About Me

The Stage Diet-My Story

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By the end of my senior year of high school, I had a spot waiting for me at Brigham Young University (BYU), but I needed a scholarship in order to pay the tuition. Unfortunately, my grades weren’t high enough for an academic scholarship, my vocal abilities were shy of a music scholarship, and my mad volleyball skills (*ahem*) were certainly not good enough for an athletic scholarship. Thus, in a random series of events, I found myself applying for the Miss Wyoming Scholarship Program. I had hopes of entering the state pageant and earning enough money to get through my first year of school. SHOCKINGLY, I won the whole shebang! *And, just for the record: the night before the state pageant I ate a one-third pound Beefalo Burger at a real buffalo ranch. And it was delicious. *  In June 2004, I embraced a world I knew nothing about as I prepared for the Miss America competition.

Luckily, I was assigned to a fantastic physical trainer. For most of the summer, we focused on lots of treadmill work-outs and resistance training. The nutritional advice she initially gave me was to eat as healthy as I could and avoid treats. Two weeks before I left for the competition, she introduced “The Stage Diet” to me.  I was instructed to continue avoiding sweets and treats, but now I was allowed just 6 servings of grains per WEEK. Acceptable grains included brown rice, whole wheat tortillas, and oatmeal. Bread was a no-no. It was difficult to stick to, but being the people-pleasing, elder-respecting, competitive girl I was, I followed the diet religiously. I ate all the time, because I never felt full. Then it was time to take off for the East Coast. By the time I left, I had lost only 5 pounds, but I had lost SEVERAL inches. My body fat percentage was around 11%.

For some reason, I thought I was supposed to continue the diet through the two-week competition. That was a misunderstanding on my part, because I was actually supposed to stop the diet before leaving. Continuing the diet was no problem, though. I was so zoned in on this low-carb diet that I couldn’t think outside of it. I was a walking nutrition database! I could tell you how much protein and carbohydrate was in every food item on my plate. The lunches served at Boardwalk Hall between rehearsals were intense. Dessert was always included–usually in large quantities, but I overcame every temptation to eat bread and sweets. I was so focused on my diet that I once had a dream where I accidentally ate a peppermint, and I panicked! Without realizing it, I was becoming obsessed with what I was and was not eating.

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Dinners were always special events. Sometimes I had to go back to my hotel room and order room service afterwards, though, because there weren’t enough “Stage-diet” food options available at dinner, and I was STILL HUNGRY!

I had a great experience in Atlantic City, but I came home to Wyoming with an unhealthy relationship with food. I had a hard time easing back into normal eating. Because I was so determined to “be good” with my diet, I resisted the foods I loved. However, I unconsciously obsessed over them, wishing for a bite. Sometimes I would eat around the food I wanted—choosing a piece of fruit here, and munching on a slice of cheese there, but avoiding the homemade bread on the counter. On occasion, I would come home for the weekend and binge on anything I could find in my parent’s pantry. Guilty feelings immediately ensued, so I would take off on a long run to try to cure the very uncomfortable feeling in my stomach. I gained a bit of weight again as I struggled to avoid carbohydrates.   My body began to compensate for the lack of sugar available in my bloodstream by releasing glucose from the  glycogen stores in my liver. Basically, my body went into “starvation mode.”  Learn more about “starvation mode” at my post on “Low-Carb Diets.”

Not surprisingly, with the low body-fat percentage I had maintained for too long, my cycle completely stopped. I ignored that until my mother insisted I see a Gynecologist before heading to college. The Gynecologist was very nice but quite blunt with me. She said, “It’s fine if you never have a cycle again…that is, of course, if you never want to have children someday.” Marriage and family were a long way off for me, but it was certainly a dream of mine to have children. She prescribed me some progesterone, and away I went to BYU to study Dietetics.

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After earning my first A+ in Nutrition 100 (OK, it was actually a B+, but it was a ‘weed-out’ class and I was a Freshman), I gained an amazing sense of freedom with food. I learned that grains are the very staff of life and should never be eliminated from your diet. We studied the book, Intuitive Eating (affiliate link) which teaches that there is room for every food in a balanced diet, and restricting foods only makes us want them more. The day I re-learned that it was okay to have a scoop of ice cream when I occasionally craved some, my world of food became broadened once again. I also learned the hard way on several late-night brownie binges with my roommates that it was miserable to overindulge. Once I started eating balanced again, my regular cycles returned. The best thing my studies did for me was teach me there is a place for every food in my diet. No food should be “off-limits,” and the key to healthy eating was all about balance.

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Fad Diet Myth BustingFeaturedNutrition Education

Keto, Paleo, Atkins, and other Low-Carb Diets

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Carbohydrates are found in foods like breads and grains, starchy vegetables like potatoes and corn, and sugary foods like candy.  Fruits contain carbohydrate in the form of fructose. Dairy products contain carbohydrate in the form of lactose.  God blessed our Earth with plants and animals which provide essential carbohydrates for our health, and He wants us to eat them. However, in the last decade or so, there has been a wave of diets promising weight loss through limiting carbohydrates. Society has started to view the consumption of carbohydrate as a sinful indulgence. Why all the fuss about carbs?

