Choosing to Eat Well: Multiple Opportunities

From; -1kg total; BMI 29.4

In my last post, I wrote about how eating well was a decision. I’ve realized that it is not one decision, it is a series of daily decision – multiple opportunities for success and multiple opportunities for error. Here were the decisions yesterday:

  • Get up 15 minutes early to eat breakfast
  • Pack and carry lunch
  • Choose to eat fruit for a snack instead of something more sugary
  • Eat the lunch – and only the lunch (instead of lunch + something sugary)
  • Resist a child’s birthday cupcake
  • Order tea when out to eat instead of the normal beer or wine
  • Order a dinner of fish and veggies (actually quite good!)
  • Dropping by the supermarket to make sure healthy snacks were stocked
  • Not eat the pizza that was brought to the evening meeting
  • Not taking pizza leftovers for lunch the next day
  • Make a lunch for the next day
  • Not snack on sugary things while making the lunch.

Today I have the same basic decisions to make. One additional: I’m off to meet friends. They are at a pub. One glass of red wine… I will ask one of my girlfriends to hold me accountable. I am holding her accountable for her Lent goal.

Daily Decisions to Eat Well

Eating well is a daily decision – a decision we make multiple times each day.

Today I started the first chapter of The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More of It by Kelly McGonigal.

My thought for the day is this: McGonigal discusses a double-blind study where one group is distracted then led to a table of fruit and cookies. The second group is not distracted. The distracted group was far more likely to choose cookies over fruit.

What does that mean for teacher?
We’re masters of multi-tasking. We often eat lunch at our desks. While we are conferencing with students, we may be simultaneously planning a team meeting presentation. We read aloud and think of teaching points as we read.

Then food arrives. If you’re like me, you grab without thinking.

So the challenge is this: notice when food comes into your day. Stop multitasking. Make eating a conscious decision.

Lightening Up Life to Lighten the Body

It’s New Year’s Eve. The cooking will begin soon. For now, I’m watching one of my favorite movies: Up in the Air.

Up in the Air first intrigued me because George Clooney’s character travels for a living. I sit in airports frequently enough to be amused by his travel tips and comments about airlines. That’s life when you teach overseas.

Something different strikes me today. As a side job, Clooney’s character lectures about life as a backpack. He encourages his audiences to lighten their lives. He obviously goes too far by asking folks to consider lightening up their personal relationships – an error he later realizes.

But I think there is some wisdom in lightening up our lives. Perhaps lightening our bodies has something to do with lightening our lives.

I could make all sorts of resolutions for the new year. I could talk about goal weight or list out foods I will avoid. But I won’t. In 2012, I will aspire to the following:

Take at least 5 minutes per day to clear my head.
I’ve often heard about the power of meditation and prayer. I can achieve five minutes per day.

Think less about food by focusing on the moment.
This sounds counterintuitive. I should be counting calories and cooking for myself. What strikes me is that, those year I was my thinnest, I gave very little thought to food. I’d sometimes forget to eat. I was enjoying my job and my friends.

If I focus on the moment, cooking becomes more enjoyable. I remember a long period where I had company at my house. While I enjoyed their company, I longed for a few minutes alone. My Hong Kong kitchen was so small, it fit only one person. My guests walked into the kitchen to say, “You don’t need to go to so much trouble. We can go out somewhere.” I was perfectly honest when I said, “I’m really enjoying this. Enjoy your time in the living room.” My need for “alone time” was saved by the process of chopping vegetables an my kitchen-for-one.

Think less about food and more about the people around me.
I once sat at a restaurant for a friend’s birthday party. She had invited some France who were born and raised in France. I was struck by the slow speed at which they took bites. The bites were small. It was obvious that the food, while spectacular, was far less important than conversations with the people sitting around them.

In Marva Dawn’s book Remembering the Sabbath, she discusses the Jewish ritual of Shabbot as being about time and relationships rather than things. The experience frees a person from the activities that helps us materially “get ahead,” freeing us to spend intentional time with God and with family. While it’s not realistic for me to resolve to keep all the Shabbots in 2012, it is realistic for me to change my focus from material food to relationships.

