It only matters what works for you.

Archive for the ‘food’ Category

Not your mother’s WW

Back at the beginning of October, Mike and I started Weight Watchers after his cardiologist complained about his weight again, even though all his tests were excellent. I had an epic meltdown dealing with my own issues, and then we settled down.

We both started losing right away. Mike lost nice and steadily, because men are horrible that way, and as a premenopausal woman, I lost in fits and starts, but my progress was acceptable, and I wasn’t really invested in it anyway. I was there for Mike, I was tracking for Mike, and my body, which had declined to pay attention to many diets in the past, would do whatever it was going to do.

We made it past things that were traps for a lot of people in our group. We avoid Halloween candy by ignoring the holiday. We were getting very few trick-or-treaters anyway. We don’t have family nearby, so I bought one portions worth of a few treats for Thanksgiving, and that was that. No issues with leftovers. I had a lovely little birthday party and ate what I felt like for one day, having skipped treats on Thanksgiving, and I felt fine about it.

Then I wound up in the hospital. Twice.

I must say, hospitals are fabulous for weight loss. There was the 4 days I wasn’t allowed to eat while they waited for my gut to wake up after surgery. There were the 2 weeks of recovery when I had the appetite of a toddler. 6 bites every 2 hours. Then there was the week I got progressively sicker and lost my appetite again, the week I was horribly ill on ivs and anti-emetics and barely managed protein bars or shakes once or twice a day. And even after that, I was still healing and recuperating, which are energy intensive.

From my last official weigh in the week after Thanksgiving to the weight taken in my primary care doctors office the week after I got out, I lost 30 lbs. On the one hand, I feel a little weird about ‘claiming’ that, because I didn’t do anything intentional, it just happened. On the other hand, it looks awesome on my graph.

The thing is, in the 2 months since I’ve been home, I’ve dropped another 20 lbs. That I’ll definitely claim, but it’s still been pretty effortless. WW did that for me. This is not your mother’s WW in the days of starvation and shaming. This latest iteration, based on ever changing and improving science, is pretty easy. Here are what I consider the high points.

Points.

It’s a joke. Points are the current cornerstone of the WW system, and they are the reason it works so well for us.

Based on the WW esoteric formula, which probably includes weight, age, and gender, I get a number of points. My meals are made up of a combination of points and zero point foods. Most everything your cardiologist thinks you should eat is zero points. Lean chicken or turkey, salmon, all fresh veggies and fruits. Points are for other stuff like buttered toast, olive oil, or even cookies. It’s all on you, but there is no reason to be stuck with things you don’t like, and no need to ever be hungry. And, as you lose, you also lose points, which is a little sad to see, but it means you don’t have to constantly worry if you are eating too much, or to sit down and do your own math.

Points encourage you to eat real, whole foods. If you have a cup of chopped pineapple and a banana, it’s zero points. If you blend them up into a smoothy, you’re losing some of the benefits of the fiber, and it’s no longer zero. It also digests a lot faster. I have no trouble at all working the points around my various food issues, although I resent a bit that gluten free foods are higher in points then non gluten free.

The food point database makes things very easy. I’ve tried food tracking in the past and it made me completely crazy. Figuring out grams of this and sorting through a huge database of unrelated things all the time. The search function works really well, it’s easy to adjust your portion of whatever according to how much you ate. It remembers what you had the past few days, so your favorites are easy to find.

I have to say, I’m surprised, but ecstatic at my progress. I’m really glad this came up after I spent the summer rebuilding my gut biome and I was really ready for it. It is much, much easier for me than all the years I low carbed when I never felt satisfied. I would highly recommend it.

 

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Am I really doing this?

If you read this post, or really any of my posts, you’ll know I have a lifetime of Issues about dieting, weight loss, and body image. Emotionally, I would rather stay fat than ever face another diet again, ever. Too much trauma. Too many horrible experiences. Too many unintentional physical consequences like seriously messing up my adrenals.

20171028_190212And then my beloved says “I want us to do this together, I need your support.”

