Do you ever get the feeling that as you grow older you seem to have lost something that used to make your life complete and no matter how hard you try you are not able to find that something in the here and now? Most times you can’t even put a finger on it, it’s a fleeting feeling, a memory, a situation, an intangible and an indefinable emotional state… Other times you know exactly what it is : it’s the way things used to be when they were fresh, new and exciting… Why is it that this feeling had to go away? Because we are surrounded by constant evolution, information overload and “experts” regurgitating the latest truths and discoveries. Most times change is good – when it builds on that feel-good feeling, but other times change covers up what we knew to be true and skews our reality by letting us believe the past can no longer be. We know it’s there, because we get tiny little glimpses of it here and there, only for it to blur into obscurity with new experiences… new situations…. new feelings… new information.
For me those glimpses happen when I hear my shutter click, which I haven’t heard in years now. I’ve disabled the fake shutter sound my phone’s camera produces because its fakeness is exactly the type of new reality that obscures the reality. Nevertheless, every offspring of my shutterless phone camera brings back those memories of what was. Only how to uncover it all and bring it back to life?
So where is food in all this? Right front and centre. To be honest, I’ve been longing to get out of the rut I’m in food-wise. I miss the times when I knew my thing and stuck to my mantra of food is fuel. I’m sad to admit to myself that somewhere in the abyss of thoughtless social media screen scrolling I have lost that conviction. Everybody wants to taste the sweet nectar of colorful, supposedly guilt-free devilish creations that we immerse ourselves in once that screen lits up. It seems that those images look more enticing and tempting than the most provocative body part.
So, I’ve laid aside the social media feed for a while and instead have been scrolling through MyFitnessPal history to where I know my food simply worked because it fueled not tempted with pretty colors. Back then I didn’t display it publicly because it was simple, unexciting and easy… But it worked. So I found a recipe that I used to use for my treats and overnight oats and turned it into a colorful dessert…
Ultimately, that’s what it is. It’s not a breakfast item or even a reasonable treat, it’s way too large – between all the smoothie base, the fruit and all the other toppings this would probably fulfil half of my energy intake for a day and then some.
You’ve probably seen these smoothie bowls all over IG, Pinterest and FB. Mine is not as impressive as what you’ve probably seen because I did not manipulate the colors in this picture half as much as what some “experts” do. I’m also not going to tell you it’s a health item, because it isn’t.
I encourage you to search for a “how to” video for these smoothie bowls and you will be blown away to find out that they are the ultimate in consumer manipulation. Come on! Purple raspberries? And pink blueberries? They represent fakeness at its best. I don’t deny editing my own pictures, but the transformation that those smoothie bowls undergo is what’s wrong with the perception of reality on social media these days. Not to mention that if you were to eat one of these you probably would not have to eat until the wee hours of the night, it would be that filling.
In spite of my apparent negativity towards these creations, or rather towards the misinformation they spread, I do make the cottage cheese and yogurt base every single weekend, but the amount that I poured in that bowl to take a picture usually lasts me an entire week, as opposed to one meal. I use the smoothie base for my overnight oats, but they are nowhere as exciting and beautiful as the Smoothie Bowl pictured above or the ones floating on social media. So I’ll spare you a boring picture of my everyday breakfast, but don’t be fooled by the pretty colors and the illusion of well being and health that these try to portray on social media.
Put Cottage Cheese, Skyr and Almond Milk in a large capacity food processor and blend on high until smooth.
Add all the dry ingredients and extract (if using) and blend on high until well incorporated.
Note 1: I use this yogurt base for my overnight oats. I measure out 2 servings of this Smoothie base, add about ¼ cup of milk, 20-30g of dry oats and mix well. I will top with some berries, sprinkle of cinnamon and dust it with stevia if I feel I want it extra sweet. Put in the fridge overnight for the oats to absorb some of the moisture and plump up. This is a perfect breakfast for the coming hot summer days 🙂
If you have ever been on any type of regimen to lose weight or to become healthier (which btw. are not always synonymous) you’ve probably come across the notion that as long as you eat healthily you can eat a lot and it won’t matter. I hear it all the time. I make a sugar-free cake and all of a sudden my brain thinks it’s a free for all, eat-the-whole-cake kind of a deal. But whether you use healthy sugar-free ingredients or not it’s still a cake – if you have one too many slices it will go right into your thighs and buttocks. Why is it so hard to remember?
