What up, fair and happy readers? Yet again, I know I’ve abandoned you all and slacked off in my blogging duties, self-imposed duties as they may be. I was exchanging emails with a friend about a week ago and she asked about an update post and I thought, yes, I do need to get back into the old blogosphere. I’m sorry, I don’t have any excuses for not blogging other than laziness and dedicating my time to other pursuits.
When last we met, the weight loss program that I had been following, Weight Watchers, had just completely revamped their entire program (and yes, right after I learned all the points values of almost every food I ate). I went to the meetings to learn more about their new Points Plus system (PP), and liked what I saw. The PP system finally caught up with the nutrition research from the last 10 years that shows that not all calories are created equal, that processed foods, even if only 100 calories, aren’t as healthy for you as fruits and veggies, and then realigned the points system. A girlfriend from high school pointed out in an email to me that under the new system, since she can eat fruits and veggies to her heart’s content, she’s no longer starving herself, which was part of her problem on the initial points plan with WW. And I had to agree. I kept with it for a bit, but then had some additional issues to deal with health-wise, that impacted my participation in the WW program.
See, one of the things I love most in the world is pasta. And bread. One of the things that I enjoyed most about the WW program was that I could still enjoy my favorite processed foods, just in moderation. However, over the past few months, whenever I was eating foods that were processed like that, I was getting horribly sick (not only was it not pretty, it was extremely uncomfortable and made eating a total nightmare — a hard thing for this fatty, since I love to eat!). Luckily, I have a lot of knowledge about Celiac’s disease and gluten intolerance, as both my grandmother and cousin suffer from Celiac’s. A quick couple of calls with my doctor and she recommended that I cut out gluten (which occurs most commonly in wheat-based products). I made that change, and have to say, that there was a massive improvement in my life.
At the same time, another friend from college was reading a book, Clean, that looked fascinating. I, ever the avid reader, immediately got it from the library and started reading. I liked it so much that I went out and bought the book for myself. The book was written by a NY doctor who had been suffering from a series of health problems himself. When he went to his various doctors, they all had the same solution — pop a pill. That wasn’t acceptable to him, and so he started doing substantial research into nutrition and Eastern methods of healing. He radically changed his diet by cutting out caffeine, alcohol, processed foods, and a variety of other things, which resolved many of his issues. He also found that by doing this he did not suffer from allergy problems, his depression was gone and his general health improved. Part of the Clean nutrition plan was a cleanse, that required smoothies for breakfast and dinner. I myself was not sure that I could handle such a thing, so I decided to start smaller and follow his elimination diet, by eliminating more foods from my diet beyond gluten. After a few weeks of having cut out processed foods, starches, simple carbs and refined sugars, as well as limiting my caffeine and alcohol intake, I had results — not only were my stomach problems virtually gone, but my general physical health was improved. My joints ached less, my ease of movement increased, and skin, hair and nails were all improved too. However, to be completely honest, the diet proposed by Dr. Junger in Clean is a highly restrictive diet. It does not make allowances for things like dairy, which I enjoy and are a good source of protein, caffeine, any alcohol and certain meats (mostly red).
Therefore, after looking around, I remembered my brother was doing a diet that was carb-restrictive, but that he had much success on it and wasn’t in the least bothered by not being able to eat certain things. I talked to him and he told me that he follows Mark Sisson’s The Primal Blueprint. The core concept of TPB is along the lines of the “hunter-gatherer” diet, i.e., that we Americans have become far too dependent on processed foods, including grains and pastas, as well as refined sugars, which have led to our obesity problems and other health problems. Instead, Sisson proposes eating in a manner more similar to how our ancestors ate — fresh, fresh, fresh. Our cavemen ancestors did not have the ability to harvest wheat, process it and package it so that it could last for 8 years and still be okay to eat, therefore, we should not eat that way. He argues that by eating simple carbs, our body latches on to them and makes it virtually impossible to maintain weight, much less lose weight, and that our body is not getting the energy that it needs to perform. TPB plan is pretty simple — avoid processed foods, simple carbs, i.e., pastas, breads, starches, and refined sugars. Eat veggies, lean proteins, eggs, some fruits (berries, which are low-carb and high fiber) and exercise moderately — according to Sisson, if you’re beating your body into the ground doing hours of cardio and heavy weights each week, you’re tearing yourself down. In lieu, try a moderate routine….some movement, a walk, yoga, stretching. After talking to my brother (who liked even fewer fruits and veggies than me as a kid), I was convinced this was something I could do.
