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,


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:

– 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


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.


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.

Reduction-Free Zone

Apparently that's what my kitchen is. I tried to follow T's advice on making a balsamic reduction, but it didn't quite work out. So here's cooking experiment #3.

I started out with a pretty good bottle of balsamic vinegar - no worries, even though this experiment didn't work I will definitely use this again:

I measured out 1/2 cup of it into the pan, added a little minced garlic, and then followed my instructions from T and the Internets.

I brought it to a low boil then turned it down to simmer. Nothing. It still looked the same, but (as T warned) it got very stinky. I kinda got the onion-eyes thing, as cooking vinegar totally made my eyes sting and water. I kept trying with different heat levels for about 20 minutes, and while I could tell that the volume of the vinegar was decreasing, it wasn't actually "reducing" to the syrupy consistency I expected. I gave up, but the balsamic was still perfectly fine to use.

So I used it as planned in my turkey-veggie wraps. I used multigrain tortillas (the store was out of fat-free, too bad!), with thin-sliced smoked turkey, celery sprouts, spinach, and the super-convenient pre-chopped goodness of "rainbow salad." That gives you carrots, cucumbers, and red cabbage. And I added the balsamic for flavor.

The wraps were tasty and filling. And, that smoked turkey must be pretty awesome cuz this is the first meal I can remember where trusty cat Cleo actually climbed up onto me to *stole* off my plate! She nabbed some turkey out of the end of a wrap, so I did split one open to share with her. (No worries, I handed her little pieces of turkey, she didn't eat off the plate!)


Cooking Experiment #2 of this weekend...

I decided to make my own meat sauce for the first time ever.

I decided to use ground beef instead of ground turkey. I've been reading a lot on the Internets about how super-lean beef is actually better for you than lean turkey, cuz they put skin and stuff into the ground turkey.

- 1 lb lean, antibiotic-free ground beef
- 2 14 oz cans of no-salt added stewed tomatoes
- 1 8 oz can of no-salt added tomato sauce
- chopped garlic (see post below about my difficulties!)
- chopped onions (frozen - LOVE!)
- black pepper
- basil
- oregano

Brown the onions and then the beef in non-fat cooking spray in a non-stick pan. Drain the fat. Add the tomatoes, garlic, and sauce. Bring to a low boil then simmer for about 30 minutes. If you want, you can sorta crush the tomatoes as it cooks. Add seasonings as it simmers to taste.

YUMMMM. This made enough sauce for THREE meals this weekend. It kept really well in the fridge, too. And it's low in fat and sodium!

Exercising on the Sly

For a diabetic one of the best ways to lower your blood sugar is to exercise. It's recommended that your exercise after meals as a way of maintaining your blood sugar. The hard thing about that is when you're working. After all, how do you get your heart rate up in an office? My answer is using the stairs. I know this will be hard to do in Washington, DC where security measures make stairways inaccessible to get back in to you office. My strategy is to go up and down once (I have eight flights of stairs) and then take the stairs all the way out and take the elevator back up. That is a good ten minutes of exercise which does seem to have an impact on the blood sugar.

Hey Michashell, thanks for the comment. You know what? After a week of monitoring I'm already making discoveries.

1. I can eat bread! I ate a egg sandwich (made with egg whites)! and TWO slices of whole wheat bread. My blood sugar didn't spike. WOO!

2. Tomatoes make my blood sugar go up a lot. Boo! Thanks for pointing out the tomato thing Michashell! I looked at my log and noticed that my tomato salad was making my blood sugar go way up after eating.

So the hardest part emotionally of this was telling my parents. My parents have been telling me my entire life to lose weight and eat better. I've resisted them 100% of the way. Not because I haven't been trying to eat healthy and exercise but I hated the body image stuff. I was afraid that telling my parents would be a calvacade of "I told you so's."

So yesterday I got the results of my urine test back with my albumin and creatinine levels. They were high and I was freaking out. The only person I could call was my dad who is a retired doctor. My mom answered the phone and I told her. She was shocked. When I asked to talk to my dad I steeled myself. It was bad at first. He did say things like "when you come home you always eat a lot." He also went on a big list of things I should do, all of which was covered by my diabetes management class. I listened to him and then took a deep breath and told him what I was doing and what the diabetes class told me to do. Here's the amazing thing, he apologized. He apologized for not listening and told me it would have been better if I told him the steps I was already taking first. My dad never apologizes. On top of that, he was very reassuring. He told me my levels were high and indicative of diabetes but I was nowhere near renal failure. He told me this was manageable and gave me a list of things to ask my doctor about.

