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”

Diet Shift

Week 7(or 8): Good-bye Gluten

I took an impromptu break from the diet shifts and blogging last week.

I think it was a combination of being really busy, finishing up my chest cold, and not ready to drop gluten. It may have been an issue with my MS fatigue, though I hate admitting to that considering all the changes I’ve been making. I’ve been feeling really good overall and to have a bad couple of days is discouraging.

I think it’s a good example that nothing I do is going to be 100% in coping with my MS. It’s still there, I still have it, and I still have to deal with it regardless of all the lifestyle changes and medication.

That reality is really hard to handle.

But the key is to not get discouraged and keep moving forward. Having setbacks here and there is normal, it’s how I deal with them that really matters.

I struggled with the concept of dropping gluten from my diet last week because sometimes you want a pizza (vegan) with that crispy, glutinous crust. So I went ahead and had that vegan pizza and enjoyed it.

So this week I am rededicating my lifestyle changes and dropping gluten.

I think it’s going to be a “temporary” drop because it’s going to be near impossible to adhere to my diet changes over the Thanksgiving holiday (especially the no gluten part). We’re going to visit Ash’s family and I am not going to expect them to provide for my dietary needs.

I will try to take my diet into account with my decisions, but I am not going to force the issue of “I can’t eat this, because…” I think the only two food groups I will be consistent in avoiding is sugar and dairy. But not push the issue with anything else because I hate being an imposition.

Once we get back I will hop back to it, and possibly consider doing an ayurvedic detox because the final drop is essentially removing “dirty” foods from my diet and switching to clean eating.

For Wednesday, I plan to examine some theories I have read about gluten and autoimmune diseases and the nature of gluten on the body.

Here’s to getting back to it!

 

 

 

The Check-In

Checking In: Southern Fried Goodness

This was a rather rough week for me.

I finally got sick from Ash and Jai.

Normally, that wouldn’t be a problem, but as predicted, it made me crave fried, comfort foods more than normal. Wednesday was the hardest day for me with the cold and the cravings. It took a huge effort to not ask Ash to grab some fries on his way home or order take out that had some form of golden, fried goodness.

Not having my comfort go-to while fighting a head cold made me more creative, but I  found that my actual hunger levels were extremely low. I wanted to eat fried foods, but I wasn’t actually hungry for it. I don’t think it was cold related, but boiled down to something I like to have when I am feeling bad. I also think it might have been a salt craving, since fried foods tend to also be salty, so I grabbed some pretzels and called it a day.

Continue reading “Checking In: Southern Fried Goodness”

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.

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.

 

 

The Check-In

Checking In: No More Sugar

Cutting sugar went easier than I expected, though there were a few days where I was irritable according to Ash. I refuse to believe him, but deep down I know he’s correct. No longer having that emotional crutch makes for a very grumpy me.

Psychologically speaking, it was a lot easier than I expected. As long as I didn’t have sugary treats in the house (I tossed all of our sweets or sent them with Ash to work); I avoided buying sugary drinks (everyone knows that my weakness is a good Pumpkin Spice Latte in the fall); and if I had fruit for any sweet cravings, I was good to go. Every time I drove by a Starbucks there was a temptation to pull in and just give into that PSL craving, but I made sure to keep going and have a few bites of pineapple as soon as I got home.

During the couple of times I did eventually stop at a Starbucks I made sure to only order an Americano*. Before I was pregnant I had gotten into the habit of drinking all my coffee black unless it was a latte, so it wasn’t extremely hard for me to get back into drinking these strong drinks with nothing in them. I think it helped a bit too. Coffee is a wonder drug (and sadly, probably something I need to add to my drop list), and can make a lot of things better when I am grumpy.

I didn’t notice any headaches, though at the beginning of the week I was more lethargic and in need of an extra nap or two during the day. By the time Ash came home from work, I was very ready to pass Jai off to him so I could lay down and not think or move for an hour. By day 3 or so, I had a little more energy and by this morning (day 5), I had even more energy to do my running around without need of a nap.

I also noticed that during my longer run on Thursday, I was able to keep up with my mom and felt less fatigued at the end of it. I also felt motivated to go again this morning (though that would be off schedule). Me? Motivated to run off schedule? This really is unheard of – I hate running.

When I was at the grocery story to make purchases for the family, I did make sure to review all the labels like I said I would: any time it was High Fructose Corn Syrup or unidentified form of “sugar,” I would move along. From my research they said that sugar is hidden in everything and it really is true. Sugar is everywhere. Foods that I normally love to eat, like certain types of crackers or even grab-n-go frozen meals…all contain sugar. I also made sure to avoid agave and honey. If it was sweetened with fruit juice or dates – I would be willing to grab it to consume.

Continue reading “Checking In: No More Sugar”

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”