Friday, May 31, 2013

Paleo Make Believe

Back in April, I read a post on Robb Wolf's blog entitled Veggie Burgers, Meatless Chicken and Paleo Bread.  It was a pretty interesting argument against the paleo folks who accuse the vegetarians of being silly for eating meatless meat, because in all honesty, that's no different than paleo bread. 

The most amusing thing to me was how annoyed some of the commenters were with how, OMG, paleo bread is so fake and why would anyone want to eat something that's not a whole food?  And why are there only paleo treat recipes out there?  And who would want to eat anything but hunks of meat and vegetables anyway?

I was a vegetarian for almost 14 years, so I get it why other vegetarians want to eat fake meat.  I hated it when anyone would make fun of me about it, because they just weren't listening to me when I would tell them I wasn't a vegetarian because I hate the taste of meat.

Of course, I found out that vegetarianism wasn't doing me any favors, and I switched over to a low carb diet.  And you know what?  When I first switched, I needed those substitutes in order to stick with my new way of eating.  I drank diet pop, and I ate low carb cake and sugar-free jello.  It was a really hard switch for me, because I was addicted to sugar at the time.  If I didn't have those low carb treats on hand, I'm almost certain I wouldn't have made it this far.

That's why it bothers me when people look down on folks who eat sugar free candy, or paleo bread.  It's not your place to decide what another person eats, and if you make them feel like a failure because they're not living up to your perfect standards, then they won't stick with it.  They'll think, "I can't eat this way if it means I have to give up everything I love.  If I can't be perfect, I may as well not do it at all," and they'll quit trying all together.  Isn't it more important that people are improving their health?  So what if they're eating paleo bread or low carb cookies?  It's their choice to make, and if it helps them make the transition, then all the better.

Also, to the commenter who complained that there are only paleo treat recipes on the internet...  Seriously?  How many ways are there to cook meat and vegetables?  Who gets excited by pot roast recipes?   Paleo/low carb treat recipes are popular because they're really hard to make and it's a niche category, whereas you can open any cookbook or cooking website and find out how to cook meat. 

Thursday, May 30, 2013

A Great Big Thank-You

I want to thank Tom Naughton from Fat Head blog for being a really cool guy.  I sent him a letter a while back (which I posted here if you're interested in reading it) letting him know that his awesome documentary Fat Head literally changed my life.  He asked if I would be ok if he posted that on his website, and of course I said yes!  I want everyone to know the kind of positive changes that can happen to you if you just cut out the junk and eat a natural, wholesome diet.

But along with my letter, he posted a link to my blog, and I'm really grateful to him for that.

I've been blogging for months now, and I enjoy it a lot.  I haven't promote it very heavily, because I figured if people found it and liked it, they'd tell their friends.  That theory doesn't work too well in real life, though.  I was pretty happy if I got 5 page views a day, even though I knew that 1 of them was Chad, and at least 2 more were search engine bots. 

The day after Tom linked to my blog, I got 1200 page views, which was huge!  I got comments for the first time!  Really nice comments, too, from thoughtful people.  I've found some new blogs in the process that I've been enjoying reading, and I feel even more encouraged to continue blogging about my own low-carb/paleo way of life.

So thank you, Tom, for your support, and thank you also to all the new visitors.  I hope you'll stay and join the conversation! 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Low-Carb Peanut Butter Cookies

This is a repost of something I wrote on tumblr last year, but I love this recipe and had to reshare on my new blog.

Ever have a craving for COOKIES?!  Yeah, me too.  But the problem with low carb cookie recipes is that they usually call for weird ingredients that are either hard to find, super expensive, or leave you wondering if they’re actually good for you.

These cookies have exactly four ingredients, and I bet you have them all in your cupboard right now!
Low Carb Peanut Butter Cookies
16 oz (2 cups) smooth peanut butter
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
5-10 packets stevia (or to taste)* OR
1-2 cups granual Splenda or other sweetener that measures cup-for-cup with sugar*

Preheat the oven to 350.  Mix all ingredients well.  It will be really runny at first, but keep mixing and it will form a dough!  Now, if you’re not weirded out by the thought of eating raw eggs, you should taste the dough.  Is it sweet enough?  It should be slightly sweeter than you would actually want the cookies, because it goes though some changes in the oven that make them taste a little less sweet.

Roll the cookies into 1 inch balls or so, place onto ungreased sheet, and then press with a fork to flatten.  You should get about 32-36 cookies.

Place in the oven for 12-14 minutes, or until just starting to turn golden around the bottom edge.  Remove from the oven and LET COOL FOR 10 MINUTES.  The cookies are very soft until cooled and shouldn’t be handled.  After cooled, they’re still pretty crumbly, but they’re so freakin’ good!

*The reason I give such a wide variation on how much sweetener to use is because everyone on the low-carb diet has different sweetness thresholds.  Try it with the lower amount first, and if that doesn't taste right to you, add more!  Remember that it should be sweeter than you want it when it's raw, because they get less sweet after baking. 

Nutrition facts fore one cookie:

If you make 32 cookies total:
Calories: 100; Fat: 8.5g; Protein: 4.5g; Carbs: 3.1g; Fiber: 1g; Net Carbs: 2.1g

If you make 36 cookies total:
Calories: 89; Fat: 7.6g; Protein: 4g; Carbs: 2.8g; Fiber: .9g; Net Carbs: 1.9g


I did a little experimenting tonight on these.  As I was whipping up the delicious cookies, hubby said, “If you could make ganache with dark chocolate and cream…” and suddenly images of low carb chocolate covered peanut butter cookies filled my head.  So I sent him to the store while I baked (i.e. sat on the couch waiting for the cookies to finish).  When he got home, I tried making ganache from memory.  Unfortunately, my memory sucks, and I ended up separating the chocolate, and not being able to get it emulsified again.
So instead of throwing away delicious Lindt 85% dark chocolate, I just kind of plopped the separated mess onto the cookies and stuck them in the freezer.  Several minutes later, we pulled them out, and OMG SO GOOD.  They’re very intense, and we could only eat one even though they’re small, but it was so amazingly satisfying.  I’m certainly going to try this again on a day when I’m more competent!

Update 5/26/13: I have indeed tried these with a proper ganache, and they are excellent.  Keep them in the fridge though or they'll be a sticky mess pretty quickly. 