 

The Science of Low-Carb

When we burn energy throughout the day and during exercise, it is done in a specific order. First, the bulk of carbohydrates or sugars in our cells are used for energy. Once depleted, the body depends on fat stores to supply energy. Only in extreme cases such as very long periods of exercise or starvation does the body start burning into protein stores. Protein is largely stored in muscle tissues, so when broken down for energy, it causes atrophy (wasting) of the muscles.  When there is little to no carbohydrate in the cells to be burned, the body goes straight to the fat-burning phase. The low-carb diet limits carbohydrates yet provides TONS of protein in the form of meat and animal products in order to ensure no carbohydrate or protein is used for energy. Sounds like a quick way to burn lots of body fat, right? Well, sort of. Initially.

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Image from Krause’s Food, Nutrition. & Diet Therapy, 2004

Dieting Long-Term

The most efficient and preferred source of energy for our bodies is glucose. Glucose is a simple sugar, broken down from carbohydrates. The only source of energy which can fuel the brain happens to be glucose, and the majority of the 200 grams of carbohydrate required to properly fuel our bodies each day is used by the brain. The body has an amazing mechanism which recognizes when there is not enough glucose to feed our brain and muscles. It triggers the “starvation mode” and starts to break down glycogen stores (glucose storage) from the liver and pump glucose into our cells. Our metabolism then begins to slow down. The body adjusts to having less glucose available for energy, so it slows down the energy-making factory! That’s when the weight loss begins to taper and plateau.

Below is a diagram of what the “energy-making factory” looks like in our bodies. It is not important to understand all the chemical jibberish. Just focus on the words in red and notice that protein, fat, AND carbohydrate are all necessary and crucial components to creating and sustaining energy in our bodies… that’s all.

Pathways of energy production

Image from Krause’s Food, Nutrition. & Diet Therapy, 2004

Have you ever met someone who is on a low-carb diet? Have you been on one yourself? Did you notice the decline in energy? Or, worse yet, did you notice how cranky they/you were?! Now you know why! No carbs=no energy.

At this point, an aggravated dieter will decide to stop the no-carb diet since it seems to have stopped working. Or, maybe they finally succumb to the overwhelming cravings and eat a day’s worth of carbs in one sitting. (Trust me, I have been there before.) Upon returning to eating carbohydrates again, guess what happens? The energy-making factory which has been slowed down continues to slowly use the influx of carbohydrates now fed into the system. It uses very little and then stores the rest for future use in the case of “starvation mode” hitting again. After more and more carbohydrate is eaten, the stores turn into fat and the poor dieter has now gained all, if not more, of the weight back that was lost on the low-carb diet.

Some Sound Advice

So, ask yourself: Is this a diet I can stick to for the rest of my life? If not, what is your motivation for starting it? Knowing you will most likely gain the weight back, does it really seem feasible to deprive yourself, only to have no lasting success?

Here is my advice in a nutshell: don’t diet. Evaluate how much processed food you are eating, and make adjustments if necessary. Enjoy a wide variety of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein and dairy products. And, if you are looking for a great book to read about HOW to ditch the diets, try Intuitive Eating. Its principles have become the largest contributors to how I feel about diet and nutrition.

Keep reading, and I will teach you how.

 

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(Includes Affiliate Link)

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BreakfastRecipes

Hearty Whole Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes

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After almost 10 years of making my own pancake mix, I think it is safe to say, I have finally mastered it. These pancakes are so fluffy and moist, you won’t believe they are made out of 100% whole wheat flour, no eggs, and no oil. They are “hearty” and heart-healthy!

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Since I make these at least twice per week, it’s possible for me to have the first round of hot pancakes plated and ready to eat in less than 20 minutes. One of the secrets is: mise en place. That’s a French saying for “everything in it’s place.” Seriously, gathering all the ingredients before I start mixing cuts a good 5 minutes out of the food preparation time.

My pancakes turn out best when I mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl with a wire whisk (whole wheat flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda). In a separate bowl, I whisk together the wet ingredients (milk, lemon juice, applesauce, water, and ground flaxseed).  You could make these cholesterol-free and dairy-free if you wanted to by substituting unsweetened almond milk for the cow’s milk. My favorite way to make them is with Kefir. It makes an excellent substitute for buttermilk and is 99% lactose-free.
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Then, I pour the wet ingredients into the large bowl of dry ingredients. Stir until just combined and let the batter sit for 2 minutes before pouring onto a griddle. This helps the soda and powder work with the wet ingredients to start forming gas bubbles that make these babies so fluffy.

I use an electric griddle set between 350 and 400 degrees to cook my pancakes. You can also use a stovetop skillet at medium-high heat. Spoon a 1/2 cup-full of batter onto your griddle or skillet.IMG_20160603_083646831

Bake the batter for approximately 3-4 minutes or until lots of bubbles form and pop on the uncooked side of the pancake. The pancakes pictured above are not ready to flip yet. From this point, give them another minute to form and pop about 3 times as many bubbles. IMG_20160603_090621848_HDR

Then, flip and turn to bake for another 2 minutes or so.

