getting personal: finding a balance

24 Jan

Note and disclaimer: The following post is a little personal, but not in a gross personal way. It’s just not something I talk about a lot on the blog. Also, I am not a Doctor or a Dietician, these are just my own thoughts and experiences.

I recently received an e-mail from a reader (and friend) and I’ve been thinking about it non-stop. Here are some questions and comments from her e-mail.

In her first e-mail, she posed the following question.

One thing that is hard is that I do really like food, but what I like and what’s good for my body are not necessarily the same thing.  So, I look at all the Christmas cookies and think about how fun it would be but then it ultimately isn’t good for you.  I’m curious to know what you think of this and how you stay so thin… in other words, you seem very conscious of what you put in your body (no splenda or artificial sweeteners) but then how do you justify the butter?  Is moderation the answer?!!!  if so, how in the world do you do it?!

This e-mail really made me think. Why? Because I’ve never thought of myself as thin. Ever. In fact, I have always really struggled with my weight and the conversations I have in my head about body image.  I know I am not overweight, but I have been at certain periods of my life. And even though I’m not overweight now, it can sometimes be challenging to keep it that way. I think anyone who has lost weight will likely say that keeping it off is the bigger challenge.

It floored me that someone would even think of me as thin. I even thought, ‘boy, do I have her fooled!’.  Note to self Jen: don’t be so dang hard on yourself. Why are we (I’m talking about women here) always so critical of ourselves? Next time, I’m just going to say thank you and give myself a pat on the back.  (Note: this is not a plug for compliments. My self-esteem is just fine. Ask my sisters.)

Okay, so back to the e-mail and the question about how I do it and how I justify the butter. :)

Well, here are some of my dirty little secrets and some things about me I don’t talk about much. And now I’m sharing them with the world or at least those of you that chose to read this.

I have been on and off of Weight Watchers for 6 years. I first joined because things were a little out of hand. I was heavier than I had been in awhile (I blame my at the time newlywed status) and was dangerously close to being more overweight than not. I did not like that. What I liked about WW is that it taught me some things about portion control and that for me, tracking what I ate was very helpful. I was a lot less likely to eat more than I should knowing that I had to write it down.  However, as I became more educated about food and started to care more about what was going into my body, a new struggle began. I did not like that WW seemed to push more processed foods. The fact that it was less points to eat a 100 calorie snack pack of chemicals than a banana really bothered me. How could that be good? Seriously.

It then became my quest to eat real food (with occasional splurges. I like M&M’s just like the next guy) and to keep my weight in a healthy range. I ditched the splenda, bought some butter, and started cooking more. It was an awesome process and I feel so much better about the food I eat.

However, it isn’t always easy for me to keep the weight down. I love food. I love cooking good food and I love eating it. Sometimes I’d like to throw moderation out the window. Sometimes I do. I think doing that every once in awhile is healthy. Everything in moderation includes moderation. Who’s with me?

I started back on Weight Watchers on a full boar status in November of 2009. I freaked out when I saw a certain number on the scale. I had gone over “that number” and it was a wake up call. It wasn’t that I was eating bad food. Likely it was too much of the good stuff. Since then, I’ve lost about 14 pounds and have been successful of keeping off 10 of those 14. I feel really good about that. Would I like to lose the last 5? Yes, but I’m trying not to sweat it. Life is way to short.

I managed to do the WW plan using real foods and not depriving myself. Recently WW came out with their new Points Plus plan. I think it was a great change. It now is extremely friendly to a real foods approach. In fact, it really steers you away from the fake stuff.  I can’t tell you how happy that makes me. Not just for me, but for everyone that is trying to lose weight. I cringe when I see people eat all the ‘diet’ food that is on the market. In my opinion it does more long term damage to your body than a few extra pounds. (I’m not going to jump on my soap box on this topic right now or this will become an encyclopedia post).

Another comment from our e-mail exchange after I owned up to my success with Weight Watchers:

Funny – I imagined you were my ideal: that you didn’t have to pay strict attention and that you did just do it naturally and still stayed thin!

This comment stuck with me too. I wish! I don’t know too many people like this, if any. If you are like this, I don’t know that I want to know. I would be afraid that I might judge you. I think most people (at least women) have to pay attention to what their eating…in general. They may night write things down, calorie count, or follow a certain plan, but I think most healthy people pay attention to what’s going in their body.

I have many friends that do their best to follow Intuitive Eating. The premise of this is to listen to what your body(not your mind) wants, stop eating when you’re full (or almost full) and not to eat when you’re not hungry. I LOVE the idea of this. And I really hope that someday I will get there.  I’m a work in progress. Right now, keeping track is what is working for me. It doesn’t bother me to do it either. I’m a bit on the Type A side so I think keeping track of things is kind of fun.

I do think that some people get a bit out of hand when it comes to what they eat (or don’t eat), including me. When what you are eating starts consuming so many of your thoughts, I have to wonder when it becomes disordered eating. Finding the line and not crossing it can be tricky.  Measuring and tracking is one thing. Not being able to enjoy a glass of wine with friends because you are freaked out about what it might do? I don’t think that’s healthy.

In case you missed it, I wrote about my healthy lifestyle this fall. This is what I strive for every day. More often than not I’m successful. I still find myself fighting with some voices in my head, but they get quieter with each passing year.

