Tag Archives: low carb

Dirt Brownies: Healthy Cooking Disasters

Have you ever looked at a post on a recipe or foodie blog (or even a Pinterest recipe posted by your aunt on Facebook) and thought, “That looks both simple and delicious! I should totally try that! That won’t turn out a hot mess AT ALL!” I have a history of doing that. And much like the woman behind the Pintester blog, I have a history of working with whatever items I have around the house or what I can source in a small town in southern Kentucky, trying to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, as it were, when I shouldn’t even be in the market for a faux silk purse in the first place. It always backfires.

I grew up in a household of working women who weren’t your traditional American homemakers. My maternal grandmother and my mom, accomplished as they are and love them as I do, weren’t big on home cooking as art form. I grew up on a lot of Campbell’s soup and Chef Boyardee and Meat Variety Helper products. My stepmom and paternal grandmother were each better cooks, but I didn’t learn a lot from either of them until I was older. Until last year, I was still making Amish Friendship Bread from a starter my stepmom gave me in 2009, and I loved it. Baking is easy. You put in ingredients from a pre-set formula, knowing how it’s supposed to turn out and not straying from the formula too much, and blam, science turns it into a pie or something marvelous. Baking is fun and always appreciated. Everyone loves pie. I love baking.

Cooking? Cooking is a chore. It’s thankless. In the U.S., we begrudgingly pay people minimum wage to cook for us. We hardly ever thank the people who feed us every day unless provoked by a special occasion. I don’t even care if my cooking turns out badly; I will usually eat whatever horrible thing I cook rather than go to the trouble of cooking again. I would rather eat Bachelor Chow than cook. Filboid Studge‘s marketing would have worked on me.

But boy howdy, I didn’t know that my passion for baking and my anti-knack for cooking would intersect so thoroughly when I tried to have a make-it-work moment with my pantry and a good recipe for an unhealthy food. The other day, I was taking a look at Paleo recipes and found a recipe for muffins over at PaleOMG. “Protein. Nut-free. Paleo. Chocolate. Baking.” These words made my heart beat faster. “Yes, I will be trying THAT,” I told my computer. My computer, having heard this before, tried to shut down. I admire its attempt to save me from myself. But despite the best efforts of the author to provide clear instructions and advice about substitutions in the comments, I still managed to eff up everything and made what I can only term as Dirt Brownies.

I didn’t learn my lesson from last year’s protein pumpkin pie disaster. I was feeding my dogs lots of pumpkin to help their tummies adjust to the stress of moving and new bacteria their bodies were not used to dealing with. I had a lot of canned plain pumpkin on my hands, and one day, I found a recipe that incorporated egg whites, canned pumpkin, some spices, protein powder, and magic to make perfect little pumpkin pie breakfast cakes.

That little voice in your head that tells you, “You should listen to the instructions. You need to pick up some genuine yak butter to make this recipe. You cannot substitute llama butter again”? Listen to that voice. That is the voice that I did not heed. That’s why I used chocolate powder in my slightly chocolate-pumpkin cake. That’s why I used a whole egg, yolk and all, to make an eggy, slightly chocolate-pumpkin cake. That’s why I used an old bottle of apple pie spices and too much Splenda to make a Splenda-coated, inconsistently spiced like apple pie, eggy, slightly chocolate-pumpkin pie that tasted like failure and had a texture like a cheap kitchen sponge.

I didn’t learn my lesson from 8 years of sometimes-strange vegetarian dinners. Ok, often-strange vegetarian dinners. I wasn’t one of those vegetarians who made a lot of stir fry vegetables in a wok and ate raw vegetables on the regular; I was more a fan of Boca and Morningstar and Quorn products wrapped in carbohydrates. A lot of dinners were wet marinara and whole wheat pasta and soggy microwaved vegetable mix. There were also a few from-scratch disasters that involved: over- or under-cooked quinoa; eggplant that I didn’t quite know what to do with; butternut squash ravioli that would not actually stay in the ravioli (delicious but way labor intensive); an apple and pear pie that didn’t cook all the way through; blocks of tofu incorrectly cooked, poorly spiced, or some combination thereof.

I didn’t even learn from my high school years, when I was sometimes a latchkey kid cooking my own dinner. I once made an entire boxed dinner in a pot that had been pre-soaked in dish soap, but not rinsed out, by my mother. The less said about those meals, the better.

