Love Is…Green Slime

My diet (and my life) have gotten complicated.  I hope to write more about that soon.  Basically, I have been having allergic-type reactions to many foods I have previously been able to eat, and my diet is very restricted right now.

To go along with that, I have a complicated medicine routine.  My newest medicine has to be taken 4 times a day, on an empty stomach.  So I have a schedule of medications that begins when I wake up and goes throughout the day until I go to sleep, and requires me to deconflict one of my medicines from all the other medicines (and food), and requires that I take the new medication on an empty stomach (no food from 2 hours prior to 30 minutes after).  Yeah…

So I wake up, take the empty stomach med, wait 30 minutes, take another med, and eat breakfast, so that 1 hour later I can take my next med.  Did I mention I’m not a morning person, and don’t function very well when I first wake up?

The LAST thing I feel like doing half an hour after waking up is hassling with breakfast.

I used to eat several hours after waking up, when I had the capacity to deal with making food.  But now when I eat is dictated by my medicine schedule.  And what I eat is dictated by my allergic-type reactions.

Currently, I am having a drink for breakfast that we jokingly call “Green Slime.”  (You would probably call it green juice, or a green smoothie.)  We call it green slime because it looks like duckweed:

The recipe comes from one of the low histamine chef Yasmina Ykelenstam‘s cookbooks – she calls it green lemonade, although the recipe includes no lemons.  It’s mostly green vegetables, with apples as sweetener.  I also add chia seeds, for fiber and protein.

We first tried making green slime in the blender.  It’s do-able, but I don’t recommend it – for 2 reasons.  First, it’s hard on the blender motor.  Second, the consistency is like applesauce, which can be unpleasant to drink if you’re squeamish about textures.

Having determined that I liked green slime in theory, and would likely be drinking more juices, we bought a juicer.  I prefer a minimalist kitchen, and try not to buy extraneous kitchen tools, but this has proven to be a very useful device.  [And the slime is now a juice consistency, rather than an applesauce one.]  But I digress…

Because of my health condition, I need to eat very fresh foods.  So I can’t make green slime the night before and leave it in the fridge overnight.  Thus, every morning, veggies and fruit need to be chopped and processed through the juicer.  Working a knife within 1/2 hour of waking is not a good idea when you’re as out-of-it as I am in the morning.

It is highly probable that, left to my own devices, I would starve or die of malnourishment.

Fortunately for me, I am not left to my own devices.  Spousal Unit wakes up hours earlier than I do (for reasons that are completely inexplicable to me), and is gracious enough to prepare green slime for me every morning, even though Spousal Unit does not drink slime.

Each morning I take my first medicine, wait 30 minutes, take my second medicine, and then stagger out to the kitchen.  I open the refrigerator door and find a glass of green slime waiting for me.

Which means that Spousal Unit has cut up the fruit and veg, fed it through the juicer, poured the green slime into a glass, added chia seeds, stirred, and left the juice for me – every morning.

And all I have to do is drink it.  And then take my next medicine an hour later.  Totally do-able (most days).

And this is why I say “love is green slime.”  Thank you, Spousal Unit!

 

Health Hack: How to Eat (Mostly) Healthy for Thanksgiving

I will confess that I am a foodie.  I love trying new foods (and beverages), especially when I am traveling.  But it doesn’t have to be a gourmet restaurant – I’m more of the food truck, street stall, Mom & Pop restaurant, diner type of foodie.  (I’m certainly not opposed to a gourmet dining experience – I’m just too frugal to do it often.)

But, as you can imagine, my recent allergen-elimination diet has had quite an effect on my foodie ways.  

Lately I’ve just been eating to live, getting little enjoyment from the same few bland foods.

However, I was determined to have a delicious Thanksgiving meal.  It was too depressing to think of forgoing the holiday treats.

On the other hand, I didn’t want to be sicker than a dog afterward either.

So, balancing taste and health concerns, here’s the Thanksgiving menu Spousal Unit & I created:

Cornish Game Hens

  • We weren’t having a crowd for dinner, and these are easier to cook than a turkey.  No seasonings – just basted with olive oil and butter and cooked in a rotisserie.
  • We select game hens that are NOT packaged in a flavor solution, as many meats are.  These flavor solutions often contain MSG, a known migraine trigger.
  • allergens: butter (milk/dairy)

