Thursday, November 18, 2010

Shop Till You Eat

I recently went to the mall with my mom and my two kids. Have I ever mentioned that I hate to shop? (Almost unnatural for a woman, I know.) What’s there not to like about crowded parking lots, congested walkways, long lines, fussy kids, and loud store music? Maybe I am not normal to avoid these things, but after spending the day at the mall I found that I really enjoyed myself. Surprisingly.

The kids had fun, which results in me having fun too. Among the talking dogs, Christmas decorations (yes, they’re up!), escalators, and carousel ride, my kids enjoyed themselves.

But they did get hungry. Have you ever tried to find nutritious food in a mall? We ended up at Jamba Juice and a pretzel shop. Not the best and not the worst, I suppose. The pretzel shop had no whole grain options, sadly. You would think nobody is interested in being healthy at a mall. Is that true? Do other people besides myself long to find nutritious food while they shop?

We’re nearing a very busy season for shopping. How many trips to the mall will we make over the next several weeks? Will we be able to avoid the fat, salt, and sugar of a food court menu?

The holidays present enough opportunities to over-indulge. We don’t need more opportunities for goodness’ sake! Next time I go the mall I think I’ll bring a granola bar and apples for my kids. Or maybe avoid the mall altogether!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Multi-tasking

I must be the world’s worst multi-tasker. Give me a job, I’ll do it. Give me another job while I’m doing my first job, and I’ll fluster about and fail miserably at both.

Dinner was supposed to be easy after my busy day, and it would have been if I hadn’t set myself up for failure by multi-tasking. Instead of waiting in the kitchen for the food to get hot enough to turn down to a simmer, I used the waiting time to put some laundry away. You probably can guess what happened—I burned the food.

Life as mom would be impossible if I didn’t multi-task some of the time, but when it comes to my children’s safety, I have to make sure I have no distractions. But distractions can come easily when you’re doing a mindless task.

So I have developed strategies to help keep me focused and pull me back to details I forget when I’m multi-tasking. For instance, one strategy is using a kitchen timer on even extremely basic tasks. If I had set the timer for 60 seconds while I was cooking the other night I would not have left it on high heat to be burned. Timers are a great help for those of us who are lousy at tackling two things at once.

Sticky notes is another help. Little reminders written and placed where they’re most needed can help stop me from making a mistake.

I don’t know if anyone else suffers from a one-track mind, but if you’re like me, you need these kinds of tips.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Visiting Temptations

My mom has been in town the past couple of weeks. She lives over 2000 miles away, so it’s a real treat for us all. The kids love having Nana around, especially because she’s apt to hand out gum rather liberally. I enjoy walking into the kitchen to find the dishes have been washed. The best, of course, is the long talks and the unparalleled attention for the kids.

There is, however, a drawback. Do you know how hard it is to maintain 1500 calories a day when your mom is in town? She wants to cook for you, take you out for coffee, and make cookies for your kids. Meanwhile you want to impress her with your fabulous cooking, which I might add isn’t always the low-fat kind. Ice cream is purchased because you can’t have a guest staying without some desserts around. And there is the must for any visitor to California—a trip to In-N-Out Burger.

The past few days have not been my best health-wise, but not my worst either. I am still trying, in spite of not making the 1500 mark. I suppose with Thanksgiving right around the corner that I am setting myself up for some weeks of no weightloss progress. But if there is one concept that I have tried to share this past year of blog-writing, it’s that you should try even when you fail. Keep trying. Going over the allotted calories will happen, especially at this time of year. Still, keep trying. It always pays in the end.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Garbage Day

Garbage Day at our house comes every Monday.  It’s not always easy to gather up all the trash late on a Sunday night.  Sometimes we forget, and other times we just don’t feel like it.  But one way or another, we manage to get it out there for the early morning pick-up.

It’s a good thing that garbage is collected mechanically these days because no doubt ours is nastiest smelling bin on the block.  From the dirty diapers to the old floor scraps dropped by sticky little fingers, it just plain stinks.  No wonder we manage to get the bin out there even when we don’t feel like it.

The recycle bin is much nicer.  It’s filled with things like rinsed-out jars and glossy junk mail.  Even the outward appearance is better.  Instead of the mucky-green color of the garbage bin, it’s a cool clean blue.  It stands with dignity and pride next to the less desirable garbage bin.  I can only imagine what kind taunts it would be making if it could talk.

