Archive for the ‘Nutrition’ Category

Apropos of Nothing

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

Have you ever gone to the grocery store and the checkout clerk is looking at you strangely as she rings up your purchases? I was at my local Trader Joe’s (love them: except the snotty check out girl) stocking up on a few of my favorite things:
• Six containers of hummus, various flavors
• 1 large “party size” salsa, mild
• 2 packages of black beluga lentils
• 1 bag of Thai Lime Pilaf.
• EnviroKidz Organic Peanut Butter Panda Puffs (give me a break: it was the only gluten free cereal they had and I was craving cereal)
• Almond milk, unsweetened chocolate

Now I admit I have a hummus fetish. And TJ’s has some of the best store bought hummus I’ve ever had. My new favorites include: Cilantro Jalapeño and Roasted Red Pepper. The Cilantro Jalepeno has just enough of a kick to make you want to have a 32 oz bottle of water handy. The Roasted Red Pepper is very mild but the color and taste remind me of Pimento Cheese which was one of my mother’s favorite spreads as I was growing up.

So the check out girl says, “You like hummus?”

Duh. I’m not buying it for the cats.

“How do you eat it?”

So many smart aleck comments came to mind. I settled for my standard answer, “With a spoon.”

“No,” she continued. “I mean what do you eat it on?”

I stared at her, not blinking. “A spoon. Why do you think I need six containers of it??”

Honestly. I mean: I get that it is an odd list of groceries. But it isn’t like she followed me to the liquor store (my next stop) and watched me pick up a bottle of Cask & Cream Caramel then followed me home and spied on me as I actually ate dinner from the fixings of my two stops.

If she’d seen me mixing Cask & Cream into my unsweetened chocolate milk and then pour it over the EnviroKidz Organic Peanut Butter Panda Puffs after spooning hummus up with broccoli florets – see I’m eating healthy here – maybe then she’d have been justified to look at me strange.

Know what I’m mean??


The Weighting Game

Friday, April 23rd, 2010

Fair Warning: This post has NOTHING to do with Commuter Couples.

Why is it I can put on 20 pounds inside a few months and then spend years trying to take it off?

As you might recall, in October I developed sensitivity to gluten, which is basically anything that is made with wheat or flour. You try eating the standard American diet and not eat wheat: it is no fun. I was avidly reading food labels, interrogating restaurant service people and wondering if I’d ever eat pizza again. I was shocked at the number of processed food items that have wheat or wheat products in them, which basically means they are off limits to me.

I did a lot of research during this time about gluten allergies/sensitivity/Celiac Disease. Every book I read and many blogs dealing with gluten sensitivity talked about how much better people felt after clearing gluten from their system. They extolled the unexpected weight loss they’d had after getting wheat out of their diet, as wheat often acts as an inflammatory agent.

Not so for me.

After I went gluten free back in October, I packed on 15 pounds in a matter of weeks.

Go figure: taking out all of the wheat in your diet also takes out about 85% of the fiber as well. What are left are simple carbohydrates which turn into sugar in your body. All the calories and none of the satiation factor? No wonder I gained 15 pounds!

Gluten free felt like prison to me. Unless I minutely controlled everything that went into my mouth there was a chance that within an hour of eating I’d have gut-clenching pain and suffer the sting of acid reflux.

My sister, who has tried more interesting food plans than you’ve ever even heard of, recommended going on a “raw” food diet. Before you flip out: we both decided that steak tar-tare and sushi wasn’t our thing (not that there is anything wrong with either of those food choices. To each his own).

Once again, the research on and offline and blogs praising the Raw Food diet pointed to the fact that people who were on a raw diet were likely to return to their natural weight. When the primary sources of food in your diet are fruits and vegetables you’d think your weight would drop like a rock.

Me? Not so much. I packed on another 5 pounds.

Even still, I spent 12 weeks eating raw. The nice thing about being 90-95% raw (I just couldn’t quite get rid of the coffee) was that it felt like freedom. I could eat anything that wasn’t cooked without worrying about running into that evil gluten demon.

