I know, that title sounds like something straight out of my Post-Modern Literary Criticism class (oooh, I shudder just re-thinking it!).  But both bits of news cheered me so much that I wanted to share them in the same post!

The Wait is Over:

Just when I thought I could wait no longer, I received my prize, as one of the winners in Shellyfish’s great 100th Post (Felty Love) contest!  Those of you who’ve read about this here will recall that I’m not the luckiest person when it comes to randomly selected contest winners (another way to say I could buy 50 tickets for the [1-in-3 chances to win] the Heart and Stroke Lottery, and still not win–then again, I suppose that means I’ll probably never be struck by lightning, either).  So this prize was doubly delightful:  not only was it a first-ever win for me, it was also awarded by one of my favorite bloggers, Shellyfish of Musings from the Fishbowl!  I received my prize package in the mail on Friday.  And what a package it was! 

I ripped the parcel open and was immediately touched by the remarkable care and attention to detail taken in choosing the items, packaging them, and mailing them (all the way from France to Canada!). 

Hey, have a look!

[Top row (left to right): Postcard of the Château de Fontainbleau; Felty Love pouch; hand-crafted card emblazoned with maple leaf and ladybugs. Bottom row (left to right): box that contained vegan chocolates, from Chocolaterie Bruyerre–from Belgium; dark truffle square; dark liqueur-infused (I think) round truffle; dark mocha truffle square.]

First, the main prize: a sleek, fuzzy and cozy, handcrafted azure felt change (or whatever else you choose to put in it) pouch.  I loved the hand-embroidered leaf motif when I first saw it on Shelly’s blog, and it was even more impressive (and cute!) in person.  But the finishing touches tickled me the most; to wit, the ribbon trim, the whimsical orange and white lining and–the pièce de résistance–the little custom “shellyfish” tag sewn into the seam!  Now I will remember the source every time I use this sweet little change purse. 

[Just look at that adorable tag!]

Shellyfish also sent along a box of vegan Belgian chocolates! (she really knows how to steal a gal’s heart).  Now, I do love me some chocolate, and have even been known to munch on it daily for extended periods of time. . . .well, let me tell you, these were exquisite.  Each one contained a velvety truffle filling coated with rich, smooth and glossy bittersweet chocolate.  I knew I’d devour the whole set myself and so offered a bite of each to the HH, who noted that they were the best chocolates he’d ever eaten.  And–miracle of miracles–they made it across the ocean intact!  Not even a scratch. I’m planning a vacation to France at this very moment, just so I can sample some more of those babies.

In addition to the pouch and chocolate were a hand-made card with the cutest little ladybugs and maple leaf imprint (thanks for the nod to Canada, Shelly), as well as a postcard of the Chateau Fontainbleau, a lyrical castle in Shelly’s neighborhood, where she lives alongside snippets of history every day (lucky duck!).  

All in all, it was a perfect way to end the week, or start the weekend, and flooded me with memories of my own long-ago stay in Bandol as a teenager. It also made me long for another visit now, as an adult!

Thanks so much, Shelly.  I will treasure my pouch and the cards. . . and my memories of that insanely rich-tasting chocolate! 🙂

 

The Weight is Under

And what about the “weight is under,” you wonder? (No poem intended, there, though I created one nonetheless–must be that literary influence again).  Well, I haven’t written a blog entry related to the “Diet” portion of my blog’s title in quite some time.  Partly, I’ve felt there was no sense in rehashing old news (I mean, how many times can one re-start a weight loss plan?).  About three months ago, I gave up tracking my weight on a weekly basis, and decided that, given the achingly slow progress of my quest, I’d post an entry no more than once a month.  Well, in the interim, something seems to have shifted.

What’s the best way to stop craving sweets all the time?  Write a dessert cookbook, that’s how, and bake three or four test items perforce each day! 

Have you ever walked into an ice cream parlor, or chocolate shop, or patisserie, and marvelled at how slim the counter folk were?  Countless times in my  life, I’ve asked the shop person, “How do you stop yourself from eating everything in sight?”  I’d usually add, sheepishly, “If I worked here, I’d weigh 300 pounds in no time.” 

“No, no, you wouldn’t,” they’d inevitably respond.  “If you work with it all day, you just get sick of it.”  Well, sorry to say, when I ran my little bakery, I was surrounded by baked goods for 16 hours a day–for two years.  My taste for sweets never waned during that time, and my weight began its ugly ascent during those years as well. 

This time, however, something is different.  I’m testing recipes in my home; I’m basically forced to eat at least a mouthful of each one (to ensure quality, you understand); and somewhere along the line, I became indifferent to the piles of bars, cookies, cakes, tarts and whatever else positions itself alluringly on the counter.  Now, don’t get me wrong; I’ve retained a desire to taste everything, and I’ve definitely indulged.  But for some unknown reason, the impetus to keep going even after the first two or three tastes (or two or three brownies, cookies, slices of cake, etc.) has more or less vanished. 

