Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Eat Yourself Skinny! BMI = 30.3

Some people think that I’m starving myself skinny but they’re wrong. I am not starving myself skinny - I am eating myself skinny. In fact, I tried to speed things up a bit last week by dropping one serving of whole grains from my daily routine and for the first week in a long time I didn’t lose an ounce.

My instinct told me that if I dropped out a serving of whole grains a day my weight loss would go faster. My instinct was wrong, as it usually is. This is why I follow the Canada Food Guides in planning my diet. Science gives us much better answers than instinct. By eliminating my bad snacking habits and following the dietary advice of Health Canada, I have taken off 100 lbs. Just look at my old work uniform!

I’ve posted photos of the big meals I eat but most people just can’t get it through their heads that a full and fully balanced diet can lead to such weight loss. Part of the problem is that people start with the question, “How are you losing all this weight?” One should start with the question, “How did I put all this weight on?”

I estimate that I used to eat about 5,000 calories per day. I don’t even want to think about how many grams of fat I was taking in. At the time I would have estimated that I ate about 3,000 calories per day. That is why I began with the question, “How the hell did I get so damn fat!?” Answering that question with brutal honesty was almost traumatizing.

If you need to take off 20 lbs or so, well then maybe you can just stop taking sugar in your coffee. If you have over a hundred pounds to take off, then you really need to take an honest audit of your diet. Once I accepted the truth about how horrible my diet was, I realized how much work I had to do to get myself onto a healthy diet. There was no way that I could go from eating all that junk to eating a balanced diet overnight.

Just limiting my snack menu, and training myself to go an hour between snacks lead to me losing about 15 lbs in the first couple of weeks. It took seven weeks for me to completely eliminate snacking and get used to the old-fashioned hospital food sort of meals.

By that time, seven weeks in, I had lost about 50 lbs. That shocked me, but I knew that rate of weight loss would not continue. That radical change in calorie intake essentially took my metabolism by surprise. I knew that to continue losing weight I needed to start adding in more fruits and vegetables while swapping out my poor-carbs for whole grains.

My breakfast these days is about 800 calories but has very little fat, no added-sugars, and is packed with whole grains. Once you eliminate added sugars, fried foods, and processed meats, the calorie density of your food drops dramatically. To get all the nutrition you need to keep your metabolism up you need to eat some darn big meals.

A full and fully balanced diet keeps your metabolism running high. By dropping a serving of whole grains from my daily routine, all I did was signal my metabolism to slow down a bit and I stopped losing weight. This might seem counter-intuitive, but that’s often the case with biology; my weakest subject in school.

So many people get caught in the cycle of trying to eat tiny meals and then bridge the gap with ‘low fat’ snacks. A lot of prepared meals that are marketed as ‘lean’ or ‘healthy’ are terrible choices. Many have far more milligrams of sodium than they have calories. Most have added sugars. I’ve not seen one yet that provides 2 full servings of whole grains and 2 full servings of vegetables.

After eating a tiny meal that is high in salt and added sugars you are going to be hungry. You might turn for a yogurt cup that is labeled ‘fat free’ but it likely has more sugar in it than an old-fashioned oatmeal cookie. Even if you grab a diet soda, you are still not getting the nutrition you missed at lunch.

All of this is creating an epidemic of malnourished obese people. Does putting ‘malnourished’ and ‘obese’ together sound counter-intuitive? As I said, that is often the case where biology is concerned. For all the calories I used to eat, I wasn’t getting all my fruits, veggies, and whole grains. I was fatigued because I was carrying around an extra 150 lbs while also being starved of micronutrients.

By following the Canada Food Guides, especially the advice on limiting added-sugars and processed meats, I am keeping my metabolism running high. If I try to skip a meal or eliminate some whole grains, all I’ll do is signal my metabolism to slow down. Starvation is not healthy and will not produce healthy results. Eating yourself skinny is the only way to go.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

How to Quit Snacking: BMI = 30.3

A lot of people tell me that I must have incredible willpower to maintain my healthy diet. A year ago, I couldn’t imagine a snack-free life. It seems that being crushed by my own weight (crushed vertebra from a little slip on the ice) jarred something loose in my head.

I don’t know how my eating habits got so bad without setting off some internal alarm bells. I knew I was obese but rather than changing my diet I just stopped stepping on scales. What I didn’t realize was that my constant snacking overstimulated my sense of taste and food just became more and more bland – driving me to layer up ever more flavours and textures in a futile attempt to find pleasure in food again.

