Tuesday, June 19, 2012
"Never give up. Never surrender." - Galaxy Quest
"Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success." - Thomas Edison
Back in May 2011, I made the switch to a lower carb diet. Here's how my progress has worked out.
For 10 years I was overweight. In 2000, I was obese at 160lbs. In 2005, I lost 30 pounds, but was still overweight with 32% bodyfat.
The reason for it eluded me. It wasn't for lack of exercise. I was plenty active with bike riding, hiking, inline skating, kayaking and swimming. I eliminated fast food, sugary drinks, and junk food. I followed all the dietary advice of balancing carbs, fat and protein, and stayed within my calorie ranges.
But the most I could manage was yo-yo. Up-down, up-down went my weight.
I was an athlete, but I didn't look much different than a moderate couch potato. Why didn't I look like the other people who were just as active as me?
It was exceedingly frustrating to be at 32% bodyfat. 'Normal' bodyfat range is about 28%. I was almost there. I could see it, visualize it. And yet it remained just outside my grasp.
When I started researching paleo type diets, it seemed to fit. I experimented with various forms of it, and have eventually settled on what works for me.
Here's how I lose weight:
- About 60-80g carbs per day when losing weight.
- I eat a grain or starch with one meal only per day, usually dinner.
- Protein and vegetables. Forget about the Atkin stereotypes. The only meal where I don't eat vegetables is breakfast. And that's because a salad at breakfast seems weird!
- Breakfast: Typically one egg prepared either poached or omelet, and a piece of fruit like a watermelon, raspberries, or blueberries. This week it is plain yogurt and a cup of coffee.
- Snacks: Hard boiled egg, or a small bowl of cottage cheese.
- Lunch: A large salad with tuna or chicken salad, and a bowl of veggie soup. It's basically replacing lettuce for the bread portion in a sandwich. Last week I made a white bean veggie soup. This week I'm making a butternut squash soup.
- Dinner: Steak, chicken, pork or fish, small serving of rice or potatoes, steamed veggies, and a side salad.
- Dessert is homemade, and I make small serving petit four type desserts. Last week was banana bread. This week is shortbread cookies. But of course this is a treat, and I can skip it entirely.
- I drink beer and wine in the week, and a Friday happy hour cocktail. I'm very picky about my cocktails. It must be real juice, and no adult kool-aid mixes.
- Exercise 3-4x per week at 30 minutes with a longer excursion on the weekends. Biking, kayaking, hiking, etc.
Here's how I gain weight:
- Eating fast food or standard American restaurants.
- Not eating meals at home.
- Eating more than 120g carbs per day.
- No exercise.
Exercise and nutrition are important. As I've learned over the years, exercise does not cancel a bad diet, or even a decent one but composed of the wrong things.
I do have to exercise in order to lose/maintain weight. However, 30 minutes 3-4 times per week is all that is required. I don't need to spend hours at the gym, nor does it need to be vigorous. I keep my heart rate at about 60-70% of max. Quite moderate.
In July 2003, this was me:
This was me last month, May 2012:
For years, I thought I was always going to be fat, no matter what I did. The answer that I needed was always within my grasp. I just had to look a little further to find it. For me, the golden key was not my calorie total, but my macronutrient balance. My calorie total is actually about the same, but distributed differently.
Monday, June 18, 2012
You know the old saying. Food is the way to a man's heart. While originating in a very different era, perhaps a modern interpretation would be "Food is the way to a lover's heart" because it goes both ways. I love that my husband likes to cook, too.
When I moved to Seattle financially broke and obese, I had to do a lot of cleaning house mentally and physically. My life had just fallen apart, and I needed to rebuild myself.
One of the things I determined to do to get my life under control was learn to cook. Even though I didn't have a lot of money, I bought myself a nice set of cookware. I learned to cook from watching Food Network and the internet. Being unpracticed, I made a lot of mistakes and a few bad dishes. But I got better over time.
By the time I met my future husband, I was comfortable in a kitchen. He is a pretty good cook. Even though he nearly set his oven on fire the first time he cooked for me. He was making a prosciutto wrapped chicken breast. We got to talking, and I guess he left it under the broiler just a little too long. The stove started smoking, there was a small flame, and he opened up all the windows and doors to air out his apartment. The funny thing is, it turned out just fine. The prosciutto was a little bit crispy like crisp bacon. It was delicious. If I hadn't seen the frantic window opening, I would have thought he'd intended to flambe it. I couldn't stop laughing.
Living in Seattle, we had access to some of the best world class food, so we dined out regularly. But we also enjoyed making meals at home for each other.
