17 September 2009

Old Habits

If you're friends with me on Facebook, you may have seen my post from last night offering up Maddie for free to anyone interested in a three year old. I jest, of course, but it's true that Maddie has been rather challenging lately. She's going through lots of transitions, plus I hear the age of three is prone to emotional maelstroms, so it is what it is and I'm doing my best to remain calm in the face of the fact that in Maddie's mind, right now nothing is ever the right thing.

But here's my problem. We'll get through a morning like we had today (a time out for hitting Mama, another time out for slamming doors in anger, generalized whining and no-saying, etc.), and all I can think is, "Wow, after all that, I deserve a bagel!" Or a donut, or a waffle or a muffin or an egg sandwich or any other manner of bad-for-me treat. In the evenings, it's "Wow, after all that I deserve a bunch of chips or a big bowl of ice cream or . . . " The list goes on an on.

Rewarding myself with food is a deeply ingrained habit for me, and one that's really, really hard to break. But since there's a direct correlation between food rewards (lots lately) and how my pants fit (quite poorly, if at all), I need to rein it in.

In concert with getting the food rewards under control, I just need to start eating better. I've been blathering on about this for months without actually making any changes. Mostly I've just been lazy, but I've also been unsure about what I want to do. I had contemplated going back to Weight Watchers, but the measuring and the points and the weekly weigh-ins make me feel tired and defeated before I've even begun, despite the fact that I had great success on the program in the past. What I really want to do is focus on general healthy eating: lots of fruits and veggies, whole grains, minimal processed food, reasonable portions, no evening snacking. I'm exercising regularly, so that part is in place.

When I was in grade school, my parents followed the Fit for Life eating plan fairly strictly for quite some time. I linked to the Quackwatch page about the program because I agree that the "scientific" basis is complete bunk. But the program does focus on fresh, healthy eating and the second half of the book has meal plans and menus for a month or so worth of eating. It's with that planning that I need a lot of help, so I think using that book and their menus as a base could help to get me on track. So mom:if you're reading, can I borrow your copy of Fit for Life? Thanks. And so, I shall try to start eating better.

As for the food as rewards? Food just tastes so good! And it's so easy to eat a cookie to feel better after the kids go to bed, or to stop for a muffin on the way in to work. Finding quick rewards that aren't food is not easy, and I'm telling you: I need something to look forward to in the evenings. Wow. Ideas?

57 comments:

Elizabeth said...

Gosh, I am in the same situation. I know what I *should* be eating, but I feel I *deserve* to eat something more desirable. One problem I have in the evening, especially, is just time. "Not now, Mama's eating," is acceptable. "Not now, Mama wants to take a bubble bath," just doens't sound so urgent and I feel a little guilty about it. So, no advice from me, just some empathy. I'll definitely be following the comments on this one!

Lee C. Thomas said...

Have you checked out Weight Watchers online? That's what I did and it worked great. Yes, you still have to track points, but the online interface is really slick and easy. And you never have to make a special trip to meetings or weigh-ins.

Ab said...

I have a theoretical alternative though I am sort of lousy at executing it. I am trying to reward myself with pleasant beverages, like pausing and making myself an actual pot of tea, rather than a dish of ice cream. Half the time, once the monkey is in bed I think what I really need is help with the transition so I can relax and enjoy the evening. On the other hand, ice cream tastes really good.

Shosh said...

uhhh..in that pic you posted of you and the twins...you don't look like you need weight watchers....

Goddess in Progress said...

I'm doing WW online, for the umpteenth time, but it always works. I'm also letting my competitive side take over with a Biggest Loser-style challenge over at Loser Moms. Hey man, if I win, I get like $100! :-)

One thing that has really helped this time around, though it's hard, is that I set myself a rule that I'm not allowed to eat after 8PM. Snacking idly all night long is a real problem for me, so this does a decent job of reining that in.

Abigail said...

Food-wise, here are a few of my tricks:
Drink a huge glass of milk or water just before you eat a meal. You won't feel as hungry.

Use smaller plates and don't put as much on the plate as you normally would.

Resist having seconds.

Don't have junky food in the house. Find healthy snacks and buy them instead.

Buy good quality dark chocolate and allow yourself one square after lunch or dinner. I find its enough to satisfy my sweet tooth.

