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Beginning a Low Cholesterol Regimen

Nov 26, 2012 - 0 comments
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More of a personal note to me, this marks the day when, after a family meeting on the subject, we all agreed to take on the Dean Ornish Spectrum Program to reduce cholesterol.

As there is a stroke patient and a kidney patient in the same house, one over sixty and the other over seventy, as well as myself, a thyroid patient with a 20 year history of angina attacks and chest pressure, somehow the stars aligned to make another change for all our sakes today.

I was under the impression that we weren't eating too badly before: with plenty of lean chicken and fish with the occasional 93% lean beef patty while cooking sparingly with canola or olive oil. There were signs, nonetheless, that even THIS regimen wasn't good enough. One patient developed severe halitosis, the other had the odd bout with chest pressure or vertigo, and BOTH fell prey to constipation on a fairly regular basis. My own chest pressure and pains coupled with gallbladder distress, especially after eating, could make life very difficult and miserable.

So, it's time to reevaluate our daily kibble, meal for meal, and make some exchanges for plant-based foods and see how far we get.

Weight Tracker

Fresh Recipe for Progress

Jul 18, 2011 - 1 comments
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While eliminating just about anything containing simple sugars/table sugars from my diet did in fact cause my weight to drop pretty darned quick...as healthy as that might have been, it was not realistic for ME. I also found to my dismay that when I DID eat sugar, the horrible pancreatic pain I used to get after eating a meal was greatly reduced---probably in part to the fact that sugar helps move things through the digestive tract faster, and why gastric bypass patients are advised to be wary of that effect. I am NOT a gastric bypass patient, though if I had the money I might have considered it more: meh, not really. I can't convince myself to be that stupid to imagine that my emotional eating would ever be trumped by a small, but elastic stomach.

I clearly have a number of medical problems, and whether they stem from the longstanding effects of having had hypothyroidism without knowing it for a few years too long, or if there's another issue in the works, I don't know. My right ankle bone has been painful and inflamed for no reason at all for the last few weeks, and my insomnia is still going strong.

History has taught us in America that after the advent of the "Four Food Groups" was pushed out to the public in the 50's, people gladly took on the extra meat and dairy in the assurance that they were doing themselves a world of good. The medical community, however, noticed an immediate and drastic spike in incidences of heart disease and cancer---a trend that has remained until this day. During WWII, because of rationing, the British weren't allowed to eat meat every day of the week, and often grew their own vegetables in their little backyard gardens. Sugars and oils were also among the things severely restricted. Once the restrictions were lifted, the national waistline soon expanded. And here we all are now...gaining weight every year, supposedly eating healthier than before, yet in actuality are nowhere near a healthy diet.

A lot of introductions to foods have made weight loss nigh on impossible for most. Hydrogenated oils (fats with hydrogen passed through them to make them solid at room temperature and to increase their shelf life), tropical oils (highly saturated fat oils like coconut, cocoa butter oils, and palm oils) and corn syrups (just high concentrations of sugar packed in smaller boxes). Of the three, the hydrogenated and tropical oils are definitely the offenders that can cause some of the meanest damage.

I am a PCA (personal care attendant) and currently am looking after two men in their 60's. Both have to watch high blood pressure and cholesterol. High blood pressure can be triggered by high sodium, high saturated fat content, caffeine, medications, kidney problems, and even large amounts of sugar. Cholesterol of course is directly in line with saturated fat consumption (fat you can see at room temperature continues to look that way in the arteries, just FYI). Though I am not officially a nutritionist, I have had to become one by proxy because the health of my patients darned well depends on what I feed them at the table!

Result: the older patient, who has survived a massive stroke a year ago, has perfect blood pressure (without medication!) and good cholesterol levels and has maintained a 15 lb weight loss for a year.
The second patient, who is wheelchair bound from cerebral palsy and who also has a hiatal hernia with severe acid reflux disease, is able to go day after day almost forgetting that he has a stomach problem---a mindboggling contrast to the way he was nine years ago when he was going through a bottle and a half of TUMS every week just to be able to talk for 30 minutes without throwing up!

My patients eat much better than I do, which is why their weights were fine and mine was skyrocketing back to blubberville. When I finally agreed to treat myself as well as I treat them, the weight has once more begun to drop.

