Search results for 'intuitive'

Neola Bethany: 4 Months

14 Sep

Neola turned 4 months on September 12. This post is over a week late but I wrote it right at 4 months. It just took me this long to put the photos in it!

Size

Neola is now 15 lbs 4.5 oz (71%), 25.25 inches long (80%), with a head circumference of 16.54 inches (85%). She is starting to outgrow her 6-month sleepers but is still wearing size 2 diapers. Long and lean!

Sleeping

Neola is still a rockstar at night and usually gives me one stretch of between 5 and 8 hours. She usually wakes up around 3/3:30 to eat, then again at 6 or so. I usually put her back down until about 7:30 (unless I foolishly change her diaper between sides, then she’s awake for the day —which thankfully I only did once).

Not sure if I mentioned this in a previous post but Neola never did really like being swaddled for sleep (our only child who didn’t!). So she’s been using straight sleep sacks since about 6 weeks old. She is still sleeping in the Rock n Play. I’ve tried putting her in the crib a few times but her legs wake her up. I’m trying to muster up the courage to go for it (same with potty training Corbin!).

But during the day… 😩

I am extremely thankful for a healthy baby and for the fact that we have a few tried and true ways to get Neola to sleep, but this whole catnapping thing is for the birds. I was just reading Annabelle’s 4-month blog post and that girl took a 3-hour nap every day! But she was definitely our easiest baby. Neola hasn’t napped longer than 30 minutes since she was probably 2 months old. Our pediatrician said she might sleep more after getting her vaccinations — our other kids did — but nope, didn’t affect her at all. I’m glad she didn’t have a fever or anything, but couldn’t she have been just a little sleepier than normal?!

Since it’s still nice out, we swing Neola in the hammock swing for almost all of her naps. Her other naps are either in her carseat or while nursing. She likes being pushed across somewhat bumpy ground (like a yard) in the stroller or being swing back and forth in her carseat. I have some gnarly calluses on my right hand to prove that!

Eating

Neola is doing great nursing! She likes bottles less and less. I’m so happy that I didn’t give up and that I muscled through the frustration and discouragement.

I think she nurses every 1.5 to 3 hours, but I honestly do not keep track of the time. We just have more of an intuitive rhythm/flow, and a “when in doubt, nurse” kind of approach. #fourthchild Our days are so chaotic that I often look at the clock and realize that even though it only feels like 9:30, it’s actually noon and I have to make lunch!

Neola is still a spit-up, drool machine. She wears bibs almost all the time now, or we have to change her shirt every 20 minutes.

We plan to start Neola on solid foods around 6 months.

Development

Neola is a very talkative baby, and just in the last couple of days, she has started giggling, specifically when I tickle her neck (cleaning spit-up out of it!). She’s also very smiley and patient — she puts up with so much from her siblings!

Her torticollis is getting better — she will voluntarily turn her head both directions now (though it does seem like she maybe still favors the one side a little more). We haven’t been doing the exercises very often with her 😬 but she is getting more time in the Bumbo, Baby Bjorn, and being carried around. I’m going to break out the jumperoo one of these days too. (Update: Since writing this post a week ago, I did break out the jumperoo. She loves it!)

Cleaning Up Our {Eating} Act

18 Feb

After the holidays, Travis and I felt like we needed something to motivate us to get back to eating healthier. Even though we were no longer consuming cookies and treats like they were going out of style, our eating habits had declined. In Travis’ case, he was drinking too many beers (on average 1-3 a night) and eating too many snacks during the day, instead of actual meals. In my case, I had been eating too many refined, ‘easy’ carbs like Ramen noodles, Kraft macaroni & cheese, quesadillas on white tortillas, bagels, and cereal.

Since I’m pregnant, I knew I couldn’t go crazy — after all, I’m still growing a little human inside of me! The goal of this ‘challenge’ was just to be healthier anyway, not detox or lose a bunch of weight (though Travis was hoping to drop a few pounds).

So here were our ground rules:

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The first week of the challenge was tough. We both realized how many of the snacks we ate during the day were refined carbs or sweets, or at least contained chocolate (like trail mix and granola bars). We didn’t enjoy our morning coffee as much without the added sugar, and Travis missed the relaxation aspect of having a few beers at night while watching TV.

The second week was better. Travis made eggs and bacon for breakfast fairly often, until I told him we couldn’t afford for him to eat 3 strips of bacon every morning. I ate oatmeal, whole wheat bagels, and smoothies for breakfast. We started snacking on more fruit and nuts, like clementines, apples + peanut butter, mixed nuts, and granola bars without chocolate. For dinner, we made our pizza dough with whole wheat flour and used whole wheat noodles in our pasta.

The third week, I was visiting my parents and Travis was on a work trip and visiting friends, so we didn’t follow our plan exactly. Still, we made different choices than we would’ve otherwise. For example, I ate a taco salad one night instead of using a white tortilla (though I SO wanted one!), and declined ice cream when my dad offered. But other days, I ate some pretzels and drank some cranberry juice (pregnancy craving!). Similarly, when eating out, Travis opted for salad instead of french fries, and ordered a leaner cut of steak, but drank some beers with his buddy when it wasn’t a cheat day.

The last 10 days or so, we mostly stuck to the rules, but also cheated some. I ate some of Emma’s fruit snacks (for some reason, pregnancy makes me crave them!) and a few pieces of chocolate. Travis had a friend/co-worker visiting so he drank some beers/cocktails on non-cheat days.

Regardless, we feel like the challenge accomplished our desired purpose. Travis lost a few pounds, but mostly, we were motivated to eat healthier snacks, reacquaint ourselves with whole wheat products (we used to eat them more, but got out of the habit for one reason or another), and relax at night with air-popped popcorn and water instead of beer and/or sweets. I also totally kicked putting sugar in my coffee — though I still use liquid coffee creamer. I know it’s not very healthy, but it makes me enjoy coffee, and coffee keeps me sane. So there.

