Bariatric Advantage Meal Replacement powder

One of the biggest struggles with the duodenal switch weight loss surgery is getting enough protein. My entire approach toward food has changed; where once I could eat and eat and eat, and wanted to, now I can’t, and even when I can eat, I often feel ambivalent or even turned off by food. But it’s imperative that I keep my protein intake up; that plus weight training are the one-two punch that will ensure I lose fat and not muscle.

To make sure I get enough protein, I’ve been tracking what I eat with SparkPeople. In the beginning I aimed for 60 grams of protein per day, but now that I’ve added more exercise and my stomach seems capable of handling more food, I’ve upped my goal to 90. I generally end up somewhere in the 80s.

yogurtdeli hamchicken and edamame

While I think the ideal situation would be to get all my protein from real food, I’m not sure that’s actually possible. I’ve tried. Even on days when I forced myself to eat virtually nonstop (which is not recommended), I wasn’t able to get much further than the 50s. So to assist me in this endeavor, I’ve turned to various protein supplements.

When I originally looked at all my options, I thought it would be easiest to depend on products I could buy locally. I started out with New Whey Liquid Protein, which I’d tried out shortly after surgery and which was available at the smoothie place up the street from our apartment. Each little tube contains a whopping 42 grams of protein. I’d heard that the non-citrus flavors weren’t very good, so I stuck with orange.

However, New Whey isn’t something you’d want to drink regularly. For one thing, it replaces too much food. For another, it’s not delicious. Also, some weight loss surgery patients have trouble with whey protein (though I didn’t seem to). Regardless, one day I drank a tube of Liquid Protein and decided, “Never again. Or at least not for a very long time.” Now I think New Whey is probably good to keep on hand for emergencies, but not to depend on routinely.

After that I switched to Atkins Advantage shakes. They come in four flavors: Dark Chocolate Royale, Chocolate, Strawberry, and Vanilla. I tried them all, but they were all too chalky save the Dark Chocolate Royale, so that’s what I’ve stuck with ever since. I keep one compartment on the door of my fridge loaded up with Atkins shakes and have them for breakfast or snacks. Unlike New Whey, these don’t pack a lot of protein: just 15 grams. But that’s enough to get me going in the morning and help me transition to regular food for the rest of the day.

I’ve also been using Atkins Advantage meal bars as snacks. Their protein content differs depending on the flavor. I like the Chocolate Peanut Butter Bar (19 grams), the Mudslide Bar (15 grams), and the Cookies n’ Creme Bar (15 grams). I try not to have an Atkins shake and an Atkins bar in the same day, because again I’m leery of replacing too much food. Also, the bars tend to have a lot of carbohydrates, which I’m trying to avoid–the best carbs come from vegetables, brown rice, and whole wheat bread, if I must have carbs at all. The shakes don’t really have this carbohydrate problem, so I tend to depend on them more than the bars, but sometimes I want some kind of treat for a snack, and the bars are the closest thing I can do.

At this point I’d like to point out that it’s important to avoid sugar during this period of rapid weight loss. I’m also avoiding most artificial sugars, because they can cause unpleasant gastric side effects. However, sucralose (Splenda) seems to be okay, so I do use that. The Atkins products are all made with sucralose.

This system has been mostly working for me. I’ve been trying to incorporate more protein-rich foods and snacks into my diet, too. But getting to 90 grams of protein per day is still a challenge. So finally I thought I’d look for a shake that packs more of a protein punch.

I ordered one Ready to Shake Meal Replacement from Bariatric Advantage to try it out. They sent a plastic bottle with a screw top; inside the bottle was a pre-measured amount of powder to make a shake with 27 grams of protein.

protein shakeThe idea is that you put water or milk into the bottle, shake it, and drink, but it proved a little more challenging than it sounds. When I put the water in, the powder at the very bottom became a paste, not unlike what happens to powdered hot cocoa. I had to use a straw to scrape the powder off the bottom. Then the sludge was caught in the straw, so I had to blow it back out and try to mix it all up again. Finally it was done, and I threw the straw away…but then when I started to drink, replacing and removing the cap as I did so, I realized that the shaking had coated the inside of the cap with liquid, meaning I would spill it each time I took the lid off. Plus, drinking from the ridged mouth of the bottle was unpleasant. Fortunately I had another straw, so I popped it in and finished the shake that way.

