Quartzsite, Oregon Coast, Mule Days, Lake Mead and Hello Hipbones!

Welcome to my first blog post of 2019! Wait a minute, it’s July, how can this be the first post of the year?!

When we last saw Westley and Buttercup, they were riding off into the sunset after having been saved by Miracle Max. 

“You’re alive! If you want, I could fly.” – Buttercup

Roger’s heart attack made us realize we needed to get serious about our health and diet and neither of Roger’s cardiologists were helpful on those topics so we decided to take charge ourselves.  One of the reasons I haven’t blogged in a while is that it has been hard for me to think or talk about anything but our health and our diet since December; that is not what this blog is about.  I have spent hours every day researching nutrition and heart health.  I have been obsessed and nobody wants to hear me go on and on about what we stopped eating, what we started eating, how the American Heart Association is misleading people and making them sicker, which fats are healthiest…see?  I still can’t do it.  Nobody wants to hear that…except Robin…and Judith…and maybe Dianne.  So, for you three (and anyone else who is curious) I have included more information with some links at the bottom so you can follow the bread crumbs (haha bread crumbs!) on your own health improvement and weight loss journey.

We did manage to squeeze in some fun travel things too.  Oh, and we got a new dog!  So, on to the fun stuff:

The holidays found us once again in Mesa visiting our daughter, son-in-law, and son.

L – R: Jessica, Nix, Natalia, Cadence, and Mike. Jessica’s favorite holiday movie is “Elf” she doesn’t always dress that way, just during December.
This year I made some gifts from polymer clay. My son Chris likes purple and is a fan of dragons and fantasy. I covered a wooden box for him to keep game dice and other treasures in.
side view
My oldest son’s girlfriend has a fascination with cows. I made her some playful ‘fridge magnets. I’m having so much fun with this new hobby!

Cally, our senior citizen Rhodesian Ridgeback crossed over the Rainbow Bridge in December. I miss her dearly. It is hard to stay sad though, because this big goofball charmed his way into our life.

Meet Beric Dondarrion (Bear). My son found him half starved, missing an eye and half a tail yet he remains positive and brave–Game of Thrones fans will appreciate the name.

We spent January and most of February in Quartzsite. We met up with old friends, made a few new ones, and had an all-around wonderful time.

Shortly after arriving in Quartzsite, we met up with the Escapees Boomers in Boomerville. Here Dave is trying to sneak into the ladies-only luncheon. Is that the same Dave that was caught squatting over the spot where Oppenheimer once “squatted?” Yes, the very same one. Dave has enough personality for several Daves!
We led an off-road adventure with new friends to the “Quartzsite” name in Rocks, Fisherman Intaglio, Lead Camp Mine and Southern Cross Mine
We rode out to see the Indian Footprint with some old friends. Steve snaps a picture as Jim tries it on for size.
Steve led a ride out to Skull Rock. I’m only in the picture as a size reference. It looks like it’s going to eat me!
We also monkeyed around at Beer Belly’s Adult Day Care.

Eventually it was time to say goodbye to friends and head down to Tucson for the Escapade. We were really looking forward to it this year because we had met a terrific couple–Nannette and Peter–while staying in City of Rocks a year earlier and made plans to meet up with them at the Escapade. We were delighted to see them again and delighted as well that we ended up parked near several couples we really enjoyed meeting and with whom we shared gluten-free, paleo, and keto recipes.

Peter, Nannette, Roger and I (and Bear and Pepper–not shown…they are short) hiking in Madera Canyon. We had a great time and hope to meet up with them again!
While walking around Tucson, we ran into this guy!
Fortunately, we were in the Sonoran Desert Museum at the time and he was behind a pane of glass. Whew! Btw, I highly recommend the museum…especially on a cool day with your hiking shoes on. So much to see and do!

On our way north we overnighted at the Windmill Winery in Florence as Harvest Hosts members. We ran into JP with the Xscapers and enjoyed a glass of wine on the patio…and a hug from a local donkey.

