My First Session with The Food Therapist

You can’t make better, more consciously driven food decisions that are in line with what you really want for yourself and ultimately reach your health and bod goals if you don’t examine the roots of this vital relationship. – Shira Lenchewski, MS, RD

I finally started reading The Food Therapist today, and there is already so much to digest (pun intended)! Through a quiz that is included in Chapter One, I’ve identified that I have three main food-related hang-ups:

  1. Trust Issues – I feel like I have no willpower and I don’t trust myself with certain foods (and booze). I feel like I can’t keep certain foods in the house for fear that I will eat them in one go. I often eat things I shouldn’t, and/or eat too much.
  2. A Craving for Control – I am a rule-follower, so I get mad at myself when I overeat and follow that with a heaping serving of guilt. When I do stick to my food rules (i.e. staying within my daily and weekly Weight Watchers points), I feel like I’m winning. When I don’t, I feel ashamed, guilty, and depressed.
  3. A Dependence Issue – I “treat” myself with food in both good times and bad. I eat when I procrastinate. And in all of these moments, I tend to overeat which of course makes me feel worse than I did to begin with (or makes me feel bad when I had been feeling great).

The goal is to accept that I have these tendencies, dig deeper to understand them, and then figure out how to manage them. Hmm. Ok, I’ll play.

Shira provides a neat little Venn diagram to show the forces behind our behavior around food. According to her diagram, my food issues (trust, control, and dependence) are both emotionally-driven and mistrust- and negativity-driven. All true! I have used food to self-soothe ever since I can remember. I was never taught about proper nutrition and had a crappy diet as a kid, so I have basically never felt nutritionally empowered or in control of food. And I am also a veteran negative self-talker. So there you have it: 37 years of food issues, summarized in one short paragraph! Am I done? Am I cured of my food woes? No?

“… these forces will always be there, so it’s up to you to get better at anticipating them and identifying your personal vulnerabilities in order to start making conscious eating choices that are in sync with your ultimate goals.” – Shira Lenchewski

Ah, ok. So this is gonna take awhile.

The forces will always be there, she says. I will always have emotions. I will have triumphant days and garbage days and I will feel feelings about all of that. Will the mistrust and negativity always be there? Ugh, I hope not. But realistically, and certainly for the foreseeable, yes. It will take a long time to build trust in my relationship with food. And negative thoughts will inevitably creep in.

I’m feeling hopeful, though. This is going to take a LOT of work – this is only Chapter One! – but I am worth it. I don’t want my kids growing up with food hang-ups like mine. Tonight at dinner my son asked me what I was eating – spiralized butternut squash – and my daughter said, “That’s so healthy. Mama always eats healthy stuff.” Eureka! There is hope! For me and for my kids (and maybe even for my husband)! And maybe one of these days some of those squash spirals will end up on my son’s plate without an epic battle ensuing. A mom can dream. And in the meantime, get herself sorted.

A Lower-Stakes Slump

… and I can’t even blame it on Royal Wedding withdrawal. Though that’s not helping.

For the last few days I have been slumping HARD y’all. Eating crap, not logging enough hours of sleep, not hydrating, feeling junky and filling my body with junk in an unhealthy cycle. Granted, this used to be a lot worse when alcohol was in the mix; but it’s still no bueno and I need to get a handle on it.

I weigh in tomorrow and I will have gained weight, I’m sure. I have about two months until I fly back to London for my MBA class reunion and I want to feel just as fab, if not better, than I felt for my high school reunion a few weeks ago. Starting tomorrow (fresh week, fresh points) I am re-committing to staying within my points until my reunion. I’m also going to start reading The Food Therapist by Shira Lenchewski, hoping that this book will help me get to the root of my eating issues.

Help me, Shira!

I’m frustrated. Because at this point, I have tools. I have knowledge and awareness that I did not have before starting Weight Watchers last year. I have also conquered my alcohol cravings, a feat which I believed impossible until I achieved it. But now sugar has assumed the role previously played by alcohol in the rom-mom-com that is my life. And I know I have to dig deeper.

Willpower is a finite resource. My willpower is running out routinely right now – just like all those days I would wake up and promise myself I wouldn’t drink, only to open a bottle of wine during witching hour desperation. Every day I wake up and start tracking my points, determined to stay within my daily and weekly limits. But by the afternoon, my cravings take control and there I am, scouring my pantry for anything chocolate-y enough to appease. This doesn’t happen every day, but it happened too many days this week (and this month, and this spring) and here I am on Sunday afternoon, feeling bloated and exhausted and sugar-hungover and weak.

