Monday, January 16, 2012

Eco-conscious weight loss?

a suburban greenmom decides it's time to lose the baby weight from her last pregnancy 6 years ago...
Okay, it’s time.
I went to see the doctor about how my “sprained” ankle from almost 2 months ago is still painful at certain angles, got an order for an x-ray, and we of course talked about my general health and some other little issues. And she gently mentioned that a lot of things might overall improve for me if I lost a little weight.
She’s right, of course—I’m about 30 lbs overweight, having slowly put it on a few pounds at a time over the last couple of decades.  There was the high-stress, no-time-to-cook job at age 30, then the first baby, then the second baby, then the high-stress, no-time-to-eat-right working mom stuff I’ve been in for the past 9 years or so. I’m happy with myself, I don’t hate my body, my husband still thinks I'm gorgeous and sexy, and I don’t think my worth as a human being will be increased if I get rid of my belly bulge and amply padded derriere. But…
My ankles hurt when I get up in the mornings and try to walk.  I get headaches.  I get winded if I try to run for trains, something that happens fairly often given that the North line has a habit of perpetually being 4 minutes late, while the West line to which I need to transfer always departs on the dot, and I keep missing my train. I just plain don’t feel as well. And I remember last time when I did successfully lose about 10 lbs., pretty much all of that went away.
So…for the first time in years, I am about to make a concerted effort not to just reduce portion size, eat only good healthy foods, only eat when I’m hungry and pay attention to cues, all the other stuff I have done from time to time—no, I’m going to try to actually Lose Weight. And so is my husband. God help him.
I know the basics of how it should work—more veggies, more fresh produce, less processed food (which I eat very little of anyway), less white flours and sugars (which I eat a lot of). Avoid fast food like the plague unless I buy already prepared really healthy stuff. Green smoothies. Fruit. Fewer grains, all of them whole.
The hard part is that at the same time as I want to do this, I’m also dealing with a) an insane schedule (no time to exercise beyond the 2-ish miles I do 5 days a week between trains and school) and one less income in the house than we used to have. Options for heading over to the local Whole Foods to buy a salad for lunch are a little less practical given that our income has dropped by about 35%. That $1.49 bagel looks really good at that point.  I pretty much don’t ever eat conventional produce any more, and buying organic salad food daily is going to break the bank if I try it.
So what do I do?
I have a few ideas, and I seriously hope y’all Boothers will be kind enough to offer a few more if you have ever been here. For one thing, homemade soups will be staples of my life (and my husband's, God help him) for the next few months. Those I can make flavorful, veggieful, and low-cal in great quantity and enjoy them without feeling deprived.
I’ll alter our favorite cheap-feed-a-family pasta night (a bag of pasta is $1 and a jar of sauce that lasts 2 weeks is $4—beat that!) by sautéing a bunch of vegetables like peppers, onions, spinach, and shrooms in the sauce and halving the amount of pasta I eat. My husband (God help him) will by default do the same. 
I may shift my breakfast-lunch habits a bit and maybe have a protein-y egg for breakfast and oatmeal and fruit brought from home for lunch—oatmeal is way filling and I can cook it in our office microwave. (I have mentioned before that I don’t really much like breakfast.) Since I don’t have time during the school day to go buy anything most days, and since I’m too broke to afford it anyway, that’s an area where the frugality could be a big win.
Of course the biggie is portion control, always a tough one for me. And there also frugality should help…because, duh, we’ll have to buy less. Although my husband (God help me) is really difficult to convince on that front, and I have a hard time controlling mine when he doesn’t want to control his. He views deprivation of any kind as a huge personal insult, so that part may be tough.
So…anyone have any tips or hints for this? Aside from the whole “eat food not too much mostly plants” and “don’t say you won’t eat any of this because then you’ll crave it more” and standard stuff we already know?
What does a green weight loss plan look like?
--Jenn the Greenmom


knutty knitter said...

