Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Labels

The human species thrives on labels. They help us understand the world around us and communicate with each other. I'm pretty sure they've been around for as long as we have been thinking.

 "Yo, Glog! Don't eat those berries!"

"Why, Og? They are red and juicy and look ever so good."

"Those are the Bad Ones, Glog. They will make you squat in the bushes and wish for death. The blue   ones on that bush over there are the Good Ones."

"Why, thank you Og! I appreciate you taking the time to communicate, and I now more fully understand the world around me."

We label ourselves, others, everything. It's a kind of short-hand so that we don't have to constantly define everything to everyone at all times. The thing about labels is, they're helpful... until they aren't. And the thing is, it's usually not so much the label as to what one brings to it. 

"Weird" is usually used as a negative label, but it isn't always. Some people love weird, seek it out and embrace it. "Beautiful" is usually a good label, but there are many out there who would say it is a burden they wish they didn't have. And yes, most of us would reply with "oh, poor you" but still. Pain is pain and who am I do belittle?

If you've been reading this blog for the last few months, you know that I've really be struggling with my food issues. I've never been to either of the extremes (anorexia or morbidly obese), but food and I have that Mean Girls relationship.

Food: I love your skirt. Is it new? It's so pretty!

Me: Oh... thank you! Yeah, I just got it. 

Food (walking away, whispering to Drink): Gimme a week, I'll make her look like a porker in it.

I don't want to hate food. I don't want to worship the ground food walks on. I just want to stop with all the worries, all the second-guessing, all the rules. 

Yeah, rules. Rules that I given myself so I can Be Healthy. So I can Be Thin. So I can live up to the labels that I have defined so minutely that the only way I can fulfill them is by becoming obsessed. And as we know, once you start obsessing over food it is a short trip to either of the extremes.

I became vegetarian for health reasons. My family members had been dropping like flies, all of them from health related issues that culminated in massive heart attacks. I was terrified of the same thing happening to me and decided that my best option would be to cut out almost all meat. When I initially started down this road, it was never my intent to fully cut out meat. I'd allow it every few months, mainly when I was traveling for work or on special occasions. 

But the further I traveled down the road, the more I got into it. I started learning things, I started more fully understanding what the definition of Vegetarian was and how seriously vegetarians took it. There were Rules. And, being the person that I am, I had to follow each and every one of them. Because if I was going to be a Vegetarian, I was going to be the Best Vegetarian I could possibly be.

I've mentioned I'm a perfectionist, right?

The further I got down the Vegetarian road, it became clear that it wasn't enough. If I wanted to really be the best, I needed to be Vegan. Which, of course, has even more Rules. So down the road I went... narrowing my focus more and more until it wasn't so much of a road as a small little path just circling this one idea. Around and around I went, trying to get closer and ever closer to an idea I couldn't quite reach.

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www.cartoonstock.com

About four months ago, I started looking up. I started to realize that my vision had become so narrowed that had lost my perspective. I had lost the reasons why I initially started down this path. I was no longer doing it for me. I would hold the health benefits of vegetarian up to all I could get to listen to me, but the dirty secret was, I was no longer doing this for health reasons. I could tout all the reasons for vegetarianism, but I wasn't doing it for any of them, either. I was doing it because I HAD to. 

I HAD to be vegetarian I couldn't go back I would be a bad person if I admitted this had become more than I could handle I'm not a bad person I don't want to FAIL I can't fail I don't want to be a failure at this I CAN'T FAIL.

So, yeah. 

Last week, I stopped calling myself a vegetarian. I still fully believe in the myriad of benefits inherent in a vegetarian and even vegan diet. But until I can travel down that road in a healthy manner, I can no longer apply that label to myself. Yes, I want to be healthy. But I need to include emotional and mental health in that as well. Unfortunately, I have proven to myself that I am not currently able to do this in a healthy manner.

Perhaps in the future I will be once again be able to apply that label to myself. Healthily, and with an easy heart. But for now, my goals are just to eat as healthily as possible and to leave the rules at home. There are no rules, there is just my life. There is just this moment, and I should make the best choice I can in that moment, and then let that moment pass without carrying it on my back to weigh down the next moment.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Weight Watchers: Week Four

I had this post all done and uploaded, then realized after going over past ones that I didn't post an update last week. Probably because I gained two pounds. It was called "yeah, it was a carby, cheesy, Happy Me" week. Thankfully, this week I lost all of the weight that I put on last week, plus a little extra for good measure. So, yay! I'm down 2.2 for the week.

