Sabotaged By Gut Flora

I’ve been doing a ton of research on nutrition as I’ve worked toward healthy living. Gut flora is one of those things that is fascinating to me. It seems to be the key to eating healthy and even reinforce those habits. There is evidence that famished gut flora is linked to poor health. Not surprising to most of you. For example, we think of eating yogurt to re-bloom gut flora with probiotics after antibiotic treatments.

Also,  If you have limited your diet to primarily pasta and breads, then that is what your gut flora will ask for. If you divert from this, it is a factor in how hungry you feel as your gut flora is starving.

Now neuroscientists have found that specific types of gut flora help a host animal detect which nutrients are missing in food and then finely titrate how much of those nutrients the host really needs to eat. “What the bacteria do for appetite is kind of like optimizing how long a car can run without needing to add more petrol to the tank,” says senior author Carlos Ribeiro, who studies the eating behaviors of Drosophila melanogaster, a type of fruit fly, at Champalimaud Center for the Unknown in Lisbon.
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-gut-bacteria-tell-their-hosts-what-to-eat/

Why am I sharing this? As I moved into maintenance mode I started to reintroduce foods I ate before – burgers, pasta, stuffing. I still kept to moderation and within my daily goals (mostly) and then something funny happened. I started having stomach issues.  I felt yucky after meals. I was more constipated. I was hungrier even though I was eating more. I was in a bad mood. I felt similarly to the first couple weeks when I stepped into my diet.  What was going on?

This weekend, I went back to a more plant based diet. I essentially listened to my gut flora telling me it was starving. A funny thing happened. My meals tasted so much better. I realized that my hunger was cravings for beets, cauliflower, carrots, broccoli and zucchini. All those things that I poured into my body for the past 10 months. I ate more lean protein in smaller portions rather than bigger portions of fattier meat. Chicken, shrimp and eggs were tastier and didn’t feel like a rock in my stomach. And I’m eating nuts – yummy!

My body was overall happier. I’m less tired. I’m more regular. And, while I was still staying in the 110 range, I’d creeped up to 110.9 until I reverted to my healthy eating. I dropped back down to 110.1. I know that sounds ridiculous, but as I watched the scale move from 109.4 to 110.9 I knew I had a problem. So, even at the same caloric intake and activity level, my plant heavy diet keeps me trimmer.

I’m still a little hungry. Not after I eat, but within a couple hours. So, I think I have another week of getting my gut flora back to normal before I even out on this. It’s getting better each day and sometimes I find it isn’t hunger as much as thirst. More water fixes that.

There you have it, my personal science experiment and qualitative experience with gut flora. Maybe what I shared will help you either get through your initial weight loss period, keep you on track, or just stay in maintenance mode.

 

 

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3 Tips For Healthy Living – Getting Off the Fence

While in San Francisco last week I ran into a number of colleagues that hadn’t seen me in quite some time. So the fact that I lost almost 60 pounds was quite a shock. But, I also ran into a colleague that had started out on the healthy journey the same way I did, attending several weight watcher’s classes at the office. So, when he saw me, he asked, “How did you do it?”

There was something odd about the question because we both started from the same place, live the same hectic work life balance, and are food addicts. I made progress and he was still a work in progress (please don’t interpret that as mean spirited, more introspective). In many ways, as we talked, it boiled down to the fact that I had moved ahead and he was still on the fence.

To be honest, his question is what I keep asking myself even as I’ve read my own blogs and analyzed my tracking of food and exercise. I think that if I can come up with the secret sauce of why I was able to lose the weight and get healthy and others aren’t, I can keep on going. But, there really is no secret sauce. There are tricks and advice to be sure, but the answer I’ve come to is pretty simple and boils down to three things:

Choice is a Commitment

I’d been down this path before and the results were temporary or limited. The difference today was I knew I was at the age where I had to make a real choice – chubby and limited in life, or healthy and enjoying life. It really was that black and white. You can start a diet. You can take a walk. But, you need to choose to be healthy. Choice is a commitment, not an activity. When you decide to do something you need to back it up.

