Sweet Potato – Pecan Cheesecake! — Diabetic Friendly!

Try this on for size — this may be the best sugar-free, high fiber, gluten free, high protein, reasonably carb’d recipe I’ve ever made. And it is sooooo yummy…. Holy crap. There will be variations on this theme but here’s the basic recipe:
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2 tsp(s), cinnamon, ground
0.50 tsp(s), Salt
2 tsp, Vanilla Extract
0.75 cup, Chopped pecans

80 grams, “Just Like Sugar for Baking” sugar substitute
1.25 cup, Farmers Market Sweet Potato Puree
2 containers (8 oz ea.), Cream Cheese (Light)
2 Eggs

Let the cream cheese and eggs come to room temp so they will mix well. combine eggs, sweet potato puree (or pumpkin), vanilla, Just Like Sugar, salt, cinnamon and mix until smooth. Gradually add cream cheese and mix until smooth and well blended.

Grease a pyrex baking pan (about 7″x9″) and spread pecans on the bottom of the pan.

Pour cream cheese mixture into the greased pan (or muffin cups) over the pecans, and bake in a hot oven/ with a water-bath at 400 for 5 minutes, then reduce heat to 300 and continue to bake for 20-25 minutes, until firm. (time will depend on the size of the dish — a smaller pan will take longer.)

Remove from oven and set aside to cool. Cover and refrigerate (or scoop out into single serving dishes to chill.)
IMG_2957.
8 x 1/2c portions: 235 calories each
17g fat
328mg sodium
20g total carbs
11g fiber carbs
7g sugar carbs
7g protein
(and half a day’s Vitamin A because of the sweet potato)

Am I dieting and exercising? NO. Am I losing weight? YES.

So this has been the question.  What exactly am I doing to lose weight?

This is a complicated question with only 2 real answers that matter:

  1. I’m using an online calories-in/calories-burned tracker
    http://caloriecount.about.com (it’s free and very well designed and programmed), and
  2. I’m paying attention

Now, I realize that’s not what you meant.  You want to know the tips, tricks, secrets, and the rules I’m following.  The truth is, I’m not following any rules.  I HATE rules.  I resent rules.  I feel pressured and trapped by rules.  Especially considering that whatever I’m doing now — I’m going to have to do the rest of my life.

So I really don’t have a diet plan or an exercise routine.  Period.  I don’t need any more pressure or stress than comes naturally with each day.

But okay.  There are a few things that I know now that I didn’t used to know.  Here are a few:

Metabolism

I never eat less than 400-500 calories under my daily burn.  If I (or you) do — your body will think you’re in danger of starving, and will slow your metabolism so you don’t burn through as much of your fuel intake.  Your body will go into “conservation of energy” mode.

Well– I don’t want my metabolism to slow down.  I need to keep the burn up as high as I can — especially since menopause has already robbed me of some of my metabolic burn.

Additionally — just to keep my body from becoming too comfortable with any calorie (fuel) consumption level — I try to vary my daily intake number by at least 100 calories (up or down) every day.  And, at least 1 day a week, I try to eat exactly the calories I’m burning.

The key here is to have a resource that tells you how many calories you’re burning.  That’s where http://caloriecount.about.com comes in — they’ve got the baseline pegged based on your age, body type, sex, weight, exercise level etc.  As long as you answer their questions honestly — it will give you a usable guideline.  And — when you have days of unusually high exercise and exertion, you just enter the work you did by type, and the database adds that number to your calories-burned.  The more calories you burn — the more calories you can eat and still stay within the metabolic-advantage number of 400-500 below burn.

It’s also important to realize that as you lose weight, it takes less fuel to accomplish daily tasks — this means that your baseline “calories burned” number goes down!  When I started this process, I could eat almost 2800 calories a day and never gain or lose an ounce.   Not surprisingly — I recorded several days of “regular” eating before I started, and I was averaging exactly 2800 calories!  It’s not so surprising then, that I’d be at that exact weight for nearly 3 years.  My magic burn number now, after losing 26 lbs, is down to 2645.

😀  I love the way math and science works!

It’s also very important to note that if you let your metabolism slow down to starvation mode — by eating 800 or 1200 calories a day less than you are burning — the first 2-4 weeks WEEKS after you raise your calorie intake post-diet, your metabolism will still be burning on LOW — starvation setting.  This is an evolutionary characteristics of humans — developed because of long, food-scarce winters, and drought-plagued seasons with no available resources.  In the end, your starvation-metabolism will take your “normal diet” and use those extra, unburned calories to put weight on you in preparation for the next winter or dry season.

This is where we got into that nasty yo-yo dieting mess to being with !

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Exercise

I’m walking more.  I bought myself a little hi-tech pedometer so I can keep track.

