Saturday, February 28, 2009

Day 48: Surviving

I've had an emotional week this week or a week where I feel overwhelmed by life. When that happens, I often disconnect from life. Shut down. Burrow in an emotional hole. Wish things were different. 

And when I burrow, I don't do productive things and I don't typically eat. 

Funny, huh? I mean funny because in my real life, in my everyday life, eating is the thing that I do. I eat anywhere and everywhere and all the time. I eat as much as possible. I eat nonstop. I just eat. So, to not eat? Well, that is a conundrum for me. 

Before this allergy-free thing, most of the time when I disconnected, I would go out and forage for food once a day. Hit a drive-thru. Then I would come back and be half sick and half bloated but at least I would be full. Typically, I would eat once every 24 hours when I was in my disconnected state. It wasn't pretty and I would be awfully hungry for most of that time because having metabolic syndrome or pre-diabetes means that hunger is a constant state of being that accompanies you wherever you go when you eat things that set off your blood sugar. 

So, I would typically eat once a day. Well, I still eat once a day when I'm in my disconnected state. Or a couple of times a day. But this time I did my own cooking. And here is what I ate quite a bit of this week. 
  • fried onions (who would have thought that, but for some reason, I've been craving onions)
  • raspberry smoothies (just almond milk, raspberries and a touch of agave nectar)
  • eggs (hardboiled and over easy with salsa)
  • turkey burgers with fry sauce (I love that stuff--great mayo, dijon mustard, catsup)
  • apples
  • and more fried onions
This is the kind of stuff that kept me going this week. And all I can say is: fried onions taste great with my special fry sauce. 

Friday, February 27, 2009

Day 47: Cooking Class with Kelsey Nixon

My mama loves to cook. She loves it. My whole life I've watched her in the kitchen working her magic making dishes and treats and snacks that wow the taste buds, lift the heart and make you come back for more and more and more. 

My mama loves to cook so much that she takes classes, tries new recipes and discusses food a lot. She also cooks incredible food and feeds her whole family every Sunday. That means seven of her eight children and five of their spouses, plus 16 grandchildren. That's 30 people every week. That's a lot of people to cook food for each week. When my baby brother is in town with his family our numbers bump up to 33 at dinner. (And with two new babies on the way this year we will soon be up to 35 people. And I expect at least three more grandchildren to join us in 2010 too.)

Well, my mom is always taking cooking classes to learn more about food. A couple of months ago she took a class by a girl named Kelsey Nixon who is a minor celebrity around here for having competed on The Next Food Network Star tv show a year ago. Ms. Nixon is young--only 24 years old--but she is bubbly and cute and full of energy. And she likes to cook and talk about it. 

Well, my mom hired her to come and do a cooking class at her house. And she invited ten of us to come out for the class. We had a great time. We got to watch Kelsey cook some amazing food and we got to talk about food. A lot. We chatted about knives and knife sharpening and how to cut an onion and how to not cut into meat until it has rested for 10 minutes after pulling it from the oven. We talked about culinary school and the food network show Kelsey was on. We had a great time. She made Greek grilled veggie panini sandwiches, a veggie orzo salad, a roast pork, and a lemon curd and berry dessert. Good food. 

I still stuck to the allergy-free diet. I ate the grilled veggies for the panini sandwiches, I ate the berries for the dessert, I ate the veggies out of the orzo salad and I ate the pork and cut off the bread crumb outer crust of the meat. All in all a fun night full of good food and lots of chatter. 

Thanks, Mama. What a fabulous night full of friends, fun and great food. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Day 45: Am I Really Still Doing This?

So, I've been doing this for 45 days now. I'm a little amazed that it is still going on.

Two things I'm feeling: Stomach is thin and feeling small. Shocking really, how small it feels. I've never recalled feeling this thin this early and by that I mean--I've lost my tummy. I've lost my tummy in the sense that I can see my toes and that my breasts stick out further than the tummy.

Rather a shock coming from a girl whose chubby tummy has always preceeded the rest of her when entering a room.

The second thing I'm feeling is a bit stunned. After all this time, after all this effort, after all these years is this really it? Is this really how I reach the goal? Is this how I feel better? Is this really the secret to me feeling strong and healthy? Cutting out the dairy and the wheat? Watching the overall carbs? Eating frequently throughout the day? Enjoying the good fats? Drinking plenty of water? Feeling so good when I exercise? Is this really it?

Well, I bless the Thin Gods and their cohorts for a wee sign of progress. I've got many days ahead on this journey. I certainly feel more secure about that state of my health in those days to come. And it is a journey I think I just may relish.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

How I Trick Myself Into Believing I'm Not Weighing Myself Daily and Why It's Not Working

When I re-started, started over, began this journey again, I decided that no matter what this time around on the weight loss journey, I would NOT weigh myself daily.

No matter what.

You see, I decided that part of the downfall from my KABOOM experience was the fact that I swooped so deeply into diet mentality from the beginning. From day one I was obsessed with how much I weighed and how quickly I could lose that weight. Obsessed.

When the air cleared for me from that awful, bloody, dark time period of regaining the weight and losing my way, I realized that one sure sign of failure for me was an obsession with the scale. If I ever wanted to succeed again at a healthy lifestyle, I had to give up the near hourly obsession with how I looked and how much I weighed. That obsession would kill my progress. For sure.

So, I decided that on this allergy-free diet and as I was working my way back into health, I would not obsess with the scale. At the most I would weigh myself once a month.

A feat that would require more willpower than anything on this journey.

I've only been marginally successful.