Fuzzy Donkey!!!!

In April we met up with Robin and Bill and drove north through California to stay on their property for a few weeks and visit the beautiful Oregon coast.

Beautiful, rugged Oregon Coast.
More beautiful, rugged Oregon coast.
Visiting Yaquina Head Lighthouse on the Oregon Coast
Basalt columns form a spiral called the Molalla Eye. Fantastic!
While hiking with Robin and Bill, Bear posed for this shot…
Look at that grin! What a ham!
Bill and Pepper having fun on our hike.

We left Robin and Bill’s to meet up with my sister, her husband, and their daughter at Fort Stevens State Park.

Wreck of the Peter Iredale on the beach at Fort Stevens State Park.
My darling niece Libbi in Vizzini on the beach.
She loved driving!

The park was gorgeous and we had fun visiting Astoria. We were highly entertained by a pair of trolley conductors when we were the only passengers on historic Astoria Riverfront Trolley.

My sister and Libbi on the trolley.

We would have loved to stay in Oregon for longer but we had a commitment as volunteer shuttle drivers for Mule Days in Bishop California for the week before Memorial Day. So we headed down the US 395, and what a beautiful drive that was!

At Mule Days posing with a security guard riding a mule that looks an awful lot like our old mule, FIL.
Did you know mules can jump higher than their heads from a standstill? This little mini mule was amazing!
Horton Creek Campground just north of Bishop, CA.

After Mule Days, we stayed at Boulder Beach Campground at Lake Mead. We visited Valley of Fire…where Roger lost his wallet.

Valley of Fire in June…feels like a valley of fire! We didn’t hike much but really enjoyed the views.

We had just exited the Valley of Fire when Roger realized he no longer had his wallet. Panic set in; he was scheduled to fly out to a job the next morning. While he was searching the area around the truck, my phone showed a missed call from a Swiss number. What the heck? Probably nothing, wrong number or scam. We headed back to the entrance, 45 min away and I kept getting this missed call. Then I got a voicemail. Is that English or heavily accented German being spoken? It was hard to tell but she kept saying the word “box.” So as soon as we got to an area with decent reception, I returned the call. This lovely woman and I shouted back and forth at each other (in the most friendly way) partly due to the lousy phone reception and partly due to the language barriers. We mostly yelled, “what?” and “I don’t understand” until it finally clicked that she had found Roger’s “money box” (wallet) and was trying to figure out how to return it. She said she would call me back when they arrived at their RV park. When she called back, she reported that their RV park was closed and they didn’t know where to go. I told her the park next to ours had openings so they headed over that way and so did we. It made for a long day so I offered to make them dinner while they got their RV set up. They were very sweet people and we had a lot of fun over dinner and drinks. All four of us were grateful to have found each other (especially Roger)!

Ursula, Walter, Roger and I relax after a challenging day.

Our oldest son, Ryan joined us at Lake Mead for the weekend with his kids and his boat. We had the most fun we have had in years…and that is really saying something!

Ryan, Trevor, and Devon prepare to launch the tube.
Ashton holds on tight as he catches at least a foot of air.
Whhhhheeeeeeeee!!! I yelled my head off but had a blast riding the tube with my grandsons, Devon and Trevor.

The family left, there was a break in Roger’s work schedule, it was hitting 105 degrees every day and not cooling off much by night…time to head out. Our excitement was high because our next stop was Florin–for our first stay on our property in Utah! And that will be the subject of my next post. See you soon and Happy Trails!

