My Weight Loss Progress

Monday, December 31, 2012

Sugar: A Cheap Substitute for Love

Sugar!  Sweetness! Treats abound around holidays.  Go to any holiday party, and I mean any, and you are bound to find sweets. Candy. Pie. Cakes. Cookies, Sodas, Lemonade, Punch.  

My church women's group gave out a little gift for Christmas. It was a candy cane with a tag on it with some nice saying about Christmas.  It's a cheap, thoughtful little thing to do, right?  Well, it occurred to me that is the reason for giving candy.  It's cheap.  It's a way to say "I'm thinking of you" and stay on a budget.  Can you think of anything else you can give as cheaply as a candy cane?  

The problem is that it's not really a good gift.  All that sugar, artificial flavor and artificial coloring is so bad for you. Half the world is on a diet anyway. Yet this is the way we show love to people?  I remember the author of "Eat and Be Lean 2000" talking about sweets in that vein.  

I don't know that there's a good answer to the dilemma of an inexpensive gift, but why is sugar the answer?  Because when they give out plants on Mother's Day people complain.  Especially if they are vegetables!  All I need is more work to have to do, and you call this a gift?  Anything that says "You need to improve" is not a good gift unless asked for.  

So what's a good alternative?  Tiny notebooks, perhaps, or dried fruit or nuts.  A batch of pretty bookmarks for our Bibles would be inexpensive and useful.  A door-hanger with a scripture or quote might be nice. 

Another time for our girls we had a variety of inexpensive prizes for an activity. Think Michael's 25-cent bins.  They are better than the bags of party favors often purchased, but not terribly expensive either.  I bought a bunch of extra things, so that each girl would get a choice of a prize.  Maybe that's a good alternative for the ladies.  Or maybe I should just be grateful they thought of doing anything at all, and keep my mouth shut.  I did murmur a polite thank you before I brought it home and refused to eat more than a tiny piece of it.  (That's for a later post.)

Chili for the Chilly: Hot but not HOT

My son is visiting from out west, and he whipped a batch of delicious, mild vegetarian chili in the crockpot.  We all cook Amelia Bedelia style, but here's the basic idea of what he did.

2 (15-oz) cans Black Beans, drained but not rinsed
2 (15-oz) cans Pinto Beans, drained but not rinsed
2 cans diced tomatoes, not drained
3 (4-oz) cans diced green chilies, not drained.
Sprinkle of cumin (probably about 1/4 teaspoon
Generous sprinkle of chili powder (probably about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon)
1-2 tablespoons minced garlic, depending on your family's taste.

Stir all together in crockpot and heat for 2 hours on high; turn to low and cook 3 or more hours; stir before serving.

He sometimes adds a can or two of corn, and I think dry onions or sliced olives would also be a nice addition.

He usually uses cilantron and cinnamon instead of the cumin, but I can't eat any of those so he left them out of it for me.  He also left out the garlic because he didn't know I had any, but I think it would make his yummy chili even yummier.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Nancy Reagan! Nancy Reagan!

On of our TOPS ladies was asked how she lost weight over the holidays, and she responded, "Just say no."

That was a catchphrase for Nancy Reagan, trying to teach children how to stay away from drugs.  It was short and memorable, and created a family story we laughed over for years.

First lady, Nancy Reagan
speaks at a “Just Say No” rally in
Los Angeles, California, 1987.
One day my husband was on the phone, being asked to do some activity that took away from our rare and precious family time.  The boys caught on that he was hedging and about to give in, and they started chanting, "Nancy Reagan! Nancy Reagan!"  I don't remember if he ended up agreeing to the request on the phone.  I do remember him putting it down, looking puzzled, and asking "What was that all about?"  The boys were amazed to realize that he had no idea that "Nancy Reagan!"  meant "Just say NO!"  

Notice that Nancy Reagan was also very slim.  I think she must have practiced it in relation to food too.

