Tag Archives: Atkins diet

A Week of Challenges and Surprises

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Cover of "Prevent and Reverse Heart Disea...

Cover via Amazon

I did it!  I “survived” a whole week on a whole foods, plant-based diet!!

Yes, I’m being sarcastic to a certain degree.  However, it wasn’t that long ago that my husband and I had the following (at the time, somewhat serious) conversation. 

Him: “If the doctor told me I had to quit eating cheese (fat/dairy) or die, I’d choose death.”  Me: “I agree, I couldn’t live my life fully without cheese.  I’m from Wisconsin for Pete’s sake!  I eat cheese ALL THE TIME.” 

Last night sitting around the kitchen table, we marvelled that we don’t miss it.  We haven’t thought about it at all.  No staring longingly at blocks of cheddar, trying to catch a glimpse of the mayonnaise jar, or sniffing at my co-workers yogurt containers.  Honestly, we just don’t miss any of it.  It’s surprising. 

My biggest challenge this first week has been cooking.  My husband is a foodie.  He is always on a quest to try new and interesting flavors and combinations of food.  He loves exotic and ethnic foods as well as American classics, as long as they’re well prepared.  While being married to a foodie has its perks, I have found that cooking for him can be a bit intimidating.   You see, my husband tells me the truth about the meals presented to him.  “Please don’t make this again,” was a comment heard often early in our marriage.  While some women may have burst into tears or thrown a pot at his head, I came to appreciate his honesty.   I never have to wonder if he is telling the truth to spare my feelings.  And when I do make something he likes, he praises me for my accomplishment.  I feel like a million bucks!  –On a side note, I will have you know that my husband prefers my homemade spaghetti sauce over that of his best-friend, who is Italian and a professional chef!  THAT blows my mind!–  Now that you have that background information, you can imagine that trying to cook for my foodie, fat addicted husband comes as a huge challenge when trying to eat without added fats and salt. 

I cook 96% of all our family’s meals.  I would consider myself to be an average – good cook overall.  However, like most folks, I do have particular dishes that I excel in making.  I take pride in making a good deal of my meals from scratch too.  This week was a trying one in the kitchen for me.  My husband made our first two meals upon embarking on this endeavor.  Then, I took over…   After one particularly unappetizing dinner, which I attempted without a recipe,  we mutually decided that I should stick with the recipes that come in Dr. Esselstyn’s book, Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease: The Revolutionary, Scientifically Proven, Nutrition-Based Cure or from the online recipes at www.forksoverknives.com until I get the hang of this way of cooking.  So it may be awhile before I am able to share any edible good whole foods, plant-based recipes with you. 

The recipes that we have tried thus far have been pretty good.  (My personal favorite thus far is an African stew!)  We can actually taste the individual foods in our meals.  For the first time in my life, I ate naked corn on the cob.  (No butter?  No salt?  It doesn’t need it! – SHOCKING!  I know!) 

I’ve adapted to sauteing my vegetables in a non-stick pan with vegetable stock instead of olive oil.   It tastes a little different from what I’m used to, but it’s still good.  I’ve removed the salt shaker from the stove top and put it in the cupboard.  We’ve used many strong spices (coriander, turmeric, cinnamon, garlic, onion, cilantro) in our cooking to give some “oomph”, as recipes call for them.   I even discovered a new spice, which I was shocked to find in our rural area…  Asafoetida.  (Have you heard of it?) 

One challenge I’m not facing is a lack of variety or quantity in my food intake.  I eat until I’m full, which is a new sensation for me.  In the past, I’ve found eating healthy to seem very restrictive.  All this yummy fiber tells my stomach loud and clear when it’s full.   I thank God when I get that sensation because I know that there are too many in the world who do not have such an experience each day. 

My blood sugar levels have been okay.  I don’t always remember to take my Metformin or Glyburide with my dinner and my numbers haven’t been so terrible without.  (150’ish in the morning.)  I submitted some blood work on Saturday morning.  I should be getting those results back this week.  I’m anxious to see my cholesterol, liver enzyme and blood sugar levels and if/how they improve over the next 3 months.   Eventually, I’d love to be able to get rid of ALL my medicines all together!  One step at a time though…

All in all, I give this week two thumbs up, way up!  I’ve experienced food in a new way…  One that makes my body happy.  I’ve eaten a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, to my satisfaction without weighing, measuring or counting a gosh darn thing.  Physically, I feel pretty good.  I have plenty of energy to do what I need to accomplish and I haven’t noticed any negative side effects. There is one more positive side effect:  I lost 11.8 pounds!  (I’m doing a little happy dance!)  I am very excited about this, but I don’t want to give the numbers on the scale too much emphasis.  This isn’t JUST about weight loss for me.  It’s a quest for improved health and overall well-being. 