The healthy foods I needed to start eating just didn’t appeal to me anymore. Oh, sure, I loved corn on the cob, but only if it was dunked in buttermilk, covered in salt and pepper, and then maybe slathered with some goat cheese. I was out of control.

I needed to carve away at my diet and get back to basics. I started by feeding myself old fashioned hospital food. Super bland meals that I could barely stand. At the same time, I put myself in a personal ‘snack rehab’

I limited my snack menu to only three options. Originally I had 10 nibs on the menu rather than the reduced-sodium V8. After a meal or snack, I set a timer for an hour and tried to go without so much as a sip of water until that hour had passed. I kept score of how many times I made it and how many times I failed. Each day I tried to beat my score from the day before. The first week was grueling, but by the end of the week I could do the hour without fail.

The next week I set the timer for 1.5 hours. I think it took me two weeks before I could consistently go 1.5 hours without even touching my mouth. When I started succeeding with 2 hours of no oral-stimulation at a time, I began just having a sip of water at the two-hour mark and setting the timer for another hour. I then swapped out the nibs for reduced-sodium V8.

It was a struggle for about 7 weeks. It is still sometimes a bit of a struggle at work where I am handling food all day, but when I find that I’m starting to nibble again I just set a timer for two hours and taste nothing beyond what my job requires me to taste. Sometimes I feel like a recovering alcoholic working as a bartender.

The point here is that I had absolutely zero discipline when I started this journey. I also don’t have monumental discipline now. I built up some discipline using that snack timer but mostly I just broke the habit of perpetually grazing. My discipline is only a little stronger now than before, but it is now persistent. I watched myself slide a little last week, nibbling the odd crouton or stray chip at work, and now I just need to start setting the timer again and keep working at it. The big struggle is over, now I just need to be mindful to keep up the good habits and watch out for old bad habits resurfacing.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Hamilton Beach Digital Steamer: BMI = 30.4

I’ve had my countertop steamer for three months now and I have cooked well over 100 meals in it so it’s time to do a review. This is not just a review of this particular model of steamer, but of how useful a countertop steamer is for a single person trying to eat a healthy diet.

When I first wrote about my Hamilton Beach Digital Steamer I criticized the trays for feeling rather flimsy. After months of daily use, the trays are just fine. They are quite light but that also means they land with less force if you happen to drop them. Given the price I paid for my steamer, I feel I got a good deal on quality and I’ve gotten plenty of value out of this little appliance.

The biggest advantage I’ve found from steam-cooking at home is that it helps me eat a lot more vegetables. I really notice now if I eat boiled vegetables that a lot of flavour gets pulled from them. Steaming locks in the flavour and intensifies the colour of most veggies.

I don’t fry anything anymore, so I’ve started referring to the above sort of meal as a “steam-fry”. Rather than dousing everything in hoisin or sweet and sour sauce, I pimp up my meals with a variety of colours and textures of the vegetables themselves.

Another big advantage of steam cooking is that it produces great grains and cereals. The drawback of a small steamer like this is that you need to soak most grains for 8 to 12 hours before cooking or it just takes forever to get the grains cooked and requires topping up the reservoir several times. I’m still honing my skills with wild rice but I’m getting there.

This steamer has a timer, which is very helpful at breakfast. I can start my Red River Cereal (17 minutes) and even if I take too long in the shower the steamer switches to hot-holding mode, stopping the cooking and keeping my porridge hot for when I’m ready to eat. For oatmeal I use the delay function (30 minutes) and then cook it for 9 minutes. I sort of wish I could delay for 20 minutes, but it seems the delay function only works in 30-minute intervals.

I’ve seen other steamers that have 3 tiers, while mine only has 2. It seems that a lot of people like to cook their proteins in the steamer as well, so they prefer a 3-tier design for protein, grains, and veggies. Perhaps if I ate more fish this would be desirable, but I primarily eat roasted beef or pork so I’m happy with 2 tiers.

Overall, I highly recommend a countertop steamer to anyone who is trying to improve their diet. If you want to steam your proteins as well then perhaps a 3-tier steamer would be better than the model I have, but otherwise I highly recommend the Hamilton Beach digital steamer.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Hard to eat all this food: BMI = 30.5

I’m trying to align my regular diet with the Canada Food Guide but I’m having difficulty eating all the food they are telling me to eat. It’s hard even to eat to the lower limits, let alone the upper recommendations – and I’m well over 6 feet tall and have a very active job. I can’t imagine a woman a foot shorter than me eating anywhere near this much food.

