No-sugar vacation

Monday, September 9, 2019

We got back last week from a lovely visit to Charleston, South Carolina, and Asheville, North Carolina where my son and his wife live. As we were leaving Michigan, where the weather had cooled a bit and the humidity had lowered, I asked my husband why in the world were we going to hot and humid Charleston?! (This was a couple weeks before the hurricane.)

But we had great weather there, in the 80s and low humidity. We were assured by a number of people there that we had picked a good week, somewhat unusual there, where in late
August it is normally in the 90s or higher with high humidity.

And thankfully, we got there and out before Hurricane Dorian. We definitely would have had to cancel if we had gone after Labor Day, which was our original plan.

Anyway, I promised a series on my new, no-sugar life, and I wanted to let you all (y'all -- I just got back from the South!) know how I managed, eating in restaurants almost exclusively.

Our very first stop was McDonald's. (I know, not an auspicious beginning!) We rarely stop there, but we wanted coffee and something fast as we got on the road. I got a sausage, egg, and cheese muffin. I took the muffin off, which most of the cheese stuck to, and just ate the egg and the sausage with my coffee.

Cracker Barrel had lots more options.


There was a wait at Cracker Barrel, so we had time to browse. So much candy! I reminisced about the "old days" when I would have bought the Moon Pies and the sugared pumpkin jellies, and more.

I'm proud to report that I didn't have any sugar on this trip. At. All. Or white flour.

It wasn't easy, and I had to get creative with my orders, but it can be done! 

Just before we left, I decided that I was going to do the Mediterranean diet, instead of Keto (which explains the sweet potato).

The sauce had sugar, so I removed that.

Low country boil, eaten at a restaurant on the beach. We were able to spend two full days lounging on the beach. It was so relaxing. I love to listen to the waves. The water was 84 degrees! So different than our (to me) freezing cold Great Lakes!


I decided halfway through the trip that Mediterranean wasn't working (couldn't get enough good carbs), and switched back to Keto. Now that I'm home, I'm back on the Mediterranean. I just can't manage all the fat on Keto. It's been trial and error, and restaurant eating is so different than home eating.

I've been tracking everything on a free app called LifeSum. You choose the diet you want to follow, and they have quite a few options, and then you plug in what you eat and it tracks macros for you (carbs, fats, and proteins), as well as calories. You enter your current weight and your goal weight and it tells you how many calories you need. It adds calories to your plan when you exercise. 

I usually don't like to be tied to food tracking like this, but it has been a really useful tool to educate me on what constitutes Keto or Mediterranean. I was always falling short of the fat intake on Keto, and I've been running short on carbs on the Mediterranean. Yesterday I got three big smiley faces for each meal, so I guess I finally nailed it!

We had friends over for dinner Saturday evening. We hadn't seen them for several years (they live out of state), and I didn't want to make a big deal over my diet as we had so many other things to talk about. I was able to eat sugar-free and sensibly without anyone noticing.

For appetizers (we ate them out on the deck -- the Michigan weather was perfect!), I had whitefish spread (from the straits of Mackinaw in Michigan) on (sugar-free) crackers, vegetables and (sugar-free) dip, cheese, and olives. 

For dinner, I made large, composed salads with greens, tomatoes (fresh from the farmer's market -- yum!!), cucumbers, celery, and marinated, grilled chicken sliced on top. There was blue cheese crumbles, shredded cheddar cheese, and pecans to put on top as desired. I bought some salad dressing (ranch, which has sugar) and had some homemade olive oil dressing. I noticed everyone had the homemade, sugar-free version! I also bought some dinner rolls to go with.

The tricky part, dessert, was an assortment of lemon bars, brownies, and chocolate peanut butter bars that I bought, cut into smaller pieces, and arranged on a tray. I also bought some Lindor truffles. And I had a bowl of strawberries and a pot of decaf coffee.

I had the coffee and a few strawberries. I told my husband that any dessert left over by Monday morning was going in the trash. He had a couple small brownies on Sunday, and this morning, three or four leftover lemon bars and brownies went straight in the trash! I put the rest of the truffles in a baggie and sent them to work with him. I'm doing well, but I really don't quite trust myself. And why have temptation lurking around?

The discouraging thing is that the weight is coming off SO slowly. A pound a week. I had gone to Target at the beginning of the summer and bought a few cotton dresses that I wore all summer. Now I've got one pair of jeans to wear every day until I lose some more to fit into my fall/winter wardrobe. Losing one pound a week, I will be wearing these jeans exclusively until Thanksgiving! I just don't want to buy anymore clothes at this size.

Two whole months today sugar free!

Thank you for following my journey everyone. Your support is so encouraging. xo

How to eat sugar-free over a three-party weekend

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Making an omelette for my son Monday morning before his meetings. He's eating healthy, too!
This past Friday I hosted our 5th annual book club sleepover. Then Saturday we went to a barbeque that our daughter hosted for her husband's birthday. Sunday we continued the birthday celebration here as our youngest son had just come home for a week of meetings at his company headquarters nearby.

A weekend like this could easily cause me to pack on an extra 3 or 4 pounds, but I was determined to stay faithful to my no-sugar plan. Thankfully, two of my book club friends are also trying to avoid sugar. It's always helpful to have allies!

The night of our sleepover we always go out or order in. We decided to go out and debated over Mexican but decided against that because of dairy allergies. Then we considered Middle Eastern, which I love, but nixed that because of my sesame allergy (in hummus). We finally decided that a steakhouse was the best option, taking into account all our special dietary restrictions. 

