i’m becoming a glutton for gluten-free

gluten free

 

Since discovering I tested positive for an autoimmune disease in December, I have gone the way of the gluten-free diet.

The rheumatologist I visited thinks this is a fad diet, but research is on my side in that gluten can trigger autoimmune reactions whereby healthy cells are confused for non-healthy cells and their nuclei are attacked by our own immune systems. It’s been proven in the case of celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that manifests in the small intestines. It has also been proven in certain forms of dermatitis, such as dermatitis herpetiformis (DH),  that, according to Providence Hospital in Oregon and Washington, “is a form of celiac disease that triggers the immune system to attack the skin, rather than the small intestine. . . . If people with DH continue to eat gluten, they also may run an increased risk of developing intestinal cancer.”

If this is true with celiac and its forms, why wouldn’t it be true with lupus, which can cause a rash, balding, and even organ failure; scleroderma and connective tissue diseases, which affect the skin, including  the linings of organs, as well as joints; and inflammatory bowel syndrome (IBS) that attacks the lining of the intestines, for example?

To me it makes sense. It makes sense to my neurologist too, who is an innovator in vertigo and has landed on many best-doctors lists.

What to Eat?

So here I am, now buying gluten-free pasta, breads, soy sauce, pancake mix, and even Girl Scout cookies. I’m staying away from sugar as much as possible too, so sweets are just occasional treats. If I have a chip, it’s made of corn, like tortilla chips, or I reach for my favorite snack, popcorn, instead. My cholesterol was a bit up, too, recently, so off the table goes the greasy stuff, like potato chips and fries, as well as red meat and other culprits. Any diet takes discipline, but you don’t have to hit me over the head to get me to change if it means living a less-painful, longer, happier life.

What have I noticed since the new diet started? My waistline has gone down, my migraines have decreased a lot (I’ve had one in four weeks!), and my grocery bill has gone up some. Plus, I’m finding foods in areas of the grocery store I’ve never ventured in before.

Food is fuel, period. We forget that at times. It needs to give us energy and keep our bodies functioning properly. Yes, I love food as much as the next guy. I’m a decent cook and I make a lot of different dishes, from cashew chicken to spaghetti and meatballs to yellow curry and basmati rice. Some I’ve had to eliminate, but most I simply have had to modify, like using gluten-free pasta (Barilla makes a great one that’s readily available in major grocery chains; and there’s another brand, Ancient Harvest, that uses corn and quinoa, which doesn’t hold up as well or look like wheat spaghetti when cooked, but has a delicious sweet and nutty flavor).

Take note: There are lots of good-tasting foods one can eat that don’t involve wheat products or wheat-like products at all, although you wouldn’t know this if you subsisted on the regular fast-food diet. Wheat is cheap, and that’s why McDonald’s and Burger King can sell a hamburger for about a buck. But there are alternatives. Rice flour is very close to wheat flour in consistency. I use it now to coat fried chicken, which I make with olive and avocado oils with maybe a bit of corn oil to make it stretch.

I am fortunate to have a couple grocers nearby that stock plenty of options when I am craving a slice of bread. Just this morning for breakfast I had Udi’s cinnamon raisin bread that tasted very close to the real thing, if, that is, wheat is considered “real” and everything else is not, which we’ve been led to believe all these years.

Yes, a lot of these products cost more, Cream of Rice, for example, instead of Cream of Wheat, but if your health isn’t worth it, what is?

weight loss is possible in menopause and i’m proving it

It creeped on over the years until I thought I was stuck. I couldn’t move down, just up. In weight, that is. Then I said to myself, “Self,” I said, “if not now, when?” Oh, wait, that’s what Oprah says in the ad for this weight-loss program.

But she’s right.

If not now, when? When you’ve put on more weight? When you’ve had to buy yet another, even larger pair of pants? When your lower back starts to ache from walking because of the strain your bulging midsection is putting on it? When your doctor prescribes a half-dozen different pills to thwart a heart attack? If not now, when?

I took the bait and off I ran. And you know what, it’s working!

