Monday, October 22, 2012

What happens when you fall off the "wagon."

I've been steadily losing weight - albeit slowly - for the last few months.  I haven't written daily, but maybe I should.  Even if its a quick 3-liner to talk about how I'm feeling, what's on my mind, etc.

Today I am back "on" the wagon.  I spent the weekend pretty much doing what I wanted which included eating M&Ms, cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory, bread at almost every meal or breaded/fried things, drinking beer and not exercising for one tiny second.  From Friday to Monday has been a free-for-all.

I feel AWFUL.

I know why.

So you may ask yourself, why do I do this to myself?  Honestly - its because I've lived my life with processed food, sugar, and since the age of 21, beer.  It's hard to just give it all up forever.  Many times I feel like food is no longer enjoyable.  I don't mean that literally - I still like to eat.  But if I want to eat something hearty and yummy, I have to do a LOT of prep.  No more popping round to the grocery for a rotisserie chicken.  Even too much sodium makes me feel icky these days.  Sometimes i just need to let go of my restrictions and live.  Then I pay the price, realize that its better in my gluten-free low-carb world and I go about my business.

So that's where I am.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

On turning 36.

So I'm 36 tomorrow.  For some reason 36 seems older to me than any other age I've turned so far.  I took 30 in stride.  I was cool with it.  36, however, is "over 35" and firmly places me in the older group on surveys.  You know--the end of the survey where they ask your sex and then they put you in  those age groups?  Sure, some still use the 20-30, 30-40, 40-50 thing, but it seems that most surveys that I am asked to participate in these days use this breakdown:

Age Range
[ ] 21 and Under
[ ] 22 to 34
[ ] 35 to 44
[ ] 45 to 54
[ ] 55 to 64
[ ] 65 and Over
[ ] Decline
Some of my smarter friends might know why these particular age ranges are chosen.  When I turned 35 and moved into this age bracket, I noticed, but I wasn't too bothered.  After all, I was 35 - a nice round number, newly "mid-30's."  Now I'm FIRMLY in that category and 40 is approaching.

I think part of the reason being 36 is bugging me is because its a transition period again in many ways.  I'm not young, I'm not old, I'm somewhere in that middle area.  In my job, I face the same challenge - not in the right job title to be taken 100% seriously but too "senior" to be ignored.  Too old for the younger trends and too young to be a hip gray-haired, stylin' "hot older chick."

So anyway, this is NOT a "oh whoa is unto me, I am old" post.  It's a "look at what I've accomplished lately" post!  And its applicable to the blog topic, I swear.

So - I've lost 18lbs since memorial day by completely changing my outlook on food.  Do you wake up feeling sluggish and lethargic?  Do you need hours to really feel alert in the morning?  Does your weight fluctuate by many pounds daily and weekly?  Have you tried every "diet" or "plan" or "lifestyle" and find that nothing works?  If so, maybe you're like me.  Maybe you spent a lot of time eating foods that were, essentially, toxic to you.  Maybe you need to ignore the trends and fads and eat more protein and fat, less carbs and NO wheat or grain.  Here's what I've been doing and its WORKING:

  • Almost every day, 50% of my caloric intake is in the form of fat.  I don't pay attention to saturated fat vs. unsaturated, but I don't consume trans fat of any kind...EVER.  That stuff is bad.

