Tuesday, March 29, 2011

There's No Stopping Now!

This past week was definitely one of the highlights of 2011 for me. Finally, after weeks of organizing and a wee bit of stressing about getting things done, the big day was upon us. No, I didn't get hitched, but I did get to be part of a fantastic celebration of local food on PEI. Myself and a gang of other people here on PEI that are passionate about local food hosted an event called A Local MEAL. It was intended to be a celebratory event where 'food folk' shared stories, attendees mingled and everyone enjoyed a delicious, free sample of local foods. I blogged about it on our website, check it out here. It was such a success (we had standing room only and estimates of over 200 people in attendance!) and the energy was so positive, that I feel I can't stop now! The good news - there are endless opportunities to get involved in local food development here on PEI. The not-so-good news - I still have a day job!

Today marked Day 15 of my 'sugar reduction' plan. I've stayed true to my plan not to eat sugar before 8 pm and continue to find this quite easy to do. I've taken a couple of desserts 'to go' (both were apple crisps), but generally my after-eight treat is less indulgent. My second weigh-in was on Sunday and I was not that surprised to see my weight hadn't changed since the previous week. The week had been filled with events including A Local MEAL, a girls' night, and an afternoon pub meal that I'd not anticipated. I managed to avoid sugar until after 8 in all cases, but had other foods in excess that I shouldn't have. I paid for it on Saturday night after my pub meal - I shared a mediterranean chicken wrap with Luke and we shared the serving of sweet potato fries. I felt nauseous for the next 4 hours. In any case, I'm not going to worry about the lack of weight loss this past week, it was an adrenaline-filled, stressful and celebratory week.

I decided that this week I needed to up the ante on my road towards sugar elimination. This week I tasked myself with choosing one day on which I'd completely avoid refined sugars/chocolate. So the only sugars I could consume would be from fruit or other natural sources. I chose to conquer this challenge today. It's 11.12 pm and I've resisted sugar! Yay me!

In case you're wondering what I'm eating, here's a run down of what I had today:

Breakfast: 2 boiled eggs with spinach & tomato
Lunch: 4 oz of chicken breast and garden salad with no dressing or low-cal dressing
Snack: Green apple
Dinner: 3 egg omelete with 2 slices of bacon, sauteed veggies and a garden salad
Snack: Whole-wheat tortilla w/Tbps of natural PB and 1/2 a banana

Yesterday, this is what I had:

Breakfast 2 boiled eggs
Lunch: 4 oz chicken breast with salad
Snack:1.5 cups of grapes
Dinner: 1.5 sausage (low-fat Island Taylored) and salad
Snack: Hot chocolate with marshmallows + a peanut butter ball (unexpected, Luke put this under my nose!)

I'm feeling pretty fantastic about the way I've been eating lately. I know it's not 100%, but I'm ok with that for now. I've lost 20 lbs since I got home in June, the vast majority since September and I've been kicking up my strength training lately so am starting to feel like I'm getting back into shape. So, again, it seems there's no stopping me now!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Guiness, the Canada Food Guide, Making an Eggs-ample & the Lamb Man

To celebrate St Patrick's Day is to rejoice in two of life's greatest gifts: the Irish accent and Guiness beer. Jen and I left work a smidgen early yesterday, desperately hoping the fifteen minute cushion would mean being able to land a table for ourselves and the gang that would be joining. Jen, lover of all things sunny and warm, even went so far as to wonder if the Olde Triangle would have its outdoor deck open (for the record, the lower deck was looking pretty inviting, but the upper tier was still smothered in the s-word). Turns out that a lot of Islanders spend St. Pat's Day at the bar, drinking and listening to fiddle music. We squeezed our way through throngs of baby-boomers and cougars (PEI demographics still befuddle me by times) and went upstairs, where we beelined it to the bar. Confession #1 - I ordered a pint of Guiness. And I liked it a lot. More friends joined and Luke took it upon himself to land us a table. Eventually he snagged a two-seater and six of us huddled around it, while Luke gave the poor waitress an order of greasy greasiness with a side of grease. Confession #2 - I love sweet potato fries...even the ones at the OT, which are only moderately tasty. So I ate some. Confession #3 - I washed it down with a cider. To be fair, by this time I believe it was after 8.00 so the sugary content was OK. One more Guiness and then I called it a night. I rarely drink these days, so with three pints I was feeling quite Irish. In fact, I felt so Irish I started speaking with an Irish accent. It was a Dublin accent, but when some gents at the bar asked where I was from I told them Belfast.

So that was Day 4 of my sugar reduction. Yes, I did indulge in beer and some greasy food, but kept to my rule of only consuming sugar after 8. I didn't feel fabulous this morning, but I didn't feel terrible either. I can't say the same for Luke, who declared an all-time high hangover factor. Do I feel bad about indulging in alcohol and sweet potato fries. Not a bit. If these were things I regularly ate and I was struggling to eliminate because of an addiction/strong habit towards eating them, then I'd probably want to kick myself, but that's not the case. I simply don't eat greasy foods very often and alcohol has become a very occasional indulgence.

At lunch the following day I joined a co-worker who'd asked me if I'd attend a free nutrition class being held on campus. I agreed, even though I kind of figured I already knew most of what they'd be communicating. It turned out the workshop was being held by 5 nutrition students. I"d accidentally missed yesterdays' class, which was all about the Canada Food Guide. In retrospect I'm glad I missed it, as I'm quite certain I'd not have been able to keep my lips zipped. Today, the focus was on label reading and how to fit healthy eating into a busy life. Well, it turns out I should have skipped the classes, because, as anyone who knows me well knows, I am not good at biting my tongue. I'd rather flap it. The first part of the lesson was about how to fit healthy eating into a busy schedule. At each of the tables in the room, there was a different sample lunch in the middle. We were asked to discuss what was good and what could be better about our sample lunch, which was: a juice pack with 100% apple juice, a small can of mixed fruit (Danone), a tiny tub of yogurt with fake fruit, and a slice of pizza with pepperoni and hamburger. When the nutrition student asked us about the juice, I said that an apple would be better. But she wanted to point out that since it was 100% juice it was better than Sunny D, which has no natural juice. And then she pointed to the can of fruit and asked us what we thought of that. The lady beside me declared that it shouldn't be too bad, since it was Danone. She read the label and found 'sugar' in the ingredients list. The nutrition student tried to prod us to explain what was wrong with it by asking 'well, what is it in?' and I said 'A can. Fruit shouldn't come in a can." Apparently that was the wrong answer (it was in 'syrup'). And I did ask a few questions about labeling. Oh my, I am sorry nutrition students! I just couldn't help myself.

This past week there was a crackdown on free-range egg producers here in PEI. An older couple who own a B&B in Tyne Valley were told they had to stop using their own chicken's eggs when preparing food for their customers, since the eggs weren't federally inspected. There's been a lot of backlash on this issue. A Facebook page has been created, and tonnes of people have written letters to the PEI government. Thusfar, the government's response has been discouraging, but the fact that CBC called me up for an interview today was a shimmer of hope ( I ended up passing the interview baton on to my co-worker who, coincidentally, had created the Facebook page in support of free-range chickens). This issue seems to have increased interest in A Local MEAL, the event I've been helping to co-ordinate, which takes place this Thursday at the Farm Centre at 6.30.

The weekend was capped off wonderfully, with the Steak Man turning into the Lamb Man and making me a delicious dinner on Saturday that featured leg of lamb, a spinach bacon salad, and a sweet treat (after 8!!). Sunday morning he made me breakfast (bacon and eggs) and Sunday evening we made a lamb stew. I am such a lucky gal!!!!

I also did my first weekly weigh-in since eliminating sugar consumption before 8pm. I'm happy to report that I'm down 2.8 lbs! For some, this may not seem like much, but I've been stuck at the same weight since the beginning of December, so I'll take this and run with it!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Dealing (or Not) with Stress

So it's Day 3 of my plan to reduce sugar consumption significantly by only eating sweets after 8pm and then only in moderation. So far, so good. Yesterday, I had a fantastic time playing hooky (with boss' permission) and attending the PEI ADAPT Council's annual conference. It was all about agriculture on PEI and for the most part, the presentations were inspiring and informative. The day was also filled with food - I arrived after having a breakfast of 1 boiled egg, some spinach and a bowl of yogurt to discover a large assortment of baked goods on offer, along with juices, coffee, etc. I avoided everything. At lunch there were lots of different sandwiches and wraps available, as well as plates of fruit and cheese and...yes...you guessed it...plates of cookies and squares tucked innocently in between the plates of more healthy food. On a separate, rather inconspicuous table, I found a huge pot of hearty beef stew. Again, I avoided temptations!

Oh, but did I mention I grabbed a napkin and wrapped a date square up in anticipation of 8pm? (let the record show that it's now the following night and I've only eaten a bite of the date sqaure). Yes, somehow I managed to not give in to temptation. To be honest, it was easier than I expected. I can't really explain it, except to theorize that I was really just happy to be at the conference and wasn't eating out of boredom or because I was nervous/anxious about anything. Also, storing away a treat for later in the evening made it bearable, because then I didn't have to wonder what I'd missed..I just had to be a little bit patient.

So yesterday was a good day and it wasn't really challenging to avoid sugar. Today, I stepped on the scale at the gym after my workout in the early evening and discovered I've lost 1.6 lbs since my weigh-in on Sunday at around noon. I say that's progress!

But the thing about today, was that I encountered my worst enemy and most persistent companion: Mr. Stress. This year has been slightly hectic and moderately stressful for me - getting robbed in January was a bit rough - yes, it's only stuff, but I miss having access to my laptop, which was filled with photos, music and my writing, and there have been a couple of additional stresses that I have felt unable to control in terms of the outcome of events. It doesn't help that I spend inordinate amounts of time thinking about the plight of humanity and the planet as a whole.

So, yeah, Mr. Stress has been hanging around a lot lately. I've let my mindset turn from positive and in the present moment, to negative and fearful of the future and that is simply not good. I strongly believe that what we think and feel is what we bring into existence. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's take a couple of steps back.... I am quite certain that in the past my weight struggles have ultimately been linked to the level of stress I am managing in my life. When I have been living far away, the lack of familiarity and a safety net (financially and emotionally) resulted in weight gain, regardless of my efforts to loss weight. THe only time I didn't gain weight while living away from PEI was for the first year I lived in Scotland, when I had two of my closest friends with me to lean on if need be. And, oh boy, how I leaned.

I've known, to a certain degree, the impact of stress on my weight for awhile now, but have been perplexed as to how to deal with it. I've tried yoga, I've tried tapping (look it up), journaling, counseling, exercising even more, just chilling out, setting goals, etc. Some of these things have helped, but I can't say that any one or combination of them have been entirely successful.
So today, Mr. Stress started knocking on my door in the afternoon. By the time I got home from the gym, he'd come in on his own and taken the liberty of plopping himself down on my cheerfulness. I went to the pantry. I wanted sugar. An 'a-ha' moment if there every was one. Sugar has become my coping mechanism for stress. Clearly it doesn't work though because given the amount of sugar I have eaten in the past, I should be in a constant Zen-like state. But I've created this thought-emotion-action link that has me unconsciously gravitating towards sweetness when things go a little sour in life.

As noted above, what one thinks/believes is translated into an emotion and then an action. So my thoughts about my current/future situation conjured up emotions of anxiety and stress. My programmed reaction to those emotions is to eat sweets. Ta-da.

Here's the good news. I didn't eat sugar when I opened the pantry. Instead I had a small handful of nuts, then hopped in the shower. By the time I got out, I felt so much better and wasn't craving sugar at all. Then I did my taxes and that resulted in an even better mood :)

So that's where I stand on Day 3. Having encountered my first A-Ha moment, which I kind of, sort of recognized before but had never actually 'caught myself in the act' before. I conquered my automatic response this time with a new behavior to replace the old habit.

