Thursday, January 28, 2010

Need for Change (Part 1)

A few weeks ago I decided that I need to make a few health-conscious changes in my life. Not only do I  badly need to lose weight, but I'd like to take some measures to protect my health for the longer term.  This stuff is hard for me to talk about, because I've experienced so much failure in this regard; and I hate putting myself 'out there' only to risk failure again.  But...I am really trying for a level of authenticity in how I deal with things (and what I write on my blog), so I thought I'd share this stuff with you: my friends, supporters, and anyone else out there who wants to read this.  If I fail yet again, I'll need you to help me pull myself back to my feet, ok?

I'm always quick to run myself down when it comes to my weight, in particular when my effort at changing something has been short-lived and I've given up on it.  I have failed at this stuff so many times.  Been there, done that, bought about a thousand t-shirts.  Over the years, as the failures have accumulated, I've become tougher and tougher on myself - berating myself and thinking horrid things about myself...which, I know, I know, isn't rational brain knows that, it's the other part I have to learn to manage.

So I want to try something a bit different.  I am hoping that I've finally figured myself out at least enough to know that the changes I need to make need to be gradual and, perhaps, introduced one at a time - rather than going hog wild with some crazy scheme of implementing ten changes at once, only to fail at all of them.  Don't they say that it takes about twenty-one days to incorporate a new behaviour into becoming a habit??  So maybe I need to introduce one change every three or four weeks, to allow the prior change to take root before starting something new.  I also want to learn how to be a bit more gentle with myself (you have no idea the amount of self-talk that goes on in my head...or can you relate??), because I think it's time...and because all of the self-directed negativity hasn't helped anyway.

In keeping with trying to be a bit more gentle with myself, I thought that perhaps I should make a list of things that I am already doing that are a great start in the direction of healthy living.  Believe me, please, when I tell you that I'm not looking for any commendation by making this list; nor am I looking to congratulate myself on this stuff.  I merely want to take stock on what's working well in the general direction of health, so that I can then look at what's not working in a more balanced fashion.

So here's what I've come up with - this is what I'm currently doing well:
  • I don't use a lot of processed foods.  Virtually every meal I make is from scratch.  Not to say we don't ever eat junk or go out for restaurant meals (we do both), but I usually cook and, when I cook, the meals are virtually always made from the ground up.  So one thing I don't have to do a whole lot about is reducing a lot of processed foods from the house - we're already in pretty decent shape.  I'm not a great or a fancy cook, but I'm decent at it.
  • The bread we eat is always whole grain...except when we're craving a nice crunchy french loaf to go with some delish soup I've made.  
  • Most of the meat I buy is grass fed and organic (no hormones, no antibiotics, no vaccines, etc).  All of the beef we eat is purchased from a local, organic beef farmer.  In addition, as of 2009, all of our whole roaster chickens are organic as well, from a local farmer.  In fact, last spring, I did a lot of research into chickens and discovered that, even better than free range chickens are pastured chickens.  Let me explain the difference.  Most people (or at least, this described me) envision free range chickens to be in some sort of large enclosure where they have lots of space to roam about in - probably outside.  Well, did you know that in order to qualify as a free range chicken, a chicken barn merely has to have one open door at the end of the barn...through which any of the thousands and thousands of chickens are technically free to walk over the other ten thousand chickens in the barn and into a fenced yard?  Unfortunately, most of the chickens never actually see the light of day because they never make it to the barn door.  And yet, they are labelled 'free range.'  A definite step up are pastured chickens which, in this part of the country, are raised only in summer/fall because of winter weather conditions.  Pastured chickens are birds which are penned outside - there are a small number of chickens in each large coop; the pen is mesh on the sides and covered on top to prevent predators from getting in.  There is lots of room for the chickens to move about without interfering with each other. The chickens eat the grass beneath their feet, as well as the insects that live within or under the grass; the pen (on wheels) is moved throughout the day to provide the chickens with fresh grass, etc.. In other words, pastured chickens are chickens that are raised and fed the old fashioned way.  In addition, pastured chickens are not given antibiotics, steroids, hormones or any other medications - if they become ill, they are treated with medicine, but then moved out of the pastured chicken grouping and into the commercially-graded chicken group.  The ten, hand-raised, 8.5-10 pound pastured chickens that were delivered fresh (not even frozen yet) to us last fall (I ordered enough to feed us chicken for most/all of the year) are amazing in depth of flavour and so good for us.  This is something I'm really glad we're doing.
  • We already eat decent amounts of fruits and veggies - we could do better (and we will be!) but we're certainly not starting at the beginning.  I'll merely need to enhance this area going forwards.
  • I drink very little alcohol.  It's not a habit I've ever really picked up - in fact, I'm shockingly ignorant about wines and various alcoholic concoctions.  I sometimes enjoy a glass of wine when out with my 'Fab 4' group of friends, and I might have a special kind of drink for a special occasion, but that's pretty much it.
  • Despite having had a coke to drink last Sunday, I actually drink very little pop and not much juice either.  Same goes for Matthew.
  • During our trip to California, I started to drink green tea on a regular basis, and have finally acquired the taste for it - is is now something that I look forward to every day.  For those of you who are also green tea drinkers, did you know that Japanese green tea has 60% more antioxidant power than Chinese green tea (who knew)??  One of my favourites comes from Superstore - a lovely, mild, inexpensive, loose-leaf Japanese green tea - but there are many delicious varieties out there, including a wonderfully nutty green tea I tried at a friend's house last week.
  • A number of months ago, I began to replace some of the added sugar that I consume with something called agave nectar.  Agave nectar is a natural (generally organic, as well), liquid, plant-based sweetener that is actually sweeter in taste than sugar; it has a much lower glycemic index than sugar.  One can use it in baking as well, though I haven't tried this yet (my sister has, with success).  I'm now using agave nectar where I need to add a bit of 'sugar' - for example, on top of oatmeal, or in certain green teas that I find need a bit of something sweet in it.  I'll be experimenting more with this in the coming months.
  • I've resumed meal planning in recent months.  I did it for years and years, then dropped off in the past couple of years; I went back to it in fall.  In fact, about two weeks ago, I tried something for the first time ever - I created a three week meal plan, and did most of the shopping for it (recognizing that I'd need to make a couple of trips during the three weeks to supply the produce and dairy supplies for the second and third weeks).  We're two weeks into our three-week plan and it's worked really well so far - but I'll post more about it on a different day.
So there you have list of what I'm already doing well.  I'm glad I just did that - I didn't realize until I actually listed it all out that there really are some good and healthy choices I'm already living. That felt good!

