Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Virtues of Celery

I am having a love affair.

With celery.

Delicious, fresh, leafy, green, versatile, crunchy, satisfying celery.

And I could (and will) go on.....

Dear reader, you may think I'm ridiculous, you may think I'm insane, maybe you even come from a place where you understand my cries of love and adoration for a simple, inanimate vegetable. Wherever you're coming from, my hope is that you will be craving celery by the end of this post (and yes, even in my love-haze, I have enough awareness to realize that this hope is also quite insane).

My favorite way to enjoy celery is raw. The crisp snap of the stalk, the cool pure juice released from the fiber, and the toothiness of the fiber itself. Nature has been thoughtful enough to provide a perfect little inset to house peanut butter as a sweet snack, or to support the addition of cheese to instantly transform the celery platform to 'savory'.

I have also been adding celery to many of my soups and veggie dishes throughout the week. Because, after all, what is a soup without a mirepoix?? It's no coincidence that celery is also a part of the 'holy trinity' of Cajun cuisine. Oh yes, celery is certainly wonderous and magical.

Why am I so fervently extolling the virtues of celery? Well, suffice to say that I have been purchasing and consuming a large quantity of celery lately. Having found that it is a food that I thoroughly enjoy AND has the added benefit of being healthy for me, it makes me a very happy girl indeed. Recently, I have stopped eating a good number of things that I get truly excited about eating, and I needed to find some replacements.

Substituting unhealthy choices for healthy options is something I talk about a lot at my job. In my role as counselor, I frequently speak with clients about lifestyle choices utilizing an anaolgy of 'filling the circle'. (This is going somewhere, I promise. Bear with me.) We draw a circle and write inside of the circle all of the activities they had engaged in while they were actively using drugs. If the client has achieved a level of sobriety, we begin to erase all of the things that they no longer do. Most times, when we complete this exercise for the first time the circle is almost, if not completely, empty.

At the beginning of my diet, my circle of food-activity was relatively empty. Cobwebs were starting to accumulate, and cobwebs don't taste good. Too musty. In starting my diet, I had wiped the slate clean and there were foods that tenaciously survived, but not many. I have currently begun the process that most individuals find themselves facing at this point when making a lifestyle change. 'Filling the circle' with positive choices, so that the negative behaviors don't invade the empty space.

And, celery (oh celery!) has recently taken up a large space of my circle. Always there for a snack, long shelf life in the fridge, indispensible addition to soups and stews, inexpensive, reliable celery.


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Motivation to Keep Going Left

What finally brought me to the gym you ask? Why, I'll tell you.

Driving home today in my car, I was toying with the idea of to go or not to go. To take the left hand ramp off Exit 15, or the right hand ramp. I've been seeing that ramp in my minds eye every day upon leaving work. Today I was deep in thought about that damned ramp and all of a sudden I became aware that the Who's 'Baba O' Reilly' (aka: 'Teenage Wasteland') was on the radio.

For a split nanosecond I could feel myself jogging down the straightaway of a track, deeply inhaling razor sharp frozen air. Huh? Is my body so starved for exercise that it's forcing me to hallucinate jogging as a possible substitute? And why was it so cold? Then, I realized. I had listened to this song a billion times while jogging in the past as it was on a workout mix I had made my junior year in college. Okay fate. I get the hint. So I'm guessing this is the day that you want me to finally get to the gym.

Off I drove. Once I had made the decision, I didn't even really need to think about which direction I was driving on the ramp. Left. Left is where my exercise regime started today, and I would like to think I will continue to choose left from here on out.

My workout was okay, I havent worked out in awhile so I need to get back in shape. But I suppose choosing to go left is a start.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Cycling through the Stages of Change

Ok, so let's start with the truth of today.

I didn't go exercise as planned.