Because all my joints are in danger of doing what the joints in my thumbs/hands/wrists have done (complete loss of connective tissue so that the nerves are unprotected and resting between bones — and hurting like hell if I don’t take very good care of them) it seems to me that waiting until there is less load for load-bearing joints is a good idea.

I will start exercising my knees/hips/ankles/feet more when there’s less of me to destroy the connective tissue I’ve got left.

In the meantime — walking, playing light games/sports on the Nintendo Wii will have to do.

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Fat, Carbs, Sodium, Sugar, Fiber, Protein, Calcium, Potassium, Vitamins, Cholesterol etc.  THE BIG CHEMISTRY SET

This is where the paying attention portion of living shifts from weight-gain/weight-loss/weight-maintenance to Pure Health.

Calcium and Vitamin D

I pay attention to calcium because all the women in my family history died 6-8 inches shorter than they lived.  And if you think those 6-8 inches were lost because they shrank, you’re an idiot.  They “shrank” because the bones in their spines, hips, and joints crumbled like old chalk on a blackboard railing.   Have you ever had a broken bone?  Well — imagine your bones breaking 1mm at a time.  Thousands of breaks every year.  Every morning — more breaks.  More crumbling.  Cell by cell.  It’s no wonder pictures of old women showed them hunched over, and using a cane or crutch to walk!

Prior to the 20th Century — hardly anybody drank milk once they left infancy.  My 5’5″ grandmother never drank a glass of milk of her own free will in her life.  And when she died, she was under 5′ tall.  Understanding that calcium and vitamin D are important really is a new thing.

So I pay attention.  I drink at least 1 glass of 1% milk (usually 2 — and usually organic chocolate 1% milk!), and eat at least 1-oz of low-fat cheese or a carton of yogurt (not that nasty mass-market gelatin crap– real live yogurt) every day.  And most of the time, I add a calcium/Vitamin D supplement.

Fat and Cholesterol

Talking about yogurt and milk and cheese brings up the topics of fat and cholesterol.

I am not on a low-fat diet.  I don’t intentionally buy fat-free anything.

I cook with whole milk, butter, olive oil, whole eggs, bacon, sausage and cheese.

OMG, NO!

Yes.

Several reasons.  Fats are what keep the neurons in your brain functioning smoothly.  Really.  And given a choice, I’d rather be a fat blob that thinks well, than a svelte and athletic mindless toad.

Fats are also what keep your skin healthy, your hair shiny, and your fat-soluble vitamins available.

Also, fat is one of the key ingredients that make other foods taste good.  And I’m really into tastes good as a deciding factor in what I’m having for dinner.

Okay — I do pay attention (there it is again) to how much fat I eat.  That’s where http://caloriecount.about.com comes in.  I enter what I eat, and it counts the grams of fat and shows me what percentage of my daily calories-in come from fat.  I aim for 30-35%.  Some days I may go as low as 20% — other days, I may hit 45%.  But the average is constant.

Because I pay attention.

I don’t eat fried foods but once in a blue moon (technically, that would be 3 times every 2 years) — and some years not at all.

And I add butter to veggies after they’re cooked, rather than during cooking as my mother and grandmother did.

I do use real butter — because it tastes wonderful — and the wonderful taste does not depend on using a lot.  A teaspoon of butter goes a long way, flavor-wise; whereas I could use a tablespoon of another fat and still not be satisfied with the flavor.

I feel the same about low-fat and fat-free cottage cheese, yogurt and sour cream.  If I’m going for the sour cream flavor in a soup or on a baked potato — better to use a small amount of the real thing than a whole tub of something that tastes bad, disappointing, or fake and has a slick texture because of the added gelatin or lecithin used to thicken it.  Cream cheese is the only exception — because neufchatal cheese (which is a lower milk-fat version of cream cheese) tastes exactly the same to me as its hi-fat cousin.  And on a bagel — well.  Neufchatal it is.

Cholesterol is a bit of a slippery slope (so to speak) in the American diet.  Most of the cholesterol we eat comes from meat, eggs, and dairy products.  I don’t want to cut down on dairy — because I need the calcium.  I don’t want to cut down on eggs, because they are so useful in cooking, they taste good, and recent research is attributing so many positive health benefits to whole eggs that I’m not sure we can afford to lose them.  So —

I eat less meat.

In general, I eat 4-8oz of meat and poultry a week.

Period.

Protein

Which leads us to protein.  Over the years, one of the things I’ve figured out about all those crash diets and starvation diets is that a shortage of protein gives me a headache and makes it hard to concentrate.

So if I don’t eat meat — how do I get enough protein?

Again, we’re back to http://caloriecount.about.com and their database.  I shoot for 20-25% of my daily calories to come from protein.

By rejecting the American hamburger and hot-dog diet, I go to fish and vegetable sources for my protein.  Beans, peas, nuts, and nut butter!.  — And yes, I realize many perfectly healthy vegetarians live decades on tofu, but I do not like tofu, and so do not eat tofu.

