30 Days to healthy living: Day 22

Blogging is not for the faint of heart. Or the undisciplined. So many things get in the way. Same with taking charge of your health, right? There are so many other demands on us that we push the things we don’t consider to be overly important to the side and let the busy seep in or even wash over us. So it stands to ask: how important are these things really? Are you committed? If not, why are you bothering to try? Maybe we need to Marie Kondo our to-do lists….

Well, good news is that I think blogging IS important and I like to disseminate what I learn about healthy living so YOU are in luck! I may be slow to post but I’m not going anywhere 😁

So let’s talk SUGAR! Where do we leave off? I think I said sugar is bad, we should avoid it but it’s in everything. Did you do your homework? What surprised you? Did you know sugar is in mayonnaise? Worcestershire sauce? Tomato soup? And every other thing? Did you find anything that didn’t have sugar in it? Reading labels is the only way you will find out. Even items that say they are sugar free or have no added sugar may, in fact, contain sugar. Which leads me to this: do you know what I mean when I say “sugar?”

I had to do a little review myself so don’t feel bad if you’re not sure what’s good and what’s not. I’m going to give a brief lesson.

Sugar=FRUCTOSE.

Your body needs GLUCOSE to function. Most of us equate glucose with sugar but we were deceived. Sugar contains fructose. That sparkly white stuff on your table? 50% fructose. High fructose corn syrup? 50% fructose. So technically it’s not metabolized differently than table sugar but neither is good for you. Agave is healthy, right? Nope. Agave is 90% fructose! Honey? Fructose. Maple syrup? Delicious. But fructose. Corn syrup? Fructose.

Fructose is super sweet and super cheap. Your body doesn’t register it when you consume it so you are still hungry after you eat or drink it. It’s metabolized incompletely by your liver which in turn stores it as terrible byproducts and causes fatty liver. It also creates the bad type of cholesterol that clogs your arteries (it looks like cheesecake in your artery. I saw it firsthand during my surgical rotation in nursing school 🤢) . It is the perfect thing to put in your food products if you are a manufacturer because it makes people eat MORE! I’m not a conspiracy theorist but this is the science. This is researched. Fructose is killing us.

Now, I am not a complete kill joy. Your liver can handle tiny amounts of this stuff on occasion (say once a month) but not on a daily basis. Watch THIS video for all the details. Dr Richard Lustig is much more interesting to listen to than if I were to try explaining the metabolism of fructose vs glucose vs ethanol. Seriously,  Dr Lustig does a great job at making it interesting! Pinkie swear!

So what about fruit? Fruit is good. How? Fruit is a whole food and it contains fiber which mitigates the effect of fructose and also slows its absorption. It has fructose but it contains fructose the way God intended for us to be able to eat it. Fruit makes an excellent dessert.

Ok, back to what your body needs which is glucose. This is what fuels your muscle and brain. Glucose = dextrose. So if a food contains dextrose, its ok as far as the sugar issue is concerned. Ironically, thus far, the only food I’ve been able to find that contains dextrose and not sugar is salami. Ugh. Don’t get me wrong, I love salami, but its not health food. I do, however, have some in my fridge now… 😉

Keep checking your labels. Consider how many foods you eat everyday that contains some form of added sugar. What can you live without? What can you find a substitute for? Although Eve Schaub* was able to go for a whole year without sugar*, I am aiming for a lifetime of avoidance. Not zero but very little. to be honest, I think chocolate is going to be the hardest to find a substitute for. Lily’s stevia sweetened chocolate looks like a viable contender although it contains stevia and erythritol. I will keep my eyes peeled for evidence that we shouldn’t consume these either. Lily’s chocolate chips have been adorning my paleo waffles. No syrup needed!

As you shop, let me know what you find. I am starting a list of good for you and good tasting foods that are truly free of added sugars. Help me create the list!!

Next up? Ways to measure fitness and how to set goals.

Until then, here’s to your health!

Liz

 

*links with an asterix are affiliate links. these are no cost to you but if you make a purchase I may make a few cents. I only link to things that I use myself or books I have read and love. Always check the library for books first or buy the used version if available to save $$!

links without an asterix are non-affiliate links. They do not cost you anything either.

30 Days to healthy living : Day 21

As you have seen, this wasn’t a sequential 30 days. My apologies for that. I was derailed by the holidays compounded with life. Can I get a witness??

So how are you? I hope your holidays went well and that you got to enjoy all the things and then celebrate the New Year. Are you ready to pick up again? I am! I have had my fill of sugar and I am ready to roll!

Last night I finished reading “A year of no sugar” by Eve Schaub and I have a new mission.  AVOID SUGAR. The problem? Its in EVERYTHING! Really, EVERYTHING.

I started reading labels looking for sugar (I already look for sources of gluten) and WOW. I took my kids to Sweet Frog and got no sugar added frozen yogurt. So after I ate it I asked what it was sweetened with instead. The answer: Sorbitol. Do you know what sorbitol is? Its a sugar alcohol, made from sugar that is not calorie free (it has 2.6kcal/g) and guess what? It turns back into sugar in your body once it gets to your large intestines where it also acts as a laxative. Ahem. It sure does. <cough>  UGH.

On Friday I read labels at Target and couldn’t buy any condiments except for maybe mustard. I couldn’t buy a single brand of deli meat except an organic salami. Salami is yummy but is NOT a health food but it doesn’t contain sugar per se, it contains dextrose.  Today I found that Wegman’s brand organic deli turkey and roast beef do not contain any sugar. Yay! But most store bought bread, gluten free or not, contain sugar. Ugh. Have I mentioned that I don’t bake?