I will say, though, that this challenge has reinforced my belief in Intuitive Eating. The idea of IE is that no food is off-limits or labeled ‘bad’. There are only 2 rules: You eat when you’re hungry, and you stop when you’re full. IE got me out of the rut of obsessing about food and calories. By giving myself the freedom to eat whatever I wanted, and focusing on listening to my body’s hunger signals, food stopped having power over me. Knowing that I could have more ice cream whenever I wanted (instead of telling myself “I really shouldn’t have any, but I guess just this once…”), I didn’t feel the out-of-control impulse to eat an entire pint in one sitting. With this challenge (and being pregnant!), I started once again salivating over treats. I do best when I can have a little bit of chocolate everyday.

That is why, barring medical necessity, I will never follow any of the more extreme diets like paleo, vegan, gluten-free, etc or declare any foods off-limits. I don’t do well with restriction. It might make me physically healthier, but at the cost of my mental and emotional health. I’d rather focus on eating mostly healthy and enjoying sweets in moderation. That said, even though chocolate is back in my life, I’m hoping to stick with the healthier alternatives to my beloved refined carbs. 😉

Diapers: Cloth vs. Disposable

1 Mar

diaperingBefore I got pregnant, I had heard all of the success stories and “It’s so much cheaper!” testimonials about cloth diapers and just assumed that of course, we would cloth diaper. After all, I was going to be a stay-at-home mom and doing a few loads of diapers every 2-3 days seemed doable, and totally worth it to save money and not send thousands of diapers to a landfill.

Well, then I started hearing the other side of the story. Cloth diapers use more water and electricity in the home than disposables. Cloth diapers leak more. They require the diaper to be changed more often. It’s hard to find the right fit.

And my plans for after maternity leave now include working 3 days a week (which I will post about later). Is it reasonable to 1) ask the daycare provider to use cloth diapers and 2) expect to have time to wash cloth diapers when I’m working 8 hours a day?

Suddenly, the disposable vs. cloth issue isn’t as clear cut.

After a little more online research (and without the benefit of being able to conduct my own), I have concluded that yes, cloth diapers, from a sheer financial perspective, are way cheaper on the whole. The upfront costs are steeper, and your electricity and water bills may go up slightly, but even with buying 24 of the more expensive bumGenius All-in-One diapers ($18 each), the diapers pay for themselves within 6 months when compared to disposables. Then you’re only incurring the slightly increased utility bills (if that happens at all – some people say their utilities didn’t go up when they started cloth diapering).

I’m not going to get into the ‘which is greener’ environmental issues. Besides liking the idea of not filling up landfills with diapers, my motivation for choosing cloth diapering would be financial, not environmental. (It doesn’t seem like anyone will win that debate anyway.)

That leaves mainly the feasibility question. Is this realistic? At the very least, I’m willing to give it a try.

So here’s what our loose plan is:

We’ve heard from many people that cloth diapers, even the all-in-one One Size bumGenius diapers that we plan on buying (they fit from 8 – 35 lbs), don’t fit newborns very well. And I don’t want to buy newborn-size cloth diapers. There’s also the whole “figuring out how to take care of a newborn when I’ve never even held one before” thing. So until Emma is about 9-11 lbs, or for a month or two, we’re going to use disposable diapers.

After that, we’re going to *try* cloth diapers. I had initially planned to buy the recommended 24 diapers to have enough for 2-3 days, but now I’m thinking that maybe 5-10 is enough to get a feel of how we like cloth diapers. Do they really leak a lot more? Do they fit Emma well? How feasible is it to wash them in time?

I’m also toying with the idea of going half and half – cloth diapers on the weekends and the days I don’t work, disposables on the days she goes to daycare. But maybe that’s even more complicated than just choosing one method and running with it?

Edited to add: If we decide to stick with cloth diapering at least part of the time, I’m hoping to also use reusable wipes. It seems fairly easy – you can either spray your baby’s bum with a cleaner and wipe off with a cloth wipe, or soak your cloth wipe in the cleaner and put in a wipes warmer, and then you just wash the wipes with your diapers. There are ready-made ‘bum cleaners’ that you can buy, or natural ones that only require a few ingredients. I’ll probably start off with a ready-made cleaner, and then transition to making my own. I’m really trying to not set a bunch of lofty goals having no idea what being a mother is like. Baby steps people.

On this side of motherhood, making decisions like this seems thoroughly overwhelming. But I’m sure (at least I hope) that once Emma is actually here and I start to get the hang of things, the right choice will seem clearer and more intuitive than it does now, when I’m trying to work through hypotheticals without knowing the reality.

What kind of diaper do you use/plan to use? Why? Are you satisfied with your choice?

Pregnancy Update: 27 Weeks

8 Jan

27w 0dLast week of the 2nd trimester! My due date was 3 months from yesterday. So exciting!

I took my glucose test last Thursday morning and got the results back Friday afternoon. My glucose and hemoglobin levels are normal, meaning I don’t have gestational diabetes or anemia. I was very glad to hear that! So I’m pretty much back to normal with my eating and exercise habits. I’ll do a post soon about how it’s going eating intuitively while pregnant. I also have a post in the works about the prenatal workout videos I’ve tried.

My back had been hurting a lot at night until I discovered that when I was laying directly on my side, I’d end up tilting slightly backward while I was sleeping – putting my back at a very awkward, painful angle. As soon as I started intentionally tilting slightly forward onto my body pillow, my back stopped hurting. I’ve also tried putting my arm behind me, instead of laying on it. At first, I thought it would be horribly uncomfortable but it gives my poor cramped collarbone a nice break.

