Health

This tag is associated with 25 posts

Life is better with sprinkles! (Or: Let them eat cake!)

Life is about living. I’ve said this before. You only get this one life and if you don’t enjoy it, what’s the point? I’ve also pointed out that any “diet” that doesn’t let you live isn’t sustainable. Well, we put that theory to the test this past week. My son’s father turned 38 (yeah, he’s old… but still cute) and you know what birthdays mean… cake and food. In large quantities, generally speaking.

It started Thursday with a fairly healthy dinner of homemade hamburgers on fabulous whole wheat buns. But then came the cake… four layers of chocolate death, overloaded with miniature chocolate chips and filled with whipped cream. Top that with buttercream icing and you have a sugar coma just waiting to happen. We all had a slice (well, everyone but the little man, who still staunchly refuses to eat anything “normal”) and as we were all sitting there settling into our food comas I asked “so, who votes I take the remainder of this cake to work tomorrow?”

There was an immediate consensus, so there was no repeat of chocolate overload in our household the next day. Friday is our usual cheat dinner day so we had pizza. I love pizza Fridays. But then Saturday… Oh lord.

I took the birthday boy (err… man) out to dinner. We hit up a highly reviewed local Brazilian steakhouse. If you’ve never been to one, let me explain. It’s all about the meat. It is meat, meat, meat, and more meat. There’s a salad bar, sure, but as yummy as the offerings there, the main attraction are the numerous gauchos walking around with various cuts of meat on spits, offering you everything from lamb, to filet, to rib eye steak. There are sausages and chicken legs and bacon wrapped goodness everywhere you look. You pay a flat rate for each diner and in return you get a little disk.

When you flip the disk to the green side, you’re swarmed by gauchos, all sweet and polite and bearing meaty death anyway you like it. Flip it to red and they leave you to stuff your face in peace.

Needless to say I warned the birthday boy to wear loose-fitting pants. After overdosing on meat we went back to my sister’s house for beer and board games. My brother-in-law is a game reviewer, so he gets all kinds of cool games to play for free (in addition to press passes to events like Comic-Con, where he meets people like William Shatner, Robert Downey Jr., and Nathan Fillion… he’s such an asshole – because he never invites me!!! LOL).

Anyway, the games are always new and interesting and we have a blast playing them. On the way back to my sister’s house though, I said to the birthday boy “ugh… you better hope she’s not planning cake or anything.” This earned a very heartfelt groan from the passenger seat.

Our little man had a blast running around with his cousin, until he tried to slide under the railing to the stairs feet first. We all had a heart attack when my niece started yelling for us. Mind you, we were only five feet away, but the stairs are around a small corner in my sister’s usually very child safe house. Thankfully, our little snot is a little too big to fit all the way through and no harm was done (unless you count our nerves being completely fried).

A reprimand for the little boy and huge hugs for the little girl and all was well again.

… and it was time for cake. Oh, the poor birthday boy.

When the night of fun and games was over my brother-in-law was packing up the cake. I adamantly told him “we are not taking that home”. There was a small fuss, but in the end I was brooking no argument.

So, we lived this past week. It’s a good thing exercising is a part of living as well and that over-indulgence only happens on occasion.

Enjoy life. Overeat once in a while. Try new restaurants. But know when to say no. Don’t take the cake home with you because if it’s in your house, you’ll eat it all.

But whatever you do, don’t skip the experiences just because you’re on a “diet”. After all, life is always better with a few sprinkles and a little icing.

Oops… There goes my food budget.

Our Clean Eating adventure began with a trip to one of my all-time favorite Grocery Stores: Trader Joe’s.

It’s like Whole Foods meets Aldi and I’ve been in love with TJ’s for years, if for nothing else than the cheese section. It took over an hour and a half, which, if you’ve ever been in a Trader Joe’s, you know is a long time, because the store itself is fairly small when compared to other local grocery stores. I went over my budget, by like, a lot and there was a mind-boggling amount of label reading involved, but all in all I’ll happy with the way my fridge and cabinets are stocked right now. Whole wheat pastas, ethically raised chicken and beef, organic fruit, and a couple of really phenomenal cheeses. I’ve got almonds, cashews, pistachios, and hazelnuts to snack on. There are lettuces galore – all beautifully vacuum sealed in my fridge – and fruit a plenty.

Last night’s dinner consisted of hamburgers, made with 94% lean beef and seasoned lightly. They were served on lettuce wraps, not because we can’t eat buns, but because I forgot to pick some up and didn’t feel like running out to the store to read the ingredient listings again. Add in some organic sweet corn on the cob and a baked potato and it was a meal fit for a king. Not the most experimental menu item, but still rather satisfying.

