Sunday, September 26, 2010

Mama's got some new shoes (oh, and weigh-in no. 7)

So, after weeks of waiting, I was finally able to get new shoes yesterday!! I went to a running store here in Belfast where they do a gait analysis.  Basically, they just videotape you running on a treadmill for like 30 seconds and then look at it in slow motion to track and see how your foot falls and whether or not you pronate (land on the outside of your foot) or supinate (land on the inside of your foot).

I am a mild pronator (or is it pronater?).

With that determined, the helpful lad in the shop recommended a mild stability shoe - in my case, the Saucony ProGrid Guide 3.  I tried on a pair of Asics as well, but I liked the Saucony better; it just seemed to fit better on my foot and was more comfortable.  So I paid for them and they came home with me!  They put my old shoes to shame.

I feel kinda sorry for my old shoes.  They look sad & pitiful, left like wallflowers while I ask my new shoes to dance instead.

This is the first pair of Sauconys I've ever had.  We'll see how they do!  I was told I can expect to get about 500 miles out of them (maybe a little less given my weight) but that I would be able to tell when they start to wear out and need to be replaced.  So here's to wearing them out!!  I'm looking forward to taking them out for a spin later today.

Oh, and weigh-in day is here again!  Shall we see how I've done this week?

Weigh-in no. 7 (-2.2 lbs)

Last week:   314.0
This week:   312.0   
Loss of           -2.2 lbs
Total Loss    - 15.0 lbs

An even 15 lbs!  Not too shabby!

I feel like I'm starting to sound like a broken record, but to be honest, I'm kind of surprised.  I think somewhere in my head, I feel like I'm not doing this right unless I'm suffering in some way.  And since I haven't really suffered at all, I don't expect to have lost each week.  Again this week, I didn't really count calories but again this week, I also ate healthily and made good choices.  I eat when I'm hungry.  I eat until I'm satisfied (which may not necessarily mean that my plate is clean when I'm done).  I have had a bit of apple cobbler that I made & a couple scones this week as well as some Quality Street chocolates that someone gave us at school, but nothing overboard.  I feel in control of what I eat, rather than in the past where I abdicated my power and let it control me.

I guess some would call what I'm doing 'intuitive eating', although that sounds a little up-one's-own-arse to me.  Why does it need a name?  Nevertheless, it hasn't been an intentional move on my part; I haven't made a conscious decision that this is what I'm going to do.  My first few weeks of calorie counting were extremely helpful as it helped me get a handle on what I needed to eat and how much, etc.  And I very well may go back to it when I hit a plateau or need a shift to continue losing.  But I've realized this week that I'm slowly starting to trust myself around food again.  I don't feel the compulsion to eat everything as if it won't be available ever again.  I have moved from a fear of scarcity to a reality of abundance.  I'm finally practicing what I preach.

I can't explain the shift that has happened in my head in relation to food.  And don't hear me saying that I think I have arrived - I won't be surprised if something raises its ugly head at some point and remain on the lookout.  But at the moment, I have to say I'm ok.  I still love food.  I still love cooking.  But my tastes have changed.  I don't want or crave things that I thought I would.  I have no overwhelming desire to eat something "bad for me".  I can take it or leave it, so I leave it most of the time.  I don't feel deprived.  And to be honest, the more I think about it, I don't feel like I am or ever was a food addict.  Am I in denial?  Possibly.  But I don't think so.  I think mostly I ate out of boredom and procrastination more than anything else.

All of this confirms for me that the majority of this is in one's mind.  If you can change your mind and how it perceives and relates to food, then you can change your body.

It seems deceptively simple.  Maybe it'll make a liar out of me in the coming weeks/months, but for now that seems to be the case.

Some other observations about this journey so far:
  1. Our average weekly grocery spend for two is about £55-60 (in the U.S. the equivalent buying power would be about the same - $55-60).  
  2. Almost half of that £60 (about £25/week) is spent on fresh fruit and vegetables.
  3. We are eating at home AT LEAST 6.5 nights out of 7 (we've eaten out maybe 3 times since all this started), which is way cheaper than the £12-20 per night we'd spent eating out 4+ nights a week in the past plus buying groceries for the rest.
  4. I've eradicated caffeine from my diet.  Decaf black tea doesn't have as full a flavor as regular so I do miss that a bit, but having to go to the toilet every 15 minutes when I do drink regular tea reminds me why I should drink decaf.  So I've been drinking lots of mint tea lately (because I've been nursing a sore throat and the beginnings of a cold), which surprisingly has been a nice substitute.  Still need the sugar though...
  5. And lastly, I don't think I've eaten anything (well, except for the Quality Street chocolates, maybe) that had any ingredients I couldn't pronounce or didn't know what they were in the last 3-4 weeks.  And that can only get better as I purchased a food processor/blender yesterday so we can start making our own hummus, pestos, tomato sauces, breadcrumbs, etc.  I'm excited.

