Making every bite count

05 January 2008

New year, fresh start

A nutrition primer to start the year, from the San Francisco Chronicle.
I feel pretty good about my eating lately. I must confess that I ate a chocolate chip cookie from Starbucks yesterday, and I seriously thought I was going to be ill about an hour later. My body was unhappy with the refined sugar overload. 450 calories and 22 grams of fat. And you know that I ate the entire thing!
During the holidays I was much crankier and stressed, and I think it was because of my diet. A slice of cheesecake here, two truffles there, a second serving of cake.
Fred and I have set weight-loss goals: He wants to lose 20 pounds, and I want to lsoe 10 by April 12, our anniversary. (I honestly think I need to lose about 15. I think my scale is off; it says 155 now, but I think it's closer to 160. The goal is 145.)
I'm playing broomball on Mondays (likely will just be sitting the bench and falling down -- not counting on any weight loss there), so I've had to rearrange my yoga schedule. I'm taking $110 of my Christmas money to buy a 10-class yoga card. I go once a week, ideally.
I'm going to put myself on a schedule so it's easier for me to stick to my fitness plan. I'm also putting myself on a budget, so that should prevent us from going out to eat. We're trying to cut back on the spontaneous lunches out and lazy dinners in. We've significantly cut back on the amount of alcohol we drink. We try not to drink just because we can, though this week I had two glasses of white wine at One World Wednesday and two glasses of red at Via Vite.
We're not drinking wine with dinner "just because" and not drinking as much when we go out. I've also set three food goals for the year:
  1. reduce and ultimately eliminate all nonorganic dairy from my diet. It's challenging because the Kroger near my house is horrible. There is no organic dairy (aside from perhaps some HFCS-sweetened yogurt and milk, neither of which I consume.)
  2. eliminate all high fructose corn syrup from my diet. No exceptions. If in doubt, I won't eat it. With a name like "high fructose corn syrup," how can it possibly be good for you?
  3. avoid overly processed soy. Often, vegetarians replace one junk food with another. Ex: hamburgers for veggie burgers*, chicken nuggets for the chik'n variety, bacon (I do miss the flavor of bacon from time to time, I'll admit) for soy bacon. I'd rather eat real, whole foods. Soy dairy is easier on my tummy than real dairy, but soy cheese is not very good. I drink soy and other types of milk, but I'm considering switching to unsweetened rice or hemp milk. (*Read the ingredients on the back of your veggie burger. Some of them are chock full of chemicals and nasty additives. Others are full of real vegetables, legumes, etc. I'll still eat the latter.)

I've made some real strides with my diet in the last year. It hasn't been about weight loss, but about kindness for creatures, the environment and my body. I feel better, I haven't been sick as much as I was before, and my skin looks great. Here are som explanations about my diet, because I'm often asked what I eat and don't eat and why.

  • I struggled with bulimia for about a decade. It was quite serious in high school, and I recovered for a while in college. But recovery in college meant shoving in junk food without thinking about the consequences. I never exercised because when I was anorexic and bulimic, people worried I would overexercise to lose more weight. I've always been a bookworm and never played sports. I realized last night that, aside from more hangovers than were necessary, I haven't vomited in more than six months. That is the longest stretch of recovery since I was 18.
  • I don't eat meat (chicken, beef, pork, etc.) in any form, even in broth form, and I haven't since April. This summer, when hungover and making breakfast for Fred and me, I ate a bite of breakfast sausage. My body went into shock and an hour later, I was shaking, sweating profusely and vomiting. Bad idea. Vegetarians lose the ability to digest meat, though it will return after eating meat regularly. Needless to say, returning to eating meat is not fun for vegetarians.
  • I don't eat much dairy. I eat organic low-fat yogurt (never fat-free dairy. Contrary to what you've heard, fat-free dairy is not good for you. Read the ingredients. Or -- better yet -- taste that junk! Fat-free cream cheese has a dry taste that's like eating paste. Fat-free mozzarella doesn't melt and is useless. When I eat dairy, it's to satisfy a craving. Fat-free just won't do. I eat goat cheese, but I try to avoid cow's milk cheese. Again, it's easier on my tummy. I can't really eat ice cream or drink milk, because it kills my stomach.
  • I don't eat any plain pasta or bread. I am a big fan of Ezekiel sprouted grain bread. Sprouted grains have been soaked, and their outer shell cracked so it's easier to digest. Last night, at the awful run-down Kroger in Covington, I noticed that whole wheat and enriched pasta now take up as much space as the regular pasta. Sales of products containing whole grains are on the rise. And the number of products containing whole grains are rising, too.
  • I eat fish, but I'm picky about which fish I eat. I won't eat swordfish, sea bass (the Patagonian toothfish, as it was known pre-PR campaign), tuna (OK, I sometimes eat tuna) and others. I check this list quite often, and think before I buy. Because I don't eat fish very often, I can afford to buy better fish when I do. I love mackerel, both fresh and canned, along with sardines and anchovies. They're salty and rich and add a lot of flavor. They're quite good for you. Some day, I'd love to be able to become vegan, but I'm not at that point in my life yet. I'm not sure I ever will be, and that's OK.
  • My taste buds have changed. I used to crave junk food as much as the next person, but I can't stomach overly processed foods these days. I eat a pretty high fiber diet, and processed food is really hard on your body. It just sticks to your intestines and stays there. It's gross, I know, but you should really pay attention to fiber intake.