Why has this miracle from heaven been bestowed upon me?  I have no idea.  How can I ensure that this state of affairs never changes?  Again, I’m stumped.  Will I manage to stay the course this time and keep losing weight?  Beats me.  All I know is, I am unspeakably grateful, I embrace this current reality, and I am ecstatic to be experiencing it. The greatest mystery of my life so far seems to be, “why have I been able to exercise “willpower” and lose weight at certain periods of my life, but not others?”  And so far, like the secret location of Atlantis, like the methods of building the pyramids, like where Sasquatch is really hiding–like the reason for Julia Roberts’s popularity–the answer has eluded me (and all of civilized humanity).

If anyone out there has insight into this particular conundrum, please do let me know.

Mum, it’s easy to exercise willpower when someone else feeds you.  Just get an owner to dole out the food. Oh, and it helps if you learn to raise a paw when asked.”

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Sweet Things (Times Three)

August 17, 2008

[Sweet Potato and Ginger Salad–recipe below.]

DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS has moved! 

If you’re reading this page, you’ve landed on the old site.  Please visit the new location by clicking here–and don’t forget to update your readers and blogrolls!

As always, thanks for reading.  I look forward to seeing you at the shiny new Diet, Dessert and Dogs!

“Um, Mum, we are coming with you, aren’t we? Because (and sorry to have to tell you this), we actually have more fans than you do on this blog.” 

Ah, yes, life is sweet.  Not so much in the “I’m a celebrity, I haven’t a care in the world, I’m revoltingly rich, beautiful and vacuous” kind of way; but more in the “every which way I turn I see or think ‘sweet,’ most recently the chocolate chip blondies I devoured last week” kind of way.  Also in the “I’m finally finished marking for the semester and it feels so sweet to be able to breathe for a few days before it all starts up again next week” kind of way. But I wouldn’t want to forget the “blog readers are truly some of the sweetest people in the world and the principal reason I’m so thrilled to be back here and blogging again” kind of way, either.

I have to tell you, as a rule, I consider myself pretty lucky in the friends department.  I mean, I’ve made some really great pals over the years (in fact, I’ve known a few of my friends even longer than I’ve known my younger sister!–take that, Oprah and Gayle). 

But you know what?  Ever since I started blogging last year, I’ve been repeatedly amazed at the level of support, compassion, and just basic goodwill that abounds among blog readers and writers, rivalling any of the best friendships out there. I can’t tell you all how much I appreciate that you keep coming back to read  and comment (even when I disappear for a spell) and how much I enjoy my forays into reading all my favorite blogs out there as well. And so, without disintegrating into pure mush, please accept my heartfelt thanks, and a big virtual bear hug.  Truly, sweet

And now, on to our other “sweets” of the day. . . 

First:  My diet, temporarily an official “No-Sweets” Zone.

Forget the term, “yo-yo dieter.” With me, it’s more like a “bungee-jump” dieter.  Up, down, Up, down.  Waaaaay up, waay down (and note how the “waay” down is smaller than the “waaaaay” up–in other words, a net gain).  Seems the more I diet, the more my weight rebounds upward after a fall.  Recently, it struck me that I am more or less at the same weight I was when I began this blog (at which point my goal was to lose 40 pounds!!).  Still, like die-hard smokers who wish to quit, we overly zaftig people who wish to lose weight must persevere!  I’m thankful that 90% of the food I put in my mouth is healthful and very nourishing.  The other ten per cent, well. . . that explains the weight gain.

Several times on this blog, I’ve mentioned the anti-candida diet I endured a few years ago when my symptoms got truly out of hand.  Well, I’ve decided it’s time to return to that diet as a way to rid myself of the sweets addiction once and for all (I think of it as the “Chunky Monkey on my back“).  This time, the cleanse will be somewhat shorter than previously (which lasted 2 years!). 

What does this mean for the blog?  Not much, I’m hoping. Most of my eating habits already fall in line with this new regimen (about which I’ll blog anon–this post will be long enough without fitting it in today).  The restrictions represent a new and–truth be told–somewhat exciting culinary challenge for me: can I concoct appealing, delicious dishes, even some alluring desserts, all within the bounds of the diet?  And afterwards, can I learn to consume dessert as a regular part of my menu, yet in moderation and sans cravings?  Only time will tell (and so will I, right here on this blog).

Second: Announcing Sweet Freedom!

