Sunday, December 30, 2018

Speaking of Food Choices

There are easy ways and there are hard ways to do just about anything. Work smarter, not harder is something we all want to strive to do. After writing last week's blog on Food Choices and how eating low carbs/higher in fats was working for so many people that I know, including me, I took the hard way over Christmas.

Thank goodness it was just that one day. I truly went in with good intentions, as most of us do. There were loads of good choices for me to make, however, I decided that having a little taste of each high carb would not hurt me. 

So far, it has not hurt me on the scales. Possibly slowed progress a little, but at least the numbers did not go up. That is the only good news. Why?  Because I can't tell you how miserable that I felt after eating it.

Possibly some emotional misery was there, but I am really talking physical misery. My whole body felt awful. Lethargic, nausea, headache, irritable, brain fog, and most definitely sugar cravings that gone away. Going from very low carb eating to what I chose to do was not a good thing to do. 

There were plenty of good choices for me to make. All the ham and turkey that I wanted, including the zero carb turkey gravy. However, the tablespoon of mashed potatoes, tablespoon of cheese grits, tablespoon (okay, 2 TBSP) of cornbread dressing, tablespoon of sweet potato casserole and one Parker House roll. Let's not forget the one English roast potato. What was I thinking? Answer:  I was NOT thinking. 

If I had been thinking, I would have made a low carb friendly zucchini parmesan fries in the oven and made one choice of something above. But no! I had to have a little of it all. I must say that it took my body three whole days to get over the shock. Today is the first day that I can say, "I am me again!" 

Can I truthfully say that it was worth it? No, I can't. I could have made smoked deviled eggs. Could have, should have, would have! Lots of naysayers will come up with the saying of, "Oh well, you only live once." And I am here to say that getting my body to crave what is good for me to stay feeling healthy is living and I want to live long. 

There is no need to feel like you are the Grinch at the Family Christmas Dinner. Even on this Feast Menu there were some excellent choices for me. Others who can afford to eat whatever they want is just great for them. I know what I need for me. It is a matter of being kinder to myself and considering what my body needs along with everyone else's needs.

This is my plan and I am sticking to it. Does it mean that I can go a bit higher on some days? Yes, of course. Just not hog wild which is what I call my behavior on our family get together. Not so much the amount that was on my plate, as it was to the macronutrients that were so out of balance to what I normally eat.

Most definitely, I have learned my lesson. I am thinking that I won't forget it. Always, I can come back to this blog and read how I felt or look at that specific day in my journal and the days following. There is something to say about pen to paper. 

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Food Choices

For everyone around the world, there are so many choices to make about what we eat, when we eat, why are we eating, and where we are eating. Most of us do not actually stop and think about it. For me, I have come to the conclusion that this is part of my challenge.

Well, at least I know that I did not. This was a big revelation for me. Until, the time came for me to work harder on losing weight, it never occurred to me. The one thing that I do know is that I must stop using the "D" word. Simply knowing what and why I am making the food choices that I make is the secret for me. Not being on a "diet."

First of all, I know that I won't follow a program if it is complex. What is complicated for me, may work for another person. All is good! We all have our preferences. I have learned that more and more people all around me were losing weight by taking away high carbohydrates from their diets. Let me break that down for you just in case you were like me and did not know about trying to follow a low carb program. 

It simply means that there are no potatoes, breads, sugars, pasta, and most fruits and veggies. Notice that I did highlight the word simply. The first time that I heard that, I just skipped on to something else. It was not going to work for me, a person who loves bread, adores potatoes and pasta dishes. No way!

So for me, in my mindset, it would not work. Weight Watchers was just too complicated in keeping up with all of those points. I was trying to use an app program that as long as I put in my foods, it kept my calorie count. Sometimes, my calories had been used by 2 p.m. and I was still hungry. (Basically, because what I was eating was high in carbs). I even tried a very expensive nationwide program that worked quickly in the beginning. Then the weight plateau happened and I began having severe sharp pains in my head, as if I had been zapped with an electric wand. Turned out that I was consuming too much aspartame and this affected my nervous system. My doctor said to get off this program and see if it stops. It did. Almost immediately. 

If counting calories by me and exercising did not really work for me then what would? 

At least a dozen different people were answering the questions of many friends about their weight loss. The answer was always the same. They gave up high carb foods. They tried to stay in the 20 - 30 net carb range per day. I sort of had my doubts, no, let me be perfectly honest. It was more than just doubting, however, since I had not at least tried it, I could not justify that this way of eating would or would not work for me. Change can be a good thing.

