Low-Mood Blurt

When I’m feeling bad about myself I try to make myself sit down and write down how I feel without also trying to rationalize myself out of it. This post is a modified one of that kind of journal entry. Explicitly acknowledging how I feel (in my case, through writing) helps me feel better and think about other things.
We came back from a vacation on Sunday night, and now I’m getting a cold. I felt it in my chest this morning. I didn’t go to boxing because of the new cold, even though I haven’t worked out in a couple of weeks (because of the vacation, which was to stay with relatives in the Midwest). I felt the cold coming on when I was out shopping today for some new fall and winter clothes. I got completely tired while shopping and feel like going to sleep.
I feel mad at myself for having gained a couple of pounds on vacation—this morning I was at the high end of my normal range. I’m afraid that by skipping a workout, on top of having been away, I may be already losing my fitness and losing my habit of exercising.
I remind myself that I can trust my good habits and that I will want to be active when I’m not tired from a cold. Besides, my daily routine, without a workout, is an active one that includes household chores, walking, errands like grocery shopping, and light yard work. My eating routine has already gone back to normal and I’m not going after the kinds of treats I had on vacation at my aunt’s house. By listing those positives, I’m trying to dispute my temporary low mood.
I also feel bad for not spending more time outside today. It’s beautiful out, a warm, hazy-sun fall day. It’s painful to know I won’t be back in Missouri for a year. I miss my aunt, uncle and cousins, and I miss the trees, creeks, springs, birds, butterflies, and caterpillars.
I did some cleaning and dusting—my most hated part of cleaning—and I did my written homework from the technical writing class that started last night. I hoped these activities would make me feel better (virtuous). To some extent, this works, because if I clean or do other tasks I’m not especially excited about, I feel like I’m being disciplined, I’m not procrastinating, and I’m productive. The tech writing assignment was a fun challenge, as I hope they all will be.
When I was shopping today, I only felt slightly bad about spending money on clothes. I’d made a list of things I needed and I stuck to it, choosing things I can also wear to job interviews. It made me feel good to see that three years after losing about 20 pounds, I kept the weight off and look good in clothes. I’m happy that I now wear the same size pants I wore fifteen years ago as a young adult. Maybe it’s vanity, but I can’t help wanting to look young as well as be strong and healthy.
I felt bad because I haven’t updated FitNotes in a while, but now I can relax about that.
How does vanity fit into the list of motives for working out? What is vanity? Is there really any such thing as vanity, or is it an idea invented by the human drive to take other people down a notch or two?

Soccer Practice

Yesterday I had my first soccer practice with a few members of a team that plays in a recreational division. I wrote to them through a bulletin board on a website after I searched Google for adult soccer in Seattle. They said they didn’t mind a beginner, and invited me to yesterday’s practice. We met at a grass soccer field in a park. One other beginner was there, along with three experienced players, one of whom is also a coach. He brought lots of balls, small colored plastic cones, and mesh vests.
Our first drill was to stand on four corners (marked with cones) and pass the ball around the square while the fifth person played defense, chasing the ball between us and trying to gain control of it. Next we only covered three corners of the square, so that each offensive player had to move from corner to corner to receive passes.
Then the coach set up the cones to form a corridor. One offensive player would try to dribble the ball out of the corridor on the right (which represented moving it toward the center of the field and the goal). A defender would try to force the dribbler to move left and out of bounds or go all the way to the end of the corridor and out of bounds.
Next we practiced throw-ins—throwing the ball in from the sideline after the opposing team kicks the ball out of bounds. We learned to run to the line for throwing momentum, drag the rear foot at the final step, and throw the ball two-handed from overhead toward a teammate’s feet. The foot-dragging is to comply with the rule that both feet have to be on the ground when the ball is thrown.
Then we played two on two, using a miniature field marked by the cones. We were coached to stay “goalside” of an offensive player and, when playing offense, to run to open space in hopes of receiving a pass. The coach explained how teammates call to each other to announce their availability and position, as well as to tell each other where to move. It was hard to think while running after the ball at top speed and constantly changing direction. The hardest part was switching so often between offensive play and defensive.
Finally, we all positioned ourselves in front of an actual goal and practiced different ways of kicking the ball into it: stopping and controlling the ball and then kicking, running to the stationary ball and kicking on first touch, and running to meet the rolling ball and kicking it on first touch. I had trouble mastering the knee-over-the-ball kick, in which you dig under the ball with a pointed toe (but without skimming the ground) and follow through with the ankle locked in that position. It was a lot of fun to practice the kick with both the right and left foot, especially when running to meet and kick the rolling ball. I like to try to do things ambidextrously as much as possible.
I was surprised that it was very hard to kick the ball into the goal from any respectable distance—let alone if someone was playing goalkeeper. Because the goal is huge, the ball is bouncy, and my legs are strong, I thought that sheer kicking power would come easily. Today my hips and thighs are pleasantly sore, as well as the tops of my ankles, from kicking with the foot locked in pointed-toe position.
Aerobically, I was pleased to find that I didn’t get tired during our drills even though they involved lots of running. I should be in great shape aerobically from all the jumping rope and other, even harder boxing-class drills. But because each activity makes different demands, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to keep up when it came to all-out running in the grass after the ball. I was up to the challenge, though, and sometime it will be interesting to see how I hold up in an actual game. I won’t be able to play games for several months because they play on Monday nights, which will conflict with my fall class schedule.
It was such a privilege to be introduced to soccer by such a nice, positive, relaxed group. I hope I can practice with them some more and eventually play in their games… I think. I’ll probably be quite nervous at going into a game, afraid I’ll look stupid, or someone will get mad at me, and so on, all those unpleasant gym-class memories replaying. (Begone!) I’ll have to try to focus on the fact that this is a new situation, 100 percent different from gym class. I will have learned the rules and concepts governing the game, unlike in gym class; everyone has been unfailingly nice, as with this summer’s volleyball experience and unlike in gym class; and most important, I’m now an adult with my own perspective to guide me.