Know Why You Chose

A smaller pant size, getting into a bikini, and parading in a wedding pageantry is a vanity result. For me, and for others that have made a choice and committed to healthy living have a deeper drive. Some want to live and losing weight and getting fit improves their heart, cholesterol and diabetes. Some want to be active and involved with their kids and the weight is getting in the way of that. I wanted to enjoy all my outdoor loves and reconnect with my husband by doing things together as we are close to entering our empty nest stage. Yes, I love my skinny jeans, bikinis and athletic body. But it is the bigger reason for a healthy life that got me through the first phase of getting healthy and losing weight and is keeping me focused on holding back the weight and staying on point.

Just Live It

Part of commitment is that you commit. Sounds recursive, I know. But, that is the point. There is no wishy-washiness. There is no bargaining. There are no excuses. There is no gaming the system. If you are doing these things you will fail. It is that simple.  You don’t think about picking up your kids from daycare, you just do it. You don’t think about if you need to go to work. You just do it. It is the same with this. Sometimes you just need to not think about things. You just need to live it. Learn how to live healthy and then just do it. No gimmicks to this – its a lifestyle.

NYC Came and Went

What a bizarre trip this week. I headed off to NYC for a conference I was speaking at. I wasn’t able to stay where I normally do and more importantly I always avoid Times Square and this is exactly where I was. So, my NYC experience was definitely like a Twilight episode as I had to angle my way through tourists and occasionally crash into them. I was dressed up for my client meetings and presentation which sharply contrasted the shabby jeans and shirts of those on leisure time (I say this not with disdain but jealousy – I wanted to wear my jeans!) And, my hotel while boutique chic, still lacked enough seating and big screens for a woman on her own a place at the bar to catch some pretty incredible baseball and hockey. (Bruins, Cubs and Indians all failed me on Wed. – sigh)

But, I digress. It was a little things that those of us looking to get and stay healthy notice that either make you smile or grimace. Like, when I was in the United lounge waiting to grab my big salad a man and woman were going down the line and the man said, “Wow, there is only healthy stuff to eat!” Or, that the streets get so crowded that the thought of running down 6th/Ave of Americas to Central Park and back makes a treadmill look amazing.

The biggest take away was the reactions of people I had worked with over the years when they saw/didn’t see me. I’d been off the speaker circuit for over a year and many of those that I did see at the event had only talked to me over the phone during that time. Even my picture on our company website doesn’t look much like me anymore. So, when I walked up to people to say hi the first reaction was a polite hello then an eye widening then a big HELLO! followed often by our typical hug. No one asked about the weight loss. That wouldn’t be polite. But, it sure was recognized. I just wanted to giggle.

The travel was a little hard this time. I kept to my exercise even as my hip and ankle were smarting over the treadmill after the weekend mountain hike. And my breakfasts were in line. But lunches and dinners were a challenge. In the grand scheme of things I stayed within the calorie range for a very active person which for me meant 1650 calories in a day. But, I don’t like being there because I know it is easy to not exercise but still eat a lot.

I’ll fess up, Wednesday night I headed to Connolly’s (the best Irish Pub I’ve been to outside of Ireland – for real) and had a 20oz Guinness and a plate of fish-n-chips. Finished the Guinness, ate a little more than half the plate, but as much as I relished dinner, I was so guilty.

IMG_0572

Awesome Fish n’ Chips @ Connolly’s in NYC

 

 

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Check out all those Massachusetts patches!

 

Hungry before my flight back, the soup and salad with a few cubes of cheese didn’t do it. I was bad – grabbed a roll and before my gate I bypassed the big salad bar and ordered a couple of vegetable spring rolls. Oh, and I had some wine.

Anyway, the scale never lies and I’m holding steady. Back on program today with skyr, a slice of toast at breakfast and I made a Chinese vegetable soup with dumplings at lunch. If I didn’t have to wait around for my tech support to help me by EOD I’d be out running!

 

Where and When To Fit In Exercise?

Last week I was back on the road for work after 6 weeks and had to relearn my travel tricks. The difference is that I’m in maintenance mode. You’d think this could be easier as I don’t have as much to worry about with counting those calories and keeping to my macros. And you would be right. I just go vegan or add some lean protein and keep portions in control. Its the exercise that’s the killer.

The trade off is always, do you stay where it is easy to go for a run outside but is far from where you need to be each day, or do you stay somewhere that is close and rely on the hotel gym? I had one of those weeks.