And there you are, signing up for Weight Watchers.

We signed up for the six months that would be necessary if either of us wanted to be considered for weight loss surgery. No decisions have been made about that. I don’t think he’ll need it.

We signed up over the weekend so we could check out the specifics. How many points? (plenty) How comprehensive is the database? (Very, even a lot of my specialty foods are in there.) We had already planned to eat two places we enjoy that we won’t be frequenting for a while.

Beloved, who adores data, immediately became obsessive about checking points, entering points, figuring out possible meal combinations, and has in general come in under his points every day. Even the day we had pizza. This surprises me not at all.

I have had several panic attacks. I have had crying fits. I had a dream of my body asking me to please, please, not take her food away again. I’ve been a complete mess.

Let me be clear, my behavior in no way reflects the reality of the WW system. I have ample points. They focus on whole foods and there is absolutely no reason to ever be hungry. There is real flexibility and there is no reason not to indulge in favorite foods on a reasonable basis. Beloved researched very carefully before we got started to make sure it would work with my various food allergies, and without any kinds of frankenfood, which we both avoid. It’s not them. It’s me.

It’s been a week now. In between my fits, I’ve kept track of most of my points, made some very simple changes to a few things, and haven’t been hungry. Or deprived. If my brain and my poor tortured Inner Dieter can catch up to the reality, I can probably make this work and properly support the love of my life.

Whether or not it will make any difference in my weight is a whole other kettle of traumatized fish.

Which way is care?

I wrote this some months ago and held it back because it felt too raw, but now it is January and the season of dieting, so it’s time to post it.

On a private forum with women I care dearly for, there have recently been a number of posts about how they are once again getting back on the strict diet wagon in the endless pursuit of a size they like better.

My next thought was that I, too, should get back on the diet bandwagon because there is no question that my life would be easier if I were lighter.

And right after that thought, my stomach clenched. And I was overcome with a very visceral feeling of fear. And it was all I could do not to cry.

This is crazy.

I have spent over half my life depriving myself of food. Punishing myself for being fat. Eating what I ‘should’ even when I really, sincerely, would rather never eat again than have another bite of kale.

Just the passing thought of another strict diet was panic inducing. I can’t. I feel frantic, and sick about the idea. My body is enacting a flight response. It is clear to me that my body and mind find the idea traumatizing.

Even worse than that are the voices ringing through my mind as I type this. The kind ones say I shouldn’t give up on myself. The firm ones tell me no pain no gain and if I just try <insert preferred method> that it will be easy and I’m sure to see results.

The last results I got were burnt out adrenals and a thyroid crisis.

There are even uglier voices in my head too. Quitter. Loser. Fat lazy slob.

At what point does something you do for yourself become something you do to yourself?

Why is cutting bad, but starving yourself good? Why are recreational drugs bad, but damaging your brain chemistry via food is encouraged?

I think about the best eating plan to follow and I feel despair. Another long procession of food that I don’t want. Forcing myself to eat, and yet still so hungry.

Does saying no make me weak? or Strong? Is it self love, or self hate?

If it were a job I hated that much, people who love me would tell me to do everything possible to find another job.

If it were a relationship with a person that caused me such fear and anguish, people who love me would tell me that it’s a bad relationship and that I should remove myself.

Somehow because it is food and fat, the rules are different.

But after a lifetime of self torture, I’m ready to try living a new way, where I might treat myself with love and respect and ignore the voices that tell me I must fit into a mold that is too small for me.

So no more kale for me.

Unico 20.87- the Food.

Food, glorious food!

One of the questions we always have to ask is, can they handle a guest with food allergies. Yes, they did, and they did a fantastic job.

Breakfast and lunch every day was at the 20 87 restaurant, which is an enormous buffet. In the US I am particularly leery of buffets because you can’t be certain what is actually in the food, and cross contamination is a big problem. I ate at their buffet twice a day for 5 days and never had a single issue. You should be impressed.

