Foodie Friday: Oct 16th to 22nd

I missed my Wednesday post, but Friday? Friday is for food!

It took a little while for me to remember what we ate this week. It’s come to the point where I’ve had to print and cut the October and November pages for my Filofax so that I can keep track of the daily nosh. One might suspect that I’ve become some sort of late-to-the-party foodie hipster, but my photos of food are a little more practical than that.

Read moreFoodie Friday: Oct 16th to 22nd

Foodie Friday: Sept. 27th to Oct. 1st

I am in grave danger of becoming one of those people who Instagrams all her meals. It’s mainly due to the fact that a picture makes it easy to remember what you’ve had and whether it was notable in some way. As a result, I have a few pictures saved back. I’m thinking of making it a semi-regular feature that I’m giving the hipster title Foodie Friday.  Seems appropriate!

You’ll just have to forgive the terrible late-day kitchen lighting and the obvious cell-phone camera pictures…

Read moreFoodie Friday: Sept. 27th to Oct. 1st

A Calorie is a Calorie, but Food isn’t Food.

Honestly, does this look like food to you?

Toaster Schnitzel

I sometimes joke that I’m an “amateur nutritionist”. I haven’t gone to school to attain the college credentials, and I’m still nowhere near my ideal goal weight, but I’ve done a heck of a lot of reading. Reading, watching videos from conferences, documentaries on diet (yes, even the wacky ones), and listening to podcasts.

**Warning: This gets long.***

A few years ago, I learned that I operate optimally on a High-Fat-Low-Carbohydrate (LCHF) Diet.  If you want to read the sane information about it, rather than the anti-Atkins-Southbeach-Dukan propaganda, there’s a nice Swedish Doctor who can explain it in lay terms. At the most basic, while I’m not diabetic, sugar doesn’t like me. Less sugar = Less Maire = more fun. My problem is that I get sidetracked very easily.  No judging here…I’m not about to get up in anyone else’s grill about their lack of motivation in regards to their lifelong goals, so let’s extend the same courtesy to myself, shall we?

At any rate, in trying to keep myself motivated, I do more reading and video watching. I know I have food issues, so I do what I can. I keep hearing one weight loss camp saying “It’s simple. A calorie is a calorie is a calorie. Limit your calories and you’ll do fine!”.  The other camp says “That may have once been true, but modern science proves that a calorie is NOT a calorie.”

Do I, for one minute, believe this?  Of course not.  I don’t believe either statement.  I’m going to tell you why.

The phrase “A calorie is a calorie. Just lower your calories and you’ll do fine” usually comes at me from someone who has been exercising to the point where they require more calories to maintain a stable weight, or someone who wants their cake and cookies and is willing to practically starve to get them.  The worst offenders to this are usually the people who want me to  join them in eating food that is not in the cards for Optimal Care and Feeding of Certain Maires. To them, all I should have to do is run around the block or get on the bike or go to the gym and work it off.  Easy!  Well, it’s easy until I have a gas attack or a headache, and then *everyone* suffers 😉

So how is a calorie NOT a calorie?  Well, not all food is created equal. I’m going to apologize right here for the somewhat lengthy (2 paragraph!) explanation. The commonly ingested “foodlike substances” (as Michael Pollan would say) are high in sugar, high fructose corn syrup, starch, and grains. These are all foods that spike the blood sugar, causing a surge of insulin and an eventual sugar crash. You know how this feels…you eat the food, feel a bit buzzed off dinner, and then half an hour later you’re sifting through the fridge with a case of the munchies, wondering just why you seem to have so many bottles of BBQ sauce. You then invariably wind up finding a bag of chips, mowing down an entire box of crackers (maybe with Peanut Butter if you’re feeling cheeky), or maybe dig into your chocolate stash.

I don’t know about you, but that’s what happens to me, and I’ve seen it happen to a LOT of other people.

The problem is that the insulin released as a result of the blood sugar spike stores any unused energy in your fat cells. The most convenient foods available in this day & age are high in carbohydrates, which break down into sugar in the blood stream. Guess where all that “energy” goes?  Right into the fat cells, courtesy of Mr. Insulin.  If you look at it from that perspective, a calorie ISN’T a calorie. The nature of the calories you are taking in are more readily stored as fat than burnt off, and the nature of the foods being eaten are such that they encourage you to eat more later on when you inevitably get hungry again.

My way of looking at it?  A calorie is a calorie, but food is not food. The definition of a calorie is:


  1. Either of two units of heat energy.
  2. The energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water through 1 °C (now usually defined as 4.1868 joules).