Food is energy and it doesn’t matter what type of food it is (perceived to be healthy or unhealthy), if you eat more than you can use, it will most certainly be stored in your body especially when you’re already carrying too much weight on your frame. If you are already super lean, then it might be a different story (more about that in a future post), but for now, let’s assume that we all have some padding we could spare.
A common misconception that fuels the if-it’s-healthy-there-is-no-limits mantra is the idea that there are healthy and unhealthy versions of sugar. Let me explain: there’s been quite a bit of stirring news in recent years about the dangers of consuming too much white sugar that now almost everybody agrees that white refined sugar is bad and should be avoided or its consumption be minimized. You’d think that this is a positive outcome, but you’d be wrong. We still crave the sweet taste so we arbitrarily decided that we will find sugar replacements or “healthy versions” of sugar. We’ve been taught that because honey is made by bees it is somehow different than white sugar and it’s even considered a healthy sweetener – how many times have you heard somebody say to have some hot water with honey when you’re sick? Honey will not only not cure your cold, but it will make you sicker by spiking your blood glucose, the same way that white sugar will.
Another fraud that we have have fallen victims of at least once in our lives is being perpetrated by the the organic food industry : think organic molasses, organic coconut sugar, even simple white sugar parades as a healthy alternative because the label reads it’s organic. This is the biggest and most successful food scam that I have ever seen – not only are you still eating sugar, you are also paying through the roof for it. A 4.4lbs pound of non-organic white sugar sells for $1.99 and 2lbs of the organic variety is $5!
The list goes on… if you think you are somehow doing yourself a favour by switching from sugar to Maple Syrup, Agave Syrup, Coconut Palm Sugar, Brown Rice Syrup etc. you are fooling yourself. They are all metabolised by the body the same way as sugar – in the liver – and have a glycemic index around that of white sugar – anywhere between 50 and 70. Sure, you could be harming yourself even more by consuming maltodextrin whose GI is 100, but you could also be doing much better by not fooling yourself with “healthier” versions of sugar.
Pure Canada Maple has a great little spin on their website about the benefits of consuming Maple Syrup that touts its antioxidant, mineral and vitamin content. It looks impressive enough to make me want to chug on some straight from the bottle… until I remember that it is a sugar and it will make my body go bonkers trying to deal with a surge of blood glucose, my insulin will try to lower it and redirect it into liver and muscle as glycogen and when that’s full and it will be full very quickly, it will deposit the rest on my thighs. I also looked at their little comparison table trying to convince us that the nutritional information of Maple Syrup is so much more superior to that of other sugars… until you look at the calorie and sugar content that is on par with its neighbors:
What counts the most is the damaging sugar content in all those sweeteners – this is the deciding factor of how much these sugars are going to harm your body and in effect negate the other micronutrient content. You can get your vitamins, minerals and antioxidants from other sources that will not spike your blood glucose and make you fat.
This idea that there are better options of white sugar paired with the first notion that if something is healthy we can eat unlimited amounts of it, followed by the revelation that there is no such thing as healthy sugar alternatives creates an atomic bomb kind of problem. If the sugar alternatives are just as bad as white sugar (and they are) but we perceive them as better, less harmful and as a result eat more of them then we might as well have been eating the white stuff in fear and moderation all that time and be better off for it. Now, we’re eating more of the sweet stuff and the results is we are harming ourselves more than before!