I was able to ditch my dependence on alcohol by educating myself and using the tools that Annie Grace gives us through This Naked Mind and The Alcohol Experiment. So many of these tools seem applicable to food cravings as well – yet I find myself balking at the commitment to using them in that way. I could make a list of non-negotiables (e.g. “I will not enter my pantry between 1 and 5pm” or “I won’t eat chocolate alone”) but, frankly, that just seems silly. And the stakes aren’t nearly as high. I’m not going to crash my car if I drive under the influence of chocolate.

This is not an emergency situation. While I’d like to lose a little more weight, I am still hovering within a few pounds of my original goal. Right now I’m just a girl, looking at a bar of chocolate, trying not to put it in my shopping cart. But just as I hit the wall with my relationship with alcohol, so too have I reached that point with sugar. Something has to change. I am tired of overeating sweets and feeling like I have no control over my cravings. It’s time to put in the work.

So this week I will start reading The Food Therapist. I’ll write about it too, because writing gives structure to my soul-searching. I will also get more sleep, continue to slay my exercise goals (the one thing I nailed this past week!), and give myself grace. I deserve to feel my best and not beat myself up if I stumble along the way. It’s time to turn this slump right-side up.

Scoring Kilojoules and Slaying Negative Self-Talk

This morning I had a major breakthrough on my Peloton bike. I blazed past my previous personal output record, beating it by 26kj. I was surprised to have so thoroughly kicked my own butt! I felt delighted and triumphant. Yet negative thoughts still tried to leave a nasty schmear on my pride. Ugh! The nerve!

Don’t ask me what kilojoules are. I can tell you that I set a PR of 341kj just last week. My PR before that was 337kj, and I hit that last November. Today I pedaled my way to 367kj! A jump of 26kj in one week after basically plateauing for half a year is pretty awesome, if I do say so myself.

But it’s not about these numbers. To some Peloton devotees, 367kj is a walk in the park. To others, it may seem impossible. Yes, my numbers matter to me as a way of tracking my progress but here’s what matters more: that I put the pieces in place to be able to achieve this athletic feat today.

“How on earth did I slay my own record like that?!” I asked myself as I made my protein shake. It was the right combo of being both well-rested and warmed up; reaping the benefits of cross-training; sticking to a healthy (and still booze-free!) diet; and being determined to break through a major rainy day funk. I also love my instructor, Ally Love. She is steady and strong, creative and charismatic. Her positivity and confidence are contagious. She tells us that we’re bosses and you know what? She’s right. I bossed up today and I’m damn proud!

Ok but really how did I do it?

Sleep: I have been aiming for at least eight hours of sleep per night and mostly (miraculously) getting it.

Warm up: I did this ride on demand, around 10:30 this morning. I had been awake since 6:30, so I was warm and energized.

Cross-training: I am building strength and putting on muscle with my biweekly, butt-kicking kickboxing workouts. Kickboxing and spinning compliment each other really well for me.

Diet: I have been on Weight Watchers for over a year now, and I still depend on tracking my food just as much as I did when I started. It’s nice to experience how much better my body operates when I am eating clean (even if I am currently dealing with major sugar demons – but that is a post for another day).

Exercise as therapy: We’ve had day and a half of non-stop rain and it’s been a bummer. I went off the deep end into a sea of snacks yesterday (all tracked and it wasn’t pretty) that left me feeling even more gross. Plus the ever-present everyday stressors of life y’all. So I was eager to use this workout to help me get out of my funk, and it did the trick!

This also happened:

“How on earth did I slay my own record like that?!” I asked myself as I finished my protein shake and headed upstairs to take a shower. Maybe I haven’t been working hard enough in the two years since I got my Peloton. Maybe they changed how they compute output to make the numbers bigger. Maybe this is a fluke. Maybe I am a fluke.

HOLD THE F UP. How am I still burdening myself with this BS? I have come so far. How am I still getting bogged down with my own self-imposed negativity and criticism and self-doubt?

But here’s the thing. I thought those thoughts. I gave them a moment of my time. They felt like old frenemies trying to move back into my brain. Familiar, but unwelcome. Just as they started to inflate their verbal Aerobeds with more hot air, I cut the power and kicked them to the curb. I quickly made a mental U-turn back to triumph.

