More walking, less drinking.

I had a 5 1/2 mile day yesterday, walked to work, then went for a run, then walked home. That felt pretty good. I’ll be trying to walk to work more now that it’s getting warmer, although the sun is perfectly placed at that time of the morning to just blast me in the face the whole way. Hats it is, then.

I’ve been noticing (that’s an understatement) that ever since I went off Optifast and have been maintaining my current weight, I can’t drink any alcohol whatsoever without getting a blistering migraine. Before the diet, if I took a Claritin before I started, watched how much I imbibed, and kept hydrated I could enjoy a pleasant evening with a couple of drinks without too much problem. Now…I get an almost immediate migraine if I so much as take two sips of port. (Ask me how I know.) I’m wondering if it’s something about having a lower body weight or lower fat percentage? Maybe the fat was helping me to absorb or process the alcohol? Or maybe it’s an aging thing, because I don’t remember this being the case 10 years ago when I was first at this weight. Whatever the cause, I’m sad about the result. I am an extremely unwilling abstainer.

Yesterday’s weight: 184.5. Today’s weight: 185.

A Mug of Tea on a Rainy Night

We finally got some rain today here in Northern California. I’m going to enjoy it while it lasts because we likely won’t get any more for a long time. I did actually go out for a run in it earlier this evening, too, so you can’t accuse me of not taking every opportunity to enjoy it!

Tonight I’m staying in now that that’s done, and enjoying some reading, sewing, and tea. I’ve become quite the tea drinker in the last few months. Of my available beverage options it just fits the best, so I drink a whole lot of it. I mean, I can drink water and do, but sometimes you want a little flavor. Diet soda and Crystal Light are ok, but they’re chock full of artificial sweeteners, and the longer I’m on this program the worse they taste to me, my sweetness receptors are out of whack and making sweet things taste too sweet. Plus there’s just a limit to how much soda I should have in a day anyway (that limit is one can, btw). There’s coffee, but as I’ve mentioned before if I can’t have cream in it I don’t want it (hmph). There’s iced tea, which I guess is fine but I’ve never developed a taste for it – sweet or not.

But hot tea, well, it’s really hitting the spot for me right now. It’s flavored, it’s not water, and it’s hot – I normally run cold due to low blood pressure or slow pulse or whatever, and with winter coming on and me on reduced rations sometimes the only way I can get warm is to have a big mug of hot tea. So with my current aversion to artificial sweeteners, I’m almost exclusively drinking green tea because it needs no sweetening. At work it’s the ubiquitous Bigelow bags of standard green tea, but at home I get to indulge in something my sweet husband picked up and I’m now in love with – genmaicha! It’s so good – it’s got a nutty, roasty flavor that just works for me. Not too much caffeine either. I’m having a nice hot mug of it right now.

Here’s to finding something supportive and delicious!

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The Mendacity of Processed Food Labeling

Several years ago I read What to Eat by Marion Nestle, in which she spells out in clear, unambiguous terms that food labeling in the US is, for the most part, completely unregulated. Food processors are free to label their food with almost any  kind of lie they want regarding its origin, healthfulness, disease-fighting capabilities, and weight-loss possibilities.

I’ve been very happy to note that lately some of that loose labeling language has been coming back to bite them.

First there was the story about POM, shady purveyors of pomegranate  juice – recently slammed with a cease-and-desist order. The bottom line there is that they can still make all the outrageous health claims they like, despite a complete lack of scientific evidence, however what they can’t do is list specific illnesses it will cure. That’s not exactly limiting, but it’s a step in the right direction.

And just this morning I see a story about several lawsuits that have been filed against products ranging from orange juice to to ice cream.

Processed food is not natural, it’s probably not good for you, and most of the claims you see on labels are lies and fabrications. Food manufacturers can make up anything they want and put it on the label in a big red balloon surrounded by exclamation points, without any scientific basis whatsoever. The only label claim (other than nutrition information) that is regulated and enforced with any kind of integrity is USDA Organic labeling, and that label makes NO claims about healthfulness at all, the only thing it vouches for is the growing conditions of the produce. And note this paragraph in the labeling information from the USDA: There are no restrictions on use of other truthful labeling claims such as “no drugs or growth hormones used,” “free range,” or “sustainably harvested.”