At this steakhouse, you cook your own steak on a 750 F piece of lava rock. Delicious with melted, flavored butter.
A salad (no dressing, just some balsamic vinegar requested on the side), a steak, and some vegetables fit right into my plan, and was so satisfying. Unfortunately, the Brussels sprouts were served in some kind of heavy sugary dressing. I haven't had sugar in any form since July 9, and one taste told me they were covered in it! Never even thought to ask if there was a sauce on them. So they were left uneaten. We did share a big side of sauteed mushrooms which tasted delicious with the steak.

I passed on the bread. No one wanted dessert, so another temptation was circumvented.

For snacks during our movie time, I had popcorn popped in olive oil, some grain-free, sugar-free chips, and some nuts. Tasty enough for even those friends not on a sugar-free diet.

Gifts bags for my dear book club friends -- pampering items, including sheet masks and cooling eye masks.
For breakfast, I made two breakfast casseroles, one with coconut cream and no cheese for our dairy-avoider, and the other with cream and cheese. No potatoes or bread in them. 
 
I made these ahead of time to avoid rushing in the morning.

 
A friend brought sugar-free bacon. I had the eggs and bacon and a small amount of fruit, which felt like dessert to me. I was able to bypass the scones, homemade bread, muffins, and juice.

It was a real advantage not to have had fruit for a while. It really felt like a treat, and made it easier to ignore the scones and bakery treats.


Lady Carlyle, one of my all-time favorite patterns.

In one of the guest rooms.
At the barbeque that night, I enjoyed a hamburger with tomato slices and some fruit again. No bun, no sugary condiments, no potato salad, no salad (it had dressing mixed in), no chips and dip or baked beans or ice cream. I handled this by staying busy serving and washing up and playing with my grandson. I also made a point of socializing instead of eating. The hamburger was big, and I felt full.


The next night I made shish kebabs and grilled marinated shrimp. I made a tzatziki sauce with yogurt, cucumber, and garlic, and brown rice. I meant to get pita bread to go with but didn't get to the store. I was able to eat everything except for the brown rice. 

For dessert I bought a bakery cake and a very small carton of ice cream. I had a cup of decaf coffee while the rest enjoyed cake and ice cream. Everyone said the cake was good. It was easier to resist than a homemade cake, and I sent the remains of it and the ice cream home with my daughter. We had leftover fruit from the weekend and I had a bowl of that on the table. I had thought I would have that instead of the cake, but discovered I was quite full and satisfied and didn't need it.

Oh, and for appetizers beforehand, I had olives, baked brie and grain-free, sugar-free crackers, cheddar cheese, and cut up veggies. I was able to eat these.

 I have to admit, after doing so well over the weekend, I felt very tempted on Monday and Tuesday. Like I deserved a special treat after being so good. I had to keep reminding myself that I wasn't deprived, and that I had enjoyed good, healthy food.

We are going to dinner tonight with family, and I told the hostess ahead of time about my sugar-free diet. I told her please not to be offended if I don't eat dessert. And also not to worry about me. I'll be fine with a cup of coffee. 
This is going to be my life. Am I really doing this?

Sigh.

One day at a time.

Slow and steady wins the (weight-loss) race

Monday, August 12, 2019

After losing 8 pounds in three weeks, I gained a pound back and it has taken me 10 days to re-lose it.

It's discouraging after being so faithful to this eating plan. But, of course, on any diet, there is the initial water weight loss. And, I have to remind myself, slow and steady wins the race.

Baked Parmesan cheese with herbs. Dipped in a little sour cream, these are delicious and filling!

I'm reminding myself of several things:

*** I'm older. Weight just isn't going to come off as quickly as it did when I was younger. My metabolism isn't the same as it was. As with many things in life, patience is key.

*** I have to remember that quick weight loss, especially in -- ahem -- more mature adults, can often lead to sagging skin and more pronounced wrinkles. The more slowly I lose the weight, the less likely (I hope!) I will have to deal with that gaunt, tired look that comes from rapid weight loss. I hope as I exercise and lose slowly, those negative effects will be mitigated.

*** If I lose 40 pounds quickly, and I'm "done" by November, say, then what? I've barely gotten used to a whole lifestyle change. I run the risk of saying, "Yay! I'm done," and gradually returning to old habits. If I lose a pound a week, which is what many experts recommend, I have more time to settle into this as a way of life. Almost a year. Hopefully, then it has had time to become more of a lifestyle change.

Love this sugar-free bacon!

*** I need to forget about the weight loss, and just focus on health. The weight will come off, but good health and energy should be the ultimate goal. Losing weight quickly and then returning to old habits is not going to benefit my health. When I eventually reach my weight-loss goal, I am still going to be sugar-free and white flour-free and processed food-free. For life. So what am I rushing for? These eating habits will be continuing long after the weight loss.

*****

I am relying on prayer these days and trying to remember to turn to the Lord rather than turning to food when I'm feeling anxious or stressed, or in need of comfort. I'm remembering that He is the Bread of life. That we are to "feed on Him with thanksgiving." This is very different than my previous attempts at weight loss. Yes, I might have prayed for success, but I was really just relying on my own willpower to do this. We can't do these things alone, and I'm grateful I don't have to. 

xo, Deborah

13 ways to cope with sugar cravings

Monday, August 5, 2019

 Giving up sugar for life is such a radical step I still can't believe I've made this commitment. I get overwhelmed when I think of going the distance with this. Will I be able to do it? Is this crazy?

Yet, on the other hand, I feel such a sense of relief, as though a real burden has been set aside. It feels so freeing.

This whole new way of eating -- for life-- cannot be done by sheer willpower. Sure, I can lose the weight by sheer willpower alone. I've done that before. But maintaining? Really changing? That's going to need something more.

Feast on beauty (#12)
Here are some things I've been thinking about that will help me take care of myself over the long-term, so I'm not turning to food for comfort or security, or out of boredom, fatigue, or habit. These are things I'm trying to implement in my daily life to help keep me stronger and more resilient through temptation.

