The Stress Eating Dragon

I’ve been thinking a lot about my mom lately.  Well, not so much about Mom but about caring for her.

My mom died in 2009, and before you all check out on me, I don’t intend this to be a morbid, depressing post.  But that time in my life, caring for Mom, was a time of serious weight gain.  And recognizing some similar feelings and habits today that were present then, I find myself taking a trip down memory lane.

[Note:  I don’t want to give you all the idea that I cared for Mom alone.  It was truly a family effort.  Sure, she lived with me for a while towards the end of her life, but between my brother and sisters we all made sure Mom was taken care of.  I’m eternally grateful for my brother and sisters.  I sincerely don’t know what I would have done without them–then or now.]

Moving half way across the US to Tulsa and assuming more care of Mom was extremely stressful for me.  I knew no one aside from my brother and sister-in-law.  I had no friends, a stressful job that was also about taking care of people, no church home…yet.  It was hard.  There were times when I would just lay on the couch exhausted from 12 hours of non-stop chaos that is hospital nursing, knowing that in a few hours Mom would be awake and calling for me in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom.  And a trip to the bathroom wasn’t just a trip to the bathroom.  It usually also involved a change of sheets.  I got really good at changing sheets half asleep with my glasses off!

My days off of work were full of tasks to complete that were hard to do with Mom in tow.  Parkinson’s made walking hard so in public we used a wheelchair.  (Try pushing a wheelchair and a grocery cart by yourself!)  And dementia made me leery to leave Mom in the house alone.  So days off when Mom was in adult day care were about errands and yard work–and naps!  There was no exercise or even thoughts of eating healthy.  I snacked on whatever was easy to grab.  Yeah, you can imagine what my diet looked like.

And of course, there was the emotional aspect of watching this woman who had birthed me, cared for me, and loved me spiral down, galloping towards certain death.

Needless to say, in a year I gained about 30 pounds.  Looking back, I can see myself eating–and eating, grabbing whatever was in front of me; I can feel the tension in my body.  And yet, back then, I didn’t recognize that tension as stress or the fact that I was stress eating.

Fast forward to today.  You can read my story of how I began to lose the weight here.  A big part of it was recognizing the triggers for eating and learning different coping mechanisms for stress.  Lately, though, I find myself falling back into those stress eating patterns.

Work, while always stressful, has become an even bigger stressor for me.  Maybe one day I’ll talk more about that, but just the process of preparing for work and getting through 12 hours of caring for people who are really sick and sometimes rude and grouchy has become an almost insurmountable source of stress.  And I find myself reaching for junk food, eating when I’m not hungry–stress eating.

At least I recognize it now, but I’m struggling with those feelings of hopelessness of being able to control it.

The difference is that I know I have the ability to control what and how much I eat.  The key is deciding, being determined, to use other means to deal with stress.  Food cannot eliminate, or even decrease, my stress.  I know that.  I’ve learned that.  But I’m still struggling…

I have no words of wisdom to share.  This is just me, being honest, saying with all my success at weight loss, I still struggle at times.  If there’s any encouragement I can give you, it’s that I understand your struggle.  It’s not easy when life gangs up on you and old, easy, ways of doing things come back to life.  It’s discouraging to be fighting a dragon I thought was dead.

But in all my discouragement and feelings of defeat, I refuse to give in.  I’ve been down a better path, and I do NOT want to end up where stress eating will take me.  So trips down memory lane are good.  I remember where I’ve been and how I got to where I am now.  And it makes me (kind of) glad for the struggle.  Struggling reminds me that I know a better way and gives me hope that when the next stressful season in life rolls around, I’ll be even stronger and better equipped to deal with it.

So hang in there, friend.  You’re not alone! Let’s just make one good choice at a time, okay?  One step at a time…

 

Talk to me:

How are you doing in making healthy choices?

What’s a good stress relief for you?

