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

Home Work

What? I’ve never told you just how much I love working from home? Really? Well, let’s change that immediately. I used to think it was a silly luxury, but the truth is that working from home has absolutely, undeniably, and fundamentally changed my quality of life.

This time three years ago I was working in the tech support department as a “named support representative for our largest customers.” That’s software company code to say I was on call 24/7 to handle any and all tech issues that would come up for several giant accounts. And, as you probably know, giant accounts always have something coming up.

The good news is it was a great job that I enjoyed, I loved my co-workers, and it taught me a lot of about our entire software environment, let alone the applications themselves. I enjoyed the challenge, the camaraderie, the fun troubleshooting work. And, hey, I learned a lot. Bonus.

The bad news is that I was working all the time. I was driving about an hour each way to park in a parking garage, walk to an office, sit at a desk, and do my work all day. Then I had the privilege of working most nights at home after hours as well. Sixty and seventy hour weeks were not uncommon.

Oh, the driving. OMG. I was doing SO MUCH driving. Between the back and forth of work and home, plus side trips to my oldest at her mom’s house, and all the various side trips and events around Indy, I was regularly driving 500 miles per week. PER WEEK. My reliable Honda Accords (may they rust in peace) got me a safe, reliable 32 mpg, but they also wreaked havoc on my knees and back. I fit in a good compact sedan well enough for most driving, but I simply did not fit well enough for that kind of marathon driving. Ouch.

Truth be told, being on call 24/7 affects you in ways you don’t expect. We couldn’t schedule things as a family because it was so common that I’d get pulled out at the last second. We had a couple of dinners out and movie theater experiences interrupted by work emergencies, so then I started driving separately. Eventually I just stopped going at all. My family learned to live around me, without me. I almost never made it to school events. They even started going on entire vacations without me.

As my wife puts it, the kids just learned to assume I wasn’t available. They stopped asking if I could do things, just automatically assuming I was working. My default was “not available.”

Not great. But you do what you do to put food on the table and maintain health insurance, right?

So, then I got a new position where I’m now the guy who designs and builds all those complicated systems, instead of just troubleshooting them at 2 am when they break. Suddenly I’m working a nice calm 8-5 job (usually). And then, one glorious day, they said I could start working from home.

(angels sing)

What a complete difference it has made. Simply not making that drive every day by itself is worth it. The gas savings, the time savings, the stark reduction in stress on me and my car… wow.

After a year and a half of massage therapy and lately some yoga, I’m starting to see some solid improvements in the lower back and hip issues I developed with all that driving.

It really surprised me when I realized it also benefits the company. I get SO MUCH more work done. For one, I’ve got back those 2 hours a day I spent driving. For another, I have almost none of the fun but unproductive office chit chat that I used to have in the office. And I also push myself more when I only have to walk 25 feet to my home office. I’m much less likely to take a sick day when I can just take it easy at my desk and get stuff done.

I no longer have that horrible hassle of prepping myself a nutritious, balanced sack lunch every day. And by that I mean to say I used to eat out 4-5 days a week, spending more than I should to eat lower quality than I should. Let’s just say they all know me by name at the Qdoba next to my office. I used to eat there so much they actually just gave me a sweatshirt once. Free. True story.

And, and this is a big one folks — I’m actually here. I get to enjoy this house that my paycheck goes toward the mortgage payments. I actually live here now. Like, LIVE HERE.

It’s a joy do make things happen around our home. I love to fill the slow cooker full of food to make easy, simple meals that then feed us for a week: a big pot of chili, a handsome pot roast, some zippy Chicken Tikki Masala, you name it. I can start it in the morning and check on it throughout the day while I’m working. Same with a load of dishes or a washer full of clothes. I get so much more housework done, all while getting more of my job done. Talk about a win-win.

Also, gasp, I have been known to roll out a mat and do yoga in my front room. That fancy gym at work is awful nice, but it doesn’t beat my living room.

It makes a difference to be here for deliveries and to sign for packages. I’m here for repair men and contractors. I’m here to let the dogs outside to run and get more exercise, which makes them healthier and happier. And I’m even here to run a forgotten lunch or library book into town if needed. And when AT&T says they’ll send a technician some time between 11 am tomorrow and the year 2019 — sure! I’ll be here.

But mostly, I love being here to get the kids off the school bus. They burst in the front door every afternoon, full of energy and stories of their day. Sometimes they’re happy and sputtering to tell me about something exciting, or wild, or silly. Sometimes they’ve made new friends, or gotten an award at school. Some days they’re sullen and hangry. I don’t even care. I love being here for all of it.

And I get to go to all the school events. I’m actually an active parent and part of my children’s educational team. Who knew how cool that would be? I honestly didn’t even realize how many school things I was missing. We are fortunate to have a school with a vibrant culture of families and sharing and fundraising. I’ve made a lot of friends and I know a lot about the teachers, the curriculum, and even the other kids my children play with (and their parents). It’s a very different and better perspective.

I cannot express all the ways and to what depth working from home has completely changed my relationship with my entire family, my pets, my home, my health, my hobbies, and my career.

So, yes, working from home has really improved my life. I’m so glad you asked!

Odd Piñata

Me: “Let’s have eggs for dinner.”

Danger Monkey, age 10: “Yes! And refried beans. And hot sauce!”

Little Miss Thing, age 7: “I don’t like refried beans.”

Me: “OK, no refried beans.”

DM: “I call dibs on your refried beans.”

Me: “You can’t have hers. We’ll just make something else.”

DM: “But I called dibs on your beans.”

Me: “I’m going to dibs you upside the dibs.”

DM: “I called dibs on your dibs ad infin-AH-tum.”

(long pause)

Me: “That phrase is ‘ad infinitum’, and since when are you slinging Latin phrases at me?”

LMT: “It sounded like Odd Piñata to me.”

Me: “No, it’s ad infinitum, and it means something lasts forever.”

(long pause)

LMT: “Can I still have an Odd Piñata?”