Hearty Whole Wheat Pancakes

Viola! Now you can dress your pancakes with the toppings of your choice. My favorites are peanut butter and honey, or Greek yogurt, fresh fruit, nuts, and a drizzle of honey. Enjoy this delicious kick-start to your morning!

Hearty Whole Wheat Buttermilk Pancakes

Course Breakfast
Cuisine American
Keyword healthy pancakes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 6 people
Author heartysmarty

Ingredients

Dry Ingredients

  • 2 Cups Whole Wheat Flour
  • 3 teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt

Wet ingredients

  • 2 cups Milk + 1 teaspoon lemon juice or 2 Cups Plain Kefir
  • 1/2 cup Unsweetened Applesauce
  • 2 tablespoons ground Flax seed
  • 1/4 Cup plus 2 Tablespoons Water

Instructions

  1. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl with a wire whisk. In a separate bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients.
  2. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into the well all at once. Stir until just combined and let the batter sit for 2 minutes before scooping ½ cup portions onto a griddle set at high heat.
  3. Bake the batter for approximately 3-4 minutes or until lots of bubbles form and pop on the uncooked side of the pancake. Then, flip and turn to bake for another 2 minutes or so.
  4. Top with peanut butter and honey, or Greek yogurt, fresh fruit, nuts, and a drizzle of honey or syrup.
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About MeFeatured

About Me

heartysmarty

Greetings from Utah! I’m Megan. With a degree in Dietetics from Brigham Young University and a passion for helping people have healthy food relationships, I consider myself a nutritional ally. There’s no eating right vs. eating wrong in the nutrition advice I give. Simply put, there is a place for every food in a healthy diet. However, this is my mantra: “A meal is never complete without a fresh fruit or vegetable!”  That being said, a lot of how I feel about food comes from my belief in God as the Creator of all things—particularly food. I believe we, as His children, should eat the food He has provided us in its most natural form so we can have the best chance at feeling, performing, and thinking at our fullest potential.

I combine evidence-based science, a pinch of alternative medicine, and practical food preparation to teach friends how to feed themselves and their families nourishing meals with common ingredients.  I am a busy mother of four young children, so my approach to healthy eating is no-nonsense. Meals have to be planned, fresh, and FAST in order to keep up with my busy lifestyle.

In my leisure, I enjoy bike riding, jogging, dabbling in music, and game nights with family and friends.  I prefer to spend most of my time in the summer pulling weeds out of my garden and flower beds. During the school year, I am busy with carpools, piano practice, scouts, play practice, a workout group, and homework. I volunteer in our church’s Primary program, and I direct a neighborhood children’s choir called the “Musical Minions”.

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About Me

You Want to Be a Diah-what-A?

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As a sophomore in high school I took a health and wellness class. From that time forward I knew I wanted to study nutrition, and after discovering the field of Dietetics I found my niche. After high school, I took a de-tour before my college studies and served in the Miss America program. I spent a whole year traveling around the country and state as Miss Wyoming. In conversations, the topic of what I planned to study in college inevitably came up. When I answered, “Dietetics,” I usually got a confused expression as a reply. I was constantly explaining the three-fold purpose in Dietetics: Management, Clinical, and Community Nutrition. The lights would go on when I explained that Dietitians work in hospitals, nursing homes, and school lunch programs. The first time I realized that a Dietitian could do consulting work for individual clients was in 2005 when I was in a box suite at the Indianapolis 500. A few celebrities were there and I got to meet Ed Herrmann (you know, Grandpa Richard from Gilmore Girls?). He asked what I would study in college, and then he actually knew what a Dietitian was! He said, “Oh yes, you will help fat guys like me be more healthy.”

The wheels started turning as I formed my dream career path. I dreamed of owning a large ranch someday with multiple cabins. It would have a large lodge with a teaching kitchen. People could come and stay for weeks at a time, enjoy nature, exercise, and I would teach them about nutrition and how to prepare balanced meals. That far-fetched dream has not come to fruition yet—and it may never—but I will always have a place in my heart for helping individuals form healthy
relationships with food.

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Five years later, I graduated from BYU with a husband, an 8-month-old daughter, and a Bachelor’s of Science in Dietetics. The timing was wrong to go off and do an internship. Thus, I am still not a Registered Dietitian (RD). I actually feel like not having an RD gives me a little more liberty to venture outside of the USDA standards and explore a more holistic approach to food and medicine. It’s no secret that much of the research backing the USDA recommendations for food is funded by food manufacturers. That’s natural, because they are the ones selling the food products and need the science to ensure its quality and nutrition. However, it is enlightening to dabble in the other realms of nutrition theory and research, sometimes referred to as “alternative.” So, I call myself a Dietitian, but I make no claims to be a Registered Dietitian. What I write is not a reflection of The American Dietetic Association…but it’s pretty close.

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