Amy After

Tips, motivation & advice for a gluten-free lifestyle

April 2010 archive

I Have Issues

There are two types of people. Those who can handle any food in moderation and those who just can’t. Learning which one you are is the most important part of the battle to achieve your ideal weight. I love the idea that I could eat a bite or two of whatever food I’m craving and then move on, no worse for wear. This is the best approach for those who are unhealthy or overweight because of falling into bad habits or because of a lack of nutritional knowledge. Bethenny Frankel focuses on this principle in her book Naturally Thin and in the audiobook The Skinnygirl Rules. Her motto is, “Taste everything, eat nothing.”

My very favorite portion control book is French Women Don’t Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano. She describes beautifully the art of making each meal really special. The presentation can make even a lone apple seem decadent.  Mireille stresses the importance of eating the very highest quality food obtainable. Buy the freshest with the least processed ingredients. I think we all know by now that we really are what we eat, so do you really want to eat cheap, over processed garbage?

Using the best ingredients is absolutely worth it, skimp on something else. This approach is about getting maximum enjoyment out of small, wonderful and satisfying servings of food. Deny yourself nothing. You won’t get fat from one bite of cake.
Now, there is the second type of person. I am included this group.We struggle with our weight because we get so much darned pleasure from eating. If a little tastes good… There is no way on earth you could put a plate of french fries in front of me and ask me to eat just one fry. I know there are people who can do such a thing, I’ve even seen these mythical creatures and I am in awe of them. I just can’t relate to this behavior. Eat one broccoli floret? I can do that. Eat two bites of beans and save the rest for later? No problem! But if I feel much too excited about eating a certain food, I can’t even have it in the house. I had to accept the fact that I simply can not handle certain foods in moderation.

I’ve been seeing Jeff Garlin (comedian best known from Curb Your Enthusiasm) on T.V. a lot lately promoting his book called My Footprint. He says that he lost his weight by treating unhealthy foods such as fast food like an alcoholic treats alcohol. It’s all or nothing and like me, he must completely abstain. I haven’t read the book yet but I love the message he is spreading because I suspect much of our overweight population has similar issues.

In which group are you? Can you satisfy  a craving by simply taking a bite or two and walking away. Or do you have a deeper emotional connection to food? If you aren’t sure then ask your family and close friends as they may have a clearer picture of your behavior than you.

Weight Loss Books

A few of my favorite health & weight loss books:

The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone. I love Alicia, she is so beautiful and caring. In her book she talks about how to eat more cleanly and all the beautiful and healthy side effects, if you will, of such a lifestyle.

The Kind Diet: A Simple Guide to Feeling Great, Losing Weight, and Saving the Planet

Skinny Bitch by Rory Freedman & Kim Barnouin. Reading this book literally changed my life. These authors don’t mince words (obviously) and their candid take on how disgusting much of our mainstream food can be is refreshing to me. The day I read the chapter describing what animals endure in order to get onto my plate was the day I bid eating them adieu.

The Hip Chick’s Guide to Macrobiotics by Jessica Porter. I learned so much above and beyond the usual information when I started reading about macrobiotics. Even if you don’t eat completely macro you’ll pick up many tips on how to get so much more energy from what you’re eating. Very enlightening!

The Fat Fallacy by Dr. Will Clower. It’s been drilled into our heads that fat is the enemy. Nothing could be further from the truth. You just have to know which kinds of fat to eat.  There are some super delicious recipes in this book as well.

The Tracy Anderson Method

As I am getting closer to my weight loss goal, (30 lbs left to lose) it is obvious that I need to increase my activity level – a lot. I was losing about 2-3 lbs per week and now have to fight to get rid of 1lb a week. I’d love to begin jogging as the “runners high” sounds pretty great, but my knees have voted “no” on that one. I’ve decided to try the Tracy Anderson Method of exercising as an experiment to see if I can kick my weight loss into high gear. For those who don’t know, Tracy Anderson is a trainer to several celebrities, such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Courtney Cox and Emily Blunt, who attribute their fabulous physiques to Tracy’s method.

The Method instructs you to exercise each morning and each night, six days per week. One of the workouts is primarily toning and the other is all cardio. She does sell a few videos and has webisodes which you can use exclusively. Up until now I’ve done one workout per day, six days per week which was almost all cardio. I’ve been very bad because I’ve ignored my toning/strength training and don’t have good muscle tone. I cringe every time I remember that short sleeve weather will be here soon. Since Tracy is all about working every muscle and not just the major ones she promises extraordinary results.

Well, I’m about to put those promises to the test. I’ve just ordered her newest videos which I’ll alternate with her original ones I already have. At least I’ll try to do the cardio as the last time I attempted it, I practically wound up a tangled broken heap on the floor. Yes, it is that tough and that complicated. We’ll see, I may keep my nightly cardio the same for now with a mix and match of biking, elliptical, treadmill, hula hoop and stairs. I’m beginning this morning with the mat DVD for my toning and then I’ll go to the gym this afternoon for cardio.