Researching low carb and keto programs became my focus until I felt comfortable going for it. The keto way was just a bit much for me. It turns out that you can go and get a meter at the drug store to check your blood to be sure that your body is in ketosis. If not, then you must cut more carbs out. Diabetics must do this. After researching more and having a friend who was losing weight in a good way tell me to watch a YouTube video with Bob Briggs called, Butter Makes Your Pants Fall Off.

I did and I learned so much about foods to avoid and why. What impressed me the most is that he was not trying to sell anything. He had nothing to sell. Turned out that he had a few homemade videos that showed some recipes that anyone could make. I even googled other low carb recipes, as well as what would be good to have in our refrigerator and pantry. 

There are very few restaurants that we can't go to and order low carb meals. Most will substitute any item that you can't eat such as a potato or rice. They will hold the bun so that you can eat a delicious burger with all the mayonnaise and mustard that you want, along with cheese, lettuce, onion, tomato even with some avocado and topped with an egg if you want. 

There are many things about this program that I do not understand; such as why blood pressure does not go through the roof or cholesterol. In one of the videos, it explains that people with the pear shape (big in the middle) are usually insulin resistant. It seems the answer is that their body does not burn fat the same way that other bodies do. It certainly explains the thin people walking around eating anything they like, yet never gaining a single pound. While others can lower their calorie intake and still have trouble. A la me!

I did ask my doctor about low carb/high fat programs and he said that it seems to work for a lot of people and he has not seen any negative side effects. I started slowly to read more and more about what is good and how to go about it all. It took me a while to not grab the low calorie foods, as in salad dressings, mayonnaise, cheeses, milk, etc. In fact, a lot of our cooking now is done with heavy cream, real butter, meats, certain vegetables and fruits, natural peanut butter, snacks of nuts...who knew?

There is an app for my phone that is called CarbManager that helps keep the percents of low carbs, higher fats and proteins. That helps me tremendously. The biggest surprise of all is just how much better I feel. No more Tums, blood pressure has never been a problem and my last check of cholesterol was down. 

The best thing of all is that we can remain eating this way. When something very special comes up, we can have some of it. For example, High Tea at The Peabody is a three course meal. Starts with three tiers of little finger sandwiches. Then a hot freshly baked blueberry scone with clotted cream and butter, and last, a three tier serving of small size desserts. NO one is going to say no to this. We simply watched what we ate the day before and the following days. Just staying on the lower side of net carbs. It worked.

Both of us are losing weight and inches. Both of us are feeling good and have more energy than before. Steve's doctor continues to take away meds that he no longer needs. 

All I can say is that it works for us. This is not something that one just goes back to eating anything and everything when the weight is off. There will come a time that when we decide that we want to splurge and have pizza, then by gosh we will. We both know that our bodies do not break down the sugars in the carbs the way some other bodies do, therefore, once we are where we are happy with our body shapes, we will continue eating healthy. It is a fact that we will be able to keep the weight off by eating the healthy way for our own bodies.

If this strikes a chord within you, please take the time to hear out Bob Briggs on some of his YouTube videos. The most unbelievable thing is that the above picture is on YouTube and there really is a song called this. Some guys from England watched Bob's videos and wrote this song. It is priceless. Enjoy! 

Sunday, December 16, 2018

BEWARE of the Word 'Instant' in Instant Pot

Normally, I am a very happy and carefree chef. Willing to try new recipes and new methods of cooking...this is why I finally caved in and asked for an Instant Pot. I figured it was better to be late than never. All I ever heard was how wonderful they are. They seemed to have an almost cult like following. Then, more and more low carb recipes were coming out with using the Instant Pot appliance. I got hooked and pulled in.

The Instant Pot went on my Wish List. You know the old saying, "Be careful what you wish for?" Well, after opening up the box and looking at the very non-user friendly Instructional Manual, I was most definitely feeling this way. What have I done? By what I was reading, I was becoming more afraid of using it. So much information and being a newbie, so much of it did not make sense.

Before actually cooking something, the manual suggesed trying something out with just water and letting it vent. Even these instructions did not mention that the user can't switch the button from sealed to vent. It just automatically is there. The user can easily break the button that clicks to vent but remains without clicking on sealed. You just learn this by doing and experimenting. 

The more I read about cooking with this pot, some things became very apparent. Even though people will tell you, and not just the advertising and marketing people for the product, that this magic pot can cook meals in minutes! I am here to tell you that this is far from the truth. 

It is just my husband and I, not a family of 4 or 5, however, we would like to get used to moving our dinner time up so that we are not so late in finally eating. That was the thought that kept going through my mind. The word "instant" is so misleading. There is some validity to the fact that the Instant Pot is basically a slow cooker on steroids. The Instant Pot does have a "Slow Cooker" button to push. In fact, it has so many buttons to push that it made my head spin. 

