Saturday, December 26, 2009

Fruity Filled Fitness Challenge

Sarah from Living the Fruity Life set up this challenge to help motivate us all to fit in a little more fitness. In the past I have had the following mindset when it came to challenges like these:

"I should work out more."
"I must force myself to be virtuous and work hard."
"I have to do my workouts so I won't embarrass myself or let others down."

Not surprisingly, this created a lot of resistance within me, and led to a lot of procrastination. Usually, I would drop out and do even less exercise than I was doing when the challenge began.

This time, I have a new perception of challenges.

"I don't have to force myself to do things I don't like in order to be healthy."
"I feel great when I get physical activity."
"Challenges are fun... like solving a puzzle or playing a game!"
"It is my choice each moment... I can work out for 1 minute or 100 or not at all. I can start and not finish or change what activity I am doing midstream. Being in choice feels free and fun!"
"Joining with others on a challenge is a fun way to connect and build community."

As a result, I am exercising almost every day now with joy.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Under new management...

The other day, on the way to a party, I told my children that I trusted them to choose what they ate, and to accept the consequences of their choices. I literally said, "I am no longer going to be the boss of what you eat." And this time, I said it with an open spaciousness, not through clenched teeth, like I have in the past.

Today, in a counseling session with the lovely Sarah Peyton, I had a nice dialogue with my inner manager. You know, God Bless her, this little manager has worked overtime the last few years, with the best of intentions. She just wants everyone (including me) to be healthy and happy. She has done a lot of research and she really has the secrets. But nobody listens to her! Probably cuz nobody wants to be bossed around. So, she is retiring. She is going to trust me to make decisions from a deeper place of wisdom and self-love. And she is going to trust the children to do the same. It took awhile for her to express her fear that we are all going to eat ourselves to death. Then she calmed down and seemed to be looking forward to the vacation.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Which came first, the food or the feelings?

"I don't know why, but I feel like ice cream," said my husband this evening. "I can't be hungry. We just ate."

Depending on which raw food teacher you ask, the reason for my husband's sudden craving would be different. Most would fall into one of three camps. There is the "you haven't eaten enough" camp, the "junk food is addictive" camp, and the "emotional eating" camp.

When I ate exclusively lowfat raw vegan for four months, I underate the entire time. I thought it was really no problem, because I was overweight and overfat. According to traditional dieting advice, I was doing great calorie-wise. I ate an average of 1500 calories a day and was probably burning more like 2200. Mainstream diet sites and articles suggested that my suggested calorie range was 1200-1600, and as long as I didn't eat less than 1200, I was not undereating according to them. This fit my preferences--I was having financial difficulties and sometimes resorted to dumpster diving to get enough food. Also, I was finding it difficult to stretch my stomach to the increased volume of food I was eating. And of course, I wanted rapid weight loss results. I lost about 40 pounds in those four months, the first time I had ever successfully lost a significant amount of weight. I was so proud!

Then I got tremendous cravings. I began fantasizing about nachos, a former favorite food that had become repulsive to me in the preceding months. Now they were looking mighty good to me. I was struggling emotionally and socially, and trying to work through all of my "issues," but this was nothing new to me. If anything, I was feeling increasingly empowered and happy as I experienced increasing physical health and success in losing weight. I realized that most of the reason I was fantasizing about nachos was that I was just plain hungry and made plans to eat more.

But, before I had fully implemented my new eating plan, there was the fateful binge. After a party where everyone around me ate a lot of junk food that was "off limits" to me and an argument with a family member, I ate a whole lot of junk food and got really violently ill.

I felt horrible and defeated and out of control. It was like a switch had been turned inside. In the next four months, I would fast in the morning, eat fruit and salad during the afternoon and dinner meal, and then after everyone else was in bed, I would indulge in what Taco Bell likes to call the "fourthmeal." I gained 40 pounds in 4 months.

Was it hunger, the addictive power of salt, grain or casomorphein, or was it my lack of emotional poise?

I have read several success stories out who claim that sticking to a lowfat raw vegan diet brought them out of their mental and emotional funk, all they had to do was stay the course, and learn to eat enough fruit. There are a couple of teachers who continually beg raw foodists to eat until true satiation. They stress that overeating on fruit is "impossible" because when your body has had enough, the food will no longer taste good.

There are others who decry this as overeating. Humans need much less food than they think, these teachers argue, and most overeating is emotional. Some say that raw foodists should ease themselves through the emotions of transition by overeating, even overeating fat, in the beginning. Many of these teachers claim that they need less and less food as time goes on.

