Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Adam vs. Katy: Cognitive Dissonance Over My Diet

I've always found it interesting that humans don't innately know what we're supposed to be eating. Other animals seem to know if they're predators or herbivores, they go out and find food that nourishes them. And unless we're the ones providing their food, animals don't tend to have weight problems and dietary diseases.

This concept struck me when I moved into my first apartment during my junior year of college. After two years of dorm food, I was excited to be cooking for myself, and wanted to eat more healthfully. As I set about making that first grocery list, I was suddenly bewildered. I realized that had no idea what I ought to be eating.

Ever since, I have gone through periods of dietary exploration. I tried being a vegetarian for 4 years, a "flexitarian" for two of those. I've gone through times of cutting out all dairy, then all soy. I've gone on oatmeal kicks and yogurt kicks, eating the same meal for breakfast every day for months. I ate only organic food for a few months, and to this day avoid partially-hydrogenated anything. I have not owned a microwave since college, because I've been told that it's bad for you.

I just want to know what to eat to be healthy. And as with many things, the more I learn, the more confusing it gets.

Since last summer, I've been on-and-off following the guidance of Dr. Katy Wallace, a naturopath who focuses on healing through food. She emphasizes proper food combining, cleansing, and eating a whole-food diet. As regular readers of this blog know, I did a six-week "Body Tune-Up" cleanse with her this winter.

It was an intense, but positive experience. By the end of the program I was feeling good, had pretty stabilized energy, and I had lost 10 pounds and cleared up some skin problems. But I did have some misgivings about maintaining the kind of diet Katy teaches. It's a good diet, but not the easiest for someone who likes to eat out and throw dinner parties and the like.

Katy recommends a low-caloric intake diet, consisting primarily of fruits and veggies. She says most Americans eat way too much protein, and that your daily protein intake only needs to be about 5-10% of your daily calories. So, when you're on a low calorie diet, you don't need to be eating a lot of meat. Beans and even the protein found in veggies and whole grains is usually enough. Which is fine. Except as I said, I like to eat out, and I do enjoy a few alcoholic beverages with some frequency. So the whole low-calorie diet thing goes out the window.

What I haven't told you since the end of the cleans is that when I went on vacation, it all went to hell. After 6 weeks of being so strict with myself, I ate whatever I wanted, as much as I wanted, the whole week. I completely binged. I had a lot of stomachaches and didn't feel so hot, but damn those cookies and pastas and drinks tasted good.

For the month since I got back, I've been at my pre-cleanse weight again and wallowing in self-disgust over it. After losing all that weight, being back at what used to be normal for me feels way worse. I've tried to get back to eating the way Katy would recommend, but I'll be good during the week and binge on the weekend. I've been working out more, but my body hasn't budged.

I put the new pants I bought during the cleanse away in a box on top of my closet. And then I and emailed Adam Gilbert of My Body Tutor. I need someone to help me stay on track, and that's what he does best.

I've talked with Adam twice, and started his program yesterday. I'm a little nervous though, because Adam's eating guidelines are sometimes in alignment with Katy's, and sometimes are very different.

They're similar in that they both encourage eating whole foods, avoiding refined carbs and sugar, and eating plenty of veggies. And they both teach their diets as lifestyle changes, rather than short-term weight loss programs. But as far as I can tell, that's where the similarities end.

Adam is big on protein. He wants me eating protein with every meal. His aim is to get my metabolism working so that it's constantly burning fat. That sounds pretty good to me.

However, I've been following and believing in the proper food combining that Katy preaches. The biggest part of this is not combining grains and protein at a meal. If I'm eating protein at every meal, that's going to be hard to avoid. (There are other food combining rules that will get broken by eating this way too, but that's the big one.)

Katy also encourages variety - not eating the same kind of grain or protein more than once every 5 days, so that your system can completely clear it out before it's introduced again. If I'm eating protein at every meal, that's a lot of different kinds of protein I need to keep on hand. This concern is exacerbated by the fact that Katy strongly recommends against tofu, (too processed,) tuna, (high mercury and they're being fished out of existence,) and the regular intake of dairy (congests the digestive system,) - all protein sources that Adam recommends.