I haven't weighed myself daily, but I've certainly done it weekly, bi-weekly, or nearly daily when I'm feeling good. But what I tell myself is that these don't count and they are just tidbits of information for me and no one else. These are private little weigh-ins which I like to trick myself into believing never really happened--especially as long as I don't tell anyone.

So, I step lightly on the scale, read the number and then pack the scale back again in the closet not to be seen for at least another 24 hours. This way I like to believe I'm not really breaking my ban on the scale. Just testing it a wee bit.

A delusion that is self-induced, self-monitored and entirely too self-aware to do me or anyone else any good.

So, why am I writing about it?

Because I haven't lost a pound this entire month and I'd like to forget the scale once again. It isn't doing me any good.

And now, I sincerely hope the darn thing is broken. If it is not, it may not survive through another disappointing reading all in one piece.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

If I Was a Mother I'd Be a Granola

I've decided to embrace my inner tree-hugger. I was reading an article the other day about cloth diapering and I realized I'm a bona fide granola eco-mama . . . and I'm okay with it. 

If I was a mother today these are the things I am interested in and likely would be doing: 
  • cloth diapering
  • home birthing
  • doula and midwife assisted birth
  • no vaccinations
  • homeopathic medicines
  • homeschooling
and the things I'm doing now
  • clean, whole, real foods
  • clean water
  • recycling
  • green cleaning supplies
  • supplements
  • exercise (or at least I'm trying)

I had to laugh as I put this list together. I think I've always been a closet, earthy-friendly, green-living, back-to-nature kind of girl. I was listening to the radio on the way to work the other day as they talked about vaccinating your children by the age of two, I was having arguments with the radio host and his guests despite the fact that they couldn't hear me. 

Then at a church activity the other day, I took issue with the fact that all we seem to feed children at these activities is white flour, sugar and hydrogenated oils. Why? Why don't we give a smidgen of thought to their health? I know I'm not going to be able to control everything like that in my children's lives but it bothers me when we don't even give a thought to feeding children such things. 

Then finally, when I read about cloth diapering of my own accord the other day and I was fascinated with the topic, I realized that if I ever married and had the sweet opportunity of having babies, I was going to be a complete eco-centered earth mama. It just seems to be my passion and at the center of my thoughts so often that I'm going to admit it freely and be open about it. 

It's just time I faced facts.  

Friday, February 20, 2009

Day 40 Progress

Well, it's been nearly 6 weeks that I've been on this diet. How's it going? Hmmmm, pretty well. There are up days and there are down days. Sometimes more of one than the other. 

In my regular life there are always more down days. There have been more down days in my life since . . . oh, the dawn of time shall we say? In this version of my life, there are still down days. Yes, still down days. But overall? Overall, up days. Yes, up days. What do you do with up days when you have them  nearly all the time? 

I don't know, I've never experienced this many up days in a row. Ever.

I'm more productive than I've ever been. I feel like a robot has been created. One who can accomplish things and do her dishes every day. One who cleans her car, makes her bed, and actually showers each and every day. One who keeps up. 

It's making me a little scared. 

What kind of person actually makes her bed every day? 

Somebody who is not "normal" in my life. 

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Day 39 Progress: I'm Trying to Temper My Excitement

My uncle asked me the other day about this allergy-free diet in an email. He wanted to know what I was doing and why and if it was helping. I tried to respond quietly and nicely and calmly to his email and his questions, but mostly I was excited. I just wanted to shout about how much I've been learning on this allergy-free diet and what it is doing for me. I've been feeling like I want everyone around me to try this and see if their emotional issues would clear up if they went off wheat and dairy too. 

I really had to hold myself back. I just wanted to proclaim that I had found the holy grail and it was WORKING. 

And working is very, very nice. Working is addictive. Having something working like this makes me think that I may have actually found one of the keys to the kingdom. 

And that kingdom would be health and wellness. 

It starts to make achieving thinness look like a real, live state I can reach. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Day 38: Feeling the Effects

My feet feel thin today. 

I know that's a rather funny thing to say, but when you've been chubby most of your life and you wake up one morning to thin feet--well, you just thank the Thin Gods and be grateful for small gifts.  

I know even these small gifts are the result of the allergy-free diet and that makes me thrilled. Thrilled for the changes big and small I've been feeling and thrilled about the changes that I hope to see occur in the future. 

I guess you could say life is taking on a bit of a sparkle lately. 

Other thin affects that I've noticed recently? 
  • thinner face
  • hands less bloated
  • stomach less bloated
Yes, to have my tummy start to disappear this early in the game is like a gigantic French kiss from the Thin Gods. My tummy has never departed so early and with so little fanfare before. It is like it is slinking away because it is aware of the ultimate defeat. 

Of course, I still weigh in the 300s. Yes. But even a chubby girl can get excited to see her toes each morning in the shower without having to bend at a 90 degree angle just to wish them good morning. 

Yes, the bottom half of my body suddenly seems like an old friend who has recently returned and wants to get hitched. And I'm ready to say "I DO." 

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Insight I'd Share with My Sixteen-Year Old Self

If I was given the chance to chat with my 16-year-old self (and if I could get her to listen and quit mooning over that cute boy in human anatomy), I would have a few pearls of wisdom to impart with said teenager. 

Eat breakfast: First, I'd pat her little round cheek and tell her to "Eat breakfast, honey" each and every day. And please, please, please whatever you do forget all those ideas from Fit for Life especially the one that talks about eating only fruit until noon. That one is setting you up for disaster. Especially when your fruit consists of just freshly-squeezed orange juice each morning. Honey, when that is the only thing you eat at 7AM that is why you start to feel shaky around 9AM and that is why you are simply RAVENOUS by 10 each morning. Then you are so famished by lunch you can barely think straight. The juice is not helping you. Feeling hungry like that is not helping you. Breakfast can really be a boon to you and not such a troublemaker. 

