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Tradeoffs

 

We make choices every day about what to include in our life and what not to include. We are making tradeoffs all the time. But are we leaving anything behind? And, are our decisions worth it??

I have never completed a review like this so thought I’d give it a try. As I thought about what I have been trading in and out of my life over the last few years, I found, as many things in life do, tradeoffs come in a range of sizes.  My thoughts in this post are highly unorganized, so if you are reading this, hopefully you won’t mind too much. I’m kind of thinking out loud today…

The Little tradeoffs are kind of easy ones and involve food. My thoughts on food evolve all the time, and since joining MFP, even more because I spend a lot of my day micro-managing the health and nutrient values of what we eat. Tradeoffs include:

 

  • Lowfat vanilla yogurt for 0% Greek Yogurt—too much sugar in vanilla. It took me a few weeks but I’m now sold.
  • Veggie Burgers –as my one truly “processed” food I allowed myself to include in my diet, I gave them up because it was too high in sodium. Typically eat eggs instead.
  • Lots and Lots of cheese –now a about ½ oz max /day unless entertaining
  • Nuts for Seeds—a no brainer since my son is allergic. Out of the house they went
  • Wine 6/7 days a week –now about 2 days /week
  • Local Veggies and Meats vs. Grocery Store –how can that be bad? But this involves eating more in season than out.

Do I miss any of these? Actually no.  You can easily get used to food changes. I thought cutting back on wine would be a big issue but it wasn’t. Just don’t ask me about coffee and half and half…I’ll never give those up.

 

The Medium-sized tradeoffs I can’t really categorize into one group, they run the gamut:

  • 8 hours of sleep to about 5-6 hours—I need time w/my husband to unwind at night after our son goes to bed, but also need time in the morning to wake up before being “on” so get up super-early.  I don’t know if this is good or bad (the dark circles under my eyes probably aren’t the best) but maybe I’ll learn with time.
  • Lunch with Friends. This has turned into Walks with friends over the last few years. I do miss eating out but overall, a very good tradeoff.
  • New car every few years vs. milking my 11 year old car, with 182,000 miles, until it dies. I’d say this tradeoff works because I live in a small, dusty town where even new cars look like dirtballs most of the year. Although I miss driving a cool, fast car, anyone driving anything flashy would be kind of out-of-place at the community school parking lot or the country store.
  • Facebook for MFP. I didn’t jump on the social part of MFP until over a year after I started—I just used the calorie counter and diary. I am so glad I started meeting new friends on MFP who are so similar to me in outlook and goals. I now probably check Facebook only a few times/week. I honestly don’t care what is going on w/women from college who I barely remember….but am a sponge hearing about health, exercises and the success of my friends. Excellent tradeoff all around.

The Big Tradeoffs:

  • Money for Time. A few years ago I lived a crazy life where I worked 50 hrs+ hrs/ week, travelled 30% of the time across the country and had a full-time nanny babysitting my son. I also had a great income where I could still pay the nanny and have a good amount of discretionary income left, along with my husband’s income. Well, that income is now gone, but I have lots of time with my little boy (and he is doing great and super-happy) and much less stress.
  • Self-Esteem from Career Success vs. Feeling overlooked and unappreciated for daily efforts. Hmmmm…..no comment.
  • Travel vs. Homebound – I used to hate traveling in my spare time because I did a ton of travel for work and that really sucks the life out of you. Now that I am home all the time, I’m dying to travel…but we don’t have that extra income on one salary. Funny how that tradeoff works. I used to have $ but no time, now I have time but no extra $.....
  • Pondering new career direction vs. pondering daily exercise options and staying in shape. When my son started kindergarten in Sept, I finally had a chunk of time to myself (before that, with the pre-k schedule, I only had about 2 hrs.). I told myself I was going to learn to build websites. I told myself I was going to research careers. Think about classes to take. And my friend and I started a non-profit group that has since done nothing. What have I done instead? I realized very quickly that the school day goes fast.  Most of the day while I am not being a mom I ponder exercise options, think about health, see a few friends each week, run errands and keep the household running. How do the days go so quickly? The tradeoff here: I’m in great shape, physically and mentally, and pretty relaxed. I’m in touch with my friends.  But, I feel a little sad that I used to be a go-get-em kind of businesswoman but have lost it for the time being.

