Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Healthy Foods for Under a Dollar

I just had to share this from the New York Times...

Health
Well: Healthy Foods for Under $1
By By Tara Parker-Pope
Published: December 29, 2008
A list of cheap foods to stretch your grocery budget during the holidays and beyond.

What I love about this list is that several items in the 20 listed are already staples in my kitchen, and the rest are good suggestions. (Except beets. I hate beets.)

"Diabetic" Food

One of the biggest things you learn in diabetes class is to avoid any food labeled “diabetic.” For one thing, they taste like ass. For another thing, you find a lot of them have a fairly high carb content. For example, all of those chocolates and candies made with sugar alcohol end up having about 13 grams of carbs per tiny serving. As I read the labels, I am finding that you just need to do some digging and a lot of low-carb options don’t have a low-carb, sugar-free, or diabetic label on them. On top of that, they taste awesome. Here are some of my favorites:

Scharffen Berger Chocolate (anything over 65% cacao)
– Holy smoke this stuff is so divine. Whereas a “sugar-free” bar will have about 14 grams of carbs for 1/3 of a bar, the Scharffen Berger stuff will have 13 grams of carbs for HALF a bar. There is nary a diet, low carb, sugar free label on a Scharffen Berger bar but damn is that stuff low carb and TASTY!!!!

Blue Corn Tortilla Chips – Nine grams of carbs for 15 chips. That’s tiny. When you measure it out, 15 chips are a lot. Double that and add cheese, chopped green onions, salsa, and cilantro and you have a party.

Chicken sausages – This counts as a no duh type of thing since chicken is all protein but these sausages relatively low fat content and high flavor gives you a lot of bang for your buck.

Trader Joe’s Gorgonzola Crackers – I call this mindful snacking. With little itty bitty crackers (like these and goldfish) you can eat half a box and not know it but if you actually count out the 33 crackers that are 21 grams of carbs, that’s a LOT of crackers. Cut that in half and you get 16 crackers for 10.5 grams of carbs. On top of that, these things are crazy tasty and pair well with a nice Pinot Grigio.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Pear cobbler for diabetics

So Christmas with the in-laws was delightful as usual. A ray of hope and a source of frustration is that my father in law seems to have controlled his diabetes so well, he pretty much eats anything now. That means the in-law fridge was set for a Texas style Christmas. Cheese and starch galore. I did great though. I had nibbles of everything and made sure I made a salad to be the bulk of my meal. So I wouldn’t feel left out of the dessert frenzy (12 kinds of cookies, two different loaves of quick breads and pie!) I made this cobbler. I calculated it to have about 20 grams of carbs for per serving (and I am talking a generous helping). It was incredible.

For filling
½ stick of butter
1 teaspoon lemon juice
4 cups pears chopped into large chunks
1/4 cup Splenda (the kind out of the bag that is equivalent to sugar. If you are using packets, use three packets)

For topping
1 cup of almond flour (I actually found hazelnut flour at Texas’ Central Market and used half almond flour, half hazelnut flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon cardamom
1/4 cup Splenda
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup of almond milk
Accompaniment: Fresh whipped cream or vanilla ice cream (sugar free of course)

To prepare the filling:
Preheat oven to 375°F. Place the butter in an 8 x 8-inch square glass baking dish (no substitutes), and melt the butter in the microwave. In a mixing bowl, combine lemon juice and the pears. Add the Splenda and mix well. Add the pear mixture to the baking dish with the melted butter. Do not stir.

Make topping:
Combine all of the topping ingredients in a small bowl. Pour this mixture over the blackberries and bake 45 minutes, or until brown. This recipe is also good for apples, blueberries, and peaches.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

You Know What's Awesome?

A really good massage. Seriously, there's not much better. It's a way to relieve stress, work out tension, soothe aches and pains, invigorate the muscles in your body, and give you some really quiet, focused "me time" to think about whatever you want, and I usually end up thinking good thoughts about ways to take better care of my body and myself.

I always get a massage whenever I go visit the fam, cuz Mom treats me to an hour with her regular massage therapist. (It's MUCH cheaper in Bloomington than in DC, believe you me.) Mom goes about once a month, and while that still seems like a luxury I can't afford I think it's time for me to find a good, reasonably-priced therapist here. Getting just one or two massages a year in Bloomington, which mostly just serve to work out the kinks from air travel, isn't enough.

I am looking for a variety of lifestyle approaches to help me reduce stress and improve posture, and thus alleviate some (I hope) of my neck, shoulder, and back twinges. In the meantime, though, I think it will be worth occasionally giving myself an hour to let someone else work the tension out.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

'Tis the Season of Old Habits

As my co-blogger shared below, the holidays are a great time to revisit -- and learn how to improve upon -- some of those old family habits that helped shape the lifestyles that we live today. Since I'm with the fam now and just salivating smelling the Christmas Eve dinner that's in the works (a ham, sweet potato casserole, homemade mac 'n cheese, followed by sugar cookies and mulled cider), it seems like this is a good time to share a few thoughts on how those family food ties that bind, only if you let them:

I come from a small family, with no real relationships with extended family, so it's always been kinda the 4 of us against the world. Yet, at our mealtimes, you might just guess that we had a family of 10. Portion size was never our strong suit, and I am reminded of this every time I come visit because Mom and Dad still serve our meals on platters instead of plates. PLATTERS. I kinda get that in the psychology of our family, nurturing = nourishment, and abundance = affection, or something like that.

My parents seem to really value being able to provide for us kids, which they've always done very well, and that sometimes manifests itself in the food they make for us. Large, hearty portions, high-quality ingredients, homemade. This is not a microwaving family, and Dad's always been an excellent cook and Mom's a darn good baker. So my whole life, I do believe that a lot of our emotional attachments to each other have been communicated through food. To this day, Dad will start calling (now he even emails!) weeks before I come to visit asking what I want to eat, so he can plan out a lavish menu of my favorite meals every day I'm here.

A few years ago, when Christmas fell at a time when I was being really good about WW, I realized that I just could not handle eating in Dad's usual way while I was here. Literally, after 3-4 days of huge meals of mostly proteins and starches (meat, really good meat, at every meal), I felt sick. My body just wasn't used to those quantities or that kind of rich food, and I finally just had to put my foot down. So, ever since, I talk more clearly with my parents before visiting about what kinds of foods I'd like them to have on hand for me to eat while I'm here, things that I'm a little more used to -- Egg Beaters, soups, veggie sides. And that's worked pretty well for a while.

Then, last summer, my parents' lifestyle changed radically. Mom has been a health food advocate for decades, so she didn't often eat the same big, rich meals -- but a lifetime of doing so led my Dad to the point of a surprise triple bypass, on top of his high cholesterol, diabetes and high blood pressure. Face to face with this crisis, Dad came through with flying colors and radically changed his diet. Heck - he lost somethingl ike 50 pounds and climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro! He's doing great!

They now have very different kinds of foods in the house, which means my experience visiting is almost reversed -- in that I'm looking for snacks or some of my usual indulgences and they're no longer here! I'm not quite ready to be just a fruits-and-nuts snacker, sorry. I actually now learn a few new healthy-eating tidbits each time I come visit.

But, it is Christmas, so again my parents are really putting on a full spread for me and my brother, with steaks and lamb and tonight's ham. So it's up to me to enjoy these meals and the love they represent, while still keeping an eye on portion size and making sure I'm getting enough fruits and veggies mixed in there with all the meats and potatoes. Doesn't seem too hard!

So, with that, I'm off to dinner -- happy holidays, everyone!

Oprah!


So Oprah puts herself on the cover of her magazine. Not a surprise since she does that every issue but this time, she's confessing about her weight gain and how she continues to struggle with weight. Now this is even better than her cocaine confession!

For all of us who are struggling to deal with the healthy lifestyle thing, we should feel much better about ourselves. If Oprah with her trainers, chefs, personal assistants and fake fiancees, can't keep the weight off, what chance do us mere mortals have? I mean you can have personal assistants do a lot but, they can't work out for you and they can't make sure you actually eat that great salad your chef made.

Playing armchair therapist, I see that with the weight loss Oprah does well the with the outcome goals of losing weight but not with the process goals of living healthy (hence this blog). I do wonder if she sees just the weight loss without seeing the habit building. As we've both said before, this is stuff we need to do for the rest of our lives. If you are doing something that you will stop once the weight is off, stop doing it. The best example of this is her running, have you seen her do another marathon? This is the season for giving and thanks Oprah for giving us a little reassurance we're all struggling. Although the skinny picture is so clearly airbrushed it's not even funny.


On another note, I'm spending the holidays with my in-laws in Texas and holy cow is the starchy food in abundance. I've done good though. Last night we went for Middle Eastern food at this place called "International Food of Denton." There was no way I was forgoing the best babaganouj and pita bread in the world so I asked if they could take out the rice in the entree and double the amount of grilled veggies. I chowed down on some awesome pita bread and babaganouj. This was hardly a hardship because the great family who cooks there makes these grilled veggies that are caramelized and flavorful.

Let's see how I survive the family Christmas where there will be cheese grits, pistachio cake, chocolate bark, and queso.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

You Are What You Eat

Sometimes you need little reminders of why it nutrition is important. Or, at least, I do. Take the last week for me, for example.