Here's a little breakfast rehab just for you and your particular little body. Eat breakfast within an hour of waking up each morning. Yes, the 7AM thing is a great idea. Now, eat a breakfast filled with some veggies, some fruit, even some good carbs and especially some good, good protein. Start your body and your brain off right for the day with things like:
  • eggs over easy with a bit of chunky, fresh salsa and some sliced avocado and a berry smoothie with raspberries, blueberries, almond milk, spinach and just a touch of agave nectar
  • pancakes made from almond flour with some almond butter and fresh fruit jam as well; eat some soft-boiled eggs and a grapefruit or a bowl of strawberries as accompaniment
  • some steel-cut oatmeal with egg whites cooked in it and some sliced apples, cinnamon, chopped pecans and a bit of agave nectar on top
  • veggie frittata muffins with broccoli, spinach, red peppers and onions
  • an omelet with green onions, red peppers, mushrooms and spinach with a bowl of fresh fruit
Are you getting the idea? Make sure that you eat early and often and don't skimp on the good stuff. Breakfast is going to make your day. Really. 

Eat a bit of protein at each meal: Since I know you are going to want a guideline here let's make it 2 oz. of protein. That's not a lot really. But it is a bit. And whatever bit of protein it is it needs to be a good bit, meaning lean proteins that are minimally processed like chicken, turkey, eggs and fish. Grill it, sautee it, bake it, poach it or boil it but get it. Just that little bit of protein is going to help stabilize your blood sugar and keep you smiling and sparkling all day long. 

Eat every 3 to 4 hours: Yes, eat a little bit every 3 or 4 hours. Have a mini-meal. I still want you to eat breakfast, lunch or dinner and eat a little snack between each of them like around 10AM and 3PM each day. Trust me, the food fairies will look fondly at you for taking care of yourself so well and your jeans will get looser not more snug. Just make sure each of those meals or snacks includes a bit of protein, some veggies and fruit, and some excellent fats. Your body will love you for it and you will love your body. Snacks could include
  • some grilled chicken and an apple
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs and some berries
  • a min turkey patty wrapped in lettuce and topped with avocado, a dash of lemon and some salt
  • apples with some almond butter or some raw almonds
  • a bit of grilled salmon over some spinach and tossed with lemon juice, olive oil and a bit of garlic
Like that. You want to eat fresh, whole foods and make them taste goooood. 

In your life, snacks are not optional, they are a necessity. 

Up the veggies and fruits: Veggies and fruits are your friends. Your very, very good friends. They love you and they will make you and your body very happy. That said, honey, you need to watch out for a few of them. 

In the vegetable department that would include carrots and corn. Somehow these are the go-to veggies for American society. (Peas are close third and should be watched as well) They are both high in natural sugars and really need to be watched by you. Just stay away from them overall. And explore the vast world of yummy vegetables like spinach, asparagus, broccoli, peppers, onions, squashes, tomatoes, etc. And just remember this little tip: nearly every veggie tastes like dynamite roasted in the oven with a little olive oil and celtic sea salt. Hmmmmmmm. 

In the fruit department, eat a varied and diverse selection of fruits, but be aware of the high-glycemic ones. They will not sit well with your very particular metabolism. The high-glycemic fruits include watermelon, cherries, grapes, oranges and dried fruit. Go to town on the fruits more ideally suited to you like: peaches, pears, plums, apples, kiwi, grapefruit and pineapple. Your body will love you for taking such good care of it. 

Dairy: Good, whole, full-fat, raw dairy full of nutrients and vitamins can work. My suggestion for you initially though is just stay away. Dairy is so ubiquitous in our society and so highly pasteurized, processed and denuded of its natural goodness that initially I think it is better to learn how to get along without it in your diet. And I'm still not sure if it causes problems for you or not. So, let's just say to stay away from dairy in general with the caveat that in the future you may include it on a limited basis if it comes in its raw and natural form. 

That means to learn how to bake and eat without it. For baking you can turn to things like grapeseed oil, coconut milk, fresh almond milk and such. Dairy is often accompanied by white flour in some form so sometimes it is easier to break the bonds to both of these foods together rather than exclude them separately. 

Grains: The area of most confusion in your older self and the least clarity. Here's the current thought though on grains. Eventually you may be able to work them back into your diet as a limited whole grain. For now though, I know you are obsessed with wanting to look differently and feel differently and the quickest path to that place is to cut grains from your life. I mean wheat in all its varied and crave-inducing forms: breads, bagels, pastries, pastas, crackers, cookies, cakes and pretzels. Just be done with the wheat wonders of the world. And their close cousins: rye, barley, oats, spelt, amaranth and the list goes on. Also white rice. 

Really, if you are going to eat any grains over the rest of your teenage life here are the ones I would recommend: brown rice and steel-cut oats. And I wouldn't be eating these every day. But both of these are acceptable once or twice a week. Maybe a 1/2 cup to a 1 cup at a time. Just watch carefully and closely how you feel over the next few days and make sure that they are not causing any negative emotional or physical issues for you. 

And give your older self some love for finally figuring out how to stop the sugar cravings in your life. Cut the grains. 

Other carbs: There are other carbs that fall somewhere between the line of veggies and grains. They are things like potatoes and yams and winter squashes. Really you can have some of each of them in moderation and even daily as long as you stay away from white potatoes. They are not your friend. Especially in their hydrogenated fat form sold at every fast food restaurant in the land as french fries. Just keep the white potatoes at bay. 

