Monday, June 29, 2009

Farm fresh high fat food

High-fat or low-fat
A familiar topic is rearing its head again. And that is the choice between a small amount of very flavourful high-fat food or a much larger portion of a far blander low-fat equivalent. This is a real conundrum and I think it's best handled on a case by case basis. Such a serious sentence!

My old view, tainted by Atkins and "French Women Don't Get Fat," was definitely in the high-fat camp.

For the last 5 months I've been eating a VERY low-fat diet, eating almost no nuts or cheese, except a tablespoon here or there. I came to this conclusion rather organically. Basically we all have things we're not willing to give up. Be it wine, an after dinner sweet, bacon - whatever, we all have our issues. My main issue was hunger. I just hate being hungry. I also don't like flavourless food. So for months I ate almost no sweets, almost no cheese, no mayo, no alcohol, no baked goods. I got used to it. I tried to work bacon, prosciutto, ground beef, and other rich flavorful foods into the mix when I craved them. But I realized that I could add a slice of cheese to my sandwich which I didn't even taste that much or have an entire yogurt 2 hours later for the same amount of points or calories. As a result of trying to stave off hunger with more volume high-protein/low-fat diary, eggs, legumes and meats my cravings for rich flavourful foods diminished. I was satisfied with 3 almonds or a few drops of gorgonzola. Rich lovely cheeses kind of grossed me out they were so intense. I basically fell over to the low-fat side of the equation as my cravings for rich foods waned and as my need to not be hungry increased (remember WW cuts back your food allowance as you lose weight).

Fast-forward to now, 5+ months later - and I'm pretty much done losing. I am still sometimes struggling with hunger but my main goal recently (I gave up on the last 3 pounds) is to eat more organic, more local, more whole foods - and more weight training, but that's another matter. I do pretty well on the whole foods already, but not great, and as with many of these nutritional topics I'm thinking about what I feed my family as well as myself. I am reading information about the nutritional value of whole foods, many of which I eat, but many I don't as they're so high in fat.

Dairy wars
One place I'm confused is with dairy. There seem to be wildly conflicting attitudes on how to eat dairy: whole versus low-fat, grass-fed versus corn-fed, raw versus pasteurized. I have read and internalized these arguments and I'm definitely convinced that grass-fed is superior. I won't go into the reasons here but a quick Google search should tell you all you need to know. Some people are pushing me towards raw dairy. I'm not sure I can go this far or if the benefits of more bacteria in the milk are really that important. But I'm open to trying it. And as for non-homogenized...I don't know what I'd do with separated milk. I do understand that the natural vitamin D is in the fat and that Vitamin D helps calcium absorption, but I eat all sorts of leafy greens with olive oil.

As for eating high-fat versions of things like yogurt and milk I think I could do that now if I wanted to. I am much more used to small portion sizes so I could better handle it. I know Weight Watchers objects to high-fat foods largely because the calories get consumed so quickly that you have overeaten before you know it. But it is possible in theory to have 1/4 cup high-fat yogurt instead of 3/4 cup non-fat. When offering other people advice on this one I would say this: eat the low-fat until you are comfortable with much smaller portions or food and able to resist overeating. Then switch to a smaller size of the high-fat version with the same amount of calories.

Is it a diet or a lifestyle?
Now - this raises a larger question. I think it's important to view weight loss as a lifestyle change and not as a diet. But in reality that concept is only about 90% true. Not every single solitary change you make when losing weight needs to be sustainable. Most of them do but there can be exceptions. I believe 80-90% is about right. There are some things I did just to prove a point to myself or to break myself of bad habits. Once I had retrained my brain I worked those habits back in. This includes sweets at night, snacks between meals, and alcohol. I have those things very rarely now, but I do have them sometimes.

Back to the farmer's market...
So this brings me back to the farmer's market. After a recent trip I came home with some incredibly ridiculously expensive items. For lunch I had some grass-fed ground beef, a bit of extremely rich cheese on dense seeded whole wheat sourdough bread. I also had some roasted red peppers from a jar and some arugula pesto with walnuts. I must admit the food was incredibly rich and delicious. I was supremely satisfied with a very small amount. I savored everything for a long time afterwards, and all in all, it was just a different experience from a salad with diced chicken breast on top and vinaigrette.

