Sunday, April 24, 2011

Clean Eating and Journaling

Easter is officially over in about THREE hours. (Yes, I am counting the hours.)
How well did YOU eat this long holiday weekend?
Even I, (eyes to the floor, kicking my feet in the 'pretend' dust) veered off into the world of evil food eating. No, nothing with gluten. I still feel sorry for my poor small intestine (after the catastrophe at the BBQ restaurant a few weeks ago and I REALLY don't want to get sick - again). But alas.. some non-organic carbs and grains found their way into my meals. This weekend, a friend I discovered a fabulous restaurant and went back TWO days in a row. A complete and fabulous food-fest. Great food. Great company. Laughter (lots), and yes, too much really good food.
WAYYYYY too much food. Or did I mention that already?
Now, how do I compensate? Shall I beat myself up? (I could.) Continue on the bad food path? Or shall I step right back on the platform of clean healthy eating? What I do now may be the single most important moment in my meal planning and in my mindset of my week ahead.
I use the experience of my "going off-plan" to strengthen my long-term clean eating success. The choice is mine. Now the discipline begins. How about you? Ready?

The choice is up to you too.
Do you notice you're a bit hungrier after eating more carbohydrates (and/or sugars) than normal? 
After you have been "low-carbing" and clean eating for a while, your body stops producing some of the enzymes needed to digest complex starches and (sugars).  I think that is a good thing.
It takes a day or two for these to ramp back up.
When you eat excess carbohydrates, your blood sugar may go up a lot higher than it normally would, even if you don't usually have blood sugar problems. This is why some researchers have reported that low-carb diets can actually cause insulin resistance. (I've talked about that in previous blogs.)

In fact, for most people, this is only a very temporary phenomenon. Most people will start making the enzymes they need within a day or two and when that happens their insulin resistance will return to its normal state. But until that happens, blood sugars may surge abnormally high and then rebound much lower than usual. When this happens the brain interprets it very simply and screams, "I'm starving! Feed me! Eat! Eat!"

If you don't know that the hunger is only your blood sugar talking, that craving can send you into a high carbohydrate, high sugar downward spiral.

Hard to deal with is the unexpected hunger you encounter after you've gone back to eating a low carb, "clean" diet.

You may wake up morning after a big carb-fest and eat a perfectly decent low-carb breakfast only to find yourself yearning to stuff yourself with whatever high carb food is your personal downfall at lunch. Once again, there is a physiological explanation for this.

Normal people's pancreas cells produce and store insulin between meal times. Then, at the very beginning of a meal your pancreas releases enough of that stored insulin to cover the carbohydrates it expects to come pouring in. This release happens at very beginning of a meal, before you take a single bite. It may happen when you first sniff delicious food, and it ensures that your blood sugar will never rise above a healthy base level.

But there's a hitch. The amount of insulin that body releases is set by how much carbohydrate it has encountered in your previous couple meals.

If your previous meals were full of carbohydrates, your pancreas will release a lot of insulin. If you virtuously consume a low carb meal, that insulin finds no sugars to store--except the glucose in your blood that is meant to feed your cells.

As a result, the insulin removes this glucose from your blood, giving you low blood sugar. Once again the brain interprets this low blood sugar as an emergency and starts screaming, "I'm starving! Feed me!"

It may take a day or two or even three, depending on your own physiology, until your pancreas adapts to your new, lower intake of carbohydrates. When that happens, the hunger signal will quit, you'll sigh a great sigh of relief, and low-carbing will once again be easy to do.
So....let's get back on track, shall we?
The most helpful thing you can do when you go off-plan and eat more carbohydrates than you are used to, is to put on your "science researcher" hat, stand back, and observe the fascinating changes that are happening in your body, and your head. Yes, your head.

Your "research project" is to track what happens to your body for week after you have had your carb-fest. Take notes. The information you gather now will be extremely helpful to you next time you have a carb-fest - whether intentional or accidental. 
Check your weight (just once!) in the morning the first day during this week, log it, and guesstimate how long it will take to come off. 
(I despise scales.)

