Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I want to be a health nut.

Imagine, if you will, a skinny young woman named Sally. She and her newlywed husband Mike invite another young couple over for dinner, and they chat, eat, and get to know each other. Fairly expected scene, right? Well, after dinner, Sally gets up to go get dessert prepared. She returns with four large dinner plates--each plate filled with 1/4 of a pan of brownies, towering with ice cream.

"Uhhh...do you think you got a little carried away here, Sal?" Mike asks, chuckling as she sets the plate in front of him.

She is genuinely confused. "What do you mean?"

"Well, most people don't eat 1/4 of a pan of brownies in one sitting."

"They don't?" she asks, settling down in front of her own feast and digging in.

Sally is a real person; she is, in fact, my mother. And according to my father, this story is the absolute truth--no exaggeration. To make matters even worse, he claims that she not only finished her 1/4 of the pan--she cleaned up the scraps of everyone else's as well.

Now does that help explain why I consider chocolate one of the food groups? It's hereditary! I can't help it!

Seriously, I am completely obsessed with junk food. I mean, I know everyone loves chocolate and sweets; but I think I take it to a whole different (and slightly frightening) level: When I bake cookies, I easily eat at least 15--and that's not including all the dough I devour; when I'm stressed after school, I go down to the vending machines and buy candybars or bags of cookies to comfort my frazzled soul; and when I should be listening in church, I find myself fantasizing about the dessert I will make later that evening. (Brownie Trifle, Hot Fudge Pudding Cake, Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins, Peanut Butter Shakes.... ) Sometimes it feels like dessert is all I'm living for!

The truth is, I don't want to be obsessed with junk food anymore. Not only will it lead to steady weight gain year by year--more importantly, it will eventually destroy my health. I recently read an article in Newsweek about how the poor American diet is a major contributor to the high rate of cancer fatalities in this country. It scared me because, considering my family history, I certainly don't need to do anything to increase my risk for cancer.

I truly admire people who are healthy. And I don't mean people who are on a diet--I mean people who have a consistently healthy lifestyle, who don't gorge on french fries, brownie batter, and doughnut holes every chance they get; people who eat fruits and vegetables--and actually like it; people who have no problem saying, "No thanks!" to the cookie tray that's passed around at church gatherings, not because they are trying to lose weight but because they recognize the dangers of eating excessive sugar, and they take care of themselves.


The question is...HOW??? How do you change who you are?? How do you change what you value and crave? How do you change your entire lifestyle?

I need help. Please give me advice.


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  3. I am SO not the person to give advice on this...BUT, before I got pregnant with Dal I was doing a good job cutting back. I know myself and I am never going to NOT eat chocolate, but I had toned it back and that was something. The things I did-stopped eating by 9 pm (or pick a time-whatever works for you), limit myself to one treat a day, and do it gradually. I was suprised how I stopped craving the junk the more I cut back. There were days when I wouldn't have a treat because it just didn't interest me. And that is WEIRD for me! Then I had Dal and for some reason became a cookie NUT! Mmmm, maybe I will go make some... LOL

  4. I actually read your blog and started writing this novel in your comment section. Then I decided to turn it into my blog entry for the day.
    I had some serious suggestions, like not buying junk food for you to munch on, eating meals when you're hungry and tempted to snack on Raisinets under your desk all morning, etc. But they turned into what you see on my blog. ;)
    Thanks for the inspiration! And I am soooo someone who could eat a quarter pan of brownies. Unfortunately, in the last 6 years or so, I've become someone who wears it around the middle (and neck and rear). In fact, tonight I have to go buy new stupid clothes because my old ones don't FIT anymore. Boo!!

  5. Rachel, I'm the same way. My answer may not be profound but I think it's all in moderation. You can still eat the sweets and foods you love as long as it is in moderation. That's what I "try" to do at least. I also force myself to eat one healthy thing before I eat any more sweets. You don't have to change who you are though, just force yourself to add the healthy foods in your diet. :)That's what I try to do cause I LOVE my sweets.