I was sidelined most of the weekend with tummy troubles -- not sure if it was a bug I caught (there did seem to be something going around the office) or not, but I didn't feel good for 3 days. Then, mid-week, with my defenses already being down and about 1/2 an hour of being caught in the freezing rain to kick it off, I picked up a cold that's been hunting me down for days. Sore throat, earache, coughs, etc.

So what's the point of me sharing this? In thinking about how I've just been feeling like crap lately, I couldn't help but notice that I've also been eating really poorly lately. I wish I could say I've been having as much success as my co-blogger but this has been a rough fall for me in terms of staying power, and I've got to work on the mental end of things.

But, back to the point, I counted back the food I've been eating over the last week and it just makes me mad at myself -- pizza delivery, chicken wings, Chinese food delivery, tuna melts and grilled cheese sandwiches, cookies, brownies, candy (damn holiday treats at work), Starbucks pastries for breakfast, need I say more? A coworker and I were commiserating the other day about having eaten so many treats that we both wished we could just grab a big hunk of iceberg lettuce and chow down, just to feel like we were eating something from nature.

Partially the holiday spirit is to blame, since there's so much bad stuff around, but I've also lost my groove of grocery shopping and home cooking. The worst part is that I've had very little variety lately, and that means very little in the way of fruits and veggies to balance out all the starch and fat. No wonder I've been feeling like hell!!!

So, once I had this little light bulb moment 2 days ago, I've been back to trying to work in the good stuff. And once I'm back from Christmas I'll go shopping again. I'm actually really looking forward to getting back on track with healthy, varied, fresh things to eat.

Setting goals

For my day job, I help nonprofits with capacity building and organizational development. That means I do a lot of training on strategic planning. A big piece of that is setting goals. After all, you don’t know the “how” unless you know the “for what.”

When it comes to goal setting, I have some standard rules. The first is that the goals need to be concrete. That means they are doable, measurable, and have a time frame. Here’s what I’m talking about.

Undoable New Year’s Resolution
I want to be healthier in 2009.

Doable Resolution

By the end of March, I want to bring my cholesterol down to below 200.

It’s a whole lot easier to keep yourself accountable if you have something where you can measure your progress and know at what point you will check in and see whether you have accomplish your goal or not.

The other advice for goal setting is to set process goals as well as outcome goals. What’s the difference? A process goal is what you do. And outcome goal is what happens after you’ve done it.

Outcome goal
Keep my blood sugar in range for three months

Process goal
Exercise three times a week for half an hour

Why do we need process goals? First, to give yourselves a pat on the back. After all, you are accountable to yourself. It’s a triumph to get things done. The other reason why I recommend setting process goals is that life is weird. Your body is weird. You can exercise for three hours a days and eat nothing but celery and that’s the week you don’t lose a pound. Sometimes your body just rebels and says, “no mas.” It isn’t a failure that you didn’t lose weight that week. You still kept yourself healthy. It’s important to celebrate the strides you make in building good habits not just whether your blood sugar stays low.

Speaking of strides, make teeny weeny goals. It takes a month to set habits. Before that it’s an act of will. You have to will yourself to do it and then after a month, it feels weird NOT doing it. So if you set a process goal, make it two weeks. Then try it for another two weeks. At first it will feel like a big ol’ pain in the ass. But then it just becomes what you do.

I’ve been at this healthy living thing for three months now. Here’s the fruits of my labor:

Process Goals:

Track all of my food intake – DONE!
Eat 3 meals a day at no more than 60 grams of carbs per meal along with two 15 gram snacks – Yes. Except I modified it to have a 30 gram breakfast and a 30 gram late night snack to keep my liver from making more glucose.
Work out three times a week – DONE! Along with doing strength training twice a week.

Outcome Goals:

Maintain normal blood sugar levels for three months – DONE!
Lower cholesterol levels to normal – DONE, except for my LDL which is a teeny bit higher than normal.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Weight Loss TV

So the work trip to Hawaii went fine health wise. My numbers went up to the higher side of acceptable but stayed within the normal range. Happily, I was able to maintain my exercise regimen. Actually it's easier to do so because I really need the workout to decompress from our twelve hour days. It's funny how much easier it is to work out when I'm traveling, either for work or on vacation. I always end up working out regularly when visiting the in-laws because my father in law goes every day to his retirement community's gym.

Since the diagnosis, I've been fascinated with weight loss tv shows, particularly the Biggest Loser on NBC and Ruby on the Style Network. I am addicted to them because they are so out of line with my own reality. They are these bizarre weight loss bubbles where the participants are in sink or swim mode constantly. Nothing in either show feels normal or everyday. Nothing in either show feels like (title of our blog!) a lifestyle. Here are some thoughts I had about both shows:

Exercise
Addictive as it is, I have huge problems with the Biggest Loser. The whole, work people to death to make them lose weight strategy makes for good tv but it's probably the worst thing you can do when getting healthy. Even the trainers, Bob and Jillian will talk in other media about how noone should do anything on the Biggest Loser to lose weight. The missing piece in the Biggest Loser is the whole idea that the work you are doing is stuff you should do for the rest of your life. By setting up this bubble where the contestants are being boot camped and their environment is completely controlled, this is a guarantee that they will gain their weight back. Witness one episode where they go on a trip to the Grand Canyon sans gym and trainer. The contestants make half-assed attempts to work out but then just poop out. When your concept of exercise is literal torture, it's no wonder that you won't do it if someone isn't forcing you to.

On Ruby, Ruby seems to be having the opposite problem. While exercise shouldn't be torture, you should push yourself and you should sweat. There are two things exercise does - 1) burn calories 2) build muscle. Exercise breaks down your muscle tissue to build it up again, but stronger, faster, better. This is why eating is so important because in order to build up your new better muscle, you need the building blocks. When it comes to exercise, Ruby is dependent on her trainer to push her, and has a lot of fear about injury. We've only seen one instance where Ruby does water-based training, which is easy on her joints and allows her to push herself. Instead the show seems hell bent on humiliating Ruby, putting her through aerobics classes where she's completely lost. Not only that, Ruby wears converse sneakers. As someone who is half Ruby's weight, I could NEVER do strenuous physical activity in anything other than my trusty Asics. I cannot believe a show that has Ruby complaining about how painful working out (and even walking) is, wouldn't put her in some shoes that give her adequate support.

Eating
On the Biggest Loser, one thing that is an afterthought at best and a product placement opportunity at worst, is cooking. The show spends about ten minutes for the season talking about healthy cooking, usually to promote Jenni-O turkey products. The whole label reading thing seems pretty foreign to the contestants. And seriously that's the most important thing about healthy living. Being fully conscious about what you are putting in your body. And their stupid challenges are complete bullshit. There's this on challenge where they have two food choices and have to choose the healthier option. In one case, the shows says that a plate of MacNuggets is better for your than a loaded fajita because the fajita has sour cream and cheese (along with lettuce, peppers, onions, and chicken). Are you kidding me? Then all of these challenges where desserts are dangled in front of them to show their willpower. If I didn't say it before, I'll say it now, willpower is a load of crap. Jillian Michaels pours candle wax on her bread basket to avoid eating bread. She obviously has the willpower of a gnat if she needs to ruin a basket of bread to avoid eating it but she's removing a temptation. If the temptation isn't there, you won't eat it.

Which of course leads me to Ruby and her incessant whining. Rather than show the daily struggles of losing weight, Ruby the Tv show, spends half its time dangling calorie laden food in front of Ruby and have her whine over and over again how hard it is to resist temptation. Why do we need to see Ruby go to a candy store to test herself? What about seeing her make the decision not to go to the candy store at all. And once again, Ruby seems to have a pathological avoidance of cooking for herself. She doesn't own a cutting board for god's sake. Thank god for her Hourglass meals. But that doesn't stop the temptation. She throws a party for a friend and somehow she doesn't think to makes things that she herself can eat. She doesn't prepare but eating her meal ahead of time so she will feel full and have less craving for food she can't eat. Not only that, but at some point she needs to stop eating the Hourglass. Healthy eating is a learned skill. It involves nutritional knowledge and label reading and knowledge of portions. She's learning nothing other than to eating an Hourglass meal.

What scares me about both shows is what happens when the training wheels come off. they are in this cocoon of professionals managing their every move. It doesn't seem like either show ensures people learn something.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Wish Me Luck

Flying to Hawaii tomorrow for a training (yeah life's tough). Let's hope I have time to work out. Because I work for a health organization, the meals and snacks are all healthy.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

ISO A Better Balance

I've had this post in mind for a while, but I've been putting off writing it cuz it's about something that really gets to the core of my problems right now and it's hard to think about. One of my absolute biggest lifestyle challenges is that I have a hard time managing stress.

You know, stress, that cross so many of us have to bear. I've reached a point in my career where I've earned a certain level of responsibility and accountability and a position of leadership, and that means a certain level of stress comes along with it. I know most of the pressure I feel is something I put on myself, and luckily I have a great boss and colleagues who are all mindful of helping each other stay sane and not letting things get to be too much whenever little mini-dramas arise. (Let's just say it's not uncommon for us to call a "time out" and head out for a glass of wine and mini-burgers when things get too tense.)

But -- when you combine my levels of work stress with my natural, inherited tendencies towards anxiety and the fact that I don't have a very good work/life balance right now, well, that's when I have my sleepless nights, my unproductive obsessing over things, my eating binges, my muscle aches and pains, my exhaustion, and - ultimately - my high blood pressure.

