Sep 292014
Flu shots: All the cool kids have them!

Flu shots: All the cool kids have them!

I was shocked when my Google news alert sent word a week ago that the flu has already arrived in some parts of Virginia! It’s time to think about strategies for staying healthy this winter.

Flu Shots

I immediately packed up the family and took us out to get our flu shots. After a bit of hollering from my two youngest, we were done. A cute mom waiting outside the clinic with her daughter teased, “Mom, was that you making all that noise about your flu shot?” It takes about 2 weeks from the time you get the shot until you are fully protected. We are just hoping to stay healthy for another week!

If you don’t have your flu shot already, make a priority this week to get it. There are so many serious viruses going around this fall. I am keeping an eye on the news about the enterovirus strain that is so frightening.

While I can’t do anything about enterovirus, I can do something about flu risk. Many of us think of the flu as more of an inconvenience than deadly but the flu does kill children every year. Last year, someone here in Virginia lost their child to the flu. Also, if you are in a high risk group, like being pregnant or having a chronic illness, make sure you get that shot as your risk of flu complications is so much higher.

So, we need to all take this seriously. If you can be vaccinated, I hope that you will.

In the United States, how many people receive flu shots? Last year, close to 60% of all children were vaccinated, including 74% of children under age 2. Approximately 42% of all adults were vaccinated, including 65% of those age 65 and older.

Food As Medicine

Chick pea soup from last winter's Goop cleanse.

Chick pea soup from last winter’s Goop cleanse.

As you think about your toolkit for staying healthy this winter, consider some of these nutritional strategies. Science is learning more and more every day about the importance of our gut bacteria in keeping us healthy. Take advantage of every opportunity you have to eat garlic, onions, citrus and ginger!

Cleaning As Prevention

Our flu cleaning arsenal.  We just discovered the Lysol cleaner.  You have to dilute it yourself in your own spray bottle but it smells awesome!

Our flu cleaning arsenal. We just discovered the Lysol cleaner. You have to dilute it yourself in your own spray bottle but it smells awesome!

Two tools we should all have ready are baby wipes and disinfectant spray. Have a large pack of baby wipes or bottle of hand sanitizer in your car and use them after visiting any public place, like the grocery store, gas station, library, children’s sports and after-school activities, etc. Ask your children to remind you to wipe their hands as they buckle their seat belt every time you get in the car. Children are notorious for putting their fingers in their mouths and eyes–the prime way viruses are spread. Also, have a spray bottle of disinfectant cleaner in your home and task your children with helping to spray down surfaces like countertops, doorknobs and light switches as part of their chores. We recently discovered the scented Lysol cleaners that smell wonderful and claim they are just as effective when diluted.

Be well this winter!

*I am not affiliated with any product mentioned here.

Posted by anne Tagged with: , ,
Apr 182014
It seems I am not the only Fredericksburg fan of "It's All Good."  Look who is featured prominently on the library cookbook display!

It seems I am not the only Fredericksburg fan of “It’s All Good.” Look who is featured prominently on the library cookbook display!

You would think that with just two days left to go, this would be the easiest part of my Lenten healthy eating plan, but it’s not. This week has been one of the toughest of the whole diet. It may be because I am looking forward to the end of this experiment and all the delicious treats that will come with it. It may be because last week I was fasting and juice fasting for most of the week and my body would like some calories to recover from that shock. It may be because I am just burned out after 40 days of intense cooking. And finally, it may be because I have to prepare for the second biggest holiday of the year with no carbs to help me out.

I gave myself a break from exercise this week as I have just too much else going on. I also have been sneaking a few extra tastes and portions into my meals as I just feel so incredibly hungry.

My husband has also started to express concern over my weight loss. “Do I look anorexic?” I asked. He paused for a while and then said, “I wouldn’t lose any more weight.” So, I seem to have reached a Rachel Frederickson-like point. However, like Rachel Frederickson, I just want to finish this project and then will engage in some chocolate therapy. With just two days to go, I just have to hang in there a little bit longer.

Day 41

Starting the day with the body builder smoothie.

Starting the day with the body builder smoothie.

The spinach muschroom egg white omelet (with black beans because I was hungry).

The spinach muschroom egg white omelet (with black beans because I was hungry).

For a present for a visiting family member, I made  "Dark Chocolate Bark with Almonds, Coconut and Sea Salt."  My husband wants me to make this again for us.

For a present for a visiting family member, I made “Dark Chocolate Bark with Almonds, Coconut and Sea Salt.” My husband wants me to make this again for us.

Spent the afternoon admiring the cherry blossoms near the Potomac.

Spent the afternoon admiring the cherry blossoms near the Potomac.

It was a beautiful day.  Warm but very windy.

It was a beautiful day. Warm but very windy.

Arriving home, I used up some vegetables for a version of the "Sunset Juice" by Joe Cross.

Arriving home, I used up some vegetables for a version of the “Sunset Juice” by Joe Cross.

Sunset juice.

Sunset juice.

Healthy Tuna Salad on greens.

Healthy Tuna Salad on greens.

Chicken and White Bean Chili.

Chicken and White Bean Chili.

Day 42

Another spinach mushroom omelet for breakfast.  Spinach for breakfast is delicious and really does give you a boost of energy.

Another spinach mushroom omelet for breakfast. Spinach for breakfast is delicious and really does give you a boost of energy.

Avocado cacao smoothie.

Avocado cacao smoothie.

Healthy tuna salad over greens.

Healthy tuna salad over greens.

As luck would have it, that afternoon, we had a power outage lasting about 3 hours. It was not until after 6:30 p.m. that I could get into the kitchen to start my dinner. I was starving!

Meanwhile, my husband went out and picked up Little Caesar’s pizza for himself and the children. While they sat enjoying their meal, I was hard at work in the kitchen slicing vegetables and cooking my next meal. This was hard to bear. It made me think about how hard it is for “slow food” to compete with “fast food.” Sure, slow food tastes great and is very good for you but that convenience factor is such a treat. It’s nice to have someone else do the cooking rather than having to do it all yourself.

While waiting for the power to come back on, I treated myself to two apples and an extra generous scoop of almond butter.  One of the apples turned brown immediately after slicing.  If you experience this, throw the apple out.  It was mushy and tasteless (but of course I ate it anyway!).

While waiting for the power to come back on, I treated myself to two apples and an extra generous scoop of almond butter. One of the apples turned brown immediately after slicing. If you experience this, throw the apple out. It was mushy and tasteless (but of course I ate it anyway!).

Lately, my kitchen is not only overrun with produce for my recipes but also plant experiments for our homeschool science curriculum.  We germinated some cucumber seeds.  It is really thrilling to see a small plant emerge from just a seed wrapped in a wet paper towel!  What a miracle of life!

Lately, my kitchen is not only overrun with produce for my recipes but also plant experiments for our homeschool science curriculum. We germinated some cucumber seeds. It is really thrilling to see a small plant emerge from just a seed wrapped in a wet paper towel! What a miracle of life!

I needed some more salad dressing so I made the "Parsley Dressing," (which also helped me to use up leftover parsley from the juice cleanse.

I needed some more salad dressing so I made the “Parsley Dressing,” (which also helped me to use up leftover parsley from the juice cleanse.

Dinner: the imperious "Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili" and greens with parsley dressing.

Dinner: the imperious “Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili” and greens with parsley dressing.

Day 43

Wednesday was a fasting day, which was horrible hunger-wise but a nice rest from cooking.

Fasting salad: salmon, avocado and black bean.

Fasting salad: salmon, avocado and black bean.

