Mindful eating, chapter 2

A year’s progress

One frazzled evening two weeks ago, I rushed home. I claimed it was to do dishes but it was actually to fall back into an old habit. The stress created by my hectic post-work schedule proved to be too much. I grabbed a bag of almost-stale tortilla chips and poured out some salsa into a dish. Estaba desesperada but that is no excuse.  Because after all I have been through in my quest to achieve wellness, I know crunching away on fatty food will only make things worse. So I stopped myself.  That night,we took the dog for a walk.

On the morning of October 3rd, the scale read 122.8. I haven’t been in healthy weight range since my early 20s. I didn’t believe it at first. I had accepted my typical weight of 131 as a fact that couldn’t be changed. I have justified the cycles of weight gains as a result of my age, hormones, busy schedule, culture, and genetics. But two different scale readings and the ever-increasing bagginess of my clothes told the truth. I did it!

The secret, as I have stated in previous posts, isn’t in getting your gallbladder removed or in starving yourself or in exercising non-stop. It is changing daily habits. During the work week, I pack a big salad for lunch.  It consists of Trader Joe’s Cruciferous Crunch, garbanzo beans, and any vegetables I want to add. I dress my my salad with a Trader Joe’s vinaigrette or simply balsamic vinegar mixed with Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute or lemon juice.  I make an effort to have home-cooked meals for dinner daily even if it means cooking two to three meals on a Sunday.  The freezer is my friend!  The Crock-Pot is a good friend, too. Perhaps the most significant change in habit is hydration. I fill my water bottle at least once a day but ideally twice a day and drink water consistently every day. It has made a difference. I have less cravings when I am hydrated and I feel better overall.

Hydration bottle by Hydr-8

My journey to wellness isn’t over. I plan to work on my overall muscle tone, strength, and endurance so that I can become a better runner and dancer.  I plan to continue to clean up my eating habits so that I have fewer flareups of my inflammatory condition and overall improved immunity. I got this!

Mindful eating, the first chapter

When I decided I would have my gallbladder removed this summer, I asked about diet changes.  I know four friends/colleagues who had their gallbladder removed and know of countless others. Some folks are back to eating as they did before their surgery; others decided to forever modify their diet. I am part of the second group.  In the month that has passed since my surgery, I am much more mindful of what I eat.
I am an emotional eater. Food has been a painkiller over the years. Recent example: June is a crazy time for educators.  End of year and graduation keeps you busy and stressed. Mix in characters that probably shouldn’t work with other people(especially not children!) and you have a volatile environment. 
One afternoon, after a long day that ended with an unpleasant meeting, I walked into the house, grabbed the can of Pringles my daughter and her older sister had saved after their sleepover, and sat on the couch for a solid ten minutes. No praying, no meditating, no strategies learned in CBT or DBT. Crunch, crunch, crunch.

 As if every chomp could eliminate the foolishness of others. As if my tendency to internalize others’ nonsense could be swallowed like so much salt and grease. I won’t be seeking comfort from binging on chips anymore. 
 My lifestyle change isn’t about solely about giving up processed snacks or fried food or avoiding emotional eating; it’s about an overall change to my cooking and eating habits.  At home, I am making more stews and soups with less chicken. When going out to eat with friends and family, I now choose different meals. Vegetable-based soups like tomato basil paired with salads with honey mustard dressing or vinaigrette make for a satisfying meal. Most Asian restaurants offer plenty of vegetarian options. The Bay Area boasts great vegan restaurants including one of my faves, Souley Vegan, and a new discovery, Gracias Madre.  Even a trip to the ice cream shop with the kiddo hasn’t been torture: fruit sorbets are tasty.

At the moment, my body is letting me know what is best. I still feel queasy if I ate too much animal protein in a meal.  Trying a piece of birthday cake at a party is probably not wise. Dairy is off-limits for now.  For the most part, I am back to my normal routine. I have resumed daily exercise, light morning cardio for now, and have begun taking a Zumba class with my dance mom friends. I look forward to running and dancing with SambaFunk in the next few weeks.  Yes, I am at my lightest weight in twenty years, 125, (lighter than the weight discussed during my last weight loss journey: )  I am committed to sustaining my health; that is the ultimate goal. 

Magic Bullet discovered!

For years, I have sought the solution to that extra ten (occasionally, twenty) pounds I’ve been carrying around since I left college. Like Oprah, I have slimmed down and blown up, from guapa to gordita and back again. I have exercised, kept a food diary, juice cleansed, and cooked farm to table meals but pero nunca gone on an actual diet (because it has the word “die” in it). Depending on the consistency and intensity of my workouts and the kind of meals I am making, I am closer to a healthy weight than I have been in years.  But I have found the magic bullet!  Hallelujah! I now know how to lose excess weight in a week without any sit-ups or crunches, without grocery lists or expensive trips to the farmer’s market, without pills or powders or any other chemicals.  Cholecystectomy!  Say it with me. Call a sis tech to me! You too can be slim and trim with a simple gall bladder removal.
As planned, I had my gall bladder removed last week. After choosing to wait a few months, it was time to check into the hospital at 6 in the morning. Thankfully, I didn’t have to wait long before I met with my anesthesiologist(a handsome brother with a wry sense of humor; ladies I meant to ask if he wanted to come out to my samba school and meet some of my girls but I ran out of time) and my surgeon. After botching the first attempt at setting me up with an IV, the nurse got an IV going on my left arm and wired me up like the Bionic Woman. Then I was taken into the OR and I was strapped down like they expected to perform an exorcism on me.  The doc struck up a convo about the grammatical skills of high school students and before I could bring up Samba Funk, I was out. As predicted, I woke up in recovery to the nurse saying all had gone well.
My love joined me and he told me the surgeon said they wouldn’t be sending anything to pathology. There were no polyps or cysts; I had gallstones. No waiting for results!  But before I could respond, the fun, as in not, began. I haven’t been that sick since I was pregnant with M. I couldn’t even keep down water. I spent the day in a heap on the bed. 
Each day has brought improvements.  Last year’s extensive recovery had prepared me for the frustration of the physical and emotional challenges and the small victories. Taking a shower, eating a meal, walking around the block are all small miracles I know to not take for granted. Being able to take deep cleansing breaths and laughing, without pain, showed my progress.  I still wake up nauseous. The incision sites still ache. But I am definitely recovering.

