Healthy Eating

Website 2.0…….. Liz 1.08.27.003.98

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I experienced series of unfortunate events recently, and the end result has been some weight gain. The weight gain could have been avoided, and while there are mitigating circumstances, I am choosing to avoid using those circumstances to excuse what has happened, and instead really learn from them so that I can be even better prepared for next time I encounter hurdles.

I wish!

A quick synopsis first: I came to DDP Yoga tipping the scales at 198 lbs. I quickly lost the weight and got down to 145 lbs and it then became time for the maintenance phase. Over the course of a year, my weight crept up by 10 lb. Then in the last month, I had a really bad cold that knocked me out of action for a couple of weeks. I was back in action for about a week before I cracked my rib, and I have been completely out of action ever since. Coupled with the holidays and my own shortcomings, the weight jumped by another 10 lbs, and that was all it took for me to do some real thinking about what has been going wrong, and I what I need to do to get back to where I should be!

Here’s What Happened:

1. Side-effects Of Medication.

In addition to many other things DDP Yoga enabled me to do, I was able to take up running. I achieved many things running (a full marathon, a wall of medals, a great sense of achievement), but I also achieved a nasty cluster of migraines which appear to have been caused by excessive exercise/electrolyte balance. I started taking amitriptyline which worked great for the migraines, but does have the nasty habit of making you gain weight. In addition to the straight-forward weight gain side-effect, the amitriptyline likely contributed to my gradual weight gain in a second way by increasing my resting and working heart rate. This increased heart rate gets interpreted by my heart rate monitor as more calories burned, thus allowing me to eat more that I probably should. Ideally, I would like to manage my electrolytes better and stop taking amitriptyline within the next year!

2. I’m Liz, And I’m A Compulsive Eater:

I am a food addict. There’s all sorts of interesting reasons as to why I ended up looking for love and fulfillment at the bottom of a candy wrapper, but the point is that I have no power over food. Other people can open a packet of gluten-free cookies, eat three with a cup of coffee, seal the packet up and put them back in the cabinet. I can’t. Stacey Morris can make any number of delicious 8 – 12 serving desserts, eat a single portion, and stick the rest in the fridge. I can’t. I am addicted to sugar and I am a compulsive over-eater, and in all likelihood I will have to actively keep that in check for the remainder of my life. In addition, the food supply is addictive by design. We are flooded with sugar and refined carbs that light up your brain in the same was cocaine does. It’s no accident that so many of us are overweight. While I adhered to the letter of the DDP Yoga nutrition program, I didn’t always adhere to the spirit. I replaced the Dairy and Gluten free junk I used to eat with all-natural, whole ingredient treats like raw, organic almond butter or Larabars, but I still ate way too much of it. I tricked myself into thinking I could have a packet of Larabars in the house, but the packet was always empty by the end of the day. A Larabar is great snack. A Larabar. One. Eight of them is not good for you and overloads your system with excess sugar, which gets turned into fat.

3. To Count Or Not To Count:

After a few month of maintaining, I decided to quit MyFitnessPal, and stick with healthy eating to maintain my weight. That has worked for a number of people such as Stacey Morris, but given my recent weight gain, both the slow crawl to 155, and the more recent rapid jump to 165, I think we can safely assume I need a more rigorous regimen. Between weight-gain from amitriptyline, my overeating and the effect of Leptin (thanks for nothing, Mother Nature), the lack of monitoring let small amounts of over-eating and self-denial creep in.

4. Not Sharing:

When I first started this journey, I shared every single fat-roll, failed forearm balance, or diet malfunction I had. That made the success all the more sweet, and it helped other people realize they could find success, even with personal shortcomings and minor failures and setbacks. However, since I became a nutritionist, a DDP Yoga instructor, and more visible within the DDP Yoga community, I found it harder and harder to share the weak moments and shortcomings. Who wants to take nutritional advice from a failure? This was of course a self-imposed hurdle. No one in the community would have judged me, and clients understand that fitness coaches and nutritionists are people too! The problem is that failure thrives in the dark. When I had the first episode of over-indulging, had I shared it, that would have been it. But I didn’t, and it became a weird mix of exciting and shameful. That triggers the next episode of over-eating, and the next, and the next. The other issue is that hiding your mistakes allows you to believe your own nonsense without reasoned input from your peers, such as “muscle weighs considerably more than fat” (it doesn’t).

FatMuscle

Here’s What I Am Going To Do:

1. Be Honest

I’m going to post my eating on MyFitnessPal every single day, regardless of what I eat. I am not going to be hiding my weight gain, my diet, my failures or successes any more. I will be much better about sharing either here, on YouTube or via Twitter. I will also be logging everything I eat, ill-advised or otherwise, in MyFitnessPal (no more mystery missing days!).

2. Be Mindful

I am going spend the next few months learning how to be more mindful about eating. These include but are not limited to: a brief meditation before eating any food (and more meditation in general), a large glass of water before food, all food on a plate, all plates at at table, no iPhones/computers while eating, fork down between bites. I will be implementing these bit-by-bit, and I am sure I will forget from time-to-time. That’s okay. This is a journey. I’ll be re-reading Mark Van Buren’s incredibly insightful book, Be Your Sh*tty Self to remind myself of the importance of mindfulness.

