We have a guest today. My friend Kathy is a remarkable person for many reasons but today we are looking at her path back to health. It is never just about food. It isn’t about changing lunch. It is about living a life true to what we say we value. Many profess a religion and/or faith but try to keep it separate from food, health and the ethics of thereof. Kathy’s journey is framed by her faith. She is amazing but she is also real. There is no personal trainer waking her up in the morning, no chef in her kitchen and she navigates all of this in a culture that is not especially understanding of wise health decisions.
Thank you, Kathy, for sharing with us!
2015…The year that I decided enough was enough! It was time to get myself in gear, get some grueling discipline back in my life and get myself fit and back in shape. I was topping the scales at 280, the largest I had ever been. I had been put on high blood pressure medications in January of 2013, and I knew that it was due to a combination of being overweight and having a sedentary lifestyle. I decided to make some major lifestyle changes January 19, 2015 and as of July 14, 2015 I had lost 60 pounds. My BP readings had dropped drastically. I have more energy now than I have had in years. Fast forward to July 12, 2016. The total weight loss is now 83 pounds, but even more important than that is that this is the day that I was taken off of BP medications! This new lifestyle is working. It is a life process and not a goal with an end point. It is a complete life change, and one that I can live with for the rest of my life.
People keep asking me “What are you doing? You have got to tell me how to do this!” or “What diet are you on?” Well, I am NOT on A DIET. I am just eating healthy foods and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. There are a lot of delicious healthy foods out there, so it is not hard. I am not on a set plan, so it is not easy to give a quick answer to what I am doing. As I said, it is a journey, and I am still learning, but I am happy to share what is helping me and resources that I have used.
Some years ago I read Dr. Rex Russell’s book What the Bible Says about Healthy Living. A few of his guidelines that stuck with me include:
Eat the things that God intended for us to use as food.
Eat those things before man made them “new and improved.”
Though we are no longer bound by the food “laws” in the old testament, perhaps we should still give them consideration. Not because they are a salvation covenant, because Jesus’ death gave us the new covenant of salvation through his shed blood. However, perhaps we should still pay attention to the food guidelines of the old testament…after all, God did create our bodies, and perhaps these guidelines were created because He knew what would. make our bodies function at the optimum level.
Some of my main go-to resources that I have used on my journey include:
101 Best Super Foods by Betsy A. Hornick, MS, RD – For each food listed in the book, information about health benefits, nutrients per serving, selection and storage, and preparation and serving tips is offered. There are even a number of recipes using some of the foods and a list of nutrients per serving is listed.
What the Bible Says about Healthy Living Cookbook by Hope Egan & Amy Cataldo, foreword by Rex Russell, M.D. – Hope and Amy created recipes that are simple and tasty and they feature “God’s Ingredients.” Though nutrients per serving are not listed with the recipes, there is other information about health benefits, variations, and ways to make-over leftovers.
Books that I have recently added to my collection but have not used extensively yet include:
The Wellness Kitchen (Fresh, Flavorful Recipes for a Healthier You) by Paulette Lambert, RD, CDE – It includes up front chapters about how to stock the pantry for wellness, going organic, eating to manage and reverse chronic disease (Heart Disease, Hypertension, Diabetes, Cancer, Alzheimer’s) and a 21-day food plan for health and weight loss. Subsequent chapters feature recipes divided into the categories of breakfast, appetizers, salads and vinaigrettes, soups and breads, quick and easy main dishes, vegetables, pasta – grains – and pizza, and a little sweet. The final chapter deals with caloric meal plans.
Reader’s Digest Food Cures (Fight Disease with Your Fork!) by numerous consultants – This book is described as breakthrough nutritional prescriptions for everything from colds to cancer. Part one is about the New Food Medicines. Part two deals with Your Food Cures Arsenal and lists the top 20 healing foods with information about each as well as information about 10 healing herbs and spices. Part three deals with food cures for common conditions. Part four is comprised of Healing Recipes.
