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the diana banana plan

January 10, 2014

It’s been exciting to regain my focus and motivation since the new year began. For the past few weeks, I’ve been thinking about all of the things I’ve learned about healthy living and my body and my psychological needs around these issues, and I realized that I have learned so much but also that I have yet to put everything I’ve learned into action all at once. Maybe I never could before; maybe I had to learn one piece at a time and sometimes the same piece several times until it stuck. I’m not done learning, but I’m done focusing on one piece at a time.

Below I’m detailing the new Diana Banana Food Plan. It is a culmination of life-long learning, from the ShapeDown program I attended when I was a kid to the crash diets I tried in college to the Master Cleanse experience; from reading about Paleo to the China Study to the Glycemic Index. Every experience and every belief system holds pieces of the truth, parts of what is right for me.

The Diana Banana Plan

1) Eat Natural Food

Out of all of the prescribed eating plans out there, the Eating Clean and Paleo diets makes the most sense to me. Eating the foods that our bodies were designed to eat just sounds right and feels good. I’m all for it, though my primary barometer is actually just how I feel after I eat different things. It’s taken years to get in tune with this barometer, but it’s a worthwhile process. Some of my food reactions are more obvious, of course… I have a pretty serious gluten allergy, a natural preference for veggies over fruit, and an early-in-life aversion to meat (which I’ve somewhat overcome).

So here it is– an informed plan that includes the most satisfying and energizing foods that I can eat and takes into consideration all of my personal preferences and peccadilloes:

Here are my staples (meaning they are OK to eat anytime):

  • all organic veggies and fruits are great except starches like potatoes and corn (see below)
  • olive oil & flax seed oil
  • beans, beans, beans! (This includes hummus. Yum.)
  • nuts of any kind
  • seeds of any kind
  • quinoa, brown rice, tapioca, amaranth & gluten-free oats (incl. flour from any of these grains)
  • organic fish & poultry
  • eggs & egg whites
  • spices
  • coffee & tea ‚̧

Here are my sometimes foods (this means I will have a heightened awareness of how often I’m eating these as compared to the worry-free staples, but they don’t have to be reserved only for free days):

  • dark chocolate (notice this is not a free day only food, or else I’d never be able to sustain this plan ;-))
  • wine (same as above ūüėČ
  • corn (including corn starch & corn meal)
  • low-fat dairy (yogurt, cottage cheese, & lowfat/nonfat milk)
  • oils besides olive or flax seed
  • soy
  • honey

Here’s what I’ll only eat on Free Days (see below for more info re: Free Days):

  • processed sugar (exception: the sugar added to dark chocolate)
  • white rice
  • red meat
  • full-fat cheese
  • potatoes (incl. potato flour & potato starch)
  • gluten-free substitute carbs (gf bread, gf pasta, gf muffins, gf pancakes, etc.); these usually contains other free-day-only ingredients such as potato flour, white rice flour, & processed sugar
  • butter & cream
  • liqueur (my going-out drink is vodka, club soda, and lime)

Here’s what I’ll never eat:

  • gluten
  • corn syrup
  • fast food
  • fake sugar
  • other chemical ingredients (most things in the middle aisles of a grocery store)

2) Never Hungry, Never Full

The plan: eat meals on a salad plate and don’t go for seconds; eat small, healthy snacks throughout the day so that you never go more than a few hours without a re-fuel.

The reason. I learned from one of my diet experiments in college that I lose weight quickly if I eat 100-200 calories every 1-2 waking hours throughout the day rather than eating meals (100 cals/hr). The problem, naturally, was that this is not a sustainable plan. First of all, this is only about 1400 cals a day, which isn’t much. Secondly, it’s never sustainable to create a plan so rigid or extreme that you can’t function in social situations. I couldn’t go out to eat, and I even started to get really awkward around people eating normal-sized meals because my brain suddenly saw everyone’s plates as giant, overflowing platters of food. It got weird. Then, of course, my body freaked out when I started eating meals again and my weight shot up higher than before. Classic. BUT, I learned that my body does like the feeling of a more steady stream of calories. I don’t think I do well with big meals… they just stick with me. So the idea is, basically, portion control… something that most diet plans include and emphasize, but something I had to discover for myself.