Find other things that give you pleasure that can be your reward (a favorite TV show, time to read a book, a bath, a trashy magazine). Full disclosure: I actually bought myself a subscription to People as my guilty pleasure.

Hope these help.

kim said...

I've been loving the book "Flat Belly Diet." I'm not one to buy into fad diets but it has given me overall healthier eating habits... and anything that helps me drop 8 lbs without much of a fuss is good in my book. The recipes - esp the fast prep ones! - have helped me prepare better meals for myself and the kiddos. The idea is simple: 4 meals a day, no more that 4ish hours apart, each about 400 calories with a monounsaturated fat (nuts, oils, avocado, olives or chocolate). It was really easy to implement and honestly, I don't even feel hungry!

Emskyrooney said...

I have a hard time with evening snacking too.. I'll be good all day and then at night will think "hey, I was so good today that surely I can have some icecream!" Repeat every night! One trick I use is to brush my teeth when my son brushes his before he goes to bed. Seems like it sort of ends my eating for the day somehow- like you can't eat again after you brush your teeth...

Glory Laine said...

I am so the SAME. Switching to a hot bath and a cup of tea has helped! I bought some peach tea that gives me that sweet taste I crave.

Watercolor said...

Flavored teas help me. A super rich cinnamon from harney & sons is my fav. So yummy.

mek said...

I recently read Mark Bittman's book Food Matters and he suggests eating vegetarian/vegan til 6pm - you kind of have to eat more fruits, grains, and veggies to feel full enough to go through the day. My roadblock is that I always eat leftovers for lunch, from dinner, which half the time means some meat is in there too. Well, it's a process.

I hear you on the reward-snacking, though. I am trying to only have sweets in the house that I made myself. Then, at least they aren't processed. And, frankly, I have so little time these days that mainly it's just been some hot chocolate before bed. And then I feel a little cheated of a good reward...you know where this is going, right? Sigh.

I tried WW online a few years ago. I am too good at working the point system for it to work for me.

Anonymous said...

How about eliminating all processed foods from the kitchen and when eating out? So much of what people eat fills them up with empty or semi-empty calories. They're comfort food and satisfy emotionally but leave a bad footprint inside and outside of the body!

M. said...

I agree with the commenter about the flavored teas, but I go for the fruity flavored ones - they taste sweeter to me, satisfying that urge a bit. I also agree w/the person who said a small square of dark chocolate. Get a really good bar - Green & Blacks' is my fave. We love the one w/the dried cherries.

Lastly, my mother-in-law's doctor had suggested this as she was struggling w/cholestorol. Pick one day a week (my husband picks either Sat. or Sun. night), and have the snack of your choice, be it ice cream, etc. All the rest of the week, you can know that you will have your reward - on Saturday. It takes a little getting used to, but you're not totally depriving - just postponing - and in doing so, eating less.

Good luck - let us know what works for you!

spoiledonlychild said...

I vote for alcoholic beverages instead of evening snacks. They still have calories, but it's probably not as bad as a big bowl of ice cream. And it's hard to feel deprived when you're drinking a nice glass of wine or a frosty beer. Does this make me an alcoholic?

Anonymous said...

My trick is to floss and brush right after dinner. Eating again seems like too much of a pain if it means I will have to floss again! I like the idea of either having alcohol or dessert, but not both. Some low cal treats - flavored seltzers, nips chocolate parfait candies (only 30 calories each!), hot cocoa with skim milk (does adding a shot violate my alcohol/dessert ban?) etc. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Hi!
I have been reading your blog for a while and your recent post totally hits home. I have a 3 year old too and it sounds like she is acting exactly the same!
I have to say, I went to Weight Watchers for 18 months and lost 40 pound. It may be really bad to say this but I didn't count points at all--maybe this is why it took me a long time! However, being a busy mom I could not find the energy or the detailed patience to count points but I drew all my strength from the accountability of being weighed in, and I had a particularily motivating WW leader who got me going from week to week. It just felt great to meet people who are going through the same challenge and hear tips and tricks and have someone other than me keep track of my weight.
Really, my advice to you is to be flexible (even within a rigid program) and find out what you need to be successful!
Good luck, you are a wonder woman.

alice said...