Two presentation files that I refer to quite often to remind myself of the important foods:
January 2015 Mindful Eating Presentation to Waycross Ware County Retired Educators Association by Edie Edwards Smith of Reidsville, GA, Registered Nutritionist and Registered Pharmacist
April 2015 GREA State Convention Presentation Nutrition Myth Busters by Sue Hite (Ellaville, GA) MS, RDN, Ret. Captain Navy, worked for USMC at Pentagon as RDN (notes that I took at the seminar)
MY PLAN – THE BASICS
I count calories. It is the one thing that has worked for me before. I started out using the Livestrong “My Plate” app on my iPhone. I still use it some, as well as the companion My Water app. Once I got my FITBIT, I started tracking calories and water on the FITBIT app on my phone.
I drink lots of water daily. I do not usually make it to the recommended daily minimum intake of 64 ounces, but I usually drink somewhere between 40-56 ounces. Occasional I drink over 60 ounces in a day. Sometimes when we think that we are hungry, our body is really craving water. Most of us do not drink nearly enough water each day. (Sugary drinks, sodas/diet sodas do not count toward hydration!)
I use a principle of Mindful Eating. I think about what I eat. I consider the nutritional merits of a food before I eat it. I do my best to avoid “empty calories.” That doesn’t mean that I never have chips and salsa any more, or deserts for that matter. I don’t deny myself any particular food. That would become a “diet” mentality, and it would make for a sure-fail for me. I manage portions, though. More about moderation later.
I try to get at least 10,000 steps per day. I wear my FITBIT all the time and I do my best to reach 10,000 steps each day. Most of the time now, I am usually above 15K for the day.
I try to remain disciplined. This is a key. If it goes in the mouth, it goes into the calorie counting app…right then. Gary is used to seeing me pull out my phone at the table just so that I can get the amounts in. I work to measure (or at least guestimate) amounts of each food on my plate so that I can get a pretty accurate calorie count.
Some Random Tips that Help
When I get up each morning, I try to drink 16 ounces of water to start my day. I fill my 24 ounce Turvis and have it waiting for me on my night stand when I fill wake up. I usually finish that first 24 ounces after I walk then log 24 ounces on my Fitbit app and refill the Turvis to drink on through the day. I drink water with most meals now, so that gets me a few more ounces. Just for a flavor change-up, I will sometimes add a splash of lime juice to my water. Other times I may add lemon juice or calamondin (a citrus fruit) juice and slices to my water. Sometimes I add a cucumber slice and/or some fresh mint and chill the water with that in it. You can freeze fruit slices and then use a few as “ice” in your water, and also get that flavor added to your water.
Cut sugary drinks. I had already nearly cut sodas out, having only 1-3 in a year, but that was tops. I do not remember the last time that I even had a sip of soda at this point. I cut sweet tea out and have not had a glass since January 2015. That was a huge thing for me because I loved sweet tea. It has been so long since I have had it that now if I do get a glass of unsweet tea, it tastes good to me…and I used to hate it. I will have a little fruit juice occasionally, but just 3-6 ounces at most.
If we are going out to a restaurant, I try to look up their nutritional menu on-line before-hand so that I know what is ok to order. I sometimes even ask for a “to go” box to be delivered when my entre is delivered if I plan to eat just 1/3 or ½ of the meal. I go ahead and divide the portions out and leave just the proper amount on my plate. Portion control is the big thing here. Many restaurants just serve portions that are entirely outrageous with one meal having more calories and sodium than you might need to eat in an entire day! Study ahead of time and know what you can order and how much you can eat.
My snack foods have taken on a different look. Instead of bags of chips, my go to snacks now are mainly fruits and nuts. The more natural state, the better! If I do crave some chips and salsa or chips and guacamole I try to get some of the whole grain Tostitos, or some of the vegetable chips. I also read the nutritional labels on them and follow the serving guidelines. With my bounty of eggplant in my garden in 2015, I even made some eggplant chips (sprinkled with a little salt, pepper and garlic powder then dried in the dehydrator). They were very good with salsa.
