The Real Normals – Weight Loss

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This?


Or this?


I’m an old nurse. Literally. I graduated in 1968. When you spend half a century in the same career, you are uniquely positioned to evaluate the changes that have occurred in the medical field. If you pay attention, you can begin to put things together and identify certain trends. One of those trends is how “normal” health indicators have changed in the course of those fifty years. That is not a good thing – in many cases, what was once considered normal is now considered a disease. And of course, a disease must be treated, preferably with the newest and most expensive medication. While treatment lines the pockets of the drug companies, it often does the patient no good.
The Food Supply
We live in an era when food is abundant. While we have lots of food, the quality of said food could use some improvements. Processed foods make up 57.5% of the American diet, according to one study. Processed foods are generally higher in sugar, contain additives, are more expensive, have less fiber and contain fewer vitamins and minerals. They are also higher in refined carbohydrates. In other words, almost two-thirds of what most Americans eat is unhealthy. Not to mention more expensive than raw ingredients. But it’s convenient and it tastes good. So good, that it’s addictive. It’s no wonder Americans are overweight and/or obese, or that weight loss is such a common topic.
Carbohydrate and the Human Body
I’ve talked about blood sugar in a previous post. Blood sugar stability is important for your health and carefully regulated by insulin. Processed foods destabilize this delicate dance. But even too many healthy carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables and whole grains) contribute to weight gain and insulin resistance. Our ancestors (we’re talking the cave-dwelling Uggs I’ve mentioned in previous posts) ate some plain, unsweetened ripe fruit for a short period each year. If they ate grain, it was minimal, as agriculture hadn’t been invented yet. What they did eat was protein, fat, wild tubers and vegetables, nuts and seeds. They also ate a really wide variety of foods, which increased the odds that they would obtain all the necessary nutrients for good health. Finally, they got a lot of exercise, and the carbohydrates they ate kept them fueled for that exercise.
Weight Loss
For years, experts have said weight loss was simply a matter of controlling calories. Except it’s not true. Yes, calories matter, but Dr. Robert Atkins proved that if you changed what you were eating, you could eat the same amount of calories and lose weight. Dr. Atkins proved his point in his clinical practice, meaning in the real world rather than the laboratory – many of his patients lost weight on this “unhealthy” diet. Atkins recommended cutting carbs and increasing the proportion of protein and fat in the diet. Atkins, by the way, was not the first to make such recommendations – William Banting published a similar recommendation in 1863. Banting, however, eschewed butter. Of course Atkins was overwhelmingly attacked, even after his death, by those who had a vested interest in the status quo. At the same time, Dr. Dean Ornish took the exact opposite view – low protein, low fat, high carbohydrate vegetarian diets were the way to go. Since Ornish was going more along the establishment lines, he was not attacked. Some people were very successful at losing weight the Ornish way. It’s very restrictive, however, which makes it hard for the long-term.
It’s NOT One Size Fits All
People are different (I know – big DUH!). Not everyone responds the same to a particular diet. But there seem to be a few basic principles:
1. Don’t eat sugar. Or at the most, have an occasional sugary treat, maybe two or three times a year. And pay close attention to how you feel afterward. I find grains – or worse, sugar plus grains – make my back hurt. The pain is right across the flank area, in the same location that hurts if you have a bad kidney infection. Makes me wonder if this food combination is overloading the kidneys as they struggle to get rid of something my body sees as toxic. In addition, all of my joints ache for at least a day afterward and my blood pressure climbs dramatically.
2. Don’t eat refined carbohydrates and eat very little in the way of grain products, period – they screw up the blood sugar regulation process. While whole grains are better than refined grains, they are still very high carb foods. Soak the grains and flour before cooking (see Sally Fallon’s book Nourishing Traditions).

Yum, real butter!


