February 17, 2012

Roses and thorns

This has been a pretty thorny week.

After my bike got stolen on Sunday, I found myself in a stinking blue funk. I was sad and upset on Sunday, but Monday, it felt different. I felt violated and vulnerable, and it was really hard to get out of bed. So I didn't. I dragged myself out literally at the last minute to head to work.

And I did the same pretty much all week.

It was, admittedly, a pretty deep depression for the loss of something material I'd owned for only six months. I realized, though, that it was not unlike the breakdown I had in the Apple store when I first started losing weight ... much of the sadness over the bike was sadness I've been holding in about other things - recent losses and heartbreak, transitions I hadn't properly grieved.

A few days off with some cathartic sobbing would have been perfect. When I felt better, get right back on the horse. But since moving to California, my panic reflex to soothe with food has been reignited. And while I was proud of myself for throwing out the leftover cookies I made for the woman who gave me an interim replacement bike, the next morning I found a flat rear tire with a giant hole in it, as well as an unexpected care package from a friend back in Chicago with plenty of off-plan things in it on my porch.

One of my favorite success story bloggers, Jane, wrote about resisting temptations around the holidays, and I've kept a quote from her post on my desktop since she wrote it (emphasis hers):
I gave up milk chocolate when I released milk fat from my food plan. That has not been easy. Some days I hate that I cannot have it. BUT PLEASE NOTE: I have never hated it an hour or a day later. Fast food restaurants are not an option for me today. Pizza has not been on my food plan for two years but I admit that when time is short I miss being able to just order pizza. For two years I have not ordered the pizza and there as never been a morning where I regretted the decision not to have pizza the night before.
In the beginning of my journey, this wasn't a struggle. I craved junk, but I fought it. I wanted to be healthy more than I wanted to hurt myself with food. I went to bed in tears so many nights, but I always woke up feeling good about my choices. Lately, though, it's like I can't seem to remember that you always, always, always regret the binge. There are no excuses. I know I ought to do better, but in the moment, I feel out of control. My willpower feels depleted, my motivation disappears. I know better, but I can't do better. All I can think about is the high.

And the thing about highs is, they're always followed by lows.

I weighed myself before baking and saw 191, one pound under my lowest recorded Chicago weight (though I was also dehydrated post-bike/run/walk; more realistically, I was probably down to 193 or 194). And I weighed again the next morning, post-binge ... back at 198. Two weeks of work undone in in two days. And it can't be blamed on sodium, because it's stayed at 198 since Tuesday. My eating is back to normal, but with exercise pretty much halted (a few walks, 2-4 miles, not much in terms of calorie burning), it's not enough for me to lose.

I had a really significant experience on Tuesday night, one that merits its own post, and Wednesday was when things turned around. A few books that I had ordered arrived at the library (Donald Miller's "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years" and Michael Pollan's "The Omnivore's Dilemma"), and I spent the afternoon sitting on a campus bench in the sun, devouring Miller's book. I finished it the next morning in bed and just completely loved it.

After I finished the book, I got dressed and walked downtown to the bike shop. They said there have been a ton of reported bikes stolen lately, and since their shop offers lifetime repairs on bikes sold there, they sometimes get stolen bikes brought in. So they copied the original receipt I brought in (with the bike's serial number on it) and said they'd keep an eye out. Between that and the police report, I feel good. I don't have my bike back, but I did all I could.

And after looking around for a little while, I decided to order my same exact bike, the men's black Raleigh Venture with an upgrade to thicker tires since I usually bike over 100 miles a week on paths with lots of thorny trees. And they said it should be here in about a week. I'm not thrilled at the thought of another week with no riding, but in the meantime, I'll get back to being active in the ways that I can.

So all in all, this week was not my best. But I'm determined to beat this thing once and for all, and I still have nearly half of February to refocus and move past this stupid plateau. I have so many big goals I want to accomplish, and off-plan eating doesn't get me where I want to be.

What about you? How was your week? For American readers, any plans for the long weekend? I'll probably walk to the lake out by the university and read the Michael Pollan book ... if I haven't finished it by then!

February 13, 2012

Gut feeling

Interestingly enough, after I posted yesterday morning about crying over ridiculous things, I spent a solid hour and a half of the day in tears. Understandable and justifiable ones, but tears nonetheless.

To backtrack.

The only thing I love more than running is racing, and so it struck me as odd that all of last week, I was dreading my race yesterday. When I signed up, I had been really excited - finally, a local race! I wouldn't have to travel to Chicago or a bigger California city in order to run with other people!

As the race grew nearer, though, I got anxious. It got so bad, in fact, that I started to lose sleep over it. I couldn't understand it. I love to run. I wanted to run. But I didn't want to race, if that makes sense. I wanted to run, just not there. I posted a message on Twitter, hoping for some feedback, and everyone said not to worry, that the race would go well and I'd feel better once I got there and started to run. I went to sleep Saturday night still unsure, and woke up yesterday morning equally as conflicted. The race entry was only $20, tough but not a huge loss. I'll go back to sleep and just run later.