Do enjoy though baked red potatoes, yams and winter squashes. All are good with a little olive oil, some fresh herbs and a dash of salt. These foods will make your body sing with pleasure. 

Sugar: This is the one you've been the most vigilant about in your young life thinking that it causes you the most problems. Here's something to think about though---it is not the whole story. In your desire you eliminate sugar cravings from your life know that they don't just come from sugar. They are equally induced by white flour and a heavy grain diet. Stay away from all fake sugar substitutes like aspartame and Splenda (you will see it appear with a vengeance in your future). The fake sugar just like other future terms of trans fat and olestra are just fake and they give no love to your body and only contribute to its decline. When you do have sugar let it come in miniscule, organic forms to sweeten up a bit of dark chocolate or similar treat. And best of all, be on the look out for natural sweeteners like stevia and agave nectar to use in your baking. 

Boxed, bagged and canned: Here is one as a teenager that I think you may have a bit of trouble with. In our modern-day society, foods that come in a box, a bag or a can usually include something from this list: sugar, high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils, cottonseed and soybean oil, MSG, preservatives, and other food additives. Foods that come wrapped in these casings and with these little tagalong friends are foods that can be viewed as edible, food-like substances. They are not real food. And as such they should be closely monitored and virtually eliminated from your diet. They do not love you. And as such they do things to you that are not pretty. So, my suggestion is: just let them go. Say goodbye, mourn their parting, bid them adieu and release them from your cravings, your daily life, your palate. 

Trust me, with some of the deliciousness you will be consuming, your taste buds will have much to delight in. 

I know that is a pretty long list for any 16-year-old to absorb. Do your best. Read it over and ask me questions. Just remember that if you eat real, whole foods and balance each meal with some good protein, excellent fats and plenty of fruits and veggies you will have a great head start on all of this. 

And you'll be amazed at how much better your feel inside and how much better your look outside. This list is the key to good health, optimism and prosperity in your life. 

The secrets to your success. 

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Treat for Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day!

I hope it is a great day full of love for each of us. May we all share love and joy with those close to us.

Now to celebrate your Valentine's Day, here is a recipe that will not only hit your sweet tooth but do it without causing unnecessary damage. I made these treats this week and got rave reviews. I think what contributed to those reviews was the first time I made these a few months ago, I burned the pecans and burnt pecans lend a distinct flavor of overdone to any recipe they inhabit. So, this time I watched the pecans much more closely and the candy bars turned out much, much better.

Again, this recipe is from Elana over at She continues to inspire and influence my cooking. This journey has been a lot more joyful because I've had her as a mentor through it. So, I hope this recipe hits the spot for some of you who are looking for a sweet treat that is quick, easy, and without some of the normal pitfalls (white flour, sugar) of sweet treats that abound at this time of year.

2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
2 teaspoons celtic sea salt
2 cups pecans, chopped
1 cup almond butter
½ cup agave nectar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups dark chocolate 73% (I cut this down to 1 1/2 cups for a little less chocolate)

  1. Preheat oven to 500°
  2. Warm grapeseed oil and 1 teaspoon salt in a large saute pan over high heat
  3. Add pecans to pan and cook for 3 minutes
  4. Remove pecans from pan and immediately transfer to a baking sheet
  5. Place pecans in 500° oven for 3 minutes, remove and cool
  6. Warm almond butter, agave, vanilla and ½ teaspoon salt in a saucepan over medium heat
  7. Remove from heat and stir pecans into almond butter mixture
  8. Spread batter into an 8 x 8 inch pyrex dish and freeze for at least 1 hour
  9. Remove from fridge, cut into 1 x 3 inch bars; place on small (parchment paper lined) baking sheet
  10. Melt chocolate in saucepan over lowest heat possible
  11. Drizzle chocolate over each bar
  12. Sprinkle bars with remaining ½ teaspoon salt
  13. Freeze and serve

Makes 18 candy bars

I love chocolate and these treats are particularly good with gooey chocolate. What I've found though is that when I consume really good dark chocolate like this recipe recommends that I don't have to eat the whole pan of candy bars. One or two hits the spot just right for me. And then there are more treats left over for the next day and the next and the next. Also, my taste testers and I decided that these treats are even better the second day because the chocolate is less intense and the almond buttery goodness of the pecan mixture is even more noticeable.

Hope the day of love is full of lots of sweetness and light for you and your loved ones.

Friday, February 13, 2009

What I Believe about Food: The Ongoing Development of My Food Philosophies

Just to be clear here, I'm using the word "diet" in my post to mean the foods I consume and I'm not referring to some "diet" for losing weight. There is so much negative connotation with the word "diet" in our society and we play havoc on our psyches and the psyches of our daughters when we go on and on about being "fat" and "needing to go on a diet." The damage we do to ourselves emotionally when we become obsessed with dieting puts most of American women on the eating disorder spectrum and puts us smack dab in the middle of diet mentality

So, when I refer to diet today, I'm talking about what I am and am not consuming as a part of this allergy-free diet that my doctor recommended. 

How is the allergy-free diet going? 

I'm still feeling good about it. I think my mind is much, much clearer since starting this. My body feels better. I have more energy. I'm not experiencing such emotional highs and lows. My emotional state tends to be much more calm. All in all I like eating clean like this. I've always liked it when I've done it. 

And thus, we come to my predicament: Will it last? Are my current food philosophies filled with truth? And can I be open to further changes and adjustments of those philosophies?