One of our large challenges is going to be portion sizes. We’re allowed an almost unlimited amount of fruit and veg, but we’re as used to overeating on meat as the rest of the US.  The burger patties were pre-portioned, so we were allowed one each. Satisfying but not overly filling, we followed our meal up with a fruit salad for dessert. Fresh Pineapple, nectarines, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries with no added sugar; it truly didn’t need any. Once all of the flavors mingled and we started eating my son’s father looked over at me and said, “This is probably the best thing I’ve ever tasted in my whole life”. That made me smile.

In addition to my excursion to Trader Joe’s, I’ve been picking up a few clean eating foods here and there the past month. I’m extremely pleased with one brand I’ve come across in particular. Bobs Red Mill has a line of products to suit our new dietary needs without sacrificing flavor in the littlest bit. As I was browsing the aisles in one of my local markets two weeks ago, I came across their line of products. All lined up on the shelves and minimally packaged in their clear plastic bags, and I was instantly smitten. I picked up the seven grain blend pancake mix. We had these for dinner last Thursday. I altered the recipe just a smidge and made them with unsweetened vanilla almond milk (about ¼ cup more than the recipe called for) to lighten up the heavy batter just a little bit.

They were amazing with just a couple of tablespoons of 100% all natural organic preserves. They were also unbelievably filling and I was only able to eat three 4” pancakes.

 

My adventure actually started Saturday when I started overhauling my kitchen supplies. Sure I was going to have to throw away a bin full of food I approached my kitchen with apprehension.

I took an inventory of my freezer and found:

Three bags of broccoli

One bag of Green Beans

Two pounds of baby scallops

2.7 pounds of boneless skinless chicken breasts

1 pound of ground chicken

8 Salmon Filets

1 Salmon Steak

Two Ahi Tuna Steaks

A pound of lean beef steak

And a couple of bags of frozen fruit.

I cleaned out all of the non-clean-eating friendly foods and donated them to my parents and other family members. I’m happy to say that there is nothing left in my kitchen that doesn’t meet our clean eating standards and I didn’t have to throw away much at all.

I gave up all the powdered drink mixes, baking mixes, cereals, processed boxed entrees and “instant” sides. Still, when I go to grab a snack or pack my meals for work, I don’t feel deprived. Almost any recipe I love can be adapted for clean eating and I have a fridge and pantry completely overflowing with nutritious clean eating options for meals and snacks.

My finances recently took a hit (with all the days and holidays off deducting hours from my paycheck) and I’m going to be watching every penny for the next few weeks but looking at what I have available for meals, I don’t feel broke in the least.

In fact, the burgers we had last night were topped with a cheddar cheese that was so decadent that I almost feel rich. If you have the ability to get to a Trader Joe’s, I highly recommend the Londoner Cheddar. It’s white cheddar, medium sharp, and it just melts in your mouth. Slightly tangy, it’s got a very mellow after bite and it went phenomenally well on our lettuce wrapped burgers. With cheese like that you don’t need mayo or ketchup. Just add a slice of heirloom vine ripened tomato and you’ve got a meal bursting with complex flavors to tease your palate.

I even found a clean eating indulgence. I LOVE peppermint patties and was actually upset that I’d have to give up my York brand (along with snickers and balance bars) but I came across a version that TJ’s carries made only with Dark Chocolate, Honey, and Peppermint oil. I daresay they’re actually superior to the York version and I couldn’t be happier.

My son’s father got a good laugh out of my Vacuum Sealer binge, in which I vacuum sealed just about everything perishable to extend refrigerator shelf life but, since he’s benefitting through the fresh and tasty meals I’m making, he was smart enough not to make any wise-acre comments. Now, if I could just get my finicky almost three-year old on the “let’s eat something other than bread and cereal” train, I’d truly be over the moon. One day at a time, I guess.

 

It’s not a “Diet”, it’s a Diet.

I’ve had people ask me why I’m going on a “diet” when I’m not overweight and have a healthy BMI. You’re fit and healthy, why change what’s obviously already working for you? Questions like this annoy me to no end, I’m going to be honest about that.

Really? Are we so focused on weight that a change in eating habits has to be a “diet”? There are many definitions for the word Diet. One of them is “the foods eaten, as by a particular person or group” . In other words, the whole of everything I eat on a regular basis is my diet. It does not mean I am “on a diet” in the culturally over-utilized manner of phrase.

So here’s my answer to that question. True health is not just about weight. In fact, weight is one of the smaller factors to health in my opinion.