For example, in my own "research project" I found that I always gain a few pounds after boosting my carb intake over 60 grams per day, if I am not exercising hard core and logging the running miles. After I drop my carbs below 60 grams a day, it takes three days for the (mainly water) weight to come back off. If I carb-load for more than a day or two, it may take as long as a week until all the water weight goes way.
Note how much carbohydrates you ate during your carb-load. 
Should I even tell you about my carb load? You may want to be seated. <laughing>
They involved very beautiful presented corn nachos with lots of veggies, cheese and jalapenos. Oh, and the additional servings of corn chips and bean dips and salsa... I forgot to mention the chocolate covered almonds and nuts too. Heaven.
Shhhhh. But, it's out of my system now. Clean eating is in front of me for the week ahead.
 (I almost "oinked" after I wrote that.)
When you go back on your low-carb, clean eating diet, keep track of what you eat and how you feel in hours after you eat it. Note any cravings and jot down when they occurred and how intense they were. Journal!  (No, it's not that hard.)

I expect these cravings to last a few days, and do what you can to avoid giving in to them.  Mine will involve exercise, and discipline. If you give your pancreas an excuse to secrete a lot of insulin, it will keep doing it and you will continue to have those cravings. If you can hold out for a few meals and not give into the cravings, your pancreas will calm down, your insulin levels will drop, and you will no longer be hungry.

Meanwhile, track those cravings so that you can determine for future use, just how long it takes for them to clear.
When you do journal, you will have collected information that will be extremely helpful next time you fall into the food free-for all.

As you return to your low-carb diet and immediately find yourself obsessing about dark chocolate almonds (Oh, that's me...) you've made it tough for the self-hatred tape to start playing, because, armed with the journal, you will be expecting to crave something, have a plan (that's next) and when that craving hits, you'll respond, "Dark chocolate almonds! Right on schedule. I'm going to be ravenous until tomorrow, crave more almonds.. but then I'll feel fine again." Because you know if you can just hold out for another couple hours you'll be okay, you'll be (or should I say I will be) a lot less likely to eat (more) those chocolate almonds.

Even if you do give in to your cravings, your "science project" continues. Observe your response to food you eat and note how it affects your hunger. Did it satisfy? Did it make you hungrier? Was it good? Did it make you feel guilty and filled with self-loathing? Note it all down in your journal. By doing this, you will collect the useful information that will help you master your cravings. You'll get back on your diet. You'll understand the way your body works just a wee bit better. 

Saturday, April 9, 2011

What are YOU eating?

How safe are you when you dine out in restaurants? I am referring to (food) allergies, chemicals and poisons? Really! I write this with all seriousness. 

For many, who dine out in blissful ignorance, they will brush this off with a veil of denial, but if you're like me, and you truly care about what fuels your body, this will be more than a gentle reminder.
I've been quite vocal about my allergy to wheat. People always lament, "What a bummer..." and "That must suck..." Does it, for me? Not really. Should it? The foods usually laden with wheat proteins are typically foods like pasta, bread, cookies, cereals and chips. I wouldn't eat those anyways; it's all processed junk. (There. I said it.)

In the food industry, words are tossed around so casually... "gluten-free" and "gluten intolerance", but then there are those like me, who truly have a gluten ALLERGY.

I've never complained about having Celiac's Disease.. and I don't apologize when I am a pain in the ass to wait-staff in restaurants. I just need to be cautious about which foods are hidden with wheat (and there are thousands) that I steer clear of in my diet.
Tonight, my dinner companion (a serious healthy eater) and I chose a brand new BBQ restaurant. The restaurant is crowded, with a forty-minute wait. Somewhat of a good sign. (It means the food is good, for the most part, right?)  I can ALWAYS find something on the menu, too, even in the trickiest of restaurants. (Tonight was the eye opener.)

My first "test" of a restaurant is (yes, really) the bathroom(s). How clean are they? That speaks VOLUMES of what may happen next. (Should have listened to my inner voice.) 
As I am walking into (remember- this place is brand new and only opened for a week) the restroom, a wait-staff comments to me, "Don't use the first stall. There is a problem." No worries. I chose the second. Next problem: (And you thought this would just be about food, huh?) There is no toilet paper. Seriously? 6:00 p.m. on a Saturday night, and NONE in the entire restroom? No hand towels either? Let's just end this part by saying, I had it covered.  TMI.

After an approximate thirty-minute wait, we are seated. I already know that I CANNOT (and will not) have the BBQ sauce in this establishment. The first ingredient is, YES, you know it - High Fructose Corn Syrup.  Read it directly off their packaging. (Yes, I stay away from sugar too.) So, "naked" BBQ it will be be!
The waiter takes our order. One order of ribs, one order of beef brisket, a side of cole slaw, and a side of green beans in horseradish sauce (the specialty of the house). 
I ask the waiter if there is gluten in the BBQ sauce (since I already KNOW it has sugar). He doesn't know. (I am not surprised.) Thus, "naked" it remains. I remind him I have a gluten allergy. He winks and says, 'No problem!" 
I remind him again, "You DO know about gluten allergies, yes?" 
He says, "Absolutely."

