Tuesday, February 26, 2013

How I Eat, part 3.

This post is going to use the “D” word—run for cover. Discipline. I read a book decades ago called Discipline: The Joy-filled Life, and I found it to be true. It is not drudgery, but a way of life that accomplishes goals, makes healthy choices, and is not prone to out-of-control frenzies or despair. So how am I disciplined about eating? This might take several posts actually…

I never create food habits. As soon as I see a pattern with food that I might be dependent on, I break it. I don’t have to have certain things every day at a certain time. I am in charge, not the food.

I never carry food around with me, except bag lunches, which I do a lot and don’t eat until it really is lunchtime. No candy bars in my purse. No regular stops for lattes or fast food.

At home food stays in the kitchen or pantry. No stashes of food here and there, so that there is something to munch on in every room. One exception: the candy dish in the living room, which never has chocolate in it, and from which I can have one piece a day—but not if it’s becoming a food habit.

I don’t nibble while I cook, unless it is raw vegetables or fruit. I don’t eat cookie dough unless it is in ice cream. The only food I sample while cooking is gravy, because I find that impossible to make without a taste test. I admit I might lick the beaters when I have whipped cream…

I rarely take second servings, with salad and plain vegetables as the exception. I keep my meat portions small and gravitate toward whole grains and fruits and vegetables to fill up on.

If I do overeat till I am too full, I don’t eat again until my stomach is empty. That means growling. Sometimes that will be late into the next day. Then I just eat a normal meal.

I don’t reward myself with a snack if I exercise. In fact, I rarely reward myself with food for anything. My life is too full of other things to celebrate with food to add rewards of any kind.

If I am eating out and the restaurant portions are large, I divide everything on my plate in two, ask for a doggy bag, and take half home. If it is really good, it sometimes helps to get the doggy bag right away, so the food is packed up before I whittle it down. Then I enjoy what I have in the restaurant and anticipate enjoying it again the next day.

I never completely eliminate something I like to eat. It’s all about portion control. If I had an eating motto it would be: “Moderation in all things.” So when I dish up, I take some of everything, but there should still be space between each item on my plate. It should look ample, not loaded.

I realize that there are other people around me who can eat more than I can and get away with it. I don’t dwell on that. Learning what is right for me to eat—what, how much, and how often—is an important key to how I eat now.

Monday, February 25, 2013

How I Eat, part 2.

This post is going to be about why I eat how I eat, and for me this was a huge part of being able to manage and control my weight. There are lots of reasons to eat, staying alive being the most obvious, but often not foremost in our minds when we fill our plates. It is important to ask ourselves why we are eating, because when we discover the answer, we may find that our motivations to eat might be best served by doing something other than eating. Let me illustrate.

It is winter. I am prone to SAD (seasonal affective depression) moods. I wander into the kitchen to fix a snack. I am not hungry, but I need some comfort. This is why I am about to eat. But wait! What if I found that a little classical music (or better yet, CCR's "Traveling' Band") would do an even better job? "Travelin' Band" would even get me dancing, and therefore, burning some calories. The need is met. Food is not eaten.

I finished a quilting project and my knitting project and have not started a new one. I have also finished my book and have not been to the library. I want to start a decorating project, but don't have the funds/materials/motivation to get it going. I wander into the kitchen and peek in the fridge. I am about to eat because I am bored. But wait! Remember all those photographs you wanted to scan and put in a facebook album? That doesn't need money and the materials are on hand. Get busy. The need is met. Food is not eaten.

I'm at a party. I don't know a lot of people. I am shy. I go to the food table and am about to fill my plate up again. But wait! I am about to eat because I am nervous and uncomfortable. I look around the room and find someone who looks more nervous than I am. Time to practice overcoming shyness. I leave the food table, take a deep breath, and say, "Hi. There sure a lot of people here I've never seen before. My name is..." A challenge is met and brought down to a smaller size. I chose to grow in confidence, and the food table is abandoned.

I just finished an unfortunate phone conversation. It riled me up. Now what am I going to do? I snap open the fridge and start foraging. I am about to eat because I am mad. I grab the whole bunch of celery and masticate angrily to my heart's content. The need is met. A brisk walk might have been better, but no damage was done.