My new low-fat self was challenged. I think now I'm ready to eat higher fat foods in small portions. I have both the willpower to stop and, due to my increased exercise the ability to enjoy a few more calories during the day. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Farmers' Market heaven

I have loved farmers' markets since I was a small child. My mom took me to the Amherst Farmers' market when I was little, and on a rare occasion, someone had a box with free kittens. For years I happily attended with her, looking for kittens and consoling myself with a box of strawberries when I couldn't find them. When I got older I would drive home from Boston early on Saturdays so that I could get my fruits and veggies there. In retrospect it's unusual that a small town even had a farmer's market in the '70s, but this was a hippy college town in a rural area after all.

My opinion soured on farmers' markets when I moved to fancy suburbs. In Newton and Chevy Chase, attending a farmer's market is more like a contact sport. Miserable. Recent memories include elbows flying, long lines in humidity, overpriced tomatoes, strict rules about what can be bought and how.

However, after a trip to Trader Joe's recently when I looked guiltily at huge strawberries from California and put them in and out of my cart several times, I vowed to attend one of the local farmer's markets. Bethesda has many - including some new ones.

So on Sunday morning Natasha and I went to a new one. We went to Giant to purchase birthday party supplies and then walked over a new farmer's market on Elm Street. I was really feeling badly that we didn't take our bikes. We easily could have. But after I got over that I had a fabulous time. We had a beautiful sunny day, we were puttering, Natasha tried the tomato samples. I told her she could get a cookie. There was fresh grass-fed cow ricotta, lovely whole grain sour dough mini-loaves, fabulous strawberries (I ended up with both the California and local strawberries and by today, Tuesday, they're all almost gone). There were these huge gorgeous stainless steel tubs of various greens - triple washed even (even the crunchy farmers are starting to get customer service and convenience). However I think the main reason I felt so happy and uplifted is that it wasn't crowded. We were able to really take our time. I didn't even watch Natasha the whole time (Apologies to the young woman at the bakery). Next week I'll take photos. But puttering, learning, tasting, chatting and meandering is a relaxing, cathartic experience, very different from trudging around a crowded supermarket or even a crowded farmers' market. I'm hoping my secret goes undiscovered.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Not so hungry...not such a locavore...

The incessant hunger has passed. I'm still hungry and maybe I've just naturally adjusted to eating 23 points instead of 21 but I don't think so. My period is also gone. I don't think that's a coincidence! But it feels good to be eating more normally again. Don't get me wrong, I'm could eat right now, but not starving and I'm due for a snack soon. This I can handle. Starving to the point of distraction all day long I cannot handle. In addition work is busy and child care is disjointed this week. Camp starts Monday thank goodness.

I have a friend pushing me farther down the "whole foods" movement. In general I think I subscribe to this idea, but she believes in raw, whole fat milk eaten sparingly as a protein source. I have so many problems with this. I do view it as a protein source but I'm not prepared to buy it raw and boil it. Although people I know and trust swear by this. But come on! This same woman, whom I am very fond of, was not impressed by my defense of Cheerios, even the less chemicaly Trader Joe's version, as a "whole food." They are made with whole oats!

I feel like I need Michael Pollan to step in and mediate.

I am trying to do more farmer's markets now that it's summer. I bought some beets yesterday and quickly sauteed the greens to go with our grass-fed groung beef and whole wheat pasta! Success. However, I did think further about all the non-organic, corn-fed and processed foods we eat. I thought we were pretty good on those issues in general but I do need to research this milk thing a little more and I know that we eat too many animal products, especially animals fed a corn diet who don't eat a corn diet in nature. Oy, I'm exhaused thinking about it.

I guess the good news is that now that my weight is under control and within 4 pounds of my goal weight, I can focus on larger health issues for our whole family.