3. Stay Home

I have been eating take-out way too much recently. Even though I go to better restaurants than I did before, and keep within my vegan and GF food restrictions, eating at home will always be better where portion control, ingredient quality and calorie counting is concerned.

4. Be Consistent

I had been adjusting my food intake to match my calorie output. That worked for weight loss, but it didn’t work for healthy habit formation. My maintenance goal was about 1800 calories per day. If I ran for 30 minutes and burned 400 calories, that would allow me to eat 2200 calories (or an extra two Choco Boom Boom bars). Overtime, that turned into making exercise decisions based on knowing I had some Larabars at home that I may want to attack later, which in turn became a bad habit of overeating first and then exercising the excess of later. This ended up with me being used to having a huge calorie intake on a daily basis, and thus a rather quick weight gain as soon as I became sick or injured. I was talking with a friend who is also an overeater, but who has lost a lost a larger amount of weight than I did and has successfully kept the weight off. She eats roughly the same number of calories day in, day out regardless of what she has done for exercise. Obviously, when I am running full marathons, I may carb up in advance, but short of that, I will be following a more consistent approach with my diet.

5. Work With What’s Available

I routinely tell people who are experiencing injury to use the time to focus on nutrition. That’s great advice, so it boggles the mind as to why I typically use injury (or other impediment to exercise) as an excuse to fall off the nutritional wagon too! I am going to be side-lined for at least a couple of weeks with my stupid rib injury, so I will be using that time to really nail down good, healthy eating habits.

Here’s What I Am NOT Going To Do:

1. No reboots, Liz 2.0’s Or Do-overs

There’s only one me, there will only ever be one me. I don’t get to scrap the old one every time I make a mistake. I am stuck with myself for the rest of my life, and with all the scars, extra weight, and other reminders of where I have been and what I have done. And that’s a good thing. If I scrapped all the memories and lessons of my first time through the weight loss process, and pretended this was my day 1 again, I’d lose a massive opportunity to learn both what did work last time thought, and what didn’t worked. This is not a second weight loss journey. This is all part of my one and only weight loss journey.

Couldn’t have put it better myself!

2. No Taboos

I consider myself a gluten-free vegan, and avoiding foods that contain those things has become second nature to me. I am no longer tempted by Dairy Milk or Hershey’s, so that is not an issue. I am, however, struggling to be a sugar-free, gluten-free vegan, and I am extremely tempted to Choco Boom Boom bars, Larabars or Amy’s gluten free chocolate chip cookies! Instead of saying, “I will never eat gluten-free cookies again,” which invariably leads to me thinking of nothing but cookies, I instead will say, “I am avoiding them for now.” And when I reach my weight goal, I will buy a single Larabar rather than a bulk-purchase. For most people, the multipack is better value, because it costs less per bar, but that saving only works if you don’t eat the entire packet that day! In the meantime, I will be focusing on developing the habit of turning to cucumber, apples, celery or other whole foods for snack-time!

3. No Labels, No Bullying

I am a little heavier than I would like to be. I feel healthier when I am leaner, and I struggle with feelings of regret for having given into food addiction and squandering the weight goals I achieved. However, this is temporary. I will regain my weight goals. In the meantime, I will not be defined by the extra weight I am carrying in my midsection. I don’t like how I look right now as much as I liked how I looked at 140 lbs, so instead of spending hours staring at the mirror and beating myself up for what I don’t like, I will choose not to look in the mirror. And when I do, I will actively force myself to be positive and focus on things I do like. Similarly, I will not call myself some of the horrific names I used to call myself, or bully myself for having weak moments or setbacks. I frequently explain to people that they should treat themselves as they would others. If your friend came to you, and said, “I feel awful, I broke my diet and demolished an entire pack of Oreos,” you wouldn’t tell her she’s a fat, worthless, pig, nor would you berate her at length for tripping up. No, aside from the fact that you would have to be a horrible, evil person to treat someone that way, you are also aware that it wouldn’t help anything. After being treated that way, your friend would end up in a shame-spiral and would probably end up overeating again to bury those feelings. The exact same thing happens when you treat yourself that way.

So that is my now, very public, setback and roadmap to getting back to where I was. I will update this post with my weight every week until I get to my target (below 147):

  • 12/01: 167 lbs
  • 12/08: 160 lbs

 

But Where Do You Get Your Protein?

protein-cartoon[7]If there were a Buzzfeed list of “15 Things Vegans Totally Understand,”* the headaches caused by excessive eye-rolling in response to being asked, “But, where do you get your protein from?” would be topping that list.

The misconceptions about protein stem, in large part, from dietary information we are fed (pun!) by our governments and medical professions, namely, that you need to eat meat and dairy for protein and calcium. The argument that gets bandied about in favor of animal protein is that animal products are the only source of all essential amino acids. Even if the “only source of esssential amino acids” argument were actually true (it’s not), it’s still not a valid argument against a plant-based diet.

