Tuesday, November 24, 2009

More Lessons from the Weight Loss Front & a Bit of NaNo

NaNoWriMo

I'm not going to come close to making 50K, especially since I haven't been writing for at least a week. I talked a bit about why in my last post. This story wasn't thought out enough. I lost interest because it didn't have enough depth for my taste. And then I ran out of time. Next year maybe I'll give it another go and do something else. We'll see. Between now and then, I'm scheduling writing time. The main thing I learned from this year's NaNo is how much I miss writing and even if it's just a little bit every day, I need to write.

Weight Loss Lessons

Lesson one: I was sitting in the booth at The Cheesecake Factory perusing their menu, and their nutrition information. California now requires chains with a certain number of locations, I believe it's 20, to make available certain nutrition information. The Cheesecake Factory puts the calories and saturated fat and the amount of carbs, but not the total fat content or the grams of fiber, both of which you need to calculate points for Weight Watchers. What I do is take the average calories per point, which is 50, and divide it into the total calories to get the points. Most of their stuff is in the "this is a whole day's worth of calories" category. So I was feeling really discouraged at trying to choose well. I flirted with just ordering anything and writing the meal off. I really didn't want to do that. So, I decided to eat no more than 1/3 of whatever I ordered. I ended up with a reasonable number of points for the day.

While I was trying to decide how to manage the situation, I thought about how far I'd come and what the consequences of writing the meal off would be. First, it could start a pattern of writing off difficult situations. That's the way back to my previous weight and I don't want to go there. So, that idea was totally out.

Second, I thought about the consequences of what I decided to do. I could give up, probably gain weight, and start the gradual climb back up. Or, I could do my best and at least stay where I am. And, by making the best choices I can in every situation I'm confronted with, I can keep moving toward my goal because I'm maintaining the good habits.

The AHA! moment was when I started thinking about how we as a culture think about weight loss. Because we gain weight so easily, we think that if we're not losing, we must be gaining. We think in that dichotomy--weight loss or weight gain--and ignore the third option--maintaining our weight. I wonder if that mind set isn't part of what gets us when we reach our goal. We don't want to lose any more, so we assume that gaining is what will happen--and it does. We get tired of doing the things that got us to our goal and gradually relax the vigilance and the weight does creep back on. But if we can change our thinking so that we think loss or maintain, maybe we can more easily get to goal because we're being consistent in our choices and by building that pattern of consistency, we'll be more likely to stay at our goal.

That reminds me of a related issue--perfectionism. We often think that if we don't follow our preferred program perfectly, we won't lose weight. Not only that, we'll automatically gain weight. That's another attitude that doesn't work. If we're faced with situations where our choices for healthy, low-calorie food are limited, we can make the best choices we can and not stuff ourselves. The worst that will happen may be that we don't lose weight that week. Or if we do gain, it won't be very much. Remembering that it's not one meal that causes weight gain helps. It's when we decide that meal makes us a total failure and we top it off with more meals that aren't the best choices that we usually see a gain.

Lesson two: I'm facing a Thanksgiving holiday that is not my first choice, not even close. I'm not cooking. If you've read very much of this blog, you know that's unheard of. But the last two weeks have been full of other obligations and I haven't had time to make a menu or grocery shop. My family wants to celebrate on Friday at a favorite restaurant. With all that happening, my husband and I made reservations at LB Steakhouse at Santana Row for Thanksgiving day.

I started thinking about the "holiday season". We start at Halloween now and go through New Year's and think of it as all one long "season" with lots of good food and parties and so on. That can lead to disaster for people who are trying to lose weight, or even to maintain their weight. I realized it's an attitude problem. Lumping it all together makes every day seem like a holiday. If every day is a holiday, we tend to overeat because we're celebrating the holiday or even if we don't eat too much, we may make less healthy or higher calorie choices.