I got distracted by a visit from a friend, the UConn game, You Tube and my new books that arrived from So sue me. There's worse things that I could have been doing I suppose, like calling in for pizza or Chinese food. But I didn't do those things. I snuggled up in the corner of my couch, laughing at You Tube video of Conan's last time hosting the Tonight Show (omg hysterical), diving into my new books, (trying to decide which one to enjoy first), and cheering for the UConn men's basketball team to destroy #1 ranked Texas (hell yeah they did!).

It seems that what is happening is that I am currently willing and ready to make a positive change based on my eating habits, but not so much with my physical activity. In the past, and hopefully in the future, I have approached exercise as an exciting new venture and began a regular routine with passion and excitement. Not so now.

This disparity in being openly willing and ready to change one aspect of my life, and somewhat reluctant to change another aspect is very familiar to me. In my counseling experience I have been fortunate enough to be introduced to something called 'Stages of Change' (thank you geniuses Prochaska and DiClemente!). These stages were developed intially as a gauge for those with problems with addiction, but the true beauty of the stages is that they can be easily applied to anyone, anywhere at any time with a 'problem'. Furthermore, the stages can be utilized whether the person is ready to make a change or not.

First stage: Precontemplation. This stage is marked by the quote, "I don't have a problem". In the past, the following has been a portrait of me in precontemplation about my weight and eating habits. "I'm not gaining weight. It's just bloating!" The surreptitious glances in the mirror only from the waist up, or concentrating on my 'skinny' body parts (oh what a lovely shoulder blade you have!).

Second stage: Contemplation. "I know I have a problem, I'm not sure what to do." Now, in my personal opinion, with dieting the 'dont know what to do' part may not really apply. This country is obsessed with presenting us with literally hundreds of products, foods, equipment, you name it to lose weight or stay fit. (Oh yes that infomercial for the 'Ab Roller' is truly going to solve my years of fat ass disease! Lucky thing I was up at 3AM shoving cold pizza in my face so I could find out about such a product!) Therefore, for me the contemplation stage has more or less been a frustration with being overwhelmed and left wondering what will work for me. (Hint hint: It's not the 'Ab Roller'.)

Third stage: Preparation. "I've cut down already. I've made a few changes." This is me in regards to exercise. I've made some changes that should make it easier for me to go and exercise, but I am still reluctant to jump headfirst into an exercise program. I think the best thing to do at this point is to try try again. Tomorrows another day, and who knows when I'll decide to move to....

Fourth stage: Action. "I'm willing to do what it takes to change and maintain that change." Here I am! Well, in relation to eating I am. At the moment. The trick is....

Fifth stage: Maintenance. "I've made the changes, but maintaining the change is harder than I've thought." This phase is achieved after six consecutive months in the Action phase. Some popular diets, such as Weight Watchers already have this phase built in to their plan, and others such as South Beach allow for 'relapses' and have a structure so that the dieter can go back to 'Phase One' once they digress from the plan. I could go on about popular diets and cycling through the phases, but in the interest of not making this post longer than it already is, I will spare you. Perhaps in a future post....

But for now, in regards to exercise, I'm just gonna fake it till I make it.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

'Ducky J' and the Halves

When I was younger, my Nana always used to allow us one half of whatever food or drink we asked for. If I said I wanted a glass of juice, she would fill it halfway and tell me if I finished it and wanted more, well then of course I could have more. At the time (I must've been seven or eight during my first memory of this happening), I thought this rule was ridiculous. Coming from a family in which my paternal grandmother and all my great aunts were 100% Italian, they did what was natural and regularly fed my little belly until I almost burst. That's what grandmothers and great aunts usually do, right? Why on earth was my Italian grandmother denying me my heavenly juice cup?!

Another curious thing that always mystified me about my Nana was her license plate on her brilliant silver car: DUCKYJ. What? As a little girl, I thought it was cute! Also that perhaps my Nana was a little exotic because she was the only person I knew (in the small scope of my world) that had a vanity plate.