So my sleep this past week has been pretty decent. I still wake up every hour or two to switch sides, and I still have some crazy dreams, but overall, it’s not too bad. I do lay on my back for a minute or so every once in a while and it’s like sinking into a cup of warm pudding. Ahhh…

I’m flying back to Minnesota for my baby shower the weekend of February 9 & 10 and just bought my plane ticket this past week. It was only $150! That is the best ticket price we’ve seen in years, maybe ever, from Denver to Minneapolis. And it’s on Southwest, which means I get to check 2 free bags (for bringing gifts back)! I’m so excited.

We’re actually making another impromptu trip to Minnesota today for a reason that’s not so happy – Travis’ grandma passed away and we’re going to back for the visitation and funeral, which are Wednesday night and Thursday morning. We’re driving our old Focus back to give to Travis’ brother and then we’re flying back to Denver on Thursday night. It’ll be a short trip, but I’m glad we can make it.

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My workouts for last week:

Su: 1.15 mile walk

M: 40 minutes Prenatal Fitness Fix video

T: 1.55 mile walk

Th: 30 minutes elliptical

F: 1.15 mile walk

Sa: 1.15 mile walk

My pelvic/inner thigh pain was ridiculous on Friday – I assume from doing the elliptical (since your legs are going different directions the whole time, which I’ve read aggravates this kind of pain). I had to jog across the road as a car was coming on my walk with the dogs Friday morning and that solidified that my pregnant jogging days are over. I’m going to stick to walking, workout videos, and hopefully start doing some swimming (need to buy a suit first). I am enjoying this whole “light intensity exercise” thing but I’m really looking forward to getting back into running!

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Mixing it up a bit this week…

Maternity clothes? Pants are all maternity, except for a few pairs of workout/pajama pants. Tops are 90% maternity – I still have a few pre-pregnancy tops that are long enough, and I still wear my cardigans.
Stretch marks? None
Symptoms: Pelvic/inner thigh pain, some heartburn, backache
Best moment this week: Went to Ikea (for the first time in Denver) and bought gray shelves for the nursery
Miss Anything?  sleeping on my stomach/back, wine, running
Movement: Lots of kicking! Mostly in the middle of the night
Food cravings: Chocolate still! There’s a box of chocolates sitting in my hall at work and I probably eat at least 3 a day. So hard to resist!
Weight gained: 18 lbs total (1 lb this week)
Gender: Girl
Labor Signs: No labor signs, but I’ve been having Braxton Hicks contractions during the night
Belly Button in or out? It’s getting flatter every day
Mood: Frequently annoyed at the world over little stuff, but overall, I’m happy and excited
Looking forward to:  Childbirth classes starting this weekend
What I am NOT looking forward to: Having the pelvic pain get worse, 13 more weeks of sleeping on my side
Milestones: Last week of the 2nd trimester!

Pregnancy Update: 26 Weeks

31 Dec

26w 1d 002I’m working from home in my PJ’s today!

I had my most recent prenatal checkup last Friday morning and completely expected it to go exactly how the others have – the doctor says everything looks good and I come back in a month. Well, this appointment was a little different.

For every prenatal appointment until this one, the same very nice lady brings me back and weighs me, takes my blood pressure, all that good stuff. I got a different lady for this appointment and she was a little more gruff/disgruntled. Their computers were down that morning, so maybe that contributed to her attitude. Anyway, she sent me to the bathroom for a urine sample, then weighed me. After taking my blood pressure (and not telling me what it was), she ran her pee test and remarked numerous times about how much sugar was in my urine – ‘just a crazy amount.’ She asked what I had eaten for breakfast and feeling sheepish (since I had had 1/2 bowl of Frosted Mini Wheats and a big bowl of Rice Krispies), I just said, “Cereal,” and then added, “Probably not the most healthy breakfast ever.” To which she replied that ‘in her opinion, all cereal is just sugar.’ Because of the sugar in my urine, she pricked my finger to test my glucose level and when she got the result, said “Well, that’s not horrible.” And then sent me on my way to an exam room.

The doctor came in after a few minutes and asked if I had taken my gestational diabetes test (with the sugary drink). No, I had not. (Apparently, that was something they forgot to prepare me with at my last appointment.) She said I could come in before my next appointment and have my blood drawn after drinking the drink. Then she asked if I had any questions. I did have a few and after each, she quickly said that they were very common symptoms and nothing to be worried about. Once I was done with my questions, she reviewed my chart and said that my glucose level was 122, which wasn’t horrible but they liked to keep it below 140. Also, I should watch my weight gain since I had gained 9 lbs in a month, putting me at 22 total lbs gained with 14 weeks to go.

Say what?!?!?

My mind reeled with this information, since according to my own calculations, I had only gained 2 lbs in 4 weeks. At the time, I could only think to tell the doctor that on my home scale, I had only gained about 17 or 18 lbs total, not 22. She brushed that off and gave me the speech about hidden calories in juice and soda, how carbs can add lots of calories, I should add in light intensity exercise, yadda yadda. I brushed her off because I know all of that. What’s more, after going 2 weeks with gaining nothing (or so I thought?), I had been intentionally eating more.

It was like a twilight zone.

That appointment has bothered me more than I like to admit. I actually cried on my way home. There are several reasons why this bothers me – One, because I don’t think it’s true. Two, because I identify myself as a healthy person and this undermines that. Three, I had felt like I was eating healthier and being more active than earlier in my pregnancy and this made me feel like even that wasn’t enough. Four, I had finally gotten into the groove of intuitive eating and this situation has made me hyperaware of everything I’m eating and rife with guilt anytime I consume something sugary.