Our 7 month Food/Nutrition/Medical Research Journey–aka boring stuff–I have included a TL;DR (too long, didn’t read=internet speak for quick summary) at the bottom so scroll all the way to the end if you must…but I did work hard to put all this down for you…just sayin’

Before: 155 lb. After: 125 lbs.
Before: 205 lbs. After: 173

Here’s the “skinny” on what we learned from all that research:

Eating sugar, starches and grains causes insulin to spike.  Insulin does a few key things: first, it tells the body to use some of the sugar and starch for energy and store the rest (as well as all the fat being eaten) in your fat cells.  So, it would seem that the best thing would be to stop eating any fat.  Right?  Um, no.  Fifty years of skyrocketing obesity and Type 2 Diabetes in this country has proven the low-fat approach to eating is just plain wrong.  OK, so what’s the answer you might ask.  Well, I’m glad you asked–maybe you didn’t ask but I’m going to tell you anyway…if you don’t want to know you can stop reading right now…did you stop?  No? OK, then I’ll continue. The key is to prevent the insulin from rising in the first place.  If you skip the sugar and starch in your meals, and eat mainly fat and moderate amounts of protein your insulin will not spike and your body will use the fat for energy and the protein for building muscle and repairing cells. Without a lot of insulin in your system, the fat in your fat cells becomes available and can be used for energy. As it is used for energy, your fat cells shrink…and so do you.

Another thing insulin does is generate oxidative stress and promote chronic inflammation.  These are bad things, trust me.  Or don’t trust me, do a quick google search on chronic inflammation and oxidative stress yourself.  You will find words like autoimmune disease, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s.  These are not good things, but they are preventable!

When a person ingests refined carbohydrates day after day, year after year and the insulin orders all those lovely fat cells to puff up, eventually the fat cells start to tell insulin, “go away, we are full!” and you become insulin resistant.  The body needs to produce more insulin to get more fat into the cells and a vicious cycle begins–the next stop…Type 2 Diabetes.  And what do we give people with Diabetes?  More insulin.  Sheesh.

So what is a hungry, hungry hippo to do? What did we do?

We started following a Ketogenic diet.  Ketosis is a normal metabolic process. When the body does not have enough glucose for energy, it burns stored fats instead; this results in the presence of acids called ketones within the body.  Provided you have a functioning pancreas, these acids are not dangerous or unhealthy. However, as long as you provide your body with glucose (in the form of sugar, starch, and grains) you will not burn stored fat, you will burn glucose until you run low…at which time you will feel hunger and want to eat more carbs.

Roger and I climbed out of the hamster wheel of sugar and carb addiction back in December and we are lighter, healthier, and happier for it.  We stopped eating grains, sugar, and refined oils.  We started eating whole, minimally processed foods, we liberally use unrefined oils (olive oil, coconut oil, grass-fed butter), and we keep our carbohydrate intake to a minimum—except we eat all the leafy greens, above ground veggies, nuts and seeds that we want. 

We have salmon at least once a week and avocado, asparagus, and flax seed as close to daily as possible.  Time restricted eating (intermittent fasting) helps our sleep, our mood, and our weight.  Our results?  We rarely if ever feel hungry, our pee stinks (daily asparagus…TMI?), and we both lost more than 25 pounds and have kept it off.  Oh, and Roger’s bloodwork improved so much he is off all of his medications except the blood thinner which he hopes to discontinue in 6 months.

We eat all kinds of delicious, satisfying foods every day.  Don’t believe me?  Don’t think you can be happy without pasta and garlic bread?  Well, here’s what we ate over the last 48 hours:

  • Breakfast: Greek Yogurt with blueberries and chia seeds. I sweetened mine a bit with Stevia, Roger likes his tart.
  • Snack 1: Dark chocolate
  • Lunch: Big fat juicy ribeye steak with asparagus and grass fed butter.
  • Snack 2:  Whisps Parmesan crisps
  • Dinner: Spinach and romaine salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, avocado, boiled egg, pumpkin seeds, extra virgin olive oil and pomegranate vinaigrette.  Warm herb roll (my own low carb excellent recipe) with grass fed butter.  Glass of white wine.
  • Breakfast:  Bacon and scrambled eggs with Colby jack cheese and salsa.
  • Snack:  Dark chocolate…did you notice the pattern here?  It’s my “breakfast dessert”
  • Lunch:  Pulled pork open-faced sandwich (on an herb roll) with melted cheese.  Side salad with avocado.
  • Dinner:  Chicken Tikka Masala (my son Chris’ excellent recipe) over riced cauliflower.

