Saturday, May 27, 2017

Diabetic Exchange Program: My New Diet

Disclaimer: I'm definitely NOT a health or medical expert. I'm relaying my own experience and research here, not advising you to do as I do:)  You probably should talk to your doctor about your own condition and diet, especially if you have been told that you need to control your carb grams.  This method of eating, as far as I can tell, is good for eating healthier but the amount of carbs are still pretty high considering that some people are advised by their doctor to only eat 45 carb grams.  I have been following the plan faithfully for 4 days and consistently been consuming about 200 grams of carbs a day, according to My Fitness Pal. However, there is a difference between carbs and net carbs, apparently, but I haven't really looked into it yet.

BACKGROUND

As I mentioned in my last recap post, Bonnie, a reader of this blog, mentioned the Diabetic Exchange Diet to me in a couple of comments on an early January post about my dieting efforts.

I was intrigued, but I felt that I had too much going on at the time (with New Year's resolutions!) to undergo a new type of diet as well.

My dad and his dad both have/had diabetes. My grandfather controlled his with his diet (or rather, didn't control his with his diet as I remember my grandmother scolding him for eating the Polish food that she put on the table!) but my dad has to give himself daily insulin injections and check his blood sugar throughout the day. He also has Hashimoto's disease, a hypothyroidism condition that is hereditary and many heart problems. He's had a quadruple bypass a few years back.  My stepmom was a dietician but my dad is a bon vivant who cheated on his diet behind her back so despite her best efforts, he couldn't avoid diabetes.



With all those antecedents, I still refuse to go see a doctor so I have no idea whether I am pre-diabetic or what.  I probably am as I'm in the "obese" category when it comes to BMI.  I'm not anti-science at all, I'm anti going to the doctor's for myself.  I don't want to be pumped up with drugs. I do recognize that there are very serious consequences to having diabetes (blindness and high risk if amputation of the lower limbs being a couple of them) and hypothyroidism, but before I have to be on drugs, I want to try to do my best to improve my health on my own. After all, even if I were on drugs, I'd still have to make the changes that I have undertaken this week.

We all know that being healthy generally means (aside from inherited or genetic conditions) that:

  • You need to eat healthy foods in moderation
  • You need to exercise or be active, every day
  • You shouldn't smoke, drink, do drugs
  • You should avoid stress
  • You should keep hydrated
  • You should get plenty of sleep
I'm sure I'm missing some bullet points, but those are the ones that jump out at me.

Well, I don't smoke, rarely drink, and I don't do drugs so I'm already ahead of the game a little!

Last week, when I ate cereal for breakfast, and then had a Wendy's meal (fried chicken sandwich, large fries) for lunch, followed by 2 donuts, I felt like crap in the afternoon. I oftentimes find myself feeling tired in the afternoons even though I don't lead a particularly strenuous life, but this was something else: I couldn't keep my eyes open and I had to take a nap. It probably was more like a short coma!

When I woke up, I knew that something had to change and I knew right away that my fatigue had been due to eating too many carbs and too much sugar.  I had been meaning to look up the information that Bonnie had shared with me back in January and did so that evening.

DIABETIC EXCHANGE DIET

Back in January, I had found this handout from the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service titled "Exchange List System For Diabetic Meal Planning" and asked her if that was the diet program she had told me about.  She confirmed, and added:
"Yes that is it...however, there is also a chart which shows how much you should have from each group.. for the # of calories that you are planning on for a day. For 1200 calories:Breakfast is: 1 starch, 1 fruit, 1/2 milk and 1 fat. Lunch is: 1 starch, 1 vegetable, 1 fruit, 2 meat and 1 fatAfternoon snack: is 1 starchDinner: 2 starch, 1 vegetable, 1 fruit, 2 meat and 1 fatBedtime snack of 1 serving milk
1500 adds another starch at breakfast, another at lunch and 1 for a bedtime snack. For approx 1400 you could only add 2 more starches and not 3. The trickiest past about 1 starch is checking the packages to be sure that your 1 starch is only 15 carbs... Cereal is an important one to watch often A serving size on the pack is like 45 carbs so you want to only have 1/3 of what they say. As far as snacks... for your starch as long as it is 15 carbs you are good...so you could have another fruit or nuts etc..."