Sigh...but then there's the upcoming list of things I need to work on.  Clearly there some problems in some of the choices I make in my life...critical things that I need to change.  I'm not looking forward to Part 2 of this post...likely coming tomorrow!

P.S.  Sorry for the long post.


    1. Good list! I keep talking about going organic/humane with my meat, and just haven't actually taken the step yet. Another thing we've talked about is trying to think ahead when we go out to run errands, etc., because we often end up getting fast food since we are so HUNGRY before going home...need to pack a small cooler of home-made sandwiches and things to help with that (since we do have good stuff in the house). Maybe your posts will be a bit of a motivator for me, too! Still trying to decide how to tackle both the eating and the exercise hard.

    2. Hi Ruth ,
      Love the long post !
      Actually I have loved all this weeks, just the comments I had did not seam to be able to condense down in size. SO I have been having chats with you although they have stayed in my mind.

      I am ready to join this "changes" party with you.
      I have a good 30 pounds to lose and for the last couple of years have accepted that way I am , but am ready for the change this time.

      I have been feeling really different about it. It is actually exciting vs something I have to do,

      It is also the reality that I will get a referral one day,
      The pictures will stay in my life for ever, I also feel a ton a pressure to be healthy, being single it all falls back to me.

      SO glad you started a new conversation.

      Look forward to sharing this part of the journey as well as the adoption stuff.

      I actually look forward to your hard list, as I am also going to look at what I am not doing so well as at tonight.

    3. Wow - thank you, Joy & Shannon. What lovely, supportive comments - and I love that you're thinking of these kinds of things too. I'll look forward to having these conversations with you and to picking your brains, too.

      Yeah, Joy, the whole cooler-in-the-car thing is a big one for us, too, and will appear on my part 2 list, I'm sure. Organization is not my strength but it's not much excuse for not getting things ready a little in advance of when we need to leave the house.

      OK, I'm going to stew on Part 2 of my list while Matthew has his 'quiet' time.

      Thanks again.


    4. Ruth,
      I love your post! I have struggled with my weight my whole life. I recently joined the YMCA and am trying to go regularly. I grow up in a family where exercise was never ever done. So it's a bit foreign to me. I have had issues about my body for years, but in recent years have changed my mindset. I am of the opinion that if you don't like me for what I look like, than I didn't need you in my life. I still believe that, but I think that, that has been my excuse for too many years, to not do anything about it. And seeing that Sheldon and I are adopting, (at some point) I want to be able to play with my kids and not have to sit back and just watch, because I'm not fit enough. I also want to do it for me. I have always been heavy. But I forget that I am and walk past a mirror or see myself in photos etc., and am surprised at how big I am.

      So I said all that to say that I am trying to loose weight also. -Hilary

    5. Thanks for the comment Hilary. I can relate to the no-exercise thing growing up - it was determinedly not part of our lives.
      Good for you on joining the Y - I've been wondering what it's like there, now that renovations are done.

      You look terrific to me! But I fully appreciate the desire to do something for yourself and to not want to be sitting back on the sidelines watching.

      So...maybe we'll end up motivating each other!


    6. Okay, wow, Ruth. You are a posting machine - I can't keep up with you! (;
      Regarding this post, lots of good stuff! I especially liked the tidbits about agave nectar and Japanese green tea. I too, am perpetually trying to lose weight and eat better (sadly, in that order). One book that has been a help to me, at least for planning purposes (insert shoulder shrug here 'cuz I'm still working at it) is: The Beck Diet Solution by Judith S. Beck, PhD. She really helps to address the pitfalls re: "a failure to plan is a plan to fail" scenario.
      Anyhoo, good luck!

    7. Hey Kristina -
      Thanks for the book recommendation - I'll look it up online and take a look.
      Re: being a posting machine - I'm still somewhat new to this (six months) so it may be a novelty, I'm not sure. Plus, I love writing, and I'm an I spend regular time at night drafting things.
      Well, let's keep trying on the health stuff together!


    8. Sounds like you are off to a good start with the healthy thing. I had big plans for 2010 in this regard, eat less junk, lost those pesky 10 pounds or so that I have gained since Ethiopia, exercise more - by exercise more, I mean exercise at all, but alas, with some of my new stresses, I am allowing myself time to well, eat and be lazy (as lazy as one can be with seven children!) but maybe reading of your progress will inspire me to give it a shot.

    9. i agree with dearheart! i can't keepup, bu ti 'm loveing reading when i can. :) ths is a great list! :)