Sunday, January 27, 2013

Lost At Meal Time - What's My New Normal?

Every week I sit down to make up a healthy meal plan (and following that, a grocery list for the week) and every single time, I feel SO. LOST.

It's the 'healthy' part that really gets me. Especially when I'm short on time or just not 'feeling' the meal-planning vibe. I'm diabetic, gluten free, and I'd dearly like to cut out all fillers, unpronounceable ingredients, and Monsanto / GMO foods. That is the goal I am for every week.

I have a basic meal 'outline' I follow when trying to put the meal plans together. It goes like this (still a work in progress):


vegetarian ceviche
chips and salsa / nachos

meat + two veggies
meat + veggie + starch
GF pasta or casserole

dark chocolate
ice cream cups
chips and salsa
apple and pb
cheese stick
laughing cow and rice crackers

It's a good layout. Snacks are easy. Breakfast is ok. Oatmeal is easy but I miss cereal... but with my "no fillers, no GMO" plan I haven't found a good cereal that really works. I still buy cereals because my kids eat it and it's not a meal I've really managed to sway them over to the 'health' side yet. (I try to pick relatively healthy ones at least.) Lunch I struggle with mightily - I never want to eat it anyway, and nothing ever sounds good. I don't want to put a lot of work into lunch. 

Dinner is... easy in concept, not as easy in theory. The 'meat plus two sides' method is easy but I'd like to start eating less meat. It gets expensive. I'd like to find good vegetarian options that we will all enjoy and that will still be filling. 

The overall general plan is good. I continue to refine it but it mostly works and is mostly healthy. I sit down each week and the first thing I do is look at the sales papers and make a list of everything on sale that I might want to purchase for the week. The second step is SUPPOSED to be, then, to take the list of on-sale foods and make up a meal plan for the week. A SPECIFIC meal plan, with recipes and/or chosen foods - no generic 'meat' or 'fruit' or 'vegetable' items on the list. 

That's where the plan usually falls apart for me. I'm not sure why. I often end up with a half-assed plan and I go out, buy a lot of stuff on sale, and overbuy on snacks and things (making sure we're stocked each week with practically everything on the list above, when we don't NEED that many snacks each week). A lot of food ends up going to waste that way, and it also leads to overspending. Another goal is to eat on a budget because we really don't HAVE a lot of money to spend on food each month... and with us eating a lot of meat, fresher produce, and gluten-free foods (PLUS the other goals), we don't get to take advantage of most of the SUPER CHEAP foods on sale each week. I take comfort by reminding myself that we are increasing our health and it's worth the extra cost, but when money is tight you still feel the pinch and sometimes that 10 cent ramen (no matter how unhealthy) is awfully tempting.

I think I need a better database of recipes and meal plans that fit our health goals, for one. I went through a lot of recipe testing last summer when I was doing The Blood Sugar Solution. I found some foods to add to my staples list but overall I didn't find a lot of 'winner' recipes - quick, easy, delicious and SATISFYING. It's a lot of work to test new recipes, and it's a lot of work to even make a 'potential recipes' database, and it's very disheartening to be out of your element and not have a lot of 'staple' recipes to fall back on when you just need to throw a quick and easy dinner together.

The other thing that holds me back is I'm still fighting a lifetime of bad eating habits. Every time I go to my mom's house I'm reminded of how truly awful my nutritional meals background is. A veritable SEA of white everything. White breads, white pastas, sweets, frozen meals (Stouffers, Hot Pockets). I pretty much can't eat anything at my mom's house anymore. I miss those foods sometimes. My 'easy' meals, even with my own family, were things like: spaghetti with garlic bread. Hot dogs and beans. Macaroni and Cheese (yes, blue box mac and cheese, and I still love that chemically-laden slop).  Hot dogs and chips. Sloppy joes.