So the definition of a calorie really hasn’t changed. What has?  The amount of calories per “serving” of food.  I put the quotation marks in there because a “serving” isn’t really a serving. Often, if you read the package for any given food, the “serving” size is a fraction of what the container actually holds.  Like 1/3 of a bottle of soda or half a frozen meal. It doesn’t say “Serves more than you think!” on the front…because the portion in the box (or can, or bottle) is what you’ve come to expect as a portion size. A serving of cereal is a bowlful, right?  Only if the bowl is the size of a teacup.

Have you seen those TV ads for liquid detergent?  Ultra-something, usually. Dish soap, laundry soap…it’s all concentrated so that half the cup washes the same amount of clothing, and half a squirt washes your regular load of dishes (I don’t know about you, but I always run out of bubbles long before I run out of pots & pans). In its own way, food has become ultra-concentrated.

Every  meal these days is served with bread, rice, pasta or potatoes. Sometimes with a combination of any of those items. As discussed previously, all those items can (and will!) cause a blood sugar spike. Dessert after a weekday meal is more prevalent – in fact, a lot of folks feel deprived if they don’t have a sweet after dinner. Again – blood sugar. The amount of soda-pop people drink is amazing – I’ve known folks who will polish off multiple bottles of full-sugar carbonated beverages. Juices aren’t much better. You get two or three (likely more than that, actually) times the amount of sugar than just eating an orange or an apple, but without the actual fibre from the fruit to signal that you’ve had enough – at least enough to replace a full meal.

Burgers are usually served with soda and a big serving of fries. Back in the 90’s, I used to annoy the counter staff at the McDonald’s down the street from my college by ordering what was, at that time, a “Happy Meal”: Hamburger, Small Fries, and a small Diet soda.  I was often asked if I wanted to “Supersize”, and because I was a poor art college student, I often said no.  Supersizing would have cut into my cigarette fund (and the one small box of Smarties that I allowed myself every couple of days). Once a week (maybe), I might splurge on a McDonald’s Pepperoni Pizza. I easily ran off my lunch because I could walk home from school ahead of the trolley on most days. I was almost literally half the size I am now.

(As a weird sidebar, I will mention that yes, I was half the size I am now. I would also immediately gain 20 pounds the moment I’d return home to my parents’ place. Literally within a couple of weeks. Explanation? Transit was sketchy so I was driven everywhere, and my parents liked a lot of processed foods for side dishes at the time. I went from walking everywhere and eating the bare minimum to regular meals (and the munchies that followed them) and being driven or picked up in order to “save time”. I will also point out that like most art college students, I wasn’t exactly eating healthy on my own – I ate a LOT of perogies – and the vegetarian roommate that my Mum thought would be a good dietary influence on me wasn’t exactly “orthodox” in her dietary beliefs.)

Nowadays it’s difficult to get the smallest fries in the little paper sleeve. I’m pretty sure that the last time I asked for a small, I was given a “medium” by 1990’s standards (smallest cardboard sleeve). The large is about the same as a 1990’s “Supersize”. Almost everything is bundled so that it’s less expensive if you buy the combo. Sure, it’s cost-effective, but it’s a lot of food. To further discourage you from the small hamburger and tiny fries, they turn that into a “Special Order” and make you wait longer.  It’s not just McDonald’s that does this, though. Most of the local Family Restaurants serve one or two appetizers prior to your entree (ie: Bread sticks or biscuits and soup or salad), but also encourage you to order (or try for free!) an alcoholic beverage and additional appetizer. The main course comes out on a huge plate, and when you’re done, you’ll obviously want one of their “gourmet” desserts (which look like the “gourmet” desserts at the Family Restaurant next door, oddly enough).

So the sizes of your meals have changed, and the side-dishes have changed. Should be easy, right? Get a doggie-bag after only eating half, and hold the pasta (or bread, rice, potatoes, etc).  That should fix it, right?  Well…no.  Because our food now contains additives that raise the calorie count. I’m always a little surprised to find that a “seasoned” chicken breast has extra calories due to the “seasoning”. Oh…and good luck trying to find a “stuffed chicken breast” that doesn’t have some form of breading on it. Add on top of that, because the size of portions has changed, we’re now expected to eat more. Who buys a Delissio (in the US, DiGiorno) pizza and only has one or two slices? Maybe the family smart enough to feed a family of 4 or 5 with it, but most people today can easily scarf down half the pizza on their own.

