Current Happenings

Plains & Pastures Bike Tour (2013)

I'm so proud to live here! Fredericton folks are just AMAZING!!!  Thank you one and all!!  My team raised over $2000.  The support was humbling.  What a great place to be!!!

Mind you, the journey isn't about me - it's about people who fight this horrible disease on a daily basis.  If you're reading this now, I hope you'll come back and sponsor me in the ride next time. 


Bike for Breath

Many thanks to everyone and their generosity.  The amazing people in my life supported me to the tune of $377.  Some days it is just great to be here!   (Fall 2012)


Entries in Nutrition (5)


Balancing Acts and Fruit Smoothies

This journey get highly entertaining by times.  Very few people think like I do it seems.  What a hoot.

Some people seem to like having a menu plan, and specific recipes all laid out for them.   They create a grocery list from that plan, and that’s that.  A whole order of planning magnitude above me.  That would drive me nuts.  What happens if you can’t find one of the ingredients?  What if the ingredients happen to be royally expensive in the winter?

That just doesn’t work for me.  I have a general plan, and good notion around the range of things that MIGHT work.  Then I juggle them.  It depends on what’s left in the frig.  It depends on what the sales were that week.  It depends on my mood or how hot the weather is outside.  That’s why I use the nutrition app to keep track of things.

People tell me that I rely on the daily number-crunching too much.  Usually the people who say that to me are also the same people who faithfully follow some diet with a name and a marketing budget.  What’s the difference?  I substitute stuff on a whim and measure it.  They’re all  hidebound in somebody else’s version of the utopian food plan.  To my way of thinking it’s a draw.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about.  I had an avocado that needed using, some leftover sweet potato from supper yesterday, and some applesauce that is close to code.  Blueberries are super healthy, which makes four healthy fruits/vegs.  Yoghurt is fermented, coconut milk is good for you, and whey protein is highly digestible.  All in all, this is a power-packed smoothie and a really quick lunch.  It’s also HUGE!  This much food needs a beer stein to hold it all.  At 600+ calories, it’s not quite 1/3 of my daily 2000 target, which means there’ll be some room for snacks later.

But in terms of menu planning, the whole concoction reflects what’s leftover from last grocery day and not somebody’s pre-planned recipe in a menu.  In total, those four fruits/vegs brought the carbohydrate total up to 36 grams for the meal.  They also contain fibre, which is indigestible so in truth the net carbs in the smoothie was only 24 grams.  However, at 24 grams that is fully HALF my daily carb target.      

What this means is the other two meals will have to include lower carb fruits like raspberries, and lower carb veggies like asparagus, broccoli or spinach.  By definition it means that higher carb squash or cantaloupe won’t happen today.  Ordinarily there wouldn’t be applesauce AND sweet potato in the same smoothie, so different choices could happen later.  But today is leftover lunch day - roll with it.

Some people get frustrated by my answers.  They ask what I eat and I tell them my shopping list and then name a free app (myfitnesspal) to track it.  That’s how I think.  That’s how I plan.  That’s how I eat.  My number crunching app has been a major plank in the platform to date, and at 135 pounds melted away, there are few who criticize my system anymore.


Winter Soup and Biscuits

Hang on to your hats.  You’ll never guess what I was doing for the last two hours..... COOKING!!!  OK... I’ll wait a bit now so that those of you who know me well can scroll down and find your jaw.  There.  Better?  That’s right.  Cooking.  Me.  And it turned out wonderfully I might add.

For starters I blame Carrie Brown.  Her post rolled in this morning reminding me that I haven’t taken the time to make her Sour Cream and Chive Biscuits.  Well that wasn’t exactly what her post was about, but that’s how I took it.  This is my blog and I’ll think what I like, eh?

Carrie follows a healthy paradigm called “Sane” eating, and regularly podcasts with Jonathon Bailor  (Smarter Science of Slim) about it.  It’s an entertaining bit of education they produce together and well worthy of the time spent to listen. 

I scrutinize every recipe that Carrie dreams up, but rarely cook them myself.  Don’t misinterpret that.  I support “Sane” eating which is based on sound factors related to satiety, water content, nutrient density, etc.etc.  The logic behind it is sound: i.e. real food.  

The catch is that I’m on the outside of normal eating.  In order to address the shortcomings my body has in dealing with sugars and carbohydrates, I need to eat in a “low-carb” zone.  I have found through trial and error that I need to keep my carbs in the neighbourhood of 50 grams per day.  That in itself means that a huge number of all Sane, Paleo, CaveDweller or Primal recipes get a miss.  People often use sweet potato, or honey or maple syrup.  This is a nuisance.  I live in the Maritimes - we export Maple Syrup all over the world.  It is totally natural, delicious and pure sugar.  Nix.

