Friday, April 30, 2010

The blessing of fear.

Quality vs. Quantity -
Which is more important?
How much of something you have or how good that something is?

I find this theme coming up often in my life these days. In my food choices, the time I spend with my son, the work I do every day at the office… I want both. I want the most of the best I can have. I’m feeling like there’s no such thing as “too much of a good thing.” I want it all!

We only have one chance to live this life of ours, and the time we have to live it is appallingly short. My grandparents are dying. It’s not surprising because they are 88 and 90 years old, so it really is just a matter of time, even if they weren’t sick- but they are. My grandmother is bed-ridden now and my grandfather is going through Chemo. Their life sucks right now.

Watching them as they near the end of their lives has me thinking a lot about my own mortality and the brevity of life. I can’t help but imagine what the future holds for me, how long I have left and what I can do to stay (get) healthy. Morbid, huh?

When I started this journey, I was inspired by my son. I said I was doing it for him, so he would have a healthy mom and never feel ashamed that I was fat. That’s still all true, but lately I feel more and more that I’m doing this for myself too. You see, I don’t want to die early. I want as much time as I can get with my husband and my son. I want to dance with my son at his wedding. I want to play with my husband in our retirement. I want to sing my grandchildren to sleep. I want to grow old.

More than just a little part of me is scared. I am afraid that I won’t be successful and I’m afraid of what I might lose if I’m not. The stakes for me have become so much higher all of a sudden. This is much bigger for me than just trying to look good in a bathing suit by June. If it was all about cosmetics, I’m sure I would have given up a long time ago.

That fear is a good thing. Fear is a gift. Fear is what makes us run away from things that will hurt us. Fear is what motivates us to fight for ourselves and those that we love. I know I will be successful at this because I’m too afraid of what will happen if I am not. I never had that before, and that’s why this time will be different. This time has to be different.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Why Low Carb part 2 - Insulin

So last time I promised everyone a layman’s explanation of Insulin and how it affects our bodies.

I’ll start with the basics. Insulin is a hormone that is produced in the pancreas. It’s basic job is to move sugar from our blood to our cells where it can be used for energy. If the cells have all the sugar they can use and there is still some left over, insulin then causes this excess sugar to be stored as fat. Too much sugar in your blood is very bad for your body.

In Type One diabetics, the pancreas does not produce enough insulin to remove all the sugar from your blood. In Type Two diabetics the pancreas continues to make insulin, but the cells have stopped responding to it. When this happens the kidneys have to work overtime to filter the sugar out of your blood, and chronic high blood sugar is what leads to all sorts of problems that Diabetics suffer from (numbness, blindness, etc).

Insulin also stops your body from burning fat, because it tells your fat cells that there is already enough sugar for your energy needs. When Insulin is not present your body then turns to burning stored fat for energy. So it makes sense that if you want to lose fat, that you should try to keep your insulin levels under control.

What happens when you eat a high carbohydrate (sugar) meal? Within minutes of consuming a high carb food your blood sugar spikes. Your body panics because too much sugar is very damaging to your body and releases massive amounts of insulin. The Insulin takes all the sugar out of your blood as quickly as possible, giving what it can to your cells and storing the rest as fat. Too much insulin takes out too much sugar and then because your blood sugar is too low, you start to crave sweets. This becomes a viscous cycle causing your body to store fat and preventing it from burning fat. It’s also what creates the high that so many food addicts crave and the subsequent crash that inevitably follows a binge.

So how do we make sure that we keep our insulin levels low so we can lose weight? One way is to restrict how many calories and fat we consume. On a low calorie, low fat diet when insulin is released there is very little fat to store so your body is forced to release some of it’s stored fat to survive. If you increase your body’s energy needs through vigorous exercise it increases this effect. This causes you to lose weight and is the recommended method of most doctors. The problem, as so many of us know first hand, is that because you are eating a lot of carbs and your blood sugar isn’t stable, you feel hungry shortly after eating. You have to exercise extreme amounts of will power to overcome your body’s signal to eat. You become grouchy and irritable and when you can no longer resist, you over-indulge.

When you eat a low carb diet, you are not causing your blood sugar to rise. Your body releases very little insulin, and burns the fat for fuel. If your body needs more energy than is available in the food you ate, it is able to easily release it from stored fat tissue. You don’t have cravings or feel sluggish because your blood sugar levels are finally steady, instead of spiking up and down. Protein and Fat are very satisfying and you don’t tend to over indulge like you would with carbs. Think back to when you over eat. It’s likely that you over indulged with chips and cake and ice cream and pasta, etc. Another benefit is because you are getting adequate amounts of protein, you won’t lose muscle like you do with more traditional diets.

I can’t stand being hungry. I hate it. I have very little self control when I get that way. That’s why I love the low carb diet. I can lose weight without feeling like I’m starving myself.

