Well, it finally happened. I stopped counting calories.
It started right before my vacation. For a few months now I have been keeping a pretty close record of what I eat every day, and consequently, the calories; or I should say, the night before I would plan it out and follow it roughly. I did this mainly because I find a lot of comfort in the structure of having a schedule or plan, and I pretty much planned out in my head what I was going to eat the next day anyway, but by writing it down I could clear that space in my brain for more important things, like reality show contestants and Elvis trivia. I also did this because I love to grocery shop and thus always have a fridge that is full to overflowing, so by planning things out I could make sure I was eating the spinach before it went bad, finishing leftovers to make more room for new things, etc. But I will admit that planning to this extent is kind of unhealthy and a weird eating behavior, especially the calorie counting part, and it was pretty easy to get obsessed with it (kind of like the very special Full House were DJ got anorexia for a day.)
Of course the nutritionist agreed. "Blah blah, no food accounting, woo woo New Age-y Enya blah blah." I think that's what she said. So I struck a bargain- on vacation, I would resist the urge to plan and tabulate calories. This turned out to be the best idea, because as we all know, there ain't no time to count calories during vacation. I ate lots of red velvet cake, like I promised I would, and also some fudge, and other things that I don't usually eat. While on vacation I read two really interesting books that resulted in me not picking up my food journal at all since I got back. One was The Skinny: How to Fit in Your Little Black Dress Forever by Melissa Clark and Robin Aronson (I suggest you buy it on Amazon because not only is it cheap, there are lots of awesome and creative but easy and healthy recipes in the back that you'll want to have. For serious, it made me want to eat brussel sprouts, which I haven't eaten for approximately 15 years.) The gist of the book is to eat what you want and don't eat what you don't want, and to eat lots of fruits and vegetables and to eat in moderation. None of this should be news, but it really made me think.
For a long time, I associated any kind of 'bad' food, like white bread or cake or anything else 'empty' with no nutritional value with completely trashing my day, healthy-eating wise. Like, "Fuck it, I'm going to have the fudge, and because any hope of eating well today is now fucked, I'm fittin to eat all the fudge I can stuff into my food hole." I knew this wasn't the right way to approach it, but I honestly could never understand how other people could eat just one piece of fudge and then stop (this is a big part of my diet foods philosophy- I want to eat a lot of whatever it is that I want to eat, so it better be low-cal so I can do that without a ton of damage.) In The Skinny, the authors say that nothing is forbidden, which is common in almost every diet book. But they really focus on eating enough to satiate you or satisfy your craving, then stopping. Like, I only really wanted one piece of fudge, and I don't HAVE to eat the whole pan because if I really think about it, I'm good. The hard part about this is that they realize that it's really hard to say no when there's a plate staring you in the face, so they suggest you throw what you're eating away when you're done to keep you from picking at it. This is really hard for me, because I refuse to waste anything, to a degree that I don't think even people who lived through the Depression can understand. I think it comes from working as a costumed interpreter in an exhibit about World War II and rationing and having to pretend like I'd kill someone for the roast beef under their fingernails, and repeating the phrase, "Wasting food is like taking it out of someone's mouth" over and over. But they have a point. Most of us were raised, rightfully so, to clean our plates and not waste food, but most of us then grow into adults who eat waaaaay too much under the guise of 'not wasting it.' Important point from the book: if you cannot fit your sandwich into your mouth, you need to either throw some of it away or save half for later.
I also realized from the book that I really haven't been eating enough fruits and vegetables. This was kind of a surprise, because I consider myself a militantly healthy eater, never eating anything unless it has some sort of redeeming attribute, like lots of fiber or protein. But one of the main points of the book is to figure out what you really want to eat, and then building a meal around that. If you really want a piece of pizza, go ahead, but only have one or two and fill the rest out with salad or cauliflower. And when I started to think about it, yeah, I eat veggies and fruit every day, but it seemed like the majority of my diet was made up of protein and grain instead. Veggies I can sneak in anywhere, so I decided to start with more fruit. Oh, my Maude. I'm eating fruit I haven't eaten in years, and it is delicious. Plums, apricots, honeydew melon, all delicious and nutritious. So, I've been eating so many fruits and veggies that I know are low-cal that I'm not eating as much of the things that carry more weight, like bread and nuts or whatever, so I don't feel the need to worry so much about calories.
The other book was Breaking out of Food Jail: How to Free Yourself from Diets and Problem Eating, Once and For All by Jean Antonello. I picked this up at the library because I was interested in learning how to eat healthy but not think of it as a diet. Also, I wanted to see if it had any advice on the whole 'eating the entire pan of fudge' issue discussed earlier. The gist of the book is that most overeaters are actually undereaters, or at least started out this way. It's kind of a fascinating insight- a lot of people are dieting right now just to get back to the weight they were when they started dieting. That is a scary thought. The idea is that dieters are on a continuous feast or famine cycle, where they try to severely restrict their food intake to lose weight, but then end up fucking it all up by having a binge on chocolate frosting. And it is always something horrible like chocolate frosting, because your body is programmed to seek out the fattiest thing possible when it thinks it might not get to eat ever again. I started thinking: have I really been undereating that much? And the answer was: yeah, dumbass! The book says that by eating good quality foods (nothing empty, pretty much) whenever you are hungry to the point of being full (not just 'medicating' your hunger with a few little bites), that you'll pretty much be too well fed to ever binge or overeat. That makes a lot of sense to me.
