Let’s Talk Food

The number one question I am asked when discussing my weight loss is, “What are you eating…or *not* eating?”

First of all, let me say that often people are astounded to find out I am losing weight “the hard way” (IE. no magic pills or trendy/fad diets…and no surgical intervention).  I have actually had people say something to this effect, “Really?  *That* works?!”  They have genuine shock and surprise in their voices.  How interesting.

In a society that is dominated by the quicker/faster/better option, people often overlook the best/healthiest route.  I mean, who wants to actually *work* toward something when you get snipped and tucked…one “quick and easy” procedure cures all your physical woes.  Right?  Wrong.  I have never been an advocate for weight loss surgery…ever.  Even at my heaviest when my doctor offered me a referral to the “weight loss clinic” (IE fat-removing surgeon), I turned him down.  I was not willing to risk my life when there was a *much* safer alternative – exercise and healthy eating.

Anyway…stepping off my soap box…

I have been wanting to share some of my “staple” foods that have helped me in my journey.  Not all of these choices would be right for everyone, of course, based on your own dietary needs and tastes.  So, this is not intended to be any kind of sound nutritional advice, folks.  Just what I like and what works for me.  I have posted previously about my food choices, if you are interested.

My first new discovery was Bolthouse Farms.  They have many products, but I am in love with their yogurt-based ranch dressing.  I love veggies…raw and crunchy veggies…but dipping them in ranch makes them even better (in my opinion).  I always limit myself to no more than one serving (2 Tbsp) and that is quite often *way* more than enough anyway.  Bolthouse Farms makes many other dressings and vinaigrettes, so if ranch dressing does not toot your horn, they probably have something else that will.

I have also switched to stevia as a sweetener instead of traditional granulated sugar.  I rarely used sugar anyway, but when I do I am now grabbing stevia.  Personally, I can taste a small difference between the two (maybe that is just me), but the difference does not bother me.  Sweet is sweet, right?

My next “big” find was Kashi (thanks to the nutritionist).  I was browsing the aisles of whole/natural/organic foods in my grocery store when I stumbled upon: Kashi TLC Pumpkin Spice Flax Crunchy Granola Bars (what a mouth-full).  These things are *amazingly* delicious…really.  My daughters have been having them as their mid-morning snack for days now.  They come packaged in pairs, which is perfect for each of my daughters to have one bar (85 calories, 3 g fat, 0.5 saturated fat, and 3 g protein).  Those of you watching carb intake might be less excited about these bars, though.  They weigh in at 25g of carbs per pack (two bars), so that may not be ideal for everyone.

Cooking oils are abundant these days.  Previously, I always had vegetable oil in my pantry.  Then I switched to extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO).  Then canola oil.  Recently, my friend switched to coconut oil because of all the hype it was receiving.  That, of course, led me to purchase some and start using it.  When I spent some time earlier this month with the nutritionist, I asked about all the different oils.  Ultimately, she recommended using canola oil for high-temperature cooking and EVOO for low-temperature cooking and dressings.  Although there are benefits to using coconut oil, the high (and I mean *very* high) saturated fat content make it a bad contender for regular use.  What kind of oil(s) do you use for cooking/baking?

I have mentioned previously that I have given up all white/bleached/enriched flour products (IE white bread and regular pastas).  An interesting bit of information I learned from the nutritionist, though, was that I had been eating them this whole time – unknowingly.  I *assumed* that if a product simply said “wheat flour” it meant the flour was not bleached/enriched.  However, that apparently is not necessarily the case.  The same goes for durum flour and semolina.  If the ingredient label does not include the word *whole* in front of those terms, chances are the flour *was* bleached/enriched and the manufacturer is just not putting that explicitly on the label.  This, in my opinion, is one more step to intentionally deceive consumers.  Letting us believe we are eating better food when, in fact, we are not.  I was not happy to find this out, of course.  So, I will be even more careful when selecting products that contain flour (in any form) to ensure I am not eating those bleached/enriched flours.

Some of my other blogger friends have recently discussed eating healthy and making better choices about consumption.  To see what they have to say visit with Andie and Colline.

Do you read the nutrition labels and ingredient lists when grocery shopping?  If so, what criteria must a food meet in order to land a spot in your cart?

Have you ever tried a fad diet in hopes of losing a great deal of weight quickly?  If so, which one(s) have you tried, and what was your experience with it?

-Erica

18 responses to “Let’s Talk Food

  1. I do read the labels. And if it has preservatives in, the product is immediately put back on the shelf. To be honest, most of my shopping is done in the produce section of the supermarket.

  2. Yes and yes.

    As for the first question, I tend to avoid grains so there is not much need to read labels. I do like several Kashi products and buy the bars for travel but find them too tempting to keep in the house. Like bread. And crackers.

    • I can understand that, Karen. The pumpkin granola bars remind me of those old school windmill cookies, which could potentially be a dangerous thing for me. So, if I start to notice myself feeling an “urge” to eat those…even when not hungry…I will stop buying them altogether.

      -Erica

  3. I use coconut oil from time to time, just for a different taste, generally with stir fries. I also was using it to keep my skin moisturized when I had some really bad dry skin all over my fingers and hands, which we think were caused by a vitamin D deficiency. Mainly, I use extra virgin olive oil. Every once in awhile, I also use peanut oil for high heat work. My counter looks like a shelf in the oil aisle at the grocery story at this point – I should take a picture.

    • I have Vit D deficiency as well…is *that* why my fingers get so cracked and dry?! I’ll keep that in mind…maybe it’ll help to remind me to take the stupid Vit D once a week!

      I know what you mean about the variety of oils…right now I have EVOO, canola, and coconut in my pantry. There was a time that veggie oil was also in there, and on occasion you could find peanut oil in there as well. LOL

      -Erica

  4. I’ve stopped reading the labels, because more ad more we’ve stopped buying processed, packaged stuff altogether.

    What really made the difference for us was buying the Calorie King’s calorie counter book (here’s a link: Calorie counter). When I took a good couple of hours looking through it, one thing became clear – packaged foods have a LOT more calories and fat than fresh foods. And a quick visit to our local supermarket’s website showed me that packaged stuff was a lot more expensive too.

    So we shifted to a fresh whole diet. Real meat (sausages and burgers don’t count) and eggs, water to drink – or I make smoothies, fresh fruit (whatever is cheap, local and in season or what we’ve grown), and fresh veggies (same again – whatever is cheap and local).

    We’re also making good use of our big chest freezer, to save on specials and bulk deals.

    I’m starting to be convinced there is no such thing as a factory-made processed food that is actually truly healthy. Everything in a box that is processed contains preservatives and other nasties, and usually way too much salt and sugar.

    So I guess we’re going hard-core. If you don’t buy stuff with labels, you don’t need to read them. But I’ve never felt better, and the weight loss is happening, and our food bills have dropped through the floor, so I suppose we’re doing something right 🙂

    • I would absolutely *love* to have a chest freezer!!! Consider me jealous! 🙂

      I have been weeding things out slowly with the hopes of one day purchasing no processed foods. The thought of doing an entire overhaul all at once seemed a little too daunting. My chicklets would freak out if I stopped buying everything they love, you know? So, instead, I am slowly switching a few products at a time to make that transition. Eventually we will get there.

      -Erica

      • Hi – Yeah, having to deal with kids with the transition to healthy eating is tough. Mine are 7 and 5, and they kicked up a BIG stink! The way we did it in the end was just all of us going cold turkey, with one exception – pizza night, once a month, which we write in on the calendar, so it doesn’t “come early” a few times!

        But with the kids, what really fixed me was seeing families at my son’s school, when we had a “bring your own food” picnic. Because it was one of the first times I’d ever really got to see what other people eat.

        The fat families (even though the kids weren’t fat) brought junk and chips and processed stuff. The thin families brought homemade, real food. And it made me realise that when we eat junk, we line our kids up to be fat as adults by the standards we set ourselves. It was almost like being whacked on the head with a brick – it was just so blatantly obvious. Junk food: fat parent: fat kid-in-the-making. Not good.

        So my kids complained and were Hell On Earth for a week. That’s it. About 7 days, maybe less. And I figure that’s not a lot to pay for them not growing up to be obese adults.

        Nowadays I’ve started watching people at the supermarket, and what they put in their trolleys, and I’ve realised we really ARE what we eat. I haven’t yet seem a single fat person who doesn’t eat poorly, and dump junk in their trolley. It’s really clear, from an outsider’s perspective. And when I went through our old shopping lists and what we used to buy, it all started to become really obvious where we were making so many mistakes too.