Ugh. That's my problem, pretty much in a nutshell.

I know I need to make myself more of a priority in order to seek that better work/life balance. And what I need is to build up more of the *life* side of that balance -- cuz especially in the last few months, my life has consisted mostly of work or just down time at home on my own. I haven't been doing enough fun stuff, or important enough stuff, on my own time to divert my attention from work stress and help clear my head. And all work and no play has just not been good for me.

It's been harder this year, as a few changes have happened in my social life -- I had to spend a lot of time focusing on moving, my living expenses are higher now so I've had to cut back on going out, and many of my friends have had changes in their own lives like new partners or moving further away. So, some of the fun I used to have of just hanging out with people who lived in the neighborhood or could meet up for a quick de-stressing dinner just doesn't happen anymore -- none of us can afford it and we all just need to plan further out these days. What I have to make sure to do is actually make those plans, and make sure that I'm finding time for friends both to keep up the good relationships and give myself more time to focus on the fun, exciting, personal side of life. It's amazing how you can spend a few hours with friends and never even think about work at all - what fun!

And, I need to find more things that I can do on my own that are personally fulfilling and help balance out my work concerns. I used to take photography classes, which were great and really helped give me something that was more *my own*, but my work schedule does make it hard to plan for regularly taking classes. I am going to take cooking classes in early 2009, but it's more likely that I can fit in one or two day things rather than a longer commitment. Every few months I think about joining a church of some kind, but then I remember that I really am not a religious person and I'm just looking for a social outlet. Religious stuff tends to give me hives, in actual practice. Maybe another yoga class? Or a new book club through a book store? Getting back into the swing of going to lectures at different museums? Or just regularly-scheduled stuff with friends?

I have to find what works for me, both in my interests and my schedule. But I've got to do something, cuz I can't let my workaholism-by-default continue to take its toll.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Food for thought - Read this!

This just blew me away. Very objective reporting.

Toxic Sludge

I am doing this as a public service. Smoothies are toxic sludge for diabetics. Just for reference, I shouldn't have more than 210 grams of carbs a day.

The Aloha Pineapple - 117 grams of carbs

Banana Berry Original - 112 grams of carbs

Citrus Squeeze - 110 grams of carbs

My dear friend The Librarian who is a total health nut, drinks diet soda. When asked about why he would put chemicals in his body, he responded, "Don't drink your calories."

Thursday, December 4, 2008

VICTORY!

Yesterday was the 1-year anniversary of a co-worker's tenure at work and we went to a Vietnamese restaurant. Yep. A Vietnamese restaurant. Vietnamese food, where there's an entire category of entrees with the name caramel. Guess what? I ate smartly and my blood sugar stayed within range. Admittedly this was a gringo style Vietnamese place but it was great to have options and the food there was awesome. This is what we ordered:

Watercress salad with beef (tricky because there's usually quite a bit of sugar in Vietnamese sauces)
Sauteed pea shoots (SOOO tasty and SOOO good for me)
Salt and pepper squid (calamari so remember to calculate the breading)
Curry chicken
And of course, rice

You know what I'm finding out? Rice is my friend. Even white rice. Why? Easy to portion out and eyeball how much. All in all it was a nicely balanced meal and way satisfying. I didn't even have my afternoon snack because I was so full.

The other victories for the month is that the running is getting way easier. I've upped my the amount of running from 3.1 miles per run to 4.5 miles per run with a weekly long run for 6 miles. It's definitely hard to do a long run on a treadmill at the gym because people start giving you the stink eye. I've limited my long to run Saturday mornings where the gym is empty.

The other thing I'd recommend, especially for women is dancing. Last month, J and I went with our friend West Coast Rebecca to see her neighbor do flamenco dance. This neighbor is normally a research chemist and looks like Mary Alice from Ace of Cakes. But not on that night where we wore swishy dresses, had her hair slicked back and dramatic makeup. She was incredible. It's great to claim your space as a person and make it all about you. and really, it was all about her. When she would do the group numbers, I would look at a couple of her classmates and feel sorry for them because they didn't have her hips and bust.

This inspired me to go to a zumba exercise class at the gym. This was an aerobics class that incorporated Latin dance moves. For many parts of the class I looked like a fool but when I kept up, it was so much fun. I say this to you all, dance. Even if it's in your own house cleaning up. It gets your blood going but more importantly, it helps you say, I'm HERE.

Monday, December 1, 2008

That thing we diabetics have in common with vegetarians

So Thanksgiving was awesome. My family was on their best behavior (even with my Dad and his endless pontificating), my sister's boyfriend was positively delightful. And I ate. A lot. And didn't see my blood sugar go out of range. Not only that, I exercised like a mofo. My sister, her boyfriend, and my brother are all athletes. They run and play tennis was love being actives. It was great to just hop out of bed, get ready and play tennis without the making plans that usually happens.

The eating was great. I am really developing the ability to know when i am satisfied. Not full to bursting, but satisfied. Thanksgiving dinner itself was a joy. We had turkey, stuffing that my mom made, cauliflower puree, asparagus, and roasted carrots. I had to be pretty intentional about eating lots of stuffing because my mom supplemented it with shitake mushrooms and ground turkey. I had three servings because there was a whole lot less carbs per serving than the box said. Thanks Mom! On top of that, we bought a nice chocolate ganache cake in honor my my aunt who joined us for the holiday. It was really easy to say no because i made a batch of sugar free chocolate mousse (from a box). How easy is that? I had to guard it jealously because everyone wanted a taste of the mousse.

Saturday, I drove up to LA to visit two friends who are vegetarians. We spent a lot of time sharing eating stories. Like vegetarians, those of us following a diabetic diet get lots of questions and concerns about what we're eating. The best thing to do is not make it a big deal. Like vegetarians, I don't want to be asked if I miss pastries or sugar or whatever. Vegetarians that I know are pretty comfortable having other people eat meat in front of them. They just wouldn't eat it themselves. Same with me as a diabetic. I have alternatives. I make alternatives. I eat alternatives. You eating sugar in front of me isn't going to make me desperate for sugar, if I am snacking away at my sugar free chocolate mousse. Conversely, I don't feel violated or freaked out that someone is eating something in front of me I can't eat. My vegetarian friends feel the same way. The biggest breakthrough I realized in talking with my vegetarian friends is that I'm not living a lesser life, a second rate life, because of this disease. They certainly don't because there are things they choose not to eat.

If I could ask anything of the people who care about me, I ask that you not treat this as some kind of punishment. This is my life.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Guilt-Free Holiday Treat

I love pumpkin pie. It's absolutely one of my favorite things about fall, and all these great holiday celebrations. I did have a slice of pie earlier this week when we received a pumpkin pie as a gift from a vendor at work - woohoo! - but I was totally craving more pumpkiny goodness over the long holiday weekend.

Rather than buying a whole pie, which would've been so bad, I remembered that Scotte has a great figure-friendly pumpkin puddin' recipe from his friend The Kara, which I've sampled at previous Thanksgiving feasts. So, I checked the recipe and made my way to the store to buy almost an entire basket of ingredients I've never used before. Exciting!

Look at all the guilt-free-ness! Fat free evaporated milk, fat-free/sugar-free vanilla pudding, reduced fat nilla wafers. Yum! (Actually, the regular nilla wafers are a lot better. I could've gone for those and still been happy with this overall.)

Scotte's recipe called for pumpkin pie spice. Shocker, the store was all out on the day after Thanksgiving. A quick call to Mom assured me that I could buy allspice instead, and that seemed to work just fine along with an added sprinkle of cinnamon.


The mixture was kinda lumpy, and I don't have an immersion blender (though I want one for Christmas!) so I am just living with it. This made a HUGE batch of pumpkiny fun, and I'll be eating it all weekend. Yum!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Snacks

T was asking about whether I use snacking to help control the kinds of crazy-hunger that can lead to overeating on big meals. I try to!

Although I do think the portion control problem isn't always related to hunger -- I have very big eyes, and I've never had any problem polishing off big plate of food if it's really tasty. I've been successful before at monitoring my portions when I just plan to cook for smaller dishes -- literally, use smaller plates and bowls instead of the big ones in the cupboard. So I can easily get back to doing that.

But this is a post about snacks. Another one of my favorite things. :-)

I snack when I'm hungry. I snack when I'm bored. The worst - and what takes me down more often than not on a workday - is that I snack when I'm stressed. My snacking varies whether it's a workday - and I'm planning for either what I have at my desk or what I can buy nearby - or if I'm at home, where I'm limited to what I allow myself to keep in the house. You can guess when I'm more successful!

Good Things I Like As Snacks:
raisins
apple sauce
little fruit bit bowls
bananas
oranges
apples
60-cal pudding cups
baby carrots with light dip

** I need to eat more of these things. I have raisins at my desk at work and when I am really hungry I do slam a box or two, which helps. Overall, as T suggested, I am better at sticking to a healthy eating plan when I incorporate regular healthy snacks into my day.

Bad Things I Really Like As Snacks:
chips, both potato and tortilla, with salsa or bean dip
popcorn
cookies, any kind homemade, but the store-bought workday temptations include half moon (also called black & whites) and Teaism's salty oat variety
Starbucks pastries or Teaism's ginger scones
ice cream

** I need to cut back on these things, or work to eliminate them as much as possible. That's where the compromise snacks below come in.

