Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Cleaning Up My Diet

Just as a heads up, I am going to talk quite a bit about specific foods and eating habits in this post, so if you think that might be triggering for you then you might want to skip this one.

I almost feel like this is a taboo topic for a (formerly?) anorexic blogger, but lately I've been thinking about how I should probably start eating healthier. Not "go on a diet" healthier, but the basic "more fruits and veggies, greater variety, and fewer salty snacks" type of healthier. Basically I've slipped into this rut of eating the same carby/snacky things all the time while my fruit/veggie and meat/protein intake has declined.

I assume that it is news to approximately none of you that my diet has very little variety. This is a product both of the eating disorder and of a general laziness/lack of interest in food or cooking. I still have anxieties and hang-ups about food, so it's easier to eat the same thing day after day and not think about it. Plus, cooking is not fun to me. I have zero interest in it whatsoever. It is not a creative activity for me; it's a chore.

Not my thing.

At the same time, I have been sloooowwwly increasing my intake over the last year or so. I have gone from semi-restricting (not full-on, but certainly not enough) to eating a normal, healthy number of calories. The lack of variety, though, means that this increase has essentially come through eating more of the same things: more plain chicken, more peanut butter, more cereal, more bread, more Clif bars, etc. I haven't really expanded my horizons in any significant ways; e.g. exploring new cuisines or food groups. The list of foods that I Do Not Eat is still a mile long: ice cream, white bread, most cheeses, pasta, candy, pastries, rice, beans, white potatoes, cous cous....obviously, I could go on. There are many many others that are "allowed" in theory, but that I don't ever actually eat either because of a million other logistical reasons: I don't know how to prepare them, they're expensive, they don't fit into my "routine" calorie-wise etc. etc. etc. Plus the fact that I am beyond busy and don't particularly want to spend my precious free time thinking about or preparing food.

So now that I've inundated you with excuses...here is the result of the above trends: over the last several months, I've noticed that I eat a super carb-heavy diet. My go-to snacks and lunches are generally some combination of toast with peanut, bagels with peanut butter, bananas with peanut butter (are you sensing a pattern?), pretzels, crackers, and Clif/Luna bars. On the nights when I get home late, I usually have something like a peanut butter sandwich or oatmeal for dinner because I don't feel like cooking a "real" dinner (with meat and vegetables and stuff). And dinner is pretty much the only time I eat vegetables (other than sometimes snacking on baby carrots during the day), so cutting out a "real" dinner means that I get no vegetables at all.


Additionally, I still tend to semi-restrict early on and eat the bulk of my calories later in the day. This means that by the time I get home at night, I am STARVING and hit the pretzels, carrots, etc. mindlessly. It's not at all that I overeat; just that I substitute that mindless, starvation-induced snacking instead of preparing a full, wholesome meal. And if I get to the end of the night and realize that I'm way short on calories, the way that I make it up (or at least come close) is through a bowl of oatmeal with - depending on how many calories I need - a tablespoon or so of peanut butter mixed in.

I am having this weird conflicted sense of pride for letting go of some of my compulsions (e.g. a year or two ago, I NEVER would have eaten a handful of pretzels without counting them out first and beating myself up afterwards) but also worried that I'm not fueling myself properly. This time it really is a question of food quality more so than quantity. Peanut butter is a gift from the heavens, don't get me wrong, but it certainly doesn't contain all the nutrients one would hope to get in a well-balanced diet.

I buy mine 40 oz at a time

In conclusion, my diet contains a ton of carbs and peanut but not many fruits and vegetables. I've also gotten into this unintentional habit of eating very little meat; sometimes I go several days to a week without any. It's not planned, and I have no intentions of being a vegetarian; I like meat and would like to eat more of it, but somehow it's fallen through the cracks.

So I guess my goals are as follows: (1) Re-balance my calories a little better throughout the day so that I am not blind with hunger by the time I get home and can't make healthy, rational choices. (2) Incorporate fruits and vegetables throughout the day, not just at dinner. (3) Find protein sources other than peanut butter.

Any other thoughts? I know I've written about the variety issue before, so I apologize if this was kind of repetitive; just needed to walk myself through it.


