Category Archives: Nutrition and Health

Is losing weight all about breakfast?

I hate being hungry, and I am not good at it. I get grumpy. I get rude. The only benefit is that, while in the throes of hunger, I manage to teach my two children self-sufficiency. “Dinner! Did you forget how the stove works?”

When I am hungry, I eat. The only way I ever stabilized my weight was by ridding myself of my incessant hunger. But that was before having a job that has me tethered to a desktop computer all day on top of a serious commute on top of spending my weekends driving two kids to playing fields in three different counties. I still work out five times a week, but for less time and with less variety. Over the past two years I have gained 14 pounds.

I grew up slender, but my weight skyrocketed after I flunked out of college for the first time and quit dancing regularly. Blood sugar was not yet in my vocabulary, and I had no idea that I was sensitive to sugar. I spent nearly 20 years on a succession of diets gaining and losing 40 pounds. It wasn’t until I was in a race against my biological clock to conceive my second child that I began researching nutrition and did something I never imagined I could do — I gave up sugar and white flour. Without dieting, but with the help of a support group, those 40 pounds disappeared for nine years.

Sugar Sensitivity
A teaspoon of sugar in my tea I can handle, a scoop of ice cream I cannot. I end up with my head in and out of the freezer all night until the half-gallon of Jamoca Almond Fudge has disappeared. Visit Radiant Recovery for everything you wanted to know about sugar sensitivity, but were afraid to ask.

Less movement means you get to eat less, but that only works for me if I can become less hungry, which requires mastering the art of maintaining stable blood sugar. Researching how to calculate glycemic index and glycemic load gave me flashbacks of flunking organic chemistry; basically, different foods affect your blood sugar to dramatically different degrees. And the equation for each food changes in conjunction with what else you eat that food and its portion size. For example, the glycemic load of eating an apple changes if you eat that same apple with almond butter. For an explanation regarding everything glycemic that won’t give you a migraine, read Jonny Bowden’s blog, The Blood Sugar Factor Glycemic Index vs. Glycemic Load.

What I settled on was experimenting with different foods and tracking the calories consumed. I forgot to pack my protein bars for Christmas vacation, and during those 10 days I noticed that I was not as hungry. Post-protein bar, I tend to average 1,800 – 2,000 calories a day as opposed to 2,000 to 2,800 calories a day. I also noticed that what I ate for breakfast influenced how hungry I became the entire day.

Yummy Healthy Breakfasts
Protein is a must for stabilizing blood sugar. These breakfasts provide me protein and comfort:

  • Small sweet potato with two fried eggs – For two eggs, the average glycemic load is zero, which balances the glycemic load of the sweet potato.
  • Scrambled eggs with chopped vegetables – Trader Joe’s reasonably priced Healthy Six contains five servings of six raw, chopped vegetables.
  • Steel cut or regular oatmeal with nuts and fruit
  • Non-fat Greek yogurt with almonds or walnuts and cut-up frozen or fresh fruit sweetened with Stevia
  • Non-fat milk and chocolate flavored protein powder – This is the only breakfast I can eat while driving.

The first three I make the night before; I use the office microwave to heat them up.

Eggs and Breakfast
Research galore indicates that eggs for breakfast stabilize blood sugar and promote weight loss. Shape.com’s The Best Breakfast for You offers several breakfast options for those seeking a more slender shape including several that feature eggs.

So far, I have not lost any weight, but I stopped gaining and suspect that given the amount of time I sit, I might need to go back to a Paleo regime.

In case you like TMI… I had gained that same 14 pounds within two years of working at my current job and then lost those unwanted pounds in four months by loosely following the Paleo diet (Paleo Diet Month Two). It took almost exactly another two years of Desk Lady diet to reclaim those same 14 pounds.

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Budget for Lunch

This is a spec humor column I wrote … Not enough pain though to make it funny enough for Funny Times…

Budget for Lunch

“Is that all you’re having for lunch?” my friend Sylvie said as I sat down with my latte at the Grove’s outdoor picnic-style table.

“Of course not,” I responded as I extracted from my purse a peach, a packet of almonds, and a protein bar–some marketing genius’ name for a candy bar with protein powder and brown rice syrup that lets you convince yourself you’re eating healthy.

She still looked skeptical so I took a deep breath and said, “I’m on a budget.” I immediately wished I would have lied and said what is more than socially acceptable and always elicits sympathy, “I’m on a diet.”

