Food Shame

You-deserve-a-healthy-relationship-with-food-www.anastasiaamour.com_

For a number of reasons, I’ve been thinking a lot about food shame lately.

I am a person who loves to eat, and who eats what I love. I would be thrilled if it were that simple, but over time, it’s become something much more than that. I wish I could live whole-heartedly by this mindful and intuitive eating philosophy, but I feel pulled in so many directions. Here are the food-shaming sources that I’ve been really sensitive to lately:

  1. The “sugar is the devil” message. Has anyone else noticed how diets seem to centre around some sort of “moving target?” First it was fat, then carbs, and now sugar. Having a donut, a cinnamon bun or a piece of cake is now considered naughty. While I aim to be mindful of how much sugar I intake (though I am a total sweet tooth) it can be very dangerous to vilify any food so much that it feels like we should honour restriction and will power over mindful self-care.
  2. The willpower and self-control focus of eating. I find weight-loss shows can give really contradictory and confusing messages about this, and the diet industry can be to blame for this message as well. I get the sense that if (and when) I gain a lot of weight, people see it as a failure of my willpower, and I can imagine that lots of other people feel this way about themselves. The fact of the matter is that there is so much more at play behind weight loss/gain beyond self-control and willpower. Food intolerances, digestive issues, hormones, mood/emotions, physical injury, etc. are all sources of weight loss and gain. When I lose or gain weight, there are all sorts of reasons for it, just as I’m sure there are for you.
  3. The people we know. I swear, I don’t think I’ve ever gotten to know any one from any background (gender identity, SES, family status, etc.) that does not have some sort of hang-up with food. Of course, there is an extreme end of this spectrum (e.g., disordered eating), but even before that point, we all have mixed up messages about what we should put in our bodies and how we might look as a result. I’ve come across so many people who compare themselves to others (I don’t escape blame on this either) and who (typically unintentionally) make comments that are triggering for me and for others. I ask that if (and when!) I do this on the blog, that you don’t hesitate to let me know. We all have our hellish histories with food, but I don’t want mine to make your present relationships with food any more difficult or unsafe.

What I wish for my readers and myself is the same thing: that we can all eat in a way that nourishes our being, without fear of judgment, reproach or shame. I hope that we can give ourselves what we need, that we can eat what we love and love what we eat.

Mixing a carb and a protein

Afternoon, readers!

I wanted to share a common nutrition tip that I often take for granted. My dietician suggested that I work towards balancing all meals AND snacks with a carb and a protein source.

Here are my suggestions for snacks that meet the criteria:

  • Homemade trail mix (mine is a handful almonds, pepitas, dried cranberries and raisins)
  • Greek yogurt with homemade granola
  • Sliced fruit or crackers with nut butter
  • 3 or 4 crackers with a “domino” serving of cheese/laughing cow cheese
  • Home-popped popcorn with melted butter (not the most balanced but so delicious!)
  • Applesauce and almonds

I remember I protested, saying “But what about veggies? I need to eat more veggies.” My dietician was right when she said that people have limited success when trying to incorporate more veggies into their snacks. Instead, she suggested I try to “hide” more veggies in my meals, whether that be in a breakfast smoothee, pasta sauce, pizza, etc.

I’m really into the dietician’s suggestions so far, but she said that based on my health history, I should try a low-FODMAP regime. I’m not sure what it involves (other than avoiding cow dairy, certain produce and some gluten sources) or the science behind it, so I’m going to do some research. Next week I’m away on a trip to Dominican, but when I get back I’m sure I will have lots to share about my low-FODMAP experience.

 

My Running Essentials

There are a few key things that I want to tell you about that help motivate me to run.

First, I was always running with my clunky iPhone 6. I ordered an armband from Amazon for about $15 and never looked back.

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Uh-oh. Downside of armband- chafing. Oh, and my newly strong running legs also love this chafing prevention, bodyglide (~$15):

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The reason I run with my iPhone is this fantastic (free) app by Nike, which logs my distance and coaches my running:

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But before I go out on a run, I use an SPF moisturizer. I particularly love this one from Aveda, which is expensive (~$40) but worth every penny:

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And I always wear my cheap running socks that I buy in bulk at Costco (~$15 for 6 pair), but that do a pretty darn good job through my training runs:

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One thing every runner knows is that a good pair of kicks is key. I have orthotics, which I would recommend to anyone who can get them covered through insurance. However, the first step I took in becoming a runner was a trip to Running Room for good sneaks.

