Medical update, regarding my liver

I just got off the phone with the liver doctor — telahealth, got to love it.

She said it’ll be a few days till all the results from my blood draw yesterday — they took EIGHT vials of blood and are running like 10 different tests — get back to her… 5 to 7 days in fact … and she’ll in some cases need two different results to come back before she can comment, but so far they’ve all come back normal and if that continues to be the case than we need to just wait another 3 months to know for sure what’s happening with my liver.

She basically agrees with me — I had come across a bunch of articles on line saying that seeing a spike in liver numbers during the first 14 weeks of serious weight loss is actually kind of normal, and that you need to wait 16 weeks to see that start to reverse itself and a whole 40 weeks before the liver numbers SHOULD be normal if the person had high numbers due to fatty liver disease caused by obesity. She agreed that (assuming the blood tests all come back normal) we will need to wait another three months and get another liver blood test at that time to see what my numbers are doing.

The fact that they are currently spiking doesn’t really worry her too much. That said…

One of the first things she asked me was “when you started losing all of this weight did you change your exercise routine?” And I said that “yes in fact I had gone from being completely sedentary to working out like three times a week”, to which she started nodding her head and smiling (jee I love video phones) and saying “yes that might’ve caused the spike. We tend to see this sort of thing in people who suddenly start working out a lot in order to lose the weight.” Ironic isn’t it?

So she wants us to wait three more months, for me to continue losing more weight and working out (as I have been) and then get another blood liver panel test. If at that point the numbers have NOT gone below 100 then we will have to do a liver biopsy — eeek. She walked me through the two options of how that might happen and it doesn’t sound TOO awful…

If they HAVE gone down, then it’s all good and no sticking needles though my ribs into my liver will be required.

I told her about how I want to start traveling again like I used to before Covid. That I am currently planning to travel with a friend after Christmas to the UK for 3 months. She didn’t see a problem with that… and then I told her how I intended to get the Pfizer Covid 19 booster shot two weeks before traveling — in order to maximize my immunity. I figure its currently good enough for my current life which is mostly staying home and walking around outdoors and maybe doing some grocery shopping, etc… but airports and planes are a different kettle of fish…

This was interesting: She told me to be careful to get the liver blood test BEFORE getting the booster shot. Apparently they’ve been seeing spikes in the liver numbers in some patients after getting the Covid vaccinations. I already knew about making sure I got my mammogram well after the covid shots, but this was a new one… she said the spikes they’re seeing are very temporary, and as its almost been 6 months since my 2nd shot, NO this spike was not the result of that…

We also discussed my eating habits and she was actually really excited that I had discovered Shirataki noodles (as discussed in my last post) as she suggests those to her patients, and eats them herself. She suggested her favorite brand which she found on amazon — she’s a rice eater and uses them as a rice substitute — and I told her about the ones I’ve been eating from Costco.
We discussed my salt intake and she said there’s no reason for me to be worried about that at this point —  I had read all these web pages on liver health saying we had to reduce salt intake to 1,500 mg a day (that’s like NOTHING); she said this was especially true considering my issues with dehydration — she agrees with the advise of an ER Doctor I saw back in my 20’s who told me that ending up in the ER as often as I did with dehydration was not normal… and that best way to address it was just to eat more salt. (He basically said, we don’t say this to most people, but every person’s body is different and normal averages are not gospel and if I’m ending up in the ER on a semi regular basis with dehydration after drinking a normal amount of liquids, than clearly I need more salt in my system to retain it than the average person does.) She said until they start seeing certain very specific problematic things with regard to my liver, that I shouldn’t worry about reducing my salt intake.
This doctor as luck would have it is from Thailand, and there’s a particular food product that I’ve been worried about which is the oyster sauce from Thailand (makes ALL the difference when cooking Asian dishes at home, it’s like the missing secret ingredient to make your home cooked food taste like restaurant food). The one I have is listed on foodie sites as the BEST oyster sauce on the market, but one you almost NEVER see in American stores (got it from an Asian market in California that sells their stuff on eBay). The thing is when it arrived, it has a warning label on it from the state of California warning about cadmium and lead poisoning from the product. So I asked her is it OK for me to continue to use this one when making my noodle soup. She told me to go ahead, I shouldn’t be drinking it straight from the bottle but the occasional tablespoon of it once or twice a week wasn’t going to kill me or damage my liver.
We also discussed my use of supplements and we went through the list of which ones I had been taking (CoQ10 to counter the effects of the Statin drug I take for my cholesterol, and Glucosamine for joint health + Vitamin D)  and she said none of them are a liver risk and I can go back to taking them regularly…. again I had read on line to STOP taking all supplements, so I had….
The Green tea thing however — I had read on the British and Canadian official health services web sites that address liver health that it is a good thing to drink 10 cups of green tea a day if you have liver issues, NOT to take supplements, but to drink normally brewed green tea  — she wasn’t thrilled with (and keep in mind she’s Thai, where green tea is a normal part of any diet) … she said “if you want to have like 5 cups a day fine… but you don’t need to be doing chugging it like that, or any sort of liver cleanse things or making it the only thing you end up drinking all day” … and she was worried too much green tea could strain the liver.

