scrambled eggs with asparagus • rain • wasa •
pops of color • coffee • breakfast •
water in a mason jar • fried herring • poolside •
Archives for June 2013
So, here we are… at the end of June and I am about to complete the 30-day Sugar detox course, including an actual 5-day sugar detox. No sugar (or very, very little natural sugar) for five days. It seems like a short period of time. 5 days. One can easily go without fruit and bread and any sweet treats for 5 days. No problem.
The thing is though: fruit and bread¹ are a huge part of my diet, so what the heck was I going to eat? Honestly, before you freak out, there is plenty of other foods to eat and I didn’t really have a big problem coming up with meals for the 5 days. In fact, I really enjoyed the challenge to really meal plan around this. It definitely made me think about my food choices much more.
A few observations in regards to the detox phase itself:
I am not a snacker. You know how some people plan out 6 mini-meals throughout their day (and call the even-numbered meals ” snacks”)? Yeah, I don’t do that. I am usually perfectly fine with three square meals a day. It doesn’t mean that I don’t sometimes eat something between my main meals, but I don’t have a schedule for that or a regular habit. Most days, I am perfectly fine with just breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The strongest feeling of this sugar withdrawal was a feeling of “emptiness” in my stomach. I would eat delicious, plentiful meals with vegetables and salad and meat – things that I’ve been eating on a regular basis before, mind you – but it just wouldn’t satisfy me for very long. As I said, I am usually not much of a snacker throughout the day, but during the detox phase, I needed the snacks. Like, I was literally waiting for snack time to come around.
My Dad (an athlete and P.E. teacher) explained that my body was working harder to get the energy (without the simple carbohyrates) from the food that I was supplying and therefore was asking “more” from my body. I think that makes sense.
I am very much a creature of habit. Having a smoothie in the morning instead of something solid for breakfast? Yummy, but difficult. I felt like I had a drink for breakfast (or two, if you count the coffee) and now where’s my croissant or roll? The same was true for dinner… I had delicious salads, vegetables and small pieces of meat, but something seemed to be missing if there was no ‘starchy’ side dish on my plate as well. Meals seemed to be so much more limited (or should I say that even though I think of my diet as pretty versatile, I realized how very much confined it still really is and that there are many more vegetables and grains that I could incorporate into my meal planning).
I need bread. Excuse me, whole grain bread (which was actually detox approved, but I cut it out during the 5 days anyway, just to see how it would make me feel to go without it. As I mentioned, this was not a diet, but more of an experiment around food.). In order to NOT eat snacks throughout the day, I need something that fills me. Boy, did I crave a fresh slice of whole grain bread the whole freakin’ time. Physically, I didn’t really feel a huge impact during the 5 days of detox. I didn’t really have any of the potential physical symptoms… shakes, headache, nausea, exhaustion. However, I do think I had an emotional reaction to less sugar. Maybe even edginess, because I just didn’t feel full for very long. Whole grain bread, however, does that for me.
I think about food. A lot. This sounds more dramatic that it is. I just realized how much time I spend thinking about food, grocery shopping, meal planning, new recipes that I want to give a go, restaurants I like to try out. As I mentioned in my initial blog post about this detox: everything that is related to our emotions somewhat revolves around food in one way or another and I don’t want to call myself a ‘foodie’, but maybe I am. I enjoy food. I enjoy learning about food, shopping for food, preparing food, and eating food. Yes, when it comes down to it, it’s only fuel for our body, but heck, if we need it, why not also enjoy it, right?
A few general take-aways:
Natural sugar is good. Added sugar is bad. If there is sugar in the ingredient list that means this sugar is not naturally in the food you’re consuming and you should limit that amount of sugar in your diet. The same applies to refined sugar that you add to your coffee, that you use for baking or sprinkle on your oatmeal.
Learn to read food labels. No, really. It’s not very hard and it tells you so much about what you consume. Yes, it requires a little bit of research and planning, but the smart choices that you make at the supermarket will not come to haunt you later. I actually got a friend (or two) jump on the bandwagon of more “conscious” food choices and they didn’t even want to hear about my sugar detox ;)
I am a moderator (vs. an abstainer). I actually already knew that going into the detox, but it got confirmed again. I can enjoy certain foods (sweet treats, alcohol) in moderation and feel satisfied by the occasional indulgence. I’ve always lived by the motto “everything in moderation”. I rather have one piece of chocolate than no chocolate at all. I acknowledge that this doesn’t work for everybody.
