Saturday, July 2, 2011

The End? Not a chance!


I’ve long been a fan of irony. Years ago I wrote an article about a competition sponsored by a local television company. I opened by disclosing that TV-viewing across BC had dropped as almost 800 people worked on their screenplays in the evening instead of turning on the tube.

“Don’t you think that’s kind of ironic?” the editor asked when I handed in the story. “Since the contest is being run by a TV station?”

Well yeah. I love it!

When I began this experiment, I wanted to lose weight without deprivation, to eat and drink whatever I pleased. Then I wanted to keep the weight off without thinking about it, eating and drinking…that’s right, whatever I wanted.

I’m willing to exercise, heaven knows. With a history of full-blown osteoporosis by the time I reached 40, I’ve known for more than ten years that dumbbells and I will be going steady for the rest of my life if I want to avoid broken hips, bedrest, and boredom.

I’ve also experienced the ephemeral joys of an endorphin rush, triggered by strenuous exercise and hilltop views.

So me and exercise…we’re tight.

But back to deprivation. Not interested. Even now that I’ve lost 30 pounds and know exactly how good it feels to walk lightly up stairs, truffle comfortably to the park, and even keep Miss Jean in high(ish) gear all the way to the top of a hill.

Feeling great, healthy and strong haven’t sapped my desire for a day-polishing glass of red, a soul-satisfying dinner (as well as breakfast, lunch and snacks).

I still don’t want to give up anything. I want what I want. Period.

And the weirdest thing of all is that I get it. Since Week One, when I went cold turkey on potatoes and pasta, I haven’t missed them. I keep a loaf of bread in the freezer and I take out a slice or two, toast it, and smear on the peanut butter whenever I want.

What’s new is that usually I only want it once a week or so. Sometimes less. The same loaf has been in the freezer for two weeks now and it’s only half gone.

And seriously, I don’t feel deprived. I don’t have to talk myself out of having a sandwich.

So I’ve achieved my goal of eating and drinking whatever I want. The irony is that I no longer want the same things. I reach for a Bartlett pear to accompany my Emmenthal. I’d rather drizzle a heady, herb-infused olive oil over my salad instead of ranch. And trust me, nobody finds this more strange than I do.

I was explaining my feelings to Fodder the other night and he said he’d noticed the same thing. After a lifetime of loving peanut butter, he had climbed out of his dietary crackerbox and discovered how much he adores hummus.

We raised our wineglasses in a toast. To us.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Tattletale


Every week or two, over a glass of wine, Fodder and I compare notes about how calorie-neutrality is working for us – or not. About four months after our last meeting with Vicki Waters, I was still walking the talk and loving it. I snacked on carrot-bleu cheese salad and almonds and or a spoonful of peanut butter on a Granny Smith apple. As Vicki had promised all those months ago, I loved plain yogurt – especially paired with a spicy compote. Puy lentils, halibut, scrambled eggs took turns on my plate and when a friend served a new vegetarian chili recipe, I couldn’t wait to cook up a batch.

Fodder, on the other hand, had slacked off. Oh sure, he headed for the gym more consistently and he’d learned that he could no longer harbour peanut butter if he didn’t want to be stalked by the pounds he’d already dumped. He loved steel-cut oats cooked with a dash of cinnamon and was favouring rye-crisp over white crackers by a big margin.

But he’s a sociable guy and his friends like to cook and eat and, well, you can guess where this is going.
He and a friend had had lunch out one day recently, and as he held the door for her on the way out of the restaurant, he felt his wardrobe start to disintegrate.

“I need some help,” he said and watched her face fall with dismay.

Was he having angina? Back spasm? A stroke? What?

“My suspenders have come unhitched,” he said.

Fodder had begun to wear suspenders when we got home from our French holiday. They were a more urbane safety precaution than string, which is what he relied on after he almost lost his Dockers at the security checkpoint in Charles de Gaulle airport, but now his friend was horrified that the same hideous social moment seemed to be happening again. Her choices were limited: make a dash for the car and leave him to it, or give him a hand.

So there she was, standing in the restaurant doorway, fishing up the back of his sweater to find the errant suspender brace, haul it down and hook him up again.

“I swear,” she said later, “he's just showing off by refusing to buy pants that fit!”

So the whole-grain crackers, the wine, the porridge are all part of Fodder’s new eating plan – and obviously, for him, they are perfectly calorie neutral.

Go, Dad!

I mean it. Go buy some smaller pants.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Our just dessert!

Kugel is an infinitely flexible baked pudding. It can be made savoury or sweet, entrée, side dish, or dessert.
I’ve adapted this version from How it all vegan!, making it gluten free and, by using real eggs, no longer vegan. The texture and taste are great either way. It’s dairy-free and can easily be nut-free as well.