I felt awesome eating raw. Almost all of my food cravings went away. I slept better; I had more energy. Except for that pesky weight gain, eating raw food was much more rewarding than eating gluten free.

Then real life got in the way.

A friend was coming to town for a week and asking someone else to limit themselves to restaurants and meals that are all raw was more than I was willing to do. I reverted to being gluten free during her visit.

Now being 20 pounds heavier than I’d like to be I’ve found myself being very conscious of all aspects of eating: what I’m eating, how I’m eating, how much I’m eating, how fast I’m eating, etc.

My friend is naturally thin. While she was in town I availed myself of opportunity to observe her eat.

The difference in the way she and I handled ourselves around food was striking. While eating meals, about 2/3 of the way through whatever her entrée was, she’d say, “I’m full.” More importantly, she’d push her plate away from her. And most importantly: she didn’t touch the food again.

My first inclination is always to be part of the “clean plate club.” The starving kids in China, Africa…pick your own continent…was my impetus to eat up!

But back to today: even if I do claim to be full, I rarely push my plate farther away that my chubby little mitts can reach and NEVER do I leave it alone. Oh no: I’m going to pick and pick and pick at it until once again I am a card carrying member of the “clean plate club.”

Fairly early on in her visit I made some smart-mouth comment about her size 2 body.

She put her fork down and caught my eye and very calmly said, “Please don’t make comments about my weight.”

At first I was taken aback. What was the big deal?

Later as I reflected upon it how arrogant was I to think I had the right to comment on her weight (or the lack thereof). How furious would I be if someone commented on the 20 pounds I’ve packed on in the last few months? (Hold that thought. Later you’ll see how I responded.)

Was it okay to comment on her slight physical stature because that is what society deems as ‘desirable’? While my overweight body is the opposite of what is ‘desirable?’

I had never thought about my reverse snobbery: hating people (somewhat tongue-in-cheek, however, definitely envious) of size 2 women when the closest I’ve ever been to a size 2 is when there is another digit to the right of it and I’m embarrassed to admit it wasn’t always a “0”.

Sadly, since my friend’s departure I’ve kind of fallen off of the wagon. I’ve reverted to some of my higher fat, lower fiber choices, eschewing the wonderful green smoothies that I enjoyed all of January and into March. I no longer want the spinach salads that I was drooling over a few weeks ago.

While visiting my doctor last week she pointed to the steady weight gain since last year. “Do you realize you’ve gained 20 pounds from your lowest point?”

Was she serious?? Do you think you can hide 20 pounds? Do you think I haven’t noticed that I only have two pairs of slacks that fit (or are fit) to wear into the office? “Yes, Doc, I noticed. It is kind of hard not to when your underpants are cutting off your circulation!”

So what is the deal? Why do I struggle so much with my weight. Why is it a dragon I just can’t seem to completely vanquish? I’ve spent many hours pondering why I’ve struggled with my weight all of my life. Is it because I like food too much? Rich food too much? Is it portion control? Is it that I don’t exercise? The answers to those questions by the way: Yes. Yes. Yes. No – I do exercise.

Let me tell you a story:

Recently my mother visited a friend whose health has deteriorated to the point she can no longer live alone. My mother found the visit very depressing and she had a hard time shaking off the sadness she felt after leaving her friend in the assisted care unit. She called me a few days later and I was surprised at how upbeat she sounded.

“What changed for you?” I asked.

“We went for a drive today and ended up around the lake. We stopped at that frozen custard shop we always like. It reminded me of vacations we’ve taken together, Lara. Somewhere between the dip of vanilla and chocolate I started feeling better.”

“Gosh,” I began, tongue securely in cheek now. “All these years I’ve wondered how it was I’d become an emotional eater. Now I know I came by it legitimately.”

“Very funny,” she said her tone dry.

“Truly, Mother: the only thing I’m waiting on now is for you to tell me you smothered your ice cream in peanut butter.”

She was silent a moment.

And another.

I wondered if I’d gone too far.

Peanut butter is my mother’s answer to everything! It is her Ultimate Feel Good Food.

