Personal Motivation

Checking In: Losing the Pounds

When I started to make these lifestyle changes several months ago, my main reason was to keep my MS under control, fight my fatigue, and model good eating/exercising habits for Jai.

It was never about weight loss.

In fact, I anticipated that I would lose 5 pounds TOPS and just continue on my way of maintaining a specific weight range as I made these changes. I lost around 20 pounds in the first few weeks after giving birth, but the weight slowly came back from bad habits formed during the first few months of breastfeeding.

I had fallen into the trap of “I am craving this and because I am burning extra calories from breastfeeding, I can afford to eat extra sugar/fried/foods without extra exercise.” It stung to see myself steadily rise back to my pre-pregnancy weight. That’s when I started thinking about making changes, but not really committing to anything productive.

I started this blog and after the first week of dropping sugar, I lost 3 pounds. Within a few more weeks, it was 9 more pounds. It’s been almost a month and a half since my last weight update and I’ve lost an additional 13 pounds. I have officially lost 25 pounds since I’ve started this blog. I have lost even more from my highest weight, though I am not ready to reveal that number yet.

I’m waiting until I hit a specific weight-loss number from my highest weight before I do a “before/after progress post.” I anticipate that will be within the first few months of the New Year. It’s a good goal to reach for when I recommit myself.

Continue reading “Checking In: Losing the Pounds”

The Check-In

Checking In: Dairy-Free

It was a relatively calm week. Missing out on dairy, in addition to the other things I’ve dropped, severely limits what I can eat while I am running around town with Jai. That said, I was able to make do with some alternatives and I am looking into the possibility of doing more smoothies as a meal replacement. I find that those tend to be more filling and can provide me with the opportunity to get my greens, protein, and calcium in easily.

With this in mind, I purchased a high-quality blender and some books to help inspire me with healthy smoothies in the morning. I am hoping for some success in enjoying the concoctions, especially since I have dropped sugar. I never really liked homemade smoothies that were healthy in nature and preferred using the blender to make milkshakes instead.

The issue was I never liked the taste of smoothies, either they were heavy on the healthy taste (greens) or not appealing enough. I like my smoothies to be sweet, like milkshakes. Since dropping sugar, I find that I don’t need things to taste as sweet as I once did. I even appreciate certain flavors I never used to because sugar no longer messes with my tastebuds. Smoothies will be good to increase my protein, greens, and other goodness to boost the immune system

Speaking of eating healthier for my immune system, it’s too little; too late for me by the end of the week. I caught a chest cold between Thursday and Friday and found that while trying to treat it, not being tempted by dairy helped a lot in minimizing some of my symptoms.

I have found that the more dairy I consume when I have a cold and especially a chest cold, the worse I feel. I didn’t feel really good by Saturday regardless, but I know that I wasn’t making it worse by consuming dairy. Instead, when I needed something cold to soothe my throat, I reached for some vegan ice cream I made.

It sucks being sick two weeks in a row. I don’t think it has anything to do with my diet, but because we just went through a seasonal temperature shift and I always get a cold when that happens. Hopefully by the end of this week everything will be back to normal.

Other Diet Shift Updates

Still struggling with not having fried-foods, especially after getting sick at the end of the week. I was hoping my cravings would be diminishing by now, but I still have some work to do to figure out what it is about deep-fried foods that I am so addicted to psychologically.

I had a spurt in weight loss earlier in the week. I was kind of surprised by it: 5 pounds over the course of 2 days considering I did minimal exercise in prep for my half-marathon on Sunday.

I don’t think it was dairy related, but perhaps a boost in my metabolism because of the sugar drop? It was a major confidence boost because it dropped me below an obese BMI. My L’Hermitte’s Sign is completely gone and before I got sick, I am finding that my mood is leveling out so I don’t feel as anxious. I was also noticing a drop in the mental fog, but with a chest/head cold now, it’s hard to notice. Hopefully it’s a trend towards having more mental clarity on a day-to-day basis when I am healthier.

So even if this is a placebo effect, I am finding that I am feeling better than I did when I first started and that is feeding into itself which is what I ultimately wanted.