I can't eat any of that now, and while most of the time I don't really miss those specific foods... I still feel lost a lot of the time. It's hard to explain. Mostly it's a feeling like I don't really know what I'm doing, and I'm not terribly happy with it. It feels HARD. It still feels like a challenge. I was taught to cook as I grew up, and I've always loved cooking... but there's a part of me now that feels like I never learned how to cook, and I'm trying to learn a new skill while at the same time being limited to incredibly strict parameters. With these food restrictions, you go into the grocery store, and you pretty much have 5-6 aisles / sections in which you can shop. It feels very LIMITING to be surrounded by all that food and not be able to do anything with it, especially when it's food you've spent 30+ years eating.  To have it suddenly taken away - as I said in an earlier post, I've mourned the loss and I don't really feel like I'm still having grief over the foods I CAN'T eat, but I guess maybe I haven't come to terms with the foods I CAN eat. I am still trying new foods periodically... but I don't know what is EASY for me any more in terms of meals. I guess I haven't found my new normal.

What I find most of the time is that trying to do an entire week of meal plans makes me lose my mind. I still have to take it one or two days at a time. I hate this because I'm pretty sure I'm spending more money than I need to be (every time you go into the store you're tempted), and I know I'm spending way more time than I need to by hitting the grocery store multiple times a day.

My health is worth it. My family's health is worth it. I just wish I had figured it out more by now. 30+ years of eating habits being changed won't happen overnight. Just like weight loss won't happen overnight. Sometimes that's not terribly consoling

This post was brought to you by my frustration and anxiety as I try to put together a weekly meal plan yet again. :/

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Plans, Perserverance, Acceptance

 Over the holidays I slacked off quite a bit on my overall eating and health plan. It definitely affected both my weight (as evidenced with the five pound gain over the past three months) and with how I felt.
  • My blood sugar went back up, to unacceptable levels. I'm still playing around with the insulin I take, trying to take as little as possible while still keeping my sugars at a healthy level. It's really hard. My sugars right now vary between the low 100s (110's at the low end) to the high 200s (270s at the high end) throughout the day. I'm playing with diet, exercise, AND insulin... it's crazy. I was dealing with highs upon waking up until this week; now I am dealing with normal fasting sugars but random peaks throughout the day. I also don't feel great when this is going on... I vary between fatigue / sluggishness and dizziness. 
  • A lot of my gastrointestinal issues were cropping back up. I am pretty sure this is gluten-related. It was overwhelming to be gluten free during the holidays and I gave up on it a lot of the time, leading me to cycle between constipation and diarrhea. I would also have periodic bouts with stomach pain. My acid reflux came back last month. I have been gluten free again for a few weeks and I'm feeling much better.
  • My hair started falling out again. This was something that has been happening for a few years now, and while it was alarming at times - the sheer amount of hair I would pull out every time I showered - I have been blessed with a LOT of hair to spare and I wasn't BALD, my hair was just a lot thinner. I wrote it off as a post-having kids thing and/or a diabetes thing. When it stopped happening last summer I didn't really notice... but when it started happening AGAIN it became pretty clear to me that it, too, was probably gluten related! My hair loss over the past week, now that I'm gluten free again, has been pretty minimal.
  • I had more frequent headaches and bouts of fatigue over the holidays. The fatigue was nowhere near as bad as it had been at the start of 2012 but I could feel it creeping back in at times.
  • And of course, my weight started creeping back up.
I'm not really doing The Blood Sugar Solution plan, per se, anymore. There are definite positive things I have taken away from it - the elimination diet and discovering how much better I feel without gluten, for one. There are others I'm not so sure about - the vast amount of supplements, for one. I've cut a lot of them out - I didn't really notice a huge difference in how I felt, and as I do more research over time, there's just so much conflicting data on what each one actually DOES and whether or not they are really effective that it's a tough call to make. I've stuck with a multivitamin, omega-3's, probiotics, and fiber supplements... and until I run out I'm going to continue taking the "Healthy Blood Sugar" supplement I picked up from Vitacost. I don't plan on buying more of it though, unless my blood sugar changes drastically when I stop taking them!

Diet wise I am, obviously, eating gluten free right now. I'm still working to find a good balance between healthy, easy, not time-consuming, appealing to me, and cost effective. It's really hard, much harder than I think food SHOULD be. I'm sure I'll expand more on this topic as time goes on. I'm trying to streamline meals as much as possible, while trying the occasional new thing to hopefully expand our repertoire a little bit.

Exercise - I'm picking that back up. Slacked a good amount over the holidays. Contemplating working my way up to my own "Biggest Loser" type exercise plan to kickstart my weight loss. I will see how that pans out for me and, of course, report in on it too.

