Tuesday, December 05, 2006

To Substitute or Abstain?

One of my regular commenters, Vickie, has been giving me great advice, opinions and perspectives. In response to yesterday's post about making cookies, she queried:

"Do eating the healthier cookies REALLY solve the problem? - you truly can eat just a couple and NOT turn ON the WANTS and have the WANTS spill into the rest of your eating, later that day, the next day or even later in the week?...I can't figure out if you guys all really CAN - or if you just THINK you can and then when you (you all not you personally) have 'food problems' later in the week it is cause and effect."

What a good question. It's definitely something that crosses my mind.

This losing weight thing has been a huge collection of trial and error, tweaking and adjusting -- Jonathan writes about it so well today:
"...I think the same is true for my weight management behaviors. There are so many things that worked quite well for a period of time and then just stopped. And every time that I tried to force myself to go back to them, I would feel both frustrated (‘damn, why did this work last time and not now?’) and bored.
"Some foods that I liked and which were satisfying and tasty for a while, either became boring or else turned into trigger foods. For almost a year I ate a Clif bar every day on my way to the gym to boost my energy and fill me up. Now I hardly ever have one at all, and am more likely to drink water before working out."

In my experience, if I pre-plan, if I have a variety of food available that is healthy and most importantly tastes good, I'm more likely to eat sensibly. When I haven't planned ahead, when there's nothing healthy or "safe" to eat, then I fall into trouble. And I've figured out I get the WANTS the most when I feel deprived, when I tell myself certain things are completely off limits. No more desserts? Then that's the thing I want the most, and like a petulant, rebellious child I will go for the fattiest, most sugar-laden thing I can find.

Throughout my late teens and 20s one of the few ways I knew how to comfort myself was to make myself a "treat" -- apple crisp, strawberry shortcake, cupcakes, chocolate chip cookie dough. I truly think half the reason this made me feel better was the fact I was making the time to do something for myself. I've always been guilty of being a people pleaser, often to my own detriment, and this was a time I put myself first.

It's hard to put away all those old methods, so I've tried to adjust it to make it less fattening. Early on in the journey I made myself a lot of sugar free gelatin or sugar-free fat-free pudding, or had lots of the 100 calorie-snack packs in the house. That worked great for a while, but the more I looked at the ingredient lists, I wasn't that impressed with what I was putting in my body.

So now I've moved on to these fiber-rich treats. Yesterday I made both batches, and they did not send me into an eating frenzy. I ate two of the Krispymallow bars in the afternoon (about 80 calories total), had a very good and healthy supper, then that evening I ate one of the Chocolate Haystacks (about 75 calories). While they tasted great, I wasn't driven to eat more and they weren't calling my name. I wasn't tempted to finish the whole container like I am when there's a box of "regular" candy or cookies in the house.

In fact, when I go to the "trouble" of making myself these treats, I find myself rationing them out so they last longer. Is it because I want the effort I made to do something for myself last as long as possible? Maybe.

Maybe Vickie's right and I'm kidding myself; by substituting "healthy" cookies for the regular ones, am I like an alcoholic who drinks "non-alcoholic" beer (which I think still contains a minute amount of alcohol)? It comes down to the choice of substitution or abstinence.

This leads to the debate over food addiction. I've read a lot about this, and there are experts on both sides of the issue who either agree or disagree that food (mainly sugar) can be an addictive substance. I don't know where I stand on this issue, but I think in my situation it's more about the emotions and behavior behind the eating and not the actual type of food. Because I can overeat with almost anything, depending on my mood and location.

I don't think I have an absolute answer to this, but I thank Vickie for bringing it to my attention, and I'll keep an eye on this.

Yesterday went great, by the way. Exercise and food were both right on target. And I'm doubly impressed because I wound up being in an "intense discussion" (not an argument) with Hubby last night over reoccuring issues that came to a head. We talked it out and made some progress, which is good. I'm even happier that I initiated this discussion rather than suppressing my frustration and anger, and I didn't stuff it down or make myself feel better with food.

Today's also starting with a postive outlook, so with any luck, I've got smooth sailing for the next few days and can get back on track before Christmas rears its massive sugar frosted head.


Vickie said...

I would classify myself as an emotional eater also.

I find myself “cruising the pantry” at times when I am feeling lonely, lost, tired, ill, procrastinating, frustrated, angry, bored, extra time, out of normal schedule, weekends, when someone else in the house is upset, etc.

I don’t think that I am ANY different than the rest of you in WHEN I want to EAT. What makes me want to eat.

I THINK I just see the correlation of eating/WANTS, because I eat so structured. And when I first started eating “so structured” it WAS hard. So, was exercising. so were a lot of things.

But what I found over time – is that it made the choices easier.

I am very child like.

I am the child that you don’t say “do you need to go potty?” – you say “do you want to go on the upstairs potty or the downstairs potty?” and then I comply.

I also see a HUGE correlation between “taking responsibility” for my food/exercise/health choices and making choices in the rest of my life. Impulsive buying/shopping, messy house, my time, my commitments, my depression, etc.

I am never sure that abstain is quite the right word - because we still EAT.

No matter what food plan - It is CHOICES of what we all eat. Flour/sugar for some. OIL/Butter for others. Baked. Fried. Cheesed. Etc.

I also totally believe that we do not understand the biochemical consequences of "processed" food.

The same way that my house doesn't do sugar substitutes or pop - I would like to get MY WHOLE house off processed food. Not because of weight - because of health.

I started out "fixing" myself and think that we think that WE have to eat one way but it is "okay" for our kids/family to still eat all that stuff because they don't have our "problem."

I am getting to the point that I don't think ANYBODY anywhere should be eating any of it.

I don't think it should exist.

Not ONE of my kids (currently) would eat a THING from McD's, BK, etc.

We just had this conversation and my high school son said he wouldn't drink bottled water from there, because he will not financially support what it stands for. The girls would not EAT from there - but might have water.

My kids see eating at these places as having a "death wish" - like they see smoking.

That outlook (of theirs) is health - not weight.

Vickie said...

Someone might read all that (above) and think - she's gone off the deep end.

My kids weren't eating fast food (and neither was I) BEFORE all of this (weightloss process) ever started.

I got stuck on DQ (definitely consider that fast food) and Chinese (border line fast food)
off and on - that was eating disorder - getting stuck.

Do my kids ever eat fried things?- occassionally - but I NEVER have cooked it.

Occassionally they will have something like that at a regular restaurant. We very rarely eat out these days - so it is very occassional.

It is hard to find the line FOR them - between eating healthy and not - so I try (hard) to let the kids find it on their own.

My middle child came home (pretty much horrified) because her best friend's mother takes best friend to mcD's - I realized how far my kids have come - because my child was just flabbergassed that someone's mother would feed her kid fast food.

Have my kids EVER had fast food - yes - but it has been years and years.

They do drink regular 7up or sprite on rare occassions - I don't have it at the house - but again - when they go out -

fine line between DRIVING them TO IT (by Deprivation) and teaching them health - daily struggle/challenge.