Category Archives: Diabetes

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!

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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.

june13jan14

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 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.

pbchchbars2

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!

To Graze or Not to Graze?

photo courtesy CC license via http://www.flickr.com/photos/10126935@N05/
photo courtesy CC license via http://www.flickr.com/photos/10126935@N05/

I can’t talk about my grain-free journey without talking about grazing. Grazing has received a lot of attention over the past several years, both positive and negative. In the past few years the idea of spreading food intake out to several times over the course of the day has taken some hits, with some “experts” even accusing the eating pattern of causing diabetes and rotten teeth!

Despite the sensationalist headline, the real truth of the problem is buried halfway through the linked article:

“Indeed, rather than stabilising blood sugar levels, snacking on sugary, high-carbohydrate foods is more likely to make them fluctuate wildly – which can make you feel more, rather than less hungry”…..”If you eat cake or biscuits, the high sugar content causes you to release too much insulin and your blood sugar ends up lower than it was before you ate, as your body tries to compensate for the sudden sugar intake.”

Well, DUH?! This, in my opinion, is the crux of the grazing issue. People typically don’t grab a piece of cheese or some nuts and an apple, they grab a sugary granola bar, crackers, or a bagel – and the difference in the effect on blood sugar is enormous.

That said, some people may do better on a few larger meals, and the most important thing is to individualize based on your own results and instincts, as fitness guru Jonny Bowden discusses here.

Esteemed pediatrician and author Dr. William Sears also has some thoughts on grazing that are worth the read, including touching on his experience with colon cancer.

Still, in my (albeit limited thus far) experience with eliminating grains, I think we may be barking up the wrong tree. Grazing may very well wreak havoc on blood sugar and weight control – depending upon your food choices. We already know that grains, especially wheat, cause blood sugar to spike.

There’s also the problem of the way our grains are produced now compared to 100+ years ago.

It’s not surprising, then, that apparently eating grains has an equivalent effect on your blood sugar as drinking a can of Pepsi.

So what do I do? My approach is simple: I follow my body’s cues. When I was eating a lot of breads and starches I had constant blood sugar spikes and crashes, followed by cravings, which led me to more starches starting the cycle all over again. Therefore, I couldn’t trust that these hunger attacks and cravings were the result of my body truly needing fuel, it was just a vicious roller coaster created by the ups and downs of the insulin cycle.

photo courtesy CC license via http://www.flickr.com/photos/toofarnorth/
photo courtesy CC license via http://www.flickr.com/photos/toofarnorth/

Since going grain free there are many times I forget to eat, and if I do get hungry it’s very mild, just a little physical reminder saying “hey, let’s grab a slice of cheese or a piece of fruit”. I do get hungry around lunch and dinner times, but I am satisfied by way less food. I would say I eat 6-8 times a day, with two of those usually being small “normal” meals and the rest being snacks or small appetizer type servings of food – almost all “real food”.

Although I don’t restrict myself intentionally with sweets or any food outside of grains, I find that I just don’t really need or want them often. I have not eliminated sugar – it would take a lot of kicking, dragging, and screaming to take away the sugar and cream in my coffee! 🙂

Getting back to the point, I think a grazing pattern, at least for part of the day anyway, is frequently a natural result of kicking grains because the body doesn’t get into that craving cycle. There are other benefits of grazing, but if three squares works for you, by all means carry on! This is just my experience with the grain-free journey so far.  Please share yours in the comments!

Getting to Grain Free

Not interested in weighing each chia seed that passes your lips? Me neither. So over photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/averagejane/counting every carb, calorie, and gram of sugar? Me too.

Trends among foodies and fitness buffs can be dizzying and overwhelming. One minute it’s cool to go into ketosis, the next we’re eating like cavemen. Even the non-diet diets – i.e. “lifestyle changes” – can be mind-numbing to real people who don’t have the time or resources to maintain a field full of organic goats and dandelion greens.

If you hang out online long enough, particularly among hippies and natural living type folk, it’s almost impossible not to be exposed to the concept that grains aren’t all they’re cracked up to be for human consumption. Given my own blood sugar challenges while riding the bread coaster, the logic of this wasn’t lost on me. Besides, I’m all in on doing the polar opposite of what the government says I should (cough – Monsanto and the FDA – cough).

USDA_Food_PyramidWHOFoodGuidelinesSummaryPyramid

Before I jump into my reasons for eliminating grains, let me start with full disclosure:

What this blog is:

  • a running account of my everyday journey without grains, including peripheral topics like exercise and general eating habits
  • a place where I will share photos of my visually-imperfect food creations from my mega-vintage (and not in a cool way), regular old semi-sloppy kitchen on my very modest (often paper) dishware
  • a place where I will share my ideas for reasonably healthy food choices that won’t drive you crazy with hard to find ingredients and complex preparation
  • a place for you to share your grain-free eating ideas with me and everyone else

What this blog isn’t:

  • a failsafe guide for gluten intolerant or celiac individuals
  • a paleo diet plan, a low-carb diet plan, a no-sugar diet plan, an all-organic from farms that only grow wheatgrass fertilized with rainbows and unicorn poop diet plan, you get the idea
  • a blog full of fancy, super-clean food porn pictures that look like they came from Food Network

On to the “why”…

One of my daughters has been gluten-free for several months due to severe stomach pain and bloating when she eats wheat. I sort of gradually followed in her footsteps because I feel sluggish when I eat bready food, and a lot of what we were making with the gluten-free baking mixes was actually pretty good.

grainfreeiconAs I read a little more into the potential harms of grains in general, particularly the links between wheat and diabetes and thyroid problems (diabetes runs rampant in my family and I’m already hypothyroid), the idea of giving them up completely grew on me. Concurrently, I’d been experiencing some problems that made going grain free an even more obvious choice.

I’d been having stomach pains late at night for a few weeks. One evening after having a couple slices of frozen store-bought pizza, I had a severe episode, worse than any so far. It felt like I was being stabbed repeatedly in the upper abdomen while someone tightened a giant belt ` around my entire ribcage allll the way around from back to front.

My friendly neighborhood ER gave me some wonderful, wonderful IV morphine and did an ultrasound. They decided I had gallstones and probably gallbladder sludge (doesn’t that sound delish? Makes ya wanna gobble up a big tub of lard, no?).

Backtrack a couple months prior to this attack – I had gone through the horrifying breakup of my long-term relationship. Every woman who’s ever been through it knows what that means. Break out the carbs! And the wine, and the chocolate…and….nothing says “You’ll never have another boyfriend again, fatty!” like crying in the fetal position for weeks with nothing but a full refrigerator and your unwashed hair to console you.

Sooo, once that mammoth gallbladder attack flattened me for two days with a bottle full of Tylenol 3 and regret, I decided I had nothing to lose by getting rid of the rest of the grains.

Now, if you’ve done any browsing of the interwebz trying to find out about this way of eating, you’re probably on information overload. There IS a middle ground, I promise. You don’t have to subsist on sprouts and dehydrated berries or shop exclusively at Whole Foods (unless you want to go totally organic, in which case, go for it!).

Honestly, one of the biggest difficulties is simply explaining to others that you don’t eat any grains, yes there’s a good reason, and no you’re not nuts (you just eat a lot of them!).

Eating to live (as opposed to living to eat) can be simple, believe it or not. I’m still deep in the learning curve though, so don’t take my word for it. Wait, sort of take my word for it, and follow along so we can learn together!

Please share your grain-free tips, experiences, and thoughts in the comments!