So that's me for the week.  Or should I say 15 lbs less of me!  Next week's weigh-in will include new pictures and measurements to track where the weight is coming off.

And congratulations to all of you who have started running or yoga or eating better these last few weeks along with me!!  Keep it up!  It's great to have friends along for the journey!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Drop Dead Gorgeous by December Challenge (week 2 for me)

Time to post my second weekly entry to the Drop Dead Gorgeous by December Challenge...

I am victorious, even despite myself (sometimes)
I'm not hating on myself with that message - in fact, it's the opposite - I'm reminding myself that even when I think I might be failing, I'm still doing more than I have done in the past and for that, I am victorious!

Starting Weight: 316.2
Current Weight: 314.2

Goals to the End of December:
  • Run 5-8 minutes straight without walking
  • Eradicate “should” from my vocabulary regarding myself
  • Get a chapter completed for my dissertation

My Brag for the Week: I ate out 2-3 times this week and I made good choices and still lost 2 lbs!

My Improvement for the Week: I need to conquer my dislikes and look into joining a gym this week so that I can increase the intensity of my exercise and workouts.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Weigh-in no. 6 (-2.0)

 It's weigh-in day....

weigh-in no. 6 (-2.0)
Last week:   316.2
This week:   314.2    
Loss of           -2.0 lbs
Total Loss    -12.8 lbs


I must say I am surprised.  I expected that the scale wouldn't have moved this week as I have barely exercised all week and I've eaten out a couple times where I chose well but still had more than I probably would have eating at home.  I barely even weighed myself this week, not wanting to be frustrated because of my lack of exercise and such.  I even debated whether or not I would do a weigh-in on the blog this week in the event that I had either 1) not lost anything or 2) gained (*gasp*).  I had a good excuse - Jim's sister is visiting and so I could have said that I just didn't get the chance and no one would have questioned it.  But I decided that since this is about honesty and full-disclosure, I should go ahead and just accept the results whatever they were.  So I approached the scale with a bit of trepidation this morning.....

But no, I have a loss of -2.0 this week - I'LL TAKE IT!!  You'll hear no complaining or disappointment here this week, my friends.

It does make me wonder though: if I've barely exercised this week and I've still lost, what in the world was I eating and how much of it was going down the guzzle before all this started??  We went to Chiquitos on Sunday night last week and had a UK version of mexican food.  We got a starter of nachos to share and I had a chicken wrap thingy.  In the past, I would have finished it all off, polishing the plate.  But I was pretty proud of myself; I ate my half the starter (I love nachos!!), but only half of my main dish.  I was full after eating half of it and, while it was good, I just didn't want anymore.  I was full and I knew if I kept going, I would be miserable both physically from being too full and mentally/emotionally because I'd be berating myself for eating too much and not stopping when I knew I should have.  Instead, I went away satisfied and happy that I had not over-indulged.  Yay!

So all in all, it's been a better week than I was anticipating.  In fact, it's been a quite important week in some ways.

First, I registered for my FINAL YEAR as a Ph.D student at Trinity College Dublin.  This time next year, I will be turning in my dissertation and moving to the stage of waiting to get the results of 4 years of hard work and hopefully being given the title of Doctor, inshallah.  Kinda crazy.  I still have a hard time envisioning the end of this part of my journey.  At times I get overwhelmed with how much left there is to do, but I work much better with a deadline, so I think I'll be alright.  I'm aware, however, that life will change drastically once that's over.  And part of my reason for losing this weight and changing my life now is so that, hopefully, that change next year will be a bit easier if I'm healthier and have better habits to deal with stress that comes with decision-making, job hunting and general life upheaval.

Second, not being on the scale every morning this week has had a positive effect, I think.  I was more relaxed about this process.  I didn't obsess about what I was eating or how I might fail as much as I have done in the past weeks.  Fears that I had related to all of this was much less present this week.  So that was a good realization.  I was reminded on several occasions of my friend's words last week: "This is a marathon, a life choice that if you stick with, 1.2 lbs or whatever it is will matter little."  And he was right.  I made some good choices this week - despite not exercising - and I'm ok.  Would I be saying this if I had gained 2.0 lbs?  Hmmmm.......I don't know.  Possibly.  I'm not sure yet.
Third, I got a new sweater Friday.  I bought it at Sainsbury's, which is like Target only opposite (more groceries and less "general merchandise" - Jo, that was for you!).  It's a UK size 22, which is a US size 20.  Have I lost enough to wear a size 20 top or does it just run a little big?  Maybe a little of both.  I don't want to deprive myself of a little victory, but until I start needing smaller jeans, I'll be cautiously optimistic.  I decided to take a picture of it to show y'all because I thought it was cool with the assymetrical hem, etc.....but unfortunately, I was having issues taking it with the light (it's raining and very grey outside) and with my poor dog Luna and her cone-head at the moment (she got spayed on Friday), so I decided to just go with it....

