A moment of silence, please, for the Angry Polar Bear

image from www.shrinkingsisters.com

Remember the Angry Polar Bear? 

I introduced you to the bear back in September 2012 but it had been around much longer than that. I fought with it, tried to ignore it, made deals with it and sometimes was tackled by it.

Until recently.

I can't find the bear. Sure, I'm still working through the muscle memory of reflexively walking to the kitchen at night, but then I look in the fridge or the pantry and I go "Ehhhh, no. Not hungry. Really not hungry."

There is no bear to wrestle with (sorry, I'm just not writing "with which to wrestle"). I went to elementary school in Chicago -- we put "with" at the end of everything. ("Wanna come with?")

A major part of what my dietitian is doing is tweaking my hunger hormones back to normal -- but what is normal? I've been dieting since the age of 10!

OK, so she's tweaking my hormones to act like they're supposed to act. So I'm not hungry 24/7, ravenous late at night, craving sugar all the time. There are specific nutrients that help coax hormones back into working like they're supposed to, and they include things such as calcium d-glucarate, N-acetylcysteine (NAC), and  L-glutathione. 

Yes, extremely geeky. 

Hormone-Reset-DietI sat in a few nights ago on a webinar by Sara Gottfried, M.D., who is a board-certified gynecologist who specializes in natural hormone balancing. The webinar was actually for doctors and other medical professionals but I hopped on, hoping to make sense of terms like dyscircadianism, leptin resistance, and dysestrogenism. I found it fascinating, and also noticed that a lot of the nutrients she mentioned were in Meryl's supplements. I also ordered a copy of Dr. Gottfried's new book "The Hormone Reset Diet" (HarperOne, $27.99) so I could jump into more hormone talk geared toward non-medical professionals.

You also can hear a great podcast interview with her HERE at The Model Health Podcast.

I find this all fascinating because I thought I was doing all the right things and taking all the right supplements -- but I was getting nowhere. Yes, I lost 30 pounds but then I got stuck and stayed stuck until now.

And what's most different now is that I don't feel like I have to struggle or fight or count every calorie or macro or feel bad about not working out every day. I'm not eating anything I don't want to eat, I get to make smoothies every day, I can fairly easily eat at a restaurant from time to time, and my body is finally telling me "Yes, you've had enough food. You can stop now."

I don't think I've ever heard my body say that.

So, farewell Angry Polar Bear. I will not miss you.

4 pounds and 3 inches off the waist: Let's do more!

Met with my dietitian today and told her the good news -- not only have I lost 4 pounds and 3 inches from my waist, I also dropped my total cholesterol from 210 to 174, increased my HDL, lowered my LDL, improved my ratios and dropped my triglycerides from a longstanding 200 to a stellar 93.

Sounds like something is working!

After the high-fives, we talked over how the 2-week plan went and the week after that. I kinda kept the ball rolling and ate basically the same way using my own plant-based protein smoothies. And since I want to keep this ball rolling downhill, I'm going to do another 2 weeks, this time with a formulation without glucomannan. While the fiber supplement is great for many people, for me it's just not and does the opposite of what it's supposed to do (and I will leave it at that). 

I wanted to know what it was that made me feel so good, killed my sugar cravings and took the weight off.  Was it removing sugar? Wheat? Dairy? Soy? Artificial sweeteners? She said it was basically "everything." 

I don't really miss eating any of those foods -- especially when I'm seeing such good results -- so reintroducing any of those foods isn't a priority for me now. Conversely I'm not afraid of those foods either, so tonight I'm making chicken enchiladas and I'm going to add a little sprinkle of cheese. So where before dairy and, yes, sugar, was a mainstay of my diet, I'm going to use them sparingly and just from time to time, not making them the focus of a meal. (Remember, I lived on Greek yogurt and honey.)

Fitbook lite
I also mentioned that these past few weeks have also been a "diet for my head" by taking away the calorie counting and macro balancing that I used to obsess over. Seriously, it's so freeing! Instead I'm simply writing down my meals on paper in my Fitbook. The one above is the relatively new Fitbook Lite, which is a 6-week book instead of the usual 12-week book so it's thinner.

It wasn't all roses and sunshine (but darn near). I did mention my struggle with finding something to put in my morning coffee that wouldn't taste wretched. I ran the gamut on unsweetened seed and nut milks and finally gave up and used an almond-based creamer that was too sweet. She said that for the amount I use, I might as well use organic half and half, so -- deal!