Monday, May 27, 2013

Food For Victory

I've been spring cleaning for the last two weeks.  It's amazing what you'll find when digging through piles of old crap you've shoved in a corner and forgotten about.  One really neat thing I found was this old Kerr home canning book, printed in 1943.

 This was the special National Nutrition Edition, a war-time call to all housewives to pitch in their own skills and efforts to help their country.  I found it in a giant pile of old books my cousin bought a an auction for me.  I would never ever use these recipes, because canning is an exact science, and they've been testing and improving the methods every year since people first started to can, so that the recipes in this book are very outdated and potentially dangerous.  Still, I find it really fascinating.  For instance, this book was written before people started using powdered pectin in their jams and jellies, and you sealed said jams and jellies with paraffin wax!

Since it was war-time, and food was in short supply, everyone on the home front was encouraged to grow a garden.  There was a really strong emphasis on highly nutritious food because everyone needed to be strong and healthy.  That's why the government told everyone to eat like this:

Click to see it larger.
Everyday, eat some milk or cheese, citrus fruit or tomatoes, green or yellow vegetables, fruits or other vegetables, whole grain bread or cereal (or fortified), meat, poultry or fish, eggs, and butter or other spreads.  Then once you eat all of those things, you can eat whatever else you want.  My guess is, once you've eaten all the vegetables, fruits, eggs, dairy, butter, meat, and whole grain bread, you're going to be pretty darn full. 

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Problem With Farm Eggs

We live in New York.  No, not The City.  We live in New York state, about as far away from New York City as you can possibly get while still being in NY state.  I know from experience that a surprisingly large number of people think that all of NY is like NYC, but I can assure you it's not.  As a matter of fact, the area we live in is very heavy into agriculture.  This area is the largest producer of concord grapes in the world, and our dairy farms produce more revenue than our vineyards if that tells you anything at all.  We have three large Amish communities in our county alone, and there's lots more across the border in PA.  Our dinky city of 30,000 is the largest city in our county.

So it might shock some of you to find out that it took us a while to find a source of farm eggs.  The problem is that we're city folk, and we really had no idea who to contact to find out where to get eggs.  Just because we're surrounded by farms doesn't mean we know anything about them.  But by chance, I saw a carton of eggs in my mom's fridge with a little tag attached with the name of the farm she bought them from, and I was all like OMG TELL ME WHERE YOU GOT THESE!!!  Lol, down the street from where she lived.  Somehow, in all the times we'd been to my mom's house, Chad and I had never seen the sign that read "FRESH EGGS $2.50 A DOZEN". 

We immediately went out and got two dozen.

I love that green-egg-laying chicken.  Now I just need some green ham.

They're so so so so so good.  I'll admit that when we first started buying them, they weren't really that different from the eggs we buy at the store.  I've decided that it's because it was the dead of winter then, and of course chickens can't really forage in two feet of snow.  But now that there are bugs and grass and other delicious things for the chickens to eat, their eggs are so awesome. 

The egg in the middle is a store bought egg, which, by the way, is from a brand we really like because their egg yolks are a lot darker than other brands we've tried.  So that should tell you how seriously dark the yolks of the farm fresh eggs are.

I even got to meet the guy selling the eggs the other day.  He was amazingly friendly, and seemed so chipper and happy.  I bet he eats lots of eggs himself.

But there's a problem with farm fresh eggs.  Yes, a real problem that can't be ignored.  The problem is.... availability.  Because farm chickens aren't machines.  Because there's a limited supply.  And because demand is going way up as people become more aware of how the happiness of their food affects their own well being.  We went about two months without farm eggs because, every time we went out to buy them, there weren't any there.  After a while, we just stopped bothering to check, because it is a little out of the way now that my mom has moved to a different house. 

My mom and I recently went out to the farm at an off hour, and to my delight, they had eggs!  Chad and I checked again last weekend, and managed, after checking at two different times, to get the eggs we so desired.  I really don't want to bother the farmer with our problem because it's a first-come-first-serve kind of deal, and we shouldn't get any special treatment, but I do wish our supply was more consistent. 

I guess I just have to wait until we move to the country and get our own chickens.  I have to find out what kind of chickens lay green eggs...

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Pure Nonsense

Bariatric surgery is becoming a pretty big deal in the mainstream media lately.  Everyone's all in a tizzy over the findings that OMG GASTRIC BYPASS CAN CURE DIABETES!  Quickly, everyone!  Let's cut open every diabetic within reach!

I'll admit that it's pretty exciting news that scientists have said out loud that you can cure diabetes.  It seems like almost every doctor and every nutritionist is determined to make diabetics believe that diabetes is something you have to fight tooth and nail  every day of your life until it kills you, and that there's no such thing as a cure for diabetes.  So to actually hear someone say, hey guys, I think we can cure this thing...  That's pretty cool.  But then all the smart people in the room start talking about the possible ways it's happening.  The surgery must alter your hormones!  It makes it so you can't absorb all that harmful glucose!  It changes your whole system so you can work more properly!!!  But no one in the spotlight was asking, what about the diet?

Gastric bypass surgery has been kind of a miracle procedure since they first started reporting on it, really.  Can't lose weight?  Well, let me rip you open and connect this thingy to that thingy, and voila!  You're now 100 pounds lighter!  No need to diet, or cut out junk food, or try  to lose weight.  Except, yeah, after surgery you can only eat tiny portions and you have to cut out all junk or else you'll throw up all over the place.  I know that it's really hard for very fat people to lose weight with the carb-heavy calorie restricted diets they're recommended by, well, everyone, but I also know that bariatric surgery is the easy way out for a lot of people.  I've personally known a handful of people who have the attitude of , hey, I'm going to eat all the cake I want because if I get really fat, I'll just get that newfangled surgery and I'll get skinny in no time. 

But what's really bothered me about gastric bypass surgery is that it seems like no one is asking the most obvious question.  What happens when you just eat the diet recommended to surgery patients?

It's not a fun diet, let me tell you that.  The Mayo clinic website has a pretty good description of what you eat after gastric bypass.  It comes in phases, depending on where you are in the healing process, but in every phase, they emphasize eating high quality protein foods along with vegetables and fruit.  So meat, eggs, dairy, vegetables, and fruit.  Gosh, that sounds like a low carb diet.

