Confessions of a Life-long Emotional Eater

Back in September 2015 when E.J. and I started to change our eating habits, we did a lot of soul searching.  What makes us eat what we eat?  What do we crave and why? Can we really change, or are we just wired to do what we do?

Though E.J. and I were both very overweight, we took very different paths to get there.  E.J. had grown up thin and healthy – an avid bike rider and swimmer, and eventually a super-fit Marine.  His weight gain started once the kids were born, and I honestly think the sleep deprivation, the stress of his difficult marriage (pre-Sherry), the financial burdens of a young family, and the sudden switch from an active Military life to a Corporate desk job were the biggest contributers to his weight gain.  When you have a family, your personal needs often take a back seat to everything else, and it’s so much easier to solve hunger with McDonalds and Dunkin Donuts than it is to plan and cook regular meals.  E.J. had great health for so long previously that the weight gain was fairly gradual, and didn’t honestly impact him that much… as his doctor’s said, he bought himself credit with all of the good fitness which had finally caught up with him years later.

I, on the other hand, have always been overweight (well, as far back as I can remember anyway.  My mom says I wore slim pants when I was a toddler).  Both of my parents are overweight, though neither of them appear to have been so before I was born… (Noticing a pattern here?)  And according to my mother, while she tried to get me to eat healthy home cooked meals, I was extremely picky and refused to eat anything that I didn’t like, even to the point of vomiting it up at the table if I were forced to try.  I’m personally appalled by that now, of course, but truth be told, it’s somewhat consistent with the way I’ve approached food as long as I can remember.  I’m simply not going to eat what I don’t want to eat, and I no one can tell me otherwise.  It’s as much a control thing as a pleasure thing – there are a lot of things in my life that are out of my control, but food isn’t one of them.  And there’s the root of my problem.  Even when my parents tried to scold me, or punish me for not complying, I’d find ways to stash, sneak, or otherwise circumvent the issue.  Once I was old enough to drive and have my own money, a huge percentage of it was used to avoid eating school-made or home-made lunches and get food I really liked.  People could be mean to me, make fun of me, or otherwise cause me to have a bad day, but I could always drown my sorrows in a Wendy’s classic Frosty.  My only saving grace was my activity – I played all kinds of sports (gymnastics, diving, softball, volleyball, basketball, soccer, badminton, racquetball, cheer leading) and so I remained a “stocky” athlete who was never the fastest, but was strong and coordinated.

Once I hit College, the athletics dropped off, save for the intramural volleyball, badminton and racquetball that I enjoyed, and once I graduated, the exercise was gone.  I ballooned at that point, and drowned my stresses with work, loneliness, and trouble at home (my parents’ divorce and related family issues) with food.  When I met E.J. I was already pretty big, and we both got bigger those over the next 7 years, eating cheap, comfort foods that kept us moving in between full-time jobs, E.J.’s school, and the kids’ activities.  Any time I had a bad day, I would tell E.J. I needed “queso therapy” – my term inexpensive binge-eating on chips and melted cheese.

I tried several times over the years to break the habits – I can’t tell you how many short-lived calorie-counting exercises I went through.  I had some measure of success only twice before this one – one when I was in 8th grade and wanted to be a cheer leader (I lived on fat-free hot dogs and salads for half a year so I could fit in the uniform and still fit in it through the end of the season) and once in 2009 when I had a small health scare and I removed regular sodas and breakfast burritos from my diet and replaced lunch with a half a turkey sandwich from a convenient sandwich shop.  Both times, my stress levels were fairly low, I was in a good place in my life, and the weight came back when circumstances changed and stresses returned.

