Lifestyle is a long, narrow road

Lifestyle is a long, narrow road
Flowers along the way

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

One Small Step

I guess it’s true, when you don’t post, you don’t have anything for folks to read. Sorry about that. I had a rush job on a big project – that I unfortunately didn’t get done in time. The lesson? Don’t get bogged down in stuff that’s going to leave you exhausted and stressed!

So, I didn’t make a menu this week, and I’ve been struggling. I had an extremely difficult time when I went out of town, the food temptations were almost beyond my control.


I lost one pound. So did hubby.

Just one pound.

At first I was so discouraged. Disappointed and I just thought, what’s the use in trying so hard when the results are so very slim. Ug, wrong word altogether! But you know what I mean.

Then I thought about it. I have given myself a year to do this thing. If I lose only one pound a week, at the end of the year I will have lost over fifty pounds. Wow. Mind boggling.

One pound and that pound is going to be gone for good.

The strategy for the week – um the several days I’ve been absent: Climbing the stairs so many times I thought my hips would pop out of the joints. Walking the dog all the way to the end of the road. Okay, it’s only ¼ mile total, but I couldn’t do it a month ago. Doing tummy crunches before I get out of bed in the morning. I’m up to about a hundred and now. I’m doing leg lifts as well. And would you believe that when I finally do get up, I’m revived and feeling like I can tackle the world? I guess a bit of exercise gets the blood flowing. I think I’ll ask the doc about that next time I see him.

And I’ve been eating less than full portions. When I’m hungry I get a few crackers, or a celery stick and peanut butter, but not much. If I just get a bite or two into my tummy, the growling goes away and I can keep going.

I promised some recipes, but the best I could do so far was the oatmeal. My granddaughter said she’d like to try the triticale. I urge everyone to find it at a natural food grocery store. It’s amazing. However, my favorite breakfast food which is basically non-carb, is eggs.

I have my own chickens so I have plenty of eggs. Yes, I know that eggs have cholesterol, and not the good kind. I make scrambled eggs with five egg-whites and only two yokes. I get the protein, the flavor, the color, the nutrition, and the cholesterol is manageable. Oh, and the five eggs, that’s for two people.

But I don’t just do eggs, I do omelet. Sometimes I don’t feel like flipping a perfect omelet, sometimes I don’t have all the ingredients. So I scramble. The most important ingredient – besides the egg – onion. At least for me. Onion has all sorts of vitamins and minerals essential for health, but if you’re not able to eat fresh or freshly cooked onion, maybe the dried-minced onion will work for you. And don’t forget the garlic and parsley!

I like to use lots of cut veggies for my morning eggs. To keep things fast and easy, I cut them up ahead of time and store them in the freezer. Favorite veggies (for almost anything) Onion, Red, green, yellow, and orange bell peppers, celery. I think they have a name for this mix, but I’m not sure what it is. I just cut up equal amounts, dice them nice and small, but I learned that the food processor just makes juice out of them, and mix them up in a gallon sized baggie. When I’m ready to cook, I measure out a bit and away we go.

For my breakfast eggs, I’ll use at least a half cup of my frozen cut veggies. Sauté in olive oil until soft, then maybe I’ll add some sausage or cubed ham (I only use natural without msg or nitrates) When the meat is done I add the eggs to make what looks like a beautiful Denny’s breakfast skillet. Yum! I also add frozen, chopped spinach, and a friend of mine loves to use asparagus in her eggs.

Notice I didn’t say a thing about potatoes because I rarely use them. That’s the carb factor. Without potatoes or toast or biscuits with this breakfast, you have a power-packed, protein-rich, low-carb breakfast of around 400 calories. Remember, the shredded cheese you might top this with adds a ton of calories, so choose with care.

I’m working on pages to add to this blog with my favorite recipes.

Do you have a success story to share? Or a favorite recipe? Share it in the comments.

Eat well! Eat healthy!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Breakfast - Don't Leave Home Without it!

My oatmeal story.

