Going Sugar-Free

I am trying this week to go Sugar-Free, and I am not talking about switching to Diet Coke.

I am trying not to eat any added sugar at all, in anything.

This is harder than you might think. You can’t go sugar-free just by avoiding sweets. In the U.S. anyway, sugar is in almost everything. I went through my cabinets and fridge and marked with a sharpie all the sugar-laden foods with an X.

Why is there sugar in mayonnaise? I’ve made it from scratch before, out of only egg yolk, oil, mustard, lemon juice and salt. Same deal with spaghetti sauce. Aren’t tomatoes sweet enough? I definitely don’t add sugar to my homemade sauce.

 

Obviously, all cereals are out. I am not a big cereal eater anyway (this is my husband’s hoard), but I checked just for fun. Cheerios has only 1 gram of sugar per bowl – that’s about 1/4 of a teaspoon – so the best of the lot. Some of these so-called “healthy” cereals have 13 grams per serving – about 1 tablespoon of sugar.

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Oddly enough, the “Crispy Cocoa Rice” cereal is not the sweetest cereal in my pantry

I’m also astonished at how sweet foods have more than one kind of sugar in them. A barbecue sauce, for example, had two kinds of corn syrup, brown sugar, and plain ol’ sugar in it. Yuck.

Food companies do this mostly so that they can hide the amount of sugar in foods. U.S. regulations require food companies to list ingredients by volume, most prevalent to least prevalent, in the food. If they just used, say, corn syrup, that item would appear high up in the list, maybe even first. You think you’re eating tomato ketchup, but the label would reveal you’re eating corn syrup flavored with tomatoes. So they spread out the sugar content among several different types of sugars to hide this reality. There are more than 60! Common ones you see are: sugar, corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, invert sugar, maple syrup, brown sugar, molasses, honey, agave syrup, cane juice, beet sugar, sucrose, fructose, etc.

Some people think that some kinds of sugars are “healthier” than others. Not true. It’s all basically the same. Just because honey and maple syrup come from nature doesn’t mean they’re less sugary than corn syrup that comes from a factory.

I stumbled upon another reality of processed foods – things tend to get sweeter over time. I had in my pantry two boxes of Kashi Cherry Dark Chocolate granola bars – one “original” and one “improved.” Obviously, these have sugar in them. I have been bringing them to work sometimes if I want a sweet treat to have with coffee, because it’s a better option than, say, a pastry or doughnut. I compared the old nutrition ingredients to the new, and look what I found:

The “new and improved” is actually “new and worse.” There’s more sugar and fat and less protein now, but more chocolate! The bar is denser and also stickier from the extra sugar. Brands like Kashi have a “health halo” around them. They use packaging and advertising to make people think their products are good choices, but they’re not.

Finally, here’s a Tale of Two Salsas.

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The one on the right is a Peach and Mango salsa. It’s sweet, yes, because there are peaches and mangos in there. Yet there’s also sugar and agave syrup, which is supposed to be “better” than corn syrup. As if.  WHY? The salsa on the left is a roasted tomato and pepper concoction – no added sugar. Its 1 gram of sugar occurs naturally in tomatoes. So it’s what I am going to have.

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Everything Sucks

My sewing room garbage can is stuffed. I put in there the muslins and pattern pieces from the Burda trousers 127 from the December 2017 issue. The fit just looks awful, no matter what I do. I will spare your eyeballs the ugly pictures from my third muslin attempt. It was a serious shitshow. The idea to do a “full thigh adjustment” did not work. Excess fabric pooches out in the thighs and just looks absurd. So yeah, I learned that lesson.

Also in the bin is my skirt from New Look 6326. This had two problems – dodgy fabric and a backside fit that just baffled me. The waist was enormous but when I put in another set of darts in the back, I got this bizarre pleating effect. Could I fix it? Maybe. But fuck it. I don’t even want the skirt anymore. It’s made of wool crepe and it’s already mid-February.

Basically, I struggle mightily to fit the bottom half of my body. I can make tops and jackets all day. I can make a fit-and-flare dress or skirt. But I have to deal with my thighs, butt and waist in any way, I fail. This is serious disappointment. Half the point of sewing apparel for me is to get clothes I want but cannot buy because RTW cuts don’t remotely fit me.