It occurred to me that when we're thinking about food, exercise, etc. and this time of year, we might be better off to think of it as "holiday days" inserted in between "normal days". It's thinking of the whole season from Halloween to New Year's as "difficult" or "challenging" or a "time when we struggle" that makes it harder than it needs to be. Instead, we could look at each day separately. On the normal days, we would do our normal routine. And on the holiday days, we choose what we want to do to celebrate the occasion.

That's not to say this time period isn't more challenging than the rest of the year. We often do have more restaurant meals and meals out with friends and family. We have more parties and holiday concerts, pageants, etc. to attend, usually with a sweet-treat laden reception afterward. A strategy that works if we're not thinking of every day between Halloween and New Year's as a holiday is to ask ourselves if this is a substitute for a regular meal at home and eat the way we would if we were at home. Bringing food along and getting a beverage at a coffee place is another alternative to high-calorie restaurant eating I've used when I knew in advance I wasn't going to be home. If it's a celebration, then we can use whatever our celebration meal strategies are, including saying no to treats that aren't worth the calories. Just because it's a party or occasion doesn't mean we have to eat something.

Other Stuff

Since I now have two jobs, I'm not going to survive until New Year's without a good solid plan. So, that's my goal for the weekend. I have from Thursday through Sunday off. I'm spending part of that time with my calendar putting everything on it that needs to be done. If I don't, I'm going to go nuts because I'll be trying to do too much in a day and not leave enough time for recharging the batteries. I have to consider Christmas in there, too. I haven't thought beyond Thanksgiving. My budget will be small, but at least I'll have one this year. It's nice to have both of us working and we can celebrate. I love holiday celebrations and it's always hard when your income doesn't go beyond the basic necessities. I'm grateful for having those, but I also like to have a bit extra to get gifts and make a special meal and so on. Since I couldn't cook at Thanksgiving, I'm going to plan something extra special for Christmas.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

NaNoWriMo and Other Stuff

I was planning to work on my NaNo novel while I had a hot cup of coffee at Peet's. The one thing about losing weight is that once I lose 30 pounds or more, I start to be cold a lot, thus the desire for hot coffee. I digress. I've written more than 10K on the story, but my flash drive only has 9K. Apparently, I saved my afternoon session, but not last night's work. So, the novel is on my other computer. That means I have some time to write a blog post.

I'm having fun writing this bizarre, but fun, story. No one will ever be allowed to read it. The writing stinks and I don't think the story is worth revising. It's just a fun bit of fluff.

But it's showing me some things about being a pantser, a writer who doesn't use an outline, that make me want to learn how to make at least a loose outline. A lot of what I've written is stuff that would be cut, if I were going to try to revise this into a decent story. It's stuff that's in there because the writer is looking for the story I know is in there, not actually writing the story itself. That means there's a lot of repetitive, meandering, and totally boring stuff in between the good parts, the parts that are actually the story I'm trying to write. For NaNo, that's wonderful because it's lots of added words, but if I were actually writing a story with the intent of publishing it, it's a very inefficient way to write. I can handle inefficient because it doesn't bother me to cut words. It's the boring and repetitive stuff that's the problem for me.

I'm ready to move past that way of working and on to something else. So, after NaNo, I'm going to focus more on Holly Lisle's Think Sideways class. If I can spend the same time I'm spending on NaNo, I'll make progress, but slowly. I've been working at it more on a hit and miss basis because my life has been so chaotic lately. I've had a hard time focusing on creative pursuits, particularly on writing.

I'm testing an oven-fried chicken recipe tonight. It looks really good. I'm looking forward to this one. I haven't figured out the points, but the ingredients are not super high-calorie. The only added fat is cooking spray. I don't use cooking spray, but I have my Mistos. I have one for regular olive oil. I'll fill one with peanut oil, which is what I prefer for recipes like this one. And the other one is for the oils I don't use as often.

Also, on the cooking front, I've been thinking about flavor and ingredients. I want to write a post or two about those things, but it may have to wait until after NaNo.