Meal planning works! I used to think not very highly of meal planning until a few months ago when I finally gave it a go, because I thought “but what if I don’t feel like eating whatever I had planned for a certain day?” The truth is: meal planning doesn’t have to mean that you plan a specific meal for every day of the week. It can be as flexible as you want it to be. You stock up on some staple foods that you really like and then plan meals around these staples to throw together whatever you feel like on a particular day. I am a huge advocate for small grocery shopping trips throughout the week, instead of buying a shitload of stuff in advance (unless you can freeze it easily). Bonus: if you meal plan, you will always have healthy food at home and don’t have excuses to run out and get take out so often. Think about it!
Support is important! Whatever changes you make to your diet, people react in the weirdest ways sometimes. Obviously, you’re only making changes for yourself (whatever your reasons might be) and it is good to know that there are people who support you. Find those people who make you feel smug as fuck for sticking with something that is important to you! Those are the people you want to keep around.
I’m not sure what the conclusion is other than: I learned a shit-ton about food and what I want to put in my body and Nicole did a hell of a job with this course!
The detox phase itself was definitely an experiment that I’d like to repeat in the future. My physical and emotional symptoms to the detox were minimal and I think that either a) (added) sugar didn’t play a huge role in my diet to begin with, b) my body/stomach is just not overly sensitive to sugar and handles it well (when my sister was pregnant with her first child and developed gestational diabetes, I poked myself with one of her needles once and checked my blood sugar. Even after a meal, I had a normal value.), or c) I didn’t journal long enough to really observe any subtle changes in the way I felt after certain foods (which could totally be the case, therefore, I am planning to continue to monitor my food intake and experiment some more in July).
I have many more things to say about this experience, but this is already pretty long, so I’ll end this here. I am planning to share more thoughts and some recipes in future blog posts.
¹ The bread in the picture is imported from Germany (where else?) and available at our local co-op. Ingredients list is short (organic whole rye, water, organic flaxseeds, yeast, salt). That’s it. And it’s filling and so satisfying. You should try it. (Trader Joe’s has a similar whole grain bread available, although the ingredient list is a bit more complex.)
It’s sugar detox month and I spent a lot of time researching new recipes, ingredients and food ideas! I hope you don’t mind if I share some of those today!
Breastfast-on-the-go: Make your own instant oatmeal package by Megan Gordon (via The Kitchn).
No More Soggy Salads: A Guide to the Perfect Salad In a Jar by Cambria Bold (via The Kitchn). I love salads for lunch! Perfect staple meal!
Portobello Mushrooms Stuffed with Goat Cheese, Tomatoes and Bacon by Sara (How to: Simplify). Do you love mushrooms like me? Doesn’t this sound divine?
So, it’s been a whole month since BiSC and it seems like I’ve been a bit at a loss of words lately which really just means that I am still slightly emotionally hungover from all the awesomeness. Does anyone have a good remedy (besides going back to Vegas and just doing it all over again?) No?
One thing BiSC has made blatantly clear to me is my lack of local friends. People to hang out with and do stuff with, people to make memories with on a regular basis, a group of (girl)friends that I am comfortable around. It’s hard to come by and BiSC made it seemed so incredibly easy, but also: possible.
You know, one of the many things I gave up when I moved to the US was a solid group of friends, some of which I had known since elementary school. You always think that you’ll never lose touch with people… until you do. And let me tell you, you can think you know someone inside and out, but at the end of the day you still have no freakin’ clue if this friendship will survive your moving halfway across the world. Not everybody is a good email and Skype friend. SURPRISE! I learned pretty quickly which friends are and which are not capable of doing the “long distance friendship thing”.
The cool thing with my Internet friends (and selected IRL friends) is: I already KNOW that they can handle the long distance thing, because they do it on a daily basis and then they also make the effort to make face time happen whenever possible.
Doni brought up the topic of MBTI personality types on Facebook and how fascinating it is how many introverts roams the Internets. I mentioned before that I – repeatedly – turn out to be an INFJ (Introverted iNtuitive Feeling Judging). Apparently, that’s the rarest personality type of all (only 1% of the population is INFJ), and yet, many of my fellow BiSC-uits are INFJs! Hooray.
Here’s something that I found quite fitting for all us INFJ BiSC-uits.
“INFJs are masters of written communication, with a distinctively smooth and warm language. In addition, the sensitivity of INFJs allows them to connect to others quite easily. Their easy and pleasant communication can often mislead bystanders, who might think that the INFJ is actually an extrovert. (from 16 personalities).
Even though I am still not quite sure how I gathered all my courage to go to Vegas to meet up with 60+ ‘strangers’ IRL and while I am definitely not an extrovert (because it was incredibly hard to be ‘on’ for four days straight), I realized that yes, even as an introvert, I crave social interaction. Even as an introvert who coincidentally also tends to be shy (which, by the way, is NOT the same thing), I blossom around the right people. And people, who know me well and around whom I feel comfortable, know that I can talk a lot and be loud and fun, if they let me.
