The Nordic-Terranean Venn Diagram Food Plan

 

 

If any good comes of the health crises abounding on Hubby’s side of the familial ledger and my brother in law’s quad bypass surgery, it’s that we’ve both felt the Universe’s foot in our butts about making some overdue changes to our food choices and exercise goals.

The two of us have family medical histories that read like a CDC bulletin: cardiovascular disease, including high blood pressure; diabetes; cancer; strokes; arthritis. In fact, Hubby had an uncle who had the trifecta of cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. He still made it to 80, but the last few years were of highly questionable quality.

Needless to say, we don’t want that. It goes double for me since then nonsmokers in my family hang around until their 90s. Several lengthy conversations and not a little research later, we drew the following conclusions:

  1. Both of us need to move our behinds a lot more. I added weight training (we have a machine in the basement) twice a week and committed to practicing with yoga videos from YouTube at least twice a week on top of walking with Oakley at least 30 minutes a day.
  2. We needed to tweak our food intake. Even though there is nothing more soothing to the soul than carbs and cheese, a steady diet of it does no one any good. Especially when mac and cheese, albeit homemade, becomes the default meal.
  3. Portion control is a factor. We are both guilty of eating out of the container and picking at leftovers and stress eating.
  4. Both of us see kale as the vegetable equivalent of waterboarding.
  5. We like ice cream and cake.

So how do we make these changes as painless as possible? We had been sort of kind of eating according to the Mediterranean diet. (Graphic on the right, not mine in any way shape or form.) For Hubby, it’s perfect because his roots sink deep into the soil of the Mediterranean Sea’s eastern shores. He just has to do some portion control and he’ll be in great shape.

For me, however, it was a tad too high in carbs, even unrefined ones, and fats, even healthy olive oil. Plus I’m wired to need more substantial sources of protein than legumes and nuts. (Now you know why I can’t go completely vegetarian.) Unlike Hubby’s, my ancestors wandered all over the map of the United Kingdom, western and northern Europe. What, then, should I eat?

Behold the graphic in the upper left: the Nordic, or Baltic diet.  (Again, not my work.) A team of Helsinki researchers riffed on the Mediterranean pyramid to use products that are easier to find in northern Europe.  It emphasizes lower glycemic foods such as berries; grains such as barley, rye, and oats; lentils; and more dairy products, preferably low fat. Oh, and canola oil, preferably organic. Plus potatoes.

The overlaps are in the seafood, leafy greens, nuts, yogurt, and small amounts of chocolate departments. We start meal planning from there.

We back off on the starch based meals and watch the amount of oil. Trina Hahnemann’s New Nordic Diet has a crazy easy cod and mussel stew recipe that’s become a go-to, replacing the mussels with shrimp if we can’t get to the fish monger’s.  Just put everything in the pan and let it steam until done. I am eating rye bread most of the time–the really good bread Aldi gets from Germany. I am eating oatmeal.

If we can stay the course, we can still have a bit of cheese and we can still have pasta a couple of times a week in moderation.

I am happy. I will be more more so when the scale starts to move.

 

 

 

 

 

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Back to the Mat

 

 

About three weeks ago, I weighed myself. I weighed my self and oh, holy crap, was that a number I hope never to see again. As soon as I finished cursing myself, my menopausal process, and all the sorrows that had unfolded between the last time I was at a healthy weight (Orion’s crossing; hormones or lack thereof; stress from Hubby’s mom’s passage; stress from Hubby working at home before he retired; genetics; colorful and interesting family issues) and that moment.

And then I started troubleshooting. What was different then:

  • I followed a low-glycemic diet (a/k/a smart carb, low GI, South Beach).
  • I was younger and had something that vaguely resembled a metabolism.
  • I was a lot more active. Oakley likes his walks and playing at day care, but he is not the hiker Orion was. It wasn’t uncommon for Orion to drag me around the four-mile trail system at the nearby state park, then be ready for another walk in the evening.
  • On top of that, I went to yoga and dance classes.
  • I tracked my food intake and weighed myself very week or so.

So back to low-GI eating and increasing activity. More importantly,  tracking it. I found a free app called FatSecret (godawful name for a very useful tool) through a friend whose dietitian recommended it. Not only can a user keep an eye on carbs, calories, and fat, but it sends an email every two weeks to remind you to weigh yourself. The low-GI plan is flexible enough that the journey to a healthy weight may have a few pit stops for cookies or ice cream here and there. Not many. But a few.  I lost seven pounds in the last couple of weeks. You will sleep better not knowing how much more I have to go, but at least the numbers are going in the right direction. This will be slow, but I will get there.

