No More Junk Food

A year without sugar and processed foods

Nothing is over until WE decide it is…

Posted by Diane on May 8, 2011

Several years ago I read ‘Good Calories, Bad Calories’ by Gary Taubes, and more recently I finished reading his somewhat more compact tome ‘Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It‘.I’m not going to proselytize here; suffice to say that if you haven’t read these two books, you should. Of course, why would you believe me? I am, after all, many dozens of pounds overweight, and certainly not the person from whom anyone would take advice. Believe me, I find that very annoying. Here I am, with all of this wonderful knowledge about the right way to eat for optimal health, and no one will listen to me because of my giant lard ass.

So here’s the plan.

Jack and I are going back on “the plan”, but with a new twist: carbohydrate restriction. For the first week or so, I’m simply going to track what I eat, and after that I’m going to systematically reduce the carbs in my diet until I start to lose weight. Then, I’m going to continue that level of carb restriction until I’m thin. After I’m thin, and people are asking me how I got that way, I will refer them to the work of Gary Taubes.

The new, slightly modifed plan:

  1. No food “products”
  2. As much local and organic food as possible
  3. No refined flour
  4. No reduced-fat dairy
  5. Very little sugar, and only on special occassions
  6. Progressive carbohydrate restriction

And if you want to see the Animal House clip from whence the title of this blog post was derived, click here.

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Maybe it’s not over. Maybe I don’t give up.

Posted by Diane on May 4, 2011

Robert Lustig presents a damning case about the evils of fructose in his lecture entitled “Sugar: The Bitter Truth” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM). Maybe even damning enough to convince me to try again to give up the white devil. Most disturbing is the evidence that he presents that fructose causes liver damage in the same way that alcohol does. Very disturbing.

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I Give.

Posted by Diane on May 2, 2010

It’s just too friggin hard to stay away from sugar.

Jack and I were talking about this, and we both agree that we’ve made some substantial changes in our lives as a result of our eating experiment. I can walk into CVS or 7-11, and not even want a candy bar. That stuff is crap. We’ve both stopped drinking soda, and I’m good with that as well. Store-bought cookies are no longer appealing, and except when we’re feeling lazy, food in the frozen section of the grocery store holds very little appeal.

We both enjoy a good ice cream, but when we eat some Ben & Jerry’s or some Haagen Daaz, it feels like a sugar bomb has exploded in our bodies, and neither one of us feels good afterwards. However, the homemade ice cream that I make with honey–I can eat that in small portions and I feel great afterwards, so we’re going to stick with that.

But the sugar. Particularly when packaged with chocolate. Can’t give it up. Every once in a while, you just want a chocolate bar. Or a butter cookie. Just something…sweet! And to stay completely away from sugar requires a level of commitment to the principle of our experiment that I just don’t think we have anymore. It was a glorious few months when we managed to commit to complete abstinence, but I don’t know if we can do it again. Or if we even want to.

The rest of our experiment is still intact. But I think we’re going to cave on the sugar.

Posted in Food Addiction, Random Musings, Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Back on track

Posted by Diane on April 26, 2010

As of about 2 pm yesterday, Jack and I are back on plan, and will remain so until our July beach vacation. Had baby back ribs last night, and that took the edge off of the cravings, but this salad that I’m eating for lunch isn’t quite cutting it. This morning without sugar had me wanting to bite people’s heads off at work. Hopefully this miserable phase passes quickly.

We’re still getting our meats from the same farmers that come to the Rockville farmer’s market in the summer, but instead of going to the market, we e-mail them a list of what we want, and they come down every two weeks and meet us in the parking lot for the exchange. It feels a bit like a drug deal must, except that it happens in the daylight and there’s a neat, orderly line. But without the magazines and the check stand, it all feels a bit surreptitious.

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Serious Addiction Issues…

Posted by Diane on February 25, 2010

Mmmm...donuts...

I cannot for the life of me kick my sugar habit. It’s always been an issue, and I’ve cleaned up every other aspect of my diet, except for sugar, aka “The White Death”.

I was reading “High on Arrival”, Mackenzie Phillips’ book about her serious drug addiction issues, and her battle to stay away from hard-core illicit drugs was hauntingly familiar.

Sugar makes me irritable, cranky, tired, depressed, and achy. It saps me of energy, robs me of my desire to do anything but sit on the couch and read or watch TV, and certainly isn’t doing my waistline any favors, and yet, I persist in consuming the stuff.

I think I need a 12-step program. Step 1: Admit that you are powerless over sugar. Check.

Step 2: Stop eating the fucking sugar.

Oh, look. I only need a two-step program. How about that?

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Update (long)

Posted by Jack on February 18, 2010

The end of the day, the end of the blog

So you may be wondering what the heck happened to us.  No entries since Dec 2009?  Well, here is the short version.  We went on vacation over the Christmas holidays to Tampa / St. Pete and we decided before hand that we would not hold ourselves to the rather strict limits we had put on our food choices.  Mostly, it is just too difficult to follow our plan if we are away from home.

