Thursday, February 2, 2012

I chose my path

I have always been the girl in the middle. I was doing fairly well in school without much effort, so I got along well with the nerd crowd, but I was also on several sports teams, so I was close to the "sporty crowd", add to that that I was always game for a party, there comes a third crowd. In my family I'm the only girl, and in the middle. I guess "middle" is my middle name... HA! This year I've sort of had a "middle phase" in my whole chosen lifestyle that culminated to a realization that I had actually made a choice, which I wasn't quite sure I had made. Weird huh? Let see if I can explain.

Never too sick to brag!
Last week I won a give away from a blog called the "Post Punk Kitchen", hosted by Isa Chandra Moskowitz (see disclaimer at the bottom of this post). I'm a huge fan of the PPK blog which focus on vegan cooking (and living). I don't eat a lot of red meat, and really, these days most of my meals are vegan. It's cheaper, healthier and faster because I don't have to remember to thaw out anything. However, I am not vegan. I do not pretend to be Vegan, and my interest in vegan cookbooks (I have a lot of them) and blogs are simply an add on to my omnivore diet. For that reason, when I won the give away, I felt very self conscious for a few days. I was sure somebody was going to chime in and say "I've read that chick's blogs, she is NOT vegan". That never happened (that I know of) and nowhere was it stated that you had to be vegan to participate in the giveaway. Yet... Why was I so self conscious?

I think that really, this is all coming from where I am now in my own chosen lifestyle. Since last summer I have played with the idea of becoming vegan, but something kept stopping me. I am getting more and more educated about food, how it's prepared, where it's coming from and its impact on people's health. The way livestock is handled on the mega farms is truly terrifying. In many cases sanitation is found only in the dictionary, hormones and antibiotics are common in the feed and water and really it is ridiculous to think that the many unsavory  practices of animal production can have no impact on the health of those who consume the meat and other animal products. Trying to navigate the information, misinformation, propaganda and overt drama of the whole issue is extremely difficult for the common human being. I do not have a PhD in agriculture and though I believe myself to be intelligent, I often find myself more scared and confused than enlightened. What am I eating really?

Even if one manages to eat antibiotic and hormone free animal products which is being fed actual decent food, there is also the question of how the animals are treated. I do not humanize animals, but I believe that they should be treated in a humane manner. They are not humans, but they are not "things" either.

The red building is a neighbor's house. That's how small my father's "farm" is.
I grew up eating meat, chicken, eggs, drinking milk and even eating rabbit every now and then. You see my father, a retired French teacher, fancies himself a "gentleman farmer". Ever since he bought the house I grew up in, he maintained a little tiny farm. The meat, eggs, milk, chicken and even the occasional rabbit came from our own backyard. My father's farm was tiny: 2-3 cows, all of which had names and really were more "pets" than "livestock"; 5-6 chickens, usually a bunch of hens, and 1 rooster (I'll never forget that dumb rooster which would get all huffy and puffy at us, and then charge straight into a wall, dumbest thing I've ever saw!) which would run free all day and sleep inside at night; a few rabbits, we'd play with the babies; and a bunch of barn cats. My idea of a farm has always been very idyllic because that's what I grew up with. We treated the animals well, we were never permitted to do anything to hurt them or stress them too much, and when it was time to fill the freezer, my dad always made sure that the killing was done as humanely as possible. He never did it himself, he actually always made a point to leave so he didn't have to watch. I also remember that the first few meals after we had a bull or a cow put down were always subdued. I got from those lessons from my childhood a respect for the food I eat, for the animals and plants that gave their life so that I could be nourished, the same way an animal in the wild becomes food for another.

Now my problem is that my dad's farm is on a tiny island in East Canada and I'm in San Francisco California. Not only shipping would be a fortune, but there's customs in the way. Boy do I miss my college days. Somebody from my family would stop by Rimouski on their way to Montreal or Quebec and drop a box of meat prepared for me by my parents. A whole semester worth of "organic" totally pasture raised meat!" Really, that's all I knew. I couldn't afford to buy meat!

