Author Archive: emesker

Cravings: Reality vs. Expectations

It’s been 6 months since I started down this Paleo journey (with an initial Whole 30) and it’s been an interesting journey but pretty positive overall. I thought I’d share my personal experience with cravings:

What I still miss:

  • popcorn, especially at the movies – we skipped the popcorn on the first few movies but we now do allow ourselves a popcorn treat the few times we go. We don’t snack on popcorn at home anymore though.
  • an occasional coke, especially the sweeter “Mexican” coke – I wasn’t a big Coke drinker but man, sometimes I really craved one. I think I’ve only a handful of Cokes since I started (I can count the number of times on one hand)
  • orange juice – this was my favorite drink and I still really miss it. I may re-introduce it occasionally and water it down with sparkling water.
  • chips & queso
  • flavorful drinks – unsweet tea, unsweet coffee and sparking water with fruit essence just gets old
  • doughnuts, especially doughnut holes

What you’d think I miss but don’t really:junk-food

  • milk – unsweetened almond milk has been a good substitute
  • my daily glass of chocolate milk for breakfast – I’ve replaced this with 2 boiled eggs
  • pizza (I’m surprised by this one)
  • rice
  • regular ice cream – because I like the coconut milk based Coconut Bliss ice cream to satiate my occasional cravings
  • cupcakes/pastries – because I can bake paleo versions that are pretty darn yummy
  • bread and other grains – occasionally I find it hard to resist some yummy rolls but so far, I’ve been pretty good
  • chips/salty snacks – we have found great root vegetable chips and plantain chips to replace potato chips & pretzels

What are your cravings and struggles when you eat healthy?

 

Advertisements

Hitting another milestone!

30-lbs-30So, at today’s weigh-in I am officially down exactly 30 lbs. That was one of my milestones. Another milestone I hit last week was getting into the 170′s… Yay me!

This has been a slow journey for sure – 6 months to lose 30 lbs which averages out to only 5 lbs a month – but as I looked back at my weekly weight loss journal, I have lost weight practically every single week, even if it was just 0.2 lbs. What’s weird is since it hasn’t been drastic, it’s hard for me to physically see it on me – especially my face. I still feel like I look the same. I do get a few comments here and there but again, it’s been gradual and that’s OK.

Where I *am* noticing it is in my clothing. At my largest I was wearing 18 in pants, squeezing into some 16s. It was also hard to find those sizes and have them look consistently good on me. Nowadays I can try on a size 14 and it does consistently look good on me. They are not tight (some are even loose now) and I have even been able to buy a couple of 12s (still a tad tight & wearable but I anticipate they will fit fine within a month). I used to wear Large or even XL shirts (especially button down shirts) but now I have found that some Larges are too big. This past weekend I was even able to get a Medium in one of the shirts! Needless to say, shopping has become a little easier and clothes just fits me better than it used to at larger sizes. There are more options at size 12-14 including wearing skinny legged jeans and pants for the 1st time in my life and actually looking cute in them!

Besides sticking with the Paleo-Dairy diet, I do continue to go to Pilates twice a week. I feel good in class and can do the exercises confidently. I really enjoy the class atmosphere and my instructor and have increased my spring tensions on several of the exercises as I’ve gotten stronger. Since I won’t be able to go to class for 2 weeks while we are in Spain, I’ve asked my instructor to design a 15-20 minute routine I can do without equipment at our Airbnb. I’ll have a personal training session with her next week to see what she put together. I think we may use resistance bands in the routine since those are very easily packable and won’t take any space. I’ll share what I learn for those interested.

Well, thanks for reading this week and good luck on your wellness journey, whatever it may be!

What makes this journey different?

I know I am 0.8 lbs away from 30 so I won’t count it as a milestone yet but I did finally reach the 170s for the first time in a while – I weighed in at today’s official check-in at 179 lb!

I was curious though how long it had been since I had seen the 170s (2008 by the way) so I started digging through the archives of this blog since I actually have had this blog around for a while and keep track of my past attempts at losing weight in now hidden posts. Here’s a quick summary of my past journeys:

  • 2002ish – Lost ~25 lbs, from 160 lbs to 135 lb. I was 28 at the time. Not sure how long it took.shutterstock_85655215
  • 2008 – Lost ~22 lbs , from 182 to 160 lbs. I was 34. This took 7 months.
  • 2012 – Lost ~21 lbs, from 206 (my heaviest at the time) to 184. This was also over 7 months. I was 38.
  • 2016-17 – so far have lost 29.2 lbs, from 208.2 (my heaviest recorded weight) to 179. Again, 7 months. I am now 43.