You would think that staying in the Bay Area would be perfect. If I am downtown, super simple. Head out to the Embarcadero. But, in San Mateo you are in an industrial zone. It may not be shady (Trader Joes was right around the corner), but it is industrial and shady enough that this little girl was not going to run through the streets alone. Call me crazy, or recognize that I probably have too much of an exurb mindset from living in New England hamlets.

In the end, the Marriot gym and I got to know each other pretty well. I checked into the hotel and immediately threw on my workout clothes, pulled back my hair, and grabbed my headphones and iPad then headed to the gym.  40 minutes later, my treadmill run was done. The next day, I got back from my client meeting and again, without so much as a thought, got my act together and met up with my treadmill from the day before for another 40 minutes run. The trick, just do it. Don’t think about it or you’ll only find an excuse.  Mine was all too easy, I hate treadmills.

That’s the travel side of things, but I am also realizing that as the summer turns to fall, and Jose is kissing our New England shores, the weather and length of day is no longer my friend. I can’t get out for a run anytime I want. And with the water getting colder, so my SUP will see more time in my garage than the lake and river. Outdoor stuff is still possible, just a bit more challenging or I can’t do yet because snow has not yet arrived (need to ski! need to snow shoe!).

What’s a girl to do? Use my work at home days to my advantage! I had a 50 minute call with my team today where nothing was to be presented and all we were doing was grocking on a strategy to cover an evolving technology space. I could either sit at my desk with my phone in my ear, or I could get off my lazy a$$. I chose the latter. With 7 minutes to spare before my call, I threw on my workout clothes, grabbed the phone, and headed to my elliptical.

The call was interactive, engaging and actually fun. I went back and forth muting and unmuting my phone as I would jump in to contribute so as not to distract the conversation with the sound of my machine. I also did what I thought was a decent job of speaking and sharing, although a bit breathy.  Alas, it didn’t go completely unnoticed. Back at my desk my colleague Cinny had shot me an email…”Are you running or biking during our call? love it! <end>”

exercising

I have to say though, it was a great workout, one of my better elliptical workouts. I upped my calorie burn by about 50 calories for the same amount of time and got my heart rate up to 134 when I’m typically in the low 120s. Maybe I should do this more often! Those meetings must get me riled up.

Machines aren’t my favorite workout mode, but when all else fails I need to not think about how I’m getting exercise time it and just work on making it happen. It really is a lifestyle change that thankfully isn’t as hard to do anymore. I feel good after my workouts just as I do when I run, SUP, hike, and bike. I also get the benefit of keeping my weight off. Over the past month I hold pretty steady at 111 – 112, and that is with the Five Guys burger a week ago and the over indulgence on pigs in a blanket and Guinness this past Saturday night at a hockey party.

Life is good.

 

Everyone Should Have A Healthy Living Brag Board…Here’s Mine

So much has happened in the last three weeks and I’ve been quite the slacker sharing. (As such, first let me apologize for a very long blog.) Of course a blog is as much a brag board as it is a way to vent and get it all out there. So, let’s share.

It’s all too easy to get discouraged when your primary goal is losing weight. That burger you had when out with the girls that you shouldn’t have. The wing frenzy during Superbowl. Plateaus that feel like your body is just beating you back. If you only look at weight, then what will keep you motivated for the lifelong journey of healthy living that should keep your weight off.

It’s where I am now, pushing into maintenance mode and finding that by moving past worrying about weight, I’m more concerned with being able to stay active, do the things I want to do, enjoy my new body in the latest fashions, and most of all, try things I’d never done before.

Weekly Report MFP 8272017The big surprise is that I actually lost weight on my RV vacation. I honestly have no idea how or why it happened. The data isn’t helping me much to figure it out, but I’ll share my stats in the hope that someone smarter than me (got to be a lot of you out there) knows what I did right. This is last week’s chart from MyFitnessPal. The week before is about the same and I don’t have this weeks report yet. As a benchmark/context, I set my calories to 1050 per day regardless if I exercise or not.