Day 44

Resurrecting the huevos rancheros egg white omelet.  I have given up on having my omelets not stick to my pan.  It only works once right after the pan is seasoned.  I try to get them out as complete as I can but sometimes they are a bit like scrambled eggs.  A nonstick omelet pan is probably the solution.

Resurrecting the huevos rancheros egg white omelet. I have given up on having my omelets not stick to my pan. It only works once right after the pan is seasoned. I try to get them out as complete as I can but sometimes they are a bit like scrambled eggs. A nonstick omelet pan is probably the solution.

Turning to the sweet potato shake to curb the hunger pangs.  Strangely, it didn't have the same effect this time.

Turning to the sweet potato shake to curb the hunger pangs. Strangely, it didn’t have the same effect this time.

The imperious sweet potato chili and salad with parsley dressing.

The imperious sweet potato chili and salad with parsley dressing.

My son LOVES the sweet potato chili!  He licked his plate clean and asked for more!

My son LOVES the sweet potato chili! He licked his plate clean and asked for more!

Snack of apples and almond butter.  I went with two apples this time because they were both small.

Snack of apples and almond butter. I went with two apples this time because they were both small.

Dinner: leftover chicken and white bean chili and salad with parsley dressing.  As proof that men do like Gwyneth's food, my husband said that I could make this chili any time!

Dinner: leftover chicken and white bean chili and salad with parsley dressing. As proof that men do like Gwyneth’s food, my husband said that I could make this chili any time!

Nutritional News

  • Is Your Diet Making You Mad? – This article introduced me to the word “hangry” meaning the anger brought on by hunger and lack of carbs. It also quotes Dr. Drew Ramsey, assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University “[L]imiting carbs impedes the brain’s ability to synthesize mood-boosting serotonin. Sugar also stimulates areas in the brain that are linked with pleasure and addiction, . . . preliminary research demonstrates that a withdrawal from sugar has similar symptoms to those of an addict withdrawing from heroin.” Boy, doesn’t that feel true!
  • Married couples who diet more likely to argue, study finds – And this article adds scientific proof to the “hangry” pheneomenon, indicating that people are less able to control their anger when their blood sugar is lower. Fortunately, there have been no arguments in my household but this week in particular, everyone has noticed that my typically endless patience is a lot less endless.
  • Simon Schama’s History of the Jews – In the “food for the soul” category, I encourage you to watch Simon Schama’s “The Story of the Jews” on PBS. We are huge fans of Simon Schama and I was thrilled to see he had a new documentary out. In the way only he can do, he effortlessly walks you through centuries of history, highlighting key points and characters in a most fascinating way. I learned a lot from watching this and I liked seeing how personal the subject was to him.
  • And along the same lines some wonderful healthy Passover recipes here.

  • GOOP CEO Quits After Paltrow’s Uncoupling – It continues to be a challenging year for Gwyneth Paltrow who now must find a new CEO for GOOP. I have enjoyed the GOOP newsletter and wonder how it will change when the writers will be based on Los Angeles rather than London.

48 hours and counting!

Posted by anne Tagged with: , , , , , ,
Mar 062014
Time to get cooking!

Time to get cooking!

It’s Day Two of our clean eating journey for Lent. Day One was not difficult for me as it was a regular fasting and salad day.

Day One fasting salad: turkey, carrot, bean.

Day One fasting salad: turkey, carrot, bean.

It was also time to go grocery shopping for day two. We ended up at Wal-Mart and I decided that we would buy whatever we could find on our list and improvise with what they didn’t have. As we entered the store, all of the tempting Easter candy was on display.

“Can we get a treat?” my children asked.

I reminded them that we were going to try to eat healthy until Easter so there would be no candy today. Amazingly, there were no complaints! We had talked about this project before so they decided to focus on finding healthy foods that they liked.

We discovered some fruit and vegetable snack packs in the produce aisle where they had combinations like peanut butter and celery, apples and caramel, carrots and hummus.  My children were interested so we purchased several of them.

We discovered some fruit and vegetable snack packs in the produce aisle where they had combinations like peanut butter and celery, apples and caramel, carrots and hummus. My children were interested so we purchased several of them.

My other daughter requested watermelon.  She also suggested yogurt.

My other daughter requested watermelon. She also suggested yogurt.

My son enjoyed inspecting everything.

My son enjoyed inspecting everything.

In the end, he insisted on fruit snacks (not quite the "fruit" I was going for.)

In the end, he insisted on fruit snacks (not quite the “fruit” I was going for.)

I prepared myself that we might waste a lot of money on foods that the children would not eat but we are dedicated to try.

Even the grocery store is in a Lenten mood.

Even the grocery store is in a Lenten mood.

Another kid-friendly choice: olives!

Another kid-friendly choice: olives!

My pickiest eater picked out corn as a yummy vegetable so we bought it.

My pickiest eater picked out corn as a yummy vegetable so we bought it.

That night for dinner, the children agreed to some healthier choices like whole wheat quesadilla with olives.

That night for dinner, the children agreed to some healthier choices like whole wheat quesadilla with olives.

. . . and salmon and milk!

. . . and salmon and milk!

Today I did not wake up ravenous as I am used to my Wednesday fasts now. However, I did wake up a bit overwhelmed as I am going to be doing a lot of cooking and cooking in ways that are new to me. However, even with a busy schedule and lots of errands to run, I managed to stick to the cooking plan in It’s All Good. I am following the “Body Builder” weekly plan.

Breakfast: egg white omelet huevos rancheros style.  I simplified the recipe by  using bottled egg whites rather than cracking eggs, skipping the canned beans seasonings and just rinsing the beans and nuking them in the microwave a few minutes and using store-bought pickled jalapenos.  Results?  Quite yummy!

Breakfast: egg white omelet huevos rancheros style. I simplified the recipe by using bottled egg whites rather than cracking eggs, skipping the canned beans seasonings and just rinsing the beans and nuking them in the microwave a few minutes and using store-bought pickled jalapenos. Results? Quite yummy!

Lunch: Vietnamese-style salad with salmon.  I skipped the watercress, mint and basil as the store didn't have these.  I also forgot fish sauce for the dressing.  However, it was still a delicious salad even with all these ingredients missing.

Lunch: Vietnamese-style salad with salmon. I skipped the watercress, mint and basil as the store didn’t have these. I also forgot fish sauce for the dressing. However, it was still a delicious salad even with all these ingredients missing.

To reduce cooking time, packing up the extra for lunch tomorrow.

To reduce cooking time, packing up the extra for lunch tomorrow.

Snack: Pumpkin Pie Shake My children thought this looked yummy and asked to taste it.  My daughter took one sip said, "It's kind of OK." and then asked for a glass of water to wash it down.  My son was excited because he thought it was a real milkshake!  He took one sip and made raspberry-like spitting noises indicating his disgust.  As for me, I thought it was rather good--creamy and spicy!

Snack: Pumpkin Pie Shake My children thought this looked yummy and asked to taste it. My daughter took one sip said, “It’s kind of OK.” and then asked for a glass of water to wash it down. My son was excited because he thought it was a real milkshake! He took one sip and made raspberry-like spitting noises indicating his disgust. As for me, I thought it was rather good–creamy and spicy!

Saving time by packing away the other half of the sweet potato for tomorrow's shake.

Saving time by packing away the other half of the sweet potato for tomorrow’s shake.

Dinner: Mediterranean-style turkey burger salad.  The burger has lots and lots of onions and garlic in it.  It was pretty good.  The salad was dressed only in lemon juice and was also good.

Dinner: Mediterranean-style turkey burger salad. The burger has lots and lots of onions and garlic in it. It was pretty good. The salad was dressed only in lemon juice and was also good.

