Vacation Detox: Phantom Hunger

Continuing to re-acquaint my body with healthy habits. What I mean by “vacation detox” is that my body grew accustomed to certain things – too much food, too little activity – and now I’m having to readjust.

The first thing I noticed is that I’ve had several “hungry days” in a row now. Hungry days are those days where no matter what you eat, or how much, your body won’t stop sending you the hungry signals – phantom hunger. I know they’re false, but they’re still there. I think they happen because my body gets used to me eating much more than I need, more often than I need, and when I revert back to my regular, healthy patterns it takes some time to convince my body I mean it and I’m not going to feed it cookies or pastries (or cocktails, if I’m being honest) just because it claims hunger. I have a couple of tried-and-true methods for dealing with those signals.

-The best one is a hot beverage. Hot tea, usually, will make my stomach settle down and stop sending the hungry pangs for a while. The weird thing about the pangs is I can get them right after I’ve eaten on a really bad day. The messaging gets completely screwed up by too many days of overeating and I know it, so I have to find ways to distract myself or short-circuit the network.

-Another strategy is to eat, but eat something supportive. A piece of fruit, or a hard-boiled egg usually fit the bill, if it’s been a reasonable amount of time since I last ate.

-Exercise can sometimes do it, a hard workout will often suppress my appetite. This one’s tricky, though, as it can also sometimes backfire and leave me MORE hungry. Also hard to do when I’ve been getting through a cold.

-Worst strategy, but often used: Just gut it out. Accept that my body is telling me it’s starving but I know it’s not, and read a book or do something distracting, and drink a lot of water.

Today’s workout was 30 minutes of quiet cardio. A hard workout despite the name, and my weakened state made it seem that much harder. (Bane of my existence: Chair pose. Why, yoga? It looks so simple but it kills me!) My cold has been receding nicely, much less hacking today. I’m optimistic that I will be able to go for a run tomorrow morning. A short one, of course, I don’t want to push it too much but I need to get back in the swing of it.

I’d definitely be open to hearing your tricks for dealing with phantom hunger. Does anybody else have this issue, and how do you suppress it?


Your daily penguins



The Vacation Detox – This Time Take 10!

I’ve been following my program for eating right since I got back from Antarctica. I don’t really have a name for how I eat, it’s just, “I eat these things and don’t eat those things and my body feels good.” I don’t have a fancy term for it like, “clean eating” or “paleo” or “the zone” or “gluten free” or whatever the fad diet of the day is. I just eat the right amount of food, lots of fruits and veggies.

Did you all see the news that came out this week? It says that we should all be aiming for 10 servings of fruits and veggies a day, not five like previously recommended. I’m so down with this! When I’m eating right I’m usually averaging 7 or 8 servings of fruits and veggies per day, but I love having a stretch goal! Having an additive goal is even better (vs a subtractive goal like, “Don’t eat X” which can be demoralizing and counterproductive) so I’m going to aim for 10 fruits and veggies per day now. Of course, the online comments are infuriating. I actually saw some jackass comment on one of the articles that “If I ate that much fructose I’d feel horrible.” Listen, dickface, you can eat all your ten servings as veggies, it ain’t that hard to figure out. Willful ignorance drives me up a wall.

Considering how small the portions are for servings in this recommendation, I don’t think anybody should have trouble getting closer to ten servings if they make even a small effort. So…I’m going to make a small effort. This mainly means replacing anything not made of fruits or veggies or protein in my diet with fruits and veggies, or supplementing/boosting existing recipes with more veggies. Easy.

This morning I did a light workout. A “light” workout is not something I really have much experience with, because I tend to go all-out when I exercise, but I’m still reeling from the stupid cold I brought home from my trip. So I did some gentle yoga tailored for back pain. I don’t currently have back pain, but it’s something I’ve struggled with off and on my whole life so combining that with my light workout made sense. I still finished it thinking, “I could have worked harder.” But, that’s the point – I don’t want to overdo it while I’m still recovering. This morning my urge to fall into fits of coughing is noticeably reduced so I’m taking that as a good sign that the end of this cold may be in sight. It’s been a full week now, which seems entirely too long for a cold to linger.


