Monday, February 26, 2018

Eating to Thrive: the post for those who've asked

"Do graham crackers count as treats?"
Every morning for the last week or so, my four year old has asked me, "Is it still Lent? I don't like this part of Lent." We're not quite two weeks into this penitential season, and the removal of treats has been a millstone around her neck. I can relate; I have a sweet tooth the size of Texas, Alaska, North America.

I get asked frequently what I've changed, how I eat, and comments on the weight I've lost, so I thought I'd go ahead and write a post about it for anyone that wants to know. However, before I launch into that, I want to stress that I'm firmly in the 80/20 camp of healthy eating. For example, yesterday we celebrated the "mini Easter" of a Sunday in Lent by eating ice cream and Cadbury mini eggs. And do you know who ate the most? Me. But today, Lent or not, I'm back on the wagon.

I spent months researching nutritional science 1 and observing how foods, and when I ate them, made me feel 2. I discovered:
  • Eating to reduce the insulin released into my bloodstream made me a lighter, happier, mentally-balanced, energetic mom.
  • Discovering my own circadian rhythm of insulin release relative to the foods I was eating enabled me to time my eating of certain types of foods such that I didn't experience blood sugar swings and their negative effects: irritability, headaches, shakes and ravenous hunger.
  • Since insulin causes water retention, reducing the insulin released in my body caused me to lose a significant amount of water weight. Being free from the feeling of chronic mild inflammation caused by elevated insulin and water retention was a huge surprise and relief!

No relevance to this post, just a fun pic and a
common sight in our house.
What did I discover about myself and the food I was eating?

I can't eat added carbs before lunch. No matter the fiber content or amount of calories, they will make my blood sugar spike, causing a massive insulin release, followed by a blood sugar crash and a horrible case of the "hangries" (hungry/angry) and I'll have to eat again mid-morning.

In the morning I also avoid dairy products (aside from half and half) and lean protein - all of which also cause a rise in blood sugar. For whatever reason, my body is very sensitive in the morning and I need fat. 
  • Breakfast consists of: 
    • Coffee with about 1/3 c. of half and half
    • 3 eggs with butter (when I'm done nursing Sumo baby, I'll go down to 2)
By lunchtime I can add in some carbs; this is when I start in on the dairy, but I still avoid grains.
  • Lunch consists of any of the following:
    • Salad with avocado, bacon bits, cheese, creamy dressing
    • Cottage Cheese (fullest fat I can find - 4%)
    • Cheese with lunchmeat
    • Peanut butter (I use non-hydrogenated, sugar-sweetened peanut butter) with apple slices (about 2 TBS per 1/4 apple)
The afternoon always brings a coffee break, so that's another 1/3 cup or so of half and half. I'll also add a snack in at some point:
  • Snacks consist of any of the following:
    • Nuts - raw or roasted/salted (often with some mini choc chips)
    • a smaller helping of anything from the lunch list
    • if I *really* need a sweet something now that it's Lent, I'll add a few raisins to my nuts, but let's be honest, those things have as many carbs as chocolate. Be careful.
Dinner is a family affair in our house. I try not to short-order cook for each of our needs since we have various allergies as well, but I will often tweak individual dinner plates by adding or removing an ingredient. For me, carbs such as pasta are replaced with melted cheese or roasted veggies. I'll eat small servings of rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes (my fav!) and make sure they have a lot of butter! I try to keep my meal high fat, moderate protein, and low carb.
  • In terms of how carbs make me feel, evening is the best time for me to eat them. It's not unusual for me to eat a bowl of ice cream after dinner. I try to keep my desserts high in fat since this softens the blow of the sugar in my blood stream.
  • If I over-do it, or eat a dessert that's low in fat, I will feel particularly "hung over" in the morning: puffy, inflamed, headache, depressed...
What I don't eat at all:
  • Gluten. It's the ultimate way to mess up my progress, hormones, mood, digestion, inflammation levels, etc. I also find that 1 taste leads to more tastes. I just say "no".
  • Artificial sweeteners (the very occasional diet pop aside). If I'm going to enjoy a treat, I'll enjoy it whole-heartedly, sugar and all. Interestingly, artificial sweeteners still cause an insulin spike, even though there is no blood sugar spike. Because of this insulin release you set the blood sugar swing in motion, triggering "hanger" and all it entails. This doesn't even touch the potential health issues related to artificial "foods."
Alcohol? Yes. In moderation. It makes me puffy, so I bear that in mind, but I enjoy adult beverages. I avoid beer because a) gluten and b) there are tastier options.
 Sumo Baby! 7 months old and 23 lbs of pure happiness.
So, that's the not-so-short primer on how, when and what I eat. I'll admit, sometimes it gets a little boring, but that's where the 80/20 rule comes in. I just need to keep myself accountable and realize when it's creeping up to 70/30 or 60/40, a few strict days and I'm back on the wagon.