Dieting again — with new toys

Back on June 18th I posted about failing my blood test in a big way, how sitting on my ass for essentially a year of Covid lockdown while watching TV and eating comfort food delivered by UberEats (and every other delivery company, I was signed up with THREE of them) every day had resulted in my blowing up to 202 lbs (from a starting weight of 160) into a size XL; so that not only was I resorting to living in T-shirts inherited from my dad and sweat pants purchased from Amazon, but when I finally was fully vaccinated and went to the doctor for blood tests and stuff, my liver numbers (which I had already brought down into the healthy range back in 2018) were once again not only wildly out of control, but were actually WORSE than they had ever been… this was not a huge surprise because my liver was so enlarged that I could feel it like a football under my ribs pressing out — very uncomfortable — after almost every meal, and towards the end it was making it painful to sleep on my right side… so yah THAT bad

AND… just for shit and giggles, my sugar levels, which I had also dieted back into the healthy range in 2018 where now not just boarder-line diabetic, which is where I pretty much had maintained it for years … were now full out diabetic. The doctor said she was giving me a few months to get it under control before resorting to drugs or insulin, but that was where I was headed if I didn’t drop weight.

So that’s what I’ve been doing for the most part these last few months. Last time I posted about this, August 4, 2021, I had successfully lost 17.5 lb (like 2.5 lb a week) and today, Sep 19th, I’ve continued the trend … it’s slowed a tad to around 2.2 lb a week … so I’m now 174.2 (close to another 10 lbs lost). This was achieved on my own, no paying anyone else to help me. The method is a combination of things….

Partial Fasting: Firstly, I’ve been consciously doing something that I had also been doing unconsciously back in 2018, which is partial fasting… I wake up fully dehydrated, weigh myself… and THEN drink black coffee and water… so calorie free liquids essentially …. to rehydrate myself…. and then eat lunch snacks and dinner (in other words restrict all my calorie consumption to over the course of about 8 hours out of 24), and then make sure I STOP eating a good 4 hours before going to sleep (and making sure I get the full 7.5 to 9 hours of sleep a night, as needed).  And when I say I stop eating, I mean not even so much as a grape (to paraphrase Oprah, who is where I initially got the idea)… Oh, and I stop drinking even water maybe an hour before falling asleep …. Be warned, this does tend to send you to bed feeling a bit wanting a snack, but you have to fight it.

From what I’ve recently read about the power of fasting, which is now ALL the rage — like I said I was doing it without knowing I was doing it back in 2018 — your body needs a 6 hour gap from your last calorie consumption to when it starts resorting to using fat instead of what’s in your belly… and the more time it has without food the more fat it’ll burn… so that 4 hours of not eating + about 8 hours of sleep, plus 2 more hours in the morning before I put any calories in my mouth = 10 hours of my day when my body has to burn fat for lack of my giving it anything else to burn.

Before I was eating right up till bedtime, sleeping maybe 8 to 10 hours and eating as soon as I woke up… so I only had 2 hours a day to burn fat … after a day of eating things like a cheeseburger, fries smothered in cheese, a chocolate shake with chocolate cake in it, and topping that off with dessert … and that was just dinner (so yah, no chance THAT was going to get burned away).

I have also found this not eating for four hours before going to sleep did wonders for addressing my acid reflex issues which resulted in GERD (and WITHOUT DRUGS… I had been popping TUMS® Antacid ultra strength before going to sleep during lock down)… because I had been stuffing my gullet till right before I went to sleep…

Splurge days: once a month I get a splurge day… just one… and I eat till I make myself sick. I’m talking completely blowing the diet with non stop shit I shouldn’t be eating till I’m asking myself why the fuck I did it. I’m talking fried chicken wings dipped in ranch dressing, pizza, ice cream, cheeseburgers and brats, go for it. Actors who have to lose weight for roles talk about this … and I find it maintains sanity and tends to line up nicely with things like thanksgiving, Xmas, Jewish holidays, being invited to friends for dinner, etc. It keeps you sane and provides your metabolism with a kick in the ass. Just don’t go kidding yourself that you can do it more than 1 day a month. 

