Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Biggest Loser: Two-part edition

Because of President Obama's speech, this week's "The Biggest Loser" was in two parts. Unfortunately, our DVR had a hiccup and I missed the challenge in the first part that resulted in the reshuffling of teams. Only a few members of each team stayed put -- the rest were reshuffled to different teams.

As you can imagine, there were a lot of tears and anguished speeches over this reshuffling, but it seemed to help the team members who switched. As Jillian said, "They get the best of both worlds. They get to experience two totally different philosophies and workout styles." Most of the team members who switched did really well in the weigh-in.

When it came to the elimination, the big debate was whether players should keep other players on because they are pulling big weight loss numbers for the team or whether they should eliminate the players who are most likely to succeed at home. During this debate, I started to like a specific less and less, because he seemed to be arguing mostly in his own self-interest and not considering what might be best for the team. There was also a subtext, I think, of players starting to think about the finals and considering who might be their biggest competition.

This week wasn't one of my favorite shows. When the players start crying over who is their trainer, and even Bob cries and makes a huge fuss about everything, that's when I start to tune out a little. There doesn't seem to be much real reason for all this angst. I liked Jillian's ability to say, "Well, that's different," and move on. That's the kind of resilience that's good to model for the players and the at-home audience.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Ash Wednesday

I thought I had blogged about a few months back when I read it, but I can't seem to find the post now. It's interesting to read an account of the Catholic practices from an adult, outsider's perspective. I went to Catholic school but learned just enough to think Catholicism was all about "Because I said so" rules and making people feel bad. That seemed to be the popular view of the church as well, and my parents, who went to Catholic schools themselves, seemed to agree. I felt a sort of relief when I left Catholic school and stopped going to mass, like I'd escaped from something. I'm starting to see things differently now that I'm older.

It probably helps that I work at a Catholic institution so I'm immersed in an environment where prayer is a natural part of the day, but I'm starting to see the point of all those rituals and even get curious about how they might fit back into my life. Everyone loves to celebrate Mardi Gras, but we're not, as a society, really big on things like fasting and voluntary deprivation. Catholics essentially went vegan during Lent in the Middle Ages, skipping not only meat but eggs and dairy products too. This is why yesterday was pancake/crepe/paczki day in cities where there are still a lot of Catholics. People wanted to use up all the foods they couldn't have during Lent. I'm not sure what they did eat, probably a lot of porridge. Days like today were, and still are for many people, fast days.

It sounds pretty tough, and if you see the point as punishment and strictness, it also seems pointless. But if you see it as an invitation to personal growth, a chance to develop some discipline and also develop sympathy for the poor, it makes more sense. I think those are much more worthy goals. Almost every religious culture has a tradition of ritual fasting, probably for these same reasons.

I overheard one of the sisters on campus talking to someone about "giving things up for Lent." She suggested that rather than setting a goal to give up some food item in the hopes of losing weight, it might be better to think of "giving back rather than giving up." We don't have much of a tradition of giving back in this society either.

Lots of stuff to think about today, and I will be in a good place to do it.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Recipe: Roasted veggies with couscous

OK, this is really only very loosely a recipe, but it's what I'm having for lunch today and it's really good. I had the brainstorm when I made this earlier this week to cut up extra veggies and make extra couscous. I put them in the fridge for a day when I didn't feel like prepping things and wanted a healthy meal.

Roasted veggies:
You could use anything cut into similar-sized pieces. My mix today is onions, asparagus, red bell peppers, broccoli, and sweet potato. Mine are cut into about 2" chunks. Toss with a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. I also put in garlic powder sometimes. Put on a baking pan fitted with a rack (this means you don't have to stop and stir the veggies) and roast in a 400 degree oven for 30-45 minutes, until they're dark around the edges and soft.

Prepare according to package directions. I am having Bob's Red Mill whole-wheat couscous with flax, which has a nice nutty flavor. I added a little salt and olive oil to it when it was cooking but you can skip it if you want.

That's really about it. Top the couscous with a generous portion of the veggies and a sprinkle of Romano cheese (if you want) and even some toasted pine nuts (really a good addition) and eat.

