Thinking about my 50th high school reunion this weekend.
A few months ago, my Nurse Practitioner and I determined that a three-day bellyache was the result of an intolerance for milk protein and eggs. Since that time, I’ve cut back on both. Especially challenging has been finding breakfasts that have enough staying power (i.e. protein.) I also want these to be high on taste and fiber while staying low in fat, calories, sugar, and hence, Weight Watcher Smart Points (SPs). Yes, after over fifteen years on Maintenance, I still follow WW. Mostly.
Certainly, I could make a smoothie with veggie protein powder, but a tall, frosty glass of anything isn’t appealing when there is snow on the ground. And frankly a smoothie isn’t a very satisfying meal in general. I like to chew my food. In fact, the chewier the better.
With that in mind, here are a few breakfasts I’ve put into the morning rotation with no unborn chickens and only a little dairy now and then. It seems to be working. The Smart Points (SPs) are given, because that’s how I roll. For perspective, my daily SP budget is 23. All protein and Smart Point counts are estimates based on my calculations.
Something on toast: Tofutti cream “cheese” on half a bagel (6 SPs, 7 grams protein) or Better ‘n Peanut Butter on a Thomas Double Protein English Muffin. (7 SPs, 11 grams protein)
Bulgur wheat porridge: I’ve been making a big batch with almond milk instead of water. It takes about 20 minutes to cook but saves nicely in the fridge in an airtight container. I can simply microwave a portion for a few minutes, then add whatever fruit and sweetener I want. Berries or a banana are very tasty. 1 cup =5 SPs, 8 grams of protein made with almond milk and without added sugar
Garbanzo flour mini-frittatas: I found the recipe for these on Pinterest. Sauté whatever veggies sound good (spinach, zukes, onion, peppers, mushrooms…) and portion it out into muffin cups. Put ¼ cup of the “egg mixture” on top and bake. It makes a dozen, so I freeze 3-muffin portions in zip-lock baggies. They are a bit bland, so I splash on some green Tabasco before I eat. 3 mini-frittatas= 6 SPs, 10 grams of protein
Apple & turkey sausage pita pockets: I admit this one is a little weird. Maybe it’s my German heritage, but I think it’s super tasty. 1 chopped apple, 3 fully-cooked turkey sausage links cut into discs, 1 pita pocket (I like Josef’s), 2 Tbsp syrup (I used sugar-free, but that’s just me). Toss apple chunks into a fry pan that you’ve sprayed with some Pam. Start browning. Add turkey sausage. Cook and stir until they are browned a bit. Remove from heat. Stir in about 2 Tbsp of syrup. Spoon the mixture into two halves of a pita. 2 filled pita halves= 4-5 SPs, depending on pita, with sugar-free syrup, 13 grams of protein
Bob’s High Fiber Cereal: I can only find this online (or at Bob’s store in Portland, OR when I’m there), so I order a case and store it in freezer bags in the deep-freeze. Here’s my favorite way to make this: In a large-enough-to-allow-for-bubbling microwavable bowl, measure 1/3 cup Bob’s Red Mill Organic High Fiber Cereal, ½ Cup (or more) frozen mixed berries, and a scant 2/3 cup water. Microwave 5 minutes on 70% power. Top with 1 Tbsp brown sugar and ¼ cup of fat free plain Greek yogurt. Yes, yogurt. As long as I keep milk products to a minimum, my belly seems to be fine. One serving=6 SPs, 13 grams of protein when topped with Greek yogurt.
I still enjoy Eggo Low-fat toaster waffles with berries and yogurt from time to time and indulge in a couple of perfectly poached eggs on toast every few weeks. So far, so good. I have yet to explore the world of scrambled tofu. Maybe that’s next?
A few months ago, I suffered a bellyache that confined me to the couch with a heating pad for three days. Of course, it was over a weekend, so I waited until Monday to call my doctor’s office. Of course, he couldn’t see me right away. And of course, by the time I got in, the bellyache had pretty much resolved itself. When I finally got in, the wonderful Nurse Practitioner asked questions and listened as I described my symptoms. She grew suspicious of food allergies and sensitivities.
“I don’t have any,” I protested with a shrug. “I eat everything.”
She nodded, then ordered an ultrasound (to rule out anything really scary) and blood tests—a regular panel and a food sensitivity panel.
“The good news,” she assured me, “You’re not allergic to chocolate.”
But, why now?
