Friday, January 30, 2009

Remedial reading

I said I was going to back off on posts about the Beck plan for a while, but I thought I needed a follow-up after yesterday's post. It was obvious to me when I reread it later that my head was not in the right place. I thought that I should acknowledge that.

I am in Stage 1 and I am supposed to be focusing on skill building right now. The whole point at this stage is to follow the checksheet and work on learning how to handle food more sanely. It is not supposed to be about counting calories and trying to lose. But because my weight has been , I got all excited when I saw it dip down toward the 170 mark. Then when the inevitable upward fluctuation happened, it hurt. As I've written here many times before, I need to focus on my behaviors and the results will take care of themselves.

Thanks for all the support and comments. I'm going to see if I can squeeze into the Friday Spinning class, which I'm not signed up for but can do if there's an empty bike.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Back to reality

This morning, as cms predicted, I had a chance to practice my "The number on the scale is just a number that gives me important information" response. I was up 1.5 from yesterday. I honestly think it was just a fluctuation, because my food was fine. I even resisted brownies in the breakroom, which felt good.

I felt very lethargic this morning when I woke up. I was debating whether to do my run in the morning or later in the afternoon, but I decided it was better just to get it out of the way early, despite temperatures in the teens. I never really warmed up until the very end, but it wasn't so bad. I am only doing half-hour runs right now, and as soon as I hit the halfway point it all feels downhill from there. Oddly enough, today was the first time I actually used music on my iPod when I was running. It did help keep me going, although I had used the Genius mix to create a playlist, and some real downers came up at inopportune times, like "I Am Weary, Let Me Rest," from the Oh Brother Where Art Thou? soundtrack. I need to make a more motivating playlist next time. I did see some Yaktrax marks in the snow and it made me think of Carol. I am going to see if I can find some, because I might rather run on the trails with packed snow than on the paved trail, which tends to get icy.

I'm still feeling tired. Tomorrow I have a lot of grading to catch up on. I was going to try to do it today but I just don't have the energy. I don't think I'm eating too little, either. My calories were just over 2000 today, which sounds like a lot until you consider the run. That's still about 300-500 less per day than I was getting when I was just tracking calories without planning meals. I will be bringing them down a bit, to 1800, when I move to following the Beck Plan. That's where the formula in the book says I should start.

After today I will not be posting daily updates unless something interesting happens. It's a little dull to post about the same things every day. I will post about any big milestones or challenges.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Day 3: Nothing motivates like success

I was down another half pound this morning. That's 2 pounds in 2 days. I feel like I'm on "The Biggest Loser." During my Weight Watchers days, I was happy to lose a pound in a week. Of course, I also was never very good at sticking to my Points range.

One of the most intriguing things about this is the thought that with just the basic skills and a daily food plan I write for myself, I might be able to lose weight without following someone else's idea of what I should eat. It's an intriguing thought. Of course, I'm a veteran Weight Watcher, so I have some idea of portion sizes and what I should be eating if I want to lose. A lot of people might try to either eat too little or, conversely, might have an unrealistic idea of how much they should be able to eat and lose weight. I am going to try the plan, too, once I master these basic skills.

I am still having trouble eating without distractions. When I'm sitting alone and eating I have the urge to read or use my iPod or something. I guess I am used to having company when I eat. Yesterday I didn't really get much in the way of spontaneous exercise, either, unless you count walking across campus to pick up my mail. I'm not sure that I do, considering that the campus I was walking across is so tiny. I am told, though, that a lot of the faculty in my building have the administrative assistants get their mail for them. Personally, I need the excuse to get up and do something!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Day 2 check in

I'm recording "The Biggest Loser" on the DVR right now. We like to start watching it about halfway in so we can skip the millions of commercials. I thought I'd take this opportunity to share my thoughts after Day 2 on the Beck plan.

It's really stunning to me, so far, how many times I catch myself wanting to grab a bite of something as I'm plating it or packing it in a lunch. Besides that, though, planning your food ahead saves lots of calories in other ways. In Stage 1, you're practicing your skills, so theoretically you could plan to have anything -- you're not specifically supposed to diet. But of course, no one plans to eat nothing but a whole package of saltines with cheese for lunch, that's something you do when you're not planning. (To be fair, it's been a long time since I've done that!) This plan also puts a stop to all those situations where food is around and you might eat it because it's there.

So far I'm finding it surprisingly satisfying. Like Carol suggested, I've been giving myself lots of credit. I also have been making sure to plan a reasonable amount of food for my meals instead of trying to cut way back at this point. I was a little grouchy when I came home hungry and supper wasn't ready, but I got over it.

I know this is the honeymoon period so I'm taking advantage of it and enjoying it while it lasts. But so far, it actually is making feel really strong and in control, which is making me very happy.

First day report

It's harder than it looks to follow a food plan exactly, at least for me. I planned a lunch that was too big. I forgot to use my hummus as a dip for my veggies with my snack so I ended up throwing it out and not eating it. I came home from my evening class hungry, grabbed my dinner, and forgot the apple that was a part of that meal. I guess I need to actually look at the food plan before I eat.

Weighing in today was fun: I was down a pound and a half. I knew I would be down because I felt lighter.