A few years ago, these two childhood mysteries were solved for me! At a family gathering I overheard my father say 'I even saw your grandmother split a peanut in half once!' Huh? The whole situation was explained to me at that point. 'Ducky' was my grandmother! She had been somewhat chubby in high school and she had gotten the nickname 'Ducky'. Eventually she had come up with her own form of a diet in which she only took one half of everything she wanted to eat or drink, and then once finished she reevaluated her need for more. This was the principle that, in essence, she was trying to pass on to me, my sister and my cousins when we were younger. She therefore lost weight and became the trim, vibrantly stunning woman that will forever be in my memory.

And, of course, I'm not mad about the juice cup anymore.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The 'Grand Scheme'

So, the past three days have passed without incident. I have managed to appease AB(for now) with a few no-sugar added fudgicles and a helping of calorie-free laughter. (I suppose one could even make the argument that laughter burns calories...not enough to build muscle or shed unwanted poundage though, but I digress...)

As my first task to ward off the evil machinations of AB, I have begun to stockpile a mental and physical list of things that I can keep myself occupied with. Doing this is comparable to one of the first steps that occur when clients walk through the door where I work. Create a treatment plan.

Side Note: For the purposes of this blog, I am going to call the 'treatment plan' the 'grand scheme', because....well, because quite frankly the terminology is boring and stale and doesn't motivate me to get off my ass. 'Scheme' almost makes it seem like what I'm doing is incredibly important, like I need a covert special ops team to help me in my quest. I could be getting ahead of myself, but in truth the term 'grand scheme' has got me aaaaawfully excited! (Hmmm, thought for the day: Possibly start using the term 'grand scheme' with my clients.)

So, creation of 'grand scheme' Act One was basically outlined in the end of my last blog. Shut up the negativity regularly doled out by the renegade part of my brain. This scheme involves keeping my mind, body and soul satiated by feeding them things that will make them happy and healthy. Keep myself occupied, consistently going strong, so that HB and AB don't have down time to chit chat.

Act One, Scene One: This was something small that I alluded to at the beginning of this post. Stay happy. Stay smiling. Elevate my soul with giggles and guffaws. So, I have been watching pretty much nothing but funny stuff on TV and DVD, and also ordered a few books that promise to be humorous from Two things I can't recommend highly enough are Better Off Ted on ABC on Tuesday nights, and a stand up special by this guy Aziz Ansari that recently aired on Comedy Central. Hiiiiilarious. (Also a healthy dose of Family Guy and The Office reruns never hurt anyone).

Act One, Scene Two: Continue to remain excited about and employ creativity while eating healthy. Albeit, it's only day three, but I have been compiling thoughts for simplistic recipes that rely heavily on veggies and healthy fats that South Beach permits. I am shooting to create or revise at least one new recipe each week. Today was eggplant 'lasagna', with thin eggplant slices substituting for the pasta, and chopped tomatoes standing in for the sauce. Minimal effort for filling and (relatively) delicious results! Revision TBA.

Act One, Scene Three: Get thee to a gym! Oh boy. I've added Scene One and Scene Two, which seem easy enough to maintain at the moment but once Scene Three begins all hell might break loose in the ole noggin. Exercise leads me to generally expect quick and easy results, especially if the stage has been set with sustained goals. Now, patience is what I need. That's when things circle back around to Scene One, keeping myself occupied so time passes quickly. The tentative goal is to start my workout plan on Saturday afternoon.

There's more to be written on my grand scheme, but that's all for now. If there's any rule to be had, I believe that it would be to not rush things. Good wine takes time to age, Rome wasn't built in a day, a souffle doesn't rise if you don't give it the proper time...mmmmm...souffle....Argh! Damn you AB!

Ok, time for some comedy.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Happy Brain versus Angry Brain

Ahhh the first day of making a change. When everything seems so new and fresh, and eerily possible.

After a day of relative success with making positive eating choices, my mind slowly veers to the inevitable thought that always plagues me when undertaking a large project with no discernable end.

When am I going to fail?