Back to the email. One of the reader’s main questions was this:

I’d like to hear yours (and others) thoughts about staying healthy while wanting to try fun recipes from a non ‘light’ cookbooks.  Or wanting to bake things like cookies?  Where is the limit?

This is a great question. I’d love to hear everyone’s thoughts. Along with wanting to try fun recipes, I think going to fun restaurants also fits into this question. That is a passion of mine and when I go out, I don’t order a salad for dinner. I want the real deal.

Here are my thoughts on the question.

  • Although I’m beginning to hate the phrase, “everything in moderation”, it is part of the equation. I wouldn’t say I only cook light dishes – not at all. However, I do try to practice portion control when I do.
  • Even if a recipe isn’t from a “light” source, it doesn’t mean it’s bad for you. Most of my cookbooks are not considered “light”, just healthy good food.
  • If I know I have a special meal that will likely be a bit heavy, I might try to balance that with a big salad chock full of veggies and beans for lunch.
  • Wait before having seconds. I always want to have a second serving immediately after having the first. However, when I do wait a bit, I usually decide that I’m full.
  • If I bake, I try to do it at a time where I can share with others. I’ll take baked goods to work meetings, bring them to friends, etc. I really struggle with portion control on baked goods (I LOVE them), so I don’t bake nearly as often as I’d like. Freezing portioned out baked goods can work too.
  • One thing that I’ve always been good at is staying active. Working out is not a chore to me, but something I enjoy. Although, I do not think it’s the most important piece of the puzzle if you are trying to lose weight (It’s the food, silly), I find I’m apt to eat better foods when I’m working out regularly.

Okay, so this post is long. It also got pretty personal and deep. At least more so than usual. I’m okay with that. I think these are things and questions that a lot of women think about. I’m not the only one, right?

Here are some posts from some of the other blogs I read that I think fit into this topic:

The Daily Garnish: Calorie Counting and Blurry Grey Line

The Great Fitness Experiment: I eat everything.

So, now it’s your turn, smart readers, to weigh-in (no pun intended).

How do you balance cooking fun recipes that aren’t so much on the light side with healthy eating? Any tips?

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6 Responses to “getting personal: finding a balance”

  1. beanski January 25, 2011 at 8:20 am #

    I love everything about this post because it is almost exactly my feelings on everything. I’m a size 6 but when I look in the mirror, I see weight to lose. People get weird about that, like I should just be happy and not strive to be better.

    I did WW for a long time but got to the point where I didn’t like the things I was putting in my body in order to lose weight. Now I eat really healthy but the weight slowly creeps on. The trouble is that I like to cook and to eat and hate turning something that should be enjoyable into counting points. But then I want to lose weight. It is a Catch 22. I’ll have to try the Points Plus – maybe there wouldn’t be as much fake butter and diet bread. Gross.

    • jen January 28, 2011 at 7:42 am #

      Agreed on the fake butter and diet bread. Not worth it! If you do try the Points plus – let me know!

  2. Brittney January 25, 2011 at 8:44 am #

    Great post! I think I’m mostly an intuitive eater, but at the same time, I do also think about what I’m eating and try to make good decisions most of the time (but I also don’t usually turn down a cupcake!) For me, I just feel nasty if I eat a giant bowl of something heavy like mac and cheese with no veggies for a meal. I like the completeness of having something healthy like veggies in most of my meals. Or if that’s not possible I get something REALLY healthy for my next meal to balance out the less healthy meal. I’m lucky in that I was brought up that way. My mom pretty much ALWAYS had a fruit or veggie in with our meals, so to me, it’s like something is missing if it’s not there. I think for me portion control is probably my bigger issue since I don’t count calories or restrict. I’m usually pretty good about it, but sometimes I probably eat at little too much. As long as I’m also exercising regularly it seems to mostly balance out though.

  3. Liz January 25, 2011 at 10:15 am #

    I once read that people think thin people are lucky and that overweight people are lazy, neither of which are true. I think it is easy to assume thin people don’t workout, but most of the time they do!
    For me, the most important part of being balanced is working out if I’m going to indulge. But really the key is finding a way to workout that you enjoy, otherwise it is just torture.

  4. davidwillisblog January 26, 2011 at 6:20 am #

    I really appreciate this post. One way I have found to help control portions is to box up what we will have for lunch the next day, before I plate the food for dinner. (I don’t always get it done, but it really works when I do!) With the leftovers already in the fridge, what is left is a good portion size for my wife, son and I. There is little temptation to over eat because the leftovers are already getting cold in the fridge.

    I have also come to conclude that I have to stay active if I plan to enjoy my cooking. With the new recipes and flavors comes a responsibility. I am finding it is worth it.

    This post was great. Thank you for sharing it.

  5. emily (a nutritionist eats) January 30, 2011 at 2:06 pm #

    I totally agree that every woman kind of watches what they eat – in one way or another. I’m very mindful of what I’m eating and portion sizes, and I always try to include vegetables to help bulk up my meals. At the same time, I know that I can indulge in things because MOST of my diet is pretty good!
    I recently did a post on the new WW points plus program, it sounds great and I also love that they are putting less emphasis on processed, 100 cal foods!

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