1. Dress well every day. Put on good foundation garments to tame that jiggle! You will feel pulled together (literally!) and have more respect for yourself than if you slop around in your "fat" clothes. Put on some makeup if that's something you like, or a spritz of perfume. Do your hair. The better you look, the less you will be tempted to indulge in mindless snacking.

2. Think about what you might be really craving besides sugar. Comfort? Security? Love? Are you sad, bored, lonely, frustrated? Call a friend. Hug a pet. Do something kind for someone. Ask God to show you what you really need, and then do it.

3. Don't give food more importance than it is due. This is a hard one when you are learning a new way to eat and researching healthy eating ideas and recipes. This can involve a lot of time and energy going into thinking about food. If you are preparing food for a family every day, you have to think about food. Try to prepare as simple a dish as possible that is still satisfying so you're not in the kitchen as much. Give food its necessary due, but then move on.

4. Consider online grocery shopping. You still will probably need to go to the store for vegetables and fruit, etc., but you can limit your time around all those temptations. Seriously, I think it's a conspiracy to keep us all fat and unhealthy!

5. Limit meals out. This can be a hard one if you're used to eating out as a special way to enjoy time with a spouse or friend, or when you're too busy to cook. But there are so many temptations! Yes, you can eat healthy out but it requires some discipline. Learn to cook quick, nourishing, fast meals at home and the scale will thank you. Look for other ways to spend a night out. Go to a movie, go to a park, have a game night with friends (with healthy snacks).

6. Enlist the power of prayer. A friend and I are working through a free online course which helps us to rely on the Lord rather than on food for our ultimate needs. So far it's been really helpful for keeping our eyes focused on the most important things and not on that doughnut down at the local bakery!

7. Think of other ways you might treat yourself than by having a piece of cake or pie. Put on a sheet (face) mask (they're just a few dollars at the drugstore) and put your feet up for 15 minutes. Give yourself a mani or pedi or go get one done. Go for a massage. Take a luxurious bath. Light a candle and read from a favorite book or devotional.

8. Drink a large glass of water, maybe with a lemon or lime wedge. Oftentimes, we are really just dehydrated rather than hungry.

9. Exercise. I just hate that word, I really do. It's been a struggle for me. But, wow, you just have to do it. I'm trying to find ways to make it a little more enjoyable, like watching a YouTube video when I'm on the treadmill or really working up a sweat cleaning my house (that counts!). (Not that cleaning a house is that enjoyable, but the end result is pretty nice.) 

10. Enlist the help of friends. Ask for prayer. Join forces. Encourage each other. 

11. Don't be a people pleaser when it comes to food. Preaching to myself here. In other words, don't feel guilty turning down a friend's homemade cookies or pie. Don't apologize for what you're trying to do. Don't let people guilt you into accepting "just a bite" because it's a "special occasion." You don't want to start down that road! Explain your diet and quietly do your thing. Don't be a nuisance either; bring your own food if you need to, but don't go on and on about your diet or your "special needs." It's boring and annoying to those who just want to enjoy their food. And don't judge others!

12. Feast on beauty, not food. Surround yourself with beautiful things that bring you joy. Declutter your home and add some flowers. There's so much to be said on this subject. But really look at, soak in, and be grateful for everyday beauty. Try to allow it to speak to you and feed your soul. 

13. Bad-mouth the sugar. I find it helpful now when I see sugar-laden treats to start up an inner rant right away. Look at that stuff. Poison! They're trying to kill us! This equals diabetes and wrinkles and constipation and cancer! Why would I put that in my body, the one and only body I have that works so hard for me? Why would I poison myself that way? Etc. Whatever works for you. Just don't say it out loud. Other people want to enjoy their sugar without feeling judged. (I know, I've been there!)

*******

Thanks to you all who have left encouraging comments and who've sent helpful links. I was especially encouraged by a post Margie sent me by Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, who has been sugar-free for 7 years! I loved her thoughts about "moderators" versus "abstainers," and how she just functions better as an abstainer. I think that's me, too.

Well, that's all I can think of for now. Anybody have any other ideas? Would love to hear them.

It's starting to look a lot like Keto

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

I really didn't intend to go Keto. It seemed so complicated. All those fat-to-protein-to-carb ratios. Getting into and maintaining ketosis, whatever that is. And what's with these little breathalyzer-type tests you can do to make sure you're in ketosis? (I still don't know.)

But, the more I eliminate from my diet, the more I realize that what I am eating looks a lot like Keto. Just need to amp up the fats and scale back more on the carbs.

So excited my local grocery store has started carrying sugar-free bacon. They had a sale and I stocked up!
I've been reading online voraciously. There's a lot of info out there, and I am slowly starting to feel I am finding my way with this. I don't know if I will stick with this particular way of eating forever. Maybe I'll do Paleo or Mediterranean long term. But this seems great for now for weight loss.

Keto does allow for stevia and sugar alcohols like erythritol and xylitol. I am not using any of these because I want to be totally sugar-free. Even alternative sugars-free. I think using these would just keep activating my sweet tooth.

One thing that bothers me about low-carb diets and plans is that there is a lot of emphasis of "Keto-friendly" cheesecakes and ice cream and cakes and breads. I just don't want to go there. To me, it's like a vegetarian who eats tofu hotdogs. Why? If you don't want to eat meat, why try and copy it? 

Similarly, if I am eliminating sugar, why would I "tease" myself with all these substitutes? Push the whole paradigm aside, and create new ways of thinking about what might constitute a dessert. And ask yourself if you even need a dessert. If so, how about --

  • A parfait glass filled with raspberries,  some homemade (without sweetener) whipped cream, and a pretty mint leaf garnish.
  • Baked apples with cinnamon, chopped toasted walnuts, and whipped cream.
  • A plate of artisanal cheeses with grain-free, sugar-free crackers, toasted pecans, and some fruit.