I have started once again giving myself activity points* for my massage practice. I know at the beginning I tried that and lost nothing, but I think frankly that was a fluke. This past week, I tried a modified version of that where I gave myself 3 points for 5 massages - not quite a point per massage. It was enough to acknowledge that I was expending energy but not so much as to retard my weight loss.

This worked, but honestly not well enough. I followed the diet very well last Monday through Thursday, but things went downhill pretty quickly this weekend. I didn't completely lose control but I also did not count any points, had chinese food and cookies and more junk than I usually allow myself...and I lost a fair amount considering. Which makes me think I still wasn't eating quite enough.

I'm going to try once again giving myself one activity point per massage and see if that helps with the hunger levels. Although, we're once again coming up to that time of the month, which is where I started this whole experiment. So, I'm wondering if I should try it again or wait a week. Normally this is the week where I should just move into the grocery store and they should have a dedicated employee following me around keeping a running tally. But I must admit, it would be nice to lose more than .2 pounds, which is what happened last time.

.2 pounds is weight lost, but really it's a slap in the face.

Sigh.



* Yes, I know the term "activity points" means nothing to you. The diet works thusly: you get a certain amount of points daily to eat. When they are gone, you are done. However, if you exercise or do something active you can earn a few extra points, which you can either use that day or save up to use later in the week. 


Normally, you aren't supposed to earn activity points for non-exercise things you do every day (like if you are on your feet at your work). This system rewards activity when there is none initially, but unfortunately physically demanding jobs are not currently acknowledged as needing extra fuel. So, you have to experiment with the number of points you give yourself so that you are still losing weight but not passing out from hunger. Some people have figured out the math behind the points, but I suck at numbers. So I just go with the "hit-and-miss" style of experimentation. More exciting that way.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Book Review: Omnivore's Dilemma

The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals
Click the jacket to head to Amazon.
I finished this book a week ago in a marathon session. It was on my "Sunday" (which is actually a Wednesday) and I just didn't have any energy at all. I spent the entire day lounging around my apartment reading this book.

This is one of those books that Really Gets You Thinking. Well, it got me thinking at any rate. I mean, it wasn't necessarily information I didn't already know, just information I didn't know a lot about. I will admit that I have been stewing on a lot of things that were presented. I still am.

The book is divided into three main sections: I: Industrial, Corn; II: Pastoral, Grass; and III: Personal, the Forest. In each section, he follows the food chain from conception to completion. In the case of corn, he "follows" the corn to multiple places, including a feedlot in Kansas and the fillers in your Twinkie. With the second part, he discusses the industrial organic industry and spends a week on a small farm whose animals (all of them) are purely grass-fed. In the final part, he literally hunts and gathers his own meal.

I found each of the three sections to be immensely informative. In the first, it was fascinating for me to learn about how corn came to be, and moreover how it came to be such a pervasive crop in the American heartland (and on the American table, whether you are actually serving corn or not). Some of the information I already knew - like how ruminates are being fed corn despite the fact that they can't digest it in order to fatten them up quicker for slaughter. Though it angered me, it didn't surprise me to learn of the role Big Government (funded and coerced by Big Business) had in the over-abundance of the crop and how the average farmer is playing a never ending game of Head-Above-Water while two or three companies get rich off the surplus.

The second section was similarly educational - for example, the chapter on Industrial Organics opened my eyes regarding some of the brands I normally buy in my grocery store. It was a little disheartening to realize that the brands I depend on (especially in the Vermont winter) aren't necessarily all that much better than their conventional counterparts. However, the chapters on the "beyond organic" farm where everything was in tune with nature and all of the animals were grass-fed and happy gave me hope. It was truly the idyll farming scenario. The one we all convince ourselves is happening when we buy that cheap, government subsidized steak in the megalomart.

