Face Your Fears

A first has occurred in my education career, both as a student or instructor; they cancelled school due to rain and flooding. I can remember being in high school, and having an early dismissal due to a power outage, but never a full day off due to excessive rain. That should give you an indication of the amount of precipitation we have received in the last few days…my pool is currently overflowing and there is a newly formed lake in the back yard. They say it might taper off later tonight, but its hard to have hope when it just seems to keep coming down harder.  Please stay safe East Coasters!! You are all in my thoughts!!

Anyway, after some of the comments on yesterday’s WIAW, I thought I might share a little trick I have when it comes to conquering fear foods.

Most of the feedback was geared around my dinner choice of ravioli. A year ago, I wouldn’t have touched pasta, especially CHEESE filled pasta. The Italian genre in general, happens to be one of my biggest challenge groups of food because carbohydrates and fats have always had a negative connotation in my mind.

Perhaps it began with the low-carb craze while I was in college, and the eight billion interviews on TV and in magazines proclaiming if you “just cut out starches, you can lose weight instantly!!!” I hate to admit, but there is some truth to this, and I think it’s for a few reasons.

1. Most people have no idea how much they are eating…

…aka…The Macaroni Grill serves 6 times the recommended amount of pasta in one sitting. Is this ok for a marathon runner? Yup! They need the energy, but for a normal person who maybe doesn’t exercise, 6 cups of pasta is not the best idea for a meal.

I touched on this with my measuring post, but Americans suffer from major portion distortion. When we were in Italy a few years ago and Ryan would order a pasta dish, or his absolute favorite, gnocchi, the plate contained a serving the size of my fist, and I don’t have large hands. That was between a half-one cup of grain, exactly what my pyramid, and some of the other reliable dietary websites recommend. Obviously you should include other food groups within your lunch or dinner, but as far as starches, that is a reasonable serving. Since many aren’t aware of that, completely cutting out carbohydrates will decrease caloric intake drastically (that is if they do not replace it with other things!)

2. It’s quick but temporary!

I had a friend who was a die-hard Atkins dieter. She would live on bacon, beef, and pork rinds without ever having fruit, cereal or bread. She dropped weight pretty significantly and actually in an unhealthy time frame, however, once she started incorporating those things back into her meal plan, the weight would creep back up. There is something that occurs in your body when you eliminate carbohydrates, which a dietician can explain much better than I can, that promotes fast, but often short-term weight-loss.

Anyway, for many reasons my fear of carbs developed my senior year of college. Once I became aware, through books like Eat This Not That, and Weight Watchers, of the “terrible” choices I was making by eating half a box of Triscuits for a snack, or ordering the whole-wheat shrimp Primavera at Olive Garden, I decided to stop doing so although. My philosophy was, if you can get through a few days without these things, eventually you will stop missing them altogether.

Good plan CJ…strive to be a collegiate cheerleader, runner, functional human-being and cut out the main nutrient that runs your metabolism.

At that point, none of the logical nutritional information I knew was relevant…all that mattered was half a cup of egg whites, had way fewer calories than two slices of toast or some bran flakes.

I won’t lie to you all. It was semi-easy in the beginning because I was on a high! YES! I was “better” than others because I could deny myself carbohydrates when every other person was giving into the bread basket. My newly found “will-power” gave me a sense of entitlement that I find absolutely ridiculous now that I look back, but at the time provided me with the motivation I needed to skip out on one of my favorite food groups.

Soon I found myself eliminating fruit, milks, snack foods like pretzels and whole-grain crackers…the only carb I was comfortable with was oatmeal because I could fill my bowl up with water about 12 times and keep reheating to expand the oats, making it last for over an hour.

Then, when I got sent to my first program, it was impossible to avoid starches. In fact, when they handed me a meal plan sheet and it had 11 servings listed on the line I darn near had a panic attack, or just wanted to laugh because this dietician was crazy! HA! I wasn’t eating that many starches…no. freakin. way!

Well it turned out I was eating at least 6 servings since that was required between lunch and dinner, which were both consumed at my partial-program.

Despite all carbs being measured in the same way, since I was on the diabetic exchange system, (15g of carbohydrates is the same whether it comes in a donut or a whole grain roll) I still stuck to the most safe forms I could find….Kashi crisps, baked chips, whole grain hamburger rolls for my veggie burgers, a sweet potato….foods I considered “semi-safe.”

I steered clear from what they considered challenge carbs, even though it would be LESS food equaling more exchanges…cookies, cake, ice cream…absolutely not.

And then I got sent away to inpatient where you really could not escape the dreaded challenge nights. Why? Because even if you selected a choice you felt comfortable with, the nutrition team would change it without telling you and you would get it on your tray without warning. This happened to me quite a few times and I am embarrassed to say I actually cried at the table due to a slice of apple pie.