I eat fish and seafood once a week (even though I live in the land-locked panhandle of Texas where no scallop or lobster has lived since before the dinosaurs became extinct.)  I have a handful of either walnuts, cashews, hazelnuts or almonds every day.  And bean soup is one of my favorite foods in all the world.  I average 2 meals of beans or bean soup every week.

Fiber

I’ve talked elsewhere on this blog about fiber.  Weight Watchers talks about fiber.  Atkins talks about fiber.  Every diet that’s paying attention at all is talking about fiber.

The current batch of research has decided (in direct contradiction to the experts for the previous 20 years) that fiber really isn’t going to do us any good in preventing colon cancer.   Like so many other ideas that come and go — this one will probably be back.

But that’s not why I eat a lot a of fiber.  I eat fiber because it is FILLING, and it lets your body do a more efficient job of through-processing.  You eat good nutritional foods –> your body extracts all the benefits –> and discards the rest.  And it happens faster with a healthy supply of fiber.  In .  Out .  Done.

😀

You have to drink a lot of water/clear liquids for it work properly.  You have to be consistent.  Voila!  And it works especially well when ridding your body of all those fluids created by the dissolution of fat.

The nutritional guides say 20-25g of fiber a day.  I’m finding that I’m running more like 35-40g according to my handy online database — sometimes more.

Carbs and Sugar

I don’t bother with counting carbs.  If I’m getting enough protein and hitting my numbers on fat and fiber, my carb numbers run about 45%.

The only place I pay attention with carbs is to make sure they don’t come primarily from sugar.  This turns out to be a pretty easy turn as well — because if I’m eating my carbs as whole grains and potatoes/rice/pasta, plus at least 3 servings of veggies and at least 2 servings of fruit per day — then there’s not much room left for sugar.

Which is good.  Because I eat 4-8g of chocolate every day because of its unbelievably high antioxidants.  (yeah, right)  And because it tastes good.  72%-cocoa chocolate (or even higher) turns out to have more that 100 times the antioxidants of blueberries, pomegranate, or any of the other so-called superfruits.  This gets lost in the media because of chocolate’s bad reputation as candy (empty calories.)

As it turns out — candy — if it’s mostly dark chocolate, dried fruit, and nuts — is not the boogie-man it’s made out to be.  And if it’s 72% dark chocolate, dried blueberries / raspberries / cranberries / blackberries or poms plus walnuts or almonds — then it’s so dense with antioxidants and other nutrition that you might as well call it medicinal!

And even if it had no antioxidants at all — I’d still eat 4-8 grams a day.

Take that! Diet Police!

Potassium and Sodium

These are the last 2 things on nutrition labels that I pay close attention to.  (Yes, I know there is a lot more information that’s very useful — but these are the things I keep track of daily.)

Body chemistry is a complicated and amazing thing.  I don’t have nearly enough information to understand it.  But — there are some things we know for sure — and some newer bits that seem to be important, and are coming soon to a news-cycle near you.

Too little sodium, and your metabolism suffers.  Too much sodium combined with too little potassium, and it suffers.  Sodium makes you bloat and carry around more water in your cells.  Exercise too much without replenishing sodium and you dehydrate, pass out, or worse.  Eat too much sodium so your cells fill with fluid, and your heart has to beat harder to get the blood oxygen / fuel to all the places it needs to be.  Too much of a chemical imbalance like this and you put your hard-working pump at risk of massive fail.

The current wisdom on sodium is that a person who is moderately active, eating a 2000 calorie diet, with no high blood pressure history and no diabetes can safely consume 3500-4500mg of sodium a day.  That is considerably less that most people eat in the US.

Restricted sodium diets recommend a number closer to 1500-2000mg of sodium/day — regardless of how much you exercise, or how many calories you eat.

I shoot for 3500mg of sodium a day, but I rarely hit it.  Cheese has salt.  (it’s required to make milk become cheese.)  V-8 Vegetable Juice has salt.  Pasta sauce, canned veggies, olives, pickles, canned fruit, canned tuna — pretty much anything that’s preserved, in a can, cured, fermented, or aged has salt.  That’s a really high percentage of everything in a grocery store except for fresh.

And — while I really respect the idea of a mostly fresh diet — it does not lend itself to travel, workplace environments, college, volunteer work, or day-to-day living.  It’s also the most expensive way to eat in the USA.  (So why isn’t the government subsidising fresh organic food, instead of the petroleum industry?)

There are low sodium varieties of many processed foods — and that’s good.  Even cheeses can now be found with lower sodium.  The problem is — we like salt.   I like salt.  Read Alton Brown on salt and he explains why it’s important to flavor and taste buds.  We like it because of its taste and because we NEED it to function.   Even when we buy low-sodium foods — we miss it — and far too many of us waste the money we spend of the lower sodium foods by adding salt at the table!

