Monday, February 21, 2011

I’m On A Diet. A Food Spending Diet, That Is.

I read an interesting column in the business section of the Trib last Monday headlined, “Go on a spending diet!” (It was the word “diet” that caught my attention since I’m not really a business section kind of girl.)

Amy Dunn’s attempt to spend no money in February really piqued my interest, especially this part: “We will eat breakfast, lunch and dinner from the stash in our pantry and freezer…And we’ll set aside $10 a week for milk and an infusion of fresh produce.”

No doubt you’ve noticed the marked increase in food prices lately. From this CNNMoney report: “Over the past 12 months, the food index has risen 1.8%, its fastest pace since 2009, and gasoline prices have soared 13.4%”

I’m feeling it. I’m sure you are, too. That’s why after reading Amy Dunn’s article, I decided a “food spending diet” was in order for me. I took an inventory of my “pantry” and decided I have at least two weeks of meals waiting to be prepared, I can eat well on $10 of fresh produce a week, and I don’t need to eat out.

The "pantry."
So yesterday, I paid for my last meal in a restaurant for at least two weeks (a lunch date with my daughter and her boyfriend) and committed to eating only food I prepare or someone else prepares or pays for (like a “real” date, which isn’t likely…lol). I went to the grocery store and spent $9.54 on spinach, blackberries, a grapefruit, bananas, onions and a mango. I already had frozen fruit and veggies in the fridge, so I should be OK for produce through Saturday.

It will be fun to get back in the kitchen again. I’ve been woefully neglectful of the culinary arts, lately throwing meals together haphazardly and subsisting on omelets, PB2, yogurt and salads. Not that there’s anything wrong with those things, but I’m more creative than that, and god knows I have the time.

Besides, I like my kitchen. I like to cook. It relieves a lot of stress. It also gives me a chance to catch up on my music listening. I put on Pandora on my computer in the “dining” room (which actually has no table; I eat at my computer or in the living room. I know, I know…but I’m mindful, really I am). Then I chop and mix and bake and clean up. It’s all very cathartic.

My kitchen is huge, but has very few cupboards and little counter space. When I moved here, I brought along two bakers racks, a two-foot-high wooden table for the microwave, a butcher’s block counter on wheels and a bookshelf (I use the word loosely) from my antique store that was probably some kid’s wood shop project in 1930, if they had such classes back then. But the bookshelf is my “pantry.”

Back to food spending. In the mail Thursday was the Penny Saver (that’s how I know it’s Thursday). I’m a coupon cutter, but only for things I already use. This week’s best deal is from Save-A-Lot (a wretched excuse for a grocery store): a free carton of eggs. No purchase necessary. I go through eggs like g-baby Maelie goes through diapers, so I’m all over that.

Some of the meals I’ll make will include brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, beans and canned tomatoes. I have a half pound of dried pinto beans so hello refried beans! I made horseradish hummus on Friday, which will last a few more days (recipe below), and I have another can of garbanzo beans to make it again to take to my friend Debbie’s house Saturday night.

The freezer.
I have four servings of lentil soup and five garbanzo bean burgers in the freezer. Since my divorce, I haven’t broken the habit of cooking a full batch of soup or whatever, thus I only eat three or four of the six or eight servings. This “food spending diet” will hopefully help me break that or at least keep me mindful next time and cut the recipe in half. I’m still new at the whole cooking for one thing.

So…have you had any food spending challenges lately? Could you eat healthily from your pantry if you had to for a week or two or three?

If you’re looking for more money-saving tips, check out one of my favorite bloggers, Cammy from Tippy Toe Diet. She shared some of her favorite money-saving sites in last week’s blog, "Frugal Friday". I totally forgot I had an eBates account until I read it! And Groupon is awesome.

Wishing you a frugal February!

