Sassy Pants Diet Update

This cat totally gets what I am talking about here.
This cat totally gets what I am talking about here, and has spent many a morning at Morning Enthusiasm Level 0.

This morning, I experienced the very first manifestation that I have not consumed sugar in any form, nor carbohydrate (ok, except for that one single cheat) since March. Traipsing into my closet with my usual morning enthusiasm (level 0) to get dressed, I considered wearing yet another pair of black pants. Black is slimming. I have a lot of black pants.

But no. I don’t know what it was about this morning – perhaps I noticed that my upper thighs were not chaffing in quite the usual way, like the legs of  a fat cricket  might – that made me choose the light gray slacks. But at any rate, I chose them, even though they have never fit me. (Yes, I bought them even though they didn’t fit. Because when I buy clothes in my actual size, I fear my brain will come to accept that I am my actual size, so I buy clothes one size smaller. Hey, it makes sense. Ask any woman.)

And I pulled them up, past my fat cricket, music-making thighs. And they zipped. They even buttoned.

Now, with an unprecedented morning enthusiasm level of 3, I finished getting dressed and walked into the kitchen, all sassy-like.

“BEHOLD!” I announced to my poor husband, who was just trying to have his first cup of coffee and read his morning Bible verse in peace. “ON THIS DAY, I WEAR THE PANTS OF YESTERYEAR!”

I suspect he is thinking, “It’s too early in the morning for this drama,” but he smiles and congratulates me.

Truthfully, it is a lot better than my usual morning drama, which goes something like this:

Slump into the closet woefully.

Try on pair of slacks that apparently shrunk in the dryer. Throw them on the floor, as I remember that I don’t put my pants in the dryer. Ever.

Put on skirt that will not zip. Grumble and fuss. Add skirt to heap on floor.

Choose a pair of black pants. Although they can be zipped up (technically) muffin top spills over waistband. When I attempt to breathe, muffin top becomes Bundt cake over top of pants immediately. Add to pile on floor.

Hate myself vehemently. Vow to buy new clothes, knowing full-well that I will purchase them in the same size as the ones on the floor – because, and well….WOMAN REASONS.

Grab pair of Fat Black Pants.

Finish getting dressed and head into the kitchen for coffee (and maybe a bagel …. what’s the point of even TRYING anymore?) and bitch to husband in high drama about how much I hate my body, while slathering cream cheese on said bagel.

Maybe cry a little, certainly spread my disdain around to my poor husband, who is JUST TRYING TO HAVE HIS FIRST CUP OF COFFEE AND READ HIS MORNING BIBLE VERSE IN PEACE!

Undeterred, he tells me I’m beautiful no matter what fits on any given day. I adore that man. I don’t know why he puts up with me, but I’m awfully glad he does.

Fat cricket legs, morning drama, sassy pants and all.

 

 

My Fat Pants Fit! (and other excitable statements)

SALAD

 

And it came to pass that she did not think of Munchos *every hour of every day, and her spirit learned to recognize that chocolate was – in fact – not necessarily the only means of spirit-soothing. And in that day, she did no more dread Romaine instead of Big Mac, but did so feel slightly feel slightly less like Jabba the Hut when dressing in the morning, as her pants did not cutteth her in half.

* But only every other hour

 

Today is Day 8 of “clean eating,” and the truth is that I do feel better. I am supposed to do 30 days, which – in theory – helps reboot my mindset about food.

Although my body feels better, the psychological effects come in lurches. For example, last night –  in a fit of seemingly random stress –  I  announced to my husband that I could eat a whole bag of chips all by myself at that very moment; that I wouldn’t even share with him.

“And,” I said, for dramatic effect. “I would lick the greasy, salty remnants out of the empty bag, after I ate it all myself!”

I really could have done that, but instead I just bitched about not being able to, and the urge passed. My husband, knowing my penchant for both bitching and the dramatic, just listened and lets it pass. He is so much saner than I.

For the hundredth time in the past week, the parallels between this 30-day program and my sobriety came to light. In a stressful moment, I wish I could obliterate. In reaction,  I do one of two things:

A) The healthy choice: Dig out my recovery tools – affirmations, prayer, mindfulness, admittance of powerlessness, and ask God for help. Examine why I desire to obliterate.

B) The less-than-healthy choice:  Gripe about why I cannot handle food, alcohol (it keeps going….fill-in-the-blank) with said substance like a regular, “normal” person, until the craving passes. And then examine why I desire to obliterate.

I am working on making choice “A” my default, but working is the operative word here.

