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Posts tagged ‘diet’

Miranda: Healthy Spring

It’s nearly 50 degrees outside right now, but it’s sunny and a few of my windows are open. This weekend is going to bring beautiful weather, and with it, our first real sigh of spring in New England. Our gift for putting up with a seemingly endless winter is the euphoric arrival of fair weather and the dream-like return of flora and fauna.

I believe that many of us who celebrate Easter without the religious emphasis see the holiday as a celebration of the new season. This year, I’m ahead of the game in Easter preparations — but things will be a little different this time around. In recent months I’ve gone hard-core in getting rid of the sugar and cheap carbs in my pantry and refrigerator. Yes, I *thought* my diet was healthy — vegetarian, largely organic, trying to reduce our dependence on anything that comes out of a box — but then I read Connie Bennett‘s Sugar Shock and Nancy Desjardin‘s The Sugar Free Lifestyle. I had read other books on sugar and its insidious, addictive properties before (and how many things we don’t think of as sugar act in a similar way) but this time I actually got it.

Fat is far less of a concern (especially for vegetarians) than sugar is. When shopping for organic yogurt for the kids, I now pick the brand with the fewest grams of sugar. I’m working toward getting them onto plain yogurt. I now make sure that the organic peanut butter I buy doesn’t have added sweetener. I will no longer buy potato chips, because they’re too much of a rush on the glycemic index without any protein or fiber to slow things down. I won’t even buy Annie’s organic products anymore if they aren’t whole-grain. That means whole-wheat mac & cheese and whole-wheat bunny crackers, which were an easy switch on my little guys. Now, when my kids eat fruit or whole-grain crackers, I make sure they have some nuts or something else with protein in it to reduce to effects of sugar on their tiny little systems. I don’t even prepare regular pasta for dinner anymore — it has to be whole grain. (Schar makes tasty whole-grain pasta that is also gluten-free — nice for me, as I don’t eat wheat at all. Not because I have celiac, but because I find that eating wheat products — even whole-grain wheat — induces strong food cravings that drive me crazy and destroy my mood. Other carbs that aren’t whole grain — like rice cakes made from white rice instead of brown, or potato puffs, pirate booty, etc. — also entice me to pig out and then crash.)

I’m not even buying or making cookies anymore. Do I sound like a mean mom? The only reason I’m getting away with this is that my oldest son is away at college (but trying to improve his diet anyway); the next oldest son, a junior in high school, doesn’t have a sweet tooth at all; my daughter, who is 15, has been right on board with me in improving our snacking habits; the little guys are happy with the occasional all-natural popsicle. OH, and I even stopped buying juice. Can you believe it? The little boys get organic juice boxes in their lunches, but other than that, it’s water (which we all love anyway) or soy milk (I’ll save my rant about soy for another time). I won’t even buy my kids gum since I learned from my friend Jane that even “natural” gum contains plastics — and regular gum contains truly awful chemicals that you don’t want your child putting in his or her mouth.

While I’m on the health rant here, I’ll note that I’ve also just given up caffeine. Now, if you know me, you know that I was an extremely devoted coffee fan. I have a Keurig one-cup brewer (which, OK, I absolutely adore except for the fact that the K-cups are not yet recyclable) and was enjoying at least 3 — sometimes 4 — large cups of coffee a day. Each with skim milk and two sugars. Any time I felt a little down or tired I’d hit the machine. But then I stumbled across some information that opened my eyes to the effects of caffeine — and that the data on caffeine being an appetite suppressant and/or metabolism booster is sketchy at best. If anything, caffeine may give you a short-term buzz that fends off hunger, but then you’re going to come off of that buzz and be more interested in food than you would have been if you’d skipped that cup of Joe in the first place — not to mention all the bad stress-like effects that caffeine wreaks on your body. So there I was, relying on caffeine to keep my cravings away, and I was actually shooting myself in the foot. (Speaking of feet, one of my motivations in altering my diet is that I broke my foot more than two months ago and it’s refusing to heal. I was hoping that removing the sugars, cheap carbs, and caffeine that tax that body — and replacing them with an emphasis on raw vegetables — would stoke my healing ability.)