“Lara – if I’d have thought about it or had peanut butter handy, I certainly would have glopped it on top and relished it as it went down!”


Mystery solved.

Okay. In all honesty being an emotional eater wasn’t news to me. Like many people, I don’t treat food like it is nutrition or fuel for my body. It is there to comfort me when things are tough. It is there to celebrate with me when times are great. Food is my fair weather friend. No matter what happens: food is always there for me.

When I started this blog in July 2009 I swore to myself that it wouldn’t devolve into another blog about food and food issues (again: not that they’re anything wrong with them). Yet here we are. I appreciate your indulgence in this and I promise to keep my food drama to a minimum.

Lastly, just in case you’re curious: Unless you’re my immediate family (sorry, you’re fair game) I always run any portion of my blog past whoever I’m including stories about. When I sent the story about monitoring my thin friend and her eating habits to her for her approval she responded: “I’m not a size 2. I’m a size 4.”

I don’t know about you but that didn’t make me feel any better. In fact, basically she can never come into my house again. I can’t afford the liability: her skinny butt might slip between the cushions on my couch and she might suffocate! Of course the pillow I might hold over her face might factor into it as well…….


Calling All Food Allergies: A Look Back at the Holiday Season

Saturday, January 9th, 2010

Oh the holidays. A time when everyone gets together and eats too much, gorging on sugar cookies with butter cream frosting, rocky road fudge, almond bark pretzels, rum cake…..and that’s just for breakfast!

This year was different however. This year food allergies and medical issues reared their ugly heads and almost everyone in the household had something they couldn’t eat.

With each arrival to my family home, there were more and more things that had to be avoided worked around or segregated so as to not contaminate someone else.

On the list of things people couldn’t eat:
Wheat (gluten)

What exactly was left that we could all eat? A turkey but no gravy? Vegetables but no butter? Pumpkin pie but no crust? Egg, but no nog?

Bear in mind I said these are things that people COULDN’T eat, not didn’t want to eat. We’re not talking any odd diets (that will come later). We’re talking about food their bodies cannot currently tolerate.

My sister and I are the ones with the gluten intolerance: no traditional stuffing, gravy, pie crust, dinner rolls, etc for us.

For me, the almond bark covered pretzels were the thing that kept calling my name. I knew it was bad when I was fantasizing about covering sesame crackers with stuff that is little better nutritionally than flavored liquid paraffin!

My mother, on the other hand, was on a “white” diet: no spice, no whole wheat, no pepper, caffeine or alcohol….sucks to be her.

On 12/23 a mini food war almost broke out when someone in the house asked if we were going to be eating our “traditional” Christmas Eve dinner: chili and cornbread.

My sister and I stared at each other in disbelief. Hello? No spice? No gluten? No way! There might have only been 2 people in the household that could have actually eaten that meal.

Due to health issues my parents were mostly housebound during this holiday season. My sister and I were the ones doing the shopping. Every time we’d go out my father would ask us to pick up bologna and white dinner rolls.

My sister and I, admittedly, have some eating quirks. As such we could not understand why the heck anyone would want to eat full fat pork bologna.

Twice, we forgot it and the dinner rolls. We did not purposely forget. I mean we didn’t sit there and discuss the fact that we weren’t going to pick them up. However, people in the house began to eye us suspiciously when we returned without the requested items.

Then: Christmas Eve sailed in on the wings of an ice storm.

As the ice and snow mounted tension around the Christmas Eve & Christmas dinner meals rose as well, “Are we eating chili for dinner?”

“No one can eat it!” I responded, testy.

“Well I can!” Came the snappy response.

“You’d be the only one!”

Another “discussion” broke out. Certain individuals were threatening to get out on the slick roads in order to get the @#$% dinner rolls. My sister and I had already promised to meet a friend at a local restaurant for lunch. We assured the household that we would pick up the stupid dinner rolls.

“Like you’ve done every time you’ve gone to the grocery store?” Was shot back at us as we left.

As we’re standing at the lunch meat counter of the neighborhood grocery story I picked up a 2 lb log of bologna and measure the weight of it in my hand.