Saving time in future by wrapping up the other 3 burgers for future dinners.  Just grill and add lettuce to finish.

Saving time in future by wrapping up the other 3 burgers for future dinners. Just grill and add lettuce to finish.

My daughter's opinion of the turkey burgers aromatic fragrance and her choice for dinner.

My daughter’s opinion of the turkey burgers aromatic fragrance and her choice for dinner.

Soaked almonds for a snack.  Apparently the soaking makes them easier to digest.

Soaked almonds for a snack. Apparently the soaking makes them easier to digest.

More kid tasting of healthy foods today.  Watermelon gets a thumbs up!

More kid tasting of healthy foods today. Watermelon gets a thumbs up!

Packing the watermelon into easy-to-grab cups for the fridge.

Packing the watermelon into easy-to-grab cups for the fridge.

My son has decided he likes V8 juice!

My son has decided he likes V8 juice!

I am not really feeling hungry at this point. The portions of these clean eating meals are quite generous and filling. My children are doing OK as well. They still eat a lot of carbs but are being great sports about tasting new foods and switching out choices like Nutella for peanut butter. It is only day 2 but so far so good!

If you are joining along (thanks Bertie and Mary!) please share how you are doing.

*I am not affiliated with Wal-Mart or goop.

Posted by anne Tagged with: , , , , , ,
Feb 032014
"Anorexia." Photo by Benjamin Watson.  From the Flickr Creative Commons.

“Anorexia.” Photo by Benjamin Watson. From the Flickr Creative Commons.

Ruth recently posted a comment on my post reporting the opinions of my doctors on my diet and exercise efforts.

. . . And fyi–here are signs of anorexia:

Do you feel fat even though people tell you you’re not?
Are you terrified of gaining weight?
Do you lie about how much you eat or hide your eating habits from others?
Are your friends or family concerned about your weight loss, eating habits, or appearance?
Do you diet, compulsively exercise, or purge when you’re feeling overwhelmed or bad about yourself?
Do you feel powerful or in control when you go without food, over-exercise, or purge?
Do you base your self-worth on your weight or body size?

I don’t feel personally that I am anorexic or at risk of becoming so. I like to eat too much. I am fully honest with my doctors about my weight and eating habits and while I may diet and exercise to make myself look better and for health benefits, I don’t diet to make myself feel better. If my diet and exercise started to affect my ability to care for my family or my doctors told me to gain a few pounds for health reasons, I would abandon my dieting immediately.

When I learned in The Fast Diet about an eating pattern called calorie restriction, wherein people purposely restrict their calories each day to a low amount and are very careful about what foods they eat (with supposedly great health benefits), I wondered how such an intense eating pattern was any different from anorexia.

I came across this interesting article on the subject by Melissa A. Fabello called, “Five Subtle Differences Between Diets and Anorexia.” It is written by someone who clearly has struggled with anorexia and gives us all a glimpse of what the anorexic mindset looks like.

Even after reading this article, it is still hard for me to draw a clear line between dieting and anorexia. The article points out a couple of behaviors that most people dieting won’t have but those with anorexia do:

  • You don’t have a defined goal weight. There is no weight that can ever be thin enough.
  • When you cheat on your diet you worry for days about it rather than feeling some guilt, resolving to do better next time and quickly moving on.
  • You find that you can’t think about any subject without coming back to the subject of food and eating.
  • Purging. Voluntarily causing yourself to vomit to avoid calorie intake or exercising to extremes to burn off every calorie consumed. (Vomiting is such an unpleasant feeling I can’t imagine ever wanting to do this as a dieting technique.)

One thing that stood out in my anorexia research is that there is no bright line quantitative rule for anorexia. For example, it is a rare situation where a healthy grown woman of average height would weigh less than 100 pounds or a healthy grown man of average height less than 150 pounds. Yet you will never find any definition of anorexia that is based solely on weight or body fat. This article points out that you could even be overweight and still have anorexia and that anorexia is best defined as a mental illness with a disordered perception of food.

Of course, if you suspect you have anorexia, you need to be under professional care. Ideally, you would start with your family doctor or consult a hotline like the one below.

Thanks to Ruth for an insightful comment!

In my next post, continuing the theme of disordered eating with a look at how we are impacted by body images of celebrities.

Posted by anne Tagged with: , , , ,
Jan 302014
The montage of fasting salads that prompted Bertie's question.

The montage of fasting salads that prompted Bertie’s question.

Devoted reader Bertie recently commented on my 5-2 fasting post:

Bertie says:
Those salads look delicious! Could you post the recipes?

When I first started making calorie-conscious salads, I was careful to write down all the ingredients and track all the calories. I posted my first set of recipes here. Now that I have more experience making salads, I have found that there is really no need for recipes!

So, below is my non-recipe “formula” to building a low-calorie salad, using as an example, the salad I ate yesterday for my fast day.

Step One: Greens

Salad greens are almost no calorie. They are like the diet soda of foods. A generous bowl of salad greens is only about 30 calories. There is no need to measure your salad greens. Even if you go a bit over, you are probably only talking about 10 calories. You could eat a gigantic bag of salad greens for 100 calories. Dump a big amount of salad greens in your bowl, however many you like. Another trick here is to consider cutting up your greens into small pieces. I don’t know why this makes a taste difference but it does. My husband and I did not like eating kale of any kind until I learned to grab a handful of greens and slice them with a knife. Subway restaurants use this trick in their “chopped salads” and Diamond Dallas Page suggests it in his yoga recipes guide.

The heart of any low-calorie salad is its base of greens.

The heart of any low-calorie salad is its base of greens.

Step Two: Determine Your Cravings

When you are dieting or fasting, everything, even vegetables, will become a cravable food. Look in your fridge or pantry and determine what you are craving at that moment. Nuts? Cheese? Meat? Sweet-stuff like apples or dried apricots? Most cravable foods are relatively high calorie per serving. Determine how many calories you need to budget for your craving and build the rest of the salad accordingly.

Step Three: Additional Vegetables

I usually add at least one more vegetable to my salad greens. It might be carrots, green pepper, tomatoes, cucumber, grated zucchini or asparagus. Add these on to the salad. After you have counted calories on these a few times you will learn that most vegetables are essentially calorie-free but a few, like tomatoes, corn and onions, you have to learn how much you can afford to have for your particular calorie budget.

2014-01-30-greenpepper

Step Four: Dressing

One of the highest calorie components in a salad is the dressing. Many salad dressings can be 100 calories or more per tablespoon. You should always measure your salad dressing carefully so you learn how much a tablespoon is. Depending on what else you are putting in the salad (cheese, olives), you might be able to get away without adding any dressing. I usually put the dressing on right on the greens where I need the flavor the most. For my salad, I did a variation of Gwyneth Paltrow’s Miso Balsamic dressing. With 1 tablespoon yellow miso and 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar, I made a dressing for 40 calories.

My low-calorie dressing clocks in at 40 calories, making the total greens base of my salad about 100 calories.

My low-calorie dressing clocks in at 40 calories, making the total greens base of my salad about 100 calories.

Step Five: Cravings
Next, it is time to add the cravable higher calorie foods. For me, this is usually a lean protein like chicken, turkey, salmon or shrimp. Sometimes it is beans or avocado. Sliced hard boiled egg is another good ingredient at this stage. One egg is about 80 calories, which means you can have quite a few.

Last night's craving from the fridge was a turkey burger patty.  Adding it here for 200 calories.

Last night’s craving from the fridge was a turkey burger patty. Adding it here for 200 calories.