Just say no to extra dessert, or second helpings, or to eating when you are not really hungry.  
Just say no to the fat on the beef, the addictive caffeinated sodas, the candy in the candy bowl on your boss's desk.
Just say no to staying fat, lazy and unhealthy.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Unpleasant Topics that Affect our Health, and the Effect of Magnesium

The potty chair for the constipated 
child who spends a lot of time on it.
I went to the doctor the other day and she asked me if I was still having trouble with constipation.  If this topic bothers you, go ahead and stop reading.

When I was growing up, there were certain topics that were simply not discussed publicly.  I'm not talking about the birds and the bees either, unless you're thinking about how seeds get scattered. In my family we were not even allowed to say butt, poop, or pee.  We put our little "bottoms" on the "potty" and did "number one" or "number two" aka "big job."  I am not kidding you.  Given all that, I am pretty sure my mom was never aware that I was often constipated.

Grandpa's special chocolate
One time I took Grandpa's Ex-Lax, thinking it was chocolate, and My Mom caught me red-handed.  I knew I was in big trouble, but all Mom said was that I was going to be sorry!  I kept waiting for punishment, but it never came.  I don't remember anyone ever saying another word, and I was so puzzled that I remembered it for a long time.  I lived in trepidation of "being sorry" for several days.  I think I was 15 or 16 years old before I finally made the connection between the chocolate and the consequences! I really doubt I would have been sorry at all; any consequences were probably a relief!  Maybe it's a good thing I didn't make the connection; I would have gone right out and bought my own supply of Grandpa's special chocolate.

Back to the doctor...I told her yes, I am often constipated, and she that was surprising, because with the amount of magnesium I take, I ought to have diarrhea instead.  (Yuck!  Talk about unpleasant topics!) So why don't I?  Apparently it's a matter of absorption.  She gave me a couple of samples of magnesium powder, and when I got home I got to thinking about it.  Is it the magnesium I take, or the form it is in? I take magnesium malate, which is supposed to be really good.

I took all my magnesium pills and ground them to a fine powder in my blender.  I then added some water and blended it. I stored it back in the bottle and put it in the fridge.  I tried to figure out about how much I was taking, now as a liquid amount, and twice a day I shook the bottle up and measured half that amount into cereal or juice.  It's a little chalky but it's survivable.

The end result is that it is indeed a good laxative, but not an uncomfortable one.  In fact, I have cut down to half the original dose, and may need to go down once more.  I am feeling much better now.

My conclusion is that the magnesium is fine, but apparently I was not breaking down the coating at a point it was doing me any good.  By the time it dissolves, it is being processed as waste.  All the years I've been taking that stuff, it's been money down the toilet.

This makes me want to test all my other pills and capsules to make sure they are dissolving and actually useful to my system.  I will have to do some research and devise a test of some sort.  My mom used to do one with vinegar to simulate stomach acids.

If you are grossed out, sorry, but who knows?  Maybe you are just the one who needed to read this.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Congratulations (out loud) and screaming It's not fair! (in my heart)

My husband surprised us all by not only participating in the Biggest Loser contest at work, but winning!

 I don't know how he did in national rankings, but he is the winner for our campus.  I am proud of him.  He lost 6% of his body weight.  He won $30 in the office pool, and an I-Pod Shuffle from corporate headquarters.  He even got to pick his color, but was disappointed to find they don't come in red.

However, part of me is screaming this isn't fair!

Why?  Well, what did he do?  Succeeded gloriously on his very first attempt to lose weight, that's what!

How?  He cut back on his soda; he'd been drinking a 20 oz. Dr. Pepper five days a week, and he quit.  He also started paying attention to when he was full, and quit eating at that point.  It's very smart.  And it worked!

But wait, I already do those things!  So he does them for the first time and loses weight, and I do them consistently, and here I am at a plateau.  Obviously, I need to do more.  If only I knew what more to do.  Eat less, and  I get acid reflux.  I start feeling weak.  That passes, but my stomach starts feeling like it is going to digest itself.

I do know I could be more faithful about exercise.  I am not terribly consistent there. I just can't seem to get up the determination to be diligent.  There are so many other things taking my attention, and I'm not feeling so hot most of the time.  That's a stupid excuse, because usually I feel better after some gentle exercise.  I guess the real issue is....


so what else is new?

