Sunday, August 12, 2012

Flexible menu planning

Last Sunday, I wrote out a menu plan for this week.  This kind of thing never helped me before when I tried it, because I'd throw the whole plan away once I deviated from it, or I'd make it ridiculously detailed and rigid and full of labor-intensive dishes that required me to follow a recipe.

This time, I approached it differently in several ways.

1.  I told myself I could deviate from the written menu as needed; that the plan was merely a suggestion of meals I could make with the things I had on hand.  And I didn't care about switching Monday's dinner with Wednesday's lunch, or flipping the order of breakfasts around, or any of that.  I was totally flexible.

2.  I was realistic about the fact my husband and I would end up eating out a couple of times during the week, and that at least one day could be taken care with leftovers, so I didn't plan a dinner for every night of the week.  I planned 4 dinners and it worked out well. 

3.  I kept the food simple.  I accepted that I have limited patience, energy, and enthusiasm for sophisticated cooking.  I can try my hand at something new, or follow a recipe, or make something that requires me to wash several tools, pots, and pans for one dish...about once a week.  Beyond that, I feel hassled.

4.  I didn't worry about perfect balance or healthfulness.  I wanted to encourage myself to eat some good vegetables, fruits, and proteins, to eat at home a bit more, to throw together something more wholesome than buttered toast and milk for breakfast.  And I accomplished that!

I had some junky things this week, like flavored yogurts, french fries, buttered French bread, and a cheeseburger from Dairy Queen. But thanks mostly to my flexible menu planning, I also ate:

purple cabbage
red peppers
green beans
broccoli with loads of fresh garlic
an apple
orange juice
lean Canadian bacon
turkey breast

All in all, not a bad week.  I like this system!

I recorded what I ate each day and I also jotted down what challenged me each day.  I'm starting to accept that every day, I will be challenged by cravings for crappy food.  It's predictable, it's not going anywhere, and I no longer see the point in getting so upset over it.  Sometimes I am going to give in to the cravings; more often, I am not.  None of the cravings lasted as long as I feared they would, and they usually occur in the afternoon or evening--I'm not being tortured from sunrise to sunset with these food thoughts.  The most irritating thing is when I crave the same item for many days in a row.  This is what I craved this week (I did not give in to any of these cravings, by the way):

Monday: craved McDonald's fries and hot fudge sundae
Tuesday: craved McDonald's milkshake or vanilla cone
Wednesday: craved chocolate chip cookie dough blizzard from Dairy Queen
Thursday: craved sugary kid's cereal. wanted to chow down on a whole box.
Friday: tempted to order cheesecake at the Cheesecake Factory, where we ate dinner
Saturday: felt like eating a pastry from the Starbucks inside my favorite Barnes & Noble
Sunday: considered making a fruit cobbler and smothering it in vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

These thoughts are ANNOYING, but they don't have to be my undoing.  There's something about accepting that my brain is going to come up with these ridiculous ideas every day that helps me stay a bit detached and calm.  It's kind of like "oh, what is it going to be today?"  Then it pops up as I'm going about my day, and I think "Yep, there it is.  Predictable."

I wrote out a new menu plan for this upcoming week and look forward to seeing how it plays out.  I turn 30 this week and know there will be some special treats thrown in there, and I'm fine with that.  I also have my long-awaited 20 week ultrasound on Tuesday and will hopefully learn the gender of the baby!  Weight continues to bounce around between 245 and 250--never lower or higher than that.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Time management=weight management?

I want to find a lifelong solution to my eating and weight problems.  I want this to be the last time I have to lose a significant amount of weight.  Yet I know that it’s always going to take time and effort to maintain whatever lower weight I stabilize at.

If this is going to be a part of my life forever, I think I should get clear on HOW MUCH time and effort it takes to maintain a healthier lifestyle and reasonable weight.  I can then plan other parts of my life with this reality in mind.  If I don’t keep enough time free for maintaining my health (taking care of such things as meal planning, grocery shopping, cooking and kitchen cleanup, exercising, and much-needed spiritual and mental health practices), there’s a high probability I will gradually pack my life with more and more activities and responsibilities and end up dropping the ball on my health and weight maintenance.  It would be very easy to do this, especially with kids and a career in the picture.  In short order, I could regain everything and more, and this will only take a greater toll on my body as it ages.

I don’t want that to happen!  I know I will not be at my best for family or work life if I’m obese, depressed, and always fatigued.  And for me, those three things are deeply intermingled.  I’d rather scale back on the scope of what I do inside and outside the home, and do those (limited) things while feeling well and taking care of myself, than sacrifice my health to take on more and more.  I don’t want to have to fight this obesity battle throughout my entire life.  I don’t want to have to lose 125 pounds in my thirties, again in my forties, again in my fifties, again in my sixties…

I am speaking from experience here.  I lost a noticeable amount of weight my sophomore year of high school and during my fourth year of college.  (Never 125 pounds, though.  I didn’t need to lose that much back then.)  In both instances, the weight loss was facilitated by having a quieter-than-normal schedule for a decent stretch of time.  And in both cases, my schedule and commitments got ramped up again and I gained back everything I had lost and then some.  Perhaps a busier schedule didn’t make the regain inevitable, but since I didn’t have a clear idea of how much time I needed to set aside to take good care of myself, I failed to block out that amount of time.  And really, it’s not just a time issue, but an energy issue as well: I filled my schedule up with other activities, and doing so left me not only with less time, but less ENERGY to devote to working out and procuring/ preparing decent meals.  Not to mention my stress levels went up with a busier schedule, and stress depletes my willpower reserves and makes me want to eat.  What a mess!

So, to increase my odds of lasting success, I am going to start paying more attention to the time commitment aspect of this lifestyle change.  I am going to start tracking the amount of time I spend on things like kitchen work and exercise.  I’m certain there is a minimum time commitment required for achieving certain results, and I’ve got to figure out what this is for me.  After awhile, I hope to discover the most efficient yet sustainable/effective way of doing things.

Any thoughts or advice out there on time-and-weight management?