In the past I've tried different types of diets for different reasons: no-sugar diet;  food-combining diet;  a vegetarian, dairy-free, sugar-free diet; low-fat diet; low-glycemic, low-carb diet, and now, essentially a grain-free, dairy-free, sugar-free diet. 

A few things I've learned along the way about my particular body. My very particular body. 
  • Protein: I do better with protein. My body responds to lots of lean protein: eggs, turkey, chicken and fish. I just respond better to a diet with solid protein. I was vegetarian, nearly vegan, for two years and I really, really wanted that to be the holy grail of my health success. It was not. I was not a big protein consumer after that until 4 years ago when I started eating 2 oz. of protein 6 times a day. I felt immense amounts of latent guilt as I was still carrying around a lot of my assumptions that the vegetarian lifestyle was somehow a more righteous lifestyle. My diet experiment with protein proved me wrong though. Protein is better--much, much better--for my body. 
  • Dairy: I was never much of a milk drinker. Or an ice cream lover. But once I discovered really good cheese, well that's where I loved my dairy. As a teenager I believed most dairy was really not good for you. That's when I first started experimenting with different kinds of milk like rice milk and soy milk. That belief has been modified a bit. I think if you are going to consume dairy it needs to be raw milk products or really, really good cheese or plain, full-fat, made-from-raw-milk yogurt. In my mind, we do our bodies a disservice when we ingest anything that has been processed. If you are going to eat something, eat it in as close to a natural state as possible. Then your body will have less trouble dealing with it. That said, I don't consume dairy right now because I'm trying to find out if I'm allergic to it. 
  • Vegetables: I eat loads more vegetables now than I ever have in my life. Part of that is a growing taste awareness and part of that is a body awareness: my body responds joyously to lots of vegetables. Its like the gears unstick and the drains unclog and the whole conglomeration of body processes improves. My body likes the way it feels after lots of vegetables. My habits though still tend to a heavy-grain proclivity. The only veggies I stay away from are corn and carrots or the high-glycemic veggies.
  • Fruit: Fruit and I were born as kindred spirits. I love fruit. And fortunately, fruit loves me. I often make smoothies in the morning comprised of blueberries, raspberries, spinach, almond milk and a touch of agave nectar. I try to add ground flax seed too as often as I remember. Those smoothies are yum! I tend to stay away from high-glycemic fruits such as bananas, cherries, watermelon, grapes, etc. but I will eat cherries and grapes occasionally. It's all about balance for me. 
  • Grains: This is the area of greatest conflict for me. I'm feeling pretty good about the other areas of my diet, but grains and I are dancing a little tango and I'm still not sure which way its going to go. Will I have to say effectually "bon voyage" to most grains in my life? What is moderation when it comes to grains? I feel a lot of guilt about this matter as well because of the LDS Word of Wisdom that talks about grains as the staff of life. What does that mean? How do I interpret that for my body especially when I seem to do so much better emotionally and physically when grains play a minor role in my diet? When I emphasize vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, and good fats and limit my grains to some brown rice that is when my body seems to operate optimally. I have not experimented yet with quinoa or teff or amaranth but it seems when a grain includes any kind of gluten I tend to do much better to stay far, far away from it. I even have to be cautious about steel cut oats. Right now, they are not a part of the allergy-free diet so I don't consume them. And the only other heavy carbs I consume are red potatoes, yams and squashes. So grains seem to be something I have to be terribly cautious about consuming. 
  • Good fats: Olive oil, avocados, raw nuts and nut butters and fish oil are all considered good fats in my book. I continue to work on improving their appearance in my diet. The other fat that I consume quite a bit of is grapeseed oil. While it is not an omega-3 fat, it does have a high smoke point for cooking and I like it much better than canola oil. Good fats are ESSENTIAL for a healthy body. This is a lesson that was deeply implanted in my psyche after I spent 15 months in 2004-2005 on a diet that met all my other specifications--low-grain, dairy-free, good proteins--but was essentially a no-fat diet. I remember thinking after a couple of months on that diet that if I could just have olive oil, avocados and raw nuts than that diet would be just right. I ignored that inspiration and continued the diet only to have it EXPLODE in my face after 15 months. I then began consuming any fats or grains I could get my hands on. I think if I had been eating really good fats (and supplementing with an excellent source of fish oil) all during that 15 months that I would not have had such a spectacular emotional blowout. I also would not have thrown out the good parts of that system of eating like I did when I dove head first back into old patterns of eating. So, good fats are a necessity. 
  • Treats: I think treats are an important part of any diet. Treats often are a social, happy, celebratory part of what we eat. Social togetherness and celebration are an important part of feasting. Now, having said all of that, I think what passes for treats in most of America is pre-packaged, poor-quality, loaded with chemicals, white-flour-based and filled with high glycemic loads. Even homemade treats. So, I want to revamp treats entirely. This is where my favorite food blogger, Elana, comes in. Her treats are my kind of treats. They are made with good oils, no dairy and are gluten-free. The glycemic load of her desserts is often lower because she relies on blanched almond flour, coconut flour and agave nectar to do her baking. And she also is very much into excellent dark chocolate. As am I. 'Cause really, we all know that chocolate is what makes the world go 'round. At least my little world. 
Just a few other notes about food and my thoughts about it. 