Right now, I'm not eating fruit, as I mentioned in a previous post. I will definitely add in some lower-sugar berries after I've lost some more weight.

So what am I eating on a typical day?

 For breakfast I have a cup of coffee with a scoop of MCT powder. MCT stands for medium-chain triglycerides. It's extracted from coconut oil and has many health benefits. It's just like putting a little creamer in your coffee, no coconut taste and no "oil slick" on the top of your coffee!

For lunch I might have a green salad with some hard boiled eggs, toasted nuts (walnuts or pecans), and a dollop or two of avocado mayo or some no-sugar dressing.

{I have found some good subs for ketchup, steak sauce, salad dressing, and mayo at Thrive Market online. I also get bone broth and many other Keto- and Paleo-friendly items there. There is a fee to join, but then you get good discounts, free shipping (for orders over $49), and fast delivery.}

For dinner, it's usually meat or seafood cooked in butter, ghee, or coconut oil with some vegetables.

On the Keto diet, 75% of your calories should come from fat. To be honest, that makes me feel just a little sick thinking about all that fat!!, but I've noticed that I am not hungry. When I went off sugar and white flour a few years ago, I was hungry all the time!

Do not use vegetable oils at all -- canola, safflower, sunflower, corn, etc. Olive oil is okay.  I'm not going to go into all the science here, you'll have to look it up. They are just not good for you.

I'm still not sure I have all my ratios right. I'm looking at meal plans online and trying to gauge serving sizes from them. But I have lost 8 pounds in just three weeks. And no sugar at all.

The other night my husband and I went out for dinner. We ordered a bacon cheeseburger without the bun and without the mayo. (I'm thinking I might carry a jar of no-sugar avocado mayo in my purse, haha!) It will definitely be harder to eat out, but this is one option.

I add in nuts for a snack. Or a bit of cheese. Or a hard boiled egg. I'm already looking into adding some variety and have got some good ideas for pizza (with a cheese crust), roasted jicama fries, riced cauliflower, kale cooked in coconut cream, and more.
 
*******
Thanks to several of you who shared your no-sugar successes. It really heartens me to know that it is really possible for the long term. Have any of you tried Keto or Paleo? Please share your advice/experiences.

Motivation to get off the sugar merry-go-round

Friday, July 26, 2019

I have not sat down and planned out an organized list of blog posts on this topic of giving up sugar. I am just winging it here, and posting as things come to mind and as I'm working through them. And please remember,  do your own research. I'm not an expert at any of this, just a fellow traveler trying to seek a better way.

This grapefruit sparkling water is so good, especially served with a couple of wedges of lime in a pretty pink glass. A friend gifted me a set of four of these glasses and it just elevates the experience! You have to find fun ways to be healthy.
I've been thinking a lot about how to make this commitment to a sugar-free life permanent. Worried that I'm setting myself up for failure. Worried that once I lose the weight (6 pounds down, 34 to go!), I will slip into old habits. That I'm being unrealistic in my goals and "should" learn moderation.

But, no, no, no!! I have to remind myself that moderation never worked with alcohol. I tried moderation for 20 years. Finally giving alcohol up for good lifted a huge burden. It was freeing. Such a good feeling not to be trapped by an addiction.

I keep drawing the parallels here with sugar. I have been trying also for more than 20 years to get my weight under control. Losing and gaining. Feeling shame and guilt. Beating up on myself. Letting the number on the scale determine whether I was going to feel good about myself that day. Constant internal battles over whether to have that cookie or not.

Someone once said you will find the courage to change once the pain of remaining the same becomes too great.

I am really starting to feel that a life without sugar is preferable to my current life.

Can any of you relate to the following scenario?

You wake up in the morning, determined to start the new diet. Then you remember that there is some leftover pie in the kitchen. It sure would taste good with a cup of coffee. And it would be wasteful to throw it out, right? Just enjoy it, and then eat healthy the rest of the day. So you have it for breakfast, but by 1030 a.m. you're hungry. You tell yourself that this is the price you have to pay, you were a bad person, now you have to deal with the consequences. At lunch time you have a healthy lunch. You even manage to eat well at dinner. Then your book club comes over. Everyone brings snacks and you yourself have laid out some snacks, maybe even something healthy like vegetables and dip or cheese and crackers. You tell yourself to only have tea, no snacks. Everyone goes home and you're cleaning up at 1030. You had dinner early and now you're hungry. Those snacks sure look inviting. So you start nibbling on them and pretty soon you've had a piece of cake, some pretzels, a couple pieces of candy, and even finished up the cheese ball. You are disgusted with yourself for your lack of self-control. You wake up the next morning, a pound up, and feel shame and guilt. You give yourself a stern lecture, decide there's no more fooling around. Today's the day, no ifs, ands, or buts. You crack the whip and buckle down.

Until the next time. And then the cycle continues all over, leaving you feeling defeated and shamed and embarrassed and guilty.

Wow. In black and white it all looks pretty painful. Do I really want to live like this?

If I acknowledge that, for me, moderation doesn't work, why wouldn't I want to just get off this merry-go-round all together?

Why would I continue to treat myself so poorly? The lectures, the stern talkings-to, the guilt, the shame, the embarrassment. Why? I wouldn't treat an enemy like this.

Imagine a world where I can just set all of this aside. Where I can walk away completely. Where I am no longer arguing with myself or debating whether to have that piece of pie or that scone. Where I don't feel I have to have it in order to "celebrate" some occasion. Where I've set down that burden and am walking in the freedom of health and well-being and self-respect?

Sounds good to me. Sounds better than a few cookies, for sure.

