If it's good enough for Stephen Fry… (The Diet, Day 29)

I spent some time on the treadmill today listening to Lance Armstrong’s It’s Not About the Bike (co-authored by Sally Jenkins who has visited my school a couple of times). I thought it was a great treadmill book. It’s sportsy and motivational. You would feel like a real dog for getting off the treadmill too soon while listening to a book about a guy who had cancer and got back on his bike.

Recently, I’ve listened to other books I considered perfect treadmill books: Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods and Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run, for example.

I got off the treadmill thinking I needed to find more books like that. Motivating books about physical challenges. Interesting enough to hold my attention. Not so deep that I forget to walk and listen at the same time or that I counteract all of the stress relief the treadmill can give me.

I googled “best audio books for treadmill” or something like that. I didn’t find any good suggestions for books, but I did find this article claiming that Stephen Fry credits audio books for helping him lose 80 lbs. He too used them to keep him on the treadmill.

The Step and Read Plan. I like it.

I especially like it because I only lost 1.5 lbs this week doing the Phase 1 of South Beach that claims people typically lose 4-6 lbs. I must not be doing it right, or it must not be doing me right. One or the other.

I’m sticking it out one more week to complete the full two weeks of the plan, though, because I just want to be able to say I stuck it out.

Meanwhile I’ve been reading about step counting as a diet plan. Remember, Mississippi, when Haley Barbour went around handing out pedometers and challenging people to walk 10,000 steps per day? There’s a whole official movement around this idea, it seems. Though there appears to be no real evidence that 10,000 is the be-all end-all magic number for everyone, it sounds good to say you walked 10,000 steps in a day.

I wore a pedometer today all day, and I walked a little over 10,000 steps. This came out to 8.45 kilometers or 5.2 miles, according to the pedometer.

I had to really work for it. I walked thirty minutes with Patricia in the morning before work and thirty minutes with Tammy during lunch. Then I walked 45 minutes on the treadmill after I came home.

I have to put that much time into deliberate exercise to work up to what “they” say is the minimal amount you should do just be a normal human being because in between the pre-work walk and the post-work walk, I sit at a desk. That’s all I do. I sit there.

The point of counting steps is not to force people into spending two hours a day on a treadmill. It’s to make them more aware of the number of steps they are taking throughout the day. Small changes like taking the stairs and walking to lunch and going to a bathroom on the other side of the building should accumulate through the day to help boost steps.

I have nowhere in particular to go inside my building, and there is a heat warning outside. I also stay busy the whole time I am sitting at my desk. I don’t really want to leave my desk.

But I need to. Spreading those 10,000 steps out through the day does more to boost metabolism (and therefore burn more calories) than working extra hard to fit them all in on the treadmill at the end of the day.

I don’t know how I will spread my steps out and keep up 10,000 a day, but I aim to try. I’m now on the South Beach Diet and the 10,000 Steps Challenge. If one diet is good, two must be great, right?

It’s not worth doing if it’s not worth overdoing. That’s what I always say.

Recipes to Try (The Diet, Day 28)

Forgive me while I use my blog like a personal notebook. These recipes were found via Kalyn’s Kitchen. I’m posting them here so that I won’t forget where to look for them again.

Lentil, Herb, Feta Salad

Shandong-Style Asparagus

Spicy Collards and Black-Eyed Pea Soup

Easy Spinach Nests

And these I found by wandering onward through A Veggie Venture.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Pan-Roasted Broccoli

Lemon Spinach

Cowboy Coleslaw

If I’m going to diet, I’m going to have to cook. There seems to be no getting around that. In fact, I could probably forgo all diet plans other than the “cook something healthy daily” plan and do just fine. I need a regimen to remind me to cook something healthy, though, and for now at least I’ve chosen the South Beach Diet.

Some of the recipes marked above I might have to modify slightly for the diet, but they are good places to start.

