July 29, 2011

Body Composition Testing

I have been wondering for some time just what exactly my body fat percentage is - I had a suspicion that this might be a metric that would help me gauge whether I have in fact reached a healthy body weight. (I am still 2 pounds shy of "Normal" according to the BMI - meaning I an technically overweight).


Between writing this post and putting it up, I dropped a bit of weight - now at 161 - and officially a "Normal" BMI!

I have also, since my surgery, been mindful of the need to preserve lean body mass whilst losing fat - my strategies to achieve this have mainly been weight training and a low-carb eating plan. I was interested to see whether I had been successful - because it is entirely possible to achieve a "healthy" weight by BMI standards, but to actually be quite unhealthy in terms of body fat percentage.

A month or so ago I paid about $100.00 for a iDXA scan which provides a fairly accurate picture of fat, lean and bone - broken down by body area. My bone density was fantastic - indicating that I am very unlikely, even into old age, to suffer from osteoporosis-related fractures. This folks, is a benefit of the weight-bearing exercise I did all day, every day for about 20 years. Carrying 120 pounds of extra tissue around is a workout!

My body fat percentage is 36% - which is in the "Healthy" range for a woman of my age. Who knew?! I actually AM "Normal"!  It's by no means the body fat percentage that you would see in an athlete of my age, but not bad for someone who was considered morbidly obese less than 18 months ago!

The guy who ran the scan also talked a lot about nutrition, and he definitely promotes, for athletes AND for the rest of us, a high protein, high-quality fat diet with lots of vegetables and minimal grains, almost no sugar. He thought I might do better with closer to 120 grams of protein a day. I haven't really been tracking my intake recently - with vacations etc - but I do notice that when I push the protein I shrink a bit, even when I am not losing pounds.

Here are some images provided after my scan:

My body fat and lean tissue

My body fat% and where I stand in terms of health:

What the American College of Sports Medicine recommends (with respect to body fat%)

My Bone Density Results:
Pretty interesting stuff!

And hey! I'm NORMAL!!! I have PROOF!

July 28, 2011

Shrimp and Crab Chopped Salad

We eat a lot of salad + protein meals in the summer. They are very easy - often with no cooking required - and can be customized to suit the picky preferences of each member of the family.

Here is a recent success (with my husband and me at least - the child doesn't care for seafood)

It's just a bed of greens with strips of crabmeat and shrimp, tomato, bacon (leftover from a breakfast probably), avocado and red bell pepper. I think I made a homemade dijon mustard vinaigrette too. The plate below is my husband's - I could eat, maybe, a 1/4 of this amount.

July 26, 2011


Today I finally dropped a pound, after being stalled for about 2 months, to 164 pounds. This means that my body weight now falls in the "normal" range according to the Body Mass Index (BMI). No longer morbidly obese, no longer obese, no longer overweight. WOOT!

The great news for me is I now have low blood pressure, low blood sugars, very low triglycerides, cholesterol in the "healthy"range, body fat in the "healthy" range, body weight in the "normal" range, no more arthritis pain, no more stress incontinence - in short, none of the health problems associated with obesity (save for the arthritic damage already in place at the time of my surgery.) I've been proactive about my supplementation, and about being tested for those vitamins that are sometimes difficult for WLS patients to absorb - so I have maintained good levels of calcium (as evidenced by bone scan), vitamins B12 and D, and iron.

What this means is that every single health problem that I had pre-op and that could be reversed or improved is now resolved.

And THAT my friends is weight loss surgery success!

Asparagus and Garlic Basil Shrimp

I have been working the last week or so on shedding a few pounds that I acquired while on holiday. Fortunately this has worked and I am down to my lowest weight, and probably going to drop a few more on my way to the goal I set way back at the beginning. (Just 4 to go!) To this end, I have gone back to more contained eating - lots of protein, a few veg, and very little else. HOWEVER, this doesn't mean I am not eating well!

We are also in the process of trying to clear out the fridge and freezer in preparation for moving to a new home next month. While foraging around in the freezer, I found half a bag of large peeled shrimp and a ziploc of chopped basil in olive oil - the remainders of some previous fresh basil that I couldn't use up in time to keep it from spoiling.

Inspired, last night I made Asparagus - sauteed in olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt and

Garlic Basil Shrimp

Enough peeled and deveined shrimp (thawed if frozen) to feed you and whomever you dine with (Tails on is fine, large size is best)
1/4 - 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 Tbsp grated ginger (optional)

1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes, or cayenne pepper (adjust quantity to suit your preference)
Fresh ground pepper to taste
Enough olive oil to coat it all lightly - maybe 3-4 Tbsp

Combine all ingredients in a non-reactive bowl and let marinate for 30 - 60 minutes.
Heat large (big enough for shrimp to sit in single layer) skillet to med-high then dump the whole bowl into the skillet.

The shrimp only take a couple of minutes per side - cook until pink and curled, but not much longer or they'll be tough.

This was SOOO easy and my husband went nuts over the shrimp - really delicious, and you can change the herbs and spices to suit yourself - the method remains the same!

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.