Thursday, October 2, 2008

Losing Weight

I just came across this on one of my favorite blogs ( and thought it would be funny to start out this essay about eating well and losing weight. This is the kind of crap being sold in groceries stores? Does this really look like a food option to anyone but a 4 year old? Really if this doesn't represent the end of our civilization what does? Nuff' said. You want to lose weight? Ignore the freezer section.

My world was rocked when I found out that I had become a type 1 diabetic in my mid-40’s (yes, that’s ordinarily the “juvenile onset” type, not the obesity related, “adult” one). It made me confront food in ways I would never have imagined, like carbohydrate counting and restriction of intake.

First of all I spent about a year eating very little, indeed less and less, as I struggled to avoid the rapidly approaching need for daily insulin. Eventually reaching near starvation mode, I lost about 20 pounds in 6 months. Despite the extreme exertion that it took to maintain such a diet and the ultimate inability to more than slightly delay the need for insulin, I was pleased at least with the result of looking the best that I’ve looked since early adulthood (even though so many of my friends thought I looked "sick" and too gaunt - I ask you can you ever look too gaunt?). Despite the negative impetus for the change, I had become fit and trim! Now, settled back into more normal eating and relative accommodation to my nightly insulin dose, can I say I'm not so happy to report that a year later, it's all back? Drat!

But the thing I learned about the process of losing 20 pounds is how little you really need to eat to function just fine and how much over eating we all do as a matter of course and habit.

My goal was to eat around 130 grams of carbs a day and it is worth the 5 bucks to buy a carb counter just to give you an idea of how many carbs are in what you are eating.

This is how I ate during this period of deprivation (or so it felt):

At breakfast I had two slices of low carb bread (the Baker) without butter, but with organic, freshly ground peanut butter. If I wanted to be a little “crazy” I added a tablespoon of Bionaturae (, very low sugar, organic jam. Alternately, with unsweetened almond milk (discovering this beverage was like manna from heaven), I would have very high fiber cereal like Nature's Path Flax Plus ( (It's great because it's only 23 grams of carbs per serving (3/4 cup) but this includes 7 grams of fiber* - so you can deduct that 7 from the 23 and giving an value of “actual” carbs of only 16 grams.) A note on fiber is that if an item say's it is high fiber and then you look and the amount of fiber is under 5 grams - it isn't high fiber. In order for you to be able to deduct the fiber number from the total carb number it has to be higher then 5, under 5 is condsidered insignificant.

For lunch I would have a salad. This would be a problem for me now because I used to have chicken with everything even though I knew the chicken was manufactured and treated in a way I find reprehensible, probably containing growth hormones and antibiotics. So my rule of thumb these days is that if you can't find protein that is local, farm raised and maybe organic I wouldn't eat it. This means I now eat a lot of Greek salad, with feta cheese being the main protein source.

For dinner I want something filling and satisfying and a salad doesn't cut it. I do think to have a salad as a starter is a good idea as it helps to fill you up. I ended up eating a lot of protien, roats chicken or fish and lots of greens, and cheese. I ate no carbohydrates except a slice of low crab bread but I never touched regular bread or any root vegtable. Soup, like an onion soup with lots of melted cheese (but no bread) would be good. Eggs can be amazingly gratifying on a peice of grainy toast and melted local chedder on top with some hot sauce. It was very limiting. A lot of apples and a peice of cheese or a smear of peatnut butter (or almond butter or...)

easier said then done

Here's a partial list of things I believe you need to absolutely avoid if you want to lose weight or if you are just concerned with eating better.

NO soda of any sort, even “diet” soda – drink water!

NO artificial sweeteners. They are just plain bad news, tasting awful and now some reports suggesting that they spike your blood sugar just as badly as sugar only it takes longer. Oh, and they may also be carcinogenic or neurotoxic (brain poisons). Google aspartame - truly scary.

NO juice - it's just sugar. Eat a whole fruit (preferably one that is in season) and thereby also get the fiber and pleasure of eating a tasty apple instead of the sugar juice of ten apples in one glass.

NO manufactured meat. If it isn't local, farm raised, then you're just eating poison: antibiotic and hormone filled and containing all the physiologic reactions to true, physical torture. Frankly, I think it's time we all started asking our favorite restaurants and grocery stores to carry this kind of meat. And you know what? It is possible and it is affordable - we all need to be activists in order to shift the paradigm. If we all just raise the question with restaurant and food shop staff, over and over (“why don’t you offer organic, locally grown, free range meat as an option?”) then change may start from the bottom up. It is essential to the health of the planet not to mention our own health as individuals.

