Sunday, March 1, 2009

Healthy Living - Mmmm Food

I'm going to start off with, I'm no expert. I only know what's working for me. I'm just trying to use some common sense. Stuff I've cobbled together through years of failed diets. My thinking now is, a good diet is about making good choices, and practicing moderation in those choices. Look, there are no hard and fast rules. Luckily (and unfortunately), I like most food. So switching up my diet isn't too difficult. The problem is, I need the changes to stick. I need to change how I think about food. I could say, I need to change my relationship with food. What I've found so far that works for me, is gradual change, small steps.

The first part is about making good choices. Only eat real food. By that I mean, I try not to eat anything that's pre-made with something I don't know what it is. The toughest part in doing this is, it's more time consuming. Not just in the preparation of the food itself, but I also have to go shopping more often. Healthy food also costs more. Prepared foods are cheaper, in my opinion, because they are made with cheaper ingredients, and stuff that isn't really even food. That's why they aren't healthy to eat. If I need to buy something prepackaged, I read the ingredients. If there is anything artificial, or chemical in name, I move on. Soda is the worst offender to me. It's why I removed it, or as much as I can, from my diet. There is nothing in soda that I need. The reason I'm thirsty is I need water, so I'll drink water. Another offender is fast food. I have no control over what fast food is made of and therefore I prefer not to eat it. Of course, like the quitting of soda, this didn't happen all at once. For me, it's all about small changes, and choices.

I'll start, as I do every day, with breakfast. This was actually the easiest change. For years before I even started all this, I used to go to Jamba Juice and get a smoothie. Then when I decided to start my new life. I began to evaluate everything I eat. So, I started to notice that all their smoothies had either frozen yogurt or sorbet. That meant it all had a bunch of sugar in it. So I decided to make my own. It turns out, It's cheaper too. I buy a bag for frozen fruit, bananas, and OJ. This allows me to "eat" my breakfast on my way to work. People ask me all the time, does that fill you up? It doesn't have to. That's not the point. The question is, does it keep me from getting hungry, which it does. I'll get into this "getting full" verses "no longer hungry" later.

Let's move on to lunch. Lunch is a little tougher. This is the only thing that I switched out quickly. I stopped getting fast food and started making lunch and bringing it in. For me sandwiches are it. Turkey mostly, but PB&J too. One of the things that makes it tough, is most bread is full of crap, as is most peanut butter, and jelly too. For me, I just want the stuff I eat to be as basic as possible. That means bread with no high fructose corn syrup, or other stuff that isn't necessary to make bread. Eventually, I'll get a bread maker and then I have more control over what really goes into it. For now though I read the label and try to make sure that I get the healthiest I can. A great example of the "basic ingredients only" idea is peanut butter. What is needed to make peanut butter? Peanuts and a little salt. That's all. Most peanut butter though has sugar, as well as a bunch of other junk. All that crud isn't needed to actually make peanut butter. Why then use it? I think it's because people don't like to see the peanut oil floating on the top, as is seen in basic "peanuts only" peanut butter.

It's dinner time. The really good thing is, I love vegetables, fish, and chicken. I used to have steak or hamburger just about every night for dinner with boxed mashed potatoes. I mean what's easier then Hamburger Helper. That needed to change, and yeah, I could have switched it out to something more healthy quickly, but I want this to really stick. Bad habits are the hardest things to change. It may sound stupid but I started with pork. Pork loin and chicken actually, with rice instead of potatoes and vegetables. Pork was my way to transition from steak. I'll still have a steak, but just occasionally. I slowly moved from pork to fish, and away from white rice to brown, to not having any rice. It's not that rice is bad, I just don't think there's anything in rice that I need. Now most nights I have a piece of fish with vegetables. That's it.