What has shocked me the most is that I thought I was doing pretty well avoiding added sugars. I’ve lost 10+ pounds this summer watching what I was eating and (I thought) avoiding sugar. I did not, however, make all of my own food from scratch and thus after going through my pantry I realize that I have most definitely been eating added sugars. Everyday. Less than I was previously and between less sugar, less snacking and more exercise, I’ve lost weight anyway. I am still concerned with the amount of sugar that I am still ingesting though and even more concerned about my kids. How is there so much sugar in everything?

EAsy answer: Its a cheap filler (like gluten) especially when you’ve made so many products low fat because we (wrongly) thought all fat was the cause of heart disease and obesity. It’s cheap AND it tastes good. Most processed foods need a hefty dose of sugar and/or salt to taste good after its been sitting on a shelf for who knows how long before you buy it. It’s also a great preservative when many of us want to avoid preservatives. Basically, people buy food that tastes good and sugar fits that bill, so that’s what manufacturers use. They are after profit after all. You can’t blame them for that. They make what we buy and ask for and if we don’t they make sure to tell us why we should be buying and asking for what they have to offer. Good old capitalism.

What do we do? Lets start with a homework assignment:

Go through your cabinets and pantry and fridge. Read the labels. Tell me how many products you currently have in your house that do not list any of the following as ingredients: sugar, cane sugar, organic cane sugar, honey, maple syrup, sorghum, molasses, brown sugar, agave, sorbitol, fructose, high fructose corn syrup, concentrated apple or pear or grape or any other kind of fruit juice, fruit juice or barley malt/syrup. Good luck and report back.

Next up will be a discussion of what kinds of sugar there are and what kinds to avoid (hint: see the above paragraph) as well as what is actually ok to consume regularly.

Until then, stay sweet!

Liz

ps: someone commented on my last post with a recommendation for a website run by docs who give information on both the keto diet and intermittent fasting. I am all for intermittent fasting. Not 100% sold on keto. the site is called Diet Doctor. Check it out and let me know what you think. (not an affiliate link and I didn’t pay for anything on the site. )

30 days of healthy living: Day 20

Phew! 3+ days of a migraine and I still have the remnants of it. UGH! My sincerest apologies for not getting back here sooner 🙁

Tonight I want to discuss ketosis. Most of you have probably heard of someone doing a “keto” diet. Maybe you looked into it and thought no way or maybe you didn’t and just rolled your eyes over the latest fad. I’m here to say there is some validity to this way of eating but I think that people often have some misconceptions about the difference between the process of ketosis and the “keto” diet. I’d like to try to clear up the confusion.

First. KETOSIS is the process by which your body breaks down fat for fuel. Your body can use carbohydrates, fat or protein for fuel and there is a hierarchy for this process. Carbohydrates are the preferred fuel source. Your body is designed to use carbs for energy and the design is efficient. It is much easier for your body to use carbs for fuel and generally there is plenty to go around in the Standard American Diet (SAD-the abbreviation is kind of perfect…). If there are no carbohydrates to use, the next best and easiest to use fuel is fat. If you restrict calories or carbohydrates enough you will use fat as fuel. This can also occur after exercising for an extensive period of time (sorry but a 45 minute aerobics class isn’t likely enough. 60 minutes minimum is needed and maybe longer depending on intensity). Using fat as fuel produces a metabolic product called ketones. Getting into the state of ketosis these, burns fat, helps you lose weight, increases energy and helps maintain muscle mass.

However. There is always a however. Once you reach a state of ketosis, as soon as you consume carbohydrates the process will come to a halt and your body will default to bring carbs again. This is where the “keto” diets come in. By restricting the amount of carbohydrates consumed daily to 50 grams or less, you can maintain ketosis for an extended period of time. It generally takes 3-4 days on a 50gram of carbs or less diet to produce sustained ketosis. During this time many people experience what is called a “keto flu” which includes headache symptoms, fatigue, aches, etc, kind of like “flu” symptoms (without the pneumonia, fever and death parts). Headaches and fatigue are the most common as you body adjusts it’s fuel source.

Where does protein fit in here? You don’t want to burn protein for fuel. This is very bad. You can also kick yourself out of ketosis by eating too much protein so most keto diets consist of 70-75% fat, 20% protein and 5-10% carbs. Total grams of carbs should be less than 50. A healthy body should be able to handle the amount of ketones generated with this diet and you can help your body by drinking LOTS of fluids to flush everything out. Your kidneys will excrete the extra ketones for you as long as you do. In fact, there are test strips you can use to test ketones in your urine although it is not a direct correlation between your urine ketones and your serum (blood) ketones.

Diabetics beware! Diabetics are at risk of ketosis due to lack of insulin which prevents your body from using carbohydrates as fuel. For diabetics this is bad and can lead to ketoacidosis which is a build up of ketones in the blood. Ketoacidosis can cause coma and death. If you are diabetic, please use extreme caution and work with your medical provider to lose weight and change your diet safely!

So, yo put it in a nutshell: The keto diet is an eating pattern which is low in carbohydrates, high is fat and moderate in protein that helps put you into and keep you in a state of ketosis or fat burning. Ketosis can also be achieved by fasting, calorie restriction, intense or extended exercise or, in diabetics, a lack of insulin (this last one is VERY VERY BAD). Eating carbohydrates stops the process of ketosis. In general this process is helpful for weight loss and remaining in ketosis for extended periods will likely result in faster weight loss, more energy and preserved muscle mass while losing weight. A transition period is usually 3-4 days if adherent and most commonly causes a mild headache for a few days. People with diabetes need to use caution because ketosis can lead to ketoacidosis, or an extreme build up of ketones, and cause coma or death. Diabetics should not attempt extreme diet changes unless monitored closely.

