Monday, August 31, 2009

All's Fair in Love and Food Choices

I discovered this week that eating healthy on a fairground is not as simple as I had otherwise thought. Shawn and I hit the CNE on Friday night, a yearly tradition that neither of us was willing to give up. Despite The Food Building being one of the biggest you'll ever encounter, the healthy food options are few and far between.

Now, if you want a Beaver Tail, you're totally in luck (though you will have to brave the line to get one), but if you're eating clean you'll have to really scramble. So we made the evening a cheat day, though neither of us felt the urge to get too out of control. We had a chicken shawarma (chock full of veggies, if nothing else) and then split the smallest ice cream we could find. I felt very full.

We were back to eating properly the next morning and I don't think either of us regret the splurge, but I know I'll be hitting the gym extra hard today.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Clean Eating

On a recent trip to Costco I picked up an issue of Clean Eating magazine. I’d never heard of it, but the recipes looked good and I thought we’d give it a try. It turned out to be a great read and it helped me with the realization that, more than just giving up sugar, my new diet is about embracing the idea of clean eating.

Since implementing this new way of eating, I’ve become so much more conscious of what goes into the food we put into our bodies. I read labels now. I mean, really read them. Before, I would check the calories and fat, maybe the sodium, and toss it into the cart if it didn’t look too bad. I loved anything classified as a 100 Calorie snack and happily noshed on whatever whenever without too much thought beyond calories and fat.

These days I have more fun in the produce section than anywhere else in the grocery store, filling our cart with fresh fruit and veggies. We have cut way down on processed foods and we spend a lot longer looking over the nutritional stats on any product that we are considering buying. Shawn has always been really interested in healthy eating, but together we are becoming and even stronger team. We have started putting things back on the shelf if the ingredient list is too long and if it’s full of things we can’t pronounce.

So with all this in mind, Clean Eating is a great addition to our reading list. There are lots of recipes full of fresh, natural ingredients – including desserts with no refined sugars or artificial sweeteners! I can’t wait to try the sweet potato brownies – I’ll post a review when I make them.

One negative – we looked up subscribing and six issues would run us about $40/year because, even though the magazine is made in Canada , it does not offer the same discount in pricing to Canadians. A little weird, but I’m sure they have their reasons. For now we will just pick it up when we come across it in stores.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Shop 'Cause I Dropped

One of the unintentional benefits of my going (mostly) sugar free has been the transformation in my body. Now, cutting out sugar alone was not enough for me to go down two pant sizes – for that I have to give credit to joining a gym and actually going three days a week, in addition to changing my eating habits. I know, it’s like rocket science – eat well and exercise and suddenly you lose weight and gain muscle. Who knew?

But, in all honesty, this change was a little unexpected. I wanted to get healthy, I wanted to possibly fix my chronic stomach issues (still currently plaguing me) and I wanted to avoid long-term diseases down the road. I really had no desire to buy a new wardrobe. In fact, that’s the last thing I wanted.

Sure, I love to shop as much as the next girl, but shopping costs money and that’s not in great supply right now. It’s been getting harder and harder to avoid, though, and last week I finally had to give in and buy some new dress pants for the office. There’s nothing that says ‘efficient public relations professional’ quite like khaki pants that are drooping at the ass and barely staying up.

So I have two new pairs of office pants and five days in the work week. I’ve been getting by in dresses that are just a little baggy and the few outfits that sort of still fit, but a major shopping spree is in my future. I’m not sure how much my wallet will like the expedition, but at least I have a valid excuse these days.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sweet Dreams

I think my subconscious is trying to tell me something. I actually had dreams about candy and sweets last night. I was trying to find my chocolate bar - one of those fruit and nut filled confections that I don't actually even like that much in reality. I ended up at a store trying to buy one after watching a friend enjoy theirs in front of my ravenous self. At the store I was tempted by the Reese's Peanut Butter Cups (a real-life favourite), but instead chose a cranberry scone - then I woke up before I could eat it. Apparently my body can't even get dream satisfaction for its sugar cravings these days!

I'm sure it's just a byproduct of my recent fixations with food, but it made me smile when I woke up. Then Shawn sated my sweet tooth by making a healthier version of French toast using 16 grain low-sugar bread, a sprinkle of cinnamon and bananas with a drizzle of peanut butter instead of syrup. One slice and some scrambled egg whites (we split one yolk between the two of us) and I am more than over any dream cravings.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Coconut Cream Dream

I tried one of the Coconut Cream Pie Larabars today and was suitably impressed. I split it with Shawn, which I think was a good choice, since it's very sweet tasting. There's no refined sugar in the bar and it's MUCH better for you than a Bounty would have been, but it still tastes amazing. Sweet, chewy and decadent - especially for a 'healthy' food. It has 21g of sugar, which is more than I typically have these days, but it is all natural sugar. The only downside is that it has extra virgin coconut oil, which is high in fat. However, I believe it is a good fat. This goes on my list for an occasional treat that meets my new diet requirements. Yum.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Martini Madness

I gave into temptation tonight at a dinner out. What can I say, my downfall was the pear martini prominently displayed on the table card. Shawn actually encouraged this indulgence, as he did the ice cream - he sees the occasional treat as a perfect way to avoid a complete meltdown at some point.