 

 

photo credit: https://activeangelina.wordpress.com/

 

Unplugged and Recharged

I’m not a super girly girl.  I don’t care a lot about fashion, make-up, shopping–things that a lot of girls like.  Not that I don’t like those things (well, I really don’t like shopping), but I just don’t care a lot about them.  I mean, just take a look at the photos I post of myself!

But over the years and a couple of trips to Africa later, I’ve discovered that I do like my creature comforts.  I like warm showers, soft beds, and blow drying my hair.  I don’t like being dirty for longer than whatever activity got me dirty.

So when my CrossFit gym decided to take a camping trip, my first thought was of a whole day with no shower and sleeping on the hard ground.  But the adventure of exploring a new piece of my part of the world won me over quickly, and I couldn’t wait to go.

So last weekend I headed to Devil’s Den State Park in northwest Arkansas for a weekend of roughing it.  I was hoping that spilling ice all over the floor before I even made it out the door was not a sign of how the weekend would go.

Thankfully, it wasn’t, and I had a wonderful time.  Devil’s Den is beautiful!  We hiked up and down mountains, scrambling over tree limbs and up rocks.  I got hot and sweaty and dirty, but I loved every moment of it.

 

 

 

 

 

                  Taking my bike for a spin turned my legs to Jell-o with all the hills, but I wouldn’t have missed out on riding along a trail like this for anything!

And then soaking our tootsies in the lake, grilling chicken for dinner, watching the campfire…for the first time in weeks, I felt the stress of work and everyday life melt away.

 

The crazy thing is when I look back over the weekend, I don’t think about the streaks of dirt on my unshowered body or the miserably hard ground–the discomforts I typically associate with camping.  What I think about is how relaxing just getting away from it all was.  With no cell service in the park, there were no phone calls or texts to answer, no need to check email, no ability to scroll down Facebook lane.  There was only friends and nature.

So I came home tired but feeling recharged from a weekend of being totally unplugged.  I might have to make camping a regular activity! (Did I really just say that?!)

Talk to me:

How do you recharge?

What’s your favorite outdoor spot to visit?

Camping or no camping?

 

Invasion of the Giant Spider

So I was going down my very short hallway earlier this week when I came upon this sitting on the carpet:I HATE spiders!  I’m not too scared of them–usually.  I just don’t like them.  This one freaked me out a bit, though, because he was big enough to eat me for lunch.

But courageously, I grabbed a shoe and whacked that massive spider. Instead of falling to the ground in a heap of legs, though, it started running towards me.  I got really freaked out then.  I took a few steps backward preparing to sprint to the other end of the house, but I found a tiny bit of leftover courage and whacked it again.

So maybe whacking spiders isn’t the most kind thing to do, but I wasn’t about to pick that thing up and gently set it outside.  And there was no one else around to deal with it.

That’s one of the things that kind of stinks about being single.  There’s no one else around to deal with icky pests.  Other things that go on around the house can generally wait until I can find someone to do them for me, like putting in foundation piers when the walls separated enough to fit my pinky finger in the crack.  Yeah, that was fun.

But when it comes to critters, I’m on my own.  They’re not going to wait while I stand on my couch waiting for someone to come get it.  Shiver.

Thankfully, I’ve never found a snake in my house.  As much as I dislike insects, I am petrified of snakes.  If a snake ever got into my house, I kid you not.  I’d put a “For Sale” sign in the yard that very day and sell my house to the first person who offered me more than a buck for it.

But it was only a spider this time.  Not even a mouse.  I’m not quite sure what I’d do if a mouse got loose inside my house.  I might actually be calling my brother and standing on the couch until he got there.

I wonder if my job would accept that excuse for being late to work…Sorry.  I was stuck on the couch.

 

Here’s to hoping I never find out and may the pests in my house never be bigger than this spider!

Talk to me:

What do you do if you see a spider inside your house?

Have you ever had a mouse in your house?