Fourth, I've decided to look into joining a gym again.  I've hated going to the gym in the past and have spent the week thinking about why I hated it and whether or not it would be a waste of money.  I realized that I hated the "meat market," competitive aspect of gyms the most, so I've begun to think about what joining a women-only gym would do for me - whether or not I'd enjoy it more, etc.  I want to have a session or two a week with a personal trainer if I can afford it, so I'm going to start the hunt and see what I can find.  Unfortunately, there aren't any gyms that are super-local for me either in relation to home or work, so it looks like either way I'll have to do a bit of a drive out of my way to go.  So I've got several aspects to weigh up in the coming week or two.

Here's to lessons learned and keeping on keeping on....

Monday, September 13, 2010

Drop Dead Gorgeous by December challenge

So, I decided to sign up for Half of Jess's Drop Dead Gorgeous by December challenge.  You can join too if you're interested - it's not just about weight loss!

Here's how Jess describes it:

splendid, magnificent, grand, wonderful, brilliant
1. Beautiful, very attractive
2. Very pleasant.
Drop Dead Gorgeous by December is not about the scale. It’s about making me proud of who I am, what I have done, and what I will do. It’s about making me stronger, more independent, and generally happier. It’s about overall health, both mentally and physically.

It has become a self-empowering movement.
It has become a supportive group.
It has become a motivational network.

It has made me understand that I can accomplish so much more when I realize I’m not alone.

Every single person participating in Drop Dead Gorgeous by December makes a conscious effort to better his or her life each and every day.

Some days are harder than others, but in the long-run, every single person emerges victorious, feeling accomplished and proud. It is not pride that comes from how much weight they’ve lost, how far they’ve ran, how many miles they’ve biked. It is pride that comes from knowing just how much hard work and effort went into achieving those goals. 

How does Drop Dead Gorgeous by December work?

You can join at any time. If you missed this week, not to worry! Send Jess (halfofjessATgmailDOTcom) your weekly report by next Sunday. However, once you commit to Drop Dead Gorgeous, you are in for life (at least until December).

You are required each week to send:
1. A picture of you holding up a positive sign for yourself.
The picture must be different every week. The sign can be the same.
The sign can vary from I can do this to I am beautiful to I am strong and powerful. Whatever inspires you, write it down, look at it, read it, and hold it up proud.
2. Your current week’s weight as well as your challenge start weight. *optional
I am looking to lose, but some people are actually looking to gain. I might overeat, but others undereat. If a scale goal is not part of your journey right now, you don’t have to include it! Just put N/A (not applicable) for this portion. Not everybody is defining their health by the number on the scale, and they shouldn’t have to. Fitness and healthy living should not be determined by only a number.
3. Your goal(s) from now, or whenever you decide to join, until December.
These goals may NOT be weight-related. You are not allowed to have a goal tied to a number on the scale. Goals can include everything from trying a new recipe to running your first 5K. It can be something like making your bed every morning or saving a dollar a week. Whatever your goal(s) are, they cannot be tied to your scale weight (lose 20 pounds, lose a pound a week, etc.). Try to limit your goals to a maximum of five, but if you’re ambitious, that’s great too.
4. ONE thing that you are proud of for the week.
This is where you brag about something you did well, a milestone that you reached, an impossibility that you turned into a possibility. BRAG!
5. ONE thing that you can improve upon for the following week.
Because this healthy journey is about overall betterment, we can all find something to improve upon. Maybe it’s to squat 10 pounds more. Maybe it’s to be more punctual. Maybe it’s to drink one more glass of water.
We are all in this self-empowerment movement together.

Prepare to be inspired.

So, here's my entry for week 3.  You can visit week 1 and week 2 to see other people's entries.

Starting Weight (9/12/10): 316.2

Goals till December:
  • Run 5-8 minutes straight without walking
  • Eradicate “should” from my vocabulary regarding myself
  • Get a chapter completed for my dissertation
One brag for the week: I passed my 10 lbs lost goal this week (10.8), 2 weeks earlier than I had planned!

One thing to improve upon for next week: Be more focused on what I can do rather than my shortcomings.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Weigh-in no. 5 (-1.8)

Time for weigh-in:

Last week:   318.0
This week:   316.2    
Loss of           -1.8 lbs
Total Loss    -10.8 lbs

weigh-in no. 5 (-1.8)

Not as much as the previous two weeks, but in all honesty, I didn't work as hard this past week.  I only exercised 3 times and none of them were as intense as I had been doing.  My excuse is that I'm still waiting to buy new shoes before I take up running again.  :o/

BUT!  I did reach my 10 lb goal 2+ weeks early (it was set for the end of September), so I'm proud of that!  I get to go mark it off my goals list, which will be satisfying.

