Jul 1, 2011

The First Step - Food

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
- Lao Tzu

It was time. I was ready, REALLY ready, to change how I was living my life. But I still had to decide where to start. I’ve learned from past experience that I do better with incremental changes. Now, as always, trying to make a big change is too overwhelming for me; it seems too hard, too daunting and so I give up.

I’m also a mom to a 4-year-old and a full-time breastfeeding baby, so whatever I chose to do couldn’t take too much time. I thought about simply starting to exercise more. The last time I’d resolved to “get in shape”, I’d taken up Power90 (the precursor to today’s workout sensation, P90X). I’d liked it, it worked for me, but 60 minute workouts, 6 days a week? No, thank you! Even getting to the gym seemed impossible, especially since my daughter was still too young for the child care.

I knew I needed some help mentally, and so I thought about counseling. That would only be an hour two to four times a month, and it had definitely helped me after my mom’s death. But counseling costs money, something else that was in short supply. In addition, my husband’s father had died suddenly in February; he needed the counseling more than I did.

So that left food. Grocery shopping, food preparation, and eating were all things I did every day already. I just did them very poorly.

I’ve already mentioned my “addiction” to McDonald’s cheeseburgers. I also had an “addiction” to bread, to cookies and cakes, and especially to chocolate. Oh, yummy chocolate! I knew this wasn’t good for my body. My IBS is triggered by sugars, especially fructose. And obviously I wasn’t at my ideal weight (whether you judge that by society/ the health industry’s standard of “ideal” or what I carried around in my head as my own personal “ideal”).

I knew what my body DID like, though. It liked it when I cut out sugars and grains completely. It sounds hard. Impossible, even. But I knew it wasn’t, because I’d done it twice before.
Four years ago, I suffered a tough case of thrush in my milk ducts while nursing my newborn son. Three months of conventional treatment only halted the infection temporarily, and I eventually went on an anti-candida diet – no grains, no sugars, no dairy, limited fruit. The thrush disappeared, and it seemed only a pleasant side-effect that I effortlessly lost 10 pounds. I put it all back on as soon as I went back to a standard diet, though. Sound familiar?

Two years ago, I was again at a point where I was unhappy with my weight, and especially, at that time, with my waist size. The same naturopath who had helped me through my ordeal with thrush told me she was worried that I was headed down the road to metabolic syndrome. I was worried, too. She was (perhaps still is) an instructor/facilitator for Transitions Lifestyles, a weight-loss system not unlike Weight Watchers, only based on the glycemic index. I started attending classes where I “learned” everything I already knew – sugar is hidden in everything from salad dressing to spaghetti sauce to sausages; sugar and low-fiber carbs spike blood sugars and mess with your insulin levels; and all of this messes with metabolism. Again, I lost weight and body fat, quickly and easily, by changing what I ate, and my exercise routine not at all.

At neither of those times did what I was doing feel sustainable. The first time I didn't think of it as a permanent thing; I just wanted to not have painful boobs and to be able to nurse my baby! The second time, the “plan” included a variety of supplements, some of which I could not take because I was still breastfeeding. Plus, those supportive classes and lessons wouldn’t be around forever. They didn’t even help me make it past Thanksgiving!

But this time…this time, I knew what I wanted to do, and how I wanted to do it. I had no one pressuring me, or even supporting me beyond my husband agreeing I should do what I needed to do. Still, it took me a while to build up the courage to go grain-free again.

While I was mulling through things, I had some conversations with friends who were having similar urges to get fit. Most were simply changing (or starting!) their fitness routines, but two were doing CrossFit. They told me about the push at CrossFit gyms to go grain- and sugar-free. They knew it as a movement called Paleo dieting.

I bought and read Robb Wolf’s “The Paleo Solution” (my first Kindle purchase!) and learned some of the science behind why this diet works, and not just for forty-something women whose hormones are getting all wacky. I soaked up his information about gluconeogenesis, fluffy LDL, and possible causes of Neolithic disease (cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, etc.). I surfed the web and read more blogs about why the typical American diet doesn't work, and non-typical fitness regimens, and how to "go Paleo" with a family. I joined a discussion thread of other mothers who were – or wanted to be – grain-free.

(This is what I do. Research something to death before starting. Hey, it works for me!)

So on that day when I told my husband, "Starting next week, I am no longer eating grains or sugars," I knew exactly what I was getting into. I knew I’d probably have a headache for a couple of days. I knew I might have trouble resisting sweets. I knew I’d have to rid the house of my favorite snacks even though it meant depriving others. I knew I’d have a lot of explaining to do – to servers in restaurants, to my friends when we went out, and to my extended family whenever I saw them next.

What I did not know was how easy it would be this time, and the little changes in my attitude that would make it so. But that's a post for another day.


The numbers, day 27:
Weight: 169 pounds
Waist: 96 cm
Hips: 101 cm
W/H ratio: 0.95
BMI: 26.47
Bodyfat: 29%

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