While they did have all the traditional things an American tourist will expect, made to order omelettes, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, waffles, and pancakes, that was the very least of the breakfast offerings. There was an array of things to make breakfast tacos, which I never fully investigated. There were so many things, I often wished they were still offering breakfast at lunch so I could try things I missed. Every day I had beautiful creamy scrambled eggs and bacon and gluten free bread. Other offerings that rotated were various preparations of potatoes. Poached eggs with salsa, with salsa verde, and some creamy cheesy sauce that I sadly skipped. Several times shredded beef or chicken that was beautifully seasoned. An entire section…six or seven trays…of sliced meats specifically a salami type item that I ate for breakfast and lunch every day. Trays of cheeses that made me sad I can’t eat cheese any more. Tray after tray of cut fruit, the expected watermelon and pineapple, cantaloupe, mango, something I didn’t recognize, and sliced peaches and plums, which was a very nice treat for me.

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And a huge selection of every possible pastry that my Beloved enjoyed ruthlessly. On the weekend they offered a selection of gluten free muffins that were lovely.

The juice flowed endlessly, and if you’re a fan of watermelon, I’d just like to recommend fresh squeezed watermelon juice to start your day. Or strawberry juice, if that’s your thing. Definitely my thing, along with orange juice, which was always fresh squeezed and far superior to what I can usually purchase here in the DC area.

Lunch was the same layout. More fruit, cheese, and sliced meats. Made to order lunch steaks, hamburgers, or fish. Tacos. Curries. Random veggies. Interesting potatoes. So much variety every day. Beloved was particularly enamored of the no less than 5 varieties of ceviche that were presented every day. And of course, desserts, if you possibly had any room. The gluten free chocolate chip cookies were very nice.

For less formal lunch or afternoon snacks there were several choices. There were some areas around the pools that were just walk up bars. One specialized in fried fish, one had a big brick pizza oven, one seemed to specialize in sandwiches. I never had room to try them.

For dinner, things were just a bit more formal. The space that was a buffet two meals a day became a steak house. I had to most amazing flank steak possible. It didn’t taste like anything but flank steak, but it was the richest, most tender flank steak you can imagine and I have no idea how they managed it. Beloved had something they called a strip roast, which seems to be what a rib roast would be if you cut it the other direction along the ribs. It was also very good, but we agreed mine was the best tasting.

There was a Italian restaurant that I admit we didn’t try. They do offer a gluten free pasta, but neither of us were particularly intrigued by the menu.

Mura House is their Japanese restaurant. We ate there twice because Beloved adores sushi. Everything he ate was beautiful and he raved about the freshness. They offered gluten free soy sauce, so all the sushi was available to me, except that I don’t care for it. Instead I had custom prepared teppanyaki, which wonderful. They also offered a specialty beverage called a Momo which went down so smooth on a hot day that it’s only by careful pre-planning that I didn’t over do. They are saki, peach liqueur, peach juice, and something else I think. Really spectacular. In this picture Beloved has received his tempura, but we’re still waiting on our drinks. With multiple open grills, I found it a bit warm, hence the fan.

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Cueve Siete is their Mexican signature restaurant. It is not what you think of as Mexican, but it was amazing anyway. One night there was table-side fresh to order guacamole. My favorite dish was a beef and sheep’s tongue appetizer that was just amazing, tender and flavorful. Both nights we were there I had the duck as my main course. It was rich and tender and not under cooked the way it often is here where it’s practically raw in the middle. It is not done to lick the plate, but it was difficult to maintain my composure. Sex on the Beach was the drink of choice those nights.

And on the off chance you might possibly still be looking for more food, Cafe Inez was on the walk from the restaurants back to our room and they offered a dangerous selection of desserts, baked goods, and they had a little three-tier case with three lovely gluten free choices, a fantastic apple tart with an almond base, a super rich frosted chocolate brownie-thing, and a lovely crumbly round pastry with a rich sweet taste and a light chocolaty layer in the middle. I’ve never seen one before, but it was delicious.