I cheated this weekend a bit because it was my son’s 2nd birthday so I had a pieces of cake and some pizza. I felt sick for days afterwards. It was a huge wake-up call and a reminder that Sugar is poison. Are bodies are not designed to eat this way. Low carb is by far the more natural way to eat.

Think about it this way, if civilization came to an end tomorrow and you were forced to flee into the mountains and live off the land, what would you eat? You would have mostly meat that you were able to hunt or trap and vegetables that you were able to grow or gather. When it was in season, if you were lucky enough to find some, you might be able to have a piece or two of fruit. You wouldn’t be eating grains much. If you want sugar you would have to brave a beehive for some fresh honey. The high carbohydrate foods that have become a staple of our western diet would be a luxury item rarely consumed.

For thousands and thousands of years our bodies evolved to perform on this type of low carb diet. It is only in the most recent part of our evolutionary history that sugar and flour have been so available and inexpensive. That’s why I am always saying that the low carb lifestyle makes sense to me, it's natural for us to eat this way!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


I've been super busy since it's inventory time and that means working long hours with no break. Plus it's my little guy's 2nd Birthday tomorrow so I've been running around crazy trying to get everything done.
I was super excited to see that my weigh in this morning was 220.6 which is a loss this week of 2 pounds!
Woot Woot!
So I wanted to share my joy with all you lovlies out there in bloggerland.

:-) Have a happy day!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Why Low Carb?

One of the things that I’ve noticed as I’ve begun to lose weight is that as soon as someone I haven’t seen for awhile sees me they remark “You look great! Are you losing weight? What have you been doing?” My standard reply is “Thanks! I’ve been trying to slim down this year. I’m following a low carb diet.”

This simple statement usually elicits an “oh” and the subject is abruptly dropped. I know what’s going through their minds. I heard that wasn’t healthy. I could never give up pasta and sweets. I know someone that did that and they gained it all back once they went off the diet.

The thing is that, when done correctly, low carb diets ARE healthy. You don’t really miss the bread and pasta and sweets after the first couple of weeks. And the biggest myth, about gaining it all back and then some? Well that’s true of any diet if you go back to unhealthy eating habits as soon as you meet your goals, it’s certainly not exclusive to the low carb club.

Since I’ve run into so many questions about how this diet works, I’ve decided to devote the next couple of posts to explaining it a little. I think this might be helpful to me to reinforce what I already know, so please don’t think I’m getting preachy or pushing my eating plan on you, this exercise is as much for me as anyone.

The first thing I want to talk about is what exactly is a carbohydrate? Food is broken into 3 things; Protein, Fat, and Carbohydrate. Fiber, sugar and starch are all lumped into the same category as far as food labels go. For diet purposes though, you are only concerned about effective carbohydrates. These are carbs that affect your blood sugar levels. Fiber does not. So when calculating the number of carbohydrates in an item, you need to subtract the fiber from the total carb count. For example in my jar of natural peanut butter, 2 table spoons have 6 grams of total Carbohydrates and 2 grams of fiber for a total of 4 net carbohydrates.

The average American consumes about 300 grams of total carbohydrate a day and around 14 grams of fiber. This means that the average person eats about 286 effective carbs a day. Most low carb diets give you numbers to shoot for. For example Atkins starts you out at 20 carbs a day and you slowly increase them by 5 until you achieve slow steady weight loss of 1-2 pounds a week. Yes you can lose a ton of weight really fast by doing this, but this is where a lot of the criticism comes from that it’s not healthy and you can’t sustain it for long, etc. If you have a wedding coming up in 3 weeks and you want to drop an extra 10-15 pounds then this is the way to go. If you’re like me and you have 40+ pounds to lose, you want to be more practical. I don’t actually count the carbs I consume each day and I don’t have a limit. What I do is make sure that I am eating mostly meat and vegetables, with small amounts of fruit. I have omitted potatoes, rice and pasta from diet. I only eat the low carb bread when I’m dying for it and try to eat fiber at every meal. I would guess that I’m probably eating somewhere between 30-45 net carbs a day.

Typical day

Breakfast- Fiber one original cereal w/ unsweetened Almond Breeze Milk = 13 Net carbs

Mid morning- Coffee or tea with half and half and Splenda = 3 Net carbs

Lunch- Big salad with grilled chicken breast and blue cheese dressing = 9 net carbs (approximate)

Snack – Beef jerky and diet coke = 5 net carbs

Dinner – Chicken with Broccoli and Cauliflower = 5 net carbs

Evening treat- either a Jell-O Temptations mouse cup or a light beer, but only if I really want it. = 5 net carbs

Total=35-40 net carbs on average.

I really don’t feel deprived at all. The first couple of weeks are the hardest, because your body is adjusting to the change, but once your body makes that adjustment, you feel so much better. Your energy increases, you don’t have that sluggish feeling mid afternoon. In fact, when I do make an exception and eat some sugar or flour I actually feel a little lightheaded or high now.