Some might say that I am thinking negatively, that just by thinking I might fail I am in essence setting myself up for failure. But I can't help myself. In the battle between my positive, sweet, upbeat side of my brain, and the negative, naysaying, angry side of my brain, the negative side usually wins. There's totally a dialogue between these two entities, and it goes something like this:

Happy Brain: "This is going to be soooo great! We're gonna feel amazing, our health will be better, and we can think up some cool recipes!!! Yaaaay!"

Angry Brain: "Bah! This always lasts like a day or two and then something is frustrating, depressing, stressful or life is just too busy and we'll go back to the way things were."

HB: "But if we follow the plan, things will go fine! It's gonna be difficult, but we'll have some great rewards in the end."

AB: "Rewards? What? By ignoring that delicious chocolate? We used to reward ourselves with chocolate, and it used to be wonderful. You know we want the chocolate. Go get the chocolate. Chocolate chocolate chooooocolate!!!"

HB: "Arg! I hate you! You're terrible! Chocolate is delicious, but I can go without the super fattening chocolate for now. We don't need it to survive."

AB: "There are so many other obstacles to success and you think you will be able to overtake all of them? You fool! Get the chocolate!"

At this point, AB gets even angrier and tries to jump over and silence HB, and a wave of tiredness and resignation ensues. AB wins.

So, goal for this week: I am taking AB and attempting to shut that bitch up.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The 'First Step'

The realization hit me the other day when I was carrying one of those large 2.5 gallon jugs of water up the stairs to my third floor apartment.

Here's a glimpse of my internal monologue at the moment of realization:

"I hate carrying these *%^*$ things up the stairs. They weigh a ton....I wonder how much they weigh? 15 or 20 pounds?"

....and then....

"Oh shit, I've gained about 40 pounds since college. That means that I'm carrying TWO of these things on my BODY every minute of every day."

Ouch. That stung a bit. I've been looking for that 'a-ha!' moment for a long time, you know, a split second in which everything seems to snap into focus and motivates your ass to make a change? When it looks like something is drastically effecting your life in ways that you had never considered? Or....maybe never wanted to consider? Either way, this water jug was tearing my arm off at the top of my landing as I blankly stared at my door, considering just what in the hell I was going to do about this realization.

I've been considering what to do about it since. Clearly it's time to make a change. I'm not going to go into a long spiel about my past struggles with food and weight, because a) it's boring as hell and b)right now I'd prefer to look to the future. A future where my hips preferably don't weigh as much as a Poland Spring jug.

How to do it? I'd had a measure of success before with the South Beach diet, so that was something old I could use. Now for something that I'd always wanted to try but was too afraid of. Accountability. That's where blogger comes in. I love to write, but haven't felt any inspiration lately. I've only got one body and one lifetime, so I'd like to think my inspiration lies here.

Last but not least, something else that is 'new' that already inspires me on a daily basis. I am tentatively planning on using theraputic techniques I utilize with clients in my job as a substance abuse counselor. Currently I counsel no less than 50 opiate-dependent individuals at a methadone maintenance clinic in CT. At the clinic, we utilize various different treatment techniques, 'homework' sheets, plans and therapies tailored to each individual to assist them in finding a way to live life without harmful substances. Every day I find myself recalling past experience not only with drugs and alcohol (that's for another blog), but with my ongoing struggle with my weight in relation to what my clients tell me about their challenges in recovery. I feel like my struggle with food and exercise is a form of addiction, one that to this point has been very difficult for me to control. I need to learn to live a life without harmful foods and behaviors. Oh I know, I know I should be seeking professional consults, but who can afford it? Life is a pricey venture, even without seeking a nutritionist/therapist/trainer/etc./etc./etc.

Tomorrow is my kick off date. I set this date about two weeks ago, something I learned in the past from success quitting smoking cigarettes. I will go grocery shopping tonight, and start eating right and drinking lots of water when I wake up in the morning.

So, I'm gonna start here. With me, what I know about 'recovery', this blog and a relatively anonymous (but hopefully captivated) audience.

That, and a whole lot of Poland Spring.