The taste isn’t unpleasant. Right now I’d say I like Atkins better, but I’m not sure if that’s just because I drink the Atkins shakes refrigerated or not. Neither Atkins nor this shake is delicious.

The shake might taste better with milk instead of water, too. I didn’t realize I could use milk until I went to Bariatric Advantage’s recipes page. There I also found a lot of other information:

  • You can make shakes and smoothies with the powders using a blender.
  • You can make ice cream with the powders.
  • You can stir the powders into other foods, like oatmeal or soup.

I think at this point it would behoove me to get some of the unflavored powder and try it out in various recipes. This sounds like a great way to keep getting real food into my system while bumping up the protein.

I’m not sure I want to commit to the shakes at this point, though. I like the idea of making shakes and smoothies with ice and a blender, but I don’t actually have a blender, and I’m not won over by the taste of the shake. What I may do is buy a large bag of unflavored powder for cooking and then get one or two small packets of flavored powder to try out as shakes or ice cream. I’ll probably stay away from fruit smoothies, since even natural sugars can retard the rapid weight loss.

[EDIT: A few hours after finishing the shake, I had piercing lower abdominal pain followed by diarrhea. I will not be purchasing any more Bariatric Advantage protein powder.]

This surgery has given me a whole lot of new things to keep track of, but it has so been worth it. As of today, I’m down 76 pounds! Now I’m 43 pounds away from my “I could be happy at that weight” goal and 57 pounds away from the weight all the online calculators tell me I should be. It’s amazing that either way, I’m closer to the goal than I am to where I started!

Scalini’s

Sean and I are slowly searching out haunts in our new Atlanta-area home. Tonight we discovered our first Italian place, a lovely restaurant that combines a hole-in-the-wall feel with casual elegance.

Scalini’s is located on Cobb Parkway in the same shopping center as the Best Buy, just above I-285. A huge green light-up sign stretches across the restaurant’s section of strip mall, proclaiming “Scalini’s Italian Restaurant” to the deep parking lot and the roadway beyond. A purely decorative awning runs above the front window, which looks into the dimly-lit bar, and a windowed front entryway provides a glimpse into a cheerful foyer.

Upon entering, we saw a high-ceilinged room dominated to the left by a long refrigerated glass case, displaying its meats and vegetables before a wall filled with dried goods and spices. To the right, past a towering Lady Liberty statue, was a passage through to the bar, and the hostess was straight ahead, guarding the way to the rest of the restaurant.

At this point I was wondering if we were underdressed…but we were greeted warmly and escorted back beyond the bar to a very casual seating area with private booths. There, most surfaces–the walls, the backs of booths, even some light fixtures–were covered with graffiti, messages from past guests, just like at Rhinehart’s back in Augusta. The area was cozy and private, too, with a narrow walkway running between rows of booths so small they could almost be called cramped, their seat backs going almost to the ceiling. The table was plenty big enough, and the booth seats just, so we settled in comfortably.

The menu was expansive, with appetizers, pastas, meats, seafood, and several desserts. Each meal was served with a large salad that included lettuce, tomato, and beets. I was pleased to discover that I found the beets delicious. Meals also came with a bowl of delicious freshly-baked rolls, served with oil and garlic.

We started with a stuffed mushroom appetizer that was the only disappointing part of the meal. Maybe the kitchen was rushed, as it was a bit late in the evening. Maybe their recipe wasn’t great. Whatever the reason, the mushrooms were passable, but not wonderful like the rest of the meal.

Sean’s main dish was a seafood alfredo that looked absolutely divine…scallops and shrimp with fettuccine dredged in that amazing creamy sauce. I had Cannelloni del Mar: lobster, scallops, and shrimp with cheese, baked in a pasta tube with rosatella sauce. It was an extraordinary medley of flavors.

We managed to eat about half of the shared salad, all the mushrooms, a couple of rolls, and about a third each of our entrees. I did find room for some fantastic spumoni, which I think was pistachio and chocolate, served with a cookie of lower sweetness to temper the taste. Finally, full and happy, we strolled back to the car with three to-go boxes.

Tonight’s dinner was a fantastic experience. I was captivated, both by the food and by the ambiance. It looks like Scalini’s is going to be a favorite!

