Challenges to Come!

drunkenclamsThe next couple weeks are going to be a challenge for staying on program. My son is home from Colorado for two weeks. This of course puts us into a celebratory mood. For example, yesterday I made a nice surf and turf supper of “drunken” (cooked in white wine) clams, mussels and shrimp with grilled boneless beef ribs. Paired with a salad, it was fine on the level of carbs and only a bit over my on my daily protein for a Lean & Green meal (keep in mind I was instructed to have an extra 3 ounces of protein each day because of my build).

I did splurge in a way that could have been almost catastrophic. I enjoyed a glass of mead with my supper. The residual sugar could have been enough to push me out of fat burn. However, I checked last night and this morning and I am still going fine. Now, do I feel guilty for having the mead? Not a bit. The whole purpose of my journey is not to deny myself any good thing. The purpose is to build a life on healthy choices and there is a time to drink and a time to abstain. While it would probably be better for me to abstain until my program is over, I allowed myself to choose differently. This was a choice—it was mine to make. While I would never recommend it for anyone else trying to lose weight, the idea that I can only do things I would recommend to others is a fallacy. Recommending something is saying, “You should do this.” Instead, I would tell others, “You must decide for yourself.” It would be different if I told someone, “While on black currant melomelprogram you must not have mead,” and then turned around and had mead while on program—that would be hypocritical and unethical. I encourage each person to choose for themselves, and choose wisely with good information. If you want to stay on program and not risk getting bumped out of fat burn then you must not follow my example in this—the fact that it didn’t knock my body out of fat burn does not mean it will have the same effect on you. There are some things that will definitely have a certain impact on your health—regardless of the person involved. Then there are things that may have one impact on one and a very different impact on another. You must weigh your options and decide for yourself what is best. You must also decide if the enjoyment of your choice is worth the potential impact. Every choice in life involves exchanging one thing or benefit for another—if I do this, I will not be able to do that, etc.

Now, for the reason the rest of this two weeks will be hard. We are taking two trips. One will be to see several relatives in another state. This trip will be hard to stay on program because my relatives will not be on program, and I swore from the beginning not to make others submit to my new lifestyle—that is not fair to them. There are going to be times I must make a decision that will not be best for staying on track. My biggest goal will not be losing a certain amount over the next couple weeks. My primary goal will be keeping myself in fat burn and not making a choice that could spiral me down into carb cravings. After that my goal will be staying as close to program as possible. Beyond that will be the goal of losing something (weight wise) and staying fully hydrated the whole trip—not an easy proposition.

The second trip should be easier. We will be going to Galveston, TX for two nights. While there we will be eating out quite a bit—Gaido’s is hard to pass up! Then there are tourist activities that usually involve sugary snacks and drinks everywhere you look. These will be a temptation. I know it. I expect it.

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Rough Week! Important Choices!

This week, I don’t have a weigh-in to share. As I shared before, I followed my doctor’s orders to drop off my original plan because of some issues with abdominal pain. We now know the pain was not from the program, but from the doctor—or at least from the strong antibiotics he had put me on for an ear infection. The antibiotics worked with some other stuff to inflame my liver. After some changes and the ending of the series of antibiotics the pain is gone.

After it cleared up, I decided to experiment and see how my weight loss would do without going back on program. For about a week and a half I did fine. However, this week, according to my scale I am two pounds heavier than last week. This convinced me to once again make a choice for my health and go back on the original program.

This brings me to two experiences this week I want to share that have to do with temptations and with managing food intake. Earlier in the week, my daughter came over for supper and I really felt like doing something special. I grilled steaks. For the three ladies (my wife, my mother and my daughter) I picked thin steaks—as they prefer. Of course, I like manly steaks—at least 1 inch thick and grilled as rare as possible. If a steak doesn’t leave red in the plate it was ruined.

Of course, a thick porterhouse is going to be much larger than I am supposed to have in one meal. After I grilled the steaks, my daughter reminded me that it was too much for me to have right now. She was right. I appreciated her telling me—though part of me wished she had just shut up. I begrudgingly cut the steak in half to save for later. I enjoyed one half that night. I could still enjoy the thickness, but just had to reduce the size to make up for it. Eating to lose weight does not mean eating garbage. I didn’t have to choke down a “shoe leather” steak. Sometimes it just takes a bit of effort to make good foods fit.