A lot of my bad food experiments have started with nothing but the best intentions. But I think they have another thing in common: trying to replicate something worse for me by using an imperfect mix of ingredients that are nominally good for me.

So let’s take a walk down memory lane, back to two or three days ago, when I made my Dirt Brownies.

The recipe calls for sunflower butter. I don’t have any on hand. Neither did the two local groceries – surprise! I did find off-brand Nutella, which I almost bought for science, except the sugar content is really high. I thought, “Hell, I’ll make my own sunflower butter!” Without bothering to consult a recipe, I bought a container of roasted sunflower seeds. I also picked up a few other ingredients, like coconut flakes (um… well, none of this is unsweetened. Oh well, that’s not a lot)… baker’s chocolate (it says dark chocolate, but this baker’s chocolate has hardly any sugar at all, and I’m not looking for sugar, right?)… protein powder or coconut flour or whatever (nope, didn’t use any of these, just more coconut flakes).

When I got home, I busted out my little food processor. I tried like mad to make it work, gave up, and handed it to my boyfriend, who promptly fixed it within 5 seconds of laying hands on it. He is a jerk.

Sunflower Butter: The Journey

Sunflower Butter: The Journey

A recipe I found for sunflower butter said, “Don’t use the dry roasted sunflower seeds with salt! Use unroasted and unsalted only, as they’ll have more oils inside to make your sunflower butter creamy!” I slowly edged the empty canister of dry roasted, salted sunflower seeds into the trash as I turned on the food processor. Bzzt! What a lovely powder this makes! The recipe said I could add some oil. I’ve got canola oil and olive oil. The olive oil bottle had been used to clean my boyfriend’s work boots, the tip repeatedly touched to the polishing rag. Olive oil it was. I tossed in a good glorping of the oil (measurements are for the prepared!) and gave it a whirl for a few more minutes, poking the sludge with a little plastic blade. It seemed to work out ok, so I went with it.

I included the eggs in the recipe, the sunflower butter and a pinch of the coconut flakes. I didn’t add salt, since that seemed to be covered by the salty, salty sunflower seeds. I didn’t add protein powder or coconut flour, because I didn’t have either. I microwaved the baker’s chocolate to soften it enough for me to cut into tiny pieces. “The better to distribute through the muffins! Wait, I don’t have a muffin pan. …The better to distribute through the BROWNIES! I’m such a genius!”

I drizzled on some honey, fearing how granola-y the batter looked once in a little 9×9 pan, how little sugar I had used, and what it might taste like. It came out of the oven about 15 minutes later still bubbling around the edges. I left it on the stove for a few minutes to cool, then cut out my first piece and took a bite.

It was a bite I will remember for the rest of my life. It is filed under the mental note: “Tastes like hot dirt.”

Unknown to me at the time this photo was taken, the trivet probably tastes better than anything else in the photo.

Unknown to me at the time this photo was taken, the trivet probably tastes better than anything else in the photo.

I told my boyfriend what happened. “You’re welcome to try one if you want,” I told him, warning him of the healthy ingredients. He took a bite, un-took the bite, and threw the rest into the trash. Then he set his tongue on fire. From space.

He heard me putting them into plastic ware later. “You’re SAVING THOSE??”

“I made them, I should eat them. They are brownies of atonement.”

I had the last two small brownies after dinner tonight. I wanted to eat more, even after two burger patties with cheese, a sweet potato, and a tomato-okra stew, so I finished off the container. If I am going to idly eat, I’m going to idly eat something that has some protein and makes me think twice before the next time I make a healthy version of an unhealthy food.

The best food I’ve ever eaten has been fresh produce. There is nothing so wonderful as big, ripe raspberries or blueberries or blackberries or strawberries. I love different apple varieties. Carrots and I get along famously. Baked sweet potatoes go great with anything. And did I mention apples? I love apples.

A woman named Eve loves apples. FILM AT 11.

A woman named Eve loves apples. FILM AT 11.

I need to remember that the less processed my food is, the more I’m probably going to enjoy it. The further I stray from a tested recipe, the better the chances are that I will hate my results. I have many talents; culinary intuition is not one of them.

At least my spirit of adventure has not left me, despite the array of poor sensory experiences I have visited upon myself. I’ll try almost anything once. Cricket flour as ingredient in energy bars has me slightly repulsed and slightly intrigued. I may be trusted to buy a bar if they ever make their way to my regional health food stores, but please, send people to my house to prevent me from baking using cricket flour. What I create from it would likely result in a plague of locusts.