Unfortunately, that is not happening now. If I want animal products, I have to buy them.The question becomes: Do you ever really know what you are eating? Now, I'm going from what I know from my father's way of raising animals to watching things like Food inc. (and other such documentaries). After that try to understand how we can be called "murderers" (I come from a community of seal hunters) for eating seal meat  from an animal that has spent it's entire life out on the ice in the wild, by an idiot who's downing hormones and antibiotic loaded burgers made from the leftovers of a cow that spent it's life in a crate standing in (and eating) feces. Really? How can one justify eating such meat? How can I?

That's where I was last summer, and that's when the option of becoming vegan started to look very inviting. I already had a great repertoire of vegan recipes and resources, but was I ready to take the plunge? At first I took the position that my husband would never go for it. "I" was ready to make the change, but he wasn't. I could not impose my choice on him. I realize now how much that was really a cop out. If I really wanted to be vegan, my husband would support and respect my choice I know it. The reality is that despite the fact that I truly enjoy and am satisfied by vegan meals, I am not willing to make such a commitment. To "me" it is imposing an unnecessary restriction on myself. I am the type of person for whom setting absolutes is just setting myself up for failure. Yes, I know that many people live as vegan and do not feel restricted. Good for them! I know that it wouldn't work for me.

I have learned a lot in the last few years and am certainly not in any way "looking down" at the vegan crowd. Their determination and the strength of their convictions have forced me, and many others, to take a second look at what I eat and where it comes from. I do not share all of their beliefs, neither are their choices necessarily my choices, but I understand now that I need to be careful in the choices that I make every day and how those choices have an impact on my health, on the planet, on how animals are treated.  I feel like my eyes have been opened and that now I can look around, educate myself and make better choices every day. I am in the process of going from "organic" to pasture raised products as much as possible. I am certainly not perfect. Little by little I think I am making a little bit of a difference, it cost me a little more money-wise, it takes a little more research and traveling to get the products I choose to eat, but I think it is worth the effort.

I am not vegan because I don't feel like I have to be. I don't have a problem eating meat, I don't like the idea of killing, but I see it as a natural process of nature. Still I think animals deserve to be treated humanely and with respect. I really don't believe that one exclude the other, it's not all or nothing. I think we all in our own little way can make better choices, little changes that lead to a better world... one meal at a time.

Be good n stuff!

Disclaimer: I do not in any way want to imply that Isa Chandra Moskowitz agrees with me, share my view (she doesn't), or even care about what I think. I'm a fan of her work, and I think she's a great example of someone who put herself out there as an example without being "preachy" or condescending and because of that I have learned a lot from her.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

All in a meeting

A little while ago, I emailed a friend to ask her if she would mind me showing up as her member. You see, I am a Weight Watchers leader, and as everybody who works in the field at Weight Watchers, I'm also a member. I have always gone to meetings, until I became the assistant of the boss in my territory. Suddenly, I felt like everybody walked on eggshell around me. It's probably mostly in my head, but it's hard to feel at ease and welcome when you feel like people are wary of your being there. I do not hold that position anymore, so I thought it was time to get over it and get back in a meeting.

Fast forward to last week, I emailed my friend and she seemed to have no problem with it. There are those people with whom you instantly feel at ease and she is such a person.  I knew that she would be able to tell me anything that needs to be said. So after sleeping in the first week, I finally showed up this week. I felt so welcome when I came in! I knew a lot of the members already and everybody welcomed me with open arms. It was like coming home. 

I knew the topic of course, I presented it twice this week myself, but the discussion really helped me a lot. The funny thing is that it's not anything I hadn't heard before. Most, if not all, of what was discussed came up in my own meeting. This time instead of thinking "how can I use this to help the members", I was thinking "how does this relate to me? To what I am doing?". Two things really stuck with me: 

1- A fellow member decided to try circus training! There's a school here in the city, and really, I am seriously thinking about it! I did some gymnastic in high school and really enjoyed it. I am less flexible now, obviously, but I am stronger than I was back then. Who knows? I'm seriously thinking about it!

2- Another member talked about how she looks back to her old tracker for inspiration. Now that at first brought a "Not working for me" in my mind. 

You see, when I started this journey of building a better lifestyle for myself, I didn't know how to cook, I didn't know much about activity even if I had been very active.  I had always relied on coaches, trainers, and friends to put together a routine. I knew nothing much of nutrition either (that's an understatement!). Now after years of reading and educating myself I know more than the average person about both food and activity. My choices are educated, my portions are righteous and my workouts are carefully crafted. There is no way what I did before would work better than what I'm doing now.