Compromise Snacks -- in between good and bad:
low fat popcorn
baked Lays, etc.
unsalted nuts
100 calorie pack cookies
frozen yogurt and Weight Watchers ice cream bars (they are pretty good)

** These do satisfy cravings and fit much better into a low-cal, low-fat dieting plan. But they don't always fit the bill, which is why I do try to limit the *really* dangerous stuff - like sweets and baked goods - to outside of my home. As long as I have only healthy snacks stocked at home, then I'm setting myself up (see T!) for success and only have to really fight temptations, urges, boredom, whatevs when I'm out in the world. That's half the battle. (Yo Joe!)

New Thanksgiving Traditions

My repetoire is being expanded this Thanksgiving. In response to the diabetes diagnosis, I will be eating turkey like a mofo and eating stuffing like a mofo (10 grams of carbs per 1/2 cup dry serving!). There are two delicious additions I will be making to the fmamly Thanksgiving menu.

1. Caufilower-rutabaga mash:
You know, I actually like these vegetable mashes BETTER than mashed potatoes. They have a nice texture that isn't as gluey. They also take on flavor a lot better than potatoes. Here's what I do.

Peel the rutabaga and cut into 1 1/2 inch chunks. Also, cut the cauliflower into large chunks. Dump into boiling salted water and cook until tender. In the meantime, gently simmer four cloves of garlic in olive oil for five minutes. Once the vegetables are cooked, puree in a food processor with the garlic. Add a little of the olive oil as needed and 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese. For extra richness, mix in 1/4 cup of sour cream or even lowfat yogurt.

2. Pumpkin spice panna cotta. I am realizing yogurt dishes do very well with sugar substitutes. The tang of the yogurt masks the weirdness of the Splenda. I use this recipe substituting the sugar with Splenda and adding a cinnamon stick and cloves while heating the cream. There's no lowfat version of this, just low carb.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Stuffing!

Oh my gawd. I finally bought something from a bakery. It wasn't a croissant or a cookie or a loaf of bread. But a delicious bag of organic stuffing mix. I bought it form a vendor at the Sunday Farmer's market and got a hug from her when I explained how awesome it was to have stuffing.

The nutritional label said that 1/2 a cup of dry stuffing mix was only 10 grams of carbs. Half a cup doesn't sound like much but when you add all of the veggies, I added, it turns into about 2 cups of carby goodness that won't break the carb bank. The key is to choose vegetables that can take on the flavor of the chicken broth and not necessarily taste like vegetables.

Here my recipe. It makes four large servings or eight side dish servings. You can easily halve this

1 large onion, finely diced
1 carrot, shredded
2 stalks of celery
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
2 red bell peppers, chopped (or an equivalent amount of poblanos or any other mild pepper)
Stef, you can throw all of these in the food processor and whir until coarsely chopped
2 cups of stuffing mix (I think Trader Joe's even has a cornbread stuffing that is 9 grams of carb per half cup)
1 cup of low-sodium chicken stock
1/2 cup of egg whites
salt and pepper to taste

In a teaspoon of olive oil saute all of the veggies until soft and translucent, about 15 to 20 minutes. You should add a touch of salt to the veggies to draw out the moisture. Add the stuffing mix and sature until teh stuffing and veggies are well incorporated. Add the chicken stock and sautee for one to two minutes until stock is absorbed. Take off the heat and add the egg whites and mix thoroughly. Dump into a greased baking dish and bake at 350 degree for 20 minutes. For an extra bit of protein throw in a chopped up chicken sausage (they are usually precooked).

A Little Plug

As you all know, one of my goals this fall has been to become more adventurous in the kitchen and work towards making more of my own healthy meals myself. It's a great way to control what kind of things you're eating (ie lower fat and sodium) and to make sure you're getting the freshest ingredients. (Side note: I still need to work on portion control. Aaargh!)

Well, one of the best decisions I've made to help me in this adventure - one which I really hemmed and hawed over for a while - was to finally get myself a cute little mini food processor. Since any decision to shell out 50 bucks or more for a new appliance is one you should consider seriously, I asked for advice before purchasing and my co-blogger and several other good bloggy friends provided great insights.

I am so glad I brought this little mini chop-chop home! (That's what I call it, cute eh?) It's a KitchenAid food processor, and I love its stylish little chrome look. The 3-cup size was perfect for me, cuz I don't cook giant meals for entertaining. And it's dishwasher-safe, my two new favorite words!

So far, I have used it to chop a lot of garlic, and to make my own garlic and cilantro vinaigrette. I plan to follow T's advice to use more carrots in my cooking, so this little baby will come in handy for that, too. I want to try making my own salsa, too. I'm still looking for great suggestions on other ways I can use this little cutie, and so far I'm very happy with my purchase!

Next up? I'm hoping to get an immersion blender so I really can make some tasty, healthy and smooth soups.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Quick Check-In

Hello my blog friends,

Sorry I've been out of touch. My parents have been visiting this week and it's been a very busy time overall recently. There have been some ups and downs, lifestyle-wise, that are all pointing to me really needing to work a little harder -- and as my motivating co-blogger reminds me, better set myself up for success -- once the parental visit is over tomorrow.

The good news is I've been walking a lot (in these freezing temps) and I finally have made my inaugural visit to my new gym. I've also had some very real (and painful) reminders that stress is my number #1 enemy, and I have some ideas to start working on that, too.

The bad news, frustratingly reflected on the scale, is that whatever good I'm doing isn't resulting in any weight loss. I think that as I'm enjoying more cooking adventures and working better and better quality and diversity of food into my life, I have to be more mindful of portions and overall intake. But when the food is so good it's hard to just eat a tiny bit of it!

So I just wanted to take a moment to let you all know that I haven't disappeared, it's just that the "life" part of the "lifestyle" has kept me from having enough time to sit down at the blog. I promise I'll be back soon!

Take care,
Stef

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Set Up

I’ve said this before, but I think this healthy living thing is less about self control and discipline and more about creating supportive environments. The dark side of all of this healthy living is that the root of it is fear. Fear of going into a diabetic coma. Fear of losing my eyesight. Fear of amputating a limb. For all of my rah-rahing, that’s the underbelly of this.

One of the things I am most afraid of is deviating from the routine. Since I got diagnosis, I’ve been lucky not to have to travel for work. That is coming up and it scares me to death. I am scared that any deviation from my routine of eating and exercise and the wheels fall off completely. That’s been the case all of my life. I would have three weeks of healthy living and I get injured, work gets crazy or I get sick and I just stop. Stop working out. Stop eating right. Just stop.

This is my exercise routine:

Monday, Wednesday, Friday
Running for 4.5 miles at a 9 minute mile pace

Tuesday, Thursday, Sunday
Strength training and running up the stairs after breakfast and lunch

Saturday
Tennis or do nothing

I’ve been really happy that I’ve had hiccups in these six weeks and just continued on. First I had a case of tendinitis where I couldn’t put weight on my foot. I skipped a day of running and substituted with a spinning class. I also did an extra set of weights. Two days later, I was back to running. I got the stomach flu last week and had to miss a day of running. Once I got better, I just started up again.

Tonight is my running night but I have a meeting for a board I am on. I ran this morning instead. That act was not simple. It wasn’t about forcing me to do it. It was about setting me up to do it. I didn’t decide to do it. I had to make sure I took my meds, packed my workout clothes, and get to bed early. The getting out of bed and working out is the easy part.

For me, taking the whole idea of discipline and control out of the equation has been invaluable. It’s a whole lot easier to exercise discipline and control when you’ve got the house on your side. That includes grocery shopping after you eat and going to the grocery store with a list. That includes going to restaurants where you know you’ve got options that aren’t just steamed vegetables. That includes having a measuring cup out to measure a realistic portion of cereal, crackers, and ice cream. I’ve been lucky to have the house on my side from the get go.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Per your request: Carrots

So carrots are kind of a wonder food for a diabetic. It’s a root vegetable but unlike a potato or a winter squash (ok not a root vegetable), it’s very low in carbs. My diabetes class said that carrots are so low in carb you don’t need to count them in your carb allocation. The great thing about carrots is how filling they are. A side dish of roasted baby carrots (olive oil, salt, pepper and a couple tablespoons of balsamic in a 425 degree oven), is a filling, hearty and tasty starch that really isn’t a starch.

Since the diagnosis I’ve been throw grated carrots into everything. Stef, since you have the carrots sticks, you can chop them finely or run them throw a food processor until they are the consistency of grated carrots. The “grate” thing about grated carrots is that they just blend into whatever dish you’re a cooking. For example, when I’ve made pasta with meat sauce, I’ve cut back on how much pasta I am serving myself and added ¾ a cup of shredded carrots into the sauce. On a lazy night, I will heat up a can of Trader Joe’s turkey chili with sautéed onions and ½ a cup of grated carrots. That served on top of ½ a cup of brown rice and a sprinkling of lowfat sour cream and green onions FEELS like a meal. It’s warm and filling and totally satisfying.

As you can see anything that requires a tomato-based sauce is an ideal vehicle for shredded carrots. Curries can also be a great vehicle for carrots and in a curry you don’t need to grate them. I’d brown some cut up chicken thighs (skinless of course!), set the brown chicken thighs aside. Cut the carrots into bite-sized pieces, sautee them with onions and celery (ah the blessed trinity!), add the chicken and a couple of tablespoons of Thai curry paste and then ½ cup of chicken stock and half a cup of lowfat coconut milk and simmer for about 20 minutes.