I have to admit that I took 5th place myself; I lost 0.9% of my body weight; at least I didn't gain any.  A few people did, which must be discouraging.  Set out on a weight loss contest and eight weeks later you've gained a few pounds.  Ouch.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Today, I must give credit to my sister-in-law, Tina, for the post you are about to read.  She e-mailed this instead of using the comment form, and I thought it was worth sharing with my readers.

The Question About Overeating. 

It is easy, most of the time, to pass on foods that you know will make you instantaneously sick.  The cause and effect are clear and unmistakable.  However, eating foods that are safe are a different matter. If it is safe to eat and I can't eat the other stuff, then I can eat just a bit more of the safe food and be fine.  However, one trade like that is fine, but it is easy to do that several times, which then leads to overeating.  

With the amount of things that you successfully don't eat, it isn't a matter of will power, because you demonstrate you have plenty of that.  It often comes down to logic and mind games.
  • I can trade this for that because I can't have that.
  • Just one more won't hurt.  I don't have consequences for this.
  • I can risk this, it really won't hurt me in the long run and it is worth the risk.
I find myself doing this quite a lot.  I have a lot of things that could or might cause me problems.  If I am feeling good and breathing well, then I am invincible and feel I can run the risk of eating it for the momentary pleasure of eating it.  Sometimes I pay for it and sometimes I don't, therefore it becomes a game that I am willing to play.  The foods that cause immediate consequences are no longer a game, and I am not willing to eat them.

So the trick is to figure out how to make overeating a game you are not willing to play.  Easier said than done, but it is part of the mind game that is being played.  Can you set up a 'cost' for you that you don't like that will tip the odds for you to not be willing to play the game?  It sounds kind of mean and negative, but that is how my mind works.  What am I willing to risk and what am I not willing to risk when it comes to food?

Friday, November 23, 2012

It's not exactly a camera fail, it's just that I'm not thinking blog while I'm making dinner.

While I was napping, leftover gravy and turkey morphed in my mind and became pot pie.  It sounded like just the thing for dinner, so off I went to scrounge up pot pie.

I had carrots, celery, onion, frozen peas, turkey, gravy, liquid to make the crust.  My gluten-free cookbook had a recipe, but what I did was merge my regular recipe with that one, and came out with a pretty good crust.

This was the right size for my 6" square casserole dish, the shallow one.  Just enough for four servings, perfect for the four of us.

My son asked if I was going to share, since it was "MDD" on the menu.  Make-do-day--everyone fend for yourself, there are plenty of leftovers.  However, since I was making pot pie they were lucky and got dinner fixed.  He pitched in and chopped all the vegetables for me (thank you for saving me from onion-eyes, son!) while I made the pie crust.

It came out pretty good, and though pot pie is a lot of work, it wasn't so bad with a partner in the kitchen, and the gravy already made.

Gluten-free Pot Pie Crust (small)^

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 stick (about 1/4 cup) vegan margarine (I used Earthbound Farms)
1-1/2 cups Domata Living Flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
abt. 4 Tbsp. Cold Water

Cut shortening into flour and salt until particles are crumb-like.* Sprinkle in water, 1 Tbsp at a time, mixing gently until all flour is moistened and will form a ball.

Split pastry into two sections, about 2/3 in one part, 1/3 in the other. Roll out between sheets of plastic wrap.  If it doesn't stick together well enough to roll out, you can add a little water at a time until it will.  You don't want it gooey, but sticking together is nice.

Roll out the bigger piece large enough to cover the bottom and sides of the casserole dish. Take off the top plastic wrap, invert the crust over the pan, then pull off the plastic wrap and gently shape the bottom.**

Fill the shell; put the top crust on the same way, and shape the edges.  Poke a few slits in the top for venting steam, and bake as your recipe instructs.  Mine was 425. 

^For a regular 2-crust pie shell, it's about 2/3 cups butter/oil mix, 2 cups flour, 1 tsp salt, 4+ Tbsp water.

*I use the whipping blade on my Mixmaster for this part, then switch out to the paddle blade before I mix in the water.

