Food Friday: A Salad a Day

In today’s Food Friday I am not going to talk about a particular food, or a dish I made, or even a picture I took.  Instead, I would like to take a moment to talk about food, health, and dieting.  This won’t be a regular thing, as this is not a blog about diets, but because it has been on my mind a lot lately, and affecting my relationship with food, I think it is important to write about it.

I am not one who diets a lot.  In fact, now that I think about it, I don’t think I have ever even tried dieting.  I naturally eat a lot of healthy food.  I hate overly sugary and sweet foods (including chocolate), and greasy snacks such as potato chips make me feel nauseated.  My preferred mid day snack is an apple, or a container of raspberries.  I don’t eat a lot when I do eat because I am a fairly small person, and thus have a fairly small stomach.  Yet, I too have my vices.

Early last year, April 2010, I started a new job.  It was a fairly good job; easy work, nice pay.  But it had some problems.  First, it was a job in which I sat on my butt all day at a desk.  Second, the company had an always stocked kitchen.  Though the food was not necessarily attractive to me (instant ramen isn’t exactly the most flavorful food), the beverages were.  A fully stocked fridge filled with Coke, Ginger Ale, and my true weakness, Arizona Ice Tea (the giant $.99 ones).  I got in this particularly nasty habit of drinking at least three of those per day.  In addition to the ridiculous amount of calories and sugar in each can, there was the caffeine.  Eventually it got to the point where I would drink so many to these things that if I went an hour in between each one I would start feeling dizzy, sick to my stomach, and exhausted.  I had a full-blown caffeine addiction.  I had to break that addiction.  So I did.  I went cold turkey.  No caffeine at all, not even a cup of tea.  To get myself through it I drank A LOT of water.  I wanted to make sure I didn’t make the mistake of substituting sugar for caffeine by drinking lots of juice and caffeine-free sodas.  It was a rough two weeks while I went through withdrawal and my body readjusted to being caffeine-free.  I slept a lot.  In fact, I went to bed by 10 pm most nights.  But eventually, I came through the fog, and now I have been without caffeine for about eight months.  My boyfriend even eventually joined me in my caffeine-free state of mind later in the year (which was a big deal for him since he has been a lifelong tea-drinker) and has now been caffeine-free for 4 months.

But let me be honest.  All is not completely well.  I am not an overweight person, not even in the slightest.  But I am a small girl, and I don’t mean small as in my waist-size.  I mean I have a smaller build.  I am 5′ 6 1/2”, but I have extremely small bones.  I can grab my wrist with my pinky and my thumb and the fingers overlap.  See?  I am small.  This means that the standard 100 pounds if you are 5′ and 5 pounds for every inch after that does not work for me.  In fact, if I went by that standard I would look fairly unhealthy.  So how does this work into food?  Dieting?  You see, I love carbs.  I love bread.  I love pasta.  And most of all I love fruit, which is chock full of sugar.  In moderation all of these things are good for you.  But when it comes to these three types of food, I do not know moderation.  So I chow down on all of these foods, and lately I have become dissatisfied with my eating habits, and my weight and health.  And so, something needed to change.

But I couldn’t do it own my own.  Luckily I have an absolutely amazing boyfriend, who, like me, has some foods he just can’t resist.  Bread, potatoes, cheese…bacon.  You know, MAN FOOD.  We spent the last half of last year complaining about how unhealthy we were.  We both wanted to lose weight, we both wanted to eat healthier, we both wanted to exercise.  We talked about doing it, many times, but we never did.  The complaining continued until finally, it came to a boiling point.  Enough was enough.  So, as we entered the new year, we made a goal.  This year we were going to finally stop complaining and take action.  So this past Monday, January 10th, we started a new diet.

To be honest, we went to an extreme when choosing which diet to use.  We thought about just cutting down on certain things, but our willpower isn’t the greatest, and the cravings are strong.  Then I overheard a couple of my coworkers talking about the new diet they had just started, the South Beach Diet.  I had heard about it before, many times, but had never really looked into it.  As I explored it more I began to really feel as though this diet was for us.  The main idea is that it is a low/no carb diet, and since our main vices are carb heavy foods (not fatty or sugary foods as it is for many).  It encourages you to make healthier food choices, and cook more.  So after talking it over with my boyfriend, we decided to go for it.  We had no clue what we were getting ourselves into.

We aren’t even through the first week of it, and we are already getting our butts kicked.  You see, for the first two weeks you can not eat any pasta, starches such as potatoes, or fruits.  And when I say none, I mean none.  The point during the first two weeks is to get your cravings for these foods under control.  Once you get through those two weeks you can then slowly start introducing these foods back into your diet, in moderation and with some limits.  For example, instead of standard pasta, use wheat pasta, and only eat it once or twice a week.  Instead of white rice, eat brown rice or couscous.  Use red potatoes instead of white, etc. The idea is that over time choosing certain healthier foods over others, and eating things in moderation will become second nature and eventually the diet will become a way of life.