I have to say I'm a little disappointed in myself, although I know I shouldn't be.  It is a loss and that's good, no matter what the numbers are.  There'll be other weeks where the loss will be even smaller, I'm sure, so I need to keep things in perspective.  -1.8 is an average and healthy loss for a week.  I am not complaining.

Last night I went to Skinnyr and put in my details to have a nifty little graph of my weight loss to help motivate me.  I've posted it on my Progress page so that it will be continually updated.  Today, it looks like this:

Also today my body mass index (BMI) is 49.52 which puts me in the “Morbidly Obese” category.  I knew that.  I don't need a chart to tell me that.

But last week it was 49.89, so I lost .37 on the BMI scale this week as well.  I know the BMI scale isn't completely accurate when you're building muscle mass, etc....but it's another way for me to measure loss and see results, so I'll keep track for now.

As far as eating goes, I was fine most of the week although I have to admit I'm getting a little bored.  Time to try some new recipes again and jazz things up.  I found a recipe for parsnip cakes that I want to try (although not done in butter as the recipe suggests) and I think it's time to break out the falafel mix and some other stuff I've been wanting to do but haven't.  I love Middle Eastern food and Jim made some really yummy beef koftas Monday night that I'll want to do again.  But yesterday was the first day that I really struggled with eating; my appetite was insatiable and I wanted to eat just about everything I could get my hands on so I worked hard to stay out of the kitchen.  I was fairly successful although I don't think I was very productive on anything else.  Oh!  but I did have chocolate yesterday - the first bit in about 4 weeks - and I did ok!  I allowed myself 3 small squares (a line of squares) from a small Milka bar that I brought back from Sarajevo back in August (btw, the fact that there is still chocolate in the house from August is a measure of success in itself).  And I didn't go back for more!  woohoo!!  So the chocolate beast remains tamed for now. 

I think I need to kick everything up a notch again - exercise more, start being strict again about counting my calories (I slacked off this week again on that, although I know I still did ok for the most part), and find some additional motivators.  Now that I've hit my first goal, I should set some new ones:

Former Goal: 30 lbs by the end of the year (which would have put me at 297 by the end of December)
New Goal: Break into the 200s by the first week in November (8 weeks to lose 17 lbs)
New Goal: To have lost a new 30 lbs (from today's weight) by the end of December (which would put me at 286)

I'm also thinking about signing up to do Half of Jess's Drop Dead Gorgeous by December challenge.  I've been watching it and didn't think I needed to do it, but after the struggles I had this week, I think it might be good for me.   If I do it, I'll post my entry here.

Oh, and I wanted to say to everyone - thanks for your support!  This whole process has been so much better having you along with me.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Processing the anger

*language warning, just in case you need to know*

Since the spew of anger night before last (which was helpful, btw), naturally I've been thinking about it all, where it all came from, and how I need to deal with it.  It had been brewing for a few days and while there's still a bit of residual, I'm better.

I was aware when I was making the list that there were some underlying issues.  I identified them partially in my head at the time, but decided not to write them out.  I chose not to because I remembered something a counselor a few years back told me: "Jayme, you turn your anger into sadness too quickly.  You don't allow yourself to be angry."  He was right.  So, for the first time that I remember, I made no attempts to quell the anger, to pick it apart, to shove it down somewhere and rationalize it all.  I made the list because I wanted to affirm within myself that it was ok to be angry, to remind myself that there are things going on that I have a right to be angry about, and that anger can be a great motivator for change.  So I sat with it for a while.  It was uncomfortable, not-pretty, and....well, angry.

In going over the list that night and yesterday, I'm aware that my anger is caught up in lots of other things; insecurity, fear, unrealistic expectations, disenchantment, annoyance, lack of control and frustration.  I noticed that most of things could have been said "I am angry that, despite...." signaling that even though things are being done to correct it, shit still happens.

Most of the items on the list are beyond my control - and I've already made polite mention of my control issues a little bit here.

The 1.2 lb weight gain I mentioned isn't even an official number (I weigh every day just to keep myself motivated, even though "official" weigh-ins are only weekly) and from weighing in today, it's gone again.  I have no idea why it appeared and was probably just a fluke, but it still freaked me out.  In the 2 days it appeared, I hadn't built up muscle mass - I hadn't even exercised as I had taken those 2 days off, but was still eating right.  But's just a number.  I can't let it freak me out.  *note to self for next time that happens*

Most of the other items on the list are connected with my propensity to expect more of myself than is reasonable, to give myself too high of standards and then berate myself for not meeting them.  That same counselor who told me that I transform my anger to sadness too quickly also said that I use the word "should" in an almost abusive way toward myself, using it as a standard of perfection.  I should be able to deal patiently with drunk people dancing and falling all over me at a concert. I should be the most gracious, patient, loving, peaceful person in the world.  I should be finished with a dissertation that is going to stop the world in its tracks in amazement.  I should be free of fears of failure.