** It's not very stretchy like regular flour; I ended up having to patch the edges along the top, but it doesn't matter because it all hides under the pretty top crust anyway! 


Not a specific recipe; I diced and sauteed a carrot, a couple of stalks of celery, and some onion, then stirred in frozen peas, leftover gravy, and some diced turkey, about 6 ounces probably.  I could have used a little more of all the veggies, especially carrot, but my son's wife is not a big carrot fan, so I didn't put in too much.  Add a sprinkle of black pepper, about a half teaspoon of minced garlic and some liquid smoke.  Put in crust hot.

Nutrition Comments

This is not a low-fat recipe, but it sure was good.  The key is portion control.  One small pan easily served four of us, with nothing leftover to pick at.  You could possibly serve six if you had other side dishes. We just had a salad to go with it.

My daughter-in-law seemed to like it okay; she ate almost all of hers and I didn't see her picking carrots out.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Care and Eating of a Pear

I love pears but I never bought them because you have to buy them green.  By the time they get yellow, they are all bruised and mushy.  I just haven't had much luck with them.  Until....

Two years ago, I bought a box of mixed fruit from an FFA fundraiser.  It was beautiful, huge, delicious fruit, and best of all, there were instructions in the box for how to ripen the pears.

Since then I have come to greatly enjoy pears, so I thought I would share what I have learned.

First, let them ripen slowly on the counter, preferably at the top of a bowl of apples.  Don't put them out of sight and forget about them.  They can be done in a brown paper bag, but not me, or I'll be pulling them out two months later when I wonder what smells.  So I just do them in my fruit bowl. Always handle them very gently as they do bruise easily.

When they start to turn yellow, gently check for ripeness by pressing gently on the flesh near the stem.  I must stress gently here!  If it doesn't budge, it's not ripe yet.  If it feels soft but not mushy, it's just right.  If it's mushy, eat fast!

You can, of course, push on the flesh anywhere, but if you only check near the stem, then if it does leave a bruise, it's only on a tiny part of the pear, not right out in the middle of the fat body where it spreads to the whole pear.

Now that you are sure it is ripe, cut it with that cool apple-coring tool.  It may not go perfectly on the center, but it cuts nice and evenly without all the bruising of handling the pear.

If you're lucky it falls off the tool in a nice flower shape.  This is really pretty.  Put a dried apricot in the center and you've got a decorative fruit plate.  So easy!

Enjoy the sweet, juicy pear! 

In short:
Handle with care.
Ripen on counter with apples
Test near stem
Cut with apple corer

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

If I can avoid the wonderful good crescent rolls, why do I have trouble with simply eating too much? And here's the yummy roll recipe!

They are hard to see in the picture, but the bowl in the corner is full of wonderful, fresh, homemade crescent rolls, a family favorite for holidays!  They are so soft and light and delicious!

Unfortunately, they are also packed with wheat flour, milk, butter, and yeast, all forbidden foods for me.  I have no problem avoiding such foods, knowing that they will make me sick.

What I can't figure out is this:  the question in the title.  It's easy to say no to so many foods.  I was eating a couple of candies a day at work, and easily decided, no more, and bypass the candy jar. I did not buy any chocolate chips this week, though I had been eating them daily.  But when it comes to overeating, I have trouble just saying no.

If I can control my amounts as easily as I avoid the foods that make me sick, I would lose weight easily.  This is something to ponder, because I realized as I wrote this that the extra weight is making me sick, just not as quickly or as noticeably.   I'll have to give this some serious thought and see if I can make a commitment I can stick to.

Zola Taylor's Crescent Rolls

Makes 32 rolls*

1 cup milk
1 pkg. or 2-1/2 tsp dry yeast
1/2 cup  sugar
1 cup butter, melted
3 eggs, room temperature, beaten+
1 tsp salt
4 cups flour

Heat milk until hot but not burning to touch.  You should be able to stick your finger in it without getting burned.  Mix in sugar and yeast.  Let stand until foamy (about 5 minutes.)**

Mix in butter, eggs, and salt. Stir in flour.  Stir until dough is very stretchy and stringy.

