Thursday, May 31, 2012

My Story Profiled

My friends over at the Re-Body Total Transformation System did a profile on me recently in their "Health Heroes" section.  They did a great job and it's a good read with some great questions and answers.  Check it out!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Healthy Is Not Expensive: Canned Beans - Updated 5/28/2012

I've been at this weight loss thing for 2 years and I have recently decided it's time to change the menu.  I'm really just tired of eating the same thing over and over, so I've decided to branch out.

Since I used to live on processed food, fast food and food high in sugar, salt and fat, I never ate many fruits, vegetables or beans growing up.  I am working on changing that.

Which brings us to beans.

I have always known that beans are low in fat, high in fiber, high in protein and contain many important nutrients.  It's the perfect food. But trying to find a way to eat them is the real challenge.

Our society is used to loading up beans with cheese, fat, sour cream, ham, etc.  So how can I eat beans and have it be a healthy food item?

First, let's look at how to acquire the beans.  You can buy them one of two ways: canned or dried in a bag.  Canned is the most convenient, because they are ready to go.  The beans are perfectly cooked at the factory and ready to go.  Warm them up and you're all set.

The problem with canned beans is they are LOADED with sodium.  And by loaded, I mean there is so much salt in a can of beans, your blood pressure doubles as soon as you finish eating them.  Or triples.  (Not really, but you get the point.)

Which brings us to dried beans.  They are cheap, sodium-free and the way to go.  But there is one big problem:  time.

It takes forever.  You must inspect the beans.  Rinse the beans.  Soak the beans overnight.  Cook the beans.  And on and on.

Honestly, that is more work than I am willing to put out for cooking beans.

So about a month ago, I began a search for canned, pre-prepared beans that were not loaded with sodium.  It was an interesting analysis.

First up: a standard can of regular black beans.  The sodium is 480mg, with 3 servings per can. That is 1,440mg of sodium in that one can.  Since I have high blood pressure, I am supposed to consume less than 1,500mg of sodium per day.  I will have used up my entire allotment on that one can of beans.  No can do.

Next, we have "reduced sodium" black beans.  The sodium in those is half of the regular, 240mg with 3 servings in the can. That is moving in the right direction, but what's with all the salt?  That's still 720mg of sodium per can.  Unacceptable.

So I started looking for the beans with no salt added. I searched high, I searched low.

The only one I could find was "Eden Organic No Salt Added" beans. Only 15mg of sodium per serving, 3.5 servings in the can.  52.5mg of sodium total. Nice!

Except....they were $2.39 a can.  A bit much.  Also, for some reason, they contained "Kombu Seaweed" as the third ingredient.  I could never get over this when I was eating them.  Why was there seaweed in my beans?  And why did it cost so much.

I kept looking.

And then, one day, while shopping at Whole Foods, of all places, there it was on the shelf.

Black Beans. No salt added.  Ready to serve.  99 cents a can.  Not only were there black beans, but they had kidney beans, pinto beans and garbanzo beans too.

But would there be seaweed in them?

Nope.  Ingredients: Prepared black beans and water.  Nothing more. 10mg of sodium per serving, 30mg total.

The best part?  They taste great! Here is what they look like. Remember: eating healthy does NOT have to be expensive, but you have to do some work.

Update 5/28/2012 11:07am:  It has been pointed out to me that Eden Organic uses "BPA-Free" cans, whereas Whole Foods does not for their store brand.  BPA is a chemical used in the lining of cans to preserve food and keep it stable, but many think it is harmful to your health.  More info about BPA here.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Half a Pound

The old saying is true: the scale giveth and the scale taketh away.

I've said many times on this blog that the scale is a monster with tremendous power.  I was reminded of that this morning.

I weighed in and lost....a half a pound.  This was my first weigh-in in 3 weeks.  Some background:

The last 2 times I weighed in, I lost 9 pounds and 7 pounds, respectively.  There is simply no possible way to stay on that kind of roll. I never get 2 big drops in a row and absolutely never 3.  My body doesn't give up the weight that easily.

Also, I had a clue that some of that 16 pounds I lost was water weight.  I weighed at the doctor 2 weeks ago and had "bounced back" 8 pounds. Now, some of that was my clothes and shoes, but that sort of gave me an idea that the 7 pounds I had just "lost" wasn't really there.

So, I'll take it. Disappointed?  Maybe a little, but I have had this happen before.  Plateaus happen. I am going to just keep doing what I am doing and I know I will keep getting what I have been getting for the last 2 years.

If you had told me 2 years ago as I lay in the hospital..."two years from now, you will weigh 268 1/2 pounds."  I would have busted out laughing and questioned your sanity.

