Pizza!!!!

IMG_20140729_115802This week I experienced a strong case of lust that was just driving me crazy. No. I was not lusting after another woman (or any other person, for that matter). This lust is far harder to resist. It shames me to admit I have been seriously lusting after pizza. I know. I can feel your judging eyes on me. I can hear the talking behind my back, “He’s the one with an unnatural attraction to pizza!” I feel such shame, such guilt.

Not really. But I do have to admit I truly love pizza. Think about it. Put together bread, sauce, meat, cheese, veggies (if you must, gag!) into a big circle; cook it; slice it, and pick up a portion to walk along eating happily. If there is any food that must have been invented by angels it has to be pizza. Of course, if you eat too much of it you will meet the angels far earlier than otherwise. It isn’t exactly health food.

I decided to find a way to scratch this itch before it drove me nuts. Most of the things I would want on the pizza would be fine. The two problem areas were the sauce (usually full of sugar—at least if made right) and the crust (a major carbohydrate bomb—primed for a glorious carb explosion). Since I’ve been forced to change my program around a bit, I’m getting more creative. However, I have to be careful to not carelessly introduce foods that will throw me off course. Once I reach my goal weight you can believe I’ll have the occasional slice of really good pizza (pardon me while I close my eyes and dream of that day for a moment or three). Right now, it’s just not an option—or is it?

I am familiar with cauliflower pizza, but must admit when it comes to food I suffer from what my mom used to call “lazy butt” syndrome. It just seems like too much work. I wanted pizza. I wanted it now! I did some research and found a great recipe for a pizza using a large portobello mushroom cap for a crust.

Here’s what I did:

  • Large Portobello Mushroom cap, cleaned, stem removed and gills scraped out with a spoon
  • Place the cap on a baking pan; brush on some olive oil, then salt and pepper
  • Roast the caps at 425 degrees for 10-20 minutes depending on the size
  • Remove from oven
  • Brush in Walden Farms pasta sauce
  • I added a couple slices of pepperoni to each and some sliced olives
  • Cover with Mozzarella cheese
  • Return to oven and cook until cheese is melted and bubbly

I have made these on two different occasions. I love it because it is like having a pizza with extra mushrooms (a sign of really good pizza).

I could eat these every day. I have satisfied my burning desire for pizza. Mine doesn’t look nearly as pretty as the original site’s pictures, but it looks a lot worse now. I can guarantee that!

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Forced to make some changes for a time

IMG_20140725_072808This week has seen a major change to my program. On Monday I started having a strong pain in my right side. I also had been suffering constipation for some time. I went to the doctor on Tuesday morning when my symptoms had increased. The doctor took blood, urine and an X-ray. He determined that I did not have appendicitis, my liver enzymes and other tests were good, and I didn’t have kidney stones. The options were either gall stones or right-side diverticular disease. We scheduled a sonogram for next Friday, and can only weight. He also recommended I drop off the diet and eat more food to see if the symptoms subsided.

I spoke to my coach, who in consultation with nutrition support, advised me on how to proceed. I have since Tuesday been off of my original diet plan and am kind of winging it to continue to lose, while consuming more volume and a wider variety of foods. Since I neither have prepared foods form most of the day nor clear guidance for the rest, I have to make many more choices about volume, types and combinations of food.

The first thing I have done is refuse to go back to the old see-food diet (if you see food, you eat it). I have to think things through and plan what I will and will not eat. I’ve allowed myself carbs I never would have allowed on plan. However, some foods I am still completely avoiding: potatoes, noodles, white rice, etc. The white rice is hard because my wife is Korean and we have it available in copious amounts at most times. She has nicely made brown rice for me. Believe me, it doesn’t taste quite right with Korean dishes, but it beats the sugar bomb of white rice—there is a reason diabetes is running rampant in Asia, rice.

I have added oatmeal and Greek yogurt to my diet. This is hard without sweeteners (gag!), but I have discovered the Walden Farms pancake syrup (zero carbs, zero sugars, zero calories) makes both quite palatable with no impact to my blood sugars. I’ve ordered their fruit spreads and will try adding then to these.

I am still eating my Lean & Green style meals. I just eat a larger volume and more than one a day. My pain is gone, and the other problems seems to be going away too.