To get to the bottom of the situation, I weighed myself Saturday morning and my scale said exactly what I expected it to. I have gone around and around trying to figure out how our figures could be so off – not that I really care about the discrepancy of 5 lbs total but how in the world did they calculate me gaining 9 lbs in a month, when I only calculated 2? Maybe I stood on the scale weirdly and it read incorrectly? Maybe keeping my shoes on skewed the results? Maybe it was because they used a different scale this time? Maybe my scale at home is broken, even though it seems to give me accurate readings and has showed me gaining 2 lbs in the past 4 weeks?

I can think of a lot of explanations for the total lbs gained being off, but I can’t for the life of me figure how it could show me gaining 9 lbs in a month. It boggles my mind. For now, I’ll let it rest and hopefully my next prenatal appointment weighing will show that this scale was on crack on Friday.

As for the blood sugar, I am going to take the gestational diabetes test this Wednesday morning so you can be praying about that. I am going to let this whole situation encourage me to not eat as much sugar (I was going a little overboard there for a bit…) but I’m not going to freak out and start counting calories (because it makes me miserable).

The other interesting development this week has actually been in the works for the past several weeks. My inner thighs constantly feel like I’ve done 500 reps on the adductor machine. At first, it was only noticeable when I walked. I assumed that my Pilates video worked my inner thighs more than I realized, and that I was also more out of shape than I realized. But then Christmas came around and after 4 days of doing nothing much, my inner thighs still were really sore. They have gotten increasingly more sore over the past couple of weeks so now they hurt when I walk, get up from sitting, squat, pull pants on, get out of the car. I can’t even close a drawer with my leg anymore. I can’t say I’m excited for another 14 weeks of this. BUT once again, I’m thankful that my pregnancy has been fairly uneventful, and that my baby girl is still healthy and kicking up a storm.

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My workouts this past week were on the light side, due to Christmas and me not sleeping well:

Su: 1.15 mile walk

W: 12 minute walk

Th: 20 minutes prenatal Pilates

Sa: 1.7 mile walk

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Symptoms: Inner thigh/pelvic soreness, acne

Cravings: Chocolate

Weight Gain: 17 lbs total (o gain this week – according to MY scale)

Favorite Moment: Finishing up my nursery sewing projects (which I’ll post about soon)

Least Favorite Moment: Prenatal appointment

Looking Forward To: Our childbirth class in a week and a half!

 

Pregnancy and Weight Gain

16 Oct

 

{source}

Hey friends. I’m back from elk camp, which I’ll recap when Travis gets back with the camera. I also forgot to take a bump picture this morning so I’ll do my 15 Week update tomorrow.

Today I wanted to share my thoughts on weight gain during pregnancy, two aspects in particular: food and body image.

Food

For an average-sized person like me, the recommended amount of weight gain is 25-35 pounds. And despite the familiar idea of eating for two, the extra calories required daily to grow a human being are pretty much 0 in the first trimester, 300 in the second trimester, and 450 in the third trimester (again, for an average-sized person like me).

It’s funny, though, how prevalent the mindset is of eating whatever you want now that you’re pregnant. All of a sudden, eating an entire chocolate cake by myself is not only acceptable, it’s encouraged. “The baby needs chocolate!” I can’t lie and say that I haven’t already often said “Hey, I’m growing a baby” as an excuse to eat more than I would normally (mostly to avoid being hungry an hour later), but I haven’t been demolishing everything in sight either. I may be pregnant, but I still can’t stand the feeling of being too full.

All that said, my approach to gaining weight during pregnancy is going to be the same as my approach was to maintaining weight before pregnancy: Intuitive Eating. The main two principles of Intuitive Eating are 1) Eat when you’re hungry and 2) Stop when you’re full. Sub-principles are 3) No food is off-limits and 4) You feel better when you eat healthy foods.

Now that I’m in the second trimester, the amount and quality of food I eat is especially important to The Biscuit. I’ve been pretty consistent in eating at least one serving of vegetables a day – last Thursday and Friday I had enormous salads for lunch (which cost me $7.50 each at the work cafeteria, no big deal). Tonight, I’m going to buy and prep the ingredients to keep that salad streak going. I’d also like to start cooking dinner more often – even if that only means making our own mini pizzas instead of throwing in a frozen pizza. I’ve also been putting strawberries on my cereal for breakfast and eating an orange and grapes or canned fruit for snacks during the day. {Side note: I love canned mandarin oranges.}

That’s about where my healthy eating ends. The rest of my diet has been a mashup of fruit snacks, licorice, potato chips, ice cream, pickles, sushi and white dinner rolls. And the love for meat I had during Weeks 5-7? Pretty much gone. Even chicken tastes kind of weird now.

To sum it up, my eating habits since becoming pregnant haven’t been the greatest and I’m aiming to improve them for the sake of my baby. But I’m not going to be a Nazi and count calories, or use a checklist to make sure that I’m eating everything I’m supposed to be (like the one that What to Expect When You’re Expecting has). Even in pregnancy, healthy eating is about making good choices, one at a time.

Body Image

Before getting pregnant, I’d heard pregnant women whose bellies were growing lament the loss of their former shape. I always thought it was kind of silly – I mean, what do you expect when you get pregnant? Having your belly grow is inevitable. But now I have a different perspective/understanding of that lament.

Don’t get me wrong – I love that my belly is growing because it makes pregnancy so much more real. But I wasn’t expecting to feel the same apprehensions as the other women I judged. There are days when I wonder if I’ll ever be able to run a 10 minute mile again, or ever have a stomach that’s even remotely flat. There are days when I feel like my belly is just fat, not baby, and compare myself to other women who have barely-there bumps even at 19 weeks. I wonder if my boobs are still growing, and if they’ll ever return to the sufficient size they once were.