As promised, my horseradish hummus recipe:

1 can (15.5 oz) garbanzo beans, drained, but reserve liquid
1-3 (or more) cloves garlic
2 T lemon juice
2 T tahini
2 T freshly ground horseradish (like you find in the jar in the refrigerated section, not horseradish sauce)
Freshly ground pepper

Place all ingredients in a food processor and process until well combined, adding bean liquid as needed (I usually use about half of it). I do a taste test halfway through processing to see if it needs salt or more pepper or horseradish. Chill in the refrigerator for at least two hours.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

It's a Maelie!

Last night I started writing what was sure to be a Pulitzer Prize winning blog on how I tried sushi for the first time yesterday and how it was…well…interesting, and how I was quite sure I’ll try it again.

Then I got “the text.”

Cassie’s contractions were 9-12 minutes apart. Because Cassie has a gift for birthing babies easily and quickly (emphasis on quickly), I knew I had to get over there. Fast.

I had a bag packed, my computer packed, my food packed (always mindful of the food) and enough gas in the Jeep to get me to Cassie’s that night and a gas station today. I loaded it all (well...) in the car, when within a half mile of Cassie’s I realized…I’d forgotten my damn bag!

“Cassie, it’s Mom,” I called, surprisingly calm. “I’m almost there. How far along are your contractions?”

“Eh,” she said in her carefree (Carefree??? She’s about to give birth!) way. “Seven, maybe 8 minutes.”

“I, um, forgot my bag. Would I have time to go back and get it?” I asked. (Some people stress eat. I stress forget.)

Much laughter on her end. Plenty of time, she said.

OK...Got to Cassie’s at 9:30. Matt put kids to bed. Claire insisted on seeing Grammy again. Grammy went upstairs and talked to Claire and tucked her in. Grammy went downstairs. Talked to Cassie. Matt fell asleep on the couch. Contractions were every 5 minutes. Claire got out of bed. Grammy went back up. Laid in bed with Claire until Claire (and nearly Grammy) fell asleep. Grammy went back downstairs. Matt was still sleeping. Contractions were 2 to 3 minutes apart (holy crap!). Cassie called the doctor. Cassie woke up Matt. After a Marx Brothers routine, they were out the door at 11. Grammy went to bed. Fell asleep around midnight. Phone rang at 12:30. Cassie was checked in. Dilated to 4. Text from Cassie at 3:00: “Epidural at 2:30. Very comfy.” Text from Matt at 6:30: “She’s ready to push!” One push later, baby was born at 6:36. Phone call from Cassie at 6:45. “Remember what you thought it would be?” she asked. “A boy,” I said. “It’s a girl!” she laughed.

World, meet Maelie Julianne, my third grandbaby and second granddaughter:

(And contrary to what a friend of mine says about all babies, she does NOT look like Winston Churchill.)

Maelie is 7 pounds, 13 ounces, and 22 inches long. She’s the “baby” of the family, kicking Luca up to middle child status, same as me. Her birth generated more text messages than I’ve written in the last two years combined. She is a Text Baby. Luca was a Facebook BabyClaire was a Blog Baby.
I promise a more coherent blog in the next day or two. Until then, I’m co-grandparenting with Grandma Julia the next few days. Thank god grandparents come in sets.
Grandma Julia, Luca, Maelie, Cassie and Claire. Maelie looks like she's a singing cherub!
Just us girls

Luca and Daddy


Saturday, February 5, 2011

In Spite or Despite, Life is Still Good :)

I know, I know…I haven’t blogged since Tuesday. What a crazy week! I was helping out in the Conti Infirmary where everyone – my two g-babies, son-in-law and very pregnant daughter – have been alternately sick the last two weeks. The illness has passed, so they can welcome g-baby #3 into a relatively germ-free house within the next few days. Cassie’s due date is Friday, but she went a few days early with Claire and Luca...so…Monday? Tuesday? So exciting!

I brought the kids to the mall on Friday to ride the carousel and those 50-cent rides that jolt kids around for a couple of minutes, but they imagine they’re driving a car or flying a space shuttle. Amazing what joy a roll of quarters will bring a 3- and almost 2-year-old and their Grammy.


