On a Modified Atkins/Ultra Low Carb Diet When You Can’t Exercise

While recovering from my eye-bag removal surgery, I am out of commission when it comes to working out.  So what is a girl to do to prevent any damages or reversal effects during this rest period?  After speaking to a wonderful friend of mine, she advocated a diet called the Ultra-Low Carb Diet, which is further detailed in the book, “Carb-Nite Solution”, written by John Kiefer.

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In a nutshell, this diet is similar to Atkins in a sense that you are eating very little carbs during this time.  This tool is specifically beneficial for:

  • Ongoing fat loss
  • Raising HDL cholesterol levels and lowering the LDL
  • Improving insulin sensitivity and prevent any sudden spikes in your glucose levels
  • Preserving muscle 

Muscle tissue is essential for healthy active metabolism so in order to fuel your muscles, it is important you eat protein.  By going on this low-carb diet, you avoid your insulin levels spiking and having these carbs turn into fat.  Your body is therefore set in a fat-burning mode because this diet essentially cuts off any avenue in which carbs can turn into fat.

Mini-Meals are essential – have six meals per day with protein in it!

  • This will keep your insulin level stable and will not put your body in starvation mode and storing fat
  • Your hunger will be controlled so you don’t gorge on food at the sight of it.  Ghrelin is a newly discovered hormone that stimulates hunger and cravings and when you consume carbohydrates, this can cause ghrelin levels to crash right after the meal and than spike up again.  When your ghrelin levels are high, that is when you get hungry and start craving food again.

What else can you eat besides protein?

  • Take a look at this list… as you can see there are a lot of vegetables included in the diet.  While some may be higher in carbs, it is still a safe food group choice if you are attempting to try this ULC Diet.

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  • For me, I’m more relaxed and my modified approach would be to just eat any vegetables I enjoy (even if it is higher in carbohydrates).
  • Another modification I’ve done is including yogurt.  As I’ve eliminated dairy from my diet, I recently bought a soy-based yogurt instead to get more protein in.

When can I start eating carbs?

  • I don’t know too much about Atkins but I believe after the induction phase (no carbs allowed AT ALL), you can start incorporating higher carb vegetables and some other dairy foods
  • As for this diet, I’m going to follow my friend’s advice and “carb cycle”
  • This essentially means going no/low carb for about a week and then replenishing the following day and eating good complex carbs in a 6-8 hour window frame
  • Then, you go back to the no/low carb phase for a few days and the cycle continues

Personally, I’m a carb lover.  I love starchy vegetables and oatmeal so this diet won’t do well for me in the long run.  However, I need to make some changes during this rest period and this is a good time for me to see whether my energy levels will change!

 

Happy protein-ing! Eggs are my new best friend.

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Is Cosmetic Surgery Right For You?

Yes – I went “under the knife”.. but this procedure didn’t necessarily require any stitching or opening of any wounds. Today, I did a transconjunctival blepharoplasty, which is a scar-less procedure to remove the fat deposits under your eye, known as “eye-bags”.

Many of you who follow my personal blog know that I have no filter and have no shame in publicizing my private life (to a certain extent).  So I thought I would let everyone know of my decision to do this procedure after years of feeling extremely insecure of my tired appearance from my puffy eyes.

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As you can see, it definitely put years to my face and now that I’m about to start a new chapter of my life, I thought, “Why not start it with a new fresh face?”  I want to track my progress so today, I’m showing you a photo of what I look like right from the operating table and see how things go in the next few weeks.

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The purpose of this post is to hopefully eliminate some of this stigma with cosmetic surgery as long as you believe it is for the right reasons.  Here are some questions you should ask yourself whether you are the right candidate for cosmetic surgery.

1)     What is the real truth as to why you want to do this procedure?

  • Are you trying to fix a deeper psychological issue – for instance, some self-esteem issues from constant bullying?
  • Is the perception of yourself warped and you have convinced yourself that you are “ugly” or “fat” and therefore, you must fix it with cosmetically altering your appearance?
    • If so, having something done may or may not be the cure to your problems and perhaps, you should consult a professional to address those deeper psychological needs
    • Are you doing this to truly satisfy yourself or other people’s expectations of you?

