Wednesday, May 27, 2015

First Week of Whole30

I'm now on Day 10 of Whole30. That's 33 percent of the way there! I have to say, the time went by fast, but now without difficulty. The plan definitely started feeling tedious around Day 5, last Friday. That evening, I ended up having dinner with my sister and Ramon at a sports bar. I ordered a wedge salad with no cheese and added steak. I'm finding that asking for salad with various modifications is a good alternative, but being surrounded by beer and alcohol at the end of the work week and not being able to order a drink sucks. Later that night, we attended a live music show with a couple of friends. As Ramon sipped beers and Jameson shots, I focused on drinking water to stay hydrated. I comforted myself with the thought that alcohol would deplete my energy, so I was much better off not drinking. I'm sticking to that.
I did end up breaking the rules on Day 6 when Ramon and I had brunch with a friend from the Bay Area and his girlfriend, who recently moved to Seattle. They picked a hip Mexican restaurant where the menu featured so many things I loved, but can't eat right now like tacos, tortas and micheleadas. I ordered an egg scramble with nopales (cactus). It was delicious, but it came with a side of black beans that I promised myself I would ignore, but didn't. I admit, however, that I didn't feel that bad about it. I think there are worse ways to cheat than with beans.
It was a three-day weekend and while we started out with lots of ideas: six-mile hikes! music festival! road trip to visit Mom! museums! We ended up going on some long walks and watching movies and a mini-Entourage marathon instead. It was nice to just vegetate on the couch and be lazy. My brother and his wife came over Saturday night to watch pro basketball and a movie. But, then, about an hour or two after dinner (we had sauteed chicken, roasted vegetables and a hearty salad), both my sister and I started started to feel hungry. We realized we had only had two meals that day, but since it was evening, we didn't really know what to eat. We snacked on almonds as we brainstormed what we could eat and realized that other than cooking up another whole meal, we didn't have many options. That was a rookie mistake. Getting through Whole30 requires a lot of planning and anticipating those moments when you will want to snack or have a craving. I'm learning as I go.
I just created a Pinterest board of Whole30 recipes and ideas. It has really helped even though I realized that Whole30 really just means simplifying your diet to cut out all the crap and filler you don't need like bread, pasta, rice and sweets.

Last night, we made beef tacos using lettuce wraps instead of tortillas. A part of me feels like a traitor to my Mexican heritage by substituting anything for a tortilla, a cornerstone of my culinary life up until this point. At the same time, the tacos were really good. I made a pico de gallo that turned out very spicy, like "whoooooo that's hot!" spicy. This has been an interesting experience in terms of all the creativity involved just to make food that is simpler than what you are used to eating.
So, my take aways after 10 days would be these:
  • Plan ahead and anticipate cravings. Keep appropriate snacks on hand.
  • Think creatively about dishes you eat a lot. My next experiment is to substitute cauliflower for rice.
  • Learn to say "NO!" to food you see everywhere and are used to eating. For me, even skipping cream in my coffee has been an adjustment.
I already feel a little bit leaner and my blood sugar levels feel much more consistent with less spikes and crashes. The biggest reward is feeling like I'm in control and am making good decisions for myself. It's very empowering to say "yes" to only the best, most healthy food.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Days 2 & 3 of Whole30

The first few days of Whole30 have felt easy -- a little too easy. One of my biggest fears was that I wouldn't be able to resist drinking in social situations. I realized at the start of the week that I scheduled drinks with a few coworkers weeks ago. We met around 8 p.m. Tuesday night. I showed up not having had dinner and luckily the spot we chose had some Whole30-friendly options like endive lettuce filled with chicken salad and sauteed broccoli. I didn't miss cocktails or beer at all and instead drank several pints of water. That made me feel much better than a slight alcohol buzz would have.
The only slip-ups I've had, if I can even call them that, would be that I've had a few dishes with cheese in them. I either forgot to ask for no cheese or didn't realize cheese was an ingredient when I ordered it. Either way, the amounts were minimal, so I don't consider that a major violation of the rules.
This morning I experienced a slap-in-the-face-style reminder as to why this eating plan and losing weight are important. I scheduled a physical a few weeks back, again before I decided to try Whole30. My new doctor's advice was that I should lose about 20 pounds using the South Beach Diet, but other than that, I'm very healthy! I've heard this advice before. My weight and height give me a high body mass index in the "overweight" zone. I've heard from other doctors not to sweat BMI so much since the range doesn't take into account body type or frankly ethnicity. I think that is code for "don't worry about your curvy, Latina hips."
Today, the doctor told me, you're healthy now, but what about later? And, if you ever have kids, it will be harder to lose weight if you're already overweight. Ouch. The truth really does hurt.
So there you have it. My desire to get healthy and lose weight should be less of a whim and more of a must-do. The stakes are higher now. I need to take this eating plan/lifestyle change stuff seriously unless I want to be one of those people thinks they know more than medical professionals. Or one  of those people who complains about her weight or daydreams about being thinner, but doesn't take action. It's not about vanity anymore, but being the best version of myself I can be -- or should be. I hate conforming to external ideals, but I also want results. I hope Whole30 helps.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Kicking off the Whole30 eating plan

