Sunday, May 31, 2015

Why It's Harder to Quit Carbs Than Cocaine

Can you imagine going to a birthday party where everyone celebrates with a line of cocaine?

Maybe if you live in Hollywood or hang out with high rollers.

But most of us mere mortals who are not surrounded by mind altering drugs on a daily basis are more likely to be tempted by pizza and birthday cake than powders and pills.

Which is why it can be harder to avoid refined carbohydrates than cocaine.

First there are the TV commercials.

Unless you DVR your favorite shows and zip through the commercials, your subconscious will likely absorb hundreds of hypnotic images a week flashing images of happy people eating carb-laden foods.

Then there's work where a non-stop conga line of cupcakes and bagels dance into the break room on a daily basis.

For Sunday dinner, Aunt Sally serves chips, lasagne and ice cream -- unless it's someone's birthday and there's cake to go with the ice cream.

If you dare say "no" to the cake, Uncle Roger will chide, "What's wrong with you? It's a special occasion" -- as if someone having a birthday is a rare event.

Meanwhile, every day you pass dozens of fast food joints pushing crispy french fries and puffy buns -- and nearly as many coffee shops shilling adult milk shakes disguised as coffee drinks.

Even the new Starbucks Mini Caramel Frappuccino has 29 grams of sugar. That's 7 teaspoons -- three times more than a Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut.

Which means unless you hang out with a crowd that spends most of its spare time doing drugs, you are a million times more likely to be confronted with high-carb foods than heroin or cocaine.

Obviously, it would not be reasonable to expect your friends, family and co-workers to forgo their favorite refined high-carb foods.

What's important is to recognize how difficult it is for you to stray from the average American diet -- to deliberately decide to be different than the "normal" eating community.

When high-carb foods are pushed on you on a regular basis, it can takes enormous will power to resist them -- especially since they light up the pleasure center in your brain and can give you the same intense high as a street drug.

So when you do resist, be sure to high five yourself. Because it's way, way harder than it looks. 

More from Diet Skeptic:

Why I'm Addicted to Chia Seeds

Why Fat Head Pizza Is the Holy Grail of Low Carb Pizzas 

The Shocking Truth About Imported Olive Oil

Making Cauliflower Rice in the Vitamix 

Why WebMD Doesn't Want You to Get Well

Follow Nancy's board Low Carb Recipes on Pinterest

Monday, May 25, 2015

OMG!!! Medifast Gave JezebeI Blogger an Eating Disorder

Does Jezebel has a truthiness issue?
One of the first rules of PR is to know your audience. You would not send a press release for tampons to a men's magazine. Nor would you send a gushy evite to a snarky anti-diet website asking it to write a blog post on a quick and easy weight-loss program for brides.

Except that a naive Medifast PR staffer (maybe a MacDonald niece who needed a job after college?) did just that.

The resulting blog post on Jezebel's I Thee Dread blog titled "I Tried a Wedding Starvation Diet and It Really Fucked With My Head" was the most scathing review of the Medifast 5&1 Plan I have ever seen.

Here are just a few choice excerpts:

You read that correctly. 850-1000 calories a day. This is a starvation diet and it is being marketed towards brides.

I chugged the rest of my water to cleanse my palate and got up to pour another glass. I’d been rather dreading the water requirement but I quickly see that it will be no problem at all to hit my daily quota of eight glasses: all that fake food isn’t going to wash itself down.

I grimly finished the pretzels and left the house to run an errand. The sourness lingered. The food felt like a punishment.

The thought of eating a reconstituted packet of dust fills me with dread, so I decide that today I’ll stick mostly with the bars and try some of the Cinnamon & Brown Sugar Cereal Crunch I’ve been sent.

 This diet was, very quickly, sending me into a depressive spiral and it was time to cut bait. So I did. As of this writing, I’m still shaken by the experience and, if I’m being really honest with you, I had a hard time returning to healthy eating habits. Three days is all it took for this diet to essentially trip my wires into disordered eating.

Yes, you read that right. Just three days of following the Medifast diet program GAVE THIS BLOGGER AN EATING DISORDER!!!!! Or so she claims.
Even a fifth grader could tell from the first few paragraphs of this hit piece that blogger Jolie Kerr planned to pan the Medifast 5&1 program even before her food arrived and use as much hyperbole doing so as a teenage girl with a humongous stash of exclamation points.

There are so many things factually wrong with the Jezebel piece that the blogger's credibility -- starting with spelling the company's name wrong (um, it's Medifast, not MediFast) and including the not-so-irrelevant factoid the writer was suffering from an ear problem during her three-day pseudo science experiment, which likely colored how sick she felt and how bad the food tasted.

But, hey, let's not let facts get in the way of a good story. Real news sites that stick to the boring truth are quaint artifacts in the online media age in which snark and exaggeration make the tastiest click bait.

What's surprising is that Medifast brought this $#!+ storm of an article on itself by sending Jezebel an email which began:

“As you are aware spring wedding season is right around the corner. This year, another wave of brides-to-be will want nothing more than to look perfect on their big day.”

Then they sent the blogger a free supply of Medifast food and assigned her to one of its less helpful TSFL health coaches.

But the clues were there all along that the published piece would be anything but a love poem. A quick review of other blog posts from this Jezebel blog channel surfaced the following juicy nuggets:

On brides:

She’s got a Pinterest board filled with pictures of Queen Titania from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, she’s gonna look dewy if it kills her, and she’s commissioning a trio of ice sculpture mermaids for the reception, which would look out of place almost anywhere but especially in the suburbs of Cleveland, where this is taking place

On wedding planners:

Weird that at a time when natural births are so in vogue, so too is having cosmopolitan, white-gloved sherpa guide you through each and every choice you make about a big party, down to the very last ahi tuna wonton crisp.

On wedding guests:

Forbes suggests planning early and getting a cheap gift, but even that’s not going to save you from the price creep. Maybe the best idea is to just cut all your friends off as soon as they get engaged. That’s when they stop being fun anyway.

Hey, I like satire as much as the next person. I grew up reading Mad magazine and am old enough to have watched the first season of "Saturday Night Live," um, live. 

But there's a difference between stretching the truth for laughs and twisting the truth so it forms a fiction pretzel.

Because the truth is that Medifast replacement meals are processed foods that are not designed to taste like something from the Food Network. Once you figure out which foods are doable and how to prepare them in a way that is completely different than the package directions, they are perfectly edible. More importantly, after losing your weight on the 5&1 Plan, you can transition to a diet of mostly fresh whole foods and avoid eating all the floury, sugary foods that made you fat in the first place.

But, hey, that is way too boring for Jezebel and its readers who would rather believe you can get an eating disorder from cutting up a Medifast bars into 16 pieces.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Fun Twists on the Serenity Prayer

Having just celebrated a birthday, I can tell you growing older has more pluses than minuses. One of the biggest perks is knowing what to pay attention to and what to ignore.

In other words, living by the first stanza of the serenity prayer:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

For instance, there's not much I can do about war in the Middle East or jerkwads people who take up two parking spaces.

Nor can I cause it to rain in California.

Or make Wall Street bankers have integrity.

Not fretting about things I cannot change gives me more energy to do things that are under my control. Like being kind to other people, learning something new every day and taking care of my health.

My experience has taught me I cannot directly change other people's behavior, but I can change how I respond. Which, in some cases, changes the behavior.

Sometimes role modeling the behavior I want reflected back works, too.

But, ultimately, I am responsible only for my behavior. It's up to others to manage their lives as they see fit.

Not that there aren't times I wish I could disappear annoying people:

But most of the time I am able to cope with a little help from my friends and a healthy dollop of humor:

Not to mention mind altering beverages:

Although, in some cases, I just have to fake it.

Maybe that's why I like my cats so much. There is nothing I can do to control them, and I am totally good with that.

So what does this all have to do with eating healthy or gaining optimal health?

Letting go of things we cannot change gives us more energy to control the things we can.

For instance:

I can't control if someone brings in cupcakes to work, but I can choose if I eat one.

I can't control if someone tries to cajole me into eating something I don't want, but I can say "no thank you."

I can't control if something bad happens to me and I want to comfort myself with food, but I can choose to do something else that makes me feel better.

In other words, I can choose to be a sunflower growing toward the light instead of a hapless clump of seaweed tossed by the waves.

And to feel serene knowing that some crazy lawn mower could mow over me at any time.

More from Diet Skeptic:

Why I'm Addicted to Chia Seeds

Why Fat Head Pizza Is the Holy Grail of Low Carb Pizzas 

The Shocking Truth About Imported Olive Oil

Making Cauliflower Rice in the Vitamix 

Why WebMD Doesn't Want You to Get Well

Follow Nancy's board Low Carb Recipes on Pinterest

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Why Nice Girls Wear Plus Sizes

The Link Between People Pleasing and Weight Loss

A woman in one of my Medifast Facebook groups was having trouble saying "no" to friends and family who pushed off-plan food on her because they "thought" she was losing too much weight.

I asked her why she didn't politely say "no" and she replied, "I'm too nice."

But is she?

I Googled the word nice and found out it means "pleasant and agreeable." So are nice people really just people pleasers who find it uncomfortable to swim in a different direction than the other fish?

Without going into the curious motivations of why some people try to sabotage other people's diets, it is important to understand why people pleasers allow them to get away with it. Deep down, they may not trust their own judgement or think they should put others' needs ahead of their own. Maybe people won't like them if they disagree.

Growing the backbone to stand up for themselves may be the first battle they need to fight.

Most of my friends and family no longer offer me food they know I do not routinely eat because they realize I mean business about my way of eating. But in situations where people who don't know me that well offer me a slice of cake or piece of candy, they sometimes don't take "no" for an answer right away. They'll ask, "Are you sure?" as if I hadn't heard them correctly or had a momentary lapse of sanity.

I just smile and say, "I'm good," but it's not because I am a good person or in any way better than they are. It's because I feel good about the choices I make, whether it's to eat a carrot or cupcake.

Before I could lose physical weight, I first had to lose the weight of other people's opinions.

More from Diet Skeptic:

Why I'm Addicted to Chia Seeds

Why Fat Head Pizza Is the Holy Grail of Low Carb Pizzas 

The Shocking Truth About Imported Olive Oil

Making Cauliflower Rice in the Vitamix 

Why WebMD Doesn't Want You to Get Well

Follow Nancy's board Low Carb Recipes on Pinterest

Monday, May 18, 2015

Review: Glenny's Brownies

Glenny's Brownies are the perfect snack for low carbers and portion controllers

One of the reasons Medifast worked so well for me is that I could still eat sweet tasting foods and lose weight. My favorite Medifast replacement meal was the brownie soft bake which tasted too good to be a "diet" food.

Since losing my weight, I have continued to enjoy sweet treats that fit in with my low carb way of eating, such as GNC Advanced Lean Protein and Quest bars.

Recently one of my Medifast Facebook friends turned me on to a 100-calorie brownie from Glenny's. She loves them so much she has them on Amazon autoship; so I knew I had to try them.

Coincidentally, this friend turned out to live less than a mile away from my house, and she kindly offered to drop off a sample.

It was love at first bite.

Just from reading the ingredients list, Glenny's brownies seem more like something you would make in your kitchen than a chemistry lab.

So far I have tried only the peanut butter brownies (there are also chocolate chip and blondie flavors), which I ordered immediately from Amazon after tasting one. They are less expensive than the Medifast brownie soft bakes and do not have to be mixed with water.

Another plus is that Glenny's brownies do not contain any fructose and have more fiber than the Medifast brownies -- although the Medifast brownies have more protein.

I like to microwave my Glenny's brownies from 7-12 seconds and top them with a smidge of almond butter. The extra fat increases the satiety factor so I can eat one of these babies for breakfast and not think about food for several hours.

I can totally see keeping a Glenny's brownie in my purse for those times when I crave a little something sweet or am tempted by some cupcakes or cookies at work.

Thank you, Dawn, for turning me on to this delightful treat!

More from Diet Skeptic:

Why I'm Addicted to Chia Seeds

Why Fat Head Pizza Is the Holy Grail of Low Carb Pizzas 

The Shocking Truth About Imported Olive Oil

Making Cauliflower Rice in the Vitamix 

Why WebMD Doesn't Want You to Get Well

Follow Nancy's board Low Carb Recipes on Pinterest

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Low Carb Eating While Living Out of a Suitcase

As my five loyal blog readers know (eight if you count my cats), I was out of town the last four weeks for business travel and faced my biggest hurdle since starting the maintenance phase of my diet -- eating healthy away from home.

For me, "eating healthy" has become another way of saying consuming as many whole fresh foods as possible and avoiding flour and sugar as much as possible.

This definition is not shared by the Marriott Residence Inn, whose breakfasts are mostly pastries, waffles, breads, potatoes, cereals, oatmeal and sugary yogurt. The few times I ate their free breakfast I had some scrambled eggs and a few strips of bacon, but most days I saved time and avoided temptation by eating a Medifast soft bake with some almond butter in my room.

Can you imagine starting your day
with waffles, fruit, syrup
AND whipped cream?
Since my schedule allowed only a half hour for lunch, the mid-day meal was trickier. There was no way to procure and eat a meal within that short time frame; so I had to bring my lunch. One of my favorites was romaine lettuce wraps that I prepared myself with turkey and avocado. I also purchased ready-made salads the night before from a grocery store like Trader Joe's or from whichever restaurant I had eaten my dinner. On Fridays, my work site hosted a Farmers Market where I could buy spicy grilled chicken breast and salad from the Greek food stand. The vendor was agreeable to subbing extra salad for the usual side of rice.

Dinner was probably the easiest meal of the day since I had more time and could order my food just the way I liked it.  Most nights I had some kind of protein like steak or chicken with vegetables and/or salad on the side. I also ate bunless burgers and Mexican food with no chips. For the most part.

I would be less than honest if I did not confess to indulging in a couple of margaritas and martinis a few times and maybe some nibbles of freshly baked bread or a handful of crispy chips. But, since losing 35 on Medifast over a year ago, I  have become so habituated to not consuming excess carbs that I was able to forego these foods and adult beverages most of the time with little or no will power.

Try this lettuce wrap recipe from
Gold Standard Women blog
Meanwhile, for snacks during the day I packed foods like walnuts, mini peppers and hummus, brie cheese and celery, and GNC Advanced Lean Protein bars. I also drank plenty of water so I would stay hydrated and not mistake thirst for hunger. I passed on the bagel spread someone brought in one day and the ubiquitous candies, cakes and other baked goods that are the bane of modern work places.

The good news is that I did not gain weight during my four weeks as a hotel hostage, proving that I can take my show on the road without morphing into the next clothing size or compromising my health. I am committed to maintaining my ideal weight and am delighted I have found a way of eating I can adhere to even when I leave the comforts and conveniences of home.

More from Diet Skeptic:

Why I'm Addicted to Chia Seeds

Why Fat Head Pizza Is the Holy Grail of Low Carb Pizzas 

The Shocking Truth About Imported Olive Oil

Making Cauliflower Rice in the Vitamix 

Why WebMD Doesn't Want You to Get Well

Follow Nancy's board Low Carb Recipes on Pinterest

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Why I Don't Follow the Medifast Maintenance Plan

There's an old joke everyone's Uncle Larry tells about cigarette smoking. "It's easy to quit. I've done it a thousand times."

Sadly, the same is true about weight loss.
For many of us, losing weight is easier
than maintaining our weight loss

Most of us have lost weight on all the popular diets from Cabbage Soup to Nuts-trisystems, but we gained the weight back later ... and then some.

The fact is, it's much easier to lose weight than maintain our ideal weight after our diet is dunzo.

When we are in the process of shedding pounds, we are following someone else's rules on how to achieve our goal. But in the maintenance phase -- theoretically, the rest of our lives -- the rules are more loosey goosey. Many diet plans have maintenance guidelines that rely on concepts like portion control and eating low-fat foods. This approach is so effective, most people gain their weight back.

Sarcasm intended.

I think these are called Chocolate Dream Bars because
whoever thought these were a good idea was dreaming.
Since losing 35 pounds on Medifast over a year ago, I have thus far managed to keep my weight off successfully by not following the official Medifast Maintenance Guide. In fact, I do pretty much the opposite and eat a low-carb, moderate protein and relatively high-fat diet.

If I had followed the Medifast maintenance guidelines, I would have unlearned many of the good habits I developed on Medifast 5&1 by adding more carbs to my diet and eating mostly low-fat proteins like skim milk and non-fat yogurt.

While I was perfectly happy eating my hamburgers naked while losing weight on Medifast, maintenance says it's fine to eat them on buns again, albeit whole wheat.

The company has recently taken its misguided maintenance approach a step further down the wrong path by introducing a Medifast 3&3 Plan composed of three meals containing carbs and low-fat protein with three "healthy fuelings," including Medifast maintenance foods, such as the Chocolate Dream Bar which contains 13 grams of sugar -- compared to only 1 gram of sugar in a Quest Bar with the same number of calories.

Yo, Dr. A... have you checked
the nutritional labels
on your own products lately?
Ironically, if you were to follow Dr. Wayne Andersen's advice and "always check the sugar content on a food label," you would steer clear of  the Medifast maintenance line of bars, shakes and smoothies.

After losing weight on Medifast, I did a lot of research on the best way to maintain a healthy body weight. For me, the magic formula has been keeping my carbs relatively low, my protein moderate and my fat relatively high. There are many books out right now that promote this WOE (way of eating), along with blogs and nutritional studies that back up the reason a higher-fat, lower-carb diet works.

If I were cynical I might suggest that Medifast counsels a relatively low-fat, high-carb maintenance plan because the company knows you will likely gain your weight back and become a Medifast 5&1 replacement meal customer again. But I am sure this eating plan works well for some people, especially those who are very disciplined and enjoying weighing and measuring their skinless chicken breasts and non-fat cottage cheese.

Personally, I prefer eating higher fat foods that help me feel full because it helps me eat fewer calories overall and avoid Mr. Toad's wild blood sugar ride.

Your mileage may vary.

Tip: If you are looking for a good maintenance bar for a healthyish snack or meal replacement, I recommend the GNC Total Lean Advanced Protein bars or Quest bars.

More from Diet Skeptic:

Why I'm Addicted to Chia Seeds

Why Fat Head Pizza Is the Holy Grail of Low Carb Pizzas 

The Shocking Truth About Imported Olive Oil

Making Cauliflower Rice in the Vitamix 

Why WebMD Doesn't Want You to Get Well

Follow Nancy's board Low Carb Recipes on Pinterest