Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Dieting from a "Diet"

Let me start by letting you know that I'm a pretty petite girl at 5'3''. So any weight fluctuations are pretty noticeable, since there's not a lot of room for the weight to be stretched out on. This site isn't necessarily to provide you with diet information, it is just to encourage you to stop eating meat or at the very least, to eat less meat. In the process of quitting meat, I have found a happy extra incentive and that is, I have lost a little bit of weight since going meatless in September 2008.

Diet. I remember exactly where I was when I first found out the word and truly realized what it was. I was in 7th grade and I heard that several girls were on a 'diet' of Saltine crackers, water and carrots. I remember thinking how insane and ridiculous that was, especially since these girls on the 'diet' were already in possession of gorgeous, physically fit bodies.

I also remember later that year finding out what calories were and starting to look once and great while at nutritional facts to figure out how many calories there were, though I had no idea how many I was supposed to be eating or if it even mattered. At this time, my parents were going through a lot of shit and I came to find out that my father was an alcoholic. Shortly there after, I started to hoard food in my room and so began my occasional binge that would put into a food coma. I found a great comfort and soothing ability of chips, candy and other junk food. I would take boxes of crackers, bags of chips, or other things I could find, and hide them under my bed to save for a time that I felt I 'needed' it. Luckily, I've always been a very physically active person and I never gained a huge amount of weight during that time. My parents were both fairly healthy eaters and made sure my siblings and I had a balanced meal each night. Amazingly, they were excellent at getting us to sit down and eat together as a family, despite all the problems going on in their own lives.

I didn't really gain much weight until my junior year of high school. At that time I started to work at a movie theater in my hometown, where I ate bag after bag of buttered popcorn between show times because I was bored. Employees also got to eat anything that was going to get thrown out at the end of the night (think: old pizza in a heater, pretzel bites that were hard as rocks and greasy hot dogs on a roller). I cringe now just thinking about all that poison I mindlessly ate out of pure boredom and not wanting anything to just go to waste.

Once I quit the movie theater, the little weight I had gained fell right off due to playing three sports teams I took on throughout high school. Though I certainly did ride the wave of crazy diets, including the grapefruit diet, cabbage soup diet, no fat, no sugar, etc. Though, it was more experimental and not necessarily with an outcome goal.

But, then came college. The typical "Freshman 15" found me and attacked me with a vengeance. I had a magical card that I could scan at the dorm cafeteria to get whatever I wanted! I could make my own food choices. Needless to say, there was a lot of pizza, deep fried meats and starches, and very little salad bars put on my plate. I was generally aware of what good and bad choices were, but I rarely cared. I also started to have a fond taste for beer several nights a week. I was no longer required to practice with a team, and didn't have anyone telling me when or how hard to work out, so I rarely did unless it was to run to class because I was late.

I gained even more weight during my junior year as a result of more emotional eating, binging and working at a deep dish Pizzeria where I could buy my extremely unhealthy dinner (probably portioned for 2-3 people) at a huge discount. So, I generally ate my lunch and dinner at Uno's 3-5 days a week. I remember getting really tired of the weight and wanting to lose it and so I began the South Beach diet. My roommate had found great success on it, so I did too. Though, something about eating turkey bacon, ground sirloin, steaks and cheese in place of fruit, just seemed a little backwards. If it was backwards to a pizza devouring, beer chugging, full-fledged Wisconsin girl, it had to be all sorts of wrong.

That 20+ pounds stuck with me until my final year of college. I had gone through a mild case of depression due to a break-up with a semi-long term college boyfriend. I began running almost daily and I lived with 4 Med and Pharmacy students that almost always made healthy choices. So, with their great influence and my desire to finally lose the few pounds, I found myself down about 10 pounds and feeling much better.

However, with the start of a career in teaching, I found myself enjoying plenty of birthday treats and lounge snacks with a side of stress eating and I was right back up to the excess 20 pounds. I'm not trying to sound like a whiner or complainer, but carrying around just that extra 20 is not any fun, especially when you now have a section of 'skinnier me' pants hanging in your closet that you don't touch. So, I signed myself up for my first marathon. It was beautiful! I could eat what I wanted and not gain a pound. I definitely didn't lose any weight during the training because I was eating such an enormous quantity of food, but it was beautiful to be able to eat so much and not gain a thing. Certainly, it did not help me with portion control though...

Now, bringing you up to my current condition. I'm still about 10-15 pounds from what I'd consider my ideal weight. However, I have never felt better in terms of energy and enthusiasm for food. I'm rarely binge eating and I'm truly enjoying the taste of food more. I still eat portions that are larger than a petite woman should be helping herself to, but it's healthier food. Without meat, my body feels better. I'm back to running and training for my third marathon, but I don't feel the need to attack 2-3 plate fulls of food. I feel in control. I'm still working on cutting way back on dairy but sometimes a girl just needs her pizza! Though now, my pizza is chock full of veggies and I generally ask for light cheese.

This is a rollercoaster ride for sure, but I'm now enjoying food more and not obsessing about a number on the scale. My clothes are fitting fairly well and I'll be sure to let you know once I'm back in my favorite pair of jeans (which are on the skinny side of the closet still). I'm choosing my indulgences more wisely and my goal is to be down 5-10 pounds by summer. Again, if I don't get that magic number, I will not freak out, I will not binge, I will simply keep working at it.