Let's do a little math for fun (oh god, I'm turning into Chad...)  It's hard to pin this information down on the internet, but I found that the calorie goal of patients is no more than 1000 calories a day (many people say it's hard to eat more than 700 calories), and the recommended protein intake is about 75g a day, though some doctors recommend up to 100 g.  But for this thought experiment, we'll stick with 1000 calories and 75 g of protein.  On this page, I found that patients are told to keep their fat intake below 30 g a day.  We'll say the patient was behaving themselves and ate only 20g of fat.  So let's see what this looks like so far.

75 g of protein = 300 calories
20 g of fat = 180

300 + 180 = 480

1000 calories - 480 calories = 520 calories from carbs

520 / 4 = 130 g of carbs

That's not a super low carb diet, but you know what?  That's still pretty darn low.  Especially considering gastric bypass patients don't absorb all the food that they eat.  Now for fun, let's calculate out what I found on the internet most people end up eating (I looked through some diet journals on of surgery patients who are successfully losing weight), which is about 700 calories, 80 g of protein, and 35 g of fat.

700 calories a day - 320 calories of protein - 315 calories of fat = 65 calories of carbs.

65 calories of carbs = 16.25 g of carbs a day.

16 carbs a day?!  That's what I would call a VERY LOW CARB DIET. 

So why haven't scientists tried studying the diet alone to see if it's just as effective as the surgery?  Well, as it turns out, they have done just that recently.  Someone finally thought to themselves, hey guys, maybe we should, you know, see if it's the food or the horrible gut slicing that's helping these people.  And you know what they found out?  It's the food.

At least when it comes to diabetes control.  I'll admit that this is a pretty small study group (n=10), but it's still really promising.  They took ten people and had them eat the post-surgery diet for ten days, then several months later those same ten people had gastric bypass surgery and ate the exact same diet.  Both times the patients had improved fasting glucose, but the diet-only part of the experiment showed the best improvements.

So now we have a pretty good clue.  The next time you hear someone saying that bariatric surgery is the cure for diabetes, slap them with a clue-stick and tell them, no, idiot, it's the diet.

The worst part of this study, though, is one of the researches ended up saying,"Unfortunately, such a restrictive diet is nearly impossible to adhere to long-term in the absence of bariatric surgery."  Dude, what?  Are you dumb?  Have you no clue?  DO I NEED TO GET MY CLUE-STICK?!  Yes, it's true that it's going to be nearly impossible for most sane people to eat 700 calories a day, but why can't we combine what we learned with this study with what we've learned from low carb studies and say, hey guys, low carb helps you lose lots of weight and also helps you control your diabetes.  There's no need for bariatric surgery.  It's a waste of money, a waste of time, and it's a waste of a perfectly healthy body that, given the right food, can heal and lose the weight all by itself. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Foraging Adventure

I mentioned in an earlier post that I decided to try some foraging the other day.  Actually, it's certainly not my first adventure in foraging.  Since I was very young, I've loved the idea of foraging.  I quickly learned to recognize the wild raspberry canes, and knew exactly when they came out (when the old fashioned dayliles [aka ditch lilies, tiger lilies] are out are out, around the 4th of July).  I also knew that crab apples, though quite sour, were good for eating if you prepared them properly, and I would sneak around at night harvesting all the neighborhood's crab trees so no one would think I was totally nuts.  And don't forget the wild strawberries, which are so heavenly compared to store bought berries  I wanted to learn more about foraging, but it wasn't cool back in those days, and I couldn't find out very much about it. 

To be honest, I still don't know as much as I'd like about foraging, but one of these days I plan on getting a thorough book or taking a class on it.  The idea kind of draws me to it.  There's some kind of magic in being able to go out and find food just growing all by itself.  This really cool article, about how you should just leave your kids alone, mentions how kids long to go out and gather and cook their own food, and says that it has to do with freedom.  To be able to go out and provide for yourself means you're free, and I think I agree with that thought. 

One thing I've known for a long time is edible is the humble dandelion.  When I first found that out as a teenager, I thought it was the coolest thing on earth.  But people hate dandelions, so anytime I would mention it, everyone was totally grossed out.  OMG, you want to eat a WEED?!  Nevermind the fact that most of our cultivated vegetables started out as weeds, and some still can be weeds if you're not careful (you ever try keeping mint or strawberries in one spot?). 

So when I went weeding around my raspberry canes the other day and came across these beautiful, long, luscious looking dandelion greens, I knew it was time.  I had to give up my dandelion virginity.

I picked a pretty good sized bowlful of them before deciding I shouldn't overdo it my first time.  There were so many, though, that I probably could have gotten three times this much just from the base of my raspberries.

Then I thoroughly washed them and picked out all the ones with little orange bug eggs on them.  I probably could have kept the bug eggs and added nutrients that we don't normally get to our diet, but that's totally disgusting to my sensitive American sensibilities.

I read on the internet that dandelion greens make an excellent salad, and that they taste mostly like arugula.  But I really don't like arugula.  I'm really sensitive to bitter tastes (stupid supertaster abilities), so I figured the best way to start was to find a way to use these greens like frozen spinach greens. 

As it turns out, if you parboil dandelion greens, you rid them of most of their bitter taste, so that's what I decided to do.  Usually when I'm cooking greens to be frozen, such as broccoli greens or radish greens (because I can't let anything go to waste), I steam them so they don't lose as much of their nutrients.  But since my goal here was to remove the bitterness of the plants, I decided I could put up with a little nutrient loss.

So I got the water boiling in a large pot, then dropped the leaves into the water.  Once it started boiling again (usually within a few seconds), I set the timer for 1 minute.  (Don't mind my messy stove.  I was cooking up the greens at the same time I was cooking dinner, because, I don't know, I guess I like torturing myself.)

Once the minute is up, I scooped the leaves out of the pot with a pasta strainer spoon thing (what are those utensils called, anyway?) and put them into a bowl of cold water.

Once all the greens were cooked and cooled, I squeezed all the liquid out of them.  You don't really get that much.

