Friday, October 9, 2009

Day Twenty - Healthy Living and California Car Culture (?)

Today's blog comes from the heart (and heat) of California's Coachella Valley in the exurban fringes of Palm Springs.  Yes, I made it here in one piece without strangling any of my travelling companions --including the dog who panicked at 3am and started barking in two of the motels we stayed in en route.

Have been here a few days now, and it's been a good setting for healthy eating (weight watcher points and my personal vegetable consumption targets have been met).  Will try to weigh in this Saturday to see if the scale agrees. I'm relishing the sun and desert landscapes which are a change from my usual rainforest abode in the Canadian Pacific Northwest.  The skies are so big and blue...

That said, I am absolutely floored by the degree of car culture here, which seems so wrong for a place that professes to be health conscious.  With the exception of the older part of Palm Springs, the rest of the city is laid out to completely discourage walking.  For example, if designed differently, the complex where my parents' place is situated could be an easy, flat, 15 minute walk from the local shopping centre, complete with gym, grocery store, and cinema.  Yet there's barely a shoulder on the road, and you'd be taking your life in your hands if you walked on that thin --and often non-existent-- margin of asphalt as cars zoom by at 110 km per hour (65mph). 

A few of the wealthy districts in some suburban cities have meandering lanes for golf carts that would also be safe for strolling on foot --but these cover a long distance beside the walls of gated communities before you reach any real destination (other than another gated community).  For all the rhetoric about freedom down here, it amazes me that people in this part of California would want to box themselves in so much with their walls, gates, and cars.  Tourist life here is so different from time spent in San Francisco where you can spend hours and hours walking or taking streetcars through all sorts of safe and interesting neighbourhoods.

Reining myself in ever so slightly from my walkability rant, I had an experience yesterday that served as an odd, but clear reminder of my need to get fit (the rationale for the vegetables-as-medicine project).  My thrifty mother took me to her favourite second hand (charity) shop called the Cellar Door.  She loves it because it's full of rich people's castoffs at extremely good prices.  Nearly all of the furniture in her living room came from there, including a lovely gold brocade sofa in pristine condition.  I thought it would be fun to browse the women's clothing section.  Now as a plus-sized woman this is often a challenge, but most second-hand stores will have at least a few items in my size.  Not this one.  All the outfits were size seros and size fours --I haven't felt like such a freak in a long, long time.  Made me think long and hard about my fitness goals...

Of course, as an ironic little twist my parents and I went later that evening to see Michael Moore's new film "Capitalism - a Love Story".  That evoked another set of mixed emotions for me, ranging from smugness to guilt about my own materialistic weaknesses.  There were five of us in a theatre that could seat two hundred --which may or may not reveal something about this place.  That said, I am enjoying the holiday and my vegetables as medicine project seems to be going well.

Ciao for now!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Day 15 - Short Update from the Road

Sunday October 4, 2009

Not a very exciting post tonight, but a positive one.  Today is the first day of a road trip down to California accompanied by my trusty dog Gromette and in a convoy with my parents.  We're now in a road-side motel in Idaho (small town called Mountain Home) --weather not so great on the trip so far, and no gym in this place so exercise goal not met.  However, I have succeeded in avoiding chocolate (a rare feat for a road trip), plus have stayed within my points target, and consumed 7 servings of fruits and vegetables in (salad at a Subway franchise for lunch, and green salad at a salad bar in a local restaurant for dinner).  So --given that driving is a time when I am often tempted to pig out, I'm feeling pretty good about today.  I will confess to indulging in a diet Dr. Pepper (something my husband scolds me about --nasty chemicals), and some diet breath mints. 

Given the dreary weather and the boredom of the drive, I would have ordinarily taken the waitress up on her offer of pie for dessert (and this being Middle America, those pie servings looked big and calorie-laden).  However, being full of fibre has really helped dim my interest in the sweet stuff.  As some of you may recall from my first posting, I do have a gastric band to restrict my food intake, but it does nothing to stop me from eating chocolate and sweets -those just seem to melt into liquid instantly and pass right through the constricted part.  The fibre, however, seems to be acting like an off switch for my cravings.  So maybe, just maybe, this thing might work.  On second thought -maybe is a poor choice of words.  It will work, it must work!

Well, the driving has made for a pretty long day, and the dog has already demonstrated more good sense than I have by flaking out in her travel crate.  Think I'll call it a night, and will post again when I get to another spot with an internet connection. 

Hope all is well for anyone out there reading.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Day 14 - Hurray!!! It's working!

