Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Epiphany that is Changing My Life

A little over two weeks ago, I was cruising along feeling like I had my Weight Watchers points under control.  I was routinely eating my daily allowance of points and rarely going over now that I had started my 30 no desserts or candy challenge. (Read about that HERE).  So I was feeling pretty good, until I realized that in just a few short months I would not be nursing anymore.  Already Chloe has increased her food intake and decreased her nursing.  Timidly, I recalculated my points to see how many I would lose if I told Weight Watchers that I was no longer nursing.  Are you ready for the results?................ 7 Points!!!  The day I stop nursing, I will lose 7 points in one day.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with weight watchers, that is a little less than a whole meal.  My sandwiches I make for lunch are usually about seven points.  I was already at the point where I couldn't decrease my food intake without feeling extremely hungry.  Feeling depressed and frightened, I went to look at success stories to see if I could get any help.

One thing I kept noticing was that those who found success claimed that they no longer craved sweets or chips or junk food, but craved vegetables instead, and that they would fill half their plate with vegetables first.  After reading that I looked down at my own dinner plate....... finding nothing but chicken swimming in sauce and noodles.  Now Golden Sauce Chicken is absolutely delicious, but it's not exactly the healthiest food I could make.  And what is more, it seems like my inability to make side dishes has finally caught up with me.  I am really good at cooking the main dish for dinner, but the table is usually bereft of anything else.  It is a rare day that I cook up some vegetables, or anything for that matter, on the side.  So, unless Italian Seasoning counts as a vegetable (which I doubt) I had found one of my problems.  Fruits and most vegetables are 0 points on the Weight Watchers plan, so I knew I had to increase my vegetable consumption, because there was no way I was going to survive if I had to permanently give up seven points in one day!

The time had come, I knew I needed to start cooking and eating healthier.  The problem was, I didn't know how.  All my recipes were around 11 points per serving (which is a lot of points) and I knew I had to completely rethink breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Faced with this daunting task, I went to the only source of information I could think of: my mother.  For as long as I can remember my mother has striven to get the family to eat less junk and to eat more healthy.  Valiant efforts that fell upon deaf ears an unappreciative minds when I was younger.  I told her about my dilemma and my desire to start cooking healthier and that I had bought a new Weight Watchers cookbook to cook out of.  She was elated that I had finally come to my senses, and let me borrow the book that changed her life:
The Eat-Clean Diet: Fast Fat Loss that lasts forever by Tosca Reno

I think she has an updated book out now but this is the one that I have.  Now this is a little deceiving because it is not a diet, it is a lifestyle change and that is the first thing that is emphasized: Diets don't work!  Most diets restrict one of the major food groups, which often send your body into starvation mode due to insufficient nutrition. So when you go off of them, you of course gain the weight back and lots more besides (I know this from personal experience) because you have not taught yourself how to properly eat.  The second thing of note is that I personally think it is too strict for this foodie to follow perfectly but this book actual teaches you what to eat and how to eat and how much to eat.  It was a goldmine of information and I took seven pages of notes while reading it!  It also includes some recipes to help you get started. 

For the first time I was paying attention to the categories of food and the food groups and what nutrients come from what food groups.  One of the most important things I learned is that you should always combine protein and carbohydrates every time you eat, whether it be snacks or meals.  Eating protein with your carbs slows down digestion which allows you to feel fuller longer.  There is also a whole chapter on what to eat for breakfast!  Never being an advocate of skipping breakfast, but not being content with cold cereal either, this was a godsend.  Now I eat old fashioned oatmeal with berries (fiber and complex carbs) and a small slice of ham (protein) or egg white scramble (also protein) for breakfast.  Once a week I like to cook something out of my Weight Watchers cookbook for breakfast to mix it up.  I of course make enough for two days.  These recipes are great because the usually combine eggs and vegetables which gives you your carbs and protein.

