4 September 2015

My Diet Plan: Stop Joining Diet Plans.

Dieting sucks.

I've blogged before about my diet struggles. It seems like I have tried every "plan" from Weight Watchers (repeatedly) to Jenny Craig to The Biggest Loser to diet pills. I've probably spent around $5000 (and that may be a conservative estimate) into these programs, especially Weight Watchers.

Am I any skinnier? No.  But more importantly, am I any healthier? No.

I had my girlfriends over the other week. Everyone was talking, myself included, about how we are at our heaviest. In particular, most expressed how difficult it was to stick to a "program" and that it felt at times like a waste of money.  Despite that, the general indication was that most would re-join a program they have repeatedly failed on before because "anything was better than nothing."

But is that true?  (Note: the next comments aren't meant to be critical of their choices. Whatever works for them. I'm just speaking from my own history & experience).

It got me thinking to my own diet history. Despite all that I have spent, that I am at my heaviest weight. Shouldn't I know better? Haven't I learnt enough?

Two days ago, I came to a conclusion: dieting isn't hard. The programs I've spent money on are. Here are some basic mistakes of most of the diet programs:

1) Being overly complicated in calculating food intake without a real understanding of the nutritional value of the food.

An example is a Weight Watcher point.  The basic of a point is that it is calculated by some formula (that they don't tell you) of carbohydrate, protein, fat, and fiber.  The lower the point, the better the food. Right?

Not necessarily.  Sometimes, the unhealthier product was the same points or less than the healthier option.  Coke can be lower in points that milk. How is that a great choice?

More importantly, other things on the food label, that aren't counted, matter. Like sugar. Like sodium. All critical to good health.

Which leads me to my next point...

2) Living a well-balanced life means that nutrition & health matters too. Food choices should not compromise health. 

The premise of Jenny Craig is that the meals are prepared for you to perfect portion and calorie servings.  But think about this: every single meal is pre-processed food. Which means every single meal exceeds the recommended sodium intake.  What the fresh hell?

Weight Watchers is no different.  Some lower-point food has extremely high levels of sugar or sodium.

Your food choices shouldn't hurt you folks.

3) Lack of emphasis on exercise.

Common to most programs I have been on is that exercise is an after-thought. Sure, they encourage you to move more, but there is no comprehensive plan for that.

And in the case of Weight Watchers, the idea that you have the option of trading "activity points" for "exercise points" is ludicrous for long-term success.

Here's the deal.  Exercise for weight-loss doesn't have as big of an impact if what you are learning is that you can justify food for it.  And the reality check is that most people under-estimate how much exercise they put in compared to the food they exchange it with.

Exercise for the purposes of weight loss should be in addition to eating less/healthier, not in exchange of.

But exercise should also be more heavily encouraged because it has far greater benefits in terms of health (like increasing energy, lung capacity, muscle-building, flexibility, etc...).

4) Lack of structure when it comes to meal plans. 

Sure, there is no shortage of recipes. Or suggestions on how to space your meals and snacks.  Or even what to have.

But meal planning involves more than just what you are eating. It's also how much you eat and how the choices sustain you until the next meal.

I will repeat this: food's only purpose is to fuel you to get through the day.  So while it seems a good idea to have a piece of fruit and yogurt only in the morning, is that going to be enough? Not likely.

5) Next to no emotional counselling.

One thing I did like about Weight Watchers was their group sessions. Good ideas came from those group sessions.

But the thing is, having "tips" is not the same as understanding the emotional reasons behind your food choices. These programs don't require you to peel back the layers to understand why you make the choices you do. Or what emotion you are feeding.

The tips, while good for managing your environment, only go so far.

While I have gleaned some good "tips" over the years (and my suggestions will reflect some of them), I've decided to give up "diet programs" and just start exercising some common sense. To not complicate matters. To take charge of myself and save my money.

Here's the basic common sense of dieting approach that I will be taking:

1) Food is meant to fuel your body, not comfort or meet some emotional need.

2) Eat a balanced diet that includes things that grow in the ground, and things that eat the stuff that grows in the ground.

