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What have I been doing since August 2009, you ask?

Well, having a baby who is almost 1, for one.

Thinking of loads and loads of posts that I never get around to for another.

Today I was possessed with a manic urge to talk about my lunch on Facebook. I suppressed that urge, but it dawned on me that I do have an actual, already set up, outlet for such nattering. So here we go.

Yesterday for Easter dinner, I hastily threw a pork loin on the grill and threw together a pasta salad to go with, as  we really hadn’t thought through anything and had virtually nothing on hand. I had some lemon pepper fettuccine in the cupboard, so I cooked that up, whipped up a lemon/olive oil dressing with some fresh ground pepper, thyme, rosemary and a wee pinch of sugar to offset the tartness (thinking it over, a pinch of lemon zest would not have been amiss either), and tossed that all together with about a third of a finely diced yellow onion, some fresh chopped carrots, half a can of corn and some fresh spinach. It was actually pretty darn good for something I threw together out of the pantry at 11 am Easter morning.

It’s also made for some lovely leftovers. Lunch was a dish of the pasta with some lemon pepper tuna tossed in and a hard-boiled egg on the side. I tried to add a clementine, but they’ve turned, alas. But overall, it was a healthy, refreshing lunch, especially eaten outside at a shady table overlooking the Potomac.

As for me overall, I feel like I’ve turned a corner in the past 4-6 weeks. One big change that we made when I was pregnant was to start actually having salad with dinner several times a week, which really helps get fresh veggies into all of our diets.  I still struggle to find time to work out, but I find myself doing more scattered exercise – I get out and walk with the baby a few times a week, and I stretch in off moments, even at the office. But the biggest thing that I’ve managed to do, that I never thought I could, was to cut down on my sugar intake. It wasn’t even conscious, which seems to be the way that I best make these sorts of changes. If I think too much, I obsess and get ornery. But I happened on chocolate dessert teas around Valentines Day and just kept drinking them. And discovered that if I had a cup of tea around the same time I hugely craved chocolate in the middle of the day or after dinner, the tea satisfied a lot of the same urges.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I still eat sugar (and chocolate, natch), but I’ve gotten to the point where treats are just that – treats. And where, if I have an ice cream cone with my son when we’ve walked down from the park, that’s it for the day. I don’t give into the momentary thought of baking brownies on the weekend and we’ve had two boxes of Ghirardelli mix in the pantry for at least 2 months. And there’s a big tray of Easter candy sitting not 20 feet from me right now – and I’ve not touched it and don’t feel much of an urge to.

This is HUGE for me. GIGANTIC GLITTERY LETTERS huge. I’ve always been the person who grabbed a piece of candy from any open dish I passed. I’ve always been the one who orders dessert and who absolutely needs something sweet after every meal. I’ve spent most of my adult life wondering how I could be like virtually every person around me (in my eyes, mind you) and not slavishly haunt any possibility of sweet treats. And more importantly, how I can realistically model healthy eating for my children.

A side benefit of all of this is that, yeah, I do seem to be losing some weight and yeah, my clothes do seem to fit better (or worse, in some cases where they are too big). But I *feel* better. And I feel like I have some say and control over what I put in my mouth. And that’s the real point.

I suppose the fact that I haven’t been writing over here is a good sign, in that I’m feeling less conflicted about food and my body and my ability to build a healthy lifestyle that is not obsessed with absolutely under no circumstances baking a cake if I really really want cake. (I really wanted cake Monday. So I baked one. It’s yummy and almost half of it is still in the pan on the kitchen counter. But I digress.)

I am trying to develop a love affair with exercise – as I’ve mentioned before, I do feel so much better and more relaxed and I’m sure I am more pleasant to be around when I get up in the morning and even spend 20 minutes on the elliptical trainer. The catch is getting my ass out of be early enough to make it happen.