Paleo Thanksgiving Stuffing

  • We delete the onion (hard to digest if you have gallbladder issues), mushrooms (prohibited if you have a mold allergy), and pecans (because I don’t like them).  We also substituted apple cider vinegar for the white wine vinegar (more flavor, lower in histamines).
  • Rather than using pork sausage, which often contains MSG, nitrates and/or nitrites (all known migraine triggers), we buy ground pork that is not packaged in a flavor solution, and add spices ourselves.  Melissa Joulwan’s book, Well-Fed, has great recipes for DIY spice and seasoning mixes.
  • We use uncured bacon (cured foods are prohibited if you have a mold allergy) with no nitrites or nitrates (which can trigger migraines).
  • We also buy chicken broth that contains no MSG (a known migraine trigger).
  • allergens: eggs; apples; celery

Paleo Sweet Potato Casserole

  • We delete the pecans/walnuts, because I don’t like them.
  • This dish satisfies the sweet potato craving, but is less sweet than traditional sweet potato casseroles.
  • allergens: eggs; apples; cinnamon/nutmeg/allspice

Maple Bacon Braised Brussels Sprouts

  • Spousal Unit hates Brussels sprouts, but will eat them prepared like this.  If you really REALLY hate Brussels sprouts, you could make Coconut-Almond Green Beans instead (if you can tolerate the spices).
  • We use uncured bacon (cured foods are prohibited if you have a mold allergy) with no nitrites or nitrates (which can trigger migraines).
  • allergens: butter (milk/dairy)

Cranberry-Orange Bread

  • We modify the recipe from a Betty Crocker cookbook.  Instead of using all-purpose flour (which contains gluten), we substitute 1/2 almond flour and 1/2 coconut flour.  This makes the bread slightly more dense (and crumbly), and gives it a slight coconut flavor.  We also substitute orange extract for the grated orange peel, because it’s easier.
  • allergens: gluten-free; butter (milk/dairy); eggs; orange juice (citrus); almonds (nuts)

[Dessert] Pumpkin Harvest Crunch

  • This year we modified the recipe we traditionally use, substituting 1/2 almond flour and 1/2 coconut flour for the yellow cake mix.  This reduced the amount of sugar and eliminated chemical additives in this dish.
  • Instead of canned Pumpkin Pie Mix, we buy canned pumpkin and add pumpkin pie spices ourselves.  This eliminates chemical additives.
  • This year, instead of homemade whipped cream (milk/dairy), we made Whipped Cream from Coconut Milk (recipe from James L. Gibb’s book, Is Food Making You Sick? The Strictly Low Histamine Diet).  We used coconut sugar to sweeten the whipped cream, and substituted vanilla extract for caramel essence.
  • allergens: gluten-free; eggs; almonds (nuts); cinnamon/nutmeg/allspice

[Alcohol]

You may or may not be able to drink alcohol.  Alcohol is not recommended on my allergen-elimination diet – particularly fermented beverages such as wine or beer.  However, I really wanted one drink with Thanksgiving dinner.  So I selected Cranberry Margaritas, since tequila is distilled, not fermented.

  • We used agave nectar to sweeten the margaritas.
  • Be sure to select a cranberry juice that is either 100% cranberry juice, or just cranberry concentrate and distilled water – no added sugar, no other ingredients.
  • I had one margarita.  It may have affected my sleep patterns, but it did not cause my allergies to flare.

NOTE: We did not have mashed potatoes or mashed potato substitutes this year, to reduce the dairy load (and because we already had plenty of food).  If you really want to satisfy that craving, try Mashed Cauliflower.  It might sound weird, but it really does satisfy the mashed potato craving.

NOTE: We are not a gravy family.  If you want gravy, try this recipe from nom nom paleo.  We haven’t tried it ourselves, but it sounds easy and tasty. Allergens: gluten-free; butter (milk/dairy); heavy cream (milk/dairy).  See previous information on onions and chicken broth.

BOTTOM LINE: You *can* have a healthy and tasty holiday meal.  Just pay attention to the ingredients and select recipes that your body will tolerate.

DISCLAIMER: I am not a health professional.  All content is for educational or informational purposes only.  Do not eat food to which you are allergic or which will otherwise negatively affect your health.

 

Guest Post: The Importance of Sleep to Health and Weight Loss

I had been thinking about this one for some time, and then I saw the following blog post: Does Sleep Deprivation Really Impact Weight Loss?  The obvious answer being, ‘ Yes,’ and it covered nearly everything I was planning to write about, so I highly recommend clicking on the link to this post.

I’ve already talked about the poor food choices we tend to make when tired.  As I am now tracking my daily calorie intake, sleep, and weight the next morning, I’ve also personally noticed 2 nearly identical days of food intake and the next morning one will have a positive effect on my weight, and the other negative – the only real difference was having a good night sleep.