So all is well.  Happy Memorial Day Weekend!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Sodium Smackdown: Sliced Deli Turkey

The amount of sodium in food (particularly processed food) is staggering.  The government recommends no more than 2,400mg daily.  For someone with high blood pressure, it's 1,500mg per day.

That is a number that is very, very hard to stay under. And it has *nothing* to do with the salt shaker. Far and away, most of the sodium people consume is already in the food they buy.

So with that in mind, today we look at the category of sliced deli turkey.  I love turkey sandwiches.  I eat them all the time.  I always have one for lunch.

So here's a popular brand.  Boar's Head 47% Lower Sodium Oven Roasted Turkey Breast.

The numbers:

Per 2 ounce serving: 60 calories, .5g fat, 340mg of sodium.  (source: Boar's Head website)


Columbus Reduced Sodium Turkey Breast.  This is sold at Trader Joe's and comes pre-sliced in an 8 ounce package.

Per 2 ounce serving: 60 calories, less than 1g of fat, 220mg of sodium. (source: Columbus website.)


The Boar's Head (as you can see in the picture) is $9.49 a pound.

The Columbus is sold in 8-ounce packages for $4.79 each, so that makes it $9.58 a pound.

Edge: Boar's Head, by 9 cents a pound.


The Boar's Head has 340mg per serving, the Columbus 220mg per serving.  340mg vs. 220mg of sodium might not seem like much of a difference, but here's the problem.  Who eats one 2 ounce serving of sliced turkey?  Not me.  I usually have 2 or 3 or 4 servings at one sitting.  4 servings of the Boar's Head is 1,360mg of sodium.  4 servings of the Columbus: only 880mg of sodium.  The salt really adds up.

Edge: Columbus, by a mile.


The Columbus tastes much better than the Boar's Head. It's almost as if the sodium were reversed, except it's not.  The Boar's Head, while still tasting quite good, has more of a bland flavor.  The Columbus is just that much better.

Edge: Columbus, by a large margin.


The Columbus brand proves that it is possible to remove the sodium from a product without sacrificing the taste.  It CAN be done.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Are you better than the other 95%?

I've heard this statistic for years:  95% of the people who lose weight fail and gain it back.

Just hearing makes weight loss seem so impossible. Like you might as well not even try.  It's a very defeating thing to hear.

The medieval butchers (I mean weight loss surgeons) use this statistic to sell their procedure.  After all, you are doomed to 95% failure if you try it on your own.

Hang on just a minute, though.  Think about that 95% for a minute.

How does a 5% success rate actually look?

If you put 100 people in a room that have lost weight and there was a 95% failure, that means 5 people did it.

Taken one step further, that means that out of 1,000 people in a room...50 people did it.

Can you be one of the 5 or one of the 50?  Absolutely.  When you consider that most people will try a fad diet or a pill or some other gimmick...a 5% success rate is actually pretty good.

Don't be scared off by high rates of failure. Out of 100 people trying to lose weight, you can be one of the ones that actually does it. Especially if you do it right.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Wrong Idea

I was thinking about this today.

A lot of people have the wrong idea (and so did I) that they are overweight solely because they eat too much.

This brings along with it the following baggage:

1.) Emotions of guilt and shame over eating

2.) Becoming overly conscious of what people think about your eating habits

3.) Feeling like you're being judged all the time

The truth is, you have to eat. Every last person on this Earth must eat food daily or you will eventually die.  I would argue the overweight person (myself included, 2 years ago) is overweight because they aren't eating enough food, aren't eating it at the right time and are eating the wrong things.

In other words, there's no plan.

And another thing.  Society is so cruel to overweight people.  We are not victims by any stretch, we do eat the food that makes us overweight.  But we are also vastly growing in numbers as a side effect of the American way of life.

So back to the title of this post: "the wrong idea."

I eat more now in volume than I did when I weighed 577 pounds.  But it is WHAT I am eating that makes my body weight so much different.  I am not "eating too much," I am eating the right amount.

One last point:  no one, no matter how successful they have or have not been at weight loss should stand in judgment of anyone else.  People ask me to do this all the time.  "Look at that person. They should do what you did."

We are all day to day. I am no better than anyone else.  I have lost large amounts of weight before (although not this much) and gained it all back.  Had I not almost died from multiple blood clots in my lungs 2 years ago, I would probably weigh 650 pounds by now.

You have to eat.  You should be eating quite a lot to nourish your body.  There is nothing wrong or bad about eating.  Food is life!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Your Lifestyle Is Your Life

You hear it over and over again: "Diets don't work.  You have to change your lifestyle."

It's certainly very true, but what exactly does that mean?