So I'm disconcerted; I really don't know which is the better or healthier way to eat. They're different theories in their entirety.

The rationalization my brain has come up with is that maybe there's no one best way - you eat differently to achieve different goals. Katy's program is focused on cleansing and healing, while Adam's emphasizes upping the metabolism. Both say they can help with weight loss, but they come at it from different directions. I haven't been hungry much on Katy's plan, so maybe it's because the low-calorie, low-protein diet has slowed my metabolism way down. But maybe a slower metabolism is better in some ways, because then the body isn't working as hard just to absorb nutrients. Then again, maybe it is better for it to be faster and burn through more calories. I don't really know.

I'm not sure how to resolve this dissonance. How do you figure out what the best way to eat is? Is Western Medicine and science right? What about the science behind Naturopathy? Or is it just a matter of experimenting and seeing what works best for you?

For the time being, that's what I'm going to do. I'll keep you posted on how it goes.

If Katy and/or Adam read this and care to comment, your feedback would be great!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

What it Feels Like NOT to be Overbooked

This morning, I was ready for work 15 minutes early. This NEVER happens. I had NO IDEA what to do with myself. So I sat down and tried to figure out what was up. I hadn't rushed more than normal, if anything I was moving slowly. I had slept later than usual. I hadn't forgotten to do anything... so how did this happen?

I had planned ahead, and did a really good job of it.

The backstory:

Looking at my calendar on Sunday, I saw the following on my list for the week:
-prep for and teach a massage class
-do interviews and write a magazine article
-go to two dress rehearsals and perform in three concerts
-host a dinner party

and in addition, somehow still get my actual work done at work, make it to the gym, prepare and eat healthy meals, and get plenty of sleep so my voice didn't suffer.

I knew that there was no way I could "wing it" the way I usually do and make all of this happen, not without sacrificing the sleep. I'm trying to be more proactive about eating right, sticking to my exercise routine, Ascending more, and sleeping enough, and I knew if I was going to pull it all off without a stress freak-out midweek I'd have to do something I haven't done in years: schedule it all out.

So I sat down and planned out, in 15-minute increments, my entire week. This included blocking out travel time, (which I almost never account for) when I was going to cook, shower, etc. I made sure I had adequate time for everything.

It worked beautifully. My week has hummed along easily, and I've never had to be in a rush. I've gotten everything done.

It feels really, really odd. I still rush. I keep finding myself getting home and racing around, even though I have plenty of time. I have to stop and remind myself to slow down, I have to remember that there's plenty of time. I don't need to be stressed or pushing myself. Everything will happen in the time it is supposed to. But part of me keeps saying "don't we have somewhere to be? Are you sure you're not late for something?"

Whoa. Why does part of me want to be stressed out and running around like crazy? Because that's what I'm used to.

By changing up the way we do something, whether trying it a new way or just stepping back from it altogether, we can gain perspective on what we consider "normal." Sometimes we don't even realize that we're doing something in a less effective or even self-destructive way, and it takes changing things up to see that.

Look for more stories next week on this topic.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Find Your Flaws, Improve Your Skills, and Gain Perspective: Teach.

I've always thought one of the best ways to get better at anything you do is to teach it to someone else.

My first job ever was working as an assistant instructor at my karate school. In college I ran the swing dance club and taught all of the lessons.

Both times, teaching greatly improved my skills. When you have to figure out how to explain something to someone else, you gain new insight and break down the elements you have always done without thinking. You figure out exactly how you do them, and why they're done that way - or if they should be done differently.

Teaching can show you where your weaknesses are. You find out what parts of your subject you don't know so well. You realize where you've always made a shortcut on something. But best of all, you figure out how to do it all better.