Okay, here we go…

  • All the activity is the complete opposite of how I was: On past year vacations I have spend more time lounging in a beach chair, floating in the ocean, or cooking and eating than anything else. This vacation was filled with hikes and runs. Outside of vacation, Tom and I have gone biking 17 miles on the Minuteman Trail, kayak (Tom) and paddleboard (me)  together, and run the hills of Hopkinton since we’ve been back. And, even through I was sic for almost 3 days (for real – fever, vomiting, congestion, aches and sore throat), I got right back in the swing of things when I was well.
  • Climb every mountain: My favorite, even if killer challenging, was the fact that I was able to run mountains and hills on trails. The best part was when Tom talk me how my oldest son who met up with us in the Smoky Mountains saw me take off and asked, “Is she really going to run this?” And, Tom said proudly, “Yes!” And, I did. Why do it, because when you get to the top, unlike road running, it is absolutely okay to take a pause and look out at the view, you deserved it. Here is my triumph pic from the Shenandoah on Endless Caverns.IMG_0370IMG_0371IMG_0372
  • I was Rocky Balboa: Getting my daughter off to college this week was heartbreaking. While I’m so very proud of her, the house is so quite without Emily’s KPop, Pop music, and singing/dancing routine while doing dishes. There is no Emily popping her head in our room to say hi when getting home from work, or climbing in bed to watch a comedy show with me. Still, what got me through dropping her off at Temple this week was a brisk run to the art museum in Philadelphia and running the Rocky stairs. Imagine my amazement when what I thought was going to kill me was one of the easiest things I have done on my runs. Guess those mountain trail runs on vacation did the trick! Here is my view from the top of the stairs…
    IMG_0383
  • run 937Breaking through a 10 minute mile: Okay, so I only made it by 3 seconds. But, I had convinced myself that working on  speed wasn’t all that important. After all, my real passion has been trail running. Imagine my surprise after Tom and I had our first morning run together after three weeks (he didn’t run our whole vacation) and I looked at my stats and saw 9:57 avg for my 5k. Now, that is the flats. My average when including Hopkinton hills is 10:30. Today, not only did I go over 4 miles (I typically stay at 3- 3.5), but my average pace was 10:15 per mile. I shaved off 15 seconds. Not too shabby for a 48 year OLD lady.
  • Paddle boarding is awesome: In the try something new category I decided to ditch the kayak in favor of a paddle board. I have seen so many women on them this summer – on the ocean shore and lakes – that I was fascinated. It also took me back to my California days handing with friends that surfed as I opted for beach volleyball, and thinking that paddling your way on a surf board was way better than drowning under a wave (which I almost did). Anyway, today I paddle boarded and loved it! And, I did it in my OP bikini. Yes, I did!
  • 17 miles on the Minuteman Bike Trail: In the spirit of having an active weekend, Tom and I got our bikes out and hit the trail. While it was just a paved commuter bike trail and not at all what ‘real’ cyclists do, our round trip between Bedford and Arlington was so much fun. A short break along the way to stop in the Great Harvest Bread Co. for lunch for a dreamy Garden Veggie Sandwich on Seeded Wheat only made the ride better.
  • Another pair of my daughter’s jeans are mine: As Emily went to school and sorted through her clothes she handed me a pile of things she didn’t want anymore. What a gold mine! While I passed on the obviously teenage items, two pair of skinny jeans that are too small for her called my name. I just love them, and so does Tom! They hug me. The only issue, I still need a belt. It seems my waist is now 24 inches…
  • The weight loss: On August 5th I got on the scale before we left for vacation and I was 118 and change. I had resigned myself to the fact that I wouldn’t be able to do a weigh in for two weeks and was almost hysterical to lose my baby blanket. I honestly almost brought our low tech battery powered scale on the RV. But, Tom gave me enough looks and comments to shame me into realizing I was a nut job. Current weight as of this morning: 113.1 lbs. That’s 5.1 lbs in three weeks. Down 55.7 pounds in 8 months. Whaatt??
    scale 8 27 2017 30 days

The data chick in me attempts to break this down…

The reality is that except for two days of food avoidance this week because of my flu/cold, I have not really stayed within my calorie limit in the past three weeks. And yet, something about how I’ve been more active and increasing my eating has shocked my body to lose weight. Is dropping 5 pounds in three weeks healthy, NO! But, I did some thinking and whether this is right or wrong I think I must have upped my metabolism. So, I’m experimenting with raising my calorie threshold to 1200 and see how that goes. Will that slow down the weight loss and help me shed the last three pounds gradually by Thanksgiving? Will I remain the same? Or will I gain weight?

