October 9, 2011

Mindful Eating

I love to eat!  There are very few foods that I don’t like – I love different tastes and textures; I love salty, sweet, spicy, crunchy, smooth…..you name it.   I think about food a great deal.
Even though I think quite a bit about food and eating, I realize that often I am mindless when it comes to eating.  Mindless in the sense that I sometimes eat food because it’s there, not because I’m hungry.  Mindless in that I stop paying attention to how much I eat, what I eat, and at what time of day I’m eating it.  To combat my mindlessness, I have developed a few strategies…….
·         I rarely eat right out of a bag when eating foods like potato chips or crackers now.  I pour a serving of chips into a bowl, close the bag AND put it away (out of sight, out of mind), and then eat the allotted chips.  I do this with snack foods, M&M’s, granola, nuts, anything that I used to mindlessly eat by the handfuls.  Now, I eat a predetermined amount and call it quits before I devour the entire bag.
·         Most days, I pack a lunch and snacks for myself to take to work.  This way I avoid the expense of eating take out or fast food.   It also allows me to eat several times throughout the workday instead of just one meal.  It also forces me to think and plan for what I need to eat which ultimately turns into healthier food choices.
·         Instead of mindlessly filling up my plate with those beloved white carbs (bread, rice, pasta, potatoes), I now mindfully choose more fruits, vegetables, and protein….same volume of food but better nutritionally.
·         I have to mindfully battle the compulsion to finish everything on my plate as well as everybody else’s plates since I hate to see food go to waste.  Those who know me well know that once I’m done eating, I often move on to eat off of my husband’s, kids’, or friends’ (OK, mainly just Tracey’s) plates as well:
o   Now, I rarely play the role of garbage disposal after my kids finish eating…..if one of the kids left a ½ a sandwich on their plate, I would eat it….AFTER I had already finished my meal.  If one of them would lose interest in a ½ eaten candy bar, I would finish it.  Some of the things I would eat I didn’t even like....you might not be able to relate to this if you’ve never eaten cotton candy flavored yogurt out of a plastic tube.  Now, I avoid finishing those left over “morsels”.
o   I have accepted that, even though there are people starving in other parts of the world (e.g. Africa), finishing every bit of food on my dinner table will not decrease their suffering….
o   I put less food on my kids’ plates so there is less left over (yes, it took me 7 years of mommyhood to figure that one out!).
o   Rather than eat the left-over food myself (e.g. that ½ sandwich), I place it in the fridge for the child to eat at a later time (also took 7 years).
o   Mom – don’t read this one - I (sometimes) throw out left-over food that I really don’t like, but was just eating so it didn’t go to waste….in other words, I now throw it out so it doesn’t go to waist!
Mindful eating is much harder than mindless eating.  Over time, however, it has been well worth the effort toward better eating.
Walking the (active) Talk:  I rode in a 25 mile Breast Cancer Awareness ride this past weekend…. it was the first time I had ever done a ride like that and it was great!  The weather was perfect and I even had time fit in a 3 mile run before the cycling started.  I planned ahead to meet up with a friend and we did the ride together…..exercise, conversation, charity, fresh air, sunshine – beats sitting on the couch any day!

October 3, 2011

Basic Math

About 6 months ago, people started to notice that I had lost some weight.   Of course, everyone wants to know “How did you do it?” with the anticipatory look of a kid on Christmas morning with a big present under the tree.  They wait for me to say that I did Weight Watchers or Medi-Fast, or that I had acupuncture or went on the cabbage soup diet or to say anything but what I actually say which is: “I eat less and exercise more…lots more”.  As soon as I say that, the look of anticipation immediately turns to a disappointed look as I confirm what everyone knows deep down inside:  what you need to do for weight  loss is basic math…..
If the number of calories you ingest in a day is more than you expend, you will gain weight.
If the number of calories you ingest in a day is less than you expend, you will lose weight.
Here’s what I did to work on my “basic math” problem (don’t stop reading if you think this is going to be too technical…it’s easy with a minimal time commitment):
First and foremost, I had to BE HONEST with myself.  I made the effort to eat better.  I would “call myself out” on bad eating habits rather than spending time trying to justify stops for fast food, overeating, an extra glass of wine, etc.
Next, I figured out my Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)….you can easily do this with an on-line calculator (e.g. http://www.bmi-calculator.net/bmr-calculator/)  by entering your height, weight, gender, and age….essentially, your BMR tells you how many calories you can eat to be a couch potato all day and neither gain nor lose weight.  Mine happens to be right around 1400 calories.  In theory, if I eat 1400 calories a day and do very little activity other than sitting, sleeping, eating, walking from place to place in my home/at work, basic activity to get through the day, then my body weight will not change.  If I eat more than 1400 calories, then I need to make sure that I’m doing something to burn off those extra calories or my butt will start storing them for me.  Simple.
Next, I educated myself on the approximate caloric content of basic things that I was eating on a regular basis.  For example:  1 large scrambled egg=100 calories, 1 glass of red wine=150 calories, 1 cup plain cooked spaghetti=220 (OK, remember the honesty piece?  Who eats just 1 cup of spaghetti??......I had to multiply 220 by at least 4 based on the amount I would normally eat…..actual total 880 calories!!)
For two days, I wrote down what I was eating and approximate sizes/amounts.  I went to other on-line sites (e.g.  www.thecaloriecounter.com)  that can tell you the nutritional contents of almost every food on Earth and figured out my total caloric intake.  No surprise....my caloric intake was more than 1400 calories.
Gradually, I started to read labels and keep better track of exactly what I was eating.  I don’t obsess, but have become much more mindful of what and how much I eat.  If I'm going to have a big meal or splurge on carbs, I make sure that there is some sort of exercise built into the same day to expend those extra calories.  Every once in awhile I record what I'm eating in a day and see what the total calories are for the day…..just to monitor how I'm doing.  In the beginning, I tried to stay under 2000 calories each day; and I would try really hard to stick to just 1400 if I had an “inactive” day.
That's how I started losing weight.....becoming more aware of the basic math of calories in and calories out gave me increased awareness of how my habits were directly affecting my weight.
So – DO THE MATH AND KEEP IT SIMPLE – take the time to know what amount of food you need to stay healthy and keep your body fueled, and don’t go overboard with calorie intake day after day.
Walking the (active) Talk: the Husband and I review the upcoming week’s activities on Sunday evenings, who’s picking up kids/dropping off etc. and then I plan my workouts around the family calendar.  This week was particularly challenging because I had a morning meeting off site in another town on a day that I would normally go to our YMCA to exercise before work.  Instead of skipping the day’s workout (my first inclination), I went to a YMCA in the other town (had to Google its hours and location) and ran for 30 min. before my workday started.  Then after work that same day, while the kids were having swimming lessons, I squeezed in 30 minutes of strength training…still hitting my goal of 1 hour of exercise for the day.  It always takes some effort, but usually I can manage to fit in time for myself now that I’m committed to being more active.  MAKE THE TIME FOR YOURSELF.