Cook ½ cup buckwheat groats in 1 ½ cups water, until all the liquid has been absorbed.
In a medium casserole dish (I use a deep-dish glass pie pan) mix:
¼ cup oil
3 eggs (or egg substitute)
½ cup brown sugar (or white sugar or other sweetener)
½ tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon

Stir in:
cooked buckwheat
½ cup chopped walnuts
½ cup raisins
2-3 cups peeled and chopped apples

Bake at 350° for about 30 minutes.

Serve warm or cold. It’s great by itself and Fodder says it’s fantastic with vanilla yogurt. The Saint won’t talk with his mouth full.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Training Day

My bike was all tuned up. The derailleur once again derails, the brakes stop the wheels from turning instead of just screeching about it. Everything is clean and shiny – the bike, my mood, even the weather. It was a perfect day to ride into town to meet my sister and Elpis for tea.

I rummaged through my closet looking for suitable clothes. Ditching 30 pounds makes for a great feeling of accomplishment, but it wreaks havoc on the wardrobe and stuff that I thought I could wear forever because, hey, it’s just bike clothes, I discovered I could not. Even in this laid-back town, where GoreTex is considered semi-formal, there’s a limit to what’s appropriate. Quick-dry stretchy nylon cropped pants that are so baggy they get caught on the underside of the saddle…not a pretty sight. But more than that, what if they snagged and I couldn’t unhook them in time to get out of the seat at a red light? Tipping over at an intersection is beyond embarrassing.

Not that I’d know.

Ahem.

So I waded through the faded-to-grey pants, the green ones that look like jodhpurs for Peter Ustinov, until I found what I was looking for: recent thrift store scores. A sleek but not tight pair of stretchy black Prana cropped pants, a dressy white Columbia t-shirt with three-quarter sleeves, and a luscious green Avia soft-shell jacket whose brightness matched my mood. Nothing bulged or bit or bound. I applied two coats of mascara to celebrate.

I looked – and it feels icky even to think this, let alone put it in writing – damn fine.

The one wardrobe item that survives weight loss is footwear, so I laced up my bike shoes, tested the air and decided it was warm enough for the half-gloves, and snapped on my helmet.

The ride was…. You know when you’ve been sick for a long time, so tired that every movement feels like you’re making it under water and your joints are stiff or your muscles have too little strength for the pitiable tasks you’re asking them to make? And you know how you wake up one morning and nothing hurts and everything bends the way it’s supposed to and you move so easily you feel like you’re airborne?

That’s what the ride was like. After her recent tune-up, Miss Jean Brodie had the full range of 18 gears instead of the four she’d been stuck in for months. (Although to be appropriately grateful, they were the middle four.) I could get up some speed because I was certain that when I needed to stop, the brakes were up to the job.

It was freedom. It was breath.

By the time I’d gone a mile I was panting like a Labrador retriever, but still. It was fun.

I zoomed through town like a bright-green dragonfly, swooping past stalled car traffic, sailing around curves and corners with endorphins flowing ever higher until I reached the coffee shop.

My sister was the next to arrive.

“You look fantastic,” she said, and hugged me.

Elpis came in next. She hugged my sister first, me next, and then held me at arm’s length, scanning me from face to feet.

“Did you get new shoes?”

Was she kidding?

“No,” I said.

“Did you clean them?”

WTF?

I pushed her questions to the back of my mind, focusing on ordering tea and enjoying the company of these two smart, funny women. Only afterward did I replay the moment and come to the conclusion that she probably wasn’t joking and I probably have not lost my sense of humour.

I know that everyone has baggage that weighs on them in different ways and changes their perspective on the world. Still, I was hurt and disappointed that my friend couldn’t pretend to be thrilled that I’d achieved my goal. She knows how hard it is to lose weight; shouldn’t she be proud of me for doing it?

As Fodder would say: “Yabbut.”

Yeah, of course, from my point of view a big hug and a “Well done, you” are in order. But human nature doesn’t always march that way. There’s a little gremlin inside many (or most. Or, hell, all) of us that can sour our happiness for others with envy or jealousy or feelings of our own inadequacy or…choose your poison.

I don’t know what made Elpis ignore the visible evidence of my good news. If I were a quicker thinker, I might have said, “The shoes are almost as old as our friendship. What’s up with you?”

But I didn’t do that. I fretted instead. Is it my fault? Is she a bitch?

The answer to both, of course, is No.

She has baggage; some of it I know about and some I don’t. She was packing it around that day, as we all do every day, and she couldn’t juggle all of that plus my need for recognition, validation, a cheering section.