Believe it or not, I love hot cereal. Not just stuff like cream of wheat, and for sure not those instant flavored oatmeal things in a package. I like old fashioned Quaker Oats.

But not all oatmeal is created equal. Or I should say, not cooked as well as others.

My mom could create magic in the kitchen. But she couldn't do hot cereal. At least not so that I could eat it. Her method didn't use enough water and she cooked it dry, let it cool, then cut it into gummy chunks and put milk on it. I gagged every time. We had words about her oatmeal once when I was about twelve years old. It wasn't pretty.

I told her I could make better oatmeal with my horse feed! She handed me a pan and told me stuff I shouldn't repeat. So I grabbed the pan and marched out to the barn.

Now, once upon a time you could buy horse feed called COB meaning rolled corn, rolled oats, and rolled barley. It also had molasses drizzled through it, not solid coated, just enough for a bit of flavor and good aroma. Of course molasses also has added nutritional benefits like iron and protein.

So I scooped up a pan of feed and stopped off by the water hose and added a bunch of water, never bothering to measure anything.  And I would have cooked it on the grill if we'd had charcoal that day. But I stomped back into the kitchen and plunked my pan on the stove to cook my oats slowly. Mom went into the living room.

I will never forget the awesome smells in that kitchen. Almost as good as bread baking. It was bubbling along, nearly done, when my dad came in and wondered what was so good in there. I got a small bowl full. He commandeered the whole pan and ate all the rest of my oats. And he looked for more. Mom went into the bedroom and slammed the door.

I never told daddy where we got the oats but he always looked in the stores for that same kind. Mom and I never discussed it again, but I became the official oatmeal cook.

Good oatmeal can be cooked on the stove or in the microwave. It's a grain, so the recipe is 2:1, which means 2 parts water one part oats. Add a dash of salt and a small dollop of margarine and let it simmer a few minutes until creamy.

Yeah, that sounds bland. Here's how I dress it up. You can pick and choose.

Dried cranberries
dried cherries
dried mixed fruit
fresh strawberries cut up
Sunflower seeds
my fav, a grated apple, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves with a bit of sugar.

Need I go on? The possibilities are endless. But another addition I absolutely love is a scrambled egg. Of course I don't use sugar with the egg and it does bump up the cholesterol. But I like it for the flavor and protein boost.

Now here comes the kicker. Oats come in textures. Steel cut oats are awesome. And you can find 7 or 12 grain cereal, Bob's Red Mill has all kinds of selections. I even found triticale, the most flavorful whole grain I've ever tasted. And I finally found my rolled corn and barley at Natural Food Grocery,  Vitamin Cottage.  It was even better than when I made it with horse feed!

I rarely use milk with my hot cereal because it just doesn't play well with my tummy.  And I can tell you that molasses or honey was made for oatmeal. Yum.

One serving of oatmeal is 1/2 cup dry.  Nutritional values: 150 cal, hardly any fat, no cholesterol, 4g fiber, 1g sugar, it does have 27g carbs, but it also has iron. The fruit and nuts will boost the calories as sugar a but, but that's easy to track. And it's true, whole grain cereal is a heart healthy food because the fiber not only cleans the intestine, it reduces the fat which can build up in the arteries. It also helps with your weight loss.

Oatmeal is hearty and filling, and it's such a great comfort food that it's great for supper or a late snack.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Finally good news

I haven't felt much like posting for a while. And that's not fair or healthy. I need to log each day if for no other reason than to encourage myself.

My first week I lost a bit, then a bit more, then I slipped and put it back on. My will power is practically non-existent, but that has to change. I think it's easy to think that a quick snack while I'm in town won't matter that much. After all, I'm walking all over the place, climbing in and out of my pickup and carrying five gallon water jugs (that's another story) and other heavy things. I'm burning plenty of calories, right?


I also tell myself that since I'm exercising more, I may be dropping fat, but I'm putting on muscle, which everyone knows is more dense and heavier than fat. It's still an excuse. If I must grab a snack, it must be one of those little packs of raw carrots or something.