I laid in bed for a solid half-hour before getting up, throwing my running outfit on, and hopping on my bike to head down to the starting line on Main Street. Per usual, I had my iPod on with one earphone; the Polyphonic Spree's Light and Day cheered me up tremendously as I pedaled towards the town square, where everyone was gathering. It's impossible to hear that song and feel anything but joyous and hopeful.

I locked up my bike on the rack to the side of the post-race food and water table, then headed over to the information booth to check my bag (all it had was my helmet; I kept my apartment key, ID, and debit card in the zipped pocket of my running pants). We sang the national anthem, watched the local high school mascots do a quick fun run, waited for the kids' 1K to be over, and then off we went - 5K to the left, 10K to the right.

The race went well, and I kept up an average pace of 9:49 for most of it ... until we got to the hills. There are only a few hills in this town, and we ran up them all. It slowed me down a bit, and for the first time ever in a race, I had to stop and walk for 30 seconds. I didn't want to - especially since it was at mile 5.5 out of 6.2 - but I also knew I would slow down even more if I didn't take a few seconds to recover. Up one last hill, around a corner, and finally, the finish line. The company they used for timing hasn't sent the official results yet, but my Garmin said 61:11 - or, 4:48 off my last 10K time. I was pleased, and definitely felt better about the 30 second walk break as I walked towards the town square for a drink and half a muffin.

When I finished, I walked over to the information booth and got my helmet, then went to jump on my bike and head home. There was one bike on the bike rack ... but it wasn't mine. In the spot where my bike had been was just the lock, dangling there. It had been cut through and left there, as if to say "No, you're not mistaken. This *is* where you left your bike." I shrugged and tossed the lock into my bag, and started to walk. The calm lasted about twenty seconds, and then the sobbing began. And it lasted the entire three mile walk home.

Someone stole my bike, and there's really nothing to say about that more tactful than "that totally sucks." The tears were for the loss, but also, for feeling like a failure. Biking isn't just recreational for me - besides walking or taking the university shuttle, it's really the only way I have to get around. There's a lot of glorious stuff to see in California, but I'm limited to as far as I can go on my bike. And now, I don't even have that.

I've had a few opportunities to learn how to drive. My dad was teaching me when I was in college - he worked near my university, so he'd pick me up on a Friday afternoon and I'd drive part of the way home. After his heart attack, though, the lessons stopped. I didn't seek lessons elsewhere, because I had a few fears about driving - some rational, some not. First, because if I was in a car accident, I was afraid I was too big for the paramedics to get me out of the vehicle. Second, because if I had a car, it would open up another realm of possibilities for my binge eating. And third, because I was profoundly depressed, and having a car opened up various life-ending possibilities.

I sought help for my depression, I walked to the places where I bought the food for my binges, and I avoided thinking about the fact that even as a passenger, I could be injured in a car accident and need a paramedic to lift me. And then I moved to Chicago, with an incredibly public transit system, and the non-driving was never an issue. I knew how to get around within city limits, and I knew a few people with cars just in case. In California, though, I don't have all the resources I need to get a license - namely, access to a vehicle. I can't get a license because I don't have a car with which to practice/take the exam. But I can't get a car because I don't have a license. Catch 22.

Walking home, I felt stupid. Stupid for using my fears as excuses for putting off getting a license for so long. Stupid for moving somewhere on a whim without seriously investigating the transportation issue. And stupid for not listening to my gut when it said to stay in bed that morning. I biked 3 miles, ran 6, was walking 3, and would need to make another 3 mile round trip to the bike store (not to mention coughing up a few hundred dollars I hadn't planned on spending). Tired and upset, I got to my apartment, dropped everything, and called Matt.

Something I both love and hate about Matt is his tendency to focus on negatives. He can be a total Debbie Downer sometimes, and it's tough to love someone and want to support them in any way you can when he or she doesn't seem to have the same faith and confidence in his or herself as you do. At the same time, though, I'm optimistic to a fault, and tend to only see silver linings, never the clouds. His focus on the realities of situations is necessary, since my focus is almost exclusively on the positive outcomes. It might not work for everyone, but the way we balance each other out works very well for us.

Yesterday, as I sobbed into the phone about what happened, he comforted me. Yes, this sucks. No, you are not stupid. And then he rattled off several things that are worse than having my bike stolen. The list of really terrible things made me realize that my problem could have been much, much worse. And it made me smile. It was exactly what I needed.

I posted about the bike on Facebook and then went to take a shower and cool off a bit before heading to the bike store, and in the meantime, a woman I met from the very small 5K I did when I first moved here commented, saying she had an old bike that I was more than welcome to have. In exchange, I baked her a few dozen cookies. I walked to the store and bought just what I needed for the recipe, and the rest of the flour and sugar went right into the trash. I had a few cookies that didn't fit in the container I bought for her, and I certainly ate some. One, then another, then another. And when I got the gut feeling that I wasn't in control, that even though I wasn't hungry, I was going to keep eating them until they were gone ... I buried them deep in the trash.