Anyway, now that I’m officially in maintenance mode, (toast) here is to understanding what maintenance mode looks like. Wish me luck. But, really, I’d rather you help me celebrate these bragging points. I am doing all the things that I had to give up because of my weight. I am loving my active summer. I am looking forward to this winter for skiing the bumps and snowshoeing the trails. In the near term, send me good vibes for 2 5k races coming up this fall. I really really really want to be under 30 minutes.

Ultimately, what this brag board should help with is less about bragging to all of you but be a reminder of what I accomplished not only with weight loss but with giving me back the life I love.

Cheers!

 

Chubby Girl Tackles Dieting in an RV

Dieting is such a dirty word to me right now, but it seems like the only way to describe the day in and day out effort of losing weight and getting healthy even when traveling. Vacation season is upon us and our summer is a combination of mini RV weekend getaways and a big 2-week road-trip starting on Saturday. So, while I talk a lot about getting and staying healthy while on the road for work, I haven’t quite gotten around to the other part of living on the road.

First, living on the road. We have our RV, Bertha. She is named as such due to her big rear. Just about every weekend we pack her up and head to the beach or mountains. bertha.jpgIt’s our summer cottage on wheels. We can stay at a state campground right on a state beach (Salisbury or Scusset in MA), or head up north to the White Mountains and stay at Echo Lake in Franconia NH. On Saturday we will be trekking down to Ashville, NC and stopping along the way at state and national parks in PA, OH and KY for hiking, kayaking, and seeing the caves. A little bypass from nature to the city (Columbus) should bring biking and a beer crawl. Have you seen how many breweries are in Columbus? Then we’ll head back up and stay at a resort in VA before making it home.

Anyway, for the most part, having a built in kitchen is perfect for me. I control my meals. However, there are times when I want a vacation too and being the full-time chef is not on my list of an awesome vacation. This weekend was the great saboteur. A rainy cold day on Saturday down on the cape meant we needed to get out of the spacious, but still tight RV quarters. We headed to Fisherman’s View in Sandwich. My downfall? The manager let us order off menu to let us have a Fisherman’s Platter. It was filled with fried fish, shrimp, scallops, clams and oysters. Not to mention the fries. Even splitting this massive plate, I couldn’t even begin to figure out how many calories I ate. Add to this the Fisherman’s View Summer Ale and life couldn’t have been better.  The guilt afterward was crushing.

How did I handle this lapse of judgement and debauchery? I made sure I ran every morning and toned it down the day before and day after with clean eating. Results? I was down a 1 1/2 this week. I’m officially in the teens now!

But, I feel lucky. That was a single day. It was also right after a horrible 3 week plateau where I seriously considered calling it a draw with my body and going into maintenance mode. I’m still cringing at how I wolfed down that amazing seafood. But, let’s be clear, I regret the act. I absolutely enjoyed every bite! Too much!

It’s the road trip where things are going to get interesting. Yes, I can cook. But, there are a number days where we have 6-7 hours of driving. That is a lot of sitting. I also haven’t a clue how I will get my runs in. I’m leaning on, and looking forward to, getting out on the local trails, but I’m also nervous that I don’t know the area and a little girl out in the woods by herself could run into a big bad wolf. I’m not a big pond and lake swimmer. I like clear water and clean beach. Some places we stay have pools, but I’ve typically found RV campgrounds (even the cushiest) have highly chlorinated pools that kill my eyes (too much peeing going on in those pools).

So, this week I’m building my plan to offset the days when we do go out and have some local grub and watch our butts spread across the RV seat. Not sure how this will work, but I’ll report during and after the trip. I’m hoping I can pull off at least a pound if not two over the next two weeks. We’ll see. Wish me luck.

Never Going To Eat Boring

Go to any fitness or healthy living blog, website, or other self-help area and the advice to eat boring is the main suggestion. When I see it, I really have to roll my eyes. When it comes up seems to be more for those 10 vanity pounds or the people that are trying to go from fit to ripped. Maybe there are others on a bigger weight loss plan doing it too, but this just seems to be another fad and gimmick.