Step Six: Cheese

Cheese is a wonderful ingredient to make a salad feel richer and taste better but it is also another of those salad ingredients that you have to watch carefully for calories. Most cheeses list their calorie counts by weight so using a kitchen scale to measure your cheese is a good idea. Once you see how small one ounce of cheese is, it will entice you to buy extremely flavorful cheeses so that you get more bang for your calories.

Weighing the cheese.  1 ounce = 110 calories

Weighing the cheese. 1 ounce = 110 calories

That’s about it!

The finished salad, coming in at around 400 calories.

The finished salad, coming in at around 400 calories.

At first, the calorie counting takes time and drives you crazy. After you have calorie counted several times you start to get a feel for how many calories are in something and you can get looser with your measurements.

Do you have your own formulas for calorie counting or salads? Please share in the comments.

*In my next post, responding to a reader comment on anorexia vs. dieting.

Posted by anne Tagged with: , , , ,
Jan 282014
Time to get cooking.  Lots of roasted vegetables in store.

Time to get cooking. Lots of roasted vegetables in store.

With all the ingredients acquired, it was time to start the goop Winter Detox.

The night before starting the detox, you need to soak the chickpeas for the day one soup in water. I put them in a pot in the fridge and went to bed. My cold and chest congestion were slightly worse than usual this day. I had been getting better but suddenly felt like I was getting worse. Perhaps I had picked up another cold virus?

Day One

The detox plan has a daily schedule of when you are supposed to eat everything. The first thing you are supposed to do is drink a glass of “room temperature lemon water upon arising.” This is kind of like lemonade and was refreshing.

A glass of room temperature lemon water starts each day of the detox.

A glass of room temperature lemon water starts each day of the detox.

An hour after the lemon water, you drink a glass of herbal tea. I tried the Yogi Breathe Deep tea and it was amazingly delicious! This particular flavor has licorice in it and the licorice flavor was sweet enough that I didn’t miss the fact that I couldn’t add sugar to the tea.

The Yogi teas have inspirational sayings on the teabag strings and suggestions for yoga poses on the boxes.

The Yogi teas have inspirational sayings on the teabag strings and suggestions for yoga poses on the boxes.

Two hours after the tea, you can have your breakfast. Every day, breakfast is some sort of shake. My blender is my absolute favorite kitchen appliance so I thought this was great. Several years ago after burning out two blenders making Orange Julius, I bought a used Blendtec commercial blender. It was during the recent recession and there was an online vendor selling used Starbucks blenders for cheap. So, my blender is marked “Tall” and “Venti” and has weird buttons on it but it works like a dream. I love my blender.

The day one shake is called “Chai Gingerbread.” It has rooibos tea in it and a huge amount of spices. It smelled quite nice. It was very spicy going down and had almost a bitter taste from all of those spices. At first, I didn’t add any sweetener to it and I had to reblend it to add some. You need at least 1 teaspoon coconut nectar to make it palatable.

Chai Gingerbread Shake

Chai Gingerbread Shake

I wouldn’t say this drink is very delicious but I am going to keep this recipe around because it has a magical effect on chest congestion! Immediately after drinking it, I began to cough and my chest congestion loosened. This was exactly what I needed!

An hour and a half after the shake, you can have more tea or hot lemon water.

Two hours after this, you can have lunch, which is chickpea soup. I was doing the detox on a weekday and I had to drive my children to ballet lessons at this point so I got a bit off the schedule here. I ended up making both lunch and dinner together.

The chickpea soup is in an onion-laden broth. I thought it was delicious. So did my husband and so did my son! One online review criticized this recipe as being too low in calories per serving but you really have to make it and experience it for yourself. The dry chick peas plump up to quite a large size and each serving is really quite filling.

Chickpea Soup.

Chickpea Soup.

You are allowed a snack of walnut lentil pate this day but I just didn’t have time to make this. The lunch and dinner recipes were so time consuming that I just left this out.

The dinner recipe was “Quinoa Stuffed Kabocha” or in my case “Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash.” I love quinoa and I quite like squash so this dish was a hit with me and my son. It has a sauce called an anchoïade which is like a vinaigrette with onions and anchovies. I am not sure I have ever eaten anchovies before but they get mashed into the vinaigrette so you can’t see them anyway. It had a wonderful flavor. My husband is not a fan of quinoa and did not care for this dish.

Quinoa stuffed acorn squash.

Quinoa stuffed acorn squash.

By the end of day one, I was proud of myself for having made all (well almost all) of the recipes and sticking to the plan. I was so busy cooking and trying to remember when to drink tea that I didn’t really think about being hungry. Also, I had bought in to the healing aspect of the detox. I didn’t see the food so much as recipes but as medicine (cue eye roll from my husband here). I also knew that fasting is supposed to promote healing as well (maybe there is some truth to “starve a cold feed a fever”?) so having fewer calories was just part of the treatment plan to me.

Calorie count for Day 1 of the goop Winter Detox

Day Two

I awoke on day two feeling like my body was radiating garlic and onions. My son was very congested with a cold. My bad ear that suffered the ear infection felt more congested too and I was just a little sniffly. Over the morning, both of my ears were making popping noises and I can hear fluid in them but they didn’t hurt or cause any other problems.

Day two started with the same lemon water and herbal tea schedule.

Breakfast was the yummy sounding “peppermint hot chocolate.” I pulled out all the ingredients and laid them on the counter and marveled at how they were not the ingredients I would ever think of for making a glass of hot chocolate.

Hot chocolate, anyone?

Hot chocolate, anyone?

One of the ingredients in this recipe is “coconut cream.” The only coconut cream I could find comes in a box. The cream solidifies very easily. The bag it came in was hard as a rock! The instructions on the box said that if this happens you need to soak it in a bowl of warm water until it softens. So, I did. (Note: See below in the calorie count information. The coconut cream in a box is very high calorie. The recipe says you need the kind that comes in a can. The canned coconut cream has far less calories than what I used.)

I started putting all the ingredients into the blender. It felt less like cooking and more like making a potion. I imagined myself as one of Cheryl Potter’s knitting witches.

Potion making . . . adding the spirulina powder.

Potion making . . . adding the spirulina powder.

The many layers of this recipe before blending.

The many layers of this recipe before blending.

I pressed blend and poured the concoction into a glass. Unlike the picture on the goop website, my “hot chocolate” was green! Perhaps they added the optional chocolate protein powder or Photoshopped it to make it brown but my version was definitely green.

The Peppermint Hot Chocolate shake.

The Peppermint Hot Chocolate shake.

I thought this drink was quite delicious but it tastes nothing like hot chocolate to me. I couldn’t even taste the cocoa powder in it. To me, it tasted more like what you would get if you melted the coconut center of an Almond Joy bar and mixed it with peanut butter (well, almond butter). But, the almond coconut flavor was delicious, even craveable.

We went on with our day. While I was holding my daughter on the couch, she suddenly turned to me and said,

“Mom, you smell different. You don’t smell like your old skin.”

My daughter has an amazingly keen sense of smell and is very quick to notice scents.

“Different good or different bad?” I asked

“Different bad!” she said and began to fake cough.

Apparently the garlic and onions of day one were a bit much. I liked the idea of “burning” up my cold virus (even though I know that is not technically how it works) so I didn’t care but just be aware of this fact if you are going to try the detox at work or while you are around someone you are trying to impress.

Again, I got off the official detox schedule and had so much cooking to do that lunch and dinner ended up being served together.

“Lunch” was a roasted carrot soup. You can tell that this recipe was developed by an experienced, genius chef. The ingredients are so simple but the flavor is so complex and beautiful. My only difficulty with this recipe was the blending of the soup. I wanted to blend it with a hand blender in the pot but the carrots were too stiff to cope (the recipe says not to cook the carrots until they are completely soft). So, I ended up pouring the soup in batches into my blender. It took forever but the end product was the perfect consistency with flakes of carrot mixed in with the creamy soup. My husband loved this soup and so did I.