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And last but not least, my running (and hangover) cure, Nuun ($6-$12 at Sportchek):

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What products motivate you to pound the pavement?

The Tipping Point

Hello, old friend. It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog entry. Like my diary, I write this blog on an as-needed basis, and I haven’t felt I’ve needed to health blog.

Until a few weeks ago.

I have been in complete denial about putting on a significant amount of weight in a very short time. I’ve been tremendously happy lately, celebrating a number of exciting career achievements and new family members and engagements of dear friends. In other words, I’ve been eating a lot of celebratory food. I’ve been tremendously sad and angry lately, recovering from minor whiplash after being rear-ended, and growing increasingly frustrated at my financial instability and distance from career goals. In other words, I’ve been eating a lot of comfort food. Have you ever had the experience feeling as though your emotions (both positive and negative) are the ones in control of your eating, rather than your self? The worst part is, I was utterly unwilling to admit that this was happening to me.

And I invested in the lies I was telling myself about my binge eating/drinking. I did a bunch of online shopping, 3 or 4 sizes up, and told myself that it was nothing at all; everyone changes sizes from time to time. I would look in the mirror and think “I just ate too much last night and I’m bloated” or I would tell myself that seeing myself 12 pounds heavier than just a few months earlier was not hurting me. I invested a lot in myths I needed to create in order to not break down about my body.

But the myths weren’t holding up. The tell-tale signs were there. My expensive workout gear, that I refuse to replace at this point, fit snugger. Exercising felt substantially harder. Worse, my blood pressure is higher than it’s ever been before- perhaps because of stress, but I also know it’s because I’m not taking care of myself and my health.

And here’s the hard part: it feels impossible to acknowledge that I’ve steadily put on almost 30 pounds since I started grad school, while still being kind to myself. The number of the scale tells me that I weigh as much as my boyfriend did when we first met (a hard pill to swallow in a society that suggests that women must weigh significantly less than men, regardless of body composition). I’m struggling to offer myself kind words when I hate that I’ve put on so much weight. I don’t know how people who have yo-yo’ed in their weight manage the barrage of emotions associated with gaining and losing weight. I can hardly manage this first instance.

The self-compassion exercise I’m most working to engage in is imagining what I would tell a cherished loved one coming to me and explaining to me their weight issues (Neff, self-compassion.org). What would I tell them? How would I say it? I imagine I would softly say that I can imagine how hard it is to feel like something is so out of your control, and that I would do whatever I could to help them feel strong again. I imagine that I would remind him or her about my love for them, and that I will walk beside them in their journey to be healthy again, if they would let me.

In my moments of deep-seated self-criticism I hear myself using harsh, patronizing words and an aggressive tone. I say words that touch upon maladaptive core beliefs, that assign self-blame and that suggest that I am weak and incapable. Where is that soft, loving, compassionate voice? I miss her.

So let me tell you about my tipping point. I weighed myself and, at 160 pounds, decided that I needed better manage my habits. I made an appointment with an incredible dietician. She never once asked me about my weight; she only asked if my clothes fit tighter than usual. She is having me keep a food diary, with my symptoms of digestion, mood, etc. listed on the other side of the page. She also suggested that I didn’t necessarily need to eat less, but to shift my eating to earlier in the day, to avoid going into “food debt” which can cause binges in the evening.

I’m just getting started on making changes. My goal is to feel healthier and more in control. In just two weeks, and without major dietary changes by any stretch (I’ve only cut out beer, which destroys my stomach), I feel so much less bloated. I feel much more in control of what food and drinks I consume, and even simply writing my food down has made me so much more mindful of my consumption. I want to make it clear that it is not my main goal to lose weight, but it would be a happy accident if I lost a few pounds! It’s going to be a long effort, but I want to work towards better managing the relationship between my eating and my emotions.

 

 

The epitome of the love/hate relationship: Running


Remember my previous post, Signing up for Runs… Well, I finally completed the Scotiabank Toronto Half Marathon that I signed up for in May or June.

It has been a battle and that battle has been between two extremes: loving and hating running…. let me tell you about the loves and hates and we’ll see where we end up.

First, I have posterior tibial tendonitis, and that sh*t is PAINFUL. Well, I have two types of tendonitis, but it’s enough of an effort to remember that first one so I don’t remember the second. Between hundreds of dollars in physio, foam rolling like crazy and orthotics, I’ve devoted a lot of time and energy to making the pain of it bearable, and to be able to run past the pain.