And that is where I’ll try to stay. I remind myself that I am a work in progress, and it will take time to undo the decades of negative self-talk that has been sloppily fused with fear and doubt within my subconscious. But I have made so much progress. Just like with my Peloton output, there will be PRs and there will be plateaus. Such is life.

367kj. It’s just a number, but it’s more than a number.

A Mocktail on Mother’s Day

Last Saturday my mom and I made our annual Mother’s Day pilgrimage to NYC for a Broadway double-header with fun meals and shopping in between shows. I had been planning for weeks to break my 60-day alcohol-free streak on Saturday with a frozen pomegranate margarita, one of my favorite drinks. But in the days leading up to #MothersDayonBroadway, I started to feel a little twinge of hesitation in my gut. And by the time Saturday rolled around, there was a strong inner voice telling me, “I don’t want it.”

We arrive at Rosa Mexicano for lunch. The waiter asks for our drink order. “I’ll have a virgin pomegranate margarita,” I hear myself say. Alas, they are pre-mixed! Crap! The waiter recommends a mango-strawberry mocktail. And before I know it, my streak-breaking moment has passed and it’s Day 62.

Honestly, I’m shocked. And yet I guess I’m not. It just takes a glance back through what I’ve written over the past few months, especially my reflections once I hit my 60-day milestone last week, to quash the instinctual shock.

“I feel lighter, both physically and mentally.”

“I feel stronger, both physically and mentally.”

“I feel more energized – and beyond that, I have more endurance – both physically and mentally.”

Less anxious. Healthier. Empowered. In control (of booze, at least).

Why would I want to risk losing any of these feels?

And yet, would one drink really make a difference?

Do I still care enough about alcohol to find out? Or do I care more about me? (That’s a rhetorical question obviously. But maybe it hasn’t always been.)

On a date night a couple of weeks ago, my husband and I had a very candid chat about our diet goals. He has recently committed to cleaning up his carb-inhaling act; and though his approach is different from mine, we are on the same page in terms of cutting the crap and getting healthier for ourselves and to set a better example for our kids. We agreed on this: that we would like to get to a point where we can go out to dinner, have a drink, eat a burger, splurge on dessert – and have that meal be an isolated indulgence, NOT a shove that sends us back down into the junky spiral that we have been trying to escape basically since becoming parents.

My husband has a true take-it-or-leave-it relationship with alcohol. I do not. So to include “have a drink” in the description of an ideal date night is a bigger deal for me than it is for him. I recognize this. I’ve got my toolbox now. My non-negotiables remain steadfast. I am aware and I am armed and I am determined to never fall back down to where I was.

But why do I still feel the need to include “have a drink” at all?

Because I am not ready to proclaim myself a non-drinker. But also, I don’t want to drink. So.

Last #MothersDayonBroadway, my mom and I spent our time between shows having margaritas with dinner and prosecco at a cute Irish pub. This year, because we weren’t bar-hopping, we had so much time on our hands we didn’t really know what to do with ourselves. We browsed the shops at the Time Warner Center. We found her some cute summer shoes at TJ Maxx. We had dessert at Pinkberry. It was refreshing, if a bit disorienting.

I did miss being able to go sit at a bar and have a drink with my mom. I missed feeling giddy and fabulous. But I didn’t miss the crash. I didn’t miss the void left by a worn-off buzz, the dehydration, having to suppress the yearning for more booze, the anxiety about having to drive home. Yikes. Nope, I did not miss any of that at all.

We saw “Mean Girls” that night, and it was hysterical and awesome and I was able to fully absorb both the fantastic show and the amazing audience. I drove us home afterwards, grateful to be sober and not having to calculate how much time had passed since my last drink. I slept well and woke up guilt-free on Sunday.

I am really proud of myself, if a little surprised to have made the choice that I did. [I should note that one of my non-negotiables is that I will not drink if I have to drive. My plan had been to have one margarita with lunch at noon which would have worn off completely by the time I was driving home 11 hours later. But the fact that I would have been compromising, if not fully breaking, a non-negotiable did factor into my gut decision to go for a mocktail instead.] I accept that I still have conflicting feelings that will take time to untwine. And I accept that I still don’t know what my relationship with alcohol will be.

For now, it’s back to our weekly routine, which at this point is easily, breezily alcohol-free for me. No date nights or other potential drinking occasions coming up this week. So I am going to try to give myself some head space. I will shift my focus back to simply (because it’s so simple – ha!) staying on track. I will stay within my points, achieve my workout and daily water intake goals, and get my butt to bed. Keep it simple. Give myself grace.

