Tuesday 19 September 2017

Eating on Staycation (and keeping out of my head)

   I've been a little quiet lately, but I've had good reason. My dad took my mum on holiday for a week, which meant that my responsibilities as her carer were waived for that time. And that doesn't just mean not having to get up at the break of dawn, not having my activities revolve around my mum's needs and subsequently being able to play video games all day every day (in this case, Destiny 2 and Legion 7.3). It also means that food becomes an adventure.
   So, with no need to worry about whether she can eat what I cook (some things she can't chew or swallow), Seeg and I have had a week of culinary freedom.

   I admit freely that, due to my currently dangerous relationship with food (ie an aversion to carbs and calories and subsequent under-eating) I've been extremely nervous about this. Every 'staycation', I always go completely out of control. It's one week, twice a year, and in my efforts to make the most of it, I go too far. I find that if I give myself a little bit of freedom, it results in an all-consuming guilt and a bout of over-exercising. But, this time, rather than see it as an opportunity to gorge and restock my levels of self-hate, I viewed it as an opportunity to truly take control and prove to myself that I can trust myself around food, to enjoy it, not over-do it, or to over-exercise just because I think I over-did it and reward myself with a migraine.
   I will also take a moment to state right here that holiday weight is a thing, and it's not the end of the world. 'Fresh' fat is lost quickly if you don't let it get comfortable when your holiday-mode comes to an end, and holidays are also supposed to be for enjoyment and relaxation. And food is a wonderful part of human life, eating for nutrition and for enjoyment, and can be even more enjoyable as a group. Or a couple. And so it's not just my enjoyment to consider, but Seeg's as well.

   I like to do a big shop from Ocado for a week like this, buying in all the ingredients for the recipes we've planned, and they're never actually unhealthy - the only exceptions are the two take-aways we get, pizza, and a burger or kebab (at opposite ends of the week, not all at once, obviously, I don't go that crazy), which are extremely rare otherwise throughout the course of the year.
   Instead, the recipes we choose are simply different and delicious, and it's probably just that enjoyment that makes me feel guilty, I think. And as it's usually Japanese cuisine (which means an additional shop at the Japan Centre for the more specific and far-flung ingredients), the breads, pizza bases, pasta, England's abundance of potatoes and so on are replaced with rice and noodles. They are still carbs, which my body isn't used to, and I expect even with the changes I've made this is still the case, but if they're eaten in appropriate portion sizes - as bread, potatoes, pasta and so on should also be - they're not actually a problem. And the Japanese eat rice with almost every course, every day. But, the fact remains that rice and noodles almost every day will still be more carbs than I'm used to, and that does make it likely that I will feel guilty concerns me, but I made three big changes this time around.

   The first big change: I bought no cupboard junk food. It all just sat out of sight and went uneaten, and was a waste of money (the food never went to waste, I ended up 'donating' it, as my dad puts it, so he or Seeg ate it). Instead, I bought myself a few different healthy things to try - Deliciously Ella, Soupologie, things like that. I did buy a couple of desserts, but they are not the kind of things you can pick at in the cupboard on a whim; it's prepare, serve, eat, gone. And I made damn certain that the products I bought would be delicious and top quality - then, at least, every bite would be worth it. You just can't beat Gu, and we've not had any for a few years.
   The second big change: I actively reminded myself that the recipes themselves were not unhealthy. They just included carbs, which I wasn't used to. So, with that in mind as well as making almost all of it from scratch, keeping a good balance of carbs, protein and fats, as well as a close eye on portion sizes, I could enjoy every meal with no reasonable need for guilt. I did make substitutions where I could, since it was all made from scratch, such as using wholemeal flour instead of plain for the okonomiyaki pancake, and lean beef instead of fatty for udon, and so on.
   The third big change: no ridiculous placebo purchases. Usually I take some stupid 'weight loss' products that don't actually work. For the past three holidays, it's been Grenade's Killa Ketones. They claim to increase fat burn outside of exercise, though they've never shown any results on me, a fact I've been aware of for a long time (I used them for a long while before reserving them for holiday guilt-fighting), but I continued to use them as a placebo. In hindsight, they never worked in that regard, either, because I still felt guilty and still over-exercised throughout the week, even running laps up and down the kitchen after dinner on the last staycation. In fact, I think they probably made matters worse, as I think they probably upset my digestion, which made me feel uncomfortable, bloated (and 'fatter'), full for longer and so on.
   So, this time I went the opposite direction. I've been drinking homemade kefir milk for a month now, and I decided that, instead of taking ridiculous nonsense with little to no real scientific support, and especially no personal results, which only upset my digestion, I would help my digestion instead. So, I bought some bottled kefir from Ocado, a brand with no added sugar and no nonsense. I decided it was a good opportunity to try some of the store-bought stuff and compare to homemade, and, if anything, it would help my digestion. So, I started my day with 100ml of homemade kefir every morning, and ended my day with 100ml store-bought kefir every night before bed. I liked it, but if I'm honest, I found right away that I love my own kefir much, much more. This was more like a thin yogurt; I like it fizzy, this was very, very smooth. But it was good enough, and I did enjoy it, and would probably buy it again.

   As for my holiday exercise, I did increase the frequency, but I was smart about it. Rather than get in my head and try to do HIIT every single morning and then extremely neurotic Tabata every night, I selected sustainable workouts, things I could keep at for 5 days straight, and I did them before breakfast. This month's workout was Just Jhoom! which itself is not high-intensity interval training, it is dance cardio, and that meant that it was easy to pair up with other things. Which I did. Monday, Wednesday and Friday I used Barre Amped for 20-25 minutes, which is extremely low-impact (perfect for having gotten up only 30 minutes before), isolated resistance moves, which I followed with Just Jhoom! for 20 minutes; Tuesday and Thursday, I did Jillian Michaels' Yoga Meltdown for 25 minutes, and I followed all with a high protein but suitably carb-fuelled breakfast. That was all.
   I moved every day which kept my mind calm, and while I successfully stuck with this month's allocated workout, the supplementary resistance were workouts I hadn't used for a very long time, which meant that it felt fresher. I would usually have taken Tuesday and Thursday as rest days, exercising Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, but because I went for 5 days straight, I gave myself Saturday off as well as my usual Sunday.

   I write this post now at the end of the week, and I have to say that I think it's probably the best week off in a very long time. The food was all delicious - I'm going to write another post about that soon - my exercise was smart, and I actively told myself that everything was okay. I have a kettlebell workout lined up for the next week or so alongside Jhoom to eradicate my holiday weight, and my diet will become a little leaner during, but I have no intentions of starving myself to 'compensate'.
   I feel that this week has truly been a huge success, and I feel pretty good in myself, physically and mentally, for it. I'm proud of myself for having successfully taken control of myself, eaten in moderation and enjoyed every bite and, most of all, not succumbed to guilt. The first two days I did feel a bit bad, but I didn't descend to spontaneous Tabata, and from the third day onwards, I was calm.
   I bought lots of healthy ingredients from Ocado ready for a 'reset' week of healthier eating to make me feel better, but I made a point of ensuring carbs stayed on the menu.
   Only time will tell, however, whether or not I start to slip. I'd been doing well even on the run-up to this holiday, and I've done well during, but it's still possible that I'll revert to old habits in an attempt to 'fix' these past seven days. I'm hoping that, because I kept out of my own head for so long, it won't be that bad.


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