A Stranger’s Body

When I moved across the country, I started a new life with family and friends who hadn’t seen much of me for nearly 10 years. They aren’t as familiar with my body reshaping journey, and they don’t have the same image in their heads of me that I do.

I was having lunch with my new coworkers, and we were talking about dieting, different food lifestyles, our struggles with our bodies that ranged from weight loss to maintaining mobility. I talked some about how my eating habits changed over the last year and why I’m trying to steer clear of carbohydrates and starch. I get comments now to the effect of, “You don’t need to lose weight.” I then tell them about the eating plan my doctor put me on last year, my highest weight two years ago, and how much I’ve lost over the last year. “You weighed 205 pounds? You?” I don’t feel that different essentially, but I know I look different, and the two versions of myself are still being reconciled in my head.

When I look in the mirror, I see myself as I’ve always seen me, even though the shape is different. I’m still surprised at how my abdomen doesn’t protrude as much and how much better defined my chin is. But there I am, with more wrinkles and gray hair every day, smaller measurements all over.

The real shock comes when I look at photos of myself from the recent past. Scrolling through my Facebook photos is eye-opening. While I don’t regret what I looked like or hate myself for it – I know how hard I was trying to change myself for all those years – I am glad that I no longer have the health problems that came with that extra weight, the frustration that came with living that way, and the feeling that I’d never be able to lose it no matter how hard I tried.

People who know me now don’t realize that the larger version of me is still who I identify with, that that’s who I was for two decades. That’s my story, though, and it’s not as visible as my current body and the story that people might assign to me because of the way I look now. For better or worse, our pasts rule us.  That’s one reason I will always be decent to other people no matter their size – you don’t know their story, and it’s a highly personal story that is never really over.

I’m still getting used to seeing this body in the mirror, fitting it with clothes, and understanding the way other people see it. I love myself in every iteration, but this new me is both exciting and strange… and expensive to reclothe. My boyfriend is a valuable touchstone for shifting my perception and highlighting the changes my body has been through.

I have to cull my clothing collection again to rid myself of shirts that just won’t work anymore. I’m starting to fit into size 10 pants; my size 12s are getting baggy, and I’m wearing my boyfriend’s belts for the first time. This would have been impossible in the past due to the measurement of my waist. It’s a whole weird new world to me that just seems normal to everyone else. Time for me to start getting used to it.

Roller Coaster of Food

Whee! I’m eating healthy!

Just kidding, chocolate oatmeal cookies and sugary cappuccinos forever!

No, wait, carrots for dinner. Nothing but raw carrots. 40 BABY CARROTS.

Woman from the fake Nutrigrain ad "I Feel Great."

CARROTS EVERYWHERE. (If you recognize this image, you’ve been on the internet too long.)

OK, if I could just figure out what my body wants and stick to it, that would be great. Thanks.

I’ve maintained my weight through the month of December through the power of never wanting to eat, not stocking food in my house, going on long walks with the dogs, and eating more at holiday meals than I mean to do. But it is now January, and people have stopped cooking for me out of some sense of familial obligation and holiday spirit. Well, fine, I didn’t want to eat their delicious bacon-wrapped Parmesan and avocado cracker sandwiches. I’ll just go look at my condensed beefy mushroom soup and not think about Danish wedding cookies and soft bread covered in cheesy spinach dip.

Listening to my body is something I have historically had a hard time doing. I’ve tried to develop that skill for my own good and my own health, as lately, I have found myself ignoring hunger pangs and letting my anxiety tell me that everything is terrible and nothing will ever go right again because of some uncontrollable factor.

So if I see a plate of freshly-made dessert things in the kitchen, and if I haven’t had much else to eat that day, sometimes, I just say, “All right. Let’s do this.” At the grocery, I try not to police myself so hard on the food items I buy for myself. “No, soup is fine. Get more vegetables to put into it. And get a different type of apples this time. Eggs! Get some damn eggs!” And then, I prepare these foods when I’m hungry.

I had a dinner of foods that were not on my usual eating-stuff list on New Year’s Day. The ham was pretty much fine, though I ate a lot of it; I also had baked corn, hoppin’ john, homemade mashed potatoes, and peanut butter cookies. How many peanut butter cookies? Hmm. Maybe, like, 5 or 6. Worth it. I hadn’t eaten a lot in the days leading up to that day, and I had two plates of that food. It was pretty awesome. I felt so much better.