After looking this over, I guess the little and medium tradeoffs have some cut and dry answers. I can feel good about the little choices I make for my family. I can control our health and well-being at home. But the big choices? I still have no idea how these will play out but having them down in front of me might help get me towards the answer of “what might I be leaving behind”  so I can figure out if I’m OK with it, or if there is something that needs to be ultimately resolved.

Motivating words for “Right Now”

I’m typically an upbeat person, and relatively self-motivated. But every so often I get into an uninspired, unmotivated slump.

That would be this week, unfortunately.

The other day though, something surprised me. I was complaining to myself about not wanting to exercise, but knew ultimately that I should. I was hungry and didn’t want to live on base calories only. All through the morning I thought of ways to divide up my inside exercise options but couldn't decide where to begin. Eventually I realized my window of time was running out and I had to either do something or forget it.

So I started with the easiest option. Maybe if I did just this one little thing, for 10-15 minutes, maybe that would be enough?

It wasn’t the best or longest workout of my life, but once I started, I managed to continue and ended up completing what I consider a full, well-rounded workout. After exercising I felt strong and my mood changed dramatically for the rest of the day.

At risk of feeling like I was sharing too much about this little victory, I posted this discovery to my MFP friends. One wonderful friend in particular (DF…thank you!) summed it up by saying:

 

 “sometimes thinking about exercising is harder than actually doing it”.

 

Pretty catchy, don’t you think? If this is a popular expression everyone knows, forgive me, I have never heard it.  I have never really thought of it that way but the words have been ringing in my head ever since…….

So yesterday and today I woke up, both days with stomach cramps, just as unmotivated as has been the trend this week, but I have not been questioning the exercise options.

How could I not be motivated to exercise when “thinking about it is actually harder than doing it”? That would be silly, right? And completely illogical. I just needed to stop thinking and start doing....and then it would be done. 

So those are the motivational words that are working for me right now this week…..thought I’d share ….maybe they will work for you too?

 

Eating to Live is no fun!

I have seen the mantra “I want to eat to live, not live to eat” or something similar to this many times on posts.

I agree with this. I want to be like this too. But what I’m realizing, it’s really no fun at all!

We are subscribing to a “way of life”. And lifestyles do involve social eating. Friends get together and eat. Families get together and eat. Every major holiday is all about food. But why do we have this guilt of feeling “bad” every time we subscribe to “living” our life?

It seems hard to have it both ways, doesn’t it? We need to be disciplined. But we need to keep the spark in our life. We have to be so disciplined, I guess, that we consciously make a decision that we are going to be undisciplined.

 

Weird, eh?

 

The reason I have been thinking about this topic this week is because I’m feeling like my daily routine is sucking the life out of me.

The guidelines I have been living with on maintenance for some time have been:

 

Rule #1 – Be disciplined during the week

Rule #2 –work out at least 6 days a week

Rule #3 –when at social functions, holidays, or out to dinner—don’t worry about anything, have fun and eat and drink whatever I want

 

Sounds easy enough, right? Well, in reality right now something is a little off-balance. 

My husband joined MFP almost 2 months ago and with my meal planning and guidance he has actually lost about 10 lbs. He hasn’t actually logged onto the website, he just uses the iphone app, and I plug in his recipes and make dinners to try to keep him at his goal.  I guess while guiding him, I feel I need to set an example, so I have been relatively strict w/Rule #1 and have been coming in below goal most days. This really isn’t great for me on maintenance because I’m trying to increase my maintenance calorie level, not lower it. Lowering it does not help because I do not lose weight anymore….this just makes me worry about all those posts going around about starvation mode.

Something else that is tipping the balance is that along with the animals, where I live, we all kind of hibernate in the winter. There are no social functions, and whenever you do try to make plans with friends you have to cancel 6 times because the weather is bad that day, or you or your kid are just getting over a flu or stomach bug. So that means not a lot of Rule #3 is happening.  And this is the kind of thing that makes me happy and adds the spark back into my otherwise routine day. I have a date night with my husband every 2 weeks and I’m realizing this one splurge of a dinner every two weeks is not enough.