Southern elephant seals – continuing my Antarctica pictures!

Yes Before No

There are so many theories and ideas out there about how to eat or not eat to manage weight. I like to go with what I call “Yes Before No.” Basically, I have a list of “yes” foods that I can eat any time I want, as much as I want, without restriction. And I have a set of characteristics that make foods “no” foods, but they’re not forbidden.

A lot of diets, or at least, a lot of the old-school diets I grew up with in the 80s and 90s, give you a big list of Nos. For example, “No cookies, no candy, no baked goods, no dessert, no potatoes, no fat, no sugar, no life, no fun.”

Jesus, who wants to sign up for a big list of forbidden things? Nobody. All that’s going to happen if you give me that list is I’m going to fixate on all those things I can’t have and then they’ll be the things I crave desperately on hard days and can’t wait to get finished with the program so I can go binge on them. That’s counter-productive.

How about a list of things I can have? In fact, how about a list of things that I can not only have, but I’m required to meet a minimum? Here’s my yes list:

  • Fruits – any kind
  • Veggies – any kind

I can have as much as I want of all the fruits and veggies in the world. In order to not get bored, I can find new recipes and experiment with as many different kinds of fruits and veggies as exist at my local market. In fact, I am required to eat at least 5 servings of fruits and veggies a day (but for me a day when I only eat 5 servings is extremely rare, I usually average around 8-10 per day).

A serving is one medium-sized piece of fruit, or a cup of veggies (leafy greens like lettuce or spinach are more like 3 cups when raw though).

I can eat as much as I want though! I don’t have to restrict myself whatsoever, and most of the time I don’t measure anything if I’m eating fruits and veggies. Why bother? More is better – my only restriction is a minimum, not a maximum! That’s how I get through things like parties and barbecues – I graze all day long on fruits and veggies, so I’m never hungry and I can munch away like a normal person.

Now that I’ve shown you my yes list, here’s what’s characteristic for a no: Stuff that’s highly processed, deep fried, or wouldn’t be recognizable as food to my ancestors. But it’s not a “No Forever.” It’s a soft no. The real no for me is: No eating other stuff until I’ve had something on my yes list first. I know I have to eat a minimum off my yes list, so if I’m feeling a craving for something that’s not so great for me, first I need to find out if it’s actual hunger, or just a passing craving based on an emotional fluctuation (like with chocolate when I’m down). After I’ve eaten some fruit or veggies, I can have the thing. Most of the time I don’t want it then.

Food is fuel, so I try to eat the things that fuel my body in the most constructive way. I know the things that are going to make me feel sluggish and bad, and a good way for me to avoid them is to stick with my yes list first. Maybe this is something that will work for you – focus on eating more of the good stuff you can have, without feeling deprived right off the bat by setting up a big list of things you can’t have. Set a goal that’s a minimum, not a list of don’ts.

Also maybe bring less of the non-supportive food into the house. It should take effort to sabotage yourself.

BBQ Weekend Ahoy!

Yes! Three day weekend coming into view! Let’s do this!

Everybody, remember to:

  • Eat before you head to the parties and don’t arrive starving!
  • Bring something supportive to throw on the grill – like veggie skewers, lean protein, or even fruit – BBQed pineapple FTW!
  • Drink non-caloric beverages to stay hydrated – alcohol isn’t your friend, just an acquaintance with bad ideas!
  • Get your workout out of the way first thing in the morning before the partying begins!
  • Keep your hands busy – take pictures, or play with the dog!
  • Hang out where you can’t even see the food table!

We can do this! We’ll get through without shooting a hole in our long-term goals! Keep your eye on the prize! And…GO!

Prepping for Success!

I wish I could say it’s been really hard to get back on track and do all the things I need to do, like food prep and planning and regular exercise. I say that because if it were really hard for me to do those things then maybe I would be a more sympathetic character because maybe it’s something you are struggling with right now too.

But it hasn’t been hard at all, it’s been like pulling on a dress from the back of my closet that I haven’t worn in a couple of years and finding it fits perfectly. Delightful, and surprising, and quite a bit of a relief. It feels like that moment when you think, “Oh my god this is working! I can wear this, it’s perfect!”