I started reducing my food intake and exercising more on April 6. It’s now May 18 and I’ve dropped 3.5 pounds. I wasn’t huge to start with, but I definitely was starting to see a woman in the mirror I had never seen before and barely recognized. Every angle was now rounder. Every body part was now looser or wider or just plain bigger. My BMI was embarrassing. I shouldn’t have been in the high 140s at all. I should barely be in the high 130s even. But every year, eating basically the same diet as forever, the pounds kept adding up and were miserable to get off.

This losing pounds and getting more fit and healthy is still a work in progress, but I’ve read that it takes twenty-one days for an activity to become a habit. I’ve surpassed that time and I’m now in a routine of watching what I put in my mouth and upping the minutes on the treadmill or in walking the dog. I’ve increased my pace too. And on days when I don’t think I can fit another walk in, I’ll jump on the tradmill for ten fast minutes while the water for the pasta is boiling for the night’s supper. Or I’ll stick my feet under the wing chair in the living room and do twenty-five sit-ups.

I haven’t added up the calories I’m taking in, but I’d say it’s about 1,500 or 1,600. I stick to my basic toast and coffee  and sometimes an egg for breakfast. I eat a light frozen-food lunch and a cup of my favorite Greek yogurt and fruit. And dinner is my usual stirfry or pasta or whatever I make for the family. And there are always veggies. I’ve just cut back on quantity, especially of carbs, including my number-one favorite item: white Jasmine rice.

Thinking about what goes into your piehole prevents you from, say, shoveling in another slice of banana cream or piling in chips one after the other. It makes you reach for a mandarin orange instead of a cookie. And when you do treat yourself–and that’s perfectly fine–you’ll probably not want a double serving of ice cream or a generously sized piece of chocolate cake. You’ll savor that cookie or that cake and actually taste your food.

I plan to keep this up until I reach my goal and then stick with it as best I can. I don’t ever want to get to the high 140s again, because just around the corner are the 150s, and they’re waving me on.

 

 

week one weight update

blue tape measuring on clear glass square weighing scale
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I’ve been on a weight-reduction and -maintenance program, the one in which you add points for food you eat and can subtract them with exercise, and I’m doing OK. I was hoping to have dropped two pounds by week one, but I’ve dropped just one. Still, I am putting on muscle weight–I can feel it–and I’m noticing my cheekbones are coming back into definition, my chin is getting smaller, and my girth is reducing.

I understand that weight loss is more apparent in the beginning, but because mine so far is slow and steady, and I have a history of putting muscle back on the more I exercise, I’m taking this as a silver lining and that my weight loss will be gradual but obvious.

I haven’t cheated at all, unless you count a Costco sample of Chicago-style popcorn cheating. I also went to the movies this past week, Friday, and I had a smallish bag of Target popcorn there, plus water. I figured it was about 6 cups of popcorn. But that’s all I had in the middle of the day between my usual morning meal of an egg and sourdough toast and a small evening meal. And I took my morning walk and then a longer, 45-minute walk at the nearby lake with my son in the afternoon. It was a great day. I love going to the movies and am glad the 6 cups of popcorn didn’t hurt me much. I also liked that I was able to make up for the calories by walking more than usual later in the day.

I don’t have a long way to go in my goal. Fifteen pounds isn’t 50 or 150 and I feel for people who have that much to lose. I can only imagine how discouraging it is to give up stuff you love, add in more exercise, which is often hard to accomplish when carrying extra weight, and not get the results. My weight gain has been gradual over the years–four babies in a thirteen-year span and then middle age and a desk job following directly afterward–so I assume my weight loss will be as well. It’s basically about being cognizant of what you put into your mouth and adding movement to help take away the calories added on.

It’s possible to shed the pounds one day at a time and I’m happy with my results so far.

will watching weight work ?

So I never thought in a million years I’d join a weight-loss and -maintenance program, but I have. Since one can do it from the privacy of his or her own home, I gave it a shot. I signed up for the three-month initial program and will track my progress on these pages.

I don’t know what to expect. Will it be difficult (I assume it will be) and will it impose on my lifestyle (I would guess it would)? I still cook for a family of four, so I can’t eat what I want when I want for dinner without having to prepare two separate meals, so the program I’m following allows participants to eat real food as we count points for food totals and exercise. It sounds like a reasonable plan, I don’t have to attend meetings (there’s online support), and I don’t have to buy prepackaged meals, which I’m sure would taste like cardboard and the portion sizes would suit no one bigger than Barbie.

