Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Cyclops Living: Options and dosages

Ah, ensconced in my little home in the PNW once again. Visiting family and friends is always a blast, but sooner or later I start pining for my own bed.

We ate ourselves out of perishables before we left for vacation, so we needed to pick up milk and eggs and sundry essentials. So CM and I went shopping last night and picked up, among other items, a bag of Rainier cherries.

Time was, I could sit down with a big bowl of these sweet, blushing yellow beauties and OMNOMNOM them in nothing flat. However, since discovering I have a busted pancreas, that doesn't seem like a wise choice any more. Cherries, like most stone fruits, are high in sugar and thus not particularly good for people trying to control their blood glucose levels.

Some people seem to believe that, in my situation, I am forced to choose between the following two options:

1) Refuse to touch the cherries, no matter how much I might want them, and sit around feeling sorry for myself because I can never eat Rainier cherries ever again for as long as I live; woe, woe, gloom and despair.


2) Enter a Zen-like state of denial, eat my usual big bowl of cherries, "lose track" of my glucose monitor for a few hours so I don't have to face the truth... oh yeah, and die of horrible diabetic complications ten to twenty years down the road, thanks to similar blood sugar spikes brought on by irresponsible binges spread out over many weeks and months.

But you know what? I've been thinking it over and I've decided that both these "options" suck. They tend to put one into a vicious cycle where one is alternately sternly self-denying and thoughtlessly binging. (Or Rainiering, as the case may be.) That's no way to live. Besides, there have to be other options.

So what are they? Well, try these on for size.

1) Lowering the dosage makes a difference. I may not be able to eat a whole bowl of Rainiers any more without doing damage to myself, but who says I need to have a whole bowl? Sometimes just a small amount -- say, two or three large, cold, fresh cherries, slowly savored -- gives me enough of the specific taste I've been craving, and drives off any lingering impulses to throw a self-pity party because after all, I got some of what I really wanted. I have enough self-control when it comes to certain foods that I can enjoy a mouthful of ice cream or a tablespoon of garlic mashed potatoes with an otherwise low-carb meal, get the taste of the "forbidden" treat, and be content with that. If I still feel hungry afterward, I'll go look for something delicious to eat that won't raise my sugars.

2) Seek out healthier substitutions. Some treats don't fit into the above category because they're on my "trigger food" list -- items I know I should avoid even in small doses, because once I start nibbling on them I find it extremely difficult to stop. Most salty crunchy snacks fall into this category, as do pastries, homemade bread, Almond Roca, and German Chocolate Crunch ice cream from the BYU Dairy. (Fortunately, this last isn't a regular temptation as I live three states away.) In situations like these where I know a small taste of the forbidden food will just tempt me to eat more, I look for adequate substitutions. For instance, the German Chocolate Crunch hole has to some extent been filled by So Delicious No Sugar Added chocolate "ice cream," a coconut-milk-based frozen dessert (8 grams net carbs per serving, though I don't often eat a whole serving because it's rich enough that a smaller amount satisfies). When CM starts snacking on cheese puffs and potato chips, I turn to chicharrones for my salty crunchy fix (0 grams carbs, bay-bee). Pinto bean chili (20g net carbs per cup) gets replaced by steakhouse-style no-bean chili (12g net carbs per cup). I've substituted thin-sliced, salted and rinsed zucchini for the usual high-carb noodles to create a particularly delicious lasagna. I'm messing around with shirataki noodles for those times when I really want a noodle stir-fry or a big bowl of Asian noodle soup. Sometimes the craving for high-sugar fruit can be quelled by a serving of Greek yogurt (9g carbs) mixed with Torani sugar-free syrup (pineapple and raspberry are especially tasty). And so it goes. I'm even experimenting with a Bisquick-like low-carb baking mix called Carbquik, just to see if I can occasionally make biscuits and waffles and a handful of casserole dishes that have heretofore been off limits.

3) Determine whether you're really hungry or just bored. I tend to be especially guilty of this little trick. Sometimes when I'm not really hungry, I just eat to entertain my taste buds. That's a potentially dangerous habit, but it's one that can be broken. Having something to do somewhere else, whether it's running errands or geocaching with Captain Midnight or wandering down to the library to pick up that book I've been meaning to read, gives me a break from the temptation to eat solely for novelty's sake. (Plus, getting out of the house makes life more interesting, which has the side benefit of making this blog more interesting... at least that's the idea.)

So today I'm going to have a few perfectly ripe cherries. I'm going to enjoy a sugar-free beverage. I'm going to run a few errands. I'm going to do what I can to strike a good balance, finding food that is both delicious and healthy for me. I'm going to enjoy learning how to cook and bake all over again, and maybe I'll make improvements to some old standby recipes. I'm going to focus on all the things I can do, rather than wail endlessly over the few things I can't or shouldn't. Life may not be a bowl of cherries, but it's still plenty delicious.

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