I'm at the stage now where I could have gone without and not totally obsessed about it, but there was something so fantastic about giving in this time when it was something I really, really wanted. And, unlike the ice cream, this martini felt so, so worth it. I think it may have been the best martini I ever had. But instead of gulping it down and ordering another, like I would have in my sugar soaked life, I sipped it all through dinner. I have never had a martini last that long in my life - and every sweet sip was perfect.

A lot of the sugar-free diets advocate abstaining from alcohol. I've found that in life overall that's not bad advice. But I like a drink now and then. So far this month I've had whiskey with club soda twice, during social events. It's been a good lower sugar option for me. I don't think I'll be going back to drinking sugary sweet drinks on a regular basis (those were always my favourites), but it was nice to know that there are some sweet things that still taste better than ever.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Still Sweet

It’s been about a month now and I’m still sticking with my sugar free ways. I’m pleasantly surprised that I’ve managed this long, but I’m not going to knock it! I think part of my success is that I haven’t been as strict as some of the reading I’ve done suggests I should be. Maybe that lessens the impact of what I’ve achieved, but it has definitely helped me keep up with this lifestyle change without it feeling too much like the dreaded ‘diet’ that kept me unmotivated for so many years.

I have cut out deserts and sweets pretty much totally. I say pretty much because I did have a baby cup of my favourite ice cream during our recent cottage vacation. Shawn assured me that it wasn’t the worst thing in the world to indulge in a much loved treat now and then (and might keep him from coming home one night to find me passed out on the kitchen floor surrounded by candy wrappers). The ice cream was good, but it wasn’t the crazy, amazing good that I had thought before the sugar fast. I don’t feel all that compelled to have it on our next trip, which is a big change for me – usually I start plotting how soon we can get to the ice cream place the minute a cottage trip is planned.

And, while I’ve been much more conscious about reading labels and checking the sugar content in foods, I haven’t completely cut out any food with sugar in it. If the sugar content is low and sugar is far down the ingredients list I will sometimes still choose to eat that food. This has helped when Shawn isn’t home to cook and I have had to turn to a frozen Weight Watchers dinner or something similarly fast. It also means that I am not completely cut off from eating all of the foods that I love.

I worry that maybe by not fully committing to the process I’m still hurting my body, but I also want to make this change something I can really live with. So for now the occasional tablespoon of Kraft Peanut Butter still passes through these lips and even a teaspoon of my favourite homemade Dutch apple jam once in awhile too. And next week I’m meeting a friend at the Italian restaurant in the city that I love and I have already planned to indulge in the gnocci that I’ve been salivating for since sometime last year. I never wanted my food choices to rule my life and I’m hoping that this balance will keep that from happening.

Funnily enough, as I make better food choices overall I feel less inclined to make bad ones anyway. At Taste of the Danforth last weekend my friends and I decided to buy a gyro from a popular restaurant and I was shocked when they stuffed it half full of French fries. I’d never seen that done before! I haven’t had fries at all since I started eating better, but they are a food that I often enjoyed before, so I decided ‘what the heck?’ since it was a special outing with friends. I got maybe half done and was so full I could barely breathe, not to mention a little grossed out by the thing. In my old life I would have scarfed that sucker down and then had some baklava to top it off.

Instead, I went to The Big Carrot and geeked out because they had so many different flavours of Lara Bars that I hadn’t tried. Lately, that’s the kind of treat I enjoy when Shawn and I are out running errands on the weekend. I think they’re actually better then the doughnuts or candy I might have chosen before – and I even share them with him instead of wolfing down a full one!

So my pants are now a size 6 (sadly, shopping for pants still kind of sucks) and I’m feeling so much better than I have in years. I’m keeping up my workouts, getting more sleep, trying to sort out the stresses in my life and it feels good. Maybe licking the sugar habit has been paying off in more ways than one!

Monday, August 10, 2009

A Bloody Good Time

Over the summer months I tend to cut down my TV viewing, partly because most of my favourite shows are in re-runs, but also because I tend to find myself with a bit more energy after work during the warmer months. Maybe it’s the extra hours of daylight, but I’m certainly not complaining.