3. Increase your fat intake – lard, tallow, grass-fed butter, olive oil and coconut oil. It promotes satiety (which means you eat less), and your brain and nervous system need the omega-3s.
4. Do eat adequate protein, preferably animal protein, which is much better quality than the protein you get from veggies (assuming the animal is not raised in a CAFO operation). By the way, from what I can see, young people on vegetarian diets often lose or maintain weight, but that changes as they age.
5. If you are older and/or have been overweight or obese for a number of years (meaning you are likely to be insulin resistant) you are probably going to do better on a keto-, paleo- or Atkins-type diet.
6. If you are really overweight and struggling to lose, try a fat fast program alternating with the diets in #5. Fat fasting is a technique developed (or at least popularized) by Dr. Atkins. You eat 1,000 to 1,200 calories a day, with the bulk of your food coming from fat. This program kicks you into ketosis and makes low carb diets more effective. It’s probably not a good idea to use fat-fasting for more than a week at a time or more than twice a month. Fat fasting is also a way to break through a weight loss plateau.
7. No matter what your diet, take daily multivitamin/multimineral supplements plus B-complex and extra vitamin C.
8. Engage in regular exercise, including strength training, cardio and flexibility/balance work.
9. Make sure you get at least seven to eight hours of sleep every night.
10. Manage your stress with exercise, meditation, prayer, counseling – whatever works (but not with prescription drugs and definitely not illegal substances, nicotine or alcohol!)
11. Most important, don’t let the numbers on the scale or the opinions of others determine what’s right for you. Your healthy weight could be 20 pounds or more above the “desirable” BMI. More important is exercise tolerance, strength, energy, mental health and how you feel every day. Remember the “normal” numbers are all too often artificially low.
Think about it.

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Old-Fashioned Cooking: Homemade Pectin

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Blackberries are high in pectin, especially if you toss in lots of the red ones.


Once upon a time, the ranch wife who was on a jam-making spree had to start by making her own homemade pectin. Alternatively, she had to make sure the fruit she was working with had enough natural pectin to prevent the result from being syrup rather than jam. Apricots, peaches, cherries, blueberries and strawberries are low in pectin. Apples, blackberries, grapes and cranberries are high in pectin. Raspberries are supposed to be low in pectin but in practice, they usually need only a little added pectin to set up well. Fruit that is fully ripe has less natural pectin than fruit that is a little under-ripe. Use a mix of both for best results. Aim for one-quarter of your fruit to be under-ripe.

Concord grapes are a classic for making jelly, with good reason.


I had a request this morning from a reader named Virginia for a recipe for homemade pectin, and it was very timely, as right now there are plenty of immature apples on the trees. Virginia, this one’s for you:
Homemade Pectin
1. Gather or buy about three pounds of apples (this should make about 1 to 1 1/2 cups of homemade pectin). Any variety will do as long as the fruit is immature. The best choice is crabapples, as they are loaded with natural pectin. In many locations, you can find these growing wild. If you’re buying or growing your own, look for ripe Dolgo, Hewes Virginia, Manchurian and Transcendent. However, most tart apples – those high in malic acid, which is what provides the pucker factor – will work. Supermarket apples such as Granny Smith or other “cooking apples” may be your only choice. Try to find some that are under-ripe – they will be almost hard and are lighter in color. If you can find some heirloom varieties, look for those recommended for cider and cooking rather than fresh eating. Try Bramley Seedling, Rhode Island Greening, Stayman Winesap and Gravenstein.
2. Wash the fruit, chop or slice the whole apples – you want peels, cores and flesh. Smallish chunks, say about one inch in size, are best to help the apples break down.
3. Place the fruit in a stainless steel pan; add four cups of water and two tablespoons of lemon juice.
4. Bring the mixture to a boil and let it cook at a fast simmer until it is reduced by half; this should take about 30 to 45 minutes. Stir periodically and keep an eye on it so the water doesn’t boil away, which can result in burned fruit. Add a little water (maybe a quarter of a cup) if you absolutely have to. While it’s cooking, prepare your canning jars as you would for any project and keep hot.
5. Strain through a cheesecloth or jelly bag.
6. Boil for another 20 minutes.
7. Pour the pectin into hot canning jars, seal and either invert for five minutes or allow to sit until the lids seal. No water bath necessary. Store in the fridge after opening.

Golden Delicious apples; a poor choice for pectin unless unripe.


Making homemade pectin is easy. Now the fun begins. Unlike commercial pectin, you have to conduct some tests to determine how much to use. Add one tablespoon of your homemade pectin to one cup of cooked, hot fruit puree or juice. Add one teaspoon of the puree or juice with added pectin to one tablespoon rubbing alcohol. High-pectin fruits will quickly set into a stiff, solid mass. Low-pectin foods will form small, flaky pieces. Keep repeating this process until the consistency is what you’re looking for. Now you know how many tablespoons to add per cup of fruit. For example, three tablespoons pectin to one cup of fruit means nine tablespoons pectin for three cups of fruit.