Basically, the Diabetic Exchange Meal works on the premise that foods are divided into 6 groups and you are allowed to eat so many "exchanges" from each group of food every day, depending on how many calories you should consume.  It's more involved than that and you probably should read up on it more, but that's the basic premise.  The six groups are:
  • Starches/Carbohydrates (I found these terms to be used interchangeably from one source to the next)
  • Non Starchy Vegetables
  • Fruit
  • Meats/Proteins
  • Milk
  • Fat
Make sure to read the University of Arkansas handout to understand what foods go into what category. For instance, some foods that I would count, traditionally, as dairy, actually count as a meat (cheese), or milk (yogurt) with this diet. Some foods might be a combination of several groups.  

There are also "free" foods, although I've only found out about those on other sources. Obviously, those should only be used sparingly. For instance, "sugar free non dairy creamer" is a free food and so is Romaine lettuce.  

The plan is based on "exchanges" not because you can exchange a meat for a fruit, but because you can substitute foods within the same group. So let's say a meal that you looked up includes Brussels sprouts but you don't like Brussel sprouts, you can substitute another non starchy vegetable from the list for it (but you need to make sure that the quantity is correct).

The University of Arkansas Exchange List is a start, but of course is doesn't cover all the kinds of different foods that are out there.  Sadly, I haven't found any resource that is truly comprehensible yet. It might be because that method of dieting has kind of fallen out of favor compared to counting net carbs or other diets like keto, paleo, etc.  However, the free, online My Food Advisor tool from the American Diabetes Association is a good start. It's very imperfect but it's also been helpful.


You don't need to create an account to use it. I haven't created one.  By clicking on their "Explore Foods" section, you can search for foods with just their name, or by certain criteria, including by category.

Note that under Fats and Others, there is a "free foods" category that you can bring up.

For instance, here I searched for "pasta". You can see that the results are very limited, only 13 results. That is the downside of the tool, their database is very incomplete.


The screen above tells you that "pasta, cooked" is a starch, but doesn't tell you how much of the pasta equals how many starches, right?  To get that, you need to click on "pasta, cooked".

So above you can see that the serving size is 1/3 of a cup, you see the nutritional information for that serving size and that it corresponds to 1 starch.  Hence, if you wanted to eat 1 cup of cooked pasta, it would be 3 starches.

Similarly, 1 oz of cooked meat = 1 meat.  So if you decide you want to eat 4 oz of any meat or fish, it's going to equal 4 meats.  At 1,400 calories I'm only allowed 5 meats per day (and remember, "meat" includes cheeses!) so I learned on that first day that I couldn't indulge on eating such a "large" portion of protein in one sitting unless I didn't mind not having cheese or eggs during the day!  Yikes.  Also, not all meats are equal, obviously the advice is to use lean meats instead of the fattier (and more unhealthy) ones.  I should add that I have found that if I cook 3 oz of raw 73% lean ground beef, I end up with 2 oz of cooked ground beef. Again, the meat exchange is calculated for the cooked meat that you consumed. Meat loses weight when you cook it. So be careful with this. It's probably safer to invest in a kitchen scale.  I've had this one since 2013 and I really like it.



Another helpful resource I found, is a book that I borrowed from my library system entitled "The American Diabetes Association Month of Meals Diabetes Meal Planner". I'll probably buy a used copy on Amazon. It's also available as a Kindle book.

It contains several hundreds of suggestions for breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks. Each category of ideas correspond to specific amounts of exchanges, but there is a range of caloric choices in each category.

For instances all 167 breakfast ideas correspond to:
  • 2 starch exchanges
  • 1 fruit exchange
  • 1 fat free milk exchange
  • and 1 fat exchange
yet the ideas presented range from 266 to 446 calories.  So not all breakfasts are equal in terms of calories.