  • I do not substitute foods.  For example, I don't eat gluten-free bread.  Similarly, I don't eat sugar substitutes.  If I want something sweet, I have it.  But its not every day and its not even every week.  I have no desire for fake-tasting stuff like [Insert major diet brand here that rhymes with schmeight schmatchers] ice creams, [Insert mega health food company which is actually just adding whole grains to their chemicals to make it sound healthy here] bars or any and all sugar subs like splenda, sucralose, aspartame, sugar alcohols, etc.  I'm just going to elaborate on this point a teeny bit because I am sure that if this blog ever gets really popular someone will call me out on the fact that erythritol is a "good" sugar alcohol since it doesn't cause bloating, gas, tooth decay or blood sugar rise and it's a perfectly acceptable substitute for table sugar.  These things are all true.  But for ME PERSONALLY, sugar is about more than blood sugar.  I have not determined if its wheat-derived carbs or just sugar/carbs in general, but consuming high glycemic index foods make me crave more and more and more until I'm so food-focused I'm driving myself nuts.  Clearly, its more about the reward centers in my brain than my blood sugar.  I once told my endocrinologist that I was like a drug addict when it came to sugar and he 1) immediately upped my dose of metformin and 2) looked at me like I was a freak.  But I know some of you get this.  Science is starting to get it too - check this out if you're so inclined:  The obesity epidemic and food addiction: clinical similarities to drug dependence.
  • I LOOSELY follow a calorie guideline provided to me by  This is not a sponsored blog post.  Honestly, all of the calorie-tracking websites will give you a calorie goal based on the same information.  They ask you a few questions and using that information, they calculate your basal metabolic rate.  Then they tell you how much to eat to maintain or lose weight based on that BMR.  My calorie goal is 1670.  This is assuming I am sedentary (which I am not - working in a lab I am up and down from my desk all day 1 million times a day - but neither do I have an 'active' job so I settle for sedentary), exercise 3x a week and want to lose 1 lb per week.  More than that is not sustainable for me - I know this from previous millions of diets and food restriction.  As I lose weight, the program asks me if I want to adjust my calorie goal to compensate.  I DO NOT.  Why would I want to eat less if I'm still losing weight?  I think that will happen naturally as I intuitively adjust how much makes me feel full.

That's what I do.  And I am not hungry, I do not feel deprived and I have sustained this lifestyle for longer than I have sustained any other "diet" or lifestyle in my life.

When I titled this blog fixedby40, I intended be healthy, dependent on no medications OTHER than the thyroid hormone I need to live, happy and not wearing plus-size clothing.  I'm already making progress!  I have:

  • Stopped all medications except for the singulair (still having allergy issues, but not asthma) and my thyroid hormone.
  • Bought non-plus-size jeans in a smaller size that are already getting baggy on me.  (WOOT!) 
  • Generally increased my feeling of well being, happiness and self confidence by about 1,000-fold.
So there ya go.  An update on me and on turning 36.  Hopefully I will do a post like this every 3 months or so and things will continue to improve so drastically.  

Thanks for reading, thanks for your support, and thanks to all of my you-know-who's that have answered millions of questions for me and helped me figure out what was right for me.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Please read, use the comments section, and I will be back after my birthday and wedding anniversary (this week!) to discuss.

Letter from Dr. Guandalini to CBS This Morning

by The University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center on Monday, September 10, 2012 at 5:33pm ·
I was quite surprised to see that CBS news would provide unquestioned credibility to Dr. Davis, the author of Wheat Belly, on CBS This Morning on September 3rd, with no knowledgeable physician on the program to present a more accurate, balanced viewpoint on such an important issue as the role of wheat in nutrition and disease.

The assertions made by Dr. Davis (a cardiologist, not a nutritionist nor a gastroenterologist) are not grounded in fact, let alone any evidence-based research. Gliadin a new protein? Gliadin proteins are major components of gluten and their existence has been known since Dicke and Van de Kamer studied wheat in the 1940s. It is not a new protein created by genetic modifications; and it is indeed a poison, but only for those with celiac disease. Gliadin an opioid that binds to the brain? Sure this is a stunning statement. What is the evidence? Aside from an obscure article that appeared almost 30 years ago reporting an opioid-like activity for some gliadin fractions, nothing else is available in the literature and certainly no data are there to show any binding to the brain.

There is enough confusion around celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity and the issue of who benefits from a gluten-free diet (only those with wheat allergy, celiac disease or non- celiac gluten sensitivity, I might add). Regrettably, CBS This Morning has added to the confusion and did a disservice to its viewership to allow such questionable information be portrayed as fact.

