All posts by M. Safranski

You Are Not a Number – aka Screw the Weight Chart

weightchart2In my last post I showed you guys pictures that told a story, and the feedback was so heartwarming and wonderful. What a blessing on me that I could inspire some of you!

The reaction to those pictures sparked an idea for this post – the idea of using another picture to tell a story that can hopefully help some of you break more chains.

(Yes, I know I said more recipes and meal plan ideas were coming, and they will! This post rose up inside me and I had to let it out! :D)

I said in the last post that I hadn’t stepped on the scale in a while. So this morning I decided to live on the edge and give ‘er a whirl again (mostly because I really wanted to write this post for all of you out there who, like me, have suffered a lifetime of the onus of The Chart hanging over your head – and I wanted it to be authentic and accurate).

Weight charts theoretically serve a purpose, in general terms. They should be a guideline, giving a range of figures that can lead us in the right direction for better health.

The problem is this – if you struggle with weight, eating, and nutrition issues, particularly if you – like me – are genuinely built large, once that number is in your head you’re never good enough again in your own mind.

Never.

You’re never skinny enough, you’re never healthy enough, you never look good enough, you’re not part of The Club: that special group of people who seem to naturally fall right into the “correct” column on The Chart.

While each of us suffers individually, thinking we’re just not good enough, not “NORMAL”, check out the numbers. According to the CDC:

  • Percent of adults age 20 years and over who are obese: 35.9% (2009-2010)
  • Percent of adults age 20 years and over who are overweight, including obesity: 69.2% (2009-2010)

Yup – the truth is, more of us are off The Chart than on it. While we’re over here feeling all self-conscious and inferior, so is most of the rest of the country.

Health is important, in the end it’s really the only thing that can possibly offer us the hope of a long life that allows us to see our kids grow up, meet our grandchildren, and enjoy all the wonderful things the world has to offer right up to the last possible moment.

A number does not define health. Especially when that number does more emotional damage than good.

Back to the scale this morning. The verdict – 224 lbs. I underestimated in that last post, I’ve now lost over 40 lbs. since September. This is my lowest weight in five years. (I’m 5’9″ by the way).

The BMI calculator on WebMD says I’m still “obese”. The Chart says I “should” be between 125-169 lbs. (yes, it adjusted for age and activity level).

At a *minimum*, The Chart says I should lose 55 more lbs. At maximum, 101 more lbs. If you saw that picture from the last post, you can understand more fully how frighteningly ludicrous The Chart really is.

My goal is to get under 200 lbs. I have reached an age and mental state in life where I know myself and the weight at which I am comfortable. I have a large frame and I’m very muscular. I will never be tiny.

Screw The Chart. The Chart doesn’t know me.

The picture you’re about to see is from 23 years ago. I was 19 years old and had subsisted on 1200 calories a day for months in order to get to “pageant size”. I landed at 160 lbs., in a size 10. (please – for the love of all that is good and holy – try to overlook the insanely ridiculous and huge 90s bleached out hair!)

pageant

It was very difficult to get to that weight. I wasn’t eating enough, and not enough of the right things. I was still dancing. Even so, 160 was rock bottom for me. I couldn’t break that barrier. (naturally I still thought I was enormously fat anyway)

It was not sustainable. I got married a couple years later and settled into a comfortable size 16 until I had kids. No one ever guessed I was a size 16, just as no one ever believes I weigh what I weigh now.

So, let’s look at the facts there – at age 19, going hungry, very active, I was still just 9 lbs. under what The Chart says should be my *MAXIMUM* weight now at age 41. I can only imagine what it was supposed to be at that age, pre-kids, pre-metabolism slowdown.

Why am I telling you all this, even though it’s not exactly about going grain free? Because I think The Chart can get ingrained in us so deeply that we never really exorcise that nagging notion that no matter how healthy we feel, or how happy we are in our clothes, we’re still not quite good enough.

Damn The Chart to hell. Only you know you. The goal should be feeling healthy and energetic, minimizing medical issues, and exuding confidence in yourself.

Let The Chart go.

You are a beautiful, amazing, valuable individual. Not a number.

Please share your experiences and thoughts about the weight chart with me in the comments!

Burden of Proof (or yes, Virginia, ditching grains really does make you shrink)

It’s been way longer than I planned for it to be before getting back here to post again. Between the kids, the puppy, the house, the job, the very occasional date (don’t get all excited, no I haven’t found “HIM” yet but it sure is fantastic to get out and talk to adults!) and every other little thing life throws at us when we have the cojones to make any kinds of plans, I’ve just been running crazy.