In the final section, he literally hunts and gathers and entire meal himself. We follow him on a wild boar hunting excursion, an expedition to hunt for wild mushrooms, and his toiling in the kitchen to bring an entire meal together from things he "found". There was a brief section on vegetarianism here. He felt his experiment would not be complete unless he experienced this as well, which he did for a month. The short of it was he was not keen on a vegetarian diet. He spent most of the brief chapter presenting a philosophical debate regarding the merits of eating meat, especially the grass-fed variety.

The one thing this book really opened my eyes to is how very frustrating it can be to try and eat healthy - for you and the Earth - when it seems like every last part of our food chain is determined to undermine this desire. The lower you eat on the food chain the better, but few these days have easy access to local, pure foods. And let's face it, they can be expensive. And when the "organic" food is transported thousands of miles to get to you, how organic is it? All of the good you may have done by not using pesticides is negated by all the toxic fumes let loose from the transport method.

After finishing the book, I did a search on farms in Vermont that imitated that one I read about - grass fed, small, dedicated to making things better. I was heartened to find several within the state. In fact, you can do your own search here to find farmers in your area dedicated to a better product. In fact, I recently bought a small container of "grass-fed" plain yogurt to add to a curry recipe, and damned if I couldn't taste the difference.

I must admit at this point that while the chapter on vegetarianism was small and I believe he did not give it the time, effort or interest that he gave his other experiments, I found his arguments to be intriguing. I have spent many, many hours reading books on the benefits of vegetarianism and veganism for the health and well-being of ourselves and the environment, but this is the first example I've read of someone presenting well-thought out arguments to the contrary. While the section on corn solidified my desire to stay away from anything mass-produced, ever (alas, my precious Doritos), the section on grass-feeding really gave me pause and showed me how it could and should be done.

If you are into food generally speaking (be you omni or a veghead), I would highly recommend this book. The section on corn gets a little deep, but I feel that it is very informative and worth slogging through, if only to get to the other two sections. If you are a veghead, be forewarned that he is a meat-centric individual and the section on hunting may be too graphic if you are sensitive to the matter. Personally, I grew up with a father that hunted so I already knew the intricacies of it, but you may not want to subject yourself to that. In which case, I would offer that you could skip over that and head straight to the hunting of mushrooms.

In my unending quest to Become More Informed, sometimes I feel that I was better off not knowing. Because then I wouldn't feel so trapped by the decision I'm forced to make. Like, now I know better than to buy X, but I still want X. How can I still feed and support that system when I know what I know? Being a thinking person can be rough sometimes. But this thinking person got a lot out of this book. It wasn't preachy, but it was informative and engaging. If you are a thinking person who likes to think about food too, you should read this book. Hell, if you never think about food you should really read this book.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Stuff.

I was getting so good at posting and now pfffft.

Sorry!

Stuff going on, and I've been debating very much about what gets posted here and what doesn't. I think the easiest and simplest thing to say is that 2011 is going to hold a lot of changes for me. At least I'm hoping it will. The changes I'm thinking of will all be very positive ones. If they come to fruition. Which they better the hell come to fruition because I'm pouring a lot of energy into their manifestation.

Anyhoo.

I'm seeing someone.

Squee!

Normally when I am dating someone, I don't tell anyone outside a couple of my closest friends and then those poor souls get to listen to all my lamentations when it doesn't work out like I think it's supposed to and when it inevitably fails they get to listen to me over-analyze the schmuck and wonder what I did wrong.

But this time it's different. I'm telling people I'm seeing someone. I don't have any lamentations. I'm not worrying about what he's thinking or what he meant when he said or why didn't he... none of that is there this time around.

This is what it's supposed to be.

I'm loving every minute of it. And I really don't want it to stop.

With that said, I really do not know how much I want to post about this on the blog. I know I have friends in far-flung places (waving!) who read this blog to keep up with things in my life, so if you are wanting more details please email me at my private addy and I'll send you all the details and be really annoying and girly with my random squeals.

I also just finished reading Omnivore's Dilemma, but I'm still digesting (ha!) a lot of what I read there, so I will post a review in a couple days I think. The short of it is, if you are interested in food like I am interested in food, you should read this book.

Anyway, that's all the stuff I can think of for a Sunday morning, with the first cup of coffee not even finished.

It's going to be a good day, I think. :-)

So.... You Want to be an Artist.

For the last several weeks, I have been working through The Artist's Way . This book has been out since the 1990's and I've been...