Food and guilt

I’d be surprised if I haven’t written about food and guilt before. I mean, an ENORMOUS part of any sort of weight-loss journey is dealing with a relationship with food. Even more so when you throw in disordered or compulsive/addictive eating. And yes, even more so when you throw in Catholic guilt, regardless of my practicing status.

I’m still in the throes of stepping back and observing the last 18 months or so and the processes that have led me to where I am right now, and I have to admit that there were a lot of things at play, many of which I have already glossed over (HUGE life changes–one right after the other, a separation from the Crossfit community, etc., etc.). But I think that one of the things that has seriously messed with my head is/was food.

Throughout my time writing for DK Gets Fit, I think I’ve been able to stay fairly neutral about food choices. Weight Watchers being pretty flexible about what types of food you eat, and incorporating aspects of Paleo into my diet (lower carbs, higher protein!).

Then life threw me a curveball, and I discovered, definitively, that I have food allergies. Namely, wheat, milk protein, bananas, macadamias, sesame seeds, and a mild allergy to egg whites (which I still consume because it’s just so hard to get around). I continued attending Weight Watchers meetings, this time at work, and I felt SO isolated. Nobody, not even the leader, could grasp what it is like to all of a sudden not be able to eat SO many of the foods that Weight Watchers preaches. The actual nutrition approach for WW encourages nonfat dairy products (I am currently OK with higher-fat dairy, such as butter, ghee, and some cheeses, but generally avoid anything high in whey or casein), whole grains (certainly including wheat), egg whites by the cartonful, and of course bananas up the ying yang (ditto that with Paleo). I didn’t know what to do, so out of frustration I eventually quit.

AND THEN, I decided to see a dietitian, who really was awesome, emphasizing types of foods instead of tracking, HOWEVER, it became pretty evident PRETTY quickly that someone who has issues with food really does need to track, no matter what KINDS of foods you’re eating. ESPECIALLY because maybe you want to have a cheat meal–or weekend–at some point, and you need to be correctly equipped on how to deal with this. I gained weight doing this.

I also gained something else.

The Boy would argue that I also developed a (mild) case of orthorexia. With the food allergies and the new recommendations from the dietitian, AND all of a sudden really being able to get enough protein from meat sources (since egg whites and dairy were out), I started to be afraid of anything that wasn’t organic/pastured/local food. I guess it’s not a horrible way to live, but it’s certainly not inexpensive.

Again, I gained weight this way.

Then, after spiraling and free-falling for a few months, depressed, miserable, and stuck, I knew I had to do something.

I rejoined Weight Watchers. And I’ve been pretty vigilant about tracking everything, since the end of January, and I’ve lost a mere 8 pounds. Since January. Though this is also with weird food allergies that literally nobody seems to understand. Once again, I felt othered during meetings, and decided to move out of meetings, and instead to personal coaching, which I haven’t yet decided if I like or not (I get a 15-minute check in, but there really isn’t any particular theme of the week, etc.).

But, and here’s where the guilt part of this post comes in, soon after I started my new job, The Boy lost his. And all of a sudden we are paying for groceries with a set amount of cash. And all of a sudden I’m finding that my lunches are filled with rice and beans. My vegetables are no longer only organic. There’s no more Whole Foods, and we haven’t been able to afford our local farm for what seems like forever.

And I shouldn’t feel awful admitting that, but I do. I SO do.

I feel so GUILTY that I actually cannot afford, at the moment, to purchase those foods that I know to be healthiest and most nutritionally dense. And I feel GUILTY that, after an entire year almost completely grain free, I’m back to eating grains on a regular basis. I feel GUILTY.

See why The Boy thinks it’s orthorexia?

My first go-around a few years ago, I regularly ate grains and did really well. Where along this road did I decide that they just flat-out are not okay at all? And when did I start shaming myself so badly for eating REAL, ONE-INGREDIENT, WHOLE FOODS just because they don’t fit into the Paleo paradigm?

It’s really messed up! Yes, I KNOW!

So I guess that’s one of many things I’m working on right now. Doing the best I can, but more importantly KNOWING that I AM doing the best I can.

Once again, here I am. Let’s try to take the guilt out of eating, and associating eating with guilt. Because, can we all just admit that we’d be a lot happier if we did?

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Just breathe

Last week, I happened upon this story about the “After Myth,” and it resonated with me. It resonated enough for me to get back on WordPress and actually write something.

I’m not sure what I’m going to write, but here it is. And I’ve just got to breathe.

