Saturday, December 30, 2006

The South Beach Diet, Act Two; Or, How I Found out that Dieting is Easier than having Diabetes

Tonight I will detail for you the history of my 3 major weight loss attempts.

For my first big attempt, I joined Weight Watchers. This was the first time I had ever recorded what I ate. I found it very time consuming and challenging to measure everything I was eating so that I could write it down. This was back in the old days of the points system--I don't think Weight Watchers even uses points any more. The points for a certain serving of food are calculated using three values...I was going to tell you what these are, but I can't even remember any more. Anyway, it is relatively easy to figure out how many points something has if it has a nutrition information label printed on the side of it. But I found it very difficult, if not impossible, to figure out how many points one of my homemade soups or casseroles had. I did lose weight on Weight Watchers--I know this because I still have the blue ribbon I received for losing my first ten pounds--but lets just say I "recovered" my losses.

Weight loss attempt number 2 officially began on New Years Day of 2004 at my mother-in-law's house in Springville, Utah. This time it was the South Beach Diet, recommended to me by my father, of all people (not the dieting type). This diet was much easier than Weight Watchers in many ways. I did not have to record or measure anything. I did not have to find time to attend weekly meetings. And I did not have to pay to join. The hard part about this diet was that everything I normally eat was on the list of forbidden foods (sweets, bread, rice, pasta, fruit). Within a day or two, I felt dehydrated and on the verge of a nervous breakdown as I paced the kitchen trying to think of something to feed myself. I also lost weight on this diet. And once again, I was able to recover all that I had lost when South Beach was "temporarily" put on hold in order to celebrate our wedding anniversary and my birthday.

Weight Loss Attempt Nubmer 3 began today. It is South Beach again, but easier this time. Why? Well, between South Beach Attempt #1 and #2, I was diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes. This occurred in March of this year, while pregnant with Esther, when I failed the 28 week blood glucose test. I received a prescription for a blood sugar monitor, which I filled by going to my friendly neighborhood medical supply store. There I was instructed in how to punch a tiny hole in my fingertip with a needle four times a day, squeeze a big drop of blood out of said hole, and smear it onto a strip that would tell me what my blood glucose level was. A few days later I had my first meeting with the dietician, who explained to me the diet I would be following for the rest of my pregnancy. Here is the diet:

Wake up and test blood sugar (ie poke finger with sharp "lancet")
Eat 15 g Carbohydrates, but no fruit or milk
Re-test blood sugar exactly one hour after taking first bite
Eat 30 g Carbohydrates, fruit or milk okay now
Wait no more than 2.5 hours, and then eat 45 g Carbohydrates
Test blood sugar exactly one hour later
Eat 30 g Carbohydrates within 2.5 hours of last meal
Eat 45 g Carbohydrates within 2.5 hours of last snack
Test blood sugar 4th time, exactly one hour after dinner
Eat 30 g Carbohydrate snack before bed.
Repeat EVERY DAY for way too many days.

In spite of the fact that I followed this diet very carefully, recording every bite I ate in my old Weight Watchers food journal, I was not able to consistently keep my blood sugar within the right range. So in April I began giving myself a big belly shot of insulin each night before bed. This wasn't enough, and I increased to three shots of insulin a day. By the time Esther was born in May, my tummy was covered in swollen red welts from all of the places I'd inserted the needle. The nice thing about Gestational Diabetes is that it goes away as soon as the baby is born. For my efforts, I am pleased to report that Esther was healthy and I had lost 20 pounds. I had also experienced first hand what a drag it is to have Diabetes.

I saw my dietician for the last time at six weeks post-partum. I was surprised when she started writing out a menu for me that looked very similar to the one I'd followed during the pregnancy. Although I knew that I had a higher likelihood of developing diabetes later in life than someone who had not had gestational diabetes, I was under the impression that regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight were the keys to prevention. She handed me the menu and said, "you should try to follow this the rest of your life."


That night I went to Target and bought (and ate) three bags of Pepperidge Farms cookies.

