I stepped on the scale this morning, and I was happy to discover that one of my favorite mother runners was right. My little 5-pound present was, at least, in part water weight. I was down three pounds and back below my "panic" number.
The shock of the scale last week was enough to throw me into full "diet" mode (though I hate to use the term). I have been snacking on carrots, savoring sugar-free pudding cups and counting out Garden of Eatin' Sprouted blue corn chips. My egg scrambles feature Southwest Egg Beaters and my toast is not the Ezekiel flax I've grown to love but Healthy Life 35-calorie wheat.
My food diary feels reminiscent of my Weight Watchers days and old feelings of control and willpower are resurfacing. My mood is positive, and I feel "on track."
But as I settle into lose mode post-marathon, the thing I struggle with the most is not passing up copious amounts of Halloween treats but whether my efforts are making me healthier. I find myself questioning the foods that I relied on to help me achieve a healthy lifestyle - if that's what I've done. The ingredients in my light bread are lengthy and hard to pronounce. The sugar-free Jell-O, a low-calorie, portion-controlled treat, features its own long list of hard to pronounce words on the packaging and hydrogenated oil. The best of the bunch is the Egg Beaters, which has actual nutritional value - providing 4 grams of protein and a small amount of some vitamins.
Looking for inspiration and guidance, more and more I've been comparing my meals to those of other healthy living bloggers but some seem to eat a diet that is vegetable and nut butter heavy and carbohydrate and meat light, with the complementary pumpkin ale on the side and calcium "chocolate" disk for dessert. Soy is the bee's knees, for beverages and burgers. Nonetheless, I've whipped up extravagant batches of oatmeal, done Meatless Mondays and tried as many nut butters as my limited access and budget allows.
My perception of the HLB diet, I've learned, isn't conducive to weight loss, though. I can't eat 500-calorie bowls of oatmeal, and I don't have time to put together ginormous salads before heading to work. Furthermore, some of them have been accused of restriction and disordered eating - definitely not healthy things.
To look elsewhere - Twitter, Facebook, friends, websites - one is bombarded with things labeled healthy. There's gluten free products, protein-packed goodies. Dr. Oz touts a raspberry pill, and fitness gurus such as Jillian Michaels have their faces on diet supplements. My trainer for BODYPUMP, a role model for health, is a representative for AdvoCare. Books promote eating plant-based, others meat heavy. Seeds are OK but peanuts aren't.
The more I look, consider, think ... the more I get confused. The more this post rambles, gets rewritten, deleted. There might be a larger consensus on what constitutes unhealthy or bad ways to lose weight but the best way to live is a gray area. One isn't inherently healthier for snacking on almonds over peanuts. Granola topped Greek yogurt isn't better if there's 30 grams of sugar. There isn't necessarily an advantage to drinking a smoothie for breakfast rather than eating an egg white scramble with sliced tomatoes on the side.
Healthy has to be a personal definition. It's something that cannot only be defined by ideals but lifestyle and finances.
As I continue to monitor my weight and habits to avoid the winter bulge, I've decided that I'm not going to get caught up in defining the things I'm doing as healthy or unhealthy. Good or bad. Right or wrong. I'm going to make decisions on how I feel.
What does healthy mean to you?