Faking it as a skinny girl

Sunday night, as I was getting ready for bed, I stepped into the bedroom for a minute while brushing my teeth.

Through a mouthful of toothpaste, I asked, “What is that!?”

I knew what it was – my husband was standing there, holding up a pair of jeans.  They were his own, from about a year and a half ago and they looked huge.

For the record my husband has never been huge (at most we were both just a smidge overweight and to be fair, my husband admits that even then, these pants were baggy on him because he liked them to fit that way).  But either way, I guess I never realized how much weight he has lost over the past year.

Or how much weight I have lost over the past year.

smallerjeansSince March of 2012, I’ve lost over 40 pounds (and at my lowest weight, 50 pounds…), which is a lot for my 5’5″ frame.  It has been an interesting path I have decided to take.  And not all rewarding.

I continue to assert that I didn’t diet and still don’t.  I may slim down portion sizes after say, uhhh, the HOLIDAYS, but I don’t cut any food group from my diet and I insist on having dessert each day, which includes a glass of wine – the only resolution I made this year was to drink a glass of wine a day – at which I’ve already failed, sadly enough.  You’d think that wouldn’t be a hard one to keep…

I love the feeling of being skinny/slender/thin.  There is no avoiding that.  But for someone whose body weight has remained in the slightly overweight category their whole adult life, staying “thin” is no easy task.  I have lots of friends who can eat more or less whatever they want (at least, they appear to be more at liberty to do so than me) and they don’t gain weight.  On my end, I go out an enjoy just a drink for a night, and the scale reads a few pounds heavier the next day.

Psychologically, it is difficult.  I don’t think of myself as skinny.  Recently, I was speaking to a friend of my father’s about food and exercise and I went off about a “skinny girl”, not thinking about it much.  The woman kind of coughed and said, “Look who’s talking.”  It’s true, I am thin, but I don’t *feel* that way, because I never have been before, at least in my own eyes when comparing myself to others.  And when I think about food and exercise, I imagine that “thin people” don’t have the same thoughts or the same struggles that I do.

When you start losing weight, there is a lot of joy in seeing the number on the scale go down and feeling your jeans get looser on your hips.

That all starts to go away when you start looking for what your body’s natural weight should be.  You think you’re at the right weight, it feels good on you, looks good on you, but you have an extra slice of cake and your body decides to throw on an extra two to five pounds (repeat after me: water weight, water weight, water weight…) and you work all week to shed them.

I’m not sure I know anyone else with the same mental dilemma.  As I noted, most my friends are people who have not struggled with their weight for their whole adult lives.  This is a lonely place to be for me.  I have people I admire from college – people who lost a significant amount of weight and have kept it off.  They are my role models and they are healthy, balanced women.  But they aren’t people who I am close to and I don’t maintain a conversational relationship with them.  So it is hard for me to think of going to them for support in such a personal topic like this.

To be honest, I am unbalanced.  And I am a perfectionist.  As I have told myself many times, when trying to figure out what my ideal weight is, I have to let the pendulum swing both ways.  Over the holidays, I gained some weight back – when I tell people how much I gained, they look at me with genuine disbelief.  Which is both reassuring but also incredibly frustrating, because it tends to bypass any recognition of the internal struggle that I’m trying to work through.  Nobody likes gaining weight, but I remind myself that I need to explore how I feel in the various states of my body, to decide what the pros and cons are, and to let myself settle in a little bit more.

(see a difference?  ...neither do I...)

(see a difference? …neither do I…)

Finding balance is one of the most difficult things for me.  I overdo just about everything – I want to do everything and I want to perfect it, to do it right, and to its fullest realization.  I am very focused on being disciplined and I do not like letting go.  Being disciplined can go too far, though.  I’ve been reading “The Golden Cage” recently and I was surprised to find a bit of myself in the girls that Hilde Bruch describes.  I am in no danger of becoming anorexic – I love food and eating food way too much – but I did grimace a little bit when I read about these girls’ need for perfectionism, the superiority complex, and even the obsession with cooking…

I am working more with being flexible.

While losing weight and keeping it off for at least a year has been empowering, I’ve switched gears now to a new phase of working on my body image and being less rigid with myself.