It’s Tuesday, which also happens to be Day 64. But it’s also just Tuesday.

Losing the Big Picture and a Booze-Free Breakthrough

I lost sight of the big picture yesterday.

It was my one-year anniversary of hitting my original goal weight of 145lbs. It was also the Mother’s Day brunch celebration at my son’s nursery school. I remember going to the event with my daughter when she was in Pre-K last year, feeling triumphant for hitting my weight loss goal. Yesterday morning, I couldn’t resist weighing myself – and I was 146lbs.

I felt discouraged. I had a lovely time at the brunch – but also ate quiche, pumpkin bread, banana bread, and a blueberry muffin. Then last night I ate a 13-point pint of Enlightened ice cream and followed that with about 22 points’ worth of granola.

At about 8pm, my mom arrived for the weekend. My husband had to go out on an ambulance call (he’s a volunteer EMT). I decided to stop eating, hydrate, and enjoy the time hanging out with my mom. By the time my hubby got home, my mom and I were telling funny stories and laughing our heads off. My husband said, “This is like you ladies after a few glasses of wine, only without the wine!”

His comment made me feel SO GOOD and so proud and so happy. He was right – we were having a great time together WITHOUT wine! It was a great way to end what was otherwise a bit of a rollercoaster day.

I am now in the negatives for my points this week, with the entire weekend ahead of me including a day out in NYC today with my mom. I weighed myself again this morning to keep myself accountable –

and as of this morning I’m 144.6lbs. So I LOST a pound and a half after eating all those carbs yesterday!

So I am resetting my view to the big picture. I put too much pressure on my one-year goal weight anniversary yesterday. I’m going to try not to do that again! I will reinvest my trust in the process. Give myself kindness and grace. The rest (and the weight loss) will follow.

Me at Sixty (Days Alcohol-Free)

Today has felt like a normal day. A bit better than average, perhaps, what with my Peloton PR this morning, beautiful weather, and kids who ate their veggies without starting World War III. 

And then I remember that today is Day 60. I have not had a sip of alcohol in sixty days. I absorb that. I do a silly little mental dance that is a celebration of both the milestone and the normalcy. 

I am not at the end of a marathon. I am at the beginning of a new era in my life. An era of self-kindness, self-love, self-care. An era of energy, creativity, curiosity, gratitude. An era of joy and contentment. A time when not every moment will be happy, and no moment will be perfect, but every moment will be beautiful in its clarity.

More concretely though – because back in my drinking days I never could have imagined what it would feel like to go for 60 days without booze: 

How do I feel, having gone for 60 days without booze?

I feel lighter, both physically and mentally. I am still about the same weight that I have been, plus or minus 5lbs, for the past year. But I am less puffy and bloated. Mentally, I feel like a weight has been lifted as my willpower has not been drained on a daily basis with the to-drink-or-not-to-drink quandary. 

I feel stronger, both physically and mentally. Physically, I am stronger because I have been very dedicated to my spinning and kickboxing workouts. It’s a lot easier to exercise when I’m not feeling like crap! Go figure. But I am also mentally stronger. I have been building brainpower, breaking down my former beliefs about booze, and forging new neural pathways. I have been educating myself, and reinforcing this new knowledge by writing and applying these new tools in my everyday life.  

I feel more energized – and beyond that, I have more endurance – both physically and mentally. I marvel at how I am able to get through the day with a constant stream of energy. I no longer feel broken by the time I’m putting my kids to bed. I honestly didn’t know life could be like this! Mentally, I have regained the creative energy that I thought I’d lost due to #momlife (spoiler alert: it was actually due to #winelife). My brain is hungry, y’all. Hungry to learn and do and try and be.

I feel less anxious. That’s not to say I don’t still feel anxious sometimes, but my formerly crippling anxiety is now minimal and manageable.

I feel healthier on every level of my being. From my non-existent seasonal allergies and my clear skin to my clear head and my clear conscience. With all of that comes a new level of kindness and grace that I now give myself on a daily basis. The positive self-talk is actually happening now. I’m even buying more organic foods and health and beauty products. Which may seem like a silly thing, except it means that I now see myself as a worthwhile investment.

I now see myself as a worthwhile investment. 

I needed to type that again. Because it’s true. And it’s wonderful.

Alcohol’s role in my life has diminished from a controlling, willpower-draining force to a wisp of its former self, a mere passing thought that is (usually, though not always) easily dismissed. 