Thankfully, I really enjoy a good salad. I also enjoy a salad when I grow my own lettuce. I don’t care for iceberg lettuce. I grow leafy greens and romaine lettuce. We are fortunate to have a long growing season for lettuce here. I had lettuce from my garden from late October 2014 all the way through the beginning of May 2015! I also like to add spinach, chard and kale to my salads. Since getting my Juice Plus Tower Garden in May 2015, I have had even more fresh produce to eat at home. I have the next crop of lettuces and other greens in the tower now and they are growing well. As of June 1, 2016, I was on my 3rd crop of lettuce for this calendar year in the tower garden. I’ve also grown spinach and chard in both the tower garden and in my square foot gardens. With the heat tolerant varieties of lettuce and proper placement of the tower garden for morning sun and afternoon shade, I have a great deal of success keeping lettuce growing well throughout even the hottest months in South Georgia.
I love fresh vegetables! I enjoy gardening, so I grow a number of vegetables. My asparagus garden is in its fifth or sixth year now, and it made a tremendous amount last year and this year. I was cutting a bundle every other day for a couple of months. Next year I will be ready to preserve some of them. I did try freezing some this year, so we will see how that turns out. When we have a good crop of corn, we freeze some for those winter months. We had fresh cantaloupe and honeydew melons from our garden. Squash and zucchini had a short season due to the extreme heat, but we did get some. Eggplants and okra are coming in now. Along with my changing thoughts on the foods that I eat, I have also made changes to my gardening style so that I am using more natural and sustainable practices in growing my crops. I like to purchase from local farms, and farmer’s markets. I am learning about canning and preserving foods, so I can preserve my own tomatoes for use throughout the year. I have also dehydrated some tomatoes for use through the year. I have made my own salsa and canned it, When I can’t get to a farmer’s market, I like to check for “local grown” produce in local supermarkets. Local grown will be fresher tasting, and will be packed with more of the nutrients than food that has travelled for many miles over long periods of time to get to you. I try to keep sweet potatoes on hand, and watch for sales on them. Sweet potatoes are a power-house super food in my book!
Getting local grown fruit is also good. It will be picked closer to its peak ripeness than fruit that is shipped across the country. We have blueberry bushes and scuppernong vines, as well as blackberries. We have also grown some strawberries, but not a huge supply. We have some pomegranate bushes that I hope will produce when they get larger in the future. Going Green Nursery had the most delicious “Albion” strawberries last year and I picked a lot there and froze some for us. While travelling, we have picked up peaches at some of the roadside markets/packing sheds and have frozen them. While coming back from a conference at UF in Gainesville, FL, we picked up some fresh citrus and melons. Look for opportunities to purchase from local growers when travelling.
I shop at Vita-Mart Health Food Store quite a bit now. They have a great food section with organic nuts, dried fruits and grains/seeds. They also have a great lime juice there. I typically add flax seed to salads, and many other dishes that I cook. Sometimes I take a jar of them to restaurants and add them to my food. Flax seed is very good for heart health. I also add flax-seed meal to some foods that I cook. Flax seed meal is actually absorbed better into the body than the whole Flax seed. I have experimented with some recipes substituting flax meal and whole wheat flour (or other flours) for a portion of the white flour that is called for in the recipe. It is a new-found freedom to take favorite recipes and look for ways to make them more healthy while still being delicious.
I make my own granola and that is what I eat for breakfast most mornings. The recipe I use comes from the What the Bible Says…Cookbook and it is easy to make. I eat a ¼ cup serving. Since the recipe makes about 10 cups of granola, I just store it in the freezer and measure out my serving. At ¼ cup per day, it lasts for a while. Sometimes I will add fresh fruit if I have that on hand. I also keep some of the Apple, Carrot, Craisin muffins in the freezer for a change-up on breakfast. The muffin recipe is in the same cookbook.