So what’s the solution? – you ask. When I first started being aware of the damaging effects of sugar on my body in 2005 what really did it for me was to get rid off all sugar altogether. I went cold turkey to heal my body and it worked like a charm. Unfortunately, most people don’t want to do that, most of us want to have the cake and eat it too. Damned be all the social media food porn that teases us with the picture perfect images of various treats! Yes, I blame the social media – when I first started using IG, I swear to my food processor, I did get dummer! I bought in to all those pretty pictures of supposedly healthy sweet alternatives and started experimenting with substitutes myself. Mind you, my substitutes were never the above mentioned sweeteners, because by then I knew better. I picked my sweeteners of choice based on their blood glucose effect, forgetting completely that it’s still the sweet taste that mattered
and whether a sweetener has calories and high GI rating or not, it is still telling our brain that sweet stuff is coming. So my vices were and still are: Pure 100% Stevia, Pure 100% Erythritol (or a blend of those two) and to a lesser extent 100% Xylitol. When I say 100% pure I mean without any bulking agents – remember you have to look at the ingredient list – if your Stevia, Erythritol or Xylitol contain bulking agents like Maltodextrin or even Sugar, you might as well just be eating straight white sugar. Those 3 sweeteners have no or very little effect on blood glucose which is good, but consuming them daily does mess with my brain. I never thought I would say this out loud – because prior to my use of these sweeteners I consumed sugar based foods only once a month – but I now believe that the sweet taste (regardless what sweetener it comes from) consumed on a daily basis makes me want to eat more than I would normally eat. And it’s not even the idea of them being calorie free, I simply get a feeling of dissatisfaction and disappointment when the treat is gone that I reach for another piece and another and another, until the feeling turns into a disappointment with myself…
All this to say that the sweet stuff is here to stay and as much as I can make sure that packaged stuff doesn’t
contain any added sugar, I can’t in my right mind say that I will never consume any sweet treats. I’d be lying to myself and you. Our weekly grocery shopping includes many items that are high carb and high sugar because other members of my family do consume them. So I am surrounded by the carbage that taunts me on a daily basis. Do I like the taste of carbs? Yes! Do I have weak
moments? Yes! And I try to deal with them by creating my own “better” recipes that don’t contain sugar. Does it work? Most times it doesn’t, because I, like everybody else, have learned to believe that the sugar replacers are somehow better and my inhibitions get lowered and self control goes out the window and before I knew it, my latest low carb creation – The Poppy Seed Cakes – was gone!
If you read this far, you probably gathered that my New Year’s Resolution is not doing as well as I would have hopped and you would be correct. Granted, I’m not having my sweet treat every
day, but when I do my sweet tooth kicks in with triple the strength and I want to eat a horse made out of chocolate 😉
So I decided to try something new – this is probably an old wives tale, but I don’t care – they say it takes 21 days to form a new habit, so starting today until March 18th I’m quitting Stevia, Erythritol and Xylitol (the only sweeteners I’ve been using for years now) to see if my sweet cravings subside. So, no treats, no pancakes, not even once a week. I’m fed up! You should join me too and let me know how you’re doing in the comments section.
In the meantime, I leave you with the creation that became the source of inspiration for this long rant – Poppy Seed Cakes. It is, of course an all time childhood favorite turned low-carb, but I momentarily forgot that it was still a sweet treat and inhaled them quicker than the speed of light – I am not even kidding. By now, they are all gone, of course. If you think you can apply self control better than me, I highly encourage you to try them, because they were truly off the hook delicious – I guess that’s partly to blame for their disappearance 😉
Bring 1 cup of Almond Milk to a boil and add your Poppy Seeds, 1tbs Truvia, Stevia and 1tsp of Almond extract.
Reduce the heat and let stand for 15 minutes.
When cooled off process Poppy Seeds through a grinder to break down the seeds - repeat 4-5 times.
Add 2 Egg Yolks, mix well.
Gently fold in 2 whipped Egg Whites into the poppy seed mixture.
Mix together in a bowl: Coconut Flour, Almond Flour, 2tbs Truvia and Baking Powder.
Add 2 Eggs, melted Coconut oil and Butter and mix well.
Using silicone muffin cups line the bottom of the cup with a tablespoon of the dough, pressing with your fingers line the bottom completely.
Add a tablespoon of the Poppy Seed mix.
Cover the Poppy Seed mixture with another layer of the dough.
Repeat until all your dough and Poppy Seed mixture is used up.
Preheat the oven to 350F and bake 45 minutes or until your cups turn brown on the tops.
This recipe was originally supposed to be in a shape of a roulade called Poppy Seed Roll, but having very little experience baking with these ingredients I had to improvise quickly. When I realized that rolling this closed would pose a problem I turned the recipe into individual cakes by using silicone muffin cups. The dough would just not stick and hold together the same way traditional flour does.