I’m using the Tight Jeans Rule instead of the scale to keep tabs on myself.  When my jeans start getting snug, it is time to lay off eating peanut butter straight out of the jar.  At my request, my husband has hidden the scale.  I truly had a bad relationship with it and weighed myself several times a day.  When the holidays hit, I got tired of all the self guilt and asked him to put it away.  I have weighed myself once or twice in the past two months at the gym or at work, but other than that, I don’t know how much I weigh right now.  And I don’t miss that scale one. little. bit.

it is a bumpy, but still a steady, ride

it is a bumpy, but still a steady, ride

Several months ago, I was speaking to a mentor of mine about struggling mentally with my weight loss.  We talked about it for a bit and from our conversation, I gleaned the 80/20 rule, which is helping me be less obsessed with being disciplined.  80% of the time you do what’s right.  You eat healthy, you work out healthy.  20% of the time, you let go.  Which doesn’t mean binge eat, but it means – have another piece of chocolate or two.  Don’t go to the gym tonight – you worked out three days in a row, it’s time to be a couch potato for an evening.

It is working out well.  I’m more focused on what I like about my new lifestyle instead of working myself up about all the little things that go wrong.  I love cooking and making delicious healthy meals.  The quality of the ingredients and produce I use has risen substantially since last year and I’m now cooking and eating vegan the vast majority of the time.  I’ve explored an outdoor-focused active lifestyle more.  In the past year, I hiked six fourteeners, biked to Castlewood Canyon (42 mile round-trip), snowshoed in Wild Basin in negative temps, learned to play racquetball, skied with my dad for the first time in 10 years and helped my husband get on the slopes for the first time, and will soon run my first half marathon.

In terms of weight, the feeling of being smaller is wonderful, but for me it came with some psychological setbacks.  Looking back on everything that came with it, I wish it had been all for the “extras” I’ve gained in the end, and just let the weight do what it naturally does when you go exploring.

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Dear Rabbit Food…

I hate being a wanna-be…

But I can’t resist a challenge.

Over the past year or so, my friends and family have been hearing a word from me that they hadn’t heard very often before.  And now they’re hearing it all the time.  And by my count, they are getting sick of hearing it.

Vegan.  Veganveganvegan.  Vegan times infinity plus one!

…vegan.

So there 😛

Sorry guys.

The truth is, I’m not one, although I’m getting there.  For the past two days and the week before this previous weekend, as well as a nibble or two of a most-likely-not-vegan baked good left in the teacher’s lounge aside, I have not eaten anything of animal origin.

…oh wait, I forgot my bread has honey in it.

Okay, so maybe not.

But I do the best I can at keeping my diet this way.  My meals are set up so that they are free of dairy, eggs, and meat.  It’s been a while since I’ve used any dairy or eggs in my baked goods.  Aside from our recent trip to San Diego, it has also been a while since my husband has had meat for dinner.

No, he hasn’t shrivelled up and died.  …yet.  He claims his daily turkey sandwich for lunch keeps him breathing.  My lunch, as my recent visit with a physician’s assistant revealed, has also not changed much –

“So what did you eat for lunch Monday?”
“A veggie patty and a salad.”
“And Tuesday?”
“Black bean soup and a salad.”
“Wednesday?”
“A veggie patty and a salad.”
“Thursday?”
“Rice and beans and -”
“And a salad?”

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Yeah.

I don’t like labels.  I especially don’t like labelling my eating habits.  But in any case, even without being strictly vegan, I would classify my diet as heavily plant-based.

It started being more like that a little over a year ago when I lamented my weight fluctuations to my physician.  He attributed it (rightly so) to inconsistencies in my lifestyle, but offered to do a few blood tests and asked if I would be willing to see that center’s nutritionist for a resting metabolic rate test.  I agreed, saw the nutritionist, discovered my RMR, and also took home a fair amount of information from her about nutrition (shocker – Thai curry is high in calories!).  In addition, I started reading a couple publications from the hospital I volunteered at, which happens to be Adventist.

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The Adventists traditionally adhere to a strict vegetarian (or “vegan”) diet (vegans go further with the lifestyle commitment by not purchasing anything of animal origin, including wool, silk, leather, as well as cosmetics and other items that contain animal products).  They are one of three people groups recently identified by National Geographic that contain a very high proportion of centenarians.  And they are one of the only groups of people whose numbers of centenarians are not declining.  This is attributed mostly to their diet and to a lifestyle associated with their Adventist beliefs.