3) The {Optional} Free Day

The plan: Stick to the above eating plan six out of seven days of the week; have one designated free day (same day of the week every week!) on which special treats that aren’t typically included in the plan are OK; make it fun (a date night, a baking project, etc.)

The reason: I know myself, and I know that if I’m told I can never eat a certain food ever again, I will (unless I’m allergic to it) just want to rebel and eat that food all the time. The purpose of the free day is to have an outlet for cravings that is not all about instant gratification. If I really want some particularly awesome treat, I will make sure to arrange to have it on my designated free day. If I don’t really want it, I will forget about it by then.

I say “optional” free day because there are some diets that actually make sure that you have one free day per week so that your metabolism doesn’t adjust to the lower calorie intake of the rest of the days of the week. I think this might actually have some validity to it, but I’m all about it happening naturally. I also don’t like the idea of having the free day be a huge shift from the rest of the week. For me, the free day is just a way to not feel deprived. It’s not an excuse to fall into the worst historic eating habits of my life & to fall out of balance. Balance is key, I think, and if done right, the free day can actually bring balance to an otherwise limited diet rather than throw it all off.

4) Love to Cook

The plan: Do things that make cooking more fun: cook with a buddy, host dinner parties, and keep your cooking space clean; shop at farmer’s markets and charming natural food stores; buy beautiful cookbooks & flag the easy/yummy/healthy dishes; allow yourself time to experiment and learn.

The reason: I’ve actually been doing all of these things much better for the past few months, and it has made a world of difference already. Eating out makes it difficult to stick to certain food plans because it is hard to know what is in the food and it is hard to resist certain beautiful, professionally-prepared meals (save these for free days!). Most importantly, perhaps, is the fact that cooking draws our attention to our food in a positive way. Like slow eating, cooking helps us value our ingredients and savor the natural flavors in healthy, edible goodness.

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That’s it :0) It may seem like a lot, but I’ve been doing pieces of this on and off for a long time. It will actually be easier to have it clearly defined, I think, and it will become second nature over time. This is not to say that I expect it to be totally easy to do, but it will definitely be easy to keep track of after a while.

I’m going to give this a real shot and see how it works in concert with my new work-out schedule. If it doesn’t seem to be working after doing everything as planned for several (let’s say four) months, I will consider running it by a nutritionist to see what needs tweaking. (If anyone has a lead on a soothing, gf friendly nutritionist in the bay area, let me know!)

I want to encourage each of you to make your own individualized food plan. There probably will never be one perfect diet that works for every individual person. Try strategies, break rules, and remain in touch with yourself throughout it all. Take notes on what works for you and what doesn’t. Don’t expect to figure it out overnight, but don’t go so slowly that the momentum stops. (I learned this the hard way.)

These issues relating to the body are emotionally challenging to stay in touch with… we want to either impose external structure or ignore the issue entirely because both of these approaches allow us to keep distance from the internal turmoil. But the best wisdom we have about what our bodies need lies within each of us, cheesy as it sounds. Gain knowledge and support from the outside, but don’t forget yourself.

‚̧ Diana Banana

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hello, 2014 {with open arms}

January 1, 2014

ImageHello, new year, my name is Diana. I like you.¬†I actually need you, though I’m not really comfortable {admitting to} needing anything. I need your fresh air and your clean lines and your {illusion of a} clean slate. ¬†

I think the thing a clean slate helps with the most is self-forgiveness, and we need to forgive ourselves in order to move forward. I’ve felt the weight of that heavy sack of guilt and self-fulfilling self-anger for much of 2013, even as I achieved many things and felt so loved externally. It was a good year… a great one, even. I got my Master’s degree, my design certificate, my first job on my dream career path, and I got to marry my best friend Sam. I even ran my first 5K…! BUT, I didn’t pace myself in a way that felt healthy and nurturing, and I didn’t really end up gaining or losing any of this weight I’ve been carrying.

