Solved: Not Enough Poop

I know. This is a TMI blog post, for sure. It’s a taboo subject at most social gatherings (especially since most social gatherings are round meal time or food), but it’s something that I feel I need to talk about. I’m going to make the assumption that you’re not eating as you’re reading this. If you are, you may want to stop. Or not. It’s your call. But I’m going to continue to talk about poop.

One of the first things I noticed when I cut out foods with added sugar and grains is that I stopped pooping as much. Also, my poop became much denser, and much more difficult to move. I was told that this passes for some people, but I wasn’t one of those. For the past nearly four years, I’ve been dealing with finding ways to get more fiber into my diet. I’ve tried to avoid most commercial stool softeners because so many rely on grains, and I’ve also tried a few other methods with mediocre success, but nothing ever got me back to the daily moves. I missed those daily moves.

Then, I wrote that blog entry about the sources of fiber. I was shocked and surprised to discover that chocolate ranked so high on the list (no, I didn’t start eating a bunch of chocolate… or did I?), but most importantly, chia was on the list at a whopping 34% fiber by volume. This was HUGE. What happened next is a testament to the love of my amazing wife who is always going out of her way to solve problems for me, even when I don’t ask her to (in the BEST way, not that annoying, “I’m going to fix you against your will” kind of way. Ew.)

She did some research and found that there’s a whole group of puddings made from chia seeds. These recipes are simple, quick, and actually amazingly delicious. Best yet: they offer the fiber that many of us on the Paleo diet miss out on by not eating grains. She made me a chocolate chia pudding, and I have to say, that even if it didn’t offer any other benefit besides it’s tasting amazing, I’d ask for it all the time. But no. Something wonderful happened. Within a few hours of eating it, I had to go! I started eating a 1/2 cup serving after lunch and dinner (I’m still doing IF, so no breakfast), and lo and behold, I am back to pooping once and actually on most days, even twice a day! It’s AMAZING! I don’t feel stopped up anymore, and my gut feels all amazing and I actually feel better!

Sherry made me another batch of it yesterday morning before she went to work (because, as she put it, it’s super-easy to put together) and I’ll be eating some more of it starting tonight when I get home (I forgot to bring a lunch portion with me). The great part is that I know I’ll still be able to poop regularly, and she promised to try some other recipes of the chia puddings to change things up so I don’t get tired of the same chocolate pudding. I don’t think that’s possible, but some of the flavors she described are pretty amazing.

Check out chia puddings if you are having problems moving your poop. It’s helped me immensely!

The Busy Life

This past weekend, I had drill. It was very busy, as not only did I participate in a full physical, I received a number of shots (there are at least five holes in my arm right now) and I stood out in the cold for a few hours waiting in line to get my hearing tested. On top of that, I started a new job last week, and I am now into my second week of learning my new position.

That’s left me with some odd food choices. Last week, I ate mostly pre-prepared food that my wife made for us. With the exception of one day last week, I was able to eat Paleo food. Saturday, however, was a different story. At drill, my Lieutenant wanted to eat sushi for lunch, and who was I to tell her that it’s difficult for me to find food there? I decided “The heck with it,” and just went along with it. For science. No, seriously, I wanted to see how well my body could handle an off-the-rails lunch. It turns out that my body took it all in stride and with the exception of a little bit of sweating at night while I slept (as my body was burning off the excess carbs), I was okay. My weight held steady the next morning. Oh, and yes, the sushi was delicious!

Sunday, I ate wings which is typically a Paleo-ish lunch, and dinner at home. This week, I have some really delicious Paleo foods to eat that my wife made on Sunday while I was at drill, and Thursday evening, I will be traveling to San Francisco for a weekend there with Sherry for Valentine’s Day (weekend). I know I’ll be eating and drinking all kinds of ridiculous things then, and I’ll be beating myself up for it afterwards, but it is what it is. I’m going to enjoy myself, and the time there with my wife.

In terms of exercise, a knee injury is keeping me from running which is troubling. I think I may have done some damage to my knee, and if the pain persists after my weekend trip, I’ll be visiting a doctor to see what’s up. I am buying an knee brace today, and hopefully that helps resolve the tendon/ligament pain I’m experiencing. Wish me luck!

Eating Right at a New Job

I haven’t posted in a few days because I started a new job on Monday. It’s a great opportunity that gets me back into a more technical role in IT, and I am very excited to be starting this new chapter in my career. What it’s also brought, however unintentional, is a new level of stress, not only about the job and my getting “Snapped in,” as we called it in the Marines, but also with the food choices I’ve been presented with.