It's not that many hours since I last posted, but one crucial thing has changed.  I have stepped on my scale and I have not felt the urge to burst into tears!  In total, I am down 3.4 pounds in the two weeks since I started this project.  Hurray! I actually lost weight during a really tough week where I didn't reach all of my behavioural goals.  This doesn't tell me that cheating is never punished --what it does tell me is that "all or nothing" attitudes about self-care are foolish (we all know that voice that says "oh well since you've had a chocolate bar now, the day is ruined so you might as well eat whatever other garbage you want").  It tells me that rising above those attitudes even after a moment of weak behaviour can still bring positive results.  This seems to be a lesson that I have to keep learning --for today at any rate, a little bit of the lesson has sunk in.  I am sure that people with really big successes have learned the lesson in spades --check out Amazon Runner for an example

I just wanted to ramble a bit more about yesterday's belief topic and what I'm going to do over the next three weeks to strengthen my belief in my own ability to lose weight.  I mentioned yesterday that I'm leaving for a three week holiday in California --well, now is my opportunity in a stress-free context to focus on belief. 

I've always been a bit skeptical of the whole visualization side of things.  That said, lately I've been speaking to some people who I respect that acually make use of those techniques; and they've given me some good exercises to try.  I am going to spend at least 15 minutes of every day doing some visualization, and will continue to listen to Dr. Wayne Dyer's "Excuses Be Gone" CD.  To reinforce that belief with action, I am also going to exercise every day.  This last goal will be a bit of a challenge during the road trip portions of my holiday (I'm driving there with my dog Gromette to stay at my parents' place --actually driving down with Mom and Dad as a convoy; and my husband will fly to Palm Springs and meet us later).  But it won't be impossible --you can always find a safe place to pull off to the side of the road and walk; plus as a Curves Member with a travel card I can probably find a few gyms along the way, and I think I will bring some hand weights with me too for good measure.  And of course, I will be looking to get a minimum of seven servings of fruits and vegetables in every day.

It's funny -even though a lot of my life involves time spent in a car (driving from home to my job out of town two hours away), I am looking forward to some time on the road alone.  Gromette will be there to keep me from getting too lonely, of course.  But I suspect the solo driving time in a context where I'm not en route to or from a job (and not wound up about the latest work crisis or project) will allow me time to reflect more on the things I've been pushing out of my mind while working on the dissertation.

Anyway, time for breakfast --think I'll celebrate today's scale victory with some tomatoes and balsamic vinegar  plus a decaffinated skim milk latte.  Ciao!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Day 13 - Belief and Doing the Right Thing

Today was a better day than Wednesday or Thursday.   I stayed within my points target, and ate 6 servings of vegetables.  (Tomorrow will do a weigh in - based on my overall assessment of this week I doubt that the scale will be my friend, but hopefully it won't be my enemy.) As an added bonus, my dissertation has been approved, registered in the university database, and I am now entitled to call myself "Doctor".  Hurray!

Given that today was successful, it's helpful for me to reflect on what worked.  I did something a bit unusual .  In her blog, Patrice S. has an entry that speaks to the value of doing something different --it's a good reminder (her blog appears to be down, but once it's back up I'll insert a link to it.)  In any event, today's unusual action was beginning the day by visualizing myself as a slender person and making my choices the way a slender person would.  I can't take credit for the idea (it came from someone else with much more wisdom than me on these matters), but it did seem to make a difference.  It also helped at dinner tonight -we went out to celebrate at a very nice Greek restaurant in an old heritage house, with pretty yellow walls and hardwood floors.  Restaurant portions these days are huge, and I was able to stop myself after a half portion, while still enjoying and really tasting my meal.  It was a minor triumph of sorts.

Why was it a triumph?  Well, I've been talking a lot with other people outside the blogosphere about my weight loss journey, and a key piece of advice I've received relates to belief in the possibility of weight loss.  That idea may sound obvious, but if I'm completely honest with myself, this is one dimension of my life where belief is in short supply.  So today was a day when I worked hard on the belief aspect, and it produced results in terms of the right behaviour.  Seems like an action worth repeating again tomorrow.

Would love to hear from anyone else who has spent a lot of energy reflecting on the belief-behaviour link.

Will write again soon - a caveat is that early Sunday morning I will be leaving for three weeks of holidays.  I will do the blog on my trip, but won't have daily internet access, so coverage will still be a bit spotty.  In between my days of internet access, I'll keep writing and saving the posts on my laptop until I have a chance to upload.  In the meantime, for anyone who is reading --stay well.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Day Eleven, Very Tired...

I have to confess that today has not been a great day --although signing in to the blog just now has boosted my morale (more on that shortly).

On the down side, I am so, so tired right now.  Had to get up yesterday at 5am to do some travel for work, worked all day yesterday out of town until 7pm, then up again this morning at 4:50 am to make the trip back to the city I usually work in.  I'm kind of wired because I have so much to get done this week that can't wait, and I am just not sure that I'm winning the battle.  I had hoped to get to the gym today and it didn't happen.  Veggie consumption didn't make the target, although on the positive side I made up a nice healthy stir-fry for dinner tonight, so my total servings for the day came out to roughly four.  Did not stay within my weight watchers points targets --had a bit of a binge on some yoghurt-covered almonds, and am feeling slightly ashamed of that.