Sometimes you just have to simplify life and remember to care for yourself. This is the theme I keep coming back to when I envision what I need in 2014. It’s time to focus on my body again rather than treating it like a superfluous time-suck. I’ve been nurturing the other parts of myself well; my mind, my creativity, and my heart are all feeling strong enough to kneel down and tend to the needs of my body. Time to do this.

It’s going to be a good year.

‚̧ Much love & best wishes,

Diana Banana

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MOOnlight race recap!

July 15, 2013

We did it!!! Sam and I ran our first 5K this weekend, something I thought I’d never do in my lifetime. I still can’t quite believe it actually happened.

Sam and I decided to make a little weekend getaway out of it, so we checked into a room in Davis¬†near the race center on Saturday. It felt really good to have a home base, a place to change and cool off and relax, to mentally prepare. I was having cramps all day, which made me worry that I would get those really terrible contraction-like cramps during the race (this has happened to me only a few times when running, but it’s really quite hard to take). I took a few advil and just breathed. I tried to trust what’s out of my hands to work out, but that’s not something I’ve mastered!

Still, I felt pretty hopeful and excited as we left the hotel to head over to the race center. We got a little lost looking for parking, but we were plenty early and it all worked out. As soon as we got our bibs, I already felt a sense of accomplishment. I hadn’t backed out, hadn’t made the I’m-getting-married-in-two-weeks-and-life-is-too-crazy excuse that I’d wondered if I would convince myself to make. We were there, crazy as it was, and we were going to do the best we could.

I was glad to see that the vibe at the event was friendly, positive, and fun. There were all kinds of people walking around the lawns, from serious runners to first timers, from children to life-long runners. There were people of all shapes and sizes. I didn’t feel at all out of place.

This is not to say that I didn’t have my insecurities. I started fixating on my shoes. Everyone else there seemed to have nicer, newer, more appropriate running shoes, often with fun colors and neon laces. Not only did this make me jealous, it also made me nervous that my crappy little old brown LA Gear shoes wouldn’t be good enough, that they wouldn’t carry me through. (Next time I run a race, I decided, I’m springing for new shoes. One less thing to fixate on ūüėČ )

It actually wasn’t entirely silly to worry about the shoes. My shoes started hurting my feet before the race even started, and their lack of ventilation made them feel like two little ovens in the Davis heat. Luckily our race started about 25 minutes late, so the heat of the day began to wear off around the time our race began.

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When it came time to line up, I felt joyful. I’d thought I would be terrified, full of dread, etc., but I was just happy and excited to be there. Everyone around us was happy, and it was simply too contagious to be anything but. Even Sam, who was frankly too exhausted to be there but wanted to follow through, got a wave of positive energy! And suddenly we were off.

And then it was just like any other jog, really, except that there were way more people around. It was strange how comfortable it felt… for some reason I had thought it would feel so different running a race vs. running elsewhere, but of course the bodily experience is pretty much the same. At least, it was at first.

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I had never actually run the whole distance of a 5K all at once before the race. I had gotten up to about 2.8 miles in my practice runs, at least according to my phone, so I thought I was pretty much prepared. Well, for some reason that first half mile felt like a freaking two mile run. I can’t explain it… but Sam, I found out later, experienced the same thing. Something about the new route or the adrenaline or something on race day made all of the distances feel longer. Not good news to someone in the midst of the longest run of her life! That 1/2 mile sign almost made me want to give up. I just couldn’t imagine that I still had to run over five times that amount. It didn’t seem physically possible.

But I was determined. I really was. Good thing, too, because something else started happening: some of the freaking run/walkers started to pass me. That really was just the pits. I had to remind myself that my goal was to run the whole thing, not to get my fastest time, because the truth is that at my current jogging speed, I would be much faster alternating sprints with fast walks. Something about walking allows your body to rest & reset. I started getting resentful and jealous of those run/walkers; I started second guessing my approach, thinking “maybe I should run/walk too!”… but that wasn’t what I was there to do.