As my stays in programs lengthened, I went with the mindset, “eat whatever they tell you just to get out!” This meant I cooperated with the need to eat cereal (and actually fell in love with Kashi Crunch) rolls, graham crackers, etc. I’ll tell you the story of the brownie at another time, but lets just say even though I became more accepting of what I had to do, there were still some pretty shameful moments.

To make a very long two years a little shorter, lets jump to now, my attempt to get healthy at home. I have a lot riding on this stint of recovery because my body no longer tolerates my behaviors like it used to, my husband and family are exhausted, and the mean high schoolers I am around pretty much surrounded by non-stop stare and make mean comments. There are plenty more reasons than this, but the point is, I need to recover and I need to do it as fast as possible.

As I have told you all before, at this time in my journey, it is essential that I challenge the immense, but illogical fear I have around certain foods, in order to grasp that everything really is ok in moderation. I won’t gain the expected 985646 pounds from 1 cookie.

Between the negative connotation I have for carbs (and other groups, but today we are focusing on those good old starches) and my obsession with measuring, I have found it easier to purchase things I feel good about eating, and that are pre-portioned, when I am first attempting a new food.

What does this mean? well, it means I didn’t start with a 5 serving bag of Mama Rosie’s Low Fat Ravioli. It means I started with a single-serve Kashi Chicken Pasta Pomodoro meal. I knew the exact nutrition profile for the entrée, I could add vegetables if I wanted to make it seem more manageable and “disguise” the pasta, and Kashi is a brand I feel pretty good consuming.

Then I tried Trader Joes Microwavable Mac and Cheese (their version of easy-mac). Powdered cheese is not the healthiest option but for some reason when I saw it in the pantry, I felt compelled to taste it! Again, I knew the portion size, nutritional information, and could easily figure out exchanges for my meal plan.

I continued to try packaged pasta meals for about six months until I finally got the courage to boil actual whole wheat noodles, pair them with some marinara and veggies, a few shrimp and create a “normal” Italian meal. I did measure the portion of pasta, but I figured, even a baby step like preparing my own noodles, was better than eliminating the food group all together.

Now, I am still uncomfortable eating a variety of carbohydrates, but I try to tackle the super challenging types, one by one.

With each attempt it seems to get a little easier, because I can validate that my thighs did not in fact blow up like balloons, I can still fit into my pants, and no one likes me less for having some bread.

Maybe this is not super impressive because I am still staying some-what in my comfort-zone by having pre-measured packages, or portioning out my own with the little plastic cups, but I still feel better that I am nourishing myself with the proper variety of food, and overcoming the anxiety or illogical belief that some foods are BAD.

I used to have an “all-or-nothing” mentality, meaning you don’t really celebrate small accomplishments…typically operating by the saying “go big or go home,” but as I have learned, recovery is not all about the end result, but instead about the process it takes to get there.

I think this can apply to all aspects of life. We often get bogged down, trying to accomplish a seriously large feat, or not even trying to overcome a fear because it seems too great. Instead, if you break it down into smaller steps, it seems a lot less daunting and much more reachable.

So from trying pasta, in a more manageable fashion, I have learned that yes, I enjoy carbs, as they are pretty darn delicious and an awesome energy source, and that sometimes you have to look at goals in smaller increments rather than focusing ONLY on the big picture. Without this knowledge I would probably still be choking down egg whites out of a carton, lettuce with vinegar, and endless containers of greek yogurt.

Trust me, some pizza with crushed red pepper, adds a ton of spice to a life!!!

How do you feel about goals??? Do small accomplishments count?


11 thoughts on “Face Your Fears

  1. Love this post. I agree with the person above me– small accomplishments do count! I remember I used to be like that with bagels. But now I can eat them again,

    • good for you girl! one of my favorite things in the world is a cinnamon raisin bagel with nut butter and banana mashed on it! paired with a glass of milk it is such a comforting, yummy breakfast or snack!

  2. Great post..I try to focus on the process as well and sometimes that is a challenge! I have also worked to overcome the mentality ‘it’s all or nothing’ and much happier!

  3. Definite carb-phobic here. And I KNOW how the “weight loss” from carb-restriction works, and that it’s misleading and ineffective in the long term, but I still do it. I can even convince myself we don’t NEED carbs! Yesterday I was in my macrobiotic metabolism class (advanced nutrition FTW!) the professor said very matter-of-factly, “Carbs are absolutely necessary to certain bodily functions. We can’t live without them.” I think I looked really confused and skeptical.

    Hooray for small steps! You’re making amazing progress. 🙂

    • haha I still sometimes look confused and skeptical when I sit down to my plate and have an “over-abundance” or starches. Honestly though, we know in our heads and our hearts what the right thing to do is…its just super hard to do it!
      You are doing well too, girl! Keep it up! 🙂

  4. awesome job girl! your such an inspiration! small steps is the best way to go! i first would start topping lettuce with some pasta on top and then eventually moved on to just the wholeeee bowl of pasta 🙂 haha keep it up!!

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