Now I am 7 months post-partum. I have regained 10 of the 20 pounds I lost during my pregnancy (I was supposed to LOSE 10 more pounds, not gain them). Two nights ago I had ANOTHER serious talk with Dan about getting a dog. I've been badgering him for a long time about this, and he has consistently said that I am welcome to get a dog as soon as he is dead. So I explained to him how a dog is part of my diabetes-prevention plan--to give me a walking companion. Dan actually asked if we could just move back to Idaho instead so that I could go walking with my dad. Anyway, the next night, Dan pulled out my old copy of The South Beach Diet and started reading it to me. "Wait a second" I said. "You're doing this so we won't have to get a dog, aren't you?" Sly smile, but he kept reading. As I listened to the opening chapter it occurred to me that this diet was a lot easier than having diabetes. So this morning I woke up, back in the saddle again.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Nativity with Two Dead Sheep

Today is Christmas Eve. We spent the late afternoon and early evening with friends Felicity, Laurellee, Juan Carlos, Toddler Javier, and Baby Andres. For our meal together I served a big pot of Borscht (a beautiful red soup filled with beets, cabbage, and tomatoes) with sour cream, brie and baguettes, a veggie platter with tomatoes, carrots and broccoli, spinach dip, red grapes, and clementines. And fried potatoes and eggs. And for dessert, hot chocolate, candy canes, and chocolate chip cookies (courtesy of friends Michelle & Byron, who gave us the dough as a gift).

After eating and clearing the table, we sat down to have what Dan kept calling "Our Christmas Program." In my family growing up, the Christmas Eve tradition included a big meal with friends (check), followed by a reading of the nativity in Luke, interrupted every verse or two by a movement to the piano where we would sing a Christmas hymn. Tonight, instead of reading from the scriptures, I opted for a board book recently sent to us by Dan's mom. Maybe that was my first mistake. I was thinking the board book would hold the kids' attention better than the actual scriptures, but nothing seemed to be able to hold my boys' attention short of OPENING PRESENTS, which I kept telling them they couldn't do. Unfortunately for me, Dan had told them they COULD each open a present, and so they won out in the end. You can see them opening their presents in the picture above. Javier is attempting to open Esther's present, who was conveniently sleeping in the other room. Much to Adam's dismay (which he expressed freely), the presents they selected were matching ties. Yes, ties. Dan was so excited because he had found them little ties in the Land's End catalog that looked just like the ones Harry Potter wears at Hogwarts. He thought the boys would love them. Adam said they were very boring and he had wanted something he could play with. To this, Eli responded that they could play with them, whenever they were pretending to be students at Hogwarts.

So, back to our lovely Christmas Eve Program. I sat in a chair facing the children, who were on the rug. I opened the board book and began to read about Mary and the visitation of the Angel Gabriel. I stopped at the end of the page and asked what song we could sing. Eli suggested "Mary, Mary" from the Children's Songbook. I was pleased with his suggested, and Dan began to play. It only took a few bars to realize that none of our guests knew the song. So it was a bit hollow sounding, but we moved on.

The next part of the book was about Mary and Joseph's trip to Bethlehem. At that point, Eli wanted to sing, "When Joseph Went to Bethlehem" but I knew our guests didn't know that, either, so I suggested "Oh Little Town of Bethlehem" instead. Just as Dan started to play, the phone rang. As I was leaving the living room to answer it, I could see Felicity standing up to go stand by the piano so that she could follow along in the hymn book. Here I must interject that several months ago, we took our hymn book to the church and left it there accidentally. Since then, whenever we want to play the hymns, we have to use Dan's German hymn book. That is what Dan was using, so it didn't turn out to be much help to Felicity who, like most people in this country, doesn't read German. The phone was for Dan, and the song wasn't going too well, so he went to the kitchen to take the call. While he was gone, our little program continued to deteriorate.

Dan came back and we tried to get going again. The boys were being kind of crazy, and things weren't turning out as fuzzy and warm as I had pictured them. I remembered that when I was little, we liked to act out the nativity on Christmas Eve. So I asked the children who in the room looked the most like Baby Jesus. They answered, "Esther!" who was actually in the other room sleeping. Their next guess was "Javier!" who is almost two. I gave up at that point and motioned to Andres, the three week old, and said I thought he could be baby Jesus. Then I suggested that Laurellee and Juan Carlos could be Mary and Joseph, as they were sitting on the couch with the baby, and what could we be? Felicity wanted to be a wise man. Dan suggested we be shepherds. The boys wanted to be sheep. Dead sheep.

