After a long hiatus… the bitch is back

Sometimes life just gets in the way of life, amirite?

I last posted in November, right before I got hired at a second job and right before the semester ended at school and there was tons to do. Truthfully, things aren’t much better at present. I’m in my last year of university at one of the country’s top schools, taking 6 courses when 5 is the norm, have two jobs, and live away from home. I don’t mean to gripe about my situation, but I want to convey how packed and crazy my schedule is. It leaves little room to think about what’s for dinner or when I’ll get a chance to go to the gym.

I used to live with a girl who openly admitted that how she looked came before school. She’d skip class or not study in order to hit the gym. It showed, too. The thinner and more cut she got, the lower her marks got. She was already slim and fit looking to begin with, and didn’t seem need to do much to maintain that before she got on her fitness kick. Our attitudes differed greatly, and our changing priorities eventually drove us apart.

The way I see it… school has deadlines, whether it’s a test, an assignment due date, or graduation. With classes ending in 4 weeks and school being over for ever by the end of April, I have to give it priority. A fully-fledged effort to fitness and health will just have to wait – there aren’t enough hours in the day for me to make the time for it. I am hoping, however, to achieve better balance.

I find calorie counting to be thought- and time-consuming and problematic in other ways that I’ve previously described on this blog, and so I’ve abandoned it almost entirely. I always read nutrition labels, take a mental note of what an acceptable serving should be, and work from that guideline. For example, I usually have some yogurt and granola in the mornings. Granola is fairly calorie dense so I try not to go overboard. I keep a 1/4 cup scoop in the cereal box and just pour that over my yogurt each day. It serves double duty…a serving utensil and a way of controlling portions.

To help with lunches, I’ve started compiling recipes that are affordable, freezable, and nutritious. One of my favourite sources is Budget Bytes. She breaks down the prices per serving and she seems conscious of her health. I’ve also been reading Chocolate Covered Katie lately, but I’ve never actually tried any of her recipes. She has a chocolate pie recipe that is quite light and would probably cost under $10. Since I’m a dessert fiend, I’m always on the look out for cheap, healthy, and satisfying sweets. I believe all her recipes are vegan, and while I’m not particularly interested in “substitute foods,” I’m going to give it a shot. I do like tofu, and I drink soy milk instead of cow’s milk when it’s on sale, but I don’t make any special effort to cut out meat or animal products.

I’ve been on a bit of a burrito kick, inspired by Budget Bytes. Right now I’ve got 4 left in my freezer, made with pulled pork, carmelized onions, kale, and mashed white beans. Very very tasty if I may say so myself. If anyone is keen to have instructions, I’d be happy to pass that along. I wrap them up in a whole grain tortilla and stick them in the freezer to take to school when I’m in a rush. They’ve got minimal added fat and cost under $10 to make 8 or so. Love em!

Yesterday, I made a really satisfying soup with Italian sausage, lentils, the kale leftover from the burritos, a bit of tomato sauce I had frozen from the summer, garlic, and chicken broth. I’m trying to use up things I have in my pantry/freezer because I woke up one day to realize I’d been hoarding food. Since I have roommates, I can’t afford to take up a ton of space, so I’m trying to cut back on my stockpiling. The sausage is fairly fatty, but when all the other ingredients are lean and it’s spread throughout the soup, I think it’s a good way of incorporating a more indulgent food.

Now, as for what I ate today…

Breakfast (10:30ish): A cup of granola with some soy milk
Lunch (2:30ish, I lazed around in bed after breakfast and didn’t work up an appetite): Sausage + kale soup
On my way to school at 3 I had a soy latte
Snack (6:30): Bowl of strawberries, coupe of cheese cubes, coffee with a splash of cream, handful of Reese’s pieces
Dinner (which I haven’t eaten yet but I’ve packed it and taken it to school so I’m pretty much forced to eat it): Burrito w/2 cups frozen broccoli which I’ll microwave, lightly salted

I would estimate each meal to be around 400-500 calories, and my snack about 300. I know I said I’m not counting calories, but I still keep ballpark figures in my head.

Over to you…

What do you do to make your meals work with your lifestyle?
Any tips for eating healthily while busy and on a budget?
How do you stay on track when life gets crazy?
Have you successfully lost weight without a set fitness routine?

