Thursday, May 20, 2010

Paying it Forward

I have a friend who I've gotten to know pretty well over the past year. I've discovered that she's been struggling with her weight for years. She's a very sweet girl with big expressive eyes. She's quiet, but those eyes "talk". Its hard to hide your emotions with eyes like that. I can tell that she's unhappy with her weight.

Last year she moved away from home and everything she knew and had to make all new friends. I'm sure it must have been difficult for her to adjust. Besides her, everyone within our circle of friends are considerably thin. I only started to notice this when we went out to eat on New Year's Day. Everyone got sandwiches. I ate a salad. And she ordered a chocolate pancake with chocolate chips with whipped cream and butter and syrup! Boy was I jealous! I would trade places with her in a heartbeat if I could eat that! But anyway... after the meal, she started to fill with regret and then later felt sick. A couple of times after that outing, it was the same thing, she would eat sweets for dinner. I know she doesn't do this all the time, but it was worrying. I couldn't be quiet anymore. I had a feeling that she wanted to eat better but just didn't know how. So I offered to help.

I'll tell you a secret. I was never a skinny girl. Before I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis, I self proclaimed myself the "Queen of the Buffet". I love to eat! Going to the all you can eat buffet is an event! I would wear my roomy "fat pants" and take in three plates of food. Everything was my favorite, especially junk food. I have been guilty of eating pizza, hot pockets, microwave burritos, left over Chinese take-out, or even ice cream for breakfast. It wasn't all the time, but it was enough to know that it was a very bad habit of mine.

I lost all of my weight from horrible bouts of diarrhea due to Ulcerative Colitis. Which might, in a sense, be considered cheating. But because of my new dietary lifestyle with the Specific Carbohydrate Diet. I haven't gained back the unwanted pounds and I've been able to keep my weight stable for three years. This tells me that I'm doing something right! If I had never gotten diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis, I probably would eventually be diagnosed with a heart condition or diabetes at the pace I was going. I know I would have gone from overweight to obese because my weight wasn't going down. Only on the up, up, up!

If you see as you see me now, its hard to believe that I've ever been heavier. I went to a wedding a few months ago. It was almost a reunion for me because the last time anyone saw me was before I had gotten sick. I was a chubby kid then. My pant size used to be 9 or maybe 11. Now I fit comfortably into a size 4 and sometimes a 2. The guests at the wedding almost couldn't recognize me. I didn't want to tell them that I've been sick. Instead I told them, "I turned into a Swan".

My friend gladly accepted my offer to help. She was shocked to find out that I too struggled with weight. I didn't want her to feel alone. I would be a bad friend if I knew how to eat healthy and didn't share what I know.

Part I: Writing things down.
We started with a food diary. I asked her to write down everything she ate for two weeks so I can evaluate how she's eating and what we can change.

I've discovered a few things about her:

1. She never skips breakfast.
2. She eats healthy when she tries, but she doesn't try every day.
3. She's addicted to candy. I was mortified that sometimes she would eat candy for breakfast or dinner.
4. If only she drank water the way she drank soda...
5. She knows how to cook.
6. Although she knows how to cook, my friend and her boyfriend would frequently eat fast food because they don't know what to cook.

I've found a lot of parallels between her diet and my "old diet". I used to be just like her. I would try to eat healthy, but would gladly eat junk food instead.

Part II: The Science of H2O
For the next week, I asked her to only drink water or tea with no sweeteners. She started well... but unfortunately it was a losing battle. We're still working on this.

Part III: Finding things that are green
The most valuable information that I found from her food diary was figuring out what she likes to eat and what her favorite flavors are. Diets are already hard and I don't believe that a person should deprive themselves of things that they like. It gets discouraging to keep working without a reward.

Without a doubt, I know she likes sweets. So I needed to incorporate some of her favorite flavors into healthier choices. I went to her house and took a look in her refrigerator and cupboards to see what we can work with. She had some basic things to work with, but it was time to get some supplies.

I took her to her local Farmer's Market. She told me she's never been to a Farmer's Market before! I was happy to introduce her to one. Its a magical place! Not only are the fruits and veggies fresher, they are cheaper too!

1 bunch of spinach
1 huge Spanish onion
1 carton of grape tomatoes
1 bag of baby carrots
2 cartons of blueberries
1 head of broccoli
1 bunch of grapes

total = $10.37

If we bought the blueberries at a regular grocery store, the two cartons of blueberries would already cost us $6.

Also, I don't even think my friend and her boyfriend could get 2 extra value meals from McD's for $10.37. Junk food may seem cheap, but it actually costs more money than its worth. What I'm trying to do is to show her how easy and exciting it is to get healthy food. She loved being at the Farmer's Market. She was taking in all the smells and colors and picking things up. I don't know about you, but there's something pleasing about being hands on with your food.

Part IV:
Let's Cook!
We headed to her place and I showed her how to make a few simple dishes.

This was our menu:
Spinach and Cheese Puff
Broccoli Coleslaw
Pineapple Cheesecake

She absolutely loved the Spinach and Cheese Puff!

I'm not putting her on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet. Unlike me, she can still eat her brown rice and her wheat breads because her intestines aren't messed up like how mine are. I'm not forcing her into my mold. This isn't what its about. I'm trying to have her make healthier choices with a little help from me.

Its a rough beginning, but I think she'll do fine. I got her excited about taking responsibility over her own health. When you have that kind of passion, its hard to take it away.

She's already looking forward to finding recipes on her own and making substitutions. I have high hopes for her.


charles said...

Some great advice. I recommend not using phrases like, "I would trade places with her in a heartbeat", when helping someone. I don't know about other people, but I dislike when people say stuff like that to me. It's like a contest of who is the most miserable. I also don't like when people tell me I'm lucky in that it could be worse. I use to hear that a lot when I was in the hospital because of my Crohn's. It drove me crazy hearing that.

Keep up the good work.

fernpixel said...

@Charles - I can't take your advice about "not using phrases" because I didn't do anything wrong. I didn't say "I would trade places with her in a heartbeat" to her. That's what I was thinking in my head. Nothing was uttered. I'm jealous because she is able to eat chocolate without immediate consequences like diarrhea.

That said, I'm conscious about what I say to people especially when the topics are sensitive issues.

Anyway no hard feelings, I just wanted to make that clear.

Mrs. Ed said...

What a fun way to spend time with a friend.
So...cough up the Spinach and Cheese Puff recipe. That sounds really good. Do you have a link to it? A list of links to your recipes would be great (hint hint).

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