I started my first week by being in five hour meetings in which lunch is served. I literally went straight from new employee orientation to a meeting without even seeing my office first. At that first lunch, it was catered by Freebird’s which is a burrito place, kind of like Chipotle. It was easy enough for me to find good food, because I just had some beef and chicken fajitas with some grilled onions and peppers with a dollop of guacamole. The second day, however, was impossible: Philly Cheesesteaks. There was no healthy option available. I had to eat half of a Cheesesteak sandwich. Fortunately, it didn’t affect me too much, but it did leave me feeling hungry since I tried to mitigate the negative impacts by eating so little. Fortunately, I had a good dinner at home complete with a chocolate chia pudding!

Wednesday, my new manager took me and our team out for a welcome lunch for me, and we went to a Persian restaurant which had some amazing and delicious healthy food choices. I can’t remember the name of the dish I ate, but it was basically steak cut into cubes and grilled on a skewer with vegetables. I asked for a salad in place of the rice, and they happily complied.

Today, I brought my lunch. I’m in another all-day meeting that is catered, but I found out that the catering is by Firehouse Subs, which I really used to love, but is completely incompatible with my diet. I won’t lie when I say that I’m going to be a little sad that I can’t partake in the subs, but it is made all that much easier when the food I have is incredibly delicious and healthy. I also brought a little bit of that chocolate chia pudding that my wife made as a little dessert.

My unhealthy work lunch mitigation methods are:

  1. Pick and choose the parts that are healthy and leave the parts that are unhealthy.
  2. If you can’t pick a healthy part, eat a very small portion (enough to keep you from feeling hungry until you can get a healthy meal in).
  3. Bring meals from home when you know the catered meal is going to be unhealthy.
  4. This is the option I wish I had on Tuesday: make sure you have RXBars or Epic Bars or Larabars (or something you like) that you can eat in place of a catered meal if you were unable to bring a prepped meal with you.

Between those four options, I can get through just about any situation. Obviously, some are better than others, but the fact remains that you can get through any meal situation with a little planning.

Eat More Fiber

A dessert with a lot of good sources of fiber.

I eat a healthy diet, but one area that my diet is lacking in is fiber. I eat vegetables with every meal, but I still tend to get too few portions of vegetables. That leaves me with a bit of a problem when it comes to bowel movements. Sherry has been making me small salads to go with my dinners, but I tend to miss out on those at lunch. That has left me with a bit of a “Go” problem this week.

Don’t get me wrong: I LOVE vegetables. I really do. The problem is that in my attempts to limit the volume of food I eat, I tend to stick with more protein-heavy meals because they fill me up with less food. I think I need to concentrate more on vegetables and fiber and to try to get back to eating an apple some good source of fiber after my meals. I started doing that when I was at Ft Indiantown Gap for training last year, and it seemed to help keep me more regular.

Foods that are high in fiber include:

  • Chia Seeds (34.4%)
  • Almonds (12.5%)
  • Dark Chocolate (10.9%)
  • Artichoke (8.6%)
  • Avocado (6.7%
  • Raspberries (6.5%)

Foods that I eat regularly that have fiber in them, but not nearly as much as I thought, include:

  • Pears (3.1%)
  • Beets (2.8%)
  • Carrots (2.8%)
  • Brussels Sprouts (2.6%)
  • Broccoli (2.6%)
  • Sweet Potatoes (2.5%)
  • Apples (2.4%)
  • Strawberries (2%)

In making this list, I was surprised to see Apples so low on the list. I never would have guessed that Dark Chocolate would rank so much higher! As long as the Dark Chocolate is in the 70% or higher range and not sweetened with cane sugar, it is actually one of the best sources of fiber by weight. Go figure!

Running and Rest

A photo taken by a potato of me on the treadmill. I was actually on my cool-down when I took this which is why the photo is a bit blurry. Ok, a lot blurry.

I’m a little older than your average health blogger: I’m 51. I didn’t start on my healthy lifestyle journey until I was 48, and at the outset, I knew I couldn’t play by the younger people rules when it came to exercise. I have done a pretty good job of minimizing injuries by taking a day of rest between my run days, and it’s worked pretty well. The only time I have run afoul of this plan has been any time the National Guard has required me to run day after day. That’s when my body quickly starts to show its age, and I sustain injuries. Unfortunately for me, I was reminded of this yesterday when I decided to run the day after a good run day.

Now, before I go much further, I want to state that my goal is to run 5 days a week. For the past three years, I’ve run a day and then took a rest day, but I want to take my running and health to a better level, so I’ve begun daily, or almost daily runs. My running yesterday was possibly a bit premature, as I was off from running all last week, and I should have taken a day off and then done a two-day cycle followed by another day off followed by a three-day cycle. But no, I went right into it and now my right knee is sore.