I wanted to have a healthy lunch because I gave in to the urge to get a post-swim bagel this morning. I had a light breakfast before my swim and I was really hungry. I think it will all balance out. I swam a mile and added in some extra kickboard sets.

I am starting to see some changes in my body (I have lost only 2 pounds, which is not enough for significant change, so I'm not sure how much of this is real). My collarbones seem sharper. My neck looks a little thinner. My waist seems a little trimmer. The last place I lose weight is my thighs, but even they feel just a little smaller to me.

Since my lament about aging, I've been more conscious of keeping my skin moisturized and making sure to drink plenty of water. I do see some lines developing, but this does help. Winter is really hard on my skin, and when I'm dehydrated I think it is more noticeable.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Feeling fine

This week was a really good one on the exercise front. I found a cool website for tracking race results, and I realized that my last race listed was in 2006. I had some other races that didn't show up, but it reminded me that it has been longer than I thought since I took training and racing seriously. I had the dissertation and the Crazy Job to distract me, but I'm out of excuses and ready to get back to racing shape again. I like that this site has a very simple way to track your workouts called WWYDT (what did YOU do today), very similar to twitter in that the emphasis is on short, sweet, and to the point.

So here are my WWYDT entries for the week, in reverse order:

Saturday, February 21, 2009
Pilates Reformer class, 1 hour.
. . . . .
Friday, February 20, 2009
Strength and sculpt class, 1 hr. First half of the class was intense Spinning, second half was weight training with a Body Bar.
. . . . .

Thursday, February 19, 2009
Ran 40 minutes in the park on a cold, sunny day. Did a fast interval on the long boardwalk. 10 minute walk to cool down. Lots of ice to dodge but felt great.
. . . . .

Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Spinning class, 45 minutes.
. . . . .

Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Ran 30 minutes by the quarry.
. . . . .

Monday, February 16, 2009
Did 50 laps in the pool (8 were kickboard).
. . . . .

Sunday, February 15, 2009
Ran 30 minutes with Jesse at the park.
. . . . .

I am happy to report that I am feeling -- and sleeping -- a lot better after doing all of this activity, and my weight is down a little, too. I'm tracking my calories and trying to keep things high-quality. I find that if I don't focus on this, I tend toward the all-fat-and-carb diet, not the best. I'm trying to get back to basics: more veggies, more activity, less junk. Once I'm used to the current routine, I want to start increasing some of my workout times so that I'm averaging 5 hours a week, which is what Jillian Michaels recommends.

Speaking of Jillian, I was thinking of her smackdown of the contestant who only lost 2 pounds in several weeks of home weight loss. She talked more about it on this week's podcast. I think Jillian was right about this contestant, but at the same time, I've had the experience of feeling like I'd really made a difference in my body that hasn't showed up on the scale yet. I'm actually feeling that way now. I think there are two things happening. First, I think all the Reformer classes has helped my posture, so I'm feeling a little lighter and more lifted. I've been focusing on holding in my abs when I run and have been doing more posture checks. This makes me feel like I look better even though I haven't lost any weight. Secondly, I think that exercising does increase my confidence, so even if I don't look any different, I feel pretty kick-ass about all the stuff I'm doing. Neither of these is weight loss, but they are important things nonetheless, and I am happy to have some non-scale rewards to enjoy while I work on everything else.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Biggest Loser: Codependents

Last night watching "The Biggest Loser," I couldn't help but notice that the theme of the night was codependency. The most obvious case was Tara (green team), who was so concerned about Laura not "pulling her weight" that she started screwing up herself. At the beginning of the show, it did seem like Laura was lazy, but she has really stepped it up, even if she's not the Superwoman that Tara is. I don't think many people could keep up with Tara. There was also Shanon and Helen (pink team), who each seem to focus on taking care of the other to the point where they lose focus on their own goals. In both of these teams, the stronger player did so much monitoring and "encouraging" that the weaker partner seemed to feel demoralized. It's obvious that Mike (brown team) will probably do better on the show when his dad leaves. He and his father are always so worried about letting each other down that they seem sad all the time. And even Dane (black team) said he found it easier to focus now that his partner is at home.

I won't spoil the surprise but I screamed with shock and pure glee when I heard what the eliminated player decided to do. It is something that is so totally cool that I was completely thrilled that this player got sent home just to do this thing.