While we did strive to find decent places to eat (no chain restaurants, only places that serve real food) it wasn’t always easy and there were some occasions in which we either chose to indulge ourselves (waffle house comes to mind) or we just didn’t have any better alternative than fast food (no, going hungry is not an option).  In addition, we lifted the no sugar ban.  This action turned out to be educational in the “not so good” way.  There was one particularly painful episode of fudge binging that made me feel ill the next morning, and I fell back into my coca-cola habit.  I am surprised at how easy it was to lose control and return to my old ways, even though the consequences in terms of how I felt each day were clearly negative

At the end of vacation, I was more than ready to return to our experiment here. What we found, however, was that it wasn’t as easy as it was when we started in August.  Somehow, the sugar found its way in and had a foothold.  And no matter how sincere our intentions, we continued to indulge the sweet tooth. Perhaps not to the extent that we did on vacation, but certainly we were no longer living as strict as we had prior to that week.  So, we started discussing how we might modify the current plan to include the occasional treat.

Where does that leave us now and what have I learned?  Well, for me, sugar is truly addictive, so much so that I can’t be around it and not lose control.  Diane seems much better at controlling intake, so if there are treats around she limits me to a reasonable portion.  Sounds pathetic, I know, but it is either this or nothing and it doesn’t seem like we can get back to that.  However, for the majority of our food intake we still follow the plan.  We still purchase our food from our local farmers – right now that consists primarily of meat and eggs, since nothing else grows in fifty feet of snow (no kidding, check the news).  We still cook most of our meals, bake our own bread, and experiment with new recipes. If we buy produce, it is from whole foods and mostly confined to what is normally available this time of year (potatoes, carrots, citrus fruits, etc).  We don’t buy food that has traveled further than we have in our lives (except the occasional banana), which restricts us to foods grown in the US.  And, when the farmers market opens up again we will be there every week.

So, did we fail?  Well, if the goal was no sugar or processed food for a year, then the answer is yes.  But in that failure I discovered food that tastes better than anything I had previously purchased at the grocery stores.  I am feeling better than I was this time last year, and there are indications that my health might be improving as well.  During a recent medical visit (a week or so before the vacation) I was down 3 lbs from the summer and my bp was 120 / 78.  Now, my bp was never all that high to begin with, but my systolic reading hardly ever got below 135.  I think that, for someone rapidly approaching 50, things are moving in the right direction.

Posted in Eating Away From Home, Farmer's Markets, Food Addiction, The Rules | Leave a Comment »

Going the extra mile

Posted by Jack on December 20, 2009

OK, so I admit I have been a bit of a slacker with my contributions.  Seems this time of year is always crazy, but the funny thing is that I don’t really have all that much extra stuff to do, so what difference should it make?

Anyway, the first and most tragic update is that our Rockville farmer’s market finally shut down for the winter the last weekend before thanksgiving.  How sad is that.  We looked at each other and wondered what we were going to do now.  But we are lucky to live in the land of plenty, and we found another farmers market in Kensington, which is a bit further but certainly not a deal killer.  And we found some more great sources there.  One vendor was still selling apples, imagine that!  Apples in December.  But probably the best so far has been a farmer called Clan Stewart who specializes in all sorts of meat (grass fed, naturally).  We have so far been very happy with everything we have purchased from them, and the best of all is that this market is open all winter.  This means that we won’t die of starvation (ha ha) this year at least.

Believe it or not, there are cars in there!

Also, the weather is starting to become a factor in our experiment.  Two weeks ago when we went to the Kensington market for the first time it was cold, rainy, and just downright unpleasant.  Then last week it was just bone chilling cold, but at least it wasn’t raining.  This weekend, however, we were totally blown out.  Our city was the recipient of almost 2 feet of snow, which started on Friday evening and went through the early Sunday morning hours.  Now, I am willing to drive around the area to find local, sustainable, etc food, and I can generally be convinced (with some occasional grumpiness) to slug through the rain and cold.  But I draw the line at blizzard-like conditions.  Didn’t matter because we had plenty of back-up food (thanks to the wonderful invention of freezers) and what we didn’t have we just picked up from whole (paycheck) foods on Friday morning.

The blizzard of 2009 withstanding, all the extra effort of our new lifestyle is totally worth it.  And there seems to be a growing community of people out there who agree with me (and seem to have figured this out long before we did), check out this site I stumbled upon http://www.fitnessspotlight.com/2008/6/4/nutrition-101-the-one-rule-to-remember/ Ya, being snowed in produces quite a bit of free time.

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Chocolate makes my feet hurt

Posted by Diane on December 15, 2009

No, seriously, chocolate makes my feet hurt.

