The Check-In

Confession Time…

It’s the holiday season and that makes it very difficult to maintain any form of stick-to-it-tiv-ness when it comes to healthy habits. Exercising is harder with the colder weather and my running buddy is taking a slight break because of the holidays. It’s very hard to push yourself to get out of bed at 6am to go run in the cold.

Regarding my diet drops, I will admit I have lapsed. On a lot of things. Almost everything. Except sugar and fried foods. Sugar gives me such massive headaches that I can’t function for the rest of the day depending on how much I have and I think I have finally kicked the fried-food monkey. I don’t want to go through the psychological withdrawal again because of how difficult it was to get over.

I don’t consider any of this backsliding to be a failure. In fact, I consider it self-care. While I shouldn’t excuse myself for not meeting my personal goals, if I use this as a reminder that I can’t expect perfection and to be gentle with myself if I miss certain personal benchmarks, I won’t get discouraged.

Discouragement because of not meeting personal goals can spell the end of what is overall a positive and beneficial experience. I just need to maintain the mantra: tomorrow is another day and I can refocus once this “rough” period is over.

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The Check-In

Checking In: Southern Fried Goodness

This was a rather rough week for me.

I finally got sick from Ash and Jai.

Normally, that wouldn’t be a problem, but as predicted, it made me crave fried, comfort foods more than normal. Wednesday was the hardest day for me with the cold and the cravings. It took a huge effort to not ask Ash to grab some fries on his way home or order take out that had some form of golden, fried goodness.

Not having my comfort go-to while fighting a head cold made me more creative, but I  found that my actual hunger levels were extremely low. I wanted to eat fried foods, but I wasn’t actually hungry for it. I don’t think it was cold related, but boiled down to something I like to have when I am feeling bad. I also think it might have been a salt craving, since fried foods tend to also be salty, so I grabbed some pretzels and called it a day.

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Diet Shift

Week 4: All the Fried Things

I love french fries, fried mozzarella bites, deep-fried candy bars, potato chips, wings, etc. I particularly love these foods when my body is telling me to prepare for winter: fall fair season is my foodie season. I go into biological preservation mode when I am sick or not feeling well emotionally. Chicken soup? No thanks, pass me the deep-fried chicken wings with lemon-pepper coating.

Living in the Southeastern United States does not help matters. In New England, it was easy to find fried foods, but you had to know where to look and actively go to the location to consume golden, fried goodness. Down here, practically every restaurant offers some form of fried goodness on their menu. One favorite spot offers fried kale and it’s delicious.

Just like last week, this is less about the MS and more to do with my overall health. It isn’t a secret that fried foods are really bad for you. Because I have cholesterol issues, continually consuming fried foods is not in my best interest. I am also looking at it as a means to help moderate and boost my mental/emotional well-being. Eliminating foods fried in hydrogenated oils will hopefully help bolster my mood and work as a natural antidepressant. It won’t replace antidepressants, but help modify my mood slightly.

This food elimination will double as model of better eating habits for Jai. When eating out, Ash and I have a bad habit of ordering something with fries and offering Jai everything except the fries while we eat them in front of him. He’s at that stage where if food goes into Mommy’s mouth, then he needs to try/eat it too.

It’s not fair to be refusing to feed him something from my plate while I am munching happily away on those items. So eliminating the option altogether and showing him that a meal can be well-rounded while eating out is the plan. I am not going to deprive him of eating fries or fried items for his entire childhood, but I would rather it be for a special occasion and not the norm.

I realized that I am getting deeper and deeper into this diet shift and I think I need to add in “plan” and “prep” sections for how I plan to handle the week and certain scenarios that come up in my social life. These will be new additions of the rest of my Monday “Diet Shift” posts.

The Plan for the Week

  • I am eliminating deep-fried foods, not foods pan fried in olive oil. If I am going to make something pan-fried, it will be with an eye on the amount of oil used and the type of oil. Pan fried, while not massively healthier than deep-fried, has its place in cooking certain dishes that we love at home and is limited to once or twice a month in our household.
  • I have an emotional attachment to fried-foods. If something good or bad happens, my first instinct is to celebrate or drown myself with fried foods. As emotional wins and losses happen throughout the week, I am going to pay attention to the deeper need driving me towards eating fried foods and see what I need to do to make internal changes.
  • When a strong craving for fries (my main go-to for fried snacks) happens, I will look for an alternative. Baking some sweet potatoes, grabbing some pretzels, or carrot sticks while reflecting on the craving itself.
  • Spend some time researching how bad fried foods are for my overall health and the health benefits of lowering my fried-food intak . I think by doing both of these it will help strengthen my resolve to not give in to cravings and temptation. I will include some research on how fried foods affect the little one’s diet and how I can help him by not making it a staple.
  • Research alternatives to my favorite foods that I can also offer Jai, guilt-free.

The Social “What if’s”?

  • Eating at a fast food location where most everything is fried: Side salads with grilled chicken. Fruit slices and bottles of water.
  • Eating out and people order a shared dish that has items I am not eating: Order an additional dish that I can also share with others. Ask for a side fruit salad, bread, and drink extra water.
  • Friend offers me to try their food: Politely decline, but offer to share some of mine in return.
  • “Why aren’t you eating that?”: I am taking a slight break in some of my previous eating habits to help my body recover OR I am training for a half-marathon and I am trying to help my performance and recovery.

Wednesday will see a return of the “Information Huddle” and a deeper examination of the importance of eliminating or moderating fried-food intake. From the cursory research I’ve done so far, I suspect I will see an overlap with my research regarding microbiomes.

