Taking time and making time pt 1

Wow, what a cryptic title. What on EARTH could I be talking about? Have I found a way to MAKE time?

Well, no. But hear me out.

We live in a world where time is precious. We never have enough and we want everything to happen quicker and sooner and faster and NOW because we don’t have time to waste. Which means we put off things like going to the gym or cooking a big meal when it’s only for ourselves, or dressing well, or looking after ourselves because, well, there are more urgent things to do.

But this is wrong. This is bad.

Because if we don’t take the time for ourselves, if we don’t make the time for ourselves, then we’re really no good for anyone else.  Our work is not productive, our social lives suffer because we have no energy and no zest, and everything else that seems so important suffers. All because we think we have no time.

The thing is that we do have time for ourselves – we just need to find it, and take it. Yes, our days are busy with work, with family, with STUFF, but there are minutes and hours that are there for the taking.

Food is often one aspect that falls by the wayside when time is crunched. It seems easier to order in or buy convenience foods instead of eating well. But food is fuel and with crappy fuel, you have less energy and all that jazz. There are tons of ways of making time work for you when it comes to food:

  • Invest in a slow-cooker. I have a new one being christened today and I love it. I throw in the ingredients in the morning while I’m getting ready for work, program it to cook all day and dinner is ready when I get home. No effort required – no thought at the end of a long day. And the bonus is that I’ve got enough cooked for a few meals – bringing me to point #2
  • Cook in bulk and freeze ready-made meals. These are SO much better than the ones you buy at the grocery store and tons cheaper too. You control the ingredients and the sodium and the chemicals so they’re so healthy. Cook a big meal and then freeze separate portions so they’re easy to grab from the freezer when you have no food in the pantry or time to prepare a new meal.
  • Separate food into ziploc bags when you first put them away. Things like veggies you plan to use for salads or meals or snacks. It may take a little more time than simply stashing them away, but it makes it super easy to grab on the go – for lunches or snacks or whatnot. It takes away the thought and effort when you’re in a rush. It also means you’re less likely to eat an entire bag of chips in one sitting and ignore your dinner – it takes more effort to keep getting up for another little ziploc bag of snacks!
  • Menu plan and shop mindfully. Again, putting in a little more effort at the beginning saves time down the track. If you sit down before you grocery shop and plan your meals for the week (it doesn’t need to be a hard-and-fast every item plan), it can save you time and money at the store and mean that you’re less likely to wander aimlessly and throw out food at the end of the week. I’ll admit that I don’t follow this all the time, but I notice when I don’t. For example, this week, I planned my slow-cooker meal tonight, which will last for lunch and possibly dinner tomorrow night. I’m out Wednesday and Thursday night so no meals then. I have some tuna for tuna salad for lunches and then I bought some stewing meat for another slow cooker meal for Friday night.  Not expensive and not time-consuming at all.
  • Buy frozen veggies and use them liberally. Frozen veggies are not the devil’s invention but rather, an amazing time saver! Frozen chopped onions, chopped spinach, mixed veggies – they all make life easier.  Again, this is simply about not trying to re-invent the wheel – if you have the time to buy fresh, great, but if not, it’s super easy to throw some veggies in with some chicken strips and sauce and voila, you have a stirfry.

Some simple hints and tips that can make life easier and show you that time is there for the taking when it comes to easy meals. I hear too many people say that they have Kraft Dinner in their pantry because it takes too long to make a good meal and it’s only for one person and it’s expensive. It’s really not any of those things!

Portion distortion

In all our gnashing our teeth (figuratively of course – dentists would hate us otherwise) about portion sizes in restaurants and fast food joints and how it would be SO much healthier to cook ourselves, we’ve missed something. Our recipe books. Have you looked at the serving sizes there lately?

According to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine recently, our recipe books are contributing to our growing waistlines and have been doing so for a lot longer than those sneaky restaurants. According to an article on The Age website, over the past 70 years serving sizes have increased by almost 80 calories per serving.

They compared recipe books, in particular, the classic cookbook, Joy of Cooking, and compared the same 18 recipes over the past 7 editions. Only one stayed the same. From the article:

Of the 18 recipes published in all seven editions, 17 increased in calories per serving. That can be attributed partly to a jump in total calories per recipe (about 567 calories), but also to larger portion sizes.

Only the chili con carne recipe remained unchanged through the years. The chicken gumbo, however, went from making 14 servings at 228 calories each in the 1936 edition, to making 10 servings at 576 calories each in the 2006 version.