The second episode happened the day I decided to go back on program. That day I had some errands to run around town. I kept feeling stronger temptations to eat unhealthy foods—stronger temptations than I have had since starting. My mind kept saying, “Oh go on! You are off program. You’re going back on tomorrow. Just enjoy today and tomorrow you can restart.” At one point I was passing by a small chicken shop that I knew carried really good fried gizzards. At that moment I just wanted some gizzards—those glorious breaded, chewy, chunks of fried chicken flesh! I could taste them from a hundred yards. I had to have them, so I whipped the car into the store and ran in to order. I was, at that moment so tempted I ordered a double order (16 gizzards). It took about ten minutes for them to get my order done. I’m glad it took that long.

While I stood there waiting, I kept thinking about what I was about to do. Yes, I could go back on tomorrow. I didn’t feel any guilt because I was making a choice that I had a right to make—there was no moral failing. However, I thought about when I dropped off of another famous low-carb program, years ago. I was on that program for two months and lost 50 pounds. I dropped off, because it was so easy, I figured I’d drop off for the holidays and then just restart later. Unfortunately, I went into major carb binging and just stuffed myself. I gained all the weight back and an additional 25 pounds over the next few months.

As I stood there in the store I kept thinking about this and feared I was setting myself up for a bad failure. I didn’t want to start gorging on carbs and lose control. I didn’t want to risk being unable to finish my yearlong commitment to healthy choices. I also did not want to get back to that old fat, lazy, tired, dying self that I once was. I feel good. I enjoy being told how much better I look. I love knowing I have a future and hope for a healthy life. Did I really want to risk all that for a sack of greasy gizzards? Why yes, I did! But I wouldn’t. Instead, I took the sack and gave it to someone I knew would appreciate them. I didn’t eat a single one. Instead I went back home and ate a meal replacement. Did it taste as good as the gizzards? Don’t be silly. But it was chosen by me.

Burger Option

IMG_20140801_173823059My last experiment in using portabella mushroom caps as pizza crust was delicious. After posting it, a friend pointed out that they make a great bread replacement for open faced sandwiches, which gave me an idea. Last night for supper I grilled burgers for the family and decided to make a version that I could have.

Ingredients:

  • Portabella mushroom caps, large enough for hamburger patty
  • Hamburger patty (as lean as you choose to use)
  • Leaf lettuce
  • Goat cheese
  • Tomato
  • Condiment of choice (I used Dijon mustard)

 

Procedure:

  • Remove stem and scrape gills from mushroom caps (a spoon works well for this)
  • Brush olive oil into caps, then salt and pepper
  • Grill burger patties and mushrooms
  • Add goat cheese to top of patty and allow to soften
  • Place patty on mushroom (after removing from grill, of course)
  • Add leaf lettuce, tomato (I grilled mine) and condiments
  • Final step: enjoy!

Weight-loss as Lifestyle

IMG_20140801_072619This is my first official weigh-in after changing my program a little over a week ago. About a week and half ago my doctor asked me to drop off the diet program I was on because of some abdominal pain. He thought I either had gallstones or right-side diverticular disease. Since the purpose of this journey is to build habits through healthy choices, I chose to follow his advice. I decided to drop off the actual program but keep following the principles it taught (eating small meals every 3 hours, low carb, with controlled levels of fat, and lots of fluids, etc.). A couple days later I had continued to lose weight and that was last Friday. I also discovered that my pain was caused by several factors combining with some strong antibiotics the doctor had placed me on. These had given my liver a hit and it had become inflamed. Everything is better now, no more pain.

