One recent morning I was up early, finished with the gym and running a few errands. While in my car and stopped at a red light, I saw a man on the crosswalk, consuming a large bag of barbecue potato chips. I checked the clock in my car (still before 9am) and did a doubletake, surprised that this person apparently could not begin his morning without the chemical-y goodness of artificially-flavored chips (yes, I checked the brand on the bag to see if they were all-natural or not).
Then, as if to emphasize a point, I saw another man nearby — this one sucking on a cigarette as if he were in outer space and needed it for oxygen. I must admit that I was in awe — so much so that a honk behind my car made me snap to and realize the light had turned green.
As I drove on, I thought about these two people. If you had been with me, you would have seen that the looks on their faces indicated their chosen substances were life giving forces that they needed to begin (or even get through) their respective days. But I assure you I wasn’t judging these folks. Instead, I was shuddering — reminded of a time in my life when I needed my own unhealthy substance to begin my day.
When I weighed over 450 pounds, I would wake up with a serious food hangover. And I assure you that “food hangover” is no catchphrase. Back when I weighed more than my scale would even register, I would eat at night until I was literally stuffed and in physical pain. I would then toss, turn and sweat all night long — until finally rising in the morning, barely able to stumble to the bathroom due to being in such anguish.
This is when I would grab for my life giving force of diet soda. That’s right. I would have to consume 3 to 4 cans first thing in the morning in order to be able to start my day and actually function. Along with the artificial ingredients (that I’m sure my body mistook for sustenance) and the caffeine, I think that the carbonation somehow helped digest the leftover food from the night before. I truly was unable to function before having multiple cans of diet soda. I was addicted — to this (and so much more).
I’m not proud of this confession — but I make it as a reminder to myself that I never want to go back to a time in my life when, to function, I felt like I had to remain on a cycle of self-abuse (in this case delivered by consuming the wrong foods and/or beverages simply to begin my day). Whether barbecue chips, cigarettes or diet soda, these are not the kinds offood groups recommended to start our day – food groups that can give us a positive (and healthy) outlook.
Letting go of what doesn’t really serves us means making a commitment to getting back to paying attention to how our bodies feel when consuming such substances. Today the thought of ingesting diet soda makes me want to barf. Don’t get me wrong. I’m human. I want my big cup of black coffee along with my all-natural cereal and fresh sliced fruit. But all of these things work together to add some pep to my step — rather than clogging my body, mind or organs with unnecessary ingredients that my body cannot process (and that might even cause harm in the long run).
Was this you, too? Or is it you? What do you feel like you have to have first thing in the morning that might give a nutritionist a panic attack? By paying attention to how you feel (how you really feel), you might just realize these substances aren’t what you’re craving after all. And as our tastes change, our bodies, minds and health can change — for the better. So tomorrow morning, why not rise, shine and dine — on a healthier, happier (and ultimately more delicious) choice than chips, cigarettes or diet soda? The life you save may be your own.
Photo Source: eatyourbooks.com
A special guest post from Sherry Coleman Collins, MS, RD, LD
Recently, I read a story by Gregg about his struggle to tame his desire for one of my favorite foods, peanut butter. As is his style, he shared with great honesty the challenge it was for him to control his eating of the sticky delicious spread. It made me want to share some ideas for controlling portions and tips on how reframing how we think about a food can change how we treat it. I hope these tips will provide you with some tools for your toolbox in maintaining a healthy weight and a healthy life.
It’s just food. Remember, food isn’t “good” or “bad.” You may feel like they are out to get you, but the truth is that feelings aren’t facts. You are in charge and have the ability to control what you put in your body. Yet, there’s no need to carry around shame about what you’ve already eaten. Take each eating opportunity as a fresh start to do it right-er.
Know how to spot a single-serve portion. If you buy tempting foods in larger containers, separate them into smaller ones. Measure or weigh out the portions, since sometimes what we think is a serving, really isn’t. Alternatively, buy single-serve or pre-packaged foods that can help make it easier to control the amount you eat. For instance, peanut butter can be purchased in single-serve to-go style squeeze packets – perfect for tossing in your bag with some rice cakes for an afternoon snack, squeezing right onto an apple, or making that perfectly portioned peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Save that food for eating out or special occasions and get the smallest size offered. My treat food is fried potatoes. Seriously. I love really good French fries, crispy hashbrowns and potato chips. I almost never have these at home, where I eat >70% of my meals. Instead, these are a treat food that I have occasionally when I eat out with friends or for date night. By enjoying this food outside the house, I’m not tempted to eat it more often than I should.