Then I chopped it up, put it in a bag, and threw it in the freezer.  I tasted it first, and it's almost indistinguishable from frozen spinach.  I probably saved myself about 50 cents by doing this, but it was a fun experiment!  Maybe next time I'll get enough dandelion greens to last me more than one meal.  Lord knows we have plenty of them in the yard!

Just as a side note, if you're going to forage for wild greens, always make sure you're doing it in an area where no pesticides or fertilizers have been sprayed.  We pretty much leave our lawn to grow as it pleases, and add grass clippings to help keep it healthy, so I know our lawn is pretty clean. 

Friday, May 17, 2013

Little Things

Since seriously going low-carb and whole-food in about September of last year, I've seen a lot of changes in my body.  Lots of things improved that I didn't even know I had a problem with.  It's these little things that astound me the most, because now it's like, I could never go back to living with all the little problems I used to have.  That would be unbearable now that I'm feeling like a whole person. 

So I thought it would be fun just to list all the little things that have changed since last September, in both me and Chad.

First, mood.  Chad's mood has evened out remarkably.  He used to be kind of emo and often had a short temper (and he's a big guy so he's a little bit scary when he's mad).  It's kind of like this:

Only now I have to be like "Chad, eat some bacon." 

My mood has evened out as well.  I used to be very easily depressed, constantly worrying, insecure, and the littlest thing would offend me and make me cry.  I still get that way once in a while, but now it happens in a predictable time frame, as in when I'm PMSing.  Yes, I'm now officially a cliche.

Next, sleep!  I used to be an extraordinarily light sleeper.  I was tossing back and forth all night because even the littlest thing woke me up.  It usually took me at least a half hour to get to sleep in the first place, and then I was up pretty early.  The summer was the worst, because the birds start singing about 4 in the morning, and once they start, it was hard to get back to sleep.  But now, I sleep much more soundly.  I still have the occasional night where it seems like I'm tossing and turning all night, but for the most part, I sleep pretty well all night long. 

I used to have a problem with digestion.  I don't know what to call it, honestly, but I guess the best description would be IBS.  I was never diagnosed for anything.  Honestly, I didn't know I even had a problem until I stopped living that way.  I don't want to go into any details, so I'll just say that I went to the bathroom a lot, and sometimes my stomach got really upset.  I thought I was healthy because I never got constipated, but it wasn't a pleasant way to live.  Now that I'm eating better food, I see that the way my body was acting is not the way things should be.

I don't drive, and that's because when I was a teenager, I had a very serious problem, and the thought of having this problem while driving a car scared the living crap out of me.  The problem?  Severe wrist pain.  It wasn't exactly carpal tunnel syndrome, although everyone wanted to believe that's what it was.  It was similar, but the pain affected different areas than carpal tunnel does (I'm pretty sure, anyway).  The pain radiated around my wrist and sometimes, when it was really bad, would shoot down my arm.  On the worst days, I couldn't use my hands for much of anything.  Writing hurt, sitting hurt, walking hurt, everything hurt, and I couldn't lift anything heavier than a couple of pounds.  I went out practice driving once when I had this pain, and I almost drove the car right into a five foot ditch.  That, along with another couple of incidences, is what convinced me that I should wait until I had this problem under control before trying to drive again.

But you know what?  I haven't noticed the pain in a long, long time.  Like it just occurred to me one day that I don't hurt hardly at all anymore.  It's only when I really strain myself that I have a problem, like the day I spent carrying around about a dozen 40 pound bags of compost and building a new garden.  This is shocking to me, because I always assumed it was my excessive computer use that caused me to be in so much pain.  I

It's pretty funny, actually, that now when I look up carpal tunnel syndrome, they say that some of the main causes are diabetes and obesity, whereas I'm pretty sure back when I first had my problem, most people said it was caused almost exclusively by repetitive movement. 

Chad also improved in this way.  He's a programmer, and so spends all day typing.  He didn't have severe wrist pain, but he would sometimes mention that by the end of the week, his thumb and maybe his fingers would hurt.  But now, I'm pretty sure the problem is all gone.  I can't say for certain, because he's a guy, and guys don't like to tell people about their weaknesses. 

Energy is another improvement.  Chad especially has seen lots of improvements here.  He used to get worn out so easily.  He said that he used to only be able to get about 4-6 hours of work done a day because he just couldn't focus, or couldn't find the mental energy to finish his work.  But now he's consistently working 7 or even 8 hours a day, with the occasional off day (because we all have those).  I think I'm just as lazy as I was before, but now when I do go to do the work that needs done, I'm not like physically exhausted the way I used to be.  I have all the energy to do it, it's just that I sometimes lack the ambition, lol. 

Our outlook is better!  We're both so much happier now, seriously.  I used to be very depressed, couldn't find happiness in almost anything, crying at least a couple times a week just because the sadness was so heavy on my shoulders.  Chad would sometimes dream about leaving everything behind and just driving across the country because, I think, he felt trapped in an unhappy job and a small town.  Neither of us had any goals or ambitions in life, no dreams of the future.  There were times when we couldn't even imagine what our lives would be like in five years.  But shortly after changing our diets, our outlook started to change too.  Pretty soon, life didn't seem so dismal.  We started dreaming about the future, or at least I did.  We're really happy in the life we have now, Chad's happy with his job, life is just so pleasant.  The future is full of hope now.

I probably shouldn't bring this up (Chad's going to kill me)...  But in the spirit of Super Size Me and also Fat Head (where Chereva asked Tom if he was a moron when he brought this up), I have to mention our sex life.  In a word - awesome! 

Hmmm, what else?  Oh!  I started putting on muscle like no one's business, and so did Chad!  The difference between me and Chad, though, is that Chad regularly lifts weights, whereas I sit on my butt watching him lift weights.  Yes, friends, that's right; I put on muscle while being a lazy bum.  How's that for cool? 

Then there's my fingernails.  I've said this before, but I think it's totally worth mentioning.  I used to have really terrible nails.  I could probably pass them off as normal through the summer, but once winter came, that charade was over.  My nails were always very thin and brittle no matter what time of year it was, but the dryness of winter made things even worse.  They started breaking at the sides, and then peeling, layer by layer, off the top.  I couldn't grow them at all. 