Hate=1, Love=0

Running is cheap! Besides signing up for runs (if that’s what you’re into) and the actual equipment (proper shoes and gear), you can’t really find a cheaper sport. Running is a great way to test yourself without having to invest as much money as other sports require.

Hate=1, Love=1

Running is the most boring. I know a lot of people will disagree, and there are certainly points about running that are interesting… like watching the seasons change, having weird thoughts when you’re on a long run, scoping out and seeing new areas in your community…. But to be alone with your thoughts and the same running playlist you’ve had for months… I mean, it’s boring as hell a lot of the time.

Hate=2, Love=1

Two words: RECOVERY MEALS.

Two more words: CHOCOLATE MILK.

Hate=2, Love=2

Running is the ultimate test. It is so hard on your body. I feel like garbage the day after a long run. My legs somehow feel simultaneously like jello and stiff poles. Recovery is rough.

Hate=3, Love=2

I just checked my time. Holy smokes– I placed in the last 1000 half marathon runners of tens of thousands. That’s horrendous because I don’t have any excuses- I’m actually that slow. I run like a minion mixed with a turtle running through peanut butter. I’m just a slow runner and that’s a reality I’ve had to face through my training.

Hate=4, Love=2

And yet, I can’t put a value on the pride I feel. My favourite questions people asked me after the race were “how did it feel?” “did you finish?” and “when are you going to run your next race?” My least favourite question has been “what was your time?” I feel so much pride in having finished the race! Though I sheepishly tell people “2 hours, 35 minutes,” I then remind myself that means that running is a longer effort for me than for others. And yet I do it because of the strength of my will, and having a concrete representation of that in my finisher’s medal is completely invaluable.

Hate=4, Love= a BAJILLION.

You can have ten thousands reasons to hate something, and sometimes you just need one to love it anyway.

Your’s, in health.

I am a Wellington Warrior!

A few weekends ago, I had the privilege of running in the Wellington Warrior Challenge. It was an expensive race to be in- about $80 for a 5K run. Part of the appeal of the race is that it was going to be at a winery just on the outskirts of Guelph. The primary appeal was the cause- raising money for the Canadian Cancer Society is something that I try to do as often as possible. What I like about donating to the Canadian Cancer Society is the focus on local initiatives for people with cancer and survivors. I also like the notion of donating for general cancers, rather than for one specific type.

The Wellington Warrior Challenge was SO much fun. We got to the winery in good time for our race start, and everything was extremely well organized. We even noticed a “Free Beer” station beforehand. The only problem- it was FREEZING out!! Instead of hitting up the free beer, we bought some hot wine (all for charity, of course) before the race started.

The race was a 5 K, and there were 23 obstacles!!! Some of the obstacles were “easy,” like climbing over tube ladders. Others were more difficult- scaling a wall with minimal ledges, climbing over boards, and flipping tires. There was one that was absolutely impossible for me: wooden plank monkey bars. If you’ve ever tried monkey bars as an adult, you’ll recognize that they are a lot harder than when you are an adult. Add in the fact that each bar wasn’t on hinges and wouldn’t swing to the next made it too difficult for me.

I’ve never had so much fun at a race. I also don’t think I’ve ever been so cold. My “team” of 3 agreed that our favourite obstacle was one in which we had to work together. My lack of upper body strength made it impossible for me to climb over a wall that didn’t have a place for my feet to help me up. Instead, my teammates had me stand on their shoulders to give me the leverage I needed to hoist myself from one side of the wall to the next. There were four of these walls, so my teammates were exhausted and yet laughing the whole time.

When we finished, we definitely took advantage of the free beer!!

I’d definitely recommend an obstacle course, and to try and find one that is for a cause that you value. Fun runs are the best, and I’ve done a colour run, a zoo race, 2 Santa Claus suit races, and I intend to run the Pancake Mile in March. I recommend these runs for a number of reasons, including that people of all ages and abilities participate, and because they are a good reminder of how much fun you can have when you are healthy. I hope to see you at the next fun run!

Your’s, in health.

The WORST Meal of the Day

I feel as though most people would agree that lunch is the WORST. It’s hard to plan ahead for, it seems to be the meal that could be eaten at way too wide a range of times (11 AM or 3 PM lunches, when you’re hard at work, aren’t uncommon) AND it’s usually eaten from behind a computer screen. You’re taking a 15-minute-lunch break, right? So then it’s time for Facebook, news online, etc.

