A Farewell to Carbs

A 30-something navigating the world of Type 2 Diabetes while remaining fun, fashionable and fabulous.

Making the choice 02/02/2012


“Life is a sum of all your choices.” –  Albert Camus

Every day for more years than I care to remember, I have made a choice to be unhealthy.

I have chosen to polish off that bag of sour cream and onion potato chips while watching television. I have chosen to skip the gym. I have chosen the gargantuan steak and french fries when I meet friends at a restaurant. I have chosen to drive rather than walk to the corner store. I have chosen to ignore all good sense when it comes to what I eat , when I eat it and how I can make up for it with moving more.

There was a brief time a few years back that I chose differently. I chose to watch what I eat, to treat the gym as a requirement instead of an option, to take small steps to improve my life. As a result, I lost 75 pounds in the space of a year. I started dating a cute boy. I improved my wardrobe options. I didn’t get winded while climbing a flight of stairs.

Then I got a new job, in a new town where I didn’t know anyone. I had a rough break up with a boy I’d been dating. I had trouble with my new boss. And I started making choices that were different from the ones that I’d been making.

All of which brings me to today. The choices I’ve made caused me to be 75+ pounds overweight. The choices I’ve made led me to be diabetic. After I was diagnosed, I continued to make bad choices.

These, plus the three pills at night, cost me more than $80 a month.

My choices have led me to being on four different medications, which cost me more than $80 a month. And if I keep making the same choices, I will die of any number of complications that come from having diabetes.

So really, my diabetes is making me choose. I either get serious about losing weight, eating right and getting healthy, or I face kidney failure, heart attack, blindness and possible amputation. When you start thinking like that, there’s really no choice at all.

That’s what I keep having to remind myself about, when that little voice in my head starts whispering that there’s always time to start getting healthy tomorrow or next week. When I get angry about my diabetes, or sad about it. When I feel lazy about going to the gym, when I get a craving for french fries or chocolate-covered caramels.

I can choose the easy way, the habits I’ve had for years now. Or I can choose better habits, ones that will lead me to a svelte figure, cute clothes and working kidneys. The choice is up to me.

Your turn: What healthy choices do you struggle with?

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February goals 02/01/2012

Filed under: Goals — Diabetic Diva @ 7:07 am
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Instead of coming up with some vague New Years resolution this year that I’d stick to for all of three weeks, I decided instead to set two goals per month in an effort to develop healthy habits. My goals for the month of January were to exercise for 210 minutes per week and to cut out fast food.

You don't want to disappoint Journey, do you?

I can’t say I stuck to either goal perfectly. Not that I’m expecting perfection. In fact, “good enough” is good enough for me. But I didn’t get in 210 minutes of exercise for two of the four past weeks. This is unacceptable, since it is a completely reachable goal.

The fast food ban was a little easier to adhere to. I grabbed a burger and fries only a handful of times in the last month. But when I did, I refrained to ordering the giant-size calorie bomb with a side of bacon and opted instead for a more modest order of a small burger, which I ate with only the bottom half of the bun, and small fries.

Even so, I’d be forced to declare the month a total wash if I was measuring it on formal goals alone. But I also made some other strides, specifically in joining Weight Watchers after admitting to myself that “trying to avoid most carb-laden junk food” as a diet plan wasn’t really working. And despite the struggles I had in sticking to the WW plan last week, I’m not ready to give up on WW altogether.

My New Years resolution plan all along was to build on, instead of replace, each month’s goals. So I’ll continue to strive to getting in 210 minutes of exercise each week and to avoid fast food restaurants. I’m adding two goals for February: Eating meals mindfully and getting some exercise outside of the gym at least once a week.

One of my biggest bad habits is eating meals and snacks in front of the television, while curled up with a book, on the computer or while driving. I think some of this is psychological: I don’t feel I deserve to enjoy my food, or if I’m not concentrating on eating “bad food,” it doesn’t count.  It’s also situational: I’m often pretty busy and it saves time to eat lunch at my desk while answering e-mails or in my car while driving to a meeting.

But it also makes food less satisfying and causes me to eat more than I need to to feel satisfied. By really focusing on the taste and texture of what I’m eating, I’ll likely feel more full. It will also force me to think twice before shoving junk food in my mouth.