 

Information Huddle

Bad Fats and Good Health

National news programs, both morning and night, love to talk about obesity in America. Obesity affects us all in some way: either we will know someone who is obese or we will be/are obese. I will flat out admit this: according to my BMI, I am obese (30.6). It’s not something I am proud of and getting on the scale at the doctor’s office is a blow to my ego. But I’ve accepted that while I hate the numbers, there is some truth to the matter: I need to make some changes to my lifestyle to move that number between 18.5-24.9 and be considered medically healthy.

By shifting my BMI into the non-obese range means that I could be adding years to my life. While I can’t guarantee those additional years will be good years due to the MS, I can make sure the good ones are filled with quality due to good physical and mental health.

The main culprit in the obesity epidemic in America is high-fat foods, specifically deep fried foods. As mentioned in my last post, it’s very hard to walk into any restaurant and not find multiple fried foods on the menu. The Western Diet is large portions, high-calories, high-fat, and high-sugar. I am being reductive, but anecdotally it is easy to see how pervasive the high-fat diet culture is in media and day-to-day life.

Making the necessary changes in my diet tend to be rather hard for me. There are several things I’ve said to myself when I have chosen unhealthy options over the healthy ones:  it’s affordable, it’s fast and easy, it’s portable, and I deserve this. On the Internet I have read multiple times how much cheaper it is to eat fast and fried food versus the healthier options. Having gone through a starvation via poverty period myself in adulthood, I can agree: it is cheaper to eat higher calorie meals that helped sustain me for the entire day.

Let’s be honest, the healthier options do take more work: either to prepare or to mentally prepare yourself for being “good” and not indulging on the more sinful delectable.

Being healthy in America is doable, but it’s hard when there is so much temptation out there. And once you’ve had a taste of that golden goodness, it’s hard to not want to go back again and again.

I’ve previously blogged about how foods affect our microbiomes. Today’s post is going to expand upon that concept by focusing on one type of food that affects our gut bacteria: high-fat foods and how that might affect weight, emotional health, and physical health.

Continue reading “Bad Fats and Good Health”

Diet Shift

Week 4: All the Fried Things

I love french fries, fried mozzarella bites, deep-fried candy bars, potato chips, wings, etc. I particularly love these foods when my body is telling me to prepare for winter: fall fair season is my foodie season. I go into biological preservation mode when I am sick or not feeling well emotionally. Chicken soup? No thanks, pass me the deep-fried chicken wings with lemon-pepper coating.

Living in the Southeastern United States does not help matters. In New England, it was easy to find fried foods, but you had to know where to look and actively go to the location to consume golden, fried goodness. Down here, practically every restaurant offers some form of fried goodness on their menu. One favorite spot offers fried kale and it’s delicious.

Just like last week, this is less about the MS and more to do with my overall health. It isn’t a secret that fried foods are really bad for you. Because I have cholesterol issues, continually consuming fried foods is not in my best interest. I am also looking at it as a means to help moderate and boost my mental/emotional well-being. Eliminating foods fried in hydrogenated oils will hopefully help bolster my mood and work as a natural antidepressant. It won’t replace antidepressants, but help modify my mood slightly.

This food elimination will double as model of better eating habits for Jai. When eating out, Ash and I have a bad habit of ordering something with fries and offering Jai everything except the fries while we eat them in front of him. He’s at that stage where if food goes into Mommy’s mouth, then he needs to try/eat it too.

It’s not fair to be refusing to feed him something from my plate while I am munching happily away on those items. So eliminating the option altogether and showing him that a meal can be well-rounded while eating out is the plan. I am not going to deprive him of eating fries or fried items for his entire childhood, but I would rather it be for a special occasion and not the norm.

I realized that I am getting deeper and deeper into this diet shift and I think I need to add in “plan” and “prep” sections for how I plan to handle the week and certain scenarios that come up in my social life. These will be new additions of the rest of my Monday “Diet Shift” posts.

