Hating My Skinny Friends Didn’t Make Me Skinny. It Just Made Me Sad.

I’ve spoken in the past about how my best friend is a Size 2.

If you didn’t get a chance to read “A Normal Relationship With Food,” you may want to start there, since it gives you a little insight into our friendship.

A freakin’ Size 2. And subsists, almost exclusively, on Dum-Dums, Pixie Sticks and all the fun stuff you wanted to get on Halloween when you were a kid. She’s got a weakness for body-conscious Max Azria gowns, and never misses an opportunity to dress up, usually wearing a dress that wouldn’t have fit me when I was 12. We go on vacation and she’s got a different bikini for every day, and I doubt she’s EVER had to worry whether or not her heels would fit based on how much or how little she weighed that week.

You’re hating her a little bit right now, right?

Well, I have a request, and you’re probably not going to like it. STOP doing that! And not just because she’s my best friend, but because she’s representative of ALLLLLLLLL of our skinny friends and they didn’t do anything but eat responsibly and exercise, and they’re not living their lives with the goal of making us feel bad about ourselves.

They’re our FRIENDS! They’ve loved us through bad breakups, plus sized, under-sized, adult acne, terrible jobs, terrible childbirth and they never said (in their best Valley girl voices), “Wow, she’s a Size 20, so she’s OBVI an inferior person.” They just loved you for you, and they loved all of you, no matter what size.

Recently, I was reading a Weight-Watcher themed Facebook group, and I saw the following post and subsequent responses. To be fair, about 25% of the respondents thought like I did, but the majority were ready to jump on the bandwagon to tar & feather the friend:

stopbeatingupyourskinnyfriend

I admit, I was completely shocked at the vehemency of the responses, and my response was, Who are you or any of us to judge this woman for going through the SAME journey as the rest of us? Your friend is feeling bad about her weight and shared with you that she’d like to lose 10 lbs. She feels unattractive, but the fact that at least her husband still loves her, no matter what size she is, is a comfort for her.
None of that was about you. It was about her. And a good friend would support and encourage her friend to do whatever she can to feel better, not twist it to make it a negative reflection of yourself.
As women, we have got to STOP knocking one another or tearing each other down when we’re being open, honest and communicating our needs. We are superwomen, multitasking mommas with careers, ambitions AND families. We need to support one another – whether it’s 10lbs, 50 lbs or something else entirely.

Yes, I know what it feels like stand in front of the mirror and cry because you don’t want to go to the beach with friends because you’re uncomfortable about your weight. And yes, I know what it’s like to wear black dresses and cardigans a la Wednesday Adams, because you’re praying it’ll help you look slimmer on Girls’ Night Out. And yes, I know what it’s like to look at your friend and wish her body wasn’t QUITE so perfect.

But in all of those situations, in all of those scenarios: the swimsuits, the clothes, the wishing she was *at least* at Size 6,  I’m left with the realization that it’s just sad. My behavior and I are just sad. And we’re not being the type of friend I’d want to have, let alone be.

Her bikinis don’t fit better because my tankini doesn’t. My dresses aren’t black because hers are pink or green. And her freakish metabolism isn’t running on sprint because mine isn’t. Her body is NOT about me.

But MY BODY is absolutely about me.

And so that’s request to you. Let’s take the energy we spend into hating on our skinny friends (or the girls at the gym with the skin-tight boom-boom shorts who run in front of me every single Saturday), and put it into building OURSELVES up. Rather than feeling bad for ourselves, let’s create short-term weight-loss or exercise goals. Rather than projecting our own discomfort and being angry at our friend because they can wear a bikini, let’s buy a suit that makes us feel GREAT, or develop a workout plan to get us there! And let’s remember that our skinny friends have loved us through thick and thin (literally), so we should focus on being the types of women, and the types of friends, who deserve that loyalty!

Women Are Superheroes, But Our Multitasking is Making Us Fat

One of the things I marvel most at about women as a gender is our ability to multitask. I’m conversely fascinated that it’s AN EXPECTATION of being a woman, not the Herculean feat it actually is!

Today women are juggling SERIOUS careers. Gone are the days of being the secretary who brings coffee to the boss. We ARE the boss! We’re the one managing the staff, the money, the office. Which is, frankly, sometimes exhausting.

But oh wait, we’re also charitable, so we’re volunteering at our church, through our Rotary, fundraising for Autism, MS and a host of other diseases we’re intent on curing. Not to mention selling cookies, wrapping paper and whatever gift cards our kids’ school is selling that month.