Then — there is potassium.  Another component in the body’s self-diagnosing and self-treating chemistry set.  Turns out — it may be that when eating 4000-5000mg of potassium per day, AND 3000-4000mg of sodium per day –> the potassium may actually be cancelling out the negative effects of the sodium on blood pressure and heart function.  Potassium is important because it works with sodium to maintain the body’s fluid balance.  And diet’s that are high in sodium, but missing crucial potassium may actually lead to high blood pressure in people who have never shown tendencies in that direction. For more information on this, look at this write-up in Men’s Health Magazine on the relationship between sodium and potassium — and blood pressure.

Potassium is also important to maintaining BONE MASS (see calcium, above), concentration, and coordination — all of which are fairly important to me.

What we do know we is that we need a lot more potassium than most of us are eating.  And multivitamin potassium is nowhere as beneficial as getting it from food directly.  And athletes need even more.  So — here’s a list of naturally high potassium foods, ranked from highest to lowest:

  1. soy flour
  2. blackstrap molasses
  3. wheat bran/oat bran
  4. cantaloupe
  5. apricots
  6. cooked spinach
  7. winter squash
  8. pears
  9. tomato purée/sauce/juice
  10. papaya
  11. mango
  12. cucumber
  13. raisins
  14. figs
  15. sunflower seeds
  16. pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  17. walnuts
  18. peanuts
  19. prunes/prune juice
  20. lima beans
  21. brussels sprouts
  22. pinto beans (all legumes)
  23. potatoes w/skin
  24. green peas/lentils
  25. fresh yogurt
  26. sardines
  27. tuna
  28. halibut
  29. avocado
  30. cabbage
  31. broccoli
  32. bananas
  33. honey

For an even more complete list of foods rich in potassium, look here at drugs.com!

Here’s a link to my very best, high potassium, high fiber, high protien, reasonably caloried  recipe: WIFFA Green Bean Stew.  It clocks in at 220 calories per cup — with 14g of protein, 4.5g of fiber, and 700mg of potassium.

The truth is, we don’t really have much of a picture of how the chemistry set works.  On the coattails of Linus Pauling and his lifelong examination of Vitamin C, we’re being amazed and confounded by all the implications and nuances of each vitamin, mineral, and chemical that comes into play.  We’re starting to recognize that potassium, Vitamin D, B12, B3, — pick your B vitamin and prepare to be astounded — but they all are pieces of a puzzle — and the machine doesn’t work without all the puzzle pieces present and in the right combinations and amounts.

These are the ones I’m paying most attention to because I already know I’m not getting the right amounts.

You have to know your own body, and pay attention.  Pay attention.

PAY ATTENTION.

If your head hurts, that’s a clue.

If you are forgetting things — that’s a clue.

If you are tired all the time — that’s a clue.

If you are not sleeping at night, or if you fall asleep during work — those re clues.

Muscle aches?  Dry skin?  Puffy ankles?  Impatience where there hasn’t always been impatience?  Short Temper? Does your mind wander?  Has your breath or perspiration odor changed?  How about your feet?  Are your fingernails more brittle?  Are they harder?  Are your gums bleeding?  Is your vision blurry?  Is your hair breaking or falling out?  Having trouble concentrating?  Short winded?  More infections than normal?  Thirsty all the time?  Not thirsty at all?

All of these are clues.  They’re things you need to pay attention to.  Many of them are things you need to repeat to your doctor.

Pay attention.

Body mass, metabolism, body weight — all of this is chemistry and math.

Pay Attention

Sweeping Away Products of Greed — Welcome the Creative Kitchen Cabinet

A few years ago, when people were first waking up to the idea that waxy, solid, partially hydrogenated oils were not such a great idea, a Kraft official testified — under oath — that their company could not comply with the no-trans-fats pressure because it was impossible to make an Oreo cookie without them.  A moment later, Paul Newman’s daughter (who runs the Newman’s Own Organics brand) offered the Kraft representative and the judge a Newman-O cookie — a copy of the Oreo, without the trans fats.

A little ingenuity goes a long way.  A little less regard for share holders’ quarterly reports, and a little more regard for the health of the share holders’ children and grandchildren goes a long way.

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When a product you use turns out to have HEALTH RISKS attached — like canned tomatoes or microwave popcorn — the first thing you do is look for alternatives.  We switch to jar-tomato products like spaghetti sauce, salsa, and some of the new tomatoes and sauces being packaged in glass that are showing up on store shelves in response to this news.  We get some oil and some organic, non-GMO popping corn and make our popcorn the old-fashioned way.

