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.