A few days ago I did grab a healthy snack. I was about to faint (drama queen here) from starvation and I grabbed an Odwalla juice. The green one. I actually like the stuff, even the texture. And it gave me a huge energy boost. But it had like a gazillion calories along with all the heavy-duty nutrition. I try to tell myself that the calories came from the apples and other fruit. The sugar is fructose, not refined sugar, which is much more healthy. It's still a lot of extra calories and I didn't make any adjustments to the rest of my daily intake.

No more excuses. It's easy to mark what I eat or drink on my health tracker app, nearly everything is already in the databank, and it has a spot where I can manually add a particular food if I want.

But, the title said 'Good News' And yes, I finally dropped four pounds. If the first five are the hardest, I'm almost there. But the road ahead is long and intimidating.

For the past several days I've kept my intake around 1800 cal, and the protein is up. Carbs are all but gone. And seeing a smaller number on the scale gives me hope.

Tomorrow I'll share the breakfasts and snacks we've been enjoying - high energy and low carb.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Planning Meals

I remember a commercial which ran when I was young that started out with “Planning meals! I hate it!” I think it was something for a one box spaghetti dinner or something like that. Even as a child, I laughed at that commercial because coming from an Italian grandmother, I knew all about pasta dinners! And of course back then I naturally assumed there was nothing majorly concerning about how the meals got to the table because my mom was a genius.

That was then, this is now.

And I can say, truly, without a doubt, and no mincing terms – I really don’t enjoy planning meals. It gets so much worse when I’m planning meals for losing weight AND making a picky hubby happy.

I did find a couple of wonderful assistants. First, on my word program, I found a template which I adapted for a seven day meal plan. I also found an app on my Samsung smart phone for S-Health. I’m sure whatever phone you have, there is an app to track steps as well as food intake.

For the Meal planner, I found a “Daily Food Diary” at office dot com templates. I turned it sideways, changed the headings to read Sunday, Monday, and so on. I took out a couple of the food items to make room for the shorter length and formatted it for a legal sized paper ‘landscape’ view (sideways). 

This template comes with a built in date, then I added some stuff at the top like our names, starting and ending weights for the week, and the nutrition goals for a day. It also comes with room for notes. 

I printed last week with all the meals already on it, and ended up changing several of the items, which made for a really messy looking planner.

This week I printed a blank sheet and penciled in my meals.

If you can’t see that very well, across the top are the days of the week. I typed this in 8 point font to fit the space available:

Weights:  Start:  John_________ Connie__________   End:  John_________ Connie __________
Grains and pasta – 3 – 1 bread, 1 tortilla, 1 cup cereal, ½ cup rice or pasta
Dairy – 3 one cup servings, including cheese
Vegetables – 3 one cup servings
Protein – one 2 oz., and two, 3 oz. or two 3 1/3 ounce servings, or one 7 oz. steak
Fruit, fresh – raw, juice, cooked – 1 one cup servings
Snack – according to attached guidelines (I got a list of diabetic snack ideas from the doctor)

I also created a text box and typed in the RDA for calories, carbs, sugars, fats, sodium, protein, and fiber.

The phone app is a Godsend for tracking the calories and stuff like that, but when you select a food look at the serving size! Nobody only eats 2 oz of meat at a meal!

Even though I changed some things at the last minute, I can truthfully say that getting a meal on the table is many times less stressful when I only have to glance at the menu on the frig. Not only that. I can make up a grocery list based on what I’m planning to cook. And I spend much, much less at the store.

Did I mention that I’m doing much of my shopping at Aldi’s store now? It’s 99% all natural. You don’t have to read the labels to make sure you aren’t filling your plate with chemicals AND it’s ton’s less expensive than the other stores. Sometimes the selections are a bit limited, but, hey, there’s still that other store!

I’ve been a bit slow posting, but I’ve been learning this new tracking system – and fighting off a cold, as well as keeping up with all my other chores. But I’m feeling pretty positive about the weigh in on Sunday.