My take on this is that anyone on a true keto diet should be monitored by their medical provider. That is true for anyone who needs to lose an extensive amount of weight. Nutritional deficiencies are common on restricted diets and typically require blood work to monitor. Taking crazy amounts of supplements can cause overdosing of vitamins and minerals and there isn’t much evidence to suggest that taking multivitamins is helpful. There are potential side effects of extreme diet changes and the safety of hit pattern of eating for the long term is unknown. I think it is a good short term weight loss strategy for otherwise healthy people who are diligent about eating healthy foods in general. I think its a not great idea for anyone who thinks it gives them a license to live on bacon and cheese and expect to be healthy in the long term.

We will continue to discuss insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome and diet in the next couple of posts.

you can read about the keto diet here and here, here and here.

Until then,

Have a happy healthy week!

Liz

30 days of healthy living: Day 19

Confession time: I cheat. I mean, I’m all for fidelity but then I come home to THIS

And, well, I um, gee, I ate 5 of them. So let’s talk cheat days!

Just like on holidays, I think we all need a break sometimes. While rewarding yourself for hard work with non-food items is great for your waist line, sometimes you just need to eat the cookies.

Some of you may have someone in your life who is a sabateur. This person will cos tangly entice you to eat food they know you don’t want to eat or that isn’t part of your healthy lifestyle. This might be your Italian mother (guilt) or a friend who is perhaps jealous or a spouse who is insecure or a coworker who is just ignorant. Don’t give in to these people!! Do not allow their pressure or guilt or whatever to derail your health. They have nothing to do with cheat days and are a topic for a different day.

A cheat day is something that is ideally planned for like a holiday. When you are in full weight loss mode and have a way to go, I suggest making cheat days far a few between in order to keep your momentum going. Once you are at your goal however, it’s ok to loosen up slightly and plan for more decadent treats.

So to be fair, today wasn’t planned. I actually was going to go buy some cookies and then didn’t today only to come home to these on the table! My husband decided to surprise my daughter and I with a treat. He swears he likes the skinny me and has been generally supportive of my eating patterns. Plus I probably would have bought some later this week anyway. I’m cool with him getting the credit 😉

I am not going to be Debbie Downer and not eat a cookie. Instead, I may have said the heck with it and had cookies for dinner… I followed my usual eating pattern today so in the end I likely didn’t eat too many calories for the day but I surely went over my typical sugar “budget.” My evening “snack” is a cup of “detox” tea with a scoop of chai protein powder in it to get back on track. It’s not a compete free for all.

And that’s the point. I picked out the cookies I like the best and only ate those. I plan to eat a couple more in the next couple of days and then that’s it. I am maximizing my enjoyment by savoring them and limiting it to what gives the greatest pleasure. Pleasure in eating is what a cheat day needs to be about. It should be something to be savored and enjoyed. It shouldn’t be a stop at McD’s when you’re hangry. That’s what green apples in your purse are for!

One way to plan for smaller cheats is to reduce your daily intake a little so you can have something on the weekend. Another way is to set a rule about your treats. Mine is that I don’t drink alcohol Monday-Thursday and then I can have one drink Friday, Saturday and/or Sunday. I’m free to choose and usually I have 2 drinks on the weekend. I keep dark chocolate on hand and will have a square here and there. I find this cuts down on feeling like I’m missing out and is also like a mini treat that is actually healthy (70% cocoa or more) and fits into my diet. These are great ways to incorporate more joy into your long term healthy lifestyle plan.

Sometimes the little breather in your long jog toward health is good for you. Maybe your treat is something that comes with some emotional attachment that makes you feel all cozy inside. Maybe it’s just a way to occasionally let your guard down and enjoy something that is generally not a healthy choice but that you love and the healthy version just doesn’t cut it (still looking for a truly healthy AND satisfying version of nachos). Maybe it’s just enjoying some cookies with your kid who gets left out a lot because she has celiac disease too.

Whatever it is, be conscious of your choices and enjoy a rare treat day. No guilt. No shame. Don’t do it to please anyone else. Do it only for you. And then get back on your healthy horse and ride into the sunset 🌅. Or something like that…

So, what do YOU like to have on your cheat days?

Liz

ps-anyone want a cookie??? 🍪

30 Days to healthy living: Day 18

Tonight I’m going to share a couple of quick easy “recipes” that I have found helpful on this journey. Unfortunately I am TERRIBLE sat remembering to take pictures of food so most of not all of these will require you to use your imagination. I promise they are delicious because it’s what I eat and feed my family. If I ever remember to take photos I will come back and update this post!!

If you haven’t noticed, I’m posting every other day for now being as it’s the crazy time of year right before Christmas! 🎄🎅🏻 I’m trying to not go too nuts trying to do all the things 🤓

1. Omelette waffles:

I recently bought a $10 Dash waffle maker and I am in love 🥰. I made paleo chocolate chip waffles using Birch Bender mix first. Yum! Then I ventured into omelettes. Did you know you could make an omelette in your waffle maker? Me neither!! So so good 😊

2 eggs

2/3 cup cooked mixed vegetables (I used stir fry vegetables)

Toasted Sesame oil

Reduced fat shredded mozzarella or your preference

Worcestershire

Ginger powder

Chinese five spice

Sriracha

Reduced sodium Tamari

Fresh cracked pepper

This was a stir fry themed omelette. If you want a different theme change the spices and vegetables accordingly and use olive oil instead.

First, cook vegetables with tsp Worcestershire sauce, tsp sesame oil, dash five spice and ginger then roughly chop your veggies. Set aside.

Scramble eggs in a glass bowl.