You made me laugh...I was born into a food as a reward culture. I remember getting a Big Mac lunch as a prize for memorizing my multiplication tables...and so eating as a reward is very ingrained in my brain.

By your picture...you look beautiful to me. I don't think your weight is out of control...but if you want to eat more healthfully I think that is a noble goal...and something I'm always striving for.

rachel said...

let me second ww online -- way easier to use and less fuss than the manual recording/meeting thing. it really does work! by now, i can basically estimate my points and i know what decent serving size looks like!

Jen said...

My twins are about to turn 8 (!) next week - but I can remember the three year old donut/cinnamon roll/ice cream/cookie rewards like they were yesterday. I have no real advice, just an I've SOOOO been there.

Cynthia said...

I agree that you look great in your photo! It is, however, a good thing to eat more healthy. I never had to watch my weight until my late 30s. I joined WW and lost 9 pounds. That is all I had to lose and it made a world of difference. Sounds like WW worked for you in the past and one of your readers suggested the online version. A good plan! Good luck to you!

Lisa said...

omg, I read this as I am eating a bowl of ice cream with chocolate shell as a reward for a day that was an epic parenting fail (and I had about 10 choc chip cookies, and some cinnamin raisin bread, etc, etc). I hope someone comes up with some good non-food rewards.

OTRgirl said...

I hear you on food as reward. I'm still not sure how to break out of that.

I loved your post on the peace corp and the analogy to single parenting.

Anonymous said...

Well, at least you don't reward yourself with a huge G&T like I just did...excuse any typing erororors!

I don't have children, so can't speak to how to calm down after a difficult parenting incident. But, it has been a day and then some...

My non-food reward is trashy novels. I like the brushing teeth ideas.

Just Me said...

In January I had a blood sugar that would have sent me for immediate testing for diabetes except that I have annual monitoring with a more detailed test because I'm high risk, and it had been the month before and was ok.

However, I am high risk (scary family history, plus I'm on a med that greatly raises rates). I also was on several meds that cause significant weight gain that is very hard to lose because of the meds. In 6 1/2 years on these meds I had gained 90 pounds, half of that in only 3 months.

I was a healthy enough eater, but clearly it was time for change. I went on a diet for people at risk for diabetes (which is in a way everyone), and followed it strictly for 6 months and then in a modified form since then. So far I've lost 38 lbs in 9 months (nearly or maybe at 4 pants sizes). The book is called "The Magic Food Diet" and I highly recommend it. Obviously it has worked for me, and I'm still on the med with the greatest risk of serious weight gain (Seroquel). I'm now within 30 lbs of an ideal body weight again. (I was very thin before psychotropics).

It's not restrictive and there aren't any commitments required except time to read the book and possibly learning some different grocery shopping. I'm so used to it that when I cooked potatoes with patients today I realized that I didn't remember how to cook potatoes; it has been that long since I did.

Karen O said...

You'd LOVE WW Giant Latte Bars (1 point) from the grocery store - it's my nightly treat and has been for a long time. (I'm still not tired of them.)

My other new discovery is agave nectar. It's a little like honey and has a low glycemic index so it breaks down slowly and stays with you a long time. My favorite breakfast is Greek yogurt, fresh fruit (peaches lately) and agave nectar to sweeten the plain yogurt. I'm amazed at how long I feel full.

melanie ajumma said...

When I wanted to lose weight but was too poor to join WW online, I decided to use the food pyramid. My main problem was with portion control and I wanted to make sure I was getting enough veggies. I wrote down what I ate everyday. It's something that isn't strictly regimented so you can follow it on your own.

tamjenic said...

At night I drink a 100 cal lite Mike's hard lemononade while surfing the net.

Prolly not a good idea to substitue alcohol with food, but it works for me :-)

Sarah in Ottawa said...

I completely understand your desire to reward yourself with food. I don't want to suggest booze as another idea, but there you go. :)

As silly as it sounds, I find compelling episodic TV a great treat. Stuff on DVD -- I cannot recommend "Veronica Mars" enough, or "Arrested Development" - or stuff on repeats that you could Tivo like "The Amazing Race". I know that you do this with American Idol, but it's an option before Idol starts again.