The issue with "The Biggest Loser: Couples" is that people tend to come on the show with the person that they have the most issues with. Last season it was really cool to see Michelle and her mother work things out, but in most cases, people seem so much stronger when they are focusing on themselves. A couple of seasons ago, Dan (orange team) did so much better and grew up so much when his mother got sent home. One of the strongest teams that they've ever had on the show, Bernie and Brittany, seemed to be successful simply because they were strangers before the show and didn't bring a whole bunch of emotional baggage with them to the ranch.

I realized the other day when I felt so frustrated that my husband had a holiday (President's Day) and I didn't how much I had been planning my time around his schedule and how much of a relief it is when he's at school and I can make decisions about what to do without considering someone else's schedule. So instead of being angry that he had a holiday (which would be really unfair), I just talked with him about it and about the things I needed to do. I couldn't take the day off just because he had one, so I didn't. I planned things so we could have lunch together but other than that, I did the things I needed to do.

It's not that he ever expected that I rearrange my life to suit him, but I realize that I spent my childhood watching my mom juggle things around my dad's time. It's interesting now that he's retired that she is having to do things differently now -- she's realizing that she can't worry about keeping him entertained and happy because he's always around. It wasn't just that, either. My dad is an extremely picky eater, so it was sometimes fun on the nights he had to work to be able to eat one of the many things that we all liked that he didn't.

Yet another example of how legal equality doesn't always equal practical gender equality (something that figured into my dissertation fairly heavily). We can have equal rights but still have unequal ideas in our head. It's up to us to do that mental housecleaning. As Rachel Maddow says: "Scrub, Rinse, Repeat: Because this is going to take a while."

Sunday, February 15, 2009

On appearance

There's lots going on in this month's O the Oprah Magazine around the idea of appearances and how much they matter, or don't.

First, there is "The Great Weight Debate," stupidly subtitled, "Surprise: The latest research shows that you can be overweight and fit, and thin but carrying too much fat." Hasn't this "latest research" been floating around in the news for a while now, always followed by the disclaimer that lets us know that, "of course," it's better to be fit and thin and quotes from a few health professionals who are afraid people will take this news as a license to be overweight. No one seems to consider the possibility that excess weight might not be the cause of the health problems, but just a marker for unhealthy eating habits and lack of exercise, and that it might be those behaviors that really put people at risk.

Then there's a section of essays by authors looking at themselves through others' eyes. One looks at photographs with friends realizes that we all too often miss our own beauty in a quest for skinny perfection. An older author laments her newfound invisibility as a 58 year old woman in a world where youth reigns.

And then there is Oprah's response to all the hullabaloo over her hardbody-and-purple-sweatsuit cover story, in which she thanks people for their responses, cheers other people's self-acceptance, but says that she does not feel healthy at her weight. And of course, I think, she has felt what it is like to be an abs-baring stunner and doesn't quite want to let the dream of that die. Who can blame her?

I know I've been feeling the futility of being a 38-year-old chasing beauty on what seems like a greased slope. At the same time that I'm fighting a battle against stubborn fat, age is attacking me on the other flank, putting silver threads in my hair and carving a deep crease in my forehead. When people tell me I don't look my age, I breathe a deep sigh of relief, which sounds something like, "Maybe it's not too late, then." I'm always afraid I'm going to be old and fat and irrelevant before I ever figure out what I'm really doing with my life. I'm doing what I can to stave off age with hair dye and moisturizer, exercise and lots of rest. Sometimes when I see fresh-faced college girls I wonder why I didn't appreciate my looks when I was their age, and then I feel very much like a dried-up old lady.

I'm not sure why it's still so important to me to participate in the beauty pageant anyway. If I were the person I really want to be, I would take the advice in that first article to heart and remember that it's really all about fitness. I am working on the weight thing but I don't really have to wait until I get to my goal to appreciate the improvements I've already made to my health by working out regularly and eating more whole foods. Think of the contestants on "The Biggest Loser," who are already throwing out their pills when they've been on the show for a few weeks because they have changed their diet and exercise habits, even though they're hundreds of pounds from healthy weights.