With nutrition squared off, the next challenge was exercise. I started taking yoga again. I found a small studio near my home with small classes (three of us, usually). The instructor is about my age.  She understands how to move a body that survived the battles of daily life. Today, savasana (a/k/a corpse pose); tomorrow the headstands. Or maybe next week. We’ll do it when we do it. No hurry in the meantime.

Much of it felt good, right, and lead to better sleep. Some of it lead my body to express its displeasure about not moving consistently the last few years. The extra magnesium and Advil negotiate the truce between mind and back, hamstrings, and rear end.

In addition to the gentle but through workout, yoga helps to balance the endocrine system and to relieve stress while making you aware of your body’s wants and needs for movement as well as sustenance. Sometimes it’s as simple as a glass of water or changing to a more comfortable position.

And sometimes a person really does need a bit of chocolate. Not often, but sometimes you just do,

My Friendemy the Scale

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Yep, I’m back to working on my weight. In the last couple of weeks, several friends have had problems related by conditions related to theirs. If any good is coming out of it, it will be that I’m drawing inspiration from their troubles.

Which is a polite way of saying that their experiences are The Mystery’s foot in my butt about deleting some pounds. I’m taking the hint and making changes.

The first one: I bought a scale last week. It’s a bit on the fancy side. The scale records weight and BMI readings for up to four people. Last week’s weigh-in wasn’t pretty, but at least the number was lower than at the start of the Weight Watchers disaster a couple of years ago. For that, I’m grateful. Sort of.

Some people feel that it’s better to go by how your clothes feel. In theory, yes. In practice for me, it’s been more like the icky, cruel story about the frog in the water that gets gradually heated used as a metaphor for getting lulled into compliance. It’s how I’ve convinced myself  in the past that I could wear jeans two sizes too small by rationalizing that it’s just water retention. Can’t do that anymore.

I also know that the numbers have squat to do with my worth as a human being. I need the objective information so I can see my progress. No more, no less.

Onto the second change: I downloaded an app to help with tracking food and exercise. It’s easy to use and calculates what your daily caloric intake should be based on starting weight, age, height, and goal weight. Personally, I think it’s nuts. It wants me to eat an amount of calories that seems more suitable for a professional athlete than for a sedentary middle aged woman who never had much of a metabolism in the first place.

The third: I need a lot more plain water. Heaven She knows I loves my iced tea and coffee. However, the caffeine is impacting my adrenals and throwing me off balance.

The fourth: I need to modify exercise. I walk Oakley for about an hour a day total. Well, it’s more like walk, sniff this, stand in front of me to protect me from a butterfly, take a few steps and repeat. The pace of a dog walk versus the pace of a walk to lose weight are very different. I will investigate YouTube videos for options and start using the dance DVDs already in my possession.

At this stage of the game, it’s about staying as healthy as I can for as long as I can. I have some nasty stuff running in my family (heart disease for both parent and Dad was type 2 diabetic). Dad also had arthritis in his knees and spine. I’ve started having cracking and creaking in my right knee. No, thank you.

I know I will never be a size two. Between age and genetic makeup, that ain’t gonna happen. As the tag line for the diet company ad said some years ago, I’m going for a size healthy.

At a Loss for a Witty Attention-Grabbing Title

 I don’t have smoke coming out of my ears today. That’s a good thing. The new battery has completely resolved the issues with the cursor and Oakley’s tummy has remained stable. For those small blessings, I am truly grateful.

Made a slightly too spicy pot of soup for lunch today. The jalepenos spiced it up a little too much. Will add some more coconut milk–aiming at a Thai-style green curry. Not bad, but just a little too hot. Rice will help, too. 

Experimenting with more Indian food at home. We both like it. Why not? I have a book with reduced fat recipes. I eat Indian; I am happy. I am less likely to find ways to get into culinary mischief. Also a good way to slip in greens if spices, ginger, and other flavorings are involved. Check out Anjum Arnad’s Indian Every Day for easy and exotic deliciousness. Yum.

Per Dr. Weil, I’ve set the goal of eating more fish. Now if I could just remember that fried isn’t such a good thing…