So here we are, in 2017 and at a current total weight lost of almost 30 lbs over in 7 months (same time frame as 2008 & 2012) and it’s the most weight I’ve lost. Now, some people may get discouraged looking back at my history. Seems like I can consistently lose 20 lbs every few years. But why do I feel like this may be different this time? Well, let’s look at what I was doing the first three times.

I basically followed Weight Watcher rules. I didn’t enroll officially in the program the first time in 2002 but I got some WW books, read up on what to eat and what not to eat and unofficially “counted” my points. In 2008 and 2012 I did sign-up for the mobile app and more clearly “counted” my points, diligently recording everything I ate and drank every single day of those 7 months. Was it miserable? Not really. Was it tedious? Hell yes. So yes, Weight Watchers’ point system does work. But for me, it was not a sustainable model. I can’t live the rest of my life counting points and recording everything I eat. It did help me choose better and healthier options but it still let me treat myself with some bad stuff too easily (for example, if I starve myself most of the day, I’d have enough points for that donut) because technically, nothing is off limits in Weight Watchers as long as you have the points to eat it.

0042bdd88e05e5347cb12e43ccd8151cSo on this fourth round I’ve changed strategies. Paleo-Dairy is now how I eat and I only call it a diet in the strictest definition of a diet – not a weight loss process but a way of eating. No more points to track. No need to record what I eat. It’s great. It has helped immensely that my husband is eating this way as well (before he was not following Weight Watchers with me). Our pantry and fridge look completely different than they did a year ago and this is a good thing. It’s hard to “cheat” when all you have in the house is compliant and OK to eat. No need to hoard points to have stuff I like since my tastes have changed (and hell, I can still eat all the bacon I want). No need to look at restaurant menus before going out to figure out what I can eat within the number of points I have left for the day. Now I just check to make sure the menu has some options I can make paleo or close to paleo and 99% of them do so it’s not an issue even.

So it may have taken me 15 years but I hope I won’t be re-starting this blog in another 4 years at another 200 lb+ start point. Can I guarantee it? No. I have no idea what is in my future. All I can do is live in the here and now and at this moment, this Paleo-Diary lifestyle is offering me a delicious and satisfying way of losing weight and has helped create a healthier way of eating for me that I hope will last me the rest of my life.

The reality is that each time I’ve gone down the weight loss path, I was always optimistic and cheerful as I lost weight, just as I am now – but why didn’t I maintain it? It will be interesting to see if it was my method, not my motivation. Check back in 4 years. 🙂

Surviving the Holidays and NYC

Happy New Year everyone!

img_2305I’ve been kind of quiet on the weight loss/Paleo stuff because I’ve been busy but we are still following it for the most part. We got off track a bit during the holidays with all the treats that were floating around but it’s a new year and we are back to being stricter once again.

Despite the indulgences I didn’t fare too badly and have actually continued to lose weight week after week in very small amounts except for the 2nd week in December. Granted, the weekly losses are very, very small (0.2 lbs) but the number continues to go down so that’s what counts. Hopefully a re-set will make those weekly losses a little bigger again.

I went a bit crazy last week too as a final ‘hurrah’. It was a girls’ trip to the Big Apple with my best friend and part of the process of introducing her to New York was to also introduce her to some of the classic food like cheesecake and pizza.

The final damage from NYC? A loss of 0.2 lbs. I guess walking over 7 miles a day (one of those days through snow all day) counteracts all the non-Paleo food I ate like a mini scone, bagel bite, Mudslide, Chocolate Martini, various other cocktails, breakfast burrito, New York style pizza, cheesecake, tiramisu, Shake Shack burger and fries (oh, and a delicious Coke) and a daily Starbucks Holiday Spice Flat White (made with almond milk) (hey, it was cold out there!). I think only one breakfast and a couple of dinners were somewhat paleo friendly.

Suffice to say, better choices are in my future but it’s nice to know that I can indulge a bit while on vacation and still come out OK. Between this trip and my Las Vegas trip in the fall it seems that the added activity helps make up for the vacation treats and I don’t mess up my process too badly. The next big test will be our upcoming 10 day trip to Spain next month. We are traveling with our friends and Paleo buds, EJ & Sherry, so at least together as a group we can help each other make better choices.