Only a suggestion but it does work - use smaller plates and bowls. They look fuller and you don't seem so deprived.

viv in nz

Nicole said...

Have you ever tried spaghetti squash instead of pasta? I eat it instead of pasta, and my family who prefer pasta eat that. Your idea about the soups is great! Beans are cheap, filling and fibre rich and can help with weight loss. Soup with beans and veggies can easily be heated up at school. I cut out anything made with flour/sugar and it makes a huge difference.
Good luck. I'm sure by making the changes you've already mentioned you will find the weight coming off. And if you can squeeze in a little more exercise it will happen even quicker :)

Eco Yogini said...

This is weird cuz I was just thinking of writing about the greenwashing around "natural" diet supplements (ie- don't take them lol). :)

An insane schedule is tough- sounds like you have a great food plan- but the difficult part is going to be finding and carving out the all important physical activity-fitness portion. I've found that the most important part of being able to find time for this would be to have the support of your partner (to take on a few extra things at home to allow you the time and space to- yoga/run etc).

good luck! :)

Nana Sadie said...

Trying to say this as gently as I know to do: The first (and least expensive, tho' hardest) thing to do is to clean up your attitude.

"I have to lose weight - CRUD."

This has to be a lifestyle change and if you make it an adventure, instead of seeing it as a chore, you'll have a lot more success (and permanent, rather than, lose, return to eating the way you used to and then, have to lose again!)

I tried your way for years. Didn't work. When I realized that for the planet AND for my body and future health I wanted to change, it happened. And the 40 pounds have stayed off.

Quality carbs (whole grains), lean meats (limited in amounts, added mostly as conplements to the meal, not the main event), veggies and fruits. And pack your lunch.

Jenn the Greenmom said...

Nana--LOL, okay, that wasn't very gentle, but it makes a good point.

I think what I was/am getting at is that in the past my efforts have been not directly about losing weight, they have been more pointed towards Living a Healthy Lifestyle (as you suggest), and when I did that, I naturally lost a little weight but mostly just maintained. I have resisted "diets" like the plague, because I have always felt as though having the "I don't like who I am and I need to change in order to be attractive/ feminine/ worthy" specter hanging over me was something that would just scuttle me in a second.

Maybe my attitude does need a cleanup--most of this weight, as I indicated, came on during periods when I WASN'T doing the Living Healthy thing, and I can easily hold pretty steady when I'm paying attention to my life. So on some level the "I need to lose weight" has a significant dose of "I need to pay the fine for and undo those periods in my life when I didn't care enough about my body to live well and be good to it," which has its own load of self-loathing attached. (Come one, come all! Therapy at the Booth! The Doctor is In, five cents please!) So I'm not sure how to put a good spin on this. My "normal" way of eating is pretty much exactly what you describe--whole grains, legumes, very little meat, NO sodas or flavored drinks (although I hit the refined sugar more than I should and my portions are generally larger than necessary), lots of fruit and at least a reasonable amount of veggies, and normally a homemade packed lunch. It's when I hit these two-to-four (or six) weeks of insane stress that I fall off my plan and start doing the other stuff that I pack on a pound or two. (10 years-520 weeks, if 90% of the time I was on a healthy diet and put on 1/2 pound a week during the other 50 or so weeks, there's 25 lbs right there.) It's not enough to "live a healthy lifestyle" now--I have to "lose weight," which means doing something different from the basic healthy lifestyle until such time as I can get back to my healthy body-loving maintenance.

Does that distinction make sense?

EcoYogini--yes, the exercise thing is being a big stumbling block (no pun intended)--I get on a train at 7:15am and off at 5:45pm 3 days and don't come home till 10 the other two. Pretty much perpetually "on" in between (unless I could exercise on the train...THERE's an idea, they need a Workout Car!). Once I get this ankle thing resolved I can probably walk more, but I should try to find simple stuff I can do, even if I can slip into a practice room for 20 minutes a few days a week, that would be something...