Progress, not perfection.

I am also working on acknowledging the results of my eating regimen. Fussing about having to do something does not cancel out the effects of following through and not doing it. Successes still count, even if my attitude isn’t so peachy.

Instead of focusing on my Munchos/chocolate dietary deficit, I am going to give thanks that my (fat) pants fit!  I will give myself props for fighting the good fight,  and embracing the Romaine (figuratively, not literally. That would just be really weird.)

And ask God to soothe my spirit when I am stressed, on Day 8, Day 30, and for a lifetime; to help my mind stay “re-booted.”

And in that day ….

She shall enjoy the occasional chocolate as a treat and not a staple, and she shall rejoice in God’s bountiful creation of the components of the Hershey bar, and useth moderation in imbibing in the works of thine hand.

Alleluia … and pass the salad tongs.

 

Food: a short history of dysfunction

Don't these look delicious? They were sinful, I tell you! Chocolates from Blue Ridge Chocolates.
Don’t these look delicious? They were sinful, I tell you! Chocolates from Blue Ridge Chocolates.

 

“I would try to be good, in the Puritanical sense, which meant denying my appetites. Resisting temptation meant I was good — strong, counter-animal. But the jungle drums would start beating again.” – Anne Lamott

Ugh. Those jungle drums! It seems so simple. Eat what you need, move about. Respect your body as a temple of the Holy Spirit, instead of a primal casing for animal appetites. How much harder it is to live that way.
Having eaten “clean” for nearly a week (nearly a week!) it occurs to me that my eating habits come from a place of fear. Looking back, it becomes crystal clear.

Birth: 4 lbs, 11 oz. preemie. Obviously, when you weigh four pounds and some change, being a “good eater” is a good thing. No problems yet!

Early childhood: My earliest memory about food as a young child: B.O.R.I.N.G! Eating took away from my playtime. I would try a few bites of anything, but the few bites sustained me.

Mid-childhood: I had to be bribed into eating at all.  At mealtimes, I learned to shuffle food around on the plate to look as if I’d eaten more than I had. For a brief stint, I was not allowed to leave the supper table until every single bite of my food was gone. This evolved into my finding ways to trick my parents into thinking I ate, and their adding time on my sentence of sitting at the table – or even adding more food as a punishment. Food became a major power struggle issue. Not only was it boring, but now mealtimes became occasion for dread.

Late-childhood:: I earn the family nickname “toothpick legs.” Underweight, I am sick frequently.

Early Teens: Okay, I’m hungry now. I get it – hunger. Hormones aflux, the periods happen. Boobs happen, and keep happening. Fat fills in all the right places.  During this time, I start to make the correlation between yummy foods and reward. Food isn’t punishment, it’s reward! Ahhh, wait. It’s both!

I get into a twisted ritual of starving myself any time I’m disappointed in me;  of not feeling worthy of reward, starving myself as punishment. I also begin hiding food, in case I do something worthy of reward. Giving food way too much power.

Late teens: Oh,  how I love food now. I discover different ethnic foods (Greek is favorite!) This is a time of exploration –  curries and spices, cooking and baking. Nobody calls me toothpick legs anymore. I decide that I shouldn’t use food as a reward or punishment (hooray – GO ME!) but instead, eat unhindered of any rules at all. In the free-for-all. As you probably know, free-for-alls are not free at all. There is always a cost.

Young adult: I discover alcohol, and this is where it gets more complicated. I drink to excess, and frequently. Funny thing about alcohol – it is high-calorie, no-nutrient. I fatten up quickly from all the beer, wine, rum drinks, and white Russians (especially the white Russians!) and do the only rational thing an alcoholic does – stop eating with any regularity. Gotta have priorities, right? Drinking made me forget I had issues with food at all! Weight drops, as does self-worth.

Mid-twenties: I must get sober and eat veggies, because I am thinking about becoming a mama. I quit drinking. I get pregnant; I love being pregnant. Even with complications, feeling my baby move in my belly fills it up the way foods never did. I take prenatal vitamins and drink plenty of milk, but cannot resist urge to eat McDonalds. Once per day, I snarf two double cheeseburgers to assuage the baby and the infernal cravings she causes.
After she is born, I continue McDonald’s habit, and add several hundred more calories per day. Nursing makes me ravenous! I breastfeed my daughter until I become pregnant with my second baby – 2 ½ years. With the second pregnancy, I gave up the fast food burger  habit, but only because the new baby wants TACO BELL. I form the habit of eating firstborn’s leftovers. There are always leftovers because kids eat what they need and then go play.  Justification: This is what new moms do. They clean their kids’ plates – the leftover fries, the quarter of Happy Meal hamburger.

