Thursday, January 24, 2013

Reconsideration & Resolutions

I've been waiting until late January to post. You see, while I really did love eating vegetarian and the new foods that it opened me up to, it wasn't something that I was able to sustain long term (with the habits that I had! I do think that vegetarianism is a perfectly sustainable diet if care is paid to eating properly). I was vegetarian for nearly six months before I realized this. Around this time (and a few months after the beginning of the semester when I was too busy to cook like I had over the summer) I began to experience health related symptoms that suggested I wasn't getting the all of the right nutrients- in particular I suspect iron. I didn't have the money to run to the doctor to have my blood tested so I did the next best thing and decided to introduce meat back to my diet and see if it helped my issues. Well it did, slowly but surely.

Now, I know I could go back to being vegetarian if I really made a conscious effort to eat iron rich foods but that brings me to my next issue. I also became vegetarian as a way to curb my eating out and to make healthier choices. Once I found those loopholes (grilled cheese at Whataburger?! Yes, please!) I realized that I was turning down meals that contained meat for options that were even less healthy because they didn't contain meat. That was so radically different than the point of going vegetarian was to begin with.

I am reminded of what an art professor recently told a group of students that were embarking on developing their own conceptual ideas and plans without the structure of assignments and deadlines. He said that they would start in a direction and it may not work out and they'll abandon it and go in a different direction; there was nothing wrong with that false start and they would learn from it.

I don't regret my decision to eat vegetarian nor do I regret my decision to start eating meat again. Every experience we have becomes a part of who we are and informs our future decisions. I know now that vegetarian dishes can be just as fulfilling as those that contain meat and that just because you don't know what to do with a vegetable doesn't mean you shouldn't buy it.

Then came the month of January. A new year and a recently passed birthday. Once again, just like last year, I felt recharged. I was just coming off of a break after one of my most difficult semesters yet and was feeling like this could be a fresh start for me. I've also learned over the past few years that I have fleeting interests. I get very much into something for awhile only to find something else to replace it. Rather than making life altering, massive changes in my life that I would abandon in a couple of months, I'm learning how to work with my personality and keep things fresh. I decided that this year I would create a new goal every month. Allen was on board and actually helped jump start this year with the January resolution of only dining out once a week. This goal was in part due to the fact that we were spending way too much money dining out but also that we would probably eat healthier if we prepared our own food. That was the *only* rule of the month.

Developments began to take shape. I downloaded the "My Fitness Pal" app and began to log all calories. I wasn't too terribly concerned with where I ended up as long as I was logging them. Eventually I found that I was coming in at or under my calories for the day just by making decisions to "spend" my calories wiser. However, since the only hard rule was no dining out, I found the best solution was that if I was craving something, I would buy the supplies to make it at home: hamburgers, nachos, ice cream sundaes, even coffee (granted I have had coffee out twice this month!). We purchased a lot of "convenience food" such as rice mixes. However, our main goal was to simply break the habit of hopping in the car and going to a restaurant/drive through/etc.

I got off to a rough start, eating out a couple of times the first week. However, by mid month, we were both only dining out once a week. By this week, essentially the last week of January, what was once a strong driving urge to dine out daily has become a weekly take it or leave it option where we are just as happy (if not more) to go home and cook something up.

February is looming on the horizon and I have two new goals to introduce while continuing to only dine out once a week. I am avoiding restrictive language in these goals. I see it like training my dog. I can tell him no all day long when he is doing something he's not supposed to. Instead I prefer to redirect his behavior into something the he knows how to do and reward him for that rather than telling him no and not providing a redirection. Within these goals, my true goals are to drink less soda and eat less crap (therefore eating more actual nutrients). I am wording my goals as such:
Drink water with my meals
Eat more servings of fruits and vegetables

I am excited to see what challenges February brings and what I inadvertently learn along the way.

January's Accidental Lessons
Soda truly is empty calories: I knew that but it never really hit home for me until I began to keep track of my calories and other nutrients throughout the day. What a waste of what could be perfectly delicious and nutritious food!
Counting calories can be helpful: I've never been a big fan of worrying about calorie count. I don't believe that low calorie is equal to healthy. However it does help keep tabs on just how much I am eating while curbing my junk consumption- not my real food consumption.
My Fitness Pal rocks : If you're eating something with a bar code you can just scan it. If you make something from scratch, you can enter the recipe/ingredient. I love this app for more than just the calorie counting. It also gives you a daily and weekly summary of important nutrients and vitamins and lets you know if you're over/under.
Fooducate rocks: This app is great at giving you a quick glance of a food's quality, especially if you're in a hurry at the grocery store and don't have time to scour the ingredients list of everything you're buying. Just scan it and it alerts you to GMO probability, questionable ingredients, level of processing, and MSG (under all of its various names). It also offers healthier alternatives to your scanned choices if you decide to go with something better.

That's all for now! That was long and I have no idea on earth why anyone would want to read it, but if you did, thanks!