I have always hated my legs. Even as a child I hated them. I seriously had cellulite and stretch marks on my thighs when I was 12. I have spent my entire life trying to deal with this. Even at my thinnest as an adult, my legs looked terrible. Now I have gained back some of that weight, and I think every fucking pound of it went to my legs and my ass.

This is a string of failures. I am also having problems with this graduate class I am taking. Work is boring. I can’t seem to lose weight. And our dinner party last night didn’t turn out well either.

Part of me knows that failure is inevitable when you try something new or hard. “Give yourself permission to suck,” I say to myself. Well, I suck all right. Everything sucks. I feel like I just need a good long cry, but I can’t bring myself to do it. I thought maybe if I wrote this – just put all the shit out there – it would release the floodgates.

Nope.

 

Binge Eating

Last night, I was watching the first episode of the new season of “Stranger Things,” just sitting on the couch with my dog in my lap and my husband in his recliner next to us. A character on the show was eating Cheetos. I wanted some Cheetos. We happened to have some of these “phony health halo organic puffed cheese snacks” in the house. So I poured what was left in the bag into a cereal bowl. Another character on the show was drinking a big glass of Coke or Pepsi. We didn’t have any of that, but we did have some ginger ale, so I grabbed a bottle of that.

I wasn’t hungry, or thirsty, or particularly craving or interested in this food. About halfway through I thought about stopping, but I didn’t until I’d eaten every cheese puff in the bowl and drained the soda bottle.

That’s what binge eating looks like for me. Mindless stupid eating. I’ve been doing this for the past couple of days. I’ve gained 2 pounds. As near as I can remember, I ate six pieces of cornbread, six slices of toast with leftover cannoli filling spread on top, four chocolate-dipped macaroons, four snickerdoodles, a couple of mini shortbread cookies, a big ham and cheese sandwich grilled in butter, a piece of a chocolate bar, who knows what else. This was on top of regular healthy meals.

We had my husband’s office friends to dinner Saturday, so a lot of this food was party leftovers. I should have just thrown it out but instead I methodically ate it all. The sweets are the worst part of it – I have a little sugar and I want more more more. I stopped before I ate everything, and now the fever’s passed and I don’t want any more. Whatever my husband doesn’t eat tonight is going in the trash.

I go on a binge like this a couple of times a year, usually when I am very bored. I wanted to share a few tips for getting out of the cycle:

  • Drink a lot of water and decaf/herbal tea to flush out your system and fill you up.
  • Stop as soon as you can. Don’t fall into this like of thinking: “I already ate a ton of crap, so I might as well eat more.”
  • Find something to do to distract you – typically TV, movies, and computer games are the worst and encourage more bingeing for me.
  • The trash can and garbage disposal are your friends.
  • Write down what you ate, what was going on and how you felt as best as you can remember, to provide some accountability for yourself and to give you something to read over if you feel like bingeing again.
  • Set a plan for regular healthy meals to get you back on track.
  • Get help if you are able to and you feel you can use it.

Blogging About Weight Loss

When I lost 50+ pounds several years ago, I ate controlled portions of real food, I exercised, I recorded everything, I weighed myself once a week – all pretty standard weight-loss disciplines. I also kept a blog that I updated almost daily. This blog was a big factor in my success. It was hosted on a platform restricted just to dieters, so I never encountered trolls, but rather took in a lot of encouragement and good ideas. I made a few friends, although I don’t hear from any of them anymore.

I kept the blog from 2010 to 2016, when the blogging platform shuttered. Right before it did, I copied all my blogs (more than 1,500 of them) into several Google Docs files, so I could have them for all time. I even copied many of the comments.

I was looking for some info in an old blog recently but I found myself reading every blog I wrote in 2011. It took a couple of hours. At that time I weighed a little less than I weigh now, fluctuating 8 pounds or so. It seems like a long time ago, and it seems like yesterday.

How many of the same issues still bother me? A blog about a binge. A blog about a fraught family meal. Some health issues. Some work stresses. Shopping trips full of joy at smaller sizes and stylish looks. Resolutions to swear off sugar, or alcohol, or whatever else ailed me at the moment.

I will never change. I will fight to keep the weight off as long as I live. It’s part of the deal, sorry to say. I have accepted that.