There are a lot of health benefits to eating low carb, and I’ll get into all of those in my next post. The single biggest advantage though (for me) is that I’m not hungry anymore. Can you imagine that? You can lose weight without being hungry. It’s amazing to me. The protein and fat that you eat is so satisfying that once your body switches from sugar burning mode to fat burning mode, you will find yourself eating less naturally without wanting more. Really, that is the key to long term weight loss, isn't it?

My next post I’m going to talk some about Insulin and how your body’s metabolism works. This is what I mean when you've heard me say that the science behind this way of eating makes sense. I'm going to try to break it down in a way that is easy to understand, because this is where a lot of people are misinformed and get the impression that eating fewer carbs isn't healthy.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

15 pounds gone!

Weigh in this week- 222.6 means a 15 pound total loss.

I am super happy! Not just because I finally have a loss to post, but because I've stuck with it for this long. Here's the thing, Ultimately I don't want my happiness to be determined by whether I lose weight or gain weight or plateau for awhile - I don't want my happiness to be dependent on my body at all!
But I am proud of myself for accomplishing change in an area that I was looking to improve. And I am improving every day. My clothes fit looser. I feel younger and less wiped out. I can climb my stairs a little easier.

I still have a long way to go before I'm not considered obese anymore, though.
I hate that word by the way. Obese. It is truly a loaded word that brings to mind images of Gilbert Grape's mom for me.

I know it's supposed to be a medical term and all, but it is offensive to me. In fact the whole way the medical community addresses the growing epidemic of chronic obesity in America is offensive to me. People are dying and if a doctor addresses the issue at all with a patient they only tell them to eat more fiber and less fat. The only medical solution they have come up with is Gastric Bypass Surgery. You would think that by now the powers that be would have identified what is causing this epidemic. I mean it's not like one or two people are fat. In 2009 34 percent of Americans were considered to be obese and 32.7 percent are overweight. This means that  2 out of 3 people weigh more than they should these days. It can't be all about will power and McDonalds!

It's hard for the average person to sift through all the research and diets and fads to try to find what works. I think that's why I am able to do the low carb thing, because the science behind it makes sense to me and it seems solid. Obviously I'm not an expert on this though. It would be nice if the government would take an interest in this. I mean really, you want to bring down the cost of healthcare? Let's start by making people healthier! Maybe gym memberships should be tax deductible and you could get a tax credit for bringing your BMI down so many points in a year. Maybe the FDA should talk to someone about how they say there are 2.5 servings of soup in a can. Maybe they should start focusing on healthy eating habits in schools. I don't know how to fix it, but when I think about how broken it has become with no attempts to fix it it makes me really angry.

Think about it, if 2 out of 3 people in the United States got cancer there would be walks and telethons and concerts for a cure. Bono would be outraged!
But we're just fat and it's not the same thing because it's our own fault.
Or is it?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

So I’m 13 weeks into this thing and I have to admit, I’m losing gas fast.

The last couple of weeks were very challenging for me. I didn’t do as well as I wanted to , but I also didn’t give in to temptation as much as I wanted to either. The world would be such an easier place to be thin in if everyone didn’t constantly try to push food down your throat.

My problem is that I really, REALLY like food. I like to cook it and I like to eat it and I like to feed it to people. I am trying to take what I like about food and applying it to my weight loss efforts. I tweak recipes to fit my nutritional goals and prepare nice healthy dinners for myself and my family. Lately though, I’ve discovered that my efforts are only successful if I am completely in control of the food situation. When other people get involved, I really start struggling.

I was able to avoid most sweets this past weekend. I did eat a macaroon on Saturday and a small piece of coconut cake on Sunday night. I had a bagel-fest on Friday, mostly because there wasn’t anything else available. Aside from one or two small Reese’s peanut butter eggs, I avoided the Easter candy. I did get supremely ticked off at my mother in law which prompted me to drink a little more wine than I had planned. (She put together a huge Easter basket that was bigger than the one I did from the Easter bunny and bought several toys for my son, which is nice, but it just confuses him and she really has to stop trying to outdo me or I swear I will not be responsible for my actions….end of rant)

On Monday I restarted my low carb plan. It feels like it’s rougher this time around than it was in January. I’ll get through it though. Eventually I’ll get to where I want to be, and I know that even when I reach my destination it is going to be an ongoing struggle to stay there. On the plus side, everyone did notice that I had lost some weight. Of course this implies that everyone also noticed how fat I had gotten, but no one ever mentions that, do they? Well at least not to my face they didn’t. Knowing my in-laws though, I’m certain they gossiped about me behind my back. Malicious little beasts.

Can you tell that I’m annoyed with my husband’s family yet? They suck the fun right out of every special day.

Anyway this is not really the right time or place to complain about the in laws. Though lord knows I could do a whole other blog about them and never run out of stories. Maybe I’ll consider that for a future project…. Hmmm.

I’ll try to be better about posting, I’ve been avoiding it partly because I knew I wasn’t doing as well as I should be.

Take care and God bless.