Probably the biggest struggle I have in regards to my body image is my fear of getting out of shape. For the past 8 or 9 years, I’ve been consistently active. Over the past 3-4 years, I’ve done sprint and Olympic triathlons, half marathons and a full marathon. Now, I count cleaning my house or walking the dogs as a workout – because honestly, I don’t have much energy for more. I went on 3 hikes this weekend with my mother-in-law, each lasting between 60 and 90 minutes, and that was my limit. I get tired a lot faster and easier than I used to, and I’ve already noticed that my fitness level has dropped significantly. I keep waiting for the “second trimester energy” to kick in but so far, I feel just as tired as I have the past 3 months.

So just like with eating healthy, I am just going to take it a day at a time and try to do as much as I can. If that’s only 2 workouts one week, that’s what it is.

How did/do you feel about gaining weight or losing fitness during pregnancy?

Cleaning It Up…

6 Aug

Since I’ve cut back quite a bit on my activity levels (hello 4 rest days last week!) and I have a Labor Day weekend on the lake in Minnesota looming, I’ve decided that I need to clean up my eating habits a bit. Any runner knows that it’s a little too easy to justify eating a cookie here, some chocolate there, because “Hey, I just ran xx miles.” Well, I no longer have that excuse. (Though I did run a full 6.75 miles last week.)

There’s a reason why I said I’m cleaning up my eating “a bit.” I don’t know about you but when I read about a “clean diet” that includes protein brownies, or look at eating plans that specify every piece of food that can pass your lips, I get overwhelmed. I don’t want to have to figure out how to make my brownies healthy with brown rice flour, agave nectar and greek yogurt. I don’t want to weigh and measure every thing I eat. (Some people do, and more power to them.) For me, food freedom is where I’m happiest. I’m a big fan of Intuitive Eating, if you can’t tell.

So the main thing I’ve done to clean my eating habits up is to be mindful of what I eat. No eating food just because it’s there and it’s free. I can get into a habit at work of eating whatever someone brings in – donuts, cookies, cake, etc. – just because it’s available. But I want everything I eat to be intentional chosen – it should be either nutritious and filling, or amazingly delicious.

Balanced with that, I’m also focusing on getting the majority (like 95%) of my daily calories from actual good-for-me food. I’m not specifically focused on cutting out sugar, refined flour, saturated fat, sodium or what have you. I just want to get more bang for my buck.

The main result of these two ideas taken together has been a severe decrease in my consumption of ice cream, cookies, chocolate, wine, etc. And I’m down a couple of pounds. Maybe it’s because my appetite has decreased from not working out as much, or maybe this whole ‘clean eating’ thing actually works (note the sarcasm), but I’m not complaining.

Do you “eat clean”? What does it look like for you?

January Goal: Achieved.

2 Feb

Well, friends, I made it. Survived one entire month without sweets of any sorts. It was rough. Especially last week. The culmination of busyness at work, that time of the month, tiredness, and sickness made me want to punch someone and steal their ice cream. But I didn’t.

The past couple days, I’ve been thinking over whether this goal achieved its intended purpose or not, which was to destroy my intense craving for sweets at all hours of the day for part of every meal. And I have to be honest, last week I was convinced that this whole goal was one big waste of willpower.

But then this week came. And the idea of getting to eat chocolate today was like Meh. I woke up this morning and stumbled to the bathroom with one eye half open, and then I remembered, it’s over. I can eat sweets again.

I stumbled to the kitchen where the thawed Triple Decker Brownies that I had kept in the freezer since New Years were sitting. And to be honest, I didn’t really want one. But I have been waiting for this moment the entire month of January – it’s the Day of Chocolate!

So I got out a plate and made the breakfast of champions:

I ate the dark chocolate square first. It was chocolate but it didn’t explode in my mouth like I had fantasized for 30 days.

Then I started eating the brownie. And I realized that what I was doing was ridiculous. Not only was I eating chocolate for breakfast, I wasn’t even enjoying it. So I bagged up the other half of the brownie and the chocolate cherry for later. As I drank my coffee and ate a piece of peanut butter toast, my stomach was doing flip-flops – not in the elated, I can’t believe we get to eat chocolate again! way but in the What the f? What is this crap? way.

{Don’t worry, I still ate the other half of the brownie and chocolate cherry for my morning snack, and instead of the salad and butternut squash lasagna I so carefully packed, I ate a Cinnamon Crunch bagel with Honey Walnut cream cheese from Panera for lunch. Now my stomach is really confused angry.}

All that to say…

It was cutting it close but I think that my goal finally had its intended effect. That time of the month aside (because we all know that we can’t be held accountable for our actions then), I think that my craving for sweets has decreased to a normal, sane amount.

In fact, I’m not even planning to get Yogurtland tonight.

I know, I know. Who am I?

The reason being that I’m going to run 5 miles and do my physical therapy exercises. And Travis is meeting with guys from church. And I don’t want to drive all the way to Yogurtland by myself. And it’s supposed to be a blizzard tonight after work. And I don’t want my stomach to go on strike for being mistreated.

What I Learned:

This experience has taught me that I do have the willpower to resist sweets. I can never use lack of willpower as an excuse again. I will have to admit that I ate the bowl of ice cream because I wanted it more than I wanted a flat stomach or a stable blood sugar. (That’s been the truth all along anyway.)

I also learned that I turned to sweets of all kinds (including soda…who knew?) for comfort and indulgence. When I come home from a stressful or tiring day, and just want to relax, food is where I turn – because it’s fast, easy, and gratifying. I tried to think of other ways to achieve the same effect but I don’t like baths because relaxing against a cement wall isn’t my idea of a good time. Walks are just more work. Reading and TV are better with food so that’s not it either. I guess I’m left with trying to tame the beast.

Where I Go from Here:

This goal reminded me of why I believe in Intuitive Eating (IE). The main idea of IE is that you give yourself permission to eat whatever you want. There are only two rules in IE: Eat when you’re hungry. Stop when you’re full. The authors believe that when we classify foods as “bad” and “good,” food ends up exerting power over us. But when you ditch the classifications and allow yourself to have whatever you want as long as you’re hungry and stop when you’re full, food loses it power – because you know you can have it anytime you want.