I inadvertently ended up doing the hunger experiment that Beck suggests dieters do in Stage 1. Because I had my lunch kind of early and didn't end up having the hummus, the most filling part of my planned afternoon snack, by 4:00 I was already hungry and I was not going to eat again until after class at 9:30. I did just fine. I went to the breakroom to make myself a cup of tea and there was a cake in there. At any other time, I would have had a piece because I was hungry even though that kind of decorated store cake is not my favorite. I knew I'd be disappointed in myself if I had some, though, so I got my tea and walked out of there. I kept busy and really didn't think about the cake again. Like Beck says, I would periodically feel hungry for a few minutes but it would go away. I got a bottle of water from the vending machine before class but wasn't tempted to get anything from the snack machine. It felt good to realize that I could do this. Of course, when I got home I didn't do a great job of "eating slowly, enjoying every bite." But I did take the time to change out of my work clothes before getting something to eat so it's not like I ran right for the refrigerator.

The skills I had some trouble with: Eating slowly, calming down before I ate (not that I was upset, but I didn't consciously think about calming down), and following my plan precisely.

On to Day 2. I have to go to the store because as I was planning my food for the day, I realized I have nothing much to eat here.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Morning check-in

I thought I'd post updates on my blog for those who were interested in the plan. Feel free to post your own accountability updates here as well.

Last night I gathered all the supplies for The Complete Beck Diet Plan for Life. I printed up the Stage 1 skills checksheet from the author's website (go to "The Beck Program" and click on "dietary charts." I made my response cards on some index cards I had around the house. I Instead of blank business cards for the advantages deck, I used some of the ones I made for BlogHer in '07 -- I got overzealous and had hundreds left. I put my reasons for wanting to lose weight. I put them in the form of affirmations: "All the clothes in my closet fit," "I feel healthy and strong," etc. You read these each morning and when you feel your resolve wavering. I also grabbed a small notebook that I can put in my briefcase and made lists of distractions for times when I'm tempted to have an unplanned snack, like reading diet blogs and having a cup of hot tea. I thought of a new one today while I was swimming that I'm going to add: I have some Crest Whitestrips that I bought and didn't use up. They require no eating for 1/2 an hour and they taste disgusting. I know it's better to use them systematically but I thought doing them once in a while when I felt a snack urge might be better than nothing. Then I did the hardest part: I wrote out my food plan for today.

In retrospect I could have been more specific on the food plan -- I think I have to count this as something I didn't do completely right. I am going to have couscous, shrimp, and vegetables with olive oil and balsamic vinegar for lunch, but I didn't put down amounts or what vegetables. So I am going to plan on one serving each of the couscous and shrimp and 1 cup total of tomatoes, green onions, and white onions. I'm still figuring out how this all works.

I already had my planned breakfast and then went for a 30-minute swim today. I have a snack planned that I thought I would want right after returning from swimming, but I'm not hungry yet so I'm going to wait until I am. I made sure to congratulate myself for resisting the urge to break off a bite of my toasted waffle while I was plating it since I'm supposed to eat only when sitting down. Giving yourself credit for doing things right is an important part of the program.

I am not trying to follow the diet program in Stage 2 yet, so my meal plan is similar to what I would eat on a normal day, but maybe with a little less junky food. I am still using my calorie counting program :

  • 2 toasted whole-grain waffles
  • 2 tablespoons of natural peanut butter
  • 1 small cup of coffee with 1 1/2 tablespoons of soy creamer
  • 1 small cup of coffee with 1 1/2 tablespoons of soy creamer
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 chopped dried fig
  • 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
  • cinnamon
  • 7 cooked shrimp
  • 1 cup cooked Israeli couscous
  • 1 cup mixed tomatoes, green onions and white onions
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • salt, pepper, and Italian herbs
  • 1/2 cup each carrots and celery
  • 1 tablespoon hummus
  • 1 pear
  • 12 Kashi Tiny Little Crackers and 1 ounce cheese
  • 1 leftover roasted chicken thigh
  • apple
  • mixed green salad with 1 tablespoon mixed sunflower and pumpkin seeds, no dressing
  • 1 Dr. Kracker Seedlander bread (like a big flat cracker)
  • 1 tablespoon whipped cream cheese
Also, first thing this morning I weighed in and have recorded my starting weight, which is about where it was the first time I joined Weight Watchers. I am going to buy myself two cute new workout outfits when I reach my first 5 pound milestone.

Like I said, feel free to post your own update in the comments if you'd like. I'm getting hungry so I'm going to go have that snack now.

P.S. Edited to add the crackers and cheese, which were on my written food plan but I forgot to include them. I found that my planned lunch was way too big so I put half of it in the fridge for another meal. I'm not sure if that's non-compliance but I couldn't have finished it so I think I did the right thing. I may have erred on the side of planning too much food this time.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Starting tomorrow

Thanks for all the support on the last post. I found a person who is also going to be doing the Beck plan to check in with regularly. There is a specific check-in system so it's easiest to do this with someone doing the same plan. Carol also posted a buddy-finding service in the comments if you are looking for some extra support. Or consider starting a blog of your own -- I am always looking for something new to read when I need some inspiration.

Tomorrow morning I'm going swimming when my husband leaves for work. I have my bag all packed -- no excuses!