Then others use the language of addiction or other therapies. Some argue that a 12-step approach is best, while others suggest taking the time to develop the emotional and social skills needed to cope without turning to food to numb one's feelings.

After hearing all of the conflicting arguments, I have come to believe that none can stand alone as the "correct" answer.

I have watched the "eat more" group loudly cheerleading people who really need empathy and emotional support. I have watched the "eat less" group fall off the wagon repeatedly because they just haven't figured out that they're hungry. I have watched loads of people, including me, eat ourselves into oblivion, using fat, starch, and salt as a shield against feeling pain and panic.

We'd all like a quick fix, a magic bullet. We'd like life to be simple. There is no simple. We chose this path because we realized just "going with the flow" and eating what our culture says to eat has painful consequences. We want vibrant health and happiness. And that means we have to explore all aspects of our health. Listening to the teachers who have blazed the trail before us can be helpful on the journey. But it is no substitute for listening to ourselves.

So, next time you find yourself craving nachos or ice cream take time to really listen. Is it the food or the feelings?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Love thy neighbor as thyself

Everyone loves themselves best, don't they? Not really. Many of us Earthlings are swimming in insecurity and self-loathing most of the time.

"Love thy neighbor as thyself..." Perhaps Jesus (or his ghost writer) assumed that most people naturally had a high self-esteem. Or perhaps, this teaching is much more profound than initially meets the eye. To love one's neighbor, one must first love himself. I know what you're thinking... you've heard that so much, it's practically cliche. But I heard it with different ears today.

I am reading Mary O'Malley's awesome book, The Gift of Our Compulsions: A Revolutionary Approach to Self-Acceptance and Healing. If you have ever wrestled with eating as if fighting a mortal enemy at any point on your raw journey, I highly encourage you to read this book. It is helping me! Today I read and reread the chapter on "Loving Yourself from the Inside Out." This quote hit me right between the eyes,

"Trying to be different from or better than what you are in order to be okay will never work, for it is based on the belief that you are not okay right now."

But what if my trying is important? I think to myself. I need to be better, healthier, more moral, more successful. I have to. I can't love myself until I am worthy...

Uh, who said that?

I realized that in the past, my attempts at self-love weren't real. They were strategies. They were tricks I was trying in order to convince myself to do the things I thought I had to do in order to be worthy of my own love. Whoa!

Then I got scared. Well, if I don't have that motivation, those moralistic judgements about myself, then won't I just turn into a fat lazy selfish slob who does nothing but eat chocolate and watch bad reality t.v.?

Well, let's look at the results of my strategy. Years of struggle and pain and poor health. Hey, I still eat a lot of chocolate and watch a lot of bad reality t.v. Hmm...

What if I just accepted and loved myself as I was, with no agenda? If I just loved myself and had no demands or conditions on that love, wouldn't I eventually start choosing things that would be gifts to myself. I would choose health because it feels good. I would choose exercise because it feels good. I would choose the yummiest food (cuz really, it is. Trust me, after you leave your favorite junk food behind for a few months and then try it again, it really ain't that great. In my experience anyway.)

But the most important lesson is perhaps that if I do not love myself, then I have wasted my chance here on Earth to give to others.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Baby detox, maternal guilt

You see a sweet little bright-eyed baby. I see a sweet little bright-eyed baby with puffy eyes and a double chin.

With my first three pregnancies, I did the best I could with the information and skills I had at the time. With Simon, it was the Brewer diet, which focused on getting 100 grams a day of protein. I also started eating meat again, with the encouragement of my midwife, because my iron was very low (a long story which is discussed in my bio in the archives). And I ate a pint or two of Ben and Jerry's a week (now did I truly believe that was for the health of the baby?). With Keziah and Salome, I had discarded the protein myth and begun to move away from dairy. I also stayed vegetarian, although I remember having a few cans of salmon. I also had added a bit more exercise in... But emotional eating and overt fats were a big part of my life. I had high blood sugar in all of my pregnancies.

My babies were quite big from birth, and only gained in girth from there. My youngest daughter was 9 lbs. 10 oz. at birth and 26 pounds at 6 months, exclusively breastfed. I got continuous compliments about how fat she was, and I took personal pride in having supplied the calories. LOL! When I came to the low fat raw vegan lifestyle, she was 2 1/2, and I realized how my high-fat diet had adversely impacted my babies. I always thought that if I ever were to have another baby, I would do it all right!