Recommended Number of Food Guide Servings per Day
Children Teens Adults
Age in Years 2-3 4-8 9-13 14-18 years 19-50 years 51 + years
Sex Girls and Boys Females Males Females Males Females Males
Vegetables and Fruit 4 5 6 7 8 7-8 8-10 7 7
Grain Products 3 4 6 6 7 6-7 8 6 7
Milk and Alternatives 2 2 3-4 3-4 3-4 2 2 3 3
Meat and Alternatives 1 1 1-2 2 3 2 3 2 3

I’m trying to eat 7 servings of fruit/veggies, 6 of whole grains, 2 of milk, and 2 of meat. That might not sound like a lot of food until you start looking at actual examples of the servings.

Maybe this doesn’t look like a huge breakfast, but it’s 850 calories. I think the Canada food guide might be using a different kind of hot cereal to determine what constitutes a portion, because 3/4ths of a cup of Red River cereal contains 420 calories yet the Canada Food Guide says that 3/4ths of a cup of hot cereal is only 1.5 servings of grains. I seriously don’t think I could eat a full two cups of this stuff with all the fruit and milk. Part of the problem is I am having my half liter of milk with breakfast – in my coffee and on my porridge. Most days I can’t even finish the coffee. Maybe I should drop the roast pork, have only half the milk, and have another cup of milk later in the day. Even so, it would be hard to eat another quarter cup of that porridge.

This plate is daunting. Because veggies aren’t very calorie dense, yet I’m trying to have 5 servings a day of them, they pile up fast on the plate and in the sandwich. Honestly, I could do with half this sandwich but, again, I’m trying to get 2 more servings of grain here, and 2.5 more servings of veggie. Everything is delicious but it’s just so much food.

Another giant pile of food. There is a cup of wild rice hiding under all the veggies and the roast beef. I’m still full, but even so my mouth waters a bit just looking at the photo. The trouble is, when presented with the actual meal rather than a mere photo, I never know if I am going to be able to eat it all. As much as I love all the colours, the variety of textures, and that sambal on top, it is hard to stuff all this food into my pie hole. Take a look at the servings and calories.

 (g)ProduceGrainsDairyMeatCaloriesPer Meal
Breakfast       854
 Porridge190 1.5  420 
 Fruit1501   78 
 Milk500  2 217 
 Juice1001  0.545 
 roasted meat 38    94 
Lunch       460
 Rye Bread75 2  194 
 roasted meat 75   1128 
 tomato300.250   5 
 cucumber300.250   5 
 red onion300.250   13 
 red pepper150.125   6 
 boston lettuce50.000   1 
 coleslaw1251.000   100 
 cucumbers300.250   5 
 sourkraut150.125   3 
 wild rice160 2  166410
 red cabbage1251.000   31 
 yellow beans650.500   20 
 carrot650.500   27 
 snow peas900.750   38 
 roasted meat75   1128 
Total  75.522.51724 
Target  76221800

It appears that I could skip the slice of roast pork at breakfast to more align with the Canada Food Guide. The trouble is, they still expect me to eat more grain – whole grain. So it also appears that at some point in the day I need to eat another slice of rye bread. The only time I could possibly eat a slice of bread, and still eat all my meals, would be right before bed. Maybe I could also move one cup of that milk at breakfast to a bedtime snack. I would be less hungry at breakfast, but without the pork and with half the milk, breakfast might be easier to eat.

I’m still obese (barely) and on my way to once again being overweight. It will be months before I need to worry about not being able to stop losing weight. I would, however, prefer to gain some control over the descent before I need to start eating fried chicken to keep from becoming too thin.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

What do I eat? BMI = 30.7

I've criticized a lot of foods as unhealthy and some people have started asking what is left that I can still eat. In a word, plenty.

I eat a lot of slaw. I hesitate to call it coleslaw because I don't just shred up some cabbage. I crave a lot of colour in my food now so I shred carrots, red bell peppers, red onion, and red cabbage to go along with the standard green cabbage in my slaw. These days I top it with a little grapeseed oil, douse it in apple cider vinegar, and then add either sambal or sliced ginger to spice it up. It would be better with sugar, but since getting used to a sugar free diet I find I seek out acidic/citrus-y flavours.