So, yesterday wasn't a total loss. I PRed at the race, I got a decent bike to use until my tax return shows up and I can buy my same exact bike again, and I threw out cookies instead of binging on them.

Learning, little by little, to trust that gut feeling.

February 12, 2012

Olive lentil spinach burgers

As I work through my recovery for my binge eating problem, I have become a crier. It's great, really - collapsing on the couch or into my bed and sobbing can be incredibly cathartic. Learning to let the emotions out instead of packing them down with food is very important. Sometimes, though, it feels silly. Like when I cry over the most ridiculous things.

The other day, it was Whole Foods.

Specifically, the fact that I don't drive and the closest Whole Foods is over 50 miles away. Trader Joe's, too (though, admittedly, I never went to Trader Joe's when I lived in the Midwest. It wasn't really close by - they finally put one close-ish to where I was living, and it opened a few days after I left.). After my Whole Foods challenge this summer, I got kind of spoiled - so many wonderful veggies and grains! I miss the glorious produce section, the fresh fish counter, the bulk bins.

Since moving to my new city, I've been frustrated a lot by the grocery stores here. The selection isn't nearly what I had available in Chicago, in terms of both the stores themselves and what they sell. There are a few grocery stores near my apartment, yet the choices are lacking. I couldn't find Chobani at all until the local Target finished remodeling and added a grocery section. I still haven't seen collard greens, kale, or escarole. And the prices are surprisingly high considering so much is grown/produced right here in-state.

Things I used to keep on hand all the time back in Chicago have now become "sometimes foods." Things like ground turkey - I can't believe I used to scoff at $2.49 for a 16 oz. container. I'd wait for it to go on sale 2/$4 or cheaper. Now, finding the same ground turkey for $3.99 is a bargain. I used to buy hot Italian turkey sausage, too, for the same price - at 140 calories a link, I'd slice one open, form it into a patty, and make a nice sandwich for lunch on the weekends. It's hard to justify the expense, though - upwards of $4.99 for 5 links - so I stick to just plain chicken breasts.

I also used to like the Amy's frozen meals - as far as frozen meals go, they're a more "whole" alternative compared to the Lean Cuisines - but they're twice the price here that they were back in Chicago. (And they were expensive back in Chicago!) I want to nourish my body the best I can, but I also can't see spending $6 on one frozen meal. I suppose it's comparable price-wise to going out to eat for lunch, but I very rarely go out to eat, too. I'm a penny-pincher who made a healthy lifestyle rule against going out to eat except for social situations.

On weekends, I try and avoid the frozen meals since I have more time to put together something real. Ideally, I'd like to transition to homemade meals for every meal, but for now, it's one step at a time. I spend Saturday or Sunday cooking up soups and putting together containers I can freeze and take out during the week as need be. It's not hard to make these things, just a little time consuming. It's certainly worth the effort, though.

Something rather easy to make (and freeze) are the veggie burgers I've been craving lately. They're quick to throw together, filling, and have pretty much unlimited possibilities as far as flavors go. Last week, I wanted curry and coconut - so I made it happen. This week, it was olives - my sister made an amazing olive hummus when I was home over winter break, and thinking about it had me craving these hummus, broccoli slaw, and collard green pinwheel sandwiches we had at one of our Whole Foods cooking classes (cue my tears).

So, I did some investigating, and I found a recipe for olive lentil burgers by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. Per usual, I did some tweaking (surprise, surprise, I couldn't find cremini mushrooms), but I absolutely loved the end result.

Cooked lentils (1 cup uncooked measurement)
18-20 extra large olives
2 cups fresh spinach
1/2 c. breadcrumbs
1 egg white
Preheat oven to 350ยบ. In a food processor, finely chop spinach. Add olives and pulse, leaving them slightly chunky still. Add cooked lentils and pulse until well-combined, but not entirely smooth. Transfer mixture to a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add breadcrumbs and egg white and stir until well-combined. Form mixture into 5 patties and bake for 10-15 minutes per side.

Per usual, I made mine on the ol' George Foreman. They took a bit longer to cook than bean burgers usually do - the mixture was a bit creamier than my usual piecemeal bean mix. But oh, so worth it.

Here are the nutrition stats with the ingredients I used:

To be honest, I could also see myself skipping the breadcrumbs and egg white and just eating the lentil/spinach/olive mixture, spreading it on a pita or dipping in carrots or other veggies. As burgers, though, they were quite delicious, and I can't wait to find some mushrooms so I can attempt the original recipe!

What about you? Are there any foods you enjoy but have trouble justifying the cost? What are some of your favorite lunches?