I also mentioned my occasional, irrational cravings for a diet soda now and then. I really don't drink them at all, but man! last night all I wanted was a diet orange soda. I held firm and used one of the many stevia-based water enhancers I have on the kitchen counter and she was cool with those. There's no artificial sweeteners or colors, so yay! (BTW, my favorites are Water Sensations and Stur.)

Rx bar
And did I mention my protein bar find? I was trying to find one that was dairy, soy and gluten free with no added sugar and a decent amount of protein. I found one -- the RxBar. It gets the bulk of its protein from egg whites and is sweetened with dates and figs. They're 210 calories so I don't eat them too often, but I used one in a pinch for an on-the-go lunch last week, and half a bar is a decent little snack. They come out to around $2 a bar if you buy them on Amazon, which isn't too bad for a "fancy" protein bar. 

 So that's my "weigh-in" for the week. I'm psyched, pumped, motivated all all the other happy words.

Was I eating the wrong foods for my* weight loss all along?

(* I say "my weight loss" because everyone's system is a special snowflake.)

Special snowflake
Got on the scale yesterday and I was down another pound, making a little over 3 in less than 2 weeks. I'm really happy with that.

I was all about the Greek yogurt and whey protein and organic soy creamer and cheesesticks and organic honey and low-carb tortillas and ...

I haven't had any of those things in nearly two weeks. 

Do I miss them? 

I would be lying if I said I didn't want to sink my face into a bowl of 2% plain Fage drizzled with honey and walnuts RIGHT THIS MINUTE. 

But I'm using the mantra "not right now," which I learned 11 years ago from a weight-loss blogger. (HERE'S the post; I'm so glad things live forever on the Internet.)

I used to say this from time to time but I never really-really-REALLY set my mind to it, until now.

I always just assumed that one day all those healthy foods would finally "work" for me and I'd lose weight just like everyone else. 

But I'm not just like everyone else.

Apparently, I lose weight better by setting certain foods aside for a little while, resetting my metabolism and healing my cravings.

Oh, yeah, the cravings -- they are gone. I used to graze all night long on whatever was in the fridge or pantry. I'm not doing that anymore and the difference between now and all the times I thought I had my nighttime eating under control is that the angry polar bear has disappeared. She doesn't go into the kitchen and roar in hunger anymore. (Let's revisit this post from late 2012, shall we?) Back then I was pretending the polar bear wasn't around. I was trying to ignore it but these past couple weeks I can't find it at all. It's just not there.

I had to revise the 14-day plan a teeny bit because I discovered (rediscovered, really) that glucomannan and I don't get along. I kept getting stomach pains and couldn't figure out why it felt like I had ingested cement (get the drift?). Then I looked at the ingredient list and saw the glucomannan. I've tried using it a couple times before and both times it had me doubled over and feeling sick. So I found another plant-based, no-sugar-added protein powder and subbed that in for the PaleoCleanse Plus packets. The powder I found is Sunwarrior Warrior Blend Protein, which I bought in chocolate. No beany taste, no added sugar, no grit! That's all I ask for in a plant-based protein. It also has 17 grams of protein and only 100 calories. Score!

Believe me, I love me some whey protein but if plant protein is one of the magic bullets I'll switch it out for as long as it takes. 

It has taken me a long, long time to grow up and make the tough choices to get the scale to move because I thought I didn't have to do that. But a Facebook friend posted this photo earlier this week and it struck a nerve with her and a lot of our friends:

image from quotlr.com



I'm very glad I don't give up

Never never never give up mug

Got myself a new mug today to celebrate the fact that I do not give up. (I also bought brussels sprouts, lemons and a rainbow of hummus). 

I was commemorating the 2-and-change pounds I lost the first week of my dietitian-prescribed 2-week "detox cleanse." And I know it sounds corny but I feel like I'm detoxing. 

That sad, powerful craving for yogurt and cheese has waned (although the ad for the Irish cheese had me wistful). I don't miss wheat at all (well except for those Cuban sandwiches I bought for my guys). The sugar thing isn't a real issue but MAN! is it hard to find unsweetened non-dairy, non-soy creamers. I've kinda settled on either unsweetened cashew or flax milk (believe me, I've tried all the nut and seed milks this week). 

But as you can see, the craving landmines are more situational. I don't sit around pining for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or a slice of pizza. But when those situations and occasions spring up, I nimbly sidestep them, even on my birthday.