Another interesting study looked at eating late at night.  Your body starts releasing fat into the blood stream about 1 hour before your normal bed time, and does so continuously overnight.  This is to keep the cells nourished while you sleep.  So eating right before bed can not only give you funky dreams and heart burn, but go straight to fat.

Your body saves extra fuel in the blood stream as fat.  If you are eating at a time when your body naturally releases fat, you create an overload which goes right back on as fat.

Everyone’s cycle is different, so I can’t give you a rule to stop eating by a certain time.  I’m a morning person, so I found it is important to me to eat fairly early in the day and stop fairly early.  I try to stop eating food (and drinking any alcohol) by 6-7pm in the evening (yes there are special occasions when I don’t follow this).  My wife however, is a night owl, and she usually eats breakfast later in the morning, and stops eating later in the evening.

I found it surprising how many more calories I can consume and still lose weight, when eating good healthy foods, in the right combinations, at the right times of the day, and getting a good night sleep.

We all know far too well how the negative cycle works. Doing the right  things help get you into a positive cycle of feeling good, making good decisions, sleeping well, and maintaining a healthy weight.

Good luck! If you have any questions or comments, feel free to email me at daveb.uk@hotmail.com.  [Crew Dog: Or comment below]

Crew Dog and the Case of the Faulty Health Paradigm

A paradigm is a model or example of something, or the framework or mindset we use to understand or make sense of things.  When we subscribe to a paradigm, it often means that we choose to see things in only that way.  What do you see when you look at the picture above?  Can you see it in more than one way?*

Often, in business, we hear people talk about a paradigm shift, which means accepting a new way of looking at or thinking about things.  The opposite of a paradigm shift is paradigm paralysis, which is “the inability or refusal to see beyond the current models of thinking.”

I was stuck in a paradigm, or suffered from paradigm paralysis about an aspect of my health for many years, and it basically took a whack upside the head (figuratively speaking) to make me change that paradigm.

The paradigm I was stuck in was this: I don’t have allergies.

I never had any health problems when I was growing up.  I was blessed with excellent health until my mid-thirties.  I didn’t wheeze and sneeze like the people in the allergy commercials.  Surely I didn’t have allergies.

Not only did I believe that I had no allergies, but the one time I went to a (military) doctor because I wasn’t feeling well and I described my eyes as “itchy” the doctor quickly reprimanded me to never say that, because itchy eyes were a symptom of allergies and aircrew could not have allergies.  Since I didn’t want to lose my aircrew status, I never again described my eyes as itchy.

Years later, I started having very concerning symptoms.  I suddenly developed vertigo, which was quite alarming.  I was sitting in a chair reading when, out of nowhere, it felt like I did a front cartwheel.  My inner gyros completely tumbled.  I felt like I had moved violently, even though I hadn’t moved at all.  I dropped my book, grabbed the arms of my chair, and tried to figure out what the heck had just happened.

As it turned out, it took quite a while to figure that out.  I saw lots of specialists during that time.  I had diagnostic tests to rule out brain tumors, inner ear tumors, and…allergies.  The allergist administered a skin prick test, left me sitting in the waiting room far too long, and had trouble reading the results on my arm.  I, of course, didn’t think I had any allergies, and wasn’t expecting them to find anything during this test.  I had noticed one area on my arm react strongly, but the allergist smugly informed me that that particular area had been the control – it was pricked with histamine.  Of course I had reacted to that, I was told disdainfully.

The allergist peered at my arm, ran their fingers over and over the area, and finally pronounced that I was probably allergic to birch trees and penicillium mold.  I asked if that meant I was allergic to penicillin (it runs in my family).  The allergist said it was possible.  [I learned many years later that being allergic to penicillium mold *does not* mean you will be allergic to penicillin the antibiotic.]**

I asked about the allergy to birch trees, and was told to just avoid being around them.  I was given no other information or guidance.***  I decided the allergist wasn’t very competent, and went on with my life.

Next I developed frequent excruciating headaches.  Eventually the headaches and the exclusion of other causes led to a diagnosis of migraines and migraine associated vertigo.

I began to learn about migraine triggers – things that can contribute to having a migraine, such as barometric pressure changes; bright, flashing, or fluorescent lights; and foods.  People with migraines have reported that they were more likely to have migraines after eating certain foods, although not everyone responds to all of the same foods.

Known culprits are red wine; aged cheeses; processed meats; chocolate; citrus fruits; and foods containing MSG or aspartame.  (There are more, but these are some of the biggest culprits.)

I started eliminating many of these foods from my diet, and my symptoms abated somewhat.

During this time, I had also developed a perpetually stuffy nose that seemed to get worse prior to and during a migraine.  I saw an ENT, and was diagnosed with chronic sinusitis.  For years afterward, whenever I mentioned to a new doctor that it seemed to be linked to the migraines, I was told that stuffy nose was not a migraine symptom, and the doctor ignored that symptom.

