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Use a food scale for accurate nutrition tracking

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I rely heavily on the nutrition tracker for this weight management project. Logging my food is the only method that has EVER worked for me in losing and maintaining weight.

But the tracker is only as accurate as your measuring is; if you're estimating everything you run the risk of over or under estimating your calories. I dunno about you, but every time I've tried comparing my "eyeball" estimates to measured amounts, I'm almost always off, usually under.

In the tracker foods are commonly listed by either weight or volume, or both. Volumes are usually in Imperial (English) units, while weights are often in both Imperial (oz) and Metric (g). Measuring by volume is the most common method in the US for both dry and wet ingredients, while in Europe most recipes list dry ingredients by weight. Weight is generally more accurate, especially with items that can fluff up, like flour and cereal.

If you measure solely by volume you also have a problem with some foods that don't want to come out of the measuring cup or spoon. NOTABOUTHEFACE recently wrote a blog about her new favorite volume-measuring gadget. It works on a plunger principle:
www.sparkpeople.com/mypage_public_jo
urnal_individual.asp?blog_id=2555139


This problem with measuring sticky and messy things is one reason I've gone to weighing everything rather than measuring by volume. In this post I will explain why I like weight rather than volume and give examples of how I actually accomplish the weighing. Last night when I read the comments about NOTABOUTHEFACE's blog it suddenly occurred to me that not everyone is trained in laboratory science, LOL (It's been part of my life for so long I just take these things for granted), and maybe some of the tips I use for weighing might be helpful for others. So here they are.

Advantages for measuring foods by weight rather than volume
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* Measuring sticky things.

Doing this by volume is tricky because there's always some left in the measuring cup or spoon, unless you use a plunger like the kind NOTABOUTHEFACE found.

With a scale the problem is solved very neatly. Sticky yogurt won't come off the spoon when I'm putting it in my cereal? No problem. I weigh the bowl with the cereal first, add the spoon, zero it, and then add my yogurt and weigh it WITH the spoon in there.

* Measuring awkward things that you would otherwise have to estimate.

Here's a common problem I have: How much of this apple do I list? (Apples come in all different sizes and shapes. I really hate estimating by diameter.)

Simple. Weigh the entire apple before you start eating it. Weigh the core when you're done. Subtract. Voila. An exact amount of "fresh apple" you just ate.

* There is less to wash

When I weigh out my yogurt for my cereal I use the same spoon I'm going to eat with. The bowl is the weighing boat. So no food actually contacts anything that I'm not already eating with or out of.

* Weighing is more accurate than measuring by volume with products that settle

Here's a YouTube video showing how easy it is to miscalculate portions using volume rather than weight: www.youtube.com/watch?v=JVjWPclrWVY

Cereal packages sometimes mention that the product settles during shipping. This means that the big pieces float to the top, while the small pieces end up at the bottom. No problem in terms of eating it; it all tastes the same; but the weight per half-cup listed on the box is usually for the unbroken full-size pieces, and will better match the actual calories listed in the label. By the time you get down to the bottom of the box, the pieces are smaller and pack more compactly in a measuring cup with fewer and smaller air spaces. The result is that you're actually eating more cereal than you think you are, if you use a measuring cup.

If you weigh out your 30g (or whatever) the "serving size" listed is always accurate.

* You can have as much or as little as you want, and let the tracker do the math for you, no estimating!

What do you do when the nutrition tracker says a "serving" is 1/2 cup, but you've only got about 1/3 of a cup left in the container? Or you only WANT 1/3 of a cup of whatever it is? Ugh. You have to do math. Fractions, even. What fraction of 0.5 is 0.33333? Bleh. And anyway, unless you actually USE a 1/3 cup measure, how do you really KNOW it's 1/3 of a cup?

Scales take care of this neatly. Just weigh the amount you're going to have, and enter it in the tracker. Which will do the math for you and adjust the calories and other nutrients automatically.

Another way to take advantage of this is if you only want PART of something for your meal. Take the apple example from earlier. Yesterday I was faced with a 400g Honeycrisp apple. That I wanted with my cereal and yogurt. But this apple was HUGE. It was bigger than a softball. I kid you not. There was no way I was eating the whole thing in one sitting.

So I sliced off pieces into my cereal bowl until the weight of apple slices added up to about 100 g and logged it. Then I sprinkled True Lime on the cut surface of the rest of the apple to prevent browning, and put it in a container in the fridge. I ate the rest at lunch. I calculated the amount I ate at lunch using the core trick mentioned above.

* Armed with a small portable scale and a notebook you can track your foods with a SINGLE DEVICE, even when eating out or at someone else's house

I have almost 200 lbs to lose. (Perhaps ACTUALLY 200, depending on whether I buy that I have a "small frame.") This is a Big Project. My friends and family are on board. But as much as I LOOOOOVE my Escali Primo scales, I'm not going to carry one of them around with me 24/7.

Enter the pocket scale I found at Amazon:
www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004O76DLU
?tag=manifolds-20

Which is a little bigger than a deck of cards. The weighing tray doubles as a cover. And the whole thing fits into my purse. And it can weigh up to 1000g. Now I KNOW exactly what I'm having at a picnic or BBQ or while traveling. I love using it when I'm stuck eating airport food and have to deconstruct my salad to figure out what I'm getting.

Two weekends ago I was in the airport in ATL and chose a chicken caesar salad (with FF dressing). I was able to take the chicken off and weigh it, then the parmesan and weigh it, then I weighed the box with the lettuce in it, then I reassembled my salad, ate it, and weighed the empty box after I was finished. This allowed me to log almost exactly how much chicken, cheese, and lettuce I got. (The dressing nutrients were listed on the packet.)

* The nutrition tracker is set up to measure lots of liquids by weight

Here's something I recently discovered. Look up "milk, nonfat" in the tracker. At the bottom of the pulldown measures there are "grams." Same for lime juice. Same for a bunch of other common liquids.

What about liquids that don't have nutrients listed in grams, but rather in ml? Well, they're probably mostly water. And water is by definition 1 gram per ml. So I just estimate 1g=1ml.