Same principle with lunches, dinners, and snacks.  So with that book, you kind of have to follow the plan they propose of "x amount of calories for breakfast, x amount for lunch, and x amount for dinner". But if you're willing to follow that, the book has tons of suggestions for each meal, including some actual recipes too.

It's also worth noting that they do explain how to adapt their plan if you're vegetarian.

MY APPROACH TO THE PLAN

I wanted a little more flexibility so I decided not to just limit myself to eating the proper amount of each exchanges in a day.  I also didn't want to limit myself to the exchanges as presented by Bonnie in her initial comment. For instance, I'd rather have eggs for breakfast as I find protein early in the morning really helps me feel full up until lunch. But I still wasn't sure of the amount of calories that I should consume in order to lose weight.

So I decided to track what I ate in My Fitness Pal (you can create a free account and use their website and/or download their free app to your phone), as it would not only tell me how many calories I should consume according to my age, weight, weight loss goal, and exercise level, but also give me an account of the calories, nutrients, sodium, etc. that I was consuming.

After I input my details into My Fitness Pal, it told me that I was allowed to eat 1,400 calories per day.


However, the "Month of Meals Diabetes Meal Planner" doesn't have a plan for 1,400 calories. It only has information for 1,200; 1,500; 1,800; and 2,100 calorie plans, and it wouldn't help me with the specific number of exchanges I could eat from each group as well :( 

I did, however, find a 1,400 calorie Diet Exchange Plan online!  It states that I can have, per day:
  • 7 starches
  • 3 fruit
  • 3 non-starchy vegetables
  • 5 meats
  • 2 milk
  • 3 fat
Incidentally, I also found a 1,200 calorie Diet Exchange Plan and a 1,800 calorie Diet Exchange Plan, which I printed so I have them if I ever have to eat that amount of calories (as I lose weight and as, later on, I'm on maintenance).

Using My Fitness Pal to track my calories and nutrients is great, but it doesn't help me tracking my exchanges and I couldn't find an app or even a printout that would.  So I made my own food journal for 1,400 calories in Excel.  I'm sorry to say that you can't download it to print it since Blogger doesn't let you post pdf documents but I can email it to you if you want. Just contact me at the email address listed under "Contact Me" and mention the 1,400 calorie Diabetic Exchange Food Journal in the title.

I used circles divided into quarters for the exchanges since some food serving size might correspond
only to 1/4 or 1/2 an exchange.
I made myself a binder where I keep my journal printouts, Exchange Plans, the hand out from the University of Arkansas and other printouts. I use a blank journal every morning to plan my food intake for the whole day.  

Under "Notes", I jot down what I plan on cooking for Greg and the kids for dinner that day (I don't cook lunch or breakfast for them).  I try to eat mostly about the same thing as what they're eating although with some changes.  So I start by writing down my dinner.  For instance, tonight I made Portobello Mushroom Stroganoff. So I wrote down each ingredient under "dinner" and looked up the exchanges for each ingredient's and the serving size.

After that, I plan my breakfast. I want to have protein, as I mentioned, so I am careful to keep 1 meat at least. I have found that an "omelet" made with 2 egg whites, 1/4 cup of thinly sliced zucchini and a stick of light string cheese (omelet cooked in EVOO spray in a non-stick pan) and a piece of fruit is a filling breakfast for me. It uses 2 meats, 1/2 a non starchy vegetable and 1 fruit.

From there, I finish filling up my daily journal, making sure that I used up most of the exchanges, if not all.  Then I input the whole thing in My Fitness Pal to make sure that I'm OK as far as the calories are concerned.

I put a goal of 8 cups of liquids on the food journal, but I have been drinking more than that.

I have decided that I would not eat my exercise calories so I don't log my exercise in My Fitness Pal.  I do write down what I did and the caloric value in "Exercise Notes" in MFP and I also write it on my Diabetic Exchange Food Journal.  Not eating my exercise calories allows me not to think "oooh, I still have 300 calories to eat!", which usually leads me to eat unhealthy foods.  I really want to try to follow the diabetic exchange plan for the level of calories I should be eating.  So far, so good.