Exercise? Well, that’s getting a little dull too because I want to see more outside time instead of videos and my elliptical.

 

So last night I was unmotivated and bummed out. I just wanted to splurge on something because I couldn’t take another day of seeing my food diary below plan.

 

After dinner, when I wasn’t hungry at all, I just poured myself a bowl of homemade granola and stirred a massive amount of chocolate chips in it. And I ate and ate and ate.  And woke up today feeling a little nauseated, but much happier. The need to splurge is out of my system for the time being……I should be ok for another few days.

 

I think this “eat to live” approach works to a point and I will still say it to myself when I need that extra motivation to eat on track. But I don’t want to be berating myself for being over plan either. I realize this is a necessary part of my life too.  

 

A goal I am going to set for myself, starting this week, is to be better at scheduling in times where I can “live to eat”  to skew the balance a bit more in the other direction so this way-of-life continues to be not only a very healthy one, but a fun one too. I don’t want to just eat for the sake of eating, like I did last night. I like the role food plays in our culture, our families, and socially so want to work on ways to add more meaningful, inspiring meals to my menu each week. And with spring coming, and everyone starting to come out of hibernation, I will plan much more entertaining with friends…..  that’s something to look forward to!

2 Seemingly Unrelated Challenges Become 1.

These days there are two goals that I focus on, or should I say hyper-focus…or well….. how about “obsess” ?

 

The 1st is Food and Nutrition.

 

I love food. Absolutely. I love wine, high fat artisan cheeses, salami’s, breads, chocolate….just about everything.

 

But I love being thin too, so work very hard to maintain the weight I have lost. My everyday quest has been to prepare foods in a healthy, all natural, non-processed way most of the time so I do not feel bad about indulging every once in a while.

 

The 2nd  is my son’s peanut allergy.

 

My son is 6 years old, and we discovered he had this allergy when he was around 2. While at a Thai restaurant we fed him Pad Thai noodles and he turned red and started screaming that his throat felt scratchy.  It took me awhile to realize that being a mom with a child who could go into anaphylactic shock and potentially die from eating a peanut is a serious undertaking. I won’t digress into how we can’t trust anybody with him, do not feel comfortable sending him to camps or a friends house without me close by, let him go to a birthday party by himself, stress out over Halloween, or even going to country stores where the counters are covered with peanut butter candy and cookies….these are all challenges we navigate every day.

 

The one part of this allergy that is confusing and terribly time-consuming is reading food labels.

 

Anything that comes into our house has to have a thorough check as to whether it is 1) safe and 2) healthy by my standards in #1.  Unfortunately it is not a law that companies have to put “may contain” or “produced in a facility with” for allergens on labels, so I have to call or email every company whose foods I’d like to buy and make sure there isn’t a peanut anywhere in the facility. Some of the better companies do label, but most do not. If a peanut is in the facility I’m told there is a good risk of cross-contamination, this is why we need to know. Why this labeling is not a law is a mystery to me.  My son is not allergic to tree nuts, but we were told not to give these to him either so we stay away from all the other nuts as well.

 

Anyway, now you all know why I eat so many sunflower seeds instead of nuts like everyone else…..

 

Recently it dawned on me that my focus on keeping my little boy safe and healthy actually helps me move forward with my overall nutrition goals.

 

It’s so hard to find any granola’s and cereals that are not produced alongside a peanut or a tree nut, so guess what? I source each product individually for safety and health, and make it myself. I can’t seem to find any dried fruit that isn’t produced near a nut, so I stopped buying them and we stock only whole fruits. The only organic, all-natural breads I can find that were safe from nuts are Barowsky’s, and although I love their breads they are really expensive. A few months ago I started making homemade bread in a bread machine. Do you want to know what it’s like to take an allergy kid out to lunch or dinner and have to inquire about the type of cooking oil they use, to make sure it isn't peanut oil, and question at every stop to make sure there are no nuts anywhere in the meal? You feel like a broken record and it gets exhausting. Needless to say it’s easier to bring our own snacks for him whenever we are out or just go home for lunch or dinner.