Roasted + Clean Carrot Soup

Roasted + Clean Carrot Soup

Dinner was “Pan Steamed Chicken and Broccoli.” This is the most normal recipe of the whole cleanse and if you are going to try just one recipe, this is the one to try. My pickiest eater said, “Mmmm….it smells so good!” and she even ate a piece!

A high compliment for this dish!  My daughter hams it up for the camera as she takes a bite.

A high compliment for this dish! My daughter hams it up for the camera as she takes a bite.

This is just like a sesame chicken and broccoli that you would order from a Chinese restaurant. Everyone loved it! The only complaint I had was that my version was too salty. Even though I used the low-sodium tamari sauce it was just too much. I would use half as much next time.

Yum!  Pan Steamed Chicken and Broccoli

Yum! Pan Steamed Chicken and Broccoli

I had been so busy in the afternoon that I didn’t have time to make my hot lemon water and eat my snack. I was getting a bit hungry at this point so I had them as a late night snack instead while we watched the latest episode of Downton Abbey. The snack for the day was a handful of seeds or nuts. I toasted the seeds from my acorn squash the night before so this was an economical snack.

Roasted Acorn Squash seeds - my snack.

Roasted Acorn Squash seeds – my snack.

Calorie count for the goop Winter Detox - day 2

Day Three

I awoke on day three only a tiny bit congested. I could take a huge deep breath and I feel only a tiny “catch” in my lungs as opposed to triggering a coughing fit. My ears still had fluid in them but were less poppy. Otherwise, I seem completely normal. It was rainy and cold.

Again, the lemon water and tea regimen began the day.

I had some errands to run with the children at this point and got off the schedule again. Due to timing, I couldn’t have the breakfast meal until after lunchtime and was starving by the time I made it.

“Breakfast” today was a “savory shake.” The only people I know who use the word “savory” have British affiliations. I am not sure it is a word Americans commonly use. If you don’t know what savory means, it basically means “not sweet” and generally involves more salty flavors. I am not a huge fan of savory foods but when I looked at the ingredients for this recipe (miso, avocado, chicken broth, coconut milk) I realized that it was sort of like a miso soup. I like miso soup so I tried to have a positive impression going in.

This is another green shake. I don’t mind green but some people find it off-putting.

The curiously green Savory Shake

The curiously green Savory Shake

I made a version of this shake (served in a bowl with a spoon as a soup) later on for my husband and he said bluntly:

“This looks like vomit.”

But he agreed that it is delicious. It has a wonderful creamy, sour flavor.

Again, the cooking responsibilities meant that lunch and dinner were served together.

“Lunch” was “balsamic miso root salad.” Basically you roast some vegetables in the oven with olive oil, salt and pepper and serve them over lettuce with a savory miso-based dressing. The vegetables we roasted included parsnips and golden beets (both of which we don’t recall ever eating before). The roasting process gives them just a hint of sweetness. This was really a delicious, wonderful salad. The dressing is a keeper and I have made it again since. I enjoyed this dish very much.

Balsamic Miso Root Salad

Balsamic Miso Root Salad

Dinner was coconut poached salmon. I had high hopes for this recipe. We love salmon and we like Thai-inspired flavors like coconut milk and lemongrass. I might have been a bit tired of cooking by this point and might not have made this as well as I could but I felt a little disappointed with the end result. It wasn’t bad. It just wasn’t great. The lemongrass was very tough and chewy. I am not sure what flavor it imparted but I don’t recall this recipe being very flavorful.

OK but not great.  Coconut Poached salmon.

OK but not great. Coconut Poached salmon.

I was so busy cooking that I didn’t have time again to make the lentil pate that was the snack for today so I just let it go. I was pretty hungry by this point but took comfort in the fact that it was the last day of the detox! I had done it! 3 days of intense cooking and clean eating.

Calorie Count for the goop Winter Detox - Day 3

Evaluating the Winter Detox

Healing Effects?

Before I started the detox, I decided that I was going to judge it based on whether it cured my cold. How did it score on this point? After the three days, my lungs were almost completely clear. A few days after that I was breathing completely normally. My ears also drained about 90% of their fluid within one week of finishing the detox. Was the detox responsible or was it the natural course of healing? It’s hard to say but if I ever get a bad cold like that again, I will be pulling this regimen out to do again.

I was researching bronchitis and learned from this doctor’s website that bronchitis isn’t a separate illness but rather a complication of having a cold. People who get bronchitis tend to be run-down in some way (like, say people who road trip across the country during the holidays). The best healing process for bronchitis is sleep, mild exercise and good nutrition. Interestingly, all the people I know who have had bronchitis this winter were women with childcare responsibilities and came down with it during the holidays when the stress level on women goes sky high.

Weight Loss?

Most people when they see these detox diets think of weight loss first. I honestly wasn’t concerned with this at all but I knew people would be curious so I weighed myself after the detox was over and found I had lost about 3 pounds. It was a nice side effect but not the reason I was doing this.

The detox taught me a couple of useful tricks to curb your appetite. The suggestions by Dr. Junger to dress warmly and to have regular intake of hot lemon water and tea were amazingly helpful in curbing winter eating. Also, having food with complex flavors seems to curb appetite as well. The brain is so entertained with the flavors that it seems to forget about calories.

Bottom Line

Going through the detox was an eye-opening experience. There might be something to this. If nothing else, it gave me the opportunity to learn new healthy cooking skills and flavors. It took a lot of time to shop for the ingredients and make the recipes the first time but most of the recipes weren’t really all that difficult. After you have made them a few times, they would go very quickly. It just took some time the first time to read the recipe carefully and get used to the cooking methods used.

You can tell that someone spent an incredible amount of time devising this detox program. It can be a challenge to cook like this and the recipes were quite clever. Someone has also spent a lot of time making sure that the supplements and ingredients all support holistic and macrobiotic diet principles. What a gift to get thousands of dollars worth of health-promoting advice for free! I would like to thank whoever was involved with this and also Gwyneth Paltrow for putting her name on it, publicizing it and taking all the heat from people who mock her for it.

I would be open to doing a detox again. Dr. Alejandro Junger was a consultant for this detox diet and I have to say Dr. Junger has a new fan. You can follow him on Facebook here or on Twitter here.

Suggestions for Real People

If anyone from goop happens to read this, I do have a few suggestions about how to make the detox plans more friendly for “ordinary” people in the future. It would be great if there is anything you can do to reduce the amount of cooking time each day. A crockpot dinner recipe where you just dump a few things in and turn it on would be wonderful. Alternatively, perhaps you could make adaptable recipes where, for example, you make a soup for lunch, then add a few things to the same leftover soup to make a hearty stew for dinner. For anyone who has to work a full-time job, having make-ahead recipes would be wonderful. Chances are most people would want to detox during the week so that their weekends are free for socializing. If you could cook all this stuff up on a Saturday or Sunday, package it for the week and just take out the right meals each day that would be wonderful. Many of the recipes in the current detox you could adapt this way but the shakes are a bit tricky. In the ideal world, there would also be a local restaurant the time-starved could pay $170 to and pick up a daily bag of detox food, all perfectly made.

What is your reaction to the goop Winter Detox? Would you try it? Do you have any suggestions about how to adapt this plan for “ordinary” people? Please share in the comments.

In my next post, answering a reader question about my fasting salads.

*I have no affiliation with goop, Dr. Junger or any other product or service mentioned in this post.

Posted by anne Tagged with: , , , , , , ,
Jan 272014
Pushing the limits of my son's grocery shopping stamina during our epic GOOP detox supply mission.