For instance, my food intake for today was as follows:

Breakfast:
  • Omelet made with:
    • spray of EVOO in my Misto sprayer (free as far as I'm concerned)
    • 2 egg whites (1 meat)
    • 1 piece of light string cheese (1 meat)
    • 1/2 cup slices zucchini (1/2 non starchy vegetable)
  • 2 clementines (1 fruit)

Morning Snack: (I actually ate it with my lunch)
  • Shake made with:
    • 1 cup 2% milk (actually 1/2 cup whole milk and 1/2 cup water) (1 milk)
    • 1.25 cup fresh strawberries (1 fruit) 
    • A little bit of stevia (free)
    • Mixed in the blender
Lunch:
  • Turkey roll-ups made with:
    • Whole wheat tortilla, 8" (2 starches)
    • 1 tbsp light mayonnaise (1 fat)
    • 2 oz oven roasted turkey lunch meat (2 meats)
    • 2 Romaine leaves (free)
  • 1 apple (1 fruit)

Afternoon Snack:
  • 8 saltines (2 starches)
  • 1 tbsp Weight Watchers Black Bean Dip (free) Note: I halved the recipe and it still gave me over a cup of it. So far it's kept in the fridge for 4 days without turning.
  • 1 oz oven roasted turkey lunch meat (1 meat)

Dinner:
  • Portobello Mushroom Stroganoff serving (I use penne pasta and reserved 1 cup of cooked pasta for myself, then added 1 cup of the mushroom sauce to my plate) made with (my portion only, estimated):
    • 1 cup portobello mushroom (1 non starchy vegetable)
    • 3 tbsp light sour cream (1 fat) I probably vastly underestimated how much light sour cream went into my portion, though. Good thing I biked for an hour today and didn't eat my exercise calories!
    • 1 tsp butter (1 fat)
    • broth (free)
    • 1/4 cup onion (1/2 non starchy vegetable)
    • 1 tbsp flour (1/3 starch)
    • 1 cup cooked penne pasta (3 starches)
  • Side salad made with:
    • Romaine lettuce (free)
    • 1/2 cup cucumber (1/2 non starchy vegetable)
    • 1/4 cup shredded carrots (1/4 non starchy vegetable)

Evening Snack:
  • 1 Fit & Active nonfat yogurt (1 milk)
All in all, I consumed about 1,318 calories according to My Fitness Pal.  It's probably a little more as I didn't input the sugar free non dairy creamer that I added to my morning coffee, or the 1 tbsp of light dressing I used on the salad (which would have been another 1/2 fat, btw).

As far as nutrients are concerned, I'm pleased that my sodium and potassium intake are definitely much better than they used to be. However, I'm still eating too much sugar and not enough iron, according to My Fitness Pal.  And I'm also eating more carbs than I should, according to My Fitness Pal!  It's kind of maddening but I'm going to keep plugging at it.  I did eat 1/3 starches more than I should have and should have eaten another 1/4 non starchy vegetables.

EATING OUT

However, I think that on the days when we might eat out, keeping those exercise calories will allow me not to have to worry as much about the exchanges on that day (as again, my goal in using the Diabetic Exchange Diet Plan is to lose weight and be healthier, not avoid a potentially dangerous blood sugar count on a particular day).  I spent a lot of time today researching what the best choices might be at fast food places for diabetics.  It's not necessarily healthy, but reading the information prepared me for some choices I ought to keep in mind when we go out to eat or when my daughter and I will be on our trip in a few days.

I found a couple of useful resources: 
  • On the Prevention Magazine website, an article entitled "Rescue Your Fast Food Meal". It doesn't address the exchange aspect of things, but explains what is a better choice at several fast food places.
  • Same with the "Diabetic-friendly Fast Food" article from Lifescript.
  • The "Restaurant Foods" category of the "Explore Foods" section of My Food Advisor lists over 3.696 dishes/foods but it's not searchable, just an alphabetic listing that sometimes doesn't make sense. On the plus side, it shows the exchanges for those dishes/foods.
  • I also ordered a used copy of a book on Amazon, entitled "Eat Out, Eat Well, The Guide to Eating Healthy in Any Restaurant", which was written for the American Diabetes Association.  Since we do eat out quite a bit, I figured I should educate myself to be able to make better choices.