Weighing myself daily: The one thing I NEVER do when gaining weight is weigh myself. To be honest in 2018 I didn’t do that either… I just went by the size of my clothes. And I know they say NOT to do this… it can be entirely frustrating… and can discourage the average dieter who is denying themselves in order to lose weight. HOWEVER the “diet” I’m on is mostly medical (diabetes control and liver issues) so for me low carb and low fat is something I’m probably going to have to do for the rest of my life and if I HAD continued to do it the first time … LIKE I WAS SUPPOSED TO, instead of convincing myself that the problem was “fixed” I would not be in the situation I am now. That said, if you take away carbs and fat, there’s really not much left to gain weight on even on the days you do over eat. Additionally… there’ve been a few days where the weight went up instead of down or staying flat, so it keyed me into things I can no longer buy… Pistachios from Costco are on that list. I like them too much.

To date I’ve been using the same bathroom scale my brother bought me for as a going away gift (I was moving to SF) like 15 years ago. The thing still works, and its impressively accurate… only of late its become sporadically LESS accurate (as in radically different weights within a 15 minute period in spite of not eating or using the bathroom). So I figured it was time for an upgrade, one of the new ones with all the bells and whistles that measures way more than just your weight. At first I was looking at Withings body+ which is sold at the apple store (and amazon of course), ’cause I’m an apple person and it’s supposed to synch with apple health app and its the one a lot of my friends own, but paying $100 for a high tech scale which most likely won’t have the longevity of the my old scale, just didn’t rock my boat. After much hemming and hawing, I opted for Wyze Scale for 1/3 the price, which showed up on a lot of same lists, and sometimes was considered a better scale… especially when I searched for the most reliable scales rather than “best of year options”. Got it yesterday.

I unboxed it, did everything it said to set it up… happily both it and the old scale registered me as being the same weight, so I knew both were accurate, YAY! And then I went over the apple health app on my iPhone and of course, it did NOT synch as promised. Went to multiple web sites, worked my way through the instructions multiple times, tried various suggested fixes… nothing. I got and phone and called tech support but it being a Sunday evening, well no one was picking up, so decided I would try again today. Went to sleep, and when I woke up like 8 hours later…  I did my morning weigh in on both scales, still got the same number both times…. but this time when I went to apple health to input the data manually, to my delight, it was already there.

Apparently it took the scale a few hours to get linked…. the scale comes with it’s own app, and it’s supposed to share with the apple health app, but I have no idea HOW it does that. Hopefully this was a one time thing and from now on going forward it’ll work like clock work… one can only hope.  But it was nice to see things like BMI calculated for me automatically, along with metabolic age, a metabolic rate (it thinks I burn 1421 calories a day minimum), visceral fat, level of protein in my body (apparently it’s too low… I need less fat and more muscle tone), bone mass, lean body mass (apparently I should be weighing in at like 115, not 175… which I knew), body water %, etc.

It’s amazing what these new scales can do for $33 bucks! Granted they’re not 100% accurate but they give you a ballpark idea.

Carb control; Because of the diabetes, I’m not allowed to have more than 28g of carbs at any one time so as to not spike the sugar in my blood. This is highly limiting but do-able. Last time I did this (2018) the one thing I really missed was pasta. I love pasta. Granted I’ve tried the veggie substitutes, pretty much lived on riced cauliflower… but all of these leave you wanting and feeling like you’re denying yourself … which in fact you are. This time around I got super lucky… while at Costco (and my readers know just how much I love Costco) I stumbled across a new product I’d not seen before, “Healthy Noodles” manufactured by Kibun foods.. a product that for the most part they ONLY sell via Costco, except in a few limited parts of the country, mostly the South/East — and if you live in Colorado I’m sorry, they don’t sell it there.

With this new product I’ve been having every conceivable noodle combination, sometimes twice a day, and losing weight while doing it. And because unlike pasta/noodles this product has 6 grams of carbs, which is a LOT, it leaves you feeling full at the end of the meal. Add veggies in along with it and well… do the math. I’ve had spaghetti with meat sauce (I make it as low fat as conceivably possible, using ground bison instead of beef), fettuccine alfredo with various proteins and veggies added, beef stroganoff, Ramen/Chinese/Vietnamese noodle soups, chicken soup with noodles, macN’cheese, and 5 way chili….. all while losing weight.