As I mentioned last time, I’ve been working on this project for a while now (just about a year–even before I started this blog!).  After I closed down my full-time baking business in 2006, I decided to begin working on a cookbook containing recipes for my most popular products; because I’d been running the business for a few years, I already had a full compliment of proven recipes at the ready.  So in August 2007, I began mailing out cookbook proposals to various publishers (I eventually heard from two who expressed an interest in the project, only to decide against it after months of correspondence). And then, as I plowed my way through yet another set of student papers last week, I wondered:  why not just publish this book myself? And so, I averred, I shall!

Now, before I go on, yes, I do recognize the irony of doing a dessert book when I’ve just sworn off desserts.  But as I said above, my goal, ultimately, is to be capable of incorporating healthy desserts into my diet, in moderation–and these happen to be just that kind of dessert!  

I also know that there are scads (not to mention oodles, a plethora, loads and a real glut) of bloggers’ cookbooks already out there right now.  Who needs one more?  But when I started receiving emails from people asking if I had a cookbook, and when my former customers asked if I’d consider printing up my recipes so they could bake their treats at home, and when I thought of all those existing recipes just lying idle in a filing cabinet. . . well, I just couldn’t leave them to such an ignominious fate. 

Mine will be a dessert-only book, and everything in it is compatible with the NAG diet that I try to follow all the time.  Many of these recipes are already familiar to my former customers here in Toronto, so when the book is published, they’ll be able to bake the same muffins, cookies, and cakes that they used to buy at local health food stores. And once I made the decision, I got really excited about sharing the recipes and “doing them up right”! 

The book, called Sweet Freedom, will contain recipes for a wide variety of baked goods and other sweet treats, all in a style similar to those you find on this blog (in fact, a few of the DDD recipes will also find their way into the book). However, the majority of the cookbook’s 100+ recipes will be new, having not appeared anywhere else.  All the recipes are made with without wheat, eggs, dairy, or refined sweeteners; many are gluten free, soy free, and corn free as well (I’ll tag each recipe according to the category into which it fits).  In other words, these are sweets that even people with food sensitivities (like me) are free to enjoy! Eventually, I plan to post a full Table of Contents with the names of all the recipes, but for now, if you’d like a peek at some photos of goodies from the book, I’ve started a blog that’s devoted just to that.  I’m aiming for a publication date late this year or early next year; I’ll keep you updated occasionally on this site, too.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you all about what you’d look for in a “good-for-you” baking book, or whether you’ve got specific items you’d like to see in it.  And it you’ve ever tried any of the desserts from this site, I’d love your feedback on the recipes.  Just leave any thoughts, ideas, or suggestions in the comments section, or send me at email at dietdessertdogs AT gmail DOT com.

And finally: A sweet (potato) ending to this post. . . 

Sweet Potato and Ginger Salad

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.

I couldn’t very well leave without posting a recipe, could I?  I actually mentioned this dish way back in my second blog entry, but since there were only two readers that day (no, literally, two readers), I thought it was worth repeating.  This is a salad from Everyday Food magazine, and it’s both simple and delicious.  I like it so much that I’ve made an entire meal out of it, in fact. The trick to its appeal, I think, is that Martha advises us to bake the sweet potato rather than boil it–and that seems to make all the difference.

This salad is filling and satisfying, with a tangy ginger and dijon-based dressing to complement the yielding sweetness of the potatoes.  I enjoy this most at room temperature, but it can be eaten cold or hot as well.  Great for a picnic or party table.

TO VIEW THE COMPLETE RECIPE, PLEASE VISIT THIS PAGE ON THE NEW DIET, DESSERT AND DOGS, BY CLICKING HERE.

My Diet: MIA

February 15, 2008

For the three of you who’ve been following this blog since the beginning, you may have noticed that my “diet” posts (ie, posts in which I talk about how my diet’s not working, posts in which I discuss how I’d like my diet to be working better, posts in which I examine how I might be able to make my diet work better, or, simply, posts in which I use the word “diet” a lot) have gone MIA.  Wherefore art thou, O Ricki’s Diet, and why has she forsaken you?

Well, I must apologize.  It’s not that I’ve forgotten about my diet (ha! AS IF), but more that I haven’t felt there was anything worth reporting or mulling over lately without sounding terribly repetitive. Given that the original intent of this blog was (at least, partly) to chronicle what I hoped would be a monumental (40-lb.) weight loss over the next year, and to share with you how I was going to go about doing that, I seem to have lost sight (but never taste, apparently, or I might have actually lost an ounce or two) of the goal. 

Honestly, it’s not because the “diet” aspect of the blog is any less important.  It’s not because writing about food–desserts, especially–is any more fun (even though it is). It’s mostly that I haven’t been feeling very worthy of writing about dieting lately, given my recent eating patterns (which, suspiciously, resemble my pre-blog eating patterns).  How can I write with any authority about losing weight when I’m not doing so?  If you’ve looked at the progress tracker at all, you’ll see that the numbers have been going up, down, up, down, up, down, even more than the Paul McCartney-Heather Mills negotiations.  I’ve been so taken lately with all the appealing, interesting recipes and food in the world of blogging that I’ve neglected taking care of me and my health.