A few years ago when I was at my peak fitness thus far, I was always hesitant to consider myself an “after.” I’d not hit my goal weight, but I was looking and feeling good, and after the infamous video came out, I was all of a sudden catapulted into this position of being inspiration extraordinaire.

Excuse me, me? No, no, no, you must be mistaken. I’m just a normal gal.

And if I learned one thing about myself, it’s this: I don’t do well with pressure. And all of a sudden, there was just a ton on me.

Long story short, I don’t feel like an inspiration anymore, and certainly not to myself. But guess what? It’s still not “after.” You know?

Lots of people have asked “Well, where is she now?”

I’m here to tell you, I’m still here! It’s still me.

But my life does look quite different.

What did it look like last time you saw me?

Wake up at 7:30, gym at 9, work at 11, school at 4, home by 7. The same the next day, but no class. My schedule was fairly flexible, and while a PhD program is absolutely no joke, it was much easier to work it “me” time.

And then what?

Well, then, I left school, and life was like this:

Wake up at 6:45, leave for work at 8, work from 9-5, work second job from 5:30-9, go home, sleep.

That part of my life lasted about a year, wasn’t very pretty, and is not something I’d like to relive. Can I just say that this time, I was overworked, underpaid, underslept, and really just confused about newfound food allergies and how to work exercise into my routine without sacrificing sleep (which I obviously need). It didn’t work out very well. I floundered, and I was deeply depressed between a soul-sucking, dead-end job and not being able to manage my weight. No matter what I did, it was never enough, and I found myself reverting to poor food habits.

And then what?

Then, I got REALLY, really lucky and landed a new job–one that I absolutely love, has a direction, and feels meaningful. And for once–and probably the first time in my entire life–I have one job! It’s amazing.

Wake up at 6, leave for work at 7:30, work from 8-4:30. And…?

The intention, originally, was to return to the gym. But I’ve discovered very quickly how difficult this is! Oh my gosh! By the time 4:30 rolls around, I am utterly exhausted. How do people do this?

Regardless, being happy has done a whole lot for my health, including beginning to turn around some of the damage done over the past year.

And then what?

And then, in March, I got engaged! Yay! We’re getting married next summer and we are very excited.

And then what?

And then, The Boy lost his job and started his own business, putting us into a really strange financially unknown situation. So…while just getting the hang of things once again, have found myself, weirdly, reincorporating grains and legumes into my diet just because, well, they’re filling and inexpensive. Quinoa and beans, people!

And then what?

And now…

I FEEL LIKE A TOTAL HACK.

Who am I? I’m just a normal person trying to make it work day to day.

And now, apparently, to fit into a wedding dress (which is totally terrifying).

But really, my soul has longed for writing, to just pour it all out.

So just breathe.

And tell it like it is.

So here goes.

There is no such thing as after, because the struggle is never over; it only gets harder.

The “After” Myth

A very important read.

Can Anybody Hear Me?

DURING

After.

It’s here.

In my first post, Before, 3 years ago, I said “I’m not to After yet, but I’m closer to After than to Before.”

I now weigh 117 – 120 pounds (depending on the day), and standing at 5-foot 6-inches, that measurement means that After is very, very here. But, before you congratulate me, dear readers…if I have any…and dear friends and family who I know follow this blog… I have to come clean with you: I don’t feel like I’m at After. I’m terrified of being at After. And, I don’t like that After is here.

After5 2

The tagline of my blog is “uncovering myself one pound at a time.” For most of this blog, I’ve spoken strongly about how my relationship with food and myself was what caused my weight struggles. I stand by that. The thing is, the symptoms have resolved faster than I’ve been able to…

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My boyfriend, the CrossFitter

Look! He CrossFits!
Look! He CrossFits!

Yes. You heard correctly. The Boy is CrossFitting.

I. AM. SO. PROUD.

It’s not just that he’s doing CrossFit. Because honestly, I got over the fact that he wasn’t CrossFitting early in our relationship. What I didn’t get over, though, was his stubbornness regarding doing any sort of physical activity.

When we first met, there was a really rough transition. It was long-distance, so the only time we saw each other was on the weekends. And on the weekends, we wanted to see each other, and for him that did not include working out. So, if I visited him, I had to try to work out by myself, away from CrossFit. That meant mostly running or walking on a treadmill. That, along with being as anal as possible with food, allowed me to minimize weight GAIN, and it was INCREDIBLY difficult to even maintain.