Fifteen years after my trip to the allergist, I had an allergic reaction to a medicine (Chlorhexidine) I was administered in a hospital.  Since Chlorhexidine is an antibiotic that is widely used as an antiseptic and disinfectant in medicine, dentistry, and  in pharmaceutical and cosmetic products, I figured I’d better see an allergist to discuss how I was going to avoid Chlorhexidine for the rest of my life.  I also wanted to know if I was allergic to any other antibiotics, since I still didn’t know whether I was allergic to penicillin or not.

This allergist was very thorough, and asked me a lot of diagnostic questions.  We discussed my Chlorhexidine allergy.  And then he said, “You probably also have a mold allergy.”

Here’s where the paradigm paralysis makes me look pretty stupid.  Even though I had been diagnosed with an allergy to penicillium mold, and even though I had known for years that I was sensitive to mold in my environment (moldy basements, moldy government buildings, water-damaged areas in homes), it had never occurred to me that I was *allergic* to mold (because I don’t have allergies).

I didn’t even know that mold was a common allergen.

I told the allergist that I had never even considered that I might have allergies, because “aircrew don’t have allergies.”  He laughed, and said, “At least, not until after they’ve retired, right?”

My new allergist gave me a mold elimination diet to follow, for diagnostic purposes.  It sounds crazy, ‘cuz we don’t go around knowingly eating mold, right?  Well, actually…  That penicillium mold I’m allergic to?  It’s used to create Brie and Camembert cheeses.  Two of my favorites, that I started eating right around the time my migraines became frequent and have been eating ever since – because the first allergist *never told me* I should stop eating them!

Penicillium mold is also used to create “veiny” cheeses, including Roquefort, Blue, Gorgonzola, Stilton, etc.  While I ate these cheeses much less frequently, I did like to have Gorgonzola (often found in four-cheese blend) on my pasta.  Fortunately, these cheeses  were all categorized as “aged” cheeses, which I had eliminated from my diet early on because they are known migraine triggers.

Back to the mold elimination diet: Anything pickled, fermented, cured, aged, or cultured contains mold.  Dried products (fruit, nuts, coffee, tea) may also be contaminated with mold.

The cultured yogurt that I was eating because it contained “good” bacteria and was good for my health – was making me sick.  Before I began the mold elimination diet, I ate yogurt for breakfast one last time and my nose got so stuffy that I had to breathe through my mouth.

After three days on the mold elimination diet I could breathe better than I had in fifteen years.

After two weeks on the mold elimination diet, I felt better than I had in many years.  My energy level was much higher, and the incidences of “brain fog” were much lower.

I also don’t think it’s a coincidence that the mold elimination diet prohibits me for eating every food that is a known migraine trigger.  I am currently exploring the possibility that my migraines are linked to this underlying allergy.  [Update: see this Migraine diet]

I have subsequently returned to the allergist for two rounds of testing: skin prick and injection (blog post to follow).  Of the identified 100,000 types of mold (there are 1.5 million, but many are unidentified), there are allergy testing samples for 15 types.  I reacted to Penicillium and Aspergillus, which are both common indoor molds.

My allergist tells me that it is less common to do allergen elimination diets these days, particularly for something like a mold allergy.  In fact, it’s hard to find much information about mold elimination diet on the internet (see below).  I’m glad I happened to get an allergist who had this in his “bag of tricks,” because this diet has already had a radical impact on my health.

Are there assumptions or paradigms about your health that might be false?  If you are dealing with a chronic health condition and you haven’t had success treating it, it may be time to go back and challenge previous assumptions and paradigms.  After all, I “knew” I didn’t have allergies…

*This is a classic perception image.  You might see a duck facing left or a rabbit facing right.  Many people have trouble being able to see both, or switching from seeing one to seeing the other.

**NOTE: For more information on Penicillium mold, and supporting data that “hypersensitivity to Penicillium mold bears no relationship with hypersensitivity to the antibiotic Penicillin,” see this article.

*** My new allergist informed me that if you are allergic to birch trees, you may have cross-reactions to certain foods, including celery, apples, or carrots.

NOTE: For more information on mold in general, see these Centers for Disease Control (CDC) FAQs.

NOTE: For more information on mold allergy, see this page on the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America website or this page (and associated pages) on the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology website.

NOTE: For more information on the mold elimination diet, see this example.  [This is not my allergist or ENT and I am not endorsing this practice or being compensated by them in any way.]