It is hard enough to retrain yourself to eat healthy, get in activity, and exercise at least 30 minutes per day. Then, do that not for a few weeks or months but for the rest of your life.  So the idea that you would eat lean chicken and broccoli every meal or some slight variation of that forever is the most ridiculous thing I ever heard. Never am I going to do that. Food, like it or not, is as much about sustenance as it is cultural connection.

I’m down 46 pounds so far. 7 pounds left for my happy weight, 12 pounds left to give me some wiggle room. Thus, I’ve been looking around at what I need to do when the weight is off and I move into steady state mode. The odds are against me. More than 80% of people that lose at least 10% of their weight gain it back and then some, and some estimates are as high as 97%. I’m reading up on metabolism, calories needed to maintain, and keeping to healthy habits.  I read this one article that blew me away and gave me some scientific perspective on keeping off the weight. It demonstrated how those that became overweight and obese physically change themselves and need different tactics to maintain weight loss compare to the forever skinny crowd. Here are some take-aways – former dieters that keep the weight off:

  • Eat on average 1380 calories per day compared to non-dieters that eat 1500 – 2000 calories per day. Although men would eat about 420 calories more than women.
  • Limited their fat intake to about 29% per day and generally modified what they eat to keep calories in check, like eating lower calorie dressings. Not so for the the forever skinny.
  • Exercised for longer periods than non-dieters. 60-70 minutes of walking or 35 – 40 minutes of higher intensity aerobics such as running to keep their metabolism up. This averages to about getting 200 minutes per week compared to the recommended of 150 for the typical person.
  • Eat breakfast everyday.
  • Weigh themselves at least once per week to keep on top of pounds that may be creeping in.
  • Limit television time.

What was striking in this study is that the habits of those that could keep the weight off had nothing to do with boring eating.  Yes, diet is consistent and continuous self control to keep within the appropriate calorie-in/calorie-out ratio was maintained. But, boring food was not explicit. The real thing is that they avoided splurging, weekend binging, and over-doing it during the holidays and emotional periods.  It comes down to discipline and control.

And, while I’m only a scientific study of one, in no way did I ever eat boring the entire time I was losing weight. My food was varied, flavorful, and still nutritious even if lower in calories, lower in fat and avoidance of processed carbohydrates such as flour/breads. If I had to eat boring, I’d be back at almost 170 pounds again after extreme deprivation.

Last night proved it. Here is what I had for dinner.

Turkey Puttanesca over Zoodles and Spaghetti Squash
Recipe serves 8
Single serving 266 calories

Sauce (for 8):
Jar Pemberton’s Puttanesca with Calamatta Olives Sauce
1 lb ground organic/no antibiotic turkey
5 oz cubed eggplant
2 T Tuscan seasoning
1 T chopped garlic
1/4 cup red wine
Ground pepper
2 pinches kosher salt
Cooking spray

Noodles (single portion):
3 oz Zucchini noodles
1/2 cup Spaghetti squash

Instructions:
Spray pan with cooking spray. Sauté turkey with Tuscan seasoning, pepper, salt. Add in eggplant and garlic when turkey is almost done cooking. When eggplant is almost done, add in red wine to deglaze pan. Add in Puttanesca sauce and reduce to a simmer for about 15 minutes. Serve over noodles.

Noodles:
This is less about a recipe and more technique. I spiral my own zucchini which I find much fresher and less slimy than when purchasing pre-spiraled at the supermarket. It’s easy and it’s fun. For the spaghetti squash I simply cut it in half, scoop out the seeds, then place skin side up on a foiled pan. This goes in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes or until squash is fork tender. I take a fork and scrape the squash out which creates strands (spaghetti).

For this recipe I take the zucchini and squash and saute lightly to heat up but still keep the zucchini firm. I’ll add a small pinch of kosher salt and grind black pepper over it while cooking too.

This was absolutely not boring. But with simple substitutions like vegetables for my noodles and ground turkey rather than beef, I had a satisfying, flavorful, nutritious and filling meal. And Tom? He was more than happy with the dinner (he had a little more than a single serving!) – he even said he would have it again.

So there you have it, never think for a second you need to eat boring to lose weight. The goal is building up a habit of healthy living and mindful eating. Keep your macros in mind, the sugar low, and the activity strong and we can all lose the weight and keep it off.