Monday, October 25, 2010

Happiness by numbers

I have a little bit of a confession to make.

When it comes to dieting, I am a bit of an extremist. From the master cleanse, to the 3 month long raw foodism, to the month when I was obsessed with going to the gym EVERY SINGLE DAY. (and sometimes twice a day) I am not a person who knows the meaning of moderation. This extremity is reflected in other areas of my life. It's just a part of who I am. When I have goals I want to accomplish (like finding a job, or getting an assignment done), I will not stop to rest or sleep until they are accomplished. When people I care about are upset or going through a rough time, I will do anything I can to make them happy. However, this works in reverse as well. I don't honor prior commitments if they cease to interest me even when I know I am letting someone else down. When I am disappointed with aspects of my friendships, I will often completely avoid said person and cease all forms of contact instead of talking out the problem and trying to work through it.

I know this all-or-nothing aspect is extremely cowardly and is one of myself that I'm trying to change. That is why I want to start with changing my extreme dieting.

About a month back, I stopped calorie counting my food in this blog when in fact I still religiously counted each morsel that entered my mouth, I just chose to do it in the form of a little book instead of publicly posting it. The reason for this is simply because I was ashamed of my dieting habits. I started to eat under 800 calories a day and was AMAZED at the results this reflected in the scale. Seeing the numbers drop EVERYDAY became an obsession. In just 3 days I could lose 2 pounds. That means I could reach my goal weight in under a month!!!

I started to obsess over EVERY little morsel I put in my mouth. I even went without things like condiments (ketchup, mustard) because I didn't want the "unnecessary" calories. Days like this one became increasingly more frequent. 250cal breakfast + 250cal lunch + 80cal snack + 200cal dinner = 780 whopping calories. I was actually proud of myself for eating less than half as much as a healthy normal woman my age should and attributed a feeling of self-accomplishment to 3 digit calorie days.

While this wasn't at all healthy, I told myself that once I lost as much weight as I wanted to, I could go into "maintenance mode" and eat the things that normal people eat again. If it were really that easy I don't think any girl out there would struggle with weight issues. I started to crack and would find myself eating an extra handful of cereal here, or sneaking a handful of crackers there whenever I went into the kitchen. While these little 'slip-ups' were relatively harmless they were the signs of an impending emotional breakdown. Similar episodes happened near the end of my raw foodism not too long ago (which ultimately became my reason for stopping), but I guess the human memory likes to lock the most painful memories away.

An unhealthy eater can cut out chips and soda and candy from their diet to decrease their calories. But what does one do when they already eat 90% wholesome real food? I used to proclaim to be a "fruitarian" and eat 4-5 servings of fruit a day. Mangos, blueberries, cantaloupe, bananas, plums, and basically any other fruit you can think of. However, due to my caloric restrictions, I started to limit my fruit intake to only 1 or 2 a day. I found myself craving sugar and sweets more, and recently have developed a diet cola obsession. I used to hate pop in any form! But to the new "3-digit" me, a 0-calorie Coke Zero filled with chemicals and enamel-eroding substances > 100cal pear. (which is what I really wanted) I also started to crave chocolate ... MASSIVELY. So the handfuls of cereal and crackers quickly turned into handfuls of chocolate cookies, and I would start to write-off days when I "failed" because I overate by a couple hundred calories, use the "write-off" days to overindulge in all the foods that I never normally let myself eat, clock in an extra THOUSAND calories through binging, feel extremely guilty and ashamed, and swear to myself to resume the "3 digit" lifestyle the following morning.

The craziness peaked last weekend during my 486R class. I was in the middle of another 3 day "3-digit-run" and had eaten a 250cal breakfast before heading to class so I wouldn't be tempted by the cheesy scones and chocolate croissants. I had my trusty stash of Clifs and Lunas so I wouldn't have to eat the mystery lunch they were providing. It was all going well for a while, I was a little resentful watching all the other students eat chocolate banana muffins and apple fritters but kept telling myself what uninformed fools they were for consuming empty-calories in the form of processed sugar and fibre-less white flour. As we neared lunch I was informed that sushi was the meal of choice and this was a LOT harder to turn down than pizza or subway because sushi is one food that I absolutely love. I told myself that since it was a semi-healthy choice I would have 1 roll (~360 calories) with everyone else. Well the sushi ordered was in giant platters, all-you-can-eat style and everyone crowded around the tables and chatted after a long and exhausting morning of lectures. I started with four pieces (as pictured) but did not want to cut my meal or social time short and ended up eating eight more. (not pictured) Now 12 pieces of sushi is nothing to talk about, in my prime as an sushi AYCEater I could down 4-5 rolls (30-40) pieces like the best of them. However, the unplanned ~650 calories for lunch (in additional to my 250cal breakfast) meant there was NO WAY I could stay under my 800-900 cal limit for the day unless I planned to starve myself from 1pm - midnight. I felt so disappointed in myself for giving in to a moment of caloric weakness that I went and ate a blueberry scone (500calories) and an apple strudel(450calories) in under 5 minutes. And I'm pretty sure it's not hard to guess what happened next. Guilt. Remorse. Shame. Anger. Self-pity. Rinse & Repeat. Around dinnertime my group decided to head to McDonald's to have dinner. Of course I would have none of it and bitterly watched the others eat their quarter-pounders and McChickens over a cup of hot water. Five minutes later I ate a Clif bar (250 calories) to make myself feel better. After working on our case at 11:00pm we headed over to the local bar to for some "forced fun" and I planned on just showing up to not be anti-social before heading home early. As soon as I got there I was handed a pint of beer and even though I didn't particularly want to drink I drank it to be social. All hell broke loose after that when 4 party-sized appie platters and 4 dozen hot wings came out. I'm going to spare you the gruesome details and clock it in at 600 calories (including the beer). Then when I got home, I told myself I would stick to my "3-digit" diet no matter what for the next 5 days and snacked on a bunch of random foods which I made this resolution. (200 calories)