The Plan for the Week

  • I am eliminating deep-fried foods, not foods pan fried in olive oil. If I am going to make something pan-fried, it will be with an eye on the amount of oil used and the type of oil. Pan fried, while not massively healthier than deep-fried, has its place in cooking certain dishes that we love at home and is limited to once or twice a month in our household.
  • I have an emotional attachment to fried-foods. If something good or bad happens, my first instinct is to celebrate or drown myself with fried foods. As emotional wins and losses happen throughout the week, I am going to pay attention to the deeper need driving me towards eating fried foods and see what I need to do to make internal changes.
  • When a strong craving for fries (my main go-to for fried snacks) happens, I will look for an alternative. Baking some sweet potatoes, grabbing some pretzels, or carrot sticks while reflecting on the craving itself.
  • Spend some time researching how bad fried foods are for my overall health and the health benefits of lowering my fried-food intak . I think by doing both of these it will help strengthen my resolve to not give in to cravings and temptation. I will include some research on how fried foods affect the little one’s diet and how I can help him by not making it a staple.
  • Research alternatives to my favorite foods that I can also offer Jai, guilt-free.

The Social “What if’s”?

  • Eating at a fast food location where most everything is fried: Side salads with grilled chicken. Fruit slices and bottles of water.
  • Eating out and people order a shared dish that has items I am not eating: Order an additional dish that I can also share with others. Ask for a side fruit salad, bread, and drink extra water.
  • Friend offers me to try their food: Politely decline, but offer to share some of mine in return.
  • “Why aren’t you eating that?”: I am taking a slight break in some of my previous eating habits to help my body recover OR I am training for a half-marathon and I am trying to help my performance and recovery.

Wednesday will see a return of the “Information Huddle” and a deeper examination of the importance of eliminating or moderating fried-food intake. From the cursory research I’ve done so far, I suspect I will see an overlap with my research regarding microbiomes.

The Check-In

Checking In: Where’s the Beef?

Removing red meat from my diet was harder for me psychologically than dropping sugar. I didn’t think I was as dependent on beef or pork as Ash, but we had some leftover pizza with bacon and I had to stop myself from grabbing a slice Monday afternoon. I also found that every time I drove past a fast food place, I was more tempted to swing in and grab something than normal. Stopping for fast food is typically not a temptation at all and this week it was.

I suspect it is another case of personal prohibition that makes it rougher for me because I can’t, not because I need it. To help manage the red meat cravings I had chicken and salmon as a means to get my protein along with lentils and brown rice. This makes me think that when I drop chicken and fish it will be just as difficult.

Maybe worse, because I love me some sushi and poke.

Continue reading “Checking In: Where’s the Beef?”

Diet Shift

Week 3: The Meat and Potatoes

The decision to remove red meat (and dairy when we get to that week) comes from a slightly different place than my other food adjustments. Most of my food adjustments revolve around how it might positively impact my MS, but this has a different health origins. I have a family history of high cholesterol, specifically the bad kind. Whenever I get my cholesterol tested and it comes back high, this is the conversation I have  with the doctor:

Dr: You should go on medication to lower your cholesterol.
Me: I don’t want to.
Dr: Well, you should. You’ve an increased chance of getting heart disease.
Me: What about diet?
Dr: Diet will only go so far, medicine would ensure it drops to acceptable levels
Me: …
Dr: …
Me: I’ll think about it.

Back when Ash and I were beginning the pre-conception process, I went and saw a nutritionist at my General Practitioner’s office to see what I could do to maintain a healthy diet throughout the pregnancy.

Sidebar: I had seen this nutritionist before and disliked her. I got the suspicion that she had an eating disorder and she had been giving me bad advice before regarding food and healthy eating habits. I have always been a firm believer of the “calories in; calories out” mentality, healthy choices, and portion control – so I had an expectation of that sort of advice when I went in the first time. Instead of all of that – she was advocating extreme calorie deficits, restrictive dieting with no alternatives, and extreme exercise regimens. I didn’t go back for my second session. So when I got sent back…

The nutritionist went through my numbers and started her spiel of extreme restriction and I stopped her right there:

Me: I am thinking about being a vegan when I get pregnant and wanted tips on how to make sure I get all the nutritional needs for the baby and me.
RDN: You have really high cholesterol and we need to get that under control…
Me: Yes, I know. But I am not here for that. I want to know what my meal plan needs to be if I do veganism during my pregnancy.
RDN: You should be concerned! It’s so high. Here’s some foods you should consider to lower your cholesterol…
Me: Look. My cholesterol isn’t what’s going to kill me. My MS is going to kill me first, so I really don’t care about cholesterol. Do you or do you not have any advice for a possible vegan diet when I get pregnant?
RDN: **sputters** Well, you’ll need some beans for protein […15 minute discussion of protein sources and portion sizes..] and because your cholesterol is so high your should really avoid coconut fats…
Me: [inward eye roll] Okay.