I can't stay young forever, so what I'm shooting for is a happy and healthy old age, I guess. Hopefully I can achieve a few more of my dreams along the way, too.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

What is working for me

I've posted so many weird thoughts about the whole Beck Plan thing that I thought I'd take the time to post what I have found most helpful about the plan so far:

First and most of all, I love the realistic, no-nonsense aspect of this. I think a lot of us tell ourselves a lot of stupid things about the weight loss process and this book is a great counterbalance to that. Things like "It's a big tragedy if I can't always have everything I want the moment I want it," or "If I feel hungry that means I will inevitably go crazy with food." There are a lot of reality checks in this book to counteract those silly thoughts. I can't tell you how helpful I've already found it to realize that being hungry doesn't mean I have to rush off and find something to eat right away. I can wait, even if it means waiting several hours, until it's time to eat. The biggest place this is useful is when I'm at work and the only available food is the inevitable junk in the break room or in the vending machines. I can wait until I get home and fix myself something there.

Ideas like "Five minutes of exercise is better than no minutes," can really help on a day when I'm feeling unmotivated. Usually just getting started is the hardest part and I will go for longer, but if not, five minutes is something.

Even though I haven't been doing it every day, I can see that I make better food choices when I plan things out ahead of time. I heard today on the radio about an experiment in which people were given different numbers to remember and then presented with a choice between chocolate cake and fruit salad. The people who were asked to remember five-digit numbers were much more likely to choose the cake than the people trying to remember two-digit numbers. Think how much better my food choices are when I'm sitting down and making them consciously vs. picking something out when I'm at already at a restaurant for lunch, looking over the menu and talking with a friend. It also is easier when I get home from work to know exactly what I'm going to fix. If I'm going to be home late, I'm much more likely to have something healthy ready for me when I get home if I leave a note for my husband telling him what to make.

I feel like there is a lot of information in the book and I've only absorbed a small part of it. I finally gave up on the checksheets, and I figured out that taking the pressure off myself to do it all perfectly is working better for me. Thanks for all the commenters who helped hammer this into my head.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Meatless recipe: Quinoa and edamame salad

Since I listened to the interview with Mark Bittman, I have been renewing my efforts to try more recipes featuring whole grains and beans in an effort to reduce my personal contributions to the destruction of the planet.

I find it a lot easier to cut back on meat than on other animal products, but I have been trying. It's interesting that things that are good for the environment are also generally cheaper and better for your health.

I had a wonderful edamame and quinoa salad at the Jefferson Market in Ann Arbor once, so I went searching for a similar recipe and found this one at Epicurious. I tweaked it to make it more like what I remembered having at The Jeff.

Ingredient note: I used Ancient Harvest brand quinoa, which is prewashed. If you buy another brand, you need to rinse it first in a fine-meshed strainer under running water. Otherwise it will taste soapy. I have found that I like quinoa best in cold salads. It just doesn't taste as good hot for some reason. My version of the recipe:

Quinoa and Edamame Salad

1 1/2 cups dry quinoa
3 cups water
1 T. salt

1 cup shelled frozen edamame, thawed
1/2 c. dried bing cherries, chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
1/2 c. chives, finely chopped (you could also use green onions)

2 T. sesame oil
1 T. rice vinegar
1 T. mirin
1 T. soy sauce
1 tsp. grated ginger (I buy it in a little yellow tube from the Asian market)
1/2 tsp. toasted sesame seeds (optional)

shelled, roasted, salted sunflower seeds (0ptional)

Mix together the sesame oil, rice vinegar, mirin, soy sauce, sesame seeds, and ginger to make the dressing.

Put the quinoa, salt, and water into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Boil it for five minutes, then remove from the heat and cover. Let it sit for 15 minutes. Then add the vegetables, chives, cherries, and dressing and mix everything together. Let it sit, covered, for another few minutes (especially if you haven't fully thawed the edamame). Transfer to a large airtight container and chill for several hours. The dressing has a very intense flavor so that little bit went a long way.

One cup of the salad with 2 tablespoons of the sunflower seeds (don't add them until right before serving or they will get mushy) and a side of mixed greens was a great meal for me. My husband liked it too so I'm not sure how many total servings it made. I got two (one for dinner and one for lunch the next day) and he had the rest.