This was actually the first change that really caught my attention, because it wasn't something subjective.  It wasn't some wishy washy "oh, I feel better".  It was real, physical proof that something positive was happening.  Suddenly one day I noticed, holy cow, my fingernails are super long!  I never really had to trim them before because they constantly broke, but now I have to actually actively cut them or I start looking like catwoman.  And they're not just long; they're also very strong.  I used to be able to bend my thumbnails in half (when I had enough nail to bend, that is).  Now I try to do that and it's just too solid.  It doesn't budge.

I'm sure there are a lot of other little things I'm missing, but those are the ones that really stick out in my mind.   Plus, we've only been low-carb whole food for 8-9 months, and who knows what changes will continue to happen?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Man, I just can't concentrate tonight.  I have a large art commission to get finished, but I can only work on it for about five minutes at a time before my mind starts wandering and I find myself on google looking up things like "Marilyn Monroe's BMI" (about 20, by the way).  I couldn't even focus long enough to finish that sentence before going back to google, lol.

What's mostly on my mind tonight is an ad I saw today while flipping through RedBook.  I don't read many magazines anymore because I'm trying to divorce myself from the "everyone knows" type articles and the you-have-to-be-perfect-and-beautiful-all-the-time mentality that makes up practically every part of almost all the magazines I used to read.  I had to start throwing away my Shape magazines as soon as I got them because they were making me depressed (just eat less and  move more and you'll look like this supermodel!!!!!!!).  And don't even get me started on Cosmo.

The ad I saw in Redbook was for Slim-Fast.  Yes, Slim-Fast is annoying in general.  "Just drink our carbalicious drinks and then starve yourself and you'll lose weight!"  Don't you just want to kick them where it counts sometimes?  Yes, we all do.  But this ad is different.  And apparently, it's just part of a huge ad campaign.  The tv commercials, I hear, are really bad (NC-17, seriously).  But I'll stop rambling and just show you what caught my attention.  Click on it to read the small stuff.

Yeah, ok.  Who amongst us hasn't tried to lose weight because we kind of hated the way we looked when we were fat?  I know I have.  When I went on a low calorie diet, it was to look better because I hated the way my body looked.

The reason this ad bothers me so much is because it adds fuel to the self-loathing fire that most women (and men) live with.  No, it doesn't say, "Hey gals, you should hate your body so that you'll want to buy our product," but it does try to make you think that by losing a couple of pounds, maybe you'll get everything you want in life.  A sexy bikini body that will attract that hot guy you like who will love you so you don't have to love yourself.  It was almost scary to read what Ashley from Massachusetts said her real reason was...  To be the skinniest mom in her group.  Not just one of the skinniest, or the healthiest, or the strongest or even the prettiest, but the skinniest.  There's something wrong with this picture.

I don't think it's healthy for women to focus on skinny.  That's not what really matters, at the end of the day, because we're not all designed to be skinny like that.  Some of us are designed to be chunky, curvy, strong or big boned.  And there's nothing wrong with that.

My grandma lived to just shy of 103.  She wasn't a skinny woman.  She wasn't fat by any means, but she was big boned, thick, muscular, well built, even into her 100s.  She worked hard all her life raising 12 children, about half of that time working on a large farm and the other half working as a school lunch lady (back in the day when they made every meal from scratch).  She didn't get skinny until shortly before she died. 

I wish the media wouldn't focus so hard on weight.  It seems like practically everything said about a star is about their weight.  Look at how great she looks in a bikini (and here's how you can looks that great too!!).  OMG this celeb is skin and bones!!!  WOW this celeb is a beautiful plus size lady!  And that celeb lost all her baby weight in TWO DAYS!

Let's just stop with the weight thing already.  It's not as important as we make it out to be.  Yes, I think it's really cool when people celebrate plus sized stars, and I also think it's a needed wake up call when they point out how ridiculously skinny some celebs are, but I think spending that much time focusing on weight is dangerous.  Pretty soon, everyone is saying how losing weight is the only way to be happy, the only way to be healthy.  Instead, let's focus first on health and finding our body's natural balance.  If we're treating our bodies right, they'll get to the weight that we're supposed to be at.  That may mean we're very skinny, like my 6'5 175 pound bean pole husband.  Or that might mean we're chunky, like me, a curvy 5'7 185 pound girl. 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Frugal 101: Never Let Anything Go To Waste

There's an argument out there against the low carb/paleo lifestyle.  People read about it and ask, "How does anyone afford to eat that way?!".  There are a lot of people who totally dismiss that question, saying that low carb/paleo doesn't have to cost more, and heck, it can cost less because you're not buying all that junk food!

I really want to agree, because I think for some people, that's true.  If you buy ice cream, chips, cookies, cakes, granola bars, and expensive breakfast cereals, yes, you're going to save a ton of money by cutting that junk out and replacing it with real food.  Even if you're eating "healthy" by eating lots of cereal, oatmeal, pasta, bread, soy milk, and faux butter, you'll still save quite a bit of money by going low carb. 

But my history is different, and I suspect I'm not alone.  When Chad and I decided to try low carb, I was a low calorie vegetarian.  We didn't eat pasta very often, we ate only small amounts of breakfast cereal, we ate lots of vegetables and fruit, and Chad only ate meat once in a while (mostly on his sandwiches).  There was lots of beans, rice, and tofu in our meals, and those things are pretty cheap.  We hardly ever had crackers, cookies, chips, or any other junk food at that point.  I was very frugal because we're on a set budget and I had to make whatever we buy on the weekend last us through the whole week.

So when we suddenly started buying large quantities of meat, eggs, cream, cheese, nuts, olive oil, and more veggies than usual, I was a little bit horrified by how much money we were spending.  There were times where we had to decide between getting nuts or laundry soap.  I managed to get our budget under control by cutting out almost all impulse buys and unnecessary purchases (we don't need dark chocolate, afterall), buying in bulk whenever possible, and making our own stuff as much as possible. 

But another way that I've managed to stretch our budget is by never letting anything go to waste, at least if I can help it.  This requires a little bit of planning, but it's so worth while.  Like, save your bones to make bone broth, which is very good for you.  Or if you find your cheese has gone moldy, just cut the mold off because the rest is still good to eat.  I used to save all my vegetable peels and trimmings to add to my bone broth, but now I compost them.  Buy pieces of meat that that are a little tougher and therefore cheaper, like center cut shank or pork shoulder, or for chicken, pieces that are a little harder to cook, like bone-in thighs (omg so good).  Little things like that can really add up.