That said, there is one show on my ‘can’t miss’ list all summer long – HBO’s True Blood. Shawn and I started watching the show last year and at first were a little thrown off by all the sex, violence and oddball characters. Usually, we love those elements in a TV show, but it took us awhile to find the flow with this one. Once we did, we were hooked. I would say that True Blood now rates second only to Dexter amongst our favourite shows, which is saying a lot given our devotion to all things Dexter.

There are times when Sookie and Bill’s human/vamp relationship seems a little frustrating (they seem to fight more than any couple I know, the results of course being far more interesting than any mere human disagreement), but overall I find myself rooting for them despite the occasional eye-roll at their constant break-up/make-up style. And this season, even though the spats continue, the relationship seems on much more solid ground.

And I love the other characters – Tara with her little girl lost underneath the brash, tough-girl exterior, Lafayette whose flamboyantly gay antics have been dulled by his recent vamp captivity is now more complex than ever, tormented Jason who was sucked into an anti-vampire religious sect after the murder of his girlfriend left him lost and looking for his place in the world and shape-shifter Sam who seems to be having an affair with a new waitress every episode is morphing into both a dog and a bizarrely lovable character. And I could go on and on and on, from the alcoholic detective and his put-upon Sheriff boss through to Tara ’s newly exorcised mother and far beyond, True Blood offers some of the most well-written characters on TV today.

We’ve turned several of our friends into converts since we started watching I can’t wait to turn a few more on to the fangbanging fabulosity.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Sugar Sugar

Recently, I made the decision to cut down on my sugar consumption. I’ve been a sugar junkie as long as I can remember and I’ve justified my bad habit for about as long. I’m not particularly overweight, I don’t drink all that much and I walk 90 minutes most days, so it was easy to shrug off my inner voice when I scarfed down cookies after lunch, ice cream after dinner and candy for a late night snack. I loved sugar and no one was going to take it away from me, damnit.

But the voice in my head had started to get louder over the years. It was telling me that my body kind of felt like crap all the time now and that the tiny little belly pouch I’d developed was not-so-sexy. I started to cut down on the sugar… a little. And then one day Shawn, who is one of the most health conscious people I know, pointed out that I was addicted to sugar and that, most likely, I was going to end up diabetic or worse if I kept up my habits. He didn’t say it in a mean way, but in the kind of matter-of-fact way that he relays information that is what it is, even though he may wish it wasn’t.

And he scared me. Suddenly my inner voice's fears had been spoken out loud and I had to acknowledge them. A few months earlier I had purchased Lick the Sugar Habit, a first step in acknowledging that I needed to change. After Shawn’s observation I started reading it and realized very quickly that I AM a sugar addict. And I’m not alone. The book also pointed out that so many of the stomach ailments that have plagued me over the last year are not just stress-related (as my family doctor believed), but also related to my sugar consumption.

I always figured that of all the vices I could have, sugar was pretty low on the totem pole. In high school my friends snuck beer at the beaches and I scarfed bags of Fuzzy Peaches while I watched them drink. I would get silly for awhile and then crash, just like them, but my high was legal and so I felt a little smug about the whole thing. But reading the book I realized that all that sugar – and the mountains more I have consumed since – was doing almost as much damage to my body as alcohol (not that I’ve abstained from that as an adult either).

So I decided to quit. Not quite cold turkey, as the book suggests, because sugar is in almost everything these days (another reason for the alarming obesity stats in first world nations), but as close as possible. So for the last few weeks I have stopped eating dessert. No sweets after lunch, after dinner or for snacks throughout the day. No cake, no cookies, no candy and, hardest of all, no ice cream.

At first, it sucked. I won’t lie. I even conceded to one Godiva chocolate after lunch on the first few days to make withdrawal easier. Funnily enough, after a few days I didn’t even want the chocolate anymore. Cutting back on my sugar made me want less, not more, just like the book said. So now I eat almost no refined sugar throughout the day. I still eat fruit and raisins and naturally sweet things, but there is no more mainlining Sour Kids after a rough day.

Will I keep it up? Maybe. I hope so. I don’t know that I’ll be as militant as I have been the last few weeks – I’d like to think that I could have a slice of birthday cake or an ice cream cone once in awhile and really enjoy them – but I don’t think I’ll ever go back to being a sugar junkie. I’m so much more aware of how much sugar is in my food now. Reading labels blows me away! And I’ve even given up artificial sweeteners as much as possible too – the research shows that they are even worse for my body than refined sugars, plus they make me crave sweet treats too. It’s a lifestyle change and those are always hard, but I’d like to be one junkie that kicked her habit.