Then when we started the Whole 30 in September of 2015, while I was naturally skeptical of the whole Paleo concept, I was determined to help E.J. and maybe finally myself get rid of the life-threatening weight.  I learned to cook and bake all over again, made exercise a regular part of my life, taught myself how to say “no” to office cake and donuts, learned to drink unsweetened coffee and tea, and found stress relief in a walk outside, stretching, and mindful breathing.  Now here I am, 20 months into a journey where I’ve lost over 65 lbs, and I’m struggling with 5 of them which have returned and don’t appear to be interested in going away again.  I think E.J. will agree that the beauty of Paleo and why it works, is that you eat good foods that you enjoy, you can eat out occasionally and still lose weight, but that last 5-10 lbs is a b*$@#.  Worse yet, when I hurt my knee, I couldn’t run anymore.  I didn’t realize how much I relied on that regular exercise both for stress relief and calorie offset.  You see for me, the journey has been a lesson in control – learning how to control my emotions and cravings and not reaching out for a cookie or a bowl of queso to fix it for me.  That struggle for control hasn’t gone away and I don’t think it ever will.   For me, it will be a day-by-day commitment to myself to make better choices wherever possible, be willing to put in the effort to make those choices available as much as possible, and courageous enough to recognize and manage my stresses in healthier ways.

Don’t think for a second that once the weight comes off, the hard work is over.  If anything, it is just beginning.  But I will tell you this, though – it’s all worth it.  Every little good decision, every day.

Diagnosis: Runner’s Knee

This morning I got the diagnosis from my MRI last week and the answer is Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome or “Runner’s Knee”.  Honestly I had never really heard of Runner’s Knee previously, but now doing some reading on it, it makes total sense.  Pain going down stairs but not up?  Check.  Pain after stitting or standing for long periods? Check.  Pain around and/or behind the knee cap?  Check.

What apparently causes it is either poor running posture/habits (which I’m sure I’m guilty of since I never ran competitively and never had any training) or weak quadrcepts – also very likely because I haven’t been doing much in the way of strength training along with my running like EJ has.

Here’s the real kicker – it’s slow and painful to recover, to the tune of 4-6 weeks with anti-inflamatories and slow, but consitent physical therapy.  Sigh.  But at least now I know what I’m dealing with, know that it’s pretty common, and have a game plan for getting better.

If you’re having knee pain when you run, definitely check this out.  You may be able to save yourself a lot of agony… 

Looking for the Silver Lining…

I know I haven’t been writing as much as I usually do – and for that I’m really sorry.  My only excuse is that it’s been a crappy couple of weeks at work, so that means my stress levels are through the ceiling, and consequently, so is the scale.

I have no idea if there’s been a reasonable study on it or not, but I can directly correlate my periods of successful weight loss to times in my life when things were relatively stable –   feeling somewhat in control at work and at home, and therefore over my body and my cravings.  Right now is not one of those times.  While things are actually humming along just fine at home, my stresses at work are at an all-time high, which translates to exhaustion, both physically and mentally.  While I may be holding on to some excess pounds I’d really like to shed along with the stress, I’m still able to find some bright spots in some of the recipes I’ve tried recently:

  • Paleo Lemon Cookies – I baked these for my company potluck, and while I substituted honey for the maple syrup and butter for coconut oil, the resulting dough was super easy to work with and made a really pretty and tasty cookie.  I’ll definitely be making these again, though I might add some additional honey and maybe fresh lemon juice.
  • Dublin Coddle – I made this for St. Paddy’s Day and simply substituted Paleo-friendly bacon and polish sausages, leaving everything else the same.  This along with corned beef and cabbage make up my annual offerings.
  • Pork Loin with Blueberry Sauce – Strawberries and Blueberries have hit the shelves this week, and I was really excited to find an excuse to enjoy them.  We made some grilled chicken strawberry salads over the weekend, and made this pork loin with Brussels sprouts for one of our weekly meals.  Spring fruits for the win!

I know, like all rough spots, this too shall pass.  So I’m going to do the best I can to stick with good eating habits and try really hard not to land face first in a tub of ice cream.

Few more to go…

Ok, it’s been about a week and a half since we got back from our trip and I’ve still got a few pounds to lose.

E.J. was able to drop all of his trip weight within about a week – lucky bastard.  I did everything he did and mine not only came off slower, but are still sticking around.  I think this is what they mean when they say it’s harder for women to lose weight than men.

That being said, I have been running every other day or so without too much trouble, and and I’m happy to no longer feel swollen all over.  My right knee gave me a little grief after my 5k this morning, but I’ll give it an extra day or two before my next run and it will hopefully be good to go.