With this goal, I took away that freedom. I couldn’t eat sweets when I craved them and found myself trying to fill the void with other food. This comic from Cathy sums it up beautifully:

This is exactly what the authors of IE  say – you end up eating more food and calories trying to satisfy your true craving in a “healthy” way than you would if you just ate what you truly wanted. And I really found that to be true. When I wanted something sweet after dinner, instead of being able to satisfy myself with a 35-calorie Dove chocolate, I would eat 250 calories of Pirate’s Booty or a bowl of cereal. So if you’re wondering if I lost any weight doing this challenge, sadly, no I did not. 😦

Now that the month of no sweets is over, I’m going back to giving myself the freedom to eat sweets when I’m truly craving them. But I am not going back to the licentiousness I had before I did this challenge. Then, I ate whatever was sitting out or free, whether I really wanted it or not. I exercised hardly any discretion (which is what led me to my sugar addiction in the first place). Now, I would like to be more intentional and make every choice count. If I eat a piece of chocolate cake, it better be just about the best piece of cake I’ve ever had. If I eat ice cream, it better be my favorite flavor or served on top of a gooey, still-warm brownie. That’s one rule I try to follow regarding what I eat in general: If you don’t love it, don’t eat it (even if that means throwing out “perfectly good food”).

I would like to preserve my body’s sugar shock as long as possible. It always make me feel good (and yet at the same time, feel horrible) when I’ve been eating healthy for long enough that my body freaks out when I give it unhealthy food. I must be doing something right. 

Have you ever ransacked the cupboard trying to satisfy a craving?

January Goal Update: No Sweets for a Month

10 Jan

So I have successfully made it 8, going on 9, days without sweets. And I have to say, it’s been ROUGH.

I have given up foods before as a way to go cold-turkey off a bad habit – because let’s be honest, I’ve tried “to eat less chocolate” and bombed big time. So it works for me to abstain from a certain thing for a while, until the craving goes away or at least decreases. But for some reason, this time has been the hardest.

Maybe it’s because I outlawed all sweets, not just chocolate or pop. Maybe it’s because I entered this goal with a fresh holiday sugar rush that I accumulated, bite by bite, over many weeks. Maybe it’s because I just got so used to ending a meal with a “little something extra.” Maybe it’s because I don’t have any cheat days, or even cheat moments, with this goal.

Whatever it is, I really hope these 8 days aren’t a foreshadow of what the next 22 will be like. 

I mean, it’s got to get easier, right?

It’s the hardest after dinner. I just want… something. Sweet. Chocolate.

Then it doesn’t help that I see all these delicious baked goods on the blogs I follow. Or at friends’ houses. Or on TV commercials.

What I wouldn’t give for a brownie, a blondie, or a chocolate chip cookie.

Anyway… I’ve noticed and not cared that I am substituting other post-dinner snacks for the MIA chocolate. I know that this is partly the result of having eaten dessert for after every meal in the months of November and December, and partly the result of me being extremely addicted to chocolate.

I’ve found that a good remedy for this is to use the snack as a reward for doing the dishes right after dinner, straightening up the living room, walking the dogs, etc. Do something else right after eating, with the promise that if you still want it, you can have a dessert/snack later. About 95% of the time, my craving is gone by the time I’ve done doing whatever. Because I  just wanted to eat more. But once I get out of “eating mode,” a dessert isn’t as appealing (unless, say, you were attempting to go a whole month without one).

I do this with bowls of cereal too. Honey Bunches of Oats is especially tempting (probably because it’s a bowl of sugar). I finish one bowl and immediately want another one. But in order to practice Intuitive Eating, I take a break. If I’m still hungry in 20 minutes, I can have another bowl. If I’m not hungry in 20 minutes, I can have another bowl once I’m hungry again. Overeating often happens because we think, “This is the only chance I get to eat this! If I don’t eat all of it, right now, this second, it’ll be gone and I’ll be unsatisfied for the rest of my life!” Dramatic, yes. But tell me you haven’t acted like this around food.

So this week, I’m going to distract myself after dinner to prevent me from substituting one bad post-dinner habit (snacking) for another (eating dessert).

Do you have any tricks that you use to prevent overeating?

The Truth About Healthy Eating

19 Jul

This is not healthy eating.

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As a person who is very interested in health and fitness, I read a lot of magazines, newspaper articles, and books about the topic and I frequent a health and fitness message board. I’m even contemplating going to back to school for a nutrition degree (but that’s a topic for another post).

While I don’t follow any strict eating regimen like Paleo or Clean Eating, I do make most of the decisions about what I eat following the mantra of Michael Pollan, author of In Defense of Food: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” What that means for me is:

  • I eat real food, not “food products” as he calls them, as much as possible.
  • I eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full (this is also the mentality behind Intuitive Eating).
  • I eat a lot of fruits and vegetables.

This is what a typical day’s menu has looked like recently:

Pre-Workout (5:00 am)

1 slice of whole wheat bread with 1 tbsp creamy peanut butter (I don’t eat natural peanut butter because it’s more expensive and the partially hydrogenated oil in un-natural peanut butter is so negligible, they don’t even list trans fats on the nutrition facts.)

Breakfast (7:30)

1-2 cups of cereal (common varieties are Honey Bunches of Oats, Frosted Mini-Wheats, Kashi GoLean Crunch!) with ½ cup blueberries and 1.5% milk from Royal Crest Dairy

Caffeine Fix (9:00)

1 ½ cups iced coffee with 2 packets of artificial sweetener and 1-2 tbsp fat-free liquid crack (aka Coffeemate hazelnut creamer)

Morning Snack #1 (10:00)

Banana

Morning Snack #2 (11:00)

Light flavored yogurt

Lunch (12:00 pm)

1 portion of leftovers from dinner on a bed of spinach or a spinach salad/wrap with blueberries, dried (sweetened) cranberries, feta cheese, slivered almonds, low-sodium ham, and Kraft poppyseed dressing (my favorite salad EVER.)