So here’s to 2017 and continued success!

img_2441

25 lbs down and counting…

Sorry I haven’t been posting – I’m so busy during the holiday season!! We had a great Paleo Thanksgiving with Sherry & EJ – Sherry wrote a nice blog post on what we had. Sherry picked the recipes and Kenny made three of them – the cranberry sauce (which was declared the best tasting cranberry sauce he’d ever had), the green bean casserole (the cream of mushroom soup made as a base for the casserole was delicious on its own) and the sweet potato casserole. Everything was delicious and out of 9 adults attending, 6 of us are eating Paleo.

I treated myself to some honey cider but I did skip the Paleo desserts Sherry made. All in all, it was delicious and just as satisfying as any traditional Thanksgiving meal. And even better, I still stayed on track with my weight loss!
img_1181
Speaking of weight loss. I had a few weeks of negligible weight loss. I wasn’t getting discouraged but was eager to keep losing weight of course. Due to a crisis at work, the team I am on had to put in some extra hours. The project lead was feeding us but one day it was pizza. I gave in and had 2 slices of pizza – the first I had had since July. I even caved under the stress and had a donut and a kolache. I thought I had doomed my weight loss for the week but I in fact I still lost weight. In fact, I think it helped bump me from the virtual standstill because in the weeks since my transgressions I lost almost 3 lbs. and reached another milestone of mine – losing 25 lbs.

So, I am encouraged once again and feel good that the Paleo diet is still working for me. That despite not meal planning like I should be due to the holiday craziness (and eating out more than I should), I am still on track and losing weight at a steady and healthy rate. I have minimal cravings and I am thrilled that I have been able to keep some dairy (mostly cheese) in my diet without adverse effects. I look forward to maybe being in the 170s for our holiday party this weekend and I can’t wait to wear a cute a fitted dress that shows off my 27+ lbs lost! It’s a nice way to start my 43rd year (my birthday is next week).

I’ve lost 2 1/2 Radars!

This is my rescued chihuahua Radar. img_1142Radar weighs around 10 lbs (give or take an ounce or two).

So, to have some fun with this weight loss journey, I decided to visually document my total weight loss with Radars. 🙂 My wonderful co-worker (who is a graphic designer) created cute little icons – each “whole” Radar reflects 10 lbs list, while of course the 1/2 Radar counts for 5 lbs. lost.

I’m almost at 25 lbs so I am currently down  2 and a half Radars!

radar_40pxradar_40pxhalf_radar_40px

 

 

The Radar icons can be found over there in the right-hand column and I’ll be updating them as needed.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Health Check

I recently had my annual exam and I asked my doctor to re-do my blood work because I was curious to see if and how my numbers had been affected by the change in diet. This page and this page helped me understand my numbers a bit better. Here they are:

Cholesterol / HDL Ratio (reference range 3.90 – 5.80)
Oct 2016: 3.28
Oct 2015: 5.08

I was within range but on the higher end. It’s nice to see the number drop to the low end of this range.

Cholesterol LVL (reference range <=199 mg/dL)
Oct 2016: 151 mg/dL
Oct 2015: 183 mg/dL

My total cholesterol has always been in an optimal range but it’s nice to see it drop further.

LDL (optimal range <=99 mg/dL) (“bad” cholesterol)
Oct 2016: 84 mg/dL
Oct 2015: 105 mg/dL

My bad cholesterol was just above the optimal range but that has now fallen to within the best acceptable range. Woohoo!

HDL Cholesterol (“good” cholesterol) (optimal range >=61 mg/dL; moderate if it’s between 40-60; at risk below 40; women should have it higher than men at at least 50)
Oct 2016: 46 mg/dL
Oct 2015: 36 mg/dL

My good cholesterol always seems to be too low and out of optimal range. It still is but at least it is going up and getting closer to a better number. Research tells me that the way to raise this number is to stop smoking (I never have), eating better (I now am) and cardio exercise. So I guess I need to work on that 3rd option, huh.

Triglycerides (reference range <=149 mg/dL; high is >200 mg/dL)
Oct 2016: 106 mg/dL
Oct 2015: 211 mg/dL

This number was practically cut in half and I am now in optimal range – yay! I didn’t even realize I had been so high.

VLDL (reference range <30 mg/dL)
Oct 2016: 21
Oct 2015: 42

I had to research this a little. It’s a calculated not measure number but this article says it needs to be under 30. It seems that I was above that number last year but I am now in the optimal range. This is the 3rd number that went from being too high to falling into an optimal range.