Badass Tara over at the blog 263 and counting (which I highly recommend) posted something last week that really resonated and got me to thinking:
...Anyone that has lived as a fat person knows what I’m talking about. Fat is our one failure that we can never seem to shed. So we over compensate by either being the smartest student, the hardest worker, the funniest person or the one that will drop everything at any given time and be there to lend a helping hand. We think by being the best at something (or everything) it will hide what we’re really feeling: I am a failure at everything because I am fat.

I tried in the past to let go of the fat but I forgot about letting go of the most important part – the “est”(s). If I couldn’t be the thinnEST, the fastEST, the strongEST, the fittEST then there was no point. I used to walk around aimlessly looking at other people and thinking “oh look at him, he looks so strong. I’ll never be that strong" *insert food into pie hole* or “look at her, I’ll never be that thin” *insert food into pie hole AND turn on World of Warcraft* or “look at that runner, I’ll never be that fast” *insert food into pie hole AND turn on World of Warcraft AND sink farther into my depression*.  As a morbidly obese person I was so focused on what I wasn’t doing.  Being the bEST.  That I didn’t see what I was doing.  Being bettER.  
Stop looking around you and seeing what everyone else is doing. You don’t know their history. You don’t know their demons. You don’t know what brought them to where they are today. There is only one person you need to be better than and that’s the you that you’re leaving behind.

I use that standard of perfection - the EST - to judge myself which then gives me ammunition to go to war with myself when I can't live up to it.  Not cool.  Talk about the need for peacebuilding!

And when I get messages from friends that are so full of wisdom, grace, and a dose of reality, they highlight that I beat myself up unnecessarily.  I recognize it when they hold up the mirror for me.  One good friend, commiserating with me in my anger, sent me such words yesterday that I so desperately needed to hear in the way I needed to hear them:

Firstly...I was a fat bastard by my standards, and those standards are the only ones that really matter. What you define as fat is what defines fat for you. Anyone else's definition can fuck right off.
I began running every day, at first a pathetic few miles, then the distance grew. In the first few months I gained weight, which people assured me was muscle mass. But it was the shittiest thing ever in the history of ever. How the F am I running like 18 miles a week and GAINING WEIGHT?

If you are working out, well then its mass...if not, FUCK IT. This is a marathon, a life choice that if you stick with, 1.2 lbs or whatever it is will matter little.

You have a huge set of balls for doing this. Muddle through it, keep your chin up and press on. Cake wasn't a message from God, just a song on your IPOD.

Hang in there, you are awesome and brave, and this is going to be a painful period for you. Literally teaching your tired and slovenly body how to be different, but you are strong and motivated!

 I loved his analogy of training for a marathon with this life change.  That puts it in a new light for me which is really helpful.

Another friend reminded me that making changes such as this is like changing a family system, which will buck, resist and challenge the change and strive to maintain homeostasis.  I'm sure my anger was rooted in some of that - fear of change, resentment, lack of comfort in old ways - and so I have to remember what is required in order to change systems: consistency, calm differentiation, and dedication to the future result.


Ok, back to work.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Can't a girl just be angry?

Since this blog is about full disclosure, I need to warn folks:

I'm angry today.

Why?  I'm not sure, but here's a list of possibilities:

* I'm angry that my dog seems to be unable to learn that it's bad manners to steal food off the kitchen counters, no matter what I do.
* I'm angry that meat I bought the other day has already gone off.  That's another £3 in the bin.
* I'm angry that I was so looking forward to the Mumford & Sons show on Monday and it was ruined by drunk idiots and my panicked feelings of claustrophobia.
* I'm angry that I'm poor.
* I'm angry that I'm waiting to be paid for a project that should have been finished months ago.
* I'm angry that I can't run because I can't afford new shoes yet because of not being paid for the said project above.
* I'm angry that I'm not further along on my dissertation than I am and should be by this time (my final year begins in 2 weeks).
* I'm angry that I have to work at another job(s) for pay in addition to writing my dissertation.
* I'm angry that people don't do what they say they will do and fail to follow through.
* I'm angry that my home country (the U.S.) seems to have regressed further into bigotry, intolerance, self-indulgence and a whiny sense of entitlement.
* I'm angry that I have to pay attention to what I eat.
* I'm angry that I'm fat.
* I'm angry that it's going to take 1-2 years to lose this weight.
* I'm angry that I have to spend valuable time (when I should be working on my dissertation) exercising and cooking and shopping so I can make good choices.
* I'm angry that I struggle to motivate myself to work on my dissertation and keep getting distracted by other things.
* I'm angry that I'm tired.
* I'm angry that I'm angry.
* I'm angry that I can't just suck things up, have a word with myself, and get on with it.
* I'm angry that, despite everything, good people suffer, get cancer, and struggle for no good reason.
* I'm angry that my house never stays clean for more than, like, a minute.
* I'm angry that for some reason yesterday when I weighed it showed that I had gained 1.2 lbs since Sunday and I have no idea why or how.
* I'm angry that, despite my best intentions, I'm afraid I'm going to fail at losing weight.
* I'm angry that Jim hasn't been able to find a better job despite his best intentions and efforts.
* I'm angry that God's fan club can be such hateful, ungracious, backward people sometimes.
* I'm angry that Northern Ireland is still having problems, despite 12 years post-Good Friday Agreement and the blood, sweat and tears put in by so many peace-loving, capable people.
* I'm angry that summer and warmth are gone and I have to start paying for heating.
* I'm angry that, despite my convictions toward nonviolence and peace, I wanted to literally punch someone on Monday night at the concert and was prepared if the need arose.
* I'm angry that I am so undisciplined about some things.
* I'm angry that it's not acceptable for me to be angry.
* I'm angry that my standards for myself are beyond my capacity to fulfill.