I worry sometimes that I’m restricting my foods too much with my lower carb, paleo-ish diet. I worry, too, that my lack of consistent weight loss, my plateauing, and my public straying from my declared eating lifestyle will come back on me as judgment from others and from myself when my body turns all these marvelous things into fat and re-glues some weight to the parts of me that have gotten smaller since last year.

A cartoon of an alien accusing a remorseful human woman.

JUDGED FOR FOOD CHOICES. No amnesty.

There’s letting your diet go completely by the wayside as you eat nothing but sugary snacks and non-nutritious foods. And then, there’s rebuilding, learning new limits, and eventually, eating foods in moderation. I like to think I’m engaging in the latter and not the former.

Some days, it really does feel like I’m riding a roller coaster of food choices. I have to remember that life has peaks and valleys, and self-care is no exception. Nothing is smooth sailing forever. If you learn to recover from the valleys and take them in stride rather than freak out or give in to the temptations completely, you’re more likely to enjoy yourself in the long run, stick to a plan that works, and learn to live with the choices you make rather than learn to begrudgingly tolerate sacrifice for the sake of ephemeral physical transformation goals.

Food Drudgery Blues

My diet has been so crappy these last two months! But it’s under construction and should be back on track. Sigh.

I was great about my paleo-ish, lower-carb, veggie-heavy diet for 5 months. Then, my health went belly-up for four weeks, and then, I underwent a family crisis, and everything went to hell. But soft, I see a light at the end of the tunnel.

It is a light powered by…carrots. Carrots, forever. Oh…great.

I’m getting tired of my usual lunch rotation. I put together four days’ worth of lunches on Sunday night, grumbling to myself the whole way about the soft cheese wedges I’d been avoiding eating for so long. But I know I’ve got to knuckle down and eat these foods again, or reasonable analogs, if I want to get back on track with my weight loss and not go back up the yo-yo string to where I was before.

My brain says no more snap peas or strawberries. Well, who cares what my brain wants! It got me into this situation in the first place; it clearly doesn’t know what it’s doing! Except the part that is telling me to eat snap peas and strawberries. Unfair, you say? We practice discrimination ’round these parts against unfettered food cravings. We are all about the informed decision-making. Even if sometimes we let the cravings in through the side door and try not to tell the sheriff what’s going on.

Avoiding food boredom, or what’s new on my plate over the last few weeks:

  • Full-fat cottage cheese, 1/2 to 1 cup, with 1 teaspoon Smuckers All Fruit with Fiber raspberry jam.
  • Apples. APPLES APPLES APPLES. APPLES. It is time.
  • Hummus.
  • A wine called gewürztraminer. I can’t pronounce it, I can only drink it. I’m not a big fan of alcohol in general, but this hits the spot.
  • Canned artichokes hearts, mushrooms, and green beans, straight from the can.

The other day, I realized that I was craving salty foods. I eat a lot of minimally processed foods and low sodium foods when I have a choice, so I wondered if I was skewing my salt intake way too low. After doing some reading, I learned that I need to increase my water intake, as that’s a sign of dehydration and not necessarily a sign of some kind of mineral deficiency, like my brain automatically assumed. Why look in the most obvious place first! Let’s look for some deeper, awful cause instead of “DRINK WATER.” So, drink your damn water.

I’ve started also adding fiber gummy supplements back to my diet. Yep. I am officially old, even though the gumminess makes me feel like I’m taking something marketed to kids.

I dread the thought of firing up my apps for either Livestrong or Slimkicker and counting calories again, though I will probably start using the SK app more often to keep track of fitness, now that that’s once more on my mind. Counting calories gets very old very quickly. But if that’s what I need to do, then I’ll get it done. And hey, according to one of those apps, gewürztraminer only has about 120 calories for a 5-ounce serving and low carbs! I can get behind that!

I don’t always have to enjoy my food or my meals. It would be nice. I’m just not in the mindset for it now. But something will change, or I’ll adopt a new favorite food, or I’ll just get over it, and I’ll be happy again.

Did I mention…apples??????? BECAUSE…

Apples

APPLES.

Links: Why So Cereal

Sorry I’ve been AFK. I’ve dealt with health issues and a family crisis for the past few weeks, and I’m just now feeling like a productive member of society once more. Have some links and a look at the foods I’ve been eating lately.