Finally grated carrots bulk up ground meat like no one’s business. Meatballs, burgers all get a boost from grated carrots. You could easily get away with using a ¼ less meat (ground turkey or chicken rocks!) and substituting with grated carrots. So I am leaving you with a recipe for Southwest turkey burgers.

Makes 4 hefty burgers

½ pound ground turkey
½ cup of grated carrots
2 scallions, chopped
2 clove of garlic, minced
1 jalepeno, finely chopped
¼ cup of egg white
2 tablespoon of bread crumbs or almond flour
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon salt

Throw everything into a bowl, mix with your hands and form into 4 patties. In an nonstick skillet, fry the patties in Pam on medium heat for 5 minutes each side.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Changing the pantry

With the diabetes diagnosis, what's in my pantry and fridge has changed a lot. Here's my inventory of the ins and outs.

What's out:

White flour
Flour tortillas
Milk
Sugar
anything from a bakery
juice
gatorade (you might as well just write a higher glucose level into my meter)

What's in:

Splenda (embrace the fake!)
Almond flour (awesome for low carb baking!)
carrots (great for bulking up dishes)
chicken
homemade chicken stock (flavor without carbs!)
eggs (omelets mmmmmm)
egg whites
cheeses
diet soda (never thought THAT would ever happen)
yogurt (I need to get calcium in somehow but milk does ever make me feel full. Yogurt on the other hand can be a great meal with fruit)
berries (15 grams of carbs per 1 1/4 cups!)
bagged salad mix from the farmer's market
muscat or reisling vinegar


What's in that's kind of surprising

White rice (you never think that a half a cup of rice will fill you up but really it does)
Pasta (same as the rice)

I'm not gonna kid you, the eating is radically different and I've said before, I miss things. I miss the baking. The sad thing for me is changing my thinking from what tastes delicious to what will keep me full. The lucky side is that I can make things taste delicious. Nevertheless, I am surprised how much I have been able to retain in my eating habits.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I ate a croissant!

And it didn't raise my blood sugar beyond the targeted levels! There's a woo hoo moment right there. So work brought in breakfast for a staff meeting that had fruit and breakfast croissant sandwiches stuffed with eggs and ham (or eggs, bacon and cheese). I was going to hold firm and deny, deny, deny, but I did a little research and found out that the carb content of a large croissant is 31 grams with 14 grams of fat. I should eat between 45 and 60 per meal.

There's this thing about baked good for diabetics, you trade carbs for fat. If there is a low-carb baked food, most likely it's loaded with fat. For example, a Starbucks marble pound cake has 69 (!!!) grams of carbs and 21 grams of fat. On the other hand a slice of low-carb poundcake made with Splenda and almond flour has 5 grams of carbs but a whopping 50 grams of fat (usually we should have around 40 grams of fat per day). You really do pay one way or the other.

So in the end I ate half a croissant sandwich and fulfilled the rest of my carb allotment with fat free plain yogurt sweetened with splenda and a big handful of raspberries. A nice, filling breakfast. The baby steps for me are coming from starting at a completely restrictive diet when I was first diagnosed (no white flour, white rice, white food whatsoever) to adding a moderate portion of conventional starches once in a while. While I won't be eating croissants with abandon, half a breakfast croissant once a month feels pretty damn good.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Fresh and Flavorful Swaps

I'm still experimenting in the kitchen, trying a new trick or two every week. Lately, I've been finding lots of ways to use cilantro. If you have to buy it by the bunch, it means you've got to be creative in finding ways to use it up! I have been putting it in my Egg Beaters omelets in the mornings, which has been fantastic.

Tonight, I decided to jazz up one of my usual recipes and try some new flavors in the mix. I've been doing a tilapia-and-tomatoes thing for a while, thanks to the advice of Scotte back when I was attempting a low-carb diet. (That lasted about 2 weeks. Not good.)

For the past few years, this recipe has evolved to include a tilapia filet cooked on the stovetop in a little olive oil and jarred minced garlic, then adding no-salt diced tomatoes in their juice and dried Italian herbs. It's always good, and have a hearty Italian taste to it, which works well when I sometimes serve it over whole wheat pasta with parmesan cheese on top.

Well, tonight I changed it up. I still cooked the tilapia in a pan, sprinkled with black pepper, but used just a spritz of no-stick canola spray instead of about 2 tbsp of olive oil. The no-salt diced tomatoes stayed the same. But, instead of the dried Italian herbs and the minced garlic from a jar, I diced up more of the fresh cilantro and chopped 2 full cloves of fresh garlic.

Look at how pretty it was in the pan!


The result was a really light, fresh, and flavorful new version of what had become a familiar dish. The cilantro and garlic worked beautifully together, and since there was no oil in this the "sauce" was just so light and crisp. I did serve it over whole wheat fusilli pasta, and the sort of sweet nutty tasty of the pasta went with the fish and the sauce so well. I only made a few little changes, but now this dish had no fat and fresher, more nutritious ingredients. YUM!

Dining Out

For us diabetics dining out can be a minefield. Cooking at home means you can measure everything and calculate the carbs and know you're safe. My problem eating out is actually that I totally overestimate everything and end up having a low blood sugar moment. That's a train to Shelbyville (Steel Magnolias reference!). For example, I went to a great restaurant near our house and ordered the lamb sliders (Mmmmm!) and I estimated the carb content of the mini buns to be around 15 g of carbs per bun. It turns out they were much less than that because my blood sugar level went down to 65 (it should go below 80) and I was all shaking and bitchy.

But dining out has been a joy when I realize there are things I CAN eat and things I can enjoy. Here's the cuisines I've been partaking as well as the ones I'm avoiding:

The Good:
The Classy High-End places - These are awesome because the portioning is usually a decent sized piece of protein (roast chicken, steak), a great vegetable, and a starch that is fairly well defined portion wise.

Chinese - There are many things on a Chinese menu that fills my tummy and are low carb. Mu Shu! Hot and Sour Soup! Things to avoid are those General Tso's type of of batter fried. But most of the menu is a cavalcade of fun for this diabetic.

Indian - Naan may not be your friend but the basmati rice is easy to portion out and the curries and tandooris can be eaten to your heart's content.

The many organic diners in the Bay Area - tasty omelets and salads along with toast is killer(in the good way)! I'm blessed to be fairly indifferent about french fries so the salad substitution is great.

In and Out - a double double has 30 grams of carbs. I can have 45-60 per meal. If I do take out and make myself a salad I am SOOOOOOO set.

The Not So Good:
Vietnamese - sugar is a pretty integral part of of the sauces and marinades so I have been hesitant to try. I have made a splenda nuoc cham at home and that is some tasty eating.

Thai - Do you know what the carb content is for 1/2 a cup of pad thai? 98 grams. At most you should have 60 grams per meal. What the hell? Are they dousing it in sugar and deep frying? A Kripsy Kreme donut is less than that!

Mexican - Beans have carbs. Rice has carbs. Tortillas have carbs. Avocados are teeming with fat.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Kicking some diabetes ass

So I got my blood tested today. Less to check the progress and more to check whether I need to adjust some medication that regulates my blood pressure and the protein in my blood (called an ACE inhibitor). I guess since they were drawing blood, the lab decided to run a whole bunch of tests including my lipid panel (fats and cholesterol in my blood) and my fasting blood sugar.

As it turns about everything went down, except for my HDL (the good cholesterol) which stayed the same. But the overall cholesterol level went down 100 points, the triglycerides went from six times the normal level to normal range, and the fasting blood sugar went down 150 points. WOO!!!!!

Yes, you can get your body chemistry under control by writing down everything you eat, exercising like a mofo, and regulating your carb intake. The upside is that I've made sure to eat regularly and not get hungry. Getting hungry is the worst thing to do because your liver thinks you're starving and dumps glucose into your blood. I've been lucky to have a regular enough job to eat snacks and do brief spurts of exercise to keep my blood sugar down.

Speaking of staying full, the meal I had tonight has been a mainstay of my post-diabetes cooking.

Seared ahi tuna with salad

1 1-inch ahi tuna steak (about 3/4 of a pound. This will be expensive but worth every penny)
2 tablespoons of sesame seeds (optional)
3 cups of salad greens
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
a mustard-muscat vinegar vinaigrette
- 2 tablespoons muscat or riesling vinegar (Trader Joe's has a good orange muscat vinegar)
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons olive oil

Heat a nonstick pan or cast iron skillet to smoking hot. Brush one side of the tuna steak with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and sesame seeds. Place oil side down on the smoking hot skillet and let it sear for two minutes. Brush the non-oiled side down and repeat the sprinkling. Flip over and let sear on the other side for one and a half minutes. Take off the grill and put on a plate and cover with foil to the the tuna steak rest. While the tuna is resting, assemble the salad. WIth a sharp knife slice the tuna into 1/4 inch slices on the bias (agaisnt the grain of the meat). Artfully place on top of the salad. Eat with abandon and remember to eat a few slices of bread for carbs.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Quench That Thirst

Here's something pretty simple that could be a major positive change for me. I need to drink more water.