Afternoon Snack #1 (2:00)

Apple

Afternoon Snack #2 (3:30)

6 generic Triscuits, 1 oz cheddar cheese

Dinner (6:30)

Since this varies a lot (and my other food is usually pretty much the same), I’ll give a few common ones:

  • Homemade pizza (whole wheat pocketless pitas with store-bought pizza sauce, turkey pepperoni, artichoke hearts, black olives, mushrooms, and part-skim mozzarella)
  • Elk burgers on whole wheat buns, baked sweet potato fries sprinkled with sea salt
  • Butternut squash and sage lasagna, garlic (white) bread, spinach salad

Late-night treat (2-3 times a month when training, 4-5 times a month in off season)

Glass of wine (or a serving of full-fat ice cream)

As you can see, I don’t eat perfectly. I would go crazy if I did. It’s too hard and too expensive to buy all of the “healthiest” versions of all foods (not to mention that sometimes the refined foods are simply more delicious). My main focus is on eating a lot of fruits and vegetables and buying the whole-grain/least processed version of everything that is reasonably priced and that I enjoy eating. (Eating healthy foods you don’t enjoy is not fun or sustainable.)

If you’re curious, I eat about 2,000-2,500 calories a day when training; 1,700-2,000 when I’m not.

Over the course of my informal research, I’ve noticed that there are a lot of misconceptions about healthy eating floating around in the general populace. Lies like “Eating healthy is expensive” and “You have to stop eating donuts for breakfast.” In general, generalizations are wrong. 🙂

To set the record straight, here is what my experience has been with eating healthily (but I am not a registered dietitian so take what I say with a grain of salt-free Mrs. Dash).

1. I spend less money at the grocery store on healthy food than I did on processed crap.

On average, I spend $40-75 a week on groceries for 2 adults (not including condiments like ketchup and olive oil). I buy mostly produce (bananas, apples, oranges, spinach, potatoes, onions, green beans, asparagus, blueberries, zucchini, yellow squash, etc.). I also buy whole wheat pasta, whole wheat crackers, low-fat yogurt, low-fat milk (we get ours delivered), low-sodium deli meat (Boar’s Head), chicken when it’s on sale (for red meat, we eat elk that Travis shot), and whatever additional ingredients I need for the 3 dinner recipes I chose for the week.

My guess is that people think eating healthy is expensive because they don’t know to not buy certain produce when it’s out of season. I don’t spend $5 a pound on grapes, buy $6 pineapples, eat gold-plated raspberries, or spend $10 on a 2 oz bag of dried apricots. If you pay attention to prices and buy the cheap and in-season produce, eating healthy is actually very affordable. Vegetables are notoriously cheap almost year-round. You can’t buy a couple pounds of potatoes, onions, and carrots and tell me they were expensive.

Also, check out grocery stores like Trader Joe’s and Sunflower Farmer’s Market that have bulk bins. I now buy tons of stuff from bulk bins that I would have bought at a regular grocery store and spend way less: flour, dried fruit, trail mix, popcorn kernels, couscous, granola, etc. Just recently, I bought 50 oz of flour for $1.50 and ½ lb of dried mango for $2.00.

I also think that people get hung up on the superfoods. These are a marketing ploy. Did you know that grapes have just as many antioxidants as acai berries? They’re also cheaper. I love this quote from the Cooking Light article called The Truth about Superfoods:

Almost everything in modern nutrition research suggests that your whole diet—which should be a varied one, containing lots of plants, with moderate amounts of total fat and salt—is the thing to focus on. Dark chocolate, edamame, and green tea do not a whole diet make.

I don’t follow food trends. I didn’t jump on the pomegranate or acai berry bandwagon and I won’t jump on any in the future. Usually, these products are overpriced and their health benefits, while real, are very comparable to benefits from other, more common (and cheaper) produce.

After reading In Defense of Food, I stopped giving certain vegetables the cold shoulder and adopted the opinion that if it grows on a plant or in the ground, it’s good for me. Vegetables like corn and russet potatoes have gotten a bad rap from the health nuts over the years because they supposedly don’t have much “nutritional value.” The truth is, corn is high in fiber and potassium and russet potatoes have fiber and protein. (Take that sweet potatoes!) Moreover, Michael Pollan makes the argument that we don’t know how different vitamins and minerals in natural foods work together. A less-processed, more-natural diet is always better. Choose the corn over vitamin-fortified, protein-injected health food.

2. I hardly ever get sick.

When I was in high school, I got sick all.the.time. Even through most of college, I got sick quite often. When I got married, learned/had a reason to cook and started eating things besides cereal and sandwiches, I started eating a lot more fruit and vegetables. I am now a believer that an apple a day keeps the doctor away: since moving out to Colorado on Labor Day weekend of 2007, I have only been sick twice. Once I had a cold and the other time, I contracted H1N1 (eeee…). I think that’s a pretty good track record.

If I start getting the feeling in my throat like I’m on the verge of getting a cold, I dial up the amount of fruit and vegetables I’m eating and try to get more sleep. I like to think I have staved off many a cold with this strategy.

3. I maintain my weight easily and happily.

I am not a carb-deprived, pill-popping, drooling-over-donuts-in-the-shop-window, I-can’t-eat-that-because-I’m-on-a-diet monster. I eat food. I love food. Even donuts. Especially donuts.