I knew yesterday that I wouldn’t be able to run tonight. I’m going to the shooting range with my friend Steve, and there won’t be an opportunity for me to run, so I figured I’d put in an easy-ish 2 mile run. That two mile run turned out to be a much more difficult and painful experience than I had anticipated, but to be fair, once I got past the first half mile, the pain subsided and didn’t return until I was sitting at a table after dinner and tweaked my right knee. Now, it’s tender and I’m being very careful, but it is definitely sore.

Am I injured or just hurt? Well, I think I’m hurt. I think my knee is not used to the amount of running I’ve done in the past two days, and I think it’s just some minor pain from exerting more than usual. It doesn’t feel like I’ve injured anything which would make the knee hurt regardless of what I’m doing. Right now, as I am sitting here writing this article, there is no pain at all. If my knee were injured, I’d feel it.

Rest is a very important component of exercise. Most people tend to overlook it much as they overlook sleep’s importance in weight loss. Perhaps my goal of running 5 times a week is aggressive or not possible, but I’m going to keep trying for a while. I am taking off today and tomorrow from running, and I’ll likely put in a slow-ish three mile run on Saturday, take Sunday off again, and then hit the treadmill on Monday. I’ll report back then on how my knee is doing.

Indoor Running

I didn’t take any photos of me running indoors yesterday, but I kind of wish I had. It’s the first time I’ve run on a treadmill within the past 25 years or so, and it went a lot better than the last time.

Sherry recently bought us a treadmill to use when the weather outside isn’t conducive to comfortable or safe running. I have a rule that I don’t run when the temperature is lower than my age, and this winter has definitely thrown a lot of cold days at us. Then, there are rainy days, and in the summertime, oppressively hot days. It was common or me to use the weather as a cop-out to keep from running. Now, that’s gone. I can get my three runs in a week as long as much schedule permits.

I did a three mile run in Tustin, CA last night. I say I did it in Tustin because with the new treadmill we have, it’s possible to pick a route on a map, and then it displays your route through Google Maps Street View. It’s very cool, and I got to see some scenery in a place I lived for a long time but that I haven’t seen in a long time. It made the run memorable and entertaining, keeping my mind off the running.

I also really liked the fact that the treadmill has shock absorbers, so my knees didn’t ache quite as much as they do when I run outside. I may start running more and more on the treadmill, if only to save my knees. It’s also nice that it forces me to keep a pace, although I was able to raise and lower the pace a bit here and there to help me get through the run at in a time I was happy with.

I actually look forward to running on it. I may even run again tonight for a few miles.

Sleep… Sleep… Sleep…

It is SO important, it deserves it’s own blog post. It’s the secret ingredient I rarely see discussed when people are talking about losing weight and getting healthy, but in my experience, it tends to be the most overlooked aspect of success in my own weight loss. Case in point: the past few weeks.

This weekend, as I wrote about yesterday, I drank quite a bit on Saturday night and I didn’t get any sleep. The result was an increase of 3 lbs on the scale. Did I actually drink 3 lbs of liquid? Of course not, but the body reacts to alcohol by retaining water as the liver works to rid the body of the toxins. That means a gain in water weight, and typically it comes off with good adherence to a low-carb/no-sugar diet and getting a lot of sleep. I have gone days with little sleep after drinking, and I always found that it took up to 5 days for the extra water weight to go away.

Well, this week, I got 10 hours of sleep on Sunday night and a solid 7.5 hours last night, and this morning, I’m back down to not only my pre-weekend weight, but actually even lower. I hit 182.0 lbs today. That makes getting back into the 170’s a real possibility.

So many people who are trying to lose weight do so through overloading on exercise. At the most basic level, weight loss happens when you expend more calories than you take in, so I guess if you can exercise enough, you should be able to lose weight. The problems arise when you consider the quality of the calories and their effects on the body as well as the number of calories physical activities actually burn as compared to the calories you eat. That’s why I say all the time that it’s very difficult to out exercise a bad diet. Another little ditty I preach quite often is “You lose weight in the kitchen; you get fit in the gym.” I need to come up with something that talks about how necessary sleep is to weight loss.

My quick ingredient list for successful weight loss

  • Paleo Diet (or Whole30, Keto, Atkins, low-carb, etc)
  • Portion control: eat a sensible amount
  • No snacking
  • Intermittent Fasting (IF) if possible
  • Exercise: 30 minutes every other day (or every day if you can handle it)
  • A minimum of 7 hours of sleep a night (this varies person to person: I need 7 while someone younger may need more and someone older may need less)
  • NO SABOTAGE: that means no cheat days, cheat meals, cheat snacks, etc. If you are serious about losing the weight, this is a small price to pay. You need to change your relationship with food. Going back to a bad boyfriend or girlfriend from time to time is not healthy. Neither is going back to bad foods.

So, to sum up, do the things in the above list, but importantly, GET ENOUGH SLEEP!!!