Before you make the mistake of thinking my diet caused this, understand that if my doctor is right then it was not caused by my diet. If I have gallstones, then likely I had them before and they are simply manifesting now. This is not uncommon for low-carb dieters. They may have grown during the diet, but it is unlikely that I went from no stones to bad stones in such a short time. If I have diverticular disease then I had it before and it was simply not displaying symptoms. Now it is. So, once again, it is not because of the diet. The diet may have inflamed it to show symptoms, but that is not the cause. One major error to avoid is what is known in logic as post hoc ergo propter hoc. This means “after this, therefore because of this.”  Just because one thing happens after another does not mean the one caused the other.

This morning is my weekly weigh-in I weighed 292 lbs. This is a four pound loss.

This week’s weigh-in and thoughts

IMG_20140718_133538This week’s official weight is 296 lbs. The last time I was less than 300 lbs. was in 2004. I am now 53% to my goal having lost 88 lbs. on my current program. From my lifetime highest I have lost 129 lbs. total. This number (approximately 130 pounds) has got me to thinking about one of the major problems that comes with being so overweight. I used to hear people often say that all one had to do to lose weight was to eat less and get up and exercise. This is easier said than done.

I was carrying an extra 130 pounds around in fat. Think about what else in this world weighs that much. My wife weighs around 120 lbs. or so. Imagine her carrying a 10 pound weight and me carrying her everywhere I go, every moment of every day. Bricks weigh somewhere around 4 lbs. each. That means I was carrying the equivalent of 32 bricks everywhere I went. Sit in a chair and place 32 bricks in your lap (the general area where most weight is carried) and try to stand up. This should make it obvious that telling a fat person, “Just get up and do something” is either insensitive or cruel. It shows a serious lack of understanding (or caring about) their situation. It is easy for the skinny person to say this, because he has much less to lift.

Now imagine this weight being placed on you whether you want to carry it or not. You can’t escape it. Dropping a brick each week, might look attractive when you only have four or five bricks to carry, but when carrying 35 this looks like it will take forever. It is like looking into a tunnel that is too deep to see the light at the other end. This makes the overweight person depressed. What do people want when depressed? They want comfort. What is the overweight person usually drawn to for comfort? He wants food. It is often the attempt to assuage emotional lack that got the person overweight to begin with.

While it is true that the only way to successfully lose weight and get healthy is to decrease intake of food and increase the burning of calories, telling this to a fat person is like dangling water in front of a parched man. A plan is needed. Support is needed. When those small steps seem to be taking too long, someone needs to help draw the attention to how far the person has come, not how much farther they have to go. Perhaps that person can’t get up right now—you might not be able to if you were carrying along a whole other human being in weight—but can start with decreasing intake. Perhaps instead of telling that person that all he needs is more discipline, or he just needs to do it, you can encourage him to not look to food for comfort. Perhaps you can be a comforter in the place of the food.

Weekly weigh-in, a bit late

IMG_20140714_072034This week was a wild roller coaster ride for weigh-ins. On the Fourth of July, I visited a friend’s house for some celebratory fun. The place was full of food and drinks—almost all of which forbidden on my program. I decided before going, that even though I had already eaten my Lean & Green meal for the day, to allow myself a splurge, but only items that had zero carbs. High fat would be allowed, but not carbs because I wanted to have some relaxed fun with my friends, but did not want to pay for it for several days trying to get back into fat burn. Though the table was spread with delicious food, I limited myself to several pieces of brisket—this is Texas after all, and we have special dispensation from the governor to include brisket on any diet plan and it doesn’t count against you, neither will it ever make you gain weight. That last was a joke, but I might talk to my representative to get that law passed in the next session.

However, during the week before I hadn’t been hydrating properly. To be honest I just didn’t want to drink that much water. I should have made myself though, because my weight loss suffered, and so did my body. Dizziness, constipation, etc. all were my rewards for not drinking enough fluid. All of this was stacked on top of not losing much weight during the week. Of course, the weight could have been because I am down lower and going into a more normal weight loss pattern.

The important thing to keep in mind though is that all of this happened with my free choice. I chose to eat far more fat one day, and that is fine. It just means I have to make adjustments to my expectations. There is no guilt; no concept of having cheated; no making up for it.

Friday I weighed 302 lbs. which would be a one pound loss from the week before. However, a couple hours later I weighed 300 lbs.IMG_20140714_071954 That would be a three pound loss. I’ll take the latter as the official weight for the week, since (1) it was closer to the usual time for me to weigh each week; (2) it was in exactly the same physical condition in which I weigh each week, while the earlier one was not; (3) it’s my program and I can do that.