After that point, I still had a choice—go back fully onto the previous plan or stay where I was to experiment with using the principles I’d learned, without the foods purchased through the program. I chose to keep experimenting with choices to see what would and would not work. The danger was that one of my experiments would drop me out of fat burn and it would take several days of very low carb to get me back into it. I decided to check at least twice a day for a couple days with my Ketostix after each addition. The questions I wanted to answer were several. When I tried and then dropped off a famous low-carb diet back 10 years ago I quickly went on a carb bender and gained back all the weight I had lost as well as an additional 25 pounds. Because of this I wanted to see if I would do the same this time when introducing some new carbs into my routine. I added carrots, Greek yogurt, bananas, as well as the occasional onions. I also wanted to learn how the principles worked with regular store bought food. If the principles are sound, then they should not be material dependent. If the principles work with regular food then the principles are sound (and key to being healthy). If the principles did not work without the packaged foods then the foods were primary and the principles played only a supporting role. Another question I wanted to answer was whether I could actually treat this as a lifestyle rather than a formula. With a formula you follow A to B to C to D and do not waver from this. With a lifestyle you make choices naturally and easily at each step deciding the best route to get from A to D. With a lifestyle you make choices because they fit with the life you are living. With a formula your choices are limited to following the formula or wavering from it. A formula is very effective, especially when first making changes. But it can only be kept up for so long before some variety is desired.

I have been living the principles I learned as a lifestyle for about a week and a half. I have used no packaged foods from my program, but only what I can buy in my local grocery store. Last week I weighed 292 pounds. This week I weighed 286 pounds. I actually weighed lower earlier in the week, but I only take whatever happens on Friday as my official weight. I lost six pounds this week only using the principles I learned and living them as a new lifestyle.

Before you jump to conclusions and think there was no need for any of the other elements of my program—coaching, packaged foods, support network—you are wrong. It was these that helped me to learn the principles I now follow. It was these that made practicing them easy. To try to jump straight into this without that step would have lasted about a week—if that long. I know me well enough to know that early on, if I didn’t have a little box where I could go and take out a package and eat it when the alarm on my phone went off I would have given up long ago. Will I stay off of the packaged items? I don’t know. They are awfully convenient. Besides, I know if following the formula with the packaged foods there is no danger of falling out of fat burn. As it is right now, when I add something new it takes several hours to discover if I screwed up. This wait and the anticipation can be quite discomfiting. I choose to continue this way because I have questions I want to answer and because I want to practice making choices for my health.

I’ve noticed after eating this way for over three months that I no longer crave the things I once craved. I don’t crave potatoes, pasta, bread (though I would still, occasionally, be willing to trade one of my children for a flour tortilla), etc. Last night my wife made chicken for our supper. I asked her how she was going to fix it (in the past she would have fried it). She said she’d bake it because of my diet. I came in the kitchen as we were getting ready to sit down and saw the chicken. It was breaded. I asked her if she had put flour on the chicken. She responded, “No. It’s not flour. It’s bread crumbs.” I got a bewildered look on my face and told her they were ultimately the same thing. She responded, “Well I can’t bake it without putting something on it. I thought you would just scrape it off.” So there I stood over the sink scraping and washing my chicken before I could eat it, even though I was hungry. The interesting thing is that I considered just eating it breading and all, but knowing it would make it harder to make my goal the idea of eating the breading actually repulsed me. I have a weight I want to get to, a level of health I want to return to, and anything that gets in the way of that is not really attractive.

A Great Meal

IMG_20140622_092121This past week I tried something new that I wanted to share. I’m not much of a cook—other than what I can pull out of a smoker or off of a grill—but really enjoyed this very simple Lean & Green meal. That is the keyword for anything I cook: simple. The more complex it is, the less it interests me. This applies to both cooking the food and eating it. I prefer things as close to their natural form as possible. I don’t want a lot of things between me and my food. This caused some interesting conversations with my wife when we first got married. She is Korean, and their cultural cuisine includes powerful marinades for all kinds of meat. One day she asked if I wanted a steak for dinner. Of course I wanted steak. Is there any other food if steak is available? Being a new bride she gladly fixed and brought me my steak. It was OK. She had covered the steak with an assortment of Korean oils and spices. I love those spices and Korean flavors…on Korean food. However, they just weren’t right on this Texas boy’s steak. I told her she did a great job and was a wonderful cook, but that I liked to taste the actual meat. She looked at me like I had two heads. She just couldn’t understand that.