 

Photo credit:  http://funcatpictures.com/2013/09/05/scared-cat/

One Hour Meal Prep, 2

So I walked you through what a meal prep session looks like for me.  Today, I want to give you some basic tips to a meal prepping plan that works for me.

As I mentioned, I just can’t get to the point of having every meal and snack in individual bowls in the refrigerator.  Maybe it’s an organizational thing, but I think, more likely, that it’s because I like to have at least some choice of what to eat when I’m hungry.  So I look at meal prepping as doing the hard and/or time consuming part of a meal ahead of time.  Then, when I’m ready for dinner, all I need to do is assemble it.

Here’s how I go about that.

  1. Start with a menu in mind.  I usually do my grocery shopping with a few meals in mind.  I pick up the ingredients for those meals and then make sure I have the staples and plenty of healthy snacks for when I’m on the run.
  2.  Cook foods that you can use in multiple different meals ahead of time.  Think about all the different ways you could use one food item.  If you had baked chicken on hand, what all could you do with it?  Or if you had a cooked spaghetti squash, think of maybe two or three different ways you could eat it.  Meal prep is a good time to cook pasta or rice, roast vegetables (like a spaghetti squash or sweet potatoes), cook your meats, hard boil eggs, or anything that will keep for a few days in the refrigerator.  Sometimes, I do actually cook a pot of soup or a casserole and dish it up into individual bowls.
  3. Chop fresh fruit and vegetables.  It’s much easier and quicker to assemble a salad if all the vegetables are cut.  And wouldn’t you be more likely to grab some broccoli and hummus for a snack if you didn’t have to stop and cut up the broccoli first?  Meal prep is the time I cut up any vegetables, or fruits, I have in the refrigerator–broccoli, cauliflower, celery, cantaloupe, watermelon.  If I know I’ll want to use an onion in an omelet or maybe on a salad or in a wrap, I’ll cut up the onion as well.  This is also a good time to wash ready to eat fruits, like grapes, cherries, apples.  Find any way possible to make it quick and easy to grab and eat the healthy foods later that you have stocked in your refrigerator.
  4. Keep “convenience” foods stocked.  Say what?  Convenience foods for me are those healthy options that are ready to use, like frozen veggies, cans of wild caught tuna (no cooking needed), baby carrots (no peeling or chopping required), bags of organic spinach, cans of beans and diced tomatoes (ready to use).   I always have these foods on hand.  They may not be what most people would call convenience foods, but you get the point.  Keep foods around that won’t wreck your healthy eating plan but require very little prep time.

So that’s it.  That’s it?  Yep.  Meal prepping for me is essentially doing all the time consuming tasks of cooking a meal ahead of time–cooking the parts of the meal that take the longest and chopping what needs to be chopped.  Then, at meal time, all that’s left is assembly.  And it works for me.  Having a rather loose definition of meal prepping gives me the freedom to choose what to eat when I’m hungry but also limits my choices to healthy options because I’ve decided ahead of time on a few healthy meals for the week.

Talk to me:

What does meal prepping mean to you?

What challenges to meal prepping do you have?

 

 

One Hour Meal Prep

When I began my weight loss journey, meal prepping was a foreign concept to me.  And to be honest, I wasn’t really into it.

I understood the value of meal prepping.  It’s a great way to prevent those spur of the moment fast food runs when you’re too tired to cook.  And it’s a great way to make healthy options easily accessible when life keeps you hopping.  I got that.

But I had this vision of spending hours in the kitchen and bowls of Tupperware lined up in the refrigerator, each holding a ready to heat meal.  That’s great for some people, but I just couldn’t get there.

So if you’re like me and think that meal prepping takes too much time, let me take you through my meal prep session for this week.