I lost three more pounds last week. Paul's been losing weight, too. He said yesterday that he lost another three pounds. He jokes that when I go on a diet, he loses weight. I don't put food in serving dishes. I serve it onto the plates because in my house, everyone prefers not to wash any more dishes than necessary. So, I pretty much give him what I'm eating and if he's still hungry, he can always have more. He rarely does, which is one reason why he's been losing weight.

His blood pressure's been going down pretty fast, with this new medication. He has an appointment next week to have it checked, but he's been checking it in the morning. The one thing I wish he'd do is make getting some exercise in every day a priority. That's the piece that's missing in his efforts to stay healthy. It would be lovely if he'd challenge himself to get his medicine down to the lowest possible dose. Maybe even get rid of it altogether, but at his age and with his family history of high blood pressure, that may not be possible.

I hate that medical stuff is starting to be our conversation topic. But, there comes a time when that becomes more of an issue in your life. So, I'm dealing with it.

I've made progress with my boxes. I think I have 4 or 5 left. I need to put lids on them and stack them with the others in the bedroom hallway. Then I can move on to the next step, which is sorting the things that are already unpacked and giving stuff we don't use to charity, throwing away any junk, and figuring out how to best use the storage I have. I need to pare down our stuff because our apartment is so small. I really don't want to have boxes in my hallway. When that's done, it's back to the boxes and figuring out where to put that stuff when I unpack it. When you live in an apartment without a garage or attic or basement, the hardest stuff to deal with is stuff like holiday decorations that you need to keep, but don't use every day.

It's amazing how fast the process went when I spread out the boxes I was sorting into. I could take 5 minutes and go through one box. That's a lot more doable than taking 10 minutes to spread out the boxes, 5 minutes sorting one, and 10 more minutes putting the boxes back in stacks. Once I convinced Paul not to stack them back up, I made real progress.

But I need to find a day sometime when I can recharge my batteries without feeling like I'm neglecting important things in order to do it. I need one of those mental health days. I had a difficult day yesterday and realized that was the problem. I need to schedule regular time to recharge. If I don't, then any writing or other creative pursuits suffer. Creative work operates at a different pace and in a different way from the type of work I get paid to do. Or from household chores and similar types of work. When I forget that, my life gets out of balance and I get depressed.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

A Mishucalanza of a Post

I've been trying to write a new post for several days, but I can't seem to focus on one topic. So, here's a bunch of topics.

First, NaNoWriMo. I started a novel for NaNo. I was right on track on November 1. The second day, thanks to the time change, (I'll skip the rant and just say I hate that they do this twice a year.) I was way too tired and only got about half the words. November 3 Paul was sick, so I didn't write. Today, though, I stopped at Peet's after work and got in about a half hour. I'll write more later tonight.

The story is going well. It's turning out to be a very bizarre story. I'm writing it in the first person, which I usually don't do. But this one seemed to want to be written that way. I trust my instincts about a story, so I'm writing in the first person. I'm having a lot of fun and hope to catch up the words as the month goes on.

Second, Paul's headache thing came back, but not quite as bad as a couple of weeks ago. Thanks to the COBRA thing where you don't have to pay the whole premium, we still have good health coverage, so he's back on medication for his blood pressure. He goes back in on Friday to get it checked after having been on the medication for several days. We need to pin the doctor down about the headaches, though. I don't think they're caused by the blood pressure problem because he started getting them back when his blood pressure was normal.

Third, weight loss. I've lost a total of 25 pounds, as of last Friday. I've noticed some changes in my approach this time around that are making it a lot easier. I changed a lot of eating habits over the years. The kinds of changes seem to make it easier to make choices that allow the weight to come off without me being hungry.

(I suppose I'm repeating myself a lot in my weight loss posts, but that helps me to cement it in my brain. I apologize if anyone is actually reading this blog and gets bored when I do repeat myself.)