So that means I have to learn to be my own cheering section, dammit. It’s so much easier when someone else does it for me.

Except when they don’t.

Darn those learning curves.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Saint's Halo


“You had a lovely figure when you were thirty,” the Saint said recently.
Sure, I thought. I tipped the scales at 115 pounds back then.
“But,” he said.
But?? I thought. In the last 20 years, haven’t you learned when to shut up?
“But,” he continued, “you’re even lovelier now.”

Isn’t it nice that my wedding ring once again fits on my finger?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Slippery Slope


I pulled my old green Old Navy jeans off their hanger and dragged them up over my calves, my thighs, my hips. I slipped the hook into the eye, then slid up the tab of the zipper.

They felt…different. I ran my finger around the inside of the waistband. There was room for a few more fingers in there.

That was indeed different.

I bought the jeans back in 2004 or so and they’d been a good fit even then. Not tight, but they hugged the curves like a new boyfriend.

Now, seven years later there was definitely some distance between my glutes and the back pockets. Not a divorce kind of estrangement, but more like the cooling-off when a relationship that verged on obsessive shifts to a more normal phase, when a couple goes from the infatuation of nightly sleepovers and daily phone calls to the slight relaxation that allows separate dinners with friends and even the occasional weekend off duty.

I added a belt and slid the tongue into the third hole, the last known location. It was fine.

Fine, but not ideal. Hesitantly, I tightened my belt another notch. It cranked the pants a little more firmly against my flesh but there was no billow to the belly.

When I undressed at the end of the day, there was no indentation or red mark to show that the belt had pressed too tightly against my skin.

Now, I had bought that belt a very long time ago, in the mid-90s. At the time I was a lot more slender than I am now – I hadn’t begun to work out with weights so I had much less muscle for one thing – and I’d even punched a couple of extra holes in the belt. I had no intention of having to use those holes but as it so often does, curiosity reared its head.

If I put the belt around my waist – at my bellybutton, where my 90s-era pants would have belted…what would happen?

I retrieved the belt from the Old Navy loops and slung it around my middle. I ran the leather through the buckle and did it up snugly over my T-shirt and thin fleece pullover. It was comfortable: snug but not tight. I looked down.

The tongue was in the second-to-last hole, the first one I had punched all those years ago.

Am I really as slender as I was at age 35? I honestly don’t think so. I think the leather has stretched a bit in the past 15 or more years.

More to the point, though, is the question “Am I slim enough?”

Part of me says, “Hell yes.”

And part of me says, “Well, maybe five more pounds…”

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Food journal exposé


The food and activity journal did its job. Just writing everything down – point form, nothing pretty – highlighted why I’d been eating more bready stuff and hence why I was worrying about gaining weight.
Far from being the first step on the slippery slope back to toast addiction, my calorie-dense snacks were a sign that I – get this! – wasn’t eating enough.

How do I know? My exercise regime was frequent, varied and darned vigorous, and my meals were loaded with nutrient-rich, calorie-poor choices. All good, so far.

Seeing the two lists side by side, black ink on white paper, showed me that my expectations were askew. A snack of one celery stalk with a tablespoon of peanut butter simply is not sufficient to fuel a brisk 20-minute walk to the gym, 20 hard-core minutes on the arc trainer, and a brisk 20-minute walk home.
My meals were more substantial than that lightweight snack, but clearly still not enough.

So I added an element to breakfast and lunch. Along with my steel-cut oat porridge and half-cup of compote, I stirred in half a cup of yogurt too.

My morning snack was a pear and two slices of Swiss cheese.

To my protein (two gluten-free turkey sausages) and one veg (a handful of broccoli) for lunch, I added another handful of red cabbage and sprinkled the vegetables with shaved Parmesan cheese.

I was stuffed – so full that I couldn’t manage another snack before I headed out mid-afternoon to walk 20 minutes to the pool and swim a kilometer – which felt great, even though I haven’t swum a lap for at least a year. I picked up 15 pounds of groceries, loaded them into my backpack, and walked home.
Then I was hungry, four and a half hours after lunch.

I made my snack a little heftier than usual. A dozen almonds, a small apple, and hot chocolate made with brown-rice protein powder in a cup of soy milk.

That was at 4:30, and I finally got to dinner at 7:30: an egg with half a turkey sausage and some chopped red and green peppers, half a cup of yogurt and half a cup of compote.

Whew!

That felt like a lot of food, but all I had to do to make it work for me was space it out a little further. Instead of being hungry every hour and a half and noshing on crackers, I comfortably lasted three hours or more before another substantial installment.

I’d tipped the balance from Calorie Negative to Calorie Neutral, and seeing the evidence in black and white, as well as on Grandma’s old scale, was very sweet.