Pushing the limits of my son’s grocery shopping stamina during our epic GOOP detox supply mission.

At the beginning of January, I received the GOOP newsletter put out by celebrity Gwyneth Paltrow. It offered recipes and details for a 3-day “winter detox.”

While I don’t necessary buy into the theory of “detoxing,” per se, I was intrigued by this post for a couple of reasons:

1) I had been struggling with an awful cold I picked up during our road trip that I just couldn’t shake. It started as a cold and then became an ear infection and bronchitis. I had been sick for over a month and while I was slowly recovering, I just wanted to get rid of this virus once and for all. I had already been through antibiotics with my doctor and thought I would give this detox a try.

2) Many people seem to be so dismissive of the GOOP plans. There seems to be an automatic assumption that they are too hard or only for rich people with private chefs and personal assistants. When I read the GOOP posts, I always imagine some fashionable person in Paris, New York or Los Angeles doing them but I wanted to know for myself if it really was achievable for “ordinary people”– like say a mom living in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

My first step was to read through the recipes and make a shopping list. I have tried recipes before that used non-dairy substitutes like almond milk so that part of the shopping list was not so odd for me. There were quite a few things on this grocery list that I had never heard of before. Most of these ingredients I had eaten in restaurants at some point but had never purchased myself. I have to confess that I did roll my eyes a bit when I came across “mint flavored liquid chlorophyll” as an ingredient. “OK, where in the world am I going to find that?” I wondered, but I wrote it down anyway.

The GOOP Winter Detox items we happened to have already.

The GOOP Winter Detox items we happened to have already.

In the end, I went to 4 different stores to pick up all the supplies for this project. My poor children were dragged along with me. I might have been able to cut down the stops a bit but was trying to keep the cost of this project down as much as possible. So, I bought as many ingredients as I could at Wal-Mart where the costs are usually cheapest, as well as a large bag of organic quinoa at Costco because quinoa is one of my favorites. (Note that you can buy quinoa just about everywhere these days, including at Wal-Mart.) I knew many of the exotic ingredients would have to come from Fredericksburg’s high-end grocery store, Wegman’s, and there was one supplement that I purchased from The Vitamin Shoppe.

I was surprised at how many of the ingredients Wal-Mart had, including anchovy filets, shallots and parsnips. Wegman’s with its extensive health food section came through for us on the various alternative “milks” and coconut-derived products as well as lemongrass, almond butter, the exotic vinegars, and organic non-GMO miso paste. Wegman’s even had “mint flavored liquid chlorophyll” in their vitamin/supplement section! The only supplement I couldn’t find at Wegman’s was spirulina powder (even though it was supposedly somewhere on their supplement aisle). The Vitamin Shoppe had several jars to choose from and the employee knew right where it was.

Rachael Ray's low sodium chicken Stock-in-a-Box came in handy.

Rachael Ray’s low sodium chicken Stock-in-a-Box came in handy.

Pink salt?  Found it!

Pink salt? Found it!

Surprised by the number of coconut products we had to buy.  Here, coconut nectar, kind of like agave syrup.

Surprised by the number of coconut products we had to buy. Here, coconut nectar, kind of like agave syrup.

Found!  Spirulina powder.

Found! Spirulina powder.

There were a few items that were unattainable, however. Fredericksburg grocery stores do not seem to carry “kabocha squash,” which I keep seeing as an ingredient in various celebrity recipes on the web. We substituted acorn squash instead.

Our shopping efforts were also made more difficult by winter storms gripping the country and disrupting our grocery store supply chain.

Our shopping efforts were also made more difficult by winter storms gripping the country disrupting our grocery store supply chain.

“Rooibos chai tea (easy to find)” was anything but. Wegman’s has an enormous section of tea with hundreds of different varieties. I could find rooibos tea and chai tea made from green, white or black tea but no rooibos chai. I settled for Celestial Seasoning’s Rooibos Pomegranate Tea. I also picked up Yogi’s “Breathe Deep” tea as extra herbal therapy for the detox. You will be drinking a lot of herbal tea so you might as well pick up a variety that sounds tasty or helpful.

“Smoked Pimentón” was another mystery ingredient. “Do you mean pimento?” a fellow shopper asked. “I have no idea,” I said. “That sounds too gourmet for me,” she said. I even inquired at the gourmet foods counter at Wegman’s. The employees looked similarly perplexed. “Doesn’t that have cheese in it?” I knew this was a dairy-free diet so I didn’t think that sounded right. I later learned from reading Gwyneth’s It’s All Good cookbook I received as a Christmas present, that pimentón is smoked paprika. I should have been looking in the spice section, not the olives!

After an exhausting shopping trip, I located all but 3 of the ingredients and found substitutes for what I didn’t have.

All in all, the total came to around $171.

Our goop detox expenses.

Our goop detox expenses.

Many of these ingredients (like the exotic vinegars) are more like supplements to your pantry staples and can be used again for future recipes. If you already have a gourmet pantry, your costs will be far less. Also, you could probably omit a few of the ingredients if you wanted to. I am not sure why “pink Himalayan sea salt” is better than regular salt. You could probably get away with choosing one of red or yellow miso paste and you could just drink the rooibos tea instead of buying a separate herbal tea but for about $20, these were indulgences we agreed to try. On the other hand, if you purchase all of the optional ingredients: protein powder, chocolate-flavored protein powder, and bone marrow broth, you might spend a little more.

While $171 is more than what we usually spend for 3 days of meals, I found that in the end there was about a week’s worth of food here. For our family, $171 a week on groceries is pretty good. Most of the recipes serve 4 people so the cost per meal per person is roughly $6.32, very close to the cost of a fast food meal.

Did you try the GOOP Winter Detox? Do you have tricks for gourmet grocery shopping? Please share in the comments.

In my next post, cooking the GOOP Winter Detox recipes.

*I am not affiliated with GOOP or any store or product mentioned in this post.

Posted by anne Tagged with: , , , , , ,
Jan 242014
Not everyone is thrilled about going to the doctor.

Not everyone is thrilled about going to the doctor.

While I am proud of myself for having maintained diet and exercise efforts for almost one year now and feel the physical and psychological benefits daily, it certainly doesn’t hurt to get an “official” endorsement of this new change. When I went for my annual physicals this past December, I brought with me a chart of my weight and the blood test results from the 40th day of my low-carb, super healthy (although low calorie) diet.

My poor doctors, one male, one female, had to help me make sense of all this information. Below are some of the interesting things they had to say.

*Note: I am not a medical doctor and none of the information below is intended to be medical advice. It is only a report of my own experience. Always consult your doctor for advice specific to your own situation.

On My Initial 40-day Dramatic Weight Loss

Neither doctor thought that this pattern of weight loss was healthy. They both felt that this was trying to lose too much too soon.

You were destined to gain all the weight back with that pattern.

How my doctors viewed my initial dramatic 40-day weight loss.

How my doctors viewed my initial dramatic 40-day weight loss.

On My 5-2 Fasting Weight Loss Pattern

Both doctors far preferred the 5-2 fasting weight loss pattern. The ideal pattern they said is to see a person’s weight gradually step down a few pounds at a time and then eventually plateau and stabilize at a new lower weight.

This step-down weight loss pattern was far preferred by my doctors.

This step-down weight loss pattern was far preferred by my doctors.

On My Bloodwork After 40 Days on a Low-Carb Diet

Both doctors had a different take on these results. The male doctor looked at the results and said, “Your cholesterol is phenomenal.” There were a few flagged “out of the normal range” tests on the paper and he said about those, “Don’t worry about all that. You have to look at it all in context. A few points up and down does not make that much of a difference.”