Going off of caffeine was SO much easier with the help of Teeccino. I’d never had this herbal coffee before, and I LOVE it. (Thanks, Brenna!) Teecccino company, if you’re reading this, I will do ads for you for FREE. It’s all-natural and many varieties are largely organic. Totally caffeine-free. It doesn’t taste quite like coffee, but it satisfies in the way that coffee satisfies — and I only put a tiny bit of sugar in it (which I’m working on weaning off entirely). At the beginning, I blended regular coffee with Teeccino in increasingly smaller doses so I could ease off without the symptoms of caffeine withdrawal. OMG, Teeccino has made such a huge difference for me — I have several flavors and can honestly say that I don’t think I’d be off caffeine without it. I still get that “ooooh, I’m having a treat” feeling that I used to get from coffee. (Bonus: I make my Teeccino using the reusable Keurig filter, so no more waste.)

I don’t know if it’s the drastic reduction in sugar and cheap carbs, the elimination of caffeine, or the raw green protein smoothies that I try to have every day, but my skin has never looked better and my energy has never been more abundant. I’m sleeping like a dead person and waking up refreshed. My creative bandwidth is unprecedented. Has all of this helped my broken foot? The next set of x-rays is scheduled for the end of next week, so we’ll see.

So, all of this goes to say that I couldn’t bring myself to load the kids up with tons of Easter candy this year. All that sugar, all that artificial food coloring and chemicals — ugh. It’s just not good for them, and will be a real shock to their bodies after eating so well for the past few months. And I don’t want to have it around to tempt *me* either. We can’t go cold turkey, as that would be a little unfair, but I drastically reduced the amount of candy that the Easter Bunny will be hiding, and the kids’ Easter baskets (even the teenagers still get them), with the exception of a chocolate bunny in each, are filled entirely will non-food items. That was actually fun. But in order to transition in way that’s satisfying for everyone, we need to develop some new traditions. I want to focus on creativity, health, family, and the new season.

If you celebrate Easter, what are your favorite non-food treats? Do you have any Easter crafts — in addition to the can’t-miss annual egg-dyeing — that have become traditions? I’d love your ideas and inspiration!

Open House

A selection of interesting tidbits from the personal blogs of Creative Construction community members:

  1. Kerry Bennett contemplated homeschooling a 15-year-old and moving to Maine.
  2. Jen Johnson closed up shop.
  3. Kathryn Virello expanded on dreams, wishes, hopes, and aspirations.
  4. Brittany Vandeputte dug deep on food, passion, and happiness.
  5. Liz Hum made some goals for 2009, and put them right in her calendar.
  6. Susanne Fritzsche took a personality quiz that proved her uniqueness.
  7. Elizabeth Beck took stock of 2008 and adopted a fun way to track her creativity in 2009.

Enjoy, and have a lovely weekend. Take a little time for yourself creatively, even if you can only steal ten minutes. You’ll be happier for it.

And while you’re being creative, can someone please help me test my latest theory? To those who recently (or not so recently) resolved to lose weight and/or get in shape: I suspect that the best diet includes personal creative time. I seem to have observed that having time to express myself creatively is the best appetite suppressant out there. Avoiding sugar and simple carbs is key for me, but lately I wonder if creativity is actually a better diet “pill” or strategy than anything else I’ve tried. Your thoughts?

Creativity & overeating: Want to lose weight?

writing dietThis weekend I read The Writing Diet: Write Yourself Right-Size by creativity guru Julia Cameron. I’m glad I did.

Like most women who have recently delivered a baby, I’m anxious to get rid of my extra pregnancy weight. (I know Brittany shares this feeling.) It’s been 8 weeks now, and I got the all-clear from my OB at week 6. Many women seem to slim down quickly while nursing and chasing other kids around, but breastfeeding makes me voraciously hungry and I can actually gain weight despite efforts to lose. With so many positive things going on in my life right now, I’m now eager to get set on the right path with diet and exercise. I want the energy boost that comes with being in shape — and, let’s face it, I want to fit into my jeans.

I should admit, for the record, that I have always had a tortured and self-destructive complicated relationship with food. Over the years I’ve figured out what works best for me, but I often slip off track. I was glad to see that the “Clean Eating” Cameron advocates is common sense and very much my personal preference: avoid refined sugar and refined carbs, avoid processed food, focus on lean protein, drink lots of water, eat five times a day (three meals and two snacks) to keep metabolism stoked. Cameron is a little Splenda-happy for my taste, and I have no intention of eating diet Jello, but I can ignore those details. I’m also a vegetarian, so lean protein isn’t as easy as grabbing some sliced turkey, but it’s doable.

In addition to Eating Clean, Cameron lays out seven tools to enable weight loss. The primary tool — no surprise here — is Morning Pages. (For the uninitiated, Morning Pages are three longhand journal pages written every morning, as introduced in The Artist’s Way.) The genesis for “writing oneself thinner” came from Cameron’s observation of her students; adopting Morning Pages for a 12-week program resulted in visible weight loss for many. So many, in fact, that Cameron realized she was on to something.

Cameron’s premise is that overeating can block creativity, and conversely, that creativity can block overeating. I bet that many of us would agree. I’m certainly no stranger to overeating due to various unidentified reasons, or from simply stress. As potter Iris Milward observed when I interviewed her for my book, “Stress eating is when there is fear instead of creativity.”

By journaling daily, Cameron theorizes that we work through many of the issues that cause us to overeat, and significantly increase our creative bandwidth. When we spill our issues onto the page, we are less likely to try and stuff them down with food. (During periods in the past when I was religious about Morning Pages, I often noted that the process was at least as helpful as psychotherapy, and a lot cheaper. Come to think of it, I was pretty skinny then, too.)

Cameron’s second tool is a food journal. Everything you eat is recorded, along with notes about how you felt and if you were eating from hunger. I tried this yesterday, and found the process to be startlingly illuminating. I wasn’t conscious of the fact that I’d pretty much been eating all day — including lots of the junky carbs I know I should avoid. Rather than keeping a notebook, I printed out a bunch of these convenient log sheets. The result of recording what I ate, AND how I felt about it, meant that I ended up eating far less — and far better — than I usually would. Yep, gonna keep that one going.

Walking, at least 20 minutes a day, is the third tool — one that fosters creativity and well-being in addition to fitness. Exercise is obviously a crucial element in any weight-loss plan.

I won’t itemize all of Cameron’s tools, as she probably wouldn’t appreciate that, but I will say that several of them are extremely difficult to accomplish as the mother of young children. Cameron had one child, now grown, and doesn’t generally address the experience of women in the domestic trenches. Sure, I would love to be doing Morning Pages right now, but simply setting my alarm an hour earlier every day — as Cameron suggests — is untenable with a newborn. Even walking 20 minutes every day is tough; my baby wants to nurse constantly and has no established nap pattern yet. I don’t want to be a mile from the house when he starts screaming. Cameron’s suggestion of a weekly culinary date (the restaurant version of the artist’s date) is also not going to happen. Me, going off to a restaurant by myself once a week? Uhm, no. (Honestly, If my husband told me he wanted to go out to eat alone every week, leaving me and the five kids at home, I’d rip his head off be a little unhappy.)

Some of Cameron’s prose seems repetitive, rather than reinforcing, but obviously she can get away with it. There are also a lot of 12-step references, some of which seemed overdone. On the whole, this is a useful book that increases mindfulness about eating just as The Artist’s Way increases mindfulness about creativity.

I will certainly adopt the elements of Cameron’s plan that are feasible: the food journal, walking when I can (also doing some yoga & Pilates DVDs and hand weights at home), and journaling when I can. I will follow the three meals/two snacks model, although as a nursing mother I’m throwing in a bonus snack when I need it. (It’s no fun to get the shakes, as Cathy noted, and nursing mothers need to be careful about restricting calories.) I don’t know if all that is enough to make a difference, but it’s a good start. I already feel better. And is it simply a coincidence, that after my first day of Eating Clean, my baby slept through the night? Six hours straight, when the most he’d ever done before was four. If I needed even more motivation, well, there you have it. And if I end up being more creative to boot, then brilliant.

Stake in the ground: I’ve got nearly 20 pounds to lose, but I’m breaking that down. Goal #1: lose 10 pounds and redevelop some of that long-lost muscle tone.  Since muscle weighs more than fat, I’ll pay attention to how my clothes fit in addition to looking at the scale. I’m giving myself a generous 10 weeks to reach my goal: September 7. Anyone want to join me?

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