While it’s true that I have lost some pounds, I don’t recommend this method of weight loss. What I do recommend is prevention. The research is divided on what causes gallstones; however, being overweight is a contributing factor. Most people choose to continue living/eating status quo after a month of recovery. I have decided to modify my eating habits for life. I am giving up alcohol and processed foods and I will be committing to being mostly vegetarian.  As my Team in Training coach used to always say, health is wealth. I would like to be wealthy for many more years to come. 

Three more pounds

“The pound of flesh which I demand of him
Is dearly bought.”  William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice
A few months ago, I wrote about my successful weight loss.  I hit my heaviest weight outside of pregnancy and quickly worked back to the weight I have been for approximately ten years.  Then I hit a plateau.  Whether it was not being actively engaged in a half-marathon training schedule or abandoning my food diary, my weight seemed to have stabilized.  Imagine my surprise when I returned from my family vacation in Rome only a pound heavier.  Surely all that walking made up for the sumptuous meals and afternoon siestas I told myself.  Having gotten back to a familiar weight I decided I needed to take on my next challenge: to get back to healthy weight range for my height. 
I went back to work and found myself too busy to resume my food diary but I also began preparing for my tenth half-marathon.  Without too much effort, I have continued to lose weight.  I now weigh approximately 128 pounds for the first time since my 20s.  I can now wear shirts I had relegated to bottom of drawers. I am wearing belts to hold up some of my favorite care-worn jeans.  I’m not hiding in baggy clothes or behind layers.  I put more effort into what I wear. In fact, I worked with a stylist, the wonderful Vanessa from One Girl, One DayOne Girl, One Day, to revamp my wardrobe for Back to School season.  Perhaps this is why I feel younger than ever lately.
So what is next? When I lose 4.5 more pounds, I will be within healthy weight range for my petite height of 4’11”. I’ll be running my 11th half-marathon in January and am hoping to achieve my personal record, having never made speed a priority but now feeling confident I can meet the challenge. That has been one of the greatest gifts of renewed health, an overall boost to my confidence and motivation.   The other gift has been knowing that my daughter and I will be running alongside one another  in January and in the future and that I am modeling good habits for her.  

Fourteen pounds later

“Let the driving force in your life be love.” Dr. Mehmet Oz

Film is a great motivator. There’s nothing quite like seeing yourself in photos (or on television) for you to realize that your appearance does mean something.  I don’t mean appearance is more important than inner beauty or that you should cultivate your appearance over your intellect or compassion.  Appearance reveals a lot about your health.  This past January, I was unhealthy —and not just because I was overweight. 
In January, I was the heaviest weight I have ever been in my life (outside of pregnancy), 145 pounds at 4’11”.  I was overworked, overwhelmed, and yet unmotivated to change. I had begun the school year at about 137, heavier than my usual 131. On the other hand, I ran two half-marathons which allowed me to justify the heavy weight since I could still manage to complete these physical challenges.  My crazy-busy schedule led to a lot of nights eating at places like Applebee’s and Chili’s.  The holidays included a lot of indulging and very little exercise.  But I also believe what was happening to me mentally, emotionally, and spiritually had a lot to do with the weight gain.
When I don’t read for pleasure, write creatively, and otherwise occupy my mind outside of work, trouble begins. When I engage in unhealthy behavior or spend too much time with negative or depressed people, my own negative behaviors and attitudes resurface.  When I don’t take time to pray or foster my spirituality, I am in pain.  In January, I was spending too much time on Facebook, focusing too much on my Dance Party socializing (which unfortunately involved drama), and more often than not, stuffing my face with chips while sitting at the computer.  But the photos did not lie. 
I know who I am and it wasn’t that smiling woman in the pictures. So I decided enough was enough. I began with Dr. Oz’s 48 Hour Weekend cleanse in which I lost a whopping five pounds in two days. I began to cook more healthy meals, reconnecting with two of my passions, cooking and farmer’s markets. I resumed exercising. I began to keep a food diary and limited myself to the suggested daily intake of 1600 calories.  I still overindulge at parties but I am conscious of what I eat and how physically active I am daily. I have done the 48 hour Weekend Cleanse two other times and know now it is a great way to bring balance to my body.  Rather than spend time online, I now play Sudoku or read a novel when I need down time.  While May was another intensely busy month, I managed to stay between 130 and 131.  In four months, I lost fourteen pounds.
While film may have motivated me, it was love that drove me to change. My partner was my coach.  Though he struggles with his weight, he did the first cleanse with me and he has encouraged me with the changes I’ve made in my physical and social habits. My other cheerleader was my new running partner, my beautiful daughter, who despite being three, completes the mile par course with me.  My family’s love makes all the difference.  I know I will continue to work towards better health with their support.