I also eat a lot of cucumbers, marinated in apple cider vinegar and sambal. Adding some thinly slice red onion gives me the colour appeal I seek now. Sometimes I add Mrs. Dash or sliced orange for a change of flavour

In September I ate a lot of corn. Once again, I got some contrasting colours on the plate by adding some green beans and Brussels sprouts. That thin slice of roast beef is a typical serving of protein for me now

Most of my protein these days comes from thin slices of roast beef or roast pork. Transformed meats like ham or sausage are for my weekly indulgence meal only.

My 'stir fries' are all cooked in my counter-top steamer. I add minced red onion, celery, and carrot to the rice, along with a wedge of lemon in place of salt. For the veggies on top I try to have at least 3 or up to 5 different types and colours. In this one I have red cabbage, broccoli, yellow beetroot, Brussels sprouts, and green beans. Once again, the protein is about 2 ounces of lean roast beef. If that looks like a lot of food to you then that is because it is. I'm not starving myself skinny, I'm eating myself skinny. Once you drop sugar, processed meats, and fried foods, it's actually hard to take in enough calories. All those veggies don't carry many calories but they do have lots of vitamins and the like so I cram them all in.

For this meal, I had my no-added-sugar potato salad as my starch. Another big pile of food, including slaw, Brussels sprouts, green and yellow beans, cucumbers, and pepperoncini peppers. Notice that the potato salad has a lot of carrot, celery, and red onion in it, along with chick peas. I'm writing this post to make you hungry for healthy food. Is it working?

I've found that there are some no-sugar-added breads out there. Mind the label though, sometimes they add malted barely flour (maltose) or potato flakes that contain some form of dextrose - both are sugars. Anyway, once you've dropped all your other sugars, you can quickly identify bread that has significant amounts of sugar added because it starts to taste like cake.

Let's not forget about breakfast - most important meal of the day, they say. I go for a whole grain porridge topped with a lot of fruit. Yes, I also have an ounce or so of protein with breakfast - in this case, a thin slice of lean roast pork with some Dijon mustard. I find that a little protein with breakfast keeps me full longer - making it easier to not snack.

I'm also starting to really like apples again. You just don't see anyone walking around eating an apple anymore. Everyone has a muffin, a soft drink, or a bag of chips (crisps for my English friends). It took me months to rebuild my eating habits, but as you can see I'm eating plenty of good food and nowhere near starving.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Dietary Standards: BMI = 30.7

Canadians consume an average of 88 pounds of sugar per year (according to Maclean’s, May 6, 2014). I never thought of myself as having a sweet tooth, but when I look at all the sugar being added to just about everything we eat, I’m sure I used to eat at least the national average. That’s more than a pound and a half a week. These days I average less than 25 grams of added sugar per week – the Halloween candies I bought are for kids who dare to knock on my door tomorrow. After that I’ll be taking the leftovers to work to fatten up my workmates.

Look at what I found in the ‘produce’ section of my grocery store. I can understand the apple crisp mix being there – it might help the store sell more apples – but the other items are ridiculous. One is ‘apple butter’, which I’m sure is delicious, but it should be over beside the honey and peanut butter, not beside the apples. The caramel dip should be over in the snack food aisle, or maybe beside the ice cream toppings. I can’t begin to imagine why the apple display needs cans of maple syrup stacked next to it.

Half of the ‘breakfast bars’ don’t even pretend to be grain/cereal based anymore. I don’t even eat plain granola bars anymore because of the added sugar – but for people who still think a granola bar is a solid breakfast, don’t pick the wrong box or you’ll just be having brownies for breakfast.

I can’t believe these things are still sold as breakfast food. To be fair to my grocery store, they were on the top shelf, well out of the reach of children. The one on the right suggests a serving of 1 cup, 30 grams, which contains 13 grams of sugar. If I ate 30 grams of the Halloween candies I purchased, I would take-in 16 grams of sugar. I seriously think we need to start setting some reasonable standard as to what can be marketed to kids as breakfast.

Since giving up sugar and losing nearly a hundred pounds, I can’t begin to give you any idea how much better I feel. When I see people eating brownies for breakfast and drinking a huge bottle of carbonated syrup for lunch, and then complaining about not having any energy, I just wish had psychic powers to let them experience how much better they would feel without all that sugar.