P.S. – Have I had a mold allergy my whole life, and just didn’t know it?  Or did it develop in adulthood?  I don’t know.  Either is possible, although adult-onset seems more likely, given the lack of symptoms prior to my thirties.  Here’s a good article on adult-onset allergies and asthma.  [Again, this is not my allergist and I am not endorsing this practice or being compensated by them in any way.]

Guest Post: Breaking Through the Weight Loss Plateau

[This is the next post in the series of guest posts on healthy diet and lifestyle from Dave Banko.]

My new diet is off and running. I’m disciplined and start losing weight. A couple of weeks in, and my weight loss starts to slow down, then stops all together even though I’m still doing what I did at the start.

Frustration sets in, and this is where many people quit.

Why?! I’ve hit the plateau!

This happened to me time after time.  I worked so hard, and only lost 10-15 lbs.  Months would pass, and I couldn’t get any further.  Eventually something would happen and I’d stop. I couldn’t get past the plateau.

Over time, with repeated trying, hitting the plateau, and not being able to break through, I became depressed and didn’t think it was possible to lose weight. When trying again this time, I set the goal of losing 100 lbs in a year, but given my past experience I didn’t really believe it was possible.

The ‘What’s the Right Diet for You?’ program, though, explained what the plateau was and how to break through it.  This time I was ready and armed with new information, and blew through each plateau as they started to happen!

What is the plateau? Here’s a link to a dietician’s explanation about a plateau. To try to explain it in simple terms, your body adapts to the changes made and your weight loss levels out.

I started off weighing more than 350 lbs, and let’s assume (I wasn’t measuring at the time, so I don’t know for sure) I was consuming 5,000 calories per day to maintain this weight. I start dieting, cut my intake to 4,000 calories per day and start losing weight.  At 350 lbs, my body needed the 5,000 calories per day just to maintain.  Since I reduced the intake to 4,000 calories per day, my body will start burning fat to compensate for the difference.  However, as I lose weight, my body no longer needs as many calories to maintain the lower weight, and at some point the weight loss will level out as I reach the point where my body only needs 4,000 calories per day to maintain itself. (You can probably insert a nerdy mathematical decreasing returns graph here.) 🙂

So what do I do? Cut further… go from 4,000 calories per day to 3,500 calories per day. When I reach the next plateau, I cut further again.

As long as I have fat reserves, I know my body has all the energy it needs and I can cut further.

What I don’t want to do is cut so far my body goes into starvation/fat preservation mode or is unhealthy because I’m not getting the basic nutrients I need.

The recommended average intake for a man is 2,500 calories per day (minimum 1,500 calories) and a woman is 2,000 (minimum 1,200 calories). This average has a wide variation, however, based on age, body size, activity level, etc. You really need to measure and experiment for yourself to find out what your value is.  I found mine, once I went below 250 lbs, to be around 2,200 calories per day, and, at this moment, as I am working on the last 10 lbs, I set myself the target to stay within 1,800 to 2,100 calories per day.

You might feel like you’ve cut really hard, well below the recommended value, and you’re still not losing weight.  Here are my recommendations:

  1. Did you cut as far as you think you did? If you aren’t tracking what you eat, you may not think you are eating a lot but would surprise yourself by how much you really are. In August 2015, I finished a project at a customer site and started working from home. I had already lost 100 lbs, and was doing well. After a week, I stopped losing weight, and, in fact, started to gain weight. How could this be? I was following my diet and hardly eating anything. This is when I downloaded My Fitness Pal and started tracking what I was eating. To my surprise, I was consuming much more than I thought. It was too convenient at home to have a bite of this and a bite of that, even good food. My calorie consumption had gone up, and my weight was climbing accordingly. I had to discipline myself to track EVERYTHING I was eating at home to get a handle on this. As soon as I did, I got my diet back on track. Another possibility is that you are having nice low-calorie healthy meals like salads, but the salad dressing you are using is so packed with sugar, unhealthy fat, and empty calories it completely outweighs the benefits of the salad.
  2. Did you cut too far and put your body into starvation mode? Remember, we need to consume a healthy minimum of nutritionally balanced food to kick-start our metabolism into burning fat for the excess energy we need.
  3. Are you drinking enough water? We need water to flush the toxins out of our systems, to properly use the nutrients we are taking in, and to release the fat into our blood stream for use. Be sure you are drinking enough water throughout the day.
  4. Adjust your ratios and the nutritional benefit of what you are eating. We need a balance of protein, complex carbs, fiber, fruits, and vegetables, but our body chemistries are all a bit different, so what may work for me won’t work for you quite the same way. This is fine tuning and will come into play more as you work off the last few pounds.
  5. Add or change your exercise regime. Exercise helps improve fitness and burn calories. We need to be careful about exercise when using it for weight loss however (see my previous post on this). Adding or changing your exercise regime while controlling your diet is another way to change the status quo and break through a plateau.