I have no ties at all to the wheat industry, nor do I have any interest in “protecting” it. My interest, as a physician and specialist in celiac disease lies only in protecting my patients and the public from those who would perpetuate unsubstantiated health claims as fact.

Stefano Guandalini, MD
Professor and Chief, Section of Pediatric Gastroenterology
University of Chicago
Founder and Medical Director, Celiac Disease Center

Thursday, August 23, 2012

I'm still standing...yeah, yeah, yeah.

If you're as old as I am, you know that the title of this post is a song lyric.  If you're a young wipper snapper, you should look it up and get a good edumacation on music.  :P

I'm still here, faithful three readers.  I am down 15 lbs since embarking on my new gluten free, very-low-carb lifestyle.  I get bored, I get restless, I drink beer and wake up feeling ick, but I survive and what I'm doing is working.

I am also exploring some interesting career topics at the mome that I want to share with you.  Despite all evidence to the contrary, I can write a sentence that contains real words and punctuation and grammar and the like.  I have written a pretty durn good review of the field of biomarkers in prostate cancer (maybe I'll let y'all read it someday) and it has prompted me to think a bit about writing in general.  I have an inner monologue in my head at ALL TIMES.  There's always something going on in there, and I've often thought that getting it out on paper might be fun/meaningful/cathartic.  I am almost at that moment in my career where I need to "put up or shut up," to use a fun American crass phrase (I almost wrote the one that has to do with a toilet, ha ha).  I need to decide whether I want to be a research professor, a teaching professor, or one that tries to do both and probably ends up being mediocre at both.  OR, I need to decide to do something different all together.  Science writing. . .technical writing. . .editing. . .these are attractive ideas.

Am I good enough?  Would I miss the bench too much?  What is the right answer?  I wish someone would just tell me so that I can move on.

To try to sort this out, I took a gig doing some copy editing for a company that edits science manuscripts before submission to peer-reviewed journals.  The first one was great, I think I made the manuscript better with my edits and I liked it.  The second one is torture.  It's on a topic I'm not super-familiar with, the writing is atrocious (one of my comments is on the order of: "you need to start over and re-write this section").  Will I like doing this long-term?  I don't know.  But at least I have something on my resume and I'm getting some experience.

That's what's goin' on, folks.  Not super exciting.  I'm also working on a "food babe-"style review of a few topics for the blog.  Genetically modified organisms, are "chemicals" bad and what does insulin really DO in the body.  Any ideas for new posts, hit me up on the comments.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Sick of obsessing about what I'm eating....again.

This is a cycle I get into every few years.  When I did WeightWatchers, I was obsessed with what I was eating - how could I get the fullest for the fewest number of Points?  I ate mostly fake foods because, after all, chemicals are lower calorie than real food in many cases.  It was almost a game to me.  OK I am hungry and need a snack.  What can I eat that will leave me enough points to eat a big dinner and finally feel satisfied?  If I eat this 100 cal pack of snickerdoodles that has more ingredients than a homemade turkey dinner, it will only "cost" me 2 points and I can still eat an extra serving of Kraft Mac n Cheese for dinner.  But - that 100 cal pack didn't fill me up at all.  So while I was making said Kraft Mac n Cheese, I also ate whatever was sitting around in my kitchen.  And it usually wasn't carrot sticks.  Thus began the daily obsessive balancing act:  eating and eating and eating fake foods in a binge-and-restrict manner until I accidentally lost some weight by taking advanced step classes and causing my metabolism to completely and utterly crash.

So now I am eating mostly Paleo, definitely low carb, gluten-free and no processed foods.  Am I happier about what I am eating?  Kinda.  I wish I could say that I love to sit down to eat because its so yummy to eat nothing but fruits, veggies, yogurt, cheese, lean meats, nuts.  But it's not - it's frickin' downright boring.  If I eat one more frickin' salad and *insert salad topping here like chicken salad, hard-boiled egg, avocado, etc.* I will vomit.  If I enter my meal plan into my current favorite calorie-tracking website ( and see that I'm over calories or carbs or sugar ONE MORE TIME I will scream.