This means that any food manufacturer can make those claims – nobody is checking or enforcing whether they are true or not.

The bottom line is that the only way you can be sure the ingredients in your food are natural or organic is to make the food yourself. Eating manufactured, industrially processed food can be convenient as a stop-gap or emergency measure occasionally, but as a regular diet it may be dangerous. At the very least it’s deceptive.

Rules of thumb for drinking my calories

One of my rules of weight management is to not drink calories. Everything I eat needs to perform a job, and that job is to keep me from feeling hungry. Beverages do not aid satiety, so they don’t get on the plan very often. Not soda, not cocoa, not a triple vanilla half-caf mocha frappuccino with whipped cream, not fruit juice, not egg nog for sure! There are just two exceptions for me, but I’ll cover those last. First I want to talk a little more about two of the drinks I just listed which often cause people to want to debate, so let me tell you my take on them.

“No fruit juice!” is something I’m militant about. To my mind drinking fruit juice is exactly the same as drinking regular soda – a giant calorie bomb of sugar with no feeling of fullness. The process of making juice from fruit is the process of removing the beneficial part of the fruit – the fiber – and leaving the part that’s only there, evolutionarily speaking, to make humans want to consume it – the sugar. There’s nothing magical or special about fructose (aka the sugar that sweetens fruit) which makes it healthier than the sugar used in soda. Sugar is sugar, it exists to carry fuel, in the form of calories, into a body. Often people think choosing fruit juice is a healthy option, but for weight management that would be shooting myself in the foot. Ounce for ounce, soda has fewer calories, and neither one provides any significant health benefits. I might as well have a Coke and a smile, because according to experts, “The upside of juice consumption is so infinitesimal compared to the downside that we shouldn’t even be having this discussion.” Whole foods are a much better source of vitamins and minerals if that’s a concern. If I want something that tastes like fruit, I eat a piece of fruit. I get the feeling of fullness I should be getting for the calories I’m consuming plus all the vitamins and minerals. And honestly, eating 7-10 cups of fruits and veggies a day I’m getting the nutrients I need from my food already.

Diet soda has been getting a bad rap lately. But if my choices are regular soda or diet soda, I will always pick the diet soda. I know that some people are happy to eschew all soda, diet or regular, and that’s great. But not everybody is ready to do that. I’m one of those people. I occasionally drink diet soda because so far, none of the claims made about artificial sweeteners have been conclusively proven. However, the risks to my health of morbid obesity are widely understood. Where my health is concerned, I’m much more concerned with the immediate and obvious risks of obesity upon my life versus the unproven, potential, scientifically-nebulous

The occasional treat is good for the soul.

risks posed by diet soda. So I do occasionally enjoy diet soda. In moderation – I don’t drink more than one a day, and some days none at all, because where food and diet is concerned, all things should be enjoyed in moderation. When I don’t feel like having a soda but having something bubbly to drink sounds good, I will happily have club soda or seltzer water with some lemon or lime squeezed into it. Iced tea is another calorie-free option I enjoy. But, as far as I’m concerned, diet soda is a useful tool for me to employ in moderation. I lost 200 pounds while drinking it, so I’m not concerned that it causes weight gain, as some claim.

So what are the two exceptions to the “don’t drink calories” rule I mentioned above? Alcohol, and a latte. First – if I have the calories in my budget, a small non-fat latte is 90 calories gladly spent for me. I have one about once or twice a month – it’s a treat, not a habit.  And secondly – as of today, as far as I know, there is no calorie-free alcohol anywhere in the world. So if I’m going to enjoy alcohol, I am careful to write down the calories, limit myself to only one or two, and make the best choices I can. A bloody mary is a decent choice for weight management – I can get away with a small one for about 150 calories. A glass of wine comes in about the same, a moderate-sized glass of cider or beer on vacation won’t derail me either. It’s a treat, something to be enjoyed only once in a while, but on days when I do, it’s good to have a couple of moderate-calorie options available to me.