Here’s a blog post from My Fitness Pal with additional tips for breaking through the plateau.  [Hint: think of plateau-busting as troubleshooting.]

Plateaus are natural and will happen as your body adjusts to your new eating lifestyle. When you understand them, YOU CAN BREAK THROUGH THE PLATEAU! Breakthrough simply requires another change, further tuning your diet. You can do this!

Good luck! As always, feel free to contact me at daveb.uk@hotmail.com if you have any questions or comments.  [Crew Dog: Or comment below.]

 

Guest Post: Warning about ‘Healthy’ Food Labels

Low Fat! No Fat! High Fiber! High Protein! All Natural! Organic! Free Range! Zero Trans Fat! Sugar Free! No Sugar Added! Low Carb! Multigrain! Light! Cholesterol Free! Made with Real Fruit! [Follow link for more information on food label claims]

[This post is the next in the guest post series on healthy diet and lifestyle from Dave Banko.]

Buyer Beware!!!

There is very little regulation on the claims companies make about food products, and advertisers push it to the limits! Let’s face it, they are trying to make their product stand out from the others.

I no longer purchase anything based on the marketing slogan. When I shop, I read the labels and purchase whole food products with natural ingredients and as few chemicals and preservatives as possible. Don’t believe the slogan on the label until you do your research.

While I’m on the subject, also beware of fad diets like detox, liquid, no-carb, etc.  Any diet that demonizes one or more particular food groups is unbalanced and will force you to compensate with expensive alternatives.

As an example, ‘gluten-free’ is the rage where I live with many people believing they need to eat ‘gluten-free’ to be healthy.

Gluten is a composite protein found in many grains, such as wheat, rye, and barley. There is an autoimmune disease called coeliac which affects about 1% of the population. Coeliac (spelled “celiac” in the US) causes the body to react to gluten by triggering a serious autoimmune response which can damage many parts of the body.  If you have this disease, consuming gluten is dangerous and you need to seek out gluten-free products.

If you don’t have coeliac, gluten sensitivity, or a wheat allergy, you can consume gluten without problem. In fact, going gluten free if you don’t have coeliac can result in serious nutritional deficiencies.

‘Gluten-free’ products are being advertised as ‘healthier’ than regular products. The influence is so strong, I had someone who didn’t have enough food to eat come into the food bank where I volunteer and ask if she could have ‘gluten-free’ products because she was trying to eat healthier. She didn’t have coeliac and was surprised (and relieved) when I explained to her what it was. Believe or not, there is even a company promoting ‘gluten-free’ water, which is ridiculous considering there is no grain in water to begin with so all water is naturally gluten-free.

The same applies to other food allergies, like wheat, nuts, etc. These medical conditions are serious. If you have a food allergy and consume products containing them, the results can range from minor discomfort to death. The fact that products for these conditions are being advertised and labelled is a huge benefit to people with these conditions.

But, if you don’t have the condition, you don’t need to seek out these products in the name of being ‘healthy.’ Instead, eat a good balance of real food.

[Crew Dog: To summarize what Dave is saying – Don’t buy into the hype and confusion of food labels.  Think about what the food advertisers are saying and whether it makes sense – even if a cookie is low-fat, it isn’t healthy fuel for your body.  Don’t pay extra for things you don’t need (like gluten-free water) just because advertisers slapped faddish buzz words on the packaging.  It may seem like a lot of work to eat healthy, but it doesn’t have to be.  Just eat non-processed foods in their natural state (fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, meat, fish) or foods with a few simple ingredients.]

As always, feel free to contact me at daveb.uk@hotmail.com if you have any questions or comments, and good luck!  [Crew Dog: Or comment below.]

Guest Post: Diet Decision Making when Tired

[Here’s the next post in the series of guest posts on healthy diet and lifestyle from Dave Banko.]

One of the interesting experiments performed on ‘What’s the Right Diet for You?‘ assessed the effect of being tired on the decisions you make about what to eat.

The participants were divided into 2 groups: one group was given a good night’s rest and the other was forced to stay up until early in the morning. The next morning, both were sent shopping and given identical lists of types of things to purchase, but not given specific items.

When the groups finished shopping, their shopping baskets were compared and the results were astounding! The well rested group made excellent choices: lots of fresh fruits and veg, whole foods, and lean meats. The tired group purchased a lot of sugary and high fat items with a calorie content more than double the amount of the rested group!

Why is this?