I think my body is kind of like one of the bins.  Week after week I toss stuff inside, and what I eat manifests itself into a very desirable or very undesirable body accordingly.  Even the outward appearance is affected by what is inside.  Healthy and wholesome foods and drinking plenty of pure water produces a body of healthy dignity.  You can probably imagine what kinds of foods result in a stinky garbage bin for a body.

So the next time a triple-fried something-rather appeals, think garbage bin.  Do you really want a body like that?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Hiding the Exercise

The gym isn’t exactly the favorite place to go when you’re overweight and out of shape.  More likely you want to work out alone in a very dark room.  While that’s not a bad idea, a little courage might be in order too.

Going to a gym has many benefits.  Being around active people makes you work harder.  Exercise machinery is available that would usually be too expensive to own.  You can vary your workout with cardio and circuit, which helps to make a healthy heart, burns fat, and builds muscle.

Gyms also usually have classes you can take that will make exercise fun.  When you become a regular goer, it’s harder to miss because of the support of friends who check in on you.  Working out with others usually motivates us to intensify our moves and go for longer.

However.  Going to a gym or class can require courage.  It’s not easy to walk into a room full of fit people and approach a machine you have no idea how to use.  Learning the moves of an aerobics class can feel intimidating. 

The first time is always the hardest.  If you keep at it though, pretty soon you will be the gym expert and might have a chance to show someone else the ropes.  You might feel like you look funny or that you stand out, but what better place is there to be than where you can change all that? 

Whenever I see someone who looks out of shape working out at a gym, I feel a tremendous amount of admiration for that person.  I recognize the guts it takes to be there and the effort required to exercise.  Chances are that most of the fit people are thinking the same thing.  So don’t hide.  Only good things can come if you face your fear head-on.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Hiding the Food

Anybody who has small kids is probably just about immune to all embarrassing moments that come. For a child, nothing is taboo. They talk very openly—and loudly!—about the more private things in life, like using the toilet. They leave snotty messes on your shoulder, and they blurt out awkward observations at the wrong time.

Unlike children, adults have a knack for hiding things that might make us look weird, incompetent, or weak. We know how to put our best foot forward and at least appear to have it all together.

Think back to the times when you have eaten the worst. Was it at a social gathering with a room full of people? Most likely not. More likely, it was at home when no one else was around. If I’m eating badly, I usually don’t want anyone to see me!

Hiding eating is one of the areas of danger for living healthy. If we are hiding when we eat, then mostly likely we are eating for reasons other than energy, hunger, or even pure enjoyment. Hiding food is not enjoyable. It’s usually guilt-ridden and depressing. I speak, of course, from my own experience!

If secret eating is an area of temptation for you, I strongly advise getting an accountability buddy. If you really truly want that ice cream or those chips, eat it in the presence of your buddy. It will make it more enjoyable. And it will hinder the endless gorging.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Utils

I tend to look for bargains, to find the best price possible—sometimes at the expense of quality.  But my husband Jay looks at it from another perspective.  He uses something he calls “utils” to decide whether something is worth buying or not. 

A util is a business term that represents one measure of quality, balanced against what it costs.  Cost is measured by money, convenience, time, and effort.  A product that has high utils is a product that gives a high amount of usability and enjoyment with a relatively low cost.  Something with low utils is a product that has high cost and low value. 

When making a purchase, Jay considers the utils, and it guides him in making a decision.  By considering the cost vs. the benefits helps weed out the ridiculous and impulsive buys.  It also eases the buyer’s remorse after a big purchase.  If we just bought a new car, we’ll be happy thinking about the utils we’re getting from it because it is worth the cost.

Utils can be used in eating and spending calories too.  Is the enjoyment and physical benefit of a food worth the calorie and fat cost?  Am I getting high utils on the snack I choose? 

Think about the following two examples using utils for snacks and desserts.

Snacks.  The purpose of a mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack is to help sustain our appetite, and boost our energy during sluggish times.  Therefore, a snack with high utils will be one that gives high amounts of both energy and sustainability for a low amount of calories and fat.  Milk is a good choice since it contains both sugar for energy and protein to sustain us.  A donut, on the other hand, will guarantee a sugar crash, giving it low utils.