There's a pile of food on my plate. I am full but not finished. I pick up the fork and I am about to eat because I learned a bad habit. But wait! I put down the fork and remind myself that I am full. I save what I am comfortable with saving on my plate and remind myself that overeating is a worse habit than cleaning my plate. The challenge is met. Food is not finished.

My favorite dessert is sitting there making my mouth water. I just had a piece. There's still more. My body is telling me that my hunger is satisfied, but my love of good food keeps reminding me that it is still there. I am about to have a second helping. But wait! I remind myself that I get this dessert every now and then. Maybe I am the one who makes it. It will be back again another day. Maybe even as soon as tomorrow. More is not always better. Save it for another day and anticipate enjoying it. The second helping is reconsidered. The need is delayed. No damage done.

Last example, and this is the hardest. Sometimes there are deep emotional wounds that we have suffered in life. They will never be completely healed, because that healing may depend on other people's willingness to acknowledge hurting you and asking forgiveness. Maybe they can't, won't, or aren't even alive to do it. We eat to try and heal our past. It doesn't work. If this is us, we need professional help. Eating because of poor emotional health will only multiply the problems. It takes courage to face emotional wounds, and we must be willing to go through some emotional pain to realize some peace for that area of our lives. It may not heal completely, but we can reduce the gaping wound to a closed wound with a scar. I looked my emotional pain in the face. I don't need food to make myself feel valuable or lovable. It was hard. I don't use food as medicine for pain any more.

Oh, and by the way, one reason why I eat is because I'm hungry.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

How I Eat, part 1.

I am in my 60th year, weigh 137 pounds, am 5 feet 6-1/2 inches tall, and have not had a weight control problem in years. A good friend looked at me one day and said to the person next to her, "She's been that way for as long as I've known her." (35 years) She sounded somewhere between exasperated, resentful, and mystified. It occurred to me that I might share just exactly what I do to stay this way, and a lot of that has to do with how I treat food. This post is going to cover mostly how I don't eat any more.

I grew up in a family that had a bounteous spread on the table every meal. We were taught several things about eating. First, you must not waste food. Second, you must eat everything on your plate. Third, you must never complain about food. These rules are not bad if put in the right context. However, they can be deadly to your weight if taken the way I was taught.

You must not waste food. Generally we did not throw out food that was still edible. It returned as leftovers or as an ingredient in a new dish. However, if there as just a dab of something left, the question was, "Who is going to finish that off?" It was practically criminal to put a tiny bit of leftovers into the fridge for another time. Finishing things off is a dangerous habit to get into, since those little dabs, if eaten dutifully to avoid wasting the food, add up to a substantial amount of calories. The only food these days that I finish off is salad or plain vegetables, and even then, they often go into a plastic tub and are enjoyed the  next day in my lunch.

You must eat everything on your plate. If you do the dishing up on your own plate, then taking only the amount you should eat is best. However, as a kid, our plates were often loaded by a parent who decided how much was the right amount to eat. Kids' appetites change drastically depending on whether or not they are having a growth spurt. By being forced to eat everything on my plate, I was taught to overeat, to eat till it hurt, and that leaving things on my plate was a cardinal sin. I don't recall the line, "People are starving in China" used on me, but that logic never seemed to make sense, as if my eating something in America could do anything to help people in China. That line basically feeds into the idea of ingratitude, which is part of the next rule.

You must never complain about food. I don't. Food, especially ample amounts of high quality, is not something to complain about. Portion size is a different matter. So is pickiness. I am not a picky eater--I can eat whatever is served because I was not allowed to complain. But I did need to learn to recognize that it is OK to state preferences, and that is not the same thing as complaining. Being able to state preferences allows you to customize your food to your maximum pleasure. If you can do it without putting anybody to much trouble, you may do a better job of eating sensibly. For example, if someone is serving up grilled hotdogs, can you ask if you can have your hotdog without a bun? When I was growing up, that simple request was not allowed, so I had to eat the bun, even though it was nutrition-less, spongy white bread that only served as a holder for the real food.

Enough for this post. Eating is complicated, and how I eat has changed a lot over the years. I hope this and future posts are helpful to someone.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

How Learning to Knit Has Changed My Life

I learned to knit a few years ago. Actually it was about the fourth time I learned to knit, but I forgot how the first three times. Now I can cast on without help, fix mistakes, follow simple patterns, and actually produce knitted items. It has changed me in several ways.