This meal is simple, though it has some great flavor. I put together something another person told me about with a new marinade purchased from Walden Farms—their Asian sauce. These sauces and marinades are great. They are zero sugar, zero carbs, zero fat etc. I know you are thinking, “And zero flavor.” As I’ve said before they are quite good—but not exactly like the full fat, sugar and carb versions. However, I get good flavor and my program counts them as condiments they can go with anything.

I started by thinly slicing three servings of assorted peppers: red, yellow and orange (one serving of each). These I grilled. I topped this with a grilled chicken breast (seasoned with a bit of salt, pepper, and powdered garlic). Finally a small addition of the Walden Farms Asian Sauce and toss everything together. It was quite tasty. It stayed within the limits of my plan. It gives me another way to enjoy a healthy meal.

Choosing and Planning to Succeed

birthdayYesterday was a very special day: my wife’s birthday. Every husband knows what that means. In husband-speak this is the number two “Thou shalt not screw up” day of the year—number one is wedding anniversary. Fail to do something special for your wife’s birthday and you will wish you were dead. Forget your anniversary and you might as well be dead. This means last night had to be a special time. I took my wife, one of our daughters and my mother out to dinner. My wife has two favorite cuisines: Korean and Mexican. Since the daughter had already taken her out for Korean the night before, this meant I was going to be taking them to Mexican food last night.

One major obstacle with this is my program. You have to understand that this Texas boy loves Mexican food. I’m not talking about the stuff you’d get in a small restaurant on the other side of the Rio Grande. I mean that I love what we call Tex-Mex: enchiladas, fajitas, flour tortillas, chips and salsa, and my favorite (…wait for it…) barracho beans! Now if you look at the list you’ll see that most of these items are verboten until I lose the weight and go on maintenance (which I am far from). How was I going to handle this? The only possibility was to take some time and make a plan.

I had to choose if I was going to break my program, eat non-discriminately, drop out of fat burn and then just return to the program the next day, or if I was going to make choices in line with my program and goals. Either choice is fine, so long as it is freely chosen. Feeling guilty for choosing one or the other is silly and a waste of emotional energy. Face your choice; make your choice; live with your choice; prepare for the next choice and move on. If you look at the name of my blog you will see that I stress health being a choice. I can choose to act in a way that maintains or improves my health or I can choose to act in a way that is less healthy or even choose to be blatantly unhealthy. The problem is when the cravings start making the choices for me. It is hard to be sure the choice is your own when craving carbs and sugars as your body responds to fluctuating insulin and sugar levels. This means choices have to be made when these things are not happening.

I approached the night and dinner out this way. I faced the choice: I was going to take my wife out to dinner in a Mexican restaurant and I was going to do it in a way that would keep me in fat burn. This meant that my meal, possibly not qualifying as a perfect Lean & Green meal, would be one that came very close from the choices available. This meant several smaller choices were necessary. First choice, there would be no chips and salsa. Second choice, the meal would be mostly salad of lower carb vegetables. Third choice, the meat would be either low fat to moderate fat, limited to a reasonable volume. Fortunately, I had eaten in this place before and knew there was a possibility on their menu.

With my plan formulated, I started by checking my urine with a Ketostix (I did this at home, not at the restaurant). My ketosis was 15 mg/dL, so I knew I was in reasonable fat burn. I would check after and wanted to be reasonably close to this level. We went to dinner and had a good time. I do have to admit that making my choice beforehand and working to stick to it was helpful. Had I just gone and made the choice when looking at the menu, the choice might have gone very differently. It was a bit difficult sitting there while everyone else had chips and salsa. I had to remind myself of my choices a couple times. Then came the food. I ordered a beef fajita salad. My wife and daughter both had beef fajitas and my mother had beef enchiladas (yes, we are beef people). My salad was almost perfect. I forgot to ask them to drop the cranberries—my wife took them. I had to pick through and remove these. My plate also included half an avocado. I can have part of this, but not in combination with the beef. I gave the avocado to my daughter. I also forgot about the cheese, but I am supposed to have extra protein so I just enjoyed it—it was mostly mozzarella so low enough fat to not be a problem.