So you can ALSO get away with measuring many LIQUIDS by weight, too. Even FEWER dirty dishes! No measuring cup to clean! I love it.

What kind of scale is the best to get?
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According to a lot of sources, digital scales are far more accurate than the spring-loaded ones. Most weigh in both Imperial and Metric.
www.consumersearch.com/kitchen-scale
s


I'm pretty happy with my the tiny portable scale I mentioned earlier:
www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004O76DLU
?tag=manifolds-20


And with my Escali Primo scales that I have at work and at home.
www.amazon.com/Escali-Primo-Digital-
Multifunctional-Chrome/dp/B0007GAWRS?t
ag=manifolds-20

They come in lots of fun colors.

You can buy a stainless steel platform cover directly from the Escali site for $10:
www.escali.com//index.php?p=product&
id=137&parent=24


How do I know if my scale is accurate?
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Maybe you already have a scale and you want to find out if it's accurate. Here's where the Metric system really shines. Because 1 ml of water is DEFINED as 1g of weight (at sea level, standard temperatures, etc. etc. etc. yep, I'm a geeky scientist.)

The whole reason I switched to digital scales is because one day I became curious about the accuracy of my cheap spring-loaded scale and when I tested it was shocked by its inaccuracy.

Here's what you need:
A measuring cup that you trust and has metric volume markings (I like my OXO),
and your scale.

1. Put the empty measuring cup on the scale.
2. Zero the scale. Now whatever you add to the cup will be the only thing measured.
3. Add 10 ml of water (if your cup is that small - the OXO 1/4c shot-glass sized ones are good).
4. Does the scale say "10 g"? If so, it's accurate at that amount.
5. Add water up to 50 ml (you probably want to switch to a bigger cup)
6. Does the scale say "50 g"? If so, you're also good at that range.
7. Add water up to 100 ml. check it.
8. Add water up to 500 ml. check it.

If your scale is accurate at all these ranges, then the number of grams will always equal the number of ml (plus or minus a small percentage). My spring loaded scale under-weighs at the low ranges and over-weighs at high ranges. My Escali and Polder scales perform accurately at every level.

Tips for measuring foods by weight
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First let's start with a step-by step example of how I measure my morning cereal so you can get an idea of how it goes:

1. I put the bowl on the scale and zero it.
2. I add 20 g of Kashi Go Lean cereal. If it's 21 g by accident I just log it as 21 g.
3. I zero the scale.
4. I add 20 g of Nutlettes cereal. Ditto on the 21 or 22 g by accident.
5. I zero the scale.
6. I add my plastic spoon. Yep, it's still 3 g. lol (compulsive? ME?! hahaha)
7. I zero the scale.
8. I scoop out my FAGE 0% Greek yogurt and dump it (including the spoon) into the bowl. If I'm really hungry I put a lot in there. Not so much, less.
9. And weigh it. And log it.
10. I zero the scale (spoon still in there)
11. I dump approximately 100 g of blackberries on top.
12. I log the weight of the blackberries.
13. I Eat, while catching up on Spark comments and mail, LOL.

These past few months I've discovered some subtle tips that seem to help make measuring by weight go even more easily.

* Pick a system and stick with it.

I really started relying on grams while visiting my friend LAFAGG in the UK. After a week of that I was done with Imperial and switched over to measuring everything in grams. If it's not already in the food tracker in that form, I add it.

To do this, just put in the nutrition information as usual, but use the grams listed in parenthesis after the volume on the nutrition label. The tracker will do all the math for you. Here's where the European labeling system is convenient, because they standardize everything to 100g.

* Know when to measure: before or after cooking

This can be tricky because sometimes you don't even know, based on what's in the nutrition tracker, whether they're referring to a food cooked, or not. If it says "raw," or "fresh," that usually means uncooked. But if you cook it, the nutrition may change due to chemical changes in the food.

So if you can, pick the listing that most closely matches the way you're preparing the food. If it's steamed, braised, or boiled, those are fairly equivalent "wet" cooking methods. If it's grilled, baked, or roasted, those are equivalent "dry" cooking methods. Weigh the food AFTER cooking if you find a listing that mentions a cooking method. My understanding is that meats are listed as cooked, even when the cooking method is not mentioned.

Sometimes if I can't find what I need in the tracker I go off-site somewhere like nutritiondata.com and try to find what I need. Or I just use the "raw" version and weigh the food before cooking.

The best option of all is to use the actual label on the product. I've used my cell phone camera to take photographs of nutrition labels at ice cream shops, etc. I've copied labels down in my notebook. You can get creative here - anything that helps you capture the information so you can put it in the tracker later.

* If you're weighing something frozen, log it quickly

Especially when it's humid, water vapor will condense on frozen foods and add to the weight. I often put frozen blackberries on my cereal. If I weigh them on the cereal and then check again a minute later, often a gram or two of water vapor has already condensed on them and increased the weight!


* Use the Nutrition Tracker to figure out how much you want of a particular food

Sometimes I'm planning out my day's food on the nutrition tracker and want to tweak the macronutrient profile. I can go in and adjust the grams of various foods up or down in the tracker until I've got the proportion of macronutrients I want in the number of calories I want.

For example, today I decided that I wanted more protein in fewer calories for lunch.

By adjusting the values in the nutrition tracker I figured out that I wanted to eat approximately 150g of carrots, 200 g of tomatoes, and 250 g of lite firm tofu.

I ended up getting exactly 200 g of grape tomatoes, finding a carrot that was 155 g, and slicing tofu and adding it up to 248 g. I did my apple core trick with the end of the carrot, and discovered that I'd left 3 g uneaten, so adjusted the carrot value down to 152. Then I just logged those values as is.

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That's pretty much it, as far as my use of a scale goes. I love the accuracy. I love being able to run this personal weight loss science experiment on myself with as few uncontrolled variables as possible, because the more I know the better I understand what's going on.

Feel free to ask questions. I spent years at a lab bench weighing and measuring things, and take jargon and techniques for granted, so if I glossed over something important or left out something, please let me know it's not clear...