Add cheese, tsp sriracha , dash of Tamari, couple turns fresh pepper, tsp sesame oil. Stir.

Add vegetables.

Heat waffle iron.

Spray with canola cooking spray.

Cook per directions on waffle iron. I used my Dash iron and checked after 2 minutes then let it cook until well browned and a little crispy. Experiment until you find your desired crispness.

If these make it to your plate without being eaten in hand, serve with sliced tomatoes sprinkled with sea salt and pepper.

I plan to make egg foo young this way later in the week 🙂

2. Stir fry

This is so easy. Don’t buy those gross packets of stir fry mix sauce. I have one generic sauce I use for everything including fried rice.

Tablespoon Reduced sodium Tamari

Teaspoon sriracha (or to taste)

2 Teaspoons toasted sesame oil

Dash Worcestershire sauce

Dash fish sauce if using seafood

1/2 tsp ginger

Dash Chinese five spice

Mix the above ingredients together and set aside

Chop whatever vegetables you want to use. Broccoli, snow peas, onions, red peppers, baby corn, bok Choi, mushrooms, etc.

cut meat into bite size pieces. 2 chicken breasts is sufficient for 4 people. I like to use shrimp and cut them in half lengthwise. You could also use an 8 Oz steak cut into thin pieces.

heat 2 tsp toasted sesame oil in pan and sauté meat. add vegetables, cook until starting to soften then add sauce. Continue to cook, stirring frequently until desired done-ness.

Serve with cauliflower rice or brown rice. Season to taste with additional Tamari.

3. Beef and spinach

I’m including this because it’s a recipe I submitted and won a prize for! It also has an Asian theme. Actually a lot of my cooking does although it is certainly not authentic!

1 lb ground beef (grass fed is perfect because it’s leaner and won’t need to be drained.)

1 container baby spinach leaves (Aldi has the perfect size)

1 large sweet potato, peeled and thinly sliced into 1 inch pieces.

Sesame seeds

Toasted sesame oil

Reduced sodium tamari

Chinese five spice

Garlic powder

Ginger powder

Brown ground beef in cast iron skillet. Season with dash or two of Chinese five spice, black pepper, garlic powder and ginger.

When beef is JUST brown add sliced sweet potatoes and 1 tsp sesame oil and 1-2 tsp Tamari and cook until softened.

Lay spinach on top and sprinkle with sesame seeds

Cover and let spinach wilt . Once completely wilted down, stir into beef and sweet potato mixture.

Serve with extra sprinkle sesame seeds .

Adjust amount of sesame oil if you use ground beef with is higher in fat.

Can add sriracha for spice (I didn’t need to tell sriracha lovers that did I? 😉)

Can also increase or decrease Tamari to taste. Less is more and you can always add some to your dish.

I have served this on rice but usually just eat it as is from a bowl.

This is a good protein meal with complex carbs from the sweet potato and a serving or so of greens. Have a salad on the side for extra vegetable servings or add some other vegetable to the dish itself.

This should be enough for 4 people to have one serving.

4. My favorite breakfast (when I eat breakfast which is rare)

Place 3 cups baby spinach or baby spinach and arugula mix on a plate.

Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon grated Asiago cheese

Microwave for 1.5 minutes to wilt the greens and melt the cheese.

Fry 2 eggs (keep yolks runny) in Benechol or grass fed butter.

Top greens with eggs 🍳

Season with fresh cracked pepper and pink salt.

5. Sweet potato enchiladas

1 sweet potato per person, baked

2-3 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded

1 bag reduced fat shredded cheddar or Mexican blend from Aldi

Wegmans red Chile sauce

Picked jalapeños, fat free plain Greek yogurt, cracked red pepper flake, sliced avocados as condiments

Top each sweet potato with chicken, 1/4 cup red Chile sauce, and 1/3 Cup cheese. Microwave or bake to melt cheese.

Top with avocado slices, FF Greek yogurt and jalapenos or pepper if you like it hot like I do!

You could use sour cream instead of yogurt but I like the taste of yogurt better. Don’t use fat free sour cream though. It’s gross. Go for the real deal!

My kids love enchilada anything it seems. I use Wegmans red Chile sauce because it gluten free and the cheapest per unit price. Hatch red enchilada sauce is also a great GF choice.

I put jalapeños and red pepper flake on anything remotely “Mexican” or Tex-Mex. Hot spices raise your metabolism!

Disclaimer: I am not a dietician. I did not create these as perfectly balanced meals nor do I count calories per se. I usually eat these meals as my one big meal of the day. I have shakes for the other 2 meals or a green apple, almonds and a protein bar.

I do not know the calorie counts for these meals and probably never will but you could plug them into MyFitnessPal if you needed to know an it will calculate it for you.

I hope you enjoy these!

Liz

30 Days to healthy living: Day 17

Let’s talk meal replacements !

I am a BIG fan of meal replacement shakes and have personally used them for years. With my latest effort to lose weight and get in shape I have been diligent about daily shakes and have seen great success. I have several thoughts on why you should consider using them too.

1. Convenience. They are EASY. Fill water to line of shaker cup, add 2 scoops protein powder, shake. Done! Nothing is easier than that! You can get fancy and add cinnamon, peanut powder, fiber powder, greens powder, cocoa powder or any other powder or spice you want. I always add cinnamon, fiber and sometimes peanut powder (really good with chocolate protein powder). I also usually add a probiotic/prebiotic/digestive enzyme supplement powder. Get super fancy by using a high power blender and adding whole fruit or greens. I am typically too lazy for that and just have a green apple on the side 😉 🍏

2. Portion control. If keeping your portions controlled is a challenge and you don’t want to think about it, a measured protein powder meal replacement is the way to go. 2 scoops, done. It leaves little room for misjudging portion sizes and inadvertently consuming twice as many calories as you thought.