“Don’t you think he wants pre-sliced?” My sister asks.

“I was thinking more of a slap upside the head,” I say, deadpan.

She stares for a moment and then we break up with laughter, like the 12 year olds we used to be, giggling all the way to the register with our 8 oz of Oscar Meyer pre-sliced Bologna and white bread rolls!

The moral of this story? The holiday season is not the time to try and change people’s eating habits. On the other hand: sometimes people can’t help the food “choices” they’re making. A little tolerance practiced by all would be a good thing.

Do me a favor: tell me my family isn’t the only one with strange food hang ups tied to holiday meals.


I Hate the Food I Eat…

Saturday, January 2nd, 2010

The relationship I have with food has always been complicated. I’ve been an emotional eater since early childhood. I’ve been as much as 150 pounds overweight and am currently 40 pounds heavier than I’d like to be.

My mother’s type I diabetes meant that in my household: food = life. When her blood sugar would take a dive, we fed her a cookie or orange juice. What I learned was that when scary things happen ingest sugar!

At various times in my life I’ve eschewed:
Processed food
Red meat
All meat

None of these ever created permanent weight loss unfortunately and over time I gradually drifted back into eating all of these food types.

I named this post for a quote out of a Police song: “When the World is Running Down.” ‘Same food for years and years, I hate the food I eat.’

As of late, the food I’ve been eating now hates me back.

In October I “suddenly” developed gluten intolerance. I say “suddenly” because for 18+ months I’d been having symptoms that I thought were other things. But when I developed pain so acute I thought I might die and my sister (the poster child for all things “non-mainstream food plans”) suggested that I try cutting gluten from my diet I didn’t even know what gluten was.

How many of you know what gluten is? Basically it is all wheat and barley products. Gluten is in the usual places you’d expect to find wheat: pasta, bread, cereal and virtually all baked goods.

Even more insidious are the places you wouldn’t necessarily suspect to find gluten: almost every frozen prepared meal, soy sauce, some ice cream, some chicken broth, some prepared frosting, beer, meat replacements such as veggie burgers and even in my favorite green enchilada sauce.

Off of my dining list:
Neighborhood bakery
Takeout pizza
Pad Thai at my favorite Asian restaurant
Eggplant Parmesan (bread crumbs)
Gourmet hamburgers or grilled brats (pesky little bun)

If you consider what the typical American eats and having to cut out all wheat products, basically my dietary choices are honed to the following:
Animal meat
Wine (so all is not lost)

What about diary? You might be thinking. Is there gluten in milk??

No actually, there isn’t. But I couldn’t just develop gluten intolerance, could I? Suddenly I developed a dairy intolerance as well.

You’d have thought I’d have dropped 10 pounds since I could no longer eat bread, milk, cheese or anything processed. But instead I gained 15 pounds. Perhaps eating almond butter by the spoonful wasn’t the best idea….

Did you know that there is such a thing as Gluten Withdrawal?

There is.

Imagine the worst gut wrenching (literally, like someone was twisting my insides) pain, almost explosive flatulence (sorry, real life isn’t always pretty), heartburn, acid reflux, a headache that felt like a I had a steel band around the front half of my head and dizziness and vertigo every time I stood up.

Of course the timing couldn’t have been better. The initial pain that caused me to cut out the gluten occurred two weeks after I started my new job. The subsequent withdrawal took another two weeks to live through and dovetailed with my stepson’s H1N1 diagnosis and his entry into the ICU.

Luckily, my darling husband was terrific about my sudden departure from what most people would consider to be “normal” food. He suffers from his own food allergies and so understands what it means when your body starts treating certain foods like it is poison.

In fact I’ll say that without his support my transition to a gluten-free diet would have been markedly harder.

Learning to eat out, grocery shop, and to eat while traveling has been an experience. However, it was completely worth it.

Once I survived the withdrawal I felt amazing. Things were suddenly clearer, the colors of the world were crisper; it was like a veil had been lifted. The tummy troubles and the headaches all went away as well; I felt buoyed and happier than I had in years.