For those unfamiliar with it, this is a variety of shirataki noodle, which is something you can pretty much find nation wide in any whole foods or organic section of a supermarket, but….and this is important…  that usually doesn’t quite hit the spot… because firstly, you KNOW you’re not eating pasta; A) it doesn’t feel like pasta in your mouth, or B) it doesn’t SMELL like pasta… and C), most crucially, there’s an actual health risk involved in eating it (which is why in some of the nanny states — socialized medicine — its actually illegal to sell). With THIS brand, none of those things is true … its close enough to the sensation of eating pasta as no never mind, there’s no “fishy smell” (people who are polite call it that, I call it what it is, which is it smells like a woman’s V’JayJay). Where with all the other brands — and I’ve desperately tried pretty much all of them over the years — you feel like you’re eating rubber, with this brand you can feel it falling apart when it comes in contact with the digestive juices in your mouth, and this is a VERY important difference (read on).

Listen carefully, Shirataki in it’s pure form (and there are other manufacturers of this stuff selling it formed like pasta noodles) is something I’ve been familiar with since I was in my 20’s, back when I did two summer internships in a row for companies in Japan. It is a non-digestible carb (you’re digestive system literally can not break it down, only your teeth can do that) that the Japanese make into a cake called konnyaku, and refer to as diet food… because after you’ve swallowed it it’s going to come out exactly the way it went in, as though you had swallowed a marble. It’s great for filling the stomach and your body can not derive any calories from it… in it’s pure form. HOWEVER, if you eat it made into noodles, and you snarf those down without chewing it…. well you know how, if you have a bunch of silver jewelry chains, or maybe bungie cords all bunched up together, how they turn into a gordian knot? Imagine that knot forming in your tummy and completely blocking your digestive track, which your stomach acids can’t eat through… so that the only way to get it out is surgery… I’m not making this up… it happens. Well that’s what can happen if you eat this in it’s 100% Konjac (the name of the root from which Shirataki noodles are made) form, so you have to be REALLY careful about chewing it up before swallowing it… and the texture is a bit like trying to chew up a rubber band, with the same squeak squeak squeak sound happening in your mouth.

I have over the years tried MANY different brands of these sorts of noodles, and NEVER found one that really felt like I was eating pasta, UNTIL this one. ALL of them the texture was just wrong, or my poop came out looking like noodle casserole (which was kind of scary — keeping in mind what I said about the possible need for surgery). This brand is the ONLY brand I have found so far that feels like pasta in your mouth (albeit overcooked noodles, there’s nothing ‘al dente’ going on here), has no smell at all once you’ve rinsed it out (it is stored in liquid in plastic packets) and where you can feel it falling apart in your mouth and your poop looks normal, even if you accidentally snarf them down — so no risk.

The only issue is if you, like a friend of mine who is a breast cancer surviver, can not eat soy for some sort of medical reason; if that’s the case then you shouldn’t eat this. This has NO net CARBS (the fiber and carbs are the same and cancel each other out, more specifically the carbs all come from the Konjac which as I said are undigestible), and the 30 calories is from the protein provided by the soy…. but it does have 30 calories per serving (2 servings in each bag)… but compared to 155 to 190 calories for a bowl of pasta noodles, not to mention the 40 grams of carbs, that’s not really a huge concern.

Low Fat: And of course, because of my liver, and the calories in fat, I try to keep my fat intake low and limit it to only healthy fats, so like Salmon, or Sablefish, occasionally Tuna (which is problematic because of other reasons which most of you are already familiar with, that are doubly problematic with a bad liver), avocado, olive oil, etc.

Exercise: And of course I’ve been exercising… in addition to walking, I’ve added weight training and signed up for a gym membership. I try to get there at 6am when they first open up and almost no one else has arrived. I find that first hour there’s maybe five or six people in a space big enough for 30 or 40 under normal conditions (and that’s including the equipment). At fist I was going to a private gym where you work with a trainer on machines, but now I’ve switched to the University facility (which is ginormous) near my home, and work out on my own. Happily, the University is one of the ones that has mandated full vaccinations for all students and staff, AND they follow the mask mandates as well, so I feel pretty comfortable working out there, especially during the hours when it’s mostly empty.