The shame of it is that this could be easily solved by cooking more and eating out less.  And by “eating out”, I’m including all the convenience foods you pick up at the supermarket on the way home because they were quicker than making it yourself (I will admit, however, that I make an exception to this rule for the generally plain rotisserie-cooked chickens that our Safeway offers up still warm from the ovens). The problem is that we’ve gotten to the point where we don’t cook. Either we can’t cook, or we have less time to do so.  It’s inconvenient.  Once upon a time, one member of the household worked and the other one stayed home. Nowadays, if there is a second person in the household, chances are pretty good they work too.  Most of the folks I know do some kind of shiftwork. In our house, one person is often coming home when the other is just getting geared up to leave. When we used to play a lot of video games (ie: World of Warcraft), this time was even further condensed.  What do you do?  Eat convenient food. If all you need to do is pick it up at a drive-thru, or restaurant, unwrap it and/or nuke it, then eat it…so much the better.

We lived behind a 7-11 and a pizzaria for a couple of years. I think I know of which I speak.

How do we solve this?  Well, I’m trying to cook more, and make better choices when I’m out and about.  By doing this, I find that my portions are just large enough to make me feel like I’ve eaten enough, and I don’t wind up falling into the blood sugar/insulin trap. I find that as the weight comes down, I become more active, so I wind up maybe eating a little more, but moving more as well in proportion. I also don’t wind up with any kind of cravings for sweets. Sometimes I have to remind myself to eat.

Basically…don’t rely on convenience.  Eat whole foods. Learn to cook. Learn to streamline your cooking. Take an afternoon and make lunches for the next week. Plan your dinners. Get a crock pot and learn how to use it (beware anything pre-mixed or pre-bagged, including meat, veggies, and sauce mixes). Try going low carb or paleo, or just cut out sugar. Find something you enjoy that involves moving your body. If you like aerobics or weight lifting, go to the gym. Take a walk. March in place in front of the TV.  Ride a bike.  You don’t have to dress like Lance Armstrong to ride a bicycle.

Chelsea's New Bike

This is Chelsea. She rides a bike and she doesn’t dress like Lance. She bikes practically everywhere, and looks pretty stylin’ doing it too. You could look as cool as Chelsea. She got her spiffy Linus bicycle at BikeBike in Calgary (where we got our Pashleys!)

Battle of the Fitness Apps!

I’ve been meaning to blog about this one for awhile, but I have this tendency to get sidetracked easily. A little while ago, my brother recommended I check out a diet app that he was using to track his food and exercise. I can’t fault him for this, as I think that’s a great idea. The App he uses has a social networking component, but as we both came to realize, it has some severe limitations. It’s great for showing off badges, but not so great for being able to spy on your buddy’s actual meal plans (which can be helpful if you’re trying to find out what your brother is eating that are giving him such great results, as you happen to share a fairly large percentage of a genetic code and it just might work for you too).

Unbeknownst to him, I was using another App for the same purposes. Thing is, it’s not quite as pretty, and it doesn’t have the social aspect built into the app.  The social aspect is built into the website that the App links to.  In comparison, the App I’m using isn’t as flashy, and it doesn’t let me check out the diets of my friends from my Android phone, but it does let me weigh in, look up foods, track my meals and exercise on the go. For the social stuff that will keep me entertained, or for looking over the menus of a successful person on the same fooding plan as myself, it has great information on the website.

As more and more studies are being done about food and its effects on the body, other common-sense discoveries are being made. Primarily that having moral support and maintaining a food diary will assist in not only losing the weight, but also keeping it off. Obviously, if you’re recording your intake honestly, you can always refer back to what worked and return to it if you’ve been letting the diet slide. You can also see whether or not a food you’ve been eating has caused any kinds of trends in your progress.

Moral support, as well, is very important. Years ago, when I was trying a bodybuilding-style fitness plan, I was a lurker on a web forum called “Lean and Strong”. It since has disappeared to goodness knows where.  Thing is, reading about the progress of others kept me motivated to do better. At the height of my bodybuilding experience, I had kept my weight steady and was able to bench about 100 lbs. This wasn’t a bad thing, but definitely not the progress I was looking for.  I was working very hard, but still maintaining an obese weight.

When I discovered that cutting out most sugary and starchy carbohydrates really helped, I found a couple of low carb forums. There are three big ones, and while I generally restrict my lurking to only one on a regular basis, I often will check out the other two when I feel the need for something a little different. Though there’s not much different about them – the main movers and shakers are generally many of the same folks. The topics of conversation are the main change.