  6. I thought that was the point of exercise, so you can eat what ever you want?

  7. I have some bad news for you, Sister. You're doomed. Everyone claims that if you restrain yourself you eventually stop craving sugar and sweets altogether...uh, yeah right. Maybe they weren't born with the last name Westover. First of all, if that were true, your amazingly disciplined dieting last year would have helped you at least break the vending machine habit, but, alas, no success there. And, furthermore, I am the most solid genetic Westover proof you can get on this matter. I had to practically STARVE myself for almost a full year b/c of my tapeworm. NO SUGAR WHATSOEVER!!! (Not to mention flour, salt, meat, dairy, etc., etc...you remember...it was a miserable time.) :) Well, I hate to tell you this, but I craved treats EVERY SINGLE DAY that year! All of my health nut friends swore my cravings would go away, but they could not have been more wrong! And the day I got to get off that infernal diet we went to Leatherby's...and I didn't even feel sick after eating my OWN Angie's. Some people seem genetically predispositioned to the love of junk food. Mom used to joke that we came out drinking chocolate milk, and I happen to know that my first solid was chocolate ice cream from Steve's, Mom and Dad's favorite ice cream place. It's a curse. A very yummy one! That being said, here are my few tips for you: My husband is as bad as I am (worse even!) about the sweets, but unlike me he gains weight very, very quickly, so we just don't buy a lot of sweets and snacks. When we're bored and rummaging through the kitchen and can't find anything...we settle with toast and whine about it. It works. Also, I used to drink I don't even KNOW how many sodas a day at school and down candy bars as well b/c I was tired and never organized enough to bring lunch. Make sure you eat a little breakfast on the run, and try to pack yourself a lunch so your cravings won't be doubly motivated by stress and hunger. One is easier to fight than two. Also, DON'T CARRY CASH AND CHANGE! If you don't have the option, you won't buy it. That's my two cents. For what it's worth. Can't wait to pig out with you at Thanksgiving! I LOVE YOU!!!

  8. One time I did a diet where I increased my whole grains/fruits and veggies and had absolutely no sugar or refined flours/simple carbs. After a few days I really did feel satisfied and was able to say no because I was enjoying eating things like almonds and diet soda for a treat. Once I said yes just one time to a cookie though, it all came back.

    Now I am just the same as you, especially the part about cookie dough. And I have to get it out of my system and just make cookies a couple times a month so I can just gorge and then, "say, wow, I am not going to do that again".
    Maybe we need to get fat and that will be our motivation, I don't know.
    By the way you look amazing considering what you just confessed to. You are so skinny. Keep up the running I guess.

  9. Ha! This entry made me crack up because that is EXACTLY what Kelly and I do all during church . . . "Do you wanna make brownies or cookies tonight?" "Do we have enough cheese combined to make rio quesadillas?" Total fat kids. I have to agree with Sarah on this one Rach. I think it is abnormally hard for the Westover girls. Everyone says cravings go away after a few days . . . NOT TRUE! I had to try for my skin for awhile and it tanked. If you find anything that REALLY works, let me know.

  10. You know, if you really want to “change your life” and become a health nut, boy do I have advice for you—Become type I diabetic! The greatest part about this disease is that it takes all the fun out of eating of almost any kind, but especially of anything with high sugar or carbohydrate content. So normally if you look at a plate of brownies you will begin to salivate and think, “wow, those look so good!” But if you are lucky enough to be type I diabetic you won’t even get to the salivation point anymore, because when someone says, “would you like a brownie?” this is what will go through your head:

    “Well, if I were going to eat those I would need to prick my finger and draw blood to check my blood sugar. If I’m over about 160 it’s gonna be a bad idea for today because I’ll only get higher if I eat them. If I’m at a good blood sugar I could maybe go for it today, but I’m not sure exactly how many carbs would be in one. Most boxes of brownie mix have about 12 servings of about 35 carbs each, but most people don’t cut their brownies into exactly 12 pieces, so I would have to guess. So, I can guess somewhere in the neighborhood of 35 carbs, which I will need to put in a square bolus since the fat content is fairly high and that slows the digestion. Okay, so, 35 carbs, so that means I would need about 1.3 units of insulin, and I’ll probably set the bolus to deliver over an hour and a half so that it will match the slowed digestion rate. If there are actually more than 35 carbs in one, then I will be high in a few hours which will make my eyes burn, give me a headache, and be overall bad for my body and my future health. If there are fewer than 35 carbs in one, then I will be low in a few hours which means I will get hot yet sweaty, shaky, feel incredibly irritable, possibly dizzy, and like the whole world is closing in around me and my brain is getting covered in saran wrap. Then I’ll have to check my blood sugar again, and then eat glucose tablets to get it up quickly so I can resume normal life. If I need to drive somewhere in the next little while low would not be good. When I’m low I have a tough time taking care of my kids. Okay. So she just asked me if I want a brownie. Um….

    “No thank you.” 

    So the trick is that you have to view all yummy food as a potential blood sugar spike. Then, as you get educated about what high blood sugar can do to your body—kidney failure, blindness, neuropathy, gangrene, etc.—you will look at the brownies and think:
    Seeing Eye Dogs.
    Amputated fingers.
    Um, no thanks.”