Read labels. Know what is in the food that you are about to purchase. I look for less processed, and more natural ingredients.
Keep some yogurt on hand for a quick snack or small meal. You can also add yogurt to fruit smoothies. If you keep some frozen fruit on hand, you can use that with the yogurt and either some unsweetened apple juice or some milk to make a delicious smoothie. I found a blueberry smoothie recipe that includes 1 teaspoon of dark cocoa powder…it is a delicious addition!
Dark chocolate has been “my friend” on this journey. I keep some on hand in my snack bin. If I do really well in a day with my calorie count, my “reward” for a snack is 1 piece, which is usually from 50-65 calories. Look for at least 60% cocoa. I like the 72% and the 86% now. I have had a 90% that I like, but you might want to start with a little lower than that. For a flavor variation, the dark chocolate with sea salt is good, dark chocolate with orange essence is good, and even the dark chocolate with chili pepper is good.
I grow herbs and this year I am working to do more preserving of my own herbs. I also make my own herb mixes. I got that idea from Reader’s Digest How to Make Everything Homemade (and save money). I make my own salad dressings, too. I am always looking on-line for more herb mixes and salad dressing recipes. I can better control the sugar in dressings that way, and it comes out a little cheaper than purchasing store products. While on a trip to St. Simons Island I went to the Olive Oil store in Red Fern Village. I purchased a Blackberry Ginger Vinegrette that is a delicious salad dressing just sprinkled by itself over a salad.
I eat the eggs that our chickens produce. Sometimes an omelet with fresh vegetables makes a great supper…or anytime meal. You can be creative with it.
I don’t eat nearly as much meat as I used to. I will serve a very small portion of meat (2-4 ounces at most) and then fill the rest of my plate with vegetables. I usually only eat meat at 1 meal in a day. When fresh vegetables are in, I don’t even care if I skip meat completely in a day.
I started out keeping my calorie count below 1300 per day. Most of the time, it was well below that (between 800-1200). Even at that, I didn’t really feel hungry. Part of that full feeling comes from getting the water that we need. Now I am closer to the 1300-1500 range some of the days, though many times I am still below 1300.
As for “empty calories,” I don’t eat them often. I just don’t keep them on hand. I also don’t make deserts on a regular basis, or eat them on a regular basis. However, if I am out for a special meal and a really delicious or favorite desert is served, I don’t deny myself the privilege of a treat. However, I may eat just a smaller portion of it. The key is moderation.
Sometimes, I make “hard” choices. We meet friends every Sunday morning for breakfast at Dunkin Donuts. Well, there is very little there that I can eat for less than 300 calories. So I made the decision to either eat a bowl of granola at home, or eat one of my muffins on the way there and then I just get coffee to drink while we visit. Do I like donuts and other things that they serve? Of course I do…but not enough to spend the calories on them and then be hungry much earlier because they were “empty calories” with little to no nutritional value. Again, I took the time to look up their nutritional values and calorie counts and determined that I could eat my own breakfast for less calories and much more nutritional value. However, when the pumpkin donuts are in season, a few Sunday mornings I do allow myself 1 pumpkin munchkin. It gives me the flavor, a taste of a favorite treat, yet at a controlled portion (72 calories as opposed to 300+ in the full size donut). Word of warning though, the first few times you order 1 munchkin, be prepared for a very odd look from the cashier!
I don’t eat a lot of bread. When I do eat bread, I try to make it a whole grain variety.