How are you doing in your journey?

Monday, January 11, 2016

Read the label! Food additives cause harm. MSG

Today I spent some time doing research on a topic close to my heart. I also, sadly, backslid in my food plan while in town doing errands. I ate a candy bar, actually two, it was King sized. I fear I'll pay for it because it's cold outside and I'm finding it harder to go out and walk. I'm up and down the stairs more and I've started doing crunches in bed before I get up. I can do about 50.

Today's menu: Spinach omelet, Turkey sandwich with sandwich thins and Hormel Natural, supper: crockpot pork loin, carrots, red potatoes, home grown beans, onions, and celery. Calories, 2025, carbs 201, plus that candy bar, about 400 calories. Yesterday I felt good about myself, right now not so much. I have no self control or will power whatsoever.

But, here's what I learned today:

MSG, Monosodium Glutamate, C5H8NO4Na,  flavor enhancer, “Accent”

Believe it or not, I just watched a video, created by the senior producer of Business Insider, Will Wei, which attempts to debunk the dangers of MSG. Since not all of the population experiences immediate (allergic) reactions to this food additive, it is completely safe. I guess he’s comparing allergies to strawberries or milk or eggs to the reaction some people get from foods containing this chemical.

The compound now called MSG was discovered in 1908 by a Japanese chemist and was extracted from a type of seaweed. Later chemical studies led to the founding of Ajinomoto, a company which also manufactures drugs, and is now the largest maker of MSG in the world.

So, Since MSG is considered a ‘salt’ and since it comes from something natural, it must be safe. Only MSG no longer comes from seaweed. It is chemically manufactured! And of course this guy Mr. Wei, is a business man, and the production of this stuff is big business.

Fact: petroleum is a natural product of the earth. Not for human consumption!

Okay, that was a bit extreme. Real fact: highly processed foods are never a good thing.

Fact: the effects of MSG are cumulative, meaning it builds up in your body like heavy metals over time.

Fact: MSG is an excitotoxin, meaning it over-excites the cells. Example – Hyperactive kids. Over active nerve cells, or any overactive cells for that matter, can become damaged. Damaged nerve cells can’t repair themselves like other cells. Over use, can damage and kill nerve cells in the brain and heart. Look at Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, heart arrhythmias.

However the FDA continues to claim that this chemical additive in our food is safe.
MSG is not a food flavoring, not a seasoning, certainly not a spice. It is a taste enhancer. It works by tricking your tongue into telling your brain the food is good, robust, full of protein. What you taste is unami, sort of a fifth basic taste – in addition to sweet, sour, bitter, salty.

MSG was once derived from seaweed. Today, MSG is made from refining starch, sugar beets, sugar cane, or molasses. That means highly refined, so that chemicals found naturally in many living things, like tomatoes, mushrooms, some cheeses, and people, gets increased exponentially. So, sugar tastes good – let’s scoop up a couple of cups and eat it right down. Hmmmm, we actually do that when we drink lots of sodas. But you get the picture.

I do have a degree in science, biology, Anatomy and Physiology, Microbiology, Chemistry, Nutrition, are just some of my areas of study. After reading dozens of websites on MSG, I understand that the chemical reaction in the body hampers the natural glutamate in our bodies – which have specific and important jobs – from doing their work. To include hampering the correct distribution of enzymes and hormones in the body.

Research has linked the use of MSG (and yes I know that much of this list is an overall lifestyle issue) but there is a positive correlation with:
  • ·         Obesity
  • ·         Eye damage
  • ·         Headaches
  • ·         Fatigue and disorientation
  • ·         Depression

MSG symptom Complex, or Chinese Restaurant Syndrome - A quick, short-term reaction:
  • ·         Numbness
  • ·         Flushing
  • ·         Sweating
  • ·         Burning sensation
  • ·         Tingling
  • ·         Facial pressure or tightness
  • ·         Chest pain or difficulty breathing
  • ·         Nausea
  • ·         Rapid heartbeat
  • ·         Drowsiness
  • ·         Weakness
  • ·         For me, instant congestion, coughing, sneezing, difficulty breathing – I have to gasp for a breath.