When I was running up the first of the two big hills on the route, there was a young dad behind me with his little kid. The kid must have been getting tired running up the hill, so the dad picked him up, put him on his shoulders, and proceeded to zoom past me up the hill. A guy with another human being on his back was able to run faster than I was! I wanted to laugh and cry. But I just kept going. I started thinking about my brother Jon who has never been able to walk or run, and most of the sorry-for-myself subsided.

There were moments when my pacing was working and I wasn’t so tired. There were moments when I even wondered if I was pacing myself too slowly. But then there were the moments when I felt like I was running through quicksand wearing lead shoes.

The second of the two hills came at one such moment, unfortunately. I never stopped running, at least in terms of the actual physical motion, but I felt like I was running the wrong way on a conveyer belt. I just wasn’t propelling myself forward at that point. That’s when I really almost gave up. I had no idea how far I had to go still at that point, and it just seemed impossible to keep it up. But right when I was deciding I should give up, I reached the hill’s peak, and as soon as I was on that downward slope, nothing seemed hard anymore. In fact, that’s the moment when I began to hear the most miraculous sound I’ve ever heard: the crowd at the finish line. I couldn’t see anything indicating how much farther I had to go, but I could hear the announcer’s cheerful voice on the loud speaker and all of the yelling from the people on the sidelines. That might be what saved the whole experience for me. I knew at that moment that I would be able to do it. And so I did…

…with one minor detour. At the stretch before the final stretch, the 10K runners’ path merged with the 5K path, which caused a bit of confusion. I followed the directions of the volunteers at the merge spot, but then I wasn’t sure where the 5K path was. There were a few orange cones scattered around, but I wasn’t sure what they meant and no one was running near me, so I just kept running straight. It was only when the wave of people behind me in the race didn’t follow me that I realized I’d gone off the map! I ran back, and it didn’t bother me because I suddenly found myself running down the final stretch!!

I knew Sam would have finished before me, and I scanned the side-line crowd for his cute little face. I didn’t see him, but I saw so many other friendly faces smiling and cheering. One lady told me to finish strong, and I listened: I sprinted those last few yards until I saw Sam smiling in front of me and the finish line beneath my feet, one right after the other.

I don’t know that I’ve ever allowed myself to feel pure pride before. I’ve always tempered my accomplishments with some subtle yet powerful internal message that I could have done even better if I’d only done x or y or z. I’ve always confused that with humility.

I think we need different words. The kind of pride suffered by Icaris and Narcisis has no relation to the pride I felt on Saturday. Theirs was a destructive pride, based in ego and ignorance; this was something radiant, something wise, something holy. I’ll keep pushing all my life to feel this way.

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I want to thank Sam. I don’t even know where to begin, really. Sam has given me this amazing gift every time I want something but don’t believe I can reach it. It’s just a nudge, a nudge with exactly enough force to get myself going & never more. He empowers me to empower myself. I don’t know how he does it; it’s nothing less than a form of art. I love you Sam! I can’t wait to marry you.

‚̧ Diana Banana

dear earth,

April 22, 2013

I’m sorry for rushing by you. I’m not trying to ignore you. I love the textures of you, the way your forms mimic one another, how they each carry your signature through pattern. This is how I enjoy you when my pace is all-but-stopped.

These days, I’m going faster.¬†Maybe there is a way to enjoy you at different speeds.

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Today I ran your trails, though I spent too much time inside my focused mind. Still, when I looked up, you were there, holding me, like I was awakening from a challenging dream‚ÄĒyour wind delivering good-morning kisses.

Thank you for that. Thank you for meeting me however I show up. I can’t wait to spend more and more time with you.

‚̧ Diana Banana

weight loss & poetry

April 3, 2013

Well, hello!

This is an exciting moment–I have the urge to write on this blog with zero feelings of “should,” of pressure. I guess this is an extension of where I am right now with my self-care…. I’m finally in a good place. I’ve finally gotten my momentum back. I’m finally kicking booty.

NOW the challenge is patience. Oh, patience, you always show me how much I still have to learn. Patience is one of the key elements I’m attempting to cultivate in my poetry–to stay with an image longer, allowing it to blossom and live its full life before I decide to pin it down. And so it is with weight loss. It’s easy to get inspired; it’s hard to sustain. When I manage to do it, though, the internal experience is like that of writing a poem–it’s all about riding the wave, extending the clarity of vision.