I think the shrink on Grey's Anatomy was right. The point is to feel the horrible feelings and realize you won't die from them.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

I Am Not A Vampire

Thus, I shall not be defeated by garlic!

I'll post more about my weekend culinary adventures tomorrow, but for now a quick update.

I just about pulled my hair out last night trying - for the very first time - to use fresh garlic. I saw a container of pre-peeled garlic cloves at the store but passed those by, thinking "I've seen the Food Network! I can handle the real thing!"

Alas, my attempt to peel and chop garlic was not a pretty sight. I tried to replicate some of the Tyler Florence / Rachael Ray "just smash it with a knife" moves, but it was a lot harder to separate the cloves than I expected, and a whole lot more peeling was required than I had assumed. As one who's really only ever seen garlic in jarred form or in cooked dishes, I didn't expect it to be so woody. I ended up just kinda hacking away some of the peel to get to a few cloves for my spaghetti sauce, but threw away a lot of the bulb in frustration.

*Now* however I have found a helpful step-by-step guide on what to do with the remaining bulb I have in the kitchen. I'll probably use it sometime this week, so I'll let you know who wins the next round.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

It Ain't a Beauty But Hey It's Alright

Weekend experiment #1: An Egg Beater omelet with onions, spinach, and mushrooms.

(Frozen chopped onions may just be my new most favoritest thing ever.)

Makin' nice in the pan. First I browned the onion in cooking spray, then added the mushrooms. Once those cooked down a little bit, I added a few handfuls of spinach.

Mmmm. Gooey eggy goodness.

The final product. Yeah, it's not the most gorgeous meal ever, and I had some messy problems midway through in that small pan. I had hoped it would stay together more, like a frittata. But it tasted GREAT. The onion flavor was really rich and balanced well with the spinach and 'shrooms. I didn't actually use any seasoning, but next time I'd try a little black pepper, and maybe even some hot sauce. Any other suggestions?

I also need to either use a bigger pan and just make it a folded-over omelet, or stop cooking it on the stovetop midway through and stick it in the oven. Either way, it needed another shot of the cooking spray cuz the pan ended up kinda a mess.

Overall, this was a very easy and super-filling lunch, very low in sodium and ZERO fat. It offered lean protein and 2 servings of veggies, and in WW terms I'd guess it at only about 3 or 4 points. Tasty. I'll definitely make this again.

Spelunking on a Saturday Morning

Just got back from the grocery store... and inspired by recipe ideas from my co-blogger, my friends, and the good people on the Internets, I really went to town. I actually explored sections of the grocery store that I've never really paid attention to before! Like, the full depth and glory of the produce section.....!

I will be making a balsamic reduction and using it in turkey-veggie wraps. I will make - for the first time - my own meat sauce with very lean antibiotic free beef to serve over spaghetti squash. (That will be a bizarre experiment, I can already tell.) I will make a spinach and mushroom frittata-type thingy. (Does a frittata by definition have to have cheese? I didn't buy any cheese.)

Watch for updates as I experiment over this long weekend. There may even be pictures!

Expanding My Repertoire

As I've shared, I'm not really much of a cook. It's not for a total lack of interest -- it's more that I don't have a lot of confidence in the kitchen.

Growing up, Dad was the real chef in the family and it was always his kitchen. I regret that we never really had any "cook with the kids" moments, so my brother and I really didn't learn our way around a kitchen. But, my brother has ended up being a fairly confident and creative cook, so he picked it up somewhere.

Another factor for me has really been that for the last 4 1/2 years, I lived in an apartment that had a terrible kitchen. Not only was there a big pest problem (ick) that made me cut way back on the types of things I would do or have in the kitchen, but it was also just a terrible setup - no counter space, no pantry, terrible cabinets. I really just lived as a queen of microwave cooking and quick stovetop pasta meals - or the queen of convenient urban food delivery. :-)

Well -- now I'm in an AWESOME apartment with a much better kitchen, I'm upgrading my culinary equipment and tools, and I'm enthusiastic about trying new things. I know it is what I should be doing for my health - since you can be in so much more control of *what* you eat when you make it yourself - and it's better for the world in general if I can try to incorporate more organic and locally-sourced food in my lifestyle. (Plus the awesome new apartment has a much higher price tag, so home cooking makes more financial sense, too.) I'm going to look at it sorta as picking up a new hobby, and there will likely be some interesting adventures along the way.

In the meantime, I thought I'd share my culinary starting point --- these are the "home cooked" meals that I already make in fairly regular rotation. I like them all, but you can tell I definitely need to add more variety:

I Make These at Least Bi-Weekly:
- whole wheat pasta with sauteed spinach and tomato sauce (sometimes I vary squash, zucchini, and mushrooms for the spinach)
- whole wheat pasta with sauteed spinach, cannellini beans, garlic and olive oil
- baked chicken breast with various marinades and frozen veggie side (I actually really like brussel sprouts)
- tilapia fillet with diced tomatoes and Italian seasoning, either alone or over whole wheat pasta (thanks Scotte for this idea!)
- pork chops cooked in rosemary and olive oil (again thanks Scotte)
- baked potato with low-fat broccoli and cheese topping (thanks to Onyah for the WW-friendly suggestion)

I Make These Several Times a Season:
- crock pot turkey chili, and I do chili with beans and corn
- crock pot tomato florentine soup
- crock pot chicken / veggie / noodle soup
- three-bean spanish rice (an expansion of boxed spanish rice with lots of beans, tomatoes, and corn added)

So.... my project for this long weekend is to try something new. If my store has everything in stock, I'm going to attempt 3 new things: a balsamic reduction (thanks T!), kale (thanks Em!), and spaghetti squash (thanks Google searches!). Stay tuned.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Is this a benefit?

Is it a good or bad thing that having a chronic (yet manageable!) disease will make you cry like a baby at an episode of Grey's Anatomy. The Asian girl with cancer who just wanted to have Meredith dish? WAAAH? And when she found out the cancer was spreading and then said "So unfair!" WAAAAAAAAH! And then the psychiatrist in the elevator talking about the goal of therapy is not to b happy but to be able to feel things. WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!

Last night, J and I went to a vegan restaurant for dinner. The had a prix fixe meal that was the right number of carbs - a healthy meal of brown and wild rice, sauteed beets, apples and cabbage, azuki beans, and kale. It was filling if a bit bland. But it was nice to go to a restaurant and not have to think. We just ordered, the food came and we ate. It felt normal.

On the plus side, after two days of keeping at it, my blood glucose levels are within normal range. Woo!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Gotta DASH!

I'll work on doing more of a background post about hypertension itself sometime soon, maybe over the upcoming long weekend. But for now, I will share the doctor-recommended approach towards addressing hypertension through diet. It's called the DASH Diet, as in Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.

The DASH Diet is a variation of the usual food pyramid we've all gotten used to, and until now I haven't really made much of an effort to adjust to its recommendations. But, as T and I are sharing with you all, this is the first week of the rest of our lives or something like that. So, I'm going to start by making a very strategic trip to the grocery store this weekend. I've also just bought the book that's on the linked web site (call me a sucker, I'll buy the book...) which hopefully has tips on how to stick to the reshuffled DASH plan.

For a 2000-calories-a-day lifestyle (which sure will feel like a diet), DASH recommends you choose:

Grains - 7-8 servings, at least 3 of which are whole grains
Fruits - 4-5 servings
Veggies - 4-5 servings
Dairy, low-fat or non-fat - 2-3 servings
Lean meats, fish, poultry - 2 or less servings
Nuts, seeds, legumes - 4-5 servings per week
Fats and sweets - limited

I probably won't have a problem with the grains part. While I probably have more than 7-8 servings on most days (I LOVE pasta, rice, chips and bagels), I make a point to have whole grain stuff at home and I try to order the same whenever it's an option out. So I'll work on making smarter grain choices and fewer of them. I have to up my dairy intake, make sure I have lean protein once a day on average, keep eating beans but make sure they're in low sodium meals, buy some unsalted nuts to have on hand, and really cut back on fats and sweets.

I *know* the hardest thing will be to incorporate 4-5 servings EACH of fruits and veggies every day. I love fruits and veggies, don't get me wrong. But it requires more planning, more cooking, more trips to the store, and just more commitment overall to make sure that either fresh produce or well-seasoned frozen veggies are a big part of my day.

And, this is a post for another day, but another one of the - ahem - health issues that I inherited from my Dad sometimes has a dramatic reaction to, shall we call it, roughage. But that can be managed too, with planning, so there's really no excuse for not upping my fruit/veggie consumption.

I know, I've gotta just do it. Like Nike says. (But if I ever do win the lottery this is totally why I would hire a nutritionist and personal chef.)

Diabetes Management Class

What I learned in my diabetes class - managing diabetes blows. Seriously. I should be all Biggest Loser about it and how this is an adventure of a lifetime of healthy living but really, thinking about portions sucks. I will also have to say that the instructor blew. She was smug, condescending and happy to shame people about their choices.

"What do you mean you don't have your monitor on you?"

"Do you even know where the stairs are?"

"Why don't you have any hard candy on you in case of hypoglycemia?"

The main thing I am learning is that you need carbs, for me, 210 grams of them a day. Not more, but certainly not less. You see, if your body isn't getting enough carbs, it will just dump glucose into the bloodstream, thereby increase your glucose level. The good news is nothing is off limits. It's just you have to have food in moderate (read SMALL) portions).

This was massively depressing as I calculated the grams of carbs I had the day before and it came out to 350 grams. And I wasn't eating crap. My breakfast consisted of yogurt and pomegranate seeds with a large nectarine. Lunch was a green salad, a bowl of pasta, and a cauliflower mash. Dinner was a turkey burger on a whole wheat bun with a side of broccolini. I did have a PBandJ and a bowl of cereal for snacks. But seriously, I was floored to see my day of healthy eating was still blowing my carb allotment.

The one revelation is that diabetics should only have six ounces of protein a day. You see fat and protein is hard on your kidneys. Diabetes compromises your kidneys so things like protein, fat and alcohol should be limited. This makes me wonder what the Aktins diet was doing to all of those people's kidneys.

The hard thing about living with diabetes is the thinking. Hopefully, after a while the portion control will become second nature but in the meantime, it will be struggle. The one plus of the class was that there were all types of bodies there. Tall skinny folks, short big folks and everything in between.

On the plus side here's a list of vegetables I can eat with abandon:

Green leafy vegetables
- salad greens
- collard green, kale, swiss chard and the like

So for Stef, here's my first recipe for you. I highly recommend making a balsamic reduction. Because it makes the vinegar all thick and syrupy, you don't need oil at all. Take a good amount of balsamic vinegar (I would say at least 1/2 a cup) and let it simmer on the stove until reduced by at least 1/3. What I do is add some chopped garlic to it. Use the fan in your stove because it will be stinky. Don't worry if it looks too liquid at first, it gets thicker as it cools. Use as a dressing on salad or on top of broccoli or tomatoes. No oil or salt needed, there's plenty of flavor there already.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

T's story

So.... here's my scenario.

I'm 36 and overweight but I'm also athletic. I've run 5 and 10ks. I play tennis on a regular basis. In fact I made a t-shirt that said fat jock. My challenge is that I will got three weeks exercising regularly and then get thrown off because of work and don't exercise for the same amount of time. Like stef, I also love food. Thank god I live in the Bay area because people talk about food the way other cities talk about sports. You have more loyalty to your butcher than your football team.

I'm actually tearing up reading stef's story because it is parallel to my own. Up until about two weeks ago, my health stats were decent. I mean I'm not marathon runner but I was fine at every physical. Then I went to the eye doctor. Yes the eye doctor found tiny hemorrhages in my eyes that indicated diabetes. DIABETES? WTF? And that's where my own judgments and prejudices came into play - Isn't that for like old fat people? I'm not THAT fat. I have to keep telling myself this is a medical condition, not a punishment for bad living. The truth is, I'm scared shitless. I'm scared about going blind. I'm scared about getting my limbs amputates and I'm scared of living in a world without desserts. I'm REALLY scared about Splenda.

As I told stef, when we were starting up this blog, everything I know about diabetes comes from Steel Magnolias. So yes, I have these images of me getting a really bad haircut and dialysis and having my mother give me her kidney and marrying Dylan MacDermott and marinating 50 pounds of crab claws (seriously I know this movie well). Tonight is the first night of my diabetes management class. And I will be getting answers. As an added kicker, the blood tests also said that I had high cholesterol.

I'm also on medication to control my blood sugar but -- like my co-blogger -- I'm not all that comfortable mentally knowing that I'm relying on a drug to keep my health in check.

As it says in the blog title. This is a lifestyle, not a diet. The things I am trying to do I am trying to do for good. Not just until I lose X number of pounds. Unless contradicted by my diabetes management class, I am doing this slowly. There are many things on the list to do but here's what I commit to do immediately:

1. Eat five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. There's a lot of mindless eating I do and it's primarily starch. The thing is, I love to eat fruits and veggies and I rarely put junk food in my body. But I do use quite a bit of butter in my cooking and do rely on the white flour.