But Buttercup, what about all that cholesterol?  Aren’t you worried about your cholesterol?

Nope.  In the first place, the hypothesis that cholesterol clogs your arteries and causes heart attacks has been completely debunked.  If your doctor doesn’t know this, he has not done his homework for the last ten years.  Second, both Roger and I have seen our cholesterol numbers improve dramatically over the past six months eating this way.  And the theory that eating fat makes you fat is about as true as the theory that eating sugar makes you sweet!

More on the Low Carb and Ketogenic diet:

Seriously, changing how we eat has had a tremendous impact on our health, weight, and mood.  “Keto” is not a fad diet, it has been around for 100 years but big food and big pharma can’t make money on it so they bury the science…nope, I’m not a conspiracy theorist, never have been…I believe we did land on the moon (not me personally), and that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone (I was not personally involved in that, either—come on, I was only 6 at the time and not a very good shot). But I also believe that people with too much money, ego, and power sometimes do terrible things in the pursuit of more—as in the case of Ancel Keys and his flawed diet-heart hypothesis. It’s a fascinating story well-told by Nina Teicholz in her book, The Big Fat Surprise.  You can get a brief rundown of the tale here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1CHGiid6N9Q

Do you have a heart?  Are you (or someone you know) taking statins?  The quick and entertaining video (an excerpt from the movie, “Fathead”) about cholesterol and heart diseases is here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pue5qVW5k8A If you follow no other links in this blog, please follow this one! I’m talking to you, Mark!

If you are up for a challenge and are really interested in how to improve your health, a very informative video about preventing heart attacks is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qxTIxwfCoGQ  The sound quality of the doctor is a little sketchy and it’s kinda long but there is so much to learn here and I get such a kick out of Ivor Cummins’ thick Irish accent. 

Here’s information on an inexpensive, non-invasive way to detect cardiovascular disease:  “Widowmaker”  Watch this documentary movie here for free : https://thefatemperor.com/2017-11-20-cac-and-the-widowmaker-movie-2015-teaser-time-cardiovascular-lchf-nfwzk/

Learn more about sleep: Podcast: Found my Fitness with Rhonda Patrick Ph.D. – Feb 28, 2019 Interview with Dr. Matthew Walker on Sleep.  Two geeky and extremely intelligent people discuss sleep in this eye-opening (pun intended) interview. So, being a night owl IS A REAL THING!

If you want to try a ketogenic diet yourself, here are a couple of things you need to know: 

Here is a good website to get you started for free: https://www.dietdoctor.com/

You will lose several pounds right off the bat (mostly water weight).  When the excess water leaves your system, it takes with it many electrolytes and you will experience what some call the “Keto flu.”  It’s not the flu, but you may feel dizzy, weak, and nauseated like I did.  A cup of broth with some additional sea salt is all it took for me to feel great again.  You might consider a magnesium citrate supplement as well if the broth doesn’t do the trick.  But if you include electrolytes in your diet right from the start you can avoid this common problem altogether.  

The other important thing to know is that your weight will almost certainly plateau once you have lost the water weight.  Keep calm and keto on.  Once your body adjusts to burning fat instead of carbs, the weight (and inches) will begin to just disappear without any effort…no additional exercise, no hunger, no torture.