The one button that mine does not have is one labeled, "Manual." It does have, "Rice, Saute, Delay Start, Soups/Broths, Meat/Stew, Bean/Chili, Poultry, Multigrain, Porridge, Steam, Yogurt, Pressure Cook, Keep Warm, and Cancel."  All of this along with a button with a "- and a +." I also see the words low pressure and high pressure plus less, normal and more but they do not have buttons. Then there is the LED lights with the number of minutes or Off, On or Warm that pop up when plugged in. 

Even though I read that I can make a meal with minimal babysitting of the pot by using it and just walking away, this is not quite true. For me, it is going to take a lot of practicing before I can do this. My bubble has already been burst in that there will be no dinners made in minutes. The truth that is left out is that it takes at least 10 - 20 minutes for the Pot to heat up and come to pressure depending on how much food is in it. Then the food has to cook and releasing the pressure from the pot which is another 15 - 20 minutes. Most all of the recipes that I have found do not include the pre and post times in the instructions.  So that means at least doubling the cooking time. 

A good thing is that if you forgot to take something out of the freezer, you can put the whole frozen roast or chicken right in the pot. No more quick defrost in your microwave is necessary. It does mean being careful because the meats can look done but the inside is not cooked to the proper temperature. Thermometers are needed to be safe. The other problem is there can be venting issues and sealing issues, so much so that depending on what you are making, liquids can come spewing up out of the steam vent forcefully enough to hit the ceiling. Therefore, I continue to read the instruction manual over and over again and again. 

One review that I read after trying my hand at using the Pot had all positives and only one negative which was that it took a long time to release pressure naturally. This same reviewer said that the experts that they asked all agreed that it was easy to use and the settings were simply intuitive along with how clear the owner's manual was. Okay then, there you have it. At least I know that I am the slow kid in the class. 

With that being said, the last google search that I found had the most common mistakes of using an Instant Pot:

  • Forgetting to place the inner pot back into the Instant Pot before pouring in ingredients. 
  • Overfilling the Instant Pot past the Max line.
  • Using hot liquid when the recipe calls for cold liquid.
  • Putting the Instant Pot on the stovetop.

Even I could work my way through not making these mistakes. However the ones that scared me were:

  • Forgetting to turn the venting knob to sealing position.
  • Forgetting to put the sealing ring back in the lid before cooking.
  • Turning the venting slowly releasing pressure. No where did I see that having silicone gloves is best for this because cloth ones would still allow you to get burned. 
Last night we made our first meal together using this contraption. It was Salsa Chicken. I must say that the outcome was delicious. The procedure of getting the end results were so very frustrating. Someone told me that it is worth every penny and that it is a labor of love to learn but once it is learned, it is a very wonderful appliance. This has yet to be proven by me. Perhaps we will try one recipe a week and take it from there. I did find a tried and true recipe for hard boiled eggs. Cooks them set on 2 minutes and a natural pressure release of 10 minutes and then put in ice cold water. Supposedly, the magic happens when you start the peeling process. Never a problem to peel your hard boiled eggs again. 
Maybe this is just me venting, but WOW, do I feel better!

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Overcoming the Fear of Writing

For me, as a writer, I believe that I have a deep, dark fear somewhere in me about writing. Never have I ever felt that it is not a FUN thing to do. It is when I am at my highest floor on my mood elevator. The fear of writing that plays inside my head is that it will not be good enough. 

There is one thing that I have learned as a writer, which is that there is no one right way to go about it. Each writer must find what works for themselves. Sometimes I worry that I change the way that I enjoy writing too often. There are times that I love putting pen to paper. Words seem to flow effortlessly that way. Then, my mind changes and I go back to my computer. It is a bit of a challenge because I prefer my novel to be in one style or another. I suppose that I should be happy that I do not have an old fashioned typewriter, although I have dreams of using one. Also, it is good that I am aware that I am just too messy to use a real fountain pen that is dipped in the ink. If so, then I would have other styles to pull into one common thread.

After writing out a whole chapter by hand, eventually, I must go back and type it out. It sort of, kind of works for me in that it is a start of a first edit. The other positive side is that it helps me to see the timing of events that I am writing about. I was able to correct a major problem with my timing by doing this which helps correct problems that would pop up in later chapters and cause major editing issues.