This is not something I was even considering. How is it that something that made 14 servings 70 years ago can suddenly only satisfy 10 people now? Are we suddenly hungrier? Or are we so used to excess that anything less is not enough?

I try remember to pack a lunch in the morning but often I forget – either to take it with me or to cook enough the night before for leftovers. So I eat in the cafeteria at work and they pile my plate. I have to watch like a hawk when it comes to noodles or rice and yell out to stop after one pile (I yell nicely though). They look at me like I’m crazy because my plate is still “empty”. I know that I’ll eat it if it’s there and really, I don’t need it. But do we generally expect to fill our plates because we’re hungry or because it shows that we’re well off enough to be able to do so?

Was the Depression in 1936 the reason that the servings were smaller? As we’ve become “wealthier” have we become gluttonous? Will the current recession change that or, as The Guardian writes, is the recession ruining our health?


On the not-so-good side

  • I’ve been wearing my ‘big’ jeans the last few days – not because my smaller jeans don’t fit but because I like feeling skinnier.
  • I’ve been rewarding myself with dark chocolate and justifying it by saying that I’m working hard or working out.
  • I’ve been justifying chips and fries and crap because I’m stressed and I deserve it.
  • I’m eating because I’m bored not because I’m hungry.

On the good side:

  • I’ve been drinking TONS of water and green tea (the tea because it’s DAMN cold!).
  • I’ve been working out even when I’m tired and would rather crawl into bed and avoid the world.
  • I’m planning a party on Valentine’s Day (which could be a bad point with all the alchol etc) to be social and stop working such long hours.

I’m not allowing the not-so-good to outweigh the good because life is not black or white. It’s about getting balance and I’m working on it. I’m aware that my eating is not great right now and I’m struggling with making the healthy choice some of the time. I’m very aware of the angel and devil on my shoulders and the intense discussion that goes one whenever I crave a chocolate or whatnot – the justification, the bribery, the guilt. But I’m working through it.

And I’m also aware that I’m in danger of sinking into hermit-like behaviour which is another reason I’m throwing the party. I need to plan some socialising that I can’t make excuses for and bail on. Hell, if people are coming to MY place, I need to BE there, you know?

Anyway, confessions out of the way. Pizza for lunch (lunch meeting, boss has ordered pizza, no choice in the matter) but it’s all good. After all, I deserve it AND I’m working out tonight :P

Taking a step towards the V word

It’s been happening slowly slowly – so slowly in fact, that I barely noticed it. At first it was simply a case of availability and ease. I’m really just lazy and this happened to be the easiest thing to do. But then, slowly, I realised that I didn’t miss anything and really, it made a lot of sense to make it official.

I’m cutting out red meat.

I’m not going completely vegetarian – still going to eat fish and probably chicken (although at the moment, after all the chicken breasts I ate last year, I’m slightly ill at the thought of cooking chicken) but definitely no red meat – no steak, no burgers, no lamb. Nada.

And really, I don’t think I’m going to even notice really. Why?

  1. I am, as mentioned above, inherently lazy. Cooking meat takes more effort than fish or chicken from my experience. It’s also usually more expensive and not always available in the cuts I like at the store, so I end up sticking with other options.
  2. It’s usually more expensive at restaurants too and, since we’re all on the money-saving kick, I end up bypassing the meat options. Unless it’s a burger but really, I could always choose the chicken burger instead.

But it’s a step. And I’m making it official. I could say that this is a step in being more religious and keeping the laws of kashrut; I could say that I’m appalled by the treatment of animals and am making a stand. But really, I’m just making my laziness official.

Are you missing something?

Children who have their tonsils removed or suffer ear infections are more likely to be obese when they grow up, researchers claim.

A set of studies appears to show a strong link between a liking for high-fat foods and the damage caused to taste nerves by chronic ear infections and operations to remove tonsils.

Children who have tonsils removed are more likely to be obese adults, studies suggest | Mail Online

Having never had my tonsils removed and having suffered from very few ear infections as a kid, I can’t really comment on this riduculous study. Oh right, I think I just did. Another study to find a ‘reason’ for liking high fat foods other than, say, they taste awesome? Another way to blame your body for something most people have responsibility for?

What do you think? Valid? Or insanity?