The other thing that’s kept me from blogging is the news I got Wednesday from my knee doc. What we thought was just a meniscus tear (something that could be repaired with a simple scope) turned out to be much more, and the knee surgery I had in June, the one we thought bought me at least 5 years with my original equipment, turns out to have been in vain.

I’m getting pretty good at reading MRIs and x-rays. Most anything in bright white isn’t good. No, no, no. You don’t want to see bright white. But we did see bright white. A big old mass of bright white on my upper shin bone, lit up like the Griswold Christmas tree. It was fluid, which means, for lack of a better word, death. The bone, said my doc, is dying.


“We see this in women ages 40-65,” he said. “But usually it’s in women who are heavier than you.”

Doc doesn’t know about my obese past; all the years I spent going up and down the scale. At that moment I figured why tell him? Nothing I said would change the diagnosis.

So I walked out, a little stunned. My five years of reprieve from a total knee replacement is most likely down to 12 months or less. But rather than be angry, I was resigned. Sad, but resigned. I’ve done the anger thing. Anger is like snake oil. It cures nothing.

The sign on the exam table in knee doc's office
In April and May 2010, I wrote two blogs about how I live with the consequences of living most of my adult life on a weight roller coaster and more importantly, being morbidly obese for several years.
In the Refuse to Regain post, I wrote: “I haven’t wanted to explore this, mostly because there’s not a damn thing I can do about it now and I can’t change the past. But the question is begging to be asked, the question I’ve avoided since making goal three years ago: Do I have all this arthritis in my knees, shoulders, wrists and toes because I was overweight and obese for so many years? Like stretch marks and loose skin, is arthritis my daily reminder that, for years, I fed my insatiable desire for starches and sweets; gained and lost and gained and lost a lot of weight; and for the most part treated my body like it was separate from me?


“The answer is probably not a resounding ‘Yes’, but it’s not ‘No’ either. I am, in many ways, responsible for the shape of my body now. The choices I made about diet and exercise and the things I declared acceptable (basically ignoring the weight elephant in the middle of the room) accelerated the degeneration of my knees and feet, and perhaps contributed to the degeneration of my wrists and shoulders.


“Even though I give myself a lot of credit for stopping the weight before it got any higher and for losing the weight which has given my other systems better health, here on the other side of weight, displaced anger still exists.”

We all lose weight for a variety of reasons: to avoid heart disease or avoid or regulate diabetes, to look better or fit into a size-smaller wedding dress, to be able to play with our kids, to fit in an airplane seat. All good reasons. But how many of you have lost weight because of the potential for osteoarthritis? My guess is not many. I certainly didn’t have a clue obesity could cause this arthritic mess of a body I’ve got now.

On Lynn’s Weigh last year, I wrote: “Even now, I get angry when I think about what I’ve done to [my body] and for what it can’t do anymore, much of it due to having been morbidly obese. But…I promise myself to do my best to stop the cycle of anger, grief and guilt I put myself through with much frequency. I will do this by journaling more positively and finding alternatives to self-flagellation as solutions to my perceived failings.”

Nearly a year later, I’m…eh…doing OK with stopping the anger cycle before it gets looped around. I try not to live in regret, but it still pops up once in awhile.

My plan now is to: 1) pay close attention to the pain, which right now isn’t too bad; 2) get educated about total knee replacement in “younger” people; 3) play with my grandkids; 4) keep working out; 5) keep my weight stable; 6) don’t beat myself up.

G-baby #3 will arrive soon. Very soon. And right now, despite the knee and wrists and everything else, that’s all that matters.

Life. It’s good. And if I’ve learned nothing else through this, it’s that there’s redemption, regardless of what we’ve done to our bodies or ourselves in the past.

*** I need to add that if you comment about how you know someone who's had a knee replacement and have said it's the best thing they've ever done and they wished they'd done it sooner, let me know how old that person is. 47 is really too young to have a knee replacement because replacements wear out in 7-10 years and the next knee is never as good as the first. You get mileage on the first one, yes you do, but I'm trying to think ahead. I'd love to hear from folks who had TKR in their 40s. Thank you!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Hey...Slow It Down

When I moved to Pittsburgh in November, one of the best things I did was take a yoga class. Not only did I discover a new form of exercise, but I also met BFF Debbie.