The same is true for other questionable products.  We switch from regular Oreos to Newman’s Own.  We switch from sugar-filled “juice drinks” — to no-sugar-added, 100% juice, and organic juices. The trick, as they say, is to never, not ever, no matter how snappy the name is, or how pretty the picture on the label — NEVER buy anything that says JUICE DRINK, FLAVORED WITH REAL JUICE, FLAVORED DRINK, JUICE BEVERAGE, BLEND, ___-ADE, or COCKTAIL.

For a few hints, look at this article in Women’s Health Magazine called “The Unhealthiest Juices in America,” and always remember that even the healthiest juices are not as nutritious as the fruits they came from.  That’s important.  It’s a clue.

Even the healthiest juices are not as nutritious
as the fruits they came from.

…which should tell you how much you want to stay away from all those Kool-ade wanna-bes that try to pass themselves off as nutritional or healthful juice….

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When agriculture researchers tell us that regular-market apples and potatoes have 12-times the pesticides applied to them than any other veggies and fruits in the produce aisle — we switch to organic potatoes and apples!  That one switch cuts down the pesticides we consume from fresh produce by over 65%.  Easy switch.

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There are also changes to be made just because food companies have been thinkings and using technology in really healthy ways.  FOOD TECHNOLOGY/NUTRITION in the hands of creative and resourceful people has produced a landslide of foods with more compressed nutrition in the last few years.  Suddenly, fiber (which formerly was so elusive that people bought 1g-fiber pills and capsules to up their daily intake) is a viable ingredient.

Vitalicious muffins, brownies, and Vitatop Muffin Tops manage to squeeze 5-7g of fiber, 5-6g of protein, and almost no fat at all into a 100 calorie desert.  Compare that to a Glazed Krispy Kreme donut at 200 calories, 12g of fat, 1g fiber, and 1.5g protein.  Or to Twinkies: ONE Twinkie (half a 2-pac) has 150 calories, 4.5g fat, NO fiber, and only 1g of protein.  A single Sara Lee Banana Nut Muffin has 440 calories, 13g fat, NO fiber, and 7g of protein; and a traditional home-baked brownie has 240 calories, 10g fat, NO fiber, and 6g protein.  Best news of all –> Vitalicious products are now available in almost all major grocery store chains (in the frozen breads/waffles/breakfast foods section, or as mixes on the baking aisle.)Similarly, Fiber Gourmet pastas and snack crackers slice off 40-50% of the calories in our favorite macaroni and cheese, spaghetti, cheese crackers, and  wheat saltines.  Still, Fiber Gourmet manages to make those crackers kick in 12g of fiber per 70-calorie bag.  Regular store brands of enriched pasta (and homemade pasta) average 210-220 calories per 2oz-dry serving, with 1-2g fiber, and 6-8g protein.  Fiber Gourmet’s pasta, weighs-in at only 140 calories per 2oz-dry serving — but with a whopping 18g of fiber, and 7g of protein.  Suddenly, pasta — the bane of Atkins and low-carb mavens everywhere — is back on the menu as one of the most nutrition dense foods you can have in your diet!  All the vitamins of other enriched pastas — but with a full 1/3 of its dry weight made of much sought after fiber!

Additionally, almost every major bread bakery in the country now offers a “Double Fiber” version of its bread — and even King Arthur Flour Company has joined in by introducing hi-fiber flour and bread ingredients to its Baker’s Catalog customers so they can make hi-fiber and double-fiber bread of their own using a handy bread machine.

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If it sounds like I’m only paying attention to fiber here — rest assured, there are lots of these high-tech nutrition Aces up my sleeve.  Fiber is maybe the most obvious first hit because according to anybody and everybody associated with dropping weight these two changes:

#1 -the addition of fiber, and
#2 -the reduction of sugars in the American Diet

stand to make the most difference in our overall health and well-being — and weight management.  If we don’t change anything else about our diet, and we increase fiber and decrease sugar, our overall health will improve so dramatically that we won’t hardly recognize ourselves — our energy levels, our sleep habits, our weight, our mood — just about every aspect of our lives will change in ways we (and those who know us) will see in as little as 2-3 weeks.  REALLY

That’s a pretty astonishing claim.  Absolutely.   And if we make 4-5 more changes (we’ll talk about them later) we can get as much change as that AGAIN.

This makes me happy.

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I’m not going to list a lot of sugar reduction products here right now. Sugar is a fairly complicated subject — made more complicated by the fast-food and convenience-food American life.

However —

I’ve stopped drinking sodas for several reasons.  All the chemical artifical-sweeteners give me migraines, headaches, and slow-thoughts.  So no blue packets, pink packets, or yellow packets, either.

Similarly, caffeine is a drug for me.  I have severe asthma, and caffeine is an emergency drug for asthmatics.  It has the same properties for asthma that adrenalin has — and can boost the ability to breath on short notice and in hostile environments like work, school, shopping and church. 😉  So rather than build up a tolerance to caffeine and lose this drug of last resort — I save it for when I need it.  I’ve had asthma attacks when I’d lost or forgotten my inhaler that I’ve treated it with shots of espresso at the closest Starbucks –and surprisingly, (or maybe not) the barista there knew exactly what I needed when I came in — pale and wheezing — and he started pulling double shots for me before I could order!