Cake's song "Nugget" (aka "Shut the Fuck Up") just came on my ITunes playlist aptly named 'angry'.

"Shut the fuck up, learn to buck up."

Maybe the universe is trying to tell me something.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Ethics & Morality of Land, Eating, and Consumption

I used to be 'religious' in the sense that I went to church every time the doors opened, I sang the songs, and did the expected things a Christian is thought to do.  However, in the last 5 years or so, church really hasn't done much for me, so, on the whole, I stopped going.  I've had to find spiritual sustenance in other places, seek Sabbath where you can find it.  And when you work in the area of church, theology, etc. that can be harder to find than one might expect.

Since I'm a theologian by vocation, certain things appeal to me.  I love stuff that makes me think, that invites me to look at issues of God, faith, ethics and morality in a different way.  I love theological concepts which challenge me.

Not surprisingly, American Public Media's program Speaking of Faith with Krista Tippett is one of those outlets for me.  And recently, two shows have aired which have made me think deeply about the ethics and morality of land, eating and consumption:


I highly recommend going and listening to the shows if you haven't heard them (the podcasts are an hour long, but you can also find the unedited conversations if you want the full monty).

In the first program, Ellen Davis, a practical theologian and biblical scholar (Hebrew Bible/Old Testament) at Duke Divinity School, is "helping to shape a new imagination about the human relationship to the natural world" and wrote the 2009 book Scripture, Culture and Agriculture: An Agrarian Reading of the Bible.

"You can't go through more than a few chapters in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament without seeing some reference to land, water, its health, its lack of health, the absence of fertile soil and water", she said.  What I found fascinating was her discussion of the creation story in Genesis 1, which can be read in a variety of ways.  She highlights that the King James version of God's blessing and imperative to humanity: "be fruitful and multiply; and replenish the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the the fish of the sea and the fowl of the air and over everything that moveth over the earth" has been used by politicans, entrepreneurs, colonizers, missionaries, etc to form and shape the modern West in a way that has been marked by destruction, abuse, patriarchy and exploitation.  With such a reading, there is no acknowledgement that the creatures were blessed with the same blessing and admonition that they are to be fruitful and multiply before humanity ever came into existence.  The words that have been translated as "having dominion, rule, subdue" Davis translates as "exercise skilled mastery over" which suggests an artfulness to being human.  She understands it as an imperative that does not negate the blessings that were given beforehand and calls into account humanity's awareness that everyone (animals, plants, etc) has to eat and that food has been provided for all if mastered and administered correctly.

Davis also writes/talks about "eating as practical theology" in that eating has been separated from our life with God in the modern context in an almost Gnostic sense. She says that "for a very long time we've had a highly spiritualized notion of religion in the West - our bodies did not [bring us into connection with God], with the exception to sexuality....but nothing else about our physical being does..." but that, in reality, even the most visceral creaturely act of eating has theological implications "because it gives us an opportunity to honor God with our bodies."

Similarly, Davis shared on the program:
"I think at the root of it is the notion that we are part of an intricate web of physical relations which are at the same time moral relations, how we eat and drink, how we sow our land, how we get food to our plate, how we use other bodies - other human bodies - in getting food and drink to sustain us.  These are moral issues which cannot be separated from very basic physical questions....I think that being conscious of where our food comes from and who grows it and at what cost is something that all of us can do and must do."

Likewise, Barbara Kingsolver's book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle explores the journey she and her family took where they ate 95% of  what they could grow or raise themselves (with the recognition that some things like coffee and flour may not be possible to get locally).  I have to admit that I haven't read the book yet and it is on my list to read in the coming months.

Most of the time in the podcast, Kingsolver spent a lot of time talking about the local food movement, relying upon food that has been grown within 30 miles of one's home and therefore eating what grows in particular seasons.  Until WWII, humans ate locally and organically but since then (60 years - 2 generations!), such realities seem almost completely foreign to most people in Westernized, industrialized cultures.