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Start, stop, cry, repeat.

I’ve been in crisis-mode the past few days. I can attribute it to a few things:

  1. Those horrible few days that come every month are very nearly here. My mood patterns tends to look like a guilty person’s polygraph result around this time.

    Image

  2. School is insane. Classes end on Monday and all my assignments are wrapping up. I’m behind…it’s scary. 
  3. I just started a new job which I really like so far but it is adding unwanted stress (although much wanted money).
  4. I have been off plan. Yes, me, the writer of pep talks and criticisms, has been slacking. What’s worse, is I’ve been letting it upset me.

I am learning that I do not handle chaos all that well. Exercise is first to go, then food. Last night I had a bit of a meltdown to my boyfriend – something I hate doing – but seem to be mostly back together and back to earth and ready to refocus. 

I started this blog largely because I hated to talk about food and weight loss to the guy who sees me naked. He is lovely and very supportive and empathetic but I don’t want to dump my stress and frustrations onto him in order to feel better while he’s left feeling worse, cause that’s just the kidn of guy he is. But, lying in bed at 1am, some kind of uncontrollable hormonally-drive emotional moment came upon me. I felt disappointed in myself and hated admitting I’d been failing at this “healthier-me” thing for the past week or two. He, an often unassertive person, sat up and said, “This is the last time you are going to be this upset about this. I don’t like to see you so sad and it needs to end. As of tomorrow, it’s only up. You will not be as down about this as you are now ever again.You will get back on your feet and make it happen.”

Now, it’s important to remember that he is not normally this vocal with his advice, especially late at night. Sometimes I have to drag it out of him. So, for him to be so forthright meant he was serious. It was just what I needed to hear. I think he’d been spoiling me with “I love your body, you look great to me” types of comments that were definitely well-meant but didn’t have the same impact as what he said last night. 

I know I am at an atypical place emotionally and physically what with my TOM coming and school etc, but we can’t just fall apart when shit gets complicated. So, here is my plan. Now that I have a lull on the horizon (Christmas holidays for me start next Friday), I am going to start making good habits. I have about a month to re-ingrain a healthy lifestyle and then hopefully, come the new semester in January, I will be able to integrate it into school without too many bumps. 

Hopefully coming clean on here will make this more real. I’m going to do up a chart with goals for each week to mark off when I accomplish them to stay on track. I think I am also going to give into calorie counting. Give me a moment to explain: when I started losing weight in the summer, I counted. I had plenty of free time and could plan meals and manage quantities more easily. Counting made it difficult to eat out, so I mostly cooked for myself. I monitored nutritional intake and kept a close eye on fibre, protein, and iron. And, it worked. By the end of the summer my jeans were loose and my tummy was tighter. I was down about 13 lbs in 3 months and was really pleased. For the second half of the summer, I skipped 3-4 times a week for 20 minutes. It seemed to give me that push I needed to get the weight off. 

Since I had success with it, I think it would be a good way to jump start things. I don’t mean jump start like “fad diet” but more like “get back into the habit of eating normal portions of nutritious and satisfying foods while losing weight.” Since I found counting to get kind of obsessive, I want to do it for the beginning of December, and work towards waning off it by January. I’ve heard of people having success by counting everyday, then not counting on weekends, and slowly getting used to just eating intuitively. 

I’d welcome any input – am I insane for trying to count again? Is it just desperation that has lead me to this, or could it be a good solution? I’m definitely afraid of being possessed by this weight loss, but I’m also afraid of being possessed by this weight… the scale hasn’t moved downward since September, so I really need some help.

 

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Watching my roommate eat a potful of pasta is excruciating

Pasta is my crack…my kryptonite…whatever you want to call it. It is one food that I have a really hard time controlling myself around.

So, I obviously really like it when I get to sit in the living room and watch my roommate inhale a massive amount of it without a second though. This isn’t an insult to him – I don’t mean it in any kind of “you-moron-don’t-you-know-how-bad-that-is?” way. But all that white pasta slathered with pesto with some fried salami O.M.G. did it ever smell and look good. I could imagine the taste in my mouth and could feel some salivation. I got up and made a cup of coffee so I could at least be busy and not thinking about it.

