Sunday, March 03, 2013
I've got a pretty good handle on my diet and fitness goals, so I've been struggling with topics to write about. I fear long time Sparkfriends' eyes are glazing over as some of my stories are overlapping or repeating.
As I switch into maintenance focus rather than dieting, I'm going to cover more lifestyle topics. Hopefully this will be of interest to readers new and old. If there's anything you'd like me to write about specifically, feel free to write to my Sparkmail.
My first lifestyle topic that I'm going to tackle this month is 'zero food waste'. In the United States alone, we waste $165 billion dollars worth of food a year. That's about 40% of all the fertilizer, water, land and energy used to grow and move food across the country. An American family of four throws away $2,275 worth of food annually, or $189 per month.
The fertilizers and irrigation we use are very damaging to our environment. The Gulf Coast experiences dead zones every year due to the nitrogen runoffs from farms all the way up the Mississippi river, which kills fish in the Gulf of Mexico. More food is grown than we actually consume. Food that is unpurchased in grocery stores usually goes into the garbage. There are very few communities that take this food and give it to homeless shelters. It just goes to waste.
Every time I throw away a rotten cabbage that I intended to make into a soup, I feel like a failure. Starving children in Africa guilt and all. The absolute very worst is when I have to throw away meat. An animal gave its life, and because I didn't plan well enough, it was a wasted life.
This month I'm going to make it my focus to use everything.
Here are the ground rules:
- Removing the outer leaves from lettuce, cabbage and brussel sprouts for sanitary and cleanliness reasons is ok.
- Meats and veggies will be bought in smaller quantities.
- Veggies that start to look wilty get thrown in a pot for soup or stock.
- Onions, bell peppers, carrots and celery will get chopped up and refrigerated ahead of time for quick use and easy prep. They'll be more likely to be used.
- Most meat will be prepared for the freezer early in the week.
- Food prep will revolve around what most needs to be cooked first.
- Meal planning for the week penciled in advance. I'm pretty good with this already.
When my husband and I moved into the house, we had to buy a refrigerator. We bought an armoire, or French door, version where the fridge is on the top and freezer is on the bottom. All food in the fridge is at eye level. That makes it easier to see what's available and needs to be used. Hopefully this will make my goal easier!
First order of business is a bunch of tomatoes we bought last week that look like high priority. I'm going to put them in a blender to make a marinara sauce for tomorrow's dinner.
Saturday, March 02, 2013
We all have to give up something.
Sometimes I get Sparkmail from people telling me that they are inspired by my story. In particular, my bicycle story seems to generate the most mail for me.
A quick recap. Back when I was obese, I bought a bicycle so I could get fit. I rode it for one hour every day. There was a particular hill that I could not peddle up. It was impossible for me; I had to get off my bike and walk it up. I kept at it, though. After many weeks (forever?), one day I peddled all the way to the top without stopping. It was a crowning achievement for me. It was the turn point where I knew that a life of being overweight and out of shape wasn't inexorable. I could change it.
I rode that bike every day. EVERY day. I rode it when I was 'too tired.' I rode it when 'I didn't want to.' I rode it in the rain. I lived in Seattle at the time. If I didn't ride in the rain, then I'd never ride at all.
People ask me, "I really need to lose weight. I know that you lost weight with low carb, but I can never give up x, y, or z. How did you do it?"
This bothers me because I wonder if what they want me to say is, "You don't have to give anything up!" I can't say it. Because I don't believe it to be true. We all have to give up something.
Here are foods/drinks that I never thought I could give up, and I did:
- Snickers bars
- Full sugar soda
- Potato chips
- Processed 'luncheon' meats
- Fast food
- Chili's margaritas
- Fruit juices
- "Convenience" foods
Here are things I eat/drink less of (after I went into maintenance):
- Desserts (reserved for special occasions)
- Diet sodas
Even eating in 'moderation' is giving up frequency or portion size.
When I had a lot of weight to lose, I dropped everything I thought I could 'never give up.' I used to love Snickers bar. I haven't had a Snickers in over 7 years. And I don't miss it. It represents a time period when I used to hate myself. Whenever I see a Snickers at the grocery store, I look at it and remember a time when I stayed inside because I didn't want to be seen. When I couldn't carry my groceries up the stairs to my apartment without feeling like I just ran the Boston marathon.
When I gave up Snickers and all, I also gave up:
- Constant fatigue and tiredness.
- Fear of walking up stairs.
- Fear of carrying groceries across the parking lot.
- Jealousy of watching other people run, bike, and hike without being out of breath.
- Self loathing: clothes didn't make me look fat; fat made me look fat.
If I say I'm going to 'try', I'm not fully committed. I am someone that is either "Do or don't do; there is no try."
How long have you been trying? "Do" or "Try". Which is going to get you where you want to be?
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.
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