My own doctor had a minor conniption when I said I was vegan, and started rattling off buzzwords like, “essential amino acids,” and “protein deficiency.” When I wouldn’t budge, he sighed, and said, “Okay, well just make sure you get a mix of nuts and soy to get all the essential amino acids.” Really? REALLY? It is so tall an order to ask someone to eat two different food types, that it strikes you as easier to overhaul their entire eating practice to a less healthy one?

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The other big concern medical professionals and family/friends alike have with veganism is that you just can’t possibly be getting enough protein (never mind the amino acid composition of said protein). Most people believe that all produce is completely bereft of any protein content. This wrong information is so pervasive that when I was in graduate school, a fellow graduate student from the Biology department sat across from me at lunch explaining to me that there was no protein in fruit. I nearly concussed myself from slamming my head into the table in front of me in disbelief of what I was hearing. This is a person who has a degree in biology, which is nearly impossible to achieve without stumbling across the concept of The Central Dogma of Biology, which is a fancy way of saying DNA gives RNA which in turn gives Protein. That’s the main thing that cells do. Everything else is downstream of protein production. The nucleus, the very control center of a cell? It’s a glorified a library of recipes to make proteins. In other words, if it has got cells, it has got protein.

central-dogma

Despite what you have been told, there is plenty of protein in fresh fruits and vegetables. Most plants contain about 5% of their calories in protein. That may not sound like much, but let’s compare that to breastmilk. Breastmilk is designed by nature to meet the needs of babies. During infancy, we have the fasted growth rate of any point of our lives, and thus have the single highest protein requirements of any point of our lives. That requirement? About 5% of your calories. At any other time in your life, regardless of your profession or exercise goals, you don’t need anywhere close to that amount. Even if you’re a bodybuilder, you are not doubling your weight in a 5-6 month period like a baby does.

WhereDoYouGetYourProtein

Despite the fact that 5% protein is the peak of our protein needs over the entire course of our lives, we are told that protein-rich foods should make up between 10 to 35 percent of our daily calories by entities such as the USDA. This misinformation is taken up by nutritionists and doctors alike, and filters down to the general public via their family doctor and campaigns such as MyPlate. It’s not that the people making these recommendations are bad scientists. It’s that they are bad people. The simple fact is that the USDA committee that makes these recommendations is a massive example of conflict interest. Year after year, these people have financial interests in the meat and dairy industry. It benefits them to ignore scientific fact, and to promote the consumption of excessive protein through meat and dairy. Sadly, when this misinformation is delivered year after year, it becomes accepted by the public as fact to the point that delivering a scientifically-based message of healthy living becomes almost impossible.

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But what’s the harm? So what if we’re eating 35% of our calories in the form of protein when, as adults, we likely need 1-2%. Surely our bodies will simply take what the need and excrete or egest the remainder? Nope. It is well known that excess protein in the body comes with a host of health risks including back pain, osteoporosis, kidney stones and renal disease, heart disease and even cancer, especially when those proteins are derived from animal products (P.S. men, animal protein causes Low-T). Too much protein is as bad for you as smoking! And, oh yeah, and excess protein gets converted to fat in your body.

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The easiest way of ensuring your body has enough protein, without consuming the excessive amounts that contribute to so-called “diseases of affluence,” is to replace all animal-derived products with plant-based, whole foods. And before you worry about not getting enough protein, ask yourself this: have you ever met someone diagnosed with protein deficiency? Have you heard of a friend of a friend being diagnosed with protein deficiency, or even having the symptoms of protein deficiency? I have heard of plenty of people having anemia from iron deficiency. Iron is something you should supplement, or at least monitor the levels of in your diet. B12 is another tricky thing to get solely from plant sources.

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But protein is something that never, ever needs to be supplemented. We get plenty of it, no matter what we eat, and no matter what we want our bodies to do. In closing, vegans get plenty of protein.

Additional Reading/Watching:

- Forks Over Knives

- More Than An Apple A Day: Preventing Our Most Common Diseases

- Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer

- The Protein Myth by Amanda Woodvine, BSc Nutrition

- The China Study by T. Colin Campbell

From Table to Able: Combating Disabling Diseases with Food

 

* added in proof.  

FODMAPS, Gluten, Nocebos, My Upper Arms, Knees, and Toes!

The haters of gluten-free living have been having a great month!

First, everyone reveled in showing those of us who have self-diagnosed as gluten-intolerant the following Jimmy Kimmel video:

Following the logic of this piece, if you don’t know what a carcinogen is, you would be immune to the cancer-causing effects of asbestos or plutonium! Ignorance truly would be bliss!! For the record, I DO know what gluten is (a composite protein of gliadin and glutenin that makes up the endosperm of grains in the family Triticeae, including wheat, barley, rye, and spelt).