Should it be this hard to simply eat?

That is the question I would love to examine.  Do I need more cookbooks?  No.  I have approximately 50 cookbooks on my kitchen and living room shelves.  Cooking from the farmer's market, The Anti-Inflammation Diet and Cookbook,  The Mayo Clinic Heart Healthy Cookbook, The essential/ultimate/critical/you will die without it Diabetic Cookbook, etc., etc., etc. [Sidebar:  I cannot remember the exact titles of these books so I haven't put them in quotations - I am paraphrasing their titles, please don't quote me!]   I have tried them all and I get bored of them all.  Why?  What am I doing wrong?  Do others feel this way, too?

Food is fuel.

That's really all it is.  Every meal does not have to be a smorgasbord of delight.  Is spinach good for me?  Yes.  Do I find it revolting?  No.  So eat it.  Shut up and eat it.  Plan things that I really love into my routine, and sometimes - many times - just eat because its time to fuel my body with calories to allow me to move on.

This is what I'm currently working on.  Food is fuel.  To be really cliche:  Food is not love, therapy, emotion, friend, neighbor or hobby.  It is fuel.  COOKING is a hobby.  But every meal cannot be that way - sometimes a meal just has to be fuel.

One of my favorite sciencey blog writers, Peter Attia, MD writes:
If you find yourself feeling frustrated at how difficult it is to get from consciously eating well tounconsciously eating well, remember that you are on a journey.  If you are consistent and patient, if you remind yourself that you are embarking on a journey to change your life and not a short-term fix to look good in a bathing suit next month, you will embrace the right mindset to find the ‘sweet’ spot of unconsciously correct eating.
 This resonates with me.

Give me your thoughts, my 3 readers.  Is food just fuel or can it be hobby and enjoyment?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Wheat contains opiates. Really? REALLY???

I have been reading the book "Wheat Belly," by William Davis.  I have a lot of trouble reading sciency things written for non-sciency people because generally, well, they are often WRONG.  In trying to simplify the issues, author's often miss the mark and end up writing things that are dead wrong.  Given that, when I first read that wheat proteins (specifically the gluten family of proteins) were broken down into peptides that stimulate opioid receptors in the brain, I was all WHAT????  Naturally.  Aren't you?

What's an opioid and why am I freakin' out about it being in my food?

An opioid is a chemical that can elicit a response in the brain via the opioid receptor pathway.  We have lots of these "pathways" in our brains - some make us happy, some sad, some tired, some hungry, some painful, some cold, hot, angry, euphoric, etc.  For each feeling you have, you have a pathway set up to monitor that feeling.  To turn it on and off at the appropriate time. Each of these neural pathways are activated by a family of chemicals.  They have their own receptors or "locks" that they fit into which activate the pathway.  Imagine this:  the "key" is the opioid chemical and you have the key in your hand.  It fits into the "lock" which is the opioid receptor in your brain -- like the lock on your front door.  Once the door is open (or the pathway is activated), you walk down the "hallway" turning on light switches as you go.  Each light switch represents a part of the pathway that is being activated by that one action - the joining of key and lock (in this metaphor, you are "energy" being transmitted along the pathway, turning things on and off as you are programmed to do).  The end result is a brightly lit room which is "activated."  In this case, there are a plethora of possible outcomes of opioid pathway activation.  Among these are:
  • analgesia (you feel no pain)
  • antidepressive effects (you feel happy and if you're clinically depressed, your depression lifts)
  • euphoria
  • hyperactive behavior
  • physical dependence (once you experience life with the lights on, you don't want them off again)
Common opioids you may find in your daily life?  Morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, heroin, methadone -- amongst many, many others.

They are really physically addictive.  For heroin in particular, ONE EXPOSURE can lead to physical addiction.  They are bad news.

And they are in your food.

Opioids in food?  Surely you jest.

