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  • Making some changes

    A few weeks ago I stepped on the scale and saw a number I've never seen before and never hoped to see. I tried not to be too hard on myself about it. The last few months have been full of upheaval — finding a house, buying a house, renovating a house, moving a new member into the house and then going straight from that into my busiest time of year. It's been a lot and I've been eating my stress.

    So I thought I'd see if running didn't help me get back on track. It's always been so helpful at bringing up my energy and metabolism, which in turn makes me feel better and eat better. I started the Couch to 5k app and it felt good. I eventually got up to running about 2 miles. But after 6 weeks I hadn't lost a single pound. In fact I think I gained 1 or 2. That was a humbling moment.

    I'm the kind of person who lives inside my head a lot of the time, so this made me really think a lot about all the times I've been in this position and all the things I've tried that didn't work in the long term. There was obviously some connection I wasn't making. Of all the things I've learned about food and nutrition, none of them have helped me find one healthy weight and stick to it. So what I was looking for then and what I'm working on now, is a way to eat for the rest of my life. Because running is not going to save me from overeating, and diets aren't going to help me deal with being an emotional eater. That has to come from inside. 

    So I kind of made the quiet decision to work on that. To ask myself what is the worst thing that could happen if I didn't eat this or that unhealthy thing. I thought it might help to make up some food rules — ways to create better habits. 

    I realized that even the super healthy cleanses I've done are effectively diets. They're temporary and they don't represent the way I eat normally. I went back and read a journal I kept around 2011 (after I had lost 27 pounds) and it actually had a lot of the same thoughts I'm having now. It was good to be reminded of them.

    With the exception of sugar, which is absolutely addictive for me, I'm not trying to eliminate any one thing from my diet. I am trying to eat just enough to be full and nothing more. I'm trying to fill a smaller plate and not go back for seconds. If I eat a really big meal, I try to compensate by eating a smaller one later. It's actually like a weight lifted just to have those "rules" in place. And wouldn't you know, I've lost 11 POUNDS. 

    Most of that has been after our trip to Kansas (travel always gets me overeating) and the Thanksgiving leftover bomb. That feels like a big accomplishment. I think the running helps, but I would attribute almost all of the weight loss to eating better. Of course this month is the hardest to resist temptation, and I have definitely indulged in a few things. But overall I feel like I'm finally dealing with bad habits I've had my whole life and just trying, little by little, to be better. It's amazing how many things I'm realizing I do just because I've always done them.

    I don't have a weight loss goal in mind. I don't even know what I should weigh. I'm just going to see how this plays out. I actually think the exercise part is harder right now. I'm working day and night to finish orders and I just don't have a lot of extra time and energy right now. Plus it's the rainy season so, for once, we have weather conflicts. But even that I feel pretty good about and I'm set to run a 5k with Mike's coworkers in March. 

    This morning I read this post from Nourished Kitchen, which really resonated with me. It led me to this post about how the cycle of diets/binges/guilt is actually our addiction. I love this part:

    It’s such a thrill to start a new diet, like paleo or juice-fasting. We’re like blushing virgin brides each and every time, looking forward to the pleasures to come… adapting recipes, finding new packaged foods, joining groups of people who eat like us, bringing our own food to every social event… (Geez, when I type it out like that it sounds pathetic.) Moderation, by comparison, is dull.

    It's so true! Moderation is totally boring to write about, but it's the only thing that's working for me. I have way too many things going on in my life right now to try to overhaul my meal planning, shopping and cooking and try to make it palatable for my entire family. The best I can do is try to be reasonable about food, so that's what I'm doing. It's weird. I've never really looked at it from this perspective, but I'm hopeful. 

    I'm not going to do a bunch of before/after photos so that I can fat shame myself, but I will share anything that works for me going forward, just in case it's helpful. One thing I noticed after the first month of doing this is that when I started eating a little more (i.e. not feeling stomach-growling hungry) I lost more weight. Also, a few times I skipped breakfast because I wasn't that hungry in the morning and that wasn't good. Instead of processed cereal, a longtime fave, I've been making omelets with cheese or whatever leftovers I can find. It's a good protein boost in the morning. 

    If you have other advice, especially at getting through the holiday feasting, please share!

  • Some dietary changes

    I can't believe I've already passed the 7 months pregnant mark. The rest of the pregnancy has seemed to move pretty slowly and somewhat uncomfortably. But now I actually feel pretty good and time is racing by. One of the reasons I feel better (I think) is that I'm eating differently now. I started this pregnancy 20 pounds heavier than with Harper and was pretty steadily gaining a pound a week, which felt like too much. With it being a lot warmer this time around, I had constant swollen cankles and just felt huge and puffy. So I decided it might help to start cutting carbs out of my diet.