I have not written much about weight loss here because I feel like I said it all already in that other blog. Besides, who cares? It’s one thing to write in a dedicated platform, but quite another to put struggles and ideas out there for everyone to see.

I realized something, however, when reading my old blog. I really wrote the thing for myself. If other people read it, commented, and formed friendships with me, that was great. But mainly I wrote the blog so I could remember what the weight-loss struggle was about, because I was dedicated to the idea that someday I would lose the weight, and on some distant day, I would not remember what it was like to be so overweight and unhealthy.

That has been 100% true.

So, I may post about weight loss from time to time. It’s definitely a distaff-side pursuit anyway.

“That’s a lot of money for something that’s going to end up in the toilet.”

That’s my reaction to eating at fancy restaurants these days. We were on a long weekend trip and wanted to get together with some friends. They suggested their favorite restaurant. We said “OK.” We ended up spending about $350 for the meal.

Sheesh.

I am so over restaurants. I feel like restaurants are the worst kind of indulgence.

  • You stress about getting a reservation, which is basically permission to spend your money at the restaurant. You’re all happy like you won the lottery if you “get in.”
  • You show up and everyone fawns over you and waits on you like you’re the queen of something.
  • There are all these little stupid euphemisms, like how the menu says “crispy” instead of “fried,” and when the waiter goes to take away your mostly empty plate and he says, “May I clear this, or are you still enjoying it?”
  • The menu descriptions have to say the lettuce is “local” and the tomatoes are “heirloom,” like there’s no way you can get this stuff at your local supermarket.
  • The waiter congratulates you on your menu choices. Like he’s going to say, “I wouldn’t get the duck if I were you.”
  • Someone refolds your napkin when you get up to use the bathroom. Why?
  • Maybe the chef comes over and really piles it on. In this case, the chef overheard my husband remarking that there were not many red meat choices on the menu, so she offered to make him something special. He took her up on it.
  • You get a freebie, like an extra dessert, and you’re sooooo impressed.
  • You can’t get over how the food is so good. Of course it is! You would never put this much fat, sugar and salt in food you make at home. You would never spend hours prepping vegetables, making stocks, reducing sauces and everything else. Nor should you.

We had one of these marathon sessions of eating and drinking and all I could think was “I would so much rather spend this money and time doing anything else.” The pleasure for me was in visiting with friends, not stuffing my face. I would have been just as happy having a meal at a little ethnic restaurant, or a picnic in the park, or best yet, eating at home.

When we left the restaurant, my husband kept gushing about it. He went to the bathroom to turn some of the $100 bottle of Pinot Noir into urine, so when he returned, I said: “It was nice, but that’s a lot of money for something that’s going to end up in the toilet.”

His face fell. I have to remember that line for next time.

Thoughts on Thinx

I bought two pairs of this special underwear called Thinx that’s meant to be worn when you have your period. The underwear has an absorbent and odor-neutralizing crotch panel that can absorb a tampon or two’s worth of menstrual blood (depending on the style of Thinx you choose). In theory, you can go without tampons or pads at all and just wash and reuse the underwear.

In short, did they work? Yes. They are probably not for everyone, however.

This is a pretty long post and has a lot of details in it. If you’re squeamish, find something else to read. I am not affiliated with this product in any way, and I did not receive any free samples or other compensation as a condition of writing this blog. This is really just my thoughts and experiences with this product.

I bought two pairs of Thinx for a few reasons:

  • I’m very interested in new textiles and how garments can be used to support medical needs, be it menstruation, illness or disability.
  • I’m interested in alternatives to standard menstrual products in general. Having consumed these products most of my life, I always think, “There’s got to be a better way!”
  • I like that female engineers, businesswomen and scientists are thinking anew about menstrual products, and that they are able to get funding to manufacture and market these products.
  • I would like to reduce my use of disposable, nonbiodegradable things in general. All the wrappers, applicators and packaging of standard tampons and pads could be reduced or eliminated.
  • I think that women should be able to talk about menstruation openly and without shame. Products such as Thinx open the dialogue.

I read over the product specs (see www.shethinx.com for more) and bought a high-waist style ($38) and a hip-hugger style ($34) to try. Based on the measurements, I ordered a large but they were too small, so I got a refund and bought an extra large in each style.

