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159.4 lbs lost in exactly one year

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

On December 2, 2008 I weighed 326.2 lbs. My body fat was 54.2%. My BMI was 51.09 (super morbid obesity). I'd gained back 30 of the 40 lbs I'd lost since May 2007 and had given up.

This morning I weighed 166.8 lbs. My body fat was 34.8%. My BMI is 26.12 (overweight). I'm never, ever, EVER giving up again.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

NANCERELLA 1/3/2010 11:42AM

Congratulations on your wieght loss.

I too would like to add you as a friend so I can learn from you.
I am currently at 382 lbs. It is great to know that this is possible. emoticon

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LIBECCIO 12/17/2009 11:44AM

    Congatulations! Great job emoticon

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MOMFAN 12/11/2009 1:17PM

    How exciting for you! I too am never going back!

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STOP-IT-KNOW 12/9/2009 5:34PM

    how did you lose that much weight in a year?

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FLUTTER-BY)L( 12/8/2009 11:43PM

    I am glad I saw this. It makes me realize that my journey is possible. Wow great job. I am so happy to see success. emoticon

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OVERHAULING-ME 12/8/2009 10:04PM

    WOW, CONGRATS!!! I hope you don't mind I'm going to add you as a friend. My starting weight was 320, five weeks ago. Four years ago I lost 70lbs then gained it all back plus 10. This time is the last time and I really need great examples like you to get me through it. I'm amazed at the amount of weight you lost in one year...AMAZING!!! THANKS for the inspiration!

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SJCAN1977 12/6/2009 3:30PM

    You are such an inspiration!

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ELISADEL 12/5/2009 6:23PM

    That's a fantastic accomplishment. emoticon

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DRUSILLA56 12/5/2009 9:21AM


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JUST-AMY 12/4/2009 12:38PM

    My body fat on our new scale says 42% *sigh*. It used to be 48% though. *sigh, sigh*. Right direction, but a way to go! Teach me, oh master!

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    Wow! Congratulations emoticon i was thinking as I read your post that I weigh 326.4 right now and how it feels so hard to get going on this journey and then I read someone who has done it...thank you so much for blogging your success.
I hope you don't mind if I soak up wisdom from you...I am going to go through and read your blog posts and see what i can learn and apply to my own journey.
Thank you again :)


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SHYEKIERA 12/2/2009 10:26PM

    Wow!!! I need to take tips from you!!!!

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    True inspiration! Way to go


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KGPOSSIBLE 12/2/2009 9:09PM

    Wow~~~congratulations on your journey! I know it never ends, but it is a great time to look back and reflect.

emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

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FRECKS96 12/2/2009 7:36PM

    Amazing! Congrats and thanks for sharing!

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LAB-LOVER 12/2/2009 7:07PM

    OHMIGOSH! Congratulations! Simply amazing!

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TELERIE 12/2/2009 6:28PM

    You are just amazing! What a fabulous thing you have done for yourself and what an inspiration you are to me who follow in your footsteps. Thanks!

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JUDYK17 12/2/2009 2:29PM

    Way to go!


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S318830 12/2/2009 1:44PM

    Awesome, awesome, awesome!!!! Nice job!

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4MYBOYSANDSELF 12/2/2009 1:19PM

    Wow. That just gave me chills. Because my goal is to lose 160 lb.! I just started Oct. 14th, but so far it's going well - 25 lb down! So incredible to hear you did it in a year. I am SO inspired! THANK YOU!!

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MOM5INFL 12/2/2009 12:06PM

    Sweet! You are on the homestretch of the first leg of this journey!! Bring on maintenance! emoticon

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ZIRCADIA 12/2/2009 10:42AM

    WOW WOW WOW WOW WOW!!!!!!!!!!!

NS on taking charge and transforming your life!!!! :)

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THEBOOKBINDER 12/2/2009 10:40AM

    That is so awesome, so encouraging. You are doing great!

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NEWLOU2010 12/2/2009 10:33AM

    ROCK ON!!!!!!!!! I am SO PROUD of you!!!!! Girl, I lost 78 in one year and have been at a plateau for over a year and even gained back 22 pounds. I recently restarted and coming across your blog today was just the inspiration I needed. I would love to talk about how you did it. I lost my weight by diet and exercise, but noticed that I had to change things up every so often. I got to the place where I have changed everything I can think of and am at a loss! But I am moving forward!!! Thank you so much for sharing!!!