Enjoy!
emoticon

  
  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

BOPPY_ 3/22/2014 6:53PM

    I'm on my second digital scale. The first one went to the digital scale in the sky heaven (Sharper Image). The second one is bigger, easier to use, and more flexible (OXXO).

I too found volumes to be error-prone, a messy bother and too much work (cleanup).

Weight measurement works well with everything but large prepared food batches, like casseroles, soups, stews, and meat-loafs. Most of these things my wife cooks, and to get her to measure everything going in (which changes every time she makes even the same recipe), and then measuring the total result out, so that weight measurements, at selection and eating time, make sense, is more trouble than it's worth.

Everything I cook, or eat raw, or eat out of a package (ever fewer), I measure.

Despite this tension about food and weighing, both of the digital scales were gifts from my wife. emoticon

weightfulLee, yours emoticon

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RAYLINSTEPHENS 4/27/2011 4:07PM

    I weigh everything in grams for more accuracy.

OMG! Weighing a spoonful of peanut butter?! That is ALMOST enough to curb my desire - almost, not quite, lol.

Thanks!

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GRACEFULIFE 3/12/2010 11:28PM

    Since you just referenced this, I'm going to add a quick note. The scale I have is the one Cook's Illustrated/America's Test Kitchen rated best - it comes with a stainless platform and has some other nice features like a (cool blue) backlight, bigger weighing platform, and detachable control panel. It's available for $40 if you use a 20% off coupon at Bed Bath and Beyond so it is fairly cost-competitive with the Escali one if you are buying the stainless steel platform for it. http://www.bedbathandbeyond.com/pro
duct.asp?order_num=-1&SKU=12084
3

As for pocket scales, I have the Escali Liberta pocket scale which is nice because it came with a calibration weight, and it is very small. But like the Polder it has buttons that could catch food or whatever. The one I like now is from Harbor Freight: http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/ct
af/displayitem.taf?Itemnumber=9
3543 and though it's normally $20 it can be had for $10-13 if you wait for a coupon. The coupons can be found by monitoring this thread: http://www.fatwallet.com/forums/hot
-deals/772012/ It's great to have a Harbor Freight store convenient these days - I score so much great stuff there. It's a great place to shop for Christmas gifts for my dad.


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CJ1954 3/6/2010 2:22PM

  You explain things very well and you gave lots of useful infornmation. Thanks!

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TLB1630 3/1/2010 7:53PM

    OK so it's a little after you wrote this but...I found this blog just the same and emoticon IT!! You are so right on with weight vs volume. I too think in the same way and sure beats dealing with the sticky things too!! Thanks for another persons perspective on this!! emoticon

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JODISPARKS 1/26/2010 12:24PM

    Very helpful blog - and I'm getting both of your recommended scales!

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LIBECCIO 12/17/2009 2:08PM

    I am european so I found the english way of weighing food just crazy. A digital scale was one of the first thing I bought for myself. I don't use it as much I should, though. Great blog,


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NANCYKAREEM 12/9/2009 8:55PM

    thank you great blog it was realy helpfull

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NICOLEBA47 12/5/2009 8:48PM

    emoticon blog

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GRACEISENUF 11/28/2009 12:15AM

    love my new digital scale

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TELERIE 11/25/2009 6:09PM

    I'm so glad you like metric! I'm a metric girl and you have just described my mornings so accurately - just how I make my daily oatmeal! Bowl on scale, zero it, add oatmeal, track weight, add milk, track weight, microwave it, zero bowl with spoon, add & track peanut butter, 1/2 banana & cold milk to taste. Catch up on Spark messages! Yup, I weight my spoon every day too! Still 50 grams!


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SHANAHAN00 11/25/2009 3:41PM

    Thanks for the great information!

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CALLIEFLOWER 11/25/2009 3:14PM

    Thanks for all the info! I definitely prefer to measure my food by weight, which might come from all my time in labs as well LOL! I love how accurate it is, and how it makes it a little less regimented when you're homecooking a meal because you don't have to worry about cutting your meat of veggies down to a certain size, you just eyeball how much you want, weigh it as you add it, and you have a nice meal all ready :)

emoticon emoticon

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MDICROCE 11/25/2009 2:37PM

  Wow, what a lot of information! And so many things I hadn't thought of. I love the way you explained everything and made it so simple and VERY, VERY ACCURATE. Thank you for the information....I have to go buy a scale now.

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DAVEOZ 11/25/2009 2:22PM

    Good blog and timely. I bought a scale 1 month ago and just began using it a week or so ago. It was out of fear of how small the portions are...Duh...How am I going to lose.

A few days ago, I learned how to use and look forward to making sure that I am on track for my nutrition inputting. I would NEVER have imagined I'd be doing this, but it is what it is...



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ENOUGHALREADY10 11/25/2009 1:31PM

    I"ve started using a food scale this time around too! I LOVE IT! I am seeing how off my quesses were etc. LOVE IT LOVE IT LOVE IT!

I figured if I am going to do this once and for all I might as well do it as perfectly as possible!

Great information! Thanks!

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More Enabling (food) Technologies (Part II)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

1) Herb Tea

Last week I mentioned hot chocolate. Thats a treat. But my everyday mainstay to keep me drinking water in the chilly seasons is herb tea. To facilitate this I went to the grocery store a few weeks ago and got selected flavors that I either already knew I liked or thought Id like. (I lean toward strong, tangy citrus and hibiscus-type flavors.) I also bought a nice Lock & Lock box to put them in.

So now I have a transparent air-tight box on my desk containing delicious zero-calorie beverage treats that when I open it fills the air with lovely smells and encourages me to drink my water hot.