Well, that’s all about to change.  Now that Valentine’s Day is almost over (in our house, it’s taking place tomorrow), I’ve made a resolution.  True, most people make their resolutions on January 1st; but I’ve always been a later bloomer. 

Soooo. . . I’m going to declare the rest of February a “Chocolate-Free Zone.” 

You see, since I was a wee tot (who am I kidding?  I was never “wee”), chocolate has been the bane of my existence. Like an ex-boyfriend that you can’t quite let go of, like a Canadian winter, like the Oscars–I both love it and hate it.

The “love it” part is easy:  it’s a perfect base for dessert (which, after all, is my area of specialization); it’s creamy, smooth, sweet, delectable; it’s a booster of serotonin levels; it’s a portable bite for that 3:00 PM sugar crash; and it’s my very, very favorite, “I-can-eat-it-any-time-even-for-breakfast,” food.

The “hate it” part is less black and white (or milk and white, depending on your predilection): it’s a source of sometimes uncontrollable cravings; it’s the cause of weight gain (though not of acne, as once believed); it’s a pathetically poor substitute for a hug, a phone call with your best friend, or therapy; and it’s usually not as good as you thought it was going to be (sort of like that ex-boyfriend, again).

For me, the only way to avoid the inner turmoil around chocolate is the extreme move of cutting it out entirely.  Not forever (I couldn’t live with that), but for at least a week, until the urge passes. I’m embarking on a chocolate fast.  No chocolate.  No eating it, no baking with it, no buying it, no hiding it in the cupboard for a little nip when I’m feeling down. 

Instead, I’m going to try out a week (or, if I can make it, two) of eating in a way that’s worked for me in the past: a NAG-friendly , semi-detox diet of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds; minimal whole-grain flours; and only stevia as an added sweetener.  And NO CHOCOLATE.  (“How about cocoa, Mum?”) No, not even cocoa. (“How about carob, Mum?”)  Carob is acceptable. I’m also going to aim for over 50% raw foods each day. 

For me, this move is part desperation and part a yearning to regain to the experience of vibrant energy and health I enjoyed during my year studying natural nutrition.  At the time, one of my teachers there followed a 100% raw-foods (or living-foods, as it’s also called) diet. She also taught cooking classes, and I attended every one.  I was amazed at how fantastic the food was–colorful, delicious, a veritable feast for the senses.  I’m hoping to share some of her recipes, as well as others I’ve discovered over the years.

Hopefully, this new hard-line regime will help me ride out the chocolate-DTs, followed by a more moderate approach to eating (and, of course, chocolate)–and maybe even a little weight loss.

I do have a couple of desserts and one or two other dishes that I’ve recently prepared and will post as blog entries over the next two weeks, but for the most part, I’ll be sharing my healthier, detoxifying, health-conferring goodies with you.  And I’m hoping that declaring it this way on the blog will help me to actually follow through!

So I hope you’ll bear with me after the recent influx of indulgent baked goods.  Like some of you, I sometimes feel that a day without baking is a day devoid of some ineffable, necessary primal “something,” something that satisfies at the chromosomal level. 

No doubt, the baking will return.  Part of my goal when I started this blog was to lose 40 pounds before my next birthday, and unless I somehow get the chocolate habit under control, I know it won’t be a very happy one.  (And speaking of birthdays, another HUGE impetus for the chocolate ban is the upcoming birthday bash for Gemini I’s husband–a massive party in the works–on March 1st.  Two weeks away; need something nice, nothing fits, don’t want to have to buy something new. Think I could lose 10 pounds by then?  Me, either.)

And so, chocolate, adieu.  It’s only for a short while, but I’m hoping that absence, in this case, will not make the heart grow fonder.  No doubt I will miss you; I may even pine for you.  Still, one day, I hope to look at you with the same indifferent eye with which I gaze at Cream of Wheat, or paisley, or Josh Groban (sorry, Josh, not a big fan). After the week is over, let’s renegotiate our relationship in a more level-headed manner. In the meantime, I’ll attempt to forge ahead on my own, without you. But we’ll always have Paris (it is, after all, home of your finest specimens).

(“Oh, Mum, you’re so histrionic.  Really, get a grip. Who cares about chocolate?  It’s not a big deal.  But, um, you’re not thinking of changing your mind about carob now too, are you?  Because, you know, we’re allowed to eat carob, and we really love that carob-date thing you make.  So we can keep the carob, can’t we, Mum? Can’t we?  Mum???”)

elsiecarob.jpg

Well, I hope everyone out there had a Happy New Year.  Ours would have been very pleasant and laid back–after all, we were guests at my friend’s 8000 square foot “cottage” (you read that right–were we lucky, or what??), we were in a pastoral wonderland of snow, lake, birch trees, rare birds and other wildlife prancing past the picture windows between the stone and wood walls, and we spent the time with two of my very favorite people in the world, Gemini I and Gemini II, as well as their families.  Could it get any better?

In our pre-Chaser days, we used to go up there fairly frequently, and have spent many a lovely Thanksgiving or Christmas with the Gemini I family. This time, however, we discovered a tiny, heretofore unseen quirk in our (post-Chaser) Elsie Girl, something we’d never witnessed before:  she has a newfound propensity to lunge at and–if permitted–eat any of the other dogs up there (Chaser excluded).  What the–?? 

My beloved fur baby, the one I’ve adored since we got her from the pound back in 2002, the one who is consistently docile and sweet and gentle?  The one I refer to variously as Sweet Face, Sweet Girl, Honey Girl, My Darling Girl, My Little Love, and innumerable other nausea-inducing, endearing sobriquets?  The one who timorously permits Chaser to nibble endlessly on her ears like popcorn at the movies, who hangs her head in submission when I see her even walking toward the open garbage can, who lies at my feet silently here at the computer and reminds me, with a barely perceptible, feathery whisper of a touch with her nose, that it’s dinnertime? 

Yes, that one.  What on earth has gotten into her?

As a result of this sudden possession by the Dog Satan, we spent most of the time hovering over Elsie to ensure that she didn’t consume Gemini I’s new cat, or bundling up in our snow suits to accompany Elsie on the leash to do her “business” outside.  How I wish Cesar Millan lived in Canada. Sniff.

I also realized, as soon as we were on the road and past the point where it would be feasible to turn back, that I’d forgotten my camera up north.  Granted, it’s a cheap little unit (I must be the only blogger on the face of the planet who takes pictures with a camera she got for free using Air Miles), and also I have no photographic ability, but I am inordinately fond of the thing and it feels like traipsing around the house naked to post without photos of any kind. 

The final rather unpleasant discovery to greet me after the weekend (well, actually, the last two weeks) is that it appears I have gained a couple of pounds (really?  pigging out on baked goods and chocolate can do that to you?).  As a result of all these events, I’ve been feeling pretty disheartened since we got back.  Boo hoo.

Well, as Cesar himself would say, it’s the owner, not the dog, that needs training whenever there’s a problem.  Don’t I know it: time to listen to The Great Emperor of Dog Training and get my ass in gear, literally and figuratively.  Also, a perfect opportunity for some goal setting (notice I didn’t say, “resolutions”). 

Every year around this time–sometimes right on the first of the year, sometimes not until April–I sit down and write out a “Five-Year Plan,” a set of goals to reach within 5 years, 2 years, one year, and the next six months.  This is something I learned about from the original study at Harvard (I didn’t participate, just read about it) that confirmed how those people who actually write down their goals are more inclined to someday achieve them.  Some years it works better, some years worse, but it always seems to help keep me on track and steer me toward my goals, even when I immediately put the list back in its desk drawer and promptly forget about it till the next year. 

I’m also always amazed at the goals that eventually come to fruition even when I’ve literally forgotten about them in the interim.  To wit, a couple of years ago one of the goals I wrote was “Work with a business coach for free.”  Through a series of serendipitous events, I ended up with three full months of terrific coaching. Similarly, “guest appearance on TV morning show.”  Or, “Adopt second dog.”  At the time I wrote that, my HH’s response was a definite “no.” As the months rolled by, for some reason, he ultimately changed his mind, and eventually he succumbed.  Now, he’s Chaser’s greatest fan, and the two of them are almost inseparable.(“Thanks for changing your mind, Dad!  You’re so much fun to wrestle with. . .but wait a sec, Mum, if you’re not also my greatest fan, then whose fan are you–?“). 

So, to that end, I am going to list my goals.  I will say straight up that this isn’t the complete list, as there are still some things that I’ll keep private (goals related to relationship, family, etc.), but given the name of the blog, I think I should at least include all the food-related and health-related ones here. 

Of course, everyone and their cousin is making resolutions about now, and to that end, there was a humorous send up of these kinds of lists in the Arts and Life section of the National Post today.  Near the top of the list was this goal:

“Shed those unwanted pounds, or, if that’s too hard, spend some quality time with those pounds at a Wendy’s and make them feel wanted again.” 

In that same spirit, I shall not berate myself for those “unwanted” two pounds, or the fairly unstable wagon off of which I’ve fallen. Instead, I’m going to set about outlining some goals for the next while.