Desserts.  Utils can be defined in terms of enjoyment and pleasure.  When I decide to eat a luscious piece of pumpkin cheesecake, I think its utils will be worth its cost in calories and fat.  However, eating the dessert often will cause its enjoyment to decline, and soon the cost will be higher than its value.  Eating too much dessert will give it low utils.

I think I like this way of looking at buying and eating.  It’s simple logic.  Sometimes I make things way too complicated.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

McRibs and McMarketing

Pumpkin spice latte.  Peppermint ice cream.  Hickory Farms sausage.  The McRib.  Eggnog.  What do these have in common?  They are foods that are enticing for one big reason: they are only available at certain times of the year.

Simply put, we fall in love with these foods because we can’t always get them.  Why do I get tempted to buy a carton of eggnog, even though it’s like drinking melted ice cream?  Because I know that I can’t get it any other time of the year, and something about that makes me passionate about it.  I might even make an extra trip to the grocery store to get it.

I suppose with food, absence makes the heart grow fonder.  But I can’t help but wonder if it’s all a big trick.  I can see the marketing managers from these companies getting together and planning out ways to make us buy.  Do they know that taking something away for nine months will make us buy more in the three remaining months than we would have for a whole year?

Probably.

My goal this year is to only buy what I truly like, and not what I am afraid I’ll never get another chance to taste.  It will come back next year, after all.  I don’t have to go hog-wild with seasonal temptations or I just might start resembling a hog!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Candy Candy Candy

Your kid comes home from trick-or-treating with a bucketful of candy.  As a health-conscious parent, you let them have a couple pieces, and hide the rest until tomorrow.  Then you carefully ration it out.  There’s only one problem: you have a constant candy around just waiting to be eaten, not by your kids—by you!

When I shop, I usually don’t buy candy or sugar.  What few treats I do buy usually at least have some nutritional value—vitamins, raisins, fruit snacks, etc.  I like it when my child wants a piece of fresh fruit, and gets excited when I give it.  That’s their candy.

Then comes the day when they get to go ask people for candy from door to door and come home with more than they should eat in a year.  I personally think the trick-or-treating experience is fun for them, and I enjoy taking them.  The aftermath is what I need to think through.

I am sure as the kids get older my strategies will change.  For now, I plan to ration out the candy, slowly giving less often and less amount.  I want the candy out of the house by one week. 

As for my temptations, I plan on choosing wisely.  If I am to have a piece, I will try to make the best choice.  Did you know that red licorice has fewer calories and sugar than other sugary candy?  Did you know that 3 Musketeers has less fat and calories than other candy bars?  This week may be full of candy temptations, but at least I can choose wisely.

Monday, November 1, 2010

My Week, My Knight

I have been working at a daily plan of eating no more than 1500 calories, but isn’t it interesting how so very many opportunities arise that attempt to thwart my efforts? 

Last week is a perfect example.  Monday went just fine, but by Wednesday I was so tired and stressed that I took liberties to eat a little more.  I needed the extra energy, didn’t I? Thursday didn’t go well in keeping calories down because I invited my inlaws over for dinner.  Who can stay good when there’s a special dinner and dessert, not to mention a very hectic day of planning it all out?

Friday was a harvest party at church with lots and lots of chocolate and a not-so-healthy dinner.  Once the dinner got me over my calories, what was the use in denying myself a piece of chocolate from huge buckets full of candy?  Saturday was another hectic day of rehearsals, babysitters, eating out, and a concert to sing in.  Sunday was a similar day as Saturday in its busyness.  And don’t forget all the trick-or-treat candy!

In short, if I wasn’t very determined I may have just given a whole week over to very unhealthy eating.  Fortunately, I have something on my side.  I have a husband who is being very supportive of my efforts and really has been encouraging me to stay on track.  He even promised me a special gift if I can keep to 1500 calories for 45 days.  He tells me it’s okay if I mess up on a day, and that I can pick up where I left off tomorrow.  Essentially, he is my knight, and together we’re fighting off my temptations.  (I guess that makes me a knight too!) 

So a big thank-you to my husband for helping me make it through a difficult week.  Hurray for the start of a new week, a new month, and a new chance at meeting my goals.