Changes Sad & Glad

Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa, is one of my favorite TV people. Her show on the Food Network is about more than cooking. It’s about the flowers and table setting, too. Episodes that include her husband Jeffery are the best. I love the way their genuine warmth and admiration for each other beams from their faces. You just know they are still truly in love.

I like Valerie Bertinelli’s cooking show too. She’s a warm and sweet person who knows her way around her charming kitchen. It’s not her home kitchen. It’s a set built using inspiration from her own kitchen at home. Ina has a “barn” out back with a deluxe kitchen and pantry. Both Ina and Valerie have cute themes to their menus, too.

Since changing my diet to mostly plant-based whole foods, I’ve avoided watching these programs, because I’d be too tempted to make the recipes. But today, instead of the increasingly depressing news, I really needed Valerie’s cheery face. Plus the Food Network was doing a repeat of Ina and Jeffery’s classic 45th anniversary dinner show. Everything Ina made related in some way to their shared history, while Jeffrey chose the wine direct from a vineyard and also picked up the wedding portrait he’d had framed for Ina.

To prepare myself, I ate lunch before watching the show. The great thing about PBWF eating is you really don’t get hungry between meals and even if you see great food (Ina made peanut better chocolate “globs” ~ something they had at a restaurant on their first anniversary ~ and Valerie made an caramel apple tart) you don’t get cravings. I used to get cravings if I even read about a food I liked. If I saw the word “wine” in a book, I’d look at the time to see if it was cocktail hour! But today I fortified with my healthy lunch and I enjoyed my favorite programs without pain. I even thought about ways I could make some of the dishes PBWF.

It helped knowing that the PBWF chocolate muffins I made a few days ago were on hand for a snack. The key to not feeling hungry between meals is to eat the vegetables and fruits first, then have your starches. Oh, and eat as much as your body needs. You should not be hungry between meals. I’ve learned just how many hash browns (my favorite lunch starch) make me happy until dinner, and just how many oats will see me safely to lunch. I eat larger portions than I used to–for so long I didn’t eat starches at all. But now that I don’t eat meat or dairy or processed foods, I can indulge my love of potatoes.

Before I give you the recipe for my muffins, I just want to add that I am not perfect on this diet. My husband and I, like Ina and Jeffery, have yearly traditions that make us feel close. And one of them is donuts and cider in the fall while the leaves are peaking. We did that, and yes I had a donut AND cider. I have often heard that if you try to be perfect on a diet, you are bound to fail; if you try to just do your best every day, you’ll be happy and healthy. And with PBWF I don’t “fall off” my diet for a week. It’s easy to just begin again after a treat.

Cindy’s PBWF Chocolate Muffins

1/2 cup unsweetened dark cocoa powder, 1 cup unsweetened almond milk, 1 tsp apple cider vinegar, 2/3 cup maple syrup, 1 cup canned pumpkin, 1 tsp vanilla, 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour, 3/4 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp baking powder

Mix dry ingredients. Mix wet ingredients. Combine. Use cupcake liners or silicone pan, bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until toothpick stuck into muffin comes out clean. Cool. Enjoy!

 

 

Results!

I took notes so I could report in an intelligent way about how my body responded sugar-wise to the plant-based whole food diet after six weeks. The news is good. The test my doctor uses to track my insulin levels is an A1c blood test. A normal number (not diabetic or pre-diabetic) is 5.8. As the number goes to 5.9 the body hits the pre-diabetic range. It stays pre-diabetes until 6.5. At 6.5, you are a diabetic. I was 6.4 at my last test six weeks ago. This time, I am 6. I basically cut my risk of diabetes in half in just six weeks.

Does this mean that another six weeks of eating this way will see my sugar in  the normal range? I hope so. Meanwhile, not eating dairy has cleared up the digestive problems, so this is a double win. I’m very cheered with the results. The diet is not difficult. Shopping for the food is easy, as you mostly use the produce section of the store. Putting together a meal is a snap. I’ve been using my crockpots for cooking dried bean and lentil dishes and I’ve also put together an easy two week meal plan so I don’t have to think about what I’m going to eat.