I should have taken a picture, but I never think of that until it's too late. It was pretty, though, and might be nice to take to a potluck or picnic for an adventurous crowd.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A quickie

So I've been dithering and screwing around and basically not committing to any kind of a diet plan. The good news is that I've been exercising: I ran 35 minutes on Sunday, swam a mile and walked 50 minutes on Monday, and ran 35 minutes yesterday. Today is Spinning class. Tomorrow I'm not sure because the weather is supposed to be awful -- I may run or I may wave it off until Friday.

I went out to dinner and shopping with a friend. The friend and I really can't shop at the same stores, so she looks impatient when we're at the Gap and I am bored looking at Lane Bryant. I ate too much at dinner and was feeling uncomfortable. Then I tried on a pair of size 14 pants at JCPenney's and they went on but looked terrible and I thought, "Do I really want to shop at Lane Bryant again?" Hopefully it was just that pair of pants, because my other ones fit, but still...

No, I don't. I need to figure this out before I spend another summer unhappy about not liking my legs in shorts or any of me in a bathing suit.

I watched "The Biggest Loser" and thought, if these people can get it together, why can't I?

I am frustrated with my inability to get it together on The Beck Plan and my lack of ideas about anything that will actually work. I am not sure where to go from here. I think if there was a Biggest Loser camp I'd just go there and let someone boss me around for a while.

The good news is that the scale says 174.5 today, so even though I feel like I am way up, I'm actually down a little from when I started the Beck thing again with such high hopes. I'm going to finish writing my food plan for today (still trying to make this plan work) and get to Spinning. Maybe the workout will brighten my mood.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Eating less meat to save the earth

I heard an interview with Mark Bittman on his new book, Food Matters. I still haven't had the opportunity to check out the book, but I was astonished by some of the facts about meat production's impact on the environment and it has prompted me to be more creative about what I should fix for dinner on a weekly basis. Bittman is obviously a foodie so he's interested in eating well, but he also wants to do right by the earth.

Bittman is being compared to Michael Pollan, but they seem to differ in a very critical way. Pollan stresses the production aspect of food and wants people to buy 100% pastured meat. Bittman said in the NPR interview that he thinks it's more important for people to cut back on the amount of meat they eat than to get really worried about the sources. His claim is that on the scale that Americans eat meat (with the rest of the world following our lead), there is no way farmers can keep up with the demand without resorting to confined feedlots and other "factory farming" practices. For this reason, he says, cutting back on the amount of meat and other animal products we eat is important if we want to see changes in the way those products are produced.

Some facts from the interview and another article for the CBC:
Americans raise and slaughter 10 billion animals each year for consumption. If we all decreased consumption of animal products by 10 percent, he says, it "would have both an environmental impact and an impact on all of our mutual health."

The tipping point came, though, when he read a 2007 United Nations report that said global livestock production was responsible for about one-fifth of all greenhouse gases.

Americans consume more than eight ounces of meat per day, twice the global average. Bittman suggests dropping it to about 3 ounces, or 90 grams.

He states that if each American ate the equivalent of three fewer cheeseburgers a week, they'd cancel out the effects of all the SUVs in the country.

These are some serious reasons to look at the amount of meat and animal products in your diet. There's also a more personal reason to follow Bittman's lead -- it may help you lose weight:

Bittman attributes the book's genesis to a personal epiphany two years ago. At 57 years and 214 pounds, he was struggling with sleep apnea, high blood pressure and bad knees...

Within four months, he lost 35 pounds, his apnea was gone and his blood sugar fell within the normal range. Only his knees didn't respond.

I think the recent high-protein diet fads have probably only increased the amount of meat we eat, so it's interesting to hear that you can lose weight while also cutting back on animal products. I also think that for most people these switches would help lower the cholesterol and saturated fat in their diets.

Bittman's book has recipes to help readers make the switch. Here are some things I've tried, and I'd be interested to see what others are doing to reduce the amount of meat, eggs, and dairy in their diets.