In conclusion, ALL of my numbers have improved over the past year. I don’t have definitive proof of course but I think it is safe to say that the weight loss and change in diet I made in the past 4 months were significant factors in helping these numbers improve!

And bonus? Because of Paleo, I’ve eaten more bacon than usual and the numbers are still down – because as it is being shown, current nutritional advice is based on bad science and it’s a myth that food fat makes you fat and raises your cholesterol!

Additional Pilates Thoughts

So I’ve been going to Pilates twice a week now since the 1st week in July and have only missed a week due to our Las Vegas trip. The classes fit well into my schedule, the studio is perfectly located halfway between work and home and I really love my instructor. All of these factors have made it easy to keep a twice a week schedule. The exercises and stretches challenge me enough that I do feel that I am getting stronger (I have been able to increase my spring tension on several exercises) and more balanced (I got rid of the stick during balance work – see pic below with the green top) while not making me dread going to class and becoming miserable halfway though a routine (like Zumba was doing for me). It is not cardio, I know, and I need to add a more active activity but for now, Pilates is the right fit. I am also not using it as part of my weight loss plan but more of just a keeping my core muscles in some sort of shape.

So what do we do in Pilates? Well, we use the Reformer machines that uses springs and a moving platform to do a myriad of exercises that work our core muscles (arms, legs, back, stomach) as well as our balance and flexibility. The exercises also help make you more limber and loosens your muscles.  Pilates is not about trying to stay on beat or keep up with a class full of better coordinated people.  It’s not cardio exercise nor will it really bulk your muscles up. And unlike a gym where you move from machine to machine, in Pilates you stay on one machine that is incredibly versatile and each of us can do the same exercises but at our pace at the tension appropriate for our strength. As you get stronger and more balanced you can modify the exercise (like adding a leg lift) to increase the challenge.  This allows for both experienced and beginners to work out side by side without slowing anyone down or making you feel pressured to go beyond your abilities and hurt yourself. Finally, Pilates is not about lots of repetitions. Each exercise is only done 4, 6 or 10 times (depending on your level). So you can quickly move through exercises.

A few more thoughts…

  • I really like that my class only has 6 machines. It keeps it intimate and my instructor can watch each of our progress and offer adjustments and corrections for each of us as needed.
  • Along those lines, my instructor is really good at knowing our abilities. She asks if we had any particularly sore parts or issues and will adjust your routine accordingly. She also increases your spring tension or tells you to do more reps as she sees you make progress.
  • We do core exercises each class but my instructor changes it up so we don’t do the exact same routine every week. Every few class sessions she shows us something new (at least to me) so it stops it from getting old. And as I said above, as you get stronger she adds new elements in to up the challenge for you.
  • Due to the set-up, the room is dimly lit which is rather relaxing.
  • This is the first exercise class where I don’t look up to see how many minutes there are left. I may glance at my watch only once if at all.
  • Since it’s not cardio, you don’t work up a terrible sweat. I do walk about a bit spent and I really feel it in my muscles, but I am not miserably sore the next day.

In conclusion, I think I finally found an exercise I can see myself sticking to in the long-term!

img_0254

This was my 1st attempt at doing balance work without the balance stick. The platform I am on is on springs and moves back and forth.

     imageWe use the straps to do both arm and leg work.

20 lbs down! Woohoo!

keep-calm-i-lost-20-lbsI did it – I hit my 20 lbs down mark – I made it before Halloween (which was my unofficial date in my head) and I am now in the 180s! Yay!

I think we are finding our stride with this paleo diet. I meal plan one week but then get lazy the next. It works though because we have found some easy to prepare paleo meals (baked fish, grilled sausages, Instant Pot meals, egg frittatas) so when I don’t meal plan we can whip something together. I’ve figured out what we do eat and what we don’t and with that in mind keep some recipe staples in the pantry and fridge, even if I have not done any meal-planning, I keep these items on hand:

  • sweet potatoes, a variety of onions (pre-chopped and whole), butternut and/or spaghetti squash, plantains, Brussels sprouts or asparagus
  • bacon (sugar-free), sausage, ground beef (grass fed), pork roast, fish filets and chicken (organic if possible)
  • apples (eaten with almond  butter), raspberries and grapes for snacking and lemons for cooking with
  • pre-boiled & peeled eggs for a quick breakfast to-go
  • almond milk
  • eggs
  • cans of flavored sparkling water, cold brew coffee we make ourselves, unsweet tea