(Knutty--I have tried the smaller plates, and my husband gets mad at me! He sees a smaller PLATE and is convinced he won't get enough food! :-)

Thanks, all--appreciate the ideas, please keep them coming!

Kelly Evans said...

Eating less meat (all meat not just eating lean meats!) can have huge benefits for your body, the environment and your wallet. Win win win. Skeptical? I was for many years but we started with just meatless mondays (started by Martha Stewart) and are now flexitarians. We mostly eat a plant based diet but if the mood strikes us then we eat local meat (which oddly doesn't happen as often as you would think) . I have a few recipes on my blog for the "meat eater" I like to say. They are my staples for making for company and have always gone well at our house. They are also all made from fresh ingredients. Also if you have any time for reading Food Revolution by John Robbins gives you lots of great reasons to eat a less processed more plant based diet. It really hit home with my husband and I. Eating healthier is more expensive but it's an investment. My mom now has type 2 diabetes and the Meds don't come cheap, even with health care. The same can be said for high blood pressure and high cholesterol meds. Anyway I could go on and on. It is a subject I am fairly passionate about now and have devoted a lot of time to. Also check out her blog is healthy, informative and beautiful!,

Anonymous said...

There have been some great suggestions so far! I try to make sure that every lunch and dinner is at least 50% composed of vegetables. If it doesn't have a whole lot of green in it, it's not a meal.

Some other ideas: if you go to the farmers' market near closing time, you can score some great deals on organic or no spray produce, as long as you're willing to deal with slight bruises or other blemishes. And if you can cook ahead on the weekends, it's nice to be able to freeze some meals into homemade instant dinners -- stock up enough, and variety will not be a problem. Cheap and healthful!

Could you use smaller plates for yourself? We eat off the smaller salad plates that came with our set, but since your husband is sensitive about such things, you could continue to give him the dinner plates while you eat off the salad plate.

Green Bean said...

Oh Jenn, I feel your pain. Oops, sorry, Nana makes a good point. Your apprehension at starting a new journey. Years ago, I did Weight Watchers and lost, what was for me, a good amount of weight. I was thrilled. Felt that I looked good but then I looked at what I was eating to lose the weight and keep it off. Weight Watcher treat bars full of chemicals and, oddly enough, some greasy substance. Lean Cuisine microwaved in black plastic.

Since going green and eating healthy, I've never been able to get back to my lowest WW weight - and I've gone back on WWs. It's a lot more challenging though because much of WW points are based on purchased food and I haven't found many recipes from them that I love. I'm trying to lose 5 lbs again this time. Like you, I'm doing the soups, trying to switch to honey for a sweet fix instead of chocolate, and trying to get more exercise. Frankly, the 2 miles per day sounds pretty good to me. :)

Oh, and Chile Chews started a weight loss blog a while back. I think she's taking a break right now but it might be worth digging through as that girl is as green as it gets.

Lisa Nelsen-Woods said...

If your Husband gets upset about using smaller plates, why don't you try just using one for yourself? One of the things we do is make dinners that use meat as a condiment instead of a big hunk of it as a main course. That started as a frugal early marriage thing that we kept because it keeps us healthier. Have you tried whole wheat pasta? Aldi sells whole wheat spaghetti for .49 a box. It's not organic, but its an alternative to pasta made with white flour.

Frances said...

My biggest downfall is sweet stuff so it really helps if I have alternatives that are at eye level and keep me yogurt, cheese, or 70% dark chocolate (less sugar). Apple spice tea or mint tea also helps me avoid dessert.

Another thing we eat a lot that keeps our weight down is legumes. Beans can be soaked overnight and cooked in the crock pot all day until you come home. Then you can freeze meal size portions. Also, the red flaky lentils cook in 20 minutes or less. The brown ones take about 40 minutes but you don't have to watch them cook.

One time my hubby was away on a business trip for a week and I ate nothing but Indian lentils and rice for 3 meals a day because it's my absolute favorite (especially with mango chutney). I never went hungry and lost 5 lbs. My grocery bill for that week was like $5!