{This article reinforces my thoughts about how addictive sugar is.}

It's not just sugar . . .

Monday, July 22, 2019

In my last post, I shared with you my decision to give up all sugars. For life. Thank you to those who encouraged me to continue to blog about this. It will help me to stay on track and I hope it will help somebody else as well.

It hasn't taken me long to realize that "giving up sugar" means a whole lot more than just giving up sugar. It also means, for me:

  • Giving up "whites" -- white flour, white rice, pasta. Because all these convert rapidly to glucose in the bloodstream. The net result is almost the same as it would be if you consumed sugar itself.

  • Dramatically reducing the fruit I eat. I love fruit and eat a lot of it. But it, too, contains sugar. Yes, it is natural sugar combined with fiber and therefore hits the bloodstream more slowly than refined sugars, but it is still sugar. I do not plan to give up fruit for life. But for these first few weeks, I am avoiding it, and will then eat it with intention. I will especially avoid mindlessly consuming lots of high-sugar grapes, for example, and stick to antioxidant-rich berries. Dried fruit is definitely out, as it is super high in sugar.

  • Giving up my sleep medication. This is HUGE for me as I have had a sleep problem for close to 20 years. But my doctor thinks it may be hindering my weight loss. And, to be honest, it doesn't always work that great anyway. Without it, I'm up until 5 a.m. maybe four nights a week. But even with it, I experience at least one night like that a week and regularly need an hour or two to fall asleep every night. There has to be a better way! (I am trying to use a cognitive behavior therapy program to help with sleep habits, but that is another post.)

  • Which brings me to exercise. That helps with everything! I just read that smokers who exercise have better health than nonsmokers who don't! I have no idea if that's true, but I've also heard that sitting is the new smoking. If there is a cure-all for everything, it's exercise. And I don't do nearly enough. I know it will help with my sugar cravings and my sleep and a host of other issues.

  • Reducing caffeine. Mostly to help with sleep. I'm trying to have just one cup in the morning and no decaf at night, because there's a little caffeine even in decaf. Herbal teas are not my favorite, but I am going to try and make friends with them. 

  • Giving up vegetable oils. These are just not good for you. Canola oils, sunflower and safflower oils, corn oils -- they're in many processed foods, but also in many "healthy" foods, too.  I know I need good fats in my diet, like grass-fed butter, coconut oil, ghee, and olive oil. These fats are helping with the cravings and helping with satiety, so I don't feel so hungry.

I'm not sure that what I've set up for myself here is the wisest thing to do all at once. Some nutritionists urge going slow in implementing such radical dietary changes. But I seem to be an all-or-nothing type of person. Moderation doesn't work. Cold turkey, just like I did with alcohol, is best for me. And once I set my mind to something, I want to do it!

I have given away boxes of food. And really, my cupboard maybe only had one box of cookies, and my freezer a couple pie crusts and a cake. The rest was pasta and flour and molasses and canned goods with sugar in them, and condiments (steak sauce, ketchup, mayonnaise, pickles, salad dressings). I found beef broth that had sugar in it, as well as cans of spicy black beans with added sugar (who knew?!). I found sugar sprinkles, cake decorating bags, confectioner's sugar, hot chocolate. Every day I thought I was done and then I'd run into more items that contained either sugars or white flours or vegetable oils.

People, it is everywhere.

I wish I had a "before" picture of my pantry. There were no empty spots on the shelves.
I am slowly sourcing foods to replace these items. My husband, who has agreed to do this with me -- yay! so thankful for that -- likes his steak sauce and ketchup, so I have found no sugar-added versions (not made with artificial sweeteners, a big no-no for me).

To keep me motivated, I made a quick list on my phone of the detrimental effects of sugar. I have been reading this list every day.

  • Constipation -- colon cancer (I have had (benign) polyps on two colonoscopies, so this is a real motivation)
  • Saggy skin and age spots (sugar breaks down collagen)
  • Belly fat
  • Insomnia (sugar can speed up my heart rate and "juice" me up)
  • Cancer
  • High cholesterol (studies have shown that it's sugar and vegetable oils that cause high cholesterol, not saturated fats)
  • Achy joints
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Obesity
  • Depression (already prone to this, so don't need to add any more contributing factors)
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue and lethargy (all those blood sugar spikes and crashes)
  • Cellulite (wouldn't it be nice to get rid of this?!)

And to motivate me further, I wrote this:

Do I want to be an obese old woman with sagging, wrinkled skin and age spots, constipated and unable to move around and participate in life,  diabetic and cranky and depressed? Suffering from insomnia? Prone to deadly disease and an early demise?

Yes, I have to make it dramatic and awful-sounding. Although it's probably not far from the truth. 

I want to be able to play with my grandchildren. I want to be able to travel. I want to be able to live as a healthy old woman, and do the work God has for me. You have to find your own motivation if you want to implement such a radical lifestyle change.

One of the most important things I am doing here is praying. I know that I can't do this on my own. Willpower alone isn't enough. I'm also praying to try and discover reasons for my sugar addiction and overeating. I'm looking for ways to take care of myself rather than numbing with sugar. Just being mindful is a big step.  

Next time, I'll give you an idea of what I'm eating these days, and share some of the sources of good, healthy, sugar-free foods I've found. And some of the websites and books that have helped.

Please note: I'm not a nutritionist and I'm not following any particular advised protocol here. I'm just doing my research and learning from my own experience. Please don't take any of this as medical advice. Do your own research!

Giving up sugar

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

I'm a week in. Eight days actually. And I can't believe I'm really doing this.

Giving up sugar. Not just white sugar. All forms, including brown, powdered, coconut, and date sugar. Maple syrup and sucanat and molasses and honey. All the glucose, fructose, dextrose, corn syrup. All the artificial sugars, including Nutrasweet and Splenda. Even Swerve and 
xylitol and erythritol, which aren't supposed to spike blood sugar levels.