I use my medium crockpot for a lentil-potato stew and my larger one for recipes with dried beans. (Cooked beans taste so much better than beans from a can.) The little crock pot is great for appetizers, sauces and dips. Most recipes freeze well, so that’s another plus. I am a big fan of cooking once and eating twice. With the large crockpot you’ll have three or four meals for two people.

For the medium crock pot lentil potato recipe, I quarter 4-5 potatoes, 2-3 carrots, onion and celery if I have it, 16 oz. canned tomatoes, and about a cup of lentils. I use green but red lentils will work. You can add any other veggies you want, like corn or peas. I spice mine up with pepper and curry, although one time I forgot the curry and the dish still tasted great. I don’t salt recipes anymore, but herbs are great. Parsley, basil and thyme would be good with this, too. I do add salt to taste once the food is on my plate.

There are tons of recipes out there for vegan crock pot meals, and some of them do so much prep it puts me off, but I made this one up from ingredients I had on hand. I didn’t pre-cook anything, just scrubbed the potatoes and rinsed the lentils. Easy!

 

 

Finding Right Food

Saw my doctor a couple of months ago. Tomorrow, I’ll see her again. She’ll check my numbers and then I’ll know. Has all the work I’ve been putting in to a plant based whole food diet helped bring my sugar down? I know it’s helped with dairy intolerance because the symptoms of–and relief from–that don’t need blood work. I thought I’d miss it more, but I only miss dairy a little every once in a while.

One day I was watching High Carb Hannah and she made this amazing grilled cheese sandwich with vegan “cheese.” So I had that and while it is not unprocessed, it was really good. I’m not great at deprivation so I need a diet that helps me feel satisfied inside and out. I’ve been searching for that balance for a really long time.

It is work to change the way you shop, cook, and eat. But I’ve been doing versions of this for so long, I know most of the basics. It’s kind of a hobby, finding right food. Each time I try with the hope that the new plan, this time PBWF, will increase my health and well-being. It’s not that I even want to live longer. I want to live better. Without disease slashing away at me.

Even though I read all four of the books you see in the photo, two are recipe books and two are on the science of PBWF life, there was one thing I wasn’t doing. I was so busy learning a new way to eat, I wasn’t thinking about the weight loss aspect. I’ve been losing a pound a week, so I figured I’m doing okay.

Yesterday, my friend Sara said she eats a salad for lunch and for dinner before her carbohydrates. BTW I love eating all these carbs. I think it’s the best diet ever and feel like I could stick to it for the rest of my life. I’ve never been much of a veggie lover, but they are part of the diet, so I eat them. A plate of food on a high carb diet of whole plants measures out as half whole carbs, like potatoes, rice, whole grain bread and pasta. Then a quarter of the plate is veggie and a quarter fruit. That’s a lot of food.

The thing with eating fruit and veggie first is that it helps keep down the carb binge. One way I do this is with soups and stews where everything is mixed together. But as an overweight diabetic woman who can eat a whole plate of potatoes with no problem, I can see the benefit in salad. Also, my husband LOVES salad and he’s eating the same thing I am most of the time.

[A husband cheat is for the guy to A. cook their own meat and fish and B. eat it at lunch. Dinner too, if they want. Also Al eats dairy products and uses oil on his salad. We have worked it out.]

The featured image today shows how I set up salad for my lunch and dinner and also as part of Al’s dinner. I like fresh salad so I make it daily. I’m not crazy about lettuce so today I added spinach, tomato, cucumber, carrots, corn and blueberries. I top all this whole unprocessed food with a little salt and hemp ranch dressing or raspberry vinaigrette. Those are the two dressings I’ve tried so far, but I plan to experiment more with no-oil dressing with my Ninja blender.