When I pressed him to compare the bloodwork I had done at my physical last year with those results, he said that when looking at the cholesterol, it was better in the sense that my LDL (bad) cholesterol had gone down. “But your HDL (good) cholesterol also went down too so it’s kind of a wash.”

That was pretty disappointing.

“But,” he continued, “when I compare the low-carb result with your bloodwork I just pulled today, your results today are the best of all because your LDL has gone down even more and your HDL has gone up. So, when comparing where you are today with where you were last year, you have definitely improved.”

Comparison of my blood tests from 2012 with the two dieting patterns I tried last year: low-carb and 5-2 fasting.

Comparison of my blood tests from 2012 with the two dieting patterns I tried last year: low-carb and 5-2 fasting.

Wow! This was some great support for the benefits of fast dieting and a totally unexpected result. You can eat key lime pie one day, fast the next and still help your cholesterol levels!

My female doctor also complimented me on my cholesterol.

With cholesterol levels like that, you will never have a cholesterol problem.

I certainly hope she is right!

With regard to the low-carb diet bloodwork, however, she was blunt:

This is the bloodwork of someone who is starving.

As my mouth fell on the floor, she pointed out several of those “out of normal range” numbers and said.

Your body was so calorie deprived it stopped making protein.

She said that in her opinion the low-carb bloodwork was not healthier than my normal bloodwork. It was not something that I should aim for.

Interestingly, neither doctor was praising me for working hard on my diet and exercise. I think they were more concerned that I was becoming anorexic. Their fears were only calmed by my weight chart showing that I kept continuing to gain all my weight back and hopefully by my interest showing that I was truly focused on my health and that I had a defined weight goal that was healthy, not some vague obsession with being as skinny as possible.

Other Health Indicators

I got a little bit of unsolicited support for my efforts from one of my doctors. My male doctor commented:

Your blood pressure has gone down by about 10 points.  That's all exercise.

I was not expecting this. What a great boost to know that my heart is now functioning better.

While I didn’t really need the medical stamp of approval to keep going on my diet and exercise plans, it is nice to have. It helps keep me motivated and it helps me to know that I am not doing anything harmful to my body.

It is always a good idea to stay in touch with your doctor on your diet and exercise efforts. As you can see, there were issues my doctors knew about that I was completely unaware of. I found that it helps if you can quantify some of your diet and exercise into a chart, graph or spreadsheet. Doctors are very good at analyzing numbers but a little less adept at evaluating vague statements about how much you are (or are not) exercising. If you are starting a diet and exercise plan, making a log of your weight, your exercise time or your dieting strategies with your doctor in mind might be something to start doing.

How important is your doctor’s opinion in your diet and exercise program? Please share in the comments.

In my next post, testing out the GOOP winter detox.

Posted by anne Tagged with: , , , , ,
Jan 232014
Reflecting on where I am now in my weight maintenance efforts.

Reflecting on where I am now in my weight maintenance efforts.

When I last left off my weight maintenance tale, I was not holding my weight loss at all. I had hit the dreaded plateau and worse still, was inching right back up the scale to where I started! I got to just 1.5 pounds below my starting weight and decided it was time to try something new.

I began The Fast Diet two days per week. My fast days were (and are) Sundays and Wednesdays. I wasn’t too worried about the hunger aspect because I had already been through the hunger drama during my 40-day experiment that spring when I was eating 1200 calories per day. I already knew what sugar-shakes were like, could learn to live with a gnawing sensation in my stomach and would power through the lack of energy I would have for my exercise routines. It is never fun to start any kind of diet but I kept telling myself, “It’s just one day. How bad can it be?”

The First Fast

The first fast day came. I kept myself busy until dinnertime. I was already familiar with the constraints of a 400 calorie meal from my previous salad experiments so I decided to go with a 400 calorie salad and a can of V8 juice for my fasting meals. When you are really hungry, it is nice to have a full plate of food to eat and the only way to do that (that I have found) is to have a huge bowl of green salad. Going with the salad also made it easy to adjust the meals to serve my husband (whom I had asked to try this experiment with me). I found it was easy to make the same salad and just add 100 calories of cheese to his rather than having to make two completely separate calorie-appropriate meals.

Our first set of his and hers fasting salads.  He gets cheese.

Our first set of his and hers fasting salads. He gets cheese.

So far so good. By evening, I was feeling a bit hungry but went to bed.

The next morning, I awoke so ravenously hungry and feeling like if I didn’t eat something right then I would collapse! I jumped out of bed and treated myself to a huge breakfast. In the end, I am sure I ate more than what I should have eaten that day and probably more than made up for my fasting in calorie intake.

Continuing the Fast

I tried it again the next fasting day. It was generally the same procedure. By the end of the first week on the fasting routine, I had dropped 4 pounds! I continued the pattern of fasting 2 days and eating regularly 5.

Two more weeks of fasting salads.

Two more weeks of fasting salads.

The Fasting Injury

When I was first fasting, I learned that I had to be extremely careful in the mornings after fast days until about an hour after breakfast . In my hungry state, my brain and my reflexes were stressed and not quite up to their regular capabilities. If I were doing something like operating heavy machinery, performing microsurgery or anything that could endanger someone’s life if I were distracted, I would be extremely careful about fasting when you first get started.

My first injury came when I tried to chop frozen strawberries for a breakfast smoothie after fasting. This was a big mistake! The strawberries were rolling around and I had to be careful to hold them in place as I used the knife. I slipped a bit on my grip and the next thing I knew I had sliced right into the top of my thumb!

I was afraid to look at first. Eventually, after the shock had passed, I surveyed the damage. Fortunately, I did not need stitches. It was just a bad slice that would heal in a few weeks time.

Ouch!  My fasting injury.

Ouch! My fasting injury.

Building the Fasting Muscle

Fasting is not a “natural” behavior. I learned that getting used to fasting is much like building muscle and stamina in exercise. It takes time to get used to not eating. It is both a physical and a psychological exercise. Gradually, after about two months of fasting, it became easier to not eat during fast days and the frantic feeling before breakfast after fast days started to go away as well.

One month of fasting salads.

One month of fasting salads.

 

The Non-Fast Day Trap

The biggest complaint you will hear about fasting from nutritionists is that fasting encourages a schizophrenic eating pattern, where what you eat on the non-fasting days is often so caloric that you more than make up for what calories you missed on fast days.

In my experience this is definitely true. I found that by the end of most fast days I ended up baking high carb treats to consume the next day.

Carb-loading.  On a particularly bad fasting day, I made both cookies and banana bread to eat the next day!

Carb-loading. On a particularly bad fasting day, I made both cookies and banana bread to eat the next day!

In The Fast Diet book, the authors claim that after fasting for a while they craved sugars less and less and even looked forward to their fasting days because it gave them energy. I have not experienced anything like this yet! I still crave sugar like a monster. I don’t look forward to fast days per se but I have gotten to the point where my body will give me signals like “It’s a good thing tomorrow is a fast day because you definitely overdid it today.”

Weight Loss?

So, the big question is, how did fasting work as a weight loss tool? At first, I have to say the results were horrible! I would lose a bunch of weight on fast days then gain it all right back on non-fast days. (Note that if you have better discipline than I do and you can maintain a healthy diet on your non-fasting days, you might have far better and more consistent results.) It was the epitome of yo-yo-dieting. But after I had been fasting for a couple of weeks, I put my weights on a chart and noticed this curious pattern.

My weight over the first 3 months of starting the Fast Diet.

My weight over the first 3 months of starting the Fast Diet.

My weight was yo-yo-ing up and down but there was a general downward trend! Fasting seemed to be working!