3) Limit foods that aren't as good, but not to feel guilty for the occasional indulgence

4) Keep my meals simple.  Food has enough great taste that I don't need to add high-calorie loaded things to complicate things.  Use basic ingredients. Limit salt & sugar as often as possible, and definitely don't add them to meals unless absolutely necessary.

5) Move more in an deliberate way. Move more in a way that recognises my limitations (knees) but doesn't make excuses for them.  Plan activity at least 5 out of the 7 days for at least 30 minutes a day.

6) Before I reach for a food, pause and ask why. Am I hungry? Or am I feeding another hunger that doesn't require food?

7) Have a general plan for what I will have each meal, every week.  Have some go-to meals for breakfast & lunch that can be quickly prepared and consumed (given that I only have a 1/2 hour to consume each meal).  For dinner, have a plan for every day in that week, factoring in things like work schedules (husband), events, etc... and then plan accordingly.

8) Ensure that every meal includes at least 3 of the 4 food groups, and that every snack includes 2 of the 4.  For every meal & snack, a fruit &/or vegetable must be one component.  All three main meals must include at least 1/2 to 1 full protein.

9) Use the plate method of 1/2 plate being fruit or veg, 1/4 being protein, 1/4 being carb.

10) Weigh & measure my portions until I have a better sense of a reasonable portion. Routinely re-measure to ensure I am not "over-portioning."

11) Have a plan for eating out. Portion out half the entree and only consume the other portion if truly hungry. Otherwise, pack it up for lunch.  For my drink, fishbowl my water and tell them to add a variety of bar condiments (i.e., cherries, orange/lime/lemon wedges).

12) Find a way to track in a way that is achievable, such as an app, or blogging, or a scribbler.

13) While at the end of the day, it's calories in calories out, ensure the calories are more beneficial than not.

14) Stop drinking coffee altogether (especially the frapifattys) and move towards tea with honey.




18) Accept the limitations of my body (health) but keep working everyday to overcome them.

19) Relax. Don't let the weight loss effort consume my life.  Find a hobby/distraction to provide balance.

20) Keep your eye on the end goal, but mark the accomplishments along the way.

Have any other great advice? Leave them in the comments.


15 May 2015

The Road That Will Be Less Travelled

Source: Parks Canada, Elk Island National Park, pc.gc.ca.

Growing up, I didn't travel very much or very far. My trips were limited to mostly places in Alberta (like Jasper, Banff, Calgary, Crowsnest Pass) and BC (Sparwood to see family). Beautiful places but close to home. Affordable.

When I reached of age where I could make my own travel decisions - and had the funds to do so - I ventured out. My first couple of trips were bus tours so that I could pack the most into a trip in an affordable & safe fashion. Along with my friend Joanne, we went to places like New York City, Washington DC, Savannah, St. Augustine, Orlando, San Diego, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Grand Canyon and places in-between.

When I met the man who was to be my husband, we traveled one, maybe two times a year to Las Vegas. Last year, we did an epic one month road trip from Edmonton to Las Vegas, then over to Anaheim (and Disneyland), then up the Pacific Coast Highway with stops in places like Monterey, San Francisco & Port Angeles.

I have always made travel a priority, but this year, my priorities have had to shift.  My husband & I would love to continue to travel as we have. But we are trying to have a baby. We also want to retire early. While we are fortunate in that we have no major expenses, our goals mean that we have had revise how we travel.

This year, my husband & I made a difficult but correct decision to put off major travel plans.  The many places we want to see are being pushed back for the time being.

They say you should live your life to the fullest so you have no regrets. But the reality is that sometimes, you have to balance your regrets & your dreams. I would regret making travel a bigger priority than having a child or being able to retire early.

We haven't completely abandoned travelling though. We decided to stick to local areas where we could see something in one day (or overnight at the most). Just like in my youth, we will stick around this beautiful province.

On tap for this summer includes:

  • A trip to Elk Island National Park.  I've never actually been there before, so I am quite excited. Plus it's relatively close to home, so we can do this in a day.
  • A picnic at Ma-Me-O Beach in Pigeon Lake and at Wabamun Lake.
  • Little road trips here and there that are within driving distance, stopping to see sites and having a picnic. 
We are also considering places like Drumheller, the Ukrainian Cultural Centre, the Ponoka Stampede, any type of festival or event in a nearby town, the Reynolds Museum, etc. I am extremely lucky to live in a beautiful province like Alberta with all the scenery & travel options

When it comes to travel, I seemingly have come full circle with my youth.