With a bit more research, which I won’t dwell on, I was convinced that avoiding animal products in my diet was the best way to go (for largely health and environmental reasons – I don’t have too many “soft fuzzy” feelings about animals, with the exception of pigs, and I hate chickens [the animals themselves] – which my dad says “Are vegetables.  Because squash is smarter than chickens.”  But I can’t stand preparing chicken – ultimately my grossed-outedness at preparing chicken ruins most of the satisfaction I get from the cooked meal).  I was also enticed by the challenge of creating meals and baked goods without dairy and eggs.

It has been a very productive quest.

I’ve made everything from stir fries…

to enchiladas…
Imageto cheesecake… (this one is also “raw” – a food trend I don’t necessarily agree with)

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to cookies…
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to tacos, to even…

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a Thanksgiving meal (turkey and stuffing aside…) vegan.

My husband is a carnivore; I have no hope or aspiration of converting him to this “dark side”.  But I do ask him after he finishes his portion of whatever recipe I make what his opinion is.  A positive review goes like this –

“Pretty good for rabbit food.”

Among his favorites are red lentil dal, enchiladas, and even pudding (scroll down to the bottom of the hyperlinked page).

This past weekend, at a family gathering in California, was a bit of a test for me.  I was thankfully in the company of another person who also leans vegetarian, but is not fully opposed to eating fish or poultry.  With her help, I was able to scrounge together some food resources to keep my breakfasts and lunches within more plant-based lines.  I did break into the delicious chicken salad and also had a tuna steak for dinner one night and salmon another…

While I enjoyed all the meals, I felt like I ultimately would not miss the presence of fish and eggs (one of my biggest hangups with going vegan) in my day to day life.  Especially with how good I am at selecting quality vegan recipes on my own.

So I think I will stick to rabbit food.  And cheat during holidays or while being served food at another person’s house.

My experiment for this coming weekend is this recipe, along with my own attempt at meatless meatballs using quinoa and chickpea flour.

I leave you with a couple recipes to try – one the best “mac n’ cheese”s, vegan or not, I have ever had, along with my own blueberry muffin recipe that contains ingredients non-vegans are likely to have, is low in added sugar, high in fiber, and as my husband says – “Pretty good for rabbit food.” (i.e. it’s DELICIOUS).

The VeganYumYum’s Mac and Cheese

Image(This is *not* health food!  Whew, there, I got that out – what a relief!  It is one of the richest dishes I’ve ever made, period.

For this I recommend cooking 8 oz of dry macaroni for the sauce recipe given, and also adding freshly roasted hot-peppers, or roasted mini sweet peppers if you don’t like the heat.  I also added these vegan Mexican Chipotle sausages).

Blueberry Muffins

Makes 10 muffins (yes, only ten)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup quick-cooking (not instant) oats
  • 2 Tbsp ground flax seed (optional)
  • 1/4 cup organic/natural sugar*
  • 1/2 tsp salt**
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/3 cup canola or grape seed oil
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened non-dairy milk (soy or almond)
  • 1 medium banana, mashed***
  • 1 cup blueberries (frozen is fine, but it will turn your batter purple)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Lightly spray a muffin tin with oil.
  2. Combine whole wheat flour, oats, flax seed, sugar, salt, and baking powder in a large mixing bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, gently whisk together the oil, milk, and mashed banana.
  4. Stir liquid ingredients into dry ingredients with a fork until just moistened.  Fold blueberries into the muffin mix.
  5. Spoon batter into muffin tin, filling each about 3/4 of the way full.
  6. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the muffins have just started to pull away from the sides of the pan and a tester inserted into a muffin comes out clean.  Allow to cool in pan 3-5 minutes, then transfer to a baking rack to cool completely.  When reheating the muffins, placing them in a warm (200 degree) oven is recommended.

*Regular white sugar and regular brown sugar is not vegan as the sugar is processed through cow bone char in order to make it white. Brown sugar is just the whitened sugar with molasses added back in – still not vegan
**I do not advocate leaving salt out of most home baked goods – it normally serves a purpose, and excess sodium in our diets usually comes mostly from packaged/refined products, not our salt shakers
***If you don’t like banana, you can replace it with 1/2 c unsweetened applesauce.  I recommend the banana – it is not very strong and adds a more subtle, rich flavor to the muffins