  • Real food: I'm trying as much as I can to eat whole, organic, natural foods. I think whatever we consume whether it is dairy, grains, protein or treats we should do our best to consume those foods in their raw, unprocessed or minimally processed state. To me that means organic fruits and vegetables. That means whole grains like whole wheat flour or whole grain flour--even to the point of grinding those flours ourselves from the grain kernels so we know the flour is as fresh as possible. For protein that means to me nitrate-free foods like bacon and hot dogs and organic, grass-fed beef and poultry as well as cage-free, organic eggs. That means not consuming most foods that come in a can or a box or a package and spending more time cooking at home and pulling together meals from the freshest possible ingredients. 
  • Enriched Flours: I already mentioned my issues with grains and how my body responds to them. I think that one area that is a toxic loading dump to good health is using enriched flours for baking and cooking. I think we were sold a bill of goods in the 1960s in America when food companies started "enriching" flours with "vitamins and minerals." If you are going to use flours then I believe it is best to use minimally processed, whole grain flours that are not "enriched" by man. And I think that white flour should either never be used or be used with extreme caution. For the glycemic load alone, it is one of the worst foods we can consume, not to mention its utter lack of any nutrients. It is much better, in my opinion, to consume whole grains if you consume grains at all. Remember foods in as close to a natural state as possible. 
  • Chemicals, additives, preservatives, MSG: It is hard with our current food culture to stay away from these items entirely. Which is why I find that making things from scratch as much as possible is the best way to go. Then I always know what is in my food. 
  • High-fructose corn syrup: I stay away from HFCS. I think once again the American public was sold a bill of goods when food manufacturers started using corn syrup to extend the shelf life of food. I particularly think that HCFS is a massive, massive problem for anyone like me with glycemic issues. I stay as far away as possible from this item. 
  • Partially hydrogenated oils: Just don't do it. Don't eat foods with partially hydrogenated oils. They offer no nutritional value and will harm rather help your health. Then cut out most packaged, boxed and baked goods from your diet because they are full of it. 
  • Kid Food: Oh the great experiment. What to feed kids and how to feed them when they are surrounded in everyday life by food-like substances such as chicken nuggets, french fries, hot dogs and fish crackers. I don't know the answer to this one except that if they eat good, yummy, wholesome food while in your presence than at least the majority of the food they consume as little children is going to be good for their bodies. Where I would likely turn into a tigress around food with kids is if my child had food allergies or food intolerances. Then I would be vigilant and loud to anyone and everyone about what my child could and could not eat.
  • Attitude Adjustment: Having said everything that I've said about food and knowing that I tend to have pretty strong opinions about food, I believe that a vital ingredient of good health and spreading the love of good health is an open, caring, willing to listen attitude. I once knew a person whose family was in the health-food industry. I was impressed with many of things this family did to live a healthful lifestyle. What I was not impressed by was the attitude of judgment that I felt when exposed to their food philosophies. I think that sometimes when we try to live a healthy lifestyle or we are forced to eat different than the norm of American society we can get labeled as hippie, granola, extreme, or crazy. This puts people on the defensive because so often they are criticized for going against the society norm. But the other side of that coin is that people with strong beliefs about food and health often see themselves as better than the normal, plebeian consumers of the Standard American Diet. It is an attitude I struggle with. I've had so many food issues for so much of my life that when I do eat better or more in line with my perceptions of good eating, I find that I can quickly start to compare myself to others and assume that somehow I am better than someone else whose grocery cart is filled with white flour, ice cream and boxes of mac and cheese. What that usually means when I start thinking that way is that something is hard or difficult in my life and I'm using a false sense of self-esteem "I eat better than so and so" to soothe my own harried emotions. There is no place in discussions of good health for this attitude of comparison and division. I think too often that attitude just overwhelms anyone who is trying to make baby steps towards better health. It discourages people from eating healthy because they feel unless they are doing everything perfectly than it isn't worth doing anything at all. I find it so much more helpful instead to be open to all kinds of discussions and opinions on healthy eating and to find as much common ground as possible between our differing food philosophies. Spread the love and celebrate really good food together. 
In the end, I know that most everyone wants to eat better and feel better. I know that road doesn't look the same for everyone either. I have to write these things down to remind myself what I think about good health because I get so easily distracted and confused. I think that I should be more easygoing about food or that I put too much stock in how food affects my health and my emotions. Then I start eating things like sugar, more grains, more packaged or fast foods and I grow more emotionally volatile, less calm, bloated and tired, and angry. I work constantly to find balance towards eating well and eating sensibly and eating with moderation. And then that balance seems to constantly evolve as well so I have to be prepared to consume or not consume some food that I used to preach for or against in a previous food philosophy. 

What I'm saying is that I'm going to mess up and I'm going to make mistakes and I'm still learning and growing when it comes to good health and how it looks in my life. If I can give myself--and thus, everyone around me--room to breathe and make those mistakes and learn then I think I'm on the right road. I want to be open. I want to lovingly welcome others to the paths of good health. And I want to encourage myself on my own path to better health. 

And that's why I keep talking and want to keep talking about food. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Day 29: The Fire Came Back

Today the fire was burning inside my body. Today I was hungry the entire day. The whole day. Today I thought about food nonstop. 

It was one of the days. 

I was hungry for everything but nothing looked good. I wanted to eat everything but nothing in my own house. I couldn't think of anything interesting to make and nothing sounded good. What I wanted today was just to eat and eat anything I wanted. Today, the allergy-free diet almost went down the tubes. 

I craved burgers and fries with tangy fry sauce. I wanted candy. I wanted nachos with cheesy cheese and extra guacamole. I wanted homemade bread slathered in butter and jam. I want creamy soups. I wanted anything and everything but what was good for me. 

I seriously contemplated breaking the challenge. 

Of course, I didn't help myself. I was feeling petulant and unmotivated so I didn't make breakfast. I took some turkey, apples, and nuts to work and ate all of those but wanted more. I wouldn't go home and cook for myself but I wanted food. 