Then (drum roll) our food comes. Looks great, I might add. Arrives on a HUGE platter. On the side of the platter is corn bread. (In restaurants, corn bread is made with flour too. Beware, gluten-free eaters.) But that isn't the real problem. There is (UGH) sauce on the meat. BBQ sauce. What happened to "naked"?  Did the waiter not understand?
We laugh (after our eye roll) and say, '"Okay, so we'll have a little sugar tonight." I taste the ribs. Actually good. Sweet. (I'm thinking "sugar high".) Then I taste the beef brisket. Something is off. My dinner companion mentions it right away. Very sweet, but something is "off". I eat another slice, then poke around the bottom, and to my surprise, the brisket is piled on top of... a thick slice of bread. Bread? Seriously?

Now I'm irritated.

I call the waiter over. I firmly remind him (again) I have a gluten allergy. I point to the brisket piled on top of the bread. I point to the corn muffin, I inquire now why there is sauce on the ribs. He simply states,"Let me get the Manager."
The Manager, is quite accomodating and apologetic. He is not going to charge us for anything (I would hope not), and the food is immediately removed from our table. He says he will bring us true "naked" meat, which we have now asked to have in a "to go" bag. We're not even sure if we still want to eat it, but the Manager is certainly trying to appease us, now that we've become the aggravated patrons.

It IS clear, from the Manager that the waiter is going to be "spoken to". As he should, especially when the Manager asked the waiter if he understood "gluten allergies" and the waiter, trying to be sympathetic then said," Oh yeah, I think my Aunt has that..."

The Manager explains that anytime a customer mentions a food allergy, the "Manager on the floor" is to be brought over to that table. 
Meanwhile, as he is talking, one of the kitchen staff brings us the INGREDIENT list and food allergy component list for ALL of the foods served in that establishment.

This is the part where I wanted to faint.

The food is all crap. Crap. Yes, it has gluten (written in big black letters "HAS WHEAT") next to the name of all dishes except three. All BUT three. The ribs have it in the sauce (all the sauces), the rub on the ribs has MSG. (Seriously?) The brisket has wheat, so does the GREEN BEANS. The beans. The corn bread. All of the side dishes. How is that possible? The coleslaw slid by, but it has THREE (yes, THREE) types of sugar(s) in the dressing. Wasn't even a food anymore. The salad on the menu? You think THAT would be safe? No. Wheat. Why? Well, they preserve the living crap (I've said the word crap over and over. But I am certain I will say it more...) out of every food item in that place. There were so many chemicals in the salad, that my jaw dropped.

My dinner companion prefaced with, "Don't freak out, but LOOK at what is in the salad."  Too late... 

The bottom line? What that restaurant should have advertised, in a BIG SIGN, on their front door - "If you have a gluten allergy, you CANNOT eat here."
In fact, it should have simply read, "Our food isn't healthy. You shouldn't eat here."
(It's crap.)

Each and every food item on that menu was polluted with sugars, preservatives, chemicals, and toxic agents I could not even pronounce. 
Not one item was REAL FOOD. 
Not even the salad. The side dishes were overloaded with more chemicals than a pest control truck. 
This is my wake-up call. I think I was getting far too complacent.

Even more shocking was when the Manager hands me the "TO GO" bag, and explains they have "washed off" the meat. The meat already and previously contaminated with gluten, and served to us, has now been "washed". (Insert gagging noise here.) Was that a joke? 

See how nice I have been by NOT mentioning the name of the restaurant? That's because I have a controversial review that I'll be doing shortly and posting it on the web for all new and potential diners to view. We found the restaurant searching for the "best BBQ" in that city. What we found was NOT food.

So listen to this gluten-free girl. Be careful when you dine out. There was not one item at this particular place worthy of entering my body. 
And the idea of QUALITY over quantity certainly applies here.

Next time, we'll cook for ourselves. 
It's much safer that way.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

And then came Easter...