I’m in week four of my amped-up routine, and I’m determined to keep pushing as hard as I can until two weeks before my wedding. I feel solid, strong. I feel a sense of purpose and excitement, and I’m curious to see where this takes me. I’m realizing how much easier it is to really go for it than to grapple in that¬†in-between¬†space that I was stuck in for so long.

The weekend before I recommitted to this aspect of my life, I went on a solo getaway to Stinson Beach for a few days. I needed to clear my head and think about all of the changes ahead (graduation, marriage, etc.). Something just needed shifting, and I spent the weekend writing and walking the shore. I relaxed, I had some insights, but I didn’t have that huge moment of internal shifting that I kept waiting for. So, I drove home that last day feeling content, marveling at the beauty of the earth, all of that.

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It wasn’t until I got home to Sam that the shift happened: I looked at him and I said, “I don’t think I can do it.” I wasn’t talking about getting married or launching my new career; I was talking about losing this weight. I cried then, a deep, grieving cry. Then I told him I could do it if I was sure I wanted it.¬†That uncertainty has been weighing me down (sorry for the pun) this whole time, maybe my whole life.

When I was a kid, I was told to want it. I was told that my body was wrong and that I should want to fix it so that I could be healthy and desirable. Of course, as a little kid, I didn’t care about being desirable, and I felt healthy enough (aside from my bum knee). I didn’t understand the urgency. So, I never had that moment of deciding THIS IS WHAT I WANT. And then, of course, I got older and the issue was complicated by the pressures of society and all of that. You know the story. I lost my own voice in that sea of external pressures and good-intentions. I tried to get it back though this blog, and in moments it rang through, but I think I may have skipped this step of deciding that this is 100% what I want. It was a working assumption, unconfirmed.

After the flood gates opened that day with Sam after my trip, I had the space to wonder: if I don’t want this, why does it hurt so much to think that I can’t do it? Why the deep grief over feeling stuck and powerless about something I don’t want?

I do want it. So much. I just want it on my own terms.

Luckily, the people in my life right now are good at giving me space surrounding this issue. I’m still fragile–the slightest external pressure will drown out my own desire. Or maybe not. Maybe I just fear that it will since it has done so before, but maybe I don’t have to let that happen. Either way, it’s nice (more than nice) to have the space to grow in this way. Even if I don’t end up looking exactly the way I want to at my wedding, I will still feel worlds better. I already do.

‚̧ Diana Banana

why i’ve been gone

January 2, 2013

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Happy New Year! ¬†2013. ¬†This is the year I get my Masters degree, I get married, I complete my graphic design program, I start looking for my dream job. ¬†I have fears and I have high hopes. ¬†And I have too much going on to continue being as disorganized as I have been. ¬†I want to impose structure on myself this year–as a gift to myself, not as a punishment. ¬†With structure comes pacing and balance and consistency and ease, or so I invision.

Like any other shift in behavior, self-honesty is one of the keys to ultimately finding a deeper self-love. ¬†So, I want to be honest in here as well. ¬†I want to face you now and tell you why I haven’t written in several months. ¬†Of course life is busy and insane. ¬†I could blame it on being a student in two programs working several part-time jobs and planning a wedding. ¬†I could blame it on stress and family obligation and the limited hours in a day. ¬†But why do that? ¬†There’s no resonant truth there. ¬†These excuses feel like the reason when I’m stressed out, but the real reason that I haven’t written in here is deeply internal. ¬†Ah, psychology, you pervade and you persist.

And so, reflecting on 2012, I discovered that accountability to others doesn’t help me unless I am already feeling empowered. ¬†In fact, it hurts me. ¬†If I start shifting my focus from¬†intrinsic¬†motivation (those moments when I feel so good being healthy, when it is a gift I give myself and I have hope and excitement) to external motivation, I turn from love to fear.