My goal is to pick two items off this list and make some variety of them within the next week. As goals go, I could do worse. If you don’t hear any more on this matter, you’ll know I’ve failed to follow through and am pretending I never said anything about it in the first place.

Breakfast of Champions (The Diet, Day 27)

From South Beach Diet Pics

I decided I would go ahead and blog today’s diet update while I was still on top of my day. This is breakfast–a peanut butter cup smoothie made by a recipe found by way of Kalyn’s Kitchen. I don’t know who Kalyn is, but I love her kitchen.

I’m guessing my breakfast smoothie has about 400 calories, and I know it has the 16 grams of fat that were in the two tablespoons of peanut butter, but I don’t care. It’s worth it to start the day out with a treat.

Breakfast has been the hardest part for me because I can’t just stay home and have a leisurely cooked breakfast. I have to eat on the run. When all convenience foods and even plain old wheat toast are banned, that makes it pretty tough.

I’m sort of wallowing in the chance to drink a leisurely smoothie this morning.

From South Beach Diet Pics

South Beach Survival Camp (The Diet, Day 26)

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It’s not yet 5:00, and I’ve already eaten a bowl of the coleslaw pictured above. I’d say that means I’m feeling better considering I had trouble eating at all in the afternoons and evenings the past few days.

Aside from the possibility of simply having adjusted better to the diet, I have two possible explanations:

(1) I tried to eat a small bite of something every hour or two through the morning so that I never got completely empty. I ate a piece of cheese or a a few soy nuts. I just ate some small thing to keep me going.

(2) I decided to make something to eat that would feel like both a rare treat and a little touch of comfort food. Hence, the coleslaw.

As far as I know this doesn’t have anything in it that isn’t allowed on Phase 1 of South Beach. What it has is this:

Shredded cabbage
Broccoli
Artichoke hearts
Edamame
Green olives
Feta Cheese
Cashews
Low fat olive oil mayonaise
Salt and pepper

South Beach has a recipe for coleslaw dressing that includes vinegar and Splenda, but I just used plain mayo. I come from humble coleslaw people.

My theory is that just the act of making something I knew I would enjoy made me feel better. Plus, I got a much bigger variety of healthy nutrients than I would have if I’d simply popped a veggie burger in the microwave. But the point is if you are going to do something in the long term (or even for two weeks), you have to feed the spirit as well as the body. You have to treat yourself with a variety of–in this case–flavor experiences.

I didn’t just force something down this time. I enjoyed preparing this. I enjoyed eating it.

Of course, this is Friday afternoon when I am allowed to delude myself into believing that the weekend is plenty long enough to do what needs doing, and I have time to relax for a bit. I want to set a goal of making something new and good and interesting at least once a week. If I can stick with that resolve once the semester really kicks in hard, I’ll know miracles really do happen, and Santa Clause really does exist.

In which she does not know if she has cheated (The Diet, Day 25)

I’m not sure South Beach is all it’s cracked up to be. At least, I’m not sure I should have started it after school started back when I had limited time for working on my own meals. Phase 1 is difficult to figure out, particularly for a vegetarian. Because the book doesn’t discuss a vegetarian plan, I’ve been relying on websites, and the websites by virtue of having been written by different people are somewhat contradictory. I’ve realized this is why I’ve been so confused over whether veggie burgers and string cheese were allowed. Opinions vary on the matter.

Figuring it all out requires reading labels, and reading them carefully. You have to look at the whole mixture of calories, carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. I usually notice one or two of those and don’t think about the others until I’ve already purchased a salad dressing not on the diet and brought it home to clutter up my refrigerator.

I have many questions for the book. I feel a little betrayed by the book to tell you the truth. It did not, for instance, warn me that I would feel dizzy, nauseated, headachey, shaky, and extremely thirsty a few days into this diet. It did not mention that I would self-diagnose and un-self-diagnose myself as hypoglycemic several times throughout the day.