That's pretty much it. In the grand scheme of things, we know there's no magic pills... with RARE exceptions, it's calories in, calories out. I've also come to terms a LOT more over the past year that the TYPE of calories you put in matter. I've been staunchly denying that for years, but the more I learn, and the more I experiment with my own health, the more I realize I simply have to accept it as true. I've not just accepted it, I've even made a lot of peace with that over the past year - it was really hard for me, for a long time, to say "No one should eat this food" or "I shouldn't eat this type of food". Even after it was becoming readily apparent, I still wanted to rage against the injustice of it. I'm pretty much through with, for lack of a better term, the stages of grief over food. I don't always love the restrictions but I'm not angry or in denial anymore. I focus on what I CAN eat, not what I can't.

I slip up, I pick myself up, I start over again.

Monday, January 14, 2013

2013 State Of The Weight

That weight, it just wants to keep on creeping!

My weight officially climbed back up to 223 over the holidays. My lowest point prior to was 218, so a five pound gain over the past three months. Weight loss isn't linear; even people on The Biggest Loser have weeks where they gain!

The holidays are tough, and for me the struggle begins in October - Halloween is my favorite holiday, and there are so many delicious treats that go along with it. Apple and pumpkin EVERYTHING, and all the candy. Fall is a great time to start baking too.
Thanksgiving isn't terribly hard for me - it's just one day, and we don't go to a lot of parties or anything.
December is a little tougher, with a few parties and Christmas cookies and the holiday itself.
My husband's birthday is January 1st so New Year's always brings a few indulgences too.
After struggling through October, I decided I was going to give myself a little break and just try to maintain. A five pound gain isn't the worst thing in the world. If I was at a healthy weight it wouldn't really matter at all, as long as I got back into my healthy habits after the season ended!

Overall, I lost 13.6 pounds last year. I feel better than I did at the beginning of last year too. I'm recommitted to my goals and I am going to keep moving forward! I'd like to see a lot more weight come off this year, now that I have a better handle on what works for my body.

Still, it sucks when those numbers creep up.

(Don't forget you can check out progress pictures at my weight loss Tumblr!)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Progress Report

I'm behind in posting. It's getting harder and harder to devote so much of my day to being healthy. I lobe feeling better and losing weight, don't get me wrong - but this lifestyle change takes up a LOT of my time and the longer it goes on, the more things get pushed to the side. Things like cleaning my house, working on my business ideas, even taking care of my family. Finding a balance is hard. This isn't news to any adult alive, I'm sure. I'm still working on that balancing act. (Has anyone actually got it figured out? Because if you do, SHARE WITH US. You could sell that formula and make a fortune.) In the meantime, I haven't given up! I'm not doing it perfectly; but then again, who amongst us is perfect? I just take a page from Cub Scouts, and from what we tell our kids almost every day - just Do Your Best.

Technically I'm in the middle of week four... in a nutshell, week three was making time for relaxation every day and making sure you get proper sleep. I have found it's really difficult, for me at least, to make time for relaxation! I want to just rush through it and GO GO GO on to the next thing on my to do list. I think that's kind of missing the point though. Anyone else have this same problem?
Week four is to add in exercise you enjoy. Ideally cardio, strength training, AND 30-60 minutes of stretching at least twice a week. This is another thing that's tough to fit into every day life. I know exercise should be a priority but I'm still working on that. More on that later.

As I muddle through all this, here's a progress report. (Past progress reports can be found here, for reference.)

Weight - 219
Waist Size - 46.25"
Blood Pressure - haven't tested since last time
BMI - my BMI is 35.3. I'm still obese!
Waist To Height Ratio - .69 (This website says "Take Action!") Dr. Hyman says "this number is a better predictor of diabesity, heart disease, and risk of death than almost any other number."
Hemoglobin A1C - haven't tested since last time
Cholesterol - haven't tested since last time

Insulin- my sugars were creeping a little higher than I liked; fine during the day but getting too high for my fasting. I have added in one shot, my Levemir (slow acting insulin). I am currently taking 25 units each night. My fasting is better - some days ok, some days too high. Daytime blood sugars have still been fine. I continue to monitor regularly.

PLEASE keep going down! I've only had one spike up since I started this, and though it was short-lived it was not a fun time.