Mostly, I didn't want to make any food but I wanted yummy, delectable food served to me. 

I didn't want to think about preservatives, MSG, dairy, gluten, wheat, corn, sugar or ANY of the things that I'm not eating right now in an attempt to improve my health. 

I wanted to eat the way I used to eat. 

When I left work late, I drove by Carl's Jr. and picked up a low-carb burger (meat patty, onions, tomatoes, lettuce) and ate that. (Note to self: If I ever do that again remember to ask for "no condiments." I'm sure that the mayo, mustard and ketchup on it were not legal.)

It certainly helped me to manage the hunger somewhat. Then I ate some rice cakes and grapes at my sister's house. Then I ate some leftover flank steak and roasted cashews at my parent's house. All in an attempt to assuage the hunger inside of me. 

In the car on the way home after eating my low-carb burger, I was feeling particularly down and defeated if I would ever get to eat anything good again in my life. And that was the thought that sent me the red alert. If I was growing despondent about what I could and couldn't eat then something more was going on here. My emotions were riding a bit of a tidal wave. And if my eating was pretty much under control and I'd been feeling pretty well emotionally the few days before this day, then I started to wonder if all of this emotion could be the result of other hormonal issues in my life like PMS. 

And wouldn't you know it, Aunt Flo showed up the very next day. 

I don't like to blame my emotions or my mood on my cycle, but I do like to be aware of my emotional makeup around that cycle. And here are some pretty typical emotions and feelings for me:

  • one day where I feel particularly strong and impenetrable. I barely feel hunger which always leads me to believe that I finally have figured out the eating thing in my life and I generally just feel alert and strong and invincible
  • another day that is usually premenstrual or the first day of my cycle where I'm either weepy and clingy and my emotions are very close to the surface or I'm just ANGRY. Very angry. Ticked off to the extreme by everything and everyone. And usually ravenously, ravenously hungry. And hopeless and depressed and overwhelmed. 
If I know those days are happening then I don't come to drastic conclusions on those days or assume that my life is over and that I will never change and that the world is a horrible, horrible place. If I can be aware of the emotional turmoil I get thrown into then it doesn't wear me out as much and I'm able to ride it out more easily. 

And that was Day 29 for me. All I can say is: I'm glad it is over. 

Monday, February 9, 2009

Day 28 Progress: Cooling the Fire

Things have been going well on the allergy-free diet. I'm learning to refine what I'm eating and when I'm eating it. 

The last week was difficult with my really bad cold and the fact that I wasn't doing much cooking so I was surviving on whatever I could scrounge up. It was all on plan food, but I noticed that I wouldn't eat for nearly 24 hours and then when I would eat I would need to eat ASAP because I was starving. 

The last few days I've been feeling a bit smug about this whole allergy-free thing too. Smugness is always a red alert for me. Anytime I start thinking that I'm doing pretty darn well on any plan is almost a sure bet for rough waters ahead. 

One thing has been going well though that I never expected. My response to some foods. I made candy bars last night. They are a recipe from one of my favorite food bloggers, Elana. I promised my sister I would make the candy bars on our cabin trip a week ago but it didn't happen when I got sick. So, I made them on Sunday after our family dinner. 

The first time I made the recipe several weeks ago, I was still a bit hesitant about my oven and I burned the pecans. While the candy still turned out good, the burnt pecan flavor was a bit overwhelming at times. This time, I watched the pecans much more closely and in the end . . . well, let's just say they were perfect. 

With the freezing time it takes about two hours to make these. As soon as I pulled them out of the freezer the second time, I had my mom try them. Then I rushed over to my sister's house and we dissected these treats together. Conclusions: They actually taste better the next day! The intensity of the chocolate seems to lower a bit and I actually liked them better the next day. Also, the pecan and almond butter mixture is yummy. I felt like an incredible cook because these are the kinds of treats that I would usually visit a chocolatier store to buy. And I made them in my own home. 

Really the best part for me though was I only ate a couple of these. And not because I was "limiting myself" or because I was "on a diet" but because after two or three I was completely satisfied. Which is a statement that hardly ever comes out of my mouth so it seems like an accomplishment in the extreme to me. 

Usually my experience is just the opposite. I can eat and eat and eat a particular food and never feel fully satiated. Some foods seem to light a fire in me. That fire says "More, more, more, more." So, I eat more. Then the flames are fanned higher and higher and burn with greater heat and the fire says "More! More! More!" so I continue eating and eating trying to satiate myself until the fire burns with such great intensity that I become a writhing mass of "MORE!" and that word seems to scream from every pore in my body. 

You don't believe me? I remember one particular day driving up to a fast food restaurant to order something off the menu. As I was ordering the food, in the back of my mind, I was contemplating the two other fast food places close by that I was going to stop at next to order more food. I suddenly stopped myself and realized that I was contemplating eating food from three restaurants for one meal and I could still think of a million more food items that I wanted to eat and needed to eat and couldn't wait to eat. In that moment it seemed that there was not enough time left in my life to eat all the food I could contemplate eating. 

I'm sorry, not enough time???? I knew that something was wrong in that moment. When my life becomes an obsessive hunt for more food then I am either truly experiencing starvation or something is messed up in my body. 

Something was messed up in my body. That feeling of fire, of never-ending fire is the way I experience metabolic syndrome. That fire is what tells me that something has to change because it is a desperate and terrible place to live to be constantly eating and never fully satisfied. 