I have over the last few days been very careful to fully hydrate—or as close to it as possible. I have also reevaluated to make sure I am exactly on program. My program has been altered by the nutritionist because of my own body conditions—for example, I am to have 3 more ounces of protein a day than usual in the program because of my build and certain other health concerns.

IMG_20140714_072110This morning I weighed again and was at 296 lbs. We’ll see over the next few days how accurate that number is and if I am lower than this by Friday—my next weigh-in day. The nice thing to consider is that this is the first time I have been under 300 lbs. since 2004.

Mongolian Grill at Home

IMG_20140707_114006Today I tried a new idea—sort of a new idea for me. I love Mongolian grill. I love the fresh vegetables and meats with sauces cooked on a rocket hot surface. I decided to try a version of it at home for my Lean & Green meal today. It turned out so good, I wanted to share it. I am definitely going to make it again and make it often.

Such cooking takes a hot surface that can spread the heat. To do this in many pans is difficult because they will have one area that is far hotter than the others. I have an old Wok we bought my wife years ago, but it is not really that good, since the metal is far thinner than it should be. I decided for my experiment to use a large cast iron skillet—one that I have owned and used for years.

For the green portion of my meal—three servings—I used one serving each of mushrooms, red sweet pepper (both sliced in thin strips), and broccoli. For the lean portion, I used 6 ounces of chicken breast cut into ¼ inch thick strips.

Once everything was prepared, I heated the skillet until it was hot. With such cooking I start with a hot pan before adding the oil. I wanted to cook the broccoli to soften and have plenty of time to get some good searing/crust, so I added some oil to the pan and after a moment to spread it around the surface I added the broccoli (with chicken I am allowed an additional fat and this oil was part of it. Use oil with a reasonably high smoke point. I used Canola). The broccoli cooked by itself for a few minutes then, I lowered the heat a bit and added the rest of the vegetable portions. While these cooked (stirring regularly), I added a bit of salt and Asian sesame oil to the chicken (my wife is Korean so we have this by the gallon). Once the vegetables had cooked for a few minutes I added the chicken breast to the pan and cooked everything together. Once the chicken was seared a bit on all sides, I added Walden Farms’ Asian sauce to the pan and let it continue to cook—stirring often.

After everything is properly cooked, pour into a plate and enjoy.

Celebrating my Weight Independence Day!

IMG_20140704_072449Today is another weigh-in Friday. My official weight this morning is 303 lbs. This means I am 49% of the way to my goal weight, and have lost 81 lbs. on my program, and 122 lbs. from my highest weight. I’ve been on the program for 11 weeks, so I have averaged 7.36 lbs. lost per week. At this rate I can expect to be at goal weight in the next four months—though it will likely slow more as I get lower. After that, the rest of the time in my year-long journey will be spent transitioning and learning to maintain my weight, while building up my activities to once again enjoy many of the things I loved when younger.

Today is Independence Day, and I have new reasons to celebrate. I thought for this day, I would share some of the things I am celebrating this year as a result of losing so much weight.

While looking at the scale is fun and interesting—and occasionally stressful—I have to say this is not the best part of losing weight. The best part of losing weight is really hard to put my finger on. The benefits are such that it is hard to measure them to see which one is the single best. So many things about losing weight make me happy that I don’t think I can look at one and say that is the best part, with the possible exception of two things. One is my wife’s smile when she sees how much I’ve lost. She has been my greatest cheerleader in this. Whenever she hears a lower weight she cheers. When I make a choice to stay on program she commends me. When anyone else encourages me to do something that would break my program or knock me out of fat-burn she gets very protective. Second (though only in order reported but not in the level of joy given) is the hugs of my daughters. When my daughters hug me and comment on how far their arms go around me it lifts my spirits. One of my daughters has mentioned several times just how thin my arms are getting. Don’t hear that wrong. I didn’t say skinny. There has never been anything skinny about me. However, I have lost weight all over, especially my arms, legs and face. My abdomen is taking a bit longer, but this is normal.