Perhaps the problem is that I have a hard time accepting the external sources of love surrounding issues of the body, so I have to find support first inside and then out. ¬†External motivation does not have to be fear-based, but for me it always is. ¬†(I have to look/behave a certain way or else people will judge me and won’t like me and won’t hire me and won’t see the value in me; I have to look/behave a certain way or else people will think I’m lazy or disappointing and they will stop believing in me.) ¬†The ironic and fascinating thing is that these things I’m calling external are often projections of the internalized negative messages from my childhood, messages I received on a daily basis from people who thought they were helping me to be healthy. ¬†And now these messages are mine, and they are my biggest challenge.

But they are my challenge.  That means I have control, and that means there is hope.  I just need to stop turning my back on these issues when they feel overwhelming.  I need to work through the fears and own the internalizations, and then I will see that the world is a more loving and supportive place than I fear it to be.

My ultimate goals are agency and health. ¬†Accountability to others is only important so far as it supports these goals, as I have discovered that this particular process is not best served as a collaboration, at least not at this stage. ¬†I actually foresee that external support will, at some point, become wildly important, but I have more work to do first. ¬†This year I will be writing in here as much or as little as I need to in order to support these goals, but I won’t just disappear again. ¬†There is such a difference between fading away and purposefully trying other things. ¬†This year, I will be purposeful, and I will try other things, but I will check in here now and then to test the waters and to say hi.

Wishing you all a vivacious journey in 2013!

‚̧¬†Diana Banana

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the pendulum theory

September 25, 2012

Ideas came with explosive immediacy, like an instant birth. Human thought is like a monstrous pendulum; it keeps swinging from one extreme to the other.
Eugene Field

Extremes show us what is possible, the light and the dark. The richness is in the mixture between them, though, and I refuse to resign myself to the idea that the “explosive immediacy” of human thought is destined to be passively extreme. ¬†We can grab the pendulum with both fists and keep it in the middle for longer with our weight. ¬†We can maybe even enjoy the ride.

I’d love to think it only takes figuring this out once to remain perfectly balanced in the middle-ground forever, but the nature of pendulums is the inertia to return to the extreme. ¬†How many times have we pushed ourselves too hard to lose weight and then burned out? ¬†How many times have we confused acceptance with inaction? ¬†I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’ve been dancing with this issue for my whole life… passively as a kid and more actively as a teen & adult.

Acknowledging the extremes helps. Experimenting with pacing and degree of internal pressure helps. But mostly it takes time. ¬†We keep re-learning the same things until we learn them. ¬†I don’t want to jinx it, but I’m finally able to see the simplicity of the years of struggle. ¬†It has all been a pendulum ride… trying to tame the swing through internal struggle. ¬†Opening, acting, noticing, reacting, reflecting, experimenting, shifting. ¬†Not always in that order, and often repeating.

For the first time ever in this process, it feels like Sam and I are both in a good place. ¬†What do I mean by a good place? ¬†We’re excited about shopping at the farmer’s market, we’re not stress eating, and we’re making time to move our bodies. ¬†The most surprising piece to me is how separate it feels to be in a good place about it. ¬†We are able to support each other by standing back and leading one another by example… and mostly just by leading ourselves. ¬†This is what works for us. ¬†When we get too into the gritty analysis of each other’s and our own struggles, we get bogged down and overwhelmed by the whole thing. ¬†Perhaps we needed to do that before to get to where we are now, but at the moment it doesn’t seem necessary or useful for us to get too enmeshed. ¬†We just do our things and feel proud of each other. ¬†It’s great ūüôā

The wedding being in ten months is an interesting variable. ¬†It adds a pressure that tempts me toward the pushing too hard side of the pendulum, the side where I want results too quickly and therefore act in ways that are not sustainable. BUT, at least right now, I can feel that the pressure is there, but I don’t feel powerless against it. ¬†It is serving as a reminder, like a firm and honest friend, but it is not giving me an excuse to become self-destructive.

I’ll let you know how it goes– fingers crossed! ¬†It is exciting to feel like this whole journey might land me where I want to be, looking and feeling the way I want & with newfound skills and self-knowledge.

‚̧ Diana Banana

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