So I'm trying it. By this I mean I'm definitely eating more, but as far as more calories, I'm not sure, because I haven't been keeping track. Basically, I try to eat something with fiber, something with protein, and some sort of fruit or vegetable with every meal, plus a snack between dinner and lunch. For example- old breakfast= a packet of oatmeal with a handful of almonds. Today's breakfast= watermelon, two egg whites with a torn up piece of turkey, and a bowl of shredded wheat. It looks like a lot more food, and it sure did fill me up, whereas my old breakfast, while probably containing roughly the same amount of calories, didn't keep me full for nearly as long. Also, I find that now, one piece of cake is good.
Note: this does not mean I have stopped counting cals completely, or that my love affair with diet foods is over. Diet foods and I are still meeting for a sweat sexy rendezvous in Argentina whenever we can and sending each other graphic e-mails. And calorie counting still sometimes sneaks in my oval office to give me a blow job. But the extent of it is picking up items in the grocery store, checking their calorie count and serving size, and then not really looking at that again. If I'm satisfied that I didn't buy anything with a horrifying amount of fat, then I'm secure in the knowledge that anything I choose to eat will probably be pretty good for me.
Peanut Butter- nut butter of the Gods
So on vacation, my dad and I made a little jaunt to Saugatuck, aka the Key West of Lake Michigan. I found all manner of quaint and adorable little shops, but one in particular stood out- a spice store that I wish I could remember the name of. I'm confident that it was the only spice store in Saugatuck so it shouldn't be too hard to find. I bought vindaloo spice and Asian spice and MOTHERFUCKING CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE DOUGH PEANUT BUTTER. It sang to me from the corner, and I found it and immediately after purchasing it began to eat it with my fingers. I have a thing for peanut butter. I flove it. I used to be satisfied with just run of the mill Jiff, but then I discovered Peanut Butter & Co. They make all kinds of scandalously flavored peanut butters, like Dark Chocolate Dreams and Cinnamon Raisin Swirl. They're pricey, but they're worth it. I didn't think it could get much better than dark chocolate flavored peanut butter, but I was so wrong. The purveyor of said motherfucking chocolate chip cookie dough peanut butter is P.B.Loco. Just looking at the website by now, I literally started to salivate. I mean, is there anything more orgasmic than caramel apple flavored peanut butter? Or white chocolate raspberry flavored peanut butter? The answer: no. The chocolate chip cookie dough flavor is so chunky, so deliciously both dry and oily, so chocolatey and delicious that to eat it with anything other than a spoon would be blasphemy. No bread, no jam, no chicken breast or pickle can compete with that shit. I was all sad, thinking that I would have to bite the bullet and order it online because I can't live without it, but lo and behold, my local SuperTarget carries it! Unfortunately, the only other P.B.Loco flavor they carry is Jungle Banana, but I bought some today and am happy to report that it is equally amazing.
Which leads me to: why don't they make fucking diet peanut butter?! Peanut butter isn't all that bad for you. The fancier ones, like Peanut Butter & Co. and P.B.Loco don't contain any trans fat, and it does have protein and the good kind of fat that keeps you full. But two tablespoons (the general serving size) generally packs between 170 and 200 calories, plus about 25% of your daily fat needs. A few weeks ago, I looked at a jar of reduced fat peanut butter at Kroger, and the bastard had the same amount of calories, only less fat! Fuck that! I want some diet peanut butter. But until they invent it, I will just have to keep telling myself that by eating peanut butter with a spoon, I am sparing myself the calories of eating it with crackers or in a sammich.
Lastly, stuff about exercisin'
I have my own fairly complicated but steady workout plan- I work out every day for an hour, alternating every day between cardio and strength training. My cardio used to come completely from my exercise bike, where I did my own form of interval training which involves counting to four a lot and riding standing up. Needless to say, my bike is now kinda fucked, so I needed to find a way to give it a break. I read a review over at Fit Bottomed Girls of Mindy Mylrea's step workout Interval Express. They spoke quite highly of it, even giving it their highest rating ever. I was reluctant. I used to work out exclusively with videos, even for cardio. I was a normal weight, yeah, but it wasn't until I started hitting the gym and eventually got my exercise bike that I got to my current size, where I am much happier. I just didn't really believe that a DVD could ever give me the kind of workout that machines do.
I WAS WRONG AND I BEEN BORNED AGAIN. This workout is the shit. You need a medicine ball and a step, so it isn't completely equipment free. And the moves were kinda complicated at first, even for me, and I take one or two ballet classes a week. But it worked me, and it worked me but good. The difference between equipment and aerobics-based workouts are that in aerobics, you move your whole body, and that tires you out a lot faster than just using your legs. This DVD is based on intervals, hence the name, and they sometimes seem to go on forever. I felt like I got every bit as good of a workout as I do on the bike, so this DVD is now in the rotation. Apparently it has been discontinued by the distributor, which is fucking stupid, so order it when you can, or get it off Netflix.
That's all for now! Comment and let me know about your best peanut butter orgasm!