So, even without the doctor saying I am no longer in danger of diabetes, I would still eat this way because my belly feels better, I’m pain-free, I have more energy and my mental mindset is more positive. My creativity is shooting off sparks. (I wrote a short story in two weeks and I think I found my next novel!) The physical stuff all happened within 24 hours of starting PBWF living and it’s only getting better. It takes about a week for the blood tests to come back, so I’ll share what’s happening with the insulin thing then. Meanwhile, I feel great, I’m writing and I’m losing weight. I’d be really surprised if my test results don’t reflect that.

 

Straightening the Curve

Still eating a plant-based whole food diet. My energy level is amazing. I feel easy in my body. I’m never hungry. I don’t miss butter on my potatoes. And I lost a pound. For a few years now I’ve struggled with some messy digestion issues every morning. That’s gone. Arthritis is gone. My craving for chocolate is gone. I could care less about potato chips. I’m sleeping like a baby.

All of these changes in one short week have been sort of shocking. In a good way. It feels good to feel like myself again. One thing that happens to people as they age is our bodies get less and less effective in fighting off the ill effects of a poor diet. With me, it started in my 40s with my gall bladder. The symptom of gall bladder disease is acid reflux. The body takes in too much fat for the liver to process and the gall bladder takes the excess. Until it gets really tired and can’t do its job anymore.

I knew this when I had the emergency surgery to remove my gall bladder. That’s where my curve started, the curve downward toward death. Death happens to everyone. But for some people, and I was in that group, it’s a gradual downward decline. It mostly happens at a cellular level, so we don’t see it happening. We might get warning symptoms, but medication usually clears up the symptoms. Medication does not stop the downward curve.

For me, excess weight was a symptom of poor diet and high blood sugar. It was a warning that diabetes was coming on. There were other signs, too, that I was on the downward curve. That persistent trouble in the bathroom. The fact that the heels of my feet hurt all the time. My joints ached. I had weird random muscle pain in different parts of my body. Sometimes I’d wake up in the middle of the night in pain for no apparent reason. The pain would actually wake me up. I suddenly developed allergies at 62.

As I steeped myself in the literature of Dr. McDougall and other experts on PBWF diets, one guy in particular got my attention. He talked about the curve downward to death. And then he said PBWF diets “straighten the curve.” In other words, you’re still going to die, but it won’t be a slow sad decline. You’ll be absolutely fit, fine and full of energy until you drop dead. Or maybe die in your sleep.

I like that death better than the other one. And I like the way this life feels now better than before I started it.

 

 

Hello High Carbs

This morning I woke up pain-free, perky and full of energy for the first time in a very long time. So many of you have written to me about being on the edge of diabetes. Thank you for all your encouragement and suggestions. I’m taking it all to heart. Your caring gives me confidence to continue.

(Reminder…my Facebook Messenger is not running properly, so email, text, or phone. Or leave a comment here or on my FB page. You can send me a tweet if that’s your thing. I’ve gotten positive messages from all these platforms and I can’t tell you how much it helps.)

Since I got the latest sugar report from my doctor and it finally hit me that if my sugar numbers did not go down at next appointment in September, she might be recommending medication. I don’t want to take diabetes meds. Diabetes is one of those cascading diseases that start with pills, then pricking your finger three times a day, then injecting insulin into your body twice a day, then taking more meds for diabetic nerve pain, then blindness, amputation, kidney failure and more.

There is a way to stop this cascade before it goes over the cliff into medication. I’m lucky enough to have a doctor who asked me about my diet and made a recommendation that I try the Mediterranean diet. Of course I left her office and went right to the bookstore to buy a cookbook. It’s a good one as it explains the what and why of this way of eating. There’s an illustration of the Mediterranean food pyramid (the photo this week). You can see it’s way different than the one our government recommends.