My friend says this is the result of going into ketosis from the extreme restriction of carbs. She says it is normal for low carb diets. Evidently, she’s right. The internet abounds with people complaining about the same symptoms on message boards. It seems more often than not they eat ice cream sandwiches and walk out of the game at this point. My friend said she once made an entire pot of noodles and ate them in one sitting when she had gone into ketosis. People rob Frito’s trucks over this. It isn’t pretty.

I drank a Muscle Milk today. I’m not sure that even counts as cheating. It’s a low carb, high protein drink. I don’t see why it wouldn’t be allowed on Phase 1 of South Beach, but I can’t find anything that says it is. It seemed medically necessary at the time, though. The alternative was a double-chocolate sweet cream shake from Cold Stone. The Muscle Milk made me not feel dizzy. It made me feel like I was capable of eating something.

This is another uncharted territory for me. I’ve never in my life not felt like eating, but yesterday and today, when it was time for supper, I felt like I couldn’t force a bite down myself at gun point.

Yesterday, I cowgirled up and forced some black-eyed peas down my throat regardless.

Today, I drank the Muscle Milk, and about thirty minutes later I felt okay, so I made a salad and actually enjoyed it. Since Muscle Milk is of a questionable nature, though, I’m going to try drinking a glass of skim milk tomorrow and see if it has the same effect. It will probably need some chocolate syrup added to it to do the job, but I’ll try it straight first.

I’m quite frustrated with South Beach today. The Diet is no longer amusing.

My main frustration is that I can’t find the information I want about my reaction to this diet from anything I would consider a reliable source. People on South Beach Phase 1 are reporting feeling this way all over the place. Those are people, though, not doctors or nutritionists. Explanations of low carb diets from doctors and nutritionists, though, are surprisingly sketchy on the physical results. None of them that I’ve found so far have mentioned that you might actually feel like you’re going to expire of whatever it was Julia Roberts’ character had in Steel Magnolias if you don’t immediately eat the red velvet armadillo cake.

Make an appointment to see a doctor or nutritionist so as to speak in person, you say? Oh, pish. They should be blogging. I want an electronic house call.

Locavoring vs. Dieting (The Diet, Day 24)

I’ve been an extremely bad locavore through my transition into being a dieter. In fact, I’ve all but given up on the idea of environmentally conscientious local food habits. That is except for eating the banana peppers that are still growing profusely in my backyard due to my bout of good intentions last spring.

I’ve found it difficult to figure out what to eat on a diet. Mainly, I’ve found it difficult to figure out what to fit into my working life, which leaves me tired and frazzled with little energy for considering food choices most of the time.

In my frazzled efforts to not just get on track but find the track in the first place, I’ve spent lots of time meandering about grocery stores contemplating the nature of my new universe. I’ve read content labels and stared at bins of green onions just trying to write the narrative inside my own head of what I’m supposed to eat.

I’ve been constantly disappointed in myself at the results.

Today is my third day of attempting Phase 1 of South Beach in which you are supposed to cut out all sugar, grains, fruits, and starchy vegetables for two weeks in order to sort of start from scratch with your body’s relationship to insulin. This is supposed to level you out so that you don’t have sugar cravings. Then you can reintroduce whole grains and fruits to your diet in healthy portions.

It’s just a theory, but I’m working with it.

I guess I concentrated a little too much on what I would do about convenience items. In retrospect, that’s probably absolutely not the point of Phase 1. But it was a concern of mine.

So I bought several varieties of veggie burgers. It says in the instructions for Phase 1 that you can eat veggie burgers. I, however, neglected to read the part where you are only supposed to eat the kind that have less than 3 grams of fat. Of course, I bought the kind I like the best, and they aren’t the less than 3 gram type. There’s the first way I already broke the rules of the strictest part of this diet that I’m trying very strictly to keep.

Next, I bought 100 calorie snack packs of almonds. Almonds are on the list of allowables. I thought the snack packs would prevent me from over-indulging. They have helped with that, though I knew when I bought them they did not fit any locavorian principle. They weren’t grown anywhere near here, and all that extra packing to put them in individual portions….for shame, for shame.