I knit mostly baby blankets and am fairly determined to always have a baby blanket in progress. With three  married children just beginning families, I would like each grandchild to have a hand-knit blanket from me. Let's hope my production keeps pace with my children's production! In any case, I am sure to attend baby showers for other friends and will have no lack of infants to bestow them on.

Knitting has taught me a new kind of patience. I make mistakes, some of which must be fixed. Others are too small to bother unraveling several inches to make it perfect. Those mistakes teach me to forgive myself. I don't have to get it all right all the time.

Knitting has taught me perseverance. Forty-six inches of blanket means about four months of steady work. They take determination and scheduled hours to produce.

Knitting has taught me that you get what you pay for. Cheap yarn shows. Quality yarn is easier to work with, doesn't unwind when you have to fix mistakes, and just looks better. I make fewer mistakes with better materials.

Knitting has shown me my limitations. Some people can knit without looking. I can't. Well, I can, but the results are usually regrettable. So that means I can't.

Knitting gives me time to think. We need moments of quiet when our minds can slow down and retreat from the hectic daily grind. It is always a welcome moment when I can pull my knitting bag out and settle into a time of thoughtfulness.

Some things are enormous, life-changing events from which we emerge altered for better or worse. We know when life has been chiseling at our shortcomings. Other things work quietly to polish us and make us glow. Knitting has been in the latter category for me--nothing earth-shaking, just a slow, steady change in my  life.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Breaking Records

I am thinking of two ways that records are broken. The first is to outdo someone who has already outdone themselves. Just when it seems that a record is unbreakable, someone finds a way to top it.

The second way often involves pain. You've been hurt. Now there is a broken record in your head, playing the pain over and over again. How to escape? Sometimes the only way is through the mercy of God's healing.

I'm done. Change the record.

Sunday, February 10, 2013


I've probably had close to a thousand of them in my lifetime. Sometimes there is just one, and sometimes there are several. I have two right now and when I look in the mirror that is all I see. I am so conscious of them that I assume that is all anyone else sees. I feel Ugly. Diseased. Untouchable. They are cold sores.

I began getting them in grade school. Just look at the yearly pictures. There they are! Medications for them were few and ineffective. I had continual chapped lips from touching them with my tongue, hoping to dry them up quickly. In high school mean kids would tease me about them. I heard the words "venereal disease" whispered behind my back. With snickers.

I've heard that chocolate and nuts lower lysine in your body which makes you more susceptible. Maybe. Maybe not. I've tried taking lysine, lysine-rich foods, avoiding nuts and chocolate. (What kind of a life is that?) When I feel the tingle of one starting I get out Abreve, which is supposed to clear them up faster. Maybe.

Lately I've been getting them inside my nose. No one knows I have them, but they are much more painful and slow to clear up.

I don't know which stage is worse. The tingling feeling isn't painful, but my spirit sags when I know that for a week or two I will feel unpresentable, disfigured, a disease suspect. (Keep your distance!) The scabby stage is ugly, and when they crack and bleed, the stinging is intense.

It seems that some people never get them. It seems to me that MOST people never get them. It seems to me that it is because I am taking on the share of cold sores for dozens of people, so they don't have to suffer. I doubt that any of them appreciate what I am doing for them. I am losing perspective...

I am plagued.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Half Done

You need to take a shower but the water is not warm and you know it is not going to get any warmer, but only colder by the moment.

You have to dash outside for something but it's cold and raining and the wind is blowing and you don't have an umbrella or a hat.

The clock says it's time to get up, but the bed is warm and the room is cold, and you begin figuring how long you can delay before throwing back the covers to begin a day that will be non-stop until late evening.

You haven't been in a while and the phone number is in front of you, but still you think about that dentist chair and those whining tools coming near your person.

The job needs to get done and there's nothing you enjoy about it, but there's only you to do it and few reasons not to begin.

We see what all these things have in common. That nagging voice in your head that says, "Just do it. Get it over with." Still we hesitate.

Old adages are old because they've been around for a while. But they are old adages because they are bits of wisdom that stay true in all times and seasons and circumstances. They are enduring. I don't know if "Just do it" will make it to the "old adage" status--it's still a new kid that needs growing up. But it has an older sister that has been around. She speaks to me often when I'm faced with things like the above. So I listen to her, take a deep breath, and plunge in, because it really is true: "Once begun, half done."