A reason for the spike in gluten intolerance, and the rising numbers of people who choose to live gluten free may result form the fact that modern grains have been bred with much larger endosperms containing higher levels of gluten, and, thanks to the Farm Deal, we are being inundated with gluten in baked good, salad dressing, soy sauce, toothpaste and lipstick! I remember a woman who worked at the animal facility in grad school telling me that anyone who works there long enough will develop allergies to animal dander. In other words, anyone -ANYONE- who is exposed to artificially high levels of a potential allergen will develop an allergy to it. And when it comes to gluten, we are all that “anyone”. We are exposed to levels of gluten not seen in nature that we are just not meant to be consuming.

Gliadin

Glutenin

Also this week, the media picked up on a publication where it was shown that “gluten intolerance” may actually result from FODMAPS or “nocebos*.” In a nutshell, a scientist who had previously shown that non-celiac gluten insensitivity is responsible for certain digestive issues redesigned the study and determined that Fermentable, Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides And Polyols, or FODMAPs may be the real culprit. I’m a little science-d out having worked overtime this weekend, so I’ll let wikipedia elaborate on what a FODMAP actually is.

The media jumped all over this report, and in its sadly characteristic modus operandi, distilled the report down into a simplistic talking point without doing any actual journalism, or having someone who understands science explain the study to them in the  monosyllabic words to which they appear to be restricted. First, I do want to reject the point that a lot of my friends on the gluten-is-evil team are saying. This study was well-designed, independently executed and properly peer-reviewed. It was not influenced by “Big Flour”.

However, there are still a couple of things to note about this study, or any scientific study you read. First, Professor Gibson is not the only person studying Gluten. The media has decided that his original paper showing gluten-sensitivity was the only paper ever demonstrating this phenomenon. It isn’t. Here’s a paper that Christina of BodyRebooted posted a couple of months ago. In this study the authors demonstrate that non-celiac subjects develop an immune response to gliadin (a component of gluten). In other words, these people were sensitive to, or intolerant of, gluten.

Another thing to note is that Professor Gibson’s study only looked at a specific set of issues related to gluten insensitivity, specifically digestive issues. He did not examine other issues such as skin health, inflammation-related pain, or longterm outcomes such as obesity, cancer, or autoimmune issues. And nor should he have. No one study can ever be expected to examine every single aspect of a complicated issue like gluten insensitivity. But the fact remains that if he didn’t look for these issues, he can’t make the claim that gluten doesn’t cause them. And to be fair to Professor Gibson, as a good scientist, he hasn’t been making these claims; it’s the media that has been overreaching and misinterpreting his data.

Journalists ≠ Scientists!

When we are trained in science, we are taught to scoff at people who say things like. “Well, I smoked my entire life/never wore a seatbelt/was spanked by my parents/never paid attention in science class, and I turned out fine,” because this is anecdotal evidence, and can be wildly unreliable. A good example of this is Winston Churchill, who smoked cigars every day and lived until he was 90. Based on that evidence you may think that you can smoke your way to longevity. However, if you look at a sample of 100 smokers, or 1000 smokers, or 1,000,000 smokers, you will see that the projected life expectancy for smokers is actually quite poor.

Your new Health Guru!

That said, here’s my N=1 anecdotal evidence:

When I came to DDP Yoga, I was absolutely certain that I would never give up gluten. I was firmly in the you-either-have-celiac-disease-or-you-don’t camp, and I knew for a fact that I was not allergic to it, and that it wasn’t causing any of the lifelong issues I had. In fact, it had never been suggested to me that gluten could cause anything other than digestive problems, so its role in skin problems and my chronic knee pain wasn’t even on my radar. In other words, there definitely weren’t any psychosomatic effects (or “nocebos”) in my case.

I cut gluten during the course of my weight loss simply as a calorie-controlling mechanism, and I wasn’t expecting anything else in terms of benefits to my health. I have written about the benefits to my knee pain before, so I will be brief here. Cutting gluten prevented a large amount of knee pain that I had suffered with for years. Doing DDP Yoga certainly had a role in resolving this issue, but I have noticed that when I accidentally consume gluten or dairy, I have flair-ups of pain. I often don’t find out that I had consumed gluten until after the pain happens, and I retroactively investigate why it happened, so we can eliminate “nocebos” as the cause.

More recently, I had a amazing revelation of the power of GF living. For my entire life, I have had nasty, scaly, dry red bumps down the back of my upper arms and on my legs. I have tried everything to get rid of them. On the (lazy) advice of a doctor, I spent months at a time religiously moisturizing them. I tried exfoliating, I tried wrapping them at night, I tried old wives’ tales. Everything. And nothing worked so I just gave up trying. I completely gave up on trying to get rid of them over a decade ago. The other day, I was working on my computer, and crossed my arms as I thought about what I wanted to type. In doing so, I felt the skin on the back of my arms, and realized that it was completely soft and smooth! I couldn’t’ believe it. Some light Googling lead me to learn that gluten may cause dry scaly issues. This is yet another example of GF living resolving an issue that I didn’t even know gluten was causing! I have also written about the role of gluten in another skin issue here.

Photo on 5-19-14 at 8.46 AM

The bruise by my elbow is from running the Tough Mudder… DDP Yoga turned me into a M%^&*# F&^%$in’ Monster! But the rest is baby smooth!