When I gave birth to my second daughter, I breastfeed her as well. Whew, I forgot how hungry nursing makes me! I am making sure to squeeze in a few fruits and veggies, as I feed my firstborn semi-healthy foods, but at night, I collapse from exhaustion and grab a sleeve of Girl Scout cookies. Or maybe Milanos, a comforting “treat” for Mommy only.

Late twenties: When the youngest is two years old, I wean her. I also take drinking back up, heady with the idea of having my body all back to myself to use (or abuse) as I see fit after seven straight years as a baby-growing vessel and milk machine. Adding a ” glass or two of wine” in the evenings seemed reasonable, except that it was (a) never ‘one’ glass of wine, and (b) several hundred extra calories every day. With the weight of two pregnancies still clinging to my frame, I could not eat as I typically did AND drink, something had to give…. And it was food, healthy food.

Early thirties: Okay, now I am miserable and fat. And on blood pressure meds. And antidepressants. And I am pre-diabetic. But also – at 32 – sober. For good, All glory to God, one day at a time – as long as I don’t pick up that first drink.  I tell the story of my alcoholism/recovery in my  book, “EDGEWISE: Plunging off the Brink of Drink and into the Love of God,” but from a nutritional perspective, the drinking/binge-eating had really done a number on my health. When getting sober, a person’s body craves sugar like a crazed maniac, because alcohol converts to sugar and without it….well, what better to reward your cravings – and spirit – with than actual sugar? At this stage in my life, my marriage was deteriorating, I ate for comfort in addition to craving. My body hurt, and hurt often.

Mid-thirties: The Divorce Diet. Highly effective at weight-loss and mind-loss. Depressed, I upped my smoking to two packs every day. Working four part-time jobs to feed my children, I was in survival mode. I chain-smoked, and drank  diet soda, and little else. I think I perhaps consumed 800 calories a day, because I was hanging by such a thread emotionally that I had NO appetite. NONE. Within a year, I lost 80 pounds. People started telling me how great I looked! I had NO control over a single thing going on in my life during that period, except weight. It became a daily personal challenge to eat as little as humanly possible without passing out. Damn it, I would have control over something going on! I found that if I went without even 800 calories each day (say, 400 calories) I dropped pounds even more rapidly and even MORE people told me how great I looked!

Until they starting telling me I was too thin. Toothpick legs was resurrected. And obsessed with running out of food for my daughters, I begin hoarding food again. I am sorry to say that I passed along my “food as reward” mindset to them, too.

Mid thirties: Ages thirty-three to thirty-six were a pivotal time for me. I had hit a bit of a stride as a single mom, with steady employment and a much-improved walk with God. I started having some clarity about my food issues, and – as I worked on my alcoholism recovery – became aware of the parallels. Started eating semi-regularly, gained a little bit of weight back, but still smoked like a freight train.

Late thirties:  I fell head over heels in love with a man whom I married a year later. I tried not to bring the body-issue baggage into our relationship, but of course – I did. But I was happy again, for the first time in forever! We both loved to eat, and four months into our courtship, I quit smoking completely. Again, I employed the tools of recovery to help me through the cold-turkey smoking cessation.

My appetite for life – and food – returned! My Lazarus taste buds all stood at attention and implored me to eat. And in my newly wed bliss, I decided that I must cook southern foods for my Yankee husband! Our first year of marriage was greased with butter and shortening. And it was delicious.

And now, several years (and medicines, pant-sizes, and cholesterol points) later, I am attempting to learn from the mistakes of the past – acknowledging the red flags of bingeing, hoarding, and starving in the rear-view mirror – the cost – but not changing direction for them. I am surrendering. In any surrender worth it’s salt (so to speak) there is an element of accountability.

Today, I am going to eat what I need and make those Jungle drums the rhythm to which I move about.

One day at a time.

The Salad of my Discontent: 13 nutrition (and Fitness) tips for the 40 + Crowd

SALAD

It sure has been a difficult time lately, with losses and goodbyes for my family, challenges and changes, and  much “waiting upon God,” even when it feels like he taking kind-of a long time to lead us where we need to go! And usually, I cover pretty heavy topics on thebeggarsbakery.net – alcoholism and addiction, parenting teens, marriage, health woes, etc.

So, in a departure in what I usually write about, today’s piece is a Humor Column. Years ago, before so many heavy things, I had a humor column in a tiny, local paper – and it was ridiculously fun. This article addresses one of my passions and pains: food, and trying to understand and achieve health, after so many years of taking abysmal care of myself.