Monday, June 15, 2009


Ok, I've cried uncle. I just am too hungry. I still don't know why I'm extra hungry - either extra exercise or something hormonal related to birth control (far more likely considering some other symptoms), but either way, I'm eating 2 extra points a day. Tonight I did some extra exercise too. It was a beautiful night and my daughter was making me crazy so I went for a long brisk walk. I feel much more relaxed after listening to Tom Cruise be interviewed by Lynn Hirshberg for an hour.

If I stop losing weight that's fine. I had wanted to lose three more pounds, just so I could say I lost 40 pounds. It has such an impressively large round ring to it. "I lost 37 lbs" isn't as satisfying for some reason. Of course I recognize that this line of thinking is silly. More importantly I am right in between 2 sizes and I would like to firmly be one or the other for practical reasons. Of course I'd rather be the smaller size. Who wouldn't? 

I do get confused with the whole notion of "if you eat 3500 fewer calories you lose a pound." I mean fewer from when? From last week? I kept losing weight for months without reducing my intake much. So in May I was eating 3500 calories less a week than I had been in December, but not than I had been in April. This confuses me. Perhaps I should attend an actual meeting!  Will my 2 extra points add up to putting on a pound eventually? It would be about 3000 calories in a month. I don't get this math.

I do know that when a person crosses below the 150 lb mark she is supposed to do far more exercise. I sort of did this and perhaps that's why I'm hungrier. Perhaps I will do some googling on the subject while the kids watch tv with daddy.

Friday, June 12, 2009


I've been very hungry lately. I find this thoroughly depressing. Not sure if I'm hungry because of the time of the month, because of exercise, because of a mistake in estimating portion size - or some combination of the above. The simple answer is to eat more, but I'm highly motivated not to gain back what I've lost. Or to lose what I've gained, metaphorically speaking.

At any rate when my hunger is in check I don't mind any of the 'sacrifices': paying careful to what I'm eating, not eating sweets, stopping before I'm really full, exercising when I'm tired, waiting a few minutes or an hour to eat until it's a proper meal time, etc. But there are days when I feel like I'm playing little tricks, unsuccessfully at that, to stave off hunger for most of the day. I have been trying to respond to my body by simply eating more, but for me it's a slippery slope between adding a needed snack in here and there and snacking all day long. I realize this sounds a little neurotic, kind of embarrassing even, but only a few of you read this and you're all my closest friends! So I try to eat more lean protein (chicken, hard boiled egg whites) if I really need it. But there is something kind of upsetting about working so hard and attaining a huge goal (almost 40 lbs down and usually a size 6) based on a very particular caloric intake, and to then feel like that intake is not enough. It can seem like giving in will mean in a few days all my clothes will be tight again.

I'm going to chalk this all up to my period (usually the hunger comes with the PMS not the actual period like it did this time) and move on.

This post is pretty embarrassing. I would like to be much more relaxed about what I eat. However, first of all, based on the research I've done, I think most thin people do spend a lot of time paying attention to their food intake, and second, I know I can sound pretty Pollyanna-ish about all this stuff when it's going well, so I felt it was only honest to admit the bad thoughts too.

To top off the hunger problems - today I went jogging, as normal, and really almost died. It was so humid I thought I'd pass out. I was trying to run and not walk so that I could get home on time for Dave to leave for work, but couldn't even do that. He was furious! (Later this morning I also managed to get baby spit-up and coffee on my work shirt before even getting in the car, and then I RAN OVER MY LUNCH!!! - don't ask, details not interesting) So let's just say it was a bad morning.

But back to morning run. So while I was enduring a minor heat stroke, I was hit with the realization that I need to find an indoor sport that is as calorie-burning as running on a trail. Not an easy thing for me to do and this was also causing me angst. I have no motivation on indoor machines - I need to be actually going someplace. Perhaps I'll go back to the stairs and hope that the air conditioning the staircase gets better and that I can somehow make myself do it for 30 minutes.