Choosing good food helps, but I needed to learn some moderation too. The basic concept is easy, I eat when I'm hungry. Food is not the enemy. I'm not hungry because there's something wrong with me. I'm hungry, because my body wants food. I'm not talking cravings here. I'm talking about actually being hungry, and I needed to learn the difference. When I eat too, I eat until I'm full or at the very least satisfied. Like with my smoothie breakfast. I just don't eat until I'm stuffed. I don't want the opposite either. I don't want to sit down to a meal and still be hungry after, that doesn't work either. I'm not talking about food portioning either. I'm not going to measure things out, because that's just too cumbersome. I'm still working on this, as it's taken years to program myself to eat until I'm full. My old thinking was, I'm only going to have 3 meals for the day. It's going to be hours until I'm able to eat again. So I had to make sure that I wasn't going to be hungry until then. Then over the years the line has moved from just full to stuffed. Now I have to move that line back, and get rid of the idea that their should only be 3 meals in a day. I can't be afraid of leftovers. Just because it's on my plate, doesn't mean I have to eat it. I'm working on something new to help me do this. Eat half of whatever I've made. Stop and sit for 10 min. to let that part of the meal process. Ask myself if I'm still hungry. If no, stop. If I get hungry again in an hour or two I can always come back to it. If the answer is yes, eat half of what's left. Sit again for 10 min., and ask the same question. This is very tough. Sometimes I think food is too good, it's like a drug and hard to stop. I'm not programed to stop, and it's has become a habit. It doesn't help that I love food. I mean, I really love food. I get lost in the meal sometimes. It tastes too good to stop eating it. You could say, I'm a food addict. The problem is, unlike other addicts, I can't quit food. I have to eat. That was a real revelation. I just have learn to eat less, and make better choices in what I decide to eat.

This is all a work in progress. I still have work to do. I know that I'll have friends or family read this and say, "Hey, I saw you eating this or that". All I have to say to that is, there are no absolutes. I've found that if I don't treat myself from time to time, that I'll quit altogether, or at minimum I'll gorge on something that I really shouldn't have. Like sit down and eat a quart of ice cream or a bag of candy. If though, when I have a craving for something, I allow myself to indulge just a little, it will keep me from going overboard later. So instead of eating an entire box of cookies, if I just allow myself to have two, and I'll be satisfied. The best part though is, this is a life style change. If for a day, or for a meal, I decide that it's OK for me to eat something very indulgent. It's not the end. I don't beat myself up and think all is lost. Like I said, food isn't the enemy. It's over indulgence, and poor choices that are the true enemy.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Healthy Living - It's Gotta Start Somewhere

Working on getting healthy has become the main focus of my life. I didn't realized it until the other day when talking to a friend of mine. We went to lunch, and I haven't talked to her in a while. My focus on getting healthy comes with advantages and downfalls. One of the downfalls is this is all I had to talk about. When thinking about creating this post, and staring to actually get it down, I've realized that it's going to take me more then just one post to get all my thoughts down. So I'm going to start from the beginning and then go through it the best I can. I need to go through my motivations. Just typing this opening paragraph, my head is swimming with different ideas on where I should start. I guess, I have to start with how personal this issue is to me. Saying that, it being a personal thing, you have to understand one other thing first. I am a rather introverted person. I didn't realize this term described me so well, until I talked to another old friend last week. She picked up on it and threw the term at me and it sparked the light in my head. I sort of already knew this, but this is really the first time someone really slapped me with it, and I was open to hearing it. So writing this, and actually put this out to the public, makes it a little cathartic too. Ok, let's get out of this pool of ideas that I'm swimming in, and start this post.

I've been overweight most of my life. There was a period, albeit short lived, back at the end of high school where this changed. I was by no way thin, but I was in pretty good shape. This was the only time in my life when this was true. I had a good group of friends, but always felt like the odd man out. I don't know what that is. I felt good about myself (not great, but good). I still had underlining issues, where I felt not good enough. This is an issue that still haunts me today. Part of my problem is, I seem to make causal friends fairly easy. Now I have to explain, my idea of a good friend I think is a bit different then other people's idea. I'm the kind of person that will drop just about anything for a friend, personal comfort be damned. This is how I've lived most of my life, and has affected the way I relate to my friends. This may be why also I may get the "odd man out" feelings. There have been times throughout my life where I've needed a friend and have felt left out. Now, I know (or at least feel I should know) that I'm setting them up for failure. Just because these friends don't react the way I think they should doesn't reflect on me. There's part of me that just can't get over the feeling that it's because they really don't think of me more then just a casual friend. I know I'm just being a needy person and that can be part of the problem too. That's an issue for another time. Something that I am tackling, just not something that I'm focusing on now. My focus now is this issue with my weight. My personal view of myself is part of my self-esteem issues, and something that I believe I must tackle first, before I can go after these other issues.