Farmers markets: Earth Fare and downtown Augusta

Yesterday I decided to check out two local farmers markets: the Earth Fare Farmers Market in Columbia County, and the downtown Augusta Market. Since Earth Fare’s market runs from 9 a.m. to noon, and it was 11 o’clock, I went there first; after that I headed up Riverwatch to Augusta’s market, which is open until 2 p.m.

The Earth Fare market is just getting started, which may explain why it seemed small. There were only a handful of stalls; it was intimate enough that I didn’t feel comfortable using my camera, so instead I bought some tomatoes ($2.50/lb) and a watermelon ($2) and left. There were other items for sale, but I only remember the local honey.

The Augusta Market, on the other hand, felt like a mini festival. At least 50% of the stalls had nothing to do with produce. There was pottery, woodworking, clothes, jewelry, and plenty of junk food.

Augusta Market

I purchased two potatoes and two green peppers (total: $2) from a vendor who didn’t strike me as a farmer. Later my friend Kelly told me that most vendors at the Augusta Market are regional distributors trying to get rid of excess inventory.

I then wandered over to Garden City Organics‘ booth and got some green beans ($2) and an eggplant ($4; they gave me both items for $5 total).

Garden City Organics

In all, I’d say the markets were a good experience. I think if I’m looking for local veggies at low cost and I happen to be able to go somewhere on Saturday morning, I’ll hit up the Earth Fare market. Otherwise, I’ll just go to Garden City Organics’ shop on Broad Street.

More pictures here.

The battle within

Lately I have been struggling with things I want to do, things I need to do, things I absolutely have to do, and things I think I should do. I’ve been stressed and unhappy for most of this week, a striking contrast to last week, when I felt like I could do anything. I ended up burning out and crashing hard and it sucked.

I feel like I go through cycles of mood and competence. Normally it doesn’t flip so fast from week to week, though.

I’m reevaluating lots of things. What do I definitely want, and how can I get it? What things do I have to do every day to make those goals happen? Is there anything I can cut out to save time and energy?

Moving to North Augusta would help–I would be able to walk or bike to work, maximizing my commute by combining it with exercise. But I doubt it will solve all my problems.

So here I am at Boll Weevil, seeking comfort in warm familiarity, settling in with a Curious George, chips, and tea.

I hope I can figure this out.

New plan: Simplify

Looking back, my weight loss efforts have all had one thing in common: complexity. I tried to adhere to a regimen that didn’t lend itself to a non-stressed schedule, and to a detailed tracking of everything I ate that, while effective, was inconvenient and time-consuming. Every time I’ve tried anything like this, I’ve slipped out of the regimen and dietary tracking and gained weight back.

I’m always euphoric whenever I start a new weight loss plan, filled with motivation and certainty that this time, it’ll work. That’s why when my friend Mari told me once that she didn’t want to try to track what she ate because she knew she’d never keep it up, I thought, “That’s fine for you, but I will keep it up, and I’ll lose weight!”

I think I’m finally coming around to her point of view.

A person’s drive only lasts so long. Then, once it’s over, it’s way too easy to slip, or to just stop. You feel terrible, but it seems like so much work to get back into it that you give up. I personally tend to get bored with an activity after I’ve been doing it for a few weeks, and that makes it even harder to keep myself motivated.

Plus, an elaborate food and exercise tracking plan can be gamed. I’d work the numbers like crazy to try and fit in greasy food or sweet snacks. And exercise tracking never quite seems accurate; a tiny tweak of the numbers and the total calories burned can change by 100!

What I would like to try going forward is a simpler way of looking at food and exercise. Here’s what I’m thinking.

Food

I would like to try to eat something every two or three hours. That something will just be one serving of one thing.

I’ve noticed that I tend to order a lot of different things at restaurants. This is because if I just have a lot of one food, I get bored. I’m going to try to use this to my advantage. If all I can eat at any particular moment is this one thing, then, paradoxically, perhaps I will eat less of it than I would if I also had other stuff to go with it. And even if not, I still will only be eating that one thing.

Under this plan, I will no longer eat big meals. When I go out to eat, I will order one a la carte item or side item. And I’ll have to get Sean not to make me a big dinner anymore–or eat the dinner he makes one item at a time over the course of several hours.

I will also try to eat more “good” stuff than “bad” stuff in any given day. I might get a chicken soft taco at lunch, but that’s cool as long as I’ve been eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy soups, etc. the rest of the day. I’ll try to eat more natural stuff and less processed stuff.