Your lifestyle is your life.  If you want to change your lifestyle, you're going to have to change your life.  After 2 years of doing this, I can tell you this: it is very hard.  But as the saying goes, it is difficult, but not impossible.

Think of it this way: if you want to lose weight, all of your habits, behaviors, food that you eat, body movements, all of it contribute to your current state of health.

To make that change, to improve your health, requires the modification of habits, behaviors, food that you eat and body movements.

What makes this a very tall order is none of it will last unless you do it forever. The problem with all of that is that for many of us (myself included, before June 20, 2010) food has become a reward.  Food has become entertainment.  Food has become happiness.

That all has to go out the window.  Food is fuel.  Nothing more.  The thin person does not have a problem with this.  They are perfectly capable of (for now) celebrating with food, eating foods high in sugar, fat, salt and calories in small portions and getting by.

But not us.  Not me. Not other heavy people.  We've gone too far.  We can't do it.  We can't stop.

Which is why we can never start.

Back to changing the lifestyle.  There are so many traditions and things that we do where unhealthy food is ingrained into our routines.  To be successful, long-term, I believe it all has to go.

Used to eating concession food at the movies?  Bring your own healthy alternatives.

Used to eating hotdogs and nachos at the baseball game?  Bring your own better food.

Eat out of the vending machines at work?  Don't.  Pack your own lunch and snacks.

That's what has to happen.  Those key behaviors have to be changed. And that's why it's hard.

But you can do it!  If I can, anyone can.  And that's the truth.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Weighing in: 269

Something has happened today that hasn't happened in a long time.  For the first time in forever, I have experienced big drops in weight for 2 consecutive weigh-ins. 

3 weeks ago, I weighed and had lost 9 pounds.  Today, I weighed and have lost 7 more. This is very unusual and is not likely to be repeated. 

So what am I doing differently?  I am not sure. I am trying to intensify my workouts, although that just started.  I have been trying to walk more. I have actually been eating *more*, not less.  On some days, I have eaten 3,000 calories. Most days, it's between 2,500 and 2,800. 

But I know this: I'm not changing a thing.  I know that there will be those times I weigh in and won't have lost anything.  It's coming, this can't go on forever. But I will enjoy it while it lasts!

Onward and upward! 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Reinventing The Menu

For almost the past 2 years, I have eaten the same thing every night for dinner.  It's been a 3-meal rotation:

Spaghetti, Chicken or Fish.  That's it.  Over and over again. 

But, of late, I have found myself getting tired of it.  Not the taste, I don't really care much about that.  Food is fuel.  I don't eat for pleasure.  That went out of the window a long time ago.

Rather, I'm just not finding the meals as filling anymore.  So it's time to reinvent the menu.  What are the new additions?

I am always looking for something nutritious to prepare, that I know is going to be very filling. Which has led me to look at beans and also brown rice. The past few weeks I have tried pinto beans, black beans, kidney beans and great northern beans.  

The results have been good.  Beans are extremely filling.  A couple of servings of them and I feel like I've swallowed a huge rock. So I added kidney beans to my spaghetti.  Had black beans and rice for dinner one night. 

It is amazing how that works.  What once used to fill me up and really do it for longer does.  Time to mix things up!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Sorry, I'm Not Having Any

You know these people. We are surrounded by them every day of every week.  You may even be one, for awhile I sure was.

They offer you food all the time, usually junk food.  They want you to eat it.  They mean well.  They equate food with friendship.  Or happiness.  Or love.  Or whatever. 

I have a name for them.  I call them force feeders. 

Here's how the exchange goes:

Them: "We're having _________, here have some!"

Me: "That's really nice of you to offer, and I really appreciate it, but I already had breakfast/lunch/dinner, so I'm good."

Now, at this point about half of the people respectfully say "Oh, OK" and walk away.  To those people, I say thank you. Keep up the good work. 

But then, there are the people who won't take no for an answer.  They are the force feeders. 

"Come on, we're all eating. Have some!"
"Are you starving yourself?  You should eat!"
"Just have a won't hurt!"

Here is what I tell these people: "I really appreciate the offer, but I'm not having any. Thank you, though."

And, a few of these people have really become heated. And I know they are insulted that I won't eat their food.  Politely declining is not enough. 

And here is why I am not having any, no matter what it is, healthy or not. 

I plan the food out I am going to eat.  Not eating food I didn't plan on eating before I left the house helps control compulsive overeating.  I don't have to worry about situations where surprise food might be available because I am simply not eating it. 

So don't be a force feeder.  Enjoy your food, eat what you'd like.  It's a free country.  Just don't try and make me eat it, because it will be a waste of time.