I did have a couple items on the "no" list yesterday -- I had one glass of Riesling at the vegan restaurant, and instead of birthday cake, we went to TCBY where I had a serving of fro-yo made with Silk almond milk. 

And, y'know what? I felt kinda gross late last night. So it was back to business this morning.

The thing that has been freaking me out is not knowing really how many calories I'm eating in a day. I'm journaling my food, but I'm just writing down what I eat, not the stats of every food. It's making me feel more secure in my food choices knowing that I can eat like this and still lose weight. 

I also officially got over my ALL THE OLIVES AND ALMONDS! snacking of the previous week. I don't know if it's the supplements I'm taking or the food I'm not eating anymore but I'm MUCH more aware of my satiety. And I can stop!

This week, aside from Birthday Sunday, feels like it should be equally successful. I dropped 2 inches off my waist circumference and just feel better, which is the whole point of this. 

I don't know what to expect after this 2-week plan is over, but I can't wait to meet with Meryl again on Monday and find out.

A Ginger-Peach Smoothie to perk up your day

This post is sponsored by Almond Breeze Almondmilk. Almond Breeze sent me product to use for this post. All opinions are my own (and delicious).

Ginger peach smoothie

UnsweetenedVanillaAlmondBreezeI love it when a product that I love and use regularly lands on my doorstep. I'm kind of picky when it comes to reviews because I say "no" more than "yes." But when I was asked to come up with a smoothie recipe that uses Blue Diamond unsweetened vanilla Almond Breeze, I was all "Duh! Of course!" Not only do I use it regularly, I'm really relying on it for this 2-week dietitian-prescribed eating plan that calls for two smoothies a day. Unsweetened almond milk is one of the nut milks that is on the list, so it was super easy to come up with a recipe.

I had this for lunch on Monday, after I got home from the gym. I had just bought a whole bunch of different frozen fruits because I was tiring of blueberry smoothies. Frozen peaches are less sweet than a lot of frozen fruits, so I added a packet of stevia. I also added some fresh ginger, which pairs beautifully with peaches. You can use whatever protein powder floats your boat -- usually I use whey protein but I'm using the pea protein powder that's part of the plan. The ginger adequately hides the beany flavor of the protein powder. Depending on the protein powder, this smoothie is around 225 calories with plenty of protein and fiber.

Ginger-Peach Protein Smoothie

  • 1 cup Blue Diamond unsweetened vanilla Almond Breeze
  • 1 serving (140g) frozen peach slices
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon hemp seeds
  • 1 packet stevia
  • 1 serving protein powder of choice
  • 1/2 cup crushed ice

Place all ingredients in a single-serve blender cup, process and enjoy!

Motivation Monday: So far so good

My dietitian said this 2-week cleanse was not calorie restricted and I've been trying to focus on the food and not the calories. 


I have lost 2 pounds since Saturday. I also checked my Withings dashboard and lean mass is up while fat mass is down -- exactly what it's supposed to do.

Yesterday was the first day I simply wrote things in my food journal and didn't plug them into My Fitness Pal and overanalyze my macros. I did do that on Friday and Saturday just to see how my days added up and it was more of a Zone-like 40ish carbs, 30ish protein and 30ish fat. So that's all I needed to know to break free (at least for a little bit) from the online logging. It's all about breaking the diet mentality, which has been my M.O. since the age of 10. Ten!

I feel so untethered! And really, that's part of our game plan -- to make me less obsessive about constantly counting and take a bigger-picture approach to food and wellness.

I finally got over the "ick" factor of the pea protein -- I find that a couple teaspoons of fresh ginger helps as well as half a frozen banana. Most of the time I save my "real meal" for dinner so we can all eat together as a family instead of me making something for the guys while I suck on a smoothie. That's totally within the plan's parameters. 

I've been catching up on episodes of "The Great British Baking Show" on PBS, which is kinda hilarious since dairy, sugar and gluten are off limits right now. Perhaps I'm getting my fix that way. 

As for those cravings, they're pretty much gone, which I find astounding because I was seriously jonesing for some plain Greek yogurt the first day. Maybe it didn't help that the day before this 2-week cleanse I had it for pretty much every meal (gotta use it up!). 

Blue diamond low sodium almondsOne thing I have been reaching for, perhaps a little too often, are the low-sodium almonds, although a couple handfuls a day doesn't seem to be derailing things. Hey, I've lost 2 pounds since Saturday so I must be doing something right! 