Getting out and trying new forms exercise — whether it’s enjoying a walk outside, trying a Zumba class or finding an indoor tennis court — will help me continue to enjoy working out instead of seeing it as a chore. Going along with this goal is a plan to start asking friends to meet up for a hike or an aerobics class instead of for lunch or dinner. I socialize a lot with friends over food, which is bad for my diet and my wallet.

Despite the setbacks and failures I’ve had over the past month, I have to say that I feel hopeful about making the changes I know I need to make. I have a long journey ahead of me, but I feel like I can continue walking down the path. Thanks to everyone who has visited this blog over the past month. I’ve had more than 500 views in the past 30 days, and I’m so happy to have a group of readers who are supportive and understanding.

Let’s make it a great February!

Your turn: What’s your goal for February? What are your strategies to accomplish it?

 

Taking stock 01/26/2012


If you don’t have it, you can’t eat it.

That’s one of the Weight Watchers mantras. When I first heard it at a meeting last week, I took it to mean that if you didn’t have the bag of chips or the box of chocolates in the house, you wouldn’t be tempted.

I joined WW about seven years ago and had a lot of success with it. I lost 75 pounds in about a year. I gained it all back, of course, as soon as I stopped going to WW meetings. I joined again last Tuesday because I had to admit to myself that I didn’t really know what the hell I was doing in terms of how many calories I was supposed to eat or how many calories I was actually consuming. WW makes everything fairly easy by converting nutritional values into “points” and then giving everyone a points value to hit every day.

Getting back to the point of this post, I had forgotten how  much planning went into the first couple of weeks of WW. Just planning a day’s worth of eating to make sure you’re staying within your points but not eating them before noon is exhausting at first. I spent large chunks of time last week contemplating committing armed robbery at fast food restaurants, but instead of making off with the cash drawers, I’d be demanding burgers and fries. (I decided against it after realizing I’d have some horrible nickname. Leave your suggestions in the comments. Best one will win a prize as yet to be determined.)

Back to the point again! As I acclimate to life on the WW plan, I came to realize that the mantra means more than “don’t keep tempting foods around.” It also means keeping healthy foods around for easy, healthy meals and snacks.

Because I was a former weight watcher, I haven’t lost the habit of buying certain healthy foods at the store and keeping them around to build meals. Here’s a few suggestions:

PANTRY

I think I’ve mentioned my obsession with Trader Joe’s. We don’t have one in my little corner of Pennsylvania (someone get ON THAT PLEASE!) but when I visit my folks in Virginia, I always go over and stock up. I usually get two boxes of Trader Joe’s brand Whole Wheat Couscous, which I use like brown rice. It takes literally 5 minutes to make. I also pick up a couple of sauces to add zip to meat and veggies. Among my favorites are the green curry simmer sauce, satay peanut sauce and pesto sauce. None of the three are what you would consider low-cal or low-fat, but used in moderation, they all fit into my eating plan. I usually also have some jarred spaghetti sauce, one that is low-salt and has no added sugar or fat, on hand.

Additionally, I pick up a couple of BIG bags of lower-carb trail mix when it’s on sale at Target or the grocery store and then portion it out into single servings with my trusty kitchen scale. I also have mini-bags of microwave popcorn (again, read nutrition labels carefully) for night-time snacks. Quick-cooking oats, Minute brand brown rice and whole wheat pasta round out my pantry basics. All three are high in fiber, which bring down their net carb content, and are easy to cook.

A quick note: With the exception of the TJ’s items, most of the pantry staples go on sale once a month or so. I stock up when they’re on sale, or find a coupon, to bring the cost down a little. I buy the Sunday paper each week and go through the grocery store sale circulars and the glossy coupons circulars and plan my meals and “stock up trips” around what’s on sale. A little planning and the store club cards usually saves me $500+ a year.

FREEZER

I buy family packs of boneless, skinless chicken breasts when they go on sale. Then I separate them out into packs of two in freezer bags (make sure you write the date on the freezer bag!). Then I can pull out one bag for each meal. Ditto on ground beef, steak and pork — wait until they’re on sale, portion it out at home and then fill your freezer with a month’s worth of meat.