I am usually someone who in regards to friendship is a quality > quantity kind-of-person, and I stand by that. Still, a little bit to my surprise (but if I really think about it, not so surprisingly), many people have in the past commented on the fact that I have “so many friends” or know “so many people”. My first instinct was to deny that, but I guess it’s true: you do meet a lot of people through the Internet and blogs.
I’d like to think that I am able to maintain each and every one of my friendships in its own kind of way, because I believe every single relationship is unique and special. Of course, I also have my core group of friends (mostly, but not exclusively, people back home) that know most of my stuff and then some, but I’ve hinted at the fact that I just wish I could be friends with everyone. There are way too many awesome people in this world and I can literally not think of a single one of my fellow BiSC-uits that I wouldn’t have wanted to spend more time with. Sure, I probably have more in common with some people than with others, but the amazing thing of BiSC was that deep down inside I
was convinced knew that I would have had a fantastic time with every single person.
I miss eight-second-hugging you during the Mixer.
I miss smiling at each other across the room.
I miss late night talks about fun and serious stuff.
I miss poolside dancing and sunbathing.
I miss buffets and dinner conversations.
I miss ooh-ing and aah-ing over the Cirque du Soleil artists.
I miss dressing up for the ugly fashion show.
I miss cupcake sampling at dinner.
I miss happy hours and white dresses.
I miss being mistaken for a wedding party.
I miss skipping the line with you to get into the PURE Night Club.
I miss having blisters from walking the strip.
I miss late night talks and pizza.
I miss ugly crying at Sunday brunch.
I miss margaritas and nachos.
I miss hugging everyone goodbye.
I miss it all, you guys.
12 days into the Sugar Detox and I already have so many thoughts… which… I will share at a later date. Today, I want to talk about bread. If you know me a little bit, then you know that bread is very dear to my heart. If I had to choose one thing to eat for the rest of my life, it would be bread.
While I do enjoy a fresh slice of sourdough or some sweet Challah, my real love is dark, grainy bread. J calls it “brick”, because it’s dense, heavy and usually comes in brick-shape. My Mom has been baking whole grain bread since I was a kid and I love her recipe, but I have a hard time finding cracked rye and wheat (point me into the right direction if you know where to get that! Actually, I just googled it and found it on Amazon, but there must be a local store that sells it, right?) to replicate the bread.
My Mom’s recipe calls for yeast, sugar beet syrup (for sweetening and color) and buttermilk in the recipe, besides cracked rye, cracked wheat and wheat flour. It is a pretty healthy recipe to begin with.
I’ve really been enjoying the conversations in our Facebook group about things we eat on a regular basis, things we crave and things we can easily do without. Like I said, I can’t do without bread, so you can imagine my excitement when I came across the link that Laura posted for recipe for the “The Life Changing Loaf of Bread“. When I saw the picture, I knew I had to try this no-yeast, no-flour bread that looks so much like my Mom’s whole grain bread, but even healthier.
When I looked through the ingredient list, I was excited about the sunflower seeds and the flax seeds and the rolled oats, because yeah, I like grains and seeds. This is going to be delicious! Then I stumbled over an ingredient that I didn’t know and had to ask my English-German dictionary what the hell psyllium seed husks were. And then my eyes widened… because, wait, isn’t this something you need when you have problems going to the bathroom? And I am supposed to put this in my bread?
Yes indeed. That’s exactly what it is. A laxative. And also a perfect binding agent to hold all the grains and seeds together.
So what? This bread is going to have healthy digestive side effects! It could be a hell of a lot worse, I guess. Healthy bread and good poop – double win, right? Right.
So, I ventured to the local Co-op last Saturday with an ingredient list.
The instructions for this bread sounded easy enough: mix all the dry ingredients in your (preferably silicon) loaf pan. Whisk together the ‘wet’ ingredients, pour into the loaf pan, mix very well and let soak for at least two hours before baking. Done.
My silicon loaf pan turned out to be a little bit on the big side for the amount of ingredients, so my loaf measured only about an inch in height, but I didn’t mind it actually. The slices are perfect fingerfood-size and I had one just with butter as soon as the loaf had cooled down. The bread tasted wonderful… rich, hearty, nutty. Just how I like it.
Last night, I made a very easy dinner (I actually love just having bread for dinner!) and topped a couple of slices with light cream cheese, grape tomatoes, salt, pepper, and fresh basil. The bread is really filling and will definitely also make a nice light lunch substitute. I haven’t tried to toast it yet, but I could imagine it would taste wonderful with sliced cheese or some jam.
While this post has nothing to do with sugar per se, I like the idea of eating and baking with whole grain ingredients and very little added sweetness. I’ll be on the lookout for more whole grain recipes and healthier versions of bread and baked goods. My New Roots, where this bread recipe was originally posted, will be a good source for sure.