But I promised pictures and here they are. The first one is in June 2013, a week after THE BREAKUP, in full-on uglytastic 80s garb for the moms’ dance in my daughter’s recital. Fat, depressed, sick, unhappy, exhausted, in physical and mental pain. It is not easy to share this picture but I know that so many people (including me, still!) need inspiration, and need to see with their own two eyes that there IS a life outside of the one they feel trapped in. The second picture is from today – January 31, 2014.

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I have not stepped on the scale since the last post. I’m fairly certain that I’m at upwards of 30 lbs. lost now. The numbers aren’t critical to me, how I feel is – and I feel great.

Do I cheat sometimes? Hell yeah. Especially if we’re going out to dinner, I will have whatever I want. But I am very careful not to go too far, and to keep myself on track at home because that’s where I eat the majority of meals.

I also feel compelled to add that this hasn’t just been a matter of dietary change. I have done a tremendous amount of mental and emotional work in the past four months. I am convinced – pathological disorders notwithstanding – that it is almost impossible to see long-term physical improvement/weight loss without doing the mental work along with it. I know there are those who will disagree, and that’s fine, but I have spent an adult lifetime battling my weight and energy levels (with thyroid problems on top of everything else) and I can say without reserve that until I began to fix some of the seriously off shit upstairs, the downstairs stayed fat.

That said – I know some of you have been begging for more practical ideas, recipes, meal plans, things you can put into action every day in real life, so the next post will focus on those issues.

Until then, please share your thoughts and stories with me in the comments!

Grain Free and Weight Loss

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I never used to believe it when people would say that they lost weight just by making a small adjustment in “lifestyle”. After 2.5 months of grain free eating I’m no longer a skeptic and I gotta say, it feels good!

I have avoided the scale til today because it’s a real catch 22 for me – if the results are good, it motivates me. If the numbers aren’t what I want, it can send me into a spiral of doom leading straight to the fridge. So when I started eating grain free, I decided I wouldn’t even go near the scale until I felt at least fairly happy *in my clothes*, that way the numbers wouldn’t wield much power.

This morning I was feeling priiiitee good, so I took the plunge and stepped on.

Backtracking a bit – way back in June, immediately following The Breakup, I danced in the moms’ dance in my daughter’s dance recital, as I have the last couple years. I was MISERABLE. I was an emotional wreck, I was fat, unhappy, and would have simply crawled into a hole if I could possibly have avoided the week-long recital hell. But I couldn’t, because my kid was counting on me.

Fast forward to September when I finally decided to take action and kick the grains – since then I have felt amazing physically, I don’t need naps anymore (ok, maybe on a rare occasion during that special time of the month D:), I don’t feel like a sloth after eating, and most importantly I don’t CRAVE anymore. I still have a high-stress life, but the biggest difference is that I no longer have the urge to use food as a sedative. That is HUGE. All of you who struggle with that *know* how huge that is.

Back to this morning, I figured what the heck, I’m moving steadily toward going down another pant size, I feel confident and pretty when I go out, why not see what the scale says just out of curiosity. Since going grain free, I have lost……drum roll…..

27 pounds!

I can honestly tell you – I do not go hungry, yes I eat carbs (and plenty of them), I don’t think about food constantly, I don’t feel guilty when I eat, I don’t crave junk but I can eat a treat and be satisfied with just one, in short – I don’t try.

Again, the biggest benefit of all is that I don’t have cravings and I feel fantastic. Actually, maybe I don’t feel fantastic. Maybe I feel “normal” – maybe this is what people who don’t regularly go into a bread coma feel like. Either way, I’ll take it!

I can also honestly tell you I’m not a workout crazy gym rat. I take my dog for a two to four block walk most days, I dance around with the kids sometimes, and I try to do a few crunches and standing push-ups each day. Oh, and I love goblet squats. I just try to sprinkle a little movement in here and there throughout the day.

Don’t get me wrong – I am still in plus-sizes and probably always will be. I haven’t been in “regular sizes” in adulthood since I starved myself to a size 10 for a stupid pageant when I was 19. My “goal” is to lose another 40 pounds. If I do, I do. If I don’t, that’s ok too.

If you’re wondering what 27 pounds of weight loss actually looks like, stay tuned – the next post will be pictures! 🙂

Have you seen success in weight loss by making small changes to your lifestyle or eating habits? Share in the comments!

Grainless Pumpkin Bread

Pie pumpkins (aka sugar pumpkins – the small ones) recently went on sale for a dollar apiece at Kroger, so I grabbed one on a whim and decided I’d figure out something warm and autumnal to do with it later. Last night was “later” and the end result was a moist, delicious, you’d-never-know-it’s-grain-free pumpkin bread (honestly I can’t believe how moist it turned out). Perfect with chili, stew, or as a grain-free dish to pass at Thanksgiving.