Do distraction. When you’re feeling the tug, it’s time to do something else. Try drinking a glass of water, taking a walk, or calling a friend. Taking your mind off of the food and nourishing some other part of you – thirst, physical activity, or connection – may be just enough space to reduce the temptation or eliminate it completely.
Pay attention. When you do eat the foods you love, be present. Usually, the first few bites are the best. Take time to savor them and enjoy them. Don’t eat (at all if possible, but especially special foods) when you’re doing something else, such as typing at your desk, driving your car, or anything else that requires most of your attention. When you are more mindful of the food you eat, you eat much less.
Now, as far as the peanut butter goes, I can’t leave you without some thoughts on that one. Peanut butter is a wonderfully versatile and flavorful food. It’s also nutritious! Unlike my fried potatoes, which have far less to offer in that area, peanut butter provides protein, fiber, mostly good fats, and 30 vitamins and nutrients. It can be used in everything from my favorite PB&B (banana) sandwich to homemade breakfast peanut crunch bars, or a spicy peanut dipping sauce for lean grilled chicken skewers. Peanuts have more protein than any nut and are a deliciously satisfying food to enjoy. Check out our website at www.nationalpeanutboard.org for more ideas.
About the Author: Sherry Coleman Collins is a registered and licensed dietitian practicing in the Atlanta, GA area. Her love of food and nutrition has allowed her to work with individuals and groups, children and adults of all ages, and in a variety of settings from clinical to foodservice to communications. She currently serves as senior manager, marketing and communications for the National Peanut Board. Connect with America’s peanut farmers via Facebook and Twitter. Follow Sherry on Twitter at @PeanutRD.
Although you wouldn’t know it to look at me today, I used to be a total boob man. But the difference between me and that guy who Googles Dolly Parton is that, at the time I had boobs that could give Ms. P a run for her money.
This was back when I weighed well over 400 pounds and was approaching the dreaded 450-pound mark (at which point my scale quit me – but that’s another story for another post). During this time period, I was somewhat terrified to leave my apartment. Mainly because I was worried that the world was judging me. By just stepping out the door, I felt like everyone could figure out my weakness (food!) and see my Achilles’ heel (well, myAchilles’ belly, in any case).
Of course, a lot of this thinking was ego-based. I mean, inhabitants of Tallahassee, Florida (where I lived at the time) were likely too busy living their own lives to really care that my girth was close to being assigned its own zip code. And yet, often times, their stares told me differently. Usually, once I would catch someone staring, we would both look to one another, acknowledge mutual shame and then look away. This would usually be followed by me making fun of their outfit (silently in my head) – anything to combat the torture I was sure they intended for me to suffer.
Again, a lot of this was drama I was creating for myself. And this drama was paralyzing. This is why I would usually shop for groceries late at night. After all, I knew the sight of a 400+ pound man shopping for food might be too much for some onlookers to bear. Luckily for me, there was a 24-hour Albertsons nearby. So late at night I would sneak out of my apartment and scurry over to the grocery store, trying to stay hidden from the world. And from myself.
But there was a reason this market was open 24-hours a day. It turns out other people liked to shop around the clock as well (although I was sure their reasons weren’t as important as mine).
I’ll never forget one late evening, while pushing my cart through the aisles of Albertsons. My bounty thus far included my usual picks: 1/2 very healthy, “diet”-type food along with 1/2 binge-worthy treats that I would use as a “last meal” before beginning that week’s diet. Thus, I would quickly wheel past anyone who happened to be in the same aisle as me.
This particular evening, I found myself in one aisle that was very crowded. It was the cereal aisle and I was picking out one ‘healthy’ and one ‘unhealthy’ cereal. When turning my cart to leave the aisle, I saw a bunch of shoppers on one end. Abort mission! I quickly turned my cart toward the opposite end of the aisle, horrified to see it was just as crowded. ‘Why must everyone like cereal as much as me?,’ I wondered.