 

This past year I have gone through every product in our cabinet and refrigerator. I have read the labels. I have visited each company’s website. I have emailed each company to see how their customer service department handles my questions.  When I look at the labels thoroughly, guess what else I see? Sugar content. Sodium Content. Fat %. And all the other nutrition information.  Protein and Carbohydrates were always on my radar screen but not the others. With these checks I continually find myself fine-tuning my opinions on what brands and products are allowed in the house and what needs to be thrown out.

 

All in all, this allergy is really the pits. I can only hope in a few years some smart doctors will figure out a way to manage this allergy so it is less severe. But with all the research I have been doing on account of it, my two seemingly-unrelated goals seem to have meshed together to help us eat better as a family.....I guess that's a good thing.

Small changes, dare I say…I think they are adding up!

So it’s a little dull in maintenance- land. You don’t really care about the scale going down (as long as it doesn’t go up). But then if it goes up, you obsess a little, exercise more, eat less for a week or so and then hopefully it’ll all balance out and the jeans will fit a little better.

 

At the beginning of the year I realized I was in a rut. I was sick of exercising on my elliptical for an hour a day. Although I’m in a small clothing size, I still sometimes look in the mirror and am surprised I am because I don’t exactly feel as small as the size suggests.

 

Living in Vermont in a town of 900 or so, with no neighbors or buildings around me, and no sidewalk to walk on, and no motivation to actually go somewhere else to exercise (because the roads are icy anyway), exercising indoors has been the inevitable solution but I realized I needed to make a few changes.

 

Here’s what I did over the last 2 months:

 

Exercise Mix-Up  ----My MFP friends have been telling me for a year I need to mix up my exercise routine but I have been slow to react.  I finally decided it was time, and based on recommendations, I ordered the 30 day shred (Mind you, I do not watch Biggest Loser and had never heard of Jillian Michaels). I have always assumed I would hate working out to a TV screen, but I was very wrong. I actually like it, and look forward to it. Now I start with the exercise program, and then finish up on the elliptical. I also started jump roping and if I need an extra calorie boost in the afternoons I will sometimes jump rope for 10-15 minutes…it’s hard but I’m getting better at it. 

Wine—I love wine, and although I never thought it was bad to drink it, and did so most days during my weight loss and maintenance, I thought it might be good to experiment on eliminating it during the week only. This was actually more of a way to save money after all that holiday spending. But, it was a big change nonetheless…..I’m hoping now I am turning those additional calories into more substantial ones, but this is hard to measure.

 Snowshoeing—we have so much snow here in Vermont right now. Every day I start off with a snowshoe with the dog (as opposed to a not-very-strenuous walk). I do not count this daily as exercise, I figure it into my regular activity level. But I did check it on my HRM one day and instead of burning practically nothing on my dog walks, I now burn around 130-150 calories each day.

Exercise Rest Days – I have pretty much eliminated these. I know this isn’t good and that the body needs a rest, but the stress of not having those extra calories kills me on those days. I have been exercising each day but for slightly shorter period of time and have been much happier.  I’m thinking about getting back into yoga starting this month –to keep up the strength but to take a cardio rest.

 

So today as I was getting dressed, I pulled on my favorite jeans –the ones that have zero give (even if you wear them 3 days in a row they do not bag out).

Well…who would have thought?  I looked closely…and then again.  I am finally seeing that there are gaps. Gaps In the rear-end. Gaps In the front, and at the top of the thigh.

 

WOW, wow, wow…..I’m shocked.

 

Other changes I noted. I feel good. I'm not falling asleep on the couch every night (maybe just a few). I feel stronger and have much more energy.

 

Everything has been the same for so long, I have been reluctant to admit it, but I think I’m still making progress. Whether any of the changes above, other than the 30 day shred, are causing these changes, I have no idea. But I’m just now seeing that the more I allow change to happen, the more I question, the more I listen to good advice from others, the more I learn about how I can take charge to pull myself out of a rut…..even small ones can put a big smile on your face.

 

Now that we may see spring sometime soon, I’m looking forward to more changes to come!

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