I also buy frozen veggies, usually the kind you can steam in the bag but with no added fat or sugar. In addition to using these in stir fry dinners, I also can heat some up and eat them as a snack with a little pesto or cheese. Frozen edamame (the kind still in the pod) is a delicious snack. Heat it up and shake some low-sodium soy sauce on them to add a little more flavor.

Deli flats, small pitas and low-cal, high-fiber English muffins can stand in for toast, be used as a base for mini-pizzas or sandwiches or even as a snack with some hummus. I keep them frozen and just pull one out at a time. Twenty seconds in the microwave should defrost them, and then I toast them or stick them in the oven to warm ’em up.

I also buy sugar-free popsicles — usually fudgesicles and the cherry-grape-orange ones — as a sweet treat. It’s not the same as ice cream, but it’s often a decent substitute.

Finally, I keep a couple of frozen diet meals around. I know they’re high in sodium and they don’t taste as good as a homemade meal. But if it’s really busy at work, a Lean Cuisine can help me stick to my eating plan.

FRIDGE

I usually pick up some apples and a grapefruit because they have a longer shelf-life than more delicate fruits (like peaches and strawberries). Since I’m REALLY REALLY picky about fruit  (I will not eat fruit that’s the least bit squishy or brown. I know how weird it is), staying fresh for more than a few days is a good selling point.

I also buy a bag of lettuce mix for quickie salads and a bag of spinach, which does really well as an omelette filling. Sliced mushrooms (also for omelettes), roma tomatoes and a big bag of baby carrots are also regularly occurring cast members in my produce drawer.

Finally, I keep a bottle of low-sodium soy sauce and a bottle of minced garlic in the fridge, as well as some bottled sparkling water, a couple of containers of Greek yogurt and some low-cal string cheese.

And that’s about it, in terms of what I *ALWAYS* have in the house. I replenish these as I use them, so the spaghetti sauce might need to be replaced once a month or every other month. Fruit and veggies get used up faster, as does the chicken, the string cheese and (sadly) the popsicles.

Keeping a well-stocked pantry takes away some of the difficulty of planning a meal. Because (say it with me!) you can’t eat what you don’t have.

Your turn: What’s in your pantry, fridge and freezer?

 

Moment of Truth: First weigh-in 01/24/2012


I no longer fear this object!

I joined Weight Watchers a week ago and had to weigh in for the first time this morning. I didn’t know what to expect because I went off the path a couple of times.

But it was good news! I lost 2.8 pounds!! Yay me.

What I found hardest last week is that I didn’t have the right kind of snacks — I was low on portable veggies and I had a lot of high-calorie snacks around (like nuts, avocados, chips and chocolate). I remedied that problem over the weekend and I’m looking forward to another great week of eating healthy food and working out.

Your turn: Share your successes over the past week!

 

What’s cooking: Anything goes

Filed under: cooking — Diabetic Diva @ 8:37 am
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Sunday morning, I had big plans for what I was going to cook for the week. I had Monday off from work and I was going to spend the day whipping up healthy, delicious food that I would be able to enjoy all week.

I went through my recipes, picked a couple and put together a grocery list. And then I realized — I’m BROKE. Payday is Friday and some poor financial planning on my part means there’s not a lot of extra money this week for elaborate meals.

Instead, I was reduced to planning a “whatever’s in the fridge and pantry” meal. Luckily, I’m a pretty smart shopper and stock up on certain items whenever there’s a sale and/or coupons. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts usually go on sale once a month or so. Ditto for frozen veggies.

After a brief expedition into the icy tundra of my freezer, I pulled out some chicken and some broccoli/cauliflower/carrot mix. A quick check of the fridge door uncovered some soy sauce and there was some corn starch in the back of a cabinet. I also had a couple of handfuls of cashews in a bag hiding behind the instant oatmeal. Are you thinking what I’m thinking? STIR FRY!!!!

Stir fry is a great dish for three reasons. 1. It’s fairly quick-cooking because everything’s in small chunks. 2. It’s all made in one pan, so it’s an easy cleanup. 3. There’s no wrong way to make stir fry. Add your favorite veggies, a meat or meat-substitute for protein and some sort of flavorful, low-fat sauce and you’ve got dinner.

To make my stir fry this week, I sliced defrosted chicken into thin strips (cook’s tip: slice it while it’s still slightly frozen and you’ll get really even strips) and threw it in a wok with some garlic and a couple of shots of cooking spray.