I hope you’ll find little (or BIG) ways to make your life better so you can make your own sunshine too!

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Here’s To New Beginnings!

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Ahhhh!  I love the feel of a new beginning.  The earthy smell of a fresh Spring rain, the thrill of back-to-school shopping, the hope of a newly budding romance, the anticipation of a new birth…  <Sigh> Then there’s the chronic (for me) new beginning: a “diet”.  What makes me think that changing the way I eat will be any different than all those other times? 

I’ve probably joined Weight Watchers a dozen times (conservatively), T.O.P.S., Nutri-system and followed the Atkins diet a few times too.  Of course, there were the countless times I tried to just eat “healthy” without weighing, measuring or counting calories, carbs or fat.  I have also done much of the prep work for the bariatric program at our region’s leading (and most responsible) hospital before deciding it wasn’t for me.  Pairing any or all of these with group and individual therapy and a 12 step program has taught me a great deal about myself.  Probably the most important thing I’ve learned repeatedly over the years is that I’ve got a very unhealthy relationship with food.  Therefore, my health will not change unless my relationship with food changes.

Now, if you look at me, my obesity is obvious.   One doesn’t become overweight without having some sort of issue with food and/or laziness.  (I happen to be overly fond of  addicted to sugar.  Though surprisingly unlike all other women in my family, I don’t give a hoot about chocolate!)   What may not be so obvious is the pain that the weight hides.  That weight didn’t get there by “accident”.  It wasn’t a concious choice to get fat, per se,  just to disappear.  Food was a solution to a problem.

My weight gain came rapidly when I decided (subconsciously) that I wanted to hide my body, to make it unattractive to men.  Like too many women around the world, I was molested as a girl.  It was scary!  I didn’t want it to happen again.  So there was a purpose in gaining weight, even though I didn’t recognize it at the time.  Now any purpose driven person with 15 years of practice is bound to be pretty darn “good” at what they’re doing.  I was practically an expert!  One might think that it would be easy to change this behavior once the reason behind it was revealed.  Unfortunately, it’s not been simple or easy!   Patterns take a long time to change, especially when emotions are behind them.  We’re pretty complicated and amazingly resourceful creatures.  Gratefully, I have a fabulous woman who works with me to see those patterns and hear the voice I don’t always hear playing in the background, enabling me to make choices that will help me along my journey.   With her help and that of some really incredible women, I’ve been addressing those concerns.

The other factor in breaking down my destructive behavior patterns is the damage I’ve already caused my body.  My poor body…  After 28 years of compulsively overeating, the damage  is pretty extensive.  I’ve been insulin resistant since I was a teenager.  Not that anyone knew it at the time.  I fell victim to the endless rollercoaster of sugar highs and lows fueled by my addiction to sugar.  I didn’t understand the damage that was being done to my body.  I only saw the resulting  fat, which was depressing and led to more sugar consumption.  In return, this past fall, I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.   My knees aren’t completely shot yet, but as I age, it’s apparent that they’re on their way.  I’ve had lower back pain, bad posture and plantar fascitis due to my weight.  -And we won’t even get started on the stretch marks!  When I was younger, women used to tell me to, “lose weight now, while your skin will still bounce back”.  I never understood this, until I got to be about 36.  Now, it’s crystal clear! 

Taking a good hard look at the challenges I face isn’t something I like to do, but it’s a very necessary part of my life. Many in my family have chosen to bury their heads in denial instead of addressing issues as they arise.  Time has shown me if I don’t acknowledge them, they can never be overcome.  I will be doomed to repeat them.  So I must continually make the decision to take responsibility for my health.  This becomes a reality in a few ways:  Acknowledging my feelings and finding healthy ways to cope with those that make me uncomfortable.  Making a conscious effort to plan, shop for, prepare and then eat only foods that will nourish my body.  And exercising my body as it is today.  (Meaning that I need to stretch myself to try new things, letting go of the inabilities that I had yesterday, but not expecting myself to be capable of something I’m not ready for.) 

Curiously, I am not without hope!  God has designed this amazing human body of mine (and yours!) to endure.  It’s goal, in spite of the evil I might do to it, is to survive.  What an amazing thought!  According to Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr. , of the documentary Forks Over Knives and The China Study, at least some of the damage can be undone.  Cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels, blood pressure, etc…  all returning to within normal, healthy ranges when following his recommended plan of eating.  (See his book Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease: The Revolutionary, Scientifically Proven , Nutrition-Based Cure for details.)  I am also still relatively young, mobile and VERY willing to try my best.  And gratefully, I have a small community of fabulous people who love and support me in my quest for a healthy, sunshine filled life.  Without them, I would certainly give up.   I find that for me, accountability is crucial to accomplishment. 