Why would I do something so drastic? And why am I planning on making this a permanent -- gulp! -- change?

I've always loved to bake. I will need to find other ways to be creative in the kitchen.
A number of reasons, really. It started off because I am so tired of carrying around this extra weight. But the more I read and learn (and most of this is just relearning what I already know), the more reasons I come up with.

The biggest reason is that I'm finally admitting that sugar is a real addiction for me. I have a problem with alcohol. For 20 years I told myself I could practice moderation. I never drank when I was pregnant. I could go weeks without a drink. No big deal, right? But once I had one glass of wine, I had to have another. And another. I finally had to go cold turkey, 11 years ago. It was an addiction.

And I've been telling myself for 20 years now that I can have sugar in moderation. I've lost weight (I blogged a few years ago about how I lost 30 pounds), and then as soon as I allow a little sugar back in, it just escalates, and the weight piles back on.

I never thought it was realistic to cut sugar out completely from my diet. Why couldn't I just practice moderation? What was wrong with me? And what about Christmas and Valentine's Day and all the other holidays? Birthday parties? Why couldn't I be like my husband or my thin friends and just practice self control?

I've come to the conclusion that sugar is like alcohol for me. It's an addiction. There's nothing "wrong" with me because I can't enjoy it in moderation.

Studies have shown that sugar reacts in the same way as cocaine does in rats' brains. It is a drug. And for those of us sensitive to it, just like a drug addict, we keep needing bigger and bigger hits of it. And yes, I'm here to admit that I've binged on jelly beans and other sugar-laden junk more times than I care to remember.

So this is a huge lifestyle change. I'm excited. I'm nervous. I'm wondering if I have the willpower to do this. (No, I don't. I need help.)

My new best friends.
I'm thinking of doing some regular blog posts about my journey. Like how I had to remove literally boxes of stuff out of my kitchen. Like how sugar is in everything. Like how to eat out. How to manage holidays. What to eat to manage cravings. The whole psychology of cravings. 

Would you be interested in hearing about this journey and riding along with me? I'm thinking I might post a couple times a week about it. Let me know if you'd be interested or if you have considered this for yourself.

And if you are the praying kind, I would definitely appreciate prayers! xoxo

Catching up

Friday, June 21, 2019

It's been a long time, friends. I've missed you.

I celebrated a birthday this week.



My daughter and I went to The Cheesecake Factory for my birthday lunch. We had the baby with us so didn't stay for cheesecake because he was getting restless. But the waitress ran this little treat over to our table before we left. (Later, with baby snug and sleeping in his stroller, we got cupcakes!)

Got some new makeup to play with. Too Faced Natural Face palette, a MAC Ignite Wonder Face Palette (gorgeous packaging!), and a Tarte Tartlette in Bloom eyeshadow palette.





Got a perfume sampler from Tocca, with three fragrances, including Florence, Stella, and Cleopatra. I'm glad I didn't spring for a whole bottle because the quiz online suggested that I would like Florence best. It's a little too floral for me. My favorite of the three is the Cleopatra.



 I also found two travel-sized bottles of Jo Malone fragrances at Sephora, Peony and Blush Suede and Wood Sage and Sea Salt. They can be worn separately or together. The Peony and Blush Suede is a little on the sweet side for me, and the Wood Sage and Sea Salt seems to be missing something. Not enough oompf. Together, though, they make a lovely combination.


 My favorite, all-time perfume, however, still is Angel by Thierry Mugler.


Our youngest son was in town for a few days. Good excuse to make some treats.



Last Sunday, our grandson was dedicated at church. He's already six months old. We had a celebratory dinner afterwards at his other grandparents' home. I made rolls.
 

I'm still figuring out whether I want to post pics of him online. He is so adorable I'd love to share some. His dad posts pics of him on FB and IG, but I feel protective of him on social media. Anyone else feel this way about their children or grandchildren?

 Some extra blueberry muffins from a batch I made for my niece. She just had twin girls! So exciting.


We got back last week from an over 3,300-mile road trip out to Denver via South Dakota and the Badlands, and back home through Des Moines where our youngest lives. I was surprised how much I loved the wide, rolling prairies of South Dakota. So clean and open and uncluttered.

Really made me think about how I've been making space in my own life, both physically through decluttering, and mentally and emotionally (also decluttering). I'll share my thoughts on that soon.

(Apologies for the photo quality here. PicMonkey, the photo editing service I use, has completely changed in the three months since I've used it, and I'm going to have to take some time to figure it all out.)

Getting ready for overnight guests

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

My mom and sister came in recently from Colorado for a short visit to see my new grand baby. They were only here for three nights, so I wanted to be able to spend as much time with them as possible. Not time in the kitchen preparing food.

Two of our children live out of state, and whenever they come in for a visit, it's the same thing. I want to plan ahead so that I can spend every possible moment with them, talking or playing board games, going to a movie or walking around our little downtown. Not having to run to the grocery store or cook.

Even when I have guests just for dinner, I try and prepare as much as I can ahead of time. Who wants to be stuck in the kitchen when you can visit?

So I try to get as organized as possible ahead of time, planning out all the meals, and buying all the ingredients needed. I also make sure to have ingredients available for guests to make their own sandwiches or snacks, and buy anything extra I know they'll like (diet Dr. Pepper for a dear friend, almond milk for my DIL).

 I select recipes that can be cooked up ahead of time. If there will be family staying over for longer than a couple days, like at Christmas, I'll plan out all the meals and freeze them -- breakfast casseroles and muffins, stews and lasagne, bread and cookies. It's easy to pull out and add a salad or fruit.