But there’s a balance. If you want to discover what that balance is, read Intuitive Eating. I cannot praise this book highly enough. It changed my eating life (it didn’t change my whole life — Jesus did that). Starting in high school, I had a friend who did not have a healthy relationship with food and it rubbed off on me. I used food as comfort, a reward, and an activity to do when I was bored. Over time, it morphed into the enemy that constantly whispered to me about how much I wanted it but couldn’t have it. I religiously watched what I ate, tracked every calorie, but then frequently overate, to the point where I was so full that all I wanted to do after eating was lie down.

Finally, I got sick and tired of counting calories and obsessing over everything I put in my mouth. I was sick of having food control me. I was sick of having no willpower. So I read Intuitive Eating for the second time in the fall of 2009 and actually did what it said. I let myself eat donuts, Twizzlers, ice cream, wine, and white bread (gasp!) when I wanted them, making sure to only eat when I was hungry and to stop when I was full.

At first, it was a little scary. What if I gain weight? But over time, I learned to eat what I wanted and to make sure I really wanted what I was eating. If something didn’t hit the spot, I didn’t eat it. If something had looked better than it tasted, I didn’t eat it. If I was comfortably full, I didn’t go for dessert anyway. I knew it I would enjoy it more if I wasn’t trying to squeeze it in between my spleen and liver.

It worked. The first time I really noticed a change in my relationship to food was Thanksgiving of 2009. My parents were out in Colorado visiting and my mom and I had cooked up an entire Thanksgiving feast for the 4 of us with all of my favorites: stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, dinner rolls, jello salads. I ate until I was comfortably full and then did the unfathomable: decided to not eat pumpkin pie afterward. I knew that if I did, it would push me over the edge to being uncomfortably full. And I hate that feeling.

I felt like I was in a twilight zone as I decided to just have a cup of coffee. I had energy to do dishes and move around after the Thanksgiving meal. You mean I don’t have to feel like I’m exploding? It was revolutionary for me.

Fast forward 2 ½ years, I hardly ever feel uncomfortably full anymore. I still do slip up once in a while when there’s a particularly tempting meal or treat, but more often than not, I stop at a good point because I know that food won’t make me happy, even though according to David Kessler, my body’s wiring tells me it will.

4. I still eat donuts, ice cream and French fries — occasionally.

I couldn’t survive without them! I think this is the #1 biggest mistake people make on diets: they don’t let themselves eat anything that is considered “bad.” (This is one of main tenets of Intuitive Eating: there are no “good” or “bad” foods. There are no food police.) The #2 biggest mistake people make is not eating enough food when they’re trying to “eat healthy.” Eating healthy does not mean eating perfectly 100% of the time and it doesn’t mean always being hungry.

But that’s not to say I don’t exercise any self-restraint or discretion. Generally speaking, when I have a craving for empty-calorie deliciousness, I don’t go out right away and indulge. I let it simmer for a few days. Usually, I have an opportunity later on to go out for ice cream with my girlfriends or for a donut with Travis. Turn your splurges into social outings. With this approach, I splurge 2-4 times a month (and by splurge, I mean eat something that has low nutritional value and high calorie/fat content).

If I’m in need of a snack at 3:30 pm on a slow-moving Thursday afternoon, and the vending machine is my only option, I pick the healthiest thing I can enjoy eating. (Lucky for me, the vending machine here has Stacy’s Simply Naked Pita Chips. Score!) Picking the healthiest thing, even though you don’t like it or it’s not really what you want, isn’t a good idea because it won’t leave you satisfied and you’ll want to eat something else (yet another idea from Intuitive Eating). If you’re thinking, Well heck, the only thing I’d enjoy eating is a candy bar, then get one. Just make sure it either has nuts in it (which will make it more filling) or it’s low in calories (so it won’t destroy your daily balance).

Eating healthy doesn’t require perfection. You don’t have to set up monstrous goals that require an all-or-nothing commitment. It’s a consistent effort to make smart choices. It’s maintaining a balance (get a shake or fries, not both). Often times, it’s choosing the lesser of two not-so-great options (they are not “evils”). In order to eat healthy for life, you need to be able to adapt and react to the different situations life throws at you. You can’t throw in the towel if you happen to eat 10 cookies in one sitting. Brush off the crumbs and make a better decision now.

 5. I still get to eat good food.

I honestly enjoy eating healthy. I love the foods I eat and I love the way I feel when I’m healthy. I love fruits and vegetables. I admit that it’s very convenient that I’m not a picky eater (except when it comes to meat) and that it would be harder for a picky eater to eat healthy. But it’s not impossible.

One thing I’ve done to broaden my horizon is to intentionally try new foods. I’ve discovered some things that I really like (eggplant, edamame, wheat berry, butternut squash, sage, couscous, pistachios) and other things that I don’t like (kale, brussel sprouts, mango, quinoa, shallots). Experiment. Try new foods and new ways of preparing familiar foods. Puree cauliflower and carrots and add them to soups, muffins, and pasta dishes. My general rule of thumb is to eat some fruit or vegetable at every meal and for at least two snacks a day.

All this is to say, people make healthy eating a lot harder than it has to be. If you’re currently not making the best food choices, don’t do a major overhaul. Start small, perhaps with cutting down on or eliminating the amount of liquid you’re drinking each day that isn’t water. Eat an apple with an ounce of cheese for a snack instead of a bag of chips. Learn what portion sizes look like. Find out the nutrition information for your “usual” and make a better choice. Bottom line is, figure out what works for you.

But don’t come to me complaining about how hard it is to eat healthy. Diets are hard. Restrictive eating guidelines are hard. Eating healthy is different. It may take a while to get the hang of it, but once you do, it’s the new normal. I will admit it takes consistent effort, but so does going to doctor’s appointments for diabetes and cholesterol meds. I’m just sayin’…

Do you find it hard to eat healthy? What food is your weakness?  Mine is carbs – I love me some cereal, bread and crackers.