    Breakfast and lunch turned out to be a breeze, but most of my dinner recipes that I love to cook have some carbs. So I decided not to mess with dinner much. I switched from cereal or muffins to omelets for breakfast and then a lot of cottage cheese, salads, apples with peanut butter and that sort of thing during the day. The great thing about a low-carb diet is that it's not a low-fat diet. You can have all the bacon, avocados and ranch dressing you want. So you get to enjoy these really satisfying foods. 

    I noticed right away that the weight gain really eased up, even though I was in the third trimester, when the baby gains the most weight. I had just about outgrown all my maternity clothes, but some of them started to fit a little looser. And I just felt better during the day. I had felt so tired the past few months, but suddenly I had more energy. 

    So, when all seemed to be going really well, I failed my glucose test. Just barely. It was kind of strange. They take blood 3 times, and only my fasting score was slightly over the limit. But it was enough to qualify me for the "Sweet Success" program they give to moms with gestational diabetes. At first I was PISSED. Mom was out of town and we had just started remodeling our bathroom, so it was already a super stressful time. I just didn't need anything else on top of it all. But once I took the class where they teach you about what to eat and how to test your blood (4 times a day, eek), I got kind of into it. It's really fascinating to see how your blood sugar fluctuates throughout the day and how your stress level or exercise can affect the numbers. Last week I got sick and my numbers spiked the highest they'd ever been. I've learned so much. So I am trying to turn a negative into a positive. 

    The plus side on the diet part is that it's darn similar to what I had just started doing. The emphasis is on eating more protein and fewer carbs. You still get to eat carbs, but you really have to restrict sugar. And that includes things that we are traditionally taught are healthy, like fruits, milk and yogurt. Obviously, desserts are a no-no. That's the part that stung. But again, now that I'm not having them, I feel a lot better. For my birthday I did splurge and make lava cakes with vanilla ice cream (I figured a single-serving cake would be better than a whole huge one). And the next day I felt ravenous for something sugary. Amazingly I did not buy a single bag of Halloween candy! We have so few trick-or-treaters anyway that we decided to just skip it this year, and I'm glad. 

    I'm trying to shop for more yummy snack foods, and I'm finding that there are a lot of great high-protein choices out there. Cheese sticks, cocoa dusted nuts (which come in 100-calorie packs), organic hummus from Target, cream cheese on brown rice thins — those have all been favorites lately. I got some almond milk so I can have that instead of regular milk in smoothies. I'm really trying to steer away from processed stuff when I do have carbs. I LOVE fruit, so I'm eating apples, pears and bananas when I can. The key is to always have them with a protein. I've made some incredible salads. And I really am not a salad person! But when you can pack them with hard boiled eggs, bacon, cheese crumbles, tomatoes, and have them with a rich dressing, they don't seem so bad. 

    I don't see myself giving up my beloved baked goods altogether. But this has really shown me that I can live without them a lot of the time and still eat really well. I think I can continue on a similar diet once the baby is born and feel a lot better than I did with Harper. I'm still working on the exercise part. It seems like the first thing to go when I'm busy or stressed, but I see now that it has to be part of my lifestyle. 

    Unfortunately, my fasting scores are still a little high. So we'll see if they put me on any medication for the next 8 weeks. Hopefully it will return to normal after the baby's born. 

    If you're looking for a great low-carb recipe, I can highly recommend these chicken satay lettuce wraps we had the other night. I don't consider myself a lettuce wrap type of person either, but these were fantastic. Other things that are good this time of year: tortilla soup, beef stew, chili and roast chicken. Apparently Mexican street tacos are great because they come on thin corn tortillas, and some places give you a ton of meat. So I've been on the taco diet when we go out. I've discovered some really good al pastor at local restaurants. 

    I'm sure it will be a challenge to make it through the 8 most holiday-filled weeks of the year on a low-sugar diet, but I feel pretty good about it. 

  • Trying the Slow-Carb Diet

    My goal with Max was to not gain a bunch of weight after I weaned him like I did with Harper. So of course that's what happened. I swore off diets and was trying to focus on small changes. But those were basically just producing small results. I felt totally disconnected with the good eating habits I developed before I had kids, and I just felt like I had to do something

    A friend had mentioned that she lost a huge amount of baby weight on a Paleo-esque diet that included some cheat days and another friend had mentioned adopting a slow-carb philosophy (and listening to Tim Ferriss for some self-help type stuff). Then one day I was driving and listening to the Outside podcast and who comes on but Tim Ferriss. He talked some about how his diet plan works. So after all that I just felt like the universe was trying to tell me something and I started googling the slow-carb diet

    Salmon salad with grilled veggies.