What really inspired me to write this, though, was onions.  It's spring here in the wet little city I live in, and my Egyptian walking onions are really sending up stalks.  These are cool plants.  My friend gave me some sets a few years back, and every year, they produce brand new sets on the end of their tall stalks, essentially giving me free onions for as long as I plant them. 

On the left are the small sets I planted last fall, and on the right are the onions planted in 2011 that I left in the ground to overwinter last year.  The overwintered onions look pretty sparse because I went through and cut almost all the beautiful green leaves off.

Because in the spring, Egyptian onions make wonderful green onions.  But it doesn't last long.  My onions are already sending up the stalks that contain their topsets, and once that opens, the greens won't be good for eating anymore.  So I cut all the leaves I felt comfortable taking, cut them up with scissors, and stuck them in the freezer to air freeze.  Once frozen, I threw them in a bag and will use them as I need them.  I think they last for something like three months.

The key to being frugal is taking advantage of all the resources you have available to you.  Maybe cutting up my onion leaves only saved me a couple of dollars, but if I do that sort of thing consistently, it might mean not having to choose between nuts and laundry soap, or buying grass fed beef instead of grain fed.

I also decided to give my chives a haircut, since I was out there anyway.

I checked, and chives are also great frozen, so I snipped them into usable pieces and stuck them in the freezer with the green onions.

 Chad was kind of shocked and horrified (as most Americans would be), but I also decided to do a little bit of foraging....

And picked this bowl of beautiful dandelion greens that were growing under my raspberry canes. I'll post more on that adventure later.

Another way I save money is by composting.  Technically, this doesn't add anything to the food bill, but I use my compost to feed my vegetables and fruit plants, which of course do contribute to our food bill.  Good compost does so much for your plants, and plus, it helps tie you back into the circle of life.  Life leads to death leads to life.  How magical is it to turn your old vegetable scraps into new beautiful vegetables?

My nifty OXO counter top compost bin:

And my nifty back yard compost pile.  I tried lots of compost methods/containers before deciding  this was the best design.  The best part was that it only cost me $10 to build. 

So that was a lot of rambling just to say, make the most of what you've got.  Don't worry if you're not eating "perfectly".  Eat the best you can, use whatever you have as well as you can, never let anything go into the garbage that can feed someone (you, an animal, a plant), and make sure to only buy what you need.  And don't be afraid to eat something that other people think is weird! 

Thursday, May 9, 2013


I've been meaning to write a new blog post recently, but I've just been too sad to.  I've been too sad to do much of anything, to be honest.  I feel so hollow inside, and most everything seems pointless when those feelings take over. 

You see, it was one year ago that Chad and I started trying for a baby.  We did technically take one month off in December; we decided another September baby in the family would be a bad idea.  Still, being back in the month of May without a baby in my arms or my belly makes me very sad, and I can't help feeling like I've messed up. 

We seriously changed our diets about the end of September or the beginning of October.  Before then, we were still eating wheat, legumes, potatoes, soy, seitan, with the once a week sugar splurge.  We're not perfect now, but our diets are certainly much more natural.  I thought it would only take a couple of months of eating this way to help us conceive.  That's what I'd read, anyway.

But it's been six or seven months, and we're still babyless.  It almost makes we want to give up trying to eat healthy natural foods completely and just go back to the junk I grew up on.  Comforting junk.  What's the point, after all, if it doesn't help me get what I want the most? 

Sigh.  But I guess I need to be patient.  I malnourished my body for 14 years as a vegetarian, and for a year and a half or two years, I was a low-calorie dieting vegetarian, which I bet was even more stressful for my body.  My body probably just needs time to fully heal.  And maybe Chad's does too.  My cycles have been changing since I started eating better.  Last month was the very first month of testing that I managed to get a true positive on an ovulation test.  Before, I would just get a near positive.  Actually, when I first started testing, I would only get a line that was half as dark as the control line.  And in case you didn't know, to be a true positive, the test line has to be as dark or darker than the control line. 

I've been improving in other ways, too, but I won't go into those.  Most people don't appreciate the details of a woman's cycle.

It's just so hard to stay positive after a year of waiting. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

We bought a cow!

Chad and I are very orderly people.  Or I guess the truth is that I'm a very orderly person and Chad is easy to persuade.  We have a monthly budget and we divide our money up into nice little groups.  Bills, savings, groceries, and we even give ourselves a set allowance so we don't spend more money than we have.  Up until very recently, we didn't have a single dime of debt (but we also found out that having no debt means you have no credit should you ever need it, so we decided to bite the bullet and get a car loan instead of buying it outright).  It's a very neat little system and it makes me feel very secure about our money.  The last thing I ever want to do is spend more than we have.  The motto in our house is "Use it up, wear it out; make it do, or do without," and we truly live by that. 

But then once in a while, we go mildly crazy and buy something big that we weren't planning on and hadn't saved up for.  It's like feel the need to sneak out and be totally bad once in a while.  This time, we bought.... wait for it....  a CHEST FREEZER!  *gasp*

I had actually been eyeballing a Ninja blender/food processor in Sam's Club (which I've been wanting forever but can't find the justification to actually buy), when Chad happened to spot this beauty behind us.  It's a 7 cubic foot GE freezer with a really snazzy lock.  I guess the lock is to keep neighbors from coming over and stealing your ice cream.

Once we managed to get id into the car and then down our steep, narrow old basement stairs, turned it on and saw that it works, Chad asked, "now what are we going to put in it?"  Lol.

I have big dreams of one day owning a mini-farm, with orchards, a large garden, some laying chickens, and a couple small cows or goats.  Unfortunately, we're currently living on 0.1 acre in a town that doesn't let you have livestock on your land.  I have a decent sized garden out back, but I'd have to be pretty full of myself to think I could fill that cooler with all my produce.

So I looked around the tubes to see what it had to offer.  Local Harvest is a pretty cool website, and offered me up a lot more farms than I knew we even had around here.  It's funny how you can live so close to something and not even know it's there.  But we're city folk; how would we ever get in contact with farmers without the internet?  And I don't want to hear anyone saying, "Oh gee, I don't know...  maybe talking to people?"

