can’t we all just f’ing quit body shaming one another no matter what size we are?  Maybe mind our own business and live our own life?  Be accepting of everyone, no matter size, race, gender, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, and so on.  Can’t we ever just grow up and put our adult pants on and stop acting so cruelly?

Lately, I’ve noticed my clothes are tighter.  We moved in September and I never really got back into my riding schedule and now it’s December in Ohio.  I haven’t been watching what I have been eating either and I think the big change of the move had me emotionally eating without me really noticing that I was doing this.  So I just open up my Livestrong app that I use for food journaling and start doing a check of myself.  I start working out more.  Since I no longer own a scale, I only can go by my clothes.  I’m starting to go back the other way but every time I try to diet or really focus on losing weight or getting smaller, my subconscious rebels.

Each year in December rather than resolutions, I write down 5 goals I want to achieve in the next year.  The first one I wrote down for 2016,  is to lose weight and be more fit.   Then I wrote one for my writing, one for cycling, etc.  As soon as I wrote #1, it bothered me.  It felt like my old New Year resolutions where I would put “I will lose 50 pounds by December”.  I stopped that practice because it always felt like I was a failure when I didn’t meet that weight.  It dawned on me yesterday, that I’ve written a lot about accepting yourself as you are and not worrying about what others think but yet here I was making the same type of goal that I said I would not do.  It was just worded a little different.  I was letting my size bother me.  And in doing so, I was making myself miserable again.

My subconscious fights this thinking by giving me cravings for sweets and junk food I normally don’t have when I am not in this mode of essentially dieting.  I’ve overcome many years of bingeing by following the author Geneen Roth’s advice.  Trusting your body to know what it needs and wants.  The moment I try to control that process, my body and mind rebel.  It says, hey I thought you loved me not hated me, why are you doing this?  So you aren’t perfect, no one is!  I opened my little hard bound book that I wrote Goal #1 in and I tore out the pages, tore them into pieces and then threw them away.  Now I will rewrite my goals and pay attention to what I am asking myself to do.  Maybe I should change #1 to “Love Myself Just as I am”.  Because really that’s what I need to do.   My husband loves me just as I am and thinks I’m beautiful and sexy, he never says you need to lose weight.  My kids and friends love me just as I am.  Shouldn’t I love myself just this way too?

Old habits are sneaky, the reemerge in different ways.  Listen to your inner cues though and follow what feels right in your heart.