Well, the flaw here is that back then I was thinner than I am now. That sorts of throws a wrench in my whole line of thinking doesn't it? Not only that, but I had fun then! I felt strong, powerful, motivated! Now I feel stressed, pressured, every choice, every workout, every meal is a big deal. 

It's sort of part two of my whole idea of focusing on the goals, not on the process I started in my first post of 2012: Here we are finally! The idea that maybe I shouldn't over think this. That I should keep things simple and set meaningful goals and take the steps needed to achieve them. No more, no less. 

You don't need a PhD in electrical engineering to turn on a light switch... you don't need a baseball bat either.

Over thinking things leads to paralysis. you spend so much time thinking and studying that you forget to do what you need to do to make things work. In the same line of idea, being active doesn't mean Olympic level training.

What did I do in my early years as a member that I really truly enjoyed? 

I made a lot of Shrimp and veggies lunches. I would grab shrimps at the store (or scallops) and veggies and sauteed the whole thing in a pan with whatever veggies I had around and whatever spices I could find. It was simple, quick and delicious! So when I left the meeting I stopped by whole foods, grabbed shrimps, 2 color of kale and garlic and brought that home and made a delicious, if simple, lunch for myself! It took minutes, literally, and I was completely satisfied. Who would have thought?

I did my 30 minutes of high intensity cardio on the elliptical 6 days/week every week. That was the base line of my activity, everything else was extra. On good weeks I'd add a few classes, weight training, walking a lot and on bad weeks I'd do 30 minutes 6 days/week. So Friday, I REALLY didn't feel like doing anything, still I went in and did my 30 minutes of cardio and that's all I really did. You know what? That's enough!

After my super lunch, and my late afternoon work out I felt motivated, righteous, I had done what I set out to do, and I didn't hurt myself or wear myself out in the process. All this because I had heard it at the meeting. It's not like I had never heard it before, it's because I thought about what I heard in terms of "this is for the members" forgetting that I am a member myself.

Mustering the courage to walk through those doors, and admit that you don't have all the answers, that you need help, that you need somebody to smile and say "Hey!! I'm so glad you came!"  can seem daunting. 

"I don't need a meeting, this is ridiculous, I don't need help, I can deal with this by myself". 

I don't know, what's more ridiculous really? To show up for a meeting and get the help, the support, the motivation (and accountability! HA!) that you need? or to stand alone in pride, feeling the ground slipping from under you? 

I made my choice, finally!

Be good n stuff!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Lame or victorious?

January started GREAT! Sunday we did a long walk, I ate right, avoided temptation, a perfect first day! Monday I was up at 5:15, hit the gym, did Cardio like I had planned to, ate great! I'm on baby!

Then Tuesday I wake up at 5am and can't go back to sleep. Ok, when I up my activity routine, I have a hard  time sleeping at first. That's me, I know it, no worries. We hit the laundromat and while the clothes are washing, we have breakfast at a nearby cafe. Only, I'm sleepy (and grumpy) and instead of my usual hard boiled egg with a banana, I have a hard boiled egg with a bagel. Oooffaah, 11 P+ instead of 2... That's ok, we go for a 30 minutes walk while the clothes are drying, I'll hit the gym later, handled. The rest of the day goes rather well, I have a light soup for lunch, and a killer work out that afternoon (really... YAY ME!).

Then I work an evening meeting. Because of the gym, I get there later, so I don't have time for dinner before the meeting. A latte will have to do. By the time the meeting is done, I'm starving, my brain is just not functionning anymore. My poor coworker had to stand around while I dug for my phone, which was in my pocket. That's the kind of mindset (or lack of) I was in when I stopped by Molly Stone to grab dinner. I bought a small-ish miche of sourdough bread to make a sandwich with the leftover chicken I knew was in the fridge, thinking I would use the leftovers bread for dinner Wednesday night as we're always coming in late and hungry. HA!

Well, I DID manage to give my husband 1 slice of the bread, a thin one, but still... I weighed the bread I used, and the chicken, but when I got to the living room to eat, I decided not to track it because I did not want to know how many P+ I was scarfing down. I was tired, disgusted with myself, and frankly I had a big attack of "I don't give a falala!". After that I ate an English muffin with Canadian bacon, and WW BBQ pop chips not tracking any of it. It was not a glorious night.

It's dirty cause it's being used, so there!
This morning I slept in until well past 6, got up, decided not to hit the gym early, but go to Stonestown later today (I will!) but as I sat down trying to think up breakfast, my first thought was "With everything I had last night, doesn't really matter what I do this morning". Wait wait wait! January 4th and already I'm ready to throw the towel?????????? OH HELL NO!

So I sat down and tracked everything I ate yesterday after lunch (when I had stopped tracking) and counted the P+ for all of it. My day ended up at minus 24 P+, I ate almost double my target of 26 P+. Panic moment ensued, but then a light bulb flashed in my head: "Wait! I worked out yesterday!" so I calculated that, and I earned a total of 9 AP+ so I was down to minus 15! "Ooooooooooooooooh! I have 16 unused AP+ from my activity on Sunday and Monday!" That huge cleaning spree was useful in more than one way! So actually, I even ended the day with 1 AP+ leftover AND all of my WP+A for the rest of the week!

Actually I found an extra 2AP+ I had forgotten so these numbers are off by 2!
So it all works? Or am I fooling myself? Am I really a lame failure for having a miche of bread? Really? Or am I victorious for overcoming this cruel mind game I seem to be really good at playing on myself? Two things: "You don't get activity Points (+) for beating yourself up", and "Food is not a moral Issue". The two are close, but not the same. Beating myself up accomplishes nothing positive. The harder I am on myself, the  more obsessive I become, until I break and quit. It hurts much more than it helps. "Food is not a moral issue" ties to the fact that my value as a human being is not attached to what I eat. I'm not a "bad person" because I had a carb attack. It's not a reflection of my value but rather a lesson to be learned. If I start my day with a bagel, it will end with a miche. That's all there is to it.

Words to live by... not always easy!
Anti-climatic isn't it? It's sort of going from this big dramatic issue of "I had a good start and I screwed it up entirely, FML!" to "alright skippy, next time you have breakfast at Royal Ground, skip the bagel, it leads to trouble... oh and by the way, have a snack before an evening meeting cause you lose you control (thankfully not your memory) when you get too hungry". Now I feel like an idiot having made such a big deal of something so insignificant. 

Or was it really? Weight management is, in a huge part, a mind game. The challenge isn't the food itself I have never in my life been mugged by a muffin, the challenge is understanding what gets us to over eat, what keeps us from achieving our goals, and finding strategies to beat those challenges. My Mom will laugh if she ever reads this (and understand it) but a big part of my challenge is that I am really a perfectionist. I never ever feel like what I'm doing is good enough. Any side step becomes this huge issue of "There you go, I screwed up again! I knew there was no point in trying so hard, because I always find a way to make things fall apart." I made goal in May 2003, almost 9 years ago. I've been at a healthy weight since May 2003, almost 9 years ago. You'd think I'd have the mind games figured out. Nope, I have good phases, actually I have more good phases than I have bad phases now, but I still have those bad habits, those "bad tapes" that play in my head and threaten to throw away my achievements.

I have a weapon now though. I have learned that tracking keeps those mind games in check. If I write what I'm doing, how I feel, my plans, my discoveries, then I have a record that can show me: Nope, you didn't really screw up. You might have side-stepped here and there, you might have accidentally eaten a whole miche of bread, but overall you are actually doing pretty darnedly good!

Tracking isn't only a good mind game buster. It's a good reality check, and a map to success. I have a record that can tell me: Woah! slow down there chick! Your jeans aren't gonna like you anymore if you keep on swallowing them brownies! I have a detailed record of what I did when I was really successful. Summer of 2004 we did a lot of BBQs, we had a lot of fun, and I lost weight... Let's see how I did that. I also have a record of Summer 2011 I went home and came back 8 lbs heavier. WTH happened? Oh, next time I go NO NUTELLA!

May 5th 2012 I will have been at goal for 9 years. for over 9 years now I've followed the Weight Watchers program in one form or another. I have not always tracked Points or PointsPlus values, but I have always tracked... because it works.

I will not have my goals put on the side by a miche of bread or a bagel. I'm armed* and successful!

Be good n stuff!


  • WP+A: Weekly PointsPlus Allowance
  • AP+: Activity PointsPlus
  • P+: PointsPlus value (of a food)

*Armed with a tracker!! This girl doesn't believe in guns!