3. Adding protein will help keep you feeling full longer and helps keep blood sugar stable longer too. Many of us don’t get enough protein. It also helps with building muscle. Your body needs good bricks to build a strong body!

4. A true meal replacement shake contains vitamins and minerals you may not be getting otherwise. The shake I use eliminates the need for taking a multivitamin. Adding in a little fat and some greens or fruit makes it even better. (I add canned pumpkin!)

5. Travels well. Ever get so hungry on the road you settle for whatever? I sure have. Protein powders are super portable and you can even get them in individual packets for even more convenience. I take small containers of measured out portions of my shake ingredients along with a shaker (duh) and water. If you travel with a cooler you could pack some almond or cashew milk and add that instead of water. Never again will you need to worry about getting stuck on the road with no healthy options and you won’t have to stress about a trip detailing your health goals. This is extra important for me because if I eat the wrong thing I could spend the rest of my trip sick and that is seriously not fun ☹️.

What is your favorite addition to protein or meal replacement shakes? Have a yummy recipe? Post it below!

Here’s to our health! 🥂🍏🥬

30 Days to healthy living: Day 16

Lets talk NSVs.

What are NSVs or Non-Scale Victories? These are the changes that you often see that may or may not be accompanied by movement on the scale when you change your diet and lifestyle.

Many people jump into a lifestyle change expecting immediate results. We want instant gratification. It’s rampant in everything else in our lives, so why not expect the same when you change your lifestyle? Hey, I ate healthy for 24 hours and parked farther away at Walmart so why haven’t I lost 10 pounds??? Yeeeaaaah…. It doesn’t work like that.

When I started changing my lifestyle this summer and went from being basically a slug to working out and eating well, it took a while for the scale to budge and for anyone else to notice. It was NSVs that kept me going and in the end I lost the weight I wanted to.

Non scale victories to look for :

(hint-these are good to journal every day to keep you motivated)

  1. Less bloat-when you eat the right foods and keep yourself hydrated, your digestive process runs smoother and your belly usually deflates.
  2. You can lift heavier things-muscle is hard to see when it’s still covered in extra fluff but you can certainly feel it when you can lift heavier objects than usual.
  3. Your sleep improves. A funny thing that happens for a lot of people is that they start to sleep better, usually as a result of moving their body during the day. (This one is harder if you have little kids. They don’t care if you are getting healthy. They want a glass of water. )
  4. Your clothes hang better and you might even go down a size even without a loss of weight. Muscle weighs more than fat of the same volume. In other words, a pound of muscle takes up less space than a pound of fat. A pound is a pound but muscle is more compact. This happens best when you are exercising some and have adequate protein in your diet.
  5. Less brain fog. Following a healthy lifestyle tends to give you a little clarity due to less overall inflammation.
  6. More energy. Likely related to improved nutrition, better sleep and less inflammation. You actually WANT to get up off the couch. A body in motion stays in motion. This is physics.
  7. Improved confidence. When you do hard things and stick to it, you gain confidence to do more hard things. The more confidence you gain, the easier it is to try even harder things and things you never thought you could do.
  8. Greater self control. The longer you follow a healthy pattern of eating, the easier it gets to resist junk food and seconds. This is especially true for me.
  9. No more cravings. When you fuel your body with adequate nutrition, exercise and sleep, you may find that your cravings for certain unhealthy foods go away. I certainly find that the thought of how I know I will feel if I eat junk, even gluten free junk, kills any cravings I may have. At this point the only thing I ever get a craving for is dark chocolate and one small square satisfies that. Bonus that dark chocolate is a healthy snack choice for a treat!

 

So, when you feel like you are literally working your butt off exercising and changing your eating patterns but the scale isn’t budging, look for the NSVs and journal them. They are there, I promise!

What NSVs are YOU seeing?

Here’s you our health!

Liz

 

 

30 Days to healthy living: Day 15

Todays topic: What I read

I love books. I mean, I LOVE books. I love to read. I love to learn. The library is my happy place. Book stores rock too but libraries? Its all FREE knowledge and knowledge is POWER!

My typical haul from the library is at least an arms length. Thankfully they have online renewals because I don’t have a lot of time to read and I usually have to renew once or twice before I can get through them. My 2 favorite topics to read about is healthy (duh) and food. I also enjoy reading about philosophy, especially stoicism and the warrior mind and I am not above enjoying the Outlander series although my default is nonfiction. So I thought I would gather a list of books that I have read about diet and health that I think are worth recommending to other people to read.

I do not necessarily subscribe to everything in the following recommendations but I have found the information helpful and reliable. Some of these I have read cover to cover, some I have skimmed. If your library is like mine, you can look them up and reserve them online. I have linked them to Amazon if you want a copy in your hands to read that you can also take notes in and highlight. I do buy books I find worth referencing regularly. The Amazon links are affiliate links. So if you purchase through the link I might finally make a dime or two off of this blog but it won’t cost you a penny. I always recommend checking the library first though. Consider it my Christmas gift to you 😉