So .... Sour Cream and Chive Biscuits?  Yes!  Carrie based the recipe on almond flour so the carb load is lower,  and once all is said and done, each biscuit as I cut them comes out less than 10 carbs.  A perfect little morsel to go along with soup right?  So I made soup. 

What’s left in the kitchen?  BACON.  That’s a good start for a winter soup.  Frozen veggies: cauliflower, broccoli and carrots.  (Yes that’s right: frozen veggies.  It’s January in Canada!  Well, actually it’s January everywhere..... but I digress.)  What else is in the frig?  Sour cream left over from the biscuits.... in you go.   A chunk of Asiago cheeze: you yes!  I raided the pantry and had a ball.  I won’t bore everyone with the details but it turned out delicious!   Even my teenage daughter ate it!  What better proof is there?

I have a new appreciation for people who build food and then take pictures of it.  Quite a production actually.  I decided I wanted to blog about it - which meant pictures.  But the kitchen is a total mess.....  Now I could clean the counters and then take the picture.  Nah.  I'm hungry.  Grab the placemats I made for christmas with the black backing.  That'll do the trick......

Meghann's winter soup: 13 carbs/serving (as cooked today).  Carrie Brown's Sour Cream & Chives Biscuits: 8 carbs ea. (Followed recipe exactly, cut 16 pieces.)  Total meal: 21 carbs.  What a tasty winter treat!

You can find her recipe for these biscuits and many other goodies at:


Nasty result from a sweet & tasty treat....

"Interesting" experience thrust upon me today.  Not planned at all well .......

Today was the Resolution Walk and true to my normal state of disorganization, I wasn't quite 'spot-on' for time.  As a result, breakfast wasn't on the radar.  This is NOT a problem.  I wasn't hungry, and I've often gone for a noon hour swim and THEN had my breakfast with no ill effects on any front.  This wasn't a 45 minute swim - this was a WALK.  No biggie.

After the walk, it was chilly & windy and we re-grouped in the Tim Hortons (the Canadian national coffee & doughnut shop for those of you who are not Canadian).  Needless to say, there isn't much on Timmy's menu that fits a low carb nutrition plan.  I decided against a coffee (hey it's NEW YEAR's DAY!!) and decided to have a hot chocolate.  It was delicious!!! 

Within an hour I had a blasting headache, and for all of this afternoon I've been in one of those moods where eating SOMETHING is not only a vital necessity for me, but also for world peace.  Water, coffee, pistachio's, chicken, squash, tea, liverwurst, and cabbage later throughout the day ...... and I STILL have a headache.  For supper I decided to have a spinach salad with some pink salmon on top.  FINALLY something that shuts off the impulse to binge.  ARGH  This is fully 6 hours following the hot chocolate and I'm finally back on an even keel. 

For fun and my daily food diary I looked up the content of that Hot Chocolate on Tim's website.  Total Carbs:57 grams, Fibre:3 (are you kidding?) and the piece de resistance: pure sugar 49 grams!!  No freakin' wonder eh?  ((I aim for a daily carb total of 50 grams.))  The only other time I remember this happening was after having a piece of heavenly maple sugar pie.  That gave me a throbbing headache within about half an hour.

I have no idea if it's the sugar high itself, or my reaction to what must be an incredible insulin spike  going on too.  Either way -- this sucks.  No more Timmy's hot chocolate!!!


Multiple Sclerosis - Diet Innovations

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) has been on my mind recently.  First of all, I have a cousin who is afflicted with the disease which gives added incentive to participate in the Plains & Pastures - MS Bike Tour next summer.  

Chicken Soup for the Soul has a daily message, and this one rolled in recently. 
It’s the moving story of a person named Lucinda Gunnin who suffered from MS and discovered that by removing gluten from her diet she recovered a huge amount of mobility and quality of life.

Another amazing story is by Dr. Terry Wahls on Ted Talks.  She followed recommendations from the best medical centres she could find, and her case of MS progressed to the point she was afraid that she would no longer be able to practice medicine.  Her story is of taking her health into her own hands and completely changing her diet.  She’s a success story....

Terry Wahls: “Minding Your Mitrochondria"  
In this incredible talk, Dr. Terry Wahls explains how she used her diet to cure herself of MS and leave her wheelchair behind. She wants everyone to eat nine cups of fruits and vegetables a day — including three cups of B vitamin-rich greens, three cups of sulphur-rich mushrooms and cabbages, as well as three cups of colorful, nutrient-rich veggies.  (Filmed at TEDxIowaCity.)

What is MS exactly?  It’s an immune disorder where the nerve cells lose their protective coverings (myelin).  There is no recognized cure for MS.  Simplifying things beyond jargon - myelin is essentially special fats and some really good vitamins & minerals put together.  More specifically, it has lots of Omega 3 fatty acids - e.g. the healthy ones that come in quality fish.  