I’d be remiss if I didn’t close by saying that as a scientist, I fully understand that FODMAPs may be responsible for the issues I had with both my skin and my knees (as well as digestive issues and weight, which I had but didn’t elaborate on in this piece). By excluding gluten from my diet, I will inadvertently remove FODMAPs from my diet too, and therefore experience the benefits of a FODMAP-free diet through GF living. If that is the case, great! I will continue to live GF, and I will continue to be healthy. I honestly don’t care which specific molecule was causing dry skin, chronic knee pain, acne, overweight and bloating/gas. I have found a healthy, whole-food diet through the DDP Yoga plan, and I am NEVER going back!

In all reality, humans are a heterogeneous bunch, and the answer may be “all of the above”. Some people may have celiac-based gluten intolerance, whereas others may have non-celiac sensitivity. Others still may be allergic to FODMAPs, and some people may have no issues with gluten or FODMAPs. I know this doesn’t fit the simplistic, one-size-fits-all talking points the media likes to use, but you shouldn’t be getting your scientific information from a journalist anymore than you should be expecting a professor of archeology to keep you up to speed on current world events!

I will make one last plug for the gluten-is-evil theory, and why I think gluten, and not FODMAPs, were responsible for my particular issues. The first time I went vegan back in 2009 (pre-DDP Yoga), I loved making Gluten Sausages. The main ingredient in these sausages is pure gluten, so we can eliminate FODMAPs as the culprit. I would make batches of 6 – 12 sausages at a time, and they never lasted very long. While they were delicious, over time I started noticing that if I ate them for more than 2 days in a row (which I often did), I became severely constipated for up to two weeks at a time and, well, this T-shirt explains the rest…

TMI, Darling!

 

Okay, so there was nothing in this piece about my toes. I just liked that song as a kid!

 
*This is an obnoxious neologism. We already had a term for this phenomenon; it’s called a psychosomatic response. And while you’re at it, take back “Aha moments” Oprah; the correct word for this is “epiphany”!
** Yeah, Dairy is bad too! 

Now, You Kn-oatmeal

It’s sad when bad things happen to good puns, huh? If you have read any number of my posts, you would be forgiven for accusing me of holding an overly-inflated opinion of DDP Yoga and thinking it can do no wrong. Well, if that were the case, this is the post for you! The DDP Yoga nutrition guide to which I adhere says oatmeal is fine in Phase 1, but not thereafter. While I adhere to Phase III in most every other way, “you can pry the [oatmeal] from my cold, dead hands!”

Yes, I do!

I have replaced all the nasty, gluten-filled cereals I used to eat with oatmeal, and until recently I was eating instant oatmeal because mornings in our house start around the 5th snooze, and culminate with frantic shoving of people and goods into the car after 10 – 20 minutes of chaotically trying to get everyone, including a toddler, ready. Anything to cut down on time is a welcome assist. However, I had been worrying about the chemicals that might be lurking in my breakfast bowl. Everyday we learn about some awful additive that big companies are shoving into our food supply, and failing to inform us thanks to a complete lack of regulation. I had been told that the only difference between real and imitation vanilla extract was whether pods or bark were soaked in alcohol until I checked the label in the imitation vanilla extract in our cabinet. Somehow propyl glycol had worked its way in there. I understand that it has GRAS status from the FDA, but I also know that means nothing. As I strive to eat actual food without strange chemicals, the vanilla extract wound up in the trash can! I had similar concerns about oatmeal. What strange chemical process was being employed to make oatmeal’s cook-time plunge from upwards of 45 minutes down to 1-2 minutes. I was worried that I was consuming large amounts of organic solvents or chemicals with lots of numbers and hyphens in their names. This process seemed like the kind of opportunity to introduce poisons into our diet that the food industry usually revels in.

Well, that’s unsettling!

So, I went to the most reliable and accurate source of nutritional information I could think of*, and started learning about how oatmeal is made “instant.” I was skeptical when the first webpage I read explained that it was simply boiled briefly and dried out in large ovens. Surely some benzenoid organic solvent would be used to speed up evaporating the water? Result after result assured me that was not the case. The next question I had was whether there was any nutritional deficits with instant oatmeal, so once again I employed my top-of-the-line research tool**, and found a lot of conflicting information. Sifting through it, I learned there are three basic types of oatmeal: instant (most processed), quick-cooking (intermediate processing), and steel-cut (minimal processing). Instant oatmeal is made from oat that have been rolled flat, and then boiled and dried out in large ovens. Steel-cut oats are not subjected to these processes. A number of websites claim that the amount of soluble fiber is the same in instant and steel-cut oats, and comparison of the (limited available) nutritional data from online databases yielded the same finding. However, that doesn’t seem to make sense. It seems obvious that the soluble fiber would be lost in the boiling process. One website published a comparison which shows that steel-cut oats contain more soluble fiber than instant oatmeal. In case you don’t know, soluble fiber is extremely important in the diet as it binds and carries fat and cholesterol out of the body and stabilizes blood glucose levels by slowing sugar absorption. From my own experience, I am inclined to believe that information. I have seen when cooking steel-cut oats, a visible amount of soluble fiber collects in the water, and I have found that eating steel-cut oats helps with digestion in ways that instant oatmeal does not.