I'm going to get organized tonight to start working the program tomorrow. I have my notebook and cards for writing advantages and will grab some index cards out of the recipe box for response cards. Just starting with these basic skills should bring some awareness to my food choices for the day.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Getting clear about what I really want most

I've been going through a lot of stuff in the last few months and if you've been reading, it has probably been like watching someone trying on a bunch of outfits, trying to decide what to wear. "Maybe Weight Watchers," and then a little later, "no, I don't like some corporation making money off my fat, maybe Jillian Michaels's website," "but the exercises on Jillian's site are too hard to do at my gym so maybe I should go back to Weight Watchers," or, "but I can't face the meetings so maybe I should just forget about it and accept my body the way it is now," "but I don't want to get fat, maybe intuitive eating," "but I'm eating too much so maybe I need to be counting calories,""but counting calories makes it harder for me to plan meals so maybe I should go see what that Momentum program is all about at Weight Watchers," "but I don't want to spend the money so maybe I'll just exercise and count my calories."

Are you sick of me? Because I'm sick of me. At least, I guess, I've never thought about anything truly ridiculous like the Master Cleanse or the Cabbage Soup Diet. Not because I'm too smart for that stuff, but because even in my wildest fantasies I know I'm not disciplined (or crazy) enough to last a day on either of them.

I do think self-acceptance is important, no matter what plan I settle on. Anne has been nicely trying to compliment me into mental health but it just doesn't really work that way. It's not that I loathe myself or my body, I was happier with my body when it was thinner and I have all these clothes I love that I'm not wearing. And like most people, I don't have endless money to keep buying new clothes. I want to make this a practical thing. Like I told my friend M. last summer: "If I hadn't mowed the grass in a really long time, I wouldn't hate my lawn for being too long. I wouldn't get all wrapped up in trying to convince myself it was more beautiful as an untamed meadow. I wouldn't ignore it and hope that it would get shorter on its own. I'd just mow it." I want to bring that kind of nonjudgemental, no-nonsense attitude to managing my weight.

When Jennette was here, she had a copy of The Complete Beck Diet for Life. For those of you who have been reading a long time, you'll remember that I had a brief honeymoon with The Beck Diet, but then decided I didn't like it after all because I thought she seemed to have a punishing attitude toward dieters. I really did like the strategies and the no-nonsense approach, but I let a few things Beck wrote take on a life of their own and ruin the book for me.

I wanted to see how the new book compared to the old one and I really like the new one a lot better. It's not a sequel so much as the same strategies and philosophy retooled in a way that puts the reader in the driver's seat. In the last book, there was a task for every day. The book suggested the pace at which you should progress through. The new book has five stages, and the readers decide when to transition from one to the other, though Beck suggests milestones that help readers decide when they are ready to move on. In Stage 1, readers develop basic skills for successful dieting. Unlike in the last book, there is an eating plan in Stage 2, which provides food lists and plans for various calorie levels. Stage 3 is a set of strategies for challenging situations, like travel and dining out. Stage 4 introduces more flexibility to the basic eating plan and lets the dieters experiment and find out what modifications work for them. Stage 5 is all about how to stay motivated and maintain your weight for life.

The main reason I prefer this book is that it doesn't suggest that you have to plan every single bite you eat for as long as you have weight to lose in the way that the last book seemed to. This plan allows dieters to have greater flexibility once they master some basic skills. The meal plans and food lists are simple and realistic, very similar to a diabetic exchange plan. There are some basic recipes too, as well as guidelines for developing your own recipes that fit into the program. Finally, this book encourages dieters to make changes gradually, one meal at a time. It also suggests that if you don't have the time or motivation needed to use the strategies, now might not be a good time for you to try to lose weight.

My favorite thing about this book, though, is that it forces you to get clear about what you really want. Buried on page 182-183 is some really great advice about how to decide what a good weight for you to maintain might be. After following the program for a while and losing some weight, Beck says, "Many dieters. . . decide that the challenges of further restricting their eating are not worth the small amount of additional weight they might lose." For those who make this decision and are going to have to accept not getting to their "dream weight," Beck suggests that they realize that weight "is really so superficial. You have so many more important, wonderful attributes. . . Do all of the things you had put off doing until you lost excess weight." Later, she writes that dieters also have the option to decide to raise their maintenance range if they find it's not worth the work they have to do to maintain at their original goal. "It's fine to decide to eat more as long as you consciously make the decision to do so. . . knowing that you may gain a few pounds." The problem, she suggests, is that most of us don't make a conscious decision to change their habits, we just start slacking off without being conscious that we are actually making a choice to gain weight. We can get as angry as we want about it, but that's what it really comes down to.

All of this is really about deciding what you really want. Are you willing to learn to regiment your eating for a few weeks to learn skills that will allow you to be more flexible later? Are you willing to live with a little bit of hunger if it will help you achieve your goals? We are in a society that's afraid of hunger. We have restaurants on every corner, we are encouraged to bring snacks with us in case we get hungry, and sometimes we overeat in case we don't have a chance to eat later. Beck reminds us in this book that "hunger isn't an emergency."

I like the focus on choice. I think that the reason for all of my dithering is that I never got really crystal clear about how much I was willing to do to get rid of the 20 or so extra pounds I'm carrying. I just wanted it to go away without requiring any real effort or sacrifice on my part.

Today I did a "treasure mapping" exercise with some people I know. The idea is to put together a vision for the things you want to bring into your life for the next few months. One of the things I really got clear on is that I want to be fit, healthy, and at peace with my body. I am ready to eat better and exercise in order to get there. I think I'm ready for a little less nonsense. I'm going to give this plan a try, working through the book exactly as suggested. Now that I've read through the book, I'm going to start with Stage 1 and start practicing the skills.

