Monday, December 3, 2018

Fee, Fie, Foe, Friday: Thawing My Frozen Heart

Have you ever had a personal winter? Where you went all cold and frozen inside, and it felt less like a normal winter, and more like your heart was embedded in permafrost? When my husband died, nearly 5 years ago, that is pretty much what's happened to me. Yes, as time passed, I've been able to go about my day, get through life, even have some fun. But the frozen part just stayed, and stayed. No thaw.

I started writing this blog back in 2011. That seems like another lifetime, and it was. When my life froze over, early in 2014.  A part of my heart and soul  was stolen by cancer at the end of February, in 2014.  My brave, sweet, and charmingly grumpy husband, Chuck, was taken from me and our family by a fast-spreading pancreatic cancer. I'm trying not to weep as I write, but am pretty well unsuccessful.

He was a picky eater; I've certainly made no bones about just HOW picky he was. Chuck's "no" list was much longer than his "yes" list. Strange partner for a food blogger. But he was my muse, my love, and my best friend who honestly, and often bravely tasted, and (usually) ate the recipes I've posted here. Offered astute suggestions for change or improvement, and sometimes told me to toss the whole mess. If I had to toss it, he unfailingly took me out for dinner. I tried to keep this blog going, I really did, since before his illness began, it had brought so much joy and delicious food to my extended Tribe. Then I just froze.

No apologies here, just an explanation of why I've not been writing. Grief and loss are strange creatures that come to live inside us, and when we think we have finally made peace with them, they bite us again with their tiny sharp teeth creating more pain. I think I froze hard so the little bastards couldn't keep sinking their teeth into my soft places.

So many things changed.  After a few of years rattling around in our big house, with my grand kitchen,  and big garden, I knew it was time to move. That house was about us, and the rest of it was going to have to be about me. I was thawing and I didn't even know it. I have a new home, with a new kitchen, not so grand but every bit as functional. And still a garden, but small, and equal in the pleasure it brings. I live in a townhouse in a condo community, that really is a community, with real neighbors in the true sense of the word. Even though it's early December, the thaw still is ongoing. Who knows, maybe something will even bloom. Judy 2.0

Way back when I started writing about food here, eliminating sugar and grain was so often my focus when creating delicious food that wouldn't make us fat and sick. Unfortunately, I tried to eat my grief away, and my sweet tooth got a firm grip. As my frozen heart began to thaw, I found there was a good 20 pounds more of me than there had been before Chuck got sick. My advice has always been, from my years of teaching diabetics (I'm not a registered dietitian) what to eat and how to cook, to limit carbohydrates. It was always easier, and a lot more successful than the traditional, low fat, reduced calorie programs that continue to have followers for years, even though they never lose all the weight or keep it off.

Still, the low carb approach had a few problems,  especially if you tried to align it with the low fat, low calorie song the sirens still sing. Low carb and low fat is tough, and isn't something most people can continue for life. So we were all still crashing onto the rocks.  Back in about 2008, I began to see bits and pieces appear in journals and sites about the ketogenic diet. It made therapeutic sense. I started telling clients to start adding more fat to their meals, good fat, that it would help them stay satisfied, and it did. But it never dawned on me to do what I was teaching diabetics to do, because I'm not diabetic. I'd tried several of the more popular low fat, low calorie plans after a few accidents, when inactivity cause some temporary weight gain, and they worked to a point, with a lot of deprivation and will power.

My big change came last spring. I'd been fooling with a 5 pound weight loss for months. Mostly, the weight just hung on. Since I moved, and had begun to feel settled in, I'd been reducing my carbs and calories, and had begun to lift weights.  My weight went up and down, up and down. And then a customer at work, when asked if she knew which sales person had helped her, she responded, "The chunky blond." That made something snap. Until I reached my 50s, I was always rather underweight. Menopause changed things up, and I was in the normal weight range, at least until my personal permafrost started. I'm somewhere just under 5'2" tall, and 20 pounds doesn't spread out as far as it does on someone tall. Chunky. Geez. Me, chunky!!!???

"Chunky" worked. I started reading, and reading more.  High Fat Low Carb (HFLC) or Keto seemed to be the way to go. I was going to give it a month. On traditional diets, like Weight Watchers, I'd never lost more than a couple or three pounds in the first month. I was generally lucky if I lost a whole half pound in a week, after that, tracking and going to bed hungry. So I  tweaked my already low carb diet significantly lower, and raised my fat intake. What could be bad about an eating plan that let me have a big steak and salad with blue cheese dressing, or a glass of wine with triple cream brie every day? I figured, as long as I didn't get heavier, and could keep up my jogging and weight training schedule, it would be fine. Really low cal diets leave me tired and grumpy. And while keto isn't high calorie, the fat is so satiating, you tend to eat fewer calories than you actually need.

It was near the end of June, and my pal Sharon was in Philly visiting from NOLA, and she, too, had defected from traditional weight loss plans and was attempting low carb, high fat. We discussed it over corned beef specials in the Reading Terminal Market, for gods sake. That was the last bread I've eaten, and now a little over 5 months later, I'm as lean as I was when I met Chuck. I lost 6 pounds that first month. Now I'm more than 20 pounds lighter, and in the best shape of my adult life. So all this is to tell you that most of the recipes here will be Keto/ LCHF friendly, not all, but most. Many will be Paleo friendly, too. Some also will just be traditional favorites, or damnably delicious, and while not adhering to any "way of eating" worth the splurge. It's a life, not scourge. I'll include some links below to sites I've found helpful on this journey, because it has been one lovely, strange trip so far.

So, I'm back, Tribe.  Leaner, and ...I'm nearly thawed.

The links I was telling you about:

This is the best for just getting started. It's simple,  from Eric Westman, MD,  from the Lifestyle Medicine Clinic at Duke University Medical Center and no malarkey:

And if video is more your style, start with Ken Berry, MD-- he's also fun to watch!

About 10 pounds down, in July, and Chanticleer Garden