I did managed to find a handful of local farms selling pastured chickens, organic pork, and grass-fed cows.  We decided against ordering pastured chickens for now.  Our local Wegmans store sells organic, pastured chickens raised on kind of local Amish farms for an awesome $3.50 a pound.  We may order some local birds from a farmer next year, but for now, we decided just to go for something that's harder to get in the store.

Wegmans grass-fed beef is outrageous.  It starts at $6 a pound or so for ground, and goes up to $14 a pound for sirloin, and don't even think about the $24 a pound tenderloin steak.  We try really hard to buy good quality food, but organic grass-fed/pastured meats are just too much for us.  We can't afford that.  So my goal was to find some beef we could buy, hopefully cheaper than the store would sell it to us for.

And I did!  The first farm I found had so much demand, that they already sold all of their 2013 cows and had most of their 2014 cows sold!  Their beef was the cheapest at $3.50 a pound for a half cow, but it was only grass finished and not grass-fed.  Fortunately, I found an even closer farm selling completely grass-fed cows, who pasture on certified organic pastures, for $4.50 a pound for a half cow, and that includes the butcher fee!

So I hopped on it.  We most certainly weren't planning on buying a cow right away, but I know this will save us money in the long run.  We ended up buying a quarter of a devon cow, which is a small breed, and the farmer said that after processing, we'll have between 100 and 130 pounds of meat.  I figured it out that that means we'll be spending around $5-6 a pound, and that doesn't include any of the bones or the fat which I plan on asking for.

Now I'm all freaking out because I have no idea what to say to the butcher when he calls in July to ask how we want our quarter cut up.  I was a vegetarian for most of my life!  All I know about cows is that you get hamburger and steaks from them.  "Yeah...  um....  can you cut it into...  steaks?  Oh and can I have the liver?  I think cows have livers." 

I'll let you know how it goes in July!  I kind of wish we could go out and meet our cow, but something tells me I'd feel really terrible if I did.  I need more time to adjust to being a meat eater still. 

Friday, May 3, 2013

The nature connection

Nature is beautiful.  I just love spring, because I get to be outside again after a long winter away from my beloved mother earth.  It's not that I can't go out in winter; I certainly could go shovel snow, or go snow shoeing, or just go for walks.  But c'mon...  who, in their right mind, actually enjoys being outside in 5 degree weather, with whipping winds, four feet of snow on the ground, and where it's not snowy it's a sheet of solid ice just asking to be slipped on?  Besides kids, of course.

So when spring comes, and I mean really actually shows up (we don't get real live spring until at least the end of April, sometimes May), I like to spend as much time outside as I possibly can, doing whatever I can think to do.

Like hanging laundry out to dry.

Checking the garden (it looks much different now, just a week later).

Turning my compost.

Picking some overwintered greens... add to some homemade soup.

And opening the front door so the cat can bask in the sunshine that spills through the storm door.

I think spending time in nature is important for everyone, no matter where you live or what kind of life you lead.  It keeps you grounded, it calms you, and it heals your heart.  There have been studies about this sort of thing, but it's late and I'm lazy.  I just thought I'd share a little bit of nature with you, and maybe inspire you to get outside and enjoy whatever nature you have access to.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

An Email to Tom Naughton

In case I haven't mentioned it, I'm a huge fan of Tom Naughton.  He has an awesome documentary called Fat Head out there that literally changed our lives, and he also writes regularly on his Fat Head blog about low carb science.  What I love about Tom is that he doesn't just tell you that LOW-CARB WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE!!!!!  He goes through the science and helps you understand why it's a good idea and what you could gain from cutting out grains and sugar. 

Since the first time I watched the Fat Head movie was about a year ago, I decided it was about time I write to Tom and tell him how he's affected my life.  Since I got a little rambly, and it describes my history, I thought I may as well post the email here.  Hopefully my story will help someone else take up low-carb eating.


Hey there Tom! 

I've emailed you in the past, but usually just to ask questions or make comments about news stories.  But today, I figured it was time I sat down and told you how you've changed at least four more lives.  I hope you'll bear with me.  I tend to ramble.

I didn't have the best upbringing.  My mom was a single mom, worked, was going to school, dealt with my older sister who was probably the worst problem child you could ever have (she kept running away, stealing, and got pregnant at 12).  Mom drank a lot and sometimes used drugs, and was severely depressed at least at one time.  Needless to say, we didn't eat very well back then.  I remember a lot of easy stuff, like frozen meals, spaghetti, pizza, and lots of chips, cookies, and candy. 

I think partially because my only friends at that time were my cats and guinea pigs, I decided to become a vegetarian at the age of 14.  I honestly can't remember what my thought process was, or what spurred me on to make that decision.  My mom didn't protest really.  Since I was already chubby at that age, I bet she thought it would help me lose weight.  When I told my pediatrician, she was pretty upset (this is the only doctor who ever questioned my vegetarianism, but I was a kid so I didn't listen to her).  She asked me where I was planning on getting my protein from, and being 14, I told her I ate lots of peanut butter. 

It was that year that my health and my life started taking a pretty nasty turn for the worse.  Since my mom didn't have the time or patience to cook separate vegetarian meals, I mostly just ate around what she made for herself.  If she made mashed potatoes with chicken gravy, I would eat just mashed potatoes for dinner.  If she made a sweet and sour stir fry with chicken and rice, I would eat the few vegetables I liked (which wasn't many back then) with rice and lots of sweet and sour sauce.  I ate cereal for breakfast.  Lots and lots of cereal.  Sometimes two huge bowls at a time.  I ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch.  And don't forget all those chips, cookies, and candy I was still eating, because they're vegetarian.

About a year later (right before my 15th birthday), I had to have my gall bladder removed.  No ifs, ands, or buts.  No one asked if I wanted it done.  No one offered alternatives.  No one even told me what causes gall stones.  I didn't find out what causes gall stones until just last year, and when I found out, I was pretty mad.  You know what causes gall stones?  Not using your gall bladder (i.e. low-fat diets). 

That was also when I started to really pack on the weight.  I was already big to begin with.  I was a large child; tall for my age, with huge feet and big broad shoulders.  I was just big all around.  But when I started eating vegetarian, I got really fat.  When I had my gall bladder removed, I was 200 pounds.  Two years later, I hit my peak of 275 pounds.  For a 17 year old 5'8 girl, that's a lot of weight to be carrying.