And So:

Five Years Hence:

  • Post and Beam.  My lifelong (okay, adult-long) dream is to own a post and beam, slightly north of the city, with my two dogs and HH (and in it, I’ll still be writing this blog, of course).
  • maintain normal, healthy weight and eating habits (continued since year one), following the plan I outlined, below, in the 6-month goal. 
  • go swimming on a regular basis (something I used to love as a kid/teenager, and have been too embarrassed to do in public since the weight gain).
  • Have meditation as a daily part of my life, yoga (or other easy-on-the-joints, meditative exercise) as a weekly part of my life.
  • continue to have an easy, healthy relationship with dessert, able to enjoy with moderation without being thrown into binge mode, as outlined below in the one-year goal.
  • have a healthy, effective method in place for dealing with stress (hey, may as well reach high once I’m setting goals, right?).

Two Years Hence:

  • maintain normal, healthy lifestyle and eating habits since year one (as outlined below, in the 6 month section).
  • maintain a healthy, normal relationship to dessert, as outlined below in the one year goal.
  • have meditation as a daily part of my life, yoga or similar type of exercise as weekly.
  • go swimming again–take lessons if necessary.
  • have healthy, effective method for dealing with stress in place and almost perfected.

One Year Hence:

  • reach normal, healthy weight (about 50 pounds from now) 
  •  achieve a sense of control around desserts–that is, the ability to eat them within reason, without breaking into a binge because of one chocolate bar, or brownie, or piece of cake
  • continue to create healthy, delicious desserts for fun and profit
  • continue to eat a balanced, NAG-friendly diet.
  • complete an intro to yoga course, and continue throughout the year.
  • improve work on weights, to previous levels, working with trainer if necessary.
  • continue with regular exercise at least 6 days a week, as outlined below.

Six Months Hence:

  • down 25 pounds from now
  • eat a balanced, NAG-friendly diet.  (I know from past experience that this will help me with the dessert goal, above, as I seem so much less inclined toward unhealthy foods when I regularly consume veggies, whole grains, and the like).
  • exercise regularly:  weights/club at least 3x per week; treadmill at least 4x per week (I know this can be done, as I’ve done it before, for years at a time)
  • take intro to yoga or similar exercise course; begin meditation, with the help of a course if necessary.

I think these are realistic goals, especially since I know I’ve mastered some of them in the past.  I’m also giving myself a fairly lengthy period to establish new habits (I’ve read that it takes about 6 weeks of repetition to establish a new habit, but have never found that to be true for me; even after 2 years of eating no sweeteners whatsoever, it didn’t take long to return to old habits once I allowed sugar back into my life).

Now, of course there are many other goals on the piece of paper written out here at home, such as those related to my writing career or travelling (basically, I’d like to do some).  But for now, if I can focus on the physical health and psychological wellness, I think I’d have a great head start toward everything else. 

(“You go for it, Mum!  My goal this year is to earn more treats.  Oh, and I suppose not to attempt ripping apart other dogs would be good, too.’)

There’s nothing better than celebrating a special holiday with balance.  A bounty of food and alcohol may abound, but the best approach is to simply eat well, eat with a level head, and enjoy the abundance without going overboard.  Wake up the next day feeling great, ready to take on the day as if the previous night’s festivities never happened.  Hmmm. . . too bad I wasn’t able to accomplish that this year.

I’m guessing it will likely take a few days before my body feels like itself again.  Despite the best of intentions, I must have taken the wrong cue from The Girls, eating as if I might never again have the opportunity to fill up on any of this stuff (and really, some of it wasn’t even worth having again!  “Dump Cake“??  Whatever possessed me to acquiesce to my HH’s wishes for that thing?  And then–eating two portions of it?  Even if I did buy organic cake mix in a meager attempt to convert it to something a smidgen more salubrious. . . Gak.)

(“But Mum! Everything was wonderful–we just loved Christmas!  And what’s wrong with eating something special once in a while?  Or on every occasion you can get it? Turkey, Mum–Turkey.  We. want. turkey.”)

The ideal experience at a holiday feast, for me, would be to enjoy a moderate portion of everything, including dessert, and possess the innate ability to simply stop when I’d had enough.  (Forgot to use the small plate/two item trick at my own holiday dinner–did that have something to do with it?).  Instead, yesterday, I found myself drawn to the least healthy elements of the meal–repeatedly. Today, I don’t feel so hot.

Perhaps that’s a good thing, though.  For “normal” eaters, the “STOP EATING” switch goes off much faster than it does for those of us with a propensity to overindulge.  But I can honestly say that, finally, my own switch has tripped, and I am craving–seriously, craving–vegetables.  It may have taken me a lot longer than it took my honey, but I got there.  In the old days, I might have gone on a binge for days, finishing up the dessert leftovers in one afternoon. Today, I’m at the point where all I’d like to do with that Dump Cake is dump it in the garbage can.