So between the artificial sweeteners in diet soda, the caffeine in ALL my favorites, the sugar in most everything that isn’t chemically sweetened, the chemical preservatives, the artificial chemical flavors, the artificial non-food derived colors and the waste-of packaging environmentally-unsound-plastic bottles — I’m thinking there are better choices to be made.

My normal everyday drinks-menu is full of herbal teas, decaf chai, Illy decaf espresso, and little green packets of Sweet Leaf Stevia Plus — which kills both big birds with one stone, in that a single packet of this super-sweet natural sweetener (stevia is a plant with sweet leaves) has no sugar, and is packed with 1g of non-soluble fiber as it’s carrier.  😀

Evidently, other sweetener manufacturers have discovered Stevia — and SweetLeaf’s 1pk=1g fiber idea and so the little green packets are tangled up in some sort of proprietary or patent or formula legal thingie — and it’s hard to come by right now — but I found the bulk 4oz jars of Stevia Plus on Amazon for good $.  It’s been SweetLeaf Stevia Plus for at least 6 years that I’ve been buying it — so we’ll see how the lawyers sort it out.

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The problem with sugar reduction is that sugar — the strongest carb of all — is a tough addiction to get over.  If you’ve been having 1 soda with sugar, 1 cup of coffee with sugar, or 1 candy bar a day –every day of your life — then your body is very comfortable with that sugar.  If you stop the soda and switch to a cup of gen-mai, or a decaf coffee with stevia, then your body is going to miss that sugar.  If you were eating a big desert every day — or a shake — or waffles with lots of syrup — then your body is going to miss it more.  Sugar is an addictive energy boost.  Sugar is an addictive mood altering food.  As much as Thanksgiving turkey makes you sleepy — the 32oz Big Gulp of Dr. Pepper is making you alert and full of pep.

And if the gurus are right — it takes between 15 and 20 days to get yourself out of that addiction.  And it’s easier if you go cold-turkey for a while.  Yep.  That’s the cure.

Just stop.

If you break the connection between all those years of sugar and your body — you can add little bits — small servings — moderation in everything — back into your diet in a few weeks.  But for now, it’s a bare naked addiction.  So it has to be a bare naked and very cold turkey.  Making the pasta change to Fiber Gourmet is easy, because the pasta tastes like every other pasta on the store shelf.  Switching to their cheese snack crackers and wheat saltines are just that easy, too.  Buying whole grains and other hi-tech hi-fiber products –same thing.  Easy.  Tastes great.  Organic potatoes and apples to avoid poisons — easy-peasy.

Reducing sugar — not so easy.

But do-able.  Get your energy burst somewhere else.  Buy yourself a box of Emergen-C packets and drink a big load of Vitamin C and B-Vitamins when you start to feel the absence of sugar — and that will help you over the energy hump.  Eat a handful of vitamin enriched Total Cereal — same thing.

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Confessions of a Fat American

— A New Direction For This Blog.  I’m going to talk about being fat.  I’m going to talk about health and what it takes to become healthier, regardless of whether you are overweight or not.  I’m also on a search for what kinds of exercises are available to people with joint problems, like those I have with my hands.  What can be done about being fat?  I’m probably not the one to ask as I have never figured it out.  But I also haven’t given up and I’ve accumulated a lot of information over the years. So I’m going to take this opportunity in the first month of 2011 to start writing and doing something about my own health and well-being.

What and who can control the issues surrounding weight, beauty, health, and our culture?  Those are things I have some opinions about and experience with, so I’ll probably write about those things, too.

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I have been fat since I was 13 years old. (Before that, my childhood picture looks just like everybody else’s childhood pictures.  I only have one, but I’m sure there were others taken.)

I know I was fat when I was 13 years old, because that’s when my mother first took me with her to a Weight Watcher’s meeting.  As far as I know, I was about a size 11 when I first switched from kid’s sized clothes to adult sized clothes.  I was about 15 pounds heavier than the Weight Watcher’s charts said an adult of my height should be.  That I wasn’t an adult didn’t seem to matter.  That I was just going through puberty didn’t seem to matter.

My father was an up-and-coming minor executive in an insurance company that had built itself a huge new building on the freeway — and so he’d gone from being a country boy who married money, to a self-made ladder-climber on the road to the top floor and suburban life.  Appearances had become very important to him — and would later become more important — so having a fat daughter AND a fat wife must have made it difficult for him to come home at night.  At least that’s how he framed it later.