They took being accessible to those of us with food allergies very seriously. After check-in I was presented with a laminated card with all the food allergies I’d submitted printed on it. I showed this at every restaurant and it was noted down. I think that as they go along they’ll come up with a better method for keeping the information on file, but for now, in their first year of operation, they are obsessively keeping statistics.

It made our experience that much more stress free.

And because it matters to me, so maybe to you, in a conversation with part of the customer care team we ran into on the way back to our room one afternoon, I learned that almost all the food is local, either organically or hydroponically grown. They have a very aggressive recycling policy and have a whole team devoted to minimizing their impact.

Here at home I eat organic as much as possible, and I try to make the freshest choices, but the difference in the  food is astounding. Everything just tasted better there, and I don’t think it was solely because I didn’t have to cook it myself. I think real, fresh, untainted food is a gift it’s hard to get here. I’m not sure we as a culture even know where we’re missing any more.

If you missed the first part, it’s here.

 

 

Dear young self

If I could go back in time and tell my young self one thing, it would be to not diet, no matter how many people told me “If you just…” and other annoying untruths. Because the science is clear now. While short term a diet can and often does improve some health markers like cholesterol and blood sugar, over the long term what repeat dieting is mostly likely to do is make sure you stay fat.

And if you think about it, really, would dieting be a multi-gazillion dollar industry if it actually worked long term? Of course not. If it worked, you’d do it once, the weight would stay off, and that would be it. They make all that money because you have to keep going back and doing it again longer and harder.

I found this article written by a neuroscientist to have some interesting things to say.

The root of the problem is not willpower but neuroscience. Metabolic suppression is one of several powerful tools that the brain uses to keep the body within a certain weight range, called the set point. The range, which varies from person to person, is determined by genes and life experience. When dieters’ weight drops below it, they not only burn fewer calories but also produce more hunger-inducing hormones and find eating more rewarding.

Evolution designed us around periodic famine. If too many died too quickly, then we’re a failed experiment. So those who had some way to slow their metabolism when necessary are the ones who didn’t starve to death. Fat is important for survival, if you don’t live in a world with a McDonald’s and a Starbucks on every corner. Your basic functions do not believe that a size 2 is more desirable than a size 22, and every time you ‘starve’ (ie Diet) it is more convinced that you need all the help you can get to survive.

On my most serious diet, in my late 20s, I got down to 125 pounds, 30 pounds below my normal weight. I wanted (unwisely) to lose more, but I got stuck. After several months of eating fewer than 800 calories a day and spending an hour at the gym every morning, I hadn’t lost another ounce. When I gave up on losing and switched my goal to maintaining that weight, I started gaining instead.

The author’s own story mirrors mine. There was a joyful time when I quickly and fairly easily (if you consider involuntary vomiting easy) lost 100 lbs in just a few months. I was on a strict low carb diet, and I was being introduced to my soy allergy. Soy is in everything, so every salad with soybean oil dressing, every handful of snack nuts roasted in soy bean oil…a huge list of common every day foods caused me to be violently sick almost every day. It took me quite a while to figure out why. It wasn’t intentional, but I took the weight loss gratefully. But then I got down to a certain point and that was it. Nothing else I did over a several years following ever took me down below that point. No matter how dramatic.

The causal relationship between diets and weight gain can also be tested by studying people with an external motivation to lose weight. Boxers and wrestlers who diet to qualify for their weight classes presumably have no particular genetic predisposition toward obesity. Yet a 2006 study found that elite athletes who competed for Finland in such weight-conscious sports were three times more likely to be obese by age 60 than their peers who competed in other sports.

I find this particularly interesting. Devoted athletes, no genetic predispositions, and yet repeated dieting seems to cause overall weight gain over time.

But our culture’s view of obesity as uniquely deadly is mistaken. Low fitness, smoking, high blood pressure, low income and loneliness are all better predictors of early death than obesity. Exercise is especially important: Data from a 2009 studyshowed that low fitness is responsible for 16 percent to 17 percent of deaths in the United States, while obesity accounts for only 2 percent to 3 percent, once fitness is factored out. Exercise reduces abdominal fat and improves health, even without weight loss. This suggests that overweight people should focus more on exercising than on calorie restriction.

And here’s the real winner. Despite the media telling us what a horrible drain on the system fat people are, the data actually shows that it’s being sedentary and out of shape that is the issue. Sure, those often go together, but our sedentary life style is the real problem.

So if I could go back an talk to my young self, I’d ask her to take another dance class. To ride her bike every day. To ignore how she thought she looked in sweats and go to the gym anyway.

So this January, don’t start another diet. Find something physical that you enjoy, and put your time and attention to that instead.

 

 

 

What do you get out of it?

Your food, I mean.

We’ve been told over and over that if we eat a healthy diet, then we’ll be healthy. I think most of the people who read this know it’s completely untrue, but it persists as a lie. Of course the average person doesn’t do it anyway, so does it really matter?

One idea is that we don’t need to take vitamins if we eat a healthy diet. Hence the war on vitamins and supplements. I’m not sure I really understand the government’s constant attempts to over regulate them. Someone is making money off them right?

Despite my new-found soup way of life I still came down with some severe low iron symptoms. I went through a period where I ate red meat twice a day because I craved it. How much of that was me not absorbing the iron present in the food? Thyroid can cause low stomach acid, as can age, and that would interfere with absorbing the nutrients.

It’s a little gross to discuss, but many people don’t chew nearly enough. Part of that is because our food is more highly processed. It’s also because we rush everything in the US so we’re eating in a hurry. It’s a problem. A friend who had bypass surgery told me that chewing was the number one instruction her doctor gave her as she recovered to make sure she didn’t have problems with regain. I constantly have to remind myself to slow down.

Then of course, there’s the idea that there is no food in our food. That the soils in the US are very depleted by modern farming methods so the trace minerals that we should be getting out of our healthy eating aren’t there to begin with and no amount of chewing and stomach acid will pry them out of food they aren’t in.

Even though I eat mostly organic, with healthy choices, my kitchen table is still covered with various supplements and I can tell you that I notice if I miss even one for more than a day.  Some times I wonder if buying the good stuff in the first place even matters, but then I remember the chemical taste of commercial fruit and remember that it might not be what I do get out of it, it might be what I don’t.

Ironing out a few things.

I always associate canker sores with stress. When my mouth was suddenly covered in them even though nothing really exciting was going on, I turned to Dr. Google. Where I discovered that nutritional deficiencies can cause them. Particularly iron and B12.

Well, B12 should have been fine because I’d recently had a conversation with a friend who mentioned that metformin causes B12 malabsorption. Really? ‘Cause I’ve been on metformin over a year and I don’t recall anyone mentioning it to me. I did my research and have both a liquid and a spray. I think it helped my energy levels some.

Iron though. I’ve never had any trouble giving blood and I’ve always eaten plenty of red meat, so my iron levels were probably fine. Right? Not so much.Iron can also be a cause of peeling flaking nails, which I’d suddenly come down with too. Hmm. My favorite thyroid site has a lot to say about iron. Specifically ferritin vs serum iron. I talked with my usual group of fellow sufferers and got myself an iron supplement.

Wow.

Talk about flipping a switch. Nothing has made that big a difference since I found selenium. Which, by the way, is also much discussed by my favorite thyroid site.

Before selenium, I just hurt, everywhere, all the time. Life was a lot better once I started supplementing. I’ve leveled off at about once per week. But I was still pretty limp and my default state was something I call ‘couch zombie’. A state where I had things to do, and I’d sort of like to do them, but it just isn’t possible to find forward motion, or even to sustain it once moving. It was fairly horrible. Iron is the key to defeating the couch zombie. Who knew? It isn’t in the apocalyptical literature. But it’s helped me a lot. My canker sores went away almost immediately. My nails have stopped shredding. But moving past couch zombie has been huge.

If nothing else, I’m certainly blogging more regularly!

I’m not where I’d like to be, but I no longer feeling like I’m traveling the road of life on a cart with square wheels. Time to work on picking up some speed!