NO processed food. Even organic processed food like Boca veggie burgers or sausages. It's all crap, filled with things you can't pronounce and so processed that its value as “organic” is nullified by the fact that it has become a manufactured "commodity" rather than a recognizable food source. I'd say you were better off buying a local turkey breast from say DiPaolo Turkey stand at the Union Square market and grind your own meat for making patties in advance and freeze them for convenience of later use, or use bison or chicken. And if the reason to buy the packaged, manufactured veggie burgers is to avoid meat, then try the recipe for veggie burgers here on this blog (7.3.08 Burger Time), making in bulk and wrapping and freezing them away for your future convenience. Added value: you’re at home, focused on actually making your own real food. Yes, it takes time and changes everything, but at the very least spend a few hours on a Sunday making yourself a nice big stew that you can eat through out the week.

NO obsessional, meat supremacy - eat vegetarian 5 out of 7 nights and when you eat meat eat no more than a 4 to 6 oz portion. Again, a stew or maybe two are a great idea. Maybe alternating a vegetarian stew (Black Bean and Yam Mole) with a meat one (maybe a nice Chicken with Tomatoes and Corn to highlight all the wonderful produce at the market). It is so essential that we cut down on our meat intake and re-think the 1950's idea of having to have a luxury portion as the center piece of every meal. Besides, these days the price of meat and fish is becoming prohibitive.

NO large scale stocking up at mega huge grocery stores. Sure, go to Whole Foods and buy quality olive oil or other “365” brand name, organic staples, but stop there. Everything else try to get fresh, from the market. Large food chains are not interested in your health they are interested in hawking the stuff they get the most pay back from supporting - rarely is it good, quality food. Read Marion Nestles' "What to Eat" - you'll never see grocery stores the same way again.

OK enough of the NO’s.

Bottom line, don't spend your paycheck on all this low fat crap that pretends to be healthy but isn't. Think protein bars are a good way to get you through the afternoon slump? Think again. Look at the ingredients, not at the marketing fluff that obscures them! How can you say a protein bar with 48 grams of carbs in addition to high fructose corn syrup is in any way good for you?

You'd be better off eating a piece of fine 70% chocolate!

Or better yet, to reiterate, drink some water and have a fruit that is in season and grown by a farmer. Add some almond or peanut butter, but don't buy the stuff in the jars, get it fresh ground and add salt as you see fit. Or add a small piece of (local, organic) cheese as a part of your snack.

I say all this like it was easy - and I can tell you it's not because at the moment the hunger has set in and you've been eating Caesar salads with chicken for 28 days straight you don't want an apple. You want a caramel, fudge brownie with almond swirl ice cream and whipped cream.

I used to hate it when people started to talk to me about carbs and numbers and values. I have some issues with the whole field of nutrition and think we all need to make our own exceptions and give ourselves a treat every now and then (preferably a good homemade treat made with good ingredients or an extra helping of potatoes with lots of butter.)

One othe most valuabel thing that I learned from a nutrionist was that Fat + Fiber help break down sugars into your system slower, ergo eating something fatty like cheese with you jucie sugar filled apple - but unlike juice the fiber in the apple will introduce the sugar into your system in a more natural and slower way, there by not spiking your blood sugar. Even if you're not concerned with blood sugar it helps you maintian a better metabolic balance and it is providing you with a complex snack not just sugar that is going to go directly to your wasteline!

A recent report I read showed that women in a diet study who ate hardier, more carb heavy breakfasts (but ate low carb the rest of the day) lost weight as much weight as women who ate a carb restricted fashion all day long, but kept losing weight even as the ones who ate carb restricted breakfasts gained their weight back at the end of the study. Be tough with yourself but don't be mean to yourself, food is essential for our pleasure and for our health.

Good luck!

*these days my feelings are that the entire low fat fad is just that: a fad. It's yet another way of processing food and making it into a commodity that can then claim health benefits. High carb anything is going to be fattening, not so with high fat foods, that also have the benefit of making you feel full with less intake. The way I lost weight was avoiding carbs and when I ate carbs I ate high fiber or I ate a carb say like mashed potatoes (my favorite example) made with lots of butter and I had a small amount. The point here isn't to feel like you are doing with out it is about portion control, exercise and eating healthy whole foods.

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