I then swallowed hard, looked down (eye contact with anyone seeing my girth was forbidden, after all) and pushed my cart toward the end of the aisle. At one point, I passed a mom and her daughter. The little girl (around 6 or 7) made eye contact with me. There she was, this sweet, innocent cereal lover. So I risked everything and smiled at her. Much to my chagrin, she stared back blankly. I continued past her and her mom. But as I did, the girl screamed out to her mom, “Mommy! Mommy? Why does that man have boobs?”
Everyone – and I mean everyone – in that crowded aisle turned to look at the man with boobs (I was sporting facial hair at the time, so there was no denying I was male). I quickly made my way down the aisle, my hands gripping the cart while I held my breath, determined to slink away before every shopper saw my 44Bs. Or were they Double Ds?
After rounding the corner, I abandoned the cart and quickly left the market – getting into my Chevy Chevette and speedily racing home like a vampire fearing dawn’s first light. Once safe in my apartment, I wished that I had said something equally mean to the little girl – something that would have kept her up at night or, at the very least, made her pee her pants in front of all the other shoppers. I never did see her or her mother again. But I still went even further into hermit mode for the next several years.
I share this not to demonize – or even excuse – the little girl’s behavior. I share it because I know the agony of stepping into public with added girth. It’s our embarrassment and shame that not only keeps us from heading into public but also from actually taking the weight off. This is all part of the cycle of abuse that society offers and that we participate in. Looking back, I can see that the little girl wasn’t my worst enemy at the time. I was.
Nowadays I think back on my man boobs with pride and a big sense of humor. When appearing on the Today Show, I joked that I felt like I was nursing America when they flashed one of my shirtless “Before” pictures onscreen. It’s this kind of humor that can free us. No matter what size we are, it’s nothing to be embarrassed of. And it’s nothing that should keep us from shopping in public – or doing anything else in public for that matter (perhaps even exercising)… And it’s nothing that should keep us from loving and accepting ourselves. This kind of acceptance can be so freeing – and can help unblock the path to weight loss and good health once and for all.
Today, I have slightly-defined pecs from my years of working out (emphasis on slightly — LOL!). But look closely and you’ll see scars under my nipples from when I had excess skin around my chest (and elsewhere) cut away after losing and keeping off the excess weight. So I still think twice about being seen in a bathing suit in public. But then again, so do most people I know (even those odd ‘Thin all their lives’ people).
So wear your boobs proudly – no matter if you’re male or female, no matter if you’re in a “Before,” “During” or “After” phase. And for God’s sake, keep your sense of humor. After all, I may not have actual boobs anymore, but I’m still one of the biggest boobs you’ll ever meet.
Have you experienced something like this? If so, I want to hear about it. Not to be horrified. Not to be frightened. But to acknowledge, smile – and hopefully laugh – with you… One boob to another.
Who can turn the world on with her smile? Turns out it’s not just Mary Tyler Moore, but also Valerie Harper, who has bravely come forward with her brain cancer diagnosis and is inspiring all of us with her brave and positive attitude.
After recently catching Ms. Harper (appearing with others from the original Mary Tyler Moore show) on Katie, I was moved by her joy, her courage and her refusal to stop living life even after being told by her doctors that she may have just months to live. Instead, Ms. Harper gracefully cautioned us all to “Not go to the funeral before the actual funeral.”
I realized in that moment (while watching her speak) that despite what I thought was a stressful day (the kind of day that made me want to reach for the nearest package of cookies and eat them all), that I actually had nothing to complain about. After all, if Ms. Harper could smile even when facing her current circumstances, then why couldn’t I?
Ms. Harper is a great reminder for us all to live in the moment. As she recently told CNN, “I just want folks to see me, that I’m OK, that I’m not suffering so far. There may be pain. There may be a lot of things ahead, but whatever they are, they’re ahead. They’re not now.”
She went onto tell interviewer Piers Morgan that she is trying to live in the moment and then offered this advice for others: “Keep your chin up and don’t go to the funeral, mine or yours or your loved ones, until the day of the funeral because then you miss the life that you have left.”
“Death is out there for all of us,” she told Mr. Morgan. “There’s other ways to handle it than just sit on the couch and accept.”
I always find it very inspirational when people facing odds we can’t even imagine share their courage and inspiration with the rest of us. It helps make whatever we’re facing seem tolerable — while also reminding us to count our blessings and be thankful for every little thing in our lives (cookies and otherwise).
Photo Source: knue.com