Here are some of my personal favorites:

Tazo Wild Sweet Orange
Good Earth Original Herbal*
Bigelow I Love Lemon
Numi Dry Desert Lime*
Celestial Seasonings True Blueberry
Tazo Refresh (mint)

*I have to order these at Amazon.com because I cant find it them in local stores
www.amazon.com/Good-Earth-Original-F
rustration-Free-Packaging/dp/B001BM68S
4?tag=manifolds-20


www.amazon.com/Numi-Desert-Herbal-Te
ssan-18-Count/dp/B000FFM7U6?tag=manifo
lds-20


I have a special "tea squeezer" to get all the flavor out when I remove the bag (no I don't leave it in the cup. Steeping too long brings out "off" flavors I don't like.) Also useful for fishing out stringless Celestial Seasonings bags.
www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000I1X45O
?tag=manifolds-20


2) TrueLemon, TrueLime, TrueOrange

I really like citrus, in case you havent figured that out already, LOL. But Im not going to carry limes around in my purse. And the plastic squeezy lime and lemon juice bottles available in the produce department are great if youre near a fridge. While on Amazon looking at reviews for Numi lime tea, I found a recommendation for these products. Which are basically dehydrated citrus juice with a few additives. Each tiny envelope is equivalent to a wedge of citrus.

Curious, I ordered a 32-count box of each of the three flavors. That was two weeks ago. Ive been sprinkling them on apple halves, drinking them in water, adding them to my tea, adding them to my fruit-flavored whey shakes, sharing samples with friends, etc. etc.

DELPHYNE has listed lots of good suggestions for things to do with these, in her blog:
www.sparkpeople.com/mypage_public_jo
urnal_individual.asp?blog_id=2552930


The boxes are already half gone, so Im going to re-order soon, and get the 500-count box of each of the lime and lemon, and the 150-count box of orange (it doesnt come in a 500-count box). A co-worker and I will split the order, she likes them so much! LOL

I just order them direct from the truelemon website.
www.truelemonstore.com

You can also request free samples:
www.truelemon.com/sample.cfm

3) Concentrated liquid flavorings

As you may have gathered if youve spent much time on my page, I try to eat a lot of protein. And that means a lot of whey shakes. Ive been experimenting with a bunch of different flavors. And what Ive noticed is that most of them tend to be variations on a theme:

rocky road = chocolate + almond
chocolate mint = (duh) chocolate + mint
mocha = chocolate + coffee
root beer float = vanilla + root beer (primarily wintergreen)
banana crme = vanilla + banana
etc.

I didnt really *like* most of those special flavors and they were often higher in sodium and not available in bulk prices like my standard chocolate and vanilla. In some cases I could barely taste the additional flavor, for example in the mint chocolate. In other cases it was too strong (almond in rocky road).

Which gave me an idea:

Why not just buy those liquid flavorings in the tiny bottles in the baking aisle and add a couple of drops to my whey shakes?

Why not, indeed?! So yesterday, my birthday present to myself was a trip to the local Mennonite store that has gazillions of these flavors, and license to go wild. I picked up everything from maple, walnut, and pecan to butter rum, root beer, and butterscotch.

And this morning for my mid-morning shake I tried it. My normal Optimum Nutrition Double Rich Chocolate (bought in a 10-lb bag) with a couple drops of caramel. Yep, that was pretty good. But I could make it BETTER So I added a couple drops of raspberry. Oh yeah, now were talking! Because now I had a whey shake that tasted like a raspberry chocolate truffle. Heh, Heh, Heh.

I am so totally going to just get my standard chocolate and vanilla flavors in bulk and mix and match from now on

By the way, the only additional flavors I think will be worth buying are fruit ones, most likely Syntrax Nectar, because they can be mixed with water for a convenient recovery shake in the car on the way home from my workout.

4) Jelly Belly sugar free jelly beans

Wow. Unlike most sugar free candies, these taste just exactly like the real thing! 40g of beans contains 80% of the calories of the traditional sugary ones, and 8g of fiber. They can be pretty addictive and should be used in moderation, since the maltitol gives them the same, er, powers as REAL beans. LOL

They are actually cheaper, even with tax, at the local Mennonite store, than they are in bulk from the Jelly Belly website. But the Mennonites don't seem to carry the "sours." www.jellybelly.com/Shop

  
  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

EBRETTRUBIN 11/25/2009 3:32AM

    I'm checking out the sugar free jelly bellys as we speak! Thanks for the advice

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DDOORN 11/24/2009 7:51PM

    Yep, Jelly Belly sugar free DO taste like the real McCoy...we indulge in them around Easter...could easily overdo it though, so I don't do them outside of that. I've tried samples of the True Citrus and they are pretty good...however I'm just a straight water kinda guy...other than my black coffee in the morning.

Great tips to pass along!

Don

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DAVEOZ 11/24/2009 4:34PM

    I love Jelly Bellies! Sugar Free...uh oh!!

emoticon

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4A-HEALTHY-BMI 11/24/2009 2:00PM

    Wow, I hadn't thought of putting the truecitrus (or any of the liquid flavorings) in my yoghurt... mmmm that is a great idea!

Comment edited on: 11/24/2009 2:00:58 PM

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MDICROCE 11/24/2009 1:53PM

  Great ideas! I am going to check out the Truelemonstore now!

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S318830 11/24/2009 1:40PM

    Great blog. I have some little packets of the real lime and lemon (got them as free samples) but I haven't tried them yet. I really need to do that. I jazz up my plain yogurt with various flavored extracts. I add honey, coconut extract, and cinnamon. Or sometimes honey and rum. I love your idea for saving money on your flavored shakes while controlling the amounts of flavors. They're probably better quality (and thus better tasting) flavorings too. Cool!

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"Your RealAge is 38.6!" and the ugly fact about perception of obesity

Monday, November 23, 2009

DDOORN on here has an amusing tradition. Each year on his birthday he goes to realage.com to calculate how much YOUNGER he's getting, biologically, due to the improvements he's made in his health and fitness.
www.sparkpeople.com/mypage_public_jo
urnal_individual.asp?blog_id=2484941


This is a fun idea, and I've adopted it this year.

I went there and filled out the information for approximately what I did, ate, and weighed last year (around 330) and got the answer that I was 46.1 (3 years older than my calendar age). I can tell you, I FELT a lot older than that. I was already having trouble with my arthritic knee going up and down the stairs in my house and was starting to wonder how I was going to cope as I aged further.