OK I will be honest with you.  You're not eating pure opioid chemicals in your bread.  It's the process of digesting it that is the issue here.  And of course, everyone does this (digesting) differently because we are all slightly different and unique snowflakes.  You know what gluten is, right?  That protein found in wheat endosperm?  It's there as a protein source for the growing wheat seedling along with tons of starch.  It actually exists in a complex with two gluten proteins, gliadin and glutelin, and starch.  I haven't read a ton on glutelin, but there certainly exists a whole body of literature on gliadins and what the body makes of them while digesting them.  But first things first.  Gluten is a protein found in wheat seeds.  Over the years, "we" (I use the term we to signify humans; not scientists, not laypeople, just US in general cause I'm damn straight not taking the blame as a scientist for this nonsense that our diet has become in the USA) have bred wheat plants to contain pretty high level of gluten.  Once food chemists realized that gluten makes things springy and elastic, it started to get added to many foods (bread being only one of HUNDREDS of foods on the market that contain gluten - just ask any Celiac).

So what does the body do with gluten?  The same thing it does with any protein - it gets digested into smaller and smaller units as it passes through the intestine.  These smaller units are called peptides.  Imagine gluten like a pearl necklace with each pearl representing the simplest unit of a protein, an amino acid (there wont be a test, bear with me here).  When you string together a few amino acids, you get a peptide.  When you make a whole necklace, either circular or just a long string, you get a protein.  Gluten is the protein, peptides are what you get when you cut up gluten in your digestive system.  These little pieces of protein, peptides, are the result of digestion of ANY protein in your body.  We call them "exorphins" when they come from protein digestion.  They are really small and can enter your bloodstream through conveniently-located blood vessels inside of your intestinal walls.  So you've got peptides/exorphins in your blood.

Don't be alarmed, it's normal.  What's really interesting is that some exorphin peptides LOOK just like keys that fit into certain locks.  Imagine, then, what would happen if we digested a protein into peptides that looked just like the key to the opioid receptor (lock)?  Whoa.  There you have it - that's exactly what happens when we digest gluten.  Specifically, when we digest gliadins, some of the resulting peptides fit into the lock which is the opioid receptor, making them OPIOIDS.

Wheat is addictive

Ask me, now, if I believe that this could really be true.  Just because these peptides LOOK like opioids, do I believe that wheat could have some of the same properties as morphine, heroin, codeine?

I absolutely do.

NO, they aren't akin to heroin.  I'm not an idiot, don't look at me like I'm crazy!

I've experienced wheat "addiction" if there is such a thing.  I just couldn't give up carbs (specifically wheat).  I just couldn't.  I could stop eating sweets all I wanted and I could damn HFCS to the eternal pits of hell, but I still wanted pasta, bread, crackers, cereal, etc. ALL.THE.TIME.  Ask my friends that have been with me through this nutritional journey.  Wendy?  Claudia?  Lesley?  You've heard me say it a million times, right?  Once I gave up wheat, I haven't even WANTED a grain or carby snack since.  I don't even want Quinoa.  I just don't want the carbs at all ever.  No lie, I swear!  BUT:  when you let a little bit of wheat in..............the "addiction" floods back.  I ate those gluten and wheat-containing sausages on Sunday night (see here) and Monday I spent the day thinking about how much my life sucked because I couldn't have some ice cream, bread, cookies, *enter other carby treat here.*  I white-knuckled it through the day/night and didn't cave and felt better for it by Tuesday, but wow.  Just wow.

I have one more thing to tell you and I hope everyone is listening to this because I don't want to say it since I've been railing against it from Day 1 of this journey.

Those Paleo people might be on to something -

- because milk proteins (casein) are digested into opioid-like peptides too.  It turns out that wheat and cow's milk - two things we really aren't evolved to properly process or digest, both produce these addictive peptides as byproducts of normal digestion.  Does everyone make these peptides?  Probably not as research into the link between mental health and nutrition shows.  Only a certain percentage of schizophrenics experience symptomatic relief from a gluten-free diet.  Is everyone that makes opioid peptides as sensitive to them as, obviously, I am?  Probably not.  Who knows.  