Cover and let stand overnight.^

Divide dough in half.  Using just enough flour to handle easily, roll out into two large rectangles.  Cut each into four rectangles, then cut each rectangle into four triangles.  Roll from widest end.  Place point down onto ungreased cookie sheet; cover lightly with a towel and allow to raise at least 4 hours.

Bake just before serving at 350 deg. oven until golden brown, about 10-12 minutes.^^

Serve on a pretty cloth-lined platter or in a cloth-lined bowl.  Don't stack them too high. You want light, fluffy rolls, right?  

* ** ^ ^^

Hints for the beginning baker

+If you forgot to get the eggs out ahead, it'll be okay.  Just get them out as you gather up the ingredients.  You do gather the ingredients first to make sure you have everything you need, right?

*  I usually double this recipe, depending on how many people we are serving.  For 8 people, 32 rolls makes 4 apiece, but they are small rolls, so that's okay.  They also keep well for several hours or overnight, so extras are always good.

**  If mixture doesn't foam by 5 minutes, it's either too hot, too cold, or the yeast has gone bad.  Test your yeast by putting about 1/2 tsp with 1 tsp. sugar in 1/4 cup warm water.  If it doesn't get bubbly, you need new yeast.  If you want to do this first, then just add it to the mix, reducing milk and yeast by the amounts used in the test.

^I usually put it in the fridge overnight.  The chilled dough is easy enough to work with, and to me seems less sticky.  Use non-stick cooking spray on the lid or plastic wrap to keep the dough from sticking to it as it rises.

^^If you have several pans, you can't bake them all immediately before serving.  You need to allow 10 minutes per pan, so start early or plan on taking rolls out of the oven all the way through dinner. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A New Take on Emotional Eating--and three favorite Thanksgiving or anytime recipes

When I think of emotional eating, I usually think of eating to dull the pain, to make myself feel better temporarily.  For me there is also boredom eating.  If my book's not quite interesting enough, or I am just bored (I can't ever say I have nothing to do) or I am procrastinating, it's easy to turn to food to "fill up" the emptiness.

At a church dinner on Friday, I discovered another kind of emotional eating.  I usually have practically nothing to eat at pot luck dinners, due to the wheat and dairy issues, so I made some gluten/dairy free mashed potatoes and corn bread.  I have to say, they were delicious!  I always label them so if others are in my situation they know they can eat them.

Friday there were many wonderful, safe choices.  There was a lovely green salad, some cranberry sauce, turkey, my two dishes, pickles, sliced oranges....I was so grateful that I filled up my plate and went back for seconds.  Later I realized that my emotions of joy and gratitude were still the cause of overeating. 

Part of a typical Thanksgiving dinner--potatoes, turkey, relish, corn, gravy, apple cider, sweet potatoes.  Turkey must carefully examiined, because it may have stuffing (gluten-laden) or be cooked in an oven bag  (flour added.)  The church provided the turkeys and I volunteered to cook one, as a service, but it is also a way to make sure it's gluten-free.  No stuffing for  me, no gravy unless I  made it myself with corn starch instead of flour (gravy mix usually has wheat in it). Mashed potatoes must be made with vegan margarine and vegetable broth or turkey broth, and no milk. Candied sweet potatoes are good if I know what is thickening them (again, home-made.)  Vegetables are often cooked with butter, so I rarely eat them when I'm not eating at home.

Dairy Free Mashed Potatoes

I wish I had the recipe, but I practice Amelia Bedelia Cooking. I don't have a picture either.

About six to eight peeled potatoes, cut in chunks.
2-3 carrots, cut in chunks.
1/4 onion
1 stalk celery, cut in 3-4 inch long pieces

Cook until vegetables are tender.  Remove celery.  Drain off and reserve liquid; put potatoes in a mixer. Add a chunk of dairy-free margarine, and blend at low speed.  Slowly add hot liquid (from cooking, or use broth of some kind) and blend until it looks about the right thickness. Taste it to see if it needs salt, pepper, or extra margarine. Add if needed.