It has me thinking a lot about how we deal when people around us have bad habits. One obvious reaction is to give in and make the same bad choices. Maybe it feels okay since this other person is doing it or maybe you give into the craving just from the look or smell. Either way, it is much harder to say no when someone around you is eating it.

(As I’m writing, my other roommate is eating a very generous portion of fried perogies, possibly one of the most nutritionally-devoid but deliciously-carby foods. I quit buying them a while ago because there is almost no way for me to eat them sensibly. I would always regret eating them after and I don’t need to feel down after dinner.) 

Another reaction, and this is one I regrettably feel quite often, is anger. Partly I feel angry that others can eat this food without giving it a second thought. I know I am assuming they don’t think about it because who knows, maybe they go through the same silent deliberations as I do. I get frustrated thinking that if I ate like that I would definitely gain weight and feel extremely guilty. This is not to say that it doesn’t show on their bodies – I don’t know many people who eat whatever they want and don’t go to the gym and still look lean. I don’t particularly want to eat whatever I want because that wouldn’t be healthy, but it would be nice not to worry quite so much.

Anyway, I’m getting sidetracked. What I’m trying to fix is my judgment. For months I have been hyperconscious of the food I’m eating, even if I’m “cheating,” and I’m unable to turn off that level of attention when it comes to others foods, so when I see someone with a giant plate of perogies I start to hear the dialogue in my head that I would be telling myself if it were me. It’s kind of toxic and I don’t really know what to do about it. Part of the frustration comes from both of the aforementioned people expressing at some point a dissatisfaction with themselves and a frustration with their own weight gain. It makes me want to say “Um Hello, this is the problem,” when I have no place to (and of course I would never say that). I get into this mindset where it’s as if I’m some kind of food saint who never slips up when really I’m slipping up all the time.

I’m just rambling today, but I guess what I’m trying to say is I wish I had more people around me who were less into the foods I find tempting and more into eating good stuff. I think it’d have an overall positive effect.

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A rant about calorie counters who hate on people who hate on calorie counting.

I have a complaint.

On 3fatchicks, a forum I initially found to be a haven for acceptance and encouragement, there is a problem with a certain breed of calorie counters.

Every so often I come across a post from someone who is fed up with calorie counting. Typically they are tired of the minutia and the all-consuming powers of calorie counting. I once posted about it myself. I always read these posts so I can offer a bit of sympathy when it comes to being overwhelmed by the regimen.

Inevitably, on every post of this kind, there is a die-hard calorie counter who responds to this person with something like “I’d rather count calories than be fat!” or “What is so hard about it? It takes like five minutes of your day. Toughen up.” I got many of those responses when I posted asking for advice on how to transition from calorie counting to portion control and whole-ish foods.

I lots 15 lbs this summer counting calories. I was working a very boring and undersupervised job and had lots of time to plan a meal and log my calories after each meal. I would surf 3fatchicks forums during breaks and had the time to think about my weight loss for many hours of the day. Then school started, life got busier, and I had less time to obsess over what I ate. This is not to say that all calorie counters are obsessive, but I found that I was obsessing.

No one system will work for everyone.

What I can’t understand is why some calorie counters seem to get so defensive. The people I’ve seen responding negatively to these posters who are ultimately looking for support seem to believe that calorie counting is the only solution and that deciding on something different is failing. It’s not. And there is no need to get down on someone for needing to do something differently from you.

When someone confesses to having binged on Cheetos the night before, no one gives them shit for it. Typically it’s a slew of “get back on the wagon” or “been there, done that” comments. Why can’t we extend this same support to people who have decided to change methods? I could understand the defensiveness if someone was posting “All you calorie counters are borderline disordered eating with your OCD food monitoring” but I have never seen anything accusatory.

The other thing I noticed is that there doesn’t seem to be the same defensiveness from other camps. I never see people from Weight Watchers dissing those who decided to using points, or people who get gastric bypass surgery hating on those that don’t choose that solution for themselves.

I think this is a classic case of the “insecure bully.” How many times have you been told by someone that a person is only a jerk when they themselves aren’t very confident? My theory is that this camp of calorie counters is feeling a smidgen of doubt in their own methods. It’s my opinion that if they were totally confident in calorie counting, they would either not say anything, or they would lend a bit of sympathy about how tough it can get.