You could use canned pumpkin for this bread if you wish. I used one small pie pumpkin, which yielded just the right amount of flesh for the recipe. I did not squeeze the liquid out of the flesh. I did stick it in a bowl in the fridge for about a day, simply because I got sidetracked by something else and had to postpone making the bread, I don’t think this affected it much though.

I loosely adapted this recipe based on a grain-free pumpkin bread recipe from Wellness Mama. I have a coconut-sensitive child so I have to adjust recipes calling for coconut flour, and I’m very happy with how this one turned out. As a bonus, bean flour is considerably cheaper than coconut flour. I’m also eager to try this bread with bananas instead of pumpkin.

Grainless Pumpkin Bread

1-1 ½ cups pumpkin (fresh or canned)

4 eggs

¼ cup olive oil, coconut oil, or softened butter

½ cup garbanzo bean flour (or coconut or other flour of your choice)

¼ cup ground almond/almond flour

½ cup brown sugar (or ¼ cup honey)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 Tablespoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1-2 Tablespoons milk, added a little at a time

Preheat oven to 400 and butter an 8×8” pan or a muffin tin

If you are using fresh pumpkin, cut the pumpkin in half, scoop out the guts, poke holes in it, and place flesh-side down on a microwave safe dish. Microwave for ten minutes. Alternately, place on an oven-safe dish and bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes or until fork tender. Allow to cool then scrape the pumpkin flesh off the skin. Use a potato masher or food processor to mash the flesh.

Add all ingredients except milk to the pumpkin and mix well. Batter should be thick and not runny, but pourable. Add the milk slowly so that you don’t overthin the batter. Pour into pan or muffin tin and bake 20-25 minutes for bread, and 13-15 minutes for muffins. Bread is done when it’s springy and no longer wet on top. Allow to cool for a few minutes before cutting.

Grain-Free Pizza Crust

I can honestly say the only food I truly miss since going grain free is pizza. Oh pizza, how I loved you. Your hot, melty, cheesy goodness filling my mouth with an explosion of familiar, comforting yumminess. The ease of laying you out in front of the whole family and hearing no one say “ewww”. The excruciating pain you put me in that night I ended up in the ER…oh…wait, yeah, that’s why I stopped eating you….

I was so disappointed I couldn’t have pizza anymore. But then – THEN I read about a wonderful thing: grain-free pizza! The heavens parted, the angels sang, and I rolled up my sleeves.

The first recipe I tried was a cauliflower pizza crust, with minor success. It was yummy, but couldn’t be picked up in the hand like a regular piece of pizza (granted, this was likely due to my ineptitude at making it). The gluten-free kid and I ate it but the other kids wouldn’t touch it.

In my quest for a more “pizza-like” experience, I decided to modify an existing recipe from the book Internal Bliss. The original recipe calls for hazelnut flour, which is $13/lb. at my local Whole Foods, thus defeating the idea of eating grain free on a budget for regular people. Instead I used garbanzo bean flour, a veritable bargain at $3/lb. (recipe below).

garbanzobeancrust1

The result was surprisingly good. It was crispy, slightly nutty, and could be held in the hand like normal pizza. Even my extremely picky teenage boy liked it, and this child thinks everything other than Hot Pockets and ramen noodles “tastes weird”.

I do think next time I will substitute a little ground almond for part of the bean flour, just to mitigate the strong flavor a bit and lighten up the texture of the pizza crust. If you don’t have a coconut-sensitive person in the house as I do, you could try part coconut flour instead (and let me know how it works out!).

Obviously this grain-free pizza crust will not work for those on a paleo or low-carb diet. I use beans sparingly, but don’t mind having them for a once-in-a-while treat like pizza.

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Grain-Free Garbanzo Bean Pizza Crust

2 cups garbanzo bean (chick pea) flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill)

2 large eggs

1 Tbsp. olive oil (or oil of your choice)

1/2 tsp. sea salt

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 cup water, give or take

a handful ground almonds or almond flour (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 and generously grease a pizza pan or sheet tray. Combine the bean flour, eggs, oil, garlic powder, and salt. Add the water a drizzle at a time until the dough comes together, forming a sticky ball. Sprinkle the ground almond onto the pan (it acts just like cornmeal, creating a stick-free surface for the pizza crust). Use your fingers to press the dough ball into the desired shape, working from the center of the pizza dough outward. This recipe makes about a 12″ crust. Bake for 5-8 minutes (longer if you want it crispier), add sauce, cheese, and toppings and bake for a few more minutes until toppings are hot and cheese is melted.

Do you have a favorite grain-free pizza crust? Please share links and ideas in the comments!