I have great expectations (grandiose?) for what doubling my number of workouts will do for me. If I’m having to get up at 5:00a.m to tone then my results better damn well be spectacular!

Are You In the Zone?

For as long as we keep ourselves physically healthy our bodies are able to process sweets and carbohydrates easily. Eating a hefty portion of pasta or slice (or two) of pie causes us no noticeable trouble. However, once we abuse that privilege for long enough, we can lose it forever.

While in my early twenties I noticed that after eating those kinds of things my blood sugar would plummet. That made me feel anxious, angry, shaky, dizzy and confused. I would panic and grab any kind of food I could just to make that awful feeling go away. When someone has hypoglycemia their insulin levels fluctuate wildly in response to sugar or simple carbs. First it soars and then drops dangerously low. Each time we eat sugar (in whatever form) our system is flooded with insulin. If we eat sugar too often then our bodies release insulin in huge quantities and we become insulin resistant, meaning our bodies don’t recognize that the insulin is there anymore. So it sends out signals that it needs more and more. The pancreas then tries to comply and makes as much as it can. If this continues long enough the pancreas wears out and just can’t make insulin any longer and we become a type 2 (adult onset) diabetic. This explains why many diabetics must give themselves insulin injections.

This process is extraordinarily complex but the basic principles are really quite simple. Just because someone has hypoglycemia doesn’t mean they’re destined to become diabetic – if the correct changes are made. The body is an amazing creation – better, smarter and more powerful than anything that could ever be created in a lab. If we give our bodies even some of what it needs, it can correct many imbalances on it’s own. Your body’s natural state is good health. That is what it will naturally gravitate toward. Only when we abuse ourselves does the body become unable to cope and begins to break down.

Thankfully I stumbled across Dr. Barry Sears’ Zone books. His books taught me how to eat so that I could completely avoid the blood sugar roller coaster. To keep blood sugar steady, make sure each meal or snack consists of protein, carbohydrates and fat. Back in the days when my blood sugar would tank regularly I found that grabbing a sandwich normalized me the best. If you think about it, a sandwich usually consists of meat (protein), bread (carbs) and mayo (fat).

I began making it a point to eat in the zone at each meal. Now I never eat fruit by itself, for instance. Mixing fruit with yogurt is okay though because protein and fat are introduced. Once you do this enough, it becomes second nature. The other major key in keeping blood sugar stable is eating regularly. Don’t try to go seven hours between breakfast and lunch, for example. Even a zone meal can only hold you for so long.

The best part of keeping your blood sugar in “the zone” is that you feel a difference immediately. You have the power to stop blood sugar fluctuations and all of the eventual disease that develops as a result in it’s tracks. Now that is exciting!

Holy Invisibility, Batman! or What It’s Like to Be Completely Invisible

I lived for many years as a super-sized member of society. I do use the term “member” loosely. I functioned just as all the people around me; I worked, I traveled, I shopped, I parented and yet I lived always on the fringe. Where ever I went I felt as though I was wearing my invisibility cloak. In stores or at events everyone avoided eye contact. Their motivation may have been so as not to stare, they would politely look away. From my perspective – being politely looked away from for more than a decade begins to take a toll. Up until my very early twenties I had been a normal size so it was painfully obvious that the new role I was given among society was not normal and felt very foreign and painful.  It is like when a thin attractive person puts on a fat suit and films others’ reactions with and without the suit.  We’re clearly not dealing with a level playing field here. I lived inside my own Gotham City which was cold and dark. I do have to admit that my invisibility was both a curse and a blessing. It made maneuvering through life very lonely but it also served as a form of protection. Living behind the cloak became my safe place. If no one was seeing or acknowledging me then they couldn’t be judging me either, right?

I did have some family members, coworkers and friends who never treated me differently and they will always be near and dear to me for that. But for every one of them there were a dozen others who were embarrassed to be seen with me or stopped associating with me as if my heft was contagious. The cruelty we humans are capable of directing toward those who are different is astonishing.

As the majority of my extra weight came off, I began to notice a marked change in the behavior of almost everyone around me. I was stunned when men began holding doors open for me. I was accustomed to them letting the door shut in my face. I still am surprised when a cashier or waiter actually makes eye contact. While walking down grocery isles, other women will smile at me and nod as they pass by. My first instinct is to assume they are looking at someone behind me but then I realize that my cloak is gone.

I am now visible and treated as part of the group I haven’t been welcomed into for so long. With a flip of a switch my Gotham City has turned into Pleasantville. The flowers are blooming, the faces are smiling and helpful hands are reaching out to me from all directions. It’s warm here and feels nice.

