A Farewell to Carbs

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

Goals for March 03/01/2012

Filed under: Goals — Diabetic Diva @ 8:09 am
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It’s a new month, which means new goals.

For new readers, I decided in late December that instead of making a big blanket New Year’s resolution that I’d never, ever follow through on, I’d make one or two easily-reachable goals each month. Each goal remains in place, though, so I add to my new healthy habits each month.

The reality is …. well, it hasn’t worked out as planned. My January goals were to exercise for 210 minutes each week. That hasn’t exactly happened consistently. I also resolved to stop eating fast food and, even though I’ve realized it tastes gross, I still hit the drive-thru once a week or so as a “reward” for a tough day.

February goals were a mixed bag. I have not been very good about taking time out to eat meals and really enjoy them. But I have followed my goal of exercising once a week outside of the gym, mostly thanks to a great group of friends who will get together with me for a walk or an exercise class once a week.

So, in addition to focusing on meeting these four goals each day, I’m adding one more. The first is one I’m excited about — I’ve decided to stop eating after 9 p.m.

This is a relatively arbitrary time of day, and it’s intended to solve a problem I’ve been struggling with for years.

I make good food choices in the morning and afternoons. I can fend off early hunger pangs at work by focusing on another task. I am rarely tempted to go off the beaten path when it comes to my meal plans for breakfast, lunch and a snack.

It's almost 9 p.m.Do you know where your snacks are?

But once I get home from work, a switch flips in my brain. I put my stuff down and do the dishes from lunch. Then I open the fridge and unhinge my jaw. Every commercial break, I’ll get up and find something else to snack on. And even after I’m full, I keep eating. I completely blow my daily calorie limit in the space of three or four hours. And, as embarassing as it is to admit, if I don’t have tantalizing snacks in the house, I’ll go out and buy some.

I have a problem. I know this. And yet I can’t stop. I know I’m screwing up. I’ve tried curbing it by putting the mindful eating goal last month. It didn’t work.

I’m hoping that by instituting an eating ban after 9 p.m., I can rewire my brain to not expect a calorie explosion late at night.

I have a few strategies to help me accomplish this goal. I’ve started exercising at the gym at night after work, which means there’s a 45 minute period where I can’t eat. (Well, I could but I’d hate to think of the judgement I’d get if I ate a pan of brownies while walking on a treadmill.)

When I get home from the gym, I am hungry. But it’s more habit than actual hunger, and I’ve just spent 45 minutes sweating and panting (and not in a good way). So why would I want to then ruin all that by stuffing my face?

I’d like to eventually lift this ban in favor of a more sane approach to snacking, so I can have a small treat or an extra serving of veggies before bed. For now, though, going cold-turkey seems like the only way to really stop the sabotage.

 

Fueling the machine 02/29/2012


Going along with yesterday’s post about changing my outlook on working out, I wanted to talk about what happens AFTER the work out.

After a workout I am ravenous. I don’t think I’m alone in this. And most of that hunger is in my head. I didn’t run a long-distance marathon. I didn’t climb a mountain. I just completed 45 minutes at the gym. I should not feel like I want to butcher and eat an entire cow.

This problem is made worse by the voice inside my head that rationalizes the fact that I am considering eating an entire half-gallon of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream with a soup spoon. I worked out, right? I can totally afford 14 200-calorie servings of ice cream (that’s a total of 2,800 calories, for those playing along at home).

I'm glad they don't sell this in half-gallons.

Doing this is, of course, counterproductive. I do not need to replenish the 300-odd calories I burned on the Bitch (what I call the elliptical machine for new readers out there). In fact, burning those 300 calories is THE WHOLE FREAKING POINT.

I found this article from SparkPeople.com in my in-box recently and thought it was a fairly rational approach to refueling after a workout. I already subscribe to the carb-and-protein together philosophy of snacking. So I might try to follow the article’s advice and reserve 150 or so calories for a healthy, rational snack after my work out.

 

A tangled mess 02/15/2012


I am trying to break myself of the horrible habit of snacking mindlessly in front of the TV.

I don’t have any television channels. Instead, I have a Netflix subscription and watch episode after episode of T.V. shows without commercials. Right now, I’m watching the first season of Boardwalk Empire. Before that, I plowed through BBC’s Luther. I’m anxiously awaiting A Game of Thrones to come out. And I’m kind of addicted to Big Bang Theory after watching the first two seasons in the space of a week. (I am not proud of this).

My T.V. habits mean I can spend several hours on the couch (time I should be spending on a treadmill at the gym), polishing off bags of Cool Ranch Doritos and pints of Ben and Jerry’s Phish Food with abandon. It’s not a coincidence that my best-laid diet plans usually fall apart around 11 p.m., when I get home from work exhausted and in need of mindless entertainment.