I should have known better, but I ploughed ahead, reading how the angels proclaimed the birth to the shepherds. We then tried to sing "Angels We Have Heard on High." Adam howled at the top of his voice the entire song. When we finished, Eli explained, in a rather intoxicated voice, "we were singing in sheep language." Adam added "dead sheep language." I pointed out that sheep can't talk. Especially dead sheep. Next was the part about the Wise Men coming to see the child when he was a bit older. I suggested that Javier could be the Toddler Jesus, and at this point Adam and Eli declared themselves to be dead camels. So I said, "The End!" and all of the adults clapped, frightening Javier so badly that he bit his dad hard on the hand. At which point our guests left and the evening was pretty much over.

Friday, December 1, 2006

This Chicken is Good with Ketchup

This year I discovered an excellent way of making Thanksgiving better than ever: unpaid labor. On Wednesday morning my brother James flew in for a five-day visit. I knew his holiday would be nicer if I cleaned the house before he arrived, but I never quite made it from the thought to the part where I did any cleaning. So, in the car on the way home from the airport, I warned him that the bathroom was disgusting and that he would have to climb over a mountain of mess in order to reach his bed in the far corner of the basement. Almost as soon as he walked in the door, James had his sleeves rolled up and was cleaning my entire house. Before my very eyes I watched this younger brother/ guest sanitize my filthy bathroom, tame the chaotic basement, pick up the living room, rake three giant Silver Maples-worth of fallen leaves, and mow the lawn.

Meanwhile, in the kitchen, my sister-in-law, Leslie, was working on the Thanksgiving feast. She had decided that there were never quite enough pies on the big day, and to remedy this, she would be in charge of pie-making. Leslie spent the entire day making pies in homemade shells--4 pumpkin, 2 cherry, 2 chocolate, 2 lemon meringue, and 1 coconut cream. Well after dark, with the last pie cooling in the minivan outside, she started the stuffing. I was in charge of the turkey, potatoes, and gravy. I prepared the turkey Thursday morning according to my friend Heather's instructions: I combined butter with minced garlic and rosemary and rubbed it all over the bird. I cooked it in the oven for four hours, basting it with the melted garlic butter and fat every 30 minutes. It was golden brown on the outside, moist and tasty on the inside. I cut up the potatoes, but Leslie was the one to boil them, and I think I saw one of our guests mashing them. Leslie made the gravy, too!

Our guests arrived at 1 o'clock. We had two tables set up in the living room. At the large table we had 10 adults: me, Dan, Leslie, James, cousin Kendall with wife Mary, and friends Sid, Ken, Amy, and Eileen. At the smaller table we put the 5 kids: Eli, Adam, and cousins Lindsay, Sydney, and Brayden. Baby Esther sat on my lap, and Mary's baby boy fetus, due in February, stayed in utero. Kendall and Mary brought delicious sweet potatoes; Ken brought homemade sushi filled with carrots, cucumbers, and smoked gouda; Eileen brought tomatoes stuffed with mushrooms and goat cheese, and Amy brought green beans stir fried with sesame seeds and almonds. Before we started eating, Dan invited everyone to introduce themselves and say something they were thankful for. I started, thanking Leslie and James for doing all of the work. Kendall and Mary mentioned gratitude for living close enough to cousins to be able to spend Thanksgiving with family. Leslie's friends were grateful that she had invited them to our home so they didn't have to spend the day alone. All of the children were grateful for cousins to play with. All but Adam, that is, who refused to introduce himself or say anything he was grateful for. He did, however, acknowledge later that the big chicken we were eating was good with ketchup. The chicken was actually a turky, but no amount of explanation on our part could convince him of this fact. When Leslie brought out the pies after our meal, she seemed to feel a little self-conscious and embarrassed by the extravagance of making eleven of them. I don't think she could see the child-like excitement in our eyes at the prospect of making ourselves sick on pie. It was definitely the highlight of the meal, and people seemed giddy as they served themselves piece after piece, covered in freshly whipped cream.

After we had reached our bursting point, a large group of us walked the kids over to the park. When their bladders demanded a return to the house, Kendall kindly escorted them back while I continued on with the other adults for a walk through the woods. Later in the evening we had a small impromptu talent show. Eli played some of his piano pieces, including "Hedwig's Theme" from Harry Potter and "The Fiddler on the Roof". Leslie played "Ashokan Farewell" and a square-dancing number on her viola. Dan played his recorder and I sang one of his favorite German Christmas carols, "Tochter Zion."

So, in review, remember these important points for your Thanksgiving Feast 2007: 1) invite overnight guests that will double as unpaid laborers 2) have a sister-in-law that will do all the cooking 3) serve at least 11 pies and 4) eat your chicken with plenty of ketchup.