Moving on to bigger and better things

My new goal (as I mentioned yesterday) is to move from weight loss to maintenance and building more lean muscle. To help me get there, I’m upping my protein and lifting heavier (thanks Mizfit!) and after just one training session, I’m feeling awesome about it.

A couple of NSVs that I have to share:

I was doing single dumbbell rows and after one set with the 12lbs, I moved up to 15lbs. That’s huge for me, considering that 6 months ago I would have probably fallen over with a 15lb weight in my hand, much less be able to do 12 reps and 4 sets of it. I’m pretty stoked about that.

We ended the session with a plank. Usually, I get to a minute but I’m struggling by the last 10 seconds. Today, I got to a minute. I got to a 1:15. I got to 1:30 and then I collapsed. Considering that when I started this journey 9 months ago, I couldn’t even do 10 seconds in plank position, I’m REALLY stoked about this. Next time: 2 minutes (but don’t tell my trainer)!

Now if my hip would stop hurting, I’ll be a happy camper entirely. I have one leg *slightly* shorter than the other (about 1/2 inch or so) so the right hip aches occassionally. I know that network chiropractic helps it but the money aspect is huge at the moment, so I have forgone it since I’ve been in Canada. I was hoping to get back to Melbourne at the end of September and book in for a few sessions but alas, my visa is not sorted yet so my trip is postponed until at least December. I think I need to get myself a few sessions here otherwise lunges will be permanently on the no-go list and while I’m not a fan of them, they do burn mucho calories and work those muscles.

One thing I’m definitely proud of is the fact that I’m not afraid to tell my trainer when I need more weights. I never used to trust my strength and ability before. I’m more confident now that I CAN do it. Sometimes I do overestimate and again, I’m not afraid or shy to say Whoa! That’s way too heavy and know that I’m not chickening out. I no longer think as a weak chick. I am strong.

I am a STRONG woman. Hear me roar.

Oh, and my new protein shake? Rocks as a shake, not as perfect on the oats – I need to rejig the oatmeal recipe (less protein or more oats and water) but as a shake I’m loving it.

Good habits vs a quick fix

*Getting on soapbox*

I was watching Oprah today (it was the last day of my stay-cation so I was doing the daytime tv thing) and I got myself a little bit outraged (okay, a lot). The show today was about obese teens getting lap-band and gastric bypass surgery. We’re talking 14-17 year olds who are still growing, who claimed to be active and had tried every diet under the sun.

The same teens who admitted eating 2 cheese burgers in one sitting.

Now, these kids looked great. I’m not going to deny them that. They were obese to start with, either facing the prospect of diabetes and ill health or actually suffering from the effects already (one girl was already losing her eyesight at 15, directly from being obese) but surgery on a growing body? Come on.

And don’t tell me that they had tried EVERYTHING out there to lose weight – the one guy on the show (Mac) talked about how he would lose weight and then gain it all back. That shows me that he was looking at every diet precisely as a diet and not a lifestyle change. None of these kids had any medical reasons for their weight – no thyroid problems, nothing – only their emotional issues and eating habits.

Now eating habits can be changed. Yes, once you’ve had surgery, you physically can’t eat very much so that automatically changes your habits. If you don’t, you’ll throw up. Nasty. But the emotional side? All those issues that got you there in the first place? Surgery isn’t going to fix that.

And what about the rest of your life? Gastric bypass, which creates a walnut sized stomach and bypasses the rest of the stomach, creates a situation whereby the small stomach can be stretched. Meaning, that patients can, and often do, gain weight back if they don’t see their new life as a lifestyle change.

And what about the long term effects? These surgeries have not been around for long enough to really know what the long term effects are and these kids have a long life ahead of them. 10, 20, 30, 40 years later, what’s going to happen?

But the big thing in my mind – how the hell have we gotten to such a point that 15 year olds need to have surgery to lose weight? We as a society have let down this generation. We dropped the ball. We have an entire generation who sees diet and exercise as something that doesn’t work because it doesn’t work fast enough and they still want the high-fat foods. They see surgery as this quick fix. But it’s not. Nothing is a quick fix. Mac talked about how his mother was now stocking the pantry with low-calorie foods – why wasn’t she doing that in the first place when he was getting to 360 lbs? They all talked about eating less – why weren’t they doing that in the first place? Because it takes too long to see results?

I pity these kids. Sure they look great now, but where is the longterm knowledge about good nutrition and activity to keep them looking good? Where is the education about food as fuel? Where are those good habits that they need to carry them through and to pass onto their kids?