If you find that annoying because you’re struggling with it, think about it this way: I’ve been doing this for more than thirteen years. It had BETTER start getting easier at some point. And it does (isn’t that awesome news?!). Eventually, if you stay at it, it becomes second nature, something you can do without much effort or thought.

Yesterday I had a long, long day of exciting fun events and staying on my feet. I did a minimal amount of prep – I picked up a small cooler from Target Friday night and shopped for some easy-to eat- fruit. In the morning I packed up easy, delicious, supportive things that I like to eat. Grapes, raspberries, pre-cut pineapple, a salad already mixed with homemade dressing in a tupperware, a diet soda, and an apple. These required less than 10 minutes of prep to pull together since they were already in my kitchen (and they were). I then threw some bananas, lunch and dinner entrees, and utensils in a paper bag and headed out the door. I spent all day at a medieval tournament event and didn’t stray off my plan for a second because I had so much food with me that the moment I felt even a stir of hunger I could pull something out of my stores and shove it in my face.

Swanky Evening Out!

Swanky Evening Out!

After I got home I heated up a dinner entree, had a double shake, and got dressed for my evening activity, a costume ball with some friends. I didn’t eat anything at the ball despite there being a table of light refreshments because I was already full when I got there and was having so much fun hanging out with friends and occasionally dancing that there was no draw. I also didn’t loiter near the food table or bar because that’s pointless temptation.

My point is that it gets easier with repetition, until it’s not the onerous burden it feels at first. You can still maintain a glamorous, fun lifestyle even while sticking to healthier eating. I didn’t miss out on anything, or feel left out by not being able to munch my way through the day (or rather, I did munch my way through the day, just not on sausage and cheese and eclairs).

There was a relief that came with the dawning realization I had throughout the day that I can do this, I have done this, and I can continue to do this because it’s not that hard! It takes setting up some structures and patterns in the initial stages, but it gets easier!

Sunshine Raspberries

I saw something new today in the produce section – Sunshine Raspberries.They appear to be a hybrid of regular red raspberries, and yellow raspberries. And beautiful to look at – gold with a shimmer of red around the edges!sunshineraspberries

I grabbed a box and when I got home I wolfed them down. I have to tell you, I find them to be the Holy Grail raspberry, based on my single taste experience. They are milder and less tart than red raspberries (the tartness is something that often leads me to avoid the red ones), and more flavorful and less bland than the yellow ones. In a word, perfection! I had to go looking online for an image though, because I ate mine too fast to get a picture.

I’m not sure if they’re widely available yet, apparently they’re a new item on the market, but I found mine at my local Safeway, so that’s a good sign for them being generally available.

Have you tried them yet? What did you think?

Posted in Uncategorized. Tags: . 3 Comments »

Powering Up for My Workout

Here’s a topic that was suggested to me: How do I fuel up/prepare for my workout?

Here’s my answer, which is going to disappoint so many fitness products companies!

Each morning I eat oats with some brown sugar for breakfast, along with a cup of coffe with a dollop of half-and-half and splenda. Then I think about which workout I want to do, while checking my email and social media sites. I power up my work computer, then I start prepping for exercise. Here are the things I need to do:

1. Put on my workout shorts and sports bra.

2. Running socks and shoes.

3. Contact lenses. Can’t workout without them!

4. Grab a towel because I tend to sweat a lot.

Then I head downstairs, and decide whether or not I need to lay down a yoga mat for the workout I’ll be doing. I also grab my weights off the shelf, then I fire up the ol’ TV/DVD Player combo, hit “Play” on the workout I’ve selected, and go at it as hard as I can.

I don’t eat any special nutritional supplements, I don’t do any special stretching (stretching is best done once the body is warm anyway – most good DVD workouts will include some in the cooldown phase), I don’t eat any specially-formulated fitness foods. If I’m doing my workout at a different time of day, I will eat something like a banana or some other kind of fruit about 20 minutes before because if I try to work out on an empty stomach hard experience has shown me that I will bonk, and then it’s basically a wasted workout.

What I’m hoping is clear here is that you don’t need any special products to work out. Just the will to do it, some good shoes, and whatever type of exercise gets you moving several times a week.