Fast-forward, and even more changes have taken place that have made it difficult or impossible to make it to the gym five-days a week, and relaxed effort at certain periods with food, and weight loss has been impossible.

But I digress.

When we first met and I was working out solo on the weekends, I constantly invited him to partake. He ALWAYS refused. One day, I persuaded him to come with me for a leisurely walk along the Chenango River, and halfway through he started a HUGE fight because he didn’t want to be on the walk. For me, this was a relaxing stroll. For him, anything that was exercise was the OPPOSITE of relaxing, and weekends are for relaxing, therefore he would not handle a walk.

After that, I laid off. Once in a while I would try to get him to go to CrossFit, and he would always refuse.

But it seems like it’s been about baby steps here. After we started shackin’ up, he started feeling better because he was eating better (i.e., I was cooking for him). I got a FitBit in the fall, and he loves gadgets, and he was super enthusiastic about playing with mine. So I got him one for Christmas, and he LOVES it.

Then, a few months later, my close friend offered The Boy the opportunity to get his feet wet with a CrossFit Bootcamp. I quietly suggested it, thinking that he’d immediately shoot it down. But he didn’t. He said he’d think about it.

And then he decided to actually DO IT.

And he’s not the fastest or the strongest, but neither was I when I started, and neither AM I even now. I have to say that I am SO PROUD of him for taking that first step and waking up at the asscrack of dawn and making his life better one day at a time.

For Valentine’s Day, I got him a 2-month membership to our CrossFit. The Boy from a year ago would have cried, screamed, and ran away. But The Boy NOW? He did a happy dance.

Maybe one day—maybe someday soon—we can cheer each other on TOGETHER doing WODs and PRing, and finding joy in each other’s health.

Got beets? I’ve got slow-cooker borscht!

Borscht!
Borscht!

Um, yeah. Beets. I’m really not super into them.

I know. Almost everyone thinks I’m nuts. Is it one of those vegetables that everyone loves to hate, but actually really truly loves? Like brussels sprouts? I don’t know. I didn’t grow up with them, and their supersweet earthiness is just really weirdly offputting to me.

But the problem is, I keep getting beets in my CSA! So I’m trying to make the best of them. So far, I’ve made a beet-based veggie burger (pretty good!) and roasted beets (meh, but edible). But by far the best beet recipe I’ve tried my hand at has been borscht.

Another food I think gets a pretty bad rap. I mean, as if beets weren’t bad enough, beet SOUP?

The first time I had borscht was last year. It was my first time visiting my boyfriend in the city where he lived, and he took me to a little Ukrainian hole-in-the-wall restaurant. We had borscht for dinner, and it was smooth and sweet and earthy, and just deliciously creamy with some rich sour cream on top. I was pleasantly surprised.

So I’ve got a bunch of beets, we’re recovering from Snowpocalypse, and we’re in the midst of Olympics at Sochi? What better way to pay homage to this unique circumstance than some slow-cooker borscht? Because, you know, why stay home and watch a pot of food all day when you don’t have to?!

Look at the pretty vegetables!
Look at the pretty vegetables!

I’ve made a few slow-cooker soups, and I’m consistently re-convinced that the crock pot is best served using it for broths. It’s simply the best.

This was no exception. The bulk of the labor was simply prepping the ingredients. But then, you just throw everything in the slow cooker and let it sit!

We’ve got carrots, beets, potatoes, and beef. And no cabbage. So, you know, maybe you think that borscht isn’t borscht without the cabbage. In that case, this recipe ain’t for you. I’m more into it tasting good, first and foremost, and this does. Holy crap, does it ever! (Though, worth noting, The Boy has spent time in both Russia and Ukraine, and he tells me that this batch was, I quote, “Exactly as it should be.” Win!)

BIG bowl for meee!
BIG bowl for meee!

And, I gotta say, this is The Boy-approved! AND there’s another super-secret no-no ingredient: Mushrooms. He questioned it for a hot second, but I told him it was just a fatty piece of beef. MUAH HA HA HA HA HA HA!!! So, if he likes it, your picky eater will like it, too. Feel good about making, eating, and sharing this recipe. Chock-full of seasonal, inexpensive ingredients. Lots of vegetables…how could it NOT be phenommmm?

Whole ingredients. Delicious. And inexpensive! Are you ready for slow-cooker borscht?

Okay. Without further ado….

Slow-Cooker Borscht

Mmm!
Mmm!

