Slow Food

Gone are the days when I could tuck two toddlers under my arms and head off to the grocery store, then shop for the week without list or having looked through a cookbook. Oh and then come home to feed them lunch, bathe them, and whip up a lasagne for dinner. However did I have the energy? And didn’t all that pasta pack on the pounds?

My secret was cigarettes. Yes I know, seems scandalous now, doesn’t it? Back then, nobody minded. We smoked in cars, houses, and restaurants with wild abandon. Ah for the good old days. Because the minute I quit smoking I (of course) gained weight. And I’ve been struggling with it and writing about that struggle ever since.

Recently I decided to stop struggling and get more mindful about the whole eating and weight issue, and just not judge myself so much. If I want lasagna for dinner, I’ll have lasagne. I’ll just do it mindfully: Day 1: Shop. Day 2: Simmer sauce. Day 3: Make casserole.

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Walking the winding mindfulness path, I remember something I learned about myself and food in Weight Watchers. I’m an emotional eater.

When I had cigarettes to soothe my frantic, sad, angry, lonely overwhelmed self, I was fine. After I quit, the feelings got shoved down with food. If I gained too much weight, and I did, often, I went on a mindless diet. I cut calories or fat or meat or carbs or sugar.  I didn’t have to think about it, I only had to be brutally strict with myself until I lost the weight and the cycle started again. Most of the diets I’ve been on worked very well for a year or two, which is when the emotional eater would burst from the confines of the latest diet and wail Why can’t I have lasagna? 

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The thing about knowing you’re an emotional eater is it doesn’t help you lose weight. In Eat.Q Susan Albers says dealing with emotional eating means upping your emotional intelligence. Huh. I always thought I had a pretty high EQ. I read other people really well. I’m tuned in and sensitive, mostly. I know myself. Turns out just not as well as I thought. For example, for most of my life I have been willfully clueless about how to effectively guide my emotions around food. That’s changing. I’ll keep you posted.

What’s Not Working

A few days ago, the new moon in Aries prompted me to look at my life and say “What’s not working?” and then let go of those things, making way for something new. At first I thought of little things. The colonial kitchen chairs that belonged to my grandmother and did not fit my newish contemporary home. That empty foyer I had painted last summer, and, except for the Christmas tree last winter, has sat empty, waiting for a special piece of accent furniture. The jeans that no longer fit, the clothes hanging in my closet I never wore.

I did a bit of shopping and redecorating and reorganizing my closet and all that stuff was easily handled. What else? Well, I’d been growing out my hair for several months. And it was shaggy and long to the point that I had to pull it up in a twist half the time. Clearly, that wasn’t working. I got a haircut and wow what a difference. No more mullet!

There’s one more thing that isn’t working for me, but it’s a tough one. After years of managing pretty well on a low-GL (glycemic load–it’s all about the sugar levels) diet, I’m seriously stalled. Despite eating well, avoiding the white stuff that shoots my blood sugar to the moon, I’m gaining weight. Why this diet worked so well for so long and then suddenly stopped working is a mystery.IMG_2209

Just avoiding foods that spike my sugar is clearly not working anymore. I can’t lose a pound, and in fact am gaining, and all without pizza or potato chips. I checked out my portions, and they were fine too. I don’t drink much wine these days, so it’s not that either. But after investigating deeper, I acknowledged there was still something I could improve eating-wise. I could stop eating mindlessly. That is, eating in front of the television or while reading a book.

When I started paying attention to the taste of my food, when I stopped eating mindlessly while watching television or reading, when I stopped doing anything but eating, focusing on the taste of my food and savoring it, I realized something big. I didn’t much like what I was eating. I had been eating these same foods, protein, dairy, veggies and fruit, in a somewhat limited repertoire (salad, yogurt, chicken, burger without a bun, apples, peanut butter, cheese, eggs) for years.

I cook dinner every night using the low GL cookbooks, I have had every salad combination, every stir fry, every casserole, every sort of meat and fish accompanied by broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, beets, even berries and apples. I’m not a real fan of cooking, but it was looking like I’d need to start cooking breakfast and lunch as well as dinner if I was going to get food I wasn’t bored to tears eating. I realized that’s why I ate watching television. It was so much easier to plow through another endless salad if I didn’t have to taste the sameness of it.