  • I stole this link from a friend, and I want to post it everywhere, ever: The Terrible Tragedy of the Healthy Eater. It is so easy to make yourself crazy with the self-imposed eating habits, keeping up with spurious blog claims, reading forums written by the self-righteous and condescending. Everybody, you have my permission to chill the eff out about your food and laugh at yourself.
  • Funny recipe/life blog PaleOMG is always worth reading. Sometimes I just look at the pictures, sigh about how boring my life is in comparison, and then go on to the recipes.
A 4-photo spread of food.

What I’ve been eating. Top left: grilled chicken, grilled bison burger with bleu cheese, sauteed asparagus, and pasta salad. Top right: My grocery haul, including all manner of seasonal fruit, squash, fresh veggies, and wine. Bottom left: dinner from last night was carrots, raw sliced mushrooms, and a cranberry trail mix. Bottom right: lunch from last week of raw carrots, baked chicken in rosemary and butter, and a diced Bartlett pear.

  • Speaking of recipes, Rantings of an Amateur Chef regularly makes stuff that I would love to have on my plate. Step-by-step recipe photos, a wide ranges of food topics, daily posts, and plenty of variety make this a must-read for those whose palates would benefit from experiencing something new.
  • And then, tooting my own horn as one of the team of moderators on Reddit’s 90 Days Goal community, here’s my Saturday post about seasonal food. I’ll be posting the daily posts on Saturdays. I think food is such a widely varied subject that it deserves all the talking about it can get, and I’ll be contributing to that conversation between mods and community members.

Choose Your Battles, Your Comforts

I’ve had a terrible month. We all have months that gob-smack us in the ear and laugh at us as we clutch our heads, wondering why no one stopped it and why no one is doing anything to make you feel better. We are all toddlers wanting comfort, every one of us. It’s ok.

People take comfort in many ways and work through their physical or emotional issues differently. Some take comfort in food. Depending on the kind of food, the health of the individual, that person’s habits, and how they work through whatever they’re going through, using food as a cushion can be a bad idea.

I’ve tried to insulate myself from this by making better choices at the grocery and restaurants, and by reminding myself of how hard I worked to achieve my progress. I also tell family and good friends around me about my eating lifestyle so that they can act as dietary support system, even if I’m just using guilt from their entirely imagined disapproval to make myself accountable.

Sometimes, that’s worked out great: picking up bags of produce instead of chips, ordering grilled fish and side dishes of veggies, not touching the rice that came with my order. Maybe I’ll just scavenge the contents of the pantry for dinner, but if it’s a healthful fruit/seed trail mix and low sodium green beans cold from the can, or a half pound of cherries and a cup of coffee, that’s ok; they’re within my dietary guidelines, and I’m getting calories. Weird calories, but whatever.

Sometimes, I made poor choices: taking home a pint of low sugar ice cream and having it for a meal, opting for a cheeseburger on the bun and fries instead of the grilled chicken salad, eating bread and dessert and all of the cookies on a hard day. Especially when a kind person brings warm chocolate oatmeal cookies to comfort others.

And other times, my choices have backfired, or timing is bad: finding that the produce is spoiling (there’s a drought affecting the food supply chain in the U.S. this summer) only after I get it home; I find that the airport food place closest to my gate 15 minutes before boarding is only serving carb-y breakfast.

Guilt is a powerful motivator, but it can’t rule my life, and I have to learn to eat with moderation whether I’m happy, sad, stressed, or angry for weeks or months on end. As of this morning, I am still sitting at the target weight that my primary doctor set for me. I’m still mending from last month’s health problem, which my doctors are fairly certain now was torn abdominal scar tissue from my gallbladder surgery with a side effect of IBS, but I’m almost back to normal. And I’m still not as compelled to eat as I once was.

My take on my shopping and eating habits lately is that if I’m going to eat ridiculous meals, I’m going to make the best choices that I can – but I can’t beat myself up too badly if I have some short-term bad habits, as long as I go back to my new good habits that have served me so well. I can and must find other ways of dealing with life’s drama besides food. But I’m not going to hate myself if I’m not perfect. That’s no way to live, and in the end, that will not make me any happier or improve any of the other areas of my life that are imperfect.

Am I Eating Enough, Grocery Psych-Out Edition

At my recent doctor’s appointment, he asked me whether I was eating enough. This was a comment on my lethargy and my abdominal issues, of course, because I was there for my mystery discomfort and loss of appetite that he was not completely able to diagnose. But his question has given me pause over the last week and a half. I’ve been reflecting on the change in my eating habits as well as the way I select groceries, and I’ve decided I need to lighten up a little bit and get more creative rather than give in to exasperation and despair.