If anyone is reading this and feeling fed up with calorie counting or another very regimented method, I strongly encourage you to read The End of Overeating by David Kessler. It was a very insightful read and made me feel way more at ease about losing weight without a gimmick.

Just to reiterate, I know this is not every calorie counter. I also know that there is a lot to learn from calorie counting even if you are not a counter. What I ultimately want to say is: don’t let someone else get you down just because you aren’t doing this the same way as them. Ultimately, this is a very individual and personal experience for each of us and should be treated as such.

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Confidence and the reality of the stigma of extra weight

I think of myself as being a fairly confident person. I wish I was about 25 lbs lighter and in better shape, but I feel smart, funny, attractive, and generally well-liked. But, even the most confident person   can’t escape that realities of other peoples’ judgement.

I’m in my final year of university, gearing up for graduation and anxious to begin the real job – ahem, career – hunt. Naturally, this is going to mean a lot of interviews and there is no doubt that how you look is a huge part of making a first-impression. While I don’t worry too much about picking out a nice outfit (it’s probably the most enjoyable part of the interview process), I do wonder about what this extra weight silently says about me. If wearing an unironed shirt can earn you a black mark for not being “together,” could being overweight say something similar? That I don’t take enough care of myself? That I don’t have enough self-control? Some other kind of weakness?

While I don’t believe that an employer is making the direction of “she is overweight therefore I don’t want to hire her as much,” I think it can definitely deduct from the overall put-togetherness factor. Not to mention how much better I would look in a pencil skirt if I shed a few.

I believe extra weight is always a symptom of something else. That’s not to say that all weight gain comes from some deep emotional tragedy, but merely that it is intertwined with our lives. For me, I think a large part of it is a lack of motivation and laziness which has not only plagued my figure but at times my school work and other things I have to do. To keep this weight off, I’m going to have to tackle the bigger picture as well. I’m hoping that when I get close to my goal, the things I’ve learned in order to lose weight will also have a positive effect elsewhere. Hopefully a bit more organization will help me keep my room clean and improve my productivity overall. Since I am aware that my weight is a result of other bad habits, is it not understandable that an employer might pick up on this? Or is it totally unreasonable for them to assume they know, even if they are right in their assumption?

While I don’t want to buy into this idea that being attractive and thin is a job skill, I do want to make sure I am presenting my best self to future employers. I want to show them that I’ve got everything going for me, and one of those things is showing that I can take care of myself. Although being thin is not always an indicator of being in good health, it is undeniable that many people subconsciously make that connection. On the one hand, I think my résumé and interview answers should speak the loudest. On the other, I think I need to accept the reality that image matters. I study design, communications, and media, so I think there is a special emphasis (although not as special as in fashion of course) on “personal branding” and image. With my immense student debt, I am going to desperately need a decent job when I finish in the spring, and I don’t want there to be anything holding me back, whether I think it’s fair or not.

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Picking your “hard”

If there is something you want, 99% of the time you are going to have to do something to get it. Most things don’t just fall into your lap.

I can tell you this because I am lazy. I have watched things go by because I couldn’t be bothered.

But, because I have acknowledged (although not fully accepted) my laziness, I get irked by those who refuse to. I have heard many a person complain about why things won’t just happen to them, when a large part of the problem is that they won’t get off their butt and do something about it

Now, I just erased this whole scenario I typed up which involves people complaining about things they could fix themselves. I decided not to publish it because I think it reads better in my head than it does on screen, so I will just give you the gist of what I am trying to say.

Being overweight is hard. Buying clothes sucks, your confidence might plummet, people might treat you differently, and you might be in lesser health. Losing weight is also hard. Making new habits can be a tough process, getting back in shape takes time, and there will be other emotional hurdles along the way. I would speak to the difficulties of maintaining if I knew what it was like, but I’m not there yet. I can imagine it is equally difficult.

You have to ask yourself – which one of these “hards” is the most rewarding. Giving into food may yield a short reward, but ultimately all the downsides return. Working towards weight loss is tough in the moment, but the rewards will give back for a long time.

Now I don’t want to seem like I’m making myself seem perfect. I am writing this as my own pep talk…something to reference and remember when my commitment is wavering.