My hope is that since I’ll be eating every few hours, I won’t feel hungry, but because I’ll be eating smarter, I won’t be eating as much.

Exercise

Instead of coming up with a specific exercise regimen, I will instead work towards the goal of 30 to 90 minutes of physical activity every day. This does not have to happen at the gym, and the time does not have to be consecutive. For example, I could do 15 minutes in the morning, 15 minutes at lunch, and 15 minutes in the evening for a 45-minute activity day.

Compared to the thought of going to the gym for an hour each morning, this sounds like a piece of cake. I really feel like this is a sustainable model.

Under this plan, I won’t worry about the type of activity I’m doing or how many calories I’m burning. Instead, I’ll pick fun activities and then work myself as hard as possible.

Logistics

In order to make this work, I will have to do some planning. To eat every few hours, I will need to pack or purchase four to five items each workday. I may try setting specific eating times, but ultimately I think it’ll be easier to just note the time whenever I eat and make sure I have something else within the next three hours.

Bananas, yogurt, and pretzels are some examples of the types of food I can pack, but I know I’ve gotten bored with healthy snacks before, so I will need to try to have more variety.

To facilitate ongoing physical activity, I think I will need to break down and start keeping exercise clothes and shoes at work. It can be something of a hassle to remember to bring things home to be washed, but packing and bringing workout clothes each morning is unsustainable. Ultimately, having at least the shoes there will ensure I have no excuse to skip that day’s physical activity.

So that’s the plan. Wish me luck!

Chicken-Veggie Soft Tacos

olive oil
2 chicken breasts, thawed
1 onion
1 yellow squash
1 zucchini squash
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp red pepper
salt and pepper to taste
1 small can mushroom pieces, drained
1 tomato
8 small flour tortillas
8 large romaine lettuce leaves
shredded cheddar cheese

Cube chicken into centimeter-long pieces. Dice tomato, onion, and squash.

Brown onion in a large skillet or wok. Add squash, cumin, and red pepper; cook until soft and well-seasoned.

In separate skillet, shake salt and pepper over chicken. Cook until chicken is no longer pink, about three minutes.

Add chicken to vegetable mixture. Pour in mushrooms and tomato. Stir, cover, and heat through.

Place one tortilla on a plate; cover with lettuce leaf. Spoon two heaping tablespoons of the chicken-veggie filling onto the lettuce. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese. Fold the tortilla in half. Repeat until you have 8 soft tacos.


I invented this recipe tonight from ingredients I had on hand. Turned out pretty good! Unfortunately I did not take any pictures.

Sean and I each ate four soft tacos. I ended up having a little filling left over, which probably could have been doled out among the eight tacos.

Mango Salsa

Since joining Oasis Garden‘s CSA, I’ve had more and more interesting produce to try and create dishes with. It’s forced me to be more creative with what I have on hand.

The past two weeks there’s been a mango in my box. I still had both of them as of tonight, so I decided I’d better use the oldest one.

A recipe for Avocado-Mango Salsa was included in last week’s box. I didn’t have all the ingredients so I omitted some and substituted others. Here’s what I ended up doing–and it’s amazingly delicious! I’m going to eat some with chips tonight and save the rest to go with fish tomorrow.

Mango Salsa

1 mango, peeled, seeded and diced
1/2 tomato, diced
1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
3/4 c chopped onion
1 T white sugar
1 T olive oil
2 T white wine vinegar
1 avocado, peeled, pitted and diced
1 tsp salt

Toss first seven ingredients together, then fold in avocado. Season with salt.

This morning’s McDonald’s experience

I ordered a number 12, which is two sausage burritos and hash browns, with a Diet Coke, no ice, and a fruit ‘n yogurt parfait.

At first I received…a fruit ‘n yogurt parfait. “I also ordered a number 12,” I informed the girl at the window. She had me pull forward.

When she came out with my food, there was no drink. “I also had a Diet Coke, no ice,” I told her. As she ran back in to get the drink, I looked in the bag and saw that there was an apple pie in it. There also seemed to be two burritos and a hash brown, though, so I decided not to worry about it.

Finally at work I opened everything and discovered that instead of two sausage burritos, I was given two breakfast burritos.

Short attention span

Sometimes I will eat about three bites of my meal and think, “Okay, that’s enough of that. Can I have something different now?” The multi-course meal I enjoyed with Brooke and David at The Old Vicarage is a good example of how I seem to want to be fed.

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