9:56 a.m.  Season the chicken and begin to cook it.  (I used my George Foreman grill.)10:00 a.m.  While the chicken is cooking, make cauliflower rice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

10:15 a.m.  Chop up fresh broccoli. (I’m much more likely to eat fresh veggies with hummus for a snack or in salads for lunch if they’re already chopped.)10:25 a.m.  Chop up a cantaloupe.10:35 a.m.  Dice an onion.10:40 a.m.  Brown onion and ground turkey.

10:41 a.m.  Begin the clean-up while the turkey is cooking.

11:00 a.m.  Put the semi-cooled turkey in the refrigerator.  Fold the dishcloth over the sink.  Grab a glass of ice water and prop your feet up on the couch because…meal prepping is done for the week!

And it took 1 hour!

But, you say, you didn’t make any meals!  True, but I have all kinds of stuff at my finger tips ready to make meals–chicken for salads or alongside some vegetables, ground turkey with some cauliflower rice and veggies for a quick and easy stir-fry.  There are a lot of ways I can combine a few simple foods to make meals in a matter of minutes.

And that is how I meal prep!  Stay tuned for some basic guidelines of how I make meal prepping work for me.

Talk to me:

Do you meal prep?  Why or why not?

What’s on your menu for this week?

 

Half-Marathon Training: The End of the Line?

And just like that, my race is over before it began–maybe.

I’ve been dealing with a hip flexor issue or something in that neighborhood for a looong time.  Like around 2 years.  It gets better, stays away for a few weeks or months, and then comes back to annoy the heck out of me again.  But it’s been manageable.  I’m sure the chiropractor is tired of hearing me complain about this pain in my groin, but after he works on it, it feels better, and I’ve been able to continue running without issue.

Until a few weeks ago.  After no issue for almost 2 months, the pain came back and won’t go away.  Working on it helped for like 2 seconds, but I noticed increasing pain after long runs.  So I was down to running every other day, which meant I was missing a LOT of workouts and weekly miles that I need for race training.  A little over a week ago, I ran our long Saturday run, and that’s been it.  Ever since that run, I’ve had issues even walking and sitting.

So training has ground to a screeching halt.  And with long runs reaching 11 miles and more now, I’m not sure that I’ll be able to make up the miles and workouts that I’ve missed to be race ready.

If I were a kid, I’d be lying on the floor, kicking and screaming.  I’m so disappointed.

But something a friend I CrossFit with said has rattled around in my head all day.  After only being able to complete half of a fast 1 mile today (because of this stupid groin issue) I blurted out how frustrated I was that I probably won’t be able to run the half-marathon I’ve been training for, especially since I was hoping to run a PR.

She looked at me and said, “So because you can’t do your best, it’s not worth trying at all?”

And she wasn’t being mean, she was asking sincerely.

…it’s not worth trying at all?

...it’s not worth trying at all?

I’ve thought long and hard about that.  It goes along with what the CrossFit coach asked me when I told him what a hard time I have with overhead squats because of upper back and shoulder mobility issues.  “Why do you want to do an overhead squat?  Is it just to say you can?  Or do you want to get stronger?  Because if you want to get stronger, there’s other exercises you can do.”

So I’ve thought about why I want to run this race–like really why.  And is that why strong enough to run it even if I know a PR is out of the picture?

Mmmm….

She has a really good point.

Running is fun.  Running races is a blast.  I know I’ll never win a race, and while I’ve captured some age division places in smaller races, I’ll probably never place in bigger races like the Route 66 races which draw thousands of runners.  So is it really a big deal if I don’t run these 13.1 miles as fast as I probably could?  Or if I have to walk 6 of those miles?  I’d still get to experience the race and the super cool experience of participating in such a big race.  I’d just get to experience it a lot longer than if I was running a PR!

So I’ve decided to hold on to my why and love for running, and barring any further damage to an impending (or maybe a present) injury, run the race as fast I can, enjoy the adventure, and for once forget about the time.

I’m sure that’s easier said than done, but…I’ll try.

Talk to me:

Have you ever missed out on something you were looking forward to because of illness or injury?

 

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