2)     Is your body healthy (both mentally and physically) enough to undergo this surgery?

  • Depending on the type of surgery, some could really be taxing to your body.  Make sure you are physically well enough that you can recover with the least amount of complications
  • So make sure your immune system is ready to go as this will help aid the healing process much better!
  • Mentally, you must be ready to endure any criticisms or judgments from others and you must also be ready to look in the mirror and visually see a different person.

3)     Are you financially stable?

  • Some procedures can cost up to 10s of thousands of dollars while some are not as detrimental to your wallet
  • If you need to delay your rent payments or have a week of McDonalds to get this procedure done, you may need to rethink whether this is the most appropriate time

4)     How do you expect you are going to feel about yourself post-op?

  • Be real with your expectations.  Many may believe they will come out of the table looking like Barbie – some may not want to appear this way.
  • Just be ready to look different than when you walked into the clinic and trust that you have made the right decision

All in all, remember that you are beautiful no matter what.  Yes, everyone has his or her reasons and if this is what will make you happy and you are ready for it, than go ahead.  For me,  I was never bullied but definitely had numerous comments about how tired I look.  I was and definitely ready for change and this was the rich time for me.  But remember, get real with yourself first and know what you truly want before blindly getting a procedure done.

Why Eating Out Now is Just So Overrated…

There is no real true evidence to support what I am about to blog about but this excerpt is merely to express my continuous utter disappointment with restaurant food.

Just two years ago, I was never home for dinner and dreaded eating home cooked meals.  However, after witnessing the severe declination of quality with restaurant food and customer service, I don’t think anything is better than self-made meals with great company.   After discovering my joy of cooking, I realized that eating out isn’t as enjoyable as it was before but nonetheless; there are times that a restaurant setting would be most appropriate.  In the past few weeks, I’ve eaten out quite a bit with the holidays and all and family visiting from Canada and I would honestly say 9/10 times, we walked out of the restaurant dissatisfied and shocked at how terrible the service was.

So here is a summary of my reflection on why I think eating out has become superbly overrated…

1)    It’s Expensive!

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I’ve been to the finest restaurants here in Hong Kong and you would think that for the price you are paying, you should be served the finest quality foods that taste delicious.  On the contrary, not only is it expensive, the food is subpar, the portions are tiny, and some restaurants will not be flexible in changing some of their dishes to meet your dietary needs.  I don’t know… maybe it could be that the rent is getting too expensive here in Hong Kong that restaurants now must compensate the taste of their food and portions to keep the business alive.

2)    Quality of Ingredients/Produce

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You could easily be paying $100 for a full course dinner for two but can you imagine how much you can buy at a grocery store with $100?  Not only that, you get to choose the ingredients and produce yourself and given the recent scares of GMO products, you can use this money to purchase more organic and sustainable foods.  Do you really think the restaurants these days are using organic vegetables or wild fish unless stated otherwise?  And if so, the price will definitely reflect the “premium” quality of your chosen dish and again, you still aren’t sure if it’s really organic or grass-fed.

3)    The Mysterious Kitchen

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Who knows what’s going on behind the scenes?  Have you seen Kitchen Nightmares??  Some restaurants have been exposed to store their food improperly that there is a huge risk for contamination issues.  The cleanliness of the chefs and the kitchen equipment is also unknown and the thought of having tainted food is very scary…

4)    Terrible Customer Service

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Sometimes the food may taste great but once you have a terrible waiter serving you, your restaurant experience could be completely ruined.  I have been noticing more and more that the service quality has been really subpar and for really high-end restaurants, it just doesn’t make sense!

5)    Comfort of Your Own Home

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If you are the chef, you are in control of your own food and what you put in the dishes.  Especially if you are trying to shed some pounds, it is important that you know how your dishes are being prepared.  Chefs love to add a lot of high-caloric condiments to spice up the dish and often times, this won’t be very beneficial to your waistline.  Therefore, when you eat at home, you know what is in your food, you aren’t rushed out of your seats if someone else is waiting, and when you eat with your loved ones, the experience is much more relaxed and enjoyable!

