Monday, January 15, 2007

A couple people have contacted me and asked for more details on my general diet and what I eat in a day. I've been hesitant to write about those kind of things because posting everything I eat and how many calories it is just seems sort of tedious and boring for you, and I don't really feel qualified yet to offer advice of that sort. Maybe if I had already met goal and had some lovely picture of me in a bikini up, although my right ring finger has been looking quite svelte lately. You would be totally envious of my right ring finger.

However, I am nothing if not a shameless people pleaser and attention whore so I would be more than happy to explain a little bit about food and me.

I feel like articulating my philosphy on food would be lacking a bit if I didn't also explain how I got to that point, because until just very recently I haven't had a good relationship with food. When I was growing up, food was either a source of great celebration or of shame. It was never just fuel like it was intended to be. My mother, the cleanest woman in the world and whose house could easily double as an AIDS research testing facility, despised cooking because it meant dirtying the surfaces of her pristine counters and appliances. We spent a lot of dinners either eating from boxes or eating out as a result, and I learned early on that my parents were all too happy to super size or get extra food if it meant my brother and I were happy and quiet in the booth next to them. When we ate at home, meals were usually of the Hamburger Helper variety with a starch and a vegetable...only canned corn, green beans, or iceberg lettuce because my mom hated everything else...on the side. I don't want to sound like an ingrate, because my mom provided balanced meals as best she could. It's just that she wasn't interested in food because she had killed her tastebuds with coffee and cigarettes and she didn't understand why we felt the need to eat when she didn't.

Food, when it wasn't actually served on the table or in a restaurant had to be snuck out of the kitchen and eaten in seclusion or my brother and I would run the risk of getting into big trouble for wasting family food outside of mealtime. I developed my eating disorder of sneaking and binging on food pretty early in my life. I remember being seven or eight and lining the waistband of my shorts with Doritos so I could walk around with them until I found enough time to be alone and stuff them down my mouth. I can't remember if I was actually hungry or not, but the idea that I could somehow get back at my mom by eating just seemed ingenious at the time.

When my mom was gone from the house, my dad busted out the junk food for us and we pigged out in a state of profound and open bliss. We would have lunches of nachos and buttered popcorn and ice cream followed by McDonald's for dinner and a snack late at night as we all laid around and watched movies. I established a pattern of sneaking food as a revenge against my mom and lavishing in food as a way to bond myself with my dad. It was pretty fucked up, and as my relationships with my parents grew in ways good and bad, my body grew far too quickly for a little kid and I was soon one of the Token Fat Girls at my elementary school.

By the time I was in college I had a full-on eating disorder that my shrink called "Non-Purging Bulimia" which I think is a very nice euphemism for "Stuffs More Shit Down Her Throat than a Middle Linebacker for the St. Louis Rams". I perfected the art of maintaining the facade of always being on a diet while secretly cramming thousands of calories into my body when no one was watching. I figured out how to go from drive-thru to drive-thru, always ordering off the dollar or kiddie menu and amassing two or three fast-food meals for about five bucks each night. By the time I was a senior in college I weighed just a little less than I do now and my social life was built around being the wild, drunk, crazy girl who made fun of herself for being fat before anyone else could get to the subject. I didn't really like myself much and so I decided to do something about it.

The last five years of my life with food can basically be summarized by "It's the Thought That Counts". I had great intentions, and some pretty decent success with my food plan and exercise. For about six months I followed the Subway Diet really strictly, which meant about 1500 calories a day and close to 20 grams of fat. The problem with the Subway Diet is first, you can only eat so many subs in a row before you actually start seeping the smell of them through your pores, and second I was basically eating a foot of high-sugar bread a day. I was always hungry, always tired, and pretty much only in it for the weight loss. After I couldn't stand the taste of Subway food anymore I tried a number of low-cal/low-fat diets that simply didn't work because I didn't understand that not every low-fat food is good for you. Sometimes I tried Atkins and South Beach's induction phases but could never get over the fact that you weren't allowed to eat fruit.

So, thus far in my Ass-Reducing Life I have tried and failed the following diet plans:

South Beach
Macrobiotic/Whole Foods
Raw Foods
Master Cleanse
Sonoma Diet
The Zone
Body for Life for Women
6-Week Body Makeover
Dr. Phil's 7 Steps to Diet Success (or whatever it was called)
Overeaters Anonymous Diet
Your Best Body Ever
Cabbage Soup Diet
Subway Diet
Generic Low-Fat/Low-Cal Diets
Weight Watchers

I'm not saying those diets don't work and couldn't be perfect for any variety of people. I just know I have a bit of an authority issue with diet gurus who tell me I can't eat certain foods or I can't eat leftovers or I can eat any food I want provided I buy their special shakes or supplements. Of all of the above diets, Weight Watchers was definitely the most sensible but since I know myself, I also know that if given a system where I can choose to cheat with points or not cheat with points I'm going to fudge the totals every time so I can cheat. Ultimately, I'm just going to fail at that. I should also mention, while I'm being self-righteous and blow-hardy that I did attend a couple of Overeaters Anonymous meetings a few months ago to just see if it was something I needed and even though I decided I didn't, the people there were incredible and I encourage anybody who wants some additional help in fighting an eating disorder to at least check them out. I'll even mail you my books I was too hasty in buying if you want to send me an email with your address.