Things happened (you can see my Spark Page for details) and I started losing weight again in early December. I had lost 40 lbs by the time I was introduced to SparkPeople in March.

Now, 160 lbs lighter than my maximum recorded weight and approximately 150 lbs lighter than last year, my supposed biological age is 38 and a half. It feels like less than that - I haven't felt this healthy or strong since I was in my 20s. Of course, I don't actually KNOW what it feels like to be biologically 38, because I was over 300 lbs for approximately the last 15 years...

Some other thoughts about the changes since my last birthday, some of which may be uncomfortable to read:

While talking with LAFAGG on the phone this morning we discussed how the world is different for me now. One of the things that came up is how it felt to be super morbidly obese and how people treat others who are obese.

I felt kind-of cushioned and "safe" in my "fat suit." My parents were very strict and physical disciplinarians. As a child I never considered myself to be "abused," as there was always a "reason" for hitting me - with the metal end of the belt, with a heavy hairbrush, etc.

One incident that sticks out in my mind is a day in third grade when I went to school in shorts and a classmate asked why there were giant, father-sized handprint-shaped welts on my thighs. I explained that I'd done something I wasn't supposed to the previous evening, and had been spanked. She was horrified and offered to tell her parents for me (her father was on the city council). I declined, and after that wore long pants to school. Looking back on it, this strikes me as the behavior of a child who might be experiencing a degree of physical abuse.

My mom wasn't the most nurturing person in the world, either. She was extremely tightly wound, insecure, and unhappy as a homemaker. Just about the only time I felt loved and accepted was when I was being fed. I came home for lunch in elementary school. She'd make me lunch and we'd watch Split Second and Password on TV, shouting suggestions to the contestants. I remember when I was 8 or so one of my favorite lunches was Kraft macaroni and cheese. I could have as much as I wanted. It was common for me to eat THE ENTIRE POT. I still love boxed macaroni and cheese, and for this reason studiously avoid it.

Don't get me wrong - you could do a lot worse for parents; they pushed me to excel in school, provided more than adequate food, shelter, and clothing, taught me how to read at 4, bought a 1972 World Book encyclopedia and put it in my bedroom, brought me on trips (Boston in 1970, San Diego in 1975, all around the US in 1976, England in 1977), taught me how to garden and fish, encouraged me in music and scouting, brought me camping every summer, etc. They were just from a different generation where kids were brought up strictly and a fat baby was a healthy baby (he was born in 1910; she, in 1921).

Anyhow, the result was that I associated food (quantity rather than quality) with emotional comfort and felt the need to protect myself physically from the world.

Fast forward to a year ago. Although I was physically uncomfortable, the fat suit made me feel safe. There was a physical buffer between myself and the rest of the world. And it also helped keep away people who didn't genuinely like me for my mind and my personality.

What I didn't factor in is that the fat suit also attracted people who saw me (rightfully) as emotionally vulnerable and used that information to get things from me by stroking my ego. I didn't factor in the fact that the fat suit, while acting as a physical buffer, also weighed me down and made me slower and weaker physically.

And here's the part that may be uncomfortable to read. Wearing a fat suit was blatant advertising that something was wrong with me, mentally and/or emotionally. It's not just that it made me physically less able. It broadcast to the world that I had serious problems that were interfering with taking care of myself.

I am not talking about the fat that constitutes "overweight," or even necessarily "obese." These conditions are the new "normal" in the US, and can sometimes be caused by medical problems. But when you get into "morbid obesity" and "super morbid obesity" (which is where I was a year ago), it's like wearing a big sign that says "I'm a mess. I may be high-functioning and in denial about it, but scratch below that veneer, and you'll find a messy unresolved issue."

This is the ugly fact that Lisa pointed out, and I have to say I agree with her. No wonder people often give other Very Large People a wide berth. It isn't necessarily right or fair or kind, but it does make sense.

150 lbs of fat less, and "8" biological years younger, where does that leave me now? I still have a bunch of the issues that I had a year ago. With years of counseling and drugs they haven't disappeared; losing over 100 lbs isn't going to make them go away fast, either. But at least I'm no longer advertising them to the world or letting them get in the way of taking care of myself physically. And that's something.

If I have to be vulnerable (and it seems that I do, since that's basically the human condition) I can at least be in good physical shape to face it.

  
  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

ALYFITN 12/6/2009 10:58AM

    Man, youve come a long way. I saw you on youtube before I found SP and was inspired. Its really something to run across you again here and read such insightful and helpful posts. You are a spark!!

Parents are rarely all good or bad. I pray I do a good job by my kids. The most important role in my life is mother. My eating habits have affected my kids. But overall, Ive given them a lot of positive too.


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PRETTYPITHY 12/6/2009 2:10AM

    Thank you for this post. Just today, I was musing about writing a blog post on "why" I became overweight. I think it is necessary to wade through the issues and not just lose the weight. Thank you for showing me how it's done and congrats on your tremendous accomplishment!

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GEE-KNEE 12/2/2009 7:03PM

    The fat suit is a similar theme. I don't think we need our fat suits anymore, but we do need to get use to being vulnerable.

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STEVIECAT4 12/2/2009 3:40PM

    My "Real Age" computed to 56.1. I'm only 11 months younger than my real age. That's depressing!!! LOL!!!!

Your story both touched me and inspired me. I have so much respect for you.

Comment edited on: 12/2/2009 3:44:49 PM

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MAXBALLARD 11/24/2009 1:23PM

    Thank you for sharing this. Congrats on turning back the body clock 8 years! What an accomplishment - in a society that's rushing headlong in the the other direction!

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STEFFI264 11/23/2009 11:06PM

  the fat suit is one I was very comfortable in too
I hope I never go back to wearing it
but occasionally I get tired of the practice of keeping it off
I have to remind myself that it is easier to do the daily work than to take it off all over again

thank you for your comment on my blog
I laughed because I keep going back to the school of hard knocks expecting change
s

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TELERIE 11/23/2009 7:26PM

    Very moving blog. I think this is key to lasting change - to do the inside work. And to keep on doing it... I believe everyone alive are facets of messy unnresolved issues and brilliance, no matter if they are skinny or morbidly obese - but some people are just able to hide their mess better. As you said, when I was morbidly obese, I advertised some of my internal issues - they are easier to hide 80 pounds later.

