Oct 20 2014

Hiking – Dogwood Trail

Published by under Outings,Personal

In the spirit of getting back to talking about other things on the blog, this weekend Michael and I took some time to visit a local park and take a hike. I spent a few hours on Friday researching parks and hikes we could do, trying to find a sweet spot between interesting, strenuous enough but also not likely to kill us.

I settled on a trail at Babler Memorial State Park – which is a huge park near Chesterfield, Missouri. There are quite a few trails, tons of picnic areas, camping and etc. It’s free to get in and use the trails  – camping costs (as is pretty standard). We didn’t really get a chance to explore the whole park since I was so eager to get hiking.

Dogwood Trail Head 2

We ended up on the Dogwood Trail – a relatively short trail (2 miles) but listed as strenuous due to changes in elevation. We had difficulty locating the main trailhead, but were able to locate the second trailhead (which is located on a spur near a cave). Parking was plentiful at this trailhead and it was also accessible to restrooms which were open, well stocked and clean.

The trail itself was actually far more challenging than I had thought it would be (I thought 2 miles might be *too* easy for us). It was a dirt trail which was still damp in parts from rain a few nights before, and given the season there were plenty of fallen leaves on the path. The trail on the spur was a bit of a difficult climb due to soil erosion – lots of big steps up (and down on the way back – killed my adductor muscles). The main trail was in nicer condition.

Dogwood Trail

I found this trail very exciting: leaves and acorns showering us every time the wind blew, small  stream crossings to navigate and as we moved down in elevation, the path got significantly rockier. We passed a few other couples hiking, some with dogs, but overall the trail was pretty deserted, which surprised me for a beautiful fall afternoon. All in all, it was a good hike – not too long, the changes in elevation were relatively frequent and got me sweating and I felt like an adventurer crossing the little streams.

Biggest surprise for me after the hike: lack of knee pain. I hurt the adductors in my left hip by stepping down the large steps on the trail spur (I had to turn sideways to step down because of my short legs and I didn’t alternate sides, which was a rookie mistake). But my knees felt fine and I know I have yoga to thank for that. I used to believe that squatting and crouching would always be painful; that I had permanently screwed up those joints by being so fat for so long, but I’ve been able to build up my thigh muscles and the muscles around my knees enough that I can squat without pain. Daily yoga pays off!

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Oct 17 2014

Moving On Up

Published by under Food,Personal

I’ve decided to move most of my food blogging to a separate blog — keto.4d2.org. I hate the fact that this blog: home of political screeds, technological nerdiness, and rants about modern life has also become, overwhelmingly, a diet and food blog (largely at my behest). But more than that: I’m spending a majority of time now planning out meals; trying new recipes and making up my own that it seemed reasonable for me to have a space to explore that and that alone. A space to talk about food without stepping on this blog’s toes.

So, if you’re interested in what sort of low-carb deliciousness I’m making, or you just want to laugh at me with a mouth stuffed full of cherry pie and a stout beer in your hand, you can find me there.

And I’m sure I’ll find other things to talk about on this blog: politics or movies or rants about human nature. It will be a return to the days of yore.

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Oct 06 2014

A New Leaf…

Published by under Food,Health,Personal

This blog has, far too often, served as a chronicle of diets Michael and I have undertaken at various intervals on our quests to lose weight, to feel good and to eat ethically. I think Michael and I have treated ourselves like medical guinea pigs and we have the records to prove it – not just on this blog but also in food logs on loseit.com; in step and exercise logs on fitbit.com; and in Michael’s own fancily designed spreadsheets. I have handwritten food journals from as far back as 2009. While Michael has been a healthy weight in the not-too-distant past… I have been overweight for essentially my entire life, and obese for the last 10-15 years. And we can talk about how weight and BMI may not be the best measurements for some members of the population, but I’m not an athlete with enormous muscles who is at 15% bodyfat. I’m just a fat chick.

We talk a lot in this country about the obesity epidemic, but I’ve spent my entire life overweight and I can count on my *thumbs* the number of medical doctors I have had who were sympathetic and understanding about my weight. You bring them food logs for a month and they think you’re lying. You can tell them you weigh and measure every darn thing you eat and they still think you’re lying (even when you’re as crazy as I am and you log the insubstantial quantity of calories in things like: sugar-free gum and mints; black coffee,  dried herbs in recipes). According to 95% of the medical doctors I’ve seen and the majority of fitness blabbermouths and angry commenters on internet forums, I must be lying because otherwise weight should fly off of me according to the current fitness Zeitgeist of calories in / calories out. I’m lying about what I eat and how much exercise I get and I’m fat because I lack self-control. This is the prevailing attitude, even in a county where so many people are likely in the exact same boat as I am.

For the past two months (August and September), I decided that Michael and I would eat vegan + fish, that I would limit the servings of carbohydrate I took in (averaging about 100 net calories a day, with at least an additional 30 grams of fiber). I spent half an hour every day doing yoga, four days a week doing High Intensity Interval Training on my elliptical for 25 minutes and the rest of the week I was going for walks or doing substantial house cleaning for an hour or two. Every single day for two months, I logged my calories and I worked out for at least an hour daily. I lost a couple inches from my waist, but I lost zero pounds. Zero. I was running a caloric deficiency (calories in vs. calories out is the gospel, right?) of 500-700 calories DAILY. I should have been losing a pound a week at least.

Now my primary care physician couldn’t care less about what I’ve been eating or if I’ve been exercising. She thinks I’m lying about it, anyway, because I’m still fat. My physical is usually a 5-10 minute long affair where we talk briefly about my thyroid and she orders my yearly fat-chick bloodwork. Every year, my bloodwork comes back the same: my thyroid levels are fine, my cholesterol is fine, my fasting blood glucose is fine. I stay on the same dosage of thyroid hormone and that’s it. Nothing changes, from year to year.

However, I lucked into seeing an OB/GYN three years ago who has been nothing but sympathetic about my weight. We’ve talked diet every year, and it usually boils down to a discussion of vegan vs. low-carb. This year at my appointment, she mentioned that she had attended a seminar recently regarding weight loss and that she has started seeing patients for weight loss on a regular basis. Based on our discussion, she ran additional bloodwork to verify whether I am showing symptoms of insulin resistance (which hasn’t been returned yet). I provided a history of my weight gain and weight loss and a weeks worth of food/ exercise diaries. Upon her review of all of it, she remarked that I must be frustrated with the lack of progress and recommended I begin a low-carb diet (40-50 net carbs a day).

My bloodwork hasn’t been returned yet, but Michael and I began a low carbohydrate diet in earnest last week. In one week, I have lost five pounds. I’m not eating any less calories (I have the food logs to show it). I’ve been working out less this week due to keto-flu. And to be honest, it doesn’t make sense that dropping from 100 net carbs a day to 40 net should really make a difference. But apparently, it does make a difference.

Now, Michael and I have done low-carb diets before and both of us have lost weight. Michael blogged here about Gary Taubes and fructose and obesity in 2011. At the time, we were on Medi-fast which is not the most low-carb diet (I averaged 85 net carbs on Medi-fast) but it is also extremely low fat and low calorie. Our diet now is neither low-fat nor low-calorie.  I’m limiting my carbohydrate intake to 40 grams net, hitting my protein goal of 75-100 grams (I tend to eat higher on days I do yoga because of muscle recovery) and I eat however much fat I want beyond that. I haven’t had any difficulty in hitting well below my carbohydrate limit and I’m eating as many calories as I ate before. If I continue to lose weight on this diet, I can’t wait to lob a middle finger at everyone who treated me like a fat slob when I spent years working my butt off and following the prevailing fitness ideology in an attempt to lose weight. But I’m getting a little ahead of myself there.
For the time being, this diet is working and I suspect it will continue to do so. I’ll be interested to see where I am in a month.

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Sep 26 2014

Green BEAN Delivery is Awesome

Published by under Food,Health,Personal

I have a sensation that Michael and I think way too frequently about how to eat ethically – what does an ethical consumer look like? Our ethical debates have led us to all sorts of places — vegetarianism, veganism, CSA’s and Farmer’s Markets. There are a million things to debate about. Organic vs. Conventional vs. Sustainably Grown. GMO vs. non-GMO. Vegan vs. Omnivore. These are all complex issues, and reasonable, thoughtful and ethical people have valid arguments for almost any side of the argument.

But, for Michael and I, we come back constantly to this idea of trying to eat locally, eat seasonally. CSA’s have been a mixed bag – sometimes you end up with terrible looking produce, sometimes you end up with a basket full of pounds of zucchini. Farmer’s Markets are nice – a chance to pick out what you like and to interact with the folks who are growing the food, however, with the exception of our time living in downtown Frederick, they require a drive (usually 15-20 minutes) at a usually inconvenient time (I like to sleep in on Saturday mornings, don’t judge).

So, when Michael mentioned Green BEAN delivery, I was intrigued but I didn’t want to get my hopes up. But we have been receiving produce boxes from them for a month now, and I have been seriously impressed.

What is Green BEAN delivery? It’s a grocery delivery service, but the majority of their produce is organically grown or sustainably grown. They operate two organic farms of their own for some of the produce in the bins and they also work with local farms to provide local produce and products. In Saint Louis, we can get local grass-fed dairy or beef,  bacon and fresh bread from Companion in our basket. Basically, you subscribe to get $35.00 weekly of produce and groceries and they deliver to you every week, no delivery fee.