So to keep my hands busy, I’ve embarked on some craft projects. I have been designing greeting cards using stencils and colored pencils. And I bought some embroidery thread and tried a project I saw on Pinterest.( On it? Follow me!)

Pretty cool, huh?

My headphone cord usually ends up in a snarled tangle of wires (are there evil little elves who do this in the middle of the night?). So the Pinterest project I found had you cover the wires with embroidery thread like a friendship bracelet. You can’t really tell from the photo, but my first attempt was not perfect. I ran out of thread about halfway down the first part of cord, so I had to tie more in, which left a big knot in the middle. The second piece of cord (attaching the left ear to the part that plugs in) went much better. I finished the ends with a liberal coating of clear nail polish to prevent fraying. And if I ever actually go to the gym, I’ll bet I get a few comments on them.

So far, my craft projects are working. Not only have I made gifts for friends’ birthdays for the next several months, I am keeping my hands busy. I can’t eat if I’m occupied. I’m hoping I can retrain my brain not to automatically want to reach for the chips and ice cream when I sit down on the couch. Either that, or start an Etsy account to feed my craft habit.

Your turn: Do you snack in front of the television? What are some strategies you use to curb that habit?

 

Human Guinea Pig: Pop Chips 02/07/2012


An occasional feature wherein Diabetic Diva reviews products that purport to help with a healthy lifestyle. She receives no compensation or sponsorship for these reviews. Curious about a product? Leave comments in the suggestions or e-mail diabetic.diva79@gmail.com.

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you can probably infer that I like snacks. In fact, snacking is largely to blame for how heavy I am today. I eat pretty healthy meals, lots of veggies and lean protein.

But snacks. Snacks kill me every time. I like coming home from work, plopping on the couch and stuffing my face. I especially love chips — that satisfying crunch and the fact they come in giant bags that last me a 45-minute television show on DVD.

Of course, curbing my snack habits is key to really getting serious about losing weight. It’s also important in my quest to lower my blood sugar and avoid being sentenced to insulin.

So what’s a fat girl to do? Well, I was in the chip aisle of the grocery store, staring longingly at a bag of Herr’s Cheese Puffs when I saw the bag of Popchips sitting forlornly with the “natural snacks.”

Nom nom nom

The nutrition info wasn’t bad at all — about 120 calories, 4 grams of fat and 18 grams of carbs per 1 ounce serving of the original potato kind. The fiber and protein are comparable to the average bag of chips — 1 gram of fiber and 2 grams of protein.

These are a little on the expensive side, about $3.50 for a 3 ounce bag, which comes out to more than a buck a serving. And despite my vow to get them home and immediately portion the chips out into 1 ounce servings so I wouldn’t be tempted to eat the whole bag in one sitting … Yep. You got it. I got distracted, stuck them in the carbohydrate cabinet (why yes, I do have an entire cabinet for snacks. Thanks for asking.)

And one night, when I was desperately hungry, I came across the bag again, opened it up and promptly ate the whole bag. For those keeping score at home, that’s a total of 360 calories, 12 grams of fat and (oh God, don’t make me look!) 54 grams of carbs.

I’d like to take a moment to say that, although I shouldn’t have eaten the whole bag in one sitting, it could be worse. Thank God there’s only 3 ounces in the whole bag, so there’s some built in damage control.

The chips were delicious, really light and super-crunchy with a pleasant amount of salt. I don’t like baked chips because I find them a little like munching on sand patties. These aren’t baked, according to the package, and they weren’t like eating the Saraha with a spade.

So, to review. They tasted good and they were fairly low in carbs, calories and fat. They gave me that hit of salt I like in a snack without being overpowering or dry. But they were expensive for the size of the package, and I didn’t have enough willpower not to eat the whole bag.

Rating: 2 and 1/2 out of 4 stars

Availability: Most grocery stores

Price: $3.50

More information: http://www.popchips.com/

 

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?

 

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?

 

Finding some friends 01/19/2012


I want to thank all of you readers for stopping by and listening to my musings about health, eating, working out and living life as a young diabetic. I appreciate especially the comments and likes. It’s nice to know I’m not just typing from a black hole in space.

One blog I’ve discovered through the comments is Diabetic in Denial, whose author is so similar to me and my experiences it’s scary. I hope she’ll continue to post about her successes and setbacks. It helps to read about someone who is in the same boat.

I’ve also really been enjoying Fat Chick Fed Up, especially a recent post about how much success she and her husband have enjoyed on the scales. She’s been an inspiration to me, and I wish her all the best.