Is this proven to cause hyperactivity in children, learning disabilities, heart disease, brain dysfunctions? Could nerve cell damage be linked to MSG or other additives in the sudden deaths of athletes? Is there enough evidence for the FDA to change their label of Generally Save – to Warning this could cause …  Tons of studies, but still not enough to convince the FDA. Just remove it from your diet and see for yourself.

Here’s my conclusion: Refined foods are generally not a healthy choice. Additives in foods, generally not good. Make healthy food choices, use fresh, whole foods. Also take smaller portions. See if this works better for you than stuff in a can with words on the label you can’t pronounce along with that two-liter bottle of soda pop.
I don’t know why some people are allergic to bee stings or strawberries or a plethora of other things that most people are not allergic to. But for me, if I accidentally eat a food with MSG at a restaurant, I have to take my allergy medication and inhalers immediately. And I did do a double blind study on myself!

As to the hyperactive, learning disability – when my little brother was in the third grade my folks had enough of his constant running to the point of exhaustion. He had to run into a tree and knock himself over to stop and rest, then he’d jiggle. He couldn’t read, or do anything in school and he was constantly in trouble for talking and getting out of his seat. The folks made a radical change in his diet and within a month he was sitting quietly in class and doing fifth grade math! And for the first time in his life, he walked.

I’ve about worn this topic out. Later I’d like to talk about these:

Natural Flavors
Unpronounceable chemicals
Artificial colors
Artificial flavors

By the way. You don’t have to break the bank going to a health or natural food store. Try Aldi’s.

This is just a few of the sites I studied for the information in this article. You can search more, or do your own studies. But read the labels! And please share your own experiences with food additives.

This site is a bit complicated, but nonetheless, frightening:

This one is from another blogger like me, but with lots more research. She’s an advocate for wholesome food.

Not everyone agrees that MSG is unhealthy:
his article seems to be on the fence:

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Progress Made! Week One

Weigh in was a pleasant surprise. Hungry sometimes, grumbly often, and me busier than I needed to be with research and trying to figure out healthy menus. The hardest part of this week has been controlling portions. Well, and keeping the schedule. A few times I've logged in breakfast closer to brunch, or even lunch. Next week my goal, besides dropping a pound or two, is setting breakfast on the table before 9AM and walking more.

The results - Me 221# for a loss of 2 whole pounds and hubs, 274.4, for a loss of 1 pound.

Hey, it's a start.

I'm learning something important. Working hard at eating healthier (not focusing on losing weight) and searching out better foods, I'm actually feeling better about myself. And I'm not as interested in grabbing that bottle of wine or beer. I know that stuff just adds pounds, to say nothing of the threat of an enlarged liver.

I'm also figuring out that when I plan a meal in advance, I buy less at the store. I may dig out some old receipts and compare them. (Yes, I save receipts because we claim them for the pigeon business and my book selling.)

I did get the last of the high carb, unhealthy foods out of the refrigerator and cabinets, although it hurt a little. But I am encouraged because I've seen progress.

If you'd like to share your progress, I welcome you to post in the comments.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar

From cleaning to better health.

On the left is unfiltered, with 'The Mother' On the right is filtered.

It seems the acid content of apple cider vinegar is the key to its magic. But know this – not all vinegar is the same! White vinegar has a harsher taste, filtered apple cider vinegar is a bit more flavorful, still strong. Balsamic, Rice wine, a plethora of cooking vinegars, each with a different flavor. And all with great health benefits. However, the best apple cider vinegar would of course be all natural, organic, unfiltered. One brand of organic vinegar calls the suspended material in the unfiltered style “The Mother.” It took me a while to figure this out. The ‘mother’ contains proteins, enzymes, and friendly bacteria. It also has potassium, antioxidants, and polyphenols. All good stuff.

Now I don’t think I would use apple cider vinegar for cleaning, distilled white is a bit better (and less expensive).

Cleaning uses:
Anyplace you use bleach, try vinegar. You already know you can clean your coffee maker with white vinegar, ¼ cup in ½ gallon water to clean floors, walls, and woodwork, tough stains just increase the vinegar a little. Equal parts vinegar and water for washing windows. Deodorize sinks, microwave, refrigerator, and even toilet with straight vinegar. Pour some down the drain or into the garbage disposal and let it set for a while to clean and deodorize. Wipe it on countertops to make them glisten (this will keep ants away when they invade once a year). However do not use it on granite, marble, or stone! Ever try salad dressing on the water marks on furniture? Use equal parts white vinegar and olive oil and scrub with the grain and those awful rings go away. It also gets rid of soap scum in the bathroom. Vinegar is so much better than dangerous chemicals for a weed killer. I could go on and on and on. Basically use it for any cleaning or washing you need to do, including your hair.

I stress, using the unfiltered, all natural, organic apple cider vinegar is the best for these benefits. The best recipe for drinking, if you just can’t gulp a spoonful is two teaspoons vinegar, two teaspoons all natural, unfiltered honey (the white more solid honey) mixed into 6 oz tepid water.
  • ·         Upset stomach, the acid battles the bacteria overgrowth, the pectin sooths the intestine. Try two tablespoons mixed in water and honey or juice.
  • ·         Hiccups? Try just a teaspoon – you can tolerate that
  • ·         Sore throat? Gargle. Again the acid along with the antioxidants will kill bacteria causing the sore throat.
  • ·         Is it possible to reduce cholesterol, high blood pressure, and blood sugar (diabetes)? Drink the recipe above.
  • ·         More great benefits for that drink: Indigestion, leg cramps, nasal congestion, an alternative for your afternoon coffee for a boost.
  • ·         Here’s a biggie. The high amounts of antioxidants and polyphenols (also found in wine) will fight free radicals in your body – and possibly reduce your risk of cancer.
  • ·         Use it straight on your skin to relieve bruises and sunburn, as a face wash for acne, mixed in equal parts for dandruff treatments after shampooing, and as a mouthwash to freshen breath and whiten teeth – No kidding.
  • ·         Why do you think vinegar is used for preserving food? The acids destroy bacteria such as e-coli.
  • ·         Try it for nail fungus, head lice, even ear infections.
  • ·         The vinegar/honey drink can help you lose weight, but without a change in lifestyle, that weight could come right back.

Hey, even Doctor Oz endorses apple cider vinegar. How bad can that be?

Here’s my own findings. My husband actually got us started on apple cider vinegar and honey several weeks ago. For years he has been fighting his weight. He has gone beyond borderline diabetes to needing medication. (he hates the pills and actually refused to take them). He’s had issues with cholesterol. He’s also had some serious liver issues and had kidney stones so bad as to need hospitalization on more than one occasion. He’s also prone to gout and he has arthritis in all his joints which leaves him in intense pain for days. After about six weeks he went in for his annual doctor visit.

For the first time in twenty years he has a normal lab. We’re talking a complete blood panel and urinalysis. His liver no longer throwing off enzymes – Kidneys working better – blood sugar normal. All normal even cholesterol. Wow.

Disclaimer. It is of utmost importance that before changing anything in your diet, especially adding vinegar to this extent, that you check with your doctor or pharmacist for any drug interactions. In fact your pharmacist may be able to see any possible issues with your medications faster than waiting on a doc appointment.

For today we are having western omelet with sausage, spinach, and cheese. A Benton's Breakfast Bar. Activia yogurt. Turkey stew left over from yesterday. Ground turkey patty, brown rice, home grown beans. Hubs always likes his bowl of cheerios and milk in the evening. Oh yeah, and the vinegar drink. Total Calories - 1800 cal, fat 68 g, protein 91g. 

Tomorrow is our first official weigh in and I'm a little nervous.

Anyone need a bit of encouragement? Or have a question? Please leave a comment.