The Check-In

Checking In: No More Sugar

Cutting sugar went easier than I expected, though there were a few days where I was irritable according to Ash. I refuse to believe him, but deep down I know he’s correct. No longer having that emotional crutch makes for a very grumpy me.

Psychologically speaking, it was a lot easier than I expected. As long as I didn’t have sugary treats in the house (I tossed all of our sweets or sent them with Ash to work); I avoided buying sugary drinks (everyone knows that my weakness is a good Pumpkin Spice Latte in the fall); and if I had fruit for any sweet cravings, I was good to go. Every time I drove by a Starbucks there was a temptation to pull in and just give into that PSL craving, but I made sure to keep going and have a few bites of pineapple as soon as I got home.

During the couple of times I did eventually stop at a Starbucks I made sure to only order an Americano*. Before I was pregnant I had gotten into the habit of drinking all my coffee black unless it was a latte, so it wasn’t extremely hard for me to get back into drinking these strong drinks with nothing in them. I think it helped a bit too. Coffee is a wonder drug (and sadly, probably something I need to add to my drop list), and can make a lot of things better when I am grumpy.

I didn’t notice any headaches, though at the beginning of the week I was more lethargic and in need of an extra nap or two during the day. By the time Ash came home from work, I was very ready to pass Jai off to him so I could lay down and not think or move for an hour. By day 3 or so, I had a little more energy and by this morning (day 5), I had even more energy to do my running around without need of a nap.

I also noticed that during my longer run on Thursday, I was able to keep up with my mom and felt less fatigued at the end of it. I also felt motivated to go again this morning (though that would be off schedule). Me? Motivated to run off schedule? This really is unheard of – I hate running.

When I was at the grocery story to make purchases for the family, I did make sure to review all the labels like I said I would: any time it was High Fructose Corn Syrup or unidentified form of “sugar,” I would move along. From my research they said that sugar is hidden in everything and it really is true. Sugar is everywhere. Foods that I normally love to eat, like certain types of crackers or even grab-n-go frozen meals…all contain sugar. I also made sure to avoid agave and honey. If it was sweetened with fruit juice or dates – I would be willing to grab it to consume.

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Information Huddle

Bittersweet Truths About Sugar

Sugar and sweeteners are everywhere. Sugar is like a drug: it certainly feels addictive when that particular time of day rolls around; for me it’s mid-afternoon and late evening when Jai is asleep. I just have to have something sweet to appease that craving and sometimes one piece of candy will not do. Funny enough, during other times of the day, I could pass by the stuff and not think anything about it.

Plenty of popular Western culture references stems from binging on sugar: from ice cream for heartache to characters with massive sweet tooths.

Women are courted by advertisers to buy chocolate during their menses. Children are bombarded with sugary cereals and treats during their favorite TV shows or mobile games. Men get advertisements for carbonated drinks to help boost their competitive abilities.

There is a clear bias for the stuff. And it makes sense given the narrative: it boosts brainpower, gives you energy, makes you feel good, and is all around amazing. In fact, the idea of going without sugar is one met with disbelief. Go ahead and tell someone that you plan to drop sugar. You’ll get one of these responses:

  • Really? I could never do that. I love the stuff too much.
  • Oh, [Someone’s name] did that awhile ago. She didn’t last 24 hours before caving in.
  • How will you survive without [insert your favorite beverage/treat of choice]?
  • Why? Do you think you need to lose weight?
  • We’ll see how long that lasts. I bet you’ll be back to eating it within a week.
  • Just as long as you don’t get all smug and preachy over it…

Many responses revolve around the narrative that we, as human beings, cannot live without sugar. And the truth is, Western diet is high in sugarcane (or some version of sweetener). So it’s understandable that the idea of dropping something so pervasive in our diet is out of the ordinary.

I watched this video in preparation of today’s post and it sums up the issues we face as consumers of sugar in the Western diet…

Continue reading “Bittersweet Truths About Sugar”

The Check-In

Checking In: No More Alcohol

One week (kinda) down, seven more to go.

Well, it’s not completely over – I still have to go through the weekend (and a wedding!). But so far; so good. This week went by relatively well, but admittedly there were times where the idea of pouring a glass of red wine was extremely appealing. I didn’t go out for dinner or meet up with friends at night (when I am more likely to have a glass of something), so temptation was relatively low for me.

I do have a wedding that I am going to today and I know that there will be alcohol served. The idea of having a mimosa or glass of wine will be tempting, but I think I can handle it. I don’t feel the absolute need to drink in social situations, it’s more of a “well, it’s offered, so why not?”

But in the moments where I did feel like pulling out that glass of wine I thought about while I was desiring to have a glass. Was it because I absolutely needed the alcohol? Was it because I, like many Americans, associate it with relaxing after a particularly stressful day? Or was it because I couldn’t have it and so I wanted something that I couldn’t have?

I think a good chunk of it was because of self-denial, but I think I also like it as a concept to relax. So with that in mind, I tried to find other ways to unwind. I’ve been running, so I did push myself a little harder (endorphins are relaxing plus the accomplishment). I have house guests coming into town next weekend for Jai’s first birthday party, so tidying up the house also makes me feel more relaxed and accomplished.

Asking Ash for a foot rub, sitting on the couch and vegging out after Jai is in bed, cuddling, all were great ways to relax instead of having that glass of wine. I think that as each week goes by it will be even easier. It will still be harder when invited to events where drinking might be present, but I can easily say no and have a cup of water. Because in the end that’s cheaper.

Like I said in my first post this week – this isn’t going to be as permanent omission like my other ones: this is just to help give my body a little less to process (and limited distraction). I may bring it back in at the end of the full eight weeks for a glass here and there of wine or something non-sugar based.

Now next week…that’s going to be the ultimate challenge. Giving up sugar. Pray for Ash.