So, I’ve started making my default for my alarm 5:30 instead of 6:30. Not getting up to exercise is now the conscious exception, rather than affirmatively setting the alarm back an hour. Getting up with time to do this for myself is my new rule. It’s not perfect. The other night when I got caught up in a book and read until after midnight finishing it (Heir to Sevenwaters, I love Juliet Marrillier), I figured I needed at least a little more than 5 hours of sleep.

For the most part it works. And I feel better, and my clothes fit better, and I feel more toned and stronger. I am a nicer person. Really. Seriously. Why don’t you believe me? I am completely serious though – even though I’m operating on less sleep, I am less snappy and more able to just roll with things, just ask my kid. And I’m trying not to let the fact that I’ve also lost some “extra” lbs be too much of an incentive, but it does get me down below a particular psychological barrier as well.

And therein lies some conflict, because philosophically, I still find myself watching the scale and still looking at clothes in my closet and thinking if I could just lose 2515 lbs, I could maybe fit into these things again. And then I think, you know, if just upping a couple of days of exercise is enough to take off some of this weight and stored fat, then maybe there’s a different point besides just size acceptance here – I’m not dieting. I’m barely trying to eat healthier – although I have been eating a lot more organic and less processed food, including more fruits and veggies.

So maybe it all makes a difference together and maybe the only thing that is really important is that I am happy. To the extent that I feel better, it is not because I suddenly discovered that I’d “lost weight”- I felt better before that because I was taking better care of myself. And I like myself. I liked myself three weeks ago and I like myself now and I will like myself whether I keep exercising or not.

The scale does not define me, but neither does avoiding it. I have to find my own way.

Or rather, I do. You may know the one I mean – the look from someone who disapproves of the act of eating while female.

In this case, I was walking back to my office with a plate from the staff cafeteria. On it was a sandwich I made from the sandwich bar – chicken salad with nuts and cherries, tomato, whole grain bread. Well, it would have been all whole grain dark wheat bread, but there was only one piece left, so I topped it with a slice of the “whole grain white”, however that works. Plus a small helping of potato salad (I’m a sucker for the potato salad) and some tabbouleh.

A full plate? Yes. I’m hungry and I have a migraine and I feel like I’m gonna pass out over here. I need food and I need starch and protein and I need options. And, you know, I’m fisking hungry. Not that any of this is any of her business. And it really shouldn’t matter if my plate is full of lettuce or chocolate, let alone a relatively balanced lunch full of foods I enjoy eating. And it really doesn’t matter that a few years ago the person shooting this look weighed a lot more and lost the weight and is keeping it off with a strict diet and daily exercise. More power to her and I hope it makes her happy.

None of that gives her the right to look me up and down, between my full plate and my inbetweenie ass, and to give me a look of utter disgust.

I had to skip my regular yoga class on Friday ’cause the kid was sick and I wanted to get home right after work.  That class is an “all levels” class – the idea being that, well, pretty much anyone can take it, from absolute beginners to people who have actually been doing yoga regularly for years.  I am usually toward the advanced middle of that class.  One of the interesting things I’ve noticed about taking a class that is designed to challenge even the most advanced yoginis (all the students are women in this particular class), is that everyone’s body has things that it can do easily, and things that are more difficult.  So, while I might be doing the most advanced pose in Warrior 1 variations with no problem, I may not be able to do a modified Downward Dog/Table variation designed to work the wrists and lower arms.  And I can’t do a particularly good Lotus or Crane without some serious manipulation.  OTOH, the very sweet woman who is taking her first class ever can plop down into a perfect lotus and sit forever with no strain. 

But, I digress.  Since I missed that class and really needed to get my stretch on, I went to a level 2 class on Sunday.  I was a little worried before I went – after all, while my instructor for my all level class agreed that a level 2 was appropriate for me, I’d never taken one and I was feeling stiff and sore and really NEEDED a good class.  Unfortunately, that one was definitely an eh. It was too structured and I didn’t feel like it worked my whole body.  It definitely did *something* because I’m stiff as all get out now, but I am desperately looking forward to Friday when I can go back to my regular class.  I have one more class that I can make up and I guess I’ll look at one of the early morning one.  Ack!