I'm very fortunate to be in a financial situation that allows me to choose organic produce, bread that doesn't contain HFCS and whole grains. I mentor a preteen whose family is on public assistance. To her, and so many other Americans, eating right is just too expensive. The good news is that WIC now offers vouchers for healthier foods and has reduced the allocations for full-fat dairy and fruit juice. There is also, I have just learned, a farmers market program for WIC recipients.
When my brother and sister were young, even when my mom was married, she didn't make much money. Certainly not enough to raise four children -- two preteens and two infants. She was on public assistance when I was in junior high and high school, to supplement the income she earned as a secretary, then briefly as a police officer, then as a waitress and bartender. We ate a fairly healthy diet, but it was quite heavy on dairy, mostly because of the vouchers for cheese. I'm grateful for my family that we had that assistance, though I lived with my father during most of that time and was quite ashamed of the help my mother needed.
So many people just don't see the need for vegetables and fruits. I'm guessing these are the same people you encounter during the day who are cranky and irritable. You are what you eat.
(Is anyone still reading? This is quite a tome!)
My goal is to enroll in nutrition classes by next year and become a registered dietitian. Ideally, I'd earn a master's in nutrition, but that will take years because of the prerequisites that I need to complete. But this is my life's passion. I see myself as a missionary for health and nutrition. Even turning one person on to one new healthy food is a small success.


At 05 January, 2008 14:03 , Blogger Kelly said...

Thanks for sharing all this, Stepfanie. It can't be easy talking about having an eating disorder; I know someone who, decades removed from bulimia, still had trouble admitting that it was a problem.

You said that you never really exercised much - is that still the case? Perhaps you want to make an exercise goal for 2008 too!

For the past two years, I've run the 5K Strides of March Carrot Run to benefit the Greater Cincinnati Nutrition Council (right up your alley!). It's a small race compared to, say, the Heart Mini, but it's charming - there's a person in a carrot suit cheering you on, and afterward you get to eat vegetarian soups, which they give you the recipe for, in addition to the usual bananas and bottled water. And of course, you don't have to run - they offer the race as a walk too. Let me know if you'd like to try it out!

(Listen to me, the running evangelical. You'd never know that three years ago I absolutely despised running.)

At 05 January, 2008 19:57 , Blogger Stepfanie said...

Thanks to you, Kelly! I do exercise but not regularly. I need to set an exercise goal. That 5k sounds like it would be perfect for me. Two months is enough time, and it's the perfect cause for me. You have inspired me! Now all I need to do is start running!

At 07 January, 2008 01:24 , Anonymous Jenny said...

Stepfanie, you might think about goat milk ice cream from Laloo's. I was reading your blog because I also have the dairy cravings but want to be healthier this year. Laloo's has amazing indulgent flavors so you can feel satisfied but only half the fat of regular ice cream and is easy on the stomache because it is 100% goat's milk. Laloo's also has frozen yogurt which is even better because of the live active cultures. I am walking proof it is good and good for you. Last year I had a baby and even having ice cream every day and lots of goat milk frozen yogurt smoothies (to keep my breast milk healthy for baby) I have lost all that baby weight!

At 10 January, 2008 20:08 , Blogger srr said...

jenny, i'll definitely check it out. I LOVE goat cheese and goat milk yogurt!


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