Yesterday, I put myself on track to change my life. Well, that sounds both vague and highly optimistic as if change isn't possible all the time (or a given, really). To be more specific, yesterday I started a new eating plan called Whole30 that promotes ONLY eating food that is good for your body for 30 days. Sounds simple, right? Well, it is in that the plan limits you to eating from three basic food groups: vegetables, protein from meat, seafood and eggs, and fruit. Of course, in America, where empty calories are everywhere and the idea of eating processed food-like products is the law of the land, saying "no" to certain food feels much harder than saying "yes" to what you should be eating.
I convinced my sister to join me on Whole30 because we both try to follow a healthy diet, but catch ourselves falling into bad habits that make clothes fit tighter than we'd like. Lately, I've been tipping the scales at my highest weight EVER, yes I'm at my heaviest, gasp! I've gained close to 10 pounds since my wedding nine months ago and I felt fat then, too!
The point of Whole30, is not supposed to be weight loss. In fact, the diet tells you not to weigh yourself at all during the 30 days. Instead, the focus is supposed to be on eating food that nourishes your body without any harmful effects like putting excessive or empty calories like alcohol, processed sugar and desserts into your body. According to the plan, foods like beans and whole grain bread are not the best way to provide nutrition. That was a big shock to me since I love both of those food groups and feel good about eating them. The good news is that after the 30 days, you can start reincorporating some foods and hopefully learn to eat the less-than-optimal foods in moderation. I always say one cupcake won't make you fat, but too many cupcakes will. Whole30 basically says, stop thinking about cupcakes altogether. If it's not the BEST food, don't eat it.
I'm looking at the next 30 days like a cleanse and a time to recalibrate my eating habits. One of my main goals is to learn to eat more consistently, resist temptations, and just be more disciplined about my health and well-being. I'm also going to blog each day as a way to process and document the experience and hopefully build another habit of writing more often.
I'm excited for the journey that lies ahead!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Big Change(s)

Life changes all the time, but often the changes are so small, so incremental, that you don't even notice they are happening. It's rare for a single day, event, or experience to change everything or to truly qualify for "nothing was ever the same." For me, one of those days occurred on this date 18 years ago. The day my father died. I consider that event to be the worst thing that's ever happened in my life. I also hope it remains the worst thing that ever happened because losing a parent when you are 15 years old, a really great parent at that, changed not just my life in that I would never interact with my Dad ever again, but also the person I would become, my beliefs about life and faith, my emotional systems and responses, my outlook on life. So many of the choices I made since might have completely different if my father hadn't died on March 31, 1997. It was the spring of my sophomore year of high school just days after I had been elected president of my junior class, months before I was scheduled to visit Japan for a high school exchange program and two years before I would make another life-alternating decision to leave home to attend Vanderbilt. That was an interesting time being 15 years old. I wasn't a child anymore, but not an adult either. I was still forming my sense of self and confidence. Years later, I read about the effects on young girls on losing or not having a father figure during those crucial formative years. I'm now grateful I didn't go into even worse depression or acted out in destructive ways.
Losing my Dad changed how I manage my emotions. I tried for years to repress them, to avoid feeling things because I had spent so much time and energy feeling the loss of my father. In some ways, anything else that would happen could not register nearly as high or intensely on my emotional spectrum. Finishing high school, leaving for college -- none of that made me jump for joy the way I would have expected to before. Of course, everything I've done in my life since somehow relates back to my Dad. The decision to leave for a school far away from home was inspired by father's own journey to leave Mexico and start over in another country with no resources. My father's greatest gift to me was setting me on a path to become educated, to pursue a fulfilling career, to love my family more than anything else, to have in faith in God regardless of difficult circumstances, to enjoy life and feel grateful for all of God's blessings, to love completely, to never be afraid to be generous or go out of your way for someone else.
Anniversaries are important because they help you mark the time, the little changes that happened while you were sleeping. But of course, the grief, the memories, the shifts in my heart and mind I carry with me everyday. I am who I am because of those experiences, because of the person my Dad was, because he left so early from my life. My father was one the greatest gifts I've received. I'm grateful to have a father who gave me so much -- gifts I will enjoy for the rest of my life. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

What I miss about the Bay Area

I'm coming up on six months into my move to Seattle. I would say it's been a challenging, but overall positive experience. I find myself at times pumped up about my new job and the different type of writing I'm now doing. I also go through episodes of Bay Area withdrawl. I miss the scenery, the weather, the food, the diversity of people, the nightlife, the public transit, the visible Mexicans. What I what miss most are my friends, networks I built up and something intangible and harder to pinpoint, but what I'll call the spirit of innovation. America is a place defined by haves and have nots whether that is education, money, power or opportunities. The Bay Area is no different and in some ways, the barriers are even harder to overcome than anywhere else, but it is a place with a huge sense of optimism, wonder, ambition and drive. People there think they can change the world and they do. Google, Facebook, Uber, just to name a few. People value great ideas and hard work -- as long as they produce results, which they don't always do of course. But, the idea that going from nothing to changing the world is a norm. That's a pretty amazing mindset. It doesn't mean everyone is achieving or excelling, but it fosters more people to at least try.
Some of that sentiment exists here in Seattle. It is the #2 city in America for technology, I learned yesterday. Seattle is a place that's evolving more into a world class city, but many people fight or resent the transformation that's going. Everyone complains about traffic, but don't ask themselves, how can I stop driving? The housing prices go up and people complain about newcomers and technology companies ruining the region. Developers revamp neighborhoods and people say, they are just getting rich and making everything more expensive. I am both dismayed and frustrated by those attitudes.
Cities do end up becoming pools of disparity and social problems like poverty and crime. But they can also be places where people come together to build and create a society that is bigger than a sum of its parts. I think Seattle is on the right track, but I wish people here were more excited about change and progress. I wish people felt more empowered by the possibilities verses complaining that they are being left out. If you want a seat at the table, find a chair and sit down!