I sometimes wonder if our love would have blossomed the same without the experience of sharing good food.
My health has improved leaps and bounds after learning to make my meals. While I still eat low carb, what breads and desserts I do eat comes from my own kitchen for the most part. The result is I've been able to maintain my weight far easier than I ever thought possible. I don't know if it's because my body manages the whole ingredients better, or if it's more satisfying so I eat less. Maybe a combination of both.
The only time I gain weight is when I eat meals at fast food and poor quality restaurants. Since I've learned to cook at home, my palate has refined to the point where I can taste the individual spices and flavors. In fast food, I can taste predominately three things: poor quality vegetable oil, salt, and sugar. I was dismayed when I recently learned that Chik-fil-a uses MSG in their 'secret' seasoning.
My German-American 1930's depression era grandmother made the most incredible pecan pie I can remember. She would make the pie from pecans in her backyard. Sadly, her recipe died with her. I didn't have an interest in cooking at the time she was alive to ask her for the recipe, and I was too young to recall it from memory. Her children were all boys who weren't going to do 'women's work' cooking. Her grandchildren abandoned recipes and stoves in favor of packaged cartons of microwaved meals. The pecan pie is gone forever, along with who knows how many other recipes made with real ingredients.
It's a shame that I learned the lesson too late to save it.
Friday, June 15, 2012
One of the most frustrating things about tackling big projects is knowing where to start. Everyone knows how to spot the big picture end goal. Lose 50lbs. Earn xxx in sales this quarter. Remodel the kitchen.
But where to start can seem overwhelming, and the temptation is to kick the can and 'start tomorrow'.
One of my big projects at the moment is reducing the clutter in my apartment. I've never been a terribly neat person. My room as a kid was always cluttered with clothes on the floor. My desk rarely had room for me to do my homework on.
Shows about hoarders scare me. While my home is nowhere near as bad as these horror stories, sometimes when they talk about why they do it, I hear eerily familiar echoes.
I saw a show recently where a woman hoarded food. She had 7 refrigerators filled with rotting food. This isn't something that I do, but when she showed a mountain high pile of empty food containers, I gulped. She said she saved these food containers because they could be useful for storing things, but she never used them.
This was a little too close to home. I've saved empty plastic containers and jars thinking I could use them to store leftovers, and be thrifty. But the reality is they just take up space in my cabinets.
I went and threw them all out.
Because I like to cook, my kitchen is the cleanest place in the house. I wipe down my counters after every meal. I am actually a bit OCD about the cleanliness of my kitchen. My drawers are organized in ways so I can get to things quickly. Since I've decided to work more on food blogging, this has been more important.
But other areas of my apartment are more cluttered. I know that I should tidy them up, but it seems overwhelming, and I kick the can. It's such a big task, and it's not especially clear cut. "I want a clean, neat house." What exactly does that mean?
My clothes drawers are full of clothes that I don't wear, but I cling to and don't want to throw or donate away. Many of them are still in good condition. Some I bought and have never worn. I'm loathe to give them away because I feel like I've wasted my money.
And yet they sit there, just taking up space. That's not very utilitarian value.
There are a lot of things in my house that aren't used, but I cling to and don't want to give away. My husband has been very patient all these years, gently trying to get me to let them go, and yet any time he mentions it, I panic. What if I need them later?
But I never need them later.
And then I watch the hoarding shows where the people talk about panicking when they think of throwing something away. It's a little more familiar and recognition then I'd like to admit.
So just like in various other aspects of my life when I needed to make change, I've decided to just do it. No excuses, just get it done. Even if I don't want to or don't feel like it, just do it anyway. I'm not a little kid, I'm an adult, and I need to do it. Whether I 'want' to is irrelevant. It 'has' to get done, so do it.
I've been doing a little at a time. Straightening up just a drawer or two a day. Folding, organizing, and throwing things into bags to take to the charity shop.
Here's what my bedroom looked like before. Only the cat enjoys the clutter. She mocks me by sleeping on my clutter instead of her cat bed.
After it is done, it wasn't so bad. And it didn't take that long either to sort things for laundry or charity. In moments where I thought to myself, "I should keep this, just in case...", I tossed it in the charity bag. If I thought that, then I probably didn't need it. The truth is, after the space was clean and I could vacuum, I felt better. A tidy space lifts the mood.
In the end, only the cat is unhappy with the declutter. But she still won't sleep in the cat bed. She preferred the clothes pile.
Thursday, June 14, 2012
I don't do a lot of baking. Mostly because I dread the cleanup. I don't have a lot of kitchen space, so I don't have a kitchen mixer. I have a small handheld mixer for those occasions when I need it. Most baking recipes conjures up images of a million mixing bowls, measuring cups, and awkward to clean mixing spoons.