Yes, I do.

Whatever the case, I am attempting to be as close to a fully unprocessed, unrefined, whole food, vegan diet as I can be. Everything I learn about nutrition has lead me to the conclusion that the less refining a food has gone through, the healthier it is for us. My cabinet is stocked full of organic steel-cut oats and devoid of genetically-modified instant oats. Just don’t tell DDP I am still eating a Phase 1 foodstuff!

* Google
** still Google

Yum, Yum, Yum, Yum, Yum… Delicioso!

If you don’t understand the title…. lucky you!

Arborio rice (risotto) is awful. Don’t get me wrong, it’s delicious. But it’s awful for your health. It’s as highly refined and processed as white rice. You’d be as well to pour a bowl of sugar into your mouth in terms of the spike in blood sugar, and ensuing inflammation. Thanks to a friend in grad school, I was able to find an equally delicious and creamy replacement, and I have spent the last few years fine-tuning variations on my recipe. The following is a base recipe which you can adapt to replace any other risotto recipe you enjoy!

Materials:

  • 6 Bell Peppers
  • 1 Cup Wild Rice
  • 1 Cup Steel Cut Oatmeal
  • 6 Cups vegetable stock
  • 1-2 Cups vegetables (corn shown here)

Method:

In a large pot under medium heat, add the rice and oats. Stir in one ladleful of stock at a time, and stir until all liquid has been absorbed. This should take about 40 minutes. At this point, your wild rice may still be uncooked. Continue to stir in ladles of water until the rice and oats are softened. If you want to speed up this process, precook the wild rice according to manufacturer instructions.

In the meantime, preheat your oven to 350F and cut the tops off the bell peppers and scoop out the seeds. Place the peppers onto a pyrex dish (I like the 9″ rectangular thin ones… basically, you want it to be tight enough to keep the peppers upright, this will be more of an issue later). Cook the peppers until they are nice and soft and remove from the oven leaving them in the tray (20-25 mins, depending on the pepper and your preference). Turn the oven up to 450.

When the “risotto” is cooked, stir in the vegetables. These can either be frozen or prepared to your liking (caramelized onions for example). Fill the peppers with the risotto mix, and stick back in the oven. If you’re not as strictly simple,whole foodsy as I am, you can top with some GF breadcrumbs. Bake until the rice is brown on top and serve!

Note: you may have some risotto mix left over depending on how big your bell peppers were, and how much vegetables you used. It freezes really well, so just buy some more fresh bell peppers next time you want them, or do anything else you would do with risotto!

photo 3

 

10 Things You Need to Know About Losing Weight!

I’m down 50lbs! Woohoo! More importantly I have kept it off for over half a year now. While there is no one right answer, I have found a collection of things that work, after spending years and years documenting all the things that don’t work! Hopefully, you can skip past all the mistakes I made, and past my learning curve, and grow this list yourself as you discover more things that work!

1. You Need to Workout AND Eat Healthily.

Weight loss with diet alone is difficult; weight loss with exercise alone is impossible. You need to add exercise to your regime because it’s good for you, it builds metabolism-speeding muscle, and it adds a couple of calories to your overall allowance, and having a bit of leeway in your food allowance is going to improve your chances of success. You need to eat heathily for a zillion reasons, many of which are outside the scope of weight loss. Specific to the weight loss, you need to eat healthily (as opposed to some fad diet) because a healthy body, with enough vitamins, minerals, fiber and water will feel full longer, perform better and lose weight in a sustainable fashion. Healthy eating is sustainable for the longterm, so you will keep the weight off once it’s gone, where crazy and unhealthy diet plans won’t offer you long-last results.

2. You Need to Eat Enough.

So, you starved yourself all day so now you can plough into a triple-layer chocolate cake? Great plan! That’s exactly what sumo wrestlers do in order to gain weight before a match. Eating too few calories sends your body into famine mode, which means it lowers your metabolism. Any calories you do eat will hit you like a ton of fattening bricks. And it doesn’t stop there. You’re brain will stimulate your appetite, so you will be spending your entire time miserably battling an urge to binge on junk food. Not fun, and not the path to success. The number of calories you need is dependent upon your gender, your current weight, and your weight loss goals, and should never drop below 1,400 calories/day. In lieu of obsessive compulsive calorie counting, you can find far more success with whole-food, plant-based diets such as a low-meat version of the DDP Yoga Nutrition Plan.

Here’s what a 500-calorie diet looks like!