A client confessed to me this week me that she has a "sweet tooth". She isn't alone. Welcome to the U.S. of A...ddicts. Sugar addicts, that is. Another "sugar holiday" is approaching. 
Easter. (Visions of jelly beans and Cadbury eggs just floated through your head, didn't it?) 
It wasn't so much about that cute little bunny I'll bet.
Have you been into the grocery store lately? It's a sugar wasteland. One ENORMOUS aisle (sometimes two!) is dedicated to all the Easter sweets the stores and manufacturers are intending to sell to (mainly) the parents of all the children who anxiously await the arrival of the Easter Bunny. 
Are you, or is someone you know, one of those "splurge" buyers that purchases (mindlessly) every sugary, high-fructose, nutrient-free, high-in-dyes and chemically poisoned treats for your loved one? (Doesn't sound so appealing when I write it that way, does it?)  
How about if I say, as I try to be more "holiday correct" for all of the Easter lovers out there:
Did you know that dental cavities, tooth decay, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and even vitamin and mineral deficiencies occur when these high-sugar foods replace more nutritionally balanced foods on this hoppy (a little Easter humor) - I mean, happy holiday? (Oh, that's not much better is it?)
I'm not anti-Easter. I think Easter is great! (If you're a dentist.)
Seriously, here is what I have learned over the years. Any parents reading this? When you buy Easter candy for your children.. how much do YOU eat?
DO you buy extra?  "Oh, just in case." Gosh, you never know when another child might pop up who might need some high fructose sweet treats too. Perhaps the neighbor child. Oh! That would be attempted murder, right?
How about this year, we try something new? Instead of candy-filled baskets, what if we replaced the sugar fest with coloring books, crayons, hair clips, even new T-shirts or shorts? Must it be candy? If you are buying for an adult, how about (thinking what I'd like) fabulous coffee beans, gift cards, car wash certificates, perfume/cologne? 
(I wonder if my kids read this.)
I must add too, that sugars are hidden in different lingo, which essentially does not sound so bad on the packaging. There are key words to watch out for. Ready? Brace yourself.
Brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, fruit-juice concentrate, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), honey, invert sugar, lactose, maltose, malt sugar, molasses, raw sugar, sucrose, cane sugar...
This list is endless, don't you think?
My memories of Easter are of my sisters and I coloring Easter eggs and staining our fingers multiple colors. Getting that new box of freshly sharpened crayons. (Thanks Mom.) Ahhh. The good 'ole days when Mom and Dad put an apple and an orange in the basket too...

Monday, April 4, 2011

Clean Eating

It's no secret I am a low-carb eater. I avoid sugar. I do not eat processed grains. I do not eat processed foods, and I prefer "slow food" to the alternative . I prefer raw over pasteurized, and "whole" over "low-fat". 

Part of the reason was a diagnosis many years ago that I have celiac's disease.  Celiac disease is a digestive disease that damages the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food. People, like me, who have celiac disease cannot tolerate gluten, a protein in wheat, rye, and barley. Gluten is found mainly in foods but may also be found in everyday products such as medicines, vitamins, make-up and lip balms. In simple terms, it means I am allergic to wheat gluten. The truth is, I stayed away from the gluten-heavy foods regardless, but they have a way of sneaking into even the healthiest lifestyle and diet.

Celiac disease affects people in all parts of the worlds, all genders, all races. Originally it was thought to be a rare childhood symptom, but now celiac disease is known to be a common disorder. More than two million people in the United States have the allergy, or about 1 in 133 people. People who have a relative - a parent, sibling or child - diagnosed with celiac disease (brace yourself) - the stats are about 1 in 22 that it may affect you or a family member in your/their lifetime. (I suppose I should warn my kids..)

It is a common myth that while having Celiacs, you are unable to eat "regular food". Typically the "regular" referred to, is pure over-processed junk. Breads, pasta, cookies, crackers, etc... When I have a nutrition client who needs to lose weight - even before my celiac diagnosis, I pulled them off these foods. (And sugar. But I am very vocal on my dislike for sugar-filled diets.)
If you are wondering why you are carrying extra weight around your middle, yes -your belly, your thighs and butt - why don't you refer back to what you are eating? 
Are they the items I just mentioned? Do you feel sluggish a few hours after you eat? It's certain WHAT you are eating, not how much, or what time you've eaten. (Another myth to chat about in a later blog.)

Despite restrictions, I can still eat a well balanced diet with a variety of foods. Typically, I eat a diet HIGH in vegetables, lean organic meats, fruits, and nuts. 

The problem with a gluten-free diet is the amount of gluten-free JUNK FOOD out there! You can find gluten free foods in almost any mainstream store - pasta, cookies, pretzels, etc.  Mainly made with rice or soy - but all processed junk, in my humble opinion. Great in a pinch, but processed junk overall. High in chemicals and preservatives, and also high in sugars. Acceptable grains would include quinoa, amaranth and brown rice. Still that jumps the carbs way up, so it's essentially a choice. 
Remember, the higher the carbohydrate value, the easier that food is converted to sugar to fat. Sort of like trading one evil for another, isn't it?