So let's see what a normal "uninformed fiber-less fool" ate over the course of the day.

Breakfast: Chocolate Croissant (500 calories)
Lunch: 2 rolls of sushi (600 calories)
Dinner: McDonald's meal (600 calories)
Post-dinner: Beer (200 calories)
Total: 1900 calories

And lets see what the health-obsessed, kale chip-eating girl ate.

Breakfast: Overnight oats w peach (250 calories)
Lunch: 2 rolls of sushi (600 calories)
Binge: 2 pastries (950 calories)
Trying to recover from binge: Orange and carrots (80 calories)
Dinner: Clif Bar (250 calories)
Post-dinner: Beer (200 calories) + Appies (400 calories)
Bedtime binge: (200 calories)
Total: 2930 calories

Just typing that out makes me feel silly. Why is it that I go through the entire day feeling guilty, isolated, and resentful towards other people who can eat whatever they want and I end up eating so much more? It's probably not hard to guess that the following couple of days were extremely hard because the harder I tried to punish myself for being "not disciplined" the more my body rebelled by wanting diet soda and chocolate. When I let myself eat whatever I want, I crave nothing more than oatmeal with peanut butter, apple-cheddar-hummus tortillas, and the occasional chocolate vita-top. On Tuesday morning my co-worker asked if I wanted to join her for a chocolate croissant (400 cal) at the Urban Fare and I politely declined only to eat an entire box of Glosettes (240 cal) by myself a half hour later. After this a prompt "what-the-frack-is-wrong-with-me" self bashing session ensued which thankfully Linda was there to help me through. This was NOT the first time that this had happened, but the frequency of which it was happening lately needed to stop.

One of the things that made me come to this realization was this weekend when Al and I went to grocery shop at Safeway and talked about all the Halloween candy we liked eating as kids. I remembered how I would OD on chocolate bars and sweets every October and after my monthly dreaded orthodontics appointment I would go to the Tim Hortons and buy 10 chocolate frostsed timbits (600calories) and a small ice cap made with cream (500cal) and read manga at McNally Robinson while I waited for my mom to pick me up. I remembered how I used to go to AYCE sushi in Winnipeg with my best friends and eat until we puked in the parking lot (3000 cal?!) and had to hide the leftovers in the potted plants because we were THAT full. I remembered how I would try to beat my own record at eating my mom's BBQ deepfried wings (record was 22 and 1320 calories) every weekend when she made them. I remember when going out for coffee with friends meant either BBT with pearls (500cal) or a Starbucks Frappuccino (350cal). It amazes me that through all of that, I was always skinny, but more importantly, I was happy.

Calorie-restriction + Late-Night Binging = Lonely & ashamed + Not Skinny
Eating whatever I want while spending quality time with people I care about = Happy + Skinny (at least for the first 19 years of my life)

Clearly the choice is simple here.

When I go back to Winnipeg after an entire year of not being home, I do not want to say no to late-night BBT and AYCE sessions. I do not want to say no to Tequila-nights with the girls for fear of binging on granola bars afterwards, and I definitely do not want to say no to my mom's wings. So while the month of October may have been a write-off in terms of weight-loss and sanity, I hope that in the next month I can discover food IN MODERATION and more importantly, not let it ruin my relationship with other people.

I've made a few simple guidelines to help me through:

1. Daily weighing = out. 1x a week = in.
2. Extreme calorie restriction = out. Mindful eating aided by a food blog = in.
3. The relationships and experiences shared with people > the food that they influence me to eat.
4. Chocolate covered Timbits are not my enemy. Jealousy, resentment, and self-pity is.
5. Eat as much fruit as my little heart desires. Even bananas and persimmons.

While that was extremely difficult to post. I feel better already having shared that with you guys in an AA sort of way. "My name is Tracy, and I have an unhealthy relationship with food."

Now the subject of liquor, is a whole other story which best be saved for another day. (Or blog.)

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