One thing that's making a huge difference is that I'm paying attention more to flavor, texture, color, etc. If it looks pretty, has a variety of textures, and really good flavor, it's satisfying, even if it's not a large amount of food. I get full on smaller amounts of food these days. But that's pretty common when you start losing weight. Regular exercise also decreases my appetite a bit.

Another thing that's making a huge difference is paying attention to how full I am. It's hard for me to do that without paying a lot of attention. It's not an automatic process for me to know when I'm full. So, I use a couple of tricks. I start the meal with soup or salad. Sometimes both. That starts to fill me up and takes some time to eat. Then, when I get to the higher-calorie main course, I'm able to eat appropriate portions and feel satisfied. If I have dessert, I tend to eat only a few bites, which is why when we're out, we usually share.

Fourth, music. This is a big time of year for music. I'm so glad STOCtet chose early December for their concert. Prince of Peace is the week after that. It will make for a much calmer holiday season. While I love doing music, I'm glad we gave up a couple of the choirs. Juggling the rehearsals and concerts for four groups was too much.

Fifth, I still need to figure out a better way to manage my kitchen and food and my weird schedule. I'm discovering that it helps a lot to keep prepped ingredients on hand to make dinner from during the week. But I need to plan the ingredient-making sessions so they're spread out over time, not crammed into a couple of days. I just don't have that much time.

Sixth, that whole organizing thing. A while back I joined the Fly Lady web site. I've been getting the emails, but only doing a little bit. I realized that I have to do the same thing with organizing my life as I did with weight loss--make very gradual changes. I'm starting very small with adding a few new habits. I'm picking the things that bug me the most as the place to start. And the biggie right now is finishing the boxes in the living room. I need to sort, put labels and lids on them and restack them in the bedroom hallway. Then I can deal with all the storage issues one at a time, in those 15-minute spurts Fly Lady talks about.

Seventh, I enjoy Farmville and Cafe World on Facebook. I discovered that if you use your time properly, you can time the crops to ripen and the food to cook at a time when you can play. A few minutes and you can go off and do other things while stuff grows and cooks. The thing is, I'm making myself let myself have fun with them. I was raised that adults don't "play". It's another area in my life where I have to fight my upbringing and allow myself to be myself. I need to play. It sparks my creativity and if I don't play, I can't write stories. Besides, the things I was taught adults do for fun aren't fun for me. The thing that makes me sad is how long it took me to realize that it's OK to be myself. And that realization is one of the reasons I'm able to successfully lose weight now.

Recipe Review--Classic Bread Pudding

I started this post a coulpe of weeks ago, and didn't have time to finish and post it. So, here it is.

The latest recipe I'm testing is a bread pudding with an optional bourbon sauce. Unfortunately, the older bottle of heavy cream I had in the fridge was too old, so I ended up substituting 1/2 cup milk for part of the cream in the bread pudding and skipping the bourbon sauce. It's in the oven and I'm not sure it will be done before the deadline, which is today, but they're on Eastern Daylight Time, so if they have a midnight deadline, I'll miss it. I tried to do it on time, but the timing was awful. I got the recipe right before the concert last week, so time was an issue for me.

This is NOT a "point-friendly" recipe. But it's supposed to be an indulgence. I'm not eating a whole portion of it. Just a bite or two. A whole portion, even if I cut it into the smaller size they suggest, is 13 points and that's with the whole milk substituting for 1/2 cup of the cream. Whew!! If I like the recipe, I may play with it and see if I can make a lower-point version that's worth eating.

I finished the recipe and it was very rich, but very bland. The texture was good and they met their goal with the recipe. But it wasn't worth the calories, as is. The other people who tried it had the same reaction. It's a good base, but it needed more. Spices, raisins, something. I warmed it up and put fresh raspberries on it and it was wonderful. My son topped it with whipped cream and loved it that way. However, I suspect more fat isn't what I'd top this rich dish with.

BTW-I can't post the recipes I test because the people who run the magazine ask us not to share recipes that haven't been published.