CONCLUSION

So all of this, coupled with making sure that I exercise at least 30 minutes a day (I've been exercising 45 to 60 minutes a day so far, on my recumbent bike) and drink at least 8 cups of liquids a day, constitutes my new diet.

It sure seems to be working. I weighed 230 lbs on Tuesday morning. This morning (Saturday), I was down to 223.4 lbs, a 6.6 lb drop in just 4 days! Of course I went from eating a ton of calories and carbs to eating a reduced amount of calories and carbs, I went from only taking a long walk on Saturdays to exercising every day, and I started drinking 4 to 5 times the amount of liquids that I had been drinking.  I'm quite sure subsequent weeks won't see such a steep drop, but it was very encouraging to see immediate results in my weight.   I don't have sudden stores of extra energy but I sleep better and I don't wake up tired and I haven't needed to take an afternoon nap as I don't feel tired in the afternoons. I also fall asleep (apart from tonight!) earlier than I have been.

I hope to keep posting positive updates :)  

14 comments:

  1. Well, you don't do something half way, do you? You have done thorough research and summarized a good basis for others who might be interested in this eating method. Good luck. It sounds like your mentally ready to follow this which is at least half of the battle.

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    1. I wasn't planning on talking about it right away as I wanted to see if the results continued to be good as the weeks went on, but Sandie mentioned being interested in it so I figured I'd save her the time to do the research as she's very busy and I'm really not :)

      As far as not doing anything "half way" as you said, well I keep telling myself that if I went to the doctor's and was told that I HAVE to do this or I'll become blind or have to take drugs the rest of my life, I wouldn't really have a choice. I was successful on Weight Watchers 13 years ago (lost 50 lbs in 6 months!) so I KNOW what I need to do to lose the weight and I also know that maintenance is actually much harder than losing the weight in the first place. By being 13 years older and possibly have hypothyroidism, losing weight is now much harder and will keep on getting harder. So I've had no excuses all those years not to keep doing what I was doing when I was on WW. This time around, I didn't want to count "points", I wanted to make sure that my intake also significantly reduced the amount of carbs and sugar I was eating, and since this diet was at one point recommended by the American Diabetes Association, I figured that it was worth a try. I do want to avoid having to be even more restricted, although for sure the amount of calories that I can eat will decrease as I lose weight. That's what really stinks when you're on a diet, isn't it?! ha.

      I tend to lose steam on "projects" after a few weeks but this time since there is a real concern about potential life-altering health conditions, I'm hoping that I'll stick to it long enough to lose a significant amount of weight and train myself to eat more healthily for the rest of my life. I'm fortunate that I can spend hours planning my food and doing the research, as people who have jobs have to fit this on top of work responsibilities that they can't escape.

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  2. Good for you! However, I still think you should have some blood work done to see where you are at. I HATE going to the doctor too but I have hypothyroidism (have since age 50) and take levoxyl. I also am on a low dose medication for hypertension. Do you ever take your BP to check it? You can do that at various places- I usually ask the pharmacist if their machine is accurate before I use their machine and I also bought a cuff I occasionally use. Good luck with the weight loss- it's HARD!

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    1. Pardon me if I'm being noisy but are you also significantly overweight? I'm interested to know if you have those conditions despite being at a healthy weight or if being overweight is a factor in your diagnosis.

      I do KNOW that I'm unhealthy as I weigh about 70 to 80 pounds over what I should weigh, I don't drink nearly as much water I should drink and I am far too sedentary. So it tends to reason that my blood pressure is probably too high. By becoming more fit (and I have increased my stamina quite a bit with my weekly walks with Greg, despite weighing more now than I did back in January!) and also losing the weight, my BP should go down at least some. I did check it at Publix several times a couple of years ago but my results varied wildly, depending on whether I had walked from my car directly to the Pharmacy or if I had shopped for a while inside the store first, whether I had drank coffee that morning or not, and especially whether I was expecting a difficult encounter with a cashier over coupons (back then there were a couple of cashiers who were notoriously difficult to deal with as a couponer). So after a while I gave up.