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SLCB1023 11/23/2009 8:59AM

    Walking or wading through years of mental wiring on why we became obese is a lot of work. Keep up the good work and I know you will be well on your way to a healthy mental and physical self!! emoticon emoticon

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MORGANSMOM52 11/23/2009 8:10AM

    What a marvelous blog. Congratulations on your wt loss and "age" loss :).

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DDOORN 11/23/2009 7:44AM

    Wow! Through your SPARKIN' efforts you bought yourself EIGHT years of YOUTH! Woo hoo!

For many of us there are struggles from our past which play out into our weight and turning to food for a multitude of purposes for which it wasn't supposed to be: comfort? protection? safety? validation? We all have to figure that out.

Learning to disentangle all of that early training is such a TOUGH thing to do...! Congrats on your successes! Losing the weight alone doesn't give us a life with everything our heart desires, but we are certainly better poised to shape our lives toward that end...

Happy birthday to you! :-)

Don

Comment edited on: 11/23/2009 10:58:59 PM

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Enabling Technologies (Part I)

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Normally when I think of technology I think of gadgets and gizmos and things that run on batteries. But there are other forms of technology, such as products that come out of food science labs and eventually make their way to consumers via the local grocery store or the internet.

I've been reflecting lately on all the different kinds of helpful foods I've discovered over the past 6 months or so, and there are so many of them that it seems like maybe they could be grouped together in a blog post for posterity. Most of the time I try to subsist on the organic produce from my CSA, yogurt, lean seafood, etc. but I've found these products to be useful in one way or another in this process.

I've spent some time finding the best prices, and the suppliers listed here are my current favorites.

1) Noodles.

While many people are familiar with Tofu Shirataki, fewer know about the original kind, Konjac Shirataki. This is a solid substance made entirely of soluble fiber that has no calories whatsover. It can be made into very nice thin noodles suitable for Asian-style cusine, especially brothy soups.

I like to rinse the angel hair variety in a sieve and microwave it in a big bowl of water with mushrooms, tuna or shrimp, greens or kelp, minced onions, and some miso. This makes a nice satisfying bowl of noodle soup.

Don has reminded me (Thanx, Don!) that in the summer I like to make a version of cold spicy sesame noodles with shrimp and konjac shirataki. In fact, here's a link to the recipe:
recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-detai
l.asp?recipe=811669

(I guess I forgot 'cuz I'm in winter soup mode rather than summer salad mode! LOL)

I order my konjac shirataki from here:
www.konjacfoods.com/product/noodles.
htm


2) Sugar Free Meringues.

Sometimes you have to go to parties, especially this time of year. And you don't know what they're going to have there, but you can be sure there will be things to eat. The best defense, at least for me, is a strong offense, in the form of bringing something to share that I know I will be able to eat safely.

Recently I discovered at Wegmans that Miss Meringue makes SUGARLESS mini meringues. And after doing some research online I discovered that they make not only chocolate, but vanilla as well. (Only the chocolate was available at the Ithaca Wegmans, and neither is available at the one in Geneva.)

13 of these is 40 cal. That means you could eat the ENTIRE CONTAINER and it would still be only 120 cal (I don't recommend this since they contain isomalt which has unpleasant digestive effects if too much is eaten at once).

They are kind-of mediocre taste-wise (the chocolate are better stand-alone than the vanilla ones), but they're not terrible. The vanilla ones are actually really good if paired with a strong herbal citrus tea like Tazo Wild Sweet Orange. I imagine the chocolate ones would be, too. You can order them online from Amazon in batches of 6 containers for a decent price:
www.amazon.com/Miss-Meringue-Chocola
te-oz-Ounce-Containers/dp/B001EQ5H2K?t
ag=mainfolds-20


www.amazon.com/Miss-Meringue-Vanilla
-oz-Ounce-Containers/dp/B001EO5ML8?tag
=manifolds-20


If you want to get just one container, you can get them for a decent price from netrition.com:
www6.netrition.com/cgi/prices.cgi?ma
nu_id=475


3. Hot Chocolate.

It's getting cold. And while I love my herbal tea, sometimes I want something with a little more "oomph." Both Swiss Miss (25 cal) and Nestle (20 cal) make fat-free sugar-free hot cocoa mixes. I tried both today with a friend and we agreed that the Nestle variety tastes more chocolatey and mixes with fewer lumps. The best price I've found for the Nestle mix is in tubs at Amazon:
www.amazon.com/Nestle-Cocoa-Free-7-3
3-Ounce-Canisters/dp/B001EQ4H7G?tag=ma
nifolds-20


4. Cereal.

I'm picky about my cereal. Not how it tastes, but what kind of nutritional profile it has. If it doesn't have at least as much fiber and protein and as few calories as Kashi Go Lean (original), then I don't want to hear about it. But there's only so much Go Lean a person can eat every single morning, day after day, after day.

Which is why I was pleased to find the varieties available at netrition.com - so far I've tried the Hi-Lo Original Flavor, the Nutlettes and the Smaps. None of them have artificial sweeteners.

Nutritious Living Hi-Lo cereal resembles cornflakes. It tastes a bit like soy cornflakes, and the flakes are a bit thicker than the corn ones. But it tastes good to me (I had it with some Chobani blueberry nonfat Greek yoghurt). 30 grams doesn't look like much in the bowl but it's actually pretty satisfying.

Nutlettes look a lot like Grape Nuts but they are not as rock-hard, and taste more like soy. They actually look and taste a lot like toasted TVP, and given the ingredients, I bet that's pretty close to what they are. I don't mind the taste, but reviewers on Amazon who were expecting Grape Nuts weren't pleased. They're pretty good mixed half and half with the Kashi.

Smaps are more of a texture like puffed rice and have a maple sort of flavor, and I think the taste is pretty good.

www6.netrition.com/cgi/product_categ
ories_display.cgi?categories=VLC,CERL


Netrition.com also sells a "carbalose" low-carb wheat-based flour that looks really interesting. I may get some next time I order from them.

5. Whey Protein.

OK, so the deal with whey is that if you want a good price you have to buy a LOT. In Bulk. But how do you know if you'd even LIKE the flavor if you can't purchase it in an amount less than a 1-lb tub? Over the past 6 months I've been the beneficiary of three different purchases by friends of protein supplements that they bought and turned out not to like. (It means I'm drinking GNC Banana Creme for months, but hey, the price is right, so I'm not complaining. Much.)

I found a link on a bodybuilding forum to vitalady.com and it turns out that they will sell a 1-serving sample of just about anything for $2. Which is expensive for the actual product you're getting, but a darn good price for figuring out if you want to drop $70 on a 10-lb batch of protein powder.
www.vitalady.com/cgi-bin/commerce.cg
i?search=action&keywords=protsamp&Sort
Key=sku&SortOrder=ascending

They also have a handy chart listing the nutritional composition of each supplement and the type of sweetener (if any):
www.vitalady.com/ComparisonChart.htm
You might not want to purchase the bulk protein from them (I've seen good prices at bodybuilding.com), but you can certainly buy the samples from them.

Here is a table with the kinds of whey I've tried so far and what I think of 'em:
tinyurl.com/whey-samples

For whey with no sweeteners, I recommend Swanson brand vanilla. (This is one of the tubs of whey I got from a friend who didn't want it anymore.)
www.swansonvitamins.com/SW1233/ItemD
etail?n=0

It mixes well and tastes great. It has a lot of protein per calories, which is the whole point, if you're taking whey.

Also, I just want to give a shout out to Body Fortress whey that can be purchased from Wal-Mart. It gets good reviews on bodybuilding forums and is a fantastic price because it is a combination of whey isolate (90-98% protein, expensive) and whey concentrate (70-85% protein, cheap). I've tried the vanilla flavor, and it's pretty good, if on the sweet side.

Most of the products listed above are strictly whey isolate. People who are lactose intolerant should stick with pure whey isolate, but otherwise, whey concentrate isn't really a problem unless you want a really high protein content.
www.bodybuildingforyou.com/protein/w
hey-protein-isolate-concentrate.htm


ezinearticles.com/?Muscle-Building-P
rotein---Whey-Isolate-vs-Whey-Concentr
ate&id=594527


See a different blog post about my other sources of protein, and how much I take per day, etc.
www.sparkpeople.com/mypage_public_jo
urnal_individual.asp?blog_id=2536501

  
  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

SWIM_2_SLIM 11/23/2009 10:42PM

    Wow, you did a really great job on this blog!!!

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SECRETMUSIC 11/11/2009 10:26AM

    Thanks for all the suggestions!

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4A-HEALTHY-BMI 11/10/2009 11:39PM

    @GEE-KNEE

Yes Ma'am, that's right.

Straight shirataki noodles have zero net calories. ZERO.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wi
ki/Shirataki_n
oodles
>Since you're in CA, you can probably find them in plastic pouches in the refrigerated section of your local Asian market, and not have to pay for shipping.

I've never personally seen them packaged as dry, only in liquid, although the Wikipedia article says they are sometimes sold that way.

The Hungry Girl website has popularized tofu shirataki, which do have calories, and an odd taste that I don't love. Also, the HG site has recipes that use shirataki in Western style recipes and that just doesn't work for me. Maybe because I expect Asian-style noodles in Asian-style food...

P.S. I miss TJs!!!!!
emoticon

Comment edited on: 11/10/2009 11:42:13 PM

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GEE-KNEE 11/10/2009 11:16PM

    I just might have to try those noodles. No calories, really?

I bought these mini meringues at Traders Joes and they have 1 calorie each. They're good when I just want a little something sweet.

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JAZZYDOC 11/10/2009 11:59AM

    Thanks for the infomation. Really.

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YARELL 11/8/2009 7:55AM

    wow, what alot of great information, you are awesome to take the time to share it.

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JANICEMD1 11/8/2009 7:01AM

    I have really been avoiding artificial sweeteners, and so no meringues or hot chocolate ( both of which I used on previous diets that did not work, and are pretty toxic). Thanks so much for the heads up on the noodles. I have just ordered some and can't wait to try. I am getting a little tired of sweet potato as my main starch, and cannot control my portion size well enough with real pasta.

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DDOORN 11/7/2009 10:09PM

    I remember the noodles from the kayaking Spark Rally earlier this summer in Whitney Point...you made a shrimp / poppy-seed type of salad with them...pretty tasty!

And the chocolate meringues you brought to our last gathering...definitely as close as one can get to a "legal" cookie...lol!

Every once in a while I enjoy adding a sugar-free hot cocoa mix to my coffee for a tasty "mocha" of sorts.

Thx for your tips & sources!

Don

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Protein

Thursday, November 05, 2009

I've copied this from my front page because I thought it might be helpful to have clickable links for some of this material.

I eat a high protein (30-40%), low fat (10-20%), low carb (40-50%) nutrition profile. The most important factor in my nutrition seems to be the protein. I aim for at least 100g per day to maintain/ build lean muscle while removing fat. I am lifting weights regularly.

I got the number from this formula:
[0.6 to 1.5 g of protein per pound of target weight]
Here's where the formula came from:
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strength_train
ing#Nutrition


Getting this much protein into my body early in the day (by 5pm) also helps control my cravings and curbs night eating. My body seems to run really well on protein.

I spread the protein into about 4-5 mini-meals, since the body cannot absorb more than 20-30g per hour.