Speaking of early morning, I was supposed to get up by 5:30 this morning and actually use the bike – hoping, in part, that it would work some of the kinks out, especially in my legs – alas, I set the time, but neglected to turn the alarm on.  So, tomorrow it is, I suppose.  I’m feeling that urge in my body for exercise, after a mostly lazy weekend (that whole sick kid thing).  Hopefully I can get on a T/T bike in the mornings, F yoga at night kick with some pick up stuff in between and the occasional turn on the Fit.  Hopefully.  I really do feel tons better when I’m getting some sort of exercise a few times a week.

In the meantime, I appear to be losing something – my pants feel like they are falling off today.  It is hard to break out of the feeling that this is an accomplishment worth celebrating.  And, I suppose that on one hand it is – I am getting smaller not because I am dieting and depriving myself (says the woman who has been eating cupcakes and baklava all morning), but because I am mostly trying to eat more healthy food and I am trying to work out because it actually feels good – or at least better than not doing so.  New jeans in a size 10/12 and baggy work pants are a bonus.  One that I’ve used as a measure of self worth for a long time.  And maybe that’s the real issue.  I am not a better person because I lost 5 lbs or 1/4 of an inch from my waistline.  And it is sort of sick and twisted that I feel so damn good about it.

Yoga tonight, finally, then dinner at the Melting Pot.

Also, I’ve been having crazy intense fruit cravings all week long. I’ve completely ignored ice cream at least three times this week, but put a pineapple in front of me and it’ll disappear.  I went to an Italian/salad bar place for lunch today solely because I knew they tend to have a really nice fruit selection and loaded up on mango and papaya.  If I could have more, I totally would, but I have no urge to go hunting down some other sort of snack. 

Weird that.

Since my posts here at at I’m Just Not Impressed last week, I’ve been thinking a lot about what not-dieting and not feeling guilty really means.

First, I feel like I need to acknowledge that I am coming at this from a position of relative privilege.  I am not obese.  Truly, I am barely overweight.  Realistically, most people are not going to look at me and say “OMG, that woman is fat.”  I suspect that fully dressed in my work clothes and heels, very few people would even look at me and think that I need to loose a few pounds.  Part of how I see myself is body image dysphoria and I know that – and part of that dysphoria – and this is also where some of the privilege comes in – is that I tend to think of myself as a thin person, so I see myself in pictures  or naked in a mirror and think, do I really look like that?  To the extent that there is any validity to BMI or weight charts, I fall into the overweight category, but by 10-20 lbs. 

I am likewise privileged in that I know, in the recesses of my mind, that if I did deny myself that cookie or that scoop of mashed potatoes and ate mostly salad for a while and exercised 40 minutes a day five days a week, the pounds would drop off and I’d be that skinny person I see in the mirror.  And hell, when I put it like that, it sounds almost easy, doesn’t it?  I was almost 20 lbs lighter two years ago (which was still 10 lbs more than what I thought of as my ideal weight at the time).  Then I went on medication that packed those 20 lbs on.

I do need to exercise more.  I just do.  It’s not a matter of losing weight, it’s a matter of feeling less pain in my shoulders and joints and feeling stronger and more capable and being able to swing my son over my shoulders and run around and play with him like a maniac.  And hell, being able to actually touch my toes with locked knees for the first time in my entire life, even when I was 21 and weighed 128 lbs. 

I also need to eat better – not in a self denial way, but in a less saturated fat more fruits and veggies because my cholesterol is on the edge of being too high and I eat like crap.  Food I don’t even really like, like McDonald’s kind of crap because I am busy and don’t feel like cooking.  And again, I feel better when I eat better food.  Garbage in, garbage out, ya know?

Not giving into the guilt though – it’s amazing how that works.  Because if I have a cookie or a piece of chocolate or a mocha latte, I’m not “being bad” anymore.  So I can eat just one, because whatever it is that I would have beaten myself up over just a month ago is no big hairy deal.  I haven’t ruined my diet.  None of this in for a penny, in for a pound crap.  I can eat just one Hershey’s kiss and not feel like I need to eat the whole wee bag that theoretically is in the car as an after-school treat for the kidlet (who also needs to eat less McDonald’s and more fruit).  I don’t need to binge and overindulge, because there is no baggage associated with putting this stuff in my mouth anymore.

But, you might say, doesn’t the fact that you keep nattering on about this suggest that perhaps you are not as comfortable with the idea as you say you are?  And I will totally grant that it is constant work.  It is, in a way, diet vigilance of a different type, this idea of not judging myself (and, not-so- incidentally, other women[1]) for what I put on my plate and in my mouth.  It is a sad commentary on the state of the world that it feels almost radical to suggest that “being good” has nothing to do with self denial and that food is not a reward or punishment.  (How many times have any of us said when picking at bowl of lettuce, “well, I was really bad yesterday”?)   I still think about what I eat – nutritious meals and a balanced diet don’t mysteriously appear three times a day anymore now than they did a few weeks ago.  But I find myself approaching things differently.  I find myself listening more to my body about the food it needs than my mind about the comfort it desires. 

[1] I want to say, for the record, that this absolutely includes those of you who I know are committed to weight loss through a variety of means.

The world in which I’m supposed to feel bad for making Toll House cookies with my 5 year old on a snow day (and eating almost as much dough as we bake) is not a world I want to live in.

So I was pretty much dead on about last night’s dinner, to the point where there’s no point in re-mentioning it.

The evil toffee of evil is gone – thanks much to me – so that is at least good on the temptation front.  Damn that stuff is good.

I’m going to a yoga class tonight, which is a Good Thing.  I love yoga.  I’m looking forward to this.

Also, twice today I’ve looked in the mirror and thought “Damn, I look good.”

So, that food thing?  Clearly going marvelously well, eh?

One thing I noticed when I was doing really well at tracking at The Daily Platethis time last year is that once I get in the mindset of putting my words where my mouth’s been, I tend to make somewhat “better” choices simply by virtue of knowing that I have to admit that I had McDonald’s again for dinner last night.  I’m sort of seeing that again now.

Interestingly, I’m also noticing that I’ve been in a piss poor mood ever since I’ve tried to hold myself semi-publicly accountable for my food choices.  As I used to say in middle school – coincidence or special sauce?  It may well be coincidence, actually, but the timing just occurred to me.

Anyway, food for the week (insofar as I can recall):

Monday – breakfast is lost to me, but definitely included coffee and may just not have otherwise existed, which I tend to be really bad about.  Lunch was Chinese takeout, playing the “I’m having vegetables, so that justifies the garlic chicken” card.  Dinner was…pizza.  Almost an entire frozen one.  And three peanut butter chocolate chip cookies.  I also recall that I was feeling miserable and went to bed at around 7:30, waking only to read to the kidlet in bed.

Tuesday – I’m pretty sure I had a packet of plain oatmeal with a mini-moo and some honey, plus the ubiquitous coffee and milk.  I know I should be eating more fruits and veggies.  We need to go to the grocery store.  Lunch was catered by a wonderful Lebanese place, so I had chicken and pita and rice and grape leaves and hummus and a spinach samosa like thing and Lebanese salad.  And a piece of baklava for dessert.  And a coke.  I ate a lot of food, but it filled me up totally and I was truly not even that hungry when it came time for leftovers for dinner.  I also exercised Tuesday night.

Wednesday – coffee (surprise!) and mini-blueberry muffins for breakfast.  Way too much toffee that a coworker brought in throughout the day.  A salad and flat-bread with ham, tomatoes, leeks and cheese for lunch.  A McDonald’s Big & Tasty with cheese, a wee cheeseburger that was mistakenly in the kidlet’s happy meal, a small handful of fries and half a hard cider for dinner.  No urge for dessert.  Not feeling particularly well.  I wonder why?

Today, Thursday – A packet of raisin walnut oatmeal for breakfast with the ever present morning coffee.  Two cookies that a different coworker brought in as a snack.  Sweet and Sour Chicken Lean Cuisine for lunch.  That’s it so far.  Dinner will be supplied by my father and will likely include homemade mac and cheese and some sort of meat and broccoli.  And wine.  And maybe Scotch.

Oh, and I’ve been keeping up with drinking at least one Sigg of water over the course of the day, usually two or more.

As I type this all out, I am trying hard not to fall into the “I was good/I was bad” trap.  I was feeding myself.  I need at least 1200 calories a day to survive without feeling that I’m deeply depriving myself.  I’m sure that I could, in fact, function just fine for a while on 1000 a day, but the extra 200 fends off headaches and resentment.  Guilting myself about enjoying a frozen pizza is not going to help me feel better in any sense.  Being a good person is not defined by whether I decide to finish up this entry, make myself a cup of tea and help myself to another cookie.  It’s just not.  Even if I never lose another pound, even if I never wear a size 10 again, let alone an 8, the measure of my hips is not the measure of my self worth.

You know what does help me feel better though – the exercise, the water and the fruits and veggies.  That is a measure, not of my worth or my value, but of my health.

I tend not to be online much during the weekends, which throws my food tracking for a loop.  Which is interesting, since weekends tend to be both an opportunity for horrid overeating as well as an exercize in actually eating when I’m hungry, as opposed to when I have opportunities at my desk at work.

Friday I don’t really remember what I ate – probably toast and cheese and coffee for breakfast.  I’m pretty sure I had a lean cuisine for lunch with some chocolate in there.  Dinner was…hell, I have no clue at this point.  Oh yeah – we went out to a nearby Taqueria and I had two tamales, beans, rice, chips, salsa and sangria.  And a few bites of my son’s chocolate cake.  Not the world’s best for you meal, but good and with relatively controlled portion sizes.

Saturday I had coffee and cranberry-almond cereal for breakfast and an early lunch of leftover pork and potatoes from Thursday in between taking the kid to TKD and cleaning the house.  I had a handful of chocolate chips while making a snack for my son and his playdate buddy.  Then we went to my dad’s for dinner – chicken with a spinach/lemon sauce, homemade oven fries, broccoli, wine and homemade banana pudding (as in the pudding itself was not from a box).  I ate way too much of the latter from a guilt-about-dessert standpoint, but no so much that I felt bloated, per se.  My stomach was actually hurting quite a bit and I feared that I might be getting ill, so I ate a little less of everything than I might have otherwise.

Sunday, the husband and I walked several blocks – uphill- to get brunch, which was a very reasonable portion of tomato-goat cheese quiche with salad and wee pieces of coffee cake on the side.  And coffee of course.  It was a true brunch in that I didn’t eat again until an early dinner of a Long John Silver’s clam dinner.  Health on a platter, that one.  And ice cream for dessert.

Even with all that, I am down to 165.5 per today’s scale.  Which is down from 176.4 the Monday after Christmas.  To be fair, a big part of that is just having scaled down a lot of eating, especially at the office.  I’m sure there was some water weight in there.  Upping my activity even marginally helps tremendously.  I am also trying, with limited success, to achieve more balance in those food choices – I was craving eggs bene when we decided to go to brunch yesterday, but I chose the quiche instead – which was just as good – probably better – and “lighter”.  I put that in quotes because honestly, I have no idea how they compare in fat and calories.  But the quiche didn’t feel heavy in the same way that the bene would have and I ate every bite of the baby lettuce salad that came with it, which is sort of the point.  It was good and it was satisfying and I asked for a dessert menu and decided not to indulge – not because indulging is bad, but because nothing seemed worth the wait and extra food.

So, suceess of a sort.