Reasons why I should drink more water:
- It's good for you, period, and everyone should drink 8+ glasses a day.
- My blood pressure medication is dehydrating, and the warning labels say to make sure you're getting enough water.
- Drinking water helps fill you up and you tend to eat less.
- I have IBS (mmmm, yeah, fun) and keeping yourself hydrated is a very key strategy for keeping things normal and comfortable
- Water is good for your skin and helps get rid of all the oogy toxins and stuff we don't want anyway

I do drink a lot of fluids during the day, but they're not all good for me or helpful in my constant monitoring (but inconsistent addressing) of my health issues.

On a normal weekday, here's what I consume:

- a 10ish oz glass of orange juice with breakfast, if I've bought groceries recently. Orange juice is high in sugar and calories, but I drink it anyway (and love it) on doctor's orders. Why? Because OJ is also high in potassium, and my blood pressure medicine has the negative side effect of leeching potassium. So I need to make sure I get it in my diet, from multi-vitamins, OJ, and bananas. I always buy the OJ-with-calcium, too. If I haven't bought groceries, I drink Crystal Light with breakfast. So that's good and counts toward the water total.

- About 4 out of 5 days, I stop at Starbucks on the way to work and get a grande skim chai latte. Lots of caffeinated sugary goodness! But, pretty much the benefit of the nonfat milk is negated by the black tea, cuz from what I've read black tea "bonds with" (or something) the dairy molecules and it just flushes from your system. And caffeine dehydrates. And there's a lot of sugar and calories in my favorite drink. I should cut back...

- During the work day, I *may* drink about one 20 oz bottle (refilled from the office cooler) of water. It's not enough, and I should make myself drink more. I do love cold water, I just like other things better.

- If I did not stop at Starbucks in the morning, I'll need a caffeine fix in the afternoon. So that's when I often make a run for a Coke Zero, preferably Cherry. I almost never do both chai and a Coke on the same day, cuz the caffeine would do me in. But I usually have either one or the other every week day, and for many reasons I need to tone down my caffeine intake. I should be drinking water every afternoon, not soda.

- At night, I probably have another 2-3 glasses of Crystal Light or, if I have the fridge stocked, a can of diet lemon-lime soda. I don't drink a lot in the evenings, cuz I don't want to be up every hour all night long...

So, there's definite room for improvement here. I'll stick with the juice, try to cut back on my purchased caffeine treats, and drink more water overall. There are just so many reasons to do it, and none not to.

The Downside

Sometimes I want to say suck it to this healthy living and make a nice batch of cookies with sugar and white flour. I could make a nice batch of cookies with Splenda and almond flour. While each cookie would have a carb content of 3 grams as opposed to 15, they would probably have a meal's worth of fat. That's the tradeoff I have to live with when it comes to sweets - low carb, high fat or high carb, moderately fatty. I've opted for the former because my nutritionist told me I was probably burning more calories than I took in so it's not like the fat, protein or carb calories were staying in my body anyway.

The downside of all of this has been baking. I've been avoiding watching cooking shows and reading cooking magazines because my GAWD does baking come up a lot. That is a void in my life because I really don't want to have a ton of baked goods I can only eat a half ounce-serving of. I'd much rather make a batch of sugar free jello (which has neither carbs nor fat!) and fulfill my sweet tooth that way. That doesn't fill the void of being able to bake. Throwing stuff in the stand mixers and have a nice big batch of cookies, muffins, or cake. or pies! Giving up the killer pie crust recipe! It's sad that's for sure.

It's nice being on track, keeping my blood sugar down and generally being physically fit but there are days, especially now when the weather is chilly, I'd like to whip up a dessert and not worry about portions.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Beyond Mortification

Okay, this is as tangible a sign as I've ever gotten that I need to change my lifestyle.

This morning, I broke my office chair. Good Lord.

Now, it's true that I kinda twisted and fell into it -- I didn't sit down normally, and I fell at an angle that was different than normally sitting. But still, I snapped the edge of a hard plastic chair.

That's doing wonders for my self-esteem right now.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

MLK Jr. - Good for Civil Rights and Healthy Living

In the wake of the passage of California's Prop 8 I had to post this (which are good words of encouragement for those of us changing our lives in any way):

"I must confess, my friends, the road ahead will not always be smooth. There will still be rocky places of frustration and meandering points of bewilderment. There will be inevitable setbacks here and there. There will be those moments when the buoyancy of hope will be transformed into the fatigue of despair. Our dreams will sometimes be shattered and our ethereal hopes blasted. We may again with tear-drenched eyes have to stand before the bier of some courageous civil-rights worker whose life will be snuffed out by the dastardly acts of bloodthirsty mobs. Difficult and painful as it is, we must walk on in the days ahead with an audacious faith in the future."

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Getting In Touch with My Inner Bugs

I've been cooking again! Lately that's my weekend hobby, which works well in this economic slowdown, I guess. Anyway... today's cooking experiment was a long time coming.

This summer, a group of us girls celebrated Brunette's bachelorette party in a most unusual - and awesome - way. Rather than the typical Adams Morgan bar crawl (which, let's face it, we're all way to old to do) we took a cooking class! For about 3 hours on a Saturday night, we hung out in the kitchen of Figs, a great little Mediterranean cafe right here in DC. We were taught how to make a full dinner, with I think 5 or 6 different dishes. My absolute favorite recipe of the evening was the carrot salad, immortalized in the pic on the right amongst its other salady friends from that night.

And, even though my gal pals would probably say I'm the *last* person they'd expect to try to recreate any of our dishes from that night... that's exactly what I just did! AS was good about writing down and sharing all the recipes, so I used her notes as a basis for my carrot salad but tweaked it a little bit (to reduce the salt and, um, cuz I forgot one ingredient but I don't think it matters much.)

So, here we go...

I started with a bunch of carrots fresh from the farmers' market. It's been a *long* time since I've peeled and diced carrots, since I've become one of those people who rely on those bags of baby carrots. I don't know if this bunch I bought would qualify as heirloom, and I can't remember how they were labeled, but it was still great to see carrots that didn't look like mass-produced clones.

All clean and ready.

I loved the color variations, they were really were so pretty. From this point, I attempted blanching for the first time in my life. I don't know if it is an exact science --- what I did seemed to work. I boiled them for about 5 minutes, then drained them and dropped them into a pan of cold water for a few minutes. Later, I chilled the whole thing before eating. They were soft yet still structurally intact, not mushy.

While the carrots had their bath, I made the vinaigrette.

Another first -- I've never used fresh cilantro before! I opted out of using salt as stated in the original recipe, and used black pepper instead. I forgot the cumin, but it doesn't seem to need it. I rough-chopped the cilantro, then added 3 cloves of garlic (yes, I cheated and got pre-peeled after my last rough go of it with fresh garlic), about 2 tsp of white vinegar, and about 2 tbsp of olive oil all into my baby chop-chop.

I wish this was scratch-and-sniff, cuz the smell is FANTASTIC. So much better than the picture.

Here it is! My finished carrot salad! Doesn't look that different from the original pic, eh? Guess what? It tastes pretty dang close, too! It's a teensy-bit too garlicky, but I'll keep eating anyway. This recipe is a keeper.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

T Will Be Proud!

I went to work early today, which meant I got to leave about an hour earlier than normal, which meant I had plenty of time to do one of those things I just never quite make time for... I went to the farmers market!

In DC, we have the great Fresh Farm Markets, and I just learned that they're running late into the season this year. Mine will be open until December 18 - woohoo!

I scored with 3 items: more kale (yes, I'm a total convert), mixed lettuce, and a whole bunch of carrots. The kale will become more soup, the lettuce will become many appetizer salads, and I have plans for those carrots. Watch for it. :-)

Meanwhile - a question. Can I use the carrot stems/leaves for anything?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

You Rock stef!

Dear Stef:

You are doing a great job. Think about what you can make now. Healthy stuff. Stuff that will fill you up and taste good but isn’t mindless eating. You’ve made a huge difference in your life because on the days you are walking into your apartment with the time to cook, it’s not mindless eating. You’re not calling the take out place with no idea of the nutritional information, You are nourishing yourself. You are sustaining yourself. THAT’S HUGE.

Road trips and work food is really hard. How do you turn down birthday cake? How do you turn down bagels? It isn’t a moment of failure because you eat what was right in front of you. That’s human. That’s natural. Sexists always use the excuse of having lizard brains to excuse their sexist behavior. But you know, we are both fighting millions of years of evolution that tell us – “Eat now and eat a lot because you don’t know where your next meal is coming from.” You eating what’s in front of you is not about willpower. It’s not about failure.

And really it’s about getting set up for success. Everything in your life the past few weeks haven’t set you up for success. It’s like that old adage about going to the supermarket hungry. Of course you will want to buy everything in sight. I went to Whole Foods with no sugar free anything in a major hypoglycemic fit and it nearly burst into tears. You should be proud of yourself because every time you have been set up for success, you’ve taken the opportunity and run with it. It sounds like your kitchen is the healthy yummy food zone. BIG ACCOMPLISHMENT.

I think about the one time I lost weight – backpacking through Europe. Did I intend to lose 30 pounds? Was I trying to lose 30 pounds? Nope. I lost 30 pounds because I was walking up and down some wicked hills for five hours a day. My meals consisted of great bread and lots of fruit for breakfast, whatever I could afford for lunch (usually things like pita, hummus and carrots) and a splurge dinner. My entire routine that summer was set up to get me in shape. All I had to do was be along for the ride.