This weather is crazy. While (a huge part of) Germany is drowning in floods, we’ve had record temperatures here in the Central Valley over the weekend. Not that we don’t get our regular share of temperatures in the triple digits during the summer months anyway, but 108°F (42°C) at the beginning of June is pretty unusual. Not to forget: crappy. Especially if your car’s AC has given out and you practically can’t get anywhere without being completely soaked by the time you arrive.
I was invited to a farewell party on Saturday at a co-worker’s house, a 30 minute-drive away, and besides being completely sweaty upon arrival, even my iPhone temporarily overheated in the car (a thing that has never happened to me before). So yeah, it was hot!
It’s no surprise that I am extremely thankful for the ceiling fans in our apartment and two functioning AC units (although I wouldn’t mind having central air either, but you can’t have everything. We live in an old apartment building after all.) Thankfully, it cooled down significantly yesterday (not to mention that today it’s right around 40°F cooler than on Saturday) and we could open the windows to let the breeze in. I am really happy about the breeze Sacramento gets from the delta. We actually went to the river for a little while today to enjoy the cool air.
We had a good weekend. We spent some time in Davis on Friday ( which is always a bit like time traveling for me, because it takes me right back to the time when J and I met there some 11 years ago – gasp!). Some frozen yogurt was totally justified despite my ongoing sugar detox (more on that later this week), because HEAT!
We had Thai food later that night and sat on a bench in the park for quite some time after the sun went down and reminisced.
Saturday I did some grocery shopping and did some conscious purchasing at the local Co-op (food posts to come). I am somewhat on a mission to try all the milk and not-so-much-dairy-based fake dairy drinks in the world. I’ve been kinda snobbish in the past when it comes to soy milk, almond milk and the like, but I have to say, in coffee it’s actually not bad at all. I think I could get used to that, but I will never be ok with giving up milk (or dairy for that matter) completely.
Also: this is what I want when it superhot outside. Ice-cold, sweet and juicy = the best.
Other good things this weekend:
finding out that my sister is recovering well from her foot surgery ♥ stitching ♥ sleeping in ♥ sun dress ♥ phone dates with family ♥ bread baking ♥ cool showers ♥ reading ♥ a walk ♥ putting up new pictures ♥
How was your weekend?
I mentioned before that I like to join challenges and so it will probably come as no surprise that I signed up for another one. I’ll dedicate my June to Nicole‘s 30-day sugar detox. Yes, you heard me right. I (and I know many of you with me! Hooray!) am going to take a good look at (hidden and not-so-hidden) sugar for the next 30 days. I know a lot of people who use food as a comfort or reward and Nicole pointed that out in her outline for this challenge. Quite honestly, I’ve never really been the emotional eater, but before you exclaim how jealous you are, abstaining from any food completely in stressful and overwhelming situations is not a healthy coping mechanism either. I do tend to reward myself with food when I have something to celebrate, which is why I usually have to watch what I eat more when I am happy than when I am sad/stressed out. Also, my bigger vice are salty snacks, but that’s a completely different story.
I guess you could say that everything that is related to our emotions somewhat revolves around food in one way or another. That is a very interesting observation, don’t you think? I believe that I knew that on a subconscious level before, but I never really thought about it in a way that would make me want to break and re-establish connections that were made in the past about my emotional needs and certain soothing foods habits. I mean, look at what our culture does when we celebrate something or just simply get together. There is always food! I love the fact that food brings people together and the saying “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” is certainly no accident either. I just think that food can sometimes take over a role in people’s lives that it was never supposed to play.
I am honestly not so much concerned about the “conscious” decisions I make when I put sugary foods in my body. I enjoy (and cherish) a nice dessert or the occasional rock sugar in my black tea. What freaks me out much, much are the hidden sugars that are basically in everything these days and I want to know how I can avoid them. I mean, have you taken a good look at the labels of some processed foods? I try to buy as little processed foods as possible to begin with, but sometimes it seems like you can’t really get around it and I really would like to know what it is that I feed my body.
Trying to cut out sugar sounds like I am going on a diet. This is not the case. In the next
30 27 days, I am not hoping to completely change my eating habits or even lose weight, but I am looking forward to learning more about my relationship with certain foods and food cravings and a mindful approach to a more balanced, healthy diet. This is a conscious look at what I put in my body and an approach to change potentially bad eating habits and be more aware and knowledgable about the foods that I do buy/eat.
To say that I am excited is an understatement. At the same time though, I am also a bit afraid of what I might learn – about my emotional needs, about my eating habits, and about changes I might have to make. But hey, that’s the challenge and I am up for it, because you can’t keep doing the same things and expect a different outcome!