Here is a place to calculate your macronutrients for a ketogenic diet for someone your age, size and shape according to your goals: https://www.wholesomeyum.com/the-best-free-low-carb-keto-macro-calculator/  I suggest these settings to start: 20 net carbs for certain success but if that is too strict you may find you can increase this to 30 or even 50 (not me, I have to keep it under 30 to maintain my new lower weight). I suggest starting with protein ratio of 0.8 or 0.9 (.8 or .9 grams of protein per kilogram of lean body weight, but the program will calculate all of that for you). We started with a 20% calorie deficit and it worked well for us…and no hunger! There are other calculators out there but this one doesn’t require you to provide your e-mail address—so no spam! 

This podcast is fun and informative: 2 Keto Dudes. Also, they have a website with tons of information in a forum platform at https://www.ketogenicforums.com/

Here’s a quick review of phone apps that can help you stay focused and assist your weight loss/health improvement:

My Fitness Pal – Easy to use, very user friendly but at the time of this review it does not calculate net carbs, you have to do that yourself by subtracting out fiber carbs.  I did love using this app and it was a great way to start for free.  I bought the upgraded version and liked it a lot, especially the ability to track my progress with photos.  However, since keeping net carbs down is the whole point, and this app does not make that task easy, I soon abandoned it (except for the progress photos, I still use that function).

Cronometer – I was sold on the Keto diet by the time I got this app (I had lost 15 lbs and felt great).  I bought the gold version of this one based on great reviews from the Keto community so this review doesn’t refer to the free version.  I’m a bit of a nerd and was very focused on good nutrition for Roger and myself so this app gave me MANY hours of pleasure tracking my macro AND micro nutrients.  I found out which vitamins and minerals my diet was deficient in and was able to do some supplementation and make adjustments to correct them.  This app tracks net carbs and you can set it so that is what you see on your front page when you open the app. This is my favorite of all the apps I tried, but it would be the hands down winner if it tracked photographic progress.

Carb Manager – A great basic, quite user-friendly app for Keto dieters.  I have a friend that decided to try the Keto diet (you know who you are!) and had downloaded Carb Manager.  She really liked it and was being successful using it.  So, in order to share recipes and allow her to see what I was eating and be able to review her food log for coaching purposes, I downloaded this app and began using it instead of Cronometer.  It turns out this app has a feature Roger finds extremely useful too.  You can scan a barcode of a food or enter in a description and it returns a Keto Grade for that food.  Roger simply scans or enters in a food and if it says “Keto Grade: A” he eats it.  If it’s a grade B or C, he asks my advice (that’s usually because he really, really wants to eat it and wants me to give him a justification for doing so LOL).  So this one is a big winner due to its user-friendliness and the fact that it is the only one Roger likes using.  To keep him on track, I enter my meal and all he has to do is copy my log and adjust the quantities.  Easy peasie for him, nerdy enough for me.  Note: nobody can see your log unless you “friend” them in the app and allow it.  Lastly, this app has a place for tracking ketones in urine and a place to track blood sugar (yes, we do these cheap, simple, at-home  tests when we think a food may be causing a spike in blood sugar or if we suspect “carb creep” in our diets).  You can also track insulin and body fat percent (no cheap, easy way to test for these) and blood pressure.

Final recommendation:

If you want to use one of these apps and really understand your diet, get a food scale.  Here’s a fairly inexpensive one that I own and like: https://www.amazon.com/Taylor-Precision-Products-6-6-Pound-Platform/dp/B001DQOEIE/ref=sr_1_3?keywords=food+scale+taylor+biggest+loser&qid=1561925980&s=gateway&sr=8-3  There may be others that work as well and that you might like better, but this one fits easily into my limited cabinet space.

If you want to lose weight and improve your health by trying a Ketogenic diet, I would enjoy coaching you, cheering you on and sharing more resources (recipes, podcasts, books, websites, tools etc.) so don’t be shy about contacting me!

TL;DR We researched diets, we got skinny, we got healthy, it was actually pretty easy.  If you want to know why so many people (even those watching their diet) have heart attacks watch this entertaining and informative clip from the movie, “Fathead.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pue5qVW5k8A