And oh, have I filled this void. There have been times where I’ve filled it with sugar and salt and carbs. But mostly I’ve filled it with good-for-me-goodness: positive self-talk; healthy foods; exercise; an authentic conversation with a friend or family member; reading and writing; play and snuggles with my kids. 

Needless to say, I don’t miss drinking much.

Am I going to stay alcohol-free? No. I am going to have a pomegranate margarita when I go out to lunch for Mother’s Day with my mom this weekend. Do I hope it’s not as good as I remember? Yes. Either way, will it derail me? No.

Because I have come too far to tumble back down to where I was. I am still on a journey. I am not committing to “forever.” I am committing to my non-negotiables, hoping that these lines in the sand will continue to guide me to my best life. I am committing to more reading and writing and learning. I am committing to loving myself and loving my life every day as much as I do today – if not more. And that is enough, for now.

My Alcohol-Free High School Reunion was Not Torture

On Saturday morning I woke at the buttcrack of dawn to walk my dog and squeeze in a Peloton spin class (burn, calories, burn!) before driving to suburban Philly for my 20th high school reunion.

I have vowed to take a 60-day booze break. Saturday was Day 55. I may not have done a lot of math since high school, but I was able to discern that this would be an alcohol-free reunion for me. My first ever alcohol-free reunion, in fact. Yikes. But ok. I can do this.

So I did. And it didn’t suck! At all!

How did it not suck being sober at my high school reunion? Let me count the ways:

WILLPOWER

I made the decision before going that I was not going to break my 60-day commitment. I also had one of my non-negotiables to guide and support me: “I will not drink when I have to drive, or if I am traveling alone.” So I had a full tank of willpower that I could put towards other decisions, keeping me on track (almost) the entire day. No booze or junk food boost-and-crash roller coaster for me!

ENERGY

It was a long day, from the driving to touring around the school and a picnic lunch, to the class party that night. Lots of schmoozing. I needed all the energy I could muster and I knew if I drank my energy level would plummet. Instead I felt a constant stream of energy the entire day. And that was much more refreshing and long-lasting than a drink would have been.

AUTHENTICITY

I am so happy to have reconnected with old friends and former teachers with an authenticity that is inherent in not having a fuzzy, boozy brain. I felt confident. I felt sure of myself. I felt 100% present. I felt content to be there just as I am. And that is incredible to me.

I was able to tell my French teacher that he was the greatest teacher I have ever had and when he bashfully rejected the compliment, I said, “I used to be bad at taking compliments too but I’m trying to get better at it. Here’s all you have to do. Say ‘Thank you.’ Now let’s try this again.” We did, we laughed, he said “Thank you,” and it felt amazing to have put that goodness out into the world and into his heart.

FIERCENESS

Apologies if this sounds a little vain, but my skin and body looked GOOD. I CAN’T BELIEVE I JUST TYPED THAT. But I’m not going to let myself delete it, because this is important. It has taken a long time and a LOT of work to get myself here: I am happy in my life and proud of how I look.

On Saturday night I fit into a dress that I haven’t worn since my mini-moon, right after my wedding in 2009. I’ve held onto it all this time for sentimental reasons. I thought I would pass it on to my daughter. I never thought I would be able to wear it again and I think it fits me better now than it did 8.5 years ago.

My high school friends knew me as a fairly athletic but never thin girl with a cute face that was unfortunately riddled with acne. I am thrilled that I was able to show up feeling fit and pretty. What I look like on the outside, I think, also reflects how I have evolved on the inside. I did not need alcohol to give me superficial jolt of dopamine masquerading as confidence, as I have in the past. How freeing that was!

FUN

Y’all, I just had a great time. And being fully present only made it better. Snooping around the school and reliving the laughs and drama of our high school days. Marveling at how technology has evolved. Appreciating what a great education I received and reflecting on how my years there shaped my life. Catching up with everyone I could, from acquaintances to very dear friends.

And I was there. I was 100% there.

My only misstep in what was otherwise a wonderful day was eating a brownie with ice cream at 10pm, after the class party. I couldn’t fall asleep until 2am because of the sugar! Oops. But I’m trying to be kind to myself and see this as a lesson learned. I’m still adjusting to how much more sensitive my body has become to sugar since I’ve been alcohol-free. And I’ll take fatigue over a raging hangover any day!

Alcohol-free high school reunion achievement unlocked. Next stop: Day 60!