What do you find helps you stay accountable to a large goal? 


A Change of Perspective

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Do you ever feel, like Eeyore,  that there’s a cloud hanging over your head?  I do!  I turned 40 this past summer and  have since spent a great deal of time in introspection.  “Am I truly happy?”   “What do/don’t I like about my life?”  “What can I change?”  “Where do I see myself in 5 years?”  “Where do I WANT to be in 5 years?”   I don’t think of this as a mid-life crisis.  I’m just re-evaluating my life.  

One thing that has become startlingly clear is that my relationship with food  HAS to change in order for me to have a healthy life.  After three decades of abusing food (sugar especially!) as a compulsive overeater,  I was diagnosed as having type 2 diabetes.  I have tried diet after diet (Weight Watchers, Nutri-system, Atkins, a 12-step program, etc…) since I was twelve, all with no long-lasting results.   I even checked into bariatric surgery, which I ultimately decided was not the right option for me.  What could I do differently?  I began to think about the subject, a lot. 

This winter, the opportunity to participate in a “Biggest Loser” type competition through a local personal trainer arose.   I decided that exercise needed to be part of the solution because my body frequently feels like it is much older than it is.  I took personal training sessions for half an hour a week and took other fitness classes, schedule permitting.  This was difficult for me initially.  I had a lot of negative self-talk going on in my head.  “They’re all looking at you!”  “You’re too fat to be exercising in public!”  “You’re going to make a fool out of yourself!”  I pressed my internal mute button and made myself do it anyway.  As a result,  I discovered a that I LOVE the physicality of kickboxing!  There is NO better release for me at the end of a frustrating day than to hit and kick the crap out of an inanimate object!  I’ve even decided that there’s another class that I want (GASP!) to try:  kettle bells. 

During this time, my blood sugars weren’t great, even with medicine.  So, my husband and I decided to begin the Atkins diet again because it works for us, with regard to blood sugar levels, ease and not obsessing about food all the time.   However, as has happened in the past, after a few weeks,  I found myself craving fruit, whole grains and a wider variety of vegetables again.  In the 10 weeks with this program, I lost a total of 23.8 pounds and over 6 inches from my middle.  Not too shabby! 

Recently, something happened.  Something that has made me re-evaluate everything I know about healthy eating…  I watched the documentaries Hungry For Change, Food Matters and  Forks Over Knives.  WOW!  I was blown away!  Have you seen them?  If not, the bare basic premise is that given the (natural) foods it needs, whole in vitamins and minerals, the body runs more efficiently and will heal itself.  This reduces the likelihood of  cancer, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.  If one or more of those conditions already exists, it drastically increases the chance of reversal of the condition.  -Now I’m thinking: “Is this why my body always ends up craving produce and grains when I’m following an Atkins diet?  Imagine eating in a way that gives my body what it NEEDS rather than just what looks/sounds appealing to me in the moment.  Would I still struggle with eating compulsively?  Would I still crave sugar?  Would I be able to not only control, but reverse my type 2 diabetes?  Would this way of eating allow my endocrine system to begin working again?  Could I dare to hope that my body would heal itself and I might go medication free?”

Forks Over Knives

Forks Over Knives (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I wanted to talk about it with EVERYBODY!  I put it out as subject for discussion on Facebook, tried engaging co-workers, encouraged friends to watch it.  All with no immediate results.  I knew I especially needed to talk to my husband about this.  If I know anything about myself, it’s that I tend to be a wee bit gullible.  I know that I can’t always trust myself to discern the truth. I wanted to know what other people thought of the ideas presented in these shows.  I REALLY wanted to see what my husband, Mr. Analytical, always the skeptic thought.  Surprisingly, he found “Forks Over Knives” to be an interesting documentary, worthy of further consideration.  

After further consideration, my husband and I decided that it IS worth pursuing a whole foods, plant-based diet.  You might think, “Oh, she’s going to eat like a vegetarian.”  (That’s what I thought at first too!)  Nope.  I’m not going to eat anything with a mother, no dairy (KILLING my Wisconsin-ness!!), no fat, no nuts.  This will NOT be easy!  In the 20 years that I’ve been cooking, EVERYTHING I’ve cooked and baked has had fat in it.  It will challenge all my cooking skills, my creativity in the kitchen and my desire to do what is right for my body.  But I HAVE to try.   Time will tell if the “proof is in the (proverbial) pudding”.  I hope to share my recipes, struggles and triumphs with you along the way, all the while making my own sunshine. 

Has a change in perspective sparked a major change in your life?  If so, I’d love to hear about it!