When we are tired and drained of energy, our natural preservation mechanism is to quickly boost our energy levels, so we crave sugary and fatty foods.

Making good choices in this state will take every ounce of will power to overcome this fundamental self-preservation instinct.

This also relates to the discussion in my previous blog post about how when we are drained after exercise we crave sugary and fatty foods, but eating them would wipe out the positive weight loss effects of the exercise.

How do we counteract this? First and foremost is to get enough rest. I’ll be writing another post about the additional benefits of a good night’s sleep, and this is certainly one of them.

We live busy lifestyles though, and can’t always get enough rest or do things when well rested. In this case, the best thing to do is make a plan while rested. If grocery shopping, make your list in advance while rested, then stick to it when shopping!

In the end, knowledge is power. Just knowing what our bodies want helps us to make better, healthy lifestyle decisions!

As always, please contact me at daveb.uk@hotmail.com if you have any questions or comments. 🙂  [Crew Dog: Or comment below.]

Guest Post: Hydration and Weight Loss

[Here’s the next post in the guest post series on healthy diet and lifestyle from Dave Banko.]

There is a lot of content available regarding the importance to weight loss of drinking plenty of fluids. I’m including this blog post for completeness, but won’t really spend a lot of time on it.

Below is a great diagram from a post called 11 Reasons Why Dehydration is Making You Fat and Sick.

Just remember to be drinking the right kinds of fluids: plenty of water (perhaps with a squeeze of lemon or other fruit/veg infusion) and green/herbal/fruit teas and limit or eliminate sugary and/or caffeinated drinks. Check the labels and you’ll be surprised how many drinks contain sugar, fructose, and a chemical sweetener.

Please contact me at daveb.uk@hotmail.com with any questions or comments.  [Crew Dog: Or comment below]

[Crew Dog NOTE: For more information on proper hydration, such as getting water from foods, times when you need to increase your fluid intake, and what can happen if you drink too much water (hyponatremia), see this Mayo Clinic post.]

Guest Post: Eating to Lose Weight

 

[Here’s another guest post from Dave Banko on healthy diet and lifestyle.]

This may sound counter intuitive, but the worst thing you can do to lose weight, particularly to burn fat, is to starve yourself.

Your body has a primitive defense mechanism for self-preservation to protect fat reserves in the event of actual starvation, going back to days when the availability of food was cyclical. When no calories are coming in, your body slows the metabolism down to conserve energy (making you feel lethargic and moody) and consumes muscle and organ tissue along with the fat to protect reserves and supply the brain and red blood cells.

You will lose weight, but not all of it will be fat, and this method can have serious negative effects on your overall health.  As soon as you start eating again, most of the weight comes back on as your body rebuilds.

Consuming calories, even a small amount, stimulates the metabolism and releases fat reserves.  This is also another reason breakfast is so important, as you haven’t been consuming calories for 8-12 hours overnight.

In ‘What’s the Right Diet for You?‘ scientists stress 80% of successful dieters start with breakfast.

A good breakfast including protein (eggs, fish, poultry, other lean meat or high protein legume) and complex carbohydrates in fruit and whole grains, and, of course, one or more glasses of water, is the perfect way to kick-start your metabolism and fat burning for the day.

Adding a cup of tea or coffee isn’t the end of world, unless you are also cutting down on caffeine. 🙂 I would avoid fruit juice as it has a high concentration of sugar without the fiber naturally found in whole fruit to slow down its hit to your blood stream.  Also be careful of hidden sugar in spreads, commercial cereals and even muesli.

However, you don’t need a lot of calories to trigger the fat burn which is why the 5 and 2 diet can keep the calorie content on the fasting days to 500-600 total calories. But even the 5 and 2 diet encourages breakfast on fast days to get you going, and regular eating on non-fast days.

Be sure not to fast on consecutive days, and eat properly on the days in between fasts.

According to the National Institute of Health, women should consume a minimum of 1200 calories per day and men should consume a minimum of 1500 calories per day for a healthy metabolism, appropriate balance of protein, fat, fiber and carbohydrates, and avoidance of malnutrition.

If intermittently fasting (this should only be for 2, at the most 3, non-consecutive days per week and for no longer than 12 weeks) the minimum should be 500-600 calories per day on fasting days, and 1500-1800 calories on the non-fasting days.

When aiming to lose weight, average women should aim for a weekly total of 8,400 to 10,500 calories per week and men, 10,500 to 12,600.  If you are heavier or very active, this target should be higher.

When I started this new healthy eating lifestyle (I prefer not to call it a diet, because I will be eating this way for the rest of my life), I weighed 351 lbs (having peaked at 365 lbs) and consumed around 5,000 calories per day.