She wanted to me come back again for another session. Needless to say I did not return because I was really annoyed that she was so inflexible and completely short-sighted to what I was saying. Anyone who is familiar with the vegan diet knows that veganism is one of the best diets to limit your “bad” cholesterol intakes (provided you aren’t consuming hydrogenated fats ALL the time).

I had gone in there with the intention of eating in such a way that would have the side benefit of lowering my cholesterol and she couldn’t even see that. To say it was infuriating is putting it mildly.

Full-Disclosure: I wasn’t able to be vegan during my pregnancy, let alone vegetarian. I followed what my body wanted and that was chicken (when I could eat meat without feeling sick) and fruit.

I am not entirely against medication, but if I can limit the amount of medicine I put into my body to the absolutely necessary kind (i.e. MS), and moderate my health via diet and exercise – I think it’s a healthier way to manage my life. If, after putting in the necessary work, that STILL doesn’t solve my numbers problem, then I will reconsider medication.

I am not going to espouse the moral and ethical benefits to shifting vegetarian/vegan because there are thousands of other blogs and websites that do that. With the exception of this blog, I am a firm believer of keeping certain life choices to myself. One of my favorite jokes about vegans goes like this:

“You’ve arrived at a party, how do you tell which person is a vegan? You don’t. They’ll let you know within five minutes.”

If I do my job right – you won’t even notice that I am not consuming meat/dairy by the end of this experiment. Thus this week I am dropping beef and pork and probably won’t discuss the meat topic until “check-in” and when I drop the rest of the meat food groups.

I am thinking this week should be relatively easy since I don’t eat a ton of red meat on my own. I usually consume the red meat whenever Ash wants it, though to be fair, that’s an awful lot. He’s my resident carnivore. I think I might struggle more with chicken and fish because sashimi is one of my all-time favorite dishes. We’ll see how the week goes by Friday.

 

 

Information Huddle

Bittersweet Truths About Sugar

Sugar and sweeteners are everywhere. Sugar is like a drug: it certainly feels addictive when that particular time of day rolls around; for me it’s mid-afternoon and late evening when Jai is asleep. I just have to have something sweet to appease that craving and sometimes one piece of candy will not do. Funny enough, during other times of the day, I could pass by the stuff and not think anything about it.

Plenty of popular Western culture references stems from binging on sugar: from ice cream for heartache to characters with massive sweet tooths.

Women are courted by advertisers to buy chocolate during their menses. Children are bombarded with sugary cereals and treats during their favorite TV shows or mobile games. Men get advertisements for carbonated drinks to help boost their competitive abilities.

There is a clear bias for the stuff. And it makes sense given the narrative: it boosts brainpower, gives you energy, makes you feel good, and is all around amazing. In fact, the idea of going without sugar is one met with disbelief. Go ahead and tell someone that you plan to drop sugar. You’ll get one of these responses:

  • Really? I could never do that. I love the stuff too much.
  • Oh, [Someone’s name] did that awhile ago. She didn’t last 24 hours before caving in.
  • How will you survive without [insert your favorite beverage/treat of choice]?
  • Why? Do you think you need to lose weight?
  • We’ll see how long that lasts. I bet you’ll be back to eating it within a week.
  • Just as long as you don’t get all smug and preachy over it…

Many responses revolve around the narrative that we, as human beings, cannot live without sugar. And the truth is, Western diet is high in sugarcane (or some version of sweetener). So it’s understandable that the idea of dropping something so pervasive in our diet is out of the ordinary.

I watched this video in preparation of today’s post and it sums up the issues we face as consumers of sugar in the Western diet…

Continue reading “Bittersweet Truths About Sugar”