So how am I making it through these initial two weeks?  It’s not easy, I tell you.  Every day I have cravings for bagels, or a giant bowl of ravioli, or a container of raspberries.  Every day I am tempted when I walk into my company’s kitchen and I see granola bars and trail-mix with delicious raisins.  It is all about willpower. I know that if I give in, things will never change and the cycle will never end.  So I just shove my cravings down and eat some celery with spreadable cheese instead.  My daily meals thus far:

  • Breakfast: Approximately 30 Pistachios, Hard-boiled Egg, Bottle of Water
  • Snack: Low-Fat String Cheese
  • Lunch: Bottle of Water, Salad (Spring Mix, Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Mushrooms, Smoked Turkey, Hard-boiled Egg, Low-Fat Cheddar Cheese, vinaigrette Dressing)
  • Snack: Celery, 2 Low-Fat Spreadable Cheese Wedges, Sugar Free Jello Cup
  • Dinner: Glass of Diet Caffeine-Free Coke, Grilled or Sautéed Chicken or Turkey Breasts, Stir-fried Veggies (Broccoli, Water Chestnuts, Sugar Snap Peas), Chickpea & Edamame Salad
  • Desert: 1/2 Cup Non-fat Plain Yogurt

Dinner varies day-to-day, as I find new recipes I want to try, some of which I will be sharing on here (tonight will be a delicious Chicken Cacciatore and Roasted Asparagus).  But for lunch, I literally do have a salad every day.  And you know what, I actually enjoy it.  Sometimes I shake up what I add in, but I find that I actually look forward to my salad lunch, and actually, it fills me up (or at least it fills my stomach, though I still feel hungry, for croutons).  I actually don’t get hungry again until around 3:30 or so, at which time I grab my second snack of the day, which carries me through until get home for dinner.  I also find that I can temporarily curb my hunger if it’s not meal time by drinking water.  This week I have been averaging three to four 12 ounce bottles per day (which is actually really good for you, and I should drink more).

The other thing that has been getting me through this diet?  My boyfriend.  He doesn’t want to do this diet it, at all.  He is grumpy about it nearly every day.  Yet, he sticks with it, and tells me to stick with it to.  When I wanted to quit and gave him and opportunity to back out of it, he refused.  Had it been just me there, I would have cooked myself up a pot of ravioli and devoured it.  But he was there, and he wasn’t going to give up, and I wasn’t going to give up because of that.

So what is my advice for others who would like to do the same, but may struggle to do so?  I am no expert, but what has worked for me may work for you too!

  • Find a Buddy – It really does help.  Staying motivated on your own can be difficult, even if you have excellent willpower and are highly motivated.  Having a partner who is there doing it with you will encourage you to stick with your plan.  It can be your boyfriend, wife, best friend, coworker, sister, cousin….anyone!  Just having someone be there with you, it’s going to make it a little bit easier and more likely to stick.
  • Be Realistic – It’s not going to happen overnight.  You aren’t going to diet for a week and instantly lose 15 pounds.  Depending on how much weight you would like to lose, and what your current weight and BMI is (Body Mass Index), the rate of your weight loss will vary.  So do some research, find out what a HEALTHY weight is for your body build, and aim for that.  Please, don’t try to go too skinny.
  • Research Diets – Certain diets aren’t for everyone.  The diet I chose is designed to eliminate or lower carb intake, not fats.  Thus, I still eat some fattier foods, such as nuts.   Not everyone may suffer from severe carb cravings as I do.  If you love chocolate and ice cream, you may need a different diet, one focused towards eliminating fatty and sweet cravings.  Just because one person has success with a diet doesn’t mean you automatically will.
  • Exercise – I say this, but to be honest, I am not following it right now, and I know this isn’t good.  I have valid excuses, but frankly, that doesn’t matter.  I am going to change this, I promise.  Even if you just go for a 20 minute brisk walk once a day, get yourself up and moving.  I promise you, it will drastically help.
  • Write About It – I have found that writing about my goals, my hopes for my health, and what I am doing on a regular basis to improve it, has helped me stay motivated.  So if you don’t already, start a blog, or keep a journal.  Write about your progress, your feelings, your cravings.
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Truth Thursday: Week I

As an effort to allow my readers/followers to know me more, keep me writing regularly, and help me learn more about myself, each Thursday I will be posting a handful of “truths” about me.  My hope is that these truths will not only give you a little insight into who I am, but encourage you to take a look at yourself, the truths about you, and get you thinking on a more critical and deeper level.