Let me back up a bit.

For the past 3 weeks, I’ve fallen off the “No More Junk Food” wagon just a wee bit. I’ve been nibbling on little bits of chocolate here and there. Not huge quantities, and not junk chocolate, but small pieces of high quality and very yummy chocolate. With sugar. And there’s the rub.

Turns out that adding even a small quantity of sugar back into my diet has caused the return of one of my least favorite “I eat a shitty diet” symptoms–painful feet. There’s a medical reason for this–when one is pre-diabetic (as I’m guessing I must be), one can develop peripheral neuropathies, which is a fancy medical term for nerve damage in your extremities. In my case, foot pain was one of the most annoying symptoms that I used to have, but that went away when we started eating according to our experiment.

I know that the problem is not the chocolate itself, because we’ve been eating chocolate in homemade ice cream (with honey) for weeks now, with no ill effect. But chocolate with sugar is enough to have me limping gingerly on my now tender feet. Go figure. So my experiment in bending the rules of our experiment is now over–I’m not willing to be in pain for chocolate sweetened with sugar.

As for the rest of our plan, it’s going exceedingly well. Our farmer’s market in Rockville closed for the season, but we started visiting a different market in Kensington, MD, and there’s a great purveyor of meats called “Clan Stewart Farms”. They’re a bicentennial farm–they’ve been on the land for over 200 years and for 7 generations. Everything that they raise is grass-fed and the quality of the meat is fantastic, so we’re happy to have found them.

Jack and I are still cooking all the time, but it’s become much less time-consuming as we’ve both become more efficient in the kitchen and we’ve gotten smarter about what to cook when. The menu this week includes things like chicken soup, lamb stew, sauteed chicken breast in shallots, tarragon and grapes, chuck roast with potatoes, and fish and vegetables.

We’re getting ready to go on a long road trip vacation to Florida with our two German Shepherds, and every place where we’ve booked lodging includes a full kitchen, so we’ll be able to continue to cook for ourselves while we travel. Of course, we’ll also be eating out a lot, but that’s not as hard as you would think. Every restaurant has a few dishes that are primarily meat and vegetables, and while we can’t always eat organic or local, we can at least avoid eating regular flour and sugar, and processed foods, so it’s not so bad.

Posted in Eating Away From Home, Farmer's Markets, Food Addiction | 2 Comments »

A Slip, but no Fall

Posted by Diane on November 27, 2009

Mmmm...so chewy

Well, it finally happened. I ATE A PIECE OF CANDY. Two pieces, actually, a Tootsie Roll and a Starburst. No need to belabor the circumstances surrounding the consumption of the industrial sludge, suffice to say that it was there and I wanted it.

Did I enjoy it?Yes.

Was it as good as I’d fantasized it would be? No.

As far as eating candy goes, this was pretty much a non-event. It wasn’t overly good or satisfying, but it wasn’t awful either. The tough part was that for a week after eating the candy, it triggered cravings galore, and I just wanted to eat more and more of the stuff. Luckily, I came to my senses before I could do any real damage to our eating experiment, but it was a hard fought battle.

As a result, I’ve been thinking about what I’m going to do when our year is up. I can’t imagine a life without chocolate, but I’m not really missing the rest of what we’ve given up at all, so I’m considering reinstating chocolate made with sugar, on a limited basis (not now–at the end of our year). Perhaps if I go to the gym and lift weights 3 times in a week, then I’ll allow myself one serving of chocolate. There have to be some boundaries around it, because in the absence of restrictions on chocolate, it will become the primary ingredient in my diet.

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Good Friends Go a Long Way

Posted by Diane on November 15, 2009

Food StuffsSince we started our food experiment, I’ve been surprised at how many people are genuinely interested in what we’re doing. I suppose that it’s a zeitgeist thing–there’s a lot of interest in our food supply and the quality of what we’re eating, as well as a great deal of concern about obesity and other food-related illnesses in our society right now. But I think what impresses me the most are the concessions that friends and family are willing to make when we’re invited over to partake or their hospitality.

Several times now, we’ve been invited to other people’s houses for dinner, and every time our hosts have gone out of their way to make sure that what they are serving adheres to our “rules”. If there are going to be other guests who are bringing dishes, they also go out of their way to make sure that we can eat what they bring. Sure, it makes sense when you’re having guests to make food that they will eat, but I really think that our friends and family have gone above and beyond. Whenever we’re going to someone elses house to eat, I can just about guarantee that we’ll receive at least one e-mail and one phone call, asking if certain ingredients are okay. Last night, at a friends house, we got a phone call to make sure that the ham in the chicken cordon bleu was okay, a salad came with honey-sweetened pecans and homemade salad dressing, and a plate of brownies showed up decorated with grapes to ensure that we’d also have something sweet to eat at the end of the night.

I don’t think they make friends any better than that!

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