The Holidays Hit

I have continued fasting two days per week. Perhaps I have hit the dreaded 4-6 month plateau or perhaps the stress and food of the holidays have all caught up with me but I am sorry to report that my fasting weight loss trend has not been sustainable.

The dreaded pattern of holiday weight gain.

The dreaded pattern of holiday weight gain.

As you can see from my chart, my weight has steadily increased from Thanksgiving through Christmas. I had a small downward trend from there but am bouncing up and down yet again. It is certainly a frustrating experience.

Why I am Sticking with Fasting Anyway

So, fasting literally has its ups and downs, but I am choosing to stick with it anyway. Why? A couple of key reasons:

1) It allows me to make an effort at dieting without completely transforming my life. I am not ready yet to make a dramatic life change like cutting out sugar completely or following some strict diet. I have small children to raise and other priorities that would make such a change very difficult for me right now. I am sure this change will probably have to come at some point but for now fasting allows me to take one small step in this direction. Two days a week, I am eating very healthy, low-sugar foods and plenty of vegetables. There are still five days that I am not but I will gladly take two days over nothing.

2) Every single fast day I am gaining psychological insight about my eating patterns. Dieting seems to me to be a 90% mental exercise. Biologically, there is no reason why we need to eat every day but undeniably we crave food. When I am “forbidden” from eating for a day, I can’t grab a snack to power through some stressful event. Instead, I am left alone to calm my brain myself. I have had to learn how to entertain myself without food, how to socialize with others without eating and how to find hidden reserves of energy to exercise or play with my children when I am calorie deprived. It is definitely hard but not impossible by any means.

3) It is cheap and quick. Parents of small children especially don’t want a diet plan that requires a lot of time. The fasting answer is the quickest there is: don’t cook, don’t wash dishes . . . just don’t eat! It also doesn’t cost anything. I have learned that I am one of the biggest and most expensive eaters in my house. When I fast, I can see the savings on our grocery bill.

So, at this point in my weight maintenance journey, I know it is time to try something else to get my weight headed back in the right direction. I think my next step will be to try to stop eating after 6:00 p.m. each day on my non-fast days and see what happens from there.

My journey so far has taught me to be very respectful of how complex the weight loss process is and how much it can vary from person to person. It has also taught me that is unrealistic to expect that you can develop one new diet and exercise routine and have that serve you perfectly forever. You have to be ready to change things up continuously as your body changes and adapts. Having a mindset oriented toward learning and experimentation is one of the best weight loss tools out there.

In my next post, I will share with you the medical analysis from my doctors on my weight loss and weight maintenance efforts so far.

*I am not affiliated with The Fast Diet or Dr. Michael Mosley.

Posted by anne Tagged with: , , , ,
Jan 172014
Weigh-in photos from martialartsnomad.com.  From the Flickr Creative Commons.

Weigh-in photos from martialartsnomad.com. From the Flickr Creative Commons.

While we know that both men and women struggle with weight loss and that the psychological and physical demands of dieting and exercise are roughly the same for both sexes, it is biologically true that women have a harder time losing weight.

Why?

Because it is biologically true that women are predisposed to storing fat to support our childbearing role. Our bodies are designed to protect growing children at all costs. While this is a wonderful thought when you are pregnant or trying to conceive, when you are trying to lose or maintain weight, this can be a nuisance.

It is More Accurate to Say Women Have a “Weight Range” than a “Weight”

When a woman is asked to list her weight on a simple form or weighed in a doctor’s office, it is a frustrating experience. Yes, we are probably more sensitive about our weight than men but it is more than that. A woman’s weight can be highly variable. It is not uncommon for me to suddenly and inexplicably gain 5-8 pounds one day and then inexplicably lose it all a few days later. Murphy’s Law dictates that we will always be weighed at our heaviest point. So, women often look at their weight, whatever it may be, as inaccurate. I thought this was just me until I learned that fitness trainer Tracy Anderson gauges herself based on a 10-pound weight zone. Once she gets to the top of the zone, she knows she needs to watch her diet more carefully. I wish doctors would adopt a “weight range” for women on their medical forms.

A Menstruating Woman Will Spend Roughly Half Her Time in an “Inflated” Weight

Female hormones have a huge impact on insulin levels. As seen in the chart below, estrogen surges twice each month for a menstruating woman – once at ovulation and again right before her period. Estrogen seems to increase insulin production, which, although helpful for removing sugars from the blood also increases fat production. At these times of the month, the body is in effect trying to utilize every possible calorie it can from the food ingested and it is very easy to gain weight.

Follow the grey line to see how estrogen cycles during the month.  My commentary added in green.

Follow the grey line to see how estrogen cycles during the month. My commentary added in green.

If you are an actress or model who must maintain a slim figure at all times, the advice I have read basically says that you must diet and exercise more stringently during ovulation and your period to avoid this weight gain. Even if you just eat normally, you are probably going to gain weight (temporarily). For most women, it is probably more realistic to just accept that we will probably only look the way we think we should half of the month.

Women in Menopause Face Different Hormone Challenges

The fun for women with their hormone levels doesn’t end with menopause. At menopause, estrogen levels decline. You might think that is wonderful and could lead to weight loss due to less insulin being produced. Again, there are tons of other factors at work (like the fact that our caloric intake requirements decline with age) and it is hard to find a woman in menopause who finds it easy to maintain her weight. Instead of a benefit, the lack of estrogen causes insulin levels to function less well and blood sugar levels to rise increasing the risk factors for diabetes.

Sugar Control is Vital for Women of All Ages

In my previous post, I talked about the influence of blood sugar and insulin levels on weight maintenance. For women, blood sugar control is even more vital.

In younger women, insulin that is too high can disrupt ovulation and fertility and cause the ovaries to produce testosterone, resulting in acne and hair growth as well as causing weight gain and increased cholesterol levels.

During pregnancy, the hormone progesterone surges and is important for sustaining a pregnancy. Progesterone, however, also interferes with insulin functioning and can cause blood sugar levels to rise. At the extreme, this can result in gestational diabetes.

As mentioned above, poor sugar control after menopause can also result in diabetes. Also, women who work to control their sugar intake (and weight) significantly decrease their risk of cancer, particularly endometrial cancer.

If all this Isn’t Enough, It Can Be Harder Psychologically for Women to Control Their Sugar Intake

Most women crave sugar and sweets at least some of the time. While we may be quick to fault self-control, we have to realize there are other physical factors at play. For example, before a woman’s period, her serotonin levels can be altered, leaving her to crave sugary and high calorie foods. It has also been shown that women seem to have better brain functioning when they have higher glucose levels.

See Past the Challenges . . . and Get Mad!

When you see all that is going against you biologically in your weight loss or weight maintenance efforts, it is tempting to just give up. Yes, it can feel like running uphill and it is very hard work. But women succeed in weight loss efforts all the time. Any woman can learn to control her sugar intake. It will not happen overnight but if you are really dedicated and commit yourself to it, you can succeed.

One thing that has made a difference to me personally is to get mad about it. I learned this technique through listening to Dave Ramsey. His advice is about dealing with your finances but it really applies to just about any difficult-to-change situation. If you allow yourself not just to get frustrated but to get MAD—mad at yourself, mad at your situation, you will find the internal fire to change. Dave Ramsey advises that you need to get to the point where you are screaming out, “I am not living like this any more!” For women, we don’t use anger very often and we may have been conditioned not to become angry. However, in this situation where you are not mad at others but mad at yourself, you can use this emotion to your advantage.

For all the women out there, what weight challenges have you seen that are peculiar to the female species? What strategies do you use to control your weight? Please share in the comments.

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