Hopes for 2019

On January 1 the calendar’s a blank slate. Another chance to get things right. I always feel excited in a new year, ready to dig in to healthier eating and other habits, but I wouldn’t call these things resolutions as much as common sense. I’d just spent December in an orgy of sugar. It seems an obvious time to clean up my act. I made a great pot of vegetable soup yesterday. Also cookies for my husband as he likes them with his coffee in the morning.

Since I’m on the borderline of diabetes, I won’t be eating any of the cookies, although I sampled a few broken ones yesterday. I also won’t be having coffee, because that among other things had to go in 2018 when I did a deep dive into just what was wrong with my digestion. I changed a lot of things about what I eat, but I’m not crying. There’s an abundance of foods still available to me, and I intend to bring my blood sugar levels back to normal in 2019.

For the first time in many years, Al had the holidays off. Tomorrow he’ll be back on the job, but at least we got in a good binge of “Jack Ryan.” Eight episodes all gobbled up like another holiday treat. I’d recommend that series (it’s on Amazon Prime). It was entertaining but also made me think. Mostly about the plight of refugees. The show involved Middle Eastern refugees, but the news here IRL is all about those from Central America seeking asylum in the USA. Two young children died in December on the border while in US custody. We need to fix this broken system, and I hope it happens in 2019.

I read some great books in 2018; my favorite rock memoir was “Thank you Mr. Kibblewhite” by Roger Daltrey. He lets the reader in, almost like a friend. He’s frank and honest. He admits it hurt his feelings when Pete Townsend made disdainful remarks about his singing. Roger, Pete’s just jealous, because you and your voice both were gorgeous and onstage got all the adulation from the beautiful girls while he had to be satisfied with guitar obsessed men. He was so mad he frequently bashed his guitar to pieces.

I also loved “The Recovering” by Leslie Jamison. I’ve long had a fascination with drinking memoirs. I like to read about young rockers before they hit the big time and also about young drinkers and how they cope once they realize their drinking has surpassed all reason. I’m always rooting for the young rocker to make it big and for the old drinker to get sober. In fiction, I really loved Michael Connelly’s “Dark Sacred Night” the first of his Bosch series to feature Renee Ballard. Nancy Thayer’s “An Island Christmas” was a frothy delight. Kate Atkinson can do no wrong in my mind, and her 2018 novel “Transcription” came through as always. I loved Tana French’s “The Witch Elm” very much, too. Right now I’m in the middle of “Brief Answers to the Big Questions” by Stephen Hawking. I quite enjoy theoretical physics and Hawking writes in a clear style anyone can comprehend. Well, most of the time. I also am a regular reader of Buddhist thought and Mark Epstein’s “Advice Not Given” is a superb 2018 example of its kind.

Goodreads says I’ve read well over 900 books on my Kindle since they started tracking such things, and a very satisfactory moment in 2019 will be when I hit the 1,000 book mark, even though it’s a number without much meaning as I read books outside Kindle, of course. I buy them at book fairs and conventions and conferences. I buy them at real brick and mortar bookstores! Also I order a fair share on Amazon. I read more than literary mysteries, Buddhists texts, and memoir. Those are just the ones who stand out as being great in 2018. I’m sure 2019 will bring many new books, gee maybe I’ll even finish one of my own by the end of this year. I expect I will, since I have a first draft done.

I expect 2019 to be an excellent year for so many reasons and I hope your blank slate fills up with lots of joy, too. Happy New Year!

Dieting During the Holidays

I am always on a diet, so dieting during the holidays is not new to me. But the diet I’m on now is different. Some of the foods I’ve given up in order to reverse the diabetes and lactose intolerance trends in my body are: sugar, dairy, alcohol, meat, and oil. What I eat impacts my health. I feel the effects of dairy almost immediately, while other stuff takes awhile, as I have learned after  the temporary amnesia that kicked off the holidays.

On Thanksgiving, friends made a wonderful feast — all the traditional holiday foods. There were plenty of fruits and vegetables and grains. There were other things too, but it was Thanksgiving, and relaxing my vigilance for one day would not kill me. I had a little of everything and ate every bite on my plate. I also enjoyed cocktails plus a sliver of pumpkin pie. No whipped cream. Virtuous, right?

Well, not really. Dairy makes me ill. Lactaid pills work, but only to a degree. I knew there’d be cream and butter in the mashed potatoes, I saw the bacon in the Brussels sprouts, and my hostess informed me that she’d used mozzarella and parmesan cheese in those yummy potatoes as well. They were delicious and I felt fine.

Perhaps the pomegranate martini helped. And the wine. You can eat PBWF and still have a glass of wine once in awhile. But probably not three. At least that is what my pounding head and desert dry mouth informed me when I woke in the middle of the night. Lying in bed, trying to sleep, remembering the dinners out with friends on Wednesday and Friday, the nights before and after Thanksgiving, I tried to count the ways I’d veered off the PBWF path. Things were a bit hazy, but I knew I’d overdone it again, me and millions other folks this time of year.

Yesterday I felt tired all day. I was happy my friend had packed lots of leftovers from her  turkey dinner for us to take home. Al could eat that. I wasn’t really hungry. I wasn’t exactly sick…I just lacked energy…I tried to explain to him how I felt. He said “Sounds like you’re hungover.” What?

I don’t get hung over anymore. I hadn’t had that much to drink. Then I realized, maybe I was hung over, and not just on alcohol. Dairy products, sugar, salt and oil are used in almost all restaurant food, sometimes in abundance, unless you order a salad without dressing and a plain baked potato. Which I hadn’t done.

I have a plan for December. Cook everything myself. And don’t drink any wine. Drinking just encourages me to eat things I shouldn’t, like those nachos on Friday night. Plus alcohol is nothing but empty calories. This holiday season I vow to eat less calorie dense food, like fruits and vegetables and whole grains, which will give me energy, help me lose weight and just maybe, if I get my Christmas wish, reverse diabetes.

 

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.

 

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.