14 May 2015

The things left unsaid.

Yesterday has no reason to end the way it did.

I woke up in a generally good mood. I had a productive work day and finished my tasks. I went to my new weekly fitness class and left a little bit stronger (even if the legs had the shakes).  My husband & I had an enjoyable dinner with great conversation.

By all accounts, my day was actually pretty good.

And then I uttered something to my husband at the worst possible time. I created hurt. It came from a place of hurt. I uttered it from a feeling of frustration. It was motivated by wanting to shift the burden & guilt to someone who was already carrying his share.

I could have very easily chosen not to be mean. I could have very easily chose to be understanding.

I could have left things unsaid.

But the infertility struggle comes with many emotions. Sometimes the emotions are ugly and can't be hidden.

I made a promise that I wouldn't go "crazy" on this infertility journey. That whatever shall be shall be. Most importantly, I promised it wouldn't interfere with the loving relationship I have with my amazing husband.

Yesterday, it interfered. Yesterday, all the isolation and guilt and anger and frustration and sadness came out in a few sentences. The wound was swift. The wound was deep.

It was unfair of me. It was mean. It was cruel. And now I must repair the damage I caused.

I can blame the drugs I am on, certainly. I can blame my inability to just confront people with my concerns. I am not a people pleaser, but I am also not a feather ruffler. In the past, when I have said something (usually coming from the same place as this time), it's created hurt and misunderstanding.

My choices always seem to come down to either remain silent, or say something & risk misunderstanding, anger, & hurt. I haven't figured out yet how not to do that.

Lesson is that sometimes, things are simply better left unsaid.

*Update: Love means saying you are sorry. And I did.  Love means forgiveness. And he did. xo*

11 February 2015

Catching up on stuff: A post on strength & fragility.

Hello faithful readers of five,

I know. I haven't written anything here for a while. I've had a thousand great thoughts in my head, but no will to actually articulate anything. I'll do better.

The last few months have been particularly difficult - more so for the people around me than myself particularly.  But it has been draining, this thing called worry. It has been challenging, this thing called stress. It has been a test in fortitude, this thing called emotions. It has been an experience, this thing called helplessness.

To recap:

  • On December 12th, my best friend's mom died. A woman I have known and loved for over half my life is gone. My sadness pales in comparison to Jo's, but it's still a devastating loss. Not only is a loss in the sense that your friend's parents are yours too, but it's a reminder of the fragility of your own parents. 
  • Speaking of Jo, her son (and my godson) was admitted to the Stollery Children's hospital twice. He's slowly getting better. But it's scary because they are so vulnerable. Oh, and Joanne was sick with bronchitis.  I feel helpless in that I want to be there for her, but there is so little I can do. 
  • Closer to home, my husband was sicker than a dog with some sort of viral infection. This after I came off my own bout of the flu.
  • My own health issues. I swear, I turned 35 a few years back and it's been downhill health wise since. A reminder that I need to nurture my body. Because the way you treat your body will catch up to you. 
  • In my immediate family, someone is facing a mental health battle with depression and suicidal thoughts/attempts. He was hospitalized in the mental health and we thought he was getting better. He seemed fine. Now he's back there.
  • An online acquaintance lost her son to suicide.
  • Not being anymore closer to having a baby than I was that year. The fertility care system in Alberta is less than adequate. (Although there is a ray of hope coming up. Maybe).
  • Dealing with a spiritual/faith drought. It happens to me more frequently than I care to admit.
  • The general flipping world right now.
  • All while dealing with the general stresses of every day life. 
So much worry, stress, emotion and helplessness in a short period of time. Sigh. 

The quest for 2015 will be trying to find a way to find strength in the things that bring me down. How to rise above and be the person needed for those who suffer. How to deal with my own fragility. How to keep optimistic when it seems like there is not much to be optimistic about. 

I will return to one goal though: blog more. Having an outlet is a good thing. Maybe. LOL.