I'm right on the cusp of my lowest weight in a long time. For the past several years I've made it down to this weight (219), but never made it past it. I used to go to TOPS - Take Off Pounds Sensibly. I went for about three years. I can't tell you how many times I hit this weight while I was going. I used to bounce regularly between 219 - 225 or so. The beginning of this year saw me at my highest weight EVER - 236.4. Ouch. I've lost 17.4 pounds this year. 10.4 of that has been since August, when I changed my diet drastically. I'm scared I'm going to have some sudden random weight gain and it'll be really discouraging. I really want to get past it forever and never see it again. I haven't been below this weight in at least five years! My daughter (my youngest child) will be six in three weeks. I was right around 220 when I delivered her. I know I lost weight after I had her; I think I got down to about 210 sometime in her first year, and then I went back up to around 220. I stayed in the upper 220's for most of her life, until this year when I crept into the mid-230's. When I GOT pregnant with her I weighed 190. So my intermediate goals kind of coincide with my pregnancies and deliveries... ultimately I'd like to get to at least 175 and then re-evaluate where I'm at. On the way there, my goals are kind of as follows:
218 - because I haven't seen it since Oksana was one or so (5 years ago)
210 - because I haven't seen it since the first year of Oksana's life (5.5 years ago)

190 - the weight I was when I got pregnant with Oksana (6.5 years ago)
180 - the weight I was when I got pregnant with Drake (8.75 years ago)
175 - the weight my doctor told me I needed to be before we should talk about me getting pregnant again (about 9 years ago)

170 is the lowest I recall ever being as an adult. That's where I was when I met my husband (9.25 years ago).

And we'll see what happens after that.

Other indicators of progress:

I can't really SEE it myself yet - despite losing 17.4 pounds this year, since I see myself every day, I don't think I look much different yet. However, I just saw a friend yesterday who hasn't seen me in 2-3 months and she complimented me and said she could definitely see it. And other friends have told me they can tell too. That's always nice to hear.

Clothes - yesterday I wore a pair of jeans that have always fit snugly on me. I could get into them but they were always really tight and never wanted to stay on my ass. They still kind of ride down a bit (I think that's just part of the cut of this particular pair of jeans) but I got into them with no struggle and they stayed on all day comfortably. Today I am wearing a pair of capris that are a size 16. They are a fairly elastic size 16 - I was able to wear them in the past when everything else was a size 18 - but I haven't been able to get into them in about a year. I haven't really noticed a difference as far as my shirts go yet, though I have noticed that most of the time when I look down, I don't see my belly sticking out past my boobs anymore. That's nice.
Current clothing sizes - shirts are still pretty much extra large. Pants are mostly a size 18.

Picture Time!

Me in March of this year, at our Cub Scouts Blue and Gold Dinner.

Me yesterday morning, helping to pack up books to send to a school in Africa so they can have a library. Those are the jeans I mentioned.

Me yesterday, holding a pipe wrench I brought to a friend's OMGWTFBBQ.

Friday, September 14, 2012

My Supplementation Plan

A few days ago I laid out the supplementation plan for week two from The Blood Sugar Solution. If you recall, I am on the advanced plan. I also have high cholesterol. For those playing along at home, that means he wants me to take:
  1. Multivitamin
  2. Vitamin D3
  3. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
  4. Magnesium Glycinate
  5. Alpha Lipoic Acid
  6. Chromium Polynicotinate
  7. Biotin
  8. Cinnamon
  9. Green Tea Catechins
  10. PGX (polyglycoplex; a super fiber)
  11. Protein Powder (to add to a morning protein shake)
  12. Probiotics
  13. Acacia (heartwood extract) and hops extract
  14. Fenugreek seed
  15. Bitter melon gourd fruit extract
  16. Gymnema leaf extract
  17.  Red Rice Yeast
  18. Plant Sterols
Hellooooo Nurse! That's a whole lot of stuff every day. Supplements aren't cheap either, and as we discussed previously, you have to do your due diligence to make sure you trust the source of your supplements or you might not be getting what you think you are getting. After checking into Dr. Hyman's available supplements, I learned it would cost me a good $350 a month to get all of it. It's going to be hard enough to work these into our monthly budget... $300+ is NOT going to work for us. Money's tight and while I am willing to put money into my health, there's only so much we can do. What did I do? I did what Virgos do best.