Made Me Laugh

Since I'm still in a battle against the diet canned liquid satan, I came across this and had to giggle a bit. Though I'm happy to report that I'm still sticking to "My Rules" (almost all the time) and definitely limit my indulgence to no more than once a week if that. Damn marketing, always making you feel alright about what you know is wrong!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Time to Cut out the Crap?

I go through good and bad weeks as far as healthy food is concerned. There are days when I feel like ingesting crap is the only thing I want to do. Then, weeks (such as this present week) all I want is healthy, light delicious salads, fruits and more natural healthy food. I think this correlates closely with the weather for me. Recently, we've had some sun and much warmer temperatures in Wisconsin. We are slowly coming out of a deep freeze as I witnessed today running around Lake Monona. Needless to say, I'm outside getting more fresh air than I have in the last 4 months, which might help to curb my generally insatiable appetite.

How are you continuing to cut out the crap in diets? It's something I'm definitely striving for and thinking much more consciously about. Sure, I've cut meat and really started to cut back on cheese and dairy, but I'm still eating foods that I know are not good, natural or containing health benefits (think french fries, chips, skittles, peanut butter cups). Certainly I have days that more successful than others... Lately, I've been asking myself, could I make this at home from scratch? If the answer is no, I try not to buy it. However, there are certainly several exceptions that I make in this process. But, my point is, I'm looking much more closely at ingredient lists. If I couldn't make it from home with ingredients I can purchase at a grocery store, it's not worth putting in my body. Though if I'm dying after a long run, my brain and stomach have two very different opinions. Again, a work in process. I also heard someone recommend that if it's a food your great grandmother would not recognize as food, then it's best to steer clear of it.

So, my usual driving forces at the grocery store and restaurants: Is it possible to make this at home based on the ingredient list and would my great grandmother think this is food?

On a side note, can I also add how happy I am that Farmer's Markets are up and running outdoors? This will certainly be helping my healthy cravings I'm experiencing with the warm weather. Nothing like seasonal, local, organic ingredients to make you reconnect with delicious food!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Review: Vegan: The New Ethics of Eating

Vegan: The New Ethics of Eating
by Erik Marcus

Forward by Howard Lyman, author of Mad Cowboy, former dairy farmer and cattle rancher

There are three main reasons that most people adopt a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle: Health, Ethics, Environment. It may be predominantly one reason or a combination of two or even all three. I didn't know it when I first picked up Vegan: The New Ethics of Eating at Barnes and Noble and decided to buy it, but this book addresses those three reasons in that order. The book is actually divided into three sections: 1) To Your Health, 2) The Truth About Food Animals, and 3) Beyond the Dinner Table.

Each of the five chapters in the first section, "To Your Health," starts with a real-life anecdote of a person struggling with extreme health, nutrition and/or weight issues including heart disease, cancer, obesity, and even mad cow disease. These anecdotes are followed up by ground-breaking information by internationally respected experts, namely heart specialist Dean Ornish, MD, nutrition scientist and author of The China Study, T. Colin Campbell, weight loss expert Terry Shintani, MD, registered dietician Suzanne Havala, and fourth generation dairy farmer and cattle rancher, Howard Lyman. These are truly the heavyweights in the vegetarian movement, and it is note-worthy that they all come from a dietary background heavy in animal products.

In the second section, "The Truth About Food Animals," Marcus takes you into the modern factory farming world and exposes the hellish plight of hundreds of millions of food animals. Most of us have heard stories of the treatment of these animals, but few of us know what is truly going on. Do you know what becomes of the 200 million newly-hatched male chicks each year? They are either thrown away, left to suffocate under the weight of the other chicks, or they are thrown alive into grinders to be turned into fertilizer. The females have their beaks seared off and are started on their diets of antibiotics and hormones. Five layer hens share each cage with a floor space the size of two sheets of typing paper. They live their entire lives like this and when they are no longer profitable they become part of the lowest quality processed foods such as 39-cent pot pies. The broilers, bred for meat, are behemoths. They grow twice as fast and twice as large as traditional birds. Today's eight-week old chickens carry seven times more breast muscle than nine-week old birds of twenty-five years ago. The growth is literally crippling these chickens. They are slaughtered at six or seven weeks because after that, mortality surges. And this is just the chickens. There are similar stories for pigs and for dairy and beef cattle. This section ends with the risks to the humans who work in this industry and their growing numbers of injuries and disease.

In the final third of the book, "Beyond the Dinner Table," the truth about world hunger and the American rangeland are exposed. From chapter 11: "Animal products use staggering amounts of resources - resources that could easily be used to feed people. . . . vegans consume around 2500 calories of crop production each day, whereas people who eat 30 percent of their food as animal products require crop production of over 9,000 calories. . . . the world's poor cannot compete with the cattle and chickens of the world's wealthy people . . . they are economically invisible. . . . Right now, only 4 billion of the world's 5.6 billion people are adequately nourished . . . but if the entire world switched to a vegan diet, our current food produciton could properly nourish 7 billion people." Chapter 12 has information about the western rangeland and the ravages of cattle grazing. The extent of government involvement and the impact on wildlife is astounding.

Vegan is layman-friendly and extremely readable. It compellingly presents the myriad of reasons to adopt a plant-based diet. It shows why a change in what you eat can be simple yet profound - for your health, for hundreds of millions of animals, and for the planet. There is something to learn for everyone who reads this book. If you're eating animal products before you read this book, I'm pretty sure you'll make some changes when you're done.

For more information about Vegan, visit Erik Marcus' website: