Ah, Joy! – On Losing 1 Pound After 1 Year of Dieting

Ah, joy!

I know that most of you are watching your weight and may be on some type of diet.

Which is why I’m convinced that you’ll know exactly how I felt when I stepped on the scale at a Weight Watcher meeting last week and discovered that I had finally lost 1 lb. after 1 year of dieting.

Who takes 1 year to lose 1 lb.? A person with a thyroid problem, that’s who.

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No Weight Loss? Have You Had Your Thyroid Checked Lately?

This is a cautionary tale. It’s about the thyroid, a gland that controls your metabolism and can cause your weight-loss program to seemingly self-destruct.

I tell this story because it happened to me, and I should have known better because I’ve had thyroid disease for almost 20 years.

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The Sugar Wars

Recently, I’ve had my consciousness raised about sugar.  It started with an April 13 article in the New York Times Magazine, entitled, “Is Sugar Toxic?” by Gary Taubes.  This article examined the current science around refined sugar use, metabolism, obesity, and disease, and the author concluded that, while there was no one answer to this question because we are complex biological beings, refined sugar should definitely be used in moderation.

I then had Shirley of the Gluten-Free Easily blog suggest to me that not all natural sweeteners spike blood glucose the way refined sugars do (the diabetic problem).  After some research I learned that I had been abysmally ignorant about the glycemic indexes (GI) of sugar alternatives. Claire, I said to myself, wake up and smell the sweeteners! 

Then I read a very useful post by Karina of the Gluten-Free Goddess blog about alternatives to refined sugars—a post that was followed by numerous comments that revealed a great deal of worry, upset, and confusion about all kinds of sugar use, including artificial sugars. I was struck by the number of people who had gone off artificial sugars and felt better.

So…where does all of this leave a gluten-sensitive, lactose intolerant, potentially diabetic dieter? 

First, the facts about refined sugar.  It is clear that refined sugar in our society is absolutely harmful when its use is measured in the aggregate. More and more folks are too heavy, if not obese, and many of those pounds are connected to caloric intake from sugar.  And obesity is 100% linked to diabetes, heart disease, other illnesses, and mortality.

Secondly, the facts about artificial sugars, particularly Splenda.  The comments on the Gluten-Free Goddess post suggest mixed physical reactions.  Some people have no problems using artificial sugar while others clearly do.  Are there other facts? A Google search shows lots of controversy as well as scientific studies that demonstrate that Splenda is not harmful. 

But I’ve noticed that science doesn’t always get it right. Do you remember the egg flip-flops?  “Eggs are good for you—no, eggs are bad for you—wait, eggs are now good for you again.” The more accurate scientific tools get, the more the nutritional experts can measure and discover new facts that can change earlier conclusions. Also, it can take years to find out results from the use of any substance—be it a food or drug.  It’s all very frustrating from a civilian point of view.

Then there are the words: natural, processed, and chemical, which swirl around us but don’t quite get pinned down. I know I get a warm, fuzzy feeling about the word natural and a not-so-nice feeling about the words processed and chemical

But I also know that natural isn’t always better. We could say that North Americans lived “more naturally” in 1900, but the average age of mortality then was 47.  Nor are processed or chemical always bad.  How many of us wouldn’t cook because it processes our food and alters its chemicals?  Or not take medications which are the result of chemical processes?

It’s a conundrum, rolled up in an enigma, and packaged like a puzzle.

The majority of people in North America are not plagued by the reactions to foods that affect those of us in the gluten-free community.  Are we just oddities then?  No, I think we’re like the canary in the coal mine.  We’re the indication to the rest of the world that there is something going on in our society and environment that isn’t good for the human gut.

Maybe it’s pollution or plastics or antibiotics or too much processed food or not enough protection against ozone or  ________. (Put in your theory.)  Or, most likely, there isn’t one simple answer.

So…what can a person do?  My solution: listen to my body, live and eat with moderation, and try to make the best decisions possible for myself, given available knowledge.

Because I have the metabolism of a snail on tranquillizers, I gain weight easily and lose it with difficulty. One of my decisions, which affects this blog, is that any true sweetener—be it brown sugar, stevia, dates, raisins, whatever—is more “toxic” for me than artificial sugar because it is high in calories. To be blunt: I’m more likely to die from being overweight than from eating artificial sugars.  

Splenda, which I tolerate well, enables me to eat, albeit sparingly, baked products that would otherwise be verboten.  A variety of foods and a feeling that I am not being completely deprived enable me to stick to a successful diet regime.  That regime is essential to my health.

So, I can’t take artificial sugar out of my recipes; otherwise, this blog would simply no longer be true to myself.  Nor would it be valid for those who share my health problems.

It’s a free world. 

But you’re not me, and may make decisions that are different than mine.  If you decide not to use artificial sugar, you can substitute any real sweetener that you prefer in this blog’s recipes.  I use Splenda which is a one-to-one substitute for regular sugar.  Just remember that every tablespoon of sugar or alternative sweetener is 1 point on both the Points and PointsPlus Weight Watcher plans, and add the additional point(s) to the per serving point values.

Yours deep in the puzzle,

Claire

Gaining Weight On PointsPlus!

I am a lifetime member of Weight Watchers and have great faith in their programs.  I think they can not only help people lose weight but also teach us how to have a more balanced diet.

So, you can imagine my dismay when I discovered that I was gaining weight on the new plan, PointsPlus, that was introduced in January, 2011.  For those who are new to WW, this plan was similar to the Points plan, except that it increased the point value for carbohydrates but now allowed fruits for free.

Initially, I loved the program because I love fruit, but after several weeks, it was clear that the diet wasn’t working for me.  I was gaining instead of losing.  My group leader advised me to cut back on fruits and vegetables!  This was so counter-intuitive to my whole way of thinking about nutritional eating that I went back to the Points plan and started losing weight again.

Clearly, I have a limit to how much fruit I can eat before gaining.  My strategy now is to stay with the Points plan (no more gaining!), but also add up points as if I were on PointsPlus.  When I do this I won’t count fruit as zero, but assign each fruit a value.  (I can do this by creating a chart of the value points for fruit under PointsPlus, based on the formula that underlies the plan.)  This will allow me to compare the two plans.

I’ll keep you posted.