Well, I can say that my diet and exercise improved dramatically from my earlier pregnancies, but it didn't match up with my knowledge... And so I feel a great sense of disappointment. I would like to be the best mom possible for my children, and I feel a sense of regret that I haven't been.

I feel grateful that I can stay home and nurse my little guy. I know I have contributed to his health when I see the glow of his skin, his bright eyes, his intelligence, curiousity and enjoyment of life. He has never been truly sick, although he did get a cough and runny nose when the rest of the family had a bout of the flu in October. He is very active and can already crawl rapidly, stand unassisted, climb three stairs, and walk easily around the furniture.

I find it interesting that his poop is different than my other babies. It looks like sweet potato baby food. My others had poop that had curds of fat in it, like cottage cheese. I can only assume this is an improvement connected to my decreased fat consumption. Of course, if you have ever been around formula fed babies, you have seen and smelled the dramatic difference in their poo. Uck!

But I can always see the consequences of any less-than-ideal food I eat on my little guy. Though his poo isn't fatty, he is a little on the chubby side. Born weighing 9 pounds even, he is 22 pounds at 8 months. He stores fat like his mama, in his saddle bags. LOL! And have you ever seen an 8 month-old with cellulite? Poor kid. Also, if I have a fatty binge (Halloween, anyone?), I notice he gets oily wax discharge from his ears.

If I eat beans, he gets gas. I haven't figured out what exact food gives him the puffy eyes, but they only come around after I've eaten something less than optimal.

The worst part is that he is so interested in what we eat now. He sits in either my lap or Jason's during dinner and reaches for everything. We let him grab lettuce or pieces of fruit to taste, but push the cooked food out of his reach. He watches us fork it into our mouths with the intense look babies get when they first begin to explore eating. I feel sad to think what we're imprinting into his brain.

I know that guilt has no real benefits. I do not change my behavior because I feel guilty. But my awareness is expanding. I see now how loving myself and caring for my own health, can impact the health and well-being of all those around me, especially my precious children.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Setting myself up for success...

I bought 14 lbs. of organic bartlett pears today at a cost of $30. Actually I purchased $175 worth of groceries, but the pears were the purchase that triggered an odd mixture of anxiety, frustration, happiness, pride and determination. You see, I want to eat the foods that are optimum fuel for my body (and my baby's). I am tired of waking up every morning with foul-tasting dry mouth, aching hands and feet, and the other myriad of symptoms I suffer from my cooked dinner.

But the problem is bigger than reaching for a plate of rice rather than a delicious smoothie at 6 p.m. The problem starts much earlier. I can only choose from what is available to me. Currently, I simply do not ever have enough ripe good quality fruit available in my home to choose to eat healthfully for a entire day.

Which brings us to the anxiety about buying $30 worth of pears. The thing is, we spend an insane amount of money on food in relation to what we earn. We have financial difficulties, and not just related to our food budget, and relationship difficulties about how to handle our financial difficulties. So you can see why $30 worth of fruit might be a landmine. It was all I could do not to be whisked away in the aisle at the store--spinning into guilt about past choices and into worrying about the future and how I could fix it.

In an attempt to derail the wave of anxiety overtaking me, I suddenly found myself in the midst of frustration instead. My choices are so limited and often low quality for a high price. The organic apples are double in price but bruised. The citrus, both organic and nonorganic, is unripe and sour. The bananas all are shipped and gassed on the same day, every other week, leading to a feast-or-famine cycle. The fantastic grapes I had last week are all gone. I am excited for my dates to arrive, but downhearted at the thought of an entire $30 going to ship them. So much of my money is tied up in things I wouldn't even need if I lived in a climate suited to humans--snow boots and coats for the kids, hundreds of dollars a month on heating, salt and snow removal. Suddenly, it occurs to me that I am whining... a lot!

I begin to feel grateful. Here are these gorgeous pears, my favorite variety, on sale. Instead of buying just a few, I load up on them, taking almost all they had. I am lucky to have a lovely family and a nice warm shelter from the winter weather. And I have $175 (nope, no credit card debt!) to spend on groceries. All of my financial worries aside, I have the money to keep the heat on and my stomach full and boots on my kids feet. And honestly, if I hadn't bought the pears, I would have spent the same amount on junk food or condiments.