“I would have bought you lunch,” she and our other day-tripper said in stereo.

“I know, but I’m enjoying some of my favorite things. This latte is a huge treat for me. For five bucks, I even got to tip the barista.”

Sylvie had already provided the transportation from Long Beach and the free entertainment—tickets to watch Bill Maher run through his monologue and other comedy bits before taping his show.

Maher’s conviction and delivery made me laugh so hard that I forgot all about my budget for the rest of the day. And although I am really good at it, it is hard to feel sorry for yourself when the government shutdown had closed the doors on Head Start, stranded soldiers killed in the line of duty overseas, and unemployed hundreds of thousands of fellow citizens.

Trying to shed expense is like trying to shed pounds. Unlike the government, you have to examine all of your consumption and all of your habits and be willing to change.

Two days later I met up with my friend Emily at my office, which others insist on calling McDonald’s. Emily the dynamo, a former sales manager for a national company that formerly had budget for provocative prime-time commercials, has run the Marina Pacifica Job Club for the last four years while juggling several part-time jobs.

Participating in her job club helped me land my current job. Twice a month her job club hosts speakers, conducts workshops, facilitates networking, offers mock interviewing, and provides plenty of protein bars.

Emily scrutinized her tray and said, “How did I get to seven dollars? I thought I was buying a snack.“ She lifted her burrito as if to weigh it and added, “My eyes must have wandered from the Extra Value menu.”

I sipped my one-dollar iced tea as she continued, “Leslie and I are bringing our own coffee to Starbuck’s and sneaking onto the patio to job hunt online. Isn’t there something wrong with that?

“And forget service. I don’t dare step foot into a restaurant with service. I haven’t had a professional job in five years. I can’t afford service anymore.”

“Neither can I. The only way I get service is when I bribe my kids with extra media time.”

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Aspartame Doomed my Love Affair with Diet Coke

Diet Coke, that perfect combination of carbonation, sugar, caffeine and cola flavor has been in my life longer than any relationship.  Sweetened by Aspartame, it does not cost me any calories, but does Aspartame:

  • Make me hungrier and eat more
  • Tax my liver thereby making my metabolism less efficient and burn fewer calories
  • Provide hits to my neurological system and threaten my health

I don’t doubt that Aspartame and other food additives could wreak havoc with a certain percentage of the population’s health, but how big a percentage? I can easily conclude that Aspartame does nothing beneficial for me, but is it really toxic?

Decide for yourself – these websites provide opposing viewpoints:

“Excitotoxins are substances believed to cause brain damage and damage to the central nervous system. 
Excitotoxins tend to affect the hypothalamus portion of the brain, which controls important bodily functions such as growth, sleep patterns, puberty and even appetite.”

So I go back and forth with my aluminum knight in silver and red, Diet Coke.  I can go several months without one, but start craving it when my projects collide at work.

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Paleo Diet Month Two

The more I study nutrition, the less I know…  In six weeks I lost approximately five pounds (five to ten to go), but more significantly my taste buds are changing, I am eating more fruits and vegetables, and I am less hungry.

Paleo Diet in a Nutshell

Dr. Cordain, a PhD in health, spills all his secrets on his website thepaleodiet.com.  His What to Eat on the Paleo Diet page tells you which food groups to eat and which ones to avoid.  In summary (85% of the time), everything except grains, dairy (eggs are the only allowed dairy), refined sugar, salt, processed foods, potatoes, and refined vegetable oils.

Lisa Rudy from Huntington Beach, California has been on the Paleo Diet 14 months and says, “I wasn’t expecting a sense of improved mental clarity.  I would say it was quite dramatic.  It was an unexpected welcome benefit.”

Rudy admits, “At first you feel like it’s a lot of work.  After a while it just becomes second nature.”

Cordain’s research is convincing, but I know too many healthy, productive, good-natured individuals who eat grains to believe that this restrictive diet is for everyone.  For those of us with sugar sensitivity, this could be a reasonable plan.

Cordain does make convincing arguments about the detrimental effect of a typical American diet in regards to:

  • Inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis
  • High content of Omega 6, which wipes out the benefits of Omega 3 such as reducing symptoms of mental disorders including depression and schizophrenia
  • Acid-base balance and how it affects calcium retention and osteoporosis
  • Insulin levels that bounce around and affect mood and energy levels

Benefits of Protein

Quoting Cordain (The Paleo Diet, revised edition 2011), “Remember, protein is your ally in weight loss and good health.  It lowers your cholesterol, improves your insulin sensitivity, speeds up your metabolism, satisfies your appetite, and helps you lose weight.”