And then, as if all that work and all that service weren’t enough… Oh yeah, we go HOME to manage our families. Our kids just don’t go outside and play anymore – they have travel baseball, karate, ski club, dance class, Scouts and a busier evening schedule than we do. And that’s before their homework! Our spouses/partners are working and volunteering like we do, and trying to help manage the car pool, class snack and making sure someone gets home to let out the dog. Because of course you have a dog, you have kids!

So it is any wonder that our meals have become whatever we can zap in a microwave, pick up from a convenience store or drive through on the way to our next appointment?

As a society, we no longer value the family dinners. We’re still answering emails from the day, confirming the kids’ schedule for the weekend, etc as we mindlessly eat the pizza, wings or burgers someone picked up on the way home. We’ve forgotten how to sit across a table and just sit, just sit and talk to one another about our days, about what’s going on in the world.

When I started my weight loss journey nearly six months ago, Mr. Big and I had a long discussion about what some of our habits were that were contributing to our unhealthy lifestyle, and what we wanted to change. We wanted to be more physically active, sure, but we also wanted to be more mindful about HOW and WHAT we were eating.

Now, when we get home at night, Mr. Big and I make a point to put the cell phones away while one or both of us make dinner. We talk about the day, politics, news, whatever’s going on. And that dedicated time has enabled us to be more fully engaged with one another, which is an added bonus to our relationship.

Now, on Sundays, I take time over breakfast to figure out what our schedules look like for the week, which nights we’ll eat dinner at home and what’s on sale at the store. Then I menu plan out my meals for the week, ensuring I’m getting enough variety, eating enough healthy oils, etc. After the gym I hit the grocery store, and then I spend an hour prepping my breakfasts, lunches and some cut raw veggies, salads, etc for snacks. It’s absolutely a 1-2 hour process, but it has fundamentally changed WHAT we eat. And it cuts down on the prep time throughout the week, when we’re not getting home until 8pm anyway.

menu prepping

For me, an average day usually looks like:

  • Breakfast is 1/2 c of egg whites with sautéed kale, mushrooms & onion. I usually add half of a chicken sausage, a slice of low-fat cheese and a dry English muffin. At least one espresso, if not two.
  • Coffee mid-morning with 2 Tbps fat-free half-and-half.
  • Lunch is 6 ounces of protein, two veggies prepared with 1tsp olive oil.
  • A piece of fruit and more coffee with 2 Tbps fat-free half-and-half mid-afternoon.
  • A cocktail when I get home, and 6-8 ounces of protein with two veggies for dinner, usually prepared with 1-2tsp of olive oil. And maybe a salad.

By forcing myself to plan ahead, I’ve been better able to control what I put in my mouth, and that’s been a tremendous advantage to my weight loss. By forcing myself to slow down and focus on my food, I’ve also been better able to focus on my partner, which is a tremendous benefit to my relationship. Talk about win-win!

For the Love of Leeks

HAPPY SPRING!

Okay, so Mother Nature is being a bit of a “Mutha” this week with the 80 degree weekend and sleet today, but on the whole, we’re moving toward longer days, warmer temperatures and eventually, gardens and roadside stands and farmer’s markets and… You get the idea!

But April and early May in the Hudson Valley are a little odd in terms of good, fresh local produce. Too early for lettuce, most veggies, etc except… LEEKS!

I love leeks. LOVE leeks. They’re a thoroughly underused vegetable.

According the The George Mateljan Foundation’s World’s Healthiest Foods, “With a more delicate and sweeter flavor than onions, leeks add a subtle touch to recipes without overpowering the other flavors that are present.”

Leeks are actually super high in Vitamin K, and are known to help promote good cardiovascular health.

I love to saute leeks with a little olive oil (cooking spray will work, WW friends) over medium heat until they “melt.” From there I could eat them on their own, toss them into egg white omelettes, serve them topped with a nice piece of grilled white fish… the possiblities are endless!

Here’s a very elegant appetizer you can use for your next dinner party or date night. The multi-grain bread has a great crunch, the leeks bring a mild onion flavor and the sweetness of the strawberries balanced with the tart balsamic reduction is seriously delicious.

Crostini with Melted Leeks & Strawberries

for the love of leeks

You’ll need:

  • 1 quart of strawberries, hulled and sliced
  • 2 large leeks, cleaned
  • One small loaf of whole-grain bread, cut into crostinis and toasted
  • Soft goat cheese (honey flavor if available)
  • Balsamic Reduction
  • Kosher Salt & Coarse Ground Pepper

Directions:

  1. Start by cleaning the leeks. Cut the white part of my leeks (and some of the light green part, too) into small “coins” and then throw the coins into a bowl of cold water in order to get any dirt, sand, etc out from in between the layers. I usually pop out the rings in the bowl, just to make sure I’ve gotten rid of any grit.
  2. In a nonstick pan, saute the leeks over medium heat with a Tbsp of olive oil or cooking spray, a pinch of kosher salt and another of coarse ground pepper, for approximately 10-15 minutes or until brown. You may have to add cooking spray or additional olive oil during the cooking process to keep the leeks from sticking.
  3. Slice and toast your crostinis in the toaster oven or oven until brown around the edges and still somewhat soft in the middle. If an outdoor grill is available, by all means, toast your crostinis on a grill!
  4. Smear a Tbsp of the goat cheese on each crostini and top with warm melted leeks and a slice of strawberry.
  5. Top the crostinis with a drizzle of balsamic reduction and serve!