I use the term "eating clean". This means as simple as nature intended. Vegetables, fruits, nuts, meats. Caveman-like. If it comes in a box... well, it really isn't food, is it? Did the box grow from the ground with food already in it? How silly is that notion?

At certain periods in my life, I ruminate fondly on certain foods and that I may actually "miss" them.  (I'm laughing again.) For example, freshly baked bread. I LOVE that smell. I realized, over time, I adore the smell of freshly baked bread more than the actual bread itself. I call bread a "filler food". Is it really packed with nutrients? No. 
Does the waiter in a restaurant bring you a basket of bread because he wants to give you a nutrient-dense food that is healthy for you?  (HAHA). Um, no. He wants to fill your belly with bread so they can scale down the portion size of the food he will be bringing you after you order from the restaurant menu.

The food I have missed is... PIZZA.  Pizza. 
True, gluten-free pizza crust is out in the mainstream market, but is it healthy? (No. Not so much.) 
I found, on a gluten-free website, a crust that is made from CAULIFLOWER. I've made this pizza crust on about 6 or 7 occasions now. It is FABULOUS. 

After I make the crust, I add a low-sugar sauce, spinach, mushrooms, red peppers, onions, tomatoes, jalapenos and yes, even cheese. Take a look at the pic of my last pizza? YOU know you would eat that!  Would you miss the "bready" crust? No! You receive a healthy burst of flavor and one of the healthiest low-carb pizzas on the planet.

Here is the recipe:

Eat healthy today! Think before you snack. Fuel your body.   :)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Barefoot Running. Vibram Five Fingers. Running Shoes. In that order.

Alas, I have a new fitness endeavor. Barefoot running.  Not just wearing the Vibram Five Fingers, mind you - I am speaking of complete, naked-toed, barefoot running. 
True, I've been a runner for (ahem) decades, but this is a feat (pun intended) I've been wanting to try, and make a part of my regime. 
And yes, I do love to run; running is my therapist. So this is not too far off my beaten path. (Ha! Another pun.)
Studies have shown that those (rebels like me) who run barefoot, or in minimal footwear, tend to avoid "heel-striking," and instead land on the ball of the foot or the middle of the foot. In so doing, we use the architecture of the foot and leg and some clever Newtonian physics to avoid hurtful and potentially damaging impacts, equivalent to two to three times body weight, that shod heel-strikers repeatedly experience. DO you really believe the shifty cross-eyed shoe salesman who tells you a "high arch" shoe is what you need? STOP! What YOU need is a stronger foot, NOT a stronger shoe. How about orthotics? Have you bought into that nonsense too? (Sorry to all the Podiatrists out there.)
Runners who don't wear shoes when they "hit the road" have an completely differently stride and strike. You will just see that by taking off your shoes and walking down roads and sidewalks. Note the way you walk. Even notice when you are at home and walking barefoot?  See the difference? 
We have become such a culture of SHOES. Aren't YOU ready to take them off?
We tested this theory this weekend, a girlfriend and I, by ditching the shoes and walking (and slowly jogging) barefoot on an airport taxi-way. (Yes, a taxi-way. Nice even surface, though rather warm.)
My "puppy pads" on my soles are quite tender after being pampered in the Vibrams, even though I anticipated I would have an easier time since I wear the Vibram Five Fingers at least five days per week, all day. Now, I have one blister on my left heel - but not your typical blister. A morphed water blister deep in the heel, and one on the side of my right sole. I believe the blisters formed when we just stood on the hot blacktopped taxi-way, comparing the difference in the way the earth felt in bare feet and then in our former shoes..
Most people today, the naysayers, (I'm laughing now. You just can't hear me..) think barefoot running is dangerous and will hurt, but actually, you can run barefoot on the world's hardest surfaces without the slightest discomfort and pain. But slowly, and with practice.  All you need is a few calluses to avoid roughing up the outer skin of the foot. And build new calluses! Further, it might be less injurious than the way some people run in shoes.
Running barefoot or in minimal shoes is fun and uses different muscles. If you've been a heel-striker all your life, or are just an inefficient runner, you have to transition slowly to build strength in your calf and foot muscles. 
The next time you are ready to lace up your shoes, how about taking them OFF, just briefly, and feel the earth beneath your feet?