Fisherman’s Wharf Seafood Restaurant, Sydney Australia

Located on the 2nd floor of the main building of the Sydney Fish Market, is a Chinese restaurant that is open 365 days a year, including holidays, and while it specializes in seafood (well why wouldn’t they?) also serves Dim Sum/Yum cha every day until 3pm.

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Dim Sum is one of my guilty pleasures. If you’ve ever googled the nutritional information on it you know that EVEN if you just choose the steamed options and avoid the fried, the fat content on these things are truly horrifying — to the extent that the Hong Kong Government has been trying to dissuade its populace from their dim sum addition. So don’t fool yourself…

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In Chinese “what fresh fish do you have” translates to “what do you have that is swimming”

but that said, if you’re a dim sum fan looking for it while in Australia, you need to know that Australians, for some reason, prefer the term Yum Cha to Dim Sum, which is how it described in pretty much every other country I’ve been to. (This is true to the extent that some Aussies won’t know what you’re talking about if you say Dim Sum, and if you’re trying to find a place near you that serves it, you’ll need to try searching BOTH terms on yelp and elsewhere — as it’s listed as two separate things). To explain the confusion: according to Wikipedia, “Yum cha (飲茶) in Cantonese Chinese literally means “drink tea”… in Cantonese, dim sum (點心) refers to the range of small dishes, whereas yum cha refers to the entire meal.” So that considered… the British tradition of doing “high tea,” (something I’ve done fairly regularly during my travels) is probably borrowed (along with Tea) from the Chinese tradition of Yum Cha.

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I’ve been in Australia about a month now… and the first week I was here I went to The Fish Markets, and when I wrote the blog post about it I mentioned having learned (while writing the post) that there was a Chinese restaurant on the building’s 2nd floor which I had missed (the day I was there I came down with a bad cold, which I most likely had picked up on the flight over, ah the joys of travel) … three weeks later I moved Airbnb’s, only to find myself a straight bus ride away from the Fish markets… and decided to rectify this.

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The entrance is a single doorway leading to steep staircase at the far end of building. There is an elevator but it is NOT the one that’s easy to find at the front of the building where everyone enters. That one leads to the administrative/business floor an there’s no through walkway from there to the restaurant. You have to go outside, keep walking to the back-end of the building and in an entry way — that looks like you MUST be in the wrong place — is an elevator that is VERY VERY VERY slow, but will take you up to the restaurant.

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Once up there they’ll seat you (try to get one with the view of the bridge… and if it’s before 3pm there are dim sum carts to choose you lunch from… or you can order off the menu.

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That said, it was some of the best Dim Sum I have had in a while — especially for outside of China. Everything was very fresh, and since most of their clientele are Chinese… who are way more discriminating about Dim Sum than the rest of planet is, its sort of to be expected. The turnip cake, which is one of my favorite things but is usually made badly, was the best I’ve had in years.

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Eating Healthy at Disneyworld: Low fat & Low carb eating strategies

How to spend 2 months in Disney-world, without breaking your diet, and even LOOSING weight. It can be done, but it will cost you — literally.

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That said, I honestly don’t think it’s possible to do it without straining your pocket book (unless you make all your own meals), and even if you try, you’re going to be eating grilled salmon or a salad for pretty much every meal — and there’s only so much salmon a girl can eat.

Most of what’s available at Disney “fast food” places isn’t all that healthy … excepting the obligatory grilled salmon, salads, and small bags of snacking tomatoes and/or apple slices the menus are geared far more towards the palates of children than the concerns of parents. A lot of self control WILL be required on your part, and you’ll have to INSIST on sit down restaurants, and speaking with the chef when ordering. No really, ask to see the chef. One of the fabulous things about Disney is that if you start off the conversation with your waiter with THESE words… “I have health issues that restrict my diet” they have been TRAINED to not pass go, to not collect $200, and just go get the chef.

So for instance, a few days ago I went to eat at Tiffen’s, one of the two sit down restaurants at Animal Kingdom:
Waitress: “I’ll give you a few minutes to make up your mind”
me: “let me preface this with I have health issues….” and before I could finish my sentence she said:
“Would you like me to send out the chef?”
Me: “Yes please “– happy smile…
He came out and we talked, he has decided to grill the red snapper that they usually deep fry, and is making all sorts of other alterations to the accompanying items, 100% Forbidden/black Rice instead of the Jade blend they would normally use — no oil or carrots added to the (cole)slawed green papaya (carrots are a very HIGH sugar veggie), and no black bean sauce (cause he said that had oil in it too), etc.

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Animal Kingdom/Tiffen’s: Intended for two people, I had enough left over for a 2nd meal.

Normally: This dish would be Crispy Sustainable Fish served with Som Tam (green papaya salad) and Black Bean Sauce served with Jade Blend Rice  — and  I was expecting to pay about $43, based on the price of a similar entree (this dish was from the prix fixe menu), but after a 20% discount they’re giving to all yearly pass holders at certain restaurants, it only cost me $36.64 including tip… so about $18.32 per meal.. not bad.

Where rice in general is a VERY bad idea, and should be avoided… seriously… ONE rice bowl of white rice has as much sugar in it as FOUR crispy cream doughnuts!!!!! Me, I would MUCH rather have the doughnuts.

Black rice, sometimes known as ‘forbidden rice’, while still carbohydrate heavy, is at least a better option — even though it too should be eaten sparingly, as it it contains protein and other nutritional goodies. For those not familiar with it, a one-half cup serving of cooked black rice, contains about:

  1. 160 calories
  2. 1.5 grams of fat
  3. 34 grams of carbohydrates (which is my per meal maximum)
  4. 2 grams of fiber (double the fiber of brown rice)
  5. 5 grams of protein  (the highest amount of protein of all the rices)
  6. 4% DV for iron

P.S., Black rice is LOADED with antioxidants… more than blueberries

Initially I had come in to the restaurant thinking I would get the grilled octopus appetizer, but he immediately vetoed that, informing me that they pouch it in olive oil before grilling it — which makes now think I should be asking about that cooking technique from now on before ever ordering it again.

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So, while there are certain fast food dishes that Disney does pretty well, and going that way will save you money… for the most part they’re not really healthy options from the standpoint of an adult whose only growing in the wrong direction. Their mac and cheese is really tasty, and you can find it topped with lobster, shrimp, and even beef brisket (@Magic Kingdom next to the Carousel, limited hours, usually closed by 8pm even if the park is open till 1am) … And while there’s chicken pretty much everywhere, it’s pretty much either rotisserie or fried; and for those who don’t know… fried is actually the healthier option, assuming you remove the skin. Rotisserie chicken is cooked in such a way that the fat saturates the meat rather than dropping down off the chicken, making the chicken moister but also MUCH fattier. Disney also does REALLY good tomato soup, in any variation of the sort, but again it’s NOT low fat… and last year I gained a good 20 pounds in two months eating all of it…

As many of you know, about this time last year, Jan/Feb of 2016 (after many months expanding sizes but of just not wanting to know the truth), I weighed myself on one of those massive scales outside of a Publix Supermarket (the dominant chain in Florida), and clocked in at 200lb… SHOCK!!! The cause was simple, I tend to eat my feelings and the death of my father, who was also my best friend, shook me hard; and then, the process of going through probate was so emotionally stressful that, as I like to put it, I developed a deep and intimate relationship with both Ben AND Jerry. (Insert laugh) However, after seeing that my weight was almost DOUBLE what it had been in my 20’s was enough to motivate me to start making better food choices.  Then at my checkup in May of 2016, I weighed in at 187 lb (better), but I learned that, rather like a goose being prepared for Foie Gras, I’d managed to eat myself into Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.  I discussed this at length, previously, in my blog post called: A matter of health (feel free to follow the link).

For those who would rather not: brief review, my doctor informed me that my liver numbers were HORRIBLE, and that if I didn’t seriously make some changes they’d have to find me a new one. *GASP* … suffice it to say I was scared, and fear of death is a much stronger motivator than mere vanity. The doctor put me on a LOW fat and low carb diet (the latter being something I’d been mostly doing anyway, because I have been pre-diebetic for maybe 15 or more YEARS), and suggested I give up red meat entirely, and focus on just eating fish. Three months later (after traveling through Canada) I came back for more extensive testing, where I weighed in at 149lb, and the doctors were SO happy with me (and my liver numbers were so improved) that they just said, “you don’t NEED to loose more weight at this point, your BMI is healthy, but keep doing what you’re doing and we won’t need to put you on any medication.” (Normal weight for a woman my age (not considering frame) is 107.8 – 145.6 lbs

BUT, my weight in my 20’s had been about 110 to 115, and everything I’ve read the ideal weight range a woman in her 50’s with my height AND frame is 114-127, so I might not NEED to loose more weight, but as long as I’m not feeling like I’ve been denying myself, and I don’t… I want to lose that last 10. So, after that I returned back to Orlando, where I continued to drop weight until today, albeit at a slower rate (of maybe half a pound a week); at least until about a week ago when I made the mistake of buying my own digital scale, rather than relying on that of whatever Airbnb I happened to be staying with at to time, Murphy’s law. However, that too was good, since having realized I was not only no longer dropping, but actually starting to gain, I did a review of my eating habits and realized I’d been slowly adding a lot of fruit to my diet. I removed that, and quickly went back to loosing weight again.