My FITBIT has been the best little motivational tool. There have been very few times that I did not make my 10,000 steps in a day since January 2015. Fitbit also tracks your “lifetime” miles that you accumulate while wearing it. You earn a series of badges based on these lifetime miles. There are also badges for total steps in a day (25K is the highest one that I have earned), and it keeps track of how many times you earn those particular badges. I have friended a number of people through my Fitbit app, so we are in a constant competition for our total step count for seven consecutive days. Through the friends there are a number of challenges you can enter like the Workweek Hustle, Weekend Warriors, or the Daily Showdown. While badges and competitions are a fun way to spur yourself on, the most impressive thing is how this little gadget has totally changed my mindset about walking. I used to be that person driving around and around the parking lot looking for the closest parking space to the door of a store. Now, I am more likely to park out closer to the middle or end of a parking lot so that I can get more steps to get into the store. When I bring my items out in a cart, many times I will walk the cart all the way back to the store even if there are buggy stalls in the parking lot. It is all about getting moving!
I also made a decision this time to do something I have never done before when I lost weight. As clothes get too large, I am packing them up and shipping them off to a local recovery ministry, or other charity…anywhere but here where I can grow back into them! I don’t want to go back there, EVER. I feel so much better. As of June 1, 2016, I had met the initial weight loss goal that I set for myself. 80 pounds are gone. I do not intend to change what I am doing. I will probably set a new goal, but this one will be much smaller than the first one. At this point, it is not so much about what the weight number is, but what all my other numbers are.
Fun Doctor Appointments
On July 14, 2015 I had my 6 month blood-pressure/bloodwork checkup with my doctor. I had not told Dr. Harris about my nutritional changes or my weight loss since I had seen him in January 2015. Now, I don’t recommend doing what I have done without some guidance from either a doctor, medical professional, or registered nutritionist, but I did confer with someone who is a registered nutritionist and a registered pharmacist. That July appointment was one of the most fun appointments I’ve ever had. For the first time, I wanted to step up on that scale to have them check my weight. Before I did, I asked the nurse if she knew what I weighed at my January appointment and she absolutely did. I stepped up and she began slightly bumping the weight down the bar…bumping, bumping, bumping, bumping (as my grin got bigger) and finally she exclaimed, “Holy Cow! What have you been doing? That is 60 pounds less! That is amazing!” Yes, 60 pounds in 6 months. It is pretty amazing. So I gave her the basics that I mentioned earlier in this dialogue. Dr. Harris came in and said, “You are the poster child for what we all should be doing.” Then when I got my bloodwork results in, they also showed positive changes from the one that I’d had in March with SHBP wellness check. Though my total cholesterol had gone up from 147-152, it was actually a good change since my LDL (bad) went down 3 points and my HDL (good, which was very low in March) went up 9 points (getting me a little closer to where it should be). My triglycerides also went down 5 points. Blood work in January 2016 showed more positive changes. Total cholesterol up to 153 because the good went up 9 points while the bad continued down. Triglycerides went down 9 more points and Glucose down another 3. Then at my July 12, 2016 appointment, Dr. Harris said that I was one of very few patients that he had ever recommended this to, but his intention at this point was to take me off of all my blood pressure medicine. I nearly jumped up and danced a jig right there in his office!
Passing It On
I am happy to share recipes that I have found/altered or developed. Study, read, and most of all be disciplined. It helps to have someone that you check-in with. During the first year, I checked in almost weekly with my cousin, Edie. I tell her that she started me on this path with her presentation in January 2015, but she constantly reminds me that I am the one who has kept the discipline to stay on track. Cyndi (our church pianist) has also been very encouraging to me and asks me each week how much I have lost and how I am doing. It is great when you have friends that notice the changes and encourage you. Edie suggested that when I reached my goal, the two of us should go “glamping.” We used to love to camp out when we were younger, so she suggested that we try a bit more upscale style of camping…”glamping.” So, we are still planning to do that. I sent her a text June 1, 2016 that was full of emoticons…party hats, tent camping, and more party hats. She figured out that it is time to get that trip planned. I did tell her that wherever we go, there needs to be plenty of trails or places that we can walk. I think that we will wait until this summer heat breaks a bit.
If you would like to contact Kathy with kind words or to ask her for advice, she has graciously offered her email: firstname.lastname@example.org