It’s gone. And in its place is a scalpel.

Dairy challenge day 2

So day 1 wasn’t ENTIRELY dairy free – it was the July birthday celebration at work and they had chocolate cake. Chocolate + cake = BEST and ENTIRELY UNAVOIDABLE. So I had a small piece.

And thought about dairy all day.

Today has been a bit easier. I added a little honey to my oatmeal this morning and you know what? It’s bearable. I can do that. So oatmeal + chocolate protein powder + honey = yummy breakfast. That challenge it over. It fills me up and the chocolate protein powder is actually pretty good. Makes it like chocolate porridge.

Lunch was a tuna pasta salad (whole-wheat pasta, tuna, mixed beans, red pepper, cucumber and corn) and then a small green salad with extra chickpeas. No dairy in that either. This is doable.

But I never realised how much dairy I actually eat – it’s apparently my go-to food for snacking in so many instances. Yogurt, cottage cheese, Babybell light cheese, milk, chocolate milk, cereal (with milk). A lot of my recipes call for cheese or milk or something else dairy. Or maybe I’m just noticing it more now that I’m on this no-dairy thing?

To take my mind off it all yesterday, I drank 3 litres of water and had 4 cups of tea – 3 green and 1 peppermint. I may end up running to the bathroom so much on this challenge! LOL

Allergic? I don’t think so!

Quote from Anne Hathaway from the July 2008 Self magazine:

“I have a lot of food sensitivities. I know that sounds like code for “I’m anorexic,” but I’m lactose intolerant; I have a small, but not serious, sugar intolerance; I can’t have spicy foods; I can’t eat fried foods. Oh, and processed flour. It sounds like a death sentence, but you learn to love different foods.”

No Anne, it doesn’t sound like a death sentence. It sounds like a diet. You know, those things Hollywood stars go on and then pretend they can eat burgers and fries and stay miraculously skinny? Yeah, a diet. I have a small, but not serious sugar intolerance too. I love it but my body loves it more. My reaction? I gain weight. Wow, must be an intolerance.

I’m sorry for the snark. But this shits me. I know there are people out there with real intolerances and allergies – I know my mother is sensitive to fructose, wheat and lactose (so she reacts to fruit, breads/pasta and milk) but c’mon, fried food? Sugar? Processed flour? How strange that all these things are forbidden on a diet.

When did weight gain become a symptom of a food intolerance?

Am I being too judgemental here? Please chime in if you think so or if you know someone with these strange intolerances. And they’re real intolerances. And then perhaps I’ll apologise to Ms Hathaway.

Looking on the bright side of life

It’s absolutely POURING out there but you know? I’m so glad it it. It was horribly sticky today. I needed to go out for some air today and it was almost oppressive out there. Even though it’s a pretty major thunderstorm out there now, it’s a relief.

I had a meeting with Mr Nutritionist today and I realised just how many changes I’ve made over the past month, even though I had my parents here.

  • I cut out my morning muffins entirely. My breakfast is filling me up and I’m comfortable enough to walk to the cafeteria with my green tea as my colleagues buy their muffins. No temptation anymore
  • I’ve cut out my unhealthy afternoon snack of chips or chocolate  – still having a snack but it’s fruit or yoghurt (still not as much protein as Mr Nutritionist would like but it’s progress)
  • I’m cooking my own meals and not relying on Lean Cuisine and the cafeteria
  • Today, I said no to pizza TWICE – once because it was pizza day at the cafeteria (I brought my own lunch) and once when one of my colleagues came by with a Pizza Nova pizza left over from a lunch meeting. YAY me.
  • I’m listening to my body and not eating for the sake of it.

I’m really trying to step up my cardio this week as it’s really slipped past me and so far, so good. I’m feeling a little asthmatic today (and freaked myself out a little by not having my puffer with me today) but I still managed 35 minutes on the elliptical after my nutrition thing. I was really proud of myself again today (wow, this back patting thing is fun!) when I saw the bus 100 metres down the road and I ran for it. I ran the whole way, made it to the bus and was only *slightly* puffed. Six months ago I would have shrugged and caught the next bus. Yay me.

And I booked my hike for Sunday. It’s an all-day hike to Spencers Gorge & Webster Falls – we leave at 10am and get home at 5pm. I would have liked to have had a friend with me but since everyone else was either busy or not interested, I sucked it up and booked 1 spot for myself. I’m really quite excited for it. Hopefully the weather holds out!