I made a list!

I wrote out a list of all the supplements I am supposed to take. Then I went shopping. I looked around at local stores. I looked into the brands available and tried my best to determine which sources would be most reliable. I checked prices locally and online. I asked my Facebook friends where they get their supplements and what sources they trust. I checked ingredients and did my best to find products that had as few unwanted additives as possible, and checked to make sure they were all gluten and dairy free. I looked for products that combined supplements on my list in the correct quantities, in an effort to purchase less items and take less pills per day.

In the end I decided to use Vitacost for my supplementation needs. Several of my health-conscious friends use them and have been very happy with the service. The prices are good. A friend works for them, has for several years, and she vouched for them as a company overall and as to the quality of their products.  So then I had to make ANOTHER list. They had several combo products with some overlap in products; I wanted to see which selections would net me the least amount of pills daily for the least amount of cash overall monthly, and still get me what I needed.

So I made a comparison chart.

In the end, they both worked out to the same number of pills daily... 26. Cost-wise it wasn't much different either, but one will save me about $10 a month overall. It'll add up so I went with that one. Currently we are budgeting $150 a month for supplements... less than half of what it would have cost me if I was buying directly through The Blood Sugar Solution. In the end I decided not to take cinnamon (I've read conflicting studies about its efficacy in diabetes, and I cook with it frequently anyway), the protein powder (because I'm not, as yet, drinking any shakes so it would be a moot point), and the acacia and hops - I don't even remember my reasoning on that one. I think I had some trouble tracking it down and at that point I was so damn tired of investigating all these supplements I just said 'these will do for now' and had at it.

Then I made yet ANOTHER list.
So then I placed my first order, set up automated shipping for future orders, and went out and bought a GIANT old-lady style weekly pill container. It's fun to be me. Above is my list of how many pills per day I'm supposed to take and when I'm supposed to take them. I only have to refer to this once a week, when I'm filling my old-lady pill container.

I got my shipment of supplements a couple days ago and am slowly working my way up to taking all of the pills. I'll let you know if anything weird happens. (Like last night, when I woke up in the middle of the night with CRAZY painful diarrhea. Possibly from increasing the fiber amount all the way to max? We'll see how today goes. Not making any supplement changes today to see how my body behaves!)

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Step Out To STOP Diabetes

Click here to view my team page for Chicago's Step Out walk!
 If you read this blog with any regularity, you know I have diabetes, and you know I've struggled with a lot of health problems because of it over the past couple of years. Aside from my personal struggle, I have family members struggling with this disease. Friends. Friends' family members. It is scarily prevalent in our society today. We need drastic changes.

It is with this in mind that I am now inviting you to join me in my quest to prevent and cure diabetes once and for all. Chances are, you also know someone who has been affected by diabetes and you already know how important it is to stop this disease. By making a donation on my behalf, you will be helping the Association provide community-based education programs, protect the rights of people with diabetes and fund critical research for a cure.

If you are unable to make a donation at this time, you can still help. You can register to be a member of my team and join us on the walk. You can spread the word to your friends and family and ask them to help as well.

With your help, we will fight for a future where a parent does not have to hear that their child has diabetes. A future where an adult does not have to face the uncertain times ahead after receiving a diabetes diagnosis. A future where you and I will know that we had a part in making this possible.
I truly appreciate your support. Together we can Stop Diabetes! Thank you.

Week Two: The Blood Sugar Solution

"Nutritional supplements are an essential and effective part of diabesity treatment." - Dr. Mark Hyman
 Week Two of the plan is Optimize Metabolism with Nutritional Supplements. Dr. Hyman says "nutritional supplements are an ESSENTIAL and effective part of diabesity treatment" because "emerging scientific evidence has proven the importance of nutrients as essential helpers in our biochemistry and metabolism". He goes on to discuss how large-scale deficiencies of various nutrients have been well documents in our population. Obesity and malnutrition often go hand in hand, especially with our modern diets, because they sheer amounts of processed, sugary, high calorie, white foods are generally deficient when it comes to supplying nutrients... and they require vitamins and minerals to metabolize, further depleting our body's stores. He lists several additional reasons we are nutrient-deprived in this day and age.