I’m cooking more than I ever have in the past and now feel comfortable making meals on my own without Kenny’s help (although we do work together on most recipes). I’m snacking a little less than I used to so that is also good and just not having tempting non-paleo foods in the house makes it easy to stay on track. If I get hungry and Kenny is not around, I can cook up a quick meal of bacon and fried eggs or sausages and a quick side of some sort. For the occasional sweet cravings, we keep a couple of pints of paleo-friendly Coconut Bliss ice cream and we always have some sort of berries on hand to snack on. I’ve limited trying to bake paleo sweets since they may be compliant but they too still have to be eaten in moderation. And one of the bigger changes is that I went from eating out every day at work to bringing my lunch almost every day. Now I only eat out at work about once a week on average and even then, I still eat paleo. It helps that most recipes have more than two servings so most meals we cook for dinner have enough for leftovers for several days after. That means we really only have to cook about 3 major meals a week. We can live the rest of the week off of leftovers, quick small meals and eating out (typically on the weekend when we are out running errands).

So, paleo has become just another part of our daily routine. Is it a little more tedious than lazily eating like we used to? Sure it is but not so tedious and difficult that it was hard to integrate into our current lifestyle once we got into the swing of things. The key to making it work for us I think is having some flexibility and like I said above, finding some quick meals for the inevitable times when we were tired or had a busy week. The food is also tasty and filling and I am enjoying the benefits. I look forward to seeing more results in the future too. I have my annual physical exam next week and I hope my doctor is happily surprised with the weight loss!

Save

Save

Save

Never say Never

My dear friend Sherry’s recent blog post inspired me to write this post. She talks about the reality that not everything we will eat will be 100% paleo. Her husband EJ also writes about “cheat days” and I liked how he refuses to call them cheat days.  Both of their posts resonated with me because if you get it in your head that you must be 100% compliant, you are doomed to fail. Every bite that passes your lips will most likely not be all compliant and that is perfectly OK.

That being said, this does not give you the leeway to go off course in radical ways. Rather, you can adjust and make the best choices possible. Our trip to Las Vegas proved to me to that I had the tools to do just that. We had some some non-paleo meals (and cocktails) but we did not go completely overboard. We had reasonable portions and made better choices (wine & cider vs. sugar loaded cocktails) that may not have been strictly paleo but aligned with some of the same concepts. If you are sticking on the diet pretty strictly most of the time, you can have these non-paleo treats without major consequence and it helps satiate some cravings.

Let me clarify though: don’t treat these meals as rewards but rather occasional treats. Treating these as rewards is not the right mindset. Eating paleo should not be seen as a chore or punishment, therefore following your paleo lifestyle should not involve a treat-based reward system. Eating paleo should simply be part of your healthier lifestyle and non-compliant meals are just the reality of living in a world that is not all eating paleo like you are.never-say-never-lettering_23-2147522687

Just as you should not call these non-compliant meals “rewards”, I agree with EJ that they should also not be called “cheats”. The term is negative and does not help in your mindset. It sounds like you have lost control but you don’t have to. Like I said above, you can make better choices and mitigate the consequences of the non-compliant meal. Ways to do this include:

  • Make sure the rest of the meal is as compliant as possible and don’t let the entire meal be non-complaint.
  • Think about how rare a treat this is. Is it a unique meal or food you can’t get anywhere else? If not, maybe resist the temptation for another day.
  • Add extra activity (for example, we walk way more than we typically do when we are on vacation).
  • Limit your portions or quantities – have one cookie or glass of wine, not several.
  • Have just a couple of bites or share the dessert/appetizer instead of eating the whole thing.
  • When you go non-compliant, try to follow some paleo rules like eating freshly made food with high quality ingredients you can still pronounce.
  • Avoid back to back non-compliant meals or treats.

Finally, never say never. If I had to say “I’ll never eat this”, I’d be pretty discouraged. Now, I don’t say “never” but rather “some day”. This helps me be way more patient and it helps me make better choices knowing that if I stay the course, I can take a paleo-break every now & then. For example, I miss popcorn at the movies but have not given in yet. I will someday though, as a treat. *

* I’ll let you in on a secret – I love candy corn which is the embodiment of everything paleo is not. I have allowed myself ONE piece of candy corn a week through Halloween. And I savor every tiny bite, LOL.