If anyone has their own gluten intolerance stories to share or want to ask me further questions, please feel free to share and/or ask. I’d also welcome any good gluten-free tips: recipes, places to shop, places to eat etc. that you can pass on.

BTW: I have done research on Celiac disease. I know that the medical tests are all but useless unless you are actively eating gluten when you have them. But I was in such acute distress that there was no way I was going to keep eating wheat just to be tested.


You Do What??

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

I cook meals for Mr. J to take home with him. People look askance at me for this practice: like they think I’ve lost my mind. “Why would you do that?” I’ve been asked repeatedly.

Let’s be very clear on this point: I’m no Julia Childs. I’m cooking plain food that can travel well. Meat loaf, chili, beef stew, garlic chicken breasts. And I guess I should clarify: I’m cooking the entrée. He is responsible for side dishes and by side dishes I mean vegetables.

As we’ve already discussed in an earlier post nutrition is not Mr. J’s friend. When Mr. J and I met his eating habits were questionable at best. Everything was processed, and there was not a green vegetable to be seen. To him the four food groups were: sugar, whole milk, coffee and beef. Bless him.

I’ve spent years cleaning up his food act (along with my own) and I’m not going to lose ground by having him revert to Dinty Moore stew five nights a week. Has anyone ever even smelled that stuff? That goes double for Wolf Brand Chili. Yuck.

On the weekend he is home we shop and then I prepare him two entrees that he can take back and alternate and/or freeze for the next two weeks. We also discuss and then pick up which vegetables that will go best with the main dishes.

Cooking for him solves several problems:
1. Cooking for one is difficult and most people just won’t do it. Cooking for two is just easier.
2. I get to keep an eye on both of our diets and ensure that we aren’t subsisting on frozen meals or just snacking our way through the dinner hour.
3. It saves money and our diet by eating in instead of picking up take out on the way home.
4. Mr. J has said that eating something I have cooked for him is a little bit like me being there.

I will never be taken for Martha Stewart but at least I can say that I put together nutritious and (hopefully) tasty meals on both of our tables, states apart.

Bon Appétit!

P.S. I’ve very excited to report that my next blog will be a guest blog from a fellow LDR’r. In her own words you’ll get to hear her story of how she and her husband met online, met in real life and ultimately fell in love and married. Stay tuned!


Nutrition Fairy?

Monday, September 7th, 2009

One of the best things about being married to Mr. J is that he is so easy when it comes to food. He’ll eat anything I put in front of him and be glad he got it. I know plenty of women who don’t have it that easy.

Of course, the down side of that is, when he is on his own, he’d just as soon open up a can of Campbell’s soup – sodium be damned – and eat that, with saltine crackers, naturally. And he’d call that dinner.

A reoccurring discussion we have involves nutrition.

I’m always amazed when I realize that people have such little nutrition savvy. While we were on vacation a few weeks ago, we began the well-worn track of our refrain: “Who is responsible for teaching us nutrition?”

Mr. J doesn’t understand why what he learned 30+ years ago in elementary school in Iowa (land of the corn and potato starring as “vegetables” on a dinner table near you) isn’t still relevant today.

I mumble something about accountability and ask if he’s ever heard of “Google.”

“Well the government ought to – ”

I cut him off, “Did you just say ‘the government’?” I laugh out loud. “You’re joking, right?”

But he’s not. And if he’d spent even 10 minutes searching the web for nutritional information and dietary requirements, I’d feel a pang of sympathy for him. But stubbornly he hasn’t.

One of my favorite bloggers, Cindy Sadler, summed it up nicely in her somewhat ranterific posting “There Is No Magic Health Fairy and If There Were She’d Be on the Take,”

I forwarded Cindy’s blog to my husband who after reading it responded, “Do you suppose she has our car bugged?” (We’ll talk about his conspiracy theory tendencies another time.)

My question to you is: how would you rate your nutrition savvy? How do you keep up with what is healthy and what only looks healthy? Is being separated from your sig other making it easier to be healthy? Or is it an excuse to run through a drive through? Enquiring minds want to know……