    So that oughtta really help for the saying no aspect, and then as far as changing your entire lifestyle and who you are, man this diabetes thing will do it ALL. You will get to either give injections or be tethered to an insulin pump 24/7 that you get to re-stab into yourself every 2 or 3 days. You won’t use future exercise as an excuse for gorging on junk food because half the time when you exercise you will have to eat as many calories as you burn, just to keep your blood sugar from going low. Or you’ll have to stop sooner than you want to because you can’t see straight and you feel like you’re going to fall over. AND, you will get to spend tons of money on insulin, pump supplies, and testing strips, and a lot of time with doctors, endocrinologists, diabetes educators, and dieticians. Once you have an entire section of your bookshelf dedicated to manuals—all of which you have read and marked-- about diabetes management and nutrition, you might find yourself eating a little less junk food. If you’re like me, anyway. The girl who used to buy a bag of E.L. Fudge cookies for a road trip and down the whole thing. Man, those were the days. 

    Okay, sarcasm aside, I think awareness is a huge part of eating healthy. A lot of people will much on chips as they watch t.v., or eat lots of cookies while they play games or something, and a lot of times they are totally unaware of how much they are eating. My one piece of REAL advice is—decide, before you start eating, how much you are okay with enjoying, and then stick to that. You could even set a treat allowance, almost like a budget, and then get creative within it to enjoy your favorites within the allotment you set. (i.e.—“I’m okay with 1 huge treat or 3 little treats a day.” Then, you can still daydream about something yummy, but there will be a limit. Just an idea)

    Well, sorry to write a novel. But you like to read, right? ;)
    Love you tons!
    Loved your post about breaking the blog façade—and it made me feel good to see that even Rachel Westover had a fuddy Halloween. I get to hide my fuddiness behind cute kid costumes—but did I dress up on Halloween? No way. 

  11. Rachel,
    I'm a couple of years behind(!), I know, but after reading one of your blog essays about your mom last night, the first thing I wanted to do this morning was read more! I have some background on your mom's sugar addiction, and some tales of my own. Re: history, her chocolate addiction wasn't half as bad as mine in college. If there is a party who exercised bad influence, point at Katie Jardine, although I certainly contributed. When the three of us lived in Laie, Hawaii, Katie made it a practice to purchase one Snickers bar a day from the BYU bookstore. Your mom could not believe anyone could possibly consume that much chocolate. She was ambitious in her own way, and I think she got her ambitions mixed up. I think she set her mind to increasing her capacity for chocolate consumption. She exceeded her expectations, it seems. Very Sally like.
    Here's my own story: I am a reformed sugarholic. Genuinely. I am here to tell you that you can completely change your relationship with food. I should feel trepidation because I've read the other entries, including Sarah's. Still, i stand by my story. For most of my life, I was a "sugar holic" in the classic definition of an addiction. I ate sugar in excess, I ate sugar alone, and I ate it until it made me sick. When I was in a stressful situation, the sugar tape would start running in the back of my head. At some stages of life, this resulted in significant weight problems. At other stages, I just cut out everything but sugar, ran a lot, and managed to keep my weight in check.
    About 5 years ago, after a Girl Scout Cookie binge, I started changing the tape. The reason for me was that i was spending way too much time not liking that about myself, when there were far bigger things i should have been addressing! It took time, but it happened. I am now that person you described who passes up the cookie plate. This sounds oversimplifed, but I cured my addiction by consistently focusing on two key questions: 1. What do you want to crave? 2. Do you want to carry that up the hill? The first question is self explanatory -- I wanted to change my cravings to healthy food. I know others have said it doesn't work, but I'm here to tell you that over time it has worked for me. I went to some effort to learn to cook creatively with healthy food, and now that's what I crave. You can still eat chocolate because it's actually really good for you. It's a matter of taking away the sugar. Last night, for example, I had chocolate chili rubbed pork loin. Spectacular!!!! The second question is related to running. I have a lifelong passion about running, both for mental health and fitness. When I turned 50, most of my running pals were peeling off right and left because of miscellaneous injuries. I decided I should demonstrate gratitude for the gift of lifelong running by giving my body a break and lightening up. By cutting out most sugar, I took off about 5 to 7 pounds. I am AMAZED by how much more I enjoy running, and how much easier it is!
    This was a lengthy blog about an old question that you may have already solved, but I wanted to weigh in on how much I miss your mother, my own memory of her sugar consumption, and my conviction that habits can be changed, and it's worth the effort.
    Vicki Varela
    a founding member of the Sally Admiration Society


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