Let go of emotion through tears rather than a binge.
I am emotional eater + I lost my mom this year = I overate. I wish I was one of those people who lost my appetite when emotional.

Think of food as fuel for the body rather than a reward.
I wonder how and why our culture started thinking of food as a prize, something we deserve because of…whatever. I’ll make a list of non-food rewards – things such as foot massages, shoes, and theater shows.

I also grab whatever food is around me. I’m not sure why. If food is fuel and I don’t need fuel, I don’t need to eat.

I’ll start with the kitchen. It’s more than just throwing out the “junk food” – I really don’t have that much. Expired items are taking room in my pantry. By de-cluttering, healthy items begin to look more attractive. I can’t explain the phenomenon, but I know it’s true. Then I’ll work on my closet and drawers.

 So I’m offering a virtual toast: To a lighter body through a lighter life. Have a great one!

In what other ways can lighter lives equate to lighter bodies?

Will Kids Eat Healthy Food?

Anahad O’Connor wrote a New York Times article on food waste and underground junk food have begun since the Los Angeles School District began serving healthy meals.

As I read the article, I wondered whether any of the people planning the school meals had ever been overweight. Had they been overweight and raising children, the meal planners would know that kids like foods they recognize.

Moms inherently know this. When I led meetings for a prominent weight loss company, many moms agonized about making two sets of meals – one for them and one for their kids. Then, they began sharing ideas on how they could make meals for themselves that children would like (with a little tweaking).

When I’m with my step-kids, I help them make individual pizzas on whole-wheat pita bread. My husband makes a hearty vegetable soup. The picture above has pancakes that can be made more healthy by using whole wheat flour, real maple syrup, and less butter. I scour the Weight Watcher sites (both American and Australian) to find kid-friendly recipes.

I’ve decided that half the battle is presentation. If you can make something healthy look like Mickey Mouse or an animal, the food suddenly becomes fun. Jello-O is always fun, and most kids cannot tell the difference between the sugar blends and sugar-free packets – especially when Jello-O is layered with lite whipped cream.

As an adult, I enjoy green chicken curry, pad Thai, and jumbalaya. But I have traveled the world and learned to love those meals in their countries of origin. My advice to those in Los Angeles: insist on familiar meals with healthier ingredients – and try to make them look fun.

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Resolutions Again: The Current Reality of Weight

As I writer of multiple blogs, I’ve neglected this one. As a writer of blogs, a wife, and full-time teacher, I’ve neglected my healthy habits. Good habits seem to slip away so easily, I hardly notice they have slipped.

I’m not at the highest weight I’ve ever been, but I’m not yet close to my ideal. I could talk about “ideal” in terms of pounds but, in my older age, I think of ideal differently. Ideal is

  • fitting into all the clothes in my closet,
  • flying long-haul without getting cankels,
  • choosing healthy foods because they look better than the junkie stuff, and
  • feeling energetic.

Current Reality
I’m in Australia, wearing summer clothes. They fit, but are tighter than I’d like. The weather is colder than usual in this land of summer Christmas. But, under the assumption that I will eventually sit poolside, I had to find a swimsuit. Few things in life jolt me into reality like buying swimwear.

My legs feel heavy. They haven’t moved much lately. I didn’t bring athletic shoes or clothes – I should go to the mall and take advantage of clearance sale items. I could walk to the mall to get them.

Most of my Christmas holiday is spent on the outside deck. Wine and beer are offered an hour or so after noon.

Chocolate has been placed all over the house. While I told myself I wouldn’t break into it this year, I’ve been mindlessly grabbing a small piece or two. I have no idea how many I eat per day.

Huge bowls of fruit are displayed throughout the kitchen. The peaches and apricots smell fabulous. Why don’t I grab those instead?

Starting Small
I suspect the best thing for me would be a detox when I return from holiday. My detox of choice is a nutritional cleanse called Clean. Last year I did two weeks of the three before family tragedy struck. After the first week, I began getting compliments about my complexion. I didn’t feel particularly hungry – and I had new spurts of energy. I’d like to take the detox into the third week

But I don’t want to start that right away. I have to gear myself up for that kind of huge, albeit temporary, change. Also, I need to make some small changes now so that the detox doesn’t throw my body into a complete shock.