I know I'll face this test again and again. I am confident that most times, I will kick butt at passing the test. In the long run, however, I still have much work to do on keeping my mindset positive and being in the present moment. I have to focus on good news, surround myself with happy people, and keep my passions alive. It was so easy to be positive when I lived in Vermont briefly, surrounded by people who were committed to bettering their communities and living a healthy, low-impact lifestyle. Now, back on PEI, I find myself fortunate enough to be in the company of people that are comparably positive, creative, energetic and hard-working.

I'm going to keep my on the ball. Then I won't have time to wallow in negativity or eat a bunch of sweets.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Sugar, Sugar

How sweet it is.....


Am I an addict? For most of my adult life, I've told myself and others that I am a candyaholic. It's really my only major vice - I don't do drugs, drink alcohol in excess,gamble, eat fast or fatty food, or spend my nights glued to the TV. Surely one should be allowed a single vice in life right?

Sigh. Unfortunately the answer is no. At least not the vice of consuming sugar day in and day out. There are a litany of reasons I should not be eating sugar (most/all of these apply to everyone), here's just a sample:

  • Packing on the pounds - contrary to popular belief, it's not animal fat we should be watching our intake of, it's processed foods, grains and refined sugars. These are the foods that are making us fat. The conventional wisdom has been feeding us the wrong line for the past thirty or forty years.
  • Tooth decay - I had braces when I was younger and I reckon I have a nice enough smile now, but my dentist has made a pretty penny off me already and I'm not keen on paying him to pull my teeth and fit me for dentures at some point because my teeth have decayed from sugar.
  • Disease - OK, my father is a diabetic (Type 1). He has to take insulin shots twice a day. He has had diabetes since he was 35 years old and has never been overweight. So his lifetsyle didn't contribute to his getting diabetes (except that he was really stressed at that point in his life), but for the vast majority of diabetics, this is not their story. Type 2 diabetes is almost always a result of poor lifestyle choices. I do not want to have diabetes or any other chronic disease and I have to take responsibility by leading a healthy lifestyle.
  • Energy and Mood - One thing is easy to never notice is the difference in one's energy levels and mood when they are eating a diet that includes grains, sugars and/or fatty foods. One of the reasons I don't eat greasy food very often is because I always feel disgusting and exhausted afterwards. I'd say I have a greasy food binge about once every four months and that's enough to turn me off for a good while. Since I first went to visit an RHN back in 2006, I've been limiting my grain intake with a few transgressions along the way. I can notice the difference in my energy and my body (bloated vs not) when I'm on/off grains. Ah but sugar....because I have it on a daily basis, I often forget what an energy drain it can be. I have given up sugar before and can recall how when I finally gave into temptation I would feel sick from the sugar and low energy. We just never realise how much better we can feel if we're eating something (sugar, grains, fast food) on a regular basis because it becomes the normal. In this case, the normal is not good.
So, with all of this in mind and ready to lose the rest of the weight I've packed on over the years (I'm 30 lbs from my goal), I've decided I have to drastically reduce my sugar intake. At some point I believe I will have to give up refined sugar completely. But I have to be realistic, I have tried cold turkey before and it's not been especially successful. I'd either end up eating a tonne of fruit, replacing sugar with too much cheese, giving in and gorging, etc.

I've decided that my best bet is to go in stages. Stage 1 started today. I will limit my sugar intake to 8pm or later and, of course, be reasonable with my intake after that time - a hot chocolate or something of equivalent caloric count (around 150 cals). Why eat sugar at night? Well, first of all by not eating sugar (or grains) during the day, I'll maintain my blood sugar levels and eliminate cravings for sugar and reduce my overall hunger. By having a treat at the end of the day, I'll avoid being having cravings at times when candy is readily available, like when I am at work. I've never had problems sleeping because of sugar in the evening either, so this is not a worry. Also, since I'm using weight watchers pointing to track my eating, I'll be sure to keep enough points for the evening so I can have my treat. I still have 7 points left for today and it's 10 pm - that means I can have a hot chocolate and half a banana with a TBSP of natural peanut butter.

So, that's the beginning folks, stay tuned for Stage 2, where I'll move to sugar elimination on certain days of the week. I know that some will say this is not the way, that the only way is to go cold turkey. And maybe those people are right, but I'm going to give this a try first!