Good luck!

Dea-chan said...

You might also look into what keeps YOU running best. For example, I need more protein than my (significantly larger) fiance, as even though I'm a little thing, my metabolism is too fast for carbs. If I eat a serving of carbs, I'm hungry in 20 mins.

That said, oatmeal DOES have protein, and lots of it. We did the math, and it's equivalent to our favorite protein bars: Cliff Builder Bars.

And look into other cultures. Look at Mexican and Indian foods especially. If you have a "Mexican Night", it's easier to have healthier things because "that's just what the recipe is" rather than "healthifying" a favorite recipe.

Good luck! I think you're on the right track -- for one, you're not cracking a SlimFast! :-P Let us know how it goes for you, ok?

Laura said...

Tea. I am a big sitting-at-the-computer-mindless-snacker-in-between-mouse-clicks. It's awful. I started brewing tea around lunch time and keep it up until supper. I too am in serious need of weight loss. This way I'm keeping my belly full, but since it's a local peppermint tea, I'm not guiLty over it. I'm not happy with the way I look or feel, so it's time. However, the cardio I've always relied on in the past seems to mess up my milk supply. So here we go... yoga and pilates! Smaller portions. Less meat. No processed food.

Betsy (Eco-Novice) said...

Here are my 5 best tips:
eat off a smaller plate (or out of a smaller bowl) -- studies show this reduces portion size
when you crave sweets, eat an apple and drink a full cup of water, then you can eat the cookie if you still want it
if you don't want to eat it, don't buy it/ keep it in the house
learn to cook dried beans (buy a pressure cooker) -- cheap and filling
keep celery on hand for the munchies

I think your 2 miles of walking as part of daily life is awesome! Plus, diet makes a much bigger difference than exercise with weight loss anyway.

Good luck to you (and your husband).

Jenn the Greenmom said...

You guys are awesome...and huge points to Laura for the TEA suggestion! That one will totally work, and I'm the same way with a munching habit. Bean, I'm oddly relieved to hear that I'm not the only one who finds it hard to actually drop weight when eating a lot of whole healthy food (of course, if more of it were green veggies, we'd probably be fine, but...)

I'm on the right track. I cooked a giant pot of black beans, and I'll do lentils tomorrow and some brown rice, and there are my lunches. (Frances, your lentils and basmati thing cracked me up; a gajillion years ago, that was my most successful diet ever, the EXACT same thing, only I only ate it two meals a day. I may have to bring that back!) I bought a bunch of salad makings today and had my first Big Salad for dinner. And instead of munching out on desserts, I made a nice cup of homemade hot cocoa with unsweetened almond milk and lots of cocoa and spices, so it's also fairly low-cal...

I'll get there!

Anonymous said...

I learned not to buy sauces or packets in a jar, the amount of sugar in them is phenomenal and, as we know, 'sweet' is the taste that makes you eat more!!!

I've lost a fair bit of weight over the past 18months, easily, no exercise just by avoiding anything with sugar/corn sugar/HFCS/fructose on the label.

Put a little more fat into your food and you'll sleep better (fat is what your brain lives on), it will taste better and you'll eat less because your body has a 'fat limit' hormone, but not a 'fructose limit' hormone.

Also, turn off the tv and get off the computer!!!

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

Everyone I know that has successfully lost weight has done it in a competitive way or had some form of accountability. My dad lost weight when his company did a Biggest Loser program with weekly weigh-ins with his co-workers. A friend lost weight when she and some of her friends committed together to lose 15 pounds and were accountable to each other. My husband has been overweight his whole life, but he and his poker buddies have set up a competition where every month they have to lose 1% of their body weight or they have to pay $5 to everyone else. His buddies did the same thing last year, and most lost 20 or 30 pounds. I've found that trying to lose weight with my husband doesn't make either of us feel accountable enough, but maybe it will be different with your husband. Or you could find another friend to lose with or post your weight loss monthly on your blog. Anything to keep you motivated!


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