I hope it makes you smile, at the very least. Please feel free to share the link with any middle-agers who are struggling with the same issues, and GOD BLESS you and yours. I so appreciate your readership!

By: Jana Greene

George Carlin once said that “death is caused by swallowing small amounts of saliva over a long period of time.”  But if your spit doesn’t do the trick, swallowing small amounts of food will surely cause your demise.

Studies show, well…..quite a whole lot of things, actually, many of which are pretty scary. Luckily, if one government-granted conclusion to expensive research alarms you, the next one that comes along will either:

a)      Disprove the first study (studies show this to be the case 99.7 percent of the time, depending on funding.)

OR

b)      Cause the release of panic, the likes of which have not been felt since the release of the flying monkeys in The Wizard of Oz.

Why keep studying consistently inconsistent results? Personally, I think it’s because the more it is studied with federal funds, the more the government can regulate our lives – but that’s a column for another time.

Today’s topic is about an unfortunate rite-of-passage for many of us in our forties: The Talk about  Nutritional Health, when  our doctors, lab results in hand, confront us on our past misdeeds and  suggests that there are damage-control  measures available to counteract those earlier misdeeds.

In my quest to “eat healthy,” I often read studies. Over time, I have surmised from them to:

1. Eat sweet potatoes, but not in pie-form, and certainly not with butter, sugar and cinnamon.

No, wait. DON’T eat sweet potatoes!  A sweet potato is just a starch masquerading as a Vegetable of the Highest Order – a colorful vegetable.

And if you must have one, eat it raw. Studies show that once you cook a vegetable, you completely ruin the nutritionally value. You might as well eat it in pie-form….Which, I usually do.

2. Fruit is the healthiest food group there is – packed with nutrients.

Until you swallow it.  Most fruits are converted by your body to  SUGAR, and your endocrine system doesn’t know the difference between a bunch of grapes and one of those pixie sticks that is two feet long.

Unless the fruit is colorful…. In which case, it becomes a two-foot-pixie stick with a few antioxidants.  

3. Drink cranberry juice, and your urinary tract will thank you.

Oops….studies indicate that you should stay away from cranberry juice. Because the sugars it contains (see ‘fruit’ above) can CAUSE a UTI.

4. Nuts and seeds are awesome*, and not just because they are central to the “What Would Jesus Eat?” diet and Jesus Himself is awesome, but because they are full of the protein your body needs to function as a fat-burning machine!

Except that all of the good-tasting nuts are actually pretty fatty. Go figure.

5. A glass of red wine**  each evening keeps the doctor away.

Unless you’re an alcoholic like myself.  In which case, the doctor won’t need to visit because the coroner will beat him to it.

6. Eating meat – especially the red kind (color is not a benefit here) – is terrible for your health.  You should consume ONLY the things that your  meat would have eaten, if you hadn’t savagely killed it for food.

You know, root vegetables and such. Sweet potatoes.

Scratch that. Eat ONLY meat, like our cave-man ancestors, and only the way they ate it – cooked over an open, stucco fire pit with a side of something they might have purchased at Whole Foods after a long day of dragging women by the hair.

And , did  Paleos eat Quizno’s, or use a Fry-Daddy!  I think NOT. Keep it strictly hunter-gatherer, peeps. Which brings me to (queue scary music….)

7. The malevolent  CARBOHYDRATE***, which virtually all studies agree is the most evil form a calorie can channel.  Do you think the ancient peoples had pasta-makers?  No sir, they did not. So  forget spaghetti, a member of the most malicious menu malady a meal can muster.

Rice, potatoes, pasta – all in cahoots to hijack your metabolism and take the slow ride to an early grave. Don’t even think about that tortellini! It’s a cheese-filled pocket of death!

And, I’m sorry….. there are no studies to refute this, unless you consider those who suggest (queue the scary music again….) MODERATION. Moderation – with starchy deliciousness. Hurmph. (Studies clearly show that people with addictive personalities are less likely to practice moderation.)

8. Salad is the anti-carb…..so very  good for you!  The more colorful and expensive the lettuce, the better.

Unless  you like it with flavor. Take, for instance,  blue cheese dressing.  You could, instead of eating it on salad, just get a super-large syringe (I like my blue cheese chunky-style) and inject it directly in your arteries to get just the same benefits as digesting it.  Luckily, many creamy salad dressings contain dairy, and studies show that….