One of the strategies she suggests is to get a "diet buddy" to help provide some accountability. I don't have anyone in my real life who would I feel comfortable with as an accountability coach (which sounds less humiliating than diet buddy) right now. I know from experience that I don't like my husband to be involved in my weight loss efforts except to cheer me on, and my family members all have their own issues with food. If anyone out there is planning to try this plan and wants to team up, email me or post a comment and we can get in touch about finding a way to be accountable to each other.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Second post in a row: Biggest Loser Season 7, Week 3

I know I just posted, but I had to add a couple of thoughts about this week's "The Biggest Loser." Just like last week, even though I can see where Joelle is probably annoying everyone, I feel that she needs help dealing with her issues, not just more lectures and yelling. She has pretty good defenses against yelling -- she just shuts down. What she needs is someone to make her talk about her issues honestly, minus all the hocus-pocus she uses to gloss over her problems. She needs someone to ask her hard questions, listen to the answers, and try to crack that shell. I don't have a lot of confidence in Bob's ability to do that, and I really don't see how she and Carla ever became friends since they don't communicate with each other very well.

I noticed that Dan (orange team) didn't take part in this week's temptation. I wonder if Dan is exempted because of some extreme food issues. His teammate at home might feel thin compared to Dan, but he still seems to have some world-class food issues of his own, so maybe he was the one they thought couldn't handle the challenge.

I listened to Jillian's podcast from Sunday, and she suggested that there are a lot of twists in this season that have made it harder to break through the contestants' defenses. It sounds like they're trying a lot of new things this season. Hopefully they won't get so clever with the twists that they sabotage the contestants' progress.

Speaking of progress, I noticed something interesting. Three weeks into the show, two of the bigger contestants are already off a bunch of their medications. I wish that they had said more about this on the show. Getting the contestants off their prescriptions didn't require a 100-pound weight loss. It seems that just the changes in diet and exercise habits, combined with a small weight loss, were enough. That's the message they should be trying to send to the people watching at home.

What happy feels like

I went to Spinning class today for the first time in too long. I think my last class was in November of 2008. I had signed up for a series with the YMCA that started two weeks ago but got sidelined by a cold. It felt really good to get in there and sweat. I had been doing some yoga and other light activity but it was the first time in a couple of weeks that I could really push myself.

I couldn't stop grinning, really. It was so much fun. I almost wanted to cry I was so happy.

It reminded me a lot of watching the Inauguration.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Our scary food supply

Remember the good old days, when salmonella was something that was an issue with chicken or eggs? We've had recalls on spinach, tomatoes, cantelope, and now peanut butter.

Here's a good explanation of how these bacteria are ending up in plants
. Once groundwater is contaminated with animal wastes, it can multiply inside produce. Washing the produce doesn't necessarily take care of the problem. Our food supply, which is more centralized and globalized, means that outbreaks that would have once been local now spread nationally and even internationally. The latest peanut butter case is so large because one plant in Georgia makes peanut and peanut butter products that are sold to more than 85 companies. Since one of these products is large containers of peanut butter for nursing homes and schools, people who are more susceptible to the illness are the ones exposed.

I am glad I make my own peanut butter, because I don't feel comforted by this answer to the question of whether it's safe to eat a peanut butter sandwich: "The FDA says as of Sunday there is no indication that brand name peanut butter sold in grocery stores is linked to the outbreak." I don't know what to do about the produce... it's too cold here for gardening right now.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Redefining things

As regular readers have probably noticed, I have been in the process of gradually changing the emphasis of this blog from weight and diet -- no more weigh-ins, no more snazzy charts -- to mental and physical health. I'm also trying to change my mindset in that direction too. I noticed this weekend when Jennette was here how much I think -- and talk -- about diet-related things, especially if another potential dieter is around. Maybe it's a trait left over from all of those Weight Watchers meetings. Maybe women talk about bodies and diets the way men talk about sports -- it's something you can usually assume you have in common when you run into someone of your gender. I hope not. If so, this habit is like my old habit of swearing too much -- something I should probably work on if I want people to take me seriously.

I realize, when the saner part of my brain is in charge, that the 20 or so pounds I want to lose are not worth the brain processing power I expend on them. But it bothers me that my husband weighs less than I do. It bothers me that I have clothes in my closet that still don't fit, even though I thought I'd lose the commuter weight when I lost the commuter job. It bothers me that I have a squishy middle and that I'm not as strong as I used to be.

I know the solution is simple but it seems so difficult. I just want to be healthy and take care of myself, exercise and eat good food. I want to stop feeling bad about myself and comparing myself to other people. I want to stop feeling sad every time I see a magazine cover model with killer abs.

I think more than a diet, I need a brain transplant.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

A couple more reasons to make your own foods

Jennette has a review on her blog of Fiber One's muffin mixes. Here's the ingredients list photo from her page. Compare this to the list of ingredients for the whole wheat/corn muffins I made yesterday:

1 1/4 c. whole wheat flour
3/4 c. cornmeal
1 c. skim milk
1/4 c. coarse grits (softened by soaking them in the milk)
1 egg
1/4 c. honey
pinch salt
2 tsp. baking powder

I think I forgot to add the oil but normally there would be 1/4 c. canola oil in there too. You pour them into muffin cups and bake them at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes. I got the recipe off the box of cornmeal and only made a couple of modifications: Adding the grits, changing the white flour to whole wheat, swapping honey for sugar. And forgetting the oil, but that isn't so much a modification as a goof.