The fact of the matter is, if you can, it’s a great idea to get up and walk around a bit when you’re taking a lunch break. You’ll feel much more refreshed, especially if you can manage to get outside and walk, than if you stay seated. If you eat lunch in a staff room, take your 15 or 20 minutes to eat, and then suggest walking around with a colleague… I did this last summer and it was fantastic! If you’re like me, your job and your life are way too sedentary… I really need to start doing something about it. Squeezing all my movement into one hour of working out isn’t doing enough, according to this article and many others like it: http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/sitting-for-too-long-can-kill-you-even-if-you-exercise-study-1.2918678

Oh, right… lunches… let’s get back to the fun part: FOOD!

Here are a few ideas to make lunch food packing a little easier:

  1. Plan. Unfortunately we hear this a lot, but it’s because it’s THAT important. Find planning that works for you. Some people like to make all their lunches for hte week on Sunday night, some the night before, and some first thing when they  up. Find the timing that works for you.
  2. Leftovers. If you have a fridge and microwave at work, this is KEY! You’ll notice in the lunches I post, most meals involve leftovers.
  3. Invest in a cooler lunch bag. Not just a hipper lunch bag, but a lunch bag that keeps your food cool! Every since I bought a Roots lunch bag at Costco, I’m much more excited about packing my lunch.
  4. Look for packaged food that are as close to real as possible… look for yogurts, granola bars, apple sauces, trail mixes, etc. that are reasonably portioned, with easy-to-read ingredients and no added sugar.
  5. Consider treat day. Just like in grade school, it’s nice to have a day of the week that you buy a part of your lunch out. Maybe even pack the money in your super cool lunch bag (see tip #3). I usually allow myself a fancier drink at Starbucks on Fridays. Sometimes I’ll get an order of anitjitos instead, at my favourite place on campus. Obviously this doesn’t work if you don’t have access to these kinds of places. If you do, though, it’s fun to save the treat for a special day of the week or when you really need it, knowing that you’ve earned it by packing your lunch each day.
  6. Fruit!!! Especially if you don’t have any at breakfast, lunch is a great time of the day to pack grapes or berries– it’s even easier if you include fruits like apples, pears, peaches, etc. that require even less prep!
  7. Supplement your lunch with snacks that you keep at work. My favourites: almonds, snappea crisps, extra granola bars, and sometimes I’ll even bring skinny pop (or other pre-popped popcorn). This is so nice on days when I haven’t packed enough, or I’m extra hungry after my workout.
  8. Pack more. I think many people would look at my lunch and be surprised by how many calories I eat around noon. My defence- I workout in the mornings AND I’d rather load up on calories in the morning rather than later in the day, when your body has a harder time burning them off. ALSO, why have we created a culture where people look at your lunch and judge it, or compare it to theirs? Don’t be that person who compares their lunch- unless you tell someone that their leftovers look or smell unreal, and that you want the recipe!

Here are some pictures of my lunches from 4 days… Note, this is the most boring thing ever I think. But I love looking at what people pack for lunch, so I thought I would post in spite of the boring-ness.

This one is leftover broccoli and cheese frittata, grapefruit segments, a homemade pumpkin muffin, a true-to-nature cranberry bar and a grapefruit perrier.

This one is leftover broccoli and cheese frittata, grapefruit segments, a homemade pumpkin muffin, a true-to-nature cranberry bar and a grapefruit perrier.

This one includes carrots and cucumber slices, chocolate milk, a cranberry true-to-nature bar, and some kind of leftovers... I think it might be taco salad. YUM.

This one includes carrots and cucumber slices, chocolate milk, a cranberry true-to-nature bar, and some kind of leftovers: fish with homemade tartar sauce and sweet potatoes. YUM.

Pasta salad made the night before, a homemade pumpkin muffin, cucumber slices, a brazil nut true-to-nature bar, and a greek yogurt.

Pasta salad made the night before, a homemade pumpkin muffin, cucumber slices, a brazil nut true-to-nature bar, grapefruit perrier and a greek yogurt.

Carrots and celery sticks, apple, apple sauce, brazil nut true-to-nature bar and leftovers. I use a "wine writer" which is a marker for wine glasses to differentiate my leftovers from my boyfriend's :) Note that I also have a cold pack, because it was a hot day and I didn't want my leftovers to spoil.

Carrots and celery sticks, apple, apple sauce, pumpkin muffin, brazil nut true-to-nature bar and leftovers. I use a “wine writer” which is a marker for wine glasses to differentiate my leftovers from my boyfriend’s 🙂 I also have a cold pack, because it was a hot day and I didn’t want my leftovers to spoil.

Yours, in health…