Another option - collections of short stories. They aren't great lit by any means, but several friends and I would reward ourselves with LM Montgomery short stories after particularly grueling tasks in first year. We also used 'tea and chat' breaks; perhaps phone dates with loved ones?

BiancaW said...

I am replying to you from South Africa - southern hemisphere - so this may not be the best time to suggest it, but I have just started the http://www.c25k.com/ programme and am loving it. It takes half an hour, 3 times a week, and after 9 weeks you can run 5k's. I am sure I remember you talking about running in earlier posts, so I doubt you would need to do the whole progamme, but if you were running 5k's 3 times a week, the odd treat here or there may not be so much of an issue. Like I said, I realise you are heading into winter, and I have no idea how cold your winters are, or even if you have the time during the day, while the kids are at school (lunchbreak???), but thought I would suggest it anyway.

cooler*doula said...

Check out the Instinct Diet - a Tufts'doctor's new eating plan based on a lot of reseasrch.

Huge focus on eating healthy and no cutting out of certain food groups - the recipes are kick ass - and I really care about how food tastes.

http://www.instinctdiet.com/theinstinctdiet.html

Three was a tough age for us too.

Sandi said...

The twos were a breeze for us. Three was a nightmare with both kids.

I reward myself with alcohol.

Anonymous said...

Glass of wine here :)

Another thing I really, really like is Adirondack flavored selzer water -- there's no artificial sweetener, just bubbly water with a hint of natural flavor. Very refreshing! One of these feels like a reward to me.

Shelley

shmo said...

Three words: french onion dip. I can't keep it in the house for very good reasons, but occasionally, I "deserve" some and it's all downhill from there. Unfortunately, I think if it were easy, we'd all be size 2s.

Good luck!

Pam said...

OMG, I feel you on the 3 year old thing. My 3 year old is impossible lately! He has throw down tantrums NO.MATTER.WHAT. What is with all the anger and throwing things????
I agree with others. I always brush & floss my teeth before putting my son to bed. Then I reason by saying I am way to lazy to have to do it again, so I don't eat.

Ruby2 said...

Don't know if WW still has the CORE plan, but the concept is, no weighing or measuring, you can have as much as you want from a core list of foods. That core list doesn't not, by the way, include ice cream, cookies, chips, etc. Mostly unadorned meats/fish/poultry, veggies, fruit, some carbs.

Inkling said...

I am so like this too. When I go through a tough day with my own health issues and a cranky baby to boot, I often find myself driving through Starbucks. If it's a really bad day, I justify the Venti mocha frap and the oat fudge bar. It just dawned on me the other day that I'm teaching myself to be an emotional eater.

So....with that said, I'm now learning to reward myself with reading time after the babe is in bed, long baths, and even a not-on-sale clothing purchase at an outdoor store. It's kind of delayed gratification, and it doesn't give me a reward to enjoy while driving around so my son will take a nap already, but it's not adding fat to my already roly poly tummy and thighs.

Oh, and while I'm weaning myself from the huge doses of chocolate as rewards, I'm not doing it cold turkey. I still cut up apple slices and dip them in melted chocolate if I'm totally craving a fix and can't let the idea go. And maybe someday I'll actually learn to like the apple without the chocolate!

NotCarol said...

Biggest Loser is back on Tuesday Nights. I find it oddly inspiring (until about the last two weeks when all the contestants get to be fitter than I am, then I find it depressing).

A few years ago (almost three) I had to give up wheat gluten in all its various incarnations and that has been the biggest factor in my general level of health that I never would have come to on my own. Its amazing how much more creative you get food wise by removing that one particular ingredient.

Anonymous said...

I do SparkPeople, and it has totally worked for me - I've lost 35 lbs since April. And it's free. It's a lot like WW - all the counting and weighing and monitoring. I know what you mean about feeling tired just thinking about it. Sometimes you just don't have the mental energy.

I like to use really good decaf tea as an evening thing - a vanilla rooibos is my current fave. And I try to reward myself with an activity like sitting with my book or playing Sims for half an hour or taking a bath.

I definitely empathize. Food rewards are so tempting.

jemy said...

I reward myself with reading, or playing a computer game. Or watching TV.

If you wanted to stick with food as a reward, I suggest going for something exotic instead, like a rare type of fruit, or expensive juice.