Holiday Guide for Food Combinations and What to Avoid

A study was published that an average person is expected to gain 8 pounds during the holidays so now I have coined a new term!  Forget the Freshmen 15 – I am now going to call the holiday weight gain the Inevitable Eight!

Fear not – some of this weight gain can be due to water retention and bloating and this can be from combining the wrong foods together.  So here is a list of typical foods that you would normally eat during Christmas that may cause you to feel bloated, sluggish, and tired.

1)    Turkey and Roasted Potatoes

  • Protein and Starch – Avoid!

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Furthermore, turkey is typically full of stuffing that can be made of different starchy carbs that can also cause indigestion. Therefore, try to avoid mixing protein and starchy sides like mashed/roasted potatoes together as the digestive environment of your stomach cannot fully break down protein and starch when eaten at the same time.  Proteins digest best when acid levels are higher while starches digest best when alkaline levels are higher so when they are both in your stomach, your organ can never get alkaline or acidic enough to break down everything effectively.  This can lead to weight gain, bloating, gas, and fatigue!

2)    Fruit-Based Sauces ex. Cranberry with Protein (Turkey/Chicken)

  • Fruits are best eaten alone!

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According to food combination guides, fruits should always be eaten alone on an empty stomach.  This is because the simple sugars found in fruits are so easy to digest that they will not stay in your stomach long.  However, when you eat this food group along with other proteins, fats, and starches, the stomach now needs more digestive power to break down everything.  The fruit will then stay in your body for so long that the sugar will begin to ferment causing you to bloat.

3)    Antipasto Platters

  • Fruits, Meats, Carbs, and Dairy à Recipe for Disaster!

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A typical appetizer before the main meal for many but this is just plate of disaster for your digestion.  Again, fruits should be eaten alone.  Meats is best eaten with leafy vegetables and for many diets, anything with dairy is not suggested and the cheese on this platter is one of the most difficult foods to digest.  That is why many people are lactose intolerant and find themselves always bloated and feeling sick and they may not even be aware of their intolerance to dairy.  The casein found in dairy has also been found to increase the risk of cancer and the saturated fats found in this food group can lead to a greater risk of heart disease.

4)    Pies, Cakes, and Pastries

  • Dairy, Fruits, Saturated/Trans Fats, and Carbs – Need I say more?

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I know that pumpkin pie topped with loads of whipped cream or blueberry cheesecake looks delicious but these desserts can wreak havoc for your digestion and your waistline will definitely not thank you! I’m not saying avoid dessert in general but try to stick with the fruit platter after waiting a few hours post meal.  Again, bring or make your own dessert if you want to have a healthier alternative such as gelatin-based dishes!

5)    Seafood + Meat

  • Concentrate on One Protein!

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Your dish should have one concentrated protein so avoid mixing seafood, tofu, and meats all together as this will make your stomach work extra hard to break down everything.  Your stomach will be so busy trying to break down all these different meats that this can cause fatigue, crankiness, and bloating.

Counting the days till Christmas!! Good luck my lovely foodies!

How to Avoid the Freshman Fifteen – Holiday Edition

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During the months of November, December, and January – it can be the best of times; it can also be the fattest of times.  Within this time period, it seems like the gluttony never ends with endless holidays and feasts all around!  For many of the Asians out there, you know – our holiday weight gain period doesn’t end until after Chinese New Year so of course it seems inevitable that our new years resolution will probably to work off what we gained in the last few months.

Holidays should not be stressful (even though often time, it can very well be!)  It should be a loving joyous occasion where everybody gathers and celebrates the holidays while having delicious food.  However, more often than not, people tend to over-indulge and that is when the scale seems to creep up a few pounds post-holiday season.

So how can we avoid what seems to be the inevitable holiday weight gain?

1)    Portion Control

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Similar to what happens at a buffet, you should imagine what you would typically eat on a regular plate size at dinner and simply consume that amount.  When you go to a buffet, what typically happens is that people overeat given the option that they can continuously replenish their plate.   During the holidays, it Is always better to have too much food than too late and that is why whoever is hosting will tend to cook or cater much more than needed.  So just remember what you normally consume and know when to stop when you feel comfortably full.