Mindful eating was causing me a problem. I wondered if I needed to alter my diet, since clearly it wasn’t working for me anymore. So I made a couple of small changes. I started making pizza for lunch with low carb tortillas. Yum. I went ahead and had burritos too. As long as you stick to ONE low carb tortilla a day, you’re good with the sugar. Pasta is something else with a low glycemic load, but in moderation, and done al dente. So I had a little pasta with my cheese and meat. Flavor!

Finally, I tried the low sugar ice cream with only 4 carbs for a 1/2 cup, which is not really enough for me. I don’t think I’ve had one scoop of ice cream ever. Also the artificial sweetener gave me indigestion. So out went the ice cream. Sigh. It’s really good with some nuts, a little bit of chocolate sauce, bananas or strawberries (or both!) and whipped cream. If I can ever get to the point of eating a half cup serving maybe I’ll try it again this summer.

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Still, I wish I could lose the extra weight. It’s not working for me being this size. What else can I do? I know that this is the diet that works best for my health, so I don’t want to abandon it for calorie counting or one of those diets with pre-packaged meals. I’ve done the food journal to the point that I pretty much know how many calories I put in my mouth. I can do that math in my head. And calorie consumption is not the problem.

What can it be?

Well, there is the one thing I have not been doing…I have not been exercising much this past winter. I clean house and stretch out my back and walk around doing errands and shopping, but that’s it. There’s something in the GL literature that talks about the slow twitch muscle. It’s actually an important component of the low GL diet. Basically, the theory says, that in addition to diet, we need to flex our low twitch muscles for at least 30 minutes a day three times a week. Very doable.

Low twitch muscles are the muscles you use without exerting too much energy. Like walking at a leisurely pace. Studies show that health improves and weight is lost just as efficiently walking at a steady pace for 20-30 minutes three times a week as it is doing a complicated gym routine for two hours or walking fast or even running. You don’t have to exert a whole lot of energy to engage the slow twitch muscles, but you do have to get moving. After a long winter spent writing, and resting the knee I reinjured last fall, I understand this is what I need to do.

But it’s still snowing in Michigan. At least this week. So I ordered a walking DVD. No excuses, I’m going to start firing up the slow twitch muscles. It might be the solution I’ve been seeking to this stubborn pound problem. It’s not as easy or as fun as buying new dining room chairs, but this Aries new moon invites us to let go of whats not working and embrace the new. So that’s what I’m going to do.

What’s not working for you anymore? New moon energy is such that even if you don’t drop it, it’s going to end, and that’s for the best. Now the challenge is to find something new (and fun!) that does work.

 

Stay Present, Let Go

kuan yinStill working on that relationship with myself. One practice I continue daily is the loving-kindness meditation. It differs only a little from my normal breath meditation in that when I realize my mind is “thinking” I bring it back to compassionate thoughts about myself. I send myself love. That’s pretty much it.

Judging myself, blaming myself, feeling shame … these were all normal states of mind for me for a very long time. I didn’t even know I was doing it and, at various stages of my life, I blocked them from full realization with the usual suspects: food, sex, drugs, alcohol, denial.

I used to hide from pain, suffering and fear. I figured life is short, let’s take our pleasures while we can. It seemed the obvious way to go. And I still don’t like unpleasant emotions, but I finally recognize that they lie in wait, just under the surface of my skin, and will only grow stronger if they are not acknowledged and allowed to move through my body in the present moment.

Spiritual maturity, says Jack Kornfeild, allows us to “rest in the wonder of life.” And spiritual maturity is what I’m working on now that I have that age maturity thing happening. I want to leave this planet gently with awareness, not in fear and dis-ease.

Ever notice that disease kinda has a second meaning?

Most of my health problems (all minor, thank stars) can be traced directly back to things like anxiety and fear. You get older, you start to see patterns. So now I’m learning to treat myself with kindness instead of guilt, shame, blame, fear, or judgment. Life is just too short not to know myself fully in all my perfect imperfection. “Touch with mercy the parts of ourselves we have denied, cut off, or isolated,” Kornfeild advises.

His method includes patience, a thing I have long been short on. Meditation helps me learn patience, so does listening, so does yoga. Mindfulness to each task at the moment it is undertaken brings patience. This is a tough one for me, but I want the harmony patience brings. I want “a loving, patient unfolding into the mystery just now.” Living this way stretches time, too, because there’s less distraction.

Not to get all serious. In present-moment mindfulness, in spiritual maturity, in practicing compassion (that’s Kuan Yin, goddess of compassion in the frame up top) there is fun, there is humor, there is play. Wherever I am, I want to respond and relate with deeper joy. At least that’s the plan. I’ll let you know how it goes:)