Turn on high and whip until potatoes are light and fluffy.  Serve immediately.

I cook my turkey with a basil rub, so using turkey broth in the potatoes gave them a wonderful flavor! Or if you want it vegan, you could just add basil and a dash of the other flavors directly to your potatoes.

Basil Rub for Roasted Chicken or Turkey

Make one batch for chicken; double it for a small turkey; triple for a large turkey.

1 Tbsp Salt
2 Tsp sugar
1/4 tsp garlic (powder or fresh minced)
1/4 tsp onion powder or dried onions
1/4 tsp paprika
1-1/2 tsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp basil
2 T olive oil

Mix all ingredients together and rub all over chicken, inside and out. Roast as usual.

If you really want the flavor to get into the meat, you can put it under the skin of the breast.  If you don't usually use salt in your foods, then cut the salt in half.

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Cornbread

Servings:  6-9
Pan Size:  8x8 inch square
Oven Temperature:  350

cooking spray
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup gluten-free flour  (I use Domata Living Flour)
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup dairy-free milk (I used almond)
1 egg
3 Tbsp. honey
3 Tbsp. dairy-free margarine (I use Earthbound Farms)

Spray pan with cooking spray; set aside.

Mix all dry ingredients and cut in butter until mixture is fine crumbs. Add milk, egg, and honey, stir until thoroughly mixed.  Spread into pan as evenly as possible and bake for 20 minutes.  Serve hot.

Original recipe (with wheat and buttermilk) from; adapted to gluten free by me. 


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Tortoise, Turtle, Huddle in Your Shell, and How Was Your Weight this week my dear? A little slow?

In some TOPS groups, they say they "turtled" if their weight stayed the same from one week to the next.  That's me, this week.  I'm a turtle!

I am a person who does not do physical things quickly, and as a child, my sister dubbed me a turtle.  I was also shy and a social misfit, which probably added to it. My sister even gave me a stuffed turtle one year.  As a defense, I adopted the turtle as my mascot, named the stuffed one Toby, and started collecting turtles. I had a hand-drawn turtle poster, a tiny ceramic turtle, and numerous others.  I had a hand-me-down live turtle but sadly, I neglected him and he died.  I think I even had a dress with turtles on it at some point.

Eventually, I decided that I did not want to reinforce myself as the image of a turtle.  I did not want to hide out sluggishly in my little shell, trying to protect myself from the world by being invisible.  I wanted to be bold, outgoing, and if not athletic, at least not afraid to try.  I got fairly good at volleyball, still stink at tennis and baseball, and loved soccer and Speedaway, a popular game at my high school. I also loved crab soccer. The bigger the ball the better I did.

I was a 6th grade cheerleader and had a lot of fun with that.  As a disclaimer, there were only 6 or 8 girls in  my two-room school upper-grade class, so most of us were cheerleaders. Looking back, I feel bad about the girls we left out.  At the time, an immature 11-year-old, I was just grateful to have finally found a way to fit in.

At 16 I ran for Miss County.  As the youngest one there I had an interesting experience, and came out as 3rd Runner-up, which sounds really great until you realize only four of us ran!  But they gave me a giant trophy and my boyfriend of the time told me I was the most beautiful
woman there, and my dad was way proud of me for trying and claims he heard audience members claiming that the girl in the yellow dress should win.  Ah, Parents!

I went off to summer camps, and the first year I got stuck with a terrible group of girls, bawled with homesickness but stuck it out, thanks to a terrific counselor and an older sister (not the one who called me a turtle!) who let me hang out in her tent a lot.  The second year I called home once but stuck it out. There were boys at that camp--worth staying around for!  After that I was home free. I loved summer camp, made some really good friends, organized a skit my last year, and eventually, as an adult, became a counselor.

Now I go out of my way to greet newcomers at church.  I strike up conversations in grocery stores.  I got things organized for the Biggest Loser contest at work.  At times I still want to crawl back into my shell, but weight-wise, no.  I don't want to be a turtle!  I threw out all my turtles!  I want to make quick progress.  And I want to stop writing this blog and go exercise, so ta-ta for now!