I'm all for the local food movement - one of my favorite things to do is to get fresh, local produce that still has the leaves and the dirt on it from where it was picked.  Eating tomatoes that a neighbor brought over to share is the best.  And Kingsolver talks about giving up bananas because of the environmental impact shipping them to rural Virginia has.  I understand that and appreciate it.

But it does make me wonder: what about the mango farmers in Haiti?  what about the banana farmers in Ecuador and Brazil?  what about the shrimpers in the Gulf of Mexico?  If everyone went local, what would happen to their livlihood?  They depend on exporting those products for their income and when something happens to damage that (the earthquake in Haiti, the oil disaster in the Gulf), we see the impact that can have.  Similarly, local food is a great idea - and one I heartily promote, so don't hear me pooh-poohing it - but in a globalized economy, moving toward local will have implications beyond the 30 mile radius.

Furthermore, tomatoes grown in an open field in Spain and shipped in bulk to the US or the UK has less environmental impact than local tomatoes who have been reared in a greenhouse heated with fossil fuels for months.  It's an intricate web and being aware of these issues requires being able to hold and understand the complexity.  There's some who have written about this; check them out by going here and here and here.

For now, what sticks out to me is that while it may not be possible to eat locally for everything we consume, the ethical decision is to buy our non-local products fairtrade whenever possible and to at least be aware of where your food is coming from.  A question to keep in mind: "Are my choices helping others?"  Also, Kingsolver talks of the year's journey as "a long exercise in gratitude" - to recover an awareness and appreciation for what we have; that strawberries in January is an indulgence - not a necessity - even though they may be less-than-desirable in taste since they're out of season.

Kingsolver also noted our relationship to eating and food by saying:

"We seem to be a little at sea...when it comes to food rules.  We're behaving as if we're in search of some Food Leviticus to save us from this sinful royale of cheap fats and carbohydrates...."
 and she talks about using the language of sin by saying:
"[It's] as if we are afraid of our food, which is reasonable enough because we don't know it!  I'm in favor of throwing out this language of sin and being bad when you're sitting down to a good meal because the ethical choice of supporting your local farmer also tastes better and it does involve cooking, but it's such a beautiful thing to come home to.  I think that the planning of beautiful meals and investing one's heart and time in their preparation is the opposite of self-indulgence." 

I've found myself using this 'good' and 'bad' language - moralistic, sin-related terms - to describe my eating habits.  "I've been good today" or "I've not eaten anything bad for me today" are familiar phrases to anyone who has been watching what they eat.  How do I get away from this?  In light of all of the above, is it still appropriate to use such terms?  Are the terms "healthy" and "unhealthy" a better choice?  How does this language shape my relationship to food, how its prepared, where it's grown and my relationip to/with God?

I am on a journey of awareness.  More reflections to come as these questions continue to be hashed out in my head and life.

Weigh-in no. 4 (-4.6)

I've been looking forward to weigh-in today, just to officially see the progress I've made, so here we go:

Last week: 322.6
This week: 318.0      
Loss of        - 4.6

Weigh-in no. 4  (-4.6)

That's .2 more than last week!  And a total loss of 9lbs so far.  1 more pound until I meet my first goal!  woohoo!!!

To be honest, this week I slacked off a bit on the calorie counting as I've known that what I've been eating has fallen within or below my limit.  And I haven't been snacking really, and if I do, it's usually fruit, so I really haven't been worried.

I also must say that so far (*fingers crossed & knocking on wood*) it hasn't been that hard.  I've had no uncontrollable, vicious cravings as of yet.  I haven't felt deprived; I think I've eaten pretty well, actually.  We've cooked almost every night for 2 weeks (save for a sandwich night and a night we got chicken shwarmas and falafel at Pharaoh on the Lisburn Road - which, if you leave off the sauce are pretty healthy & fresh since they're made in-house).  We're still working out recipes and figuring out which corners we can cut that curb calories/fat/carbs without cutting out taste.  I think we've done well; I'm proud of us.

Another discovery has been that when I have felt hungry, it's been almost satisfying to feel it - not in a masochistic sort of way, but in a way that acknowledges that I don't have to give in to it every time, to be hungry isn't something to be afraid of, and that there's plenty stored up to meet my body's needs.  So I don't run to find something at the first twinge of hunger anymore. 