Starting today, I will eat fruit instead of chocolate. If I’m gonna have a sugar-rush, it might as well have some vitamins. I will drink at least eight glasses of water. That will partially limit my alcohol intake. And, I will walk to the mall to look at shoes and sweats to wear on walks. I can keep those at this house so that I have them for future Christmases.

Because I choose to start again today, it is possible for me to reach my initial goals.

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Less Alcohol, Less Overeating

I’m on my third day without alcohol. It has meant drinking water at a group gathering, and eating spicy Szechuan food without beer.

I know I eat more when I drink, but I’ve never known whether it was because alcohol stimulates the appetite or because alcohol lowers my inhibitions for overeating.

Alcohol, after a certain threshold, stimulates appetite. According to the study, participants who drank 4 alcohol units ate more overall food than people who drank 0 – 1 units of alcohol. Those who drank tended to eat high-fat, salty food items in the time period around the alcohol consumption. A more recent study found alcohol leads to short-term passive over-consumption of energy. The article didn’t specify whether energy was food-related or drink-related, only that energy in the form of calories increased.

I won’t stay off alcohol forever, but it’s good for me to know I can enjoy friends and food without it. Maybe I can go a whole month…

Adding New Weight Loss Goals: Is it too soon?


This week: -0.6kg Total loss: 1.7kg

If I start small and add one goal at a time, when do I know it’s time to make a new goal?

I’ve been a week on virtually no sugar. I craved sugar on Sunday so I indulged a bit – but only a few squares. Today I was completely off sugar again and I didn’t even crave it.

I’ve decided I’m going to kick the grog. For my American readers, grog is short for alcohol.

So, I’m off sugar and now I’m off alcohol. Is it too soon to make another goal? I guess I’ll know if I start obsessing over how much I miss one or the other.

Temptation: Student Birthday Treats

Today is my 5th day off sugar.

The Bad News
Not one, but two students had birthdays today.

You know the scene: A small child walks up to you with a container of cupcakes or cookies or brownies. It’s my birthday! they tell you. Would you like one?

That happened twice today.

Some of you may be lucky enough to work at a school that has banned sweets and sugar treats. For those of us that aren’t in such schools, 20+ of the 170+ school days will have this particular temptation.

The Good News
Not one, but two students had birthdays today.

One less day I have to face the birthday sweets temptation.

I graciously accepted the cupcake. I re-gifted to teachers in the Resource Room. I made two new friends.

Food at Meetings

I was hungry. I had an after-school meeting. I had no food.

Common weight loss literature warns one to not shop for groceries while hungry, but I’m learning that attending after-school meetings with a growling stomach is equally dangerous. The spread? Cheetos. Sun Chips. Cookies.

I wonder if those in the business community experience such an influx of food during meetings. Does it do something to use psychologically? Does food make meetings seem more social?

A Google Scholar search produced no scientific evidence on the correlation between meeting participant comfort and the presence of food.

I suppose the positive outcome was that I listened intensely and made solid eye contact with those who shared because I needed to keep my eyes off the processed stuff in the middle of the table.

New strategy: Gum before meetings. Maybe the dessert-type flavors.

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Morning Walk: Against All Odds

This is one of those mornings I’d like to start over. I snoozed my alarm, forgetting my new morning walk routine.

When I remembered I should be walking, I scrambled to get changed.

When I scrambled to get changed (in the dark), I knocked over a glass of water. The water spilled onto my dresser, which had my cable box and phone.

So I scrambled to clean up the water without waking my hubby.

I pulled on my clothes. The waist drawstring of my sweats was stuck inside the pants. I took off the sweat pants and reached blindly for a new pair. I then had on an electric pink shirt with electric blue sweat pants. Where were my green shoes?

But I went for my walk. In my reflective rainbow outfit. With the phone that had been saved from drowning. The walk was 15 minutes shorter than I wanted it to be, but I walked.

If I could make it out for a walk today, I can make it out any day.


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