One of the principles that keeps coming to mind is Newton’s Law, that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.  Since the law applies to everything governed by the laws of physics, it would, of course, also include the way we eat and how our bodies react to the way we eat.  In other words, overdo it one way, and your body will subtly suggest that you underdo it the next.  This is a principle that my friend Karen, in her book Secrets of Skinny Chicks, documented well. As her subjects told her, when slim women pig out at a special occasion, they always compensate the following day, either by eating less or exercising more.  I suppose this is a variation of the approach I adopted when I skipped dinner after overdoing the Halloween chocolates.  And today? Treadmill, here I come.  (Oh, and my Holidailies entry, of course).

Another facet of this principle is one perfectly summed up by Sally in her great blog, Aprovechar.  In her post, Sally compared the patterns of eating/overeating to the financial principle of opportunity cost.  In other words, every opportunity brings with it a certain cost, and if you assess the cost beforehand, it can help you decide whether or not to take the opportunity.  I knew that last night’s dinner would cost me today (perhaps not quite as much as it seems to be doing, what with the backflips in my stomach, but still), and I made a conscious choice to eat anyway.  For me, true progress will be achieved once I learn to make a better choice, with a lesser cost.

Still, today’s craving for veggies is progress of a sort.  And while it may be difficult to find something positive in overeating, I am determined to let my body learn what it can and cannot comfortably do when it comes to food.  The initial mistake was allowing the unhealthy food into the house in the first place, but the ultimate goal remains the same: being able to enjoy a variety of foods (including dessert) at a multi-course meal, and naturally stopping when comfortably full.  That kind of action will signal a huge milestone in the way I approach food.

In the meantime, I’m off to raid the fridge for some broccoli and carrots.  And  I’ll just glance away as my HH polishes off that Dump Cake. (“Did you say carrots, Mum?  Because we love those.  Especially with turkey.”)

*Or, “Everything I Know About Eating, I Learned From My Dogs”

As we all know, dogs are great role models for living in the moment.  And boy, do they love their food.  In fact, sometimes I think I’m nothing but a food dispenser for my Furry Girls.  (“That’s so unfair of you, Mum, really.  Don’t you know that we also rely on you for shelter and walks?).  

From what I’ve observed living with two dogs, this is how they eat:

  • Be Willing To Eat Anything.  In other words, if it’s organic (I mean that in the “derived from living organisms” sense, not the “no-pesticide” sense), they will eat it.  In Chaser’s case, she’ll even occasionally eat something that isn’t food at all, such as thrown-out tissues (“But they were in the garbage beside the food, Mum.”). Lesson for People:  Go out on a limb and be willing to try new foods once in a while.  My HH is totally open when it comes to anything made of animal parts, for example (such as organ meats or more exotic forms of sushi), but has become less willing in recent months to try some of the vegan ingredients that I love (such as teff, or a sprinkling of nutritional yeast over pasta).
  • Eat fast.  Dogs just hoover up that chow as quickly as they can; no mindful eating here, no taking time to appreciate the subtle flavors of the P-Nuttier biscuit versus the Freshwater Trout  one. After all, you never know when another cur will drop in and want what’s in your bowl, so better be sure there’s nothing left for them when they arrive.  Lesson for People: If you live with dogs, you’ve surely been exposed to the various smells associated with that kind of guzzling and its effects on digestive systems. Do yourself a favor: avoid the same rumbling, bloating and eau du flatulence by chewing food properly and eating more slowly.
  • Eat it all. No leftovers with these Girls. Since you never know when you’ll next be fed, better eat it all now. This rule may not apply as much for domesticated dogs, as my Girls seem to be keenly aware of dinnertime. I can always tell when it’s 4:30 PM, more or less, from the rhythmic poking by a gentle wet nose against my thigh as I sit at my computer around that time of day (“Well, we’re just being helpful, Mum, just in case you forget.”Lesson for People:  Since we have the advantage of being able to tell time and we can head to the cupboard any time we please, it’s better for our health to stop when full, rather than continue eating until stuffed.  (Reminder to self: Must. Work. On. This. One.) 
  • Eat with Gusto.  Dogs put their all into dinnertime, as if every bowl is the last meal they’ll ever ever eat.  They focus entirely on the food, and attack it with enthusiasm.   Lesson for People:  Here’s where we can definitely learn something of great value from our canine companions. Eating with alacrity and paying attention to all those wonderful sensations we experience while feasting is the perfect way to appreciate our food.

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I recently read something somewhere (sorry, I’ve forgotten where, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t on Holidailies ) that linked binge eating to anxiety.  In other words, bingeing can be interpreted an outlet for the anxiety, and one that occurs due to fears about whether we’ll have sufficient food in the future.  On some level, this theory does make sense to me; if you’re subconsciously worried that the universe will be insufficient to provide for your needs–emotional or otherwise–you may be inclined to use bingeing as a release (and a way to “stock up” in case you’re bereft later). 