I want this observation to serve as a source of hope to those who are still on the outside looking in. When you overcome the obstacles standing in your way the world will open up to you. It is also my wish that we all look beyond our social prejudices and try to see the very real person hiding behind their cloak.

Public Enemy #1

Pretend that I’ve just handed you a box which contains a frozen dinner and asked you to tell me if you thought that it would be a healthy thing to eat. How would you determine the answer to that question? Which information on the box would be most helpful to you?

The calorie count?

The fat content?

The number of carbs?

If you answered yes to any of those then you are a victim of America’s public enemy #1 – processed food. You were hoping for something more sinister? I know,  “processed food” sounds so harmless. Nothing is scarier than a carb, right? I’ll tell you what sinister really is; let me direct you to the ingredient list. The sooner those of us living in our developed western culture learn to read the actual ingredient list the better off we’ll all be.

Have you ever wondered what those words you can’t pronounce on the packages of the food you eat really mean? This is a topic that we can explore in great depth as there are many layers but lets keep it simple for now. If you can’t recognize or pronounce an ingredient in your food, you shouldn’t be eating it. If a substance is created in a laboratory then your body will not recognize it and can’t process it as a source of nutrition. These chemicals and “nutrients” created and manipulated in laboratories are seen by your body as foreign bodies. The toxins are stored in your organs and fat cells. The body tries to deal with these unknown substances by compartmentalizing them but after so many years it can no longer protect you from the effects. You’ll develop symptoms normally believed to be linked with aging and normal deterioration.  Stiff joints, aches, allergies, memory problems, Parkinsons, Multiple Sclerosis, and cancer can be evidence of filling our bodies with these foreign substances.

Additives and preservatives are in processed foods in order to keep them on the shelves for years. Food that never goes bad equals maximum profits for the manufacturers. Foods are “enriched” because they were stripped of all original nutrients to begin with so cheap fake ones are added to the finished product to make the nutrient values seem acceptable. None of this is done with our well being in mind. We absolutely can’t keep letting it be the corporations’ job to make sure our family’s health and vitality is safe guarded. That is our responsibility. I invite you to start learning what you are really putting in your body.

Pay extra close attention to the foods manufactured for children. Your kids are dazzled by the commercials, bright packaging and characters on the boxes but I am begging parents to look past all of that and investigate the actual contents of this stuff your child wants so badly. I can’t tell you how many battles my son and I had in the grocery isles over this. I know how hard it is to stay strong through the tantrums  but know that you are acting in their best interest.

If you’d like to learn more – I have a book that is a must read. This is one of the first books I read when I began my studies in nutrition. If I had to name one source that has had the most impact on me this one is it.

Excitotoxins – The Taste That Kills by Russel Blaylock

da Vinci Knows Best

“Gluttony, sleep and idleness in bed have banished every virtue from the world. So that our bewildered nature is almost overcome by debauchery. Henceforth, it would be well to rouse yourself from sleep, the Master said, because lying down will not bring thee to Fame; nor staying beneath the covers. He who, without Fame, burns his life to waste, leaves no more vestige of himself on earth than wind-blown smoke or the foam upon the sea.”

Leonardo da Vinci

Isn’t it funny that da Vinci was complaining about how lazy people were in his day? And that was 500 years ago! I guess it is just our nature to veg out. There is no escaping it. It is just fun to flop into bed or onto the couch and space out watching T.V.

We all have goals and dreams that we want to achieve.  If only there was more time, if we had more energy, or less demands being placed on us.              Sigh…

What do you want the most, right now? At this time in my life the thing I want most is to get my formerly neglected body into the best shape possible. As shedding 170lbs is quite an undertaking, I’ll just have to let becoming fluent in French and making my first million slide for a little while longer.

If you haven’t already – just observe the people in your life. This includes the people you come into contact with personally and those you feel you know because you follow them so closely through various media (not judging, just saying). Compare the behavior of the Haves and the Have-nots. What do the people do who have what you want? Do they work consistently every single day, even when it’s hard? Do they sacrifice? Even though we like to believe that the wealthy, powerful, beautiful people have everything handed to them on a silver platter – I have yet to find one single example of that really being true.

In the morning while I’m still sleeping, Gwyneth Paltrow is putting in the first of her two daily workouts. In the evening while I’m draped across the bed in an altered state of consciousness, Tamara Mellon (founder of Jimmy Choo shoe empire) is still at the office burning the midnight oil (saw that on Oprah). I see pictures of these women at the parties hobnobbing with other rich beautiful celebrities and I want what they have.

So, I guess that is the puzzle each of us has to figure out on our own. What do we yearn for enough to be willing to challenge our human nature hard enough to get? Once you figure that out, find the people who are making it happen and do what they are doing. We all have to answer this question for ourselves, but we don’t have to do this alone. Another part of human nature is the desire to support and help our fellow man in our common journey.