My niece (and Oprah) signed on to this program recently and my niece has already shown improvement after just a couple months. Of course she’s in her early thirties and has yet to have a baby, so her body can’t be compared to mine apples to apples, but it’s nice to see her results. Like me, she loves to play board games and this is a game of sorts. Participants go onto their personal web dashboard and type in what they’ve eaten for the day and what type of exercise they’ve gotten. The dashboard will tally the points, letting participants know how much more exercise they may need for the week or how much less food they should sock away. More exercise equals more food and vice versa.

It might be fun to see if I can meet the end-of-week totals and reach my goal weight. My goal is to lose fifteen pounds–those nasty fifteen that, honest to God, seemed to materialize overnight once I hit fifty. I also want to stop looking like a dark-haired female Michelin Man. As I uploaded photos from the past year to my computer today, I was shocked to see–on a 22-inch HD computer screen no less–just how big around the middle I’ve gotten. We don’t carry weight well in my family at all. It all settles around the middle and under the neck. (Why couldn’t we have gotten saddlebags and big thighs instead?) The estrogen from menopause sends fat to the midsection already, so I didn’t need my family’s apple-shaped physique to add insult to injury, but what are ya gonna do? It is what it is. And hopefully, it won’t be there for long.

I never thought these “diets” worked. I was a busy young woman who had trouble finding time to eat and therefore had no trouble keeping off the pounds, but I would watch other coeds and coworkers struggle through these programs. The weight would be lost, then come right back on, and the women would be miserable while trying to stay on course and not cheat. They would talk about the weigh-ins as if they were comparable to being sent to the guillotine. I was happy I was able to regulate my weight by eating well or not eating enough in college, with two or three part-time jobs at a time along with a full course load to deal with. That was followed by multiple jobs after graduating and then by running around after the babies and being too poor to buy goodies in my mid to late twenties. When my thirties hit, the weight began settling in, but I still could fit into a size small or medium. By baby number 4, I was in my late thirties and it was harder to lose the pregnancy weight and then keep the pounds off.

Throughout my forties, I and a couple friends would do a weekly three-hour hike up and down mountains and I was able to maintain my weight sufficiently. But by my fifties, menopause made weight loss much harder and my friends became too busy to go on a weekly hike. Now we’re lucky to get two in a year, while we used to go every Wednesday morning, come rain or come shine, for years on end.

I’m still a bit cynical that this program will work, but I will try my hardest to stick with it. Once in a while it’s good to be proven wrong.

not dressed up and never ready to go

Why is it that women my age who are stay-at-home moms or who work from home never have anything to wear when going out? Maybe because, like me, they’ve spent most of their lives buying for and caring for others so they become last on the totem pole for getting anything new. And yet along with the kids, our bodies change a lot over the years–and in the same way the kids’ do, by increasing in size.

I started having children in my midtwenties and finished in my late thirties, so I know that the “baby weight” you put on when you’re still young and have a decent metabolism is a lot easier to shed than when middle age is knocking at the door and carries a key to let himself in.

My husband’s and my anniversary was a couple weeks ago and fortunately we chose a restaurant that was a 5.5 on a scale of 1 to 10 in fine-dining experiences, meaning we didn’t have to dress up all that much. Still, before I knew we’d be seated on patio chairs, I tried to find some clothes in my closet to make myself look relatively nice. All the clothes I tried on, though, either didn’t fit (bad planning by my former twenty-three-year-old self: our anniversary is only three weeks after Christmas!) or looked awful on me–but mostly they didn’t fit, which made them look awful on me.

Yes, I’ve put on more than a few pounds since saying “I will” back in 1985, but still, I’m not John Goodman in a dress–I’m not that heavy. I just have nothing that is flattering to wear at this stage in my life. Where do I clothes shop? Old Navy, Target, maybe GAP, and almost always online, but I work from home and wear comfortable clothes 24/7, meaning sweatpants in full and calf lengths, shorts, jeans, short-sleeved T-shirts, long-sleeved T-shirts, 3/4-length T-shirts. . . . Why, just looking at me now you’d find me decked out in an Old Navy short-sleeved T and capri workout pants. This is my attire du jour, but it works for me. I work from home, I walk the dog on my break, and I cook dinners that are often made in a wok and splattery. For heaven’s sake, I’m not going to run around in Stella McCartney–or even Paul McCartney, if he were to get into designing clothes.

