On Healthy Eating, Viking Style

I made this green curry. It was easy and it looks like something you’d buy in a restaurant.

I’m sharing my thoughts today on healthy eating for a lifetime and making good long-term choices. You know, like a Viking, taking control of my life and doing what I want. In this case, I want to be around for my grand kids.

I’m not actually focusing on losing weight right now. Yes, I am losing weight, which is wonderful and I’m all about it, but that’s not my primary goal. It’s just a natural and delightful side effect. I’m much more focused on controlling my newly acquired Diabetes.

I’m not doing Keto, just something that borrows liberally from those concepts.

Full disclosure, I’m not a fan of causing my body to go into Ketosis, where it literally starts burning body fat because it’s in some form of distress. I’m not a doctor by any means, and I’m not shaming anyone who uses Keto to get healthy. If it works for you as a tool to create a healthy lifestyle, then by all means go for it. I’m just saying, to me, it feels too unnatural to stress my body that way. Plus, I’m lazy and want to make this a new, natural, and comfortable lifestyle, so the eternal tracking of carbs and strictness of staying in Ketosis is just not for me.

With that said, I have found from much experience that the fewer carbs I take in—especially fast and processed carbs like pasta, white rice, white bread, potatoes, any form of sugar—the less hungry I am over all. Now that I’m visually tracking my blood sugar levels and literally see how carbs affect my glucose, it’s really super obvious. So I’m avoiding 100% of sugar and going super, super light on carbs with maybe a single piece per day of a nice complex whole wheat bread, etc. This just naturally makes me get hungry less and snack less.

So I’m using the phrase “Keto-ish” because the Keto community has done an amazing job of creating wonderful recipes that don’t include sugar and virtually no carbs. So I’m leaning heavily on those concepts and recipe sites.

So then what am I eating? A lot of amazing food, actually.

I’m eating whatever meat I want, cooked just about any way I want. So I’ve got that going for me, which is nice.

Steak is low carb! Watch your portion sizes. Viking portion pictured above.

I’m eating cheese, but in controlled amounts because I’m lactose intolerant. Otherwise, cheese is great. I love cottage cheese as a super simple, fast side dish. Goes great with meat! And a hunk of Colby cheese is a great snack at my desk.

I’m eating all the veggies. All. The. Veggies. Roasted, toasted, pan fried, stir-fried, steamed, grilled, sliced, diced, riced… all the ways. And they are delicious. If you don’t have the cooking chops to create yummy vegetable dishes, I highly recommend you start educating yourself on some of the simple, basic, easy techniques for cooking some tasty veg. Hint: Whatever it is, cut it into bite size pieces, toss in olive oil, lightly salt and pepper, then roast in the over at 400 for 20 minutes, turning occasionally. Yes, it works for everything, and yes it’s that easy. You can branch out later into steaming and sauteing and all the fancier stuff. It’s all pretty easy. You can totally do it.

Steak and bacon, because bacon, with cottage cheese and pan-fried Zucchini and Squash that I grew myself.

I’m also eating fruit, but sparingly. It has a lot of natural sugar. It also has vitamins, minerals, and fiber… but still lots of sugar. So I’m keeping it light. Maybe a banana every other day. I splurged with fresh strawberries when the grocery store had them 1/2 off.

If this sounds restrictive, it shouldn’t. Watch your portion sizes and you can eat virtually whatever you want. I’m eating steak and burgers to the point I’m almost tired of beef (just kidding, that won’t happen.) I eat grilled chicken and roasted chicken and even fried chicken with not much breading. I’m eating pork chops and sausages and bacon and ham sandwiches. I’m making lots of soups, and curries, and chili (light on the beans). I’m swimming in eggs any and all the ways. I’ve even made tuna salad, chicken salad, and salad-salad. Yes, salad. Do not underestimate the grandeur of a big bowl of baby spinach greens covered with all your favorite veggies, grilled meats, nuts, bacon crumbles, olives, plus a good shake or five of your favorite salad dressing.

One of many amazing Salads I’ve been eating.