Debbie and I have a lot in common – we love birds and dogs, we each have two daughters, we both meditate, and like so many woman, we’ve both struggled with weight most of our lives.

Debbie’s on a quest to lose – for the last time – 50 pounds. Here’s how I know it’s her last time: “Tomorrow is Weight Watchers. I am going to the meeting, but doubt I have lost weight. I don’t think I’ve gained either, but we’ll see. I read a WW success story today that resonated with me. The woman lost 50 lbs, but it took her a long time. She knew she had to make a lifestyle change, not just follow a temporary diet, so she was determined not to get discouraged when she occasionally gained a little or did not lose weight. That gave me inspiration. I tend to be an all or nothing person, and if I don’t lose on a consistent basis, I tend to give up. I don’t want to give up this time, even if it takes me 3 years to lose 50 lbs. What I do know from experience is that once I quit WW (or the diet of the moment) I GAIN weight, so I do know that if I don’t just totally quit, my weight won’t continue to spiral up the scale.”

I totally relate to needing to change that mindset from “Get it off NOW” to slower is better. When I first started losing weight, especially the first 50 pounds, I was highly motivated. Almost too motivated. There were some days I felt so desperate to get the fat off that I’d chastise myself for the following: 1) putting on the pounds in the first place; 2) waiting so long to start doing something about it; and 3) not getting it off faster. I’d get this really anxious feeling throughout my body, like I couldn’t get the fat off fast enough, like a centipede was crawling up my leg. “Get it off me!” I screamed in my head.

I spent way too much time being angry and judgmental, too. I’m sure this will sound familiar: You get on the scale and see you’ve lost a pound or two, so you’re a “good” person. You get on the scale and you’ve stayed the same, lost “only” point something or, God forbid, gained, so now you’re a “bad” person. I still struggle with this. I’m “good” if I eat or exercise perfectly and I’m “bad” if I don’t. I’m always reminding myself that I’m on a lifelong journey of eating well and exercising, not just a day trip.

I’m not a bad person if I don’t feel like going to the gym. Rather than have that emotional knock down drag out and calling myself names, I’ve learned to ask myself, “Why don’t I want to work out?” The answer that emerges is never “Because I’m a bad person.” The answer is always something tangible like I don’t feel well or something is on my mind that is distracting me. Those are issues I can deal with. This also works when I see a number I don’t like on the scale. Instead of judging, I ask myself, “OK, what are some of the reasons this is the number I’m seeing?”

We have to replace destructive thoughts with tolerant ones. It takes a conscious effort to change our self talk from negative to positive, but being fully aware of what we are saying and how it affects our behavior will turn our weight-loss journey into more than just a “Get it off me!” race to some goal we think will make us happy. By being happy in the process of losing weight, by being accepting of our bodies and what they do for us, by appreciating that we’re taking good care of ourselves by eating well and exercising, and forgiving ourselves those times when we don’t, we’re learning to love ourselves as we are in the moment.

There’s a reason, other than the baby’s physical growth, why pregnancy is nine months long. It gives parents time to prepare for the huge lifestyle change that occurs when a baby joins the family. It’s like that with weight loss, too. Every milestone, sometimes every five pounds, comes with a change to our bodies, and we need time to adjust to and appreciate that change. I didn’t start appreciating those changes until I settled my mind down a bit after losing 50 pounds. I bought some new clothes because I was still wearing the old ones, and seeing my body in well-fitted clothes helped me enjoy the body that was emerging.

This journey takes a lot of deep breaths, a lot of patience, and a lot of attitude adjustments. By being your own best friend, by standing beside yourself instead of always running away from who you are in the moment or standing over yourself like some mean coach, chastising your mistakes, you can appreciate who you are and see more clearly who you want to become.