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I MAY BE ALLERGIC TO SHELLFISH

When I was younger, about 9 or 10, my family cooked lobster.  I devoured it, soaked in butter.  Later that night I ended up violently ill.  I was shaking all night, sick to my stomach, unable to sleep.  We didn’t know why, but on a subconscious level I connected it to the lobster.  I didn’t eat any shellfish again, until two years ago.  I was having dinner with my then boyfriend’s family and they had made some grilled shrimp, and frankly, it looked delicious.  So I ate one.  And nothing happened.  That is until the next morning when I broke out a rash that would eventually cover my entire body, except for my stomach and my face.  It got so bad that I eventually went to the doctor and they gave me a cortisone shot and a ten day anti-histamine regiment.  I asked the doctor what could cause this and he said that it may have been something I ingested.  He then asked what I had eaten before this occurred.  I told him shrimp.  He said that it was likely I was having an allergic reaction to it.  I explained the lobster incident from when I was younger, and asked why I didn’t have the normal allergic reaction (hives and breathing issues).  He told me that some people react differently, and that if I wanted I could get an allergy test.  I decided I just won’t eat any shellfish ever again.  Problem averted.

MY FAVORITE FOOD IS RASPBERRIES

Seriously, I could eat a truckload of them and still want more.  When I was younger and my parents would take us berry picking in the summer, I would eat everything as I picked them.  We would leave the farm and I would be covered in berry juice from head to toe.  Anyone who is close to me knows that the way to cheer me up (if I happen to be in a bad mood) is by giving me a container of raspberries.  The only problems with this obsession?  Raspberries are quite high in sugar, and they are expensive.  During off-season they are $5 a container.  And since it takes me about 1 1/2 minutes to go through a container, it can get expensive quickly.

I USED TO PLAY THE CLARINET

Actually, I first played the saxophone, for a year, when I was in 5th grade.  Then my mother decided she hated the way it sounded (really I just think I wasn’t very good, as I was only 10), so she switched me to the “softer sounding” clarinet.  I played it all the way through 9th grade.  To be honest, I wasn’t very good.  I know the difference between good music and bad, but I don’t have any musical talent myself.  So in the 9th grade, after years of struggling to grasp the clarinet, and getting told by band mates that I would never be “first clarinet”, I quit.  I did briefly try playing the bass clarinet, in the 10th grade, but really, no musical talent.  So I left it behind.

I WORK IN THE VIDEO GAME INDUSTRY

It’s pretty awesome, but I can guarantee you it’s not as awesome as you think it is.  It’s a fairly competitive industry, difficult to break into, and it is highly male dominant.  For example, my company has 30 employees.  Only six of us are female, and two of those are in the “female dominated” HR division.  Most days I don’t notice that I am in such a small minority, but every once in awhile it does become fairly evident.  Beyond that though, it’s a pretty nifty job.  I have now been in the industry four years (wow, time flies) and have done everything from production, to marketing, to community.  Right now I work as a Community Manager & Marketing for MochiMedia.  I spend my day finding ways to grow the community, market the game, and make us look good.  Previously I worked for publishers of free-to-play MMOs, Aeria Games and Gala-Net/gPotato, as well as social games creator RockYou.

I HAVE A DEGREE IN RELIGIOUS STUDIES, BUT I AM NOT RELIGIOUS

Since graduating from college the question I get most often after I tell people what I studied is “So what religion are you?”.  I do not follow a religion.  Growing up I knew religion existed, but I was never personally exposed to it, until I was about 12.  My mother is spiritual and believes in things such as karma, reincarnation, and many pagan ideas.  My father was baptized Mormon and follows certain Mormon ideas, but you would never be able to point him out as a Mormon.  For me, neither my parents, nor anyone I knew, told me I should be a certain religion.  Perhaps it is because of this that I was so eager to study religion in college.  To clarify, what I studied was “Religious History”.  The development of monotheistic religions, Judaism and how it relates to the Holocaust, why people choose to be religious.  These were the kind of things I studied.  At the end my specialization ended up being in Judaism, as that was the religion whose history most intrigued me.  I did of course study all the other major religions including Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism, but Judaism stuck with me most.  To repeat, I am not religious myself.  I do not believe in one religious ideal over the other.  For the longest time, I would not even answer the question “Do you believe in God?”.  To this day, I still prefer not to.  I understand and find value in why people are religious, but I am not, and will never be, a particular religion.  That being said, if you ever want to talk religion with me, whether you are religious or not, I would love to.  It is one of my favorite topics to discuss and I always want to learn more about it.  The only thing I ask, please do not push your religious beliefs onto me.

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