Ingredients

• 1.5 pounds stew beef
• 1.5 pounds beets, peeled and diced (about 1 bunch of beets)
• 4 medium carrots, peeled and diced
• 2 sweet yellow onions
• 2 russet potatoes, peeled and diced (about 1 pound)
• 5 cloves fresh garlic, minced
• 1 oz dried porcini mushrooms
• Juice from 1/2 lemon
• 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
• 1 tablespoon palm sugar (or honey/agave/brown sugar, etc.)
• 1 tablespoon fresh dill weed + more for serving
• 2 teaspoons sea salt
• 1/4 teaspoon caraway seeds
• 4 cups water
• Plain Greek yogurt for serving (optional)

Directions

Soak dried porcini mushrooms in hot water for about 15 minutes. Strain water into the slow cooker, and rough chop mushrooms. While mushrooms soak, prep vegetables. Put all ingredients, except for Greek yogurt, in slow cooker.

Set slow cooker to HIGH for about 4 hours, and then continue to cook on LOW for an additional 5 hours, or until vegetables are tender and stew beef is tender and cooked through.

Serve with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt and fresh dill weed. Add hot sauce if you like it spicy!

Makes approximately 20 cups of borscht, giving you at least 10 entree-sized servings. Paleo friendly (omit yogurt and potato, if desired), and A-OK for WW peeps doing Simple Start/Simply Filling!

Oh, and PS. We had SO MUCH left over!! Look at my lunches for the next week:

Gorgeous lunches every day this week!
Gorgeous lunches every day this week!

PPS! Did you know that there’s a donate button to your right? If you use it, funds will go directly toward a pressure canner, so I can CAN all of these leftovers and not worry about my itty-bitty freezer.

Why CSAs rock

Kohlrabi, potatoes, portabellos, and pea sprouts! Mmm!
Kohlrabi, potatoes, portabellos, and pea sprouts! Mmm!

I mentioned last week that The Boy hates vegetables. I’m not going to try to change him, but we have an agreement that if I cook it, he will at least TRY it. So, for going from ZERO to tastes of vegetables, I call this a huge stride in an amazing direction, and I certainly have to give him props.

And me, I love my veggies and the volume they add to my meals at a low caloric cost. But I’ve gotten into the bad habit of relying on a very small pool of veg—broccoli, green beans, baby greens, bell peppers, asparagus, and cauliflower. Always fresh, and pretty much year ’round. Those are fairly versatile veggies that I could snarf down cooked or raw, and were very good for a routine.

But, purchasing these veg year ’round also meant that I frequently purchased out-of-season and foods that had been shipped from hundreds or even thousands of miles away!

I knew that to get the best-quality produce, I’d have to shop more often at farmers markets. But somehow, I rarely got over to one, and then I when I did, I always looked for similar mainstays. Yes, very boring indeed.

So, a few months ago, I had the opportunity to participate in some Community Supported Agriculture. I’d heard of CSAs before, and I knew a few people who did use CSAs, but I never had the amount of money I’d needed to commit to one.

The basic idea, if you’re unfamiliar, is that you find a local farm that participates in a CSA program, and you essentially purchase a season “share” of the farm crop. Normally, for a spring share, this means maybe $500, depending on your need. Then, once the season approaches, each week, you get a package of fresh, local vegetables and fruits, picked up normally at a farmers market.

I found another service recently, called Field Goods, which is a bit more flexible, and fits my schedule and budget, and allows to put deliveries on hold if you’re out of town or unable to pick it up. You pay weekly, which is, great, instead of buying in initially.

And, perhaps, the best part is that participating in a CSA has forced me to be a more adventurous and creative eater. So, in a sense The Boy and I have been challenged to grow together in learning to eat a wider variety of vegetables. For example, before the CSA, I had never tried beets, and have even been very scared and intimidated by them. However, I had them forced upon me a few times by now, and have learned that they’re not so scary, and actually not too bad at all! We’ve gotten squashes, loads of apples for canning, pumpkins, frozen edamame, frozen broccoli and cauliflower, celery root, kohlrabi, hydroponic lettuce greens, kale, collards, turnips, radishes, daikon, garlic, shallots, shiitakes, and more. This past week, we received potatoes, kohlrabi, pea shoots, arugula, frozen blueberries, frozen tomato puree, portobello mushrooms, and probably a few other things that I’m now forgetting. All local, all SEASONAL, and all for $25.

I call that a steal.

And that, friends, is why CSAs are freaking AWESOME. It’s providing me with ALL of the vegetables for the week (so it cuts down on my grocery shopping), I don’t have to think about it, and it forces me to try new things. Hip-hip-hooray!