Okay, so now on to the good stuff. What I am following right now is the GI Diet, which is a fairly new system based on the very old Glycemic Index. There is nothing new or unique about the GI Diet other than the man who wrote the book decided to color code foods based on their GI Index because the Western hemisphere is apparently too dense to decode all the numbers and what they mean. The basic premise of the GI Diet is that foods high in simple sugars are more likely to make you insulin resistant and also hungry throughout the course of the day than foods with low sugar and a low GI Index. So the GI Diet is divided into three color groups of food: green light foods include the obvious non-starchy vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats and other non-meat proteins like nuts and soy. Yellow light foods are foods you are encouraged to eat only once in awhile, including stuff like full-fat cheeses and some fruits, and red light foods are stuff you're supposed to stay away from like peanut butter, potatoes, white bread, etc.

The reason why I buy into this diet and not the other ones is because the book doesn't tell you CAN'T have something or you MUST have something. It just tells you what, according to the glycemic index, is a healthy or non-healthy food and you get to do the rest . The book includes sample meal plans but also has other recipes that you can use just as easily to create your own weekly meals. I used to try to follow meal plans with eDiets and Weight Watchers but ended up wasting a ton of food and spending way more than I planned getting special things I would never need again. The cool thing about the GI Diet is that it's pretty inexpensive (I spend about 60 dollars a week for myself), and it also uses ingredients you're probably already cooking with. I really think cutting out most of the sugar from my food has improved my complexion, my energy highs and lows throughout the day, my sleep, and to some extent my moods.

So, for the two of you who made it this far without becoming completely bored or distracted by something shiny, here's what a day in my food life might look like now:

Breakfast: 1 c. Fiber One with Honey Clusters cereal; 1/2 c. skim milk; 1 navel orange; 1 large cup of coffee with CoffeeMate and Sweet n Low

Lunch: 1 Boca Burger (meatless soy patty) w/1 slice 2% cheddar cheese; fat free Miracle Whip, and a couple rings of green or red pepper; 1 cut carrot or celery stick with hummus; 1/2 c. lowfat cottage cheese; 1 sugar-free Jello cup; some sort of diet cola

Snack: Apple and a handful of almonds

Dinner: Green salad with low-sugar dressing (I am willing to go full-fat on dressings to get away from sugars, but I also halve the amount I put on my greens. Look for organic dressings for the really good tasting stuff or make your viniagrette if you're a better person than I am); Steamed or grilled chicken/shrimp/turkey/tofu with mixed vegetables and either basmati or brown rice;

Dessert: 1 c. Edy's Slow Churned Vanilla ice cream with 1 TB sugar-free/low-sugar preserves mixed in.

I drink about 80 oz. of water throughout the day and I also brush my teeth immediately after meals if I can. If I can't, I chew gum to trick my brain into being sure I'm full. Interestingly, though, since I started the GI Diet I don't think I've actually been unsatisfied once so it's probably not necessary. I also allow myself one cheat day a week (on Sundays) but as I've documented, the cheat day is not really an extravaganza for me and it also comes with a whole lot of unpleasant after-affects like stomach troubles, water retention, and a general feeling of blughness when it's over.

I guess the thing I'm learning most about myself over the course of this little health experiment is how my opinion on food has changed so profoundly. I used to outright scoff at my friends who would have tacos with a salad, or would eat two pieces of pizza and then finish it off with some carrot sticks because I just didn't get why you wouldn't want to eat every crumb of junk food on the table if it was available to you. I was in love with the endorphin rush a nice bowl of ice cream or cheese fries could provide and now that I've distanced myself from that phenomenon a bit I've realized it's short-lived at best and terribly damaging in the long run.

I'm very hopeful, because this is probably the first time in my life that I feel like I've gained control of my eating habits on my own and without the crutch of someone in a book or on television telling me how to eat. I make the good choices of my own volition, and when I make bad choices I use them to inform my eating in the future. Most of all, food is energy for me now and nothing more. I can sit down and enjoy the colors, the aromas, the presentation of my food without the panic of wondering if it will be good enough to make me happier or less lonely now, and that has made this whole thing worth it, even if I don't ever lose another pound in the process.

Thank you for letting me share my thoughts on this with you, and I hope that they do some good.


Ashley-Marie said...

Sorry I haven't commented in awhile. Congrats on losing the octopus. You sound like you're doing really well, and you've come so far and have learned so much on that journey from that little girl to now. And it's only going to get better, because you're taking care of yourself and now you see the benefits it brings.

Good luck and I'll check up on you again as soon as I can. ^_^

Kate said...

Wow, you have tried a lot of 'diets'! Well done for taking control of eating habits, you're doing so well Erin, keep up the good work!
Kate :)

lukossmom said...

You seem to really have made the connection- I seriously wish I could. I don't know what the hell is wrong with my brain, smart as I am supposed to be, it just doesn't register to stop eating the shit. I am really glad for you and wish you continued success. From one Erin to another!

ClareUK said...

I've just come across your blog surfing from a couple of links, and wanted to say hi and I love your writing style. I feel your pain about the diets- I pretty much have books about each one of them! And I've also discovered that the 'eat healthy stuff and keep you full' diet is the only one that really works.

Keep up the great work

Anonymous said...

I am currently following the GI diet as well and find that it almost seems that I am not really on a "Diet".. there are so many foods that you can eat. I had a headache the first two weeks from sugar withdrawal but now I am happier then ever with out the extra sugar in my life... It is nice to hear someone else is also following the same plan...hope it goes well....