Grain-Free Chicken Soup & Dessert

chickensoup

One of my new favorite grain-free meals is homemade chicken soup – perfect for the ever-cooler days! The kids and I often slow roast a whole chicken in the oven just to eat off of, so after cleaning all the meat off the next day I just drop the carcass in a couple quarts of water with a cut up onion, carrots, and celery, plus sea salt and pepper, and boil for a few hours (then allow to cool and strain, obvee).

The flavor in the resulting stock is amazing, but if you don’t have time to do this (and there were many years when I had babies in diapers and didn’t have time to bathe myself much less make homemade stock!) you can certainly use store-bought.

You can either freeze or refrigerate the stock, then when ready to assemble the soup:

  • saute a chopped onion in butter or olive oil – when it’s just about soft and ready, add a bit of chopped garlic (I use precut in a huge jar from Costco)
  • slice carrots, zucchini, and celery – the trick to this being a *souper* fast soup is to use a mandolin or the slicing side of a cheese grater; this makes the carrots thin so they cook lightning fast (plus they then resemble the texture of noodles a bit)
  • let the veggies simmer in the stock for a few minutes before adding the chicken, so that they have a chance to soften up a bit
  • add the chopped chicken and any additional seasoning – I throw in a few bay leaves and taste at this point to see if more salt and pepper are needed
  • simmer for 20-30 minutes to let the flavors join – then enjoy!

I also sometimes add a can of diced tomatoes, and next time I’m going to toss in a can of white beans for additional protein and bulk.

Add the sides of your choice for a satisfying meal – a salad, potatoes in some form, a lovely winter squash, grain-free muffins, the possibilities are limitless.

pbchchbars

Next I tried these flourless peanut butter chocolate chip blondies from The Detoxinista. The batter is insanely simple to put together. As promised when I started this blog, you’re getting pictures of my real unfancy food from my real unfancy kitchen, and that includes the (too frequent) times that I overcook things. My kids have have a long history of exclaiming “Mom! You didn’t burn it!” when I set before them a meal that isn’t dry with a suspiciously dark hue.

So here is what happens when you overcook these bars. If they look like mine, you left them in too long. I did mine about 20 minutes; I think next time I’ll set the timer to check them at 15 minutes. Still, they were delicious – with a cakey, caramel-ish taste – and even the grain-eating little trolls in my house kept stealing them when my back was turned.

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So, we have a keeper with these (especially if I don’t burn them again), for those occasional times that I miss the decadence of a dessert bar (I don’t do rich sugary things too much anymore, lest my body get any ideas about jumping back on the cravey-train). The next project is attempting to convert them to chocolate, as my 18 year old tells me “blonde brownies are always such a huge disappointment”. LOL. I will update on the results of those efforts.

Share your sinfully indulgent grain-free dessert ideas in the comments!

Grain-Free Meals for the Rest of Us

As I said in my first post, this blog is about the grain-free journey for regular people; people who don’t grow all their own food, for whom all organic, all perfectly controversy-free, laboriously and expensively obtained and prepared food is not always an achievable goal (especially if you’re a single parent like me). Now that we’re all on the same page – here are some of the grain-free meals the kids and I have tried recently.

roastveggieshomemadechips

  • Bottom round roast (on sale), slow-roasted in the oven
  • Broccoli and radishes (also on sale) coated in olive oil (bought by the half-gallon from Costco), salt, pepper, and garlic powder, roasted in the oven on 375 for about 20 minutes – the radishes get mild and sweet, superyum!
  • Homemade potato chips fried in olive oil (this was quite an insanely messy and torturous project and I’m not sure I’ll do it again, but they were yummy and the kids gobbled them up)

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  • Chili – mine is pretty simple: saute onions and garlic in olive oil, dump in a couple different kinds of beans, a big can of crushed tomatoes, a couple tablespoons tomato paste, some water according to the consistency you want, and spices (I use chili powder, cumin, salt, pepper)
  • Homemade grain-free crackers from this recipe. These were a bit of a project but nowhere near the time consumption and traumatic mess level of the homemade chips. And they were yummy. Because they’re made of nuts, they probably shouldn’t be an every day indulgence but they are great for when you miss that crunch of “normal” wheat- and preservative-filled boxed crackers. After the first day I used the toaster oven to crunch them back up again.

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  • Cowboy stew from the GAPS cookbook Internal Bliss – the stew was delicious and filling and would be very flexible if you wanted to swap different veggies or meat for the ones in the recipe. I dropped some fresh parsley and sour cream on top to make it all purty-like.
  • Butter lettuce with store-bought dressing (yes, I’m still hooked on store-bought salad dressing – this is on my list of personal malfunctions to reprogram in my brain)
  • Tiny potato with butter and salsa – the little bit of bulk really helps the meal stick for a while and staves of feelings of “deprivation”.

More random grain-free meals for regular folk yet to come.

What are your favorite easy and filling go-to meals sans grains? Share in the comments.