On the cooking front, this weekend I went the lazy route because I felt like I needed some quality time with my fur baby, Buddy, who really missed us when we were gone on our trip (how can I resist that face?).  I threw some ribs in the smoker which got paired with sweet potato halves in the instant pot.  Then made this Italian Pot Roast in the slow cooker, and one of E.J.s favorites, the Instant Pot Paleo Chicken Tikka Masala paired with caulirice.

Friday will be the big traditional St. Paddy’s Day viewing of The Boondock Saints with Irish Dinner.  I am so glad Sam’s & Costco now carry almond flour for a reasonable price, because I’ve got about 4 loaves of Irish Soda Bread to make Thursday and Friday!

10 lbs, No Regrets

If you haven’t been following along on Paleo Marine’s blog, then you wouldn’t know that my 2 week absence from posting was because of a fabulous trip to Spain.  Spain – the land of hot chocolate & churros, crusty bread, pastries, paella, turrones, sangria, and the list goes on and on.  Interestingly enough, there were actually a lot of Paleo-friendly delicacies we enjoyed while we were there including the sliced Iberian hams, the potato “tortilla” omlettes, suckling pig, duck, steak, etc, but above all, I simply just ate too much of everything.  Yeah, all told the damage was about 10 lbs and a dress size up – but after 2 days of “normal” Paleo eating, things are already getting a little more comfortable.

Could I have done better while travelling?  Absolutely.  But my philosophy on travel (especially overseas) is to take the opportunity to experience as much local cuisine and culture as possible while I have the chance.  While I feel a little guilty about all of the carbs I managed to consume during those 11 days, I most certainly would have felt cheated if I had denied myself the opportunity to taste some of those amazing treats (sometimes twice!).

All in all, my choice to eat a Paleo diet is just that – my chosen “regular” eating method. I’ve been doing it so long now that anything else feels weird, and actually kinda uncomfortable.  I admit to having trouble sleeping, being really bloated, and having intestinal issues as a result of my binge, so honestly I was happy and ready to go back to my “normal” eating patterns upon returning.  I think that’s the beauty of where E.J. and I are now in our Paleo journey.  It’s not really a “thing” anymore – but is instead just “back to normal”.

That’s a pretty amazing thing all in itself…


Another one bites the dust…

Alright, I’ll confess – I didn’t make it to day 30.  I got to 25 and between the travel and the stress, I just couldn’t make it the last 5 days.  Part of me is really disappointed – I was hoping I could hold out to the end, but sometimes you just gotta lose a battle to win the war.

I haven’t come off of Paleo, short of a few dishes over the weekend with some dairy in them, but I have reintroduced some honey and maple syrup here and there, and the scale shows it.   I’m determined to learn from my latest Whole30 experience, however, and limit my sugar intake a little better than I did over the holidays.

In other news, I had my best 5k run time ever (beat my Jingle Bell Run time) on Saturday, and am feeling pretty good otherwise.

If you’re still hanging in there for the last few days, I applaud you!  Keep it up!

Whole 30 Week #3

Ok, I thought last week was hard, but I was wrong.  This week was actually the worst – and it really didn’t have as much to do with the diet as it did the job, but that’s when I miss sweets the most.

I mentioned last week that the low energy was getting to me.  That and an an unexpected upward swing on the scale had me ready to chuck the whole thing.  I was tired, grumpy, and just wanted some damn chocolate.

Then finally on Friday morning, I woke up before my alarm with a decent amount of energy.  I had a great run (best one I think in months) and finally felt like I had turned a corner.  The day seemed to be going so well at work too – I had managed to handle the current crises, had a clear plan and a communicated vision to the team… only to get some really bad news at the tail end of the day right before I headed home.  Sigh.

Why did I decide to do a Whole30 during the busiest month of the year?  I must be slightly unhinged.

At least we had some good food this week:

Next week I’ll be travelling for work for a couple of days, so we’ll see how well I’m able to stick to plan.

Is it over yet?  A glass of wine would be the ticket right about now.