I am running the risk of becoming a fruitarian more and more each day.

Don't believe me?  Read this peer-reviewed article on how the effects of gliadin peptides exacerbate psychiatric illnesses like schizophrenia.  Then be a good scientist and follow the references within:

Kalaydjian AE, et al 2005. The gluten connection: the association between schizophrenia and celiac disease, Acta Psychiatr Scand 2006: 113: 82–90.

For a great layman's read, see "Wheat Belly" by William Davis, available here


To none other than ALDI brand turkey brats.  Yeah, yeah I know that sausages are bad for you and whatnot (I am hearing Claudia's voice in my head right now).  But you can't just throw away food - and I had some in my freezer.  Monday morning I woke up with all of the familiar things:  swollen face, puffy eyes, lethargy, fatigue (and not cause it was just Monday).  A check of the ingredients list on the sausages made me realize that they have all of the bad culprits:  tons of chemical preservatives, gluten, wheat, etc.


I took an allegra and went to bed Monday night and now, Tuesday morning, I'm feeling well again.

Most importantly - the scale is stalled despite a stellar eating weekend.  If my body's normal behavior holds true, this will last about 3 days.


Sunday, July 15, 2012

What's cooking in my crazy kitchen

So I'm now 100% gluten free and my net carbs are limited to 50 g a day.  According to the anit-inflammation diet, which I read and loved and reviewed on the blog here, I still have work to do.  Since I'm not 100% off of my allergy meds (I'm still taking singulair, allegra and about 3x a week I take my inhaled steroid), there could still be a food allergy or sensitivity at play here.  But I'm fine with hanging out at this stage for a while as I adjust to my new diet/lifestyle.

What do I eat, you may be wondering?

Here's a copy/paste from my food journal on My Fitness Pal

Your Food Diary For:

Thursday July 12, 2012
 As you can see, my calorie goal that day was high - I rode my bike for 1.5 hours and earned an extra lotsa calories but didn't eat them all.  Also, you can see that my net carb intake is somewhere around 50 g daily (don't forget that net carbs is total carbs minus fiber grams).  I'm often way over "target" for a "normal" diet on fiber, fat, protein and way under "target" for carbs and sugar.  This is good for someone that has high insulin and doesn't want to trigger a big overreaction by her body.  A big insulin dump would mean an end to fat burning until the insulin "wears off (for lack of a better term, we will discuss that further in a future post)."

Are you interested in almond butter?  I made it myself using this recipe.  It's a great tutorial and the pics were really helpful when I almost panicked about the big ball 'o' nuts that was spinning around in my Cuisinart at the middle-stage.  Just push through, its worth it!

How about the pulled pork I ate?  I added zero carbs to this, so it only has what's in the pork naturally.  I used this recipe, but instead of beer, I added low carb (homemade) chicken stock.

So that's what I'm eating right now.  I try to avoid overly processed foods, but I eat "processed" dairy.  This is the next step to limit/eliminate but as I said, I'm trying not to go "whole hog" just yet.  We are easing into it at this point.

How do I feel?  Well.  Let's talk about that, shall we?
  1. I no longer have that sluggish "I didn't sleep at all last night" feeling when I wake in the morning.
  2. I no longer look all puffy like I got beat up in my sleep when I wake up.
  3. I don't need any more than ONE CUP of coffee in the mornings and if you know me, you know that's significant.  I used to have 2-3 cups of coffee and a diet soda daily.  Sometimes I still have a diet soda - I know its bad but honestly its twice a week MAX - because I want the carbonation and the taste, not cause I cannot live without it.
  4. I can exercise.  I don't fall asleep on the couch every day at 8PM.  I have worked it into my schedule (despite it cutting into my manuscript writing time!) and I'm enjoying it.
  5. I'm losing weight.  SO FAR, the scale is moving down.  We shall keep a close eye on that one because I plateaued very quickly last time I said that!
So how's that?  Worth a diet/lifestyle change?  I think so.