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Best Farm Animals

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Awww…


Even in today’s technology-driven, urban-oriented world, there are still plenty of people who want to have a little land and grow their own food. Once you master gardening, the next step is often farm animals. After all, you have the garden surplus and manure is good stuff for building soil. If you don’t have any experience, though, it can be tough to decide which farm animals to choose. It’s quite doable to produce a fair amount of protein on very little land if you think ahead and plan well. Here are some considerations in choosing the best farm animals.

Delaware chicks.


Poultry and Rabbits
For the small landowner looking for farm animals, poultry nearly always top the list. Chickens, ducks and geese have a long and productive partnership history with humans for good reason. Guinea hens are another poultry option, as are turkeys. Rabbits are often lumped into this group as well. Of all of these, the chicken leads the flock for a number of reasons. They are readily available, whether you want egg-layers, meat or dual purpose birds. They will eat pretty much anything, which means you can feed them quite inexpensively. Chickens don’t take much space. If you deep bed them, they will make compost for you. Ducks and geese produce fewer eggs, really need a pool or pond and aren’t very good at making compost. While they will eat grain, they are not omnivorous like chickens. Geese are actually grazers and need a daily supply of fresh green stuff. Guinea hens are more like chickens in terms of feeding and compost production. They produce fewer eggs, though, and are extremely noisy. Guineas are harder to confine because they fly well; free-range them and they’ll destroy your plantings, irritate the neighbors and roost on your roof at night. Turkeys combine the good and bad qualities of chickens, geese and guineas. They will lay some eggs in the spring, they eat a wider range of feeds than geese, the heritage breeds fly and they can be quite noisy. They also need more room than chickens. Rabbits are much quieter, which is a consideration if you have close neighbors. Many people find it harder to butcher rabbits and their diets are more limited, so you may need to buy feed for best health. It’s easy to collect their manure, though – just put something like wood shavings under the cages and shovel it up periodically.

Baby pigs are just plain cute.


Small Livestock
Sheep, goats and pigs fit into this category. A word of warning – once you move into small livestock, fences become an issue of prime importance. It’s pretty easy to build a chicken coop; a fence to keep pigs confined is another matter. While you can milk sheep, production is not all that high and sheep’s milk has a distinct taste. Most people who do milk sheep want the milk for cheese-making. You can get out of shearing by choosing hair breeds like the Katahdin, Dorper or Romanov. However, these are meat breeds. Sheep are also particularly prone to predation by coyotes, wolves, cougars and feral dogs. If you have limited room and want a meat/milk animal, goats are a good choice. Goats are also better for brush control and can rustle a lot of their own food (they are great at eliminating poison oak, for example). A good milking goat can produce about a gallon of milk a day and their lactation period is around 10 months (sheep are only good for about five months). Goats are escape artists – smart, curious and sociable, they like to visit the neighbors and can find any weakness in your fencing. They also like to climb on things – like your car, the picnic table in the back yard or your front porch. Like chickens, pigs will eat literally anything except citrus peels. They don’t have to have a wallow, which is one of the things that tends to make neighbors irritable because it smells like pig. They do need to have sun protection and welcome a daily bath with the hose, however. Most pigs will pick one spot in the pen to deposit their manure; clean it regularly and pigs don’t really have much of an odor. All of these animals are more difficult and time-consuming to butcher than poultry.

The herd waiting for dinner.


Large Livestock
The leader of the pack here is the milk cow. In addition to milk, butter, cream and cheese, she will produce a calf you can raise for beef. You need some permanent pasture (practice rotational grazing and it doesn’t take all that much, maybe two to five acres). You can also just buy hay, but the cost of your milk goes up considerably. Beef cows give you beef, period. You’ll need access to a bull or the ability to artificially inseminate either milk or beef cows. Another option is to buy a weaned steer or heifer and raise it for meat.
Decisions, Decisions
If I were starting from scratch with a few acres of land and had no farm/ranch experience, I would take it in steps. First, spend enough time building gardening skills to get to the point where you always have surplus food. For most people, this is a three- to five-year process. Build or repair your fences; the “horse high, bull strong and hog tight” motto should be your mantra for fences. Build or repair sheds, barns and smaller buildings like chicken coops or pig houses. Next step, chickens. Give yourself at least two years of managing the flock to gain some experience. Many people stop right there. If you can handle more, your next step would be either a milk goat or milk cow. These animals take more time, care and knowledge. I don’t recommend you add pigs until you have three to five years of milking under your belt. After that, the sky’s the limit – you might even branch out into exotics like emus and buffalo…

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