That shame I felt even before I noticed that these convenient and delicious almonds have added sugar.

Strike two.

And the mozzarella string cheese? Turns out the book says “skim mozzarella,” not “part skim mozzarella.”

Strike three.

I might as well be out, but since I’m more of a spirit of the law person, I’m going to still claim that I’ve been on Phase 1 South Beach for the past three days.

I am, however, going to try to improve on following the letter of the law. In that spirit, I did some searching last night for vegetarian recipes and South Beach Phase 1. One of the first I clicked to that sounded good to me was squash and onions. For some reason, I think I was expecting to be introduced to a new concept when I clicked on those words.

But then I sat there staring at the instructions. Slice up squash and partially boil it. Chop up onions and saute them in a small amount of olive oil. Add squash and continue sauteing for a few minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Oh, yeah. That. I’ve been eating that all my life. It might actually be my favorite food in the world.

Yet when I tried to think up what to eat on a diet, my favorite food never crossed my mind. It never occurred to me that I could just go down to the farmer’s market and buy some yellow squash, or better yet raid my mother’s freezer, and voila I’m on a diet.

I’ve been talking about the health benefits of local eating for months. I’ve been reading about it and trying to pay more attention to where my food comes from. And still I don’t associate the traditional foods of my area with being on a diet.

Apparently, I have a an enormous amount of mental retraining to do. Here goes Phase 1.

In search of a good nap (The Diet, Day 23)

I was hit with a megawave of tired today. I think that has more to do with the fact that I was up too late last night than with the fact that I’ve been dieting and exercising. I’m still working on adjusting to school-year hours vs. summer hours. I’ve decided I’m going to help myself along in the process by going to bed extra early tonight.

Going to bed early is a matter of self-defense for more than one reason. For one thing, I certainly don’t want to oversleep or wake up sluggish and slow-moving. We’re in the middle of a major parking war at JC. If I don’t get to work before the bulk of the troops come flooding in, I’ll be left bruised and battered on the frayed edges of the battlefield.

For another, I’ve just read this article from WebMD about the effect of sleep deprivation on weight. You get fat if you don’t sleep enough, studies say. There’s an attempt at a medical reasoning process in the article involving specific names of specific hormones, but I have my own theory. If you are tired, for whatever reason, your body craves energy. Therefore, you automatically reach for food as the most immediate possible source of energy.

If you want to not feel hungry at unfortunately high levels, then, you need to make sure you get enough sleep.

I believe proper sleep also restores concentration levels. If I go to bed early tonight, I will accomplish twice as much tomorrow. That seems only logical to me.

In other news, phase 2 of my diet, which is phase 1 of South Beach, is kicking right along on its 2nd day, which is the 23rd day of the diet as a whole. I’ve been eating lots of celery. I also made a big pot of mixed vegetables–broccoli, artichokes, snow peas, mushrooms, and chickpeas. I’ve been eating bowls and bowls of that. I figure you could eat the entire crock-pot full of this stuff in one sitting without consuming the number of calories in a single slice of cheese pizza, but I’m just eating a bowl of it at a time. That seems to be working out for me.

More on my venture into SoBe after I’ve managed to catch a long night’s nap…

Week 4 = Phase 1 (The Diet, Day 22)

I lost two pounds this week, according to the Scales of Doom. I’m crediting the Wii for the fact that I’m finally starting to lose weight. If the sports games aren’t doing it, surely I am burning off lots of calories yelling at Mario when I can’t figure out how the Wii version of the game I’ve been playing half my life works.

I’ve also decided the last three weeks were just “pre-dieting.” Like pre-writing, you have to spend some time working it all out in your head before you’re reading to get serious.

Today starts the first draft stage. I’m doing Phase 1 of South Beach for the next two weeks.

I’ll let you know how it goes.