When the chicken was brown on both sides, I threw the frozen veggies and a teaspoon of olive or vegetable oil. I added a few shakes of soy sauce. I stirred it around until the chicken is cooked through. I added the cashews and stirred to mix in. Finally, I added a few pinches of corn starch and stirred it in (see why they call it stir fry??) to thicken the sauce slightly.

You can serve your stir fry over brown rice. I usually skip the rice to save on carbohydrates.

One word of caution: Don’t overcook the veggies, especially if you plan to reheat leftovers. Frozen veggies only need a few minutes to warm up, so make sure the chicken is cooked pretty well before adding them.

Nutrition facts will vary depending on the ingredients. The easiest way to figure it out is add up all the calories, fat, carbs, protein, etc. in the entire dish and then divide by the number of servings. A good rule of thumb is 2-3 oz of meat and a cup of veggies per serving.

Your turn: What’s your favorite ingredients for stir fry?

 

Smacking down snacking 01/23/2012

Filed under: snacking smart — Diabetic Diva @ 11:13 am
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I think I may have mentioned this before, but I like to snack. In front of the television, curled up with a book, hanging out with friends, driving, sitting at my desk — you name it and I see it as an opportunity for snacking. This might be why I have 75 pounds to shed.

To make matters worse, my favorite snacks are usually junk food. Every week, I buy fruits and veggies in an attempt to at least save on calories by snacking on fresh, healthy foods. And every week, I rummage through the cabinets and the fridge to find the high-carb, high-fat, no-nutritional-value-at-all snacks.

One question you may be asking is — Why buy it if you shouldn’t eat it? And the only answer I can give you is: I HAVE A PROBLEM, OK? STOP JUDGING ME!(I’m kidding. Kind of.)

So what’s a fat girl to do? Well, SparkPeople.com has a list of smart snack ideas. And I’m happy to say that some of my new go-to snacks are on the list: Pickles, hard boiled eggs and slices of lunchmeat.

But I think I’ll go one further and make this a new rule: Every time I get the urge to snack, I’ll start out with a piece of fresh fruit or some veggies and some protein instead of automatically reaching for the family size bag of Cool Ranch Doritos.

Your turn: What’s your favorite healthy snack?

 

Overcoming all or nothing 01/20/2012


I have a confession to make. I am a perfectionist.

Now, I know I don’t look like it. I need to lose 75 pounds and I could probably spend a little more time in the mirror before I leave for work in the mornings. Or, you know, at least make sure there aren’t any visible stains on my shirt.

I guess calling myself a perfectionist isn’t quite accurate. Really, I use the excuse of perfectionism to throw in the towel when I come up against any tiny setback or obstacle on my way to losing weight and getting healthy.

I’m sure some of you know what I’m talking about. Here’s a couple of choice quotes from the voice in my head:

o You already ate that bag of chocolate this morning. You blew it. So it doesn’t matter what you do for the rest of the day, you big fat failure.

o You can’t make it to the gym today. The day is ruined anyway, so why bother even trying to eat right?

And on and on. Here’s a little nugget of truth, though: It takes 3,500 calories to gain a pound. I’ll pause for a moment to let that … uh … digest.

Come to mama, you big doughy ball of calories

That’s a lot of calories. I’m trying to eat between 2,000 and 2,500 calories a day (I’m fat, so I get to eat more and still lose weight. Woo!). So to gain a pound (a pound!), you have to eat more than an extra day’s worth of food.

Let’s be honest. I can probably plow through 3,500 calories in a day. Take me to the boardwalk at Ocean City, Maryland and I could probably do it in a couple of hours. (Mmmhhh … funnel cake. Mmmhhh …. saltwater taffy. Mmmmhhhh …. margaritas….. Oh, you’re still here. Uhhh, hello.)

Knowing that 3,500 calories makes one pound puts that 300-calorie screwup between breakfast and lunch in perspective. I’m not saying I can screw up every day. But one screwup, especially one that I can defuse quickly, shouldn’t ruin my whole week. And I’m going to focus on that the next time I’m feeling defeated about that doughnut that jumped into my mouth at work.

Your turn: What’s one of your biggest struggles as you try to lose weight? What are some strategies you use to combat them?