Traditionally, since this recipe calls for potato starch and regular white flour it does come out being fairly dry, so my mom would make an icing to drizzle on top. She would use icing sugar with hot water to create it, but of course that's a no-no in my books. So I used a bit of Erythritol with hot water, but as you can see it did not produce a good looking icing. My recipe tester also disapproved by scraping it off. He found it too sweet. Next time I might grind Erythritol into a powder to imitate the icing sugar texture.
The bottom line is : whatever you decide to be your sweetener of choice for your treats make sure you use it as a treat, not as a constant, daily component of your meals – that’s why we call them treats, because they are supposed to be infrequent.
Disclaimer: this is a cautionary tale about the fact that not all that glitters is gold.
I remember the time when one needed credentials to make their knowledge available to the public. Back in the day it also required a fair bit of effort on the researcher’s side to acquire this information. Today, all this is very much simplified, in that anybody can get published, look at me – typing away – and finding information is also at the tip of your fingertips. This is great, right? Not so much, because anybody can spew their knowledge and opinions right, left and centre and we all do it. This makes the researcher feel overwhelmed with contradicting information and you will find it so much more confusing to sieve through all of it and decipher what actually has any credence. Low-fat better than low-carb? How about Paleo and Atkins? WeightWatchers anybody? Or IIFYM? As a matter of fact, the truth is in the pudding and you have to be able to see through the bull. Moreover, you need to be extra critical on social media when you read claims of this or that. I’ve learned this a long time ago, but there are still people believing everything they see – jumping from wagon to wagon. Most times when I see misinformation, I just walk away without saying a word, but let me tell you a story about most recent example of misrepresentation and fraud that I couldn’t watch in silence.
A friend of mine is a sales rep for a multi-level marketing company that sells dietary supplements – food replacement shakes (I will not name this company because I don’t feel like dealing with the implications of such an act, but look around, those companies are sprouting everywhere and chances are you have been offered their products). She innocently shared a post on FB made by another rep of that company that made claims that were untrue. The post revealed a before-and-after picture of a young woman. A typical, very common collage of a person’s picture from couple of years ago when they were not doing so well in terms of their appearance and a current picture showing her very fit and healthy – I’ve just recently made my own. Now, this is not an uncommon thing to see when promoting a product or services. IG is plastered with such pictures and so is FB. This one was a bit different because the before picture was her anorectic self – very thin, with bones protruding, hollow cheeks – and the after picture had her looking a lot healthier with some muscle mass built up.
When I saw the post I had to stop and look a bit closer. Normally, I would not have paid any attention to such claims, because:
9 times out of 10 I am not interested in the product.
As far as I am concerned anybody who is trying to sell you something to make you feel or look better is only after your money. And….
I know how to use PhotoShop to enhance pictures.
This one, though, was different. It was different in that I was convinced I knew the person in the picture. So I headed to my IG account to find the person I thought this was and lo and behold I found her. I even found the exact same picture collage posted to her IG feed. I knew exactly what this person was all about and let me tell you, she was not about the supplements in question, but yet her transformation was being used as proof that using those supplements made you regain your health and fit physique….
Of course, I made a racket about it. The post disappeared along with about a dozen comments (you can see in a screenshot above that I took prior to the deletion) that were made under the picture oohing and aahing about how great the supplements are because they helped this poor girl look healthy and happy. And everything came back to “normal” as if nothing had happened. Only something did happen. Somebody made false claims and showed them publicly for all to see in order to sell a product of very questionable quality and usefulness – a fake, man-made product to make money. That fact boils my blood because even if we all consider ourselves intelligent human beings, we are all being duped everyday without even knowing. So, next time you see pretty little pictures trying to convince you to jump on the wagon to bliss and happiness, think twice before you open your wallet. Instead, just go to a farmer’s market and buy some lettuce – there is no magic product (shake, pill, powder etc) that can do what real food can and will do and of course a ton of hard work.
PS. BTW the girl uses some type of supplementation, like most lifters – minimally processed protein powders with natural ingredients and sweeteners, however her main focus is proper nutrition and heavy lifting. She advocates not being afraid of food and making it nourishing rather than being afraid of it.