In my small circle of health & medical friends we often discuss the nature of my current nutrition plan.  One of them remarked how MS is on the rise in Canada.  “Almost every family has somebody with it now”   

This shocked me at first.  But then it got me thinking.  I now know about the huge detrimental effects of sugars and carbohydrates on my own  body.  Then you extrapolate that to the fact that the Canada Food Guide promotes carbohydrates, meanwhile very few people get adequate amounts of these specific healthy fats in their diet.  What’s left?  That standard Canadian diet is going to mirror the very conditions where you would expect to see MS symptoms.  So when you stop and think about it, it’s really no surprise that you’d see more of it happening to Canadians who are typically eating high-carb & nutrient-poor diets.

I’m also struck by the coincidence that Alzheimer's is now being referred to as “Type 3 Diabetes” as more and more sugar-related issues are being discovered in relation to it.  MS is probably of the ilk too.    

It turns out that other great minds came to that conclusion before me.  Here’s a good one from the UK by Dr. Barry Groves called “Second Opinions”.  He puts together a very well-researched set of three articles on MS and diet connections.

In fact, the conclusion of his three page article is something both provocative, and if it is indeed true, it would also be amazing.

MS is considered by conventional physicians to be incurable. It is currently treated with drugs that are mostly palliative. The evidence from both population studies and from clinical observations strongly suggests that, whatever stage the disease has reached, it can be halted with diet alone. The evidence also strongly suggests that, if it is less than five years from first diagnosis, there is a good possibility that the condition can be reversed and you can lead a normal, symptom-free life.

Here’s hoping that my planned support via the MS Plains & Pastures Tour will somehow get channeled into some innovative research conducted by people thinking “outside the box”. 


The Salt Conundrum

(Multi-part post - several edits)

Salt balance is a subject that has recently become very near and dear to my heart.  It's rather a long tale, but recurring muscle cramps bring it to my regular attention.

I've mentioned before, we have gradually changed our diet from what was actually considered a fairly reasonable diet (according to current nutrition or medical recommendations and the Canada Food Guide).  One aspect was to specifically reduce salt as Alan was on medication for high blood pressure.  "Everywhere" you turn, the standard recommendation across North America is to reduce salt in your diet.  

This did not work well for me.  I was getting a lot of cramps during exercize, and, bouts of agonizing cramps that would bring me out of a dead sleep.  I am exercizing regularly (see Accomplishments post) and with all that sweat equity I need to replace the salts.  My current summer daily exercize is to bike to & from work (approx 24k), and, to swim each work day lunch hour (1.5km).  This is approx. 2 hours of exercize daily. 

Potassium is especially indicated in the prevention of muscle cramps, so I use a potassium-based table salt.  A common dietary source is bananas - however both Alan & my daughter are allergic to bananas, AND, they are really high in carbs so I stopped buying them.

Sodium is maligned in modern nutrition, and people are told to reduce this on all occasions.  However, when the body has become adapted to consuming lower amounts of carbohydrates and is more efficient at burning fat, THEN your body starts excreting sodium in much higher proportions.  In research by Dr.'s Phinney & Volek (references) they recommend you add salt back into your diet.  One indication of sodium deficiency is dizziness - which I was having quite regularly!!!!  So I use a sodium-based salt too.

Further research on cramps & exercize have unearthed a solid link between other things like calcium and magnesium.  So, we've started taking Ca/Mg vitamin pills.  The recommendation is to use "Slow Mag" otherwise you get the same impact as Milk of Magnesia, but we haven't been able to find any yet.  Hmmm.

Another piece of total balance is the relationship between Zinc and Iron.  Excess iron means that zinc is unavailable and that has trickle down effect on pretty much all the other micronutrients I've been talking about here.  Oh bother.

How much does a person need?  That's an incredibly difficult question.  To date I have not found a source that indicates how much a person needs.  The recommendations are all about REDUCING it, and especially below certain levels for sodium.  There are a few dietary sites where you can plug in your age, weight, height, sex, etc. and it will spit out recommended body weight, caloric requirement, yada yada.  NONE of them will give a recommended amount of salts to consume.

So in the meantime I have concocted a homemade (and constantly tweaked) version of saline replacement solution (without added sugar), and I take vitamin pills.  The good news is that I now have very few nighttime episodes of wake-up cramps, and they are much less severe than before.  I still get some cramps in the pool but not in biking any more.   The dizzy spells appear to have been resolved (touch wood!).

This is an ongoing quest!  Salt & water are both hotly debated with little relevant science.  Sigh.  In keeping with before & after photos, here's an oldie but goodie from an era when hiking & camping were a normal part of life.  Here's to doing that again!