Friday, October 30, 2009

Day Six

Dinner today was broiled chicken with creamed spinach and potatoes.

This has to be the best way to fix chicken hands down. I covered the chicken breasts with olive oil, a little bit of kosher salt and a good bit of pepper and then put them on the middle rack of the oven.

You have to have a thermometer for this one to poke into the largest chicken breast. Start checking at around 20 minutes and pull when they get to 170 degrees. Carry-over will take them to 180 degrees which is the recommended target temperature for chicken.

Tender and juicy, not to sound like a commercial or anything.

I used dairy for the creamed spinach and I'll not apologize because it was good. I sweated green onions in olive oil and then added two cans of drained spinach. I heated up about three quarters cup of condensed milk in the microwave and added it to the spinach and let it simmer, stirring a lot to keep it from burning. There was a bit of mozarella cheese in the fridge and I add just a heavy pinch. Very nice. Fresh spinach would have been better but the canned stuff worked just fine.

Tomorrow is Halloween and so we get to discuss what to do about holidays. It's also Day Seven so I'll weigh in and see what I've lost. I know I've lost something due to the fact that my jeans are a bit loose at the hips. Practically had to hold them up while I was doing the stairs today.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Day Five

Today's observations include a further reduction in cravings and an increase in energy levels. I'm taking two steps at a time on the stairs and it's still kicking my butt but in a good way. When I do two steps, it's harder on the legs and I can feel it pull in the abs as well.

I've also naturally reduced my coffee intake. By naturally I mean that I didn't have to think about it. Suddenly I was down to two cups and that just seemed to be enough. That's down from at least five spread across the course of a morning.

I got stuck out and went with a grilled chicken wrap from a fast foot joint for dinner. Had a meeting to go to and there were refeshments and none of it was on the diet. To be honest, I nibbled on a pretzel stick and had a cheese puff but that was it. Neither tasted very good. Too salty.

I'm not losing weight as fast as I did when I went hardcore paleo but I'm past Day Five and I am losing weight so I'll stay the course.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Day Four

One of the more serious challenges I've faced is getting stuck out and having to try and decide what to eat that doesn't completely kill the diet. Wraps of various sorts from various sources should be ok and more than a few of the fast food joints have low-carb options but I'm wary of those. The best thing to do is swing through the grocery store and grab a snack of fruit or a package of tuna that will hold you off until you get home. The very best thing to do is not get caught out without trail mix or fruit.

I'm still looking for something sweet in the morning to go with the coffee. It needs to be fruit but that can get boring. At one time I would chop up a banana, drizzle honey over it and sprinkle it with chopped nuts. I may have to go back to that as an occasional treat.

So what about honey?

It's nature's own sweetener and it has it's advantages. The Paleos like it in moderation and I would have t agree. As long as I don't coat everything in honey, it should be great for the occasional treat or ingredient for cooking. But it's a bit cost prohibitive as well due to the recent plight of the honey bees.

Here is an interesting site that offers a comparison between honey and sugar.

And speaking of honey, tonights dinner is Jalopeno Honey Soy Chicken.

This is another quick one. Dice around three green onions, two stalks of celery, one jalopeno (seeds or not). Bell peppers are a nice addition to this is well. Sweat the vegetables and mix a 1/2 cup of honey with 1/4 cup of soy sauce. If you happen to have some sesame oil, add just a touch. Pour the honey soy mix over the sweating vegetables and bring to a simmer. Add about two teaspoons of corn starch to the mix if you want it to thicken up a bit. Let it cook for about fifteen minutes.

Add two cans of chicken, drained and mix well. Turn off heat and let sit for five minutes. That will heat up the chicken.

Serve over brown rice.

Another great addition is fresh broccoli. Cut it up small and add it at end of the simmering and let it go about two minutes longer. The broccoli will turn a dark green and you should test for tenderness. Then add the chicken.

Very satisfying meal.

The soy sauce is heavily processed and full of salt but it's only a quarter cup. Should be fine.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Day Three

Today was much easier as far as the cravings. They're still there but the edge of desperation is gone. Also I skipped lunch due to a busy day at work and survived fine by leaning heavy on the trail mix.

Dinner was baked fish again with corn and potatoes.

Which, speaking of, the corn has to go. It's hard to describe but I can tell it's hurting more than helping. I'm sure a nutritionist can tell you why and I'm sure it has something to due with the sugar content (they do make corn syrup out of corn) but all I know is that I'm craving it and its not the good kind of craving. I crave it like I crave bread pudding or a candy bar.

So it's out.

Another interesting point is that I got to top of seven flights of stairs and didn't have to lie on the floor of the garage to catch my breath and get my vision to clear. I just had to stand there and hold on to the nearest car and catch my breath and allow my vision to clear.

I did not realize I was this out of shape. I used to be a runner and enjoyed it. But this is pathetic.

I'll stick to the plan. Two weeks of stairs and then I may start running again.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Day Two

My legs are a bit sore.

Think I forgot to mention that to integrate exercise into this program, I decided to use the stairs at the office and in the parking garage for the first two weeks. That means five flights of stairs in the morning and seven at night. It's a bit of a beating at the moment but it will get easier and contribute to the goals. Later on I'm going to revisit the workout routine and add muscle training and more vigorous cardio but for now the stairs will do.

And here come the cravings.

About half way through the day, I wanted a cookie, a candy bar, a glass of sweet tea, something, ANYTHING that had some sugar in it. This would be the carb cravings and they cannot be be taken lightly. I quit smoking several times over the years before I fully converted into one of those obnoxious ex-smokers who has insulted so many smokers that I could never be seen with a cigarette again. So I know about giving up addictive substances and can tell you that carbs, especially sugar and corn syrup, are addictive substances.

The thing about addiction is that, if your trying to quit and you lose focus, sometimes you'll look up and what every it is your trying to quit will be in your hand. I remember just such a thing while quitting smoking. I got in the car, went to the store, bought the cigarettes and had the first cigarette almost to my mouth before I stopped and realized I hadn't had a cigarette in two days. Carbs work the same way. If you lose focus or your not prepared, the temptation may be too much.

I was prepared. I had my trail mix and jerky and a salad for lunch from a great little sandwich shop downtown but come 3pm, I was fighting the urge to head down to the candy machine. Solution? Eat more trail mix and go get some unsweet ice tea. I know from experience that fruit of any kind helps as well.

It gets rough but preparation and focus are the keys to these first few days.

For dinner I went with speedy jalapeno chicken salad. Its a good fall back dish when time or energy is short. I get the 12oz cans of cooked chicken, chop up three green onions, one stalk of celery, one jalapeno (easy on the seeds), add two tablespoons of lite ranch dressing and mix. Salt and pepper to taste.

Now after the fact and for the first time I thought to look at the ingredients of ranch dressing. Low and behold, second ingredent on the list: Sugar.

But I found several recipes online for sugar free ranch dressing so that's easily resolved. But it does hightlight the ninja-like qualities of sugar and corn syrup.

Also I normally use tortillas to make a sort of burrito or taco with the salad as filler.
Today however, I chose not to feed the carb demon and just eat the salad straight. That may change further on under the auspices of strategic impurity.

A Great Find...

The Kid was looking for books on samurai so we went to the local library and I stumbled across Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve in the young adult section. The cover had a great illustration of airships and a steampunk looking city which answered to my burgeoning steampunk fetish. So I checked it out along with the Kid's samurai books and read it at bedtime over the course of a week and, I must say, it's a damn good read. Not as steampunky as the cover would suggest and a bit dark for young adult but I stayed up a bit too late many a night because I couldn't put it down and that's a huge compliment coming from me.

I'm a bit hard on books for many reasons. I'll give a book one chapter and if the writer can't get my attention then I'm done. I don't buy the whole "the second half is better than the first" arguement. The writer should have started with the second half if that was the case.

This book is not very long and if I had to say anything bad, it would be that I wanted some scenes to go a bit longer. That's also odd for me since my main complaint with most books is the writer's excessive use of words. But this was written with a quick, almost break-neck pace and finished almost too quickly. I can easily forgive that though since there are three more books in the series and I'm on the hunt to find them.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Day One

For all my hype and posturing, Day One really doesn't amount to much. It's too early in the game for one's body to realize that stuff is missing and instigate all manner of cravings. But it is the first day of the routine and that bears mentioning.

The morning starts with three boiled eggs and maybe a bannana or other fruit. And coffee, of course.

This may sound austere but in actuality it's a time saver and a great boost of protein to start the day. It's also substantial enough to last until lunch at least with a moderate bit of snacking.

As far as snacking, I keep a mix of almonds, sunflower seed, walnuts and raisins at work to nibble on during the day. If I can find beef jerky that's not loaded with chemicals and sugar, I'll keep it around as well.

This along with water or tea can sustain me through the day until dinner. Or I can opt for lunch, usually a salad or left-overs from last night's dinner.

Dinner will usually be something simple and quick. I commute an hour each way, Monday through Friday with a couple of nights a week and all day Saturday devoted to pottery lessons or just pottery. This along with house cleaning, laundry, lawn mowing and general chores does not leave a lot of time to cook. Not to mention, I hate it. Cooking that is. I grew up in my uncle's restaurants and learned how but I never learned to enjoy it. I'll work on that, mind you but I'm afraid I have to start here with loving good food but hating to cook it.

So, with my dislike of cooking and a general lack of time, I've been experimenting as of late with ways to cook good, balanced meals in thirty minutes or less with a minimum of effort.

For instance, Day One's dinner was baked fish, spinach and potatoes.

Baked fish is simple and under appreciated. I drizzle a baking sheet with olive oil and lay out two or three pieces of tilapia (a cheap, easy to cook fish), drizzle a little more oil over the fish and then salt and pepper. Or if you want a bit spice, get some Zataran's Blackening Seasoning and sprinkle lightly. Good stuff with just the right amount of kick.