So I lost the 15 pounds.  My mother was on the Weight Watcher’s (first edition) diet off and on for several years — but with only a yo-yo type of success.  She bought me diet aids that were available at the time — canned chocolate milk flavored stuff meant to replace 1 or 2 meals a day, and diet sodas made with saccharin.  This was long before Slim Fast and its clones.

Here’s a commercial circa 1965 —

By the time I was a junior in high school, my father had begun to “make it big.”  He’d switched from insurance to joining a start-up import company as their National Sales Manager, and suddenly we were on our way to upper middle class life.  The pressure to represent him and his new life was outrageous.  His business partner’s wife was in the same position as my mother, and had found a doctor who would prescribe diet pills — and so at 16, I was still, at most, 15 pounds over an adult weight chart recommendation — and I was crash dieting with diet pills on command to make my mother feel better about her “long and hard road.”

I got down to 122 pounds — a new low for me –and my parents threw a party.  And I gained 3 pounds back in week.  And all the weight I’d lost with the diet pills was back with interest inside 2 months.

Before I left for college, I’d been put back on diet pills+crash diet 3 more times.  And still, I left for college at 135 pounds.

When I went home for the summer between my freshman and sophomore years of college, I went home at about 140 pounds.  My parents had moved into an outrageously massive and expensive house — with a black marble swimming pool, landscaped gardens, a pool room, a bar, 2 dining rooms, 5 bathrooms, and garage space for 3 cars and storage — except they didn’t store anything.  They’d sold the old life and bought a brand new lifestyle.  They had a lake house, a boat, a Cadillac convertible, a sports car, commitments, and a calendar.

And my mother was back on diet pills — so naturally, they insisted I do the same.  My father offered to take me to Neiman Marcus and buy me a new wardrobe if I would just lose all the weight I’d gained at school.  I did their diet — but 3 months of summer break wasn’t enough — even on a 600 calorie a day diet — to get down to the 112 pounds that the new weight charts and Hollywood gossip magazines said I should weigh.

I went back to school starving, miserable, and addicted to pills that the campus pharmacy wouldn’t refill because they were from a doctor in another city (and they were for amphetamines!) so– I went through withdrawal (without even knowing what it was)  I gained back all the weight I’d lost and started having horrible migraines that have never left me.  I was sick and jittery and couldn’t sleep regularly for nearly a whole semester.  And I never went home for more than 3 weeks at a time again. Three years later, my parents were divorced — of course.  My father had finally traded in my mother and her misery and pill addictions for his pretty young secretary who filled the role of arm-candy with much less effort.

When I got married, I weighed bout 155.  I dieted; lost weight; then gained back all the weight I’d lost  plus a couple of extra pounds — and then dieted again.  Each time, I had to diet longer and make myself more miserable and guilty — because that was how I’d learned to do it.

I had chronic migraines.  I had inherited arthritis.  I had severe asthma that had gone undiagnosed all through childhood.  And I was now legitimately overweight. I’d finally learned to talk to doctors for myself and figured out what the “miracle diet drugs” were that I’d been given so many times by slick diet doctors catering to middle-class housewives.  I tried Overeater’s Anonyous.  I tried Weight Watchers again.  Then when Weight Watchers came out with a new “program” — I tried that too.  I tried Slim Fast.  I even tried aversion therapy that used electric shocks to try and alter eating behavior with “technology.”  What a crock!

Somewhere along the way, I completely lost my ability to tell when I was hungry and when I wasn’t.  After being on starvation diets so many times — I was just going from nothing — to my normal food choices over and over again.  I would eat the first thing that I could find — a whole bag of chips instead of a serving.  A huge deli sandwich instead of a normal-sized one.  The Special Mexican Dinner — that came to the table on a platter and 2 salad plates, instead of the daily lunch special served on 1 salad plate.

By the time I’d had knee surgery, a baby, and moved back to school so my husband could finish his degree (and then another degree) — I’d dieted so many times that I’d gained 30 pounds more.  After a divorce and finding  a job to support myself and my son, I’d gained another 25.  After 3 years teaching in the public schools, I’d gained another 20.

Down a few pounds — up a few more.  Over and over and over.

Until finally, at about 266, I said “to hell with it” for the first time.  I had a good job that let me buy really beautiful clothes — for myself and the size I was — for the first time.   I just let myself be the weight I was.  And for those 3 years — I stayed exactly the same weight.

This is a clue.

My son got sick — really sick — and we were uninsured.  After several years, he got better with this now chronic condition — but I ended up declaring bankruptcy.  I worked odd jobs so I could be home with him instead of traveling.  When he was going through difficult periods — I stayed home with him and didn’t work at all for days at a time.  I was mixing temporary jobs of all kinds with donations from my family — We found him a small private university with a Medical School/Teaching Hospital, in a residential campus, and a city with public transportation (since he couldn’t drive with some of his medications) and they gave him scholarships sufficient to make up for us having spent his college fund on his medical bills.