9. Dairy prevents belly fat.

No, wait – it causes belly fat. I’m not sure which (I’m pretty sure I’ve read studies that purport both)

10. If you have blood-sugar issues, diet sodas are much better to drink than regular sodas.

Although, in test groups,  diet sodas had  the same effect on teeth as the meth. Yes, you can get “meth mouth”  courtesy of carbonated beverages! Diet sodas also contain a chemical that  basically turns to  formaldehyde in your body, a chemical used in the embalming process. The. Embalming. Process.

11. Ahhh, caffeine. – beloved purveyor of eternal life and heart health, and seemingly-harmless-delivery system for a mood-altering, STIMULANT  DRUG!  Hello?

So, so much study on caffeine. The common drug is the darling of federally-funded scientific research. Pages and pages, and reverse-studies and warnings and….I need another cup of coffee **** to even THINK about it.

12. All hail the ancient Mayans, who are famous for appreciating the health benefits of Chocolate *****(and human sacrifice, but hey…they brought us chocolate!)

Chocolate,  as a modern food,  is actually a contributor to obesity…

UNLESS, it is transformed into  DARK chocolate, which many studies show not only is excellent for your body, but practically gives the same cardiac benefits of  having the heart of a 21-year old triathlon-participating vegetarian transplanted into your tired, old, flabby  body!

But wait, chocolate contains caffeine, which studies show…….

Is really good for you!

Or….

Or a mind-altering, stimulant drug….you  shameless  junkie.

13. .Well, at least everyone can agree that drinking MORE WATER is essential to good health. Yesiree.  It cleans your system, lubricates your joints, and is the life-force. The God-given, liquid  verve-maker.

But, not so fast…..

Studies show that when you turn on the tap, you unleash a cascade of chemical compounds and a mélange of micro-organisms. Our waste  is contaminated with tons of chemicals to ensure our drinking safety!  Not to mention naturally-occurring micro-organisms (your “oli’s” and  “ella’s”….. e-coli, flagenella, barbarella, etc.) Bottoms up!

With all this information to consider (Thank you, Federal Government!) don’t forget about the other, equally disturbing facet of middle-aged damage control:  Physical Fitness.

It’s not too late, fellow Old Farts!

Never mind that it will take MUCH more effort to obtain a MUCH-lesser result, and that your reward will not be the same as it was “back in the day.” It may not make you “hot,” but you’ll live longer, as an old, not-hot person.  The reward is life, itself!

There is plenty of data and debate on which form of fitness is best for those in the Mid-Day of life:

Walking

no, running

No….WALKING is the best exercise.

Walking is nice and low-impact….unless you want muscle tone. (Was Jane Fonda concerned about “low impact” when she implored us all to “get physical?” Of course not.  And in her golden years, she can probably still bounce a quarter off of her gluteus!)

And the horrors of aerobics (and unforgiving leotards) pales in comparison with a modern fitness  phenomenon (I would call it a “craze,” but that would only accentuate my age)  that shall-remain-unnamed in this article…

Primarily a program for young people (so says me), participants will often try to recruit we 40-plussers. You’ve been warned.

Let’s just say it is a major work-out movement that actually advertises PAIN as a selling point,  even infers that you will ENJOY  that pain. It also incorporates the lifting of weights that appear to weigh approximately as much as Stonehenge (all stones combined.)

As my daughter would say, I don’t EVEN!

Many studies have shown that swimming is the best exercise, but don’t take my word for it. Peek into any YWCA in the world at 7:30 a.m. and count the swim cap-crowned elderly ladies in the pool doing water aerobics.  Nice and easy on the joints (and a good female bonding experience….where are all the men?)

Yes, swimming is best. Unless you do it outdoors.  Are you trying to kill yourself with UV rays?

Yoga is great for fitness…

Unless you think you might ever leave the yoga mat. If you plan to strike a “standing” or “walking” pose (for approximately ever) be wary. If your Yoga class or fitness video touts itself for “Beginners,” keep in mind that they are referring to beginner contortionists…not you, and surely not me.

So, in conclusion….I think George Carlin was pretty astute in his observation.

Eat and let eat, I like to say. Walk and let walk. And study and let study, if you must.

I also like to say, “Pass the blue cheese dressing.”

And be quick about it…I’m swallowing small amounts of saliva, as we speak.

 

* Especially in pies.

** You can drink wine by the single GLASS?

***There is a best-selling book titled, “Bread is the Devil.” Really.

**** Starbucks Primo Mocha Latte (extra shot of espresso, please)

*****Also really good in pies.