I usually lurk (because I’m a shy wallflower, obviously) on, as it not only has a great “Century Club” group *, but it also has a lot of links to studies and current news. There are just as many skeptics as there are low carb devotees, and it’s good to see the fairly well-ordered debate without a lot of mud-slinging. Also, it’s a general low-carb board, not just Atkins, or South Beach, or Dukan or Paleo. There are folks who are rocking an established plan as well as folks who are doing their own thing with great success. I like that in a community.

The other two communities are Low Carb Friends and the Atkins Diet Bulletin Board.  I found the ADBB first out of the three communities, but gravitated to for the reasons mentioned above. There are times when I get the feeling that LCF is “The Big” community, as I hear it referenced more, but on the whole…all three could be seen as just one big community. I think it’s only a matter of time before some Highlander wannabe dashes into the Low Carb world and screams “There can be only one!!” while brandishing some kind of glowing sword of unification.  Or maybe not. The decentralization possibly works better as there’s less chance of the one main board losing hosting, or being targeted for some kind of cyber attack, and being lost to the general public.

What it comes down to, for me at least, is that while there are a bunch of different diet resources out there, I stick mainly to and for what they offer me personally. gives me motivation, success stories, progress pictures, and some mental stimulation with my personal feelings of lifestyle validation (because I’m stubborn like that). Fatsecret is, comparatively speaking, more open-ended. If, for instance, you’re doing Weight Watchers, you can customize the social aspect for that particular program. You get a lifestream of folks who weighed in, can choose buddies and watch them progress…there are challenges and forums…just a whole lot of goodness.  The App that synchs in with the site is very handy, and it helps keep me a little more honest with myself.

I don’t recommend my methods for everyone, but I definitely believe that whatever you do – tracking and support are very important. Even if you’re not the most diligent at it. Find what works for you and stick with it.

If you’re interested in trying out Fat Secret, come on by and feel free to be my buddy. You can find me under the screen name Yzorah. You can never have too many buddies 🙂

* yes, I have about a hundred pounds to lose, maybe more. And here you wondered why I never mention solid numbers for my weight. Now you know. I still have *some* sense of privacy and personal vanity
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The first step

We signed up for a membership to the YMCA this evening. They won’t be opening the gym in Saddleridge (Genesis Centre) until sometime in December, but apparently if we want to get a jump-start, we can use any of the other Ys in the city.  Unfortunately, I don’t think any of them are anywhere near our home, but it’s a start. We meant to sign up earlier, but due to our work schedules being crazy on the signup days, this was really the first chance we had – the last day for registration, of course. The place was packed, but I think we managed to get through the lines pretty well.

I’m really looking forward to having a membership to a gym again, and having one close to the house. Back before the Husbeast and I moved in together, I had a membership to the Spa Lady that was just down the street from my parents’ house. I was following the Body for Life plan, and while the weight wasn’t dropping the way I’d have liked, I was making some good muscle gains (at my best, I was bench-pressing around 100 lbs). In the years we’ve been together, I gained about 45 pounds, took off about 40 of them by following Atkins, and then regained about 50. It’s amazing how well my body tolerates a low-carb eating plan, but it’s also scary how quickly I will gain weight. I can be eating a “sensible low-fat diet”, and gain weight at what most would consider a crazy rate. Apparently thyroid problems run in the family, and I guess that could be a factor, but they never seem to  come across any problems when they test me.

Me at the Calgary Zoo, November 2011. Photo taken by Robin

I’m thinking that what I’m going to do is take the time before the gym opens to clean up the diet so that it’s not too many changes at once. That should also get me on track for surviving the Yule season without too much impact. We can consider the photo above, taken on our recent trip to the zoo, as a “before” picture. Hopefully we’ll be seeing some changes as the new year approaches!


First, before I do anything else, I’m going to show how this month’s socks are going, since I couldn’t get it together for my weekly Wednesday update. I totally blame work for this, as the rotations screw with my brain. Robin had to remind me on Thursday night that he wasn’t going to need a drive to work on Friday because that’s the first of his regular days off.  Yes, I forgot what day it was. My life has been reduced to “Am I working, yes/no, and for how many days in a row?”

Sad. But I have knitting, and that helps me stay (somewhat) balanced.

That’s a sock and almost a half. Yes, I switched back to my circulars…I found that with this particular yarn, working with my DPNs  threw off my gauge, and that’s not something I want to have happen with socks meant for someone else.  I have to take into account not only foot length, but also width, and some of the people on my knitting list have thin feet with high arches (yeah, Dad, I’m looking RIGHT at you).