I tried and failed with numerous starvation and detox diets.

Eating to lose weight made absolutely no sense to me, but I tried it anyway, and my successful weight loss convinced me.

Eating the right foods, in the right combination and at the right time of the day made me feel better, gave me plenty of energy, and made it easier for me to eat less (you may not feel ‘full’ but you will feel ‘satisfied’ and for longer), and the weight melted off.

At the time of this writing (17 months after starting to change the way I ate), I’m down to 218 lbs and working to lose the last 8 lbs to get down to my military weight of 210 lbs.

Every now and then, I still have bad days where I blow the diet, and it shows on the scale the next morning. My natural inclination is still to stop eating to counter my binge from the day before, but I remind myself how my body works, and then go cook my 2 whole egg cheese & veg omelette to have with my morning fruit, full fat natural yogurt, whole grain toast, lemon water, and tea (no sugar), and I’m right back on the program. The weight keeps coming off.

For more information on eating to lose weight, here’s a good blog post from My Fitness Pal.

Feel free to contact me at daveb.uk@hotmail.com with any questions or comments.  [Crew Dog: Or comment below.]

Guest Post: Low Fat or Low Carb?

[Here’s the next in the guest post series on healthy diet and lifestyle from Dave Banko.]

One of the main debates in our Facebook weight loss group was whether we should focus on reducing carbs or fat. When focused on weight loss alone, studies have repeatedly shown a ‘low fat’ diet loses more body fat over the same period than a ‘low carb’ diet.

Having said that, there is more to consider for a healthy lifestyle than weight loss alone.

Let’s first separate carbs into complex carbohydrates, which tend to have a low glycemic index (GI), and simple carbohydrates like sugar, fructose and processed grains (skin, husks and other fiber removed), which have a higher glycemic index.

Take an apple for example. An average-sized apple is about 65 kcal and 14g of carbohydrates. The carbohydrates are complex because the natural sugars are locked with the cell structure. This naturally provides fiber so, when you eat an apple, it takes time for your digestive system to break down the cell walls and release the sugar. The cell walls also provide fiber and other nutrients to the body even after releasing the sugar.

When you drink apple juice, the sugar has been squeezed out of the cells of the apple.  There is no fiber to slow down the processing, so the apple sugars are immediately digested and hit the blood stream causing a spike in sugar levels and the need for insulin similar to drinking a commercial cola or other syrup-based drink. As a result, while I eat lots of whole fruits, I no longer drink fruit juice or syrupy drinks. Click on this link to read an excellent article illustrating the difference.

Fat, on the other hand, is dense and energy packed. It takes a lot longer to digest, so eating fat will not cause a spike in blood sugar. Dietary fat becomes an energy source in the blood stream, and any excess energy (no matter the source – whether fat, sugar, carbs or protein) will be converted and stored as body fat to use as an energy reserve for another time when you need it.

For me, I found fat in foods more satisfying in taste and the feeling of fullness than low or no-fat foods. I was satisfied with 1 150g pot of full fat natural yogurt where 2 150g pots of no-fat yogurt still left me longing for more.

In investigating low or no-fat products, I found that because removing the fat leaves the food tasting less satisfying, many manufacturers have compensated by increasing sugar or chemicals to fool your body.  The increase in sugar again leads to the blood sugar spikes which can lead to diabetes.

Since I have a family history of diabetes, I steer clear of anything that can serve as a precursor to becoming diabetic myself.

The negative to fat, of course, is the amount of calories it packs in a small amount of food. If you are satisfied and stay within your calorie targets, it’s fine – remember the French high fat diet is the 7th best in the world; but overeat a little, and it adds a lot of calories.

My personal diet includes a balance of protein, complex carbohydrates (low GI) and full fat items. I’ve gone to more natural foods and avoid processed foods and chemicals wherever possible.

I am not a doctor, and you may have a medical history or condition which requires you to go a different direction with your diet. This is fine, because I’ve hopefully shown that while there are general principles to follow, there is not one diet that works for everyone. Please seek medical advice when putting together any program.

In an article by the BBC on Low Carb vs Low Fat debate, Prof Susan Jebb of Oxford University (and one of the ‘What’s the Right Diet for You?’ team) sums it up like this:

“The investigators rightly conclude that the best diet for weight loss is the diet you can stick to. All diets ‘work’ if you stick to an eating plan that cuts calories, whether from fat or carbohydrate, but sticking to a diet is easier said than done, especially given the prolonged time it takes to lose weight.”

As always, feel free to contact me at daveb.uk@hotmail.com if you have any questions or comments, and good luck!  [Crew Dog: Or comment below.]