  1. Wow, yes. This also really hits home for me. Every time my RD adds a snack to my life, I realize that it's bland and carb-y or a granola bar. It gets boring. I can't help on the meat front, as my OCD stuff makes meat prep hard. I also want to say that I'm so proud of you for getting to a healthy intake and being more relaxed about things like pretzels, etc. That's awesome!
    I really love individual cups of fruit or applesauce. I have one with breakfast and lunch. I toss a plastic spoon in my purse so I have no excuse to not eat one. They're not at all sufficient for a snack, but could be paired with string cheese, yogurt, nuts, or trail mix. I also like to make shakes with frozen fruit (I thaw it in the fridge the night before) and can have just ice or also yogurt for easy fruit (and protein!) with breakfast.
    I love veggie steam packs as well, which are delicious, can come with fun sauces if you want, and are no harder than throwing them in the microwave (seriously, 4 minutes). There are also little veggie cups that are similar to the fruit cups that can be put in the microwave for an easy addition to lunch. I also make myself have veggies and a salad with dinner every night to make sure I'm getting my veggies in. And by salad, I don't just mean lettuce. I mean cheese and a real (not low-fat crap) dressing (and nuts, whathaveyou). And my veggies always include hummus for a shot of protein and flavor--I highly recommend roasted red pepper hummus.
    As far as protein, I really love Greek yogurt, string cheese (I know it's on your avoid list, but it's really handy), trail mix, nuts, and hummus for that. My therapist has really pounded into me that my low moods directly correlate to lacking protein throughout the day. I'm by no means perfect at this at all, and although I do like to cook, I just don't have the time or energy. I like to add easier stuff when possible, like fruit cups, steam veggie packs, yogurt, etc. I also really love a baked potato with plenty of salsa on it. Instant delicious veggies.

    Thanks for posting this! I feel like I have my meals down, but I could definitely do better on snacks--thanks for the inspiration!

    Just realized I wrote a ton. Eep! Sorry about that :-/

    1. Dude, you just described what I ate today (and by extension, everyday). Fresh moz & cashews are surprisingly delicious components of salad!!

    2. Haha, love it! I've never added cashews to a salad, but that sounds divine! Cashews are by far my favorite nuts. I'll have to try this! Thanks for the suggestion :)

    3. It's so good!

      Also, have you had cashew butter? Love it. http://www.jif.com/Products/Details?categoryId=450

    4. I am considering this cheese stick idea. stay tuned. I really love veggies and wish I ate more of them, I'm just wimpy about doing anything outside the norm. Occasionally I also buy a giant bag of baby spinach and throw it in everything - sandwiches, stir fry, etc, but still I need to be better about the veggies on a regular basis. I did forget to mention that I try to keep a thing of hummus in the fridge...although I can never finish it before the expiration date. On the protein front, I'm rediscovering canned tuna, which I eat plain or make salad with greek yogurt. thanks for the tips!

  2. Two choices:

    1. Find a boy who is a foodie and loves to cook. Let his enthusiasm and eagerness to share his love of food be your gateway to new things. (#luckiestgirlalive)

    2. Pick some things that do not take time to cook to try. Trader Joes is a godsend in that sense. For me, it's dumplings, chixless nuggets (not a veg, just love them) and their veggie stirfry. Also great: veggie steamers. Don't try to break too many habits at once or nothing will change/you'll feel burned out. For me, the desire to cook/feed myself isn't there. I like a lot more foods, and my go to need-food-now list has expanded dramatically. But it's still boring, food is still, when I'm all by myself, more functional than enjoyable. But it's progress.

    1. I choose option #1! Can he also be handy around the house and have a sensitive side?

  3. Weird computer won't let me reply. But yes, he can be handy around the house and I firmly believe all guys who are great cooks also have a sensitive and brooding side.

    Also, re: cheese-- I went from "no really, I just don't like it, can't stand it, in fact" to "Okay shit I'm just a stupid anorexic who is patently *afraid* of cheese, FINE I'll just eat the stupid cheese sticks" to really, genuinely loving good cheese in oh, 3 years? Seriously. So keep an open mind. But also remember that the best tasting foods are not always the easiest ones. I got used to having good cheese (and great apples, the best nuts, nut butters, etc) around bc I was staying at boy's place for a bit. Grabbed some string cheese en route to class today and was disappointed!

    Also point that was helpful for me: you're adding foods and experimenting, NOT taking foods away. You don't get rid of poptarts until you're eating enough other things. One really wonderful and unexpected thing as I got off the meal plan-- (and into eating enough sans check boxes)-- well prepared & interesting foods (ie: not frozen dinner, not cereal, not PBJ) have lots of different nutrients in them. It was nice to not have to have separate food items for all of my exchanges. I remember having my first meal "out" on pass and freaking out about how I was supposed to order milk at a restaurant, and it honestly never occurred to me that I'd get to a point where I'd just you know, like cheese, or tzatziki, and not care so much.

    I was back in the city where I had six months of treatment recently, and went to the restaurant where our food came from (they ordered in for us). I got my fave meal out of nostalgia, and realized how terribly uninteresting that food seemed to me now.

    I'm mega avoiding doing my own work, but yeah. Crazy for me how much has evolved since I've been out, and this time of year- February's end-- is always rough for me, but it marks the anniversary of my last treatment stint too, and it's been nice this year to look back and realize how much has changed.

    In the summer, if you can-- farmers markets or a crop share box. Delish.

    Also: be gentle with yourself as you make these changes. You may not eat a lot of foods now, but think also of how far you've come.

    happy weekending.