So for this most recent visit I just had two dinners to plan and a brunch. My mom and sister were coming in very late on a Thursday evening, so Thursday I did my cooking and baking. 

I made a beef stew for Friday night. I always make stew the day before we eat it anyway, because it always tastes better the next day. We were babysitting that night, so it was easy to carry the pot of stew over to my daughter's house. I brought along bakery rolls and some fruit and dessert.

Then I made this one pot Middle Eastern chicken dish for Saturday night.


This also tastes better made ahead because there's time for all the flavors to meld. I love this dish. It's got olives and apricots and cinnamon and all kinds of yumminess in it. I normally serve it over couscous, but because we have some gluten-free family members, I made rice.

I added an easy green salad and some naan bread quickly warmed in the oven.

It was our daughter's birthday that night so I made a cake that I also was able to partly do ahead of time.


I baked up a doctored devil's food cake (adding sour cream and mini chocolate chips). I wrapped the two layers up on Thursday. Then on Saturday I just needed to make the ganache (heat up heavy whipping cream and add with butter to chocolate chips) to spread over two layers. The other two layers (I split the cake into four layers) I spread with seedless raspberry jam. The recipe called for a homemade raspberry filling, but again, I wanted to make it as easy as possible.

This cake was so delicious! It's definitely going to be making future appearances around here.

The weekend before my mom and sister came we also had overnight guests. I had made a big recipe of breakfast casserole ahead of time, divided it into two dishes, and froze them. I pulled one out for that weekend, adding fruit and muffins. The second one I was able to pull out when my mom and sister were here.

Another thing that's nice to have set up is a coffee station. I've changed this a bit now as spring is here, and we're not really drinking hot chocolate anymore. But here I have hot chocolate mix and peppermint flavored mini-marshmallows, cinnamon sticks, and flavored syrup for coffee. The Keurig and electric kettle are just to the right of this tray, the coffee and tea cups in the cupboard above, and tea bags in the drawer beneath.

This makes it easy for guests to help themselves.


Although I like to make as much as I can from scratch, there's no shame in buying prepared foods!

Book club was last night, and I didn't have time to make anything or go to the store. I remembered I had this triple ginger cake from Trader Joe's in my freezer. I popped it on a pink Target cake plate. It was delicious.

I also had some eggs so I made up a quick plate of deviled eggs. My friends usually bring treats as well, so I was all set.


The less fun part of getting ready for guests is cleaning the house!

Since The Massive Decluttering of 2018, it has gotten easier to clean my house. But it still needs to be done. I try and keep on top of it so it's not such a huge job when people come over. I also have someone come in once a month for a few hours to help out.

Clean sheets on the beds, and clean towels and soap in the bathrooms. And we're ready.

I am not Super Woman. Far from it. I know my limits, and know that I can't run around like a crazy woman. Planning is key. And with so many in our family out of state, times together are few and precious. A little planning ahead of time helps guarantee I can relax and enjoy their visit.

How about you? How do you get ready for guests?

Dermaplaning and dermarolling at home

Friday, February 22, 2019

I stumble across all kinds of things watching YouTube videos. There's some great info out there. I've figured out knitting stitches, how to take apart a vacuum cleaner, and more. I've also bought more beauty products than I can count . . . so tempting!

Over the past few months, I've tried out three different facial tools that I've seen on various YouTube channels. They range from inexpensive to pricey, from easy to use to downright scary!

Here's my thoughts on each of them.

The first is the Tinkle razor for removing peach fuzz on your face. 


I would have walked around in ignorant bliss, peach fuzz in all its glory, if I hadn't seen a few videos where shaving was part of the overall skin care regime. Who knew? But after hearing about amazing results, with moisturizers and foundations gliding on so much more easily after the peach fuzz had been whisked away, I decided to give it a go.

I guess it's a thing. These razors and others have been around for several years, popularized by recent interest in Korean and Japanese beauty care. Apparently, Japanese women have always shaved their faces.

Even Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor did.

Besides removing hair, shaving can work as an at-home version of dermaplaning, a procedure you can get done in a dermatologist's office that promises to not only remove all facial hair, but exfoliate in the process.

But the at-home version will save tons of money and basically do the same thing.

After being reassured that I would not end up with stubble or five o'clock shadow !!!, I bought some little disposable razors called Tinkle from Amazon. I got 12 for $6.95 with free shipping with my Prime account. One razor is good for several shaves, and most YouTubers I watched didn't shave more than once a week, usually less.

Look what I shaved off!

And yes, there's a lot of exfoliated dead skin there, too! 


Some people, including Kate Somerville, who owns an eponymous line of skincare, use a regular old men's razor. She's been shaving for 20 years!

By the way, if you use a little scraper, like the Tinkle (and there are many other brands out there), you can use it dry. No shaving cream or oil. But if you use a regular razor, you will need to use shaving cream.

I put this Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse dry oil on after I shaved. It is so soothing, and it has a lovely scent.


My face feels baby soft and smooth. But, caution: these razors are sharp!! Go slowly. And watch some instructional videos first.

(And please, no shaming of anyone who chooses to keep peach fuzz. I loved it on my grandma. She always looked so soft and lovely. Do what you want!)

The second product I tried is a rose quartz roller. 


These are meant to seal in serums after application. They are also meant to contour and de-puff, as well as promote lymphatic drainage. The Brazilian rose quartz is also supposed to transmit "loving and healing energies." I'll take that last bit with a grain of salt, but this roller does feel very nice and cooling on the face.

I like the smaller side, too, for rolling gently around the eye area.

I've seen these rollers in jade as well, and they are available at various price points. I got this one here from Sephora.

The last item I tried is a facial microneedling tool. This was the most expensive and definitely the scariest to try. I tried the BeautyBio GloPRO Microneedling Tool from Amazon.