Since dogs don’t have control over when or what they eat, for the most part, and since they aren’t aware of our (humans’) reliability as food dispensers, could it be that they eat that way to allay their own anxiety about foods?   

Possibly; but I doubt it.  Even when my dogs are calm, submissive, and totally anxiety-free, they are apt to gorge themselves on whatever is around. They just want to eat, and eat, and eat.  Take Chaser, for instance, who was rushed to our vet’s one afternoon a few weeks ago after consuming the entire contents of our mini-composting bin in the kitchen, which, on that day, contained the remains of some chocolate birthday cake I’d made for a customer, blue frosting and all.  Agave-based or not,  that called for immediate action. I whisked her to the vet’s and they did whatever was necessary to void her little tummy. 

Luckily, I had caught her in the act, and, apart from a few moments of whining, she was back to normal in no time. (“Oh, right, Mum.  I also forgot to mention earlier that we rely on you to save our lives whenever we do something  stupid, too“).

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[“Sorry about that cake thing, Mum.”]

Willpower and Panic Attacks

December 11, 2007

Yesterday, when I finally made it back to the workout club after my recent hiatus (Nice to see you again, Elderly Gentleman Who Always Wears Black Knee Socks! Good day, Sixty-Something Woman with the Spiky Hair!  How ya doin’, Teenaged Girl with the Chirpy Giggle!), I was astonished to find that I had actually lost more weight. (Oh, and also that an earlier blog entry appeared in the Best of Holidailies! Awesome!!). 

 

I got to thinking about what, this particular time round, has made the difference that’s allowed me to lose weight. Did I suddenly acquire some new form of willpower?

 

Well, “willpower” isn’t exactly the right word, I think.  Because what I’m experiencing just doesn’t seem to take that much effort on my part. Oh, and wait a sec, I did eat the majority of a 150 gram white chocolate bar the other day–so I’m not consciously depriving myself, either.  In fact, I seem to be able to basically eat whatever I want, whenever I want—even if it involves ingesting copious amounts of chocolate—without the same repercussions as when I last did more or less the same thing, about a year ago (when I capped off my weight gain with yet another 10 pounds, pushing me past my previous all-time record).

Something struck me as odd about this latest turn of events.  Decades ago–before there was even a term to describe it–I used to suffer from debilitating anxiety attacks.  Lacking confidence, living alone in a strange city without any close friends or family, I began to find myself at 3:00 AM fretting about the sudden pains in my chest or the alarming pace of my racing heartbeat. After hours of internal battles and too scared to sleep, I’d finally wear myself out and fall into an exhausted slumber for a couple of hours before daybreak.  

After fielding endless frantic queries about the myriad symptoms of heart attacks and several other fatal illnesses over the course of a year, one day The Nurse finally said to me, “Look, I just don’t get it.  Instead of staying up all night stressing about whether or not you’re having a heart attack, why don’t you just go to the emergency room as soon as it starts?  You’ll get examined, they’ll tell you there’s nothing wrong with you, and then you can go back home and go to sleep.” And of course she was right; the few times I did go, the doctor’s reassurance caused the the symptoms to subside, and I was able to relax and go home to bed. 

It had never before occurred to me to just “give in to it.”  I’d always felt that I was required to somehow vanquish the fear, that if I succumbed and went to the emerg, it would mean that I was intrinsically weak willed and would, therefore, never overcome those panic attacks. 

Well, after about 3 or 4 weeks of acknowledging those symptoms and having them deemed harmless, those panic attacks naturally began to diminish. To this day, I don’t really know why; it was something about giving up the fight, acknowledging them as the current reality–however negative–instead of trying, for the entire course of an excruciating night of pain and hyperventilating, to deny their existence. They just went away.

As I’ve mentioned before, the last time I lost a fair amount of weight (also rather effortlessly) was about 4 years ago, as a student at my much beloved nutrition school.  About a year after that, the weight began to sneak back up.  Since then, I’ve been struggling to lose it again, failing miserably time after time.  Except now, since October.  Why?

Perhaps the same principle applies to binge eating as to those anxiety attacks. Accepting the bingeing as reality (which is NOT the same as condoning it or embracing it as a welcome practise) without trying to deny, suppress, erase or judge it–may just be the ticket to eradicating it.  At that point, the binges may just decide to go away of their own accord.

I don’t know whether this is the case in my situation, but I am most thankful for the current trend.  It may simply be that trying too hard to prevent a particular activity–protesting too much–may, ironically, exaggerate the activity even more.  I’d love to know how others feel about this one. 

(“Well, Mum, we think it’s a great strategy.  We just eat whatever we want, too, though we never do get quite as much food as we’d like.”