Do I miss dessert? Sure. But I also recognize that most of my dessert enjoyment was an addiction to sugar. I’ve fought, painfully, for three months to break my 50-year sugar addiction, so I’m not going back there. Outside the sugar cravings, I was using sweets for emotional eating, to get that feeling of control when the world was too difficult. Upset about something? Well, here, eat some ice cream. You can’t fix your problems, but you’re so good at eating ice cream! Look at you go!

So desserts were part of the problem, a crutch, and bad choices, splurging despite knowing I’ll pay for it later. That’s just simply not healthy or sustainable. That’s not who I am, not who I want to be. And now, three months in, and I’m getting more comfortable with this new lifestyle, I’m looking into sugar-free low carb dessert options. I’m finding artificial sweeteners that are acceptable. FYI — Erythritol is a great table sugar substitute with no blood sugar reaction but some… ummm… intestinal effects, and liquid Sucralose is good for mixing in drinks. But none of them are great, so I’m limiting it all pretty tightly. Even when I eventually do desserts again, it will be very small portions and sparingly.

Remember, this is a punishment, it’s not torture. If you’re feeling stifled, that’s when you need to get creative. I eat Chinese take-out occasionally, especially when I’m feeling a little restricted. I just don’t eat the rice or noodles, and I’m careful to limit the breaded stuff. Won-tons and General Tso’s chicken are right out, but there are so many other options. More importantly, I’ve taught myself (thank you YouTube) to make a pretty decent stir-fry at home. Just throw in protein and veggies and some aromatics, toss in a sauce, and YUMMY.

Beef and Broccoli I made in my kitchen. So delicious, so fast, so easy.

Really pinched for time? Most fast food restaurants will make you a cheeseburger as a lettuce wrap. Wendy’s in particular is tasty and they will let you sub in a small chili instead of french fries. Add a large unsweetened iced tea and you’ve got a very fast, pretty tasty, and fairly low carb lunch on the go. Fast food is not the goal, but remember I’m building a lifestyle that needs to be sustainable while traveling, etc.

So, it’s not perfect. I’m growing and changing and learning as I go. That’s how this works. I’m learning and trying to do better.

What are your thoughts? I’d LOVE to hear your experiences and what you’ve learned in your efforts to be healthy.

Good luck! — VVV

So, I’m losing weight.

Photo by Renee Fisher on Unsplash

So, I’m losing weight.

You can see it in my face now, even under the giant Viking beard. My belly is no longer rotund, just pleasantly jolly. My waist is much smaller. When my belt wasn’t holding up my shorts a couple months ago, I put an extra hole in it to cinch it up tighter. A couple weeks later I put in another one. Then I bought a belt three sizes smaller. That new belt was so small that I could only buckle it in the very first hole.

Today, three weeks later, I’m now buckling the second hole.

Losing weight is very affirming. Everyone approves. It’s one of the crowning gems of Adult Success, along with Money and Beautiful Smart Children. It’s something you know is hard, but you also know you can do it. But, hey, what’s the hurry? I can’t speak for your relationship with your body, but I just never got around to being healthy. I never had time to do the planning, never felt the rush to clean up my eating habits.

Then Diabetes clarified my timetable for me.

So much is different now. I’m feeling different, better, every day. I feel good, now that I’ve survived the nasty, months-long brain-clouding diabetes symptoms, while simultaneously fighting through, cold turkey, an almost 50 year sugar addiction. And I’m not exaggerating “addiction” for effect. It was very much full-on withdrawal, along with the night sweats, blurred vision, ongoing confusion, no mental focus, no energy, intestinal distress… dark days, my friends.

I don’t want to get too dramatic, so I’ll just say, as cliche as it sounds, I would not wish my last three months on my worst enemy. Talk to your children about sugar. It’s basically crack cocaine but with a better PR team.

But here I am! Looking better, feeling better, moving better, with my head screwed on straight (mostly).

Most obvious is that I now eat differently. My relationship with food has changed unalterably, and there’s no going back. I eat so little sugar now that fresh fruit literally tastes like candy. Any amount of simple carbs (white rice, pasta, potatoes, etc.) makes me feel bloated and groggy. Speaking of sleep, I’m sleeping much better, thank you very much

With some exceptions, I’m eating 3-4 small meals a day. And by small, I mean about half of what I used to eat. It’s not an exact science, but I’m ingesting roughly 50% as much food.