Here's the main gist of changes:

Sodium content of anything should not go much more than 400mg if possible. (1/4 TSP of salt is over 600mg of sodium. DAMN!)
Saturated fat keep around 4 grams per serving or less.
Fresh cut steamed vegetables are the BOMB: we try to have vegetables with at least two meals a day.
Fruit is not expensive if you catch the sales: three pieces of fruit gives natural sugar for the first half of the day.
Learn to reduce deli meats: They are salt blocks and can also be high in saturated fats. Choose your brands carefully and fill sandwiches with lettuce, tomato, and lowfat cheese to bulk up the meal.
Ground turkey: at least 85% lean or better. Ground beef: 90% lean. Steaks: just about anything described as "round" or "loin", but pick the cuts that have the least visible fat regardless.
Cereals and Grains: whole grain breads now come in white, so it's a good sub for regular white. Cereals need to have a fiber content of at least 3 or better to do you any good. Might get away with 2, but make sure sugar isn't the main feature of the cereal.
Dairy: skim milk is of course ideal, but 1% can also get you by. Light ice creams, sherbets, and cheeses are a good compromise since there's still enough fat to be filling. Ice creams need to be watched carefully, because some manufacturers sneak hydrogenated oils or tropical oils in some of their flavors: notably Rocky Road and anything with fudge chunks or chocolate chunks in it. Add chocolate syrup at home:)
Potato chips can still be enjoyed: "Kettle" brand now makes baked chips with 65% less fat in a variety of flavors and the sodium is less than other brands. Good crunchy snack to go with a sandwich, fruit, and veggies for lunch!
Hot dogs? Look to the smaller ones, and probably the ones made from Turkey, because more often than not these little dudes are bursting with sodium and saturated fat in ONE link.
Eggs can be enjoyed without the yolks by firming them up slightly with a tablespoon or so of 2% evaporated milk mixed in when pan-frying them (preferably in a non-stick pan with PAM cooking spray)
Sugar? This is the judgement call many consumers have trouble making and a loophole for many diet food companies. Some claim that sugar doesn't harm the body any further than rotting the teeth. People like me know by experience that adding extra sugar, like eating a fat-free fudge bar instead of a nectarine, tends to make the body think that I'm trying to GAIN weight, especially if I try to replace fruit sugars with more fun dessert and snack sugars.

Companies like SlimFast & Weight Watchers understand that sugar is more fun than fruit, and they encourage us to think that it's OKAY to have ice cream instead of fruit salad, because sugar is sugar no matter where it comes from, right? Uh, no. Fail. Fruit sugars take longer to process because of all the fiber and other good stuff the body has to get through to get to it. Table sugar, honey, and syrups have no buffer, so it's like a shot glass of instant sugar. Right here, right now. Instant fat, too, for people like me who eat it.

That being said, I've already been through trying to avoid sugar entirely, and have found that while the weight did drop pretty quickly, it made it harder to live socially. Forget the holiday season. That's what got me. I went running back to sugar like a soldier on shore leave once I stared long enough at the Halloween candy basket that everyone was picking out of but me. Soon I was nearly bathing in brownie batter and ice cream by Thanksgiving, and it was all over by Christmas. I was back at square one.

My advice to ME: dessert is still okay, but not as a meal, and certainly not as a constant replacement for proper food. Ice creams are light, and chosen carefully so that they don't include saturated fats or tropical oils. Chocolate, with its fat-packing cocoa butter oil, is eaten very rarely...like once a month or less. Sherbets are fun and come in interesting flavors that often taste good with chocolate syrup or coffee grounds on top. Main change in dessert: keep it to slightly less than the size of a fist if it's ice cream and don't opt for seconds. Wait 15-20 minutes before deciding if one is hungry enough to go for ANY seconds.

Include at least ONE bottled water somewhere in the day. Water accomplishes things that diet sodas, coffees, and teas do not. Don't know what it is, but it does.



Back to the Drawing Board

Mar 23, 2011 - 0 comments

While I've had more than enough education on food and how it works in my body, quite apparently I've been insisting on barking up the wrong tree. If it wasn't for ME, food wouldn't be such a huge issue. So, I have to do more digging into my own head to sort out why every diet or every few pounds lost is both exhilarating and the end of the world in the same moment, 'cause that's where the problems lie.

Have to Start Getting Myself Together

Feb 26, 2011 - 0 comments

Well, 48 lbs came sailing back the moment I let my sugar dependency take center stage again. Some of the old familiar health problems are starting to creep back in, such as joint and muscle pain, fatigue, and so on.

Before I end up at absolute ground zero for a starting point, which is only 15 more pounds more, I'm going to have to face up to the fact that I'm going to keep getting what I'm getting as long as I keep doing what I'm doing, and that's it. It's a tired old song which I've sung since my first diet at 12 years old, but as my weight continues to climb to new heights with each letdown, I have to keep shoveling the walk even though it has never stopped snowing for me.

It's a battle that has to go on, and no amount of crying and complaining on my part is going to make that any less true. It's just my bad luck that I've become dependent on food to alter my state of mind and to keep me company just like any drug, but UNLIKE any drug, I can't stop eating altogether and expect to last very long. I feel a lot like an alcoholic who is told that they HAVE to drink every day, just in moderate amounts, all the while realizing that such advice is always doomed from the start. Oh well. Time for another round of depression, deprivation, and denial.