2)    Take Your Time and Enjoy

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Never arrive to a party famished.  Some people mistakenly believe that they will save up on their calories during the day in anticipation of having a large meal at night.  This not only messes with your metabolism but you will arrive to the occasion so hungry that you may eat much more than you need in a very short period of time.  Try to arrive slightly peckish so you can enjoy the food but not ravenous.  If you do arrive hungry, start with a glass of water and wait before you start picking at the food!

Also, do pace yourself.  Take your time, enjoy, socialize and don’t just go in and start shoving your face with everything in sight.  Try to focus on other things that are more important such as your family and friends’ company.  Put your fork down after a few bites and by eating slower, your brain will register when you are full more accurately.

3)    Limit Your Alcohol

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As much as the holidays are about food, it is also the time to drink.  Try to avoid drinking too much because not only does alcohol contain quite a few calories, it can also make you lose control over what and how much you eat.  Instead, try going for some sparkling water or club soda so at least you have something in your hand and not feel out of place.

4)    Satisfying Your Sweet Tooth

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This is the part I personally hate the most.  When it comes to the dessert part of the dinner, try to get your fix with as small of a portion as you can.  For me, I’ll choose the one that can get my cravings out of the way with the least amount needed such as chocolate.  Try to avoid the very creamy and buttery desserts or pastries and cakes and opt for some fresh berries and fruits instead.   Even better, if you want to be a good guest and bring your own food as a treat for everyone, you can offer a low-calorie dessert that you know you will enjoy.

5)    Get Active

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Even though it is the time to enjoy and have fun, it is important to stay active and exercise during this time.  It can start even right after dinner by burning extra calories helping the host clean up and put everything away.  Initiate some games after or play some music and start dancing before everyone gets food coma and sleeps on the couch!  As for your exercise regiment, just continue at it and get off your butt – a few extra minutes at the gym also won’t hurt if you have over-indulged a bit!

Happy holidays everyone!

The Dangers of Eating Japanese Imported Foods

So I’ve officially banned Japanese restaurants at the moment and have discontinued consuming any more produce from Japan after continuous studies indicating the dangers of the toxic radiation found in their foods. 

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My dad arrived a few days ago from Toronto and he quickly noticed how orange my skin was.  I confided to him my insane daily obsession with Japanese pumpkin and it never occurred to me that because it is grown in the soils of Japan, I could be exposing myself to the radiation from the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster several years ago.  Not only was I consuming this pumpkin on a daily basis, I was also buying a lot of fish imported from Japan as well.

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So what do we need to know as consumers about our Japanese food supply?

  • Just several months ago, the Japanese government reported that the Fukushima plant was leaking approximately 300 tons, or 71,895 gallons, of contaminated water each day
  • Reports have also shown these polluted waters have affected the ocean life in the West Coast of America – Californian fish have been detected with radiation and British Columbia
  • The US Government continues to test the seafood for contamination and samples of food imported from Japan and although radiation has been detected, it is inconclusive whether it has reached a dangerous level
  • However there are increasing concerns of cancer for future generations and reports suggest that at least 80,000 people are likely to develop radiation-related cancers in Japan and other countries such as Canada
  • Some fish samples have shown to contain very high levels of radiation such as Sea Bass

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So… what should we do?

  • As for my kitchen, I have pretty much eliminated all Japanese food thus far
  • Try to avoid any produce and seafood from Japan
  • Limit your consumption of Japanese cuisine (although I must admit, it is one of my favourite foods)
  • Eat more sustainably caught, low mercury fish and seafood such as mussels, scallops, salmon, trout, calamari, and shrimp
  • I’ve also recently bought Chlorella supplements because I do eat seafood everyday and this supplement as well as Spirulina are supposed to reduce radioactive materials in people
  • However – be careful that this blue-green algae superfood is not sourced from Japan or nearby waters as there are many popular brands from this country!