  • I use Soymilk's Silk creamer for my coffee instead of half and half.
  • Most mornings for breakfast, I have wholegrain toast with natural peanut butter.
  • I am experimenting to find new bean and whole grain recipes I like.
  • I buy flavorful cheeses and grate them on top of dishes with a superfine grater so I use less.
  • Stir-fry meals, pasta, casserole, and grain dishes allow you to make a filling dinner with just a little meat or leave it out altogether.
  • When dining out, I try to choose vegetarian if there is an appealing option. I love falafel, and many places also have great roasted vegetable sandwiches.
I like that Bittman offers an alternative to the all-or-nothing approach. There is definitely a benefit in making these kinds of choices more accessible to people who might never consider vegetarianism or veganism as an option.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Stereotype threat

I'm not sure how many of you have heard the term "stereotype threat," but I just heard a podcast on Radiolab that explains the concept beautifully without actually using the term "stereotype threat." The podcast was inspired by a blog post written in response to an article in The New York Times and also references work by Claude Steele.

In the experiments described in the podcast, researchers proved that what you told a group of test-takers affected their scores on the test, especially how much those scores conformed to stereotypes about their group. So, for example, women taking the math subject test from the GRE (a very diffficult math test) scored worse than men in the control group, but the difference was eliminated when the person administering the test told the test takers that unlike other math tests, this particular test showed no gender difference between men and women. Then women and men scored the same. Other experiments showed that black students did worse than white students on a nonverbal I.Q. test if they were told it was an I.Q. test, but not if they were told that it was a "puzzle."

The Times article is about a preliminary study that seems to show that Obama being elected president has helped to counter stereotype threat. Of course the commenters on the blog post about the article had a lot of predictable things to say about how this study is flawed. It could be that they are being scientifically critical, but it also suggests to me that there are lot of people who in some deep way, don't want to see stereotypes those fall. The "Obama isn't black" argument showed up too.

Stereotype threat only comes into effect when the test is difficult. Researchers believe that when we encounter a tough question, if we know there is a stereotype about our group, even if we don't personally believe it, it can distract us from our task.

I bring this up because I think that it proves that the way we think about ourselves is powerful. If stereotypes about the groups we belong to can affect us so powerfully, what about our own beliefs about what we do and don't do well? I know that in every athletic situation, I start to worry that I will embarass myself, a residual effect of all those hideous experiences in gym classes. This is just another argument about why I should use positive self-talk to counteract those sneaky gremlins whispering in my ear.

I've been reading "Eat, Live, Run" for a while because I love Jenna's positive attitude about food -- she seems to enjoy it without overthinking it and has a very healthy attitude about exercise and life in general. Toward the end of this post, she describes her own experiences with insecurity about food and weight when she was younger. She used prayer to counter her negative thinking. I am not a Bible scholar but I did like this quote she used:

“We fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary and what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Cor. 4:18

I am still working on countering my own negative thinking and learning to fix my mind on something deeper.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Review: POM Wonderful

My mother's parents were both immigrants from Italy. That may be the reason that I was the only kid in my class who would ever bring a quarter of a pomegranate in a plastic baggie in my lunch. Just like in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," the kids would say, "eeewww, what's that?" And they wouldn't know what a pomegranate was, but if I'd let them taste one of the seeds, they'd want some more.

When I was offered a case of POM Wonderful (8 bottles, 8 ounces each) to try and review, I gladly accepted. I had bought pomegranate juice a couple of times at the store, but I always went for the cheap brand, since POM is a little pricey. I always diluted it with seltzer, about 3 parts seltzer to 1 part juice.

The POM brand is sweeter, though still pleasantly tart. I could drink it straight. It is 150 calories for 8 ounces, though, and this is a weight-loss blog, so after tasting the pure juice, I cut it half and half with seltzer over ice. That meant that my husband and I could each have a glass of "pomegranate pop" from one little bottle. I'm glad I shared it with him, too. There are apparently many health benefits of pomegranate juice but one that stood out to me is the benefit to prostate health. My father-in-law was recently diagnosed with (mild, very treatable) prostate cancer so a little prevention couldn't hurt. The juice also seems to have protective affects on the cardiovascular system. The studies tested the effects of drinking 8 ounces of the juice a day.

Of course, if you're focused on the health benefits, you're probably not interested in this recipe for the Pomtini, but I am looking forward to trying it this weekend. One of my 8 ounce bottles can make 8 drinks! I think I'll stick to one, though, in the interest of health and weight loss.