        I’ve got the kids eating broccoli and brussels sprouts now – you name it. We’ve got a new rule which is – if they don’t eat it, they get it reheated for breakfast 🙂 It’s amazing what kids learn to like when they know they’ll get it again the next morning! My daughter decided she likes lamb (after years of saying NO!) and my son is even eating tomatoes like he can’t get enough of them. I think maybe tough love is a good thing after all.

        Thanks for a terrific blog, BTW – always so interesting and readable 🙂

      • I cannot agree with you more!!! The suburb we live in is filled with people who are overweight/obese…many of whom are younger (and even children). It is unfortunate that so many children are growing up with such poor nutritional education and leadership (by way of example, of course). I usually grocery shop at three different stores (depending on which has what I want/need on sale). Two of the stores are in lower-income neighborhoods…and it shows. You can find mass quantities of people with at least 90% of their carts full of nothing but processed foods. The other 10% in their cart is usually non-food items (paper towels, toothpaste, etc.). The produce sections of those two stores could be compared to a ghost town – minus the occasional tumbleweed. The third store I frequent is located in a lower-middle class neighborhood. The difference is pretty remarkable. The produce section actually has a designated organic section and there are always people IN it.

        I have become *much* pickier about what “earns” a spot in my cart at the grocery. Most of which is purchased along the outer edge of the grocery (which is typically the non-processed foods) – and that is mostly veggies and fruit. I have switched out all the prepackaged snacks my chicklets used to eat (with high fructose corn syrup) for something better. We still have *plenty* of room for improvement, but I am happy with the progress we have made in only about seven months. By this time next year we should be completely free processed foods – in the house.

        My daughters’ father, though, is another story/beast. He truly believes he cannot live without soda, chips, candy, etc. etc. I was never able to understand how he stays so thin and eats so poorly. I suppose he is blessed with a truly high metabolism. I have to think it will catch up with him eventually…right? 🙂

        And…thanks for the kind words! I’m so glad that you enjoy reading my blog!

        -Erica

  5. Ah – the skinny guy that eats junk. Yeah, I’m married to one. I used to think it was all metabolism, until I really started scrutinising not just *what* he ate, but *how much* and *when*. And that was when it clicked in that, calorie-wise, I was actually eating more than he was.

    My husband was eating lots of junk, but he also often skips meals, drinks lots of black coffee (which is a diuretic and metabolism booster). He also only eats when he’s hungry, not “just because” like I do.

    Then there’s the issue of picking at food – if there’s nibbles lying around, I can’t resist them – whereas, he’ll only actually eat when he’s hungry. It’s like his brain actually works to tell him when he needs food, but mine doesn’t. He can eat two chocolate biscuits, whereas I open the packet and – eat the whole dang thing!

    But I didn’t see any of this. All I saw was the fact he was eating a chocolate croissant for lunch. And having dessert when I wasn’t. And that his office was / is filled with packs of biscuits and cakes and sweets. But whereas if *my* office had that stuff in it, the packs would be empty within half an hour, he often forgets they’re there, and they’ll sit, unopened or half opened, for weeks at a time.

    The final straw was when we both kept food and calorie counting diaries for a week. My tally was about 3000 calories a day, sometimes much more. HIs was about 2200.

    When I finally clued on to all this, I had to finally admit that the metabolism card was not true 😦 I just ate more food than he did, even though it didn’t look that way.

    I’ve come to believe there is no such thing as a “naturally skinny” person. I do think there are “set points” our bodies adhere to and genetics play a big role in how much we feel we want to eat, and how well we recognise fulllness signals etc., and men do need a few more calories. There’s also height and muscle mass etc.

    But if my skinny husband at 3000 calories a day, yep, he’d be as fat as I was.

    Yep – loving your blog. Keep writing!

    • Here’s the kicker about my daughters’ father – he *did* eat more than me…and most of it was junk. He will sit down and eat three or four candy bars at once. This was usually around 9 or 10 at night even. So, he was just going to sleep afterward. He also eats chips by the bag-full. Anything battered and deep fried is a favorite of his, and he often serves himself two or even three plates of food to my one.