The baking that enjoy most involves just a mixing bowl, a kitchen scale, and a spoon. Easy to make, easy to clean.
Since I've been unemployed, I've been looking to update my cooking blog. I am also looking to keep my programming skills sharp developing an iPhone app with a cooking focus that I hope to release before the end of summer. I've been experimenting with a few recipes.
I've developed two versions of low maintenance banana bread. Easy recipes to whip out when there are overripe bananas that need tending. One is a regular banana bread, another is a gluten-sugar free/low carb version. I make them in a mini 3x6 loaf pan so there isn't hoards of leftovers. I seriously don't understand baking recipes that have 24 servings. Great for potlucks or family reunions, but not so great for everyday life - or diets. Moderation is hard enough without mountains of cake around! In my household, we'd end up with a lot of food waste. I've adapted my recipes so my husband and I can enjoy a small serving with breakfast or a light dessert after dinner for a couple of days.
The Spark recipes are here for adding to your food tracker:
Banana Bread: recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-detai
Gluten-Sugar Free Banana Bread: recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-detai
If you look at the nutritional comparisons, there isn't a lot of difference calorie-wise between them. It is the distribution of carb/fat/protein. There is also a slight difference in taste/texture. The regular version is muffin-like. The gluten-free version has a cornbread texture, and a slight tropical cake taste from the addition of coconut flour.
Step by step photos are on my blog: shortcutmenus.com/2012/06/easy-banan
Hope you enjoy!
Thursday, May 31, 2012
You all know that I am a traveler. I love going to different places and exploring this little planet we call Earth. It is truly a special place, and I love going to new places, meeting their people, and eating their food.
Especially eating their food.
When I went to Paris, I ate food. Lots of food. I bought one little hat at a street market, and that was it for my shopping experience.
It's food and seeing the sites that I enjoy when I travel. I'm not a shopper. I rarely buy souvenirs. Where would I put it? It usually just adds to clutter. I have a tendency towards hording, so it's just better to avoid souvenirs.
Having the joys of eating abroad, I have to say I've come to dislike American restaurants. I blame Applebee's and Chili's oversized portions for my obesity.
In Spain and France, the plate sizes were small relatively. I could just hear in my head my dad complaining about the tiny steaks. And yet they left me overall more satisfied and well nourished.
Once a regular occurrence, I can't stand to eat at Applebee's anymore. The food is over processed, over salted, and over sugared. The apple pie is so sickeningly sweet, all I taste is sugar lightly flavored with apple.
In France, I had a wonderful apple tarte that was a little sweet, and a little tart. It was divine. I could taste the apples. The delicate flakey pastry complimented the apples with a slight buttery-ness. The Applebee's pie lacks the nuances or the complexities. The over saturated sweetness ruins the dessert.
Back in 2000, I weighed 160lbs and wore size 12 pants. On my 5'0" frame, that put me solidly in the obese category. Those were my high flying days of Applebee's burgers and apple pie.
Today, I weigh about 128 (post vacation weight), and wear a size 6. Almost a size 4 before I went on vacation.
After struggling with my weight for over 10 years, I finally discovered it's wasn't bad genes that was keeping me overweight. It was what I was eating. Which was completely baffling because I followed the dietary guidelines of 60/15/25 carbs/fat/protein.
This was simply a formula to keep me fat. If this worked for you, great. But it did not work for me.
These days, I follow a few simple rules, and I can eat relatively intuitive. Without carb counters, calorie counters or anything else.
1) 80-100 grams protein per day. (Protein with every meal)
2) No more than 60 grams carbs per day. (90% veggies)
3) No calories from drinks. (Low, low sugar consumption)
That's it. Believe me, 60g carbs is plenty. I can enjoy a piece of toast with breakfast, a cup of rice at dinner, or a dessert, but not all together. When I eat mostly vegetables for carbs, I have plenty reserved for something else I like.
Most everyone is familiar with a saying from Kate Moss: "Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels."
It's going to sound shocking, but I kind of understand this now.
Wait, wait. Hear me out.
When taken as an anorexic manifesto, this statement is beyond awful. It's too easy to take the wrong way, especially when you're a young teenage female.
I eat between 1400-2000 calories per day, depending on my activity level. There is so starvation diet here. So this statement means something different for me.
It means, if I eat something, it had better be worth it.
I will never hesitate to enjoy an authentic French tarte with a cup of coffee. However, I will never again touch an Applebee's apple pie.
It doesn't taste as nice as a pair of size 4-6 pants feels.
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