Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Food Post

I'm lucky that at the moment I have no dysfunctional relationships with people (unless you count the odd library patron here and there). I love my parents, siblings and in-laws. My husband is my best friend. I have lots of friends, including a fellow twin mom who gets up at 5:30 a.m. once every week to hike or spin with me, and a college roommate with whom I can pick it right back up where we left off even though we're thousands of miles apart now. I like my co-workers. I go to a great church.

But there is one dysfunctional relationship in my life. It's been there since puberty, with ups and downs. That is my relationship with food and, by extension, my own body. Somewhere along the line, I started to eat for more than just the ordinary pleasure of satisfying a biological and social need. I eat too fast. I eat too much. Food is my first thought when I become bored, anxious or celebratory. I crave sweets. I have trouble limiting eating to set, planned times of day.

The result? I have never been lean, and I haven't liked my body since I was ten years old.

Now before the protective watchers of body image chastise me, I will say that I know I am not fat. I have running to thank for that. Living sedentary is good for at least another 20 pounds on me, as I found out when my time in the Peace Corps ended with five weeks of limbo at a hotel in China where the only things to do were eat and watch pirated DVDs and wonder in a depressed fashion if the Russians were going to renew our visas (they did not). When I came home from that experience, I weighed somewhere around 150 pounds, the most I've ever weighed in my non-pregnant life. Starting to run again is what got me back to normal.

But my normal isn't good enough for Boston. A classic pear shape, I still carry too much fat in too many places (more places since I entered my late thirties and had my kids). I remember visiting a New York City gynecologist, who weighed me at the beginning of the appointment and, with raised eyebrows, asked "Where do you put it all?" and then once the clothes came off, said, "Oh, you have heavy hips and thighs." When I first met my husband's ultimate frisbee friends, one of them told me how great it was that Dan had chosen a "normal-sized girlfriend" this time (his prior girlfriend was a size 2 or so, with the kind of colt-like legs I have always envied; I did not take being "normal-sized" in this context as a compliment and remember trying not to sound sour when I thanked her).

At five feet six-and-a-half inches and around 137 pounds, I'm still carrying 10 pounds of baby weight and have an out-of-control sweet tooth. When I ran NYC five years ago, I hovered between 125 and 130 pounds. To qualify for Boston, it's safe to say I need to be 10 pounds below that.

This is the scariest part of my Boston quest for me. When it comes to food, I'm like St. Augustine: "Lord, help me to be good...but not yet." My hope is that it's possible not to entirely give up the occasional piece of pumpkin pie, the odd ice cream cone, pieces here and there of good French bread and still get to the weight I need to be. But my fear is that that is not possible, not for me, and that I will have to cut out all of that stuff entirely, because I can't have just a little--I'm an all or nuthin' kinda gal when it comes to food indulgences.

This morning, I met with Martha, a dietician working with the Boulder Rec Centers where I get a free membership thanks to my job at the library. I was armed with a three-day food diary (full of indulgences) and stats about my cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar (all good). I had also told her in advance about my Boston goal.

I was with her for more than an hour. She was upbeat, recommending two books by Nancy Clark (her general sports nutrition book and her food guide for marathoners). I will definitely get these through the library and, if they are working for me, will buy them. Martha also said that I don't need to diet given the amount that I exercise, but she feels that small tweaks amounting to 250 calories less a day will help me gradually get my weight down. Such tweaks, she thought, could include less guacamole when I get a Chipotle burrito; higher fiber cereals at breakfast (Wheat Chex and Cheerios don't have enough fiber; I was surprised!); and a smaller sized latte. She also wants me to have a little protein with every meal and snack. I'm also going to practice better meal planning, especially for my lunches and snacks at work and dinners.

We're going to attack my cravings and sweet tooth issue at our next meeting, on Dec. 7 (after the Colder Bolder). For now, she thinks I should try the out-of-sight out-of-mind strategy with things like my kids' Halloween candy. I will do my best!

Changing my diet, I know, will be hard and slow. But it's important. It's a sub-goal that has a finish line and a ticket to Logan Airport attached to it.


  1. Looks like you're going to join my wife, Alyssa, in choice of breakfast cereals: Good Friends. Have Dan sing the Simon and Garfunkel song Bookends while you choke down every knobby, twiglike bite, then punch him after you finish your bowl. This seems to work for Alyssa.

  2. "Preserve your memories...they're all that's left you..." I think maybe I'll go with oatmeal in the crockpot. Martha actually suggested Kashi cereals, but she also suggested oatmeal....probably will go down a little easier. And Dan won't have to sing.

  3. The Kashi Go Lean Crisp (Toasted Berry Crisp) is actually really good. I have been eating it for the protein (lots of fiber too) throughout the pregnancy. Kind of granola-ish so it would be good with yogurt too.

  4. Awesome! I am on my own weight reduction journey and realize in one sense that it seems badly timed, with the holidays and dark cold outside, but I'm finding so far it's actually liberating to avoid it all. There is no guessing to retroactive guilt. So far, so good.

  5. Oh! And oatmeal is great. I just nuke mine (slow cook variety). Not quite as filling as eggs with a little sharp cheese and ham, but good for rushed mornings.

  6. I will do both the oatmeal AND the Toasted Berry Crisp (that sounds good!). I might go to the grocery store tonight and pick some up. I had a good day today (though today isn't over)--every time I was tempted to eat something inappropriate I said to myself "Today I'm going to eat like a marathoner." So far so good....

  7. Penny--If you have time (ha!), email me and let me know how you've lost weight. Are you following a diet or just eliminating junk? I'd love to hear how you've achieved your success.

  8. Your post rings SO true for those of us trying to get to our "racing weight." I'm still trying to lose those extra three and probably will be all winter! Another useful book is Racing Weight: How to Get Lean for Peak Performance, by Matt Fitzgerald. I was relieved to know that maintaining your racing weight indefinitely is not necessarily the goal. Another good one for eating in general is Real food has curves : how to get off processed food, lose weight, and love what you eat with more than 100 recipes, by Bruce Weinstein.

  9. Thanks, Donna! I think you look great, really lean. I have Racing Weight but not Real Food Has Curves--will definitely check that one out.