I’d like to look like Tina Fey or even Amy Schumer but I’m edging toward Rebel Wilson, who, in my opinion, is as beautiful (just a little rounder) as the other two comics. There’s nothing wrong with being heavy and I know how hard it is to keep the pounds off or get rid of them once they’re there, but for me, I don’t want to be the frumpy fiftysomething. I want to be fit and able to wear whatever I want and not have to try on top after top that’s too, too tight. If I had a career outside the house, I’d have some business casual clothes to pick from on evenings when I go out (which usually amounts to one or two times a year), but I don’t leave the house much and when it’s time to go out I put on something I wore to church on Sunday. If it’s good enough for God, it’s good enough for everyone of this world.

The other night my daughters and I went to a Vino and Painting class at a bar in a trendy neighborhood (and yes, I fretted about what to wear). It was my Christmas present from one of the girls and it was a lot of fun (though I’m a bit too competitive to be painting among other people, but that’s another story). Other than having a great time with my adult kids, it reminded me that I’m maybe ten or so years away from being able to do things like that all the time. Having married at a younger age than my daughters are now and having given birth to them both by the time I was the age of my younger girl, I never had a young adulthood that didn’t involve changing diapers, reading picture books, and falling into bed exhausted every night. I missed out on the bar scene and a lot of the dating scene, having begun dating my future husband a week after turning nineteen and having gotten married a month after turning twenty-three. And the pre-marriage years were filled with he and I both going to college full-time and having either multiple part-time jobs (I) or a job requiring thirty to forty hours a week (he). We went out once a week at best and it was usually out to a cheap dinner, often using a coupon, and maybe a movie.

I look forward to having time to go out at night once in a while in my later life, take in a movie, get a nice meal, go to a play or concert, check out the latest museum exhibit, simply be free to be you and me. I just hope that by then I have some decent clothes to do it all in.

 

 

want to drop 5 pounds? get a dog!

A 25-year study performed from 1969 to 1994 that tracked weight loss in the obese found that an exercise-only plan can reduce the amount of weight in people by an average of three pounds over 15 weeks. The exercise-and-diet group brought the weight-loss average down to seven pounds in that same time period. To the exercise-only people, I have a word of advice: Get a dog!

Since bringing our golden retriever puppy home less than eight weeks ago, I have lost five pounds. Five pounds on an average-size woman is quite a bit. And it seems to be all lost in fat. I’m becoming more lean and more muscular, which goes without saying that that’s a good thing.

How did I do it? Well, walking a rambunctious puppy two to three times per day for an average of 20 minutes per walk is the key. Playing soccer with him for a few minutes a day a couple times a day helps too. As does getting up at a regular time every morning and not lollygagging in bed (although I haven’t had the pleasure of sleeping in since I was a teenager–and even then it was rare).

Golden retrievers are high-energy dogs. Golden retriever puppies are insanely high-energy dogs. They need to get out at least twice daily, and not just in the yard, but into the neighborhood or the woods or the park, or wherever time and distance permit. Not doing so will make for an ornery dog that can become destructive. Unless you enjoy shopping to replace the furniture that’s been gnawed to slivers, you may want to get on this plan.

This morning I took Woody across the road to the regional park. We are blessed to live within walking distance to one of the largest regional parks in the United States. We are also blessed with beautiful weather that permits taking walks and hikes on nearly a daily basis. Today we explored the bike park for 20 minutes of what Woody would describe, I’m sure, as pure bliss. The sights, the smells, the sounds, the dirt under his paws, the birds flying overhead, and the bunnies scampering across the path were a delight to a dog whose breed loves the outdoors, birds, and tracking scents. He was in puppy Nirvana.

I realize that not everyone has it so good. Maybe their landscape is sidewalks and buildings, maybe the birds flying overhead are helicopters, maybe the closest park is overrun by undesirables. And maybe there is snow or ice or frigid temperatures preventing them from pulling on their sneakers and taking a walk. That’s excusable. To the rest of you, take to the paths and sidewalks and put one foot in front of the other to get a little exercise, to get a little healthier. And if your motivation wanes, get a dog.