July 24, 2011

Thinking and Learning about Eating Well

This is a meditation on eating that I posted on Obesity Help - but thought I'd put it here too, for those who aren't on OH or who may have missed it. I've been thinking a lot about how I am and want to be eating as I move into maintaining weight loss, rather than working hard to lose weight. My apologies to those for whom this is a repeat - I do have some other posts in my head but just need to get them on the computer too!

As some of you know this blog includes recipes and thoughts related to this whole process of getting healthy with the assistance of my WLS. As I am now almost 18 months post op, it is really easy to eat whatever foods I choose, with no unpleasant after-effects. I still have great restriction, so it's really only quantity that is limited. This means I need to take responsibility for my choices.

In a prior life I was a professional chef, with several years as a pastry chef. I used to say that all of the extra pounds weren't just given to me - I had to earn them! The thing is, I was pretty determined going into this process to find ways of eating that would help me lose (and maintain my weight loss), and were nourishing physically, but also pleasurable.

For some folks it works very well to stick to a fairly strict routine in terms of what they eat. I do this sometimes when I need to drop a few pounds acquired on vacation ... i.e. protein shake in the morning, lots of fluids, and solid protein of some sort for my other meals, with some low carb veg on the side. For me though, this isn't a workable long term strategy. I like being creative in the kitchen and I end up feeling very bored.... which sometimes leads to unhealthy and/or bingey eating.

Also, I cook for my family as well. They are "normies" in terms of body weight and while they don't need a carby western diet any more than I do, they also don't need to restrict themselves to the same extent that I need to. I want them, especially my daughter, to see as "normal" a delicious varied menu that includes lots of tasty and healthful foods - and very little of the crap that has become the foundation of the American diet.

I really wanted to find a good balance between "Living to Eat" and "Eating to Live", neither of which serve me very well.

For me what this means is the following three goals for my food choices - all of these within an overarching preference for whole, organic, humanely raised, local foods.

1) I avoid foods that have things in them that I have found disagree with me. (Cause me to gain weight, feel sick, experience disregulated blood sugar, or have cravings for carby junk.)

I have made my peace with a few of the sugar-free sweeteners, although I know that for some these are no-go ingredients. Given that caveat, I almost entirely have eliminated white sugar, processed foods (other than cans of tomato paste or sauce), white flour, and trans-fats. I have very little wheat flour, corn, or pasta of any type, and very small amounts of whole grains and processed soy products.

2) I want my foods to not just be "not bad" for me - I want them to have things in them that nourish me.

I have found that I function very well on a ketogenic diet - The foundations of this, for me, are: lots of high quality protein, healthy fats, lots of fiber, and low carb veg - with small amounts of legumes, grains and fruit.

I include a little bit of lentils, edamame, other beans, quinoa and the occasional new or sweet potato. I eat lots of protein, lean and fatty cuts, from organic sources when possible, humanely raised and local almost always. I like eggs and also dairy - both organic and the eggs free-range. I eat lots of vegetables, mostly lower carb, but in general I don't eat a lot of quantity in veg, so I have whatever looks good at the market. Here again, I focus on organic when possible, local and seasonal. I primarily use coconut oil, olive oil, butter, and rice bran oil for cooking. I do eat small amounts of fruit in season, but am mindful of carbs in fruit, although I don't worry about these overly.

3) Food should be delicious

I think there is a lot of value in careful, thoughtful preparation of food. Frankly, if it doesn't taste good, I am not willing to eat it. Providing delicious nourishment for our bodies is a way of demonstrating my love for my family and for myself. To this end, I plan my week's menus, including the plans for the inevitable leftovers, to include lots of variety -in both flavour and nutrition. I use lots of fresh relishes and salsas. If I plan well, I eat well. Period. If I do not, I am inclined towards making the same lazy choices I always made in the past, and this doesn't serve my goal of eating well and living well after weight loss surgery!

Final thoughts - I don't think that it is very useful to me to get angry with myself if I do veer off track and eat something that is not in my usual plan - that's life really. My only rule is: "If I eat it, I own it" - no unconscious eating - I don't get to descend into a carby fog and pretend that I haven't just eaten several handfuls of trail mix - (the good kind, with the chocolate chips) possible washed down with a diet coke. Because, I am not a saint, and like many of us, I hate being bound by rules and regulations ... I have definite inclinations towards being a sinner ... and I just have to own this and do the best I can to limit my opportunities to sin and to make good choices the path of least resistance!

Also, I do love my treats. I have found that if I am careful, popcorn is ok from time to time and that  a couple squares of 85% dark chocolate don't turn me into a raging sugar zombie. I like my protein ice cream made from either a protein shake or Greek yogurt with sweetener and flavouring or fruit or chocolate.


  1. This is a great post, Margo. The way you're eating is the way I've been eating too, with the exception of the fact that I can't tolerate the fake sugars. I'd much rather eat three tablespoons of full fat Greek yogurt than 6oz of something fat free with aspartame.

    Curious, about how many calories are you eating on a good day now that you're in the maintenance phase?

  2. How do you make the protein ice cream?