Finally, Mindful Eating Mama has a lot of very thoughful posts about eating. Her post on keeping a food journal and not writing down the “bad food” she eats — like it won’t count if it’s not put to paper — is something I do ALL THE TIME.

Your turn: Are there any other health/fitness blogs out there that I shouldn’t miss?

 

When multitasking goes bad 01/12/2012


I think I’ve found a goal for next month already: Ending my habit of multi-tasking eating.

You know what this is: When you eat lunch at your desk so you don’t miss that important phone call or so you can catch up on e-mail. Eating breakfast while reading the paper. Mindless snacking while watching TV. Wolfing down dinner while driving somewhere.

We all lead busy lives. But my multitasking eating habits have gotten so bad, sitting down in front of the TV or curling up with a book triggers the urge to eat. I’m not even hungry, but I find myself with my head in my carbohydrate cabinet, trying to find the cheddar popcorn.

Well, some new research shows that people who savor their food — really concentrate on it while eating it — eat less. And it makes sense. Instead of plowing through the bag of chocolate while watching a DVD, letting it melt in your mouth slowly while you concentrate on the flavors will likely leave me feeling more satisfied. And, as we know from years of prevailing wisdom, it takes the brain about 20 minutes to catch up to the stomach when it comes to feeling full.

If I think about it, I can’t remember what my bagel and cream cheese tasted like this morning. I grabbed it on my way in to work and began eating as I made a to-do list that stretched onto two pages.  No wonder I was hungry an hour later.

So I think I’m going to stop and really focus on what I’m putting in my mouth when I eat something. I’ll put it on a plate and eat it at a table, with no distractions to divert me from the taste, texture and smell of the food. I deserve to enjoy what I’m eating, and I deserve to take a short break to nourish my body.

Your turn: Do you eat while doing other things? What are some strategies you use to curb this habit?

 

Single and satisfied 01/11/2012


Before you read this post, watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LBko_3wT44Q

OK. Welcome back. Can we talk for a moment about how much I hate most 100-calorie packs? They’re bullshit. There’s, like, 10 tiny wafers in there that taste nothing like actual Oreos or Nutter Butters. They don’t satisfy my hunger. If anything, eating one of them makes me want to break into the nearest vending machine and clean it out of snack cakes.

Plus, a box of 100-cal packs are, like, eight times the price of a package of Oreos. The thrifty side of me rebels every time I consider buying a package.

See, 100-cal packs operate under the principle that people can’t control themselves enough to refrain from eating half a bag of chips at one sitting. Or, if you want to be kinder about it, they operate under the principle that that people don’t know what a serving size looks like. Honestly though, if a serving size is a 100-cal pack, I kinda want to jump off a very tall building.

But what if you just opened that bag of chips (or that package of Oreos or whatever your treat of choice is) and portioned it out into single servings right away? It’s cheaper, takes only a couple of minutes and is tailored toward your tastes. And for anyone who thinks “But I’d just eat several DIY single servings  in one  sitting,” I say this: You could do the same thing with 100-cal packs. In fact, I’ve done it with 100-cal packs. (It was a moment of desperation. STOP JUDGING ME!)

So here’s how you do it. At the store, check out the nutrition facts on the treat you’re thinking of getting intimate with and decide whether the serving size is something you can live with. If not, put it back on the shelf and back away slowly.

If so, buy it and bring it home. Don’t be scared. Just get out your trusty scale, measure out single servings and then package it up.

As an example: We don’t have a Trader Joe’s store anywhere near where I live (can someone from TJ’s get on that, please? I sent the petition in to open a store in Scranton, PA months ago!). So when I visit my family in Virginia, I usually stock up on a couple of things I really like. One thing I always buy is Trader Joe’s trail mixes.

Trail mixes are good snacks for me because they’re packed with protein from the nuts. They can be high in carbohydrates, though, both through the dried fruit and from the extras like chocolate chips or M&Ms. So before I buy, I check the nutrition facts and find a mix with 13 carbs or less per 1/4 cup.

When I get it home, I break out my trusty kitchen scale and start portioning out servings.  Then I pour each serving into a snack-sized plastic baggie (which are smaller than the sandwich-sized baggies, so it looks like there’s more food in them!) and then label it with the calories, fat, protein and carbs of what’s inside. Tada! Instant, DIY single-serving packs you can grab for your lunchbox or as a midnight snack.

An aside: Most nutrition facts have both an ounce or grams as serving size as well as an approximate measurement in teaspoons, cups, etc. I’ve found that portioning it out in grams or ounces is much more accurate. Food scales can be found online and in stores for a $15 or so. Invest in one and find the zen in knowing exactly how much you’re eating.

Your turn: What’s your favorite treat? Have you ever tried portioning it out ahead of time so you don’t have to be tempted each time you open the bag?