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.

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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!

 

Surviving a Weekend of Gluttony

This weekend we traveled down to Nashville for my son’s graduation. After 13 months in an intensive master program at Vanderbilt’s Owens School, we celebrated his degree in healthcare administration. I don’t know who was more proud, us or him. But it really doesn’t matter. The thing is he did it!

As celebrations go, this was fraught with food and drink gauntlets and time constraints on exercise. A crazy frantic rebooking of our flight at the last minute due to weather issues meant getting to the hotel at 1:30a. We then had to scramble in the morning on less than 5 hours of sleep to get over to the ceremony. No time for breakfast at the hotel, we instead relied on the helpful description of the graduation that light fare would be served before and after.

When we arrived, light fare consisted of coffee and donuts. Coffee, I can do. Donuts? Oh well. I pulled a glazed donut off a peg and took a bit of the sweetest pastry I have had in months. The sugar from the first bite almost gave me a head rush. I could immediately see why I loved these things before. The problem is that eating just the one, even with the coffee, made me hungrier. So, I pulled everyone to the other side of the room so as not to see and smell those treacherous things.

The ceremony was perfect, a tight hour and a half and I got to see my son give a quick speech and thank yous. It was then back to the entry hall for food and drinks.  Mimosas, champagne, beer, and wine were all out. The tables were laid out with ham and cheese finger sandwiches, fresh fruit and grilled asparagus, portabella mushrooms and peppers. I think there was something in a chafing dish, but honestly don’t remember what was in there. I loaded my plate with the grilled vegetables and grabbed a fruit cup along with a glass of wine. So proud of myself!

That is where the rest of good eating ended. Lunch took us to Hattie B’s, one of Nashville’s hot chicken institutions. Mild, medium, hot and shut the cluck up are your choices for spicy level. Then you have the choice of chicken meat and tenders. Oh, and don’t forget the sides, you get two of those. I opted for a mild wing and chicken tender along with 2 sides of coleslaw. I avoided the bacon cooked collards, French fries, macaroni and cheese and the other assorted but yummy sides looking more for a pallet cleanser as a way to feel better about my meal. Riiight! I scarfed the chicken down along with half the slice of toasted buttered bread it sat on in my basket. Then ate three bitefuls of slaw. Oh my, it was so good.

We had a few hours between lunch and dinner so we headed back to the hotel to laze in the pool with cocktails. Yes, we could have walked Broadway or other Nashville thing. But, we’ve been there several times and didn’t really have enough time to do it justice. With the day at 85 degrees and a bit humid, the idea of the pool and cocktails was too much of a pull.

Dinner, that was heaven. Butcher & Bee is this great place in East Nashville. The food is so fresh, tapas like and perfect to share over conversation and drinks. Just what you want to do when getting together with family and friends to celebrate. Braised lamb, couscous, sweet roasted carrots, fried smoked okra, homemade hummus with fried chickpeas, pan fried fish, potato salad all washed down with this mucha muchacha cocktail (2) had me turning to Tom with a tight belly (food coma) and numb cheeks (liquor induced) to seek his driving abilities. Good thing he was fine.

Back at the hotel, we gathered at the hotel bar for a whiskey and brownie sundaes. While I didn’t eat all of the two scoops of ice cream, two brownies, bananas and glazed walnuts drizzled in fudge and I think carmel too, I did give it a nice dent.

The carnage hit me in the morning as my stomach rebelled from all the grease, fat and sugar. I’m sure my cocktails had something to do with it as well. No, I didn’t throw it up, but I was queen of the throne. So much so that even through I’d set my alarm for 6:30a so I could head out for a guilt laden run to work off my gluttony, I stayed on the throne too long and missed my window.

We got ourselves together as best we could to meet my son and girlfriend for breakfast at Noshville. A NY style breakfast/deli joint with the right amount of Jewish delights brought me back to my childhood. I ordered a plate of matzo brei and fresh fruit with coffee. For those of you that don’t know what matzo brei is, it’s matzo which is a really big water cracker broken up into pieces, quickly soaked in water, drained then mixed with eggs and fried/scrambled. A Passover staple, it is so good that it has made its way into a year round breakfast. After the day before, some of my control was gone. So I also took a bite of Tom’s potato pancake and a large bite of my son’s bigger than Texas toast French toast.

The rest of the day home I was good with only a cup of soup and carrots for lunch, small bag of chips on the plane, and tuna on a sandwich thin for dinner. Guilty for missing my morning run and too wound up after sitting on a plane most of the day, I ran on the treadmill immediately when we got home (we have a heat wave in New England and I was not going to sweat my oldie self to death outside).

This morning I needed to come to terms with anything I did over the weekend. You can’t stay on the wagon if you aren’t honest with yourself. If the scale goes up, that is the incentive to work hard to bring it back down. If it doesn’t, then it means to keep to my steady state plan.

Friday weigh in: 110.8 lbs
Monday weigh in: 110.9 lbs

I have no idea how I did it. I am only going to thank my lucky stars that all is normal and well. The guilt I have over my gluttony is still with me and paranoia over pound creeping is still very much there. I feel like I amazingly dodged the bullet.