I am really proud of you stef. It’s been three weeks we’ve been at it and you’re moving forward. Any real change is a struggle.

Yours in the struggle,

T

Saved by the Bell

Or something like that.

Due to a work conflict (what else?), I've had to reschedule my doctor's physical that was scheduled for next week. And -- apparently if you have to cancel a November appointment the next available time is at the end of February. Harrumph.

But, that gives me more time to keep plugging away at my lifestyle habits and work for improvement in all my stats and stuff. So I'll keep posting away, and I hope you'll stay with me. I need a little encouragement at this point. :-)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

My Diabetes Glossary

A1C – This is a measure of how much glucose is stick to your blood cells. It’s an good measure of how your blood sugar has been for the last three months. Anything below a 7 is good but around 5 is optimal.

Albumin/Creatinine levels – This is a measure of how much protein is in your urine. It’s indicative of both heart disease and compromised kidney function both things diabetics are at risk for.

Glucose level – How much glucose is in your bloodstream. For me because I am young (ish) I should have a glucose level of between 80-100 before meals and 100-140 after meals.

Fasting Blood Sugar - Your sugar level when you first wake up before you eat anything.

Type I – I call it the Shelby diabetes. This is the diabetes Shelby had in Steel Magnolias. It usually hits you in late childhood. It’s an autoimmune disease where you body becomes immune to the insulin it produces so you have to get it via injection. Like Shelby, folks with Type I have to monitor their blood sugar like mofos and take care of their kidneys. Otherwise, your kidneys could blow, you get low blood sugar and you go into a coma.

Type II
– This is the type I have. This is where you body produces less and less insulin and your liver just throws out more and more sugar. This usually occurs in people over 40 but with the state of the American diet these days, it’s hitting younger people.

Things you already know the definition of that are important to diabetics:

Cholesterol
– yes, because your blood is extra gooey due to the blood sugar, we need to think about cholesterol and lipids.

Blood pressure – this is measuring how hard your blood is on your heart. The blood being sticky and all.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Ch-ch-ch-changes

The changes in exercise and eating that I've instituted for myself have resulted in some pretty positive changes in my body. While I still chafe at thinking about what I am eating and portions control (the exercise part comes easily), there is quite a bit I've gained in the last three weeks. You see, having high blood sugar transforms your blood from the consistency of maple syrup to the consistency of molasses. Your heart is working harder to push all of the blood through your system. Lowering the blood sugar means that your heart works less and the blood gets to all parts of the body easier.

What has that wrought on my body?

1. Energy - Did you know having high blood sugar levels makes you sleepy? A bunch of people in my class reassured me that keeping the sugar levels down would keep away the afternoon blahs. Normally I am a zombie in the afternoons, but since the changes in diet and exercise, I am pretty alert in the afternoons.

2. Sleep - The other piece of this whole lower blood sugar thing is sleeping through the night. Not waking up in the middle of the night at all and sleeping a full eight hours. Not bad.

3. Fitness - Yes I'm progressing. My tennis game has been upped. I'm getting the the ball easier. Not only that, I've increased my running pace from ten minute miles to nine and a half minute miles.

4. Weight - While this is not supposed to be a weight loss blog, I can't mention the changes in my body without mentioning my body. I've lost eight pounds since the diagnosis. While losing weight isn't the point and I would happily GAIN ten pounds to reduce my blood sugar, I'll take the weight loss. Although, I hope my ass doesn't get flat. There are two things I unabashedly like about my body, my ass and my calves.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Things I hate About My Diabetes Educator

This woman should be sued for malpractice. In the interim, I will give her a scathing evaluation. So what do I hate about this woman? Let's see:

1. Her inability to celebrate good choices. Someone will bring a box of oatmeal where they switched from the instant in a packet to the stuff in a cylinder. She will proceed to upbraid them about having too much of it. Lady, you yourself said this is about baby steps. They cannot change their lives overnight. All of us brought our glucose pills as instructed. She then tries to zing us about the expiration date. WE DID WHAT YOU TOLD US TO DO ASSHOLE!

2. Her glee in pointing out bad choices. The woman can spend half the class picking apart a bad choice. A guy who previously ate one big meal a day, reports he ate three full meals on his day off. She asks him what he ate and it turns out he ate twice the amount of carbs per meal. While that wasn't good, she decided to spend 20 minutes of a two hour class picking apart every single thing he ate.

3. Her obvious lack of food knowledge.
She was looking at my food log and simply had no idea what pomegranate seeds were. OR QUINOA. QUINOA the wonder grain. No idea.

4. Her complete lack of interest in the emotional aspects of dealing with disease.
So here's the entire section on dealing with the emotions you have when you live with diabetes: "Here's a list of emotions you may feel. Have any of you felt them? Fine, don't let them get in the way of making good choices." THAT'S IT. Seriously. Three sentences. We have a chronic disease BEEYOTCH. One that carries a lot of guilt, frustration, and shame. If that's all you can do to help us deal with it, don't even try.

5. The stank attitude.
PLUH-EASE. Spare me the eye rolls and sighs. We are all here to take more responsibility over our health. Having our health educators act like spoiled teenagers will not help. You say it's about moving forward but clearly you cannot find a ladder and get over yourself to help us do that.

If I didn't have to take this damn class to get to a nutritionist, I would have bolted after the first class.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Kale and Hearty

Thanks for the earlier suggestions on what to do with my bag full of super-nutritious kale. I ended up making a soup that's a variation on Onyah's "beans and greens" idea.

Here's what I started with: potatoes, kale, low-sodium chicken broth, cannellini beans, and stewed tomatoes.


Start with my favorite frozen chopped onions sizzling in a little olive oil. Then add some garlic - I used about a teaspoon of minced.


Add the kale. Rip the leaves off of the stems and then shred the leaves - I did it by hand, no chopping necessary.

Add about 1/4 of the can of chicken broth and cover, then watch the kale turn pretty colors. I left it covered for just about 5 minutes on medium heat.

Add the can of cannellini (aka Great Northern) beans. I drained them and did a brief rinse.


Then I added the diced potato. I ended up only using one and it was plenty. Also add the rest of the chicken broth and 1 can of water. I decided not to use the tomatoes after all, which was a good move.


Season it up -- I used black pepper, a pinch of salt, rosemary, oregano, and basil. Cover it again and then let it simmer on medium heat for about 35 minutes. OMG - there was the most deelish smell of rosemary chicken in my apartment while the soup was on the stove.


Here it is - very tasty!!! So hearty and rustic yet surprisingly light. The kale gives it nice texture, the beans and potato give it substance, and the broth was just so savory and tasty. This made three big bowls - 2 for dinner tonight, one saved in the fridge for an appetizer tomorrow night. I will definitely make this again, and it would also be great for entertaining as a first course.

The godsends

Almonds are my new best friends. I have already embraced almond milk as a LOOOOOOW carb substitute for regular milk. I've talked about the almond milk cocoa but then I made low carb pudding with almond milk using jello sugar free pudding mix. Considering the sugar free pudding has like 7 grams of carbs using nonfat milk (which usually has 15 grams of carbs per 8 oz), it must have next to no carbs using almond milk (2 grams of carbs per 8 oz). While the pudding doesn't set well using almond milk, it's the consistency of creme anglaise. And that's a huge plus.

After scouring the diabetes message boards, I've found a new friend in almonds - almond meal. This is not surprising since Nigella uses almond meal quite regularly in place of flour. Almond meal is just ground up almonds that have been pulverized to the consistency of cornmeal. While the fat content is fairly high, the carb content is like next to nothing when you use Splenda. It can be used for any kind of batter. Last night I made a almond meal chocolate cake with Splenda and it tasted awesome. I loved the nutty flavor and I loved the texture of the almond meal. This "decadent" dessert was topped with the runny vanilla pudding. A total of 6 grams of carbs for the whole shebang. And this was a decent sized slice of cake.

Here's the recipe:

1/4 C almond
1 T Cocoa Powder
1/4 t Baking Powder
5 Packets Splenda


2 T Melted Butter
1 T Water
1 Egg

In 2-Cup Pyrex baking dish blend well top ingredients (flour, cocoa, baking powder, splenda). Add water, melted butter and egg. Blend thoroughly with fork. Microwave on high 2 minutes or until knife comes out clean. You may need to microwave it a bit more but that shouldn't be a problem. For additional cooking, microwave in 30 second increments. Cool a bit.

These Boots Are Made For....

So.... exercise.

Unlike my co-blogger, I'm not someone who has ever really enjoyed exercise. I know that there are countless benefits, and when I do force myself to do it I feel better both physically and emotionally. But, I am someone who really has to force herself to do it. So be it.

(Although T's brand of exercise kinda sounds fun -- I've never really learned how to play tennis, and I was never on any sports teams cuz Mom didn't want to have to do a lot of driving us around as kids, so exercise has *never* been something social for me. Maybe if it was I'd be more inclined. Any suggestions?)

Anyway -- for now, exercise is a pretty solitary thing for me. I've got a gym in my building with the usual cardio machines and some Nautilus-style stuff, and I'll make my way down there eventually. But while the weather holds up - and this weekend was perfect - my favorite kind of exercise is just taking long walks around this fair city of mine.