What to Eat First: Protein, Vegetables, or Carb?

The last few weeks, I’ve been experimenting with how my body reacts to eating either protein or vegetables first.  I wanted to see if it would affect my digestion and whether eating either food groups first would decrease my bloating.

Let’s play out a few different scenarios…

Imagine you were me…

You sit down at the dinner table and you are given this plate of food.

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You grab your fork and now what do you do? What would you dive into first?

Scenario One: Protein First

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High protein foods take longer to digest and really put the acid in your stomach at war to break them down.  For this reason, protein should be eaten first because you want your stomache to get working on breaking down these foods before anything else gets a chance to absorb the acid.

Moreover, by starting a meal with protein, it will help reduce the blood sugar spike that typically will occur after eating most refined carbohydrates.  Therefore, when you keep your blood sugar levels stable, your body will be less likely to store extra calories as fat at your next meal.  Eating protein first may also promote weight loss as the signal travelling to your brain that you are full is faster than consuming other foods first.  By starting your day with protein, research has also shown that it is better for appetite control throughout the day.

Scenario Two: Vegetables First

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For me, I prefer to eat vegetables first because I definitely enjoy my greens.   Studies have also shown that similarly to protein, vegetables can help with keeping your weight down as your insulin spike is inhibited and you feel fuller faster.  Vegetables are full of fibre and when you consume your greens first, everything you eat after (protein and carbs) gets covered with this fibre, which slows down your insulin spikes and the speed that sugar is transported into the blood.

Greens also make you full quicker because of the fibre in them is absorbing all the liquid in your stomach.  Proteins are harder to digest so when they are eaten first, everything else after may not get enough time to get digested properly and therefore, it forces other foods to remain in the stomach, slowing down the overall digestion process.  Raw vegetables actually contain a certain digestive enzyme that helps break down proteins so you may consider eating more raw greens than cooked.

Now the question about carbohydrates…

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Personally, I try to limit my carbohydrates (unless it’s my guilty pleasure – cereal).  However, there are many good complex carbs your body needs for energy.  However, when your body receives carbs first, a message is sent to your brain that you are lacking fat and protein.  Therefore, your body may react by storing fat for use later but if protein is digested first, your body feels comfortable that it has enough reserve for basic functioning.

Carbs is quite a complex food group (no pun intended haha) and you should only really eat this food group with vegetables.  It is not a group of foods that goes well with protein because of the way it digests in your stomach.  Therefore, I’ve listed some basic food combining rules by the Life Empowerment Institute below for your reference.

  1. Do not eat proteins and starches together. Your body requires an acid base to digest proteins and an alkaline base to digest starches. Proteins and starches combine well with green, leafy vegetables and non-starchy vegetables, but they do not combine well with each other.
  2. Generally fruits should be eaten alone or with other fruits. If fruits seem too sweet, then eat a handful of nuts (80% fruit, 20% nuts). Fruits digest so quickly that by the time they reach your stomach, they are already partially digested. If they arc combined with other foods, they will rot and ferment.
  3. Melons digest faster than any other food. Therefore, you should never eat melons with any other food including other fruits.
  4. Do not mix acid and/or sub-acid fruits with sweet fruits at the same meal. Acid fruits, such as grapefruits, pineapple, and strawberries, can be mixed with sub-acid fruits, such as apples, grapes, and peaches, but neither of these categories can be mixed with sweet fruits, such as bananas, dates, or raisins.
  5. Eat only four to six different fruits or vegetables at one meal.
  6. Fats and oils combine with everything (except fruits) but should be used in limited amounts because while they won’t inhibit digestion, they will slow it down.

Wait the following lengths of time between meals that don’t combine.

  • Two hours after eating fruit.
  • Three hours after eating starches.
  • Four hours after eating proteins.

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It all comes down to bio-individuality.  For me, I enjoy eating my vegetables first as I’ve experienced less bloating and my digestion is much better.  If eating protein makes you feel better, then do what works for you! However, I do find some truth in different food combinations and it is something worth exploring.  Try keeping a mental diary of how you feel after mixing certain foods and tailor to what you think works best for your own body.