Friday, April 13, 2012

In The Beginning

In The Beginning

When I say that my experience losing weight was an "adventure" I am not exaggerating. If I could have been a more unhealthy eater two years ago I am not entirely sure how. I ate fast food for at least one meal every day.....often went hours without eating and then gorged on unhealthy, prepackaged snacks....skipped breakfast...drank too much was a recipe for any number of health problems. I said that I didn't care but I really did. I had put on over 80 pounds since Brennis and I had started the gallery and I weighed more than I had ever weighed in my life. I was embarrassed, tired, depressed and ashamed....but I also had no idea how to stop traveling the path that I was on.

I've been asked a lot what made me stick with my weight loss plan this time as opposed to the dozens of times I had started before. The answer.....I don't really know. Partly it was because I found something that really worked for my lifestyle and partly it was because I really understood that if I had just kept up with my previous efforts to lose weight I would have already lost most of it. You know that saying "Think about how good you would look if you had started this a year ago"? Well I had started a year ago, two years ago, six months ago, yesterday.....but I had allowed small failures to derail all of my forward progress. In the end that just seemed stupid to me.

I want to say for the record....not everyone who is overweight has a problem with it. For some people having a little extra weight is something they are comfortable with and they love their bodies and are comfortable with who they are. I honestly admire those people because I think there is everything to be gained by having great self esteem and a positive attitude about yourself. I am not one of those people.....not because I think being overweight is terrible....I just don't feel comfortable and I don't feel "well". I also didn't gain weight by gorging on oatmeal and lettuce. I gained weight because I was feeding my body too much junk.

So the adventure began with walking every day. It was that simple. I just did up a half hour early and walked. I hated the thought of it most mornings but when I was out there doing it I really enjoyed it. I allowed myself to really FEEL the joy I was experiencing while I was walking so I could remember it the next time I had to force myself to get up early. That seemed to work. As soon as my brain tried to talk me out of getting out of bed my heart reminded me about how much fun it really was when I just got my butt out the door.

While exercise is part of the solution I knew that I would have to also change the way I ate. I had no idea how to do that. Not that I hadn't tried a billion times before...I just wanted to be smart this time. So at first I changed nothing about my diet. I just observed myself (I would have journaled but I knew that I wouldn't have followed through with it). I really payed attention to what I was eating, when I ate, what seemed to trigger me to over eat and what made my body feel good or bad. I did this for about two weeks. I didn't particularly think about changing my eating habits but the simple process of paying more attention to what I was putting into my mouth made me think twice (or three times) about it over time. At the end of two weeks I had a really good idea about what foods I really enjoyed because they made me feel good and what foods I just ate because they were either convenient or because they tasted good.

With this information I was able to come up with an eating plan that worked for me. I stayed away from sugars and salty snacks because those were my triggers and tried to eat more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and unprocessed foods with mystery ingredients. Over time, still paying attention to my food and my body, I revised these eating habits and fine tuned my program.

Now I feel better than I have my whole life. I honestly can say I eat what I want and I never deny myself something I really want if I have a craving. I just don't let myself view occasional small setbacks as major failures.

Developing your own eating plan will take time and a great deal of trial and error. It's all about paying attention to what makes you feel good, what makes you feel bad, and what causes you to eat poorly. Once you have a handle on these three things you can figure out the best way for you to lose weight. Everyone is different which is why most "diets" don't work. If you think of food as fuel rather than a "treat" you will begin to make smarter choices.

So the big less...exercise more. If only we had known.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Chunky Vegetable Pasta Sauce

Chunky Vegetable Pasta Sauce

I'll be honest....I really didn't really care for vegetables before I started eating less meat. Actually, I'm not sure if I didn't like them or if it was just that I would generally choose something unhealthy OVER something healthy. It's hard to get in the mood for a zuccini after you've eaten a half a bag of Doritos and a pint of Ben & Jerry's.

Now I am finding lots of new ways to use more vegetables in my recipes....sometimes in interesting new ways. Feel free to use whatever vegetables you like in this recipe and omit any that you don't. Play around with it but keep in mind that some vegetables take a whole lot longer to cook than others so plan accordingly. Finding a good, healthy canned tomato sauce is also key. You'll go through this sauce so fast you'll probably have lots of opportunities to experiment with different sauces!

1 Large Onion, chopped
3 Medium Carrots, diced
1 Green Pepper, diced
1 Yellow Pepper, diced
2 Medium Zuccini, chopped in large chunks
8 oz Mushrooms, sliced
6 Roma Tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/2 can black olives (low sodium is great) halved
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 Tbsp Fresh Basil
1 tsp Dried Oregano
2 Tbsp Olive Oil (if desired)
1 29 Oz can Tomato Sauce

Start by sauteing the vegetables. You can heat olive oil over medium heat or....for fat free "steaming" saute the vegetables in water or a little vegetable broth. Just keep adding enough liquid to keep things from drying out. I've made this both ways and they are both delicious.

I saute the onion and carrots first for a couple of minutes and then add the peppers and sautee for a couple of minutes more. Then add the zuccini and garlic and saute until the vegetables just start to get a little soft (a couple of minutes more). Now add the mushrooms, tomatos, black olives basil and oregano and stir everything together and saute for a few more minutes. At the end add the can of tomato sauce and reduce heat to simmer and let the sauce simmer for about 30 minutes.

I serve this over whole wheat pasta and freeze some for other uses. Experiement by chopping your vegetables in different sizes. The different textures are interesting in your mouth and you won't even miss the meat in this sauce.

You'll notice I don't add salt to my recipes. Please feel free to add salt to taste if you wish. For cooking at home where we are really watching our sodium intake I will salt the food afterward if I really need it but I have found that I need salt less and less.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

How did this happen? Oh, yeah....that's right.

It happens slowly. One day you’re twenty years old and you have the whole universe before you with arms open wide and suddenly you are at a place in your life where everything stops. Everything. Just. Stops.

It doesn’t really matter how it happens and you won’t ever know when it will happen but I guarantee you it will. It’s not as subtle as a mid-life crisis and it takes many forms. It’s the day you consciously have to decide for yourself and for the people you love if you have the strength to go on and (if you do) how you are going to go about doing it.

For me it happened one Summer Saturday morning at work when my partner of 20 years had a heart attack. I will undoubtedly tell the whole story in more detail sometime but for my purpose here it’s about that moment. For me it was in the emergency room when the doctor came in to give us the results of Brennis’ EKG. The results were not yet final but the doctor began to discuss the different possibilities and the different options for treatment. As soon as he uttered the words “Heart Attack” my world stopped. I could consciously feel every part of my brain slowly tuning out of all unnecessary peripheral stimulation as I focued entirely on the possibility that Brennis had had a heart attack and what that would mean.

In an instant I processed every possibility, rational and irrational, for the particular set of circumstances in which we found ourselves. I took in the information that the doctor was giving me without listening to him. I was present in my own life like I had never been before (or since). For the first time in my life I was able to see the truth of what was important and to know within my soul that what I was living through was something that I was meant to live through and that I was precisely where I was supposed to be at that moment in time. I could feel my very soul present in my life as though it were guiding me through this moment. It calmed me and allowed me to sit quietly and not run out of the room screaming and crying.

So the question is now almost a year later what do I do with that moment and all of the moments since then and all of the lessons I have learned and still learn. Why did I experience this thing the way I did and what am I supposed to do with it. I hope we will find out together. I felt it was too important not to share.