I can't really call them cravings anymore, but if I want to have something creamy as a snack, I reach for an avocado half, which I've been sprinkling with lime and a little salt. A few really good olives are also great if I want something salty, and the almonds for something crunchy.

Notice a theme here? They're all fats. Yep, fatty-fat-fat. But just one serving of one of those things seems to satiate me and keep me going for a few more hours. I add fat to my smoothie in the form of a tablespoon of either chia, flax or hemp seeds. I added 2 tablespoons to my first smoothie (because I was being greedy!) but the shake came out like fruity cement, so 1 tablespoon is all I need.

I haven't been eating a lot of fruit between meals because I add a half serving of frozen fruit and a frozen banana half to my two daily smoothies, which seems like plenty of fruit.

And those first couple days with My Fitness Pal showed something really cool, too -- I've been eating around 40 grams of fiber a day, which is fantastic.

But the biggest thrill of all? I'm now on day 3 of one Prevacid and I'm not having rebound heartburn. Over the past couple years I've been slowly working my way down from 40mg of prescription Nexium to my current 15mg of Prevacid and the goal is no PPI's. Meryl says it can be done and I believe her.

That, ultimately, is why I'm loving this plan. It's more about repairing my "overly interesting" digestive issues and weight loss will be a happy side effect of that. 

I'm basically on the same 2-week cleanse as the members of "Mission Makeover" were introduced to a couple weeks ago on the show. You can see more about it in the video below:

 I'm not a big fan of the words "cleanse" and "detox" -- this is more of an anti-inflammatory eating plan that reboots your digestion (and my dairy-and-sugar loving brain). In the past I've thought about doing something like this but stubbornly held on to my yogurt like a security blanket. I really thought I would be miserable but, to be completely honest, I feel great. My stomach has calmed down a lot and my energy level is increasing.

(No, I did not give up coffee. We made a compromise on that one -- I could have one mug of coffee a day if it was organic and I only added an unsweetened nut milk to it. I'm struggling a bit with the unsweetened nut milk -- great in smoothies, bleah in coffee -- but I'm slowly getting there.)

I've always been "almost there" with making the hard choices to get the scale moving but I've been so reluctant to cut certain things out of my diet, permanently or temporarily, to see any change. For most people, all they have to do is make a few tweaks or cut down on certain things and the weight just falls off. Not me. This time my mantra is "compliance." 

So now it's off to the gym! My neighborhood Planet Fitness just opened last week and there's nothing better than brand-new gym equipment. 

Meeting with the dietitian: Loved it!

I thought I'd write about Thursday's meeting with the dietitian this evening because I had a feeling I'd be wanting to occupy my hands, like EAT YOGURT/EAT CHEESE/EAT SUGAR, which I cannot do for the next 2 weeks.

Meeting with Meryl Brandwein was unlike any other dietitian appointment I've ever had. She knew that I needed more than the "why don't you try eating salads?" advice that most dietitians seem to dish out to everyone, regardless of their nutritional background. 

I am a nutrition geek -- SPEAK TO ME OF THE KREBS CYCLE! -- so we got super technical with metabolism, liver function, lab test recommendations, and other wonderful geeky nutrition things.

This is exactly what I was looking for -- not a "diet" but a way of eating that can get me to optimal health with weight loss as a side effect.

To kick that off, I'm doing a 14-day plan. I hesitate calling it a "cleanse" because that conjures images of silly maple syrup concoctions and deprivation. This has none of that (especially the maple syrup). Instead, it involves two pea-protein based smoothies, one "real meal" and snacks. To be honest, I've never been a fan of pea protein because it tastes like pea soup, but by the time I made the second smoothie of the day today I realized that if I didn't smell the smoothie it tasted better. So I'm going to use the lid on the Nutri Ninja cup to mask the legume-y smell. 

Happy, happy, joy, joy.

My afternoon snack made me super happy -- half a chopped avocado, drizzled with salsa. I can totally get behind a plan that includes avocados.

Here's where it gets tricky -- RIGHT DAMN NOW (10:19 p.m.). This is when I reflexively head to the kitchen. Am I physically hungry? Ummm, no! And I'm not craving anything at all. That's the point of taking out the dairy and sugar -- two things that I'm apparently deeply, deeply in love with. I had an apple and a tablespoon of almond butter for my nighttime snack and it satisfied any creamy, sweet, crunchy urges. 

So it's not my stomach that needs wrangling tonight -- it's my head. But not having any physical hunger or cravings makes it a bit easier.