Currently, I’m at 133.8 lb. I figure I have 10 more lbs to lose to get back to my happy weight — and hopefully ALL my old clothes will then fit again. I’m 5’4″ and have a very slender frame — tiny wrists, and should have a 28″ circumference to my rib cage, but am currently still at 30 inches, so that essentially, right now, I’m still two inches too big in all my measurements. (And as you can tell from the pictures below, there is such a thing as having breasts that are too big.)

So, that said, here are before and after shots of me a year ago, and me a few weeks ago (I have since gotten rid of the oil-slick hair, and am now sporting a pixy short haircut)

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Before and after shots; I tried to find similar angles, and used the size of my head as a point of reference for sizing the photos

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(They might not be the most flattering pants, but tourism I prefer cargo pants where I can load up my pockets rather than lug around a backpack or purse. In those pockets are a full set of keys, an iPhone, a man’s wallet, a backup iPhone battery with all the obligatory cables, and ear phones, and hanging from my belt look one of those microfiber clothes for cleaning my glasses.

So, as to my qualifications to speak about loosing weight while at the parks, the proof is in the pudding and I know of what I speak….

The first rule, while the most obvious, is the hardest to obey… USE SELF CONTROL!

If you’re at epcot for the Arts and food festival and you see options like this, SAY NO!

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It doesn’t matter that you can rationalize that  the serving size is small, the answer is NO! ‘Cause I promise you, at these events you’ll not eat just one… and there’s always the next booth selling something delectable, and the next… and you’ll walk out of there having gorged yourself on a lot of small servings …  I know this from experience.

And of course, the corollary to this rule is that when you see things like, that slice of chocolate cake at Hollywood Studios that’s almost as big as your head,  or that cinnamon bun in the Belle Section of Magic Kingdom, which is about the same size… for those items as well the answer is still a resounding NO!

— and honestly, having had the pleasure of eating both items, I can honestly testify that they’re OK, but really NOT worth the calories… I think that cinnabon at 880 calories actually IS a tastier cinnamon bun.

BUT, and this is a big one, DO NOT DENY YOURSELF EITHER!!!

As a general rule, from day one on this diet I have not denied myself. While it’s pricey, it’s hard to feel your sacrificing your pleasure of food to your diet when you are eating things like Lobster, fresh oysters, shrimp, salmon, crab, etc.

So while I’m saying DON’T buy those deserts, I am not saying don’t have desert. My suggestion is to hold out till you pass a Starbucks on your way OUT of the park (there’s one in EVERY park, usually near the entrance — Animal kingdom being the exception) and buy yourself a cup of plain coffee or tea (decaf) and ONE (and JUST one) of their cake pops — I LOVE the chocolate one with pink sprinkles, as it is by far the chocolatiest of the bunch.

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While for some reason the Starbucks in the parks do NOT include any dietary information, here is a pic of the comparable item sold outside of the parks (and remember to eat it slowly, nibble at it.. savor it). Now think about it, if that TINY (but oh so tasty) pop of gooey fudgey chocolate cake is around 200 calories at $2.25, what would that massive slice of cake have run you?

Now granted, if you have a group of about 6 people you could buy that slice of cake and cut it up into portions for about the same calories… but I travel alone….

I’ll be honest, Last year when I was at Disney, and posting all my food choices to the internet, my friends were making comments like, “do they even HAVE vegetables at Disney?” and “would it kill you to eat a vegetable?

So it’s ultimately about choices… that and asking to talk to the chef.

Epcot’s Restaurants: 

Last year I went to Le Cellier Steakhouse in Epcot’s Canada, and I ordered their Filet Mignon a AAA Canadian Beef Tenderloin, with mushroom risotto, asparagus-tomato relish, sitting on a truffle-butter sauce, with a side of their signature Poutin (french fries, Gruyere, caramelized onions, french onion gravy), and the Crème brûlée for desert.

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Quite tasty, but probably not the healthiest of choices.

This year I did it differently… I ordered the Venison.