His reasoning for recommending such a variety of supplements, and also his reason why studies into specific supplements often vary in results? "Nutrients work as a team. Broccoli is great for you and can help prevent and cure many diseases, but if all you are was broccoli, you would get sick and die. Nutrients work together to maintain the proper balance in your body."

He goes on to point out that while drugs are regulated, supplements are not. You might get cheap / poorly absorbed forms of the nutrient, or the dosage in the pill may not match the label, or it may have additives or allergens, and so on. He, OF COURSE, sells his own TRUSTED brands of supplements. It's all on his website. Go ahead and check it out; it'll cost hundreds of dollars each month to follow the plan. Bully for him. My advice is to do your own research and find supplements you can trust AND afford. Here's an article that discusses ways to make sure your supplements are safe, including looking for various certifications from some of the regulating agencies out there.

What supplements should you take?
If you are on the Basic Plan (and really, he recommends these for everyone, and to stay on these for life):
  1. Multivitamin - will contain all the basic vitamins and minerals you need
  2. Vitamin D3 - deficiency is epidemic; it influences more than 200 different genes that can prevent and treat diabetes and metabolic syndrome
  3. Omega-3 Fatty Acids - improve insulin sensitivity, lower cholesterol, reduce inflammation, prevent blood clots, and lower the risk of heart attacks
  4. Magnesium Glycinate - helps glucose enter the cells and turn those calories into energy for your body
  5. Alpha Lipoic Acid - powerful antioxidant and mitochondrial booster that has been shown to reduce blood sugar and heal a toxic liver; may also prevent diabetic nerve damage and neuropathy; can improve clearance of glucose from the blood by 50 percent
  6. Chromium Polynicotinate - important for proper sugar metabolism and insulin sensitivity; can help you make more insulin receptors
  7. Biotin - enhance insulin sensitivity, lower triglycerides, reduce expression of cholesterol-producing genes, and improve glucose metabolism
  8. Cinnamon - helpful in controlling blood sugar and improving insulin sensitivity
  9. Green Tea Catechins - helpful in controlling blood sugar and improving insulin sensitivity; can increase fat burning and metabolism
  10. PGX (polyglycoplex; a super fiber) - profound effects on insulin, glucose, and hemoglobim A1C; reduces the absorption of sugars and fats in your bloodstream and helps control appetite, weight loss, blood sugar, and cholesterol; can lower your insulin response after a meal by 50 percent
  11. Protein Powder (to add to a morning protein shake) - rice, soy, hemp, pea, or chia - some are anti-inflammatory and support detoxification, can lower blood sugar and cholesterol.
  12. Probiotics - to counter the damage modern life does to our gut ecosystem
He does note that it's perfectly acceptable, and even recommended, to find products that combine these items as long as they are high-quality and you are taking the recommended doses of each.

If you are on the Advanced Plan, you should take all the supplements listed above and also add these:
  1. Acacia (heartwood extract) and hops extract - regulates critical signaling factors that control your genes, which have been clinically shown to improve insulin sensitivity and fat metabolism
  2. Fenugreek seed - assists in insulin function and helps lower triglycerides and raise HDL cholesterol
  3. Bitter melon gourd fruit extract - helps reduce blood sugar in diabetes
  4. Gymnema leaf extract - lowers blood sugar levels and may help repair the pancreas
He recommends taking the Advanced Plan supplements for one year, then getting your blood tests redone, repeating the self-assessment quizzes, and evaluating your progress.

Finally, he has a section discussing even MORE supplements you can take if you have conditions frequently associated with diabesity, such as elevated cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, etc.

This chapter of the book also discusses the intelligent use of prescribed medications. He cites a study called the Diabetes Prevention Program, which found that medication did not work nearly as well as lifestyle changes, and this effect lasted for even 10 years after the study ended. His goal is to use The Blood Sugar Solution to help patients (with their physician's guidance) reduce or even eliminate many of their prescribed medications, since many of them have limited benefits and significant risks.

The cheat sheet section for week two in the book.
So that's week two... supplements! In addition to following the food rules from week one, of course. As I mentioned yesterday, starting all of them at once gave me quite the stomach ache. I recommend adding them in slowly. I'm going to start adding in one a day... and if I feel any ill effects, hold steady until my body has time to get used to what I'm on, or possibly eliminate the ones I don't seem to be tolerating well.