Diet vs. Lifestyle: Call It “Failure” If You Don’t Change What You Eat

There is a raging debate in the online weight loss community about whether you’re “dieting” or “making a lifestyle change” on your quest to become healthy. It’s a badge of honor to be making the change, and the word diet is often shouted down. 

  

I can understand the sentiment- diets are fads but changing your lifestyle sounds more grandiose, like one is making a more permanent change. 

This is not going to be a popular next few paragraphs, but I honestly believe that until we fundamentally change the way we eat and our relationship with food, we can call it a “Pretty Pretty Princess Party,” because it’s not going to work long-term.

I am an advocate for cleaning eating, and follow the Weight Watcher Simply Filling tenets (though I use the Points Plus formula myself) which call for whole grains, plenty of fruits, veggies and lean proteins. Cleaning Eating takes these tenets one step further, and encourages limited foods that have been processed, contain chemicals or preservatives, or artificial flavor/colors. 

I understand the convenience of frozen foods, the affordability of pre-portioned meals and canned soups. These processed foods give us the impression we’re still eating the chips, nacho cheese, ice cream, etc we’ve come to expect in our lives. 

But if we’re truly changing our lifestyles, we can’t be satisfied with creating a cheaper, chemically-modified chili-cheese dog that’s 5 points instead of the full-fat version that is 10 points. We need to recognize that chili-cheese dogs and those chips, nacho cheese and rocky road ice cream we have come to expect in our lives are not the best fuel for our bodies on a regular basis.

It might take an hour to prepare, but boneless, skinless chicken thighs with sautéed kale and roasted mushrooms will cost the same as a Lean Cuisine or a Smart One, keep you fuller longer AND are healthier for you in the long-term.

True change starts when we examine the eating habits, behaviors and food choices that got us here. Then we must change what doesn’t work, what isn’t helping us lose weight and ultimately, what isn’t healthy for our bodies and helping us live longer, more productive lives. 

A “Normal” Relationship With Food

Let me tell you about the time the word “normal” hurt my feelings.

Seriously. “Normal.” It’s not a sexy word, it’s not an inflammatory word, but the word “normal” in the context of weight loss was like a molotov cocktail to my pysche, apparently.

My closest friends are all aware of my lifestyle change, and while out to dinner one night my best friend said, “So what are you going to do when you’re at your goal, you’re done counting points, etc?”

This is a perfectly reasonable question, and she asked it to make sure I was thinking of what comes next, which, incidentally, I wasn’t. I was a little tunnel vision on getting the weight off, and hadn’t really thought about what would happen when it was!

I shrugged and said something along the lines of “Well, I’m probably going to keep counting points, and do what I do now. I’m going to go to the gym, eat lightly, etc on days when I know I’m going to have something heavier for dinner.”

And she said, “Good. So you’re going to have a normal relationship with food.”

I love this woman to pieces. I truly, truly do. She’s a Size 2, subsists almost entirely on processed sugar and we have a relationship where you get to say the tough stuff, because you know you have one another’s back no matter what. And most importantly to this story, she has never ONCE in all the time we’ve been friends made me feel bad about my body.

Lexi and Jessi in Mexico

So I knew it wasn’t a dig, but this “normal” comment completely stung me, and I turned it over and over in my head for a couple days. I’m normal. Seriously, I’m perfectly normal. I’m just like everyone else. I’m normal.

And then all of the sudden, I realized she was right. When you’re not eating to fuel your body, when you’re eating out of sadness, boredom or anxiousness, that goes against what you and your body truly need. It’s a temporary fix to an emotional problem, and, at least in my case, it was probably also a terrible fuel for my body in terms of chemicals, fat content, etc.

And when you’re eating just to eat, and then you’re eating to socialize, drinking while hanging out or just splurging on a steak after a day that included a bagel and a burger already, you’re not respecting what your body truly needs, which is less crap and more vitamins!

There are days I do this well, and there are days I do this not-so-well. But little by little, I’m becoming a more mindful eater, and I’m working towards a new “normal” between me and the food I put into my body.