At this point in time and speaking for myself, I think I've started developing some good habits: 
  • I haven't had chocolate in 2 weeks (which isn't off-limits per se, but until I can trust myself to not eat the whole bar, I won't put myself in that position.  For now, Cocoa Pops have sufficed)
  • I've cut back on cheese & butter/margarine (I used to think it was sacrilige to have a sandwich without cheese or toast & jam without butter, but I've realized I don't need it every time)
  • Fruit (dried or fresh) and nuts have become my go-to snack food instead of bread, chips, and whatever other crap I used to eat
  • My portions are getting smaller as I go along (I didn't start out small, but have progressively cut back on portion-size instead, which I think has helped with the feeling of not being deprived)
  • I'm drinking loads of water (which is making me have to pee all the time, and in turn has made me begin to watch my caffiene intake which only exacerbates that)
  • I've started parking the car further away when I go shopping to give me more opportunities to walk.
 A few other things I've noticed lately:
  • I went up 3 flights of stairs 3 times (right after the other) moving stuff at work one day this past week and while I felt it, I wasn't heaving and ho-ing like I would have done even 2 weeks ago.  Hell, even 1 time 2 weeks ago would have had me winded.
  • My energy has increased - not exponentially, but I've noticed a change which I am guessing will only improve with the more weight I lose.
  • My body craves movement - doing yoga and walking/running has helped me to note when my body begins to feel stiff or "bunched up" and signals when I need to move to work it out to feel better.

So, yeah, all in all, things are good.  I am prepared for when I hit a plateau, but for now, things are working and so it's full steam ahead!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

New England Fried Shrimp

I made New England Fried Shrimp for dinner last night, accompanied by corn on the cob and a simple salad of little gem lettuce and tomatoes. Tonight we're making homemade pizza, so I'll post the recipe for that in the next couple days.

The recipe comes by way of Eating Well magazine.

New England Fried Shrimp


1 cup pale ale, or other light-colored beer
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour or all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
1 pound raw shrimp, (13-15 count), peeled and deveined, tails left on
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
    Note: I had to use non-tailed shrimp that were probably 20-25 count, so I doubled them up to 2 shrimp per batter dip - not so pretty, but they still tasted good. Raw tail-on shrimp is difficult to find here in Norn Iron and much more expensive.


    1. Whisk beer, flour, mustard and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl until smooth.
    2. You’ll need to cook the shrimp in two batches. Wait to batter the second batch until the first is cooked. For the first batch, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Hold shrimp by the tail and dip in the batter one at a time. Let any excess batter drip off, then add the shrimp to the hot oil, making sure they aren’t touching. Cook, turning once and adjusting the heat as necessary to prevent burning, until golden brown on the outside and curled, 3 to 4 minutes total. Transfer to a platter.
    3. Wipe out the pan. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the pan and heat over medium-high. Batter and fry the remaining shrimp. Season all the shrimp with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper and serve immediately.


    Per serving: 213 calories; 9 g fat (1 g sat, 5 g mono); 172 mg cholesterol; 7 g carbohydrates; 0 g added sugars; 24 g protein; 1 g fiber; 351 mg sodium; 210 mg potassium.

    Nutrition Bonus: Selenium (61% daily value), Iron (15% dv).

    Wednesday, September 1, 2010

    My big, black shadow

    Throughout this process, I've had shadow hanging around.
    A big black one.
    It follows me everywhere I go. I can't get away from it.
    But then again, I'm not sure I want to.
    I have to admit I like having it around.
    It reminds me of who I want to be.

    It is our dog, Luna.
    A big, black, Newfoundland/St Bernard mix.
    And she turns 9 months old next week, but already weighs in at about 90lbs.
    It's funny - she's gaining and I'm losing and
    all being well, we'll meet somewhere in the middle.

    She's my shadow.
    She follows me wherever I go when I'm at home.
    In the morning, she comes and lies in bed with me,
    waiting for me to get up,
    making funny faces and starting my day off with a laugh.

    Then I get up to do yoga, and she lies on the floor,
    watching curiously and waits for me to finish.
    It gives a whole new meaning to "downward dog".

    Then she waits for me to finish my shower, by sitting outside
    the bathroom door and looking out the window...

    Then she waits for me to get dressed and dry my hair,
    lying on the floor at the foot of the bed...

    All I have to say is "C'mon!" and she's up,
    ready to go wherever the next place is.

    And on the days I go to the park to walk/run,
    she jumps in the jeep and goes with me.
    It's good for her too - she needs the exercise
    (Exercise! Discipline! Then Affection! ala Cesar Millan)
    to get rid of some of her energy and she needs the socialization
    with other people and dogs.
    Each time we go, she grows in confidence and she is so proud of herself.
    Just like me!

    I love dogs. I always have and I'll always have at least one. And our other two (Piggy and Cody) are precious and I love them too. They're all my babies.

    But Luna's turning out to be the dog I've always wanted - a dog we can take most anywhere, who is calm and gentle (for 9 months, she's still very calm and gentle...and it'll only get better as she matures in age and training), who is great with kids, other people and other dogs,
    and who can go off-leash, walking with no problem.
    She gets excited sometimes, but all in all, she's happy,
    she listens really well and she trusts me.
    She's lovely.
    And through this journey, she's my buddy.
    My big, black shadow.
    You couldn't ask for better company.

    Always strive to be the person your dog thinks you are.
    -- Author unknown