I remember when I was in junior high and high school and my mom and I would talk about weight and weight loss and she would share with me her idea of "You just need to talk to yourself. Tell yourself your only going to have a little bit of that this time. You are not going to eat all of it. Tell yourself you are really full even if you are still hungry." That seemed like utter nonsense to me when my mother said that because I had never been able to have a rational discussion with my hunger. Ever. I remember telling my mom then that it wouldn't work because "I was always hungry." I'm not sure she believed me when I told her that. Always hungry? Who is always hungry? And why? And isn't someone who is always hungry really just using that as an excuse to pig out? 

But I was always hungry. 

The first time that statement was ever explained to me though was when I was reading a Zone Diet book by Dr. Barry Sears. He talked about insulin and how eating a carbohydrate-rich diet (breads, pastas, rice, cookies, crackers, etc) can cause a high-insulin reaction which eventually makes you hungrier and hungrier. There in black and white I finally heard for the first time why I was "always hungry" and why my body never seemed to be satiated. 

That's why when I eat something like Elana's candy bars and I feel satiated after two of them I know that something right is happening with my body. And I'm finally beginning to unlock the secrets to good health. 

Saturday, February 7, 2009

A Saturday of Sporadic Eating

I haven't been cooking this week with this nasty cold. I'm actually a little nonplussed trying to figure out what I did eat. I know I bought some ENER-G brown rice bread that was NASTY. I did use it to make toast and then I slathered almond butter and fruit jam (no sugar) on it. It at least made that awful bread digestible. I also ate some red potatoes, an experimental olive bread that I tried, super-fast turkey burgers and spinach berry smoothies. I used brown rice tortillas as a base for almond butter and fruit jam  sandwiches, as well as baking them and dipping them in salmon or tuna fish mixed with mayo. I was out of eggs, chicken and really everything else. So, most of this week was just subsisting. I would try to make something when I was starving and just couldn't exist one more moment without some kind of sustenance. 

Somehow I survived the week. 

That is until today. I woke up feeling fine and ready to go. I had delayed my test for school until today and so I spent the morning swapping between laundry, dishes and studying. A little after 1PM I was fainting because of hunger and I made a smoothie and ate some almonds. I didn't have time for anything else. I had to be up on campus a little after 2PM if I was going to get the test over by 4PM when the testing center closed. I was still hungry on my way to campus and I decided to pick up some hamburgers from Wendy's. I had checked their website before to look at their chili and see if I could eat it. It was full of junk, so I figured if I got a hamburger, I could at least eat the burger and veggies. What I didn't realize was the cheese would melt to the burger. So, I was scraping the cheese off, but I still got some cheese. It really was not a great solution, but if I ever hit an emergency like that again, I need to remember to order the burgers without the cheese. 

After the test was over, I stayed there at work until 8PM. I was very, very hungry now. I had a menu plan and I was going to hit the grocery stores, so of course I picked up foods I could eat once I got to the car. It was kind of a wild mix of tastes and something I think only a sane person would do after a week of just subsisting and a day of starving. Are your ready for what struck my fancy? 

  • roasted turkey breast deli slices (organic)
  • cashews
  • a chocolate crunch, gluten-free, wheat-free, sugar-free cookie
  • apricot juice
And that is where the majority of my calories have come from today. Sporadic eating does not lend itself necessarily to an appetizing menu. 

Friday, February 6, 2009

My Reasons

I haven't been advertising this blog to my friends or my family. Or anyone. I'm really hoping that if I keep writing, like-minded new friends will find me. That together we can do this weight thing. With everyone else there is too much history, too much stuff, just too much. Right now I don't want the rest of my life mixed up in this constant, daily challenge of my weight. 

When I write that down, it actually sounds pretty stupid. My life and my weight are inexplicably and forever tied together. No ifs ands or buts about it. I guess I just don't want a lot of commentary on the matter from people who have watched from the sidelines for a long time. My thoughts and conclusions still feel so tentative and brand-new that I don't want someone to give me their opinion when their opinion may sway me more than they know. 

Or truly, I'm just a chicken. 

It remains to be seen. 

Weigh In: February 6, 2009

Weight: 322 pounds
Waist: 51 inches
Chest: 55 inches
Hips: 56 inches

I've been doing the allergy-free diet thing for almost four weeks now. I survived our annual cabin trip last weekend with its never-ending supply of goodies, I survived my parents' 40th wedding anniversary, and I survived my own weaknesses and fallibilities for that time period as well. 

I also got a killer cold from our cabin trip. It hit me the last day and I've turned into a mucus-producing factory for the last five days. I've gone through three boxes of tissues just trying to survive. I also wacked my blood sugar with sucking down far too many cough drops. All in all a tough week for eating. I got on the scale a few days ago only to realize that I had lost like 6 pounds total for the month. Not exactly what I'd been hoping for. 

Then I woke up today after sleeping for nearly 24 hours straight with this cold. And the first thing I realized was my boobs were smaller--a sure sign in my body that things are changing. So, I hopped on the scale and wouldn't you know it, I'm down 13 pounds for the month. I like that number much better. 

Once again though, I have to remind myself, this is not about the numbers. Lots of other very important changes are occurring. And this journey is about so much more than how many pounds lost or pounds gained. I have to remind myself about that fact because it so quickly turns into a numbers game for me and one that I want to win. 

March 299
April 275
May 260
June 245
July 230
Aug 215
Sep 200
Oct 187
Nov 175
Dec 162
Jan 149
Feb 137
Mar 135

See what I mean? I'm constantly playing the numbers when I think things are going well. And when they are not going well? I IGNORE anything and everything to do with numbers. I become number-blind. 

I still have so much to learn. 


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