We have a standing order for the small bin of fruits and vegetables. Our bin is delivered on Thursdays. That same day, they also post on their website what the bin for next week will be. We have until Monday to make changes to our order for the week. We can swap any produce we want for anything else they offer that week. They have some standard produce which is available every week for you to add to your order for example, mixed greens, garlic, onion and bananas. But I have found that the things they choose to include in the weekly bin are really the stars. Over the past four weeks the nectarines, plums, tomatoes, delicata squash and potatoes we’ve had in our bins have been some of the best I’ve ever had. After we switch out things we wouldn’t eat from our bin and add any other produce we’ll need for the week, we can add groceries to our delivery. Over the past month, groceries we’ve added have included: grass-fed steak, raw cheese, demi-baguettes from Companion, olive oil,  cage-free eggs, organic pepitas and fair trade chocolate. They offer a wide variety of groceries, including a lot of things I’d have to go out of my way to get at Whole Foods (a 30 minute drive).

So, what makes GreenBEAN so great?

First and above all, the quality of the produce. I’m not a huge proponent of organic foods, but I do like to limit our exposure to pesticides so I tend to buy organic fruit, bell peppers, etc. Getting quality organic produce without a drive to Whole Foods is next to impossible here and even the produce I get from Whole Foods frequently goes bad very quickly. The items we’re getting from Green BEAN are organic but they also look and taste great (and fresh) and last a LONG time. The mixed greens we get last a week, easy.

Secondly, the convenience factor. Driving to Whole Foods every week is not fun, it’s expensive and who knows what the environmental impact is. We’re getting better quality food delivered to our doorstep. The time and fuel savings are awesome.

Thirdly, the standard bin does encourage us to eat both locally and seasonally, which is important to both Michael and me, in an ethical consumer sense.

Finally, the meat/eggs/dairy that we can get locally are really fantastic products and the price we get on them is also good (very much in line with grass-fed/ pasture-raised / cage-free products offered at the grocery store).

My hope is that Green BEAN finds great success in the Saint Louis metro and we see more and more local goods being offered as time goes on. If you’re in an area served by Green BEAN (Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and Missouri) and you’ve been thinking about giving it a try, I whole-heartedly encourage you to do so. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the quality and variety of what you get each week.

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Sep 24 2014

I-have-no-idea-what-I’m-doing “Tortilla” Soup

Published by under Food,Recipes

I went to the store yesterday looking for a tortilla soup base to facilitate supremely easy dinners and lunches for Michael and me, inspired by Qdoba’s Mexican Gumbo (which is vegetarian and so dang good). I went to the fancy grocery store and they had two soup bases – Vegetable Pho and Chicken Pho. At which point, I looked at my very empty cart (shallots, rosemary, cilantro) and decided I had to make my own soup base, with nothing but my own good taste to go on. In the words of Scooby Doo – ruh roh.

But I swung back around the produce section and quickly grabbed a few extra things to add to what I knew I had on hand, and made what I think is a pretty darn nice soup.

Ingredients:
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 large Onion, chopped
5 cloves Garlic, minced
2 Bell Peppers, chopped
2 Jalapeno Peppers, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 28-ounce can of Crushed Tomatoes (I used fire-roasted)
2 – 3 cups Vegetable Stock
1/2 cup fresh Cilantro, chopped
1 tsp Cumin, ground
1/2 tsp Coriander, ground
1/2 tsp Smoked Paprika
2- 3 Tbsp Lime Juice
Salt, to taste

Directions:
Heat a soup pot on the medium to medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion and cook until translucent. At this point, I add the peppers, carrot and garlic and cook for an additional few minutes. Now add the stock (I used 2.5 cups vegetable stock and added an additional half cup of the bean cooking broth from earlier in the day — see the black beans recipe here), and the crushed tomatoes. Bring the heat up to high and bring the soup to a boil. While the soup is heating, add your cilantro, cumin, coriander and paprika. Once the soup is boiling, cover the pot and lower the heat to bring the soup to a simmer. Let it simmer for at least 20 – 30 minutes. While the soup is simmering, I add the lime juice and salt to taste.

I served this soup over 2/3 cup of basmati rice, and 1/2 cup black beans. We topped with a small amount of cheddar cheese, but you could also top with tortilla strips, sliced avocado, salsa, lime wedges, sour cream or any meat you had on hand.

Moo-Tritionals: (per serving, this recipe makes 4 large servings)
Calories: 394
Fat: 5 g
Carbohydrate: 82 g
Fiber: 10 g
Sugar: 7 g
Protein: 16 g

This soup is also high in Vitamin C, which is good because Vitamin C will help you absorb all the Iron in any beans you add to the soup (and the Iron already present in this soup).

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