The little bottles are cute, but if you're going for a daily dose like the studies suggest, I'd recommend buying the larger glass bottles. Unless you plan to make little snowmenout of them, getting your daily dose from those little plastic ones would seem like a lot of wasted landfill space.

The juice is great, but if you haven't tried fresh pomegranates, you're missing out. They might seem intimidating, but once you learn how to open them, they're like a little treasure chest full of rubies -- but delicious ones that you can eat. They're great on salads or just as is. Of course the POM site has plenty of recipes you can try. One caveat though: The juice stains, whether it comes out of a bottle or a fruit.

Adolescent rebellion

Last night's "The Biggest Loser" turned on a couple of lightbulbs in my head. First, one of the at-home contestants weighed in with a 2-pound loss from her month at home and Allison and the contestant tried to explain it away. Allison asked Jillian, "Do you ever see that, where someone has made big changes and it just doesn't show up on the scale?" Jillian cut her off. "NO! She lost two pounds, don't sugar-coat it. Let's move on." Then Joelle tried to pull the same stunt later, rattling off excuses when it was clear that even she didn't believe her own stories. Her eyes were flat as she talked, like she had checked out.

People don't flake out like this because they're just lazy, they do it because they're afraid. Joelle can't drop her psychobabble defenses long enough to learn anything about herself, and Aubrey couldn't bring herself to ask for help because she was afraid of being disappointed, again, by people who had let her down. Like kids who get caught cheating at school, first they come back with excuses and then they get angry.

I have been experiencing my own adolescent rebellion with the whole Beck Diet Plan. I felt discouraged because I wasn't able to fill out my checksheet perfectly even once. Yesterday I didn't fill out a food plan, read my cards, or really do any of the strategies from the book. I sat down today to read my cards, do the food plan, look at the checksheet, and realized it all feels like homework. Reading the cards, which is supposed to be motivating, makes me feel stupid and angry. It all seems remedial somehow. Flash cards, worksheets, notebooks. And if I'm not going to get the gold star for doing it perfectly, I start thinking, "Listen, Beck, you're not the boss of me!"

Of course that's not what it's about. Judith Beck, Ph.D. does not give a flying fig about whether I lose weight, and she's certainly not going to drag herself to Northwest Ohio to grade my checksheets. But I care, don't I? If I flake out, I'm flaking out on me. I'm flaking out on the clothes in the closet I want to be able to wear. I'm flaking out on the feeling of wearing shorts in the summer and not having them ride up my thighs when I walk. I'm flaking out on the realization that every pretty, thin woman is not my enemy. I'm flaking out on being happy in my own skin. I am not going to be able to trick myself into thinking that I will be just as happy carrying these extra pounds around with me for the rest of my life, so I need to find helpful strategies to get rid of them, and that's what this plan represents.

Inky left a great comment on my last post to remind me that perfection isn't the key here. She linked to the exact article that had inspired me to try the Beck plan the first time around. She also reminded me that perfection isn't the point, "I'm a big BDS devotee, but I've never been able to get through a day without crossing something out" (skipping something on the plan).

If the advantages cards make me feel like an idiot, maybe I can make a list instead. Maybe I can even write down a list each day, because reading the same motivational cards every day seems to turn my brain off and I just start counting how many I have left to read. So what if that's not the "Right" way to do the plan, as long as it accomplishes the same goal.

So far the most helpful strategy by far, and the one that I have been able to hold onto even when in rebellion, is the idea that hunger is not an emergency. A little hunger is not going to kill me. It has been a big revelation to me to find that I can wait out a little hunger until it's time to eat, even if it means waiting an hour or more. Even just learning that one strategy has made a big difference in my life, so imagine how much more powerful I'll feel when I have a whole arsenal of them.

That's a lot more exciting than a gold star.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Weird weekends

The thing that makes the Beck plan difficult is that since you plan everything out in advance, it's really hard to stay on track when you're heading into a situation where you don't know what food will be served. Let's be honest, I made the choice to be more flexible and feel like a regular person hanging out with my family instead of following the plan. I will have to read the Stage 3 section about difficult situations for next time.

Dieting would be easier if you could just squirrel yourself away alone in a perfect world with no junk food. I don't want to live a life like that, so I need to figure out a way to make things work for me in the real world.
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"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07