10 Good references on healthy eating:

  1. The Obesity Code by Dr. Jason Fung. Ok, I haven’t read this one. It was recommended by a friend and I am waiting on it from interlibrary loan. He also wrote The Diabetes Code and The complete guide to intermittent fasting. He is a physician and all 2 discuss the benefits of intermittent fasting. Really looking forward to reading these.
  2. The End of Dieting by Dr Joel Furman. Dr Furman believes in a “nutritarian” diet which focuses on eating foods that are mostly plant based for good health and weight loss and avoiding the dieting yo-yo. I am currently reading this one. Nothing weird here. Plant foods are good for you. Eat more of them!
  3. The gluten free Mediterranean diet cookbook. This is a short read with, you guessed it, gluten free mediterranean recipes in it as well as a brief overview of how to eat this way. I am a big fan of a Mediterranean diet and this one I own.
  4. The Blood Sugar Solution by Dr Mark Hyman. He has many related books as well. Mainly its about eating whole foods but this one is good for those prone to diabetes. If there is one disease that scares the crap out of me it’s diabetes. Your blood sugar messes with EVERYTHING else in your body. Get it under control!
  5. Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes. Love this book. It is seriously cerebral though. If you want to easier to read version, try reading his book Why we get fat and what to do about it instead. Basically, what we were told about carbohydrates and fat were false and low fat diets make us fat.
  6. The Gut Balance Revolution. Information about your microbiome and probiotics. All the gut health info right here.
  7. 100 Days of Real Food: On a Budget  Good all around healthy diet for families and those looking to eat well on a budget. Nothing fancy. Most of us can eat healthy no matter our income.
  8. Nourishing Traditions This one is different. It talks about the research of Weston Price who was actually a dentist. He found that people around the world who eat traditional foods, especially soaked grains and fermented foods had better teeth and bone structure. Interesting. I don’t have time for soaked grains. I will happily eat fermented foods. I love fat. But no way am I eating fermented cod liver oil and you shouldn’t either. ew.
  9. Trim Healthy Mama Plan by Pearl Barrett and Serene Allison. I own this one plus the cookbook that accompanies it. Love the recipes and most of them are gluten free. Separating out carbs and fats is hard and I tend to prefer their “S” recipes. Read it to find out what that means. I use this frequently and they have a great recipe to make tomato soup without sugar.
  10. Anything by MFK Fisher. She wrote about food in such an elegant and intriguing way. While there are some recipes she did not generally write cookbooks. Her style of writing is my favorite although I can’t name it. Read MFK to fall in love with good food cooked well and enjoy! I own at least 10 titles she had written. LOVE her.

I have several actual cookbooks I reference all the time but it is time for bed. So Bonne Nuit and I will see see you tomorrow!

Liz

30 Days to healthy living: Day 14

On Day 13 I told you my history and discussed some gut issues with you and today I am going to get more practical and give some things that you can add to your diet and lifestyle to improve your gut health. Ready???

1. Eat more vegetables!! I can’t stress this enough. (Romaine lettuce aside…) The more vegetables (and fruits) that we eat, the more varied fiber sources we consume. We are also likely to get in probiotics as well as the most concentrated levels of vitamins and minerals. I do not recommend the type of juicing that separates out the skin and flesh as this eliminates all of the fiber. If you juice, juice WHOLE fruits and vegetables. And while there are some that you may hear referred to as “superfoods”, all fruits and vegetables are great to eat!

2. Probiotics. I can’t go a day without reading some new research about the benefits of probiotics. I take one daily along with a prebiotic. Probiotics are the “good guy” bacteria that normally live in our gut. Some probiotics are responsible for making antibodies and some make vitamin K and others act as ninja warriors to keep the “bad guys” in check. Research is showing that probiotic bacteria produce hormones and neurotransmitters. They are likely at least partly responsible for our moods. Bacteria appear to be responsible to weight control and the number and type of bacteria can be manipulated to cause weight loss or gain in mice studies. Human studies are underway to see if this effect holds true in humans. They do an amazing amount of work. Human cells are greatly outnumbered by bacterial cells in our body. In other words, we are made up of more bacteria than human cells! Whoa!! Take a probiotic supplement with multiple strains. The more varied the bacteria in our guts, the healthier our guts are.

3. Fermented foods. Mainly because they contain probiotics. I love kimchee. Sauerkraut, real pickles, beet kvass and kombucha all contain probiotics. Add kimchee to stir fry or fried rice. I eat it straight up or in salad.

4. Eliminate foods that cause you discomfort. Wheat, corn and dairy are the most common causes of bloating and diarrhea or constipation. you will have to experiment with these to find if they affect you. Eliminate something for 2 weeks to see if you feel better. If there is no change add it back into your diet and then try to eliminate something else. I have to avoid all gluten sources and I also have to avoid plain milk. I take the next item when I eat cheese.

5. Try digestive enzymes. My probiotic supplement contains digestive enzymes and I also have a separate tablet form of enzymes to take when I eat something I know doesn’t always agree with me. Many of us do not produce enough enzymes due to gut damage and our GI tracts can use a little boost. I find this especially helpful if I overeat! I buy one from Natural Factors at the grocery store that has multiple strains. I take that with larger meals and when I eat dairy or corn. The other one I use in the morning is from Arbonne and called Digestion Plus. This has probiotics probiotics and digestive enzymes in it. Plus its a powder instead of a pill. Get one that includes enzymes that break down fat, carbohydrates and protein. You don’t need to take separate ones since you will rarely eat a food whose only source of calories is one food type. No one I know is chugging olive oil…

6. If you have heart burn, try DGL tablets. DGL is a licorice extract that comes in chewable form. It is used in Europe as the first line defense for heartburn. Avoid using proton pump inhibitors like Protonix and Prevacid because these can cause malabsorption of important vitamins and minerals and ultimately lead to osteoporosis. Only use these if prescribed by your media provider for ulcers or if you have Barrett’s esophagus. for every day heart burn, try Natural Factors DGL. It’s cheap and it tastes like black licorice!

7. Exercise. Being sedentary slows down your GI tract. When you don’t move, neither does your bowels!! Let’s just say that avid runners are rarely constipated! Go for a walk after dinner instead of collapsing on the couch to aid digestion. Don’t lay down for at least 2 hours after a meal or you are courting heartburn!