There are other joys that I get to experience now. When I enter an office waiting room, I don’t have to consider the strength of the chairs. I have destroyed many chairs in my life. This last week I was at the local University. The University has a huge flight of stairs that I used to avoid. Now I take the stairs, easily. I no longer dread shopping for clothing—at least no more than the average guy. I look forward to seeing my new pants size, or shirt size. I love that I had to have my watch resized to fit my arm. It feels good to sit in my wife’s car and not have my belly almost touching the steering wheel. The car is a small Hyundai, and now I can sit in the seat and move my legs side to side. I like the fact that I can sit in a chair to read and actually cross my legs and rest the book on my legs rather than on my belly. I can do this with my computer too, making it a laptop computer rather than a belly-top computer.

Next month I have a meeting in Arlington, and rather than drive I chose to fly. I love flying, always have, but have hated planes being as heavy as I was. It had gotten to the point that I had to force my hips down into the seat and ask for a seat-belt extension. No more! I can’t wait for this flight. One other thing about flying: when at my heaviest, I had to make sure to use the bathroom before getting on the plane. If I had managed to get in the plane’s facilities, they would have needed a tub of butter to get me out.

Another benefit is only experienced when going out to dinner. For years when we went out I had to ask for a table, because I didn’t fit in booths. It’s hard to eat when the booth table is cutting you in half and the only thing that can bend is your neck. Well, booths are more private and encourage better and more intimate conversation. Now, when entering a restaurant we can sit in a booth and I have yet to find one that doesn’t fit. For those who have never had a weight problem you have no idea how great this one is. Imagine this scenario: a morbidly obese man enters a restaurant with his little tiny wife (as mine is). They sit at a table and order their food. It is natural for those around to judge that person the entire time he is eating. Yes, I’m sure most of you are mature enough not to do this; but one, it does happen; and two, that man is sure it is happening even if it is only in his imagination. This makes it very difficult to enjoy what should have been a nice night out with a loved one.

me at heaviest

Me prior to weightloss.

This brings up another benefit to celebrate this year. The psychological impact of being greatly overweight is immeasurable. You feel everyone is judging you. You feel every eye on you at times. You know when you sit in a chair it might break, making a scene. You have to sit where you fit, making it apparent how large you are. In a waiting room, you know it will take you extra effort to remove your bulk from the chair. You make a joke of it, to cover, but the eyes haunt you deep down inside. On a flight you have to request a belt extender while publicly squeezing yourself into a seat. You also audibly hear the release of breath in relief when people on the flight realize you are not going to be sitting next to them. It gets frustrating when looking for clothes and no store seems to have your size. When the only thing in a store that fits is socks, it does something to you inside. When you meet a new person, you notice their eyes scanning your belly and you know you have just been sized up—in more ways than one. When you go to a job interview, if you don’t get the job you can never be sure if it was your skills, your resume, or your bulk that prevented it. When you are shopping for certain things, you find yourself looking for something others never look at—the tag showing the weight limit, which more often than not means you can’t buy it. It can also be very depressing when you go to the office of the doctor who is supposed to help you lose weight and you discover none of his scales go high enough to weigh you.

There is one other thing that truly hurts when being as large as I was: when my wife would cut my toenails. If this had been due to a bad back or an injury it would have been different, but doing it because I couldn’t easily reach over my belly was shameful. She always did it with a smile, but I knew it was just not right and was a result of my own choices.

Now, many may see this post as being very depressing. Actually it is a celebration because by making healthier choices these no longer describe me. I am free from them. While I still have a ways to go—a long way to go—I am moving forward.

Celebrate your Independence Day to day. If you are struggling with your weight, it is time to declare your own Independence and do something about it.

Stress and Sleep Impact Health and Weight

Businessman with the World on his ShouldersMost of my posts on this site have been about my weight loss program, but there is more to being healthy and choosing health. There is also more to losing weight than just the types and amount of food you eat. One other dimension of health is proper sleep. Getting enough sleep so that your body can rest is very important.

We may think nothing is getting done while sleeping. This thought has been my problem for years. All my life I have been the early riser. I have always woken up with a head full of things that need done. Since my office is in my house, getting to my desk is one of my first steps each morning. For years I would get up sometime between 4 and 5 AM (my wife’s alarm goes off at 4), then stop off for coffee in the kitchen and go straight to my desk and start my day. I would usually start work within ten minutes of waking up. This morning I’ve have had my first meal replacement, have checked the church’s social media sites, have checked church’s email accounts, have laid out plans for the day, and have started this blog post. I got out of bed only a half hour ago. This is the best part of working at home.