And when he went off to school, I decided that maybe it was time for me to go back and finish my education, too.  Mostly, I’d been under a lot of stress, and just needed to succeed at something for a while.

I got a teaching assistantship and set out in search of someone who could speak to all the things I read and studied in the background of this life, and was eventually sent to the only person the campus could recommend to direct my studies.  He and I started talking — and have never stopped.  Instead of getting a Ph.D. — I got married again.  And the conversation and quest for new and interesting ideas has never stopped.

I have addressed the neglect I’d been raised with.  I have addressed the insane diets I was told to go on for all the wrong reasons when I was young.  I have worked to unravel the twisted hunger/satiety responses that diet drugs and deprivation worked to destroy so effectively.  I have laid awake nights trying to untangle the bizarre expectations of others and the surrender to no expectations in myself.

For years now I’ve focused on my ideas, my mind, my creative endeavors, and the people I love and who love me.  I stopped wearing makeup over a decade ago.  I stopped wearing the expensive clothes in my closet and drifted to a wardrobe of denim skirts and t-shirts / sweaters.  I dissociated from my family of origin.  I have read what I wanted.  Studied what I wanted.  I have slept nights from beginning to end without cold sweats or nightmares.  I am not nearly so loud as I once was in conversation.  I have stopped demanding and directing  those who cross my path.  I have worked hard to discover what I believe and why.  I have become a much nicer person than I ever was in my youth, and I ever gave anyone indications that I could be.  Many of these things can be traced directly to marrying a wonderful and kind man who loves me and who I get to love every day.

And I haven’t gained weight since my husband and I married.

This is a clue.

At one time, a couple of years ago, I’d just about worked out a healthy way to live and eat that helped me lose about 35 pounds.  Just as this was becoming habit, 2 of my closest family-friends had outrageous difficulties in their lives and needed all of their family-friends to be on call; to sit in hospital waiting rooms; to be available on the phone as the listening ear; to be available on short notice as the helping hand –and my momentum was shoved to the back burner — and right off the stove.

But now, things are slowing down, cooling down, and calming down.

And I have re-gathered my notes.

A couple of things have changed in 2 1/2 years.  One of the things I did then (to help up my menopausal metabolism) was exercise with resistance bands.  It was a great discovery — but is now completely impossible due to the state of the arthritis in my hands.  I can no longer grip the bands to do the exercises.  My thumbs and wrists just won’t take the pressure.  I can’t even take the torque required to open a jar of spaghetti sauce!

So that’s off the table.

Another thing that has changed also has to do with my hands — I really loved playing all the sports games on the Nintendo Wii.  I still do.  Buy the selection is being limited by which sports/games require me to grip the Wii-mote controller in a way that hurts my hands.  I’ve given up cooking in cast iron and stopped knitting just so I can keep painting — so it would be outrageously stupid to ruin my hands by using a game controller that insists I hold it tight and bend my thumbs into awkward positions to hit the buttons.

This is also what keeps me off twitter and from sending text messages.  My thumb-joints just won’t take it.

So I am in search of Wii games that are easy on my hands.  I’m hoping the mats and balance board will provide enough choices.

And instead of resistance bands — I’ve invested in a pedometer.

2 problems — 2 patches.

And I’ve got a well-organized kitchen where I can hopefully compose meals that don’t require cast iron or other heavy pots and pans, or heavy lifting of any kinds.  I can’t stir a pot constantly (hardly at all,) so I am experimenting with my bread machine, rice machine, slow cooker, microwave, counter-top grill, and pressure cooker.

I’m sure more problems will appear — and more fixes will be required.

So I’m going to keep new recipes here.  I’m going to talk about Wii games and exercise available to those of us with seriously degenerating joints.

And if I can put it all into words, I’m going to talk about outrageous parenting and my own lack of ambition, independent thought, and self-direction when I was young.

What I know for sure is that there’s a lot of crap and nonsense floating out there on the airwaves and in cyberspace about weight, dieting, obesity, health, beauty, and self-image.  When I come across it — I’ll name it for the s#!t that it is and try to explain why it’s s%*t.

When I come across a useful tool, a good idea, a great recipe, or a clever idea about those same topics — I’ll post that here, too — and name it “treasure.”  (Or maybe I’ll call those things “Shinola” (which actually was a really useful thing, once upon a time, before popular culture cast it onto the dis-ambiguation heap.)

I don’t intend to weigh myself often.  In the end, my weight is not nearly as important as my health.  I’d like to re-start that momentum I had going a couple of years ago — but I’m a little older — and my metabolism has undoubtedly changed.  Those were very stressful months we’ve all lived through, (even more for others in our circle of friends) and so there is some repair to do.  There is also the chance that other joints besides those in my hands may begin to deteriorate as well – so we’ll see.

But I will post progress from time to time.  Milestones.  The round numbers.  The revelations that I haven’t gotten to yet.