Food, glorious (and problematic) food

I wrote in previous posts about my issues with food and weight, and here’s an update. I’ve gone back to the pattern that works for me: when I’m not socialising I eat 3 meals a day, with not much alcohol and as little refined carbohydrate and sugar as possible. If I’m too hungry in between meals I have fruit. I probably average about 1000-1200 calories, though I don’t count. When I’m out or eating with friends I enjoy myself – I still try to make reasonably healthy choices but won’t deprive myself – if I want chips, I have them! The rule on pudding is to have one if it’s something I really fancy, but not if there’s nothing that really appeals strongly. At the cinema to see an opera relay  last night, for example, I enjoyed a glass of red wine before the film and then a luscious tiramisu ice cream in the intermission. Those treats make it much easier to persevere with healthy choices day to day.

I’m also aiming to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, taking a wide view of what counts as exercise. Sometimes I go to the gym, sometimes I may have an errand to do that’s a 15 minute walk away, some days I’ll be cleaning the house or gardening.

As to what I eat. I’m not a scientist, my only study of nutrition has been via popular books and TV programmes. So the conclusions I’ve come to are completely personal ones. I do believe that we all have bodies that work slightly differently, and what suits one won’t work for someone else. So several friends have had a lot of success with the 5:2 diet, but fasting makes me irritable and confused, and so hungry that it overwhelms everything else. Others have cut out carbs, but my IBS reacts very badly to that.

It’s every cliché – in the end, I do best eating moderate amounts of a wide variety of real food. I think the rule “Don’t eat anything that your grandmother wouldn’t recognise as food” is an excellent one, as it cuts  out all the processed and artitficial “foods” that the food industry inflicts on us.

I eat real bread from a small bakery, not mass-produced bread -that definitely helps my digestion. I can’t drink cow’s milk or soya milk any more, but cheese is OK, so I have that for calcium, and don’t worry too much about the fat. I’ve been upping my protein a bit, especially at breakfast time, as I think that keeps my blood sugar steadier, so may start the day with egg, ham, houmous – whatever is around – or muesli with stewed fruit instead of milk and nuts for protein. Lunch will be a piece of bread, oatcakes or crispbread with some protein and salad and my main meal in the evening varies considerably, from meat and veg to pasta (wholewheat) to bean stew to quiche…. Again, lots of variety, as if I’m trying to eat less, I’ll struggle if I get bored.

I’m not counting calories as if I tell myself  that I’m “on a diet” I can get very obsessive and think of little else, which is tedious and probably makes it more likely that I’ll succumb to poor choices, because I’m thinking about food so much. The aim is to keep it very simple so that I don’t have to think about it more than necessary. Like most women, years of messing about with diets mean that I’ve got a pretty good idea of portion sizes and calorific content without having to do any elaborate counting

I’ve also given myself a long timeframe: I’m going to the US in May 2015 and would like to be well within the healthy range for my height by then, which means that 2lb weight loss per month is sufficient. I know that I need to make permanent changes to how I eat, and a quick-fix diet doesn’t change well-entrenched habits. It’s difficult, because I want to see quick results and it’s hard to be patient when nothing seems to be changing – I have to pick up a 2lb bag of sugar to remind me how significant that amount really is!

A huge challenge for me is emotional eating, the main cause of my becoming overweight. In the past couple of weeks I’ve been trying to stand back and observe those times when I’m desperate for sweet food or alcohol. It’s confirmed what I’d already spotted: when I’m feeling empty, deprived, inadequate, lonely, I try to literally fill myself up. A huge step forward was managing to say no to a sweet comforter and instead to focus on enjoying a cup of tea and an apple and then some time with a book.

I also suspect that in the winter SAD plays its part. My most successful dieting has always been between March and September, then everything slides. All this winter my cravings for cake, biscuits and similar were so strong that I couldn’t imagine how I was going to stop eating them. Now, as the days lengthen and I’m more energetic, it doesn’t seem to be such a problem. I think I may have to get a full daylight spectrum lamp for next winter and see if it makes a difference.

But this is just me. None of this might work for someone else: it has to be personal observation and decisions as to what’s realistic and possible, what are the non-negotiables (no way would I stop eating chocolate or good bread!), what fits with lifestyle, personality and  metabolism.

It feels risky to post this because I might fail to reach my target, but I’m hoping that I can continue to practice the awareness that  every time I eat, I’m making choices, sometimes good, sometimes knowingly not so good, and to move away from mindless eating for reasons other than nutrition and enjoyment.

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