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Eating Breakfast While Driving

To save time, I eat breakfast on the way to work.  Ideally, something quickly prepared that packs nutrition, balances my blood sugar, and keeps me driving safely.  I am not hungry in the morning, but if I eat something within an hour of waking up, I am more alert, less hungry, and less rude all day.

Open-Faced Sandwiches

Eating an open-faced sandwich is like getting two sandwiches instead of one.  I usually use Ezekiel bread (80 calories, 4 g protein, and 3 g fiber per slice) and eat half my sandwich on the way to work and top it with:

  • Grilled cheese, bread and cheese toasted together in the toaster oven (Ezekiel bread is dense, so it can toast well done.)
  • Scrambled eggs with a little cheese and garlic powder (from a batch scrambled the night before that will keep for a few days)
  • Peanut butter and apple, strawberry, or banana slices
  • Cold cuts (often Foster Farms 3 lb variety turkey pack from Smart and Final)

Lettuce, Bell Pepper, or Nori Instead of Bread

Or you could wrap your cold cuts, scrambled eggs, garden burger, or leftover turkey burger in lettuce, flattened-out bell pepper, or seaweed wrap.

Protein Pancakes

Sarah the Body Builder often prepares these the night before for her morning commute.

  • ½ cup oatmeal
  • ½ cup blueberries (frozen no sugar added)
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder

Blend. Slap on griddle. Enjoy!

 Nuts

  • In a pinch, a bag of mini almonds
  • Walnuts, almonds, pecans or cashews mixed with berries or other fruit

 

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I never go anywhere without my mini bags of almonds…

So when my seven-year-old daughter stretched out every syllable as she moaned, “I’m hungry,” I handed her an almond packet. We were at Angel Stadium and could have bought peanuts had we not already spent our funds on a large Diet Coke for me and a giant waffle cone filled with chocolate ice cream for her.

Instead of her usual “Ew,” she begrudgingly opened the packet and cautiously peeled one of the almonds before perching it at her lips and taking the tiniest of bites. Eventually, she stopped peeling them as she made her way through most of the packet.

If only I could be tough enough to starve her into nutrition more often…

Trader Joes sells Just a Handful of Raw Almonds or Just a Handful of Roasted Almonds which contain13 packets of 1.25 ounces (35g) of almonds each. At $4.99 that works out to 30.7 cents a packet.

Nutrition at a Glance for Each Bag

Calories 200 (Carb 8g, Fat 17g incl 1.5g Sat Fat, Protein 7g)
Fiber 4g
Sugars 1g
Calcium 10%, Iron 8%, Sodium 0mg

Use Almonds to Create Quickie Mini Meals

Break or cut them up or add them whole to

• Plain Yogurt or Cottage Cheese sweetened with cut up fruit and Stevia
• Plain Yogurt or Cottage Cheese seasoned with cut up vegetables and minced garlic and crushed red pepper
• Oatmeal sweetened with cut up fruit and Stevia
• Salad

Other Uses for Almonds

• Snack
• Offering to hungry coworkers trapped into last-minute noon meetings

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Would you like an apple with that… Making In-N-Out even better

Unless my children and I are already packing produce, our trip to In-N-Out usually involves a pit stop to the grocery store—a time zapper.

Why can’t In-N-Out add more fiber and nutrition to their menu?

• Petite, crisply tart Pink Lady, Mackintosh, or Rome apples
• Refreshing salad of perfect Romaine, Butter, or Red Leaf lettuce
• Choice of fat-free Italian or Ranch salad dressing

My satisfying In-N-Out scrimp of 200 calories: protein burger (mustard instead of thousand island) and perfectly brewed iced tea with 3 wedges of fresh lemon.

My sensational In n Out splurge of 400 calories: Tingly tasty French fries

Email In-N-Out: Marketing Coordinator Christopher Thomsen, cthomsen@innout.com

By the way, Talking turkey is paying off at Carl’s Jr., (http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-carls-changes-20110701,0,4142512.story)
Broadening customer base and adding more healthful items have yielded a sales boost.
Sharon Bernstein, LA Times, July 1, 2011

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