Even Stephen King knows that the fear must be tossed to the side. Just write! Almost every single author will tell other writers to just write. I was doing that. Writing some every day. Only one person have I given some chapters to read and critique. I believe that he was honest and not totally biased. He had some very good ideas to tidy up and fix. This person happens to be my husband who is also writing. Plus, he serves as my marketing representative and has helped in getting me off to a good start.

Next, a good friend suggested a Writers' Workshop that was local. I decided to bite the bullet and go. Not knowing that once registered, the author, Susan Cushman, who would be leading the workshop, asked if we would like, we could send her up to 15 pages for her to critique.

I was a little leery and could feel the insecurity of my writing slipping in to my thoughts. It was important that I got a handle on this fear simply by thinking in a common sense fashion. I am a writer. I write because I love it and hopefully others will want to read what I write. It was a good thing that I managed to get control of my fear because she sent out all of the manuscripts that were sent to her to all of the participants. 

This was my mantra. Keep calm and write! And so I did. 

This really got me motivated to stop the worrying that my writing was not good enough. During the day-long workshop, we all talked about each other's submissions. It helped to have a "cheat sheet" for those of us who were amateurs in critiquing another's writing. We were not the grammar police or spell checkers. Simply helping the writer know how strong the character seemed or the plot of the story was powerful. We knew we were not suppose to be gooey, sugary, or sappy. Be positive where it was a strong point. As a former educator, I was very excited that everyone in the room offered positives to all of the submissions. When something needed worked on, it would be a suggestion, such as, "Have you thought about having more dialogue, versus telling about it?"

This was so helpful for me, and I am believing that it was for everyone else who attended. Truly, I felt spurred on and that had me go back and put some suggestions in what I had already written so that I would be starting back on my ending chapters in the same kind of voice. 

As far as being fearful of sending off queries to be published in the near future, I am going to hang this near my desk, in case I slip back now and then:


Sunday, December 2, 2018

Think Big!

Maybe it is the holiday season, maybe it is just me? Not sure. However, what I am sure of it is that I am needing a reboot to get more motivation and stop procrastinating. As a writer, I am writing every single day. This is the good news. The bad news, at least in my own mindset, is that it is not always totally focused on my novel. 

In order to accomplish this I had to reboot my focus. Instead of saying that I should be working on my novel, which is more or less a guilt feeling for me. Change the I should to I could be working on my
novel now. This is like giving me a choice. Not a command. 

I really do love a challenge. All through my working years, I went on to the next level in order to challenge myself and to step outside of my comfort zone. l truly do embrace change. 

As I was pondering these thoughts, it came to me that I needed to get certain phrases in my mindset. Some of my positive quotes were actually coming to be a very important part of my everyday life in getting me rebooted to work on my novel in a timely way. 

The first one was to discover what I love to do and just do it. The question to ask yourself is would you do this job if you were not paid simply because you love it. And, I can answer, "DUH!" I am not paid a penny to write. Yet! Would I want to continue? Hell, yes! I am not writing for the money. I am writing because it is a part of me and I love it. It may or may not be taking me to the road of success. How do you define success? Wealth? Power? Making a positive contribution to the universe? I feel the road to success for me is what makes me happy. Simple? Maybe. Yet it is what I am, in some respects. I believe the creative arts such as writers, musicians, and artists are in this category of being passionate about their work. It is all about the "starving artists." Which luckily is not me. At least not yet!

The important thing is for me to continue to, "THINK BIG." Setting my goals high is more important than to set them low and reach them. It is imperative to reach for the stars while keeping my feet on the ground. With that being said, it is also okay to fail. Don't be afraid of failure.  As Henry Ford stated, 
"Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again. This time more intelligently."

My mindset has to be one of action. Not to just sit back and let things happen by chance. Make things happen. I can do that. Keeping a positive mental attitude helps in going forward. It really is the only way to kick it into action. Believing in yourself and what you can do is half the battle.

As a writer, I do know that when I start sending out my manuscripts to agents and/or publishers, that I will get many rejection letters. What helps me in this area is reading about J.K. Rowling and Stephen King. In interviews they talked about how many rejection letters they received before being accepted. I imagine those publishers could kick themselves now. Too bad, so sad!

Sitting back and reflecting on how this process of writing a novel is going for me, I must always remember to follow my intuition. Going to a Writers' Workshop led by a wonderful author helped me tremendously. It gave me a whole new energy to throw myself wholeheartedly into my writing. My intuition tells me that this novel will be finished when I am happy with it. Me first! Then it can be put out there to others.

As of yet, I have not decided on going with an agent or not. Perhaps even publishing it myself on Amazon? The best thing about this whole process is that I am doing what I love and am taking control of what I believe in...ME!

Steve Goodier