None of these ingredients cost me anything because I already had them all in my pantry.
I'm not sure how much the muffin mix would cost at a grocery store but my guess is it would be around $5 a box. You add water, eggs, and oil to the mix. If I had to go buy all my ingredients besides the oil and eggs, I'd probably spend about $10, but I'd get sick of the muffins before I ran out of the ingredients to make them.

The homemade muffins have 6 more calories per muffin, 3 grams less fiber, and 2.5 grams more fat (unless you forget the oil). But, on the plus side, the homemade muffins don't have Frankenfoods ingredients and since they were real food and not diet food, you wouldn't be tempted to eat 10 of them because they were so healthy. Obviously these were not as sweet, either, so it's not a totally fair comparison, but I just think it's interesting to see how sneaky these so-called diet foods can be.

Here's a side-by-side comparison of the nutritional data (data for my muffins was calculated using the cool tools at

Houseguest: A short summary

I had the lovely Jennette (a.k.a. PastaQueen) stay here last night after her trip to the headache clinic in Ann Arbor. We're not exactly on the way back to Indianapolis, but we're about an hour from Ann Arbor and we have luxury guest accommodations: An extra room with a blow-up mattress and its own shower nearby, with small shampoos collected from hotels where I stayed on business trips. It's all very posh, towels and everything.

Jennette was a great guest. I figured she'd be tired after a day of medical procedures so made my Chicken Tortilla soup/chili again and some whole-wheat cornmeal muffins. I thought we could go to my favorite local breakfast place for waffles. On the way, we had an unfortunate adventure with a flat tire on a very cold day. Joe's Tire and Wheel in Sylvania saved the day, and while the tire was being fixed we ended up having coffee and little mini quiches at the Chandler Café instead. Then she headed west on the Ohio Turnpike, hopefully toward better weather. I didn't think to take pictures but I did ask her to sign her book.

Poor Jennette has probably written the whole Ann Arbor/Toledo area off as The Land of the Beastly Cold and Snow. I know I'm very tired after all this adventure and tromping around in the snow, so I plan to laze around on my couch for the rest of today.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Biggest Loser Season 7, Week 2

I generally try to keep this a no-spoiler zone, but there was one thing about this episode that I want to address directly.

This week there was a temptation where the contestants were offered a large chunk of money if they wanted to leave the show right then and not come back. It's obvious that after last season, they are concerned that other contestants might be like Vicky and just see this as a chance to win a big cash prize and not be really interested in the resources the show offers.

The contestant who was tempted, however, saw this in a different light. She's from Detroit, which like Toledo has some of the worst unemployment in the nation right now. She is living in her mother's house and said it makes her feel like a failure. I wanted to cry when the offer got to $25,000 and she said, "that's more than I make in two years." I think the only reason she turned it down was that she knew her friend would kill her if she took it.

It's easy to say that health is more important than money when you have enough -- maybe not as much as you'd like to have, but enough to pay your bills and have a place to live. According to her profile, Joelle is 41 and runs a "nonprofit radio show". She tells her listeners to "stay positive," and that may be why she talks so much about feeling strong when obvious she doesn't really feel that great about herself. I'm sure she feels like she should have achieved financial independence by now. She was crying in a one-on-one with Bob about all the "lousy choices I've made." I can see the temptation to take the money. She probably doesn't feel there's much opportunity waiting for her back home in Detroit. She has no guarantee of winning anything staying on the show, and there are too many reality shows for appearing on one to be the ticket to fame it used to be. And she doesn't seem all that confident that she can lose the weight, either.

I'm not surprised her team resented her but I felt bad for her because it's obvious that her bravado was really all she had. I was actually rooting for her to stay on the show, because to be eliminated after turning down all that cash.

So far, Tara is my favorite contestant on the show. She just shows so much heart and toughness that I will be really surprised if she doesn't make it to the finals.

With all the big weight losses in the first week, Week 2 is notorious for wacky results. I won't tell you who got eliminated just in case there's anyone reading this who hasn't watched the show yet. I will say I agreed with the reasoning that the contestants used to choose who to send home.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Comfort food

I love cooking. There's still something magical about starting with a few simple things and creating something delicious. I have been eating more eggs for breakfast ever since I found this method for the perfect basted egg. My mom taught me to make these eggs by spooning hot oil over the yolks, but this is much easier and there is no messy oil splatter to clean up. These are so easy that I can even make them on a weekday.

I have had a cold for what seems like forever, and most food doesn't sound that good to me unless it's spicy or a hot liquid. I decided to make Chicken Tortilla Soup, which was just like the chicken chili I blogged about earlier but with less chicken and rice. After having both, I decided that I like the heartier chili better. I also made cornbread, using the recipe from the cornmeal container. Baking is the real showstopper, the way a pile of mushy and crumbly ingredients turns into something fluffy and light that way.

It's still my instinct, on a day when I'm tired, to want to go out and have someone do the cooking for me. That's fun too, but cooking is like working out: When I'm thinking about it, it sounds incredibly difficult and strenuous. Once I do it, I relax into it and realize how satisfying it can be.

Speaking of exercise, though, with this cold I haven't really done much besides shovel the walk a few times. I really miss it and hope I'm well enough to get back in the gym by this weekend.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

What's the right goal weight?

I have a new blogging rule -- if I find myself writing more than a paragraph in response to someone else's blog post, it's probably time to write my own. I am implementing it in regards to Jennette's (PastaQueen's) post "Ask a loser: What should my goal weight be?"

Actually, I'm blogging more in response to a part of a comment on that post:

I don't see how a BMI above 25 typically is going to be 'healthy' compared to one below that. Obviously there will be some exceptions, but I hear a lot of ppl discount the numbers and I just wonder if they do have something more reliable to measure when it comes to fitness or we're playing a game. I think as a Western society with poor eating and exercising habits, we tend to rationalize we can be bigger just because everyone else is. I'm not sure that's necessarily best for physical health. (Self esteem and feeling good at a higher weight is something else again and absolutely important--but to me, what helps me live longer and shows up better on my bloodwork seems like a more quantitative goal.)
I think that the importance that dieters place on setting the "perfect" weight goal is sort of a trap. Setting the perfect weight goal doesn't do much good if you can't get there -- or if you can get there but not maintain it. I liked Jennette's approach of re-evaluating once she got nearer to her weight goal, and I'd agree with her that she looked amazing at BlogHer when she was at her goal weight, even if it wasn't in some golden BMI range.

I even have photographic evidence -- that's her (right) with Shauna (left).

If health is really the real goal... and I'd like to just ask commenters like this, is it?

If health is the real goal, then I think it makes more sense to focus on behavior goals than weight goals. I like Shauna's (DietGirl's) "No Year's Resolutions" as a daily minimum, which for me would translate to: Exercise a minimum of 20 minutes a day, track my food, and get to bed at a reasonable hour so I get the sleep I need. Those are minimums would apply when things were crazy or I was feeling wiped out. I have more ambitious behavior goals for most weeks: Get in at least 2 strength training workouts, 4 cardio workouts, and 1 stretching workout a week; Keep my calories within a maintenance, preferably losing, range; and manage stress and cultivate joy by doing some daily reflections.

I figure if I focus on the behavior goals, my weight goals will take care of themselves. I know I have weight to lose but I'll let my body figure out how much. I know how I want to feel and look at my weight goal. If I feel and look that way, who cares what the scale says? If I get to a plateau and I feel like I still want to lose more, I can always push the behaviors to make myself lose faster. Changing my goal weight won't make any difference in how fast the weight comes off.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

If not tips, then what?

Yesterday's post was pretty grumpy. I wasn't trying to imply that weight loss was a bad idea, just that silly tips aren't going to make the difference. As Jillian has said on her podcast a bunch of times, "It's possible to get lazy and put on 20 pounds or so. But if you're 100 pounds overweight, it's not just that you like Snickers bars. No one likes Snickers that much."

I probably fall in the 20 pound laziness category, but I still think that real, successful, lasting weight loss will be about doing a better job of envisioning the kind of life I really want to live and moving toward it. Jillian calls it the "Life List." I am pretty good at this but it's easy to fall back on the negatives, and I don't think that successful change happens when you are trying to move away from something instead of toward something.

I think that with all of it's flaws, "The Biggest Loser" does one thing that other weight loss shows don't. I hate the dire predictions of "lose weight or die" that all of these shows use, but at the very least, the physical challenges and the intense gym workouts show how life starts getting better right away for the contestants -- before they've even lost much weight they become athletes, get off their medications, and see their lives starting to change.

I remember reading in some weight loss book somewhere that the problem for many people is that they don't feel empowered to control anything in their lives except their weight, and it doesn't work to try to keep everything else the same and just become skinnier. The attempt to keep everything else the same and become skinnier might just explain the phenomenon of weight loss tips... "I don't have to work on finding more power in my relationships, I'll just use skim milk instead of 2%!"

Friday, January 09, 2009

Why I hate weight-loss tips

The weight-loss tip is like the soundbite. They are memorable and forgettable at the same time. The media loves them. They are the perfect length for the break to commercial, to fill in an inconvenient block of whitespace in a magazine layout. There are whole "articles" in magazines that are just a series of tips. Talk shows like to ask trainers and fitness professionals for tips and they are usually happy to oblige.

If you're reading this blog, you probably have an interest in losing weight or at least maintaining yourself. Ask yourself: How many times have you really found these tips helpful?

Yeah, me neither. The most annoying thing about tips is that they assume that the problem with overweight people is that they just don't have the information they need to lose weight. If you watch the premiere of Discovery Health's latest National Body Challenge, however, you'll see that one of the contestants is a nutritionist. Another holds up a two-liter bottle of soda in each hand and says that he drinks at least that much each day, even though he says, "that's 500 grams of sugar right there." Another used to be very thin and we see pictures of her in a bikini. Clearly, at least these three contestants know what it would take for them to be thinner. The information itself is not enough, especially not the kind of information you can deliver in a thirty-second clip, but that didn't stop The Discovery Channel from making a bunch of tips starring a weird little gingerbread man (his voice sounds suspiciously like the one from my scale).

All together, now, people:
"Take the stairs instead of the elevator."
"Park further from the mall and walk in."
"Leave two bites on your plate at every meal."
"If you're snacking when watching t.v., try knitting to keep your hands busy." There's a great Yoplait Light commercial that mocks this one, but I couldn't find a link.
And everyone's favorite: "Eat less, move more."

Has anyone heard that last one and done a big forehead smack and said, "Oh, now I get it!"

And hundreds more. Some are real information and some are just dieter mythology. There are tips about what you should eat ("Dark chocolate is good for you"), shouldn't eat ("Don't eat watermelon, it's full of sugar"), how you should exercise ("first thing in the morning is best"), when you shouldn't eat ("Everything you eat after 8 p.m. goes straight to fat").

I used to listen to two of my aunts go back and forth with these at family dinners. Neither of them is happy with her weight, years later. Obviously the tips don't help much. The problem with them is just like the problem with political soundbites: Without more context, they're not that useful. If you piece together conflicting tips without knowing their sources or how valid they are, you're not going to accomplish a lot of weight loss.

I think that getting a tip every time I found out that I hadn't lost weight really burned my hatred of these tips home for me. I have gotten over my initial infatuation and could care less what Mary Lou has to say. I'm back to my regular scale. I might not like the numbers, but at least it keeps its mouth shut. I thought about giving away the platform and only rejected the idea because of the expense and hassle of shipping it.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Jillian didn't come kill me in my sleep

I just wanted to make sure that none of my readers would be worried that the cake incident had turned ugly. I do have a cold, though, so maybe she's using germ warfare?

I don't have time for a long post but wanted to share a breakfast find. After reading Superfoods, I picked up a package of flax meal (ground flaxseed) and a jar of wheat germ. I love them sprinkled on top of whole wheat toast with my homemade peanut butter. It doesn't have a lot of flavor but it gives a nice crunch and an extra nuttiness.

I put maybe a teaspoon of each on two slices of toast.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Notes on a tough day and Biggest Loser Season 7

Yesterday seemed to be a tough day for a lot of people. Two of the bloggers in my RSS feed posted major freakouts: here and here. Maybe it was because it was the second day of the first work week of the new year? I think we all felt we got a reprieve on the whole resolutions thing until Monday, but yesterday was a Tuesday, with none of the promise of a shiny-new Monday.

I didn't freak out but I was having a low-grade bad-body-image day. When I went to the gym to lift weights yesterday, I was really feeling unhappy with the way I looked in the mirrors. I waited to go in until after 8:30, and I think I was there at the same time as all the local trophy wives. It seemed like everyone but me was tiny, blonde, and wearing snazzy workout clothes. I was there in my messy ponytail and faded black yoga pants and felt like a schlub with double-wide hips. Where's Carson Kressley when I need him? The day did get better from there, thankfully.

Enough about me, on to the new season of "The Biggest Loser." As usual, I'll keep this a no-spoiler zone and just give a little taste of what happened. If you watched last season, you know that this one was planned as "The biggest season ever!" They have the oldest contestants, the youngest contestant, some of the sickest contestants, the biggest woman, and the biggest player ever. They also revealed a big twist this episode, although there's always a twist so that was no surprise.

I was freaked out by the doctor visit this time, when they showed the MRI scans and showed how fat actually starts to collect around your organs if there's no room for it under the skin. One contestant had already had weight loss surgery, and even though his stomach was still the size of an egg, he was still 420 pounds when he weighed in. Another contestant's abdominal fat had smashed his lungs to about 1/2 the size they were supposed to be. My wide hips seemed like less of a problem after watching this.

My least favorite moment on the show was when they had the contestants work out in the gym on their own before they met the trainers, with Bob and Jillian watching on a hidden camera. Most of them had never even been in a gym before, so of course they didn't know how to use any of the equipment so they looked totally lost. Some of the things they came up with were truly ridiculous.

My favorite moment was the challenge. I could feel my heart racing while I watched it. It was a really exciting one.

I have to admit I laughed self-consciously when Bob and Jillian got on screen to address the television audience directly. They talked about how much of a problem obesity was and how the show was trying to make a big change in the way America thought about weight: "but it doesn't mean anything if you sit here... watching the show eating ice cream!" I wasn't eating ice cream, but my husband had cut himself a giant slab of cake and I had a small piece myself. Seriously, Jillian, don't come kill me, it was a really small piece, and I counted calories yesterday, and was only 250 over my planned intake....

Oh, never mind. If I don't blog tomorrow, you'll know what happened.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Breaking the pool barrier: The power of bribery

I have been trying to get myself back into the pool for a while now. I finally talked myself into going for a swim today by promising myself a tall (it's still annoying that this is what they call the smallest size) Peppermint Mocha Twist from Starbucks (I got mine with soy milk, light on the whip). By the way, when did they add "twist" to the name? I thought when I ordered one last year, it was just a Peppermint Mocha.

Estimated burn: 370 calories
Input from Bux: 330 calories

This may not seem like the best strategy in the world, but I have been craving this for a while, and I really needed to get into the pool for the first time. It would be a bad strategy to buy myself a fancied-up coffee every time I went to swim, but I think it was a good way to get myself there. I got myself a schedule (defeating excuse #1), figured out that no one else bothers with a lock either (excuse #2), and figured out that I still could swim without feeling completely incompetent (excuse #3). I am going to try to make the swim part of my Monday morning routine. I do need a swim cap, though (excuse #4), because even with my best attempts to contain it in a ponytail and swim without one, my hair was getting into my face and making it hard for me to breathe. My shoulders felt pretty good, too, so maybe my rotator cuff injury (excuse #5) has gotten better from all the yoga and Pilates.
The most interesting thing? The mocha tasted good but it wasn't the spectacular treat I remembered. I doubt I'll want another anytime soon.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Short post: A tale of two parties

Yesterday we had a thing with the inlaws, and today we went to a party with some of my extended family. I don't see either group of people that often, and it's funny that the two events went completely differently.