All of this stems from dealing with people who would rather be down on themselves than do something about it. We’ve all been there. I realize that everyone needs to have their own epiphany and decide when they are ready to get it together in their own time, but sometimes I just want to shake people. Being sad about being overweight and crying your sorrows into a bag of chips is not going to help (again, this post is fairly self-directed). That said, I think it’s perfectly forgivable to fall off the wagon once in a while if you know you will be able to jump back on.

I can say with some confidence that there comes a time when the weight you’ve put on becomes normal. You’ve bought clothes to accommodate it which in my opinion is a tacit acceptance of the situation. There is where the real danger lies, because the “hard” part of being overweight becomes hidden.

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Good mornings

I’ve always been a breakfast person. Some people seem to struggle with eating in the morning and have to break that habit when they tackle their eating problem. Surely some never eat breakfast and do just fine, but there seems to be an overwhelming opinion that breakfast is key.

The trouble is, on work or school days, it can be the most difficult meal to get in. As a student, I know the value of 15 extra minutes of sleep first hand. You are running out the door and you either don’t have anything OR you grab some sausage-biscuity thing on the way. Neither one is particularly good.

Then there is coffee. At home I always drink mine with a bit of 5% cream which is pretty low in calories especially since I just put a drop or two in. I hadn’t really been considering coffee with cream as anything worth logging in my daily intake as 20 or 30 calories seemed obsessive to track. When I looked on the Tim Horton’s site to see what kind of a hit I’d taken on the vanilla dip my friend brought me during a late night at the library, I wasn’t appalled by the 225-odd calories in my donut, but the 70 (!!!!) in my large coffee with cream. Now it’s a bit unclear as to how much cream that is – when you get a double-double, is that 140 plus the calories in the sugar? Does it mean your coffee could easily approach 100 or 200 calories depending on how you take it? I swore once that I would never give up cream in my coffee and become one of those dieters who drinks it black to save a few dozen calories. I had similar feelings about milk in coffee. I may have to eat my words though, because on days where I have two large coffees, I am really eating an extra snack. I though I was fairly sensible for saying no to those over-the-top Starbucks drinks (not to mention the cost, but that’s another post) and while 70 is still better than 200+, it’s not exactly a freebie.

I’m writing this while enjoying a cup of coffee with low-fat cream and am savouring every drop before I submit to sensibility and order with milk later on at school.

While I’m on the subject of sensible choices, let’s talk breakfast again. What are some alternatives to greasy on-the-go breakfasts?

Cereal. Not the kiddy candy kind, but something with some fibre and substance to it. I like Mini-Wheats. As with everything, portion control is still key.

Poached eggs. Or, if you have a really fabulous non-stick pan and can cook without adding fat, do that. It’s a pretty guilt-free way of eating a breakfast staple. Since flavour is lost by omitting butter/cooking oil, add salt and pepper and a bit of hot sauce to jazz it up.

Yogurt. I’m sure you’ll be hearing LOTS about my love for yogurt. I get cheap stuff and then strain it in a white, clean dish cloth to get the water/whey out and thicken it up.

– Frozen fruit. This goes hand in hand with yogurt. Some thawed berries or whatever you like with a dollop of yogurt and a squeeze of honey. Sometimes I’ll crush some cereal (bran flakes) or granola over top. I wait til it goes on sale and then buy a bag or two so I’m never out of fruit.

– Peanut butter. I put that shit on everything. Peanut butter on a banana is a really tasty quick breakfast. Peanut butter on an All-Bran bar is also good, as is peanut butter on an apple, celery, or toast. It’s also good on a hamburger, but that is probably not good advice here. A couple cautions – it is very high fat (not always a bad thing) and high calorie (again, not always a bad thing), so be careful when spreading it. My advice: measure it for a while til you can accurately eyeball a tablespoon or two. I’m generally not in favour of measuring everything you eat, but while you’re learning about portions it’s really important to see what a portion looks like. Also, check the label for the ingredients. Some PBs have added oils and other stuff that you  might not want.

I’ll leave it at that for now. Send in any suggestions in the comments as this list is short compared to all the possibilities that exist for breakfast!

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Filed under meal ideas, Tim Horton's may be the death of me