      My view of doctors is that they are way too quick to order all kinds of tests and then prescribes drugs that oftentimes also have dangerous side effects on their own. The over abuse of antibiotics and the result that most antibiotics have stopped working now is a direct result of that behavior. Also most people tend to run to the doctor's without a thought and unnecessarily, IMO. Lastly, most encounters I have had with a medical professional in the past 30 years, when there was a health concern involved, has been unsatisfactory. They're rushed because they have to see x number of patients a day and dislike when you question them or want to discuss something more in detail. They're rushed because they have to spend so much time filling out paperwork and fitting their diagnoses into little boxes dictated by the insurance companies. They're pressured to order batteries of tests, whether they're necessary or not, not because it will help them pinpoint exactly what is wrong with you, but because they're afraid they'll get sued and won't be able to prove that they did everything they "could" do. In most instances, I have found this general approach to be to our detriment. I've had many instances of this when dealing with one of my kids' pediatricians, and also with the supposed respected digestive health specialist whom Greg consulted a few years back. Your mileage might vary, of course, and perhaps you were lucky to find the proper medical professional. Or you didn't mind going to see several of them until you found the right fit. I would like to try to lose the weight and become healthier prior to subjecting myself to this.

      I do realize that hypertension is called "the silent killer". Again, by reducing my sodium intake (which was something that I found really hard to do when I was only counting calories as so many foods contain a high level of sodium) and fatty foods, I'm hoping that I'm working on minimizing my risks. Time will tell if this is working. Everyone will have a different opinion, and I feel that everyone should do what they feel is right for themselves as long as it doesn't endanger someone else (i.e. if I were pregnant I'd be more willing to follow a doctor's directives and I'm very much in favor of vaccinations).

      There is no big mystery as to why I've put on the weight (I love to eat and I don't exercise), I do know that increasing my water intake takes care of issues such as my eye fatigue, constipation, knee pain, and mental acuity and that exercising actually increases my energy level and strengthens my body. So it's not as if I suddenly was putting on weight despite eating healthily and exercising, you know?

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    2. I was never overweight until my mid 40s and then I started putting weight on. My mom was the same way and I don't know why I was never tested for thyroid. I finally asked the gyn ( my yearly checkups were more like 3-4 years) and sure enough, the thyroid was not working. I developed the hypertension after my mom died when I was 54 and definitely overweight. I'm a good 40-50 pounds overweight but I still fight the battle. My sis is 60 and has hypertension too but so far her thyroid is fine- my brother next to me in age )he's 66) has to take levoxyl like I do. Sometimes I forget I'll be 70 in November! We all have good cholesterol. Hypothyroidism makes it difficult to lose weight as if it isn't hard enough. I practically have to starve myself to lose a few pounds.

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    3. It's interesting how all 3 of you have different challenges with the same heredity. As for me, I purely put on weight because I love foods that are bad for me and I'm lazy :) I've been able to lose the weight, although it's been harder to lose than when I was younger, but I wouldn't say that I have to starve myself to lose weight... but I do have to avoid all the foods that I love: bread & baked goods, cheese, sweets, pasta dishes with creams... it sure seems to take a lot of enjoyment out of life but once I have lost the weight and gained some discipline, perhaps I can treat myself in moderation once in a while? We shall see. First, I need to stick with what I've been doing as it's only been a week :) But I'm down close to 8 lbs so I'm excited to be off to a good start.

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  3. Hi Nathalie! I second the sentiment by Live and Learn. I am so impressed with not only your research, but your results as well. Yay! 🎉 Way to go! Losing/maintaining my weight has always been an issue for me so I applaud your tremendous efforts and feel that inspiration bug biting. I need to do something because I have been so unhappy lately and my weight has been a big concern for me. I need to lose 30 pounds to be in the "healthy" range. With my Fibromyalgia it's hard to move some days, but I keep trying.
    I have a dislike for doctors, too. The only one I trust and feel comfortable seeing is my chiropractor.
    Keep up the great work...I'm in your corner cheering you on, and by the way...you "sounded" happy in this post. I like the upbeat you! 🙂
    Judy

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    1. Aww Judy you are so sweet, thank you so much!