It’s hard to believe that after 67 years of consuming milk, yogurt, and cheese nearly every day, that this could be the case. Nonetheless, I reviewed what I had eaten in the day or two leading up to that bad belly. It was my daughter’s birthday and I baked her a cheesecake. The filling hadn’t all fit into the pan, so I had cooked the extra separately. I had consumed some of that overage AND a generous slice on her birthday–as well as a slice (or two maybe? Don’t judge) of homemade deep-dish pizza. Are you counting up the dairy servings here?
Basically, I had OD-ed on dairy.
Some personal history
For over a decade I’ve stuck to a pretty healthy regimen of lean protein, whole grains, and lots of fruits and veggies. It’s allowed me to maintain the thirty-five-pound weight loss I achieved with the help of Weight Watchers. So, like anyone who is in the habit of looking at food labels and weighing the pros and cons of almost everything that goes into my mouth, I sought out nondairy alternatives for my favorite foods. I found many substitutes, some of which actually taste okay. Not delicious, but okay.
I learned a few things. For example, “nondairy” creamer contains casein, the milk protein. I also discovered that many of the milk substitutes offer little nutrition, especially protein and calcium. Some items (I’m looking at you, almond milk yogurt) are higher in calories than the items I’m trying to replace. Sure sorbet is dairy-free, but nowhere near calorie-free. A predicament for someone intent of maintaining what’s left of her girlish figure.
Breakfast protein has been my biggest challenge. Certainly, there are plenty of dairy-free, egg-free protein sources out there–nuts, beans, edamame. But will I eat a bowl of garbanzos for breakfast? Probably not.
For me the idea of never having a fro-yo, a poached egg, or a slice of Tillamook sharp cheddar again is unthinkable. Therefore, I’ve decided on a “middle of the road” strategy for now and have applied the 80/20 rule. 80% of my diet will accommodate my food sensitivities, especially dairy and eggs. No more than 20% will be from the forbidden list. With that in mind, I’ve cut way back on my cheese and yogurt consumption, substituted almond or soy milk in my lattes, enjoyed eggs just once a week, and spread Tofutti cream cheese on my bagel. So far, so good. No bad belly.
If you’ve faced similar food issues, what are you eating now? Have you discovered any helpful resources? Please share! I’ll post here from time to time as I figure this out.
Furthermore, since I don’t want troublesome foods gang up on me again, I won’t risk Eggs Benedict, fondue, lasagna, and cheesecake on the same day. Not even on my birthday.
While being interviewed a few days ago, one of the ship’s food and beverage managers said that passengers gain an average of one to two pounds per day on a cruise. Per day! Not bad if this were only a weeklong cruise. But this one lasts eighteen days.
Could I actually gain thirty-six pounds? Not that I don’t like a challenge, but that’s how much I lost fifteen years ago and promised myself I’d NEVER have to lose again. Besides, I gave away all my fat clothes.
So this is one area in which I am determined to stay well BELOW average.
I do expect the scale to be up a bit. After all, I’m on vacation and the food is delicious and plentiful. The dining room offers modest portions of delectable dishes, appetizers, and desserts, all included in what you already paid for the cruise. So, it’s practically free.
Or one can choose to eat at the buffet. It’s a more casual atmosphere and there are more choices. Besides, you don’t have to share your table with eight strangers as you do in the dining room. That’s helpful if, like me, your traveling companion resides at the extreme end of introvert spectrum.
Trouble is, at a buffet you can take as much as you like of anything and go back for seconds. Or thirds. Or— you get the idea.
And then there is room service. Food, drinks, whatever you want, brought to you. Day or night.
To counteract this increase in intake there is a well-equipped gym, a running/walking track, fitness classes, and stairs. So many stairs. Yoga, spin, belly dancing, and boot camp give passengers plenty of opportunities to burn off a few of the extra desserts and cocktails.
However, I’ve learned you can’t out exercise a bad diet. I can eat way faster than I can run.
I just have to make good food choices and move my lady-like keester. You know, that motivation thing. Overcoming excuses–too hot, too cold, ooh look, ice cream! And setting priorities– I really ought to finish reading that book, or work on my novel, or check my email… You know, that stuff.
That being said, I’m at the gym the other morning, using the elliptical when I notice a middle-aged Asian gentleman on a stationary bike. He finishes, reaches for his collapsible cane and feels his way to the towel rack and the next machine in his circuit. Yes, he was blind. By himself. On vacation. On a boat. And did I mention he was blind?
My excuses paled in comparison. I hung my head and powered through a few more sweaty minutes and a 30-minute stretch class before climbing the stairs to breakfast. Then I strolled right past the sweet rolls and pancakes, the biscuits and gravy, and the explicably ever-present baked beans on toast. I selected poached eggs, wheat toast, and as much fresh pineapple and melon as I could fit on my plate.
Day 15 and I can still zip and button my capris. I’ll take that as a win.
Warning: This post is directed to members and former members of Weight Watchers. Others may be confused by the talk of Points, the WW calculation that takes into consideration nutritional elements besides calories–things like protein, carbs, fat, and fiber. The program and formula have changed over WW’s 50 year history, causing much weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth. Every time.
In 2001, I weighed over two hundred pounds. How much over, I’ll leave to your imagination. It only took me two years to reach my goal. Am I just slow-learner or do I suffer from attention deficit issues? Maybe both? You can read about my weight loss journey here: Gains and losses go beyond the scale. But I’m not talking about that today. Today, fifteen years later, I’m talking about perspective, trust, and looking at the big picture when it comes to change.
First, I know that the support and accountability I received from staff and other members at Weight Watcher meetings were key. Anyone can hand you a diet. That’s easy. But with WW I learned strategies to replace a lifetime of unhealthy habits with healthier ones and to make myself a priority. We commiserated and celebrated. Where else could I get applauded for losing two-tenths of a pound, eating only half a doughnut, or being able to cross my legs?
Long story short, I lost weight on the Points program, living on 19 Points a day with a few extras thrown in from a weekly slush fund we were given. The little extras were to make the program livable so we wouldn’t feel deprived. Back in those days, we still had to count Points for fruit. That seems like the dark ages now. Not as dark as the 60s, when you had to eat liver and couldn’t eat pasta, but still, dark.
I became a part-time leader when I retired from teaching. It seemed like a natural fit, passing on the lessons I’d learned and encouraging others along the path. You can learn some of those strategies by clicking on the HH4HH tag on this page.
A few years later, Weight Watchers unveiled PointsPlus at leader training. All of our daily points increased from 19 to 26. You’d think we’d be happy. Nope. We were afraid. Everyone cried and fussed. Remember, leaders are successful Weight Watchers. We LOVED and were committed to the old program. We KNEW it worked. We KNEW we’d gain weight on this “new and improved” program. Who were they kidding? We whined,“I can’t eat that much and maintain!” and “Why do I have to change?” and “Can’t I keep going on the old program?”
What we were told, with a smile, was this: “Weight Watchers offers and supports the best program, supported by the latest research. If you don’t feel you and your members deserve the best, feel free to stick with the old program, but without our support.” Ouch.
Still grumbling a bit, we thought more about it. We realized something. With the new PointsPlus formula, while the points for some of our favorite foods (like carbs) had gone up, now all fresh fruit and most vegetables were free, as in ZERO points. Essentially what WW did was drag us (sometimes kicking and screaming) toward healthier choices. Under the old system a cookie and an apple were roughly equivalent choices, point-wise. In the new system, a cookie would cost you points, whereas the apple was free. Zero points.
Okay, I got it. I was supposed to eat more apples, fewer cookies. And I did. I also ate fewer processed foods, cut my oatmeal serving from 1/2 to 1/3 cup, and added fresh fruit to it rather than raisins. Small changes, really.
Little by little, we adjusted. More people joined WW and lost weight. And if they’d never experienced any of the previous programs, PointsPlus was WW. And as always, it worked if you worked it.
Nevertheless, time and science keep marching on, so now, along comes the latest research-based (r)evolution, SmartPoints. And guess what! This time calories, sugars, and saturated fats were added to formula, so lots of the foods in the WW data base changed values. Again! But, once again, they gave me MORE points to eat every day. Now I get 30. (Remember, I used to get only 19!) And I still get extras every week.
If I’m honest about how I’ve worked the program over the last few years, even though my daily target was 26, I ate about 30 points a day. I also traded my Activity Points for food, so that most of my extras remained (ahem) on the table. So this “big change” isn’t such a big change. For me. I changed which tortillas and salad dressing I buy. I use the bar code scanner on the WW mobile app more often to discover the best SmartPoints bargains.
While I no longer work for WW, I do trust them to provide me with the best program. And I still weigh in at a meeting every month, because as long as I stay at goal, it’s free. And because it works.