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MARIASPARKLE 12/2/2009 10:24AM

    WOO HOO HOO!!!

Well done, congratulations, nice work, good for you, etc!!!


emoticon emoticon emoticon

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PATTILYNN224 12/2/2009 10:16AM

    Hokey Smokes. WOW is all I can say. You must be so pleased. I am a little envious of your determination and your success. Can't wait until I can get there myself.

Comment edited on: 12/2/2009 10:40:10 PM

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BZYBOYSMOM 12/2/2009 10:07AM

    Wow, you have done amazing!! Way to go!! emoticon

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NIELSENSLADY 12/2/2009 10:03AM

    OMG! That is awesome!

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HAPPYSOUL91 12/2/2009 9:46AM

    Great job on getting your motivation back. You are successful and will continue on your path.

emoticon emoticon emoticon

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LOVEX3 12/2/2009 9:43AM

    Awesome keep up the good work. emoticon

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JLGGLASS 12/2/2009 9:40AM

    you have done soooooooo well. emoticon emoticon emoticon

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KNITTERGAL73 12/2/2009 9:40AM

    That's something to be really proud of. Enjoy your accomplishment! emoticon

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SHANAHAN00 12/2/2009 9:33AM

    You are such an inspiration! Congratulations!

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DIAMONDFOOLER 12/2/2009 9:27AM

What an awesome year! You are an inspiration to keep going!

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DAVEOZ 12/2/2009 9:15AM

    You got it!

Don't look back

emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

Comment edited on: 12/2/2009 9:16:11 AM

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HAASESH 12/2/2009 9:12AM


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SDTALLY 12/2/2009 9:09AM

    Your story is so wonderful. I went to your page and looked at all of your pictures. Wow! I especially liked the one where two of you were in your old jeans.



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NANAOF3LUVSJC 12/2/2009 9:07AM

    emoticon I am so proud of you accomplishment. You are a inspiration to others. Keep on moving and you can do anything you set your mind too. emoticon on your emoticon

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SATURDAY63 12/2/2009 9:07AM

    That is absolutely incredible!!! Congratulations!! How did you lose 160 lbs in a year? You are such an inspiration and encouragement.....it give me hope, drive and determination when I hear of others accomplishing what I want to accomplish.

Thank you for sharing your success, it truly is inspiring!

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MYUTMOST4HIM 12/2/2009 9:04AM

    WOW - you are AMAZING!!!

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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:

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:

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.

I'm pretty happy with my the tiny portable scale I mentioned earlier:

And with my Escali Primo scales that I have at work and at home.

They come in lots of fun colors.

You can buy a stainless steel platform cover directly from the Escali site for $10:

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...


  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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    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.


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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

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
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. That’s 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 I’d 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 can’t find it them in local stores


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.

2) TrueLemon, TrueLime, TrueOrange

I really like citrus, in case you haven’t figured that out already, LOL. But I’m 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 you’re 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. I’ve 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:

The boxes are already half gone, so I’m 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 doesn’t 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.

You can also request free samples:

3) Concentrated liquid flavorings

As you may have gathered if you’ve spent much time on my page, I try to eat a lot of protein. And that means a lot of whey shakes. I’ve been experimenting with a bunch of different flavors. And what I’ve 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 crème = vanilla + banana

I didn’t 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 we’re 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!


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DAVEOZ 11/24/2009 4:34PM

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


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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.

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, you’ve come a long way. I saw you on youtube before I found SP and was inspired. It’s 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, I’ve 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

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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! :-)


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:

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

I order my konjac shirataki from here:

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:


If you want to get just one container, you can get them for a decent price from netrition.com:

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:

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.


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.

They also have a handy chart listing the nutritional composition of each supplement and the type of sweetener (if any):
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:

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.)

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.


See a different blog post about my other sources of protein, and how much I take per day, etc.

  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


Yes Ma'am, that's right.

Straight shirataki noodles have zero net calories. ZERO.
>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!!!!!

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!


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