For starters, since I don't own a car my daily commute does involve about 30 minutes of walking each day. As long as I don't have a night event (see below - 2x a week lately!), I'm game for my walking commute both in the morning and at night.

On Saturday, I did the 3-mile Memory Walk, and it felt great to be walking in the gorgeous fall sunshine around the National Mall. It was a good reminder for me of just how much I do like taking long walks - and while I'm not fast by any means, I have pretty good endurance and can keep at it for a while.

At my old place, I was roughly 3 miles from downtown DC and I tried to make it a habit of at least once a month walking downtown to see a movie or something. Since I now live much further north, I need to be creative in coming up with new neighborhood routes that I enjoy.

Last week, I conducted a successful experiment in getting off the Metro one stop early and just walking the difference home. That adds a nice little 15 minutes or so of brisk walking, and I clocked it today at just under a mile. Again, as long as I'm leaving working at a decent hour and the weather's okay, I could see myself doing that little extra a couple times a week.

The other thing that's motivating me to spend more time walking may not seem connected, but it's a pretty powerful factor. Since I splurged and bought myself a bigger iPod a few months ago, I now have the capacity to download a whole bunch of my favorite podcasts and keep up on all kinds of politics, culture and current events. Hooray! But what I've been finding is that those podcasts pile up... I tend to listen to them on my commute, but there's never enough time to listen to all of them. (Damn you, daily Fresh Air!). So... my thinking is that the more I walk, the more I'll stay caught up on my podcasts. They won't be clogging up my nano, I'll be even better informed about the state of the world, and my feet will keep on moving while I'm at it!

And - oh yeah - since my usual nighttime / weekend activity involves hours spent in front of the computer while speeding through Netflix, I need to also force myself off the couch to do some stuff in front of the tv. As long as I'm watching, I might as well do some free weight exercises or various abs or aerobics routines I've collected along the way. Feel free to yell at me at least once a night, "Get up off the couch!"

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Open to Suggestions

I now have a huge bagfull of fresh kale.

What should I do with it?

It's been chilly here lately, so I'm thinking of some hearty, comfort food kind of recipe. Maybe a soup, stew, or pasta dish?

I also have low-sodium chicken broth, onions, garlic, baking potatoes, chicken, cannellini beans, whole wheat pasta. I may do some searching on the Internets for recipes that use some of those items, but I'd totally love any suggestions from the Friends of the Blog.

Thoughts?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Why My Job is Bad for My Health

Don't get me wrong, I love my job. I'm a non-profit fundraiser and I've made my whole career working in the arts. It's stressful and often means long hours, nights and weekends. And as I've grown in responsibility and reached the double-edged sword of middle management, it means I often lose a lot of sleep worrying over things and I still need to find a better way to find a life balance. But that's all for another day.

No, today I'm sharing about a very literal way in which my job is bad for my health... cuz I spend a huge portion of my working life on special events. Lately, we've averaged 2 events a week. And that means lots and lots of catered food. Oh, catered food, how I love thee... it tastes good, there's more variety than I ever make myself, I don't have to prep or clean up! But, of course, it's terrible for any kind of diet or sensible eating.

In the past, when I've really been *on* in terms of watching what I eat, I made sure to have a Lean Cuisine or something about a 1/2 hour before an event would start, so that I wouldn't go hungry and make my first stop at the buffet. Since I am WORKING, it's not like I can just make myself a huge plate and go at it -- I actually rarely have time to eat during an event, but it's the aftermath. Once all the guests have gone, all of our staff just closes down the buffet and chows on the stuff we've been looking at all night. Then, any leftovers magically reappear in our office the next day. There is ALWAYS food in the office, and it's usually pretty darn good stuff. (pear a brie mini-quesadillas anyone? LOVE.)

So, one of the things I know I have to do is just exercise better discipline overall about what I eat at events. We're going to continue to have them, and I know I won't be able to just eliminate the temptation. That means I have to monitor my own behavior - such a chore! - and make sure I'm not overdoing it just cuz there's tantalizing little goodies right in front of me.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Frustration and joy

So reading my blood sugar levels, I am on the high end of normal and my doctor wants me to be on the low end of normal. The problem is, when I cut back on the carbs per meal to get to the low end of normal, I go into a massive hypoglycemic attack where I am about to pass out. And my blood sugar level when I wake up, isn't at all affected by the lowering of carbs I ate the day before. In fact yesterday, I made a point to eat more carbs so as not to go into hypoglycemia and hooray! my fasting blood sugar was the lowest it's ever been! So what gives? What can I eat to make sure I'm on the low end of normal but not pass out.

One joy I had last night was testing whether I could eat pasta. Admittedly, it was half a cup of cooked pasta with Trader Joe's turkey chili but it was pasta!!!!! Pasta and bread is on my list! WOOOO!

I hate to be defeatist about such things but I am giving up. I had a wicked sugar craving and I decided to break down and use the Splenda that was left over from my father in law's visit. I made hot cocoa with almond milk (2 g of carbs per 8 oz serving BAYBEEE!!!!), a packet of Splenda and a teaspoon of cocoa powder. It was crazy satisfying. I hate having to throw in any more chemicals into my body than I already do but, hot cocoa. I'm thinking of devising a recipe with almond flour and cocoa powder and Splenda.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Fun goals and a bad night

So now that I'm living healthy and stuff, there are some goals I am setting not directly related to the diabetes. You see, I've always played sports all my life. In high school I ran track. In college I played volleyball. Recently, I've been playing tennis.

The hard thing about this diagnosis is feeling like my body has totally let me down. I know this sounds weird but I've never hated my body. I never felt that in order to be more attractive I needed to lose weight because the men I am attracted to are bigger guys. I've always thought that the reason why people didn't find me attractive was that I was an Asian guy and we're low on the dating food chain but my body never came into play when it came to self hatred. That's another set of Samsonite to unpack.

Needless to say, a big piece of my lack of self hatred is because I played sports. I wasn't the strong, fastest or highest but I DO IT. When I started playing tennis again, I joined a league and made it to the semifinals. Athletically my body does what it's told.

So I'm reclaiming that here and now. I have two goals:

1. Run the Bay to Breakers in costume. 12k, 2k longer than my longest race (a 10k). Bay to Breakers is awesome because everyone runs in costume. In the past people have run in the nude (now prohibited). It's long been a fantasy for me to run it. Now that I live in the Bay area and am running like a mofo (literally running for my life), I'm in!

2. Play tennis in the 2009 Outgames. I want to walk in a Opening Ceremonies. As an athlete! In a cute warm up suit!

Last night I had a bad eating night. I went to a meeting at an Italian restaurant, and lowballed the carbs. I ordered just a salad with seared tuna and had maybe 15 grams of carbs. An hour later in Whole Foods, I was having a massive bout of hypoglycemia and had to eat a cracker (which would mean my fasting blood sugar level in the morning would be higher). It didn't help I was in the middle of Whole Foods where everything in sight had carbs. I made huge mistake of not just going to a grocery store hungry but going to a grocery store starving and about to pass out. Note to self - EAT YOUR CARBS.

I got the results of my blood test. Everything is in working order and going according to plan. I'll do a post with a glossary of things I have to think about as a diabetic.

BTW - help me come up with a costume for Bay to Breakers. It must be something that I can wear a t-shirt and running shorts. Look on the site for pics of costumed runners.

Monday, October 13, 2008

If You Like Spaghetti...

Cooking experiment #4...

Somewhere along the way, I read that spaghetti squash is a great, healthy, high-fiber substitute for pasta. After finding lots of good how-to guides on how to make it, like this one, I decided it would be my big adventure for the weekend.



There are 2 different ways you can approach a spaghetti squash - either cut it in half and prep it first and then cook it, shortening the cooking time, or cook it first and then cut it and dig out the seeds and pulp. Since I like the idea of shorter cooking times, I thought I'd try cutting it up first. Well, they weren't kidding when they said it's hard to cut. I tried with my biggest knife AND A HAMMER and couldn't even make a dent. So, I went the easier route. I poked a few holes in the side to let steam escape, then popped it in at 375 degrees for 1 hour.


Here's what it looked like cooked. It's very easy to cut after baking, but VERY hot. Use oven mitts or pot holders. Scrape out the seeds and the kinda gooey stuff in the middle. Side note: Baking it for an hour leaves a GREAT sweet smell in your house that lingers for at least an hour so far.


Then you're left with the "meat" of the squash - scrape that out with a fork and it easily comes out in strands. Note, it's still very hot - continue to use the oven mitt.

I topped it all with the last container of my homemade meat sauce. This was really good! The squash has a slightly sweeter taste than normal spaghetti, but it still worked well with the sauce. I did put a little margarine (Smart Balance, trans-fat-free) in the mix, based on some advice, but it wasn't really necessary with the sauce. If I was making the squash as a side dish, though, I definitely would use the margarine for taste and texture.

Even though I picked out the smallest squash in the store, it still made WAY too much. I ended up eating only about 1/3 of the plate (but all the sauce, yum.). I don't know how well it would hold up as a leftover... so I may reserve the full spaghetti squash experience for times when I have people over and make it an occasion. Otherwise, my whole wheat pasta will continue to do just fine.

That's it, I'm done cooking for the weekend -- probably for a while cuz I'll be pretty busy for the next week. But I learned a lot! And I'll definitely do some of these tricks again.