Tag Archives: diet

A Week of Challenges and Surprises

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Cover of "Prevent and Reverse Heart Disea...

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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?