Or something that will require cooking.

A big problem with the whole dieting thing is the denial aspect of it. They have done all these studies with children that whatever you put under a glass dish will be desired more (and consumed more) than if left out. So if you put cookies under glass, then they will eat twice as much cookies. Apparently this holds true for adults as well. You deny yourself for some time, and invariably the body will overconsume at some point.

So my suggestion is to never engage in denial. Instead, embrace food in the opposite manner. You can have whatever you want, but you must make it from scratch and "enjoy the process". Or, you buy 5 different types of ice cream and take one bite from each carton, savoring the taste of each kind. So you don't say to yourself "I can only have one bite", you say, and now I get to try another, and another, and now I'm done.

Or tiny, beautiful cakes. Something that isn't a lot of calories, but is still a reward.

I personally like Ferrero Rochets. So I would have one of those and then associate it with doing something pleasurable. Like going out, having a chocolate and drinking my tea, and sitting on the front porch reading. I find that if I eat a large peice of cake I don't savor it the way I do eating one peice of chocolate. Truly sitting and savoring it slowly is very nice.

Sorry this is such a long comment.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the comments suggesting TV as food replacement. I have come to the realization that I will never stop eating junk food - it just isn't going to happen. So instead, I have to get moving in the evening to boost metabolism, and to take up a few minutes of my eating time. I recently requested the DVD series of one of my favorite shows as a birthday gift, and now I watch an episode at night after kiddo bedtime while on the eliptical at home. It works for me, and I actually look forward to it.

Brainy girl said...

OK, I am going to sound like some sort of anal freak, but one of the best rewards I give myself is taking an hour or so after the kids are in bed to actually clean or organize a space that was previously a disaster. Since most of my house is usually a disaster, I'm always motivated to do this, but always feel a bit overwhelmed by it all. Doing something like this gives me a feeling of accomplishment - plus a nice space somewhere - which for me is very rewarding. Also, I just kind of forget about snacking when I'm engaged in something else. Now, if only I could manage to "reward" myself this way every night, I might actually have a clean house!

Keen said...

No suggestions, just commiseration. For me, it's the work driving me to distraction, not the kids. "Hey! I'm still working at 3 a.m.! I totally deserve to eat half a baguette and a BIG HUNK OF CHEESE."

Sigh. I think I need to read your comments and see if anyone had any brilliant ideas!

Brainy girl said...

Ooh, I forgot to mention above that I went through a phase of drinking Silk vanilla soy milk in the evening as a treat. It seriously tastes like a vanilla shake, but it's SOY milk, so it must be healthy, right? Worth a try.

Anonymous said...

As a fellow mom of under-5s, I *totally* hear you!

What has worked very well for me in kick starting healthy eating has been a twice yearly cleanse. Not the intense 1 or 2 day sort, but specifically a 12-day Wild Rose one (http://www.wrc.net/Store/ProductDetails.aspx?productID=400). It isn't too crazy - you are permitted coffee (!), but no dairy or wheat. Not only do you feel fabulous after the period is done, but you have figured out how to thrive on grains, fruits and vegetables. The results last for a long time. Best of all, I always get a burst of energy.

It sounds to me like you know what constitutes good eating, so this may be a good way to get back in touch with those healthy habits.

What ever you do, good luck!

Christine said...

I could have written this Snick -- I too see food as a reward. No big ideas but curious to go through your comments.

Natika said...

I know the "grass is always greener theory" but be glad you aren't rewarding yourself with wine!
That's what I did and it got me no where quick!
The best diet I have ever been on is the "falling in love" diet. I couldn't eat or sleep for a loooong time! :)

Anonymous said...

Just a few thoughts: any "diets" that involve portion control don't work. You're right to just think about upping the fruits and veggies and whole grains. It's hard to overeat broccoli.

My now 27 year old daughter spent a good deal of time between the ages of 3 and 4 in time out. My favorite book on the subject is Little People by Edward Christophersen. Very common sense. And it worked to help me a lot as a single parent with 2 kids under 4. Said daughter is now a lovely, responsible adult and hardly ever has to go to time out now. :)

As for alternatives to eating, I took up knitting. I reward myself with beautiful yarn. It's a great stress-reliever (I teach junior high!) and it's very hard to knit and eat at the same time. Though I do sometimes. It's also good for kids to see adults engaged in creative, hands on activities. It can also be done while waiting in lines and other odd moments.