It looked to me like “almost vegetarian” and I knew I could do that. I’d been a vegetarian for several years before being seduced by a sly filet mignon. After a brief binge with one of those “eat all the meat and cheese you want” diets, I was sick of all that meat. Meat is no longer my favorite food. I admit I love a juicy burger and who can resist bacon? But I don’t love those things more than my health. The Mediterranean suggests fish a couple of times a week, and though I never have and still don’t love fish, my husband does, so I figured he’d be happy with this diet.

The other thing my doctor thinks is going on with my body is lactose intolerance. She asked me to refrain from dairy for two months. I love cheese, but I love my health more, so I gave it up and finally remembered not to use butter. Butter is just automatic with me, in cooking and as a topping. Not that I eat a lot of toast or baked potatoes. I’m still terrified of carbs because I saw how fast the weight can come off if I avoid them as much as possible.

Or I should say I WAS terrified of carbs. Not so much anymore. Once I got good and used to the Mediterranean diet, I got the message from Sara. She’d read my blog post last week and wanted to recommend The Starch Solution, a book on why eating carbs is not only a good idea, it’s the healthiest way you can eat. I ordered it right away because I was curious. And because she said the magic words: I could eat potatoes again.

I called her over the weekend and she shared her story about how this diet changed her life. Sara’s pretty healthy to begin with (she’s been vegetarian since she was 14), but she’d had a couple of minor setbacks and wanted to reboot. She did some research and found The Starch Solution. We caught up with each other’s lives, then she started explaining about this high carb diet. It sounded a lot like the Mediterreanian diet without the top tiers of the pyramid. In other words, pretty doable.

Over the weekend I watched several YouTube videos, especially the “High Carb Hannah” channel. Then I watched a couple of docs. One was on YouTube “The Marshall Plan” (about a whole town in Texas, in cattle country! that went to a plant-based diet) and “Forks over Knives” on Netflix. This one is about how people can heal themselves of heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes by switching to a plant-based high carb diet. Because fruits and vegetables have a lot of carbs. Whole grains have a lot of carbs. And as it turns out that is NOT a bad thing.

The key is to eat only whole foods, only plant-based. Finally I realized “oh, this is vegan.” I never thought I’d have the stamina to go vegan. It seemed so hard-core. But since my doctor took me off dairy, vegan isn’t such a stretch. Meat (for me, because I’ve done it before and because I am desperate) is easy to give up.

With a plant-based vegan diet you give up refined and processed foods, all meat, all dairy, even fish. None of that bothers me like a needle full of insulin does. So, Saturday night at dinner I ate less salmon than I’d planned and more potatoes. Then Sunday, with my limited knowledge (I still haven’t got the book! Hope it comes today!) I ate vegan. I went shopping for a vegan meals, checking labels for whole grains and no added dairy or sugar. So yesterday I ate vegan.

Last night, I slept so well. (I have been waking a lot at night with aches and pains in different places in my body for no reason I can figure out. I’ve even had to get up and take Motrin because my leg or my hip aches so much.) None of that happened last night. And, added bonus, today I woke up for the first time in a really long time feeling perky and happy. I’ve been waking up lethargic and apathetic for longer than I can remember due to migraine meds I may not need much longer…

Yes, this diet is said to cure migraines and many other maladies, including cancer and dementia. I know it’s hard to believe, but there’s good science behind the claim. Most of these diseases come from plaque in our bodies. I don’t know a doctor who would disagree with that. Eating a plant-based diet eliminates the plaque and can even repair damaged cells, reversing the ills age (and all those years of junk food!) relentlessly piles on.

I wrote this blog post before I had any coffee. Usually I need at least two cups before I can do more than lift the cup to my lips. And I’m really energized and happy, which is an amazing way to feel after being in a low-key depressed state for so long. I can’t help but think that in a mere 24 hours, eating vegan is making enough of a visible, remarkable change that it will be very easy to stick to.

So is this going to be a lasting change or just another experiment in my endless quest for good health and happiness? I’ll post again after I’ve done it for awhile.