OK must go volunteer at school...enough whining!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Temple of temptation

I went to the Cheesecake Factory for lunch today with a group from work. The Cheesecake Factory may just be Ground Zero for dietary temptation. I picked this location as I figured it was a festive atmosphere and the menu was so big that everyone could get what they wanted, including me. I did think the big portions would be hard to resist, as I remembered their food as tasting good, but I figured I'd eyeball the right amount and put the rest in a to go box. It was kind of shocking to me how much my mindset had changed once I got inside. The Cheesecake Factory is just a slightly more polished version of McDonalds. 

Everything about that place is so over the top that nothing was appealing. It was the restaurant equivalent of driving a Hummer. So ridiculous, gratuitous, bad for everyone for so many reasons. I didn't like watching people shovel in massive amounts of food. Most people ordered salads, and only two didn't finish. People talked about eating what was in front of them as opposed to what they needed. I kind of smiled to myself thinking about a book I'd just read about that very phenomenon. Most salads were full of cheese and crunchy things and only moderately healthy. Ironically, I ordered a tuna sashimi salad that was actually not really enough food. Well it was more than enough tuna but it had no starch at all - no rice, nothing. I wasn't even all that full and I ate the whole thing.

I politely passed on the bread, and felt all eyes upon me. I tried not to judge the people who ordered pasta with cream sauce. Don't you care about your health??? We did share some cheesecake, which I kind of scoffed at, perhaps even a bit rudely I fear, and I had a few bites. The Godiva one was pretty damn good, although a few bites was enough. 

The "festive" atmosphere I remembered was kind of sterile and sequestered-feeling. It was a lovely sunny 80 degree day, but the daylight was cut off like a Vegas slot room, and it was FREEZING even with a sweater. The book/menu was of course overwhelming. The whole event was just so unnatural. I was with my closest work-mates but the conversation was still a bit stilted. I can't really blame that on the Cheesecake Factory, except that somehow I was not relaxed. I wasn't worried about making bad choices or going over in points, I was just uncomfortable with the whole Temple of Gluttony atmosphere of the event. A picnic in front of our office building with fresh air and tuna sandwiches would have been much more relaxing. You can take the girl out of the Pioneer Valley but you can't take the Pioneer Valley out of the girl, I guess.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Computer problems

I have a very strange computer affliction at home. So I can't access any site related to Google, like blogger, hence the cutback in posting. Don't get me started. Anyway, it's been raining and instead of jogging I've been working out to this dvd. I'm a huge Bravo fan so this is perfect for me - plus it was cheap! 

It is split into 3 twenty minute workouts, so you can pick based on how much time or energy you have. It's broken into upper body, lower body and core.  I easily did upper and core yesterday (except those goddam plank exercises, which I'm sure were devised by Dick Cheney at Gitmo), but today I barely made it through core and couldn't get myself to do lower. The dvd suggests doing one a day or all three a few times a week so I guess I feel a little better about how much harder the second day was.

I just ordered a bikini so that gives me a ton of incentive to do core exercises. 

It's nice to work out to that particular dvd as it was something I bought a year ago, and didn't use. I would lie in bed, sloth-like, watching  all the obese people getting their butts kicked by the crazy L.A. trainers, feeling slightly superior to them for being just overweight, not obese. Looking back on that time, I am reminded that getting to a place where you are willing to go whole hog for a weight-loss goal takes a long time. The decisions may have seemed quick and random but it was really years post-partum in the making. Slowly I prepared myself, without knowing it, through baby steps (fewer sweets, some exercise, more greens), and excuses (some quite valid) until I was ready. 

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Up and down

Today was much better. I think because I held off on the weight training. I was getting frustrated at how hungry I was, when I hadn't been for weeks now, but I believe the culprit was adding more weight training into my sad little exercise routine. So now when I'm hungry and I've been lifting in the last day or so, I will add those exercise points in...

The other thing that is helping is that I made a big batch of hard boiled eggs. I have been popping them into my mouth, and throwing away about 90% of the yolk, and not counting them as points. The protein helps!

This week I was frustrated by the tedium of counting, being hungry when I didn't (although I was mistaken) think I should have been, and the general paltryness of a 5 point dinner. I made a big batch of roasted veggies and pile them onto whatever dinner I have, so as to increase the general volume. I also consulted with my 2 awesome fellow WW groupies, which of course is very validating.