3. Cut Down on Your Meat Intake.

Why low-meat? Because meat is fattening in two ways. 1. It’s the most calorie-dense thing in the food supply. That means you’re going to be hungrier sooner, despite consuming a heavy calorie load. Second, it has been shown that meat intake positively associates with weight gain, and this associate persists after adjusting for total energy intake, and a decrease in meat consumption improves weight management. Eating 250 gram meat/day gives a 422 gram gain extra compared to a diet with the same number of calories but less meat! In other words, if you have two people both eating exactly 2,000 calories per day amd doing the exact same amount of exercise, one vegan and one meat-eater, the meat-eater will weigh more than the vegan. Again, there’s a slew of health-issues outside of weight loss where meat is concerned. For more information, check out the science-based information at nutritionfacts.org! Also, this goes for any animal product (dairy, eggs, meat). Full disclosure, I am a vegan. That said, I am not a proselytizing vegan; I spend precisely 0% of my time thinking of ways to convert people to veganism. I am more interested in the science of nutrition, and finding ways to enable people to be the healthiest they can be.

You are what you eat… clogged with saturated fat if this wound up on your plate!

4. You are Dairy- and Gluten-intolerant

Dairy proteins and gluten are the most inflammatory things we put into our bodies, and cause a host of issues, both weight-related and other. Sadly, when people try to eliminate these foods from their diet, they tend to cut either dairy or gluten, not both, and they don’t cut them for long enough. The problem is that these intolerances tend to go hand-in-hand so if you don’t cut them simultaneously, you won’t reap the rewards of cutting them. And what are those rewards? Again, we’re limiting this discussion to weight, so on top of relief from bloating and discomfort, you will reduce gastrointestinal inflammation. A healthy digestive system will properly absorb nutrients. As a result, your brain will get the message that whatever nutrient your body wanted has been received and stop triggering your appetite.

No… just, no.

 

5. Take a Multivitamin

In a similar vein, taking a multivitamin first thing in the morning will set you up for less random hunger pangs during the day. Aside from the great benefits of having a well-rounded vitamin and mineral intake, you will avoid falling of the wagon into consuming empty carbs and sugar-loaded junk food. Here’s why: as a protective mechanism against famine and other food-shortages, our brains are little sugar-crazed junkies always craving the next simple-carb fix. When our body runs out of a nutrient, let’s say Vitamin B12, it sends a message to our brains to make us go fetch some. However, that message gets passed via the fidgety sugar junkie huddling in the corner of our brain who rips it up and replaces it with a message saying we need to go get some refined carbs. One large fries or Cinnabon later, we feel sated for about half an hour until our body remember it still needs that B12. So, it sends another go-get-B12 message to our brain, and the whole cycle repeats again and again until we either accidentally eat the nutrient we needed in the first place, or go to bed! Word to the wise, if you are going to take a vitamin with iron, make sure you take it with food… trust me!

Muffins are rich in Vitamin M? Right?

 

6. Good Bacteria

While you’re in the supplement aisle, pickup some probiotics. Acidophilus is great, but it’s worth investing in a multi-strain probiotic. You don’t need to bankrupt yourself buying probiotics, I found a great 6-strain probiotic at the local grocery store for $10 per 60 capsules. It’s a good idea to keep probiotics refrigerated once you get them home, they contain live cells, and the cooler temperatures slow down their activity until you get them into your digestive system! So, what is a probitoic? It’s bacteria… Aagh! Before you freak out, you should know that we all contain bacteria in our digestive systems, and it’s not just there; it’s an active part of our digestion. In fact, people who completely lose their digestive bacteria suffer from malnutrition and diarrhea, and ultimately require fecal bacteriotherapy (which is as gross as it sounds). More interestingly, the bacterial makeup of your digestive system can determine whether you are obese or thin. Studies have shown that when bacteria are taken from humans —overweight or thin—and transferred to mice, mice with bacteria from a thin person stay thin while mice with bacteria from an obese person gain weight! A probiotic can help you develop healthier bacterial flora, and can also help with Candida overgrowth. Candida is a yeast that likes to grow in our guts, and when in excess, can cause bloating and sugar cravings. Bacteria and yeast battle for the same resources, and you can tip the scales against candida with the bacteria of a probiotic (and by cutting out refined sugar and carbohydrates).

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One of this pictures is of Acidophilus, the other E-Coli 0157-h7. Good luck choosing which one is safe!

7. Food Doesn’t Come in Packages

In the average grocery store, there are only about 3 or 4 places actual food is sold, and the remaining 90% of the floor-space is dedicated to selling you food-like substances that are chock full of weird and strange chemicals that have never been demonstrated to be safe for human consumption. When you’re shopping, start in the produce section and fill your cart 75% full. Then, head over to the organic section and buy some dried beans/lentils, oats, raw nuts and ingredient peanut or almond butter. Technically these will be in packaging, but that’s because stocking loose lentils or globs of peanut butter on shelves is problematic at best. Then, and only if you must, pick up some organic meat and eggs… but only if you must! Note, you didn’t buy any juice. That’s nature’s answer to soda, i.e. a lot of sugar with no fiber to slow its absorption. Similarly, you didn’t buys any gluten-free flour, vegan mayonnaise or low-fat/sugar-free anything. Don’t replace unhealthy gluten-ful products with equally chemical-laden gluten free versions. Instead find a whole food alternative in the produce section (replace lasagne noodles with zucchini strips, replace cookies with an apple). Et voila, you found the needle in the haystack that is actual food in a grocery store!

Aisle 21: Natural Foods. So, what the heck were you selling on Aisles 1 - 20?!?!

Aisle 21: Natural Foods. So, what the heck were you selling on Aisles 1 – 20?!?!

 

7. Drink Your Water!

Your digestive food is extremely similar to a garbage disposal; you put food into them to be broken down, and you would never dream of using what comes out the other side! We all know that you should never run a garbage disposal without running water into eat, so why would you ever eat food without first drinking water? Drink at least 8 oz of water before you consume any food. This serves a number of important functions in weight management. It stops you from overeating by contributing to an overall feeling of fullness.  It also slows down your food consumption and forces you to be more mindful about eating which is known to help people lose weight. Finally, it helps food transit through your digestive system without causing constipation or bloating. So why did I underline the “before?” Imagine an icing bag with a relatively thin nozzle. If you pour in a large amount of (gluten-free) flour, add the water in second, and then start squeezing, the flour will clog the nozzle, and nasty cement will form at the interface of the water and flour, and most of the water will remain at the top not mixing with anything. If you had pre-filled the bag with some water, and also premixed the flour with some water before putting into the bag, everything would have flowed through easily. Drink a large glass of water before you eat, and continue to drink while you are eating and afterwards too*. And continue drinking throughout the day. 3/4 of the time we think we are hungry, we’re actually thirsty. Dehydration is responsible for most mid-afternoon fatigue… you know, the slump that makes you feel like you need to hit the vending machine for an energy jolt?

“Water, water everywhere. So, let’s all have a drink!”

 

8. There is NO Such Thing as a Superfood

One week we are meant to eat acai berries, the next it’s almonds, then kale, then pomegranates. Each one is lauded as the quick fix to all your health and weight woes, and is usually packaged into a highly processed and refined pill form for your convenience. But here’s the thing, there are no free lunches in nature. Here’s how super-foods are born: Some study looks at an ethnicity or population that tends to have longer lifespans or lower rates of a disease and figures out what they do differently. For instance, we figured out that Chinese men drink a lot of green tea and tend to have lower rate of prostate cancer than men in the US. In response, we spend millions of dollars studying what about green tea offers a protective activity against cancer, and everyone rushes out to buy all the green tea Target has on its shelves. Here’s the rub. Yes, green tea is probably good for you, and probably has a small amount anti-cancer activity. But adding it to your daily intake of triple cheeseburgers, soda, ice-cream and french fries probably isn’t going to ward off cancer. The simple fact is that the old guys in China pair the green tea with a diet of organic, whole foods, mostly vegetables and small amounts of meat and fish. Similar misguiding information is rife in advertising. I saw an ad for some ghastly, refined, sugar-addled cereal boasting that it now contained whole grains, and added that people who eat whole grains tend to weigh less. But that doesn’t mean that eating the whole grains is what makes those people thin. Before cereal corporations started shoving nominal amounts of whole grains into their food-like products, the people who were consuming whole grains were probably also consuming large amounts of whole fruits and vegetables while avoiding animal products, refined sugars and artificial additives. The simple fact is that no one food will get you thin or healthy, nor is it good for you to overdose on any one food. There are no shortcuts to losing weight and warding off disease. You have to overall your entire diet and focus primarily on whole, plant-based foods.

New rule of thumb: don’t eat any food that goes “BANG” or “POW”

 

9. Meditate, Sleep

In the late 80’s/early 90’s there was a huge craze over meditation and self-hypnosis tapes. There were all sorts of promises made of self-hypnosis tapes. They were going to help you attract the opposite sex, lose weight, quit smoking and land a job. Needless to say, none of this worked out; if it had, we’d all be swinging pocket watches in front of our faces to lose weight. However, self-hypnosis or meditation does have some practical applications. Self-hypnosis can be used to relax yourself, relieve stress and anxiety and curb physical pain. I used it to deliver my daughter painlessly without medication, and just today employed those same skills to get through having a rather large tattoo placed on my shoulder. But back to the weight loss! Taking the time to relax and unwind can help relieve the issues that have you heading to the fridge to overeat. There are some great hypnosis tracks available on iTunes and Amazon that specifically target overeating or sugar addiction. Others are available to help you get to sleep, which we know is an important part of weight management for numerous reasons. While hypnosis may not be your thing, find something that helps you to relax while you are awake, and make sure you are getting plenty of sleep.

You are getting motion sick…. motion sick….

10.  Do Your DDP Yoga

When it comes down to it, it works. I tried numerous systems and lost nothing (other than hundreds of dollars in copays for psychical therapy resulting from injuries). With DDP Yoga I lost 50 lbs, and (more importantly) found the motivation to make it a long-lasting and meaningful part of my lifestyle, both the exercise and nutrition components of DDP Yoga. And I have heard that same story over and over around TeamDDP. More and more people who couldn’t find success with weight loss are shedding pound after pound with the DDP Yoga system. Are you the next success story?

BANG!

* If you are prohibited from drinking while eating, I recommend building up to 16 oz of water before eating and a similar amount after your meal.