Lunch is trickier for me since I am used to eating sandwiches for lunch.  Now don't get me wrong, sandwiches can be good but after a while eating the same sandwich every day can get tiresome.  So I have been browsing my cookbooks, and I settled on soup.  Soup is great because you can put so many things into it and it can be made in so many different varieties that it never gets old.  What I have been doing for now is making enough soup to last almost the whole week and portioning it out into one portion containers so I can just grab one out of the fridge for lunch.  So I spend one morning cooking my soup for the whole week!  If I run out, I will have left over dinner or make a sandwich for lunch so I am not eating exactly the same thing every day.  Faced with the challenge of completely redoing every meal I make and everything I eat, this was a simple solution that works for me now.  I am not sure if I will stick with this the rest of my life but for now it works until I can get more used to eating healthier (or eating clean as Tosca calls it).

My dinners need the most work, so I had to pick out the main meals that I wanted plus two sides to go with them.  The first week I was lucky to get one side with each meal, but my goal is to have two healthy sides with each meal.  I succeeded a few days ago when I made chicken, green beans, and quinoa.  It was by far the best, healthiest, and yummiest meal I have ever made.  I was so proud of myself for this creation!
All this food was 12 points.  I was stuffed by the time I finished it.  Compare that to my chicken and noodle dinner from the week before which was 13 points and about half the amount of food. 

I am still working on eating clean, but I have made huge strides.  Part of learning how to feed yourself is learning what foods contain what nutrients.
Complex Carbs: whole grains, fresh fruit, vegetables
Essentail Fatty Acids: Olive oil, flaxseed, pumpkin oil, fish oil, grapeseed oil, nuts
Protein: Poultry, Fish, Eggs, Pork, Beef

This is a pretty small list but it is the basics.  I am also learning about portion sizes as one day, after I lose my weight, I would like to sustain my weight loss by myself without having to pay for a Weight Watchers subscription.  Portion sizes and the amount of servings you need each day are essential for me to accomplish this long term goal.

Eat 2-4 servings of starchy complex carbs per day (1 serving = what can fit in one cupped hand)
You need 4-6 servings of fresh produce per day (1 serving = what can fit in two cupped hands)
Eat 5-6 servings of protein per day (1 serving =  what you can fit in the palm of one hand)
Eat 1-2 servings of Essential Fatty Acids per day (1 serving  = about 1 tsp)
In case you are wondering, your starchy carbs are your beans, oats, wheat, brown rice, potatoes

 On Sunday I make my meal plan for the week.  I calculate all the points for everything I am going to make.  I write it all out (this makes tracking during the week ridiculously easy since I have already done all the work).  I plan out breakfast, lunch, dinner, and both snacks and calculate all the points and add up how many points I am spending each day.  The last two weeks this has taken me about an hour to do since I am so new to eating clean and I don't really know what to eat off the top of my head.  I have to look up everything!  But I have faith that I will get better at it and it will get easier.  This method has been my life support for the past two weeks because everything is already predetermined and I don't have to sit there when I am hungry and wonder "what should I eat now?"  It is already written down and decided, so I will make the healthy choice, and I am focusing on stocking the kitchen and pantry with healthy food choices and I am working on undoing the food damage that I have already done to my almost 3 year old.

I have noticed that already I have passed on my unhealthy lifestyle habits to my oldest daughter.  She will ask for fruit snacks before fruit, prefers soda over water, and wants to eat chips for lunch, and has a sweet tooth to rival mine.  Making these changes now with secure that she has a healthy relationship with food in the future.  I want to teach my kids what I am learning now so that they don't have to struggle with it like I have.  Lily has been resisting, and sometimes just prefers not to eat than to consume the offered food, but then again... she has always been that way ;-)  She is such a picky eater, I am just going to try to turn her into a healthy picky eater instead of a junkie picky eater!

Matt doesn't have any qualms about my new found health streak.  As long as I keep the food coming he pretty much eats whatever I put in front of him.  His biggest complaint is the sudden lack of sweets in the house.  He is used to consuming at least two desserts a day (not that it makes him gain any weight, since he seems to burn it all off while he is sleeping!  He is my personal furnace at night). 

The first week I created my meals I had to go back and add 8 more points to each day!  I feel much better now about the day when I lose 7 points.  I still have a few months to get better at it and to really understand how to better nourish my body.  I probably won't drop all seven points in one day, since I can use my weekly point allowance to help offset some of the points I lost to make a more gradual change.  But I don't feel like the world is going to come to an end.

So here is to healthier foods and re-learning how to feed myself and my family for a happier and healthier and thinner lifestyle! (By the way, my first week eating clean I lost 3 pounds while consuming more food :)

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