I think the hardest part was reminding myself why I couldn’t have chips and salsa, tortillas or barracho beans during the meal. Especially since my dinner partners were obviously enjoying these. This would have been easier if they had also avoided the things I wasn’t permitted, but this is my program, not theirs. Besides, I will be spending the rest of my life making choices for my own health even when others make very different choices.

So how did I do on fat burn? A couple hours later, once we got back home, I checked again with another Ketostix. I was still unchanged at 15 mg/dL.

Staying on program can be done. First it takes a choice. Next it takes a plan to put that choice into action. Then follow the plan. This may take reminding oneself of the choice or the reason for the choice, but it is easier if starting with a plan.

What choices are you making? Do you have a plan? Remember the old saying, “A failure to plan is plan for failure.”

Another week, a smaller me!

IMG_20140613_071344Today’s weekly weigh-in is my eighth since starting the program. I started out at 384 lbs. Today I weighed 318 lbs. I’ve lost 66 pounds and 40% of my weight loss goal.

The difference this has made is astounding. I am sleeping better. I get around easily, without getting out of breath. When I was at my heaviest (425 lbs.), I got out of breath walking to the refrigerator. I noticed back then that I always breathed heavily. It even affected my speaking—and since I speak for a living, it reduced the enjoyment of my job.

When first starting this program, the first few weeks were very easy. You would assume that it would get even easier because of familiarity. I just keep plugging along, and have to put little thought into it, so it should be a snap, right? Actually, I’ve noticed temptations that never caused problems early on have gotten harder. Early on, this was new. I was seeing the weight falling off and was so relieved to see a change that the old foods didn’t entice me in the slightest. Now, I feel so good, it can be hard to remind myself of the need to keep going. Now I am in the stage of, “Just hold on and keep going.”

One thing I try to remind myself is that while I feel so wonderful right now, I am not at a healthy weight. The last time I weighed this amount was when we lived in Idaho back around 2005. I didn’t feel healthy back then. I felt terrible. I feel wonderful now, for two main reasons:

(1)    I am comparing myself to when I weighed 425 lbs. and not when I weighed 225 lbs. That lower weight was so long ago that I cannot even remember those days. Feelings are always relative. If I were looking at today from my maximum weight days I would tell you that I feel great. I I looked at today from my goal weight, I would tell you that I am nowhere near being healthy, and not really feeling healthy. Right now I am not feeling health. I am feeling relief from my most unhealthy days.

(2)    Blood sugar has a huge impact on our feelings. I don’t feel so great right now just because of the weight. I feel this good because the program helps me to maintain my blood sugar level through the day. I am not experiencing the highs and lows, the cravings and the desire for sugar, or the draggy feeling as my body tries to consume all the extra sugars. If I dropped off the program and went back to my old habits, I’d feel some of the relief of the lower weight, but the old feelings of ill health would come back and before long these would drag me right back up to my old “laying at death’s door” weight.

Every day now is a reminder to keep going forward. This new life has to become habit. I need to get to the point that I eat right, not because a program tells me to do it, but because the good foods, in the healthy amounts and the right proportions are what I actually want. This can only come through building habits. Habits take time. There is no miracle pill taking us from bad habits to good or from illness to health. Now that the newness has worn off, the real work, and discipline come into play.

One thing my coach recommended was going back to the early creativity in preparing my Lean & Green meals. When we first IMG_20140613_071412started I wanted to find new things that I liked. I wanted to develop new tastes and learn to prepare new foods. After a few weeks of that I’ve gotten lazy again and try to get by with preparing the easiest quickest meals. To turn this back around yesterday I made myself a steak topped salad. It is one of my new favorites. It is romaine, spinach, and celery with a bit of Feta Cheese and dressed lightly with a Balsamic Vinaigrette. I then grilled about 4 ounces of steak, sliced it thin and laid it on the salad. I am attaching a picture. Sorry for those who are squeamish. I cook my steaks the right way—Blue Rare.