Bake the fish in a 375 degree oven for around 10 minuntes, checking at the 8 minute mark for flakiness. If you twist a fork in the fish and it comes apart easily, it's done.

While the fish is cooking, I sweated minced garlic, diced green onions in a frying pan and with some olive oil then added a can of drained spinach. I let it sizzle for a few minutes and then took it off the heat. Salted to taste but salt is usually added to canned goods so I taste before I salt.

I cook with jalapenoes a lot and one would have been good in the spinach. Keep the seeds out to manage the heat.

The potatoes will be baked or if I'm really in a hurry, instant mashed. Add some of the Zataran's if you used it on the fish.

I'm really on the fence as far as potatoes and corn. For now they are allowed but I may have to revisit the issue if I don't get the results I'm looking for.

So start to finish, including dicing onions and mincing garlic, is around 15 minutes. Not bad. Very tasty and very satisfying. Not to mention very cost effective. The fish was around three dollars, the spinach was a dollar and the potatoes came from a box of instant that was around two dollars. A bunch of green onions cost a dollar. I used three out of the bunch. Garlic cost around a buck for two heads and I used 4 cloves. The olive oil can be expensive initially but it lasts a while depending on how you cook. I maybe used four tablespoons in the whole meal.

So it averages out to maybe around four or five dollars to feed three people. That's good considering that this lifestyle has to be done on a budget.

And that's the end of Day One. There are challenges to come but I fell into the rythym of the lifestyle with relative ease.

But it's only Day One.

On to Day Two.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Plan

The dietary lifestyle I intend to persue is based on the paleolithic diet but greatly simplified and designed to function within a modest budget. I will cut out three things: sugar, wheat products and dairy. This gets pretty close to the paleolithic ideal but it is off by a degree or two. But the paleolithic diet is notoriously hard to follow and very expensive. I'll not get into details here since a quick google search will turn up a wealth of info on the diet, both pro and con. But I can tell you that I went paleo hardcore for about six months and I have to say, I felt wonderful. I was broke all the time and I lived in the grocery store but I think it's the healthiest I've ever been.

So I'm not sure it's fully a sustainable dietary lifestyle. It works but the restrictions are intense and there is no wiggle room. But its hard to argue with the positive benefits and so I'm determined to find a sustainable alternative.

After some research I determined that the wheat, sugar and dairy appear to be the main culprets that lead to weight gain and insulin issues. A quick parusal of a diebetics recommended foods list will confirm this. So what if we cut just these three things and see what happens.? I mean, seriously, if you just cut out bread, the average person will lose weight. And we've explored the evils of sugar. And, I'm sorry, but milk is for baby cows.

This seems like a no brainer.

But is it sustainable? Part of the problem with the paleo diet is that it cuts out all grains, legumes and salt. Basically, as you walk through your grocery store, if you can pick it up and eat it raw or you could have killed it in the wild, it's ok to eat. But try it sometime. It's amazing how quickly your options get ruduced to apples and beef jerky.

So we'll have to see if simplifying the equation works with a nod to the concept of strategic impurity. The challenges are numerous but a good part of this experiment is designed to air out the problems and work through them. One day at a time.

So let's move on into Day One and see what happens...

Friday, October 02, 2009

Coffee tastes

Part of this adventure is tracking down all the bad stuff in the foods I normally enjoy.

Take, for instance, coffee.

It's in the news this week, by the way, but that didn't prompt my examination of my favorite morning beverage. On a whim I picked up the non-dairy creamer I normally put in the coffee and, low and behold, non-dairy creamer is made out of corn syrup solids.

Corn syrup. Kissing cousin to surgar. I already use a sugar substitute thinking I was doing good, avoiding all that sugar and all this time it was sneaking in the back door through a heavily processed corn field.

So no more non-dairy creamer. And while I'm at it, I might as well give up the sugar substitute. I've become suspicious of any thing that's a substitute for anything else.

So no cream and no sugar, substitute or sneaky-type, leaves an interesting question: Do I like coffee enough to drink it black?

Yeah, I think I do.

Well made coffee is sweet and rich and down right tasty. Notice I said, "well made coffee". And, therein lies the challenge.

Here is where I learned how to make coffee. Watch learn from the one of the masters of true cooking.

My new found love for black coffee reminded me of the last time I truly gave up sugar. Food suddenly tastes, well, like food. How many flavors in our daily diets are disguised by our voluntary or involuntary addition of the white stuff or its sneaky cousin?

A lot if not all. I'm not touting some conspiracy theory when I say that your friend, Corporate American, shoves sugar into anything that's going to be consumed. It's just economics. Sugar is cheap and addictive and, therefore makes the perfect filler.

But then again, maybe we should just shut up and trust our good friend, Corporate America. Surely they wouldn't feed us anything that wasn't good for us.