Sherry
Tempe, AZ (a Facebook friend, with no blog)

Lara said...

A co-worker told me about a free iPhone app called LoseIt and my hubby and I have each lost 20 pounds since we started using it July 1. It has taught us you can lose weight eating normal food and not tracking points...it really just makes us realize that we can't afford to have that small roll and second serving of fruit, etc. It tracks your exercise too and gives you more calories based on your exercise. Good luck!

letterstoelias said...

Mmmmm . . . ice cream. I thought I was doing such a good job by not buying it anymore, but I seem to have only replaced it with chips and dip and iced cappuchinos. Not too healthy.

I've heard that eating fibre bars before a meal is a good way to curb how much you eat. May work as a snack at night too? Vegetarian diets are great. And I love a good fruit smoothie that can fill you up.

I recently realized I've started rewarding myself with food since my husband passed away - I braved the grocery store for the first time - celebrate with a donught! for example. I've also noticed that I tend to finish the food my girls don't eat so it doesn't go to waste. It's a wonder I haven't gained 100lbs, ice cream or not. Good luck.

~C~

Mama Mama Quite Contrary said...

Oh boy, this is my problem too. Your readers have some great advice. (I am not one of them although I gave myself a super duper congratulations for passing up the Joe Joe's at Trader Joe's yesterday.)

Emily said...

Hey Snick -

I eat best when I have a really protein filled breakfast. I focused on breakfast for a while, and I felt that the other pieces slowly came into place. If I have three good solid proteiny meals, I have less urge to snack. This requires prep work (because my default and what I really like to have are cold cereals that pretend to be healthy but are really filled with sugar, and I find that sets me up to snack all day.) But the days I have a good breakfast - and then, man, if I can have a good lunch, too, I'm golden! - are so much better. I need less willpower to say no to the snack urges.

I also buy good dark chocolate - if you find one you like, and it's really dark, you can't really overeat it (and believe me, I've tried!)

AS for rewarding myself, I sometimes consciously buy a book I really want, or something like that. IN the past I've been really careful about not spending money on things like books, but I do feel rewarded when I do something like that. Or I go get a $20 pedicure.

No easy fixes. Keep writing about it, though!

wifemotherexpletive said...

as i read, i plow through the cool pringles can, so i am no bastion of wisdom on the dieting thing. but i do know that i need to remember to EAT when the kids are eating, not just nibble or be satisfied with the crusts... it helps me through the four pm mad dash for the swedishfish... when i have a real breakfast and a real lunch, i'm also more even keel for dealing with the kids, mostly.:)good luck..

Leah said...

4 weeks ago two of my friend and I started a weight loss journey a new way of life. We are exercising in different ways and we eat less. Me personally I walk 3 to 4 times a week for 30-40 minutes at a time. I have cut my portions down and no evening snacking. I am down 5 pounds after having gained back two pounds due to being sick. Portion control is the key. I don't deny myself anything I just eat less of it.

Anonymous said...

One thing you can try is delayed satisfaction. Everytime you think "That deserves a bagel!" put your bagel money into a jar or even a savings account and use that money to "treat yourself" to some me-time activity.

You can find me time right?

And limit your portions when you do food reward. Which is basically the WW model of eating what you want but in controlled portions.

Sadia said...

I recently committed to healthier eating too, and have been using Sparkpeople.com's food journal functionality. It's pretty lightweight, if you have consistent internet access. It looks like a lot of people use it in conjunction with Weight Watchers.

Jane said...

I second the episode of a good TV show as reward idea. Mad Men or True Blood or any of the series that leave you dying to know what happens next.

Reading is also good, esp. if it's a real page-turner.

And yes, a glass of wine is nice. If only it didn't inevitably lead to a second glass (for me, anyway). And have calories.

Isabel said...

Tell yourself out loud, "I don't want to reward myself with something that will make me feel bad in the long run."

Then go for hot tea, or kahlua and milk. Don't keep snack food in the house, and no eating after dinner. If you have a sweet craving, have a cup of orange flavoured metamucil. I'm not joking. This is how I lost 20lbs after having a second baby.