Here are my top 7 lean protein sources (in no particular order):

1) Nasoya Lite Firm Tofu
2) Poultry breast meat
3) Lean seafood (shrimp, tilapia, cod, tuna, etc)
4) Whey protein powder (and/or egg white powder)
5) Nonfat Greek yoghurt or Skyr
6) Seitan
7) Textured Vegetable Protein

For emergencies I stash low carb protein bars in the car, my purse, my backpack, my life vest, etc. I buy them online at bodybuilding.com , vitalady.com and netrition.com and freeze whatever isn't actively stashed. Sometimes for a treat I buy a Zone Perfect protein bar at the store - those are just like candy, so I can't be trusted to have them in the house, LOL.

In general what I look for is the # of calories equal or less than 10x the grams of protein.

So, for example, a Dixie Diner's Crunchy Apple with Flax bar is 90 calories and has 10g of protein. That's an excellent protein/calorie ratio. Compare that with a Promax Bar, which has 290 calories and 20g of protein. Not so good. You could have TWO Crunchy Apple bars and get the same amount of protein in 180 calories. You'd feel fuller and it would keep you going just as long.

My favorite flavors are:

Optimum Nutrition
- mint chocolate
- toasted coconut

Doctor's
- chocolate brownie
- lemon meringue
- cookie dough
- blueberry cheesecake

Genisoy
- Protein crunch peanut butter
- Protein crunch chocolate
- Protein crunch chocolate chip

Dixie Diner's Soy Rocks
- Crunchy Apple with Flax
- Crunchy Chocolate with Flax

Vitalady
- lemon meringue

You can also buy Pure Protein brand bars at pharmacies and grocery stores, and they have a really good protein to calorie ratio, too. I like the peanut butter chocolate, chocolate deluxe, and revolution chocolate peanut caramel flavors the most. S'mores is a bit too sweet for my taste. The other flavors are rare to find.

I've been trying different Optimum Nutrition and Syntrax Nectar whey isolate flavors and logging my impressions here:
tinyurl.com/whey-samples

See another blog post for information about whey samples and sources.
www.sparkpeople.com/mypage_public_jo
urnal_individual.asp?blog_id=2542899


In case you're wondering, here is a ranking based on how closely the amino acid profile of various protein sources compares with human dietary needs (the higher the rank, the more "complete" the protein source)
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PDCAAS

The theory now is that the body stores amino acids so you don't necessarily have to have ALL the essential amino acids together in the same meal.

  
  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

VALKYRIA- 2/12/2012 11:02AM

    Thanks for the info about completeness of protein. I have recently started eating high protein low carb and am finding it difficult to meet my protein needs. I do enjoy optimum nutrition whey protein, so that is a source I will likely continue with... and I will definitely try their coconut flavor now.

I have been reading through your page and blogs and have been truly inspired by your maintenance. I hope to be there with you in a little over a year.

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ALYFITN 10/27/2010 3:31PM

    Hey, this is a great discussion on protein. I eat a 20/40/40 split of my calories from fat/protein/carbs respectively. It fits in the ranges by Spark people--toward the high end for protein and low end for fat and carbs. I feel amazing. My energy level is fantastic. My cravings are GONE! I read about others having difficulty at Halloween. That would have been me last year, but now I have no desire for that kind of eating. I've been at social events and the same thing is true. I have CHANGED. It does not feel like a sacrifice. I don't pity myself. I don't give myself gold stars for "good". I've simply--changed.
Anyhow, I just caught up with your old blog from your comment to BOTZZ. Thanks for being you.
PS_Just now got in from a great kayak 'round the lake in the fall myself. emoticon

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BREWMASTERBILL 4/20/2010 2:16PM

    I had been focusing my protein before the workout to have energy to complete. In your experience, would you flip the protein injection to the end of the workout, or maybe do before and after?

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WILDRICE99 11/21/2009 11:38PM

    I need to get more protein in my diet. I think it'll help me tremendously with those last 10 pounds.



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LADY_SHERRA 11/10/2009 11:48AM

    Great Blog.

I have been increasing my protein as well. I have tried DESIGNER WHEY & a few Store Brands (Kroger). Like TWOCAN, I have tried the Body Fortress and I am hooked. This will now be my go-to whey protein powder. I am also slowly ading Protein bars as a substitute for candy bars. Usually these I enjoy over the week-end, when I am on the go all day and not as diligent in getting my 5-6 mini meals.

There is always room for improvement, and I am always looking for ways to add more good healthy, things to my diet.

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FIT_ARTIST 11/10/2009 12:34AM

    Good Protein! I vary my protein from 104-138 grams a day. emoticon

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4A-HEALTHY-BMI 11/6/2009 7:06AM

    @CARRIE
LOL. That just goes to show that each has her own taste - I personally can't stand the peanut butter bars!
emoticon

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CARRIE1948 11/6/2009 6:36AM

    I have learned to love the protein bars, especially peanut butter. I have one a day with a cup of tea after my longest exercise session. I also keep them for emergencies and they got me through a week of being at the US Open with only stadium food available.

I've been playing around with the getting rid of weight thing for nearly a year and find my success has been much greater since I stated paying attention to protein.

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4A-HEALTHY-BMI 11/5/2009 2:34PM

    @TWOCANS
Good call. BF gets good reviews at bodybuilding.com

http://foru
m.bodybuilding.com/showthread.p
hp?t=599956

@DDOORN
You can get plain unflavored unsweetened whey and other protein isolates. Those are processed, but they at least don't have extra weird things added, like artificial sweeteners, etc.

Here is an explanation for why many people take protein supplements when losing weight:

http://www.vitalady.com/faq
s.htm#why_use_protein_supps

(Much of what is true for WLS patients is true for the rest of us as well, in terms of nutrition.)

Comment edited on: 11/6/2009 12:00:59 AM

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DDOORN 11/5/2009 2:33PM

    Hmm...tempting, but I have some qualms over the seemingly highly processed nature of these protein bars & powders...otherwise, I'm all for the foods you've listed although have to get into using tofu more often. I'm forgetting what seitan is...haven't had this.

Don

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TWOCANS 11/5/2009 1:58PM

    Good blog! I too am keeping tabs of my protein and have increased it! I use as a supplement the Body Fortress Whey Protein that Walmart sells for $15.00 for a 2lb cannister; it offers a whopping 26 grams of protein per scoop!

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