Ladies and Gents, if you have a choice between game meats or normal things like beef or chicken, go for the game! Seriously..  Three ounces of venison has 140 calories and less than 1 gram of fat, while the same sized serving of beef tenderloin (offering the same amount of protein), has 179 calories and 7.6 grams of fat, three of which are saturated!!!

Bison steaks are actually a healthier bet even then Venison and I argue tastier than beef steak– but so far I have yet to find it offered in any of the in park restaurants (one of the on site hotels apparently has it); Do NOT however be fooled, the same can not really be said of Bison burgers. Those should be avoided. While they ARE better than beef burgers, they are NOT lower in fat than chicken, which the bison steak is pound per pound. Burgers NEED the fat to bind the bits of meat into the patty shape, so manufacturers will throw in EXTRA fat from the bison, or add in ground beef, into the mix.

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Epcot: Canada: Le Cellier Steakhouse

Also, per normal I SPOKE WITH THE CHEF, and was told that the Venison was supposed to be sitting on this creamy pasta thing; so I asked him if they could switch out that fatty carb for something in the way of green vegetables, and was given a massive plate full of grilled asparagus, mushrooms and Brussels sprouts instead.

Also, as a rule, start off eating the veggies, filled up on them and then get started in on the meat after you’ve taken the edge off your hunger. Again, having filled up on high fiber veggies, I was only able to eat half of the meat portion (and had enough veggies left over) that I was able to get two meals out of it.

Sadly, Canada is one of the few places that has game meat… at pretty much every other restaurant you’re going to have to turn your eyes to either an appetizer (again, talk to the chefs about how they’re prepared)

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Epcot: Italy, Tutto Italia Ristorante: Pasta Fagoli (Pasta and bean soup), a filling nutritious snack to sip slowly while your group is snarfing down pasta

Or, most likely, you’ll have to settle on nice piece of fish with side of green vegetables

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Epcot China: Nine Dragon’s Restaurant, sustainable fish of the day was Orange Roughy

This fish was pan fried and hence probably a little more oil then I prefer. I warned them ahead of time about my issues, and they replaced the rice with broccoli …. Apparently they do NOT have Chinese cabbage here (very sad)

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Epcot France: Monsieur Paul, Black cod (my favorite fish) sauce on the side, refused the bread and the rice

There are a few places around the park where I found Black Cod being served (TRY the on at Morimoto Asia in Disney Springs)… if you have not tried it (otherwise known as Sablefish in the USA, but has different names world wide) it’s light and flaky with a very high Omega 3 fat content. My favorite preparation is the Asian way, marinated in miso for 24 hours or more… but the way Chef Paul did it was also tasty.

And even if you are Epcot for one of the various tasting festivals that draw locals in during the off season, there are “better choices.” Again, ALWAYS look to the fish option, but pay attention to the details…

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Believe it or not even at these food booths you CAN ask them to please NOT add the Lemon-Thyme Beurre Blanc — otherwise known as butter — but make sure you make the request to the person who calls out the orders when you hand them your receipt, and then make sure to repeat it AFTER they say it, LOUD … the chefs are so remote controlled back there that you sort of have to wake them up.

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I’m not going to bother going through EVERY park and talking about food options at each, because basically the same rules hold true.

Opt for a sit down restaurant unless you want to be eating nothing but grilled salmon and salads for your whole stay, and ask to speak to the chef and choose a seafood or game meat (if available), and work with the chef on how they can modify what’s available to meet your dietary needs.

For snacks, there are apple slices and bags of cherry tomatoes at every park sold either at stands or behind fast food counters.

Remember to have ONE serving of FULL FAT dairy a day… while this may sound counter intuitive, there’s a slew of studies that have found that folks who maintain dairy fat in their blood stream actually loose weight faster — I guess our metabolisms have evolved to figure if there’s milk, we can’t be starving, and there’s no need to slow the metabolism even though calorie intake has decreased. Also, studies are finding that from a cholesterol standpoint our bodies process that sort of fat differently, and if you too are a woman you need the dairy for bone health. I STRONGLY suggest ONE full fat cheese stick a day as a late night snack after returning from the parks … I opt for a nice sharp cheddar.

Oh, and least I forget!!!!
DO NOT DRINK YOUR CALORIES!!!! And for G-d’s sake, stay away from artificial sweeteners (no really, if you don’t know about WHY you should NEVER consume these things, read this!)!!!  Get used to drinking unsweetened teas and coffee — its difficult at first, but I promise you after a few weeks your palates will adjust and you’ll grow to prefer it, or of course water is always the best option.