Friday, March 01, 2013
Short blog with just a status update today. I stepped on the scale this morning for the first time since mid January. I was apprehensive because I ate a lot of fast food for a few weeks, and I've made a couple of changes to my routine. I haven't been getting a lot of gym exercise done, but I have been 'working out' hauling moving boxes, and raking my new yard. Irregular exercise and eating fluctuations are usually setups for disaster and disappointment.
Instead, I found I am down a pound to 129.0! That's below my pre-holiday weight, and just 2lbs above my last summer low of 127.0. I'm pretty pleased with that!
I'm pointing out the obvious, but the lesson that I'm taking away is that weight gain is a cumulative effect. When I became obese, it was due to long term bad habits. Now that I am mostly maintaining my weight loss, short term of less than ideal circumstances isn't a deal breaker.
My main troublespot is becoming overconfident that just because I didn't suffer bad consequences doesn't mean that I am immune. If I didn't go back to my good habits as soon as possible, then I could have had a very different outcome today.
Thursday, February 28, 2013
A few blogs ago I said that I am mostly low carb, but with a few exceptions. Sometimes I eat steel cut oats for breakfast, and half sandwiches for lunch. I eat low quantities of wheat and grains because I found most low carb substitutes to be unsuitable. Someone wrote to me and asked why that is, and why I don't choose some of the gluten free options.
An interesting question, and I thought it would make a good blog topic.
Back in the 80s, we were told that high fat diets were the cause of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Health conscious consumers immediately threw away their lard and butter and replaced it with I Can't Believe It's Not Butter. These same consumers also noted how much fat was in yogurt, Chips-Ahoy-Cookies and tortillas. Food producers reacted to this new wave of marketing and reduced the amount of fat. When this happened, consumers complained that low-fat food tasted terrible. In order to make food taste better, they added more sugar. Take a look at a cup of Dannon low-fat yogurt. It has almost 0 fat, but 26g of sugar. That's as much as a Snickers bar. Snackwell's cookies were extremely popular with my girls dorm in college because they were 'healthy' low-fat. Let's be honest. Snackwell's taste ok, but do they really compare with grandma's full butter cookies? Not a chance. Fat is a flavor enhancer, and so is salt and sugar. All chefs know there is an optimal balance between all three to make a person say, "YUM!" Take any one of those away, and you have, "Meh."
Let's fast forward to today. Low-carb diets are becoming more popular with some people. Food producers are always ready to capitalize on latest trends. So they have started introducing gluten-free and low-carb tortillas, cookies, chips and numerous other foods. But be very wary that they aren't pulling the same 'fat becomes sugar' switcharoo. Just because something is gluten-free doesn't mean it's low carb. Those of us that follow low carb generally do so to avoid the insulin spikes that trigger weight gain and shut off body fat burn.
In general, I feel that most gluten free food is best for people who have wheat sensitivities. Gluten-free bread typically uses potato starch or tapioca starch instead of wheat. These starches will be broken down and absorbed immediately as though it were refined white sugar. Starch IS sugar. It is a carb that is made of glucose chains. If you are buying gluten free food that is made with potato or tapioca starch, you haven't accomplished anything.
There are some gluten free foods that are low-carb. I'm a particular fan of flax these days. Flax is not a grain - it is a seed. It is low glycemic and rich in Omega-3. When ground, it can't be used entirely as a flour substitute because...well...it's gluten free. Wheat gluten makes awesome bread, cookies, and cakes and that's that. I've tried many, many recipes that claim to be just as good, but I must be a really picky customer because I can tell. It's not the same.
I have made a pretty awesome flaxseed tortilla, though. My husband and I love a flaxseed cracker brand called "Mary's Gone Crackers". But I very carefully check packages that say they are flaxseed. Most of them are wheat mixed with a little flax.
I wrote back in my Christmas blog why I was baking full sugar/wheat cookies and breads. What works best for me is to have a little bit of the 'real thing', rather than try to fill gaps with substitutes. Sometimes I like the substitutes better, like in the case of "Mary's Gone Crackers", but most of the time I don't. I'm baking a chocolate torte for my husband's birthday this coming Sunday, but that will be our first dessert since Christmas.