      I know there are other factors in play, though. He walks to work almost every day, which is a little over a mile each way. He also works a factory job, so he is standing, lifting, pushing, pulling, etc. all day long. Additionally, he is a drummer…a speed metal drummer at that. So, he might have been eating 50% more than I was, but he was 100% more active. It was still frustrating to see, though.

      These things, of course, are not things many of us struggling with weight issues take the time to *really* digest, though. As you mentioned, your initial thought was your husband was eating more than you (or at least just as much) but was much thinner. I also believe that most people do think there is such a thing as “naturally skinny” people. I can honestly say that before I started my journey, I believed it. Not so much now though. Especially not those people who are fit and toned – that takes work.

      -Erica

      • Yeah – I never used to get it either.

        I mean, I used to go eat greasy junk at those food halls in malls, and look at all the lean people sitting eating the same greasy junk, and figure that I was just the poor person (*poor me! woe woe!*) who obviously had a really slow metabolism because, I mean, all those other skinny people could eat the same crap but THEY weren’t fat, so how come I was piling it on?

        Then I clued on. First I actually *looked* at their plates, and noticed that my serves were a lot bigger. Then I started looking at the faces of the people in the food halls each day, and I never saw the same skinny people back each day. You’d see them maybe once a month, but not every day eating the rubbish. You’d see the FATTIES like me – oh, heck yeah, we’d be in there every day at the trough! – but the lean people, not so often.

        So not everything was as it seemed. The fatties (sorry to be so blunt, but I call a shovel a shovel!) were eating that stuff every day, but the lean people were only doing it occasionally.

        Same with a KFC I used to walk past. You’d see the same HUGE butts in there every night. The lean rears would be different ones. So the huge rear ends belonged to the “heavy users” (no pun intended) while the leaner people were having their “monthly treat” or whatever.

        It’s easy to get misled, and think that I’m the only poor sod who has the slowest metabolism /thyroid / biggest bones / whatever on the planet. But if I actually take the time to be honest with myself (and it hurts heck yeah), and if I’m going to deal effectively with my lardiness and get the weight off and keep if off, I need to realise that usually there’s a more realistic solution to the problem. And in my case at least, I was eating a whole lotta garbage and not doing a whole lotta moving!

      • You are certainly right about the frequency of heavier visitors versus those who are slender. People usually do not stop to recognize those differences, though. They just see thin people eating the same junk and assume they must be the “lucky winners of high metabolism.”

        It is funny you mention being “big boned” because people often said that to me. Things like, “You carry your weight so well because you are big boned.” What an odd statement, right? The real kicker is that now that I am losing weight, I (and others) am realizing that my bones are not really *that* big at all. In fact, my trainer and I were standing next to each other in the mirror a few weeks ago working out. I was having trouble with my shoulders rolling forward during this dead lift we were doing. As she is studying my shoulders she gets this look on her face (a lot like surprise and shock…but in a toned-down kind of way) and says, “You know, Erica, I think your frame is about the same size as mine. Look at your shoulders. They are really no wider than mine.” Keep in mind my trainer is a small, tight, toned, hot little thing – she’s quite beautiful and I would absolutely *love* for my body to look similar to hers. I looked in the mirror, and she was right. I am taller than her, but our frame size is pretty close. With 85+ pounds on this frame, though, it was harder to notice how wide my *bones* are – especially considering you could not see them under the thick layers of fat.

        -Erica

      • Yeah. I’ve had people say the last couple of years that I’ve got a really big “frame”, but my bones are actually just very long and narrow. I’m 5’11” and wear a size 11 shoe, and I have broad shoulders, but my wrists, for example, are quite narrow and my hands very long and slender.

        I think, as a society,we’re really good at finding excuses for ourselves! Not good. Excuses just allow ourselves to become even fatter and more unwell, instead of tackling our problems head on.

      • I completely agree about our society excelling at making excuses. We are *very* good at that. We are also *very* good at passing the buck to blame someone else. If more people just took personal responsibility instead of pointing fingers, they would see so many more options for improvement. I mean, if it is “someone else’s” problem then it is up to “someone else” to fix it, right? Personal responsibility (accountability) gives us the power to fix it…with hard work, of course. (And we all know “hard work” is practically a bad word in today’s society)

        -Erica

  6. haha- I found your post! I seriously need to keep up on here and go my email for my blog! 🙂

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