This morning I had my veggie pancakes with applesauce and German rye for breakfast (293 calories). The plan, I’ll stay with a vegetarian diet for a couple days just to cleanse my system of the weekend lapse.

*Sigh*

 

Addressing Body Image

After losing almost 60 pounds I am just starting to get familiar again with my body. While I now wear the same size I did at 34 (size 0) and have pulled some of those clothes out of purgatory, 14 years later I am about ten pounds heavier.  It isn’t muscle, I wish. I’m pretty sure it is extra skin from 14 years of excess weight. Will it go away, maybe.

It doesn’t bother me that much that I have a bit of sag. At 48 I can’t think I was going to look like my tight 20-something/30-something self. I also don’t have the same elasticity, so the wrinkles show when I twist my arm or pull up my legs. I see the wrinkle sag on my butt. I don’t care. It’s minor and something I notice but Tom doesn’t seem to. But, I do look good for a 48 year old.  Tom has more issue with the fact that I’m bonier. Hah!

Which leads me to the point on body image and what others think. I recently saw an article on CNN.com about transgender models coming out and admitting they are transgender and not originally female. I honestly could care less if someone is transgender, gay, lesbian, bi, queer, whatever. The point is not the transgender aspect so much as it is how the fashion industry is trying to define beauty.

Transgenders can be beautiful, and that is clear from the models in the article. But, what really irritated me is that these transgender models are in many ways being forced to go back and embrace boyish androgynous body images that are unrealistic and unrepresentative of healthy women. It’s almost a fat shaming of women that are of normal weight and healthy.

Teddy Quinlivan, the transgender model in the article, is by any measure pretty. She reminds me of my 6 foot tall niece during her early high school days. Skinny, lanky, and still not quite filled out with her womanly curves. My niece is now a senior in college. Still quite tall, still thin, but a little more curve in the hip and on top. Anyone on the streets of NY would think she could model. She probably could if she also lost another 10-15 pounds. And there lies the issue.

Women are not pre-adolescent boys with flat stick like bodies and of extreme height. Teddy Quinlivan knows this personally. Yet the fashion industry has created a standard that favors women looking like boys and in some ways even exploits transgender models to get closer to the standard. And, while Teddy has some amazing photos in the CNN article, the one that bothered me the most was the cover one where she is almost anorexic looking. Is that how we want our daughters to look? Is that really the ideal that transgenders are using to shape them from male to female?

So that is my rant. One others also conduct. I just needed to add my voice saying that first, I am so happy and proud to have lost weight and gotten healthy. I know I look good and I flaunt it! Yet there is this ideal standard for women being held up that is unattainable for more than 99% of women and now it is encroaching on self image for transgenders. It has to stop.

 

 

Fast Food Letdown

I have only had two hamburgers the entire time I’ve been on my chubby girl journey. Each time I was in a desperate situation of traveling from point a to point b and had little time to be a ‘Sally’ with my special food needs and requests. Those experiences were not at my ultimate burger joint – Five Guys – and didn’t warrant a nod to decadence.

I always said that when I reached my goal I would head to Five Guys for a Little Cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato, onion and ketchup. Sans fries, but not sans peanuts! Today was the day. I hit two goals, weight (110 lbs) and mileage (ran over 5 miles yesterday with many hills). Tom was all to happy to help me celebrate as his probably goes to Five Guys more for the fries than the burger.

Anyway, I stepped up with my silly grin and went for it.  I then headed to the peanuts and grabbed a scoop along with an extra boat for shells. And, even though the air conditioning had my shivering, I was all warm and giddy as I waited and smelled that greasy grill.

Then the burger came. I delicately unwrapped the foil allowing myself a slow tantalizing reveal. My burger peaked out and I swear it was smiling at me. I took a bite, savoring that first explosion of salty burger, sweet bun and savory onion.

And then, that’s when it all crumbled. After more than nine months thinking about my Five Guys burger celebration, the burger was just okay. In fact, it was a little too greasy. Don’t get me wrong, it was good enough to eat the whole thing, but it certainly wasn’t all I had immortalized it as. To be honest, the peanuts were better.

Here’s the thing. All the angst over the foods we are giving up to be healthy is just misrepresented hype. For each time I’ve deviated from healthy food to guilty pleasures I’ve come away disappointed. The open faced grilled chicken with ham and Swiss, not as good as it sounded. The Weiner schnitzel at the German restaurant, just okay. The mac and cheese with grilled chicken, more greasy and overly creamy than tangy cheesy.

On the other hand, I have had a couple guilty pleasures over the past 9 months that were amazing – Gustavo’s for authentic Cuban and PhoSure for yummy Vietnamese soups and pho. So, in a way, I’m finding what is worth the splurge and what is just an empty splurge.

When its all said and done, here is my words of wisdom. All that bar food, fast food, packaged food and desserts, it really isn’t as good as you think it is. Whole foods really grow on you. For real!

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…
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  • 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!