2. Exercise three times a week.
This shouldn't be hard. I love exercising. But an exercise routine is so easily derailed. I think of the challenge as the activation energy. If I have enough activation energy to exercise regularly and get over the "I'll go home first and then never go to the gym at all" mentality, then I will have more energy overall. I do know there's a positive feedback cycle of the more you exercise and eat well the more it becomes second nature and easy.

If I get those two things in place, I hope everything else will come together like the portion control and the protein especially. Stage two also includes more whole grains and less white flour but baby steps.

This blog is good for me because I'm a talker. If I SAY I will do things, it makes it a whole lot more likely I will do it. I like having stef as my blogging buddy because she has walked this road and know it's tough.

One other thing, this is a judgment free zone. I was telling stef, one reason I wanted to start this blog and NOT tell everyone about it is because I want to share my struggles and triumphs without having the people in my life turn into the food and exercise police. For all of you out there, share your triumphs and struggles and stories, but please no "shoulds."

Tonight: I am going to the diabetes management class. I am desperately hoping they are not telling me to go on Splenda.

P.S. THANKS Stef!!!!!!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Stef's Story

So.... here's my scenario.

I'm 33 and overweight, and I have been pretty much my whole life. I love food - I'm one of those people that can feel rapture from a good meal, and food is my comfort when I'm stressed, sad, happy, bored, or otherwise feeling *anything* - and I don't like exercising. I prefer napping. You can see wherein the problem lies.

Up until the last year or so, though, all my usual health stats were pretty good. But, in the summer of 2007, my Dad had a surprise health emergency as routine tests revealed that he'd had a silent heart attack and had almost complete blockage of his arteries. So he very quickly went in for a triple bypass - at age 59 - and came through with flying colors. He's now lost a lot of weight, is incredibly active, and just a few weeks ago climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro. Go Dad! So, he's become both an inspiration and a bit of a cautionary tale in my life.

Following his health scare last year, I went in for a complete physical and found out that I had officially reached the level of hypertension (aka high blood pressure) and my cholesterol was too high. My doctor put me on medication to control the hypertension, and it's been doing a good job. But -- I'm not all that comfortable mentally knowing that I'm relying on a drug to keep my health in check. I was able to lower my cholesterol significantly last year through diet, so I know that I *can* make positive changes when I really focus.

I know the things I need to do:

- Lose weight.

- Exercise more.

- Eat more nutritiously - with fruits, veggies, and lean proteins.

- Reduce sodium overall - which is hard, cuz my favorite snacks are salty, and I don't cook much so most of my meals are either purchased or come from a box.

- Cook more. (See the previous two.)

- Cut back on portion size. (I grew up in a house where dinner came on a platter, not a plate.)

- Reduce stress. (Any ideas????)

I have found that I'm much better at accomplishing a goal when I intellectualize it, so for me it's been helpful to learn more about the science behind health and nutrition. Understanding causes helps me produce the desired effect, or something like that. And that makes it easier to take a lot of the sometimes overwhelming emotion out of all of this.

I'm looking forward to having a buddy as I start this new adventure, so I'm really grateful to T for coming up with this idea!

My next goal: I have my annual physical and blood work ONE MONTH from today. I hope to lose a little weight and have my cholesterol at a healthy level by then.


Hello, readers! Welcome to a brand-new blog, something that will be a bit of an experiment for its two authors.

We are Stef of DC and T of the Bay Area, and it was T's good idea that we team up to work together and share our stories with all of you out there. We're both successful, well-adjusted non-profit professionals in our 30's, but we are both now starting to experience some of the effects of three decades of poor lifestyle choices.

So, since now is the best time for us to curb those behaviors and make the changes necessary to start living better - and longer - lives, we've signed on as each other's buddies and will use this blog to share information, advice, successes and challenges.

Note: (And this is very important.) This is NOT a dieting blog. Stef already has one (On the W.W.Wagon) that hasn't been exactly as successful as she's wanted. (Don't blame the blog!). She'll keep posting the nuts and bolts of dieting, points, and weigh-ins over there.

Instead, this blog is about all of the different choices that make up a lifestyle - including educating ourselves about health and nutrition, so you may even find a little science here some days.

We're doing this to encourage each other, and to help ourselves. We hope you'll join us on this journey.