Most mornings I prefer to eat eggs, but there are days when I need to move faster. I freeze batches of steel-cut oatmeal for mornings where I'm really rushed, and I'm out of eggs. I make sandwiches with thin cuts of bread because there really isn't a more portable and convenient lunch on the go. It can be eaten without utensils, which sometimes I need. If I don't prepare these foods, then I'll end up holding a fast food wrapper instead, and I definitely don't want that. If I had gluten intolerance, I'd use the gluten-free options. But since I'm not, I'm not gaining anything in these situations.
Back before I started school, it was easy to completely avoid wheat and grain. I didn't need portable food, or a fast breakfast. Now that I do, this is what I've found fits my needs. I'll keep doing it as long as it hasn't hurt my weight goals. If it does, then I'll adjust. A quick count on a food tracker shows that I am still under 80g carbs per day, well under the 160-240g I used to eat.
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
I was pleased to see the latest headlines making the rounds in the new cycle today: Mediterranean Diet beats Low-Fat diet.
This particular passage caught my eye:
"The study's findings, released Monday by the New England Journal of Medicine, also add to mounting evidence contradicting a long-held tenet of dieting to improve health: that all calories are equal."
Hurray! Calorie is not a calorie.
Back in the 80s we were told not to eat eggs. Then experts changed their minds and said eggs were ok. Nuts are looking to be the new 'eggs'. No more counting out exactly 14 peanuts lest you go over your fat grams!
The diet in this study emphasized olive oils and nuts. They were not limited on calories. They were told to limit their red meat consumption.
Olive oil is my main oil for cooking, and even though I no longer follow a low fat diet, I still choose to eat leaner cuts of meat.
Why? Because when cows are fed their natural diet and are pasture raised, they are very lean. Modern cows are only heavily fatty because they are fed corn to make them that way. They are obese. The only animals that are naturally fatty when healthy are whales, seals and salmon. So I choose lean cuts of meats because there is something unnatural about the heavily marbled meats. Maybe I'll enjoy a ribeye occasionally, but I prefer NY strip if I'm going to have steak. I prefer more protein over more fat.
As a general rule, I don't avoid fats as they naturally come. Eggs and nuts are staple snacks for me. It's a shame they were maligned for so long.
I would be wary of the nut butters, though. Those mixed with hydrogenated oils or palm oils are introduced as stabilizers so the oil doesn't separate. I check the ingredient lists. It should have exactly one ingredient: the nut. Peanut butter should have peanuts, nothing else. Mixing the separated oil before using is not churning butter; it's not hard or time consuming.
I'm glad that conventional wisdom is starting to get wise.
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Today is mid-term - I seriously had a nightmare about one of my exams last night! But all is well - I have an "A" overall in both classes I'm taking. A girl who sits behind me in Calculus is a high school student who is so advanced, she is taking college credit courses. I think it's incredible that she is so young and has an opportunity that I wish I had when I was her age. We got our exams back today, and I got an 89%, which I am totally thrilled about (because I literally had a nightmare it was terrible!) She seemed hesitant to share her grade, so I was worried she might not have done well, but then she revealed she got a 100%. I cheered and congratulated her. I think she was worried I might be jealous that she got a higher grade. It doesn't matter where I am relative to anyone else - we aren't graded on a curve. I made a couple of silly mistakes, and I would have liked my grade to be higher, but that's because I'm in competition with myself - not her or anyone else.
Truth is, there will always be someone better, smarter and more successful. It is stupid to compare ourselves with anyone else. I think it's even more stupid not to applaud people who do well and not push them forward. It is a very poor reflection of ourselves if we can't recognize talent in others.
My husband and I are doing well at the moment, and we recognize that while we've worked for it, there is always an element of luck in any ups or downs. I'm disappointed that I'm not working, but I am happy to be back in school. I really hated being at home with seemingly no purpose. My husband says my mood has been 100x better since I started classes and have some structure keeping me busy.
It has been disappointing that there are some people in our lives who are less than happy about what we've accomplished. Some either consciously or subconsciously have tried to diminish us. We ran into one of my husband's coworkers at Lowe's when we were shopping for window blinds. He explained to his wife that we just bought a house. She said, "Oh, is it a prebuilt house?" I thought that was a very odd question, but I later learned that they are in the process of having a house custom built. Hmm...ok...was that an attempt at upstaging? Then my husband said this coworker approached him at work and said he'd never buy a house less than 2 years old because you're just buying someone else's problems.