Suddenly, I was feeling proud and optimistic. I was consciously choosing to purchase a quantity of quality fruit ahead of time, so I wouldn't find myself stuck with nothing to eat but cooked food. I was staying present with what positive options my life has available at this point. I cannot be in Costa Rica right now, but I can buy pears instead of tater tots. One step at a time. One more frown turned upside down. LOL!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Connie, a fan letter

I have just finished catching up on the last year in the life of Connie, author of several awesome blogs including Naked Food Cafe, and founder and leader of the forum of the same name.

I have been a fan of Connie since way back, when she had blogs that may not even exist in cyberspace anymore... I remember the old Naked Food Cafe with high-fat raw recipes. I remember her blog after that with the blue background with psyfi graphics, although the name escapes me. I remember Banana Island and how upbeat and positive it was, with beautiful pictures and yummy recipes. I loved Connie's writing style; her intelligence, wit, curiousity and magical imagination. I never, ever was bored when I read her entries, and I often felt thoughtful, inspired, and uplifted for hours afterwards. And then of course, there was Connie's kindness, her openness and tolerance, and her interest in others. She always took the time to answer comments, and to read and comment on the blogs of others, including mine. When I moved, Connie sent me a simple hand-made housewarming gift, a gesture which I still treasure.

I always wondered, though, if a person could be "real" in a blog. Certainly in my own blog, I felt that there were times when I was only portraying a part of my feelings, or a fragment of my experience. When Connie abruptly posted that she was leaving Banana Island to follow the McDougall Diet in the interest of family harmony, I felt confused. Huh? What did I miss?

Imagine my delight to catch up Connies most recent blog entries and see a whole person revealed. When Connie shared her moments of fear walking in the park after a young girl in her town was killed, or her moments of shame when she found herself in a fast food drive-thru, in spite of her best intentions, her moments of frustration as she wrestled with her compulsion to battle with the number on the scale, and her triumph when she kicked that scale to the curb, suddenly I realized... Connie is showing me the way. It is safe and ok to live my life out loud in front of others.

In the last year, I have been to the abyss. When my husband and I broke up, I believed I didn't have a single friend to turn to... No one to give me a big hug and listen to me pour my heart out for hours. But the truth was, I probably could have reached out to a number of people. I could have blogged and gotten support and encouragement from those far away. I did not, because I was ashamed. I was ashamed to tell the truth about my feelings. I was afraid to appear vulnerable. I was ashamed to be honest about behavior that I regretted. Paradoxically, obeying my fears created the things I was most afraid of... loneliness, despair, loss. The more Connie shares about her struggles and her regrets, the more she seems to grow in confidence and radiance. Opening ourselves to truly experience our fears and sadness also opens ourselves to truly experience joy and true friendship.

So, a shout-out to Connie, for inspiring me yet again. I will now confess that I have a secret fantasy that I will show up on Connie's doorstep this winter to get a hug and a smoothie. Just not a grapefruit one, 'k? LOL! Love you!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

I'm married to a rock star!

My husband is in a band called The Sound Surround. He's the guy on the left, and that's his "little" brother on the right. I'm thrilled that he can have fun and be creative and live one of his long-time fantasies.

I'm baaaack!

I admit it, I've been a chicken... Since my last post a year and a half ago, I have spent most of my time struggling with myself and hiding from everyone.

So many changes, it would take a book-length post to update you all on them. But here's the highlight reel. I tried to force myself and everyone in my family in a journey of radical self-development, some of which was documented on this very blog. I ran smack-dab into my deep emotional wounds and lack of interpersonal skills. Homeschooling crashed and burned. My family life crashed and burned. I broke up with my husband Jason (meanwhile, unbeknownst to us, we had conceived our lovely baby boy Qian, pictured above). Our children moved with Jason to the small town where he teaches and went back to public school. I began working 50 hours a week at two new jobs, and spent the weekends with the children.

We planned to divorce and give the baby up for adoption, but by the third trimester we could not bear to do either, and chose to reunite and welcome our baby to our family. Meanwhile, Jason had a very serious health crisis which left him insulin-dependent and suffering from severe neuropathy. He has only partially recovered. I have moved back with him and am down to one job, about 10 hours per month. I am just enjoying my family immensely. But the struggles and compulsions that I have wrestled with my entire life are still present daily. I want to engage them with curiousity and compassion, rather than an endless cycle of self-violence.

I have been exploring my emotional health in new ways, and am finally ready to rejoin the world. I missed my community here, and hope to reunite with you all.