In the summer of 2007, I was just waiting for life to come to me. I've been single for many years, and not really doing much about it. As I look back at it, I was really spiraling down. My weight was getting really out of control. This was crushing my self-esteem more and more. Though I really didn't show it much to people around me, I was really getting rather depressed because of it. Until something just snapped. I have to do something to change. This just isn't working for me. I'm pretending to be happy and really I'm not. I had to look at my life and figure out what it is that's bringing me down, and keeping my self-esteem low. There are quite a few, but what is something that I could really do right now. Something that I feel would be the best first step for me. Yes, it's only one part of my overall self-esteem issue, but something I could really work on now, and it was a place I could start. I am way overweight. I am a fat guy. The sad part was, I was starting to just accept it, and that needed to change.

I've tried many different approaches to fix it in the past. All were just loose it fast kind of things. They were just diets, and diets don't work for me. I did make a good go at it about 8 years ago, but quit because I let work get in the way. This just made things worse. For those whom may be reading this, that don't know what it really is to deal with an issue like this, I'll explain. Yeah, it's easy to get started, but if you don't do what's right for you, you quit, and it just makes things worse. You end up gaining more, and quicker then you were gaining before. This also makes the issue seem seem futile. So this was going to take a different approach. I decided that I'm not going to try to do everything at once. I'm going to make a small change here and there. I've heard people using this approach for other problems. The theory is this; when you look at the enormity of an issue, it can overwhelm you, and make the problem seem really too big to take on and get done. Believe me, my issue with my weight was a big issue. I started out to attack this issue at 340lbs. I was doing a lot of things wrong to keep me here and make it worse. It was time to at the very least stop the bleeding.

I knew I had to start giving some things up. The first thing for me was soda. Now, I just didn't go cold turkey. It may sound dumb, but this is what worked for me. I first gave up caffeine. I used to drink at least 6 - 8 cans of Mt. Dew a day. If I wasn't drinking Mt. Dew, I was drinking Coke. I didn't have an issue with the caffeine itself. I could drink a pot of coffee and go to bed and sleep no problem. So, to start off with I stopped drinking sodas that had caffeine. Once I got used to this, it was time to go after soda itself. So for lunch I'd drink lemonade instead of getting a soda here and there. It was my way to wean myself off soda. Then, I stopped soda altogether. I would only drink lemonade with lunch, and a glass of milk with dinner. Then it was time to kill lemonade. I keep a bottle of water with me in my truck and I only drink water now. Don't get me wrong, nothing is absolute. I can't deprive myself of something completely. It just makes me want it more. It's a delicate balance. I still will have an occasional soda. Like when I'm at the movies, I have to have popcorn and a soda. It's just part of the experience. To deny myself of just this one simple pleasure, would make me want more of the other stuff. Today the soda battle is won for me. I couldn't have done it all at once. I couldn't just say, "I'm only going to drink water from here on out". It just wouldn't work. It's too much of a big step. People still give me a little look when I go to lunch with them, as I'll just get water. It's kind of like going to the bar with someone and just order a soda. They look at me like, "What are you doing? Why are you here? You have to at least have a beer." That's part of the battle for me too.

I'm a strange person. I'm a fat guy, and I don't like people seeing me as such. On the same note, the same things I have to do to correct this issue, bother me because I still have the underlining need to fit in. I want to order that soda/beer when at lunch or dinner with friends, because I don't want to be different. I don't want others to feel uncomfortable. I don't want people to think I'm judging them. It's so prevalent in our society now. Something, I've never done, and am really happy I have never started, was smoke (you can see an earlier post on that). As soon as those same smokers stop, they start judging those that still do. I don't want people to think I'm trying to push my beliefs on them, as I don't want others to do the same to me. As this isn't my goal. It's something I'm doing for me, not something I'm trying to tell them to do.

Well this is just the beginning. I still have a long way to go. It took me a while to drop the first 60lbs, and just not drinking soda isn't the only way I've gotten here. I'm just trying to work on it 5lbs at a time. I have an ultimate goal, but that's not my focus. I think that's the point I was making earlier. I've been doing other things too. I still want to go through what I did to get myself working out, and other eating habits and changes I've made. I still also want to get to future issues I need to work on. That's what this entire series of posts are going to be about. What I've been doing to try to get to a healthy life for myself. I figured I had to give a little history to my motivations, so I can get to where I am now and where I want to be. The pitfalls I've tried to work on avoiding and some of the successes.