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.

 

 

My Favourite Healthy Recipe: “Fiesta Stir-Fry”

I admit, I have two separate Pinterest boards related to food. One is called “Food Porn” and the other is called “Health(ier) Recipes.” The reason that I call the second one “health(ier) recipes” is because the word “healthy,” when describing food, is so loaded. Almost every food and drink can be criticized for something, whether it’s because the food is non-organic, non-Paleo, GMO, highly caloric, non-nutritive… I mean, we’re even being told when we should drink water to reap the most benefits. Is there seriously a wrong time of day to drink water?

Healthy has become complicated.

But it doesn’t have to be. If we look at the definition of health, it usually includes something about being “free from illness or injury” and when we look at the definition of healthy, it usually includes something about being “good for you.” It’s pretty simple. My personal definition of healthy food is the stuff that makes you feel good (not bloated), that keeps you full longer, and that helps curb cravings for less nutritive food.

So based on that definition, I present my recipe for “Fiesta Stir-Fry.” What I love about this recipe is that it is made from ingredients I often have on hand- and so many ingredients are optional, so you can play around, modify and enjoy!

Fiesta Stir-Fry
Serves: 2-4
Prep: 5-10 minutes Cook: 20 minutes

Ingredients:
2 boneless chicken breasts, diced (can be omitted if vegetarian)
1.5 cups quinoa (red or white)
1 Tbsp. olive oil (or some other fat that will prevent ingredients from sticking to the pan)
1 tsp. minced garlic (optional)
1 can diced tomatoes, or 2-3 plum tomatoes, diced
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed (can be omitted too!)
1 red or white onion, diced
1 avocado, sliced (optional)
1 Tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)
3 Tbsp. chili powder (I prefer a more mild variety, but this is up to you!)
1 tsp. cumin powder
1 tsp. stevia or 1 Tbsp agave syrup (optional)

Directions:
1. Cook quinoa according to package directions.
2. In a LARGE frying pan, heat oil/fat over medium heat. Add onion and garlic (if using) and sautee until soft and fragrant. Add chili powder and cumin. Add chicken to pan and cook until no longer pink.
3. Add diced tomatoes and black beans. Cook for a few moments, until sauce from tomatoes is simmering.
4. Add sweetener (if using) to frying pan.
5. On plates or bowls, arrange cooked quinoa, then cover in tomato/chicken/bean mixture. Top with avocado and cilantro, if using.

Enjoy!!!