I don't have much to say about the inlaws thing. It was OK. I feel bad for my nieces and nephew because these things can't be much fun for them.

The party tonight was fun -- lots of great food, people I had missed and hadn't seen in awhile. I think one of the things that made the second party more fun (besides that they were, as my mom says, "my people") is that we had something to do. We played two really simple card games at my family party as a big group. While we were playing cards, we could chat a little but we still had to keep track of the game, so it wasn't a big serious conversation. Plus there was the fun of playing for very small amounts of money -- not enough to make or break anyone's night, but enough to give us a little excitement if we won or lost a hand. We do a lot of this kind of thing at my family parties, or play board games, or video games.

I haven't ever seen my inlaws do anything together as a group. If we could figure out something, it might make a big difference... oh, also maybe a couple of glasses of wine. That also would help.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Hello and another recipe

We did Christmas (belated, obv.) with the inlaws today and got home tired and a little cranky. I wasn't sure what to do as far as working out. My husband runs almost every single day of his life, and I can't do that without turning my knees into coleslaw. I was trying to figure out if I should go lift weights or do yoga at home when he suggested I go for a walk and I thought, "duh, yeah, why didn't I think of that?" The weather was reasonably nice for January and I needed to get out and do something to blow the cobwebs out of my head. I took along Jillian Michaels on the iPod for company. I even got to meet a cute dog named Max.

When I got back I made a quick bread with some leftover cooked sweet potato and improvised a chicken chili for dinner. I started with a recipe but changed the flavors in an attempt to mimic the Chicken Tortilla Soup from Le Dog, a great carryout place in Ann Arbor . It was so good that I thought I'd post the recipe so I wouldn't lose it. Sorry for the imprecision -- I just made it up as I went along so I didn't measure everything.

1 package chicken tenders (the uncooked breast strips, probably a little more than 1 pound), cut into chunks
1 16-oz. box of chicken broth (I like Pacific brand)
1 onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 T. olive oil
14 0z. can of diced Italian-style tomatoes (with onions and herbs)
1 T. dried oregano
1 T. chili powder
1 T. garlic powder
1 c. uncooked mixed lentil, brown rice, and wild rice pilaf (from my health food store)
pinch of red pepper flake
salt and pepper to taste
2 T. cornmeal (to thicken the chili)

2 green onions, chopped
1 roasted red pepper (from a jar), chopped
1/2 c. shredded extra sharp cheddar
Tortilla strips (I like Garden Fresh Gourmet)

First I headed the olive oil in a large Dutch oven on medium heat and then add the onions and garlic and a heavy pinch of the salt to sweat the onions. At this point I added the chicken and turned up the heat, stirring frequently until the chicken not showing any pink on the outside. Then I added all the rest of the chili ingredients and waited for it to boil. Once it boiled, I put on the lid and simmered it for 1 1/2 hours (now you see why the chicken only being mostly cooked was OK, it had plenty of time to finish).

I had one bowl with a handful of cheese (probably about an ounce of cheese), and a nice helping of each of the rest of the toppings. Even though the cheese and tortilla strips are high-calorie items, they're on top so you really taste them and a little goes a long way. My husband said, "I could eat this soup all day!" I was completely satisfied after one bowl, though.

This is the kind of stuff I'm trying to do now: Eat real, really good food that is satisfying. Exercise enough to keep my mind and body healthy. Not be crazy about any of it.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Recipe: Baked Bulgur with Dried Fruit

I've been trying to use all the whole grains I bought with good intentions and then let sit in my pantry. I adapted this from a recipe on for Baked Bulgur with Pecans. The original recipe was seasoned with basil and black pepper. I subbed in cinnamon and brown sugar for those spices, upped the water content a bit, and added about 1/2 cup chopped dried fruit. I really loved the result with a dollop of Greek yogurt, an extra sprinkle of cinnamon, and some chopped nuts.

1 c. dry bulgur
2 1/2 c. boiling water
1/2 c. chopped dried fruit (I used a mix of raisins, figs, dates, and cherries)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
big pinch of salt

Greek yogurt
chopped nuts and/or seeds (I used walnuts and pecans)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 1-quart casserole dish (one with a lid) with cooking spray. Put all dry ingredients into the casserole dish and then pour boiling water on top. Cover and bake for 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve warm with yogurt and nuts.

This would be a great breakfast but we actually had it as a dessert. It made a lot -- the original recipe says 6 servings. It's very filling so a little goes a long way.

Some great New Year's advice

I saw a quote similar to this on Dearest Mabel, a blog that will be a new home to the wonderful writers of Elastic Waist (a moment of silence for the passing of a very good blog)....

...and I had to go hunting around to find the original source. Here it is:
"Honey, you're always going to have that I'm-a-fat-girl thing; forget it, you're gorgeous." -- Leonardo Di Caprio to Kate Winslet
This is good advice, I think, and not just because it's stunningly obvious that Winslet is and always has been breathtakingly beautiful in her films. It's good advice because the language we use when we talk about ourselves is very powerful. The possibilities we imagine for ourselves can give us power or they can limit our power.
"A vivid imagination compels the whole body to obey it.
So my suggestion is that we spend some time in the transition to this new year to let go of all our ideas about who we are right now and imagine ourselves as we truly want to be. Not what we think we could be or what others might expect us to be but who we want to become, or would become if nothing was limiting us. Then take a step or two toward that new self.

Happy new year, everyone. You're all gorgeous.
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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