The morale boost came when I signed in and saw that some people are reading --and that many of you have accomplished some great things so far.  It makes me feel less alone in this journey --and inspired.  So thank you for reading, and for just being out there! 

This will be a short post tonight because I really need some time to unwind.  I am home tomorrow night, and will post again then.  Hope everyone is doing well.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Day Ten - Couldn't Resist...

In an effort to be kind to myself during a very tough week, I said that I wouldn't post again until Wednesday.  However, a friend sent me a link to a health website where I found a wonderful article on happiness - and what stops us from getting there. 

What does this have to do with eating vegetables as medicine?  I tend to see the world in a very integrated way; and I truly believe that there's a multi-directional relationship between self-care (of which vegetable consumption is now forming a key part in my life) and happiness.  Times of stress --like this week-- make me reflect on both topics.   

The enclosed link starts off as saying some basic things that I've heard many times before (e.g. simplify your life); but other ideas are somewhat novel.  Once you get through the full thing you may start to think of happiness in some new ways.  I found the comment on despair particularly insightful.  It reminded me of a conversation with a friend who spoke of despair as a sin.  At first I was puzzled by her remark, since the word "sin" wasn't a typical part of her vocabulary.  But then she explained that she considered despair a sin because it's a huge insult to yourself and to God / the Universe/ whatever or whomever you believe to be the root of all creation.  Despair essentially means that you aren't appreciating what you've been given (in terms of your own talents and who you are as a person), because you have let too much negative external stuff crowd out that understanding.  You're essentially refusing the gift of yourself.    And as I write about despair, it makes me reflect a tiny bit about the gifts of myself that I am refusing whenever I despair about my eating habits and just give in to eating garbage for instant pain relief.  Hmmm... something tells me that I have some fodder for another post when I have time to be more philosophical...

Anyway, enough rambling.  Here is the link--hope it's helpful!

ps.  Three vegetable servings today so far, four more to go for my current target of seven.  Think I'll have a vegetarian stir fry for dinner tonight...

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Day Nine - Where did she go?

Sunday September 27, 2009 --well, it's been a while! 

When I started this blog my goal was to post daily on the value of vegetables as medicine.  Clearly my lack of daily posting represents a failure of sorts.  Or does it?  Is a smug rationalization for my performance (or lack of) about to follow?  Yes and no.

First of all, let me recap what's been happening for me this past week.  In earlier posts I talked about defending my doctoral dissertation on Sept 21st.  While I passed, I was asked to make revisions (not uncommon).  My timeframe is very short --I should have these in to my advisor some time tomorrow, and finalize by the end of the week.  I have also been working full time except for Monday.  My job is in another city from my home, plus I had urgent meetings Thursday in yet a third town and... you can imagine the time crunches and the chaos.

In this context, my failure to post has been, in some ways, emblematic of my failure to take proper care of myself as the stress levels mount.  On the negative side, this type of failure definitely gets the excuse machinery running in high gear (weird metaphor, I know, but my father was a mechanic and I grew up with a lot of those expressions).  Over the past month I've been listening to a CD of Dr. Wayne Dyer's Excuses Be Gone, and it's sensitized me to the counter-productive nature of excuses.  So this failure has been informative in that it's got me thinking in a more immediate way about my abuse of excuses.

On the positive side, through all this stress I do have some successes to report.  While I definitely went over my Weight Watchers' points target on 3/7 days this week, I did get in a minimum of five servings of fruits and vegetables every day, often having as many as eight (beyond my Day #1 triumph of ten).  It's the wrong time in my cycle for the scale to show progress, but I think I may have lost a half a pound.  And I went to the gym two more times (Thursday and yesterday).

The whole experience this week has also helped me think more about the connection between vegetables and junk food, and junk food and stress in my life.  On extremely high stress days with no free time, my junk food consumption was higher and my vegetable consumption lower  Vegetables have been filling me up, but in high stress moments even where I could get veggies easily (e.g. pre-washed and cut single serving carrots at a grocery store), I would sometimes still opt for the junk food just for the sugar rush to keep myself going.  That is not a good pattern.

So what am I going to do to move forward?  Well, I have to get through today and those pesky (yes I'd like to use another word here but I won't) revisions.  Monday will still be a bit of a scamble, and I will try to be kind to myself, Tuesday I'm out of town again for work purposes, but I will focus on healthy rather than unhealthy foods.  Wednesday and Thursday I'm in my usual work city, and I will go to the gym on at least one of those days and aim for seven servings of fruits and vegetables each day, with no chocolate on either day (because chocolate seems to be a trigger food for me in stressful times) and staying on target for points.  Friday I'm back home, and will also shoot for those same goals.  I will also give myself a break --this week-- with the blog postings.  I won't post again until Wednesday, but will make sure I succeed because accounting for my choices in this way seems to be helpful.  Again --if ayone else is going through similar challenges and wants to share, I'd love to hear from you!

ps.  Not sure of its accuracy, but the following link is a article touting the benefits of various vegetables --check it out if you're looking for more reasons to eat healthily!