Thanks to WW, I weighed less on my 60th birthday than I did on my 50th. So now I try to keep the big picture in mind as I adapt to this particular change and continue to take baby steps toward a healthier me.
Informative and useful summary of the science regarding our brains and our bellies.
Thanks to Eric Carle and The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
There are at least three types of hunger and until we recognize and learn to differentiate among them, we can’t respond to them appropriately.
- REAL hunger. You haven’t eaten in a few hours. Your tummy rumbles, you may feel a bit cranky or light-headed.
- HEDONIC hunger. You eat because food is pleasurable. You’ve recently eaten a satisfying meal, but your favorite dessert suddenly appears. Or you see a commercial for a juicy hamburger on TV. Or you walk into the mall just as the Cinnabons are coming out of the oven. Your mouth waters. Your hunger feels real, but you crave something specific, such as pizza or chocolate.
- EMOTIONAL hunger. You’re tired, stressed, angry, frustrated, sad, lonely, or happy. You eat to feel better, to feel part of the group, or to celebrate.
Trouble is, only two of those can ever truly be satisfied by food.
Real hunger definitely needs to be addressed with food. If mealtime is still a ways off, grab a snack such as a piece of fruit, a carton of yogurt, or a hunk of low-fat cheese. Letting yourself get too hungry can easily lead to overindulgence because your brain doesn’t/can’t make wise choices when it’s hungry. And remember to drink up–water that is. Many times our bodies register hunger when what we are really experiencing is thirst.
Hedonic hunger can also be addressed with food, but very carefully. Sometimes it’s a matter of “taking ten.” Wait out the craving. Take a walk. Brush your teeth or chew some minty gum. Accomplish a chore away from the kitchen. Have a cup of herbal tea. The ones with cinnamon or peppermint are particularly good at hitting my sweet tooth. If the craving is still there, have a small bit of whatever it is you were craving. One Dove Dark or a Ghirardelli Square are my go-to for a chocolate craving.
Emotional hunger is the troublesome one. It can’t be quelled with food, no matter how much you eat. An entire pie, a half-gallon of ice-cream, a bag of Doritos. Nothing fills you up, and then– of course– you have the emotional aftermath and feelings of hopelessness and failure. The trick (if there is a trick) is to catch yourself before you indulge. Ask yourself what you are feeling and find a way to directly address that feeling. Stressed, angry, or sad? Go outside. Head to the gym or take a walk. You are literally only a few steps away from a better mood. Those endorphins kick in and you will feel better. Lonely? Call a friend. Connect with others. Tired? Take a nap. Pamper yourself a little. Take a long, hot bath. Do your nails or schedule a pedicure. Or a massage. Not sure what you’re feeling? Write in a journal.
If you can discover what you’re really hungry for, you can make one more baby step toward your own transformation.
This will be the last weekly post in this series. There may be more from time to time, but I feel the need to move on to other projects now. Stay tuned! I wish you well and would love to hear from you. Take care and remember to be kind to yourself as you make progress toward your own goals.
Sometimes, in spite of our best efforts, the numbers on the scale don’t budge. Or–God forbid!–they go in the wrong direction. There are lots of reasons that can happen, but I know my weight can vary as much as four pounds without doing anything “bad.” We retain water, our digestive system slows down, or we’ve started new medications. The dangerous thing is when we allow the scale to mess with our brain. Down? Great! Maybe I can have pie. Up? What’s the use? I give up. Let’s have pie. See?
Ups and downs are part of the journey. Even people at healthy weights fluctuate day-to-day. It just happens. And while I can’t keep the scale’s roller coaster from happening, perhaps I can help with the emotional roller-coaster.
- First, if you find yourself obsessing over the scale, weigh yourself less often, like once a week. And always at the same time of day. Or do as one friend does and hide the scale entirely. She trusts the process–eating what she should and exercising–to get the job done.
- Take your measurements. If you are exercising and building muscle, your body is changing. You may see inches disappear without an appreciable loss on the scale.
- Pay attention to how your clothes fit. Can you button those pants now? Can you wear your rings again?
- How do you feel? Can you walk for 30 minutes now? Can you climb stairs without getting winded? Tie your shoes? Cross your legs? Touch your toes? Do your hips and knees hurt less? All of those are signs of progress.
- You look great! Compliments are always a mood-lifter. Be gracious and thank the giver of the compliment.
- Remember how far you’ve come and what good habits you’re developing. Give yourself a little credit!
Good health is a journey, not merely a destination. There will be ups and downs along the way. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward.