Content warning: Talk about struggles with disordered thinking about food and weight
Earlier this spring, I blogged at length about my life-long struggles with weight and body image. At the time, I had been rapidly losing weight for a variety of reasons:
- Changing antidepressants
- The crippling depression and anxiety that followed a divorce and move across the country to a place where I knew absolutely no one
- Becoming more active and trying to eat better
Between May 2014 and March 2015, I had lost (at my most) 50 pounds.
And, although my rapid weight loss has stabilized, I’ve managed to solidly stay down 40 pounds over the past year.
According to the BMI, which many people hold as a whole lot of bullshit because it alone can’t tell me how healthy I am, I should still lose 30 pounds to put me squarely into the “ideal weight” category. When I was that weight while I was in grad school, my professors, coworkers and classmates were concerned about my health, if that says anything.
I was a little disappointed that my medication didn’t keep easily shedding those pounds for me, but I think my body has kind of reached the point of stasis. Ideally, I would like to lose 10-20 more pounds, but I’m pretty proud of my progress and the fact that I have kept it off.
So. Now that my body has decided that I need to do some work to keep it this weight, what have I done?
I’ve started cooking.
No small feat, considering I’m 30 damn years old and have never really done such a thing in my life (except baking when I was a kid…)
And especially because my “kitchen” in my studio apartment is a glorified Fisher Price Playset:
How ironic that the time I actually decide to start cooking is when I have the Saddest Kitchen Ever.
But I’m making it work.
I’ve never been much of a meat eater. I prefer poultry and occasionally fish, and rarely have any sort of beef. I have a hamburger maybe once a year. And I really hate handling and cooking raw meat. So these factors made me decide that I would become mainly pescatarian. I haven’t set any strict rules, but the general guidelines are as follows:
- I don’t buy meat to cook at home except fish (frozen salmon fillets that I can get super cheap from my fav, Aldi) and tuna fish.
- I eat a mainly plant-based diet, trying to find recipes with good sources of protein. (I’m hypoglycemic so I need to have a high-protein diet so I don’t dissolve into an emotional and shaky puddle of tears and unfunctionality.)
- If I’m eating out/with a friend, I’ll order whatever I want. It generally involves chicken.
So that works out to what I’d roughly estimate to be an 80%/20% plant/meat based diet. But I don’t ever sweat it.
This mostly plant-based diet doesn’t come from any specific place. While I adore animals and literally plugged my ears and closed my eyes for what must have been five whole minutes over Christmas break watching TV with my family while an ASPCA commercial played and I loudly intoned the Sarah McLachlan song “Angel” because I can’t stand seeing suffering animals, I still eat meat. I just kind of live in a self-imposed ignorance about just how awful the practices can be. If I buy it now, I try to buy from the most ethically sourced vendors if at all possible.
The production of meat is also really taxing on natural resources, and, in an attempt to be more earth-conscious I’ve been implementing a mainly plant-based diet.
I also don’t deny myself things I really want, like a half (or…more…) of a pint of ice cream every once in a while or Taco Bell. Food makes me happy and I don’t want joy to be completely sucked from my life.
I was reading an article recently and I discovered that I unwittingly adopted the philosophy of eating “Healthy-Ish” that Michael Pollan outlined in his book “In Defense of Food”. Mind you, I haven’t read the book. Just this article, but his “manifesto” is great. “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” And his concept of “healthy-ish” eating is “delicious, comforting home cooking that just happens to be kinda good for you.” Now that is something that I can get down with. And have been doing so lately.
I mentioned some of my favorite recipes in my last blog entry, but they’re worth repeating.
My biggest obsession lately is this amazing dish: Black Bean and Sweet Potato Quinoa Bowls with a Yogurt Lime Cilantro Drizzle.
And it even stores and reheats well! It’s quite an involved ordeal that involves me putting a large cutting board over my one-and-only sink in my bathroom so I can plug in my rice cooker to make the quinoa, and remembering to not turn on both my toaster oven and my hot plate at once, lest I throw a fuse. (True story. I can’t use my space heater and microwave at the same time, either.) But it’s so worth it, even if I can only get up the energy to make it once a month or so.
I’m also obsessed with my variation on this recipe for Soba Noodles with Broccoli and Edamame in a Creamy Peanut Sauce.
I have a HUGE sweet tooth, and I discovered Chocolate Covered Katie, my new patron saint.
I had sampled a few versions of black bean brownies in the past with varying levels of tastiness, and I was curious to make some myself. I googled “best black bean brownie” recipe and this was the first hit. And dude, Katie did not disappoint! I have made these brownies for dozens of friends and coworkers and they are obsessed. If you weren’t in on the secret ingredient, you’d probably never know. (Of course, it’s not always wise to advertise brownies with a “secret ingredient…”)
I’ve also turned my parents on to her amazing Ironman Bran Muffins, which are the most delicious and moist things ever, contrary to what one would normally think about anything with “bran muffin” in the title.
But seriously. Anything on the Chocolate Covered Katie website is amazing. I haven’t been disappointed once. And she also has a book out, which has a lot of recipes not found on her blog.
Smitten Kitchen’s “Thick, Chewy Granola Bars” are another HUGE hit with a great range of customization and variation. (My coworkers began to yell at me for bringing in these “crack bars.”)
For Christmas, I got the book “Thug Kitchen 101: Fast as F*ck” from my sister, and I’m super excited to try it out. It’s all fast plant based recipes, written in the most delightful colorful language, “without all that preachy bullshit.”
I also just bought “Power Hungry: The Ultimate Energy Bar Cookbook” by Camilla V. Saulsbury and I’ve tried one recipe from it already, for Cherry-Flax Protein “Pucks” (they’re basically dense, short muffins) that I really enjoyed. They also have recipes for make-your-own versions of a lot of famous store-bought energy bars. It’s written by a woman who has her PHD in sociology focusing in food studies, health and medicine. I’m excited to try more!
I’ve also been really into making my own yogurt lately. In a crock-pot. Yup, you read that right. While it takes a lot of time, most of it isn’t hands-on, and you can make a TON of Greek Yogurt for a lot cheaper than you can buy it in the store. Find out how to do it here and if you want to strain it to make it Greek, the easiest way by far is to get yourself a Nut Milk Bag. I stir in a spoonful of preserves, and I’ve got myself a tasty snack or side to a meal.
One of my very favorite easy-to-throw-together lunches these days is straight-up kale with feta cheese and one of those pouches of seasoned tuna thrown on top. High in protein, low in calories. And Chet gets excited.
Now that I had some semblance of a handle on my diet, it was time to add the Thing I Have Never Really Done In My Life:
Yeah. My doctors have been telling me for years that exercise will help my depression, but the problem with depression is it makes you NOT WANT TO DO ANYTHING. It’s a vicious cycle, very ouroboros-esque.
I started off being More Active Than I Have Ever Been by simply having to park half a mile from work and walking. Yeah, walking. What a novelty. But still, that was a brisk 10-15 minute walk to and from work five days a week. I got a Fitbit to keep myself honest (though right now it’s not charging and I’m super pissed…) and tried my hardest to hit my 10,000 steps a day, but was generally proud enough of my 8,500 average to start.
There’s free yoga offered one evening a week after work in my building, so I began attending that when I could. My balance and flexibility sucks, but it was good to get me moving and stretching. Even if the 50-something women all showed me up every week.
Then, a couple days a week my coworkers and I all take a walk over lunch. They’re some of the speediest walkers I’ve ever met, so it’s no leisurely stroll. I always end thoroughly winded, and extremely impressed with the often 2-3 miles we cover over 45 minutes.
This fall, we had a guest performer in residence who also happened to be a Zumba instructor. While I was scared shitless to do such a thing (chorography and I don’t do so well together…) I was pleasantly surprised to find that I loved it! So while she was in town, she held classes over our lunch break twice a week. It was more cardio than I have ever done in my life, but I was so proud of my progress over those two months.
One of my coworkers is a Jazzercise instructor (dude, it’s not what you think it is any more…it kicked my ass more than Zumba ever did!) and she holds classes when we’re able to, as well. It’s been a few weeks, though, and I know that I’ve already regressed a lot over break.
And my man-friend loves playing racquetball. I had no idea what that was, but I was willing to give it a try. I’m still quite dreadful at it, but thankfully, he’s patient, and I’m finding it quite fun. And my dad is thrilled that I’m trying my hand at a sport, because I have been vehemently anti-anything-with-a-ball-or-puck-or-related-to-sports my whole life.
So basically, I’m doin’ it. I’m getting off my ass.
I still haven’t found these magical addictive exercise endorphins people talk about, but I’m on my way.
The Psychological Side Of Things.
Since I do have a past of self-loathing and feelings of inadequacy and an unhealthy mindset about food and weight, I have to walk a delicate balance in my journey to fitness and weight loss.
I find it pretty easy to lose control of my portions and junk food intake, especially when I’m stressed or depressed . So I’ve used my calorie logging app on and off for 5+ years. When I stop logging, I tend to backslide in my smart choices.
But I also find it pretty easy to beat myself up when I log my calories. When I have that extra handful of yogurt covered raisins or way too much ice cream and end up going over by 29 calories or 302…
I get frustrated when I see that I’m only supposed to eat 1,500 calories a day and I’m consistently under and I still don’t see any sort of results on the scale. It makes me wonder why I should even bother. If feeling hungry and unhappy is all it gets me, I’d rather be a little larger and happy and eat that damn Brownie Fudge ice cream. I’m genetically predisposed to having a shitty metabolism, and that’s discouraging AF.
I just started logging again this week. And I’m feeling that familiar struggle.
I’m deciding to take a more lax approach to it, like I am with my “Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much.” diet. Do well, but don’t sweat it. Sometimes I’ve gotta treat myself. I’ll log my calories just to keep myself accountable, but try not to fixate on the number. Sure, I may eat half of my daily calories in sweets one day, but as long as it’s not every day, I’m not gonna beat myself up about it.
Be happy. Make good choices. Move your body. Do your best. But don’t beat yourself up.
I guess that sounds like a pretty good mantra for me right now.