I'm happy and healthy, my nursing baby is fat as fat can be, and I'm 4 lbs below my wedding weight. It feels like freedom, and I hope to eat and live this way for a long time!

1. Among many other things, I read Gary Taubes' Good Calories Bad Calories. For a summary, click here. The insight into the role of insulin was particularly eye-opening, and allowed me to have a pregnancy virtually free of significant water retention - a first in my 6 pregnancies!

2. Because I am a busy mom of 6, I am most interested in feeling my best, and not being chained by negative emotions and negative reactions to children being children, fatigue, hunger, weight gain, etc. I make no claims that this is a heart-healthy way to eat although I suspect it is more-so than the way I ate previously (which I thought was the "right" way to eat). I also make no claims that this is a one-size-fits-all approach! This works for me, and your body may function entirely differently based on your own body chemistry, ailments, etc.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Intentional Leisure

I feel restless. I spend my days trying to keep a gladiator-of-a-2-yr-old alive, nursing a baby, and attempting to instill in the 4 yr old that this is not her anarchy. Also, I clean up in the kitchen. There is no end to the kitchen, it's worse than laundry. Suddenly I love laundry; it stays clean for at least 1 whole day.

We joke that we're raising our second family. These days it doesn't feel like much of a joke. Sometime over the summer, between numbers 5 and 6, I congratulated myself on surviving those only-pre-K kid years. Having bigs around during the summer, and prior to the gladiator fully blossoming into his gladiatorial self - not to mention the birth of number 6 - life seemed  manageable. I even took them all swimming, by myself! But then the bigs went back to school and left me alone to again mother a brood of pre-K and under: A brood that requires my constant supervision, buckling and unbuckling, who can't play outside on their own, thinks all objects are meant for consumption, for whom faucets are a near occasion of disaster, and, blessedly, still nap for hours at a time. Thank you Jesus! No, really, ALL my thanks!

Sometimes all three of the pre-Ks are napping at the same time. This is a miraculous event, and one that is celebrated with a cup of coffee and a stare off into the silence of the middle-distance, or, let's be honest, social media. When I come back to reality, I return again to the ever-loving kitchen. As if on cue, with the last lunch dish stowed in the dishwasher, the wake-ups begin followed by the return of the bigs and the insanity of the after-school-dinner-evening-clean-up-bedtime rush.

It's that middle-distance time. This is the only time in my hours of consciousness I have for restorative leisure, and I don't want to waste it on just anything - certainly not on chores that need doing. It also has to be something that is easily begun and set aside. But what? 

(Note: Let's assume that I have already had a decent prayer time, and that this pursuit of leisure is a way to restore my soul in a non-purely-spiritual manner - esp. since it can't be counted on. If I spent this as my regular prayer time, it would often be overthrown by the demands of the brood.)

I really enjoyed photography, and that would be a great time to edit photos, but unfortunately, the gladiator bathed my Macbook in coffee and its photo editing software I'd finally wrapped my brain around. With that, my photography came to an abrupt halt. I don't have space in my Amish brain for the learning curve of new editing software on this chromebook, if anything decent exists. I suppose I could take the time to learn how to take amazing photos that don't require editing. Come to think of it, that's a learning curve I might be able to get behind. Speaking of which, I hope you're loving these crappy phone pics of our deck progression that have nothing to do with this post. You're welcome.

I picked up my anatomy and physiology book the other day, and loved reading that. Yes, I'm a dyed in the wool nurse nerd. Then my eyes went on the blink (hah, hah). With them improving, I might go back to that. If I ever do want to get my license back up and running, 5 years of snippets of nerdy reading could come in handy.

On a similar note, I love to read. Reading also presents a challenge: I don't have the time or energy to find good books, so I often don't have anything on hand to read. When I do find something good, I become a glutinous reader. I suspect it might not be the healthiest way to spend my time. It's easily picked up but not easily set aside.

There are umpteen house projects which alternate between feeling like the best idea and a millstone around my neck. Unfortunately (fortunately?) I can't think of any that are easily picked up and put aside at the whim of the pre-K brood. So, that nixes those. Phew. 

Also, it can't cost money. No crafting, unless it's something I already have on hand. Now there's another idea: what can I craft using only what I already have? Hmmmm.

I love people, and I crave more adult social interaction in my life, but I'm not much of a phone person. On top of that, what are the chances another mom's kids are going to allow her a good heart-to-heart? I know mine wouldn't; they become incomprehensibly needy and loud the moment the phone touches my ear. Trying to have a conversation while running from room to room with screaming children trailing behind me, or banging on the door of the room I've just locked myself into, or listening to hers do the same, puts me over the edge. Over. The. Edge. Sorry people. I love you, but mostly in person.

I'm just thinking out loud. But gosh, I need an outlet. Something beyond the demands of life. I'm curious - what do you do with whatever leisure time you can eek out?