    If you read his book, the 4-Hour Body, you understand the diet as a way to maximize results in minimal time (hell yes) by shifting your body into fat-burning mode. It has elements of Paleo and keto diets. You eliminate basically all carbs except for beans and legumes. Except for one glorious day a week, which you declare a cheat day and have whatever you want. It does serve an actual physical purpose, to keep your body from thinking it's starving. But it's also helpful mentally, since we are all likely to cheat anyway. 

    So about 2 months ago I started the diet. This required a major shift in my cooking. But one of the main reasons I thought it would be okay is that because of my retail work schedule, I often eat something different than my family anyway. You're also encouraged to eat the same meals over and over so you don't have to think about it (another plus). 

    Buttered cod and green beans with bacon. So easy and good.

    I lost somewhere in the 5-6 pound range each month. Not fantastic, but definitely an improvement. My clothes fit much better and I feel motivated to keep going. I think the limited weight loss is because the cheat day inevitably undoes some of the progress you make during the week. So, I'm going to keep some aspects of the diet and change other ones going forward. 

    Here's what I like about it:

    • It forces you to eat more vegetables. I've never been good about eating enough vegetables, even though I like a lot of them. I love fruit, so before this I was regularly eating 2 pieces of fruit a day and hardly any veggies. Well, that changed on this diet. I snacked on carrots. I ate more salads. I sauteed veggies with dinner all the time. I sliced avocadoes on all sorts of things. And that leads me to my next favorite part, breakfast. 

    • I came up with this kind of odd breakfast that I have eaten religiously for weeks, so I thought I would share it. It keeps me full until about 2 p.m.!

    Curry Chicken Breakfast

    1 chicken breast (I cook these in some water in the slow cooker on Sundays so they're ready to go)
    1/2 cup frozen peas
    1 Tablespoon ghee (olive oil works too)
    1/2 teaspoon garam masala
    1 teaspoon curry powder
    2 eggs
    Salt/pepper/hot sauce 

    Saute the chicken and peas in the ghee until they are warmed through. Stir in the curry powder and garam masala. Pour mixture into a bowl while you cook the eggs. I like my eggs over medium, but you can make them however you want. Put them on top of the chicken and peas and season how you like. It makes this kind of ugly but good-tasting breakfast where your only carbs come from peas and you get the anti-inflammatory benefits of spices like cinnamon and turmeric. 
    Just add eggs. I swear it's really good.

    • The cheat day keeps you in check during the week – you can always say no to something because you know you can have it later. 

    • Cauliflower rice! Especially the stuff that comes already crumbled in steam bags. I found that I really didn't mind either skipping rice or replacing it with this. Same with most crackers, cereal and bread. The carbs I missed are all sweet things – cookies, cupcakes, muffins, etc. 

    • Zoodles - Another fun way to get your veggies in. I bought a mini spiralizer and used it on some zucchini. 

    • I found some new recipes that are great replacements for weeknight dinners that my family also likes. Here are some of them:
    Shrimp & Sausage Skillet
    Easy Cashew Chicken
    Slow Carb Beef and Broccoli
    Slow Carb Bean Salad
    Buttered Cod in Skillet
    Chili is also a great staple

    What I didn't like:

    • The cheat day ends up messing with your mind in a different way. Basically you hit your lowest weight and then have to purposely mess it up by cheating. Then it takes a few days to get back to where you were before (presumably you gain some water weight with the cheat foods). It just feels like a little roller coaster a lot of the time. 

    • You can't have fruit or cheese. Or Greek yogurt. Or any whole grains. At some point it seems kind of crazy to eschew so many healthy foods. 

    • I felt low-energy enough for it to bother me. And I need every bit of energy I can muster for life with 2 small kids. I remember when I did the cleanses I felt such an energy surge. So I know a diet doesn't have to mean feeling tired all the time. 

     So yeah, it was a mixed bag for me. (Here's another great post from someone else who had a lot of the same feelings). But I did learn a lot in the process. I remembered that daily journaling helps me a lot.  I started reading labels and I was reminded of just how much sugar is in everything. And I think it was a wake-up call that for me, certain foods are a slippery slope towards bad habits. I just have to always be vigilant and have some kind of plan. We're all different, but that is my deal. 

    On the exercise front I am just trying to walk or run Max to daycare whenever I can. I think a FitBit would be helpful to keep reminding me to get in more steps. And I also really want to get a kettlebell.