Evening Food Cravings

Another Seattle web journaler describes a familiar habit: giving in to high-calorie food cravings in the evening, between dinner and bedtime. She asks people with good ideas about resisting these cravings to make suggestions in the Comments box.
Here’s what has worked for me. I eat a medium-sized, dense, tasty meal as early as I can in the evening—something high in protein (though I’m not avoiding carbs). I think of the protein and the tastiness of the meal as high-quality fuel, physical and psychological, that I can rely on to get me through to breakfast the next morning without cravings. I literally tell myself while I’m preparing the meal: “This will be a good meal, I’ll enjoy it, and I won’t crave snacks later on.”
A piece of fruit afterwards can help remove the lingering taste of a savory meal so that I don’t long for dessert. (Lately, though, I tend to eat a piece of fruit before meals instead of after.)
If I do feel hungry later in the evening, I try not to let it become a craving. I look at the clock and tell myself that before I know it, bedtime, morning, and breakfast will be here. In the meantime, because of the good fuel I put into my system at dinner, a little hunger before bed is to be ignored. My stomach may be empty, but the rest of me is thriving on the good meal.
I don’t cook. Meals have to be quick and convenient. This was my most intimidating challenge back when I started to try to change my eating habits: finding foods that met my convenience and tastiness requirements and were not astronomically high in fat and calories. One key to this puzzle was realizing that not every meal has to be perfectly balanced, if I achieve a balance throughout the day that includes fruits and/or vegetables, protein, calcium, and not too much sugar or fried food. Not every day’s eating is ideally balanced, and I’m not an exceptional role model for eating habits. Still, I’ve improved my nutrition a lot in the past four years, lost weight, and kept it off.
My convenient, tasty, protein-y evening meals include:
Tuna salad. I use the full six-ounce can and add just one tablespoon of mayo. (For a low-fat kind, Spectrum Low-Calorie Canola Mayo tastes really good, but I can’t always find it so I use regular mayo a lot.) I also add chopped celery if I have it and lemon juice, salt and pepper. If I’ve been exercising a lot, I add sunflower seeds too. I’m sure that makes the calories go sky-high. (I’ve been extremely active for the past few years, so if someone who doesn’t exercise as strenuously tries these meals, eating a smaller portion might make sense.) I eat the tuna salad with reduced-fat Wheat Thins crackers and I only eat the number of crackers that are indicated as one serving on the package.
Smoked salmon, also with the above crackers. I buy the cooked or “hot smoked” kind by the Portlock brand. It’s almost as moist and delicious as if you cooked a fresh piece of salmon yourself.
Which isn’t a bad idea. I like to pick up a piece of fresh salmon at the store, only big enough for me (or for me and Tom if he wants some) to make one meal, and a bag of ready-to-eat fresh spinach. I sprinkle salt and pepper on the fish and bake it, having figured out exactly how many minutes my oven requires so that I can set the timer and forget about it. Five minutes before the fish is done, I put a giant handful of spinach in a frying pan with a little water and let it steam itself. Salmon and steamed spinach has got to be a good meal by just about any non-vegetarian’s standards.
Campbell’s Chunky or Healthy Request soups. I heat and eat the whole can, choosing one with beef in order to get the most protein and iron.
Chicken salad from the supermarket deli. The problem with that is I have no idea how much mayo they use. I buy it once in a while if I see a kind that has especially good ingredients in it, like almonds or something spicy. I only buy enough for one smallish serving and I eat it the same night.
Thai take-out. I’m sure a lot of take-out Thai is astronomical in calories, but if I’m watching my intake and want a balanced meal with protein and vitamins, I get the cold, spicy grilled-beef-strip salad that they call Tiger Cry or something similar. It comes with a small ball of sticky rice, not a vat of the regular kind, so I don’t eat as much of the rice. With it, if I’m at a place that has this, I like to get the Som Tum shredded-papaya salad. If you haven’t had that, try it if you see it on the menu. It usually has fresh or dried shrimp in it, peanuts, carrots, and hot peppers.
And if I’m lazy… a peanut butter and honey sandwich. I think I’ve eaten one of these every day of my life since age 7 and it has become my basic, generic “food unit” that is always able to get me through to the next meal. It’s high in calories and fat, but also in protein and fiber (on whole-wheat bread).
Any one of these dinnertime meals are filling and healthy enough (according to my standards, anyway) to allow me to deny nighttime food cravings almost all the time. But if I have to have something, I’m always thankful if there’s some fruit in the house.
Well, now I’m hungry and off to make a peanut butter sandwich. Do you have any suggestions for other convenient, tasty dinners?