The funny thing is, a small sandwich, a pickle, and a handful of pork rinds and I am STUFFED. I get a little uncomfortable and I couldn’t eat another bite, not even a wafer thin mint.

All my life I’ve been totally accustomed to eating really large meals. Because… I dunno… I’m a big guy, that’s how I learned to eat, because food is delicious, just a bad habit, the sin of gluttony, maybe low moral fiber…

Does it really matter why?

Well, yeah, it probably does.

I think my biggest personal fault is my sense of dread at missing out on something, and food plays very much into that. I want to know what other people are eating, how it’s prepared, how much it cost, how the different flavors and textures meld together to create something new and different. I love buffets precisely because I want to taste it all. I pour a lot of mental energy into worrying about something out there even more delicious and fun that I just haven’t tried yet. I’m terrified, irrationally, to miss out on any of it.

Lately I have been living in the moment, day-to-day with my struggles, but I still have a fear that I’ll backslide into pigging out again. It’s been my pattern for my whole life. And it’s not hard to predict that some tragedy or problem will push me into eating my feelings again someday. Which is bad enough when overeating just means overeating, but now it very literally means going blind or losing a foot to diabetes.

And let me clarify—when I mention I had “blurred vision,” that is not a metaphor. The diabetes caused me, for almost two months, to have blurred vision so bad I couldn’t read anything on my phone, and I had to turn my work monitor up to giant text. I won’t sugar coat it… Diabetes is not fucking around.

“I won’t sugar coat it.” LOL. See what I did there?

But, by the grace of Odin, I’m doing well now, and I’m trying to enjoy it, day to day. Weight loss truly is its own reward.

Most importantly, it’s pretty clear I was, in fact, missing out on something all those years. I’ve been missing out on myself, buried under 50-100 lbs of mediocre food, sugar highs, and bad choices.

So, here I am. Finally me. Mostly. OK, I’ll probably keep changing. But this is all me, right now.

So be nice… I’m new here.

— VVV

Missing Mom

Today would have been my Mom’s 74th birthday. Man, she loved her birthdays. I think maybe I should drive her grand kids over to Terre Haute and eat at some crappy chain restaurant in her honor.
 
Maybe not.
 
I can’t decide if losing your mom gets easier with time or not.
 
One benefit of time passing is that I don’t forget it as often. I can’t tell you how many times those first few months I would hear something and think, “I should call Mom and tell her… oh, right. She’s dead. I’ll never call and talk to her again. Gosh, I sure do love spontaneously crying in the canned vegetable aisle at the supermarket.”
 
Brains are cruel little bastards. The scientist in me knows those blips are just part of me processing the loss. She’s on my mind, I miss her, but I’m also trying to wall off the pain. So part of my brain would remember what the rest of my brain was trying to forget.
 
At least I’m not torturing myself like that. Well, not as often.
 
I know people like to say Time Heals All Wounds, but, well… not so much. Sure, the heat and fire of the emotions have tapered off. But now the pain is just deeper, more calm. It’s not an enemy now as much as a grouchy friend that’s here to stay, so no use fighting about it.
 
The worst of all of this is, the more I accept that she’s gone forever, the clearer I see my own grave.
 
Mortality is a bitch, my friends. No one gets out of this alive.
 
I’ve said a few times over my life that it would be better to not think so much, to not harness myself with the weight of the world as much as I do. Ignorance is bliss, right? These days I think I’d really enjoy a moment or two to feel that naive immortality I felt when I was 18 and invincible.
 
I read in a book this morning (The Moon is a Harsh Mistress) that the definition of an adult is someone who has accepted their own mortality. I don’t know about that as a definition. I just know that these days it feels like I know as many dead people as living people, and the ratio keeps getting worse.
 
Sigh.
 
My friends, please tell your people you love them, often and with feeling. Always believe in yourself, especially when you have no idea what you’re doing. Go out there and attack life like you mean it. Be kind to each other.
 
Do me a favor today, would ya? Call your mom. Because you can. Or, better yet, give her a hug, then give her another one for me.
 
Thanks.
 
Troy
 
Sep 10, 2018