But it wasn't just the weight that was the problem.  I was severely depressed.  My hair was falling out.  I started growing hair where girls shouldn't be growing hair and my menstrual cycle would skip several months at a time (which I later found out was because I had developed PCOS).  I started turning away from the world, and at age 16, I dropped out of school.  Luckily I found my future husband around that time, and even though I was morbidly obese and not always fun to be around, he loved me and helped me fight off some of my depression.  Also being around him meant I wasn't eating out of loneliness so much, and we spent a lot of time out in nature, so that by the time we moved in together when I was 22, I had managed to get down to 230 pounds. 

Then a couple years later, I finally decided to try DIETING!  I found a website called Spark People that lets you track your calories and your exercise minutes.  I became instantly addicted.  I spent literally hours a day on Spark People, reading the nutrition articles, chatting on the forums, and tracking my food.  But it wasn't fun.  I felt starved all the time.  Food was the only thing I thought about.  What I would eat, when I would eat it.  If I had 50 extra calories at the end of the day, I would plan out what small indulgence I could give myself (not much for 50 calories).  I persisted, though, and in five months, I managed to get down to 185 pounds. 

Then I got appendicitis.  Again, the doctors didn't give me an option.  No one offered me alternatives.  No one told me what causes appendicitis.  I was wheeled into the OR and had one of my organs taken from me.  It wasn't until last year that I found out that appendicitis is a "disease of civilization".  The worst part is, exactly one year later, my husband had his appendix removed too, and as the cook in our house, I know I did it to him and it makes me sick. 

The weight crept back on after that, a little at a time.  I would occasionally try low calorie dieting again, but it was almost impossible for me to stick with it.  Like I said before, I'm a big girl.  Even if I was skinny, I would be big.  My hips are big, my shoulders are big, my feet are big.  But BMI doesn't take that into consideration, and so to lose weight, I was told on Spark People to eat 1300 calories a day.  That's constant hunger. 

About a year ago, I was clicking around on Netflix when I saw your movie.  I was kind of intrigued, but a little hesitant to watch it because I just LOVED the movie Supersize Me and I didn't want to hear an opposing opinion.  But after a week or two, I finally gave in and watched it.  Holy cow.  It was so life changing.  I was like, really?  This is how it really works?  Why did I have to wait 27 years to hear it?  Why did I have to find this information in a documentary filmed by a comedian?  Why isn't this information being shouted out across the rooftops for everyone to hear it? 

I was excited about the life-changing information, but also skeptical.  I wanted to have my husband watch it, but I wasn't sure what he would think about it.  So I started just telling him some of the things you said in your film.  After about three days of constantly saying, "And something else he said in his movie..." my husband got annoyed and decided to watch the movie for himself.

I can't say we changed our diets instantly.  I think it was a couple of days before we really decided to try low carb eating.  I was still trying to be a vegetarian at that point, and since I'm the one who cooks, my husband was pretty much vegetarian himself as well.  I cooked lots of tofu, seitan (a meat substitute made from wheat gluten....seriously), and some beans.  We saw some improvements right away, but nothing huge.  After a couple of months, we started slacking off again, and almost completely went back to our old way of eating. 

Around last August or September, we decided, you know what?  If we're going to do this, we need to really do this right.  We cut out all wheat (except for the low carb wraps my husband uses in his lunch), all sugar, and I decided to give up my identity as a vegetarian.  The first steak I had was so glorious.  It was life changing.

Since then, things have really started changing at the speed of light.  For both of us, our energy has increased dramatically.  Our moods have really improved, too.  My husband used to get really depressed all the time, but now he's so chipper and full of energy when he gets home from work.  I have issues with SAD, and even though this winter was rough at times, it was no where near as dark or depressing as last winter.  My fingernails are strong and long for the first time in 14 years!  I used to always have fingernails that were thin, brittle, and would peel off in layers, but no more.  Even though it's gardening season, my fingernails are beautiful. 

The most amazing thing to me is the muscles we've both put on.  My husband was what you'd call skinnyfat all his life.  6'5, 195 pounds, with absolutely no muscle.  Even though I was a weak, depressed vegetarian, I was stronger than him.  Now, he's lean and muscular with like a runner's build.  He's almost completely lost his belly bulge and is starting to get some definition there instead. 

As for me, even though I hadn't lifted weights at all since becoming a low-carb exvegetarian, I put on a lot of muscle as well.  I can feel new bulges in my arms and legs, and I don't get winded as much when I'm lifting heavy things.  I thought all the "experts" said you can't gain muscle and lose weight at the same time!

My husband started at 195 and is now about 178.  Like I said, he's lost almost all of his flabby tummy and the flabbiness around his face and arms.  He looks awesome, and I know for a fact that he's eating more now than he did before.  He doesn't suffer from severe coldness much anymore, and if he does, he'll eat something really fatty and that helps him get warm again. 

I've only lost about ten pounds, taking me back down to 185.  But for me, it's not about the weight.  It's about my fingernails, my energy, my good mood, no longer having to eat ever two hours, no longer feeling obsessed about food, no longer having crippling wrist pain, or awful IBS, or tons of pimples.  It's about eating real whole food that makes me feel like a real whole person.  Besides, why do all women have to be stick thin?  I think round curvy women are beautiful.

We've been trying for a baby for the last year.  Sometimes I fear we'll never be able to conceive, but then I remind myself that my body is still healing from 14 years of malnutrition and carb-overload.  And it's all thanks to you, Tom.

I know this email has gone on forever already, but I also wanted to tell you that you've changed more lives than just mine and my husband's.  As we've improved and passed on info and shared books with our family and friends, they've been changing their diets, too.  My hubby's brother went low-carb and lost at least 20 pounds (probably more by now).  My mom's low-carb and has lost 11 pounds and isn't taking her blood pressure meds anymore.  My sister, who looks pregnant because she's so fat, is seriously thinking about going low-carb.  And even my mother-in-law, who is a complete and total carbivore, has cut out potatoes and pasta, and limits her sweets.  Doesn't that make you feel like a rock star?

Thanks again for all that you do.  I hope you keep spreading the word.  I know I will!
-Julie D