Because I like to sew, I know when I am looking at a well-made garment, and these were. The lining of the underwear is made of a cotton and elastane blend. The waistband and outer layer is a nylon-elastane blend – the waistband has a pretty, sheer stripe detail. The absorbent inner liner is made of a polyurethane laminate, or PUL fabric. It runs from waistband to waistband front and back and is encased in the lining and outer fabric. The sides are sheer.

I tried them this week. I wore the hip-huggers on Sunday, under jeans, without any back-up tampons or pads. They performed admirably with no leaks. I was aware each time I used the toilet that the underwear was absorbing blood, but it soaked in to the absorbent layer and did not feel sticky, just a bit damp. The underwear was a bit bulky, but not bad, especially under jeans. There was no smell at first, but by the end of the day, I could detect a scent – not the usual menstrual blood scent, but a scent that’s hard to describe – a bit plastic-y and sharp. The scent wasn’t objectionable, really, but it was there.

I wore them for the rest of the day and to bed. I woke up with no stains on my PJs or sheets. The odor was much stronger at this point, but that’s to be expected – I wore them for a full day! The instructions say you should rinse the underwear and then wash it, using regular laundry soap but no fabric softener. I saw a lot of blood come out in the rinse, so I let them soak a bit, then rinsed again until the water was clear. Then I let them soak with some laundry detergent, scrubbed them by hand, rinsed and let them line dry.

I had intended to wear the high-waist pair to work Monday, but when I tried them on with my dress, they rode up a bit and were noticeably bulky in the rear with the style of dress, so I switched to some high-waist trousers. This time, I backed up the underwear with a tampon because I couldn’t take chances at work, but I didn’t use a pantyliner as I normally would. Again, they performed well. There was no odor or leaking, although to be fair, tampons did most of the job. The general fit of the underwear was not great and rode up all day. I wore them to bed without any back-up and they were fine – no leaks or stains and the faint odor. Again, I rinsed them and washed them in the sink with some laundry detergent.

I reused the clean hip-huggers to work Tuesday under a skirt without any tampon backup, and they performed very well, although my flow was a lot lighter by then. There was no odor or dampness.

My takeaways:

  • Thinx are a viable alternative to tampons or pads. They do their job and perform as promised.
  • They look nice and are well made.
  • Thinx are not gross or smelly – not any grosser or smellier than the normal menstruation situation, anyway.
  • Using Thinx alone without tampons or pads, I would not want to wear one pair all day but rather would change them after 8 hours  or so. This makes sense, since I’d normally change tampons every 4 hours or so, and the underwear’s meant to absorb about two tampons’ worth.
  • Using Thinx as a tampon back-up, or on a light flow day, I will wear them all day.
  • I will wear the high-waist pair exclusively to bed, because of the bulky nature and the poor fit. I am OK with this because I usually wear big diapery pads to bed (I don’t want to get up in the night to change tampons) and occasionally have to deal with leaks.
  • I can handwash them and let them dry so that two pairs will get me through a typical cycle.
  • The cost alone doesn’t really justify the purchase. At $70 for two pairs of underwear, I could buy a couple hundred tampons, pantyliners and pads.

I will be interested to see how these hold up and perform over time. I will buy more if I really like them.

The $5, 15-hour Cucumber

My reluctant garden finally turned out some produce. Behold! The $5, 15-hour cucumber!

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Are you saying to yourself, “This looks like every other cucumber I ever saw?” Well, yes. But this is a magic cucumber. It’s magic because I put some seeds in some dirt and out it grew.

Now, are you saying to yourself, “Um… Duh… Isn’t that how all cucumbers grow?”

Again you are right. It wasn’t magic. It was horticulture.

Happy now?

I estimate this cucumber cost me $5. I bought a packet of seeds. I also bought some mulch. So those are my raw materials. We don’t count wear and tear on other things, such as gloves and tools. We won’t count the soil in my raised beds, since that’s been in place for a while. We also won’t count the cost of water. What do I look like, an accountant? Let’s just say $5 and call it square, OK?

I estimate it took 15 hours of labor to grow this cucumber. The “stick seed in the dirt” bit takes 10 seconds. But you know what takes hours? Weeding, watering, shoveling, tilling, screening the soil, making compost and digging it in. Also peeking at the cucumber vine to see if it’s coughed up anything yet.

So that’s my fabulous cucumber. I’m going to eat it with some hummus. I may get another one next week.