We removed all the pastas from our house (let’s face it, my biggest temptation — I LOVE popping in some pasta for a quick dinner; yet I always feel logi (Patrick’s word) after eating it and don’t want to move). I’ve always enjoyed lean meats and don’t have a problem cooking meet, so we made sure to have stuff on hand for our evening meals, and we loaded up on veggies. Cottage cheese became a good filler for me for a snack, and also a great accompaniment to our dinner on those days when I felt I needed something more than just veggies and protein. Breakfast was also a challenge, since I was a fan of cereal and bagels, God I love bagels. Until I realized there are 56 carbs in the bagels that I was eating — that is ridiculous! Now, they are a treat and eggs are my go-to breakfast. Not only are they virtually carb-less, they are low in calories, high in protein and give me energy. Plus, I love eggs.
The first 2 weeks were a little difficult, as there were times I didn’t want to make a big production out of cooking and pasta would be a great answer, but we pushed past them. I’m at about the 6 week mark on the TPB plan, and for the most part it is going well. Patrick and I do have a cheat day (usually Saturdays) when we allow ourselves to have carbs or dessert, which we normally wouldn’t do during the week. The most jarring thing for me has been realizing that when I put fresh foods into my body, and treat it well, that my body starts to crave those things instead of the foods that are bad for me. For example, I’ve always been an after-dinner eater (more psychological than anything). I adored eating pretzels in the evening. However, in the evenings now, if I’m craving something a little sweet, I’ve actually gotten to the point where my body wants berries with some Cool Whip (full fat this time, thank you, less bad chemicals) instead of a brownie or cookies or ice cream. We had a cake for my birthday and it was good, but after eating it for a bit, it was too heavy, chemically and sugary for me. I cannot remember the last time I had a pretzel, and there is a pack of double-stuff Oreo’s on the counter right now that I had gotten for Patrick at his request and after having a few, I didn’t want anymore. My berries in the bowl beside me are even better. Nom, nom, nom, strawberry break.
I’ve noticed many changes since I’ve started the TPB program, both big and small. The biggest change I’ve noticed is my energy levels and general feeling of wellness. I’m sleeping better, am definitely better hydrated, and my joints aren’t as achy as before. I’m trying to eat when hungry and not became it is “time to eat” by conventional standards, and my body is craving foods I should be eating instead of bad foods.
That is a HUGE change for me — even when doing WW I found I still craved processed foods and refined sugars. Why? Because I was still able to eat them on that plan. For me, I couldn’t do that anymore. If WW says I can have pastas in my house, I’m going to gravitate toward that, which only perpetuates feeling sick, weight gain and general malaise for me. A few weeks ago, I cancelled my WW membership. It just wasn’t what I needed right now to get where I want to be.
I’ve also added in a different type of yoga than I was previously doing — bikram yoga. For years I’ve struggled with back problems after herneating and then rupturing several discs in my back. I was very lucky that through physical therapy I was able to avoid surgery. I used to do hatha yoga, which was lovely, but it includes a lot of inversions i.e., poses where your on your hands and knees, or feet and knees, with the back contracting and expanding. Turns out, according to my chiropractor, not so good for me with my issues. Inversions are apparently a no-no for people with L5/S1 herniation and related hip arthritis. Damn the man! My good friend Stephanie also has the same problems and had been raving for a long time about the cult that is Bikram Yoga. It’s hot as a motherfucker in that room — 105 degrees to be exact. And there are 26 poses that are done as the muscles warm up and you sweat more than you’ve ever sweated in your entire life. However, there aren’t any inversions, which my back likes. The sweating blows the toxins right out of your system and the amount of calories you burn during a 90 minute class is unbelievable — 1500+! (According to my Daily Burn iPhone app). I’ve gone several times and am going to try really hard to keep up with it. It’s one hell of a workout and I feel like I’ve been beatdown immediately after I’m done, but it is worth it for the post-workout feeling of bliss — again, sleeping better, leaner muscles, better energy. Those are things I can get behind. Bikram Yoga Andersonville offers a $30 month unlimited package for introductory members and then has a bunch of other deals for ongoing yoga classes. The teachers are great and everybody is really positive there. They never make you feel bad for being unable to do a pose and just want to see you keep trying and improving. And, on a completely pseudo-selfish note, it makes me feel less bad about not being able to do all the poses when super physically fit people in the class are sitting down to take a break and regroup. If you’re in the Chicago area, I highly suggest trying it!
So for now, that’s where I’m at and where I’m headed. I’m hoping to keep posting more often (just gotta make the time, like I do for working out!).