Next up! This was our supper last night:

Meats, cheese, fruit, nuts and a very little bit of decadence

I suspect that the “appropriate” followup sentence after that picture *should* be “and across the country, arteries clanged shut with the thought of that meal”, but I’m one of those blatant rebels who believes the exact opposite, and have for quite a long time.

Yep, I’m finally going to talk about The Fooding.

Read moreDisordered

Happy Calgary Bike Plan Day!

Today Calgary City Council passed the proposed Bike Plan, that will hopefully help get more riders on their bikes, off the sidewalk, and on the streets. While it seemed that three of the aldermen thought it was a waste of time (the alderman for our ward was one of them…disappointing), I was pleased to see that many of the council were firmly in favour of having something passed today. One of the aldermen thought it didn’t go far enough!  Over the past couple of years I have really developed a bent towards bicycle advocacy…I have a spouse who likes to play in traffic, and one of my dreams is to be able to get around my city primarily without the need for my car. I firmly believe in cycle tracks (separated bike lanes) and that more people cycling reduces the need for bike helmets.

My bike! (and my husbeast in the background)

Our ride today didn’t take us very far. Our diet has been slipshod over the past couple of months, most notably in the past three weeks or so. Changes at work have resulted in an erratic schedule that has directly impacted on my work/life balance. Why bother making dinner if you’re not going to be there to eat it, right? I fully admit that I’ve been eating convenience foods in an attempt to maximize the time I have at home with my family, and those foods aren’t necessarily the ones that are conducive to good health. I feel tired and sluggish all the time, I’ve gained about ten to fifteen pounds, and I’m downright bodysore.

While watching the city council proceedings over my “weekend” this week, I did quite a bit of cleaning in the living area. I have a carpet I can stretch out on, a kitchen I can cook in, and dishes to do the cooking with. I have cleaned out the fridge (you don’t want to know) and ordered new produce from The Folks Who Do A Better Job Than Me at picking out produce.  A steak has been defrosting this afternoon. There is broccoli waiting to be steamed.  I plan on having a good dinner tonight.

This is why I need my bike.

I’m hoping to get out on the bike at least twice a week, if not more often. I’m hoping to keep the kitchen stocked with the right foods. The ride today wasn’t long, but it was long enough to get me winded on the way home. The husbeast wound up with leg cramps, which isn’t a comment on his ability to ride, but rather the fact that we may need more calcium, magnesium or potassium in our diet. Needless to say, we now have supplement tablets in the house to go along with the fruits and veggies.

Food is something I can control, as is our home environment.  The trick is going to be keeping up with things and not allowing myself to get sidetracked or demoralized by everything else going on around me.

OMG an Update!

Yes, I know it’s been awhile since I posted.  I didn’t mean to go this long, but life has this terrifying way of taking precidence.

Since my last update, I managed to finish the March Socks (by April 9th…they took awhile) and I started and finished the April socks.  Pictures will be forthcoming!

I’m back to working on the Brandywine shawl for a little bit & trying to figure out what I want to do with the socks I was designing for the husbeast.  I’m starting to second-guess myself.

On the weight loss front…things have been dismal.  I know that my body works best on a low-carbohydrate or “real foods” diet…the problem is that we get lazy really easily.  This past month has been a real effort in trying to do such grown-up things as clean the house, do the laundry, and avoid eating fast food.  I could gladly eat Strawberry Cheesequake blizzards every night, but that kind of stupidity tends to contribute to weight gain, sore joints, and a general inability to function.

I’m not at liberty to really discuss what-all has been going on, but we got news from a family member near the beginning of the month that’s kinda given us a knock upside the head(s) as to how irresponsible our habits have become. I know that in the past 3 or 4 months, I’ve gone from periods of high hyperorganized activity to what I can only describe as apathetic depression. It hasn’t been easy to work through, particularly when your significant other is prone to the exact same kind of mood swings.  We haven’t always been on the same wavelength at the same time.

So I’ve restarted eating properly, and I really want to stick to it this time.  I’m taking it day by day.  I hit my start weight again this past weekend and it shocked me back into action.  I’m now back down about 5 lbs of water weight, and it feels good to not have it hanging around. In the meantime, I’m trying to get the house in order so that we feel happier.  Your surroundings really DO make a difference!

Hopefully there will be a pod/video/cast soon.  I haven’t forgotten or faded, just been trying to take some time to work through Real Life while it’s happening.