Being this way, I often saw sleep as unproductive time. When I woke, my mind would spark on ideas and I’d jump up and go to work—I’m sure those who barely crawl out of bed want to shoot me right about now. On top of this, I’m not very good at taking naps. I seldom enjoy them. However, I had to learn to see sleep as something other than unproductive, do-nothing time. During sleep is your body does a great deal of housekeeping: waste disposal, endocrine balancing, muscle building, etc. If you don’t get enough sack time these things don’t get done well. One choice I’ve made is to get enough sleep each night, shooting for 7 to 8 hours. Of course, this is not always possible, especially when under stress.

Stress related sleep problems can be a triple threat to losing weight and getting healthy. Under stress your body releases cortisol. This causes your body to desire carbs and sugars. It also causes you to store more of your intake as reserves. This is fine if stress involves possible running from a sabre toothed cat on the Eurasian steppe or a leopard on the Serengeti, but not so good for an overweight man who sits in an office chair all day. One way your body gets rid of cortisol is through good deep sleep. The more you sleep, the more cortisol is removed from your body. The less you sleep the less is removed and the more problems this can cause. Then stress, which makes your body produce this cortisol, makes it hard to sleep. So, this very system meant to help becomes a source of defeat. Cravings go up; need for caffeine increases; less sleep is possible as you worry; more cortisol is produced and less is removed; and you end up in a downward spiral. The most insidious part is that, for men at least, the hardest fat to lose is around the midsection (abdominal fat). Guess where cortisol packs it on? Cortisol contributes to abdominal fat—right there, where it is hardest to remove.

I decided early on to change my waking time to around 6 AM. I’m still in my office within 5 minutes, so it makes little difference for productivity. However, it gives my body between 7 and 8 hours each night. Lately though, I’ve been under a lot of stress with several personal and professional choices. This has made falling asleep, and staying asleep more difficult. One of the great things about losing weight has been the loss of my C-PAP machine. I no longer need it for sleep. However, over the last couple weeks stress has started affecting my sleep. For a while I found myself unable to fall asleep for long periods of time and then sleeping very lightly. I wear a Jawbone UP24 which monitors my sleep patterns telling me how long I spend in each sleep stage (light or sound sleep) and how often I awaken. I noticed it becoming harder to fall asleep, harder to fall back asleep when waking during the night, and harder to stay in bed after my wife’s alarm went off at 4 AM. I also noticed that what time I did sleep was being reported as less and less sound sleep and more light sleep by the Jawbone app.

The biggest problem has been thoughts that just won’t leave my head. I was finding it harder and harder to disengage my mind. Then I would finally fall fitfully asleep and then seemed to wake continuously through the night. If I didn’t find a way to undo this, it would sabotage all the healthy choices I was trying to make. A couple nights ago I decided upon a strategy to try, which I’ll share here for others who may be struggling.

I have for years practiced various forms of journaling. I usually have four journals going at once. One is a small notebook that I carry in my pocket to jot down quick thoughts and ideas. Many of my blog ideas get written down in there to work on later. Another is a journal where I write down personal thoughts and conclusions on various scripture passages—it will contain Greek and Hebrew word studies, outlines of passages, etc. A third journal is where I write down my thoughts on various theological and philosophical problems, etc. For example, when I jot down my thoughts on arguments about the existence of God, or the problem of evil those thoughts go in the philosophical journal. My final journal is the traditional type. It is a bound book with lined blank pages where I record my deepest thoughts and meditations. I’ve always slept with the small journal next to my bed with a pen in case an idea struck during the night—I could write it down and put it aside until morning.

A couple nights ago I decided on an experiment. I had noticed that after journaling on a problem I usually felt better. I decided to move the journal to my nightstand and, every night before bed, write down my thoughts, fears, apprehensions, emotions, etc. Then when I lay my head down, anytime something would creep in to remind me of a stressful situation, I would tell myself, “It’s already in the book. I can’t fix it tonight, but will work on it in the morning.” Then I would try to think about something comforting or relaxing. In this way I could put off thinking about those things, knowing I could go back to them in the morning. Upon waking, I open the journal and look through what was written the night before and use it as part of my planning the day. This way, when trying to sleep, I have assurance things will still get taken care of.

Over the last two nights, I’ve gotten an average of eight hours sleep and most of that has been deep sleep (an average of over 5 hours each night) according to my monitor. I feel much more rested. Hopefully cortisol levels will be helped. Now, I know this is not scientific. I also know it is only two nights. However, my personal experiences tell me it works for me. Try it if you want and see if it helps you to get better sleep.