      It must be tremendously challenging to do exercise of any kind when you suffer from fibromyalgia. I remember how impaired I felt when my knee was hurting so much and more recently when I couldn't walk far without my soles being in agony. A lot of us take a lot for granted.

      Good luck to you too!

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  4. Wow, Nathalie! I don't know what has impressed me more - the amount of research you did (and thank you so much for sharing it all with us!) or the amount of weight you lost in such a short period of time! Either way, it is very commendable and motivating. I am so glad that you have decided to follow this healthier diet and exercise routine; it is bound to be beneficial no matter what the current state of your health is. Well done! I am not sure I could manage to eat zucchini for breakfast, but I'll try to have some for dinner, tonight. :)

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    1. Thanks Bless! I had to laugh about your reluctance to eat zucchini for breakfast as I myself couldn't eat curry for breakfast, ha. I hope you are doing well.

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  5. Congratulations on such a great start - a 7-pound weight loss is a great accomplishment! I'll be following your diet closely, since it seems like a very reasonable and healthy plan. I started the day after Mother's Day by downloading the My Fitness Pal app. Since I know myself (and I'm older than you, hence weight loss would be slower), I decided my goal would be a 2-pound weight loss per month. I suspended the calorie counting while we were on vacation for five days, but so far I've lost 4 pounds.

    I know my biggest downfall was the sugar intake, so I'm keeping close track of that. I found that some yogurts have just as much or more sugar as a Snickers bar. Yikes! I wanted to cry, because yogurt is a go-to snack for me. And then I discovered the Oikos Triple Zero vanilla yogurt...no fat, no added sugar (only 6 grams of natural sugar) and 6 grams of fiber (which is great for fighting constipation). It's more expensive than any yogurt at Aldi, but I buy the quart size when they are BOGO at Publix. I use about 1/2 cup for a snack and mix it with fresh or frozen berries. No, it's not "just like ice cream" but it does the trick for me when I want something sweet and creamy.

    Good luck to both of us on this "eating healthy" journey!

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    1. 4 lbs, that was a great start as well! I hear you about the sugar, it's in bread too. I was only halfway through the day yesterday and I thought I was doing great, and then MFP told me "You're trying to stay under x grams of sugar for the day!" and I thought "Well, poop!". I don't know how anyone can hit all their nutrition numbers right on the head, to be honest, but I'm doing much better this time around thanks to the Diabetic Exchange diet. I'm down a total of 11.2 lbs as of this morning. I even lost 1 lb on my trip, when I ate out for every single meal and didn't exercise as much as I do when I'm home.

      Thanks for the tip on the Oikos Triple Zero yogurt, I'll have to try it. The Aldi Fit & Active yogurt I'm buying right now is 12g of sugar for 6 oz and no fiber whatsoever.

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  6. Hi, Nathalie - I just joined TOPS and noticed that they promote the exchange program. You're not required to follow it, but they seem to encourage it. I remembered that you posted something about it, and I'm so glad I checked back. Wow, you have a lot of great resources listed! And I love your idea of dividing the circles into four parts. Thank you for your detailed explanations.

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    1. Hi Erica! I saw that you wrote a post and I'm about to go say "Hi" to you on your own blog!

      I'm glad you're finding this helpful. Since I wrote the post though, I've had trouble accessing the "My Food Advisor" site. It just won't load for me anymore. I've emailed the webmaster but never heard back from him :(

      I also found a "formula" to calculate the exchanges for carbs, proteins and fat, and I posted it in a blog post subsequently, but I'm thinking I'm going to create a new page on the blog and centralize all the information that I found out there.

      Since I started, a little over a month ago, I've lost 14.6 lbs!

      Good luck with your own journey, my dear.

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