8. Peppermint oil. Peppermint oil has been shown to help with GI upset. You can take peppermint oil in capsules or try peppermint tea. I put peppermint essential oil in my hot cocoa to make peppermint mocha.

9. Ginger. Ginger candy is yummy but ginger tea is better for upset stomachs. My favorite called Ginger Aid from Traditional Medicinals. Candied ginger can do in a pinch. Fresh grated ginger in hot water would work if you have it. I love all things ginger. In fact,, I am sipping. A cup cup of Ginger tea as I type this!

10. Fennel. Fennel is neck and neck with ginger in my book. It tastes like licorice. Yum! I use fennel essential oil in my toothpaste and I add it to my homemade perfume. It is found in many of the digestion blends sold by essential oil companies. Although I like to eat fennel I find it more convenient in essential oil form. You can add it to tea or just put a drop on our tongue. Remember, ONLY use essential oils meant for ingestion (eating) if you are going to do this with fennel, peppermint, ginger or any other essential oil. Young Living sells a line of edible oils.

11. L-glutamine. L-glutamine is an amino acid that helps with gut healing. It is used for those with Inflammatory conditions and those undergoing chemotherapy. L-glutamine was recommended to me when I was diagnosed with celiac disease. I do not currently take this but have a 7-day “body cleanse” supplement I plan on trying that contains L-glutamine and aloe Vera. If I find it helpful, I ‘ll let you know.

As with anything, always consult your medical provider before taking any supplements. This is especially important if you take any other medication. Herbs and supplements can seen innocuous because they are “natural” but even “natural” medicines are, in fact, medicines and need to be treated with respect. They can interact with your prescription and over the counter medications and may be contraindicated with some medical conditions. This is also true in pregnancy. Talk to your medical provider first!

One other word of caution: do not take any supplements designed to “purge” or “detox” you via stimulants that cause you to run to the bathroom with loose stools. This is dangerous and can cause electrolyte imbalances and dehydration. Basically, you can DIE so please do not take these. Senna is a common ingredient in those types of products. Stay away. Only use senna in tablet form if you are genuinely constipated. Then, it works but can be habit forming so still use caution and only use it according to the package directions.

Ok, here’s to our healthy guts!!

Liz

30 Days to healthy living: Day 13

FOUR hours. I spent FOUR hours at a workshop at my Tang Soo Do studio today then I hit a wall. amazingly those 4 hours flew by but probably I should have stopped for a snack or something midway through. Duh. But, I was having fun with my friends from class that I didn’t really notice until I just had nothing left. Our black belts had come to a class the night before and several of them were testing all morning and they were still going when I left. WOW. I now have #goals.

Anyway, we are here to talk about gut health tonight and what a topic this is! I mean, gut health is the whole reason I am here. Let me give you my backstory first.

I have had gut issues since I was a kid. Then as an adult they worsened after I had my first baby. I developed what was labeled as lactose intolerance. I stopped eating ALL dairy and lost a ridiculous amount of weight. My class mates in college were asking me if I was sick. fast forward 3 years and I was pregnant with my second baby and was once again able to drink milk and eat cheese. Several years later I found myself doubled over no matter what I ate and it would last for hours. I couldn’t eat during the day at work or I couldn’t function so I would drink coffee and hot cocoa and then eat when I got home. The day I showed up in my providers office he got on the phone and had me seeing a gastroenterologist the very next day. The gastroenterologist examined me, said I had Irritable Bowel Syndrome and sent me away with a prescription for dicyclomine (which, BTW, doesn’t do a thing…). No diet recommendations. No bloodwork. No testing other than checking to make sure I didn’t have blood in my stool. Gee, thanks.

So I went about eliminating different foods. Shrimp went. So did salad. Then my jaw decided to lock up and out went crusty bread or anything crunchy or chewy. Eventually the stomach pain went away with the eliminations and I went on with my Ife for a little while. I had a bad break up and lived on Cheerios, ice cream and wine for a month and lost 10 pounds. Then I started grad school and stress ate my way to a 20 lb weight gain and in the process decided to have a reaction to chicken of al things. No chicken for a few years. Then one day I could eat it. (It still seems crazy to me). I couldnt drink red wine because even a half glass gave me a migraine. Somewhere in there my liver enzymes shot up to hepatitis levels although I wasn’t sick and my iron was high. I had to eliminate all alcohol, NSAIDS like Tylenol and ibuprofen and cease using my cast iron pan. 6 months later it was normal. Unlike other celiacs I have never been anemic except when I was pregnant with my twins.

In 2011 I started a new job. Let’s just say that I have a nervous bladder AND digestive system and I found my self running to the restroom FREQUENTLY and I was very uncomfortable. This was in an office setting so it was especially embarrassing and inconvenient. I was trying to lose weight at the same time and couldn’t (ironically) and noticed that while keeping a food journal that I would gain 3-4 lbs every time I ate pizza or pasta or bread at dinner. I mentioned it to my provider who said it sounded like celiac and to try going gluten free for 2 weeks. I tried it and felt better within 1 week. The fog lifted. I didn’t wake up feeling like I’d been hit by a truck. I wasn’t running to the bathroom. My stomach didn’t hurt as bad. I didn’t ache all over. The angels were singing!