I haven't taught anything in several years, at least, not in a real class structure. Starting tonight, I'll be teaching a partner massage class at the student union. I'll admit that I'm a little nervous, because I've never taught anything on massage before. So inevitably, I will uncover some weaknesses, standing there, in front of my students. The good news is that they don't usually notice. They'll be busy trying to learn something completely new.

That's the other great thing about teaching: it gives you perspective. When you've spent years learning and building up a skill, it can be easy to forget how challenging it was at the beginning. We tend to take well-developed skills for granted, and trying to teach someone how to do something that you're particularly good at or have been doing for a really long time will throw that back at you. Sometimes it can be frustrating how slowly people learn and how very basic you have to be with your instructions. But it is a great reminder and reference point for how far you've come, and what you have to offer.

So I'm excited to teach, in spite of my nerves. I know the experience will make me a better Massage Therapist, and a better teacher. And hopefully, it'll make a bunch of other people better at giving their S.O.s and friends better backrubs. :)

Monday, April 6, 2009

Expectations: When Vacation can be Stressful

It's just barely 8:00 a.m., Mountain Time. I have been awake for over three hours, sitting in the Denver International Airport for most of that time. My flight doesn't leave for another 2 1/2 hours.

Getting up 6 hours before my flight because it's the only time I could catch a ride to the airport was annoying. Realizing I had neither blogged during my 10-day trip nor posted anything about being off the grid for the past week made me flinch a bit. Spending a week of intensive group time with my family and our friends was fun, but stressful.

I had tried to prevent any stress for the trip by being completely organized, and figuring out every last detail before we left. I made spreadsheets indicating where we could rent skis and at what rate. I had worked out a system for grocery expense sharing, and had created a schedule for who was responsible for preparing which meals. I thought nothing could go wrong, I had the important things thoroughly planned out and had left plenty of room for flexibility and spontaneity.

What I hadn't counted on was how different it would feel to be surrounded by people for a week straight. I'm an extrovert, I love my family, I was thrilled to have Ian come along on the trip and to see old friends. I just hadn't realized how much I have gotten used to having complete control over my own time.

Starting the day we arrived, people were rushing me - everyone had different priorities, and different expectations. Mom thought I'd be helping her with the first grocery run. My brother wanted us out the door and on the slopes by 9 a.m. Ian wanted to sleep in and cuddle and maybe not even go skiing the first day. I wanted a healthy breakfast and time to meditate. By the time we snapped our boots into our bindings, even the gorgeous snow and bright sun struggled to pull me out of my BAD MOOD.

As the chairlift scooped us up and carried us to the top of the mountain, I knew I had to find a way to let go of my annoyance with my brother rushing me in the morning, mom constantly asking questions about the meal plan (and refusal to refer to my meticulously prepared spreadsheet), and my need to have things be a certain way, or there was no chance that this trip was going to go smoothly.

My short fuse stemmed from the fact that I hadn't Ascended in a few days and was sleep-deprived from our 6 a.m. flight, but the real problem was I had expectations.

Having expectations that things "should" be a certain way sets us up for unhappiness. Especially when those expectations go unexpressed. If you don't tell the people you are with what you want out of an experience, they can't help you create the experience. Worse, they'll probably get in the way, because they have their own idea of how it should be.

Expecting a particular outcome is essentially the same thing as deciding in advance that we will be unhappy unless things turn out a specific way. Sounds pretty stupid and self-sabotaging when you think about it that way. Not to mention that when we are focused on expectations, we are forever thinking about how we want things to be, rather than enjoying how they are. It pulls us out of the current moment, and into worrying about the future or being unsatisfied with things in the past. I only had a week in my favorite place to be, and I didn't want to spend it being unhappy thanks to un-communicated expectations I had set.

So I took a deep breath, and decided to let go of my expectations for the trip. The things that were really important, I communicated to the people involved. I decided if I wanted my quiet morning, I needed to get up before everyone else. If Ian wanted to sleep in, we'd plan to ski on our own rather than holding up the group. Once I chose to be okay with how things were - kind of chaotic, definitely out of my routine, but spontaneous and fun nonetheless - I started to feel like I was actually on vacation.