The tool is a handheld roller covered with tiny (0.3 mm) needles.

I tried to get a closeup so you could see the actual needles.
 You roll it over your face gently back and forth, up and down, and diagonally, to create tiny cuts in the skin. As the skin heals, it is supposed to build up collagen, a key ingredient in keeping skin youthful. It will also cause your skin to better absorb moisturizing serums and creams.


Microneedling treatments in a dermatologist's office are quite expensive. I asked my dermatologist about these tools. She said they really don't penetrate deep enough into the skin to enable collagen to build up. (Hmm . . .  is this because she doesn't want to lose business? Or because it's really true? Thoughts?) And she cautioned that you must be sure to clean the tool with alcohol after each use. But she did acknowledge that it would help your skin to better absorb skin care products.

In practice, this tool was much easier and less scary to use than I imagined. The needles are very small, and I definitely did not feel like I was cutting or injuring my skin. It didn't hurt at all.

Because I've been trying to up my skin care game, and because facials and dermatology treatments are expensive, I felt these tools were worth a try. Not sure that they are game-changing, but I would definitely recommend any of them.

What about you? Have you tried any of these products?

*******

I got a large, positive response on my last post on abortion. Only one negative comment, which I didn't post because of the vulgarity it contained. I don't mind printing opposing viewpoints, but I will not put ugly language on my blog. Because civility is important. 

xo

Third-term abortions a travesty

Friday, February 8, 2019

In the five-plus years I have been blogging, I don't think I've ever written a controversial post. But I feel I need to respond to the recent state of New York legislation on abortion. That, together with recent comments by the governor of Virginia, have compelled me to say something about the wretched lack of regard for life here in our country.

Originally, I was only going to simply respond to some pro-choice Facebook posts, but I've never liked getting into online arguments, and they never seem to go very well anyway . . . So here are my thoughts.

Although I believe that life begins at conception and that all abortion is the taking of a life, I am completely horrified by the expansion of abortion through the full term of pregnancy and the idea of taking the life of a baby who can survive outside the womb, as is now law in the state of New York.

This legislation allows abortion up to the baby's due date if necessary "to protect the mother's life or health." The now-tabled state of Virginia bill allowed abortion if the mother's physical or mental health would be "impaired." 

There is no medical reason to abort a baby to save the life of a mother in the third trimester. None. Early delivery may be indicated in order to save a mother's life, such as in the case of a mother with preeclampsia, but delivering early can save both the mother and the baby's life. 

And if a mother's mental health might be "impaired?" We certainly can provide the psychological care needed to help her through a month or two until the baby is born, and after. Adoption is a life-giving option. There are so, so many couples unable to have children who are longing to adopt.

I'm sorry, ladies. It is not your body. Fair or unfair, the moment you became pregnant, it was your body and another person's body. Google "sovereign zone argument" and "right to refuse" argument for interesting and compelling arguments supporting the pro-life position in this regard. 

And, in what could be another whole post, I believe, at its core, that abortion is anti-woman, a violation of the essential nature of us as life-bearers.

In addition, almost all third-trimester babies can survive outside the womb. The age of "viability" is recognized as 24 weeks. A baby born at the start of the third trimester, that is, at 27 weeks, has a 90% survival rate, and those born at 32 weeks and beyond have a 95% and greater chance of survival.

 *** My own sweet grand baby was recently born at 34 1/2 weeks. He is healthy and well. ***

You have two premature babies in the hospital. One is getting life-saving treatment in the NICU. He will go home soon. The other, down the hall, has just been aborted. The difference? One was wanted and the other one wasn't. Is this our criteria for life?!

I have heard pro-choice people say that we pro-life people are only pro-baby and not pro-children. In other words, we only care about outlawing abortions; we don't care anything about the lives of those babies after they are born. We don't care if they are born into poverty and we don't support, for example, social service programs that help poor women and children.

There are two problems with this argument, as I see it.

First of all, even if this were true, and it is unequivocally not, it has nothing to do with whether the murder of babies is right or wrong. And I'm sorry, we pro-life people are generally polite, and don't use the word "murder," but hey, it is what it is.

Do we say, let's get rid of our veterans because we don't have the social services and support network to take care of them? Do we get rid of our elderly because they don't have the health care and quality of life that they should have? Is there any other population group that we agree to dispose of because their lives are difficult, or because we sometimes as a society allow them to fall through the cracks?

Whether or not a person has or is going to have a good quality of life has nothing to do with whether or not they deserve to have life. God help us if this is our standard. I think the early eugenics programs attempted something like this. Iceland now boasts it has no Down Syndrome in its country at all (because those babies have all been aborted); ask a family with a Down Syndrome child if his or her life is not valuable.

Of course, we must always do what we can to help the most vulnerable in our society. Children, low-income families, the elderly, people with disabilities, veterans who have fought our wars and need medical and psychological help . . . we need to provide safety nets. But no human alive is guaranteed a life without struggle. Accidents, disabilities, loss of jobs, deaths of loved ones, aging . . . it happens to all of us at some point. We don't have the right to take away life because it might be hard.

Secondly, pro-life people do care about babies and children. I have pro-life friends who have adopted, who foster children, who work at social service agencies to help the poor and marginalized. Pro-life friends who tutor inner-city children after school, run programs for disadvantaged rural youth, conduct job training and parenting classes for women who have chosen to keep their babies. The list goes on.

I said this would be a controversial post. But really, why it should be controversial is beyond me. It's appalling to think that any sane person would agree that it should be legal to take life, and especially in the third trimester.

I have always prayed that one day -- soon -- we will look back on the era of Roe v. Wade with the more than 60 million aborted babies in its wake, and cry out in anguish and in repentance for what we have done. It has been a holocaust.
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