Then, I had to start eating gluten again so I could have blood work and scoping. You need to be eating the equivalent of 2 slices of wheat bread every day, preferably for 2 months, before blood work can be done. When you stop eating gluten, your body relaxes and the levels of circulating antibodies goes down and can produce a false negative result. You have to keep your body in attack mode to detect the antibodies adequately to get a positive result. The next step in testing for celiac disease is endoscopy which is a thin flexible tube with a camera that is inserted into your small intestine by way of your stomach in order to take tissue samples for biopsy. My (new and wonderful) gastroenterologist told my husband in the room afterward that he didn’t even need to have the biopsy results to know I had celiac disease it was so bad! At that point my son, my first baby after which I first started having fairly severe symptoms was 17! I finally had a diagnosis. Celiac disease.

So goodbye gluten. And goodbye Guinness and every other dark and lovely porter I used to drink. Goodbye homemade honey whole wheat bread made lovingly by my friend. Goodbye Chinese takeout and fast food (not a loss there) and takeout pizza and anything fried in a shared fryer (bye chicken wings) and just willy nilly grabbing a snack or eating dessert. Goodbye. Life.

On the upside I finally started shedding weight. So much weight that I looked emaciated in photos and my family commented on it. It did stabilize over time as I experimented with the paleo diet and traditional foods. I even managed to stress eat another 10 pounds over the past 2 years until I pulled myself together this summer and lost it again. (Note: Peanut M&M’s and snickers are gluten free. for good and for bad…)

What does this have to do with the topic of gut health other than my personal sob story? A lot. 1 in 133 people have celiac disease. Of those with first degree relatives who have celiac disease, 1 in 10-11 of them will also develop it. Celiac disease has many gut symptoms but more non-gut related symptoms. It is associated strongly with Type 1 diabetes in kids and people with Down syndrome have high rates of concurrent celiac disease. Undiagnosed celiac disease can cause hypothyroidism and anemia. Celiacs have a high rate of gastrointestinal cancers including b-cell lymphoma. Getting a diagnosis is difficult but critical to treating it correctly. A gluten free diet is essential to the treatment of celiac disease. At this point there is no other way to control it. Vaccine trial are underway as well as some agents designed to bind gluten or break it down in some way that the body does not react but they seem to be mainly designed to avoid reaction from incidental exposure to gluten such as a restaurant that cross contaminates your food, or eating food that is contaminated due to manufacturing contamination. I am doubtful of seeing a true cure for celiac disease, at least in my lifetime. Either way, I’m eating wonton soup on my deathbed…

There is also a diagnosis if non-celiac gluten sensitivity in which people have gut symptoms from eating gluten but test negative for celiac disease. There is some question as to whether this group of people is reacting to gluten or something that is commonly found with gluten containing foods. There is at least anecdotal evidence of people not being able to eat gluten in the US yet can eat them without symptoms when they travel overseas. I have a couple of friends who have experienced this. Is is a chemical that causes this reaction, such as a pesticide? Or they type of wheat eaten? I know others who can eat “ancient” wheats such as Einkorn or can eat true sourdough without symptoms. The jury is out as to the root cause but it is not autoimmune like celiac disease is. Considering how adulterated our food is in the US as compared to Europe I would not doubt it being caused by the processing of our foods or the type of pesticides used. Europe bans many more than we could ever hope to.

Gluten is not the only culprit causing gut symptoms. Lack of fiber in our diets and eating nutritionally anemic fast food/processed foods as well as stress and lack of exercise all contribute to belly bloat and abdominal fat. Dairy intolerance, soy intolerance and corn intolerance can cause bloating and either diarrhea or constipation as well. Lactose, the sugar in dairy, is broken down by lactase, an enzyme, but in those whose guts are already affected by other food issues or by genetics or medications, lactase production can be affected and lactose intolerance develops causing gas, bloating, diarrhea and even vomiting in some cases when dairy products are ingested. Some people cannot tolerate dairy protein which is called casein. Some can not tolerate soy in any form and many cannot digest corn and suffer similar symptoms. ( I am not talking here about allergies which generally cause different symptoms and affect a different pathway or reaction. Allergies can be deadly. )

What else? There are inflammatory bowel diseases that are autoimmune. These sometimes respond to diet changes including a gluten free diet but they often also require strong medications to control. Overgrowth of H. Pylori bacteria can cause ulcers and this is treated with antibiotics. Antibiotic use can cause gut imbalances which result in diarrhea and altered bacterial growth. They kill off the good guys along with the bad and it can take 6 months or longer to repopulate. Repeatedly taking antibiotics is the worse thing for your gut and can contribute to an even worse infection called “c.diff.” C. Diff in turn causes fever, diarrhea and an elevated white blood cell count. C. diff infection is common in those who have been hospitalized and it can cause death.

So the first step in addressing gut health is getting a correct diagnosis for the symptoms you are having. Sometimes this requires a lot of sleuthing and that is where health/food journals come in. Just like I mentioned earlier, I was journaling my food intake and weight which led to the discovery that high gluten foods were causing overnight weight gain (due to edema/swelling/fluid retention). I never would have put it together until I saw it on paper! Some diagnoses will require testing to obtain such as celiac disease or inflammatory bowel disease.

Find a medical provider who is willing to work with you to discover the root cause of your problem and do a proper work up before just labeling you with irritable bowel syndrome. It is a disservice to people to give this diagnosis and then try to treat it with medication. IBS is often a way to say I don’t know what it is so here is this label. Stop complaining. There is nothing actually wrong with you. Find someone to help and be willing to do some trial and error on your own as well. Keep a journal. Write down everything you eat, how you are feeling, your weight and what you are doing and any medications you are taking. Write down what you’ve tried and what worked and what didn’t. This is all valuable information!

See? I told you this would take more than one post!! Tomorrow I will be back to continue this discussion with some more concrete things we can do to support our gut health in general and then we will go into more detail about probiotics/probiotics and other supplements on Monday.

Until then, have a great night and be well!

Liz