My husband is from England where all the houses are old. Good luck finding a plot of land to build a custom house if your name isn't Lord or Lady something. Where I'm from, generally buying a house less than 10 years old is risking foundation problems because the soil is very unstable. The house we bought at 23 years old has no structural or foundation problems - it's been standing long enough that those problems would have revealed themselves. That's one of the reasons why we bought it.
He's the coworker that belittles my husband for driving a fuel efficient Honda, while he brags about his luxury sedan. The thing is, my husband and I could care less. We don't care about playing keeping up with Jones or Kardashians or whatever. We compare us to ourselves. I'm not jealous of my coworker and his wife, but I now have a very poor opinion of them. We have had dinner with them before on occasion, and I told my husband that I don't really care to meet with them again. He agrees.
Right now we have a fold up table and patio chairs for our 'dining' table because we've been mobile for many years. Our real friends wouldn't care if it was a grand formal or a turned over box in the middle of the floor. Those who judge otherwise reveal themselves as persons of poor character.
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
I'm still sticking with what works for me. I'm mostly low carb, but there are a few differences, which I'll explain in a bit.
My breakfasts don't vary too much. I pick one of the three:
- Pastry-less quiche. It's pretty much the quiche filling without a crust.
- Plain yogurt with blueberries.
- Steel cut oats and milk.
Lunch varies greatly, but it is a fairly standard formula of protein+veggies+fruit.
- Homemade soup (seafood stew or ham and bean)+half sandwich (turkey, tuna or roast beef)+cup of fruit salad.
- Salad (lettuce, tomato, bell pepper, no dressing)+half sandwich+small orange.
- Chicken cobb salad.
Snacks are simple - and portable.
- Pickled eggs. It sounds weird, but I've found that I like these. I just take peeled hard boiled eggs, put them in a jar with a teaspoon of pickling spice, then pour boiling 1 cup vinegar + 1 cup water solution over the top of it. I refrigerate when cool. It allows me to have a hard boiled egg on hand for up to 2 weeks so there's no rush to eat them. Although mine rarely last a week.
- Celery and carrot sticks and hummus. I LOVE hummus!
Dinner varies the most, but follows protein+veggies formula. Once or twice a week I will add 1/2 cup of rice or a small sweet potato. I rarely ever have dessert.
- Grilled flank steak+steamed veggies (green beans, broccoli, brussel sprouts, etc).
- NY strip steak+steamed veggies.
- Grilled or baked chicken breast or thigh+steamed veggies.
- Grilled or baked fish (salmon or tuna)+steamed veggies.
- Beef, chicken or pork stir fry+rice+stir fry veggies.
- Roast chicken or lamb+assorted roasting veggies+sweet potato.
I haven't been drinking much wine or beer anymore. With my college work, I simply can't hold my concentration in the evenings after dinner if I have a glass of wine. So I've been saving it for the weekends.
I've mentioned in the past that I limit my wheat and grain products. The sandwich bread and steel cut oats are not usually recommended on low-carb plans. I eat them in small quantities mostly because of convenience. A sandwich is tough to beat for portable food on the go. The steel cut oats can be cooked in advance and frozen into individual breakfast sized portions. 2 minutes in the microwave from frozen makes them ideal 'fast food' for my mornings. I've tried various low-carb substitutes, and they don't work quite as well.
I don't diligently track my carbs and calories at the moment, but I know from my past record that I am higher than most low-carb plans, and much lower than the standard Spark diet recommendation. Even though I get excellent weight loss results with a VLC diet, it is difficult for me to manage my vitamin and mineral balance, particularly with the potassium drop. So I eat more fruit and potatoes than most LC plans recommend.
On the flip side, I cannot eat large quantities of breads, grains or starches, or I will start to gain weight. I also get other secondary issues like sinus trouble. If I have steel cut oats in the morning, I can't have a sandwich at lunch and rice for dinner. So I pick one bread, grain or starch a day.
It might be if I was running on a treadmill for an hour a day or training for a marathon that my energy needs would be different, but this is what works for me in my normal daily life. I find it simple to manage, and I don't have to think about it too much. That's what lifestyle means to me, anyway.
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