Toward the end of every work day for the last week, I took one of the muscle relaxers the ER prescribed to me for discomfort. Friday was tougher, for some reason, the discomfort blossoming into pain. I went home from work at my regular time, opted out of dinner, and got into bed at 7:30, where I remained for much of the following 12 hours. The next morning, I was not hungry. Again. I was weak, though, and I knew I had to eat something, so I made myself a breakfast scramble of eggs, ham, and cheese.

Breakfast didn’t cut it, and I had some steamed vegetables for lunch. To my surprise, I was still hungry a couple of hours later. Not at all to my surprise, though, I didn’t want anything we had in the house. I have hardly gone grocery shopping for the last 3 weeks, and the pantry and fridge were bare of my staples – carrots, snap peas, macadamia nuts, other things that were easily snacky for me. All the eggs went into breakfast, too.

So I went to the grocery, moving more slowly than usual and pausing in the aisles to catch my breath at times, looking over my grocery list on my smartphone while eyeing the goods in search of something new or special for myself. Many foods I rejected on the basis that they were grain-based or contained vegetable oil, since they’re not on my current diet. I remember being disheartened by the soup aisle, with so few lower-carb options and nothing that fits in with my doctor’s current guidelines.

A cartoon of a woman pushing an empty grocery cart, scorning groceries

The story of my life will be released in serial.

My eyes alit on chicken stock – which my brain translates as “chicken juice;” thanks a lot, brain – and I picked up a couple of cans of that. Maybe I will throw it into a pot with some frozen vegetables and make a soup, add in some cauliflower that’s been “riced” (shredded with a fork to resemble rice), add spices. That seemed more appealing than further disappointment from reading labels.

As I perused the endless canisters of peanuts and cashews, I found a cranberry-almond trail mix with pepitas and raisins. I looked at the sugar content and almost didn’t put the bag in my basket.

But then, I thought about the fact that almost no food is appealing these days. Chicken is always appealing. Vegetables will be eaten automatically, and I love the crisp fullness of cold plants with their little vacuoles full of water. Mmm, crunchy science. Everything else on my plate is begrudgingly eaten. Most cheeses are mentally rejected before I even prepare my to-go lunch in the morning. Even my favorite dessert of frozen berries isn’t working for me; I ate a third of the portion I gave myself after dinner last night and put the rest back in the freezer, where I fear I’ll have to confront it again tonight.

Back to that trail mix: I used to have a cranberry problem. I’d buy bags of them a week, which would be eaten within a matter of days. They’re delicious, but they’re naturally sugary, and depending on the brand, they have sugar and oils added to them that aren’t good for your diet. The trail mix I picked up was low on additives, even if it did have a little bit of sugar from the fruit. “And even if it isn’t perfect,” I thought to myself, “what else am I really eating right now? Eggs? Chicken? Vegetables with virtually no calories? Anything else at all?”

I realized that I was walking a fine line. I both shut down foods that I don’t want to eat because they’re not in line with my diet and eliminate foods I don’t feel like eating… and that leaves me with fewer and fewer options, to the point where I need to get creative to make lunch sound appealing again so that I don’t get yet another fast food salad (so easy to do), so I do get enough calories in a day. I need to start counting my calories again and, if I’m not eating enough, hold myself accountable for a number that’s at least over 1,000.

For breakfast this morning, I had an energy bar, apple juice, and hard-boiled eggs. My lunch is raw blueberries, raw carrots, button mushrooms, a tiny hunk of Baybel cheese, and a marinated chicken breast. And I have two ounces of the cranberry trail mix in a baggie to serve as a snack. I’m consuming more sugar today than I do usually, especially with the juice (though I read the label and saw there was no added sugar), but it’s coming from better sources than corn syrup, and I believe that I need the energy. On days I’ve felt particularly weak, I’ve done 2oz-4oz shots of fruit juice in the morning.

A plate of chicken covered in hot sauce, a hunk of cheese, and a container of button mushrooms

Lunch: fire chicken, a Pokeball of cheese, and button mushrooms to soak up all that hot sauce. Now this is an interesting lunch.

For the time being, my focus should be more on solving the mystery of my health and less on sticking to the eating lifestyle that’s let me lose weight, and my food choices will reflect that from here on out. Not to say I’m going to start in on fried chicken and biscuits, but I will find ways to work around my current tastes to get enough calories and nutrients to keep my body going.