Oh my god. I just totally pissed off quite a large number of people, I’m sure. Whatever. Be sure to send your hate-mail to LDD@idontgiveashit.com.

There is so much more going on in our bodies to damage our health than just being overweight. It’s simple, change your diet, change your lifestyle, and your weight will likely change too. Even if it doesn’t, you’ll still be way healthier than you were when you started.

Here’s a quick review of the changes I’m making to my diet.

No more refined flour, sugar, or grains. This means that if the word “enriched” or “processed” appears on the ingredient label, it stays on the grocery shelf. Real grains don’t need to be enriched because they haven’t had their nutritional value stripped from them in a chemical process. White and brown sugar is out as well. Were you aware that brown sugar is just white sugar with molasses added in? It’s not closer to natural than refined white sugar. Sugar substitutes are off the edible list. On the list is, honey, molasses, 100% pure maple syrup (not that Aunt Jemima HFCS crap) and maple syrup sugar. There are a few others but all sugars are to be consumed in moderation.

No more highly processed foods. This removes most prepared, boxed, canned, and frozen foods from my diet. Flash frozen fruits and veggies are okay, frozen pasta or rice dishes or entrees are not. If an item has more than 6 ingredients or more than 1 ingredient I can’t pronounce or identify as actual food or if the words Refined, polished, enriched, BHT, BHA, HFCS, MSG, Partially Hydrogenated, Aspartame, etc…  Yes, there are a lot of words to avoid. The simple way to handle this is, if a third grader can’t pronounce it, or you can’t trace it back to its natural food origins in less than 5 seconds, put it back on the shelf.

Humanely raised and slaughtered, hormone free, free range Meats, Dairy, and Eggs. This should be a no brainer. If you are a meat eater, you should be sickened by the way we treat the animals we consume. If that doesn’t bother you because “well, how is eating them humane?” first of all, get off my page because I already don’t like you. Second, think about the chemicals. Between hormones to make them grow faster, constant antibiotics to keep them from getting sick in the horrible conditions they’re forced to live in, chemicals used to treat and preserve the meat after slaughter, etc…. that’s a lot of chemicals that are held in the meat and released during cooking and into your body when you consume them. Likewise, fish should be wild caught, but keep in mind that whether wild or farmed, all fish is high in chemicals and contaminated with mercury. It’s simply a matter of science and proof of how badly we’ve harmed our environment.

More fruits and veggies, organic when necessary. I’m not rich… not even close. But I do have a good number of grocery stores and fruit markets in my area that sell a large variety of fruits and vegetables fairly cheap. I cannot afford to buy organic everything, especially with the restraints on meats and dairy. Amish chicken and free range beef, plus cage free brown eggs and hormone free milk means I have to restrict my organic fruits and vegetables to the “dirty dozen” the majority of the time. Those fruits and vegetables that contain the highest amount of pesticides are:

  • Peaches
  • Apples
  • Sweet Bell Peppers
  • Celery
  • Nectarines
  • Strawberries
  • Cherries
  • Pears
  • Grapes
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Potatoes

I’m a fan of everything on that list, so I’m going to have to make some substitutes and sacrifices when money is tight. To help preserve the food I do buy (because I don’t have anywhere to compost yet and I HATE wasting food) I purchased a food saver vacuum seal machine. So far, I’m pleased with it. I might even write a review of it after I’ve used it a bit longer.

Now, why is organic, unprocessed, whole foods such a focus for me? Simple… When I was a child my father explained to me that I should never use more than one household cleaner at a time. Bleach and Ammonia emit chemical fumes and, even if you don’t mix them directly together, these fumes can linger and combine and…. Explode. My little brain was fascinated. That started my fascination with what I like to call the “joker effect”. If you remember your Batman movie mythology correctly, the line of beauty products that the Joker produced was only dangerous when two or more products were mixed together. You could use the perfume or the hairspray with no ill effects, but if you used both. Hoo Boy, bad things happened.

We have hundreds of thousands of chemicals that are used for everything from food preservation, to flavor enhancement, to pest control, etc… each of these is subject to FDA approval and regulation. They’ve all been “tested” (to whatever degree you trust the overworked and underpaid government authority that approved Thalidomide and Aspartame) individually, but it would be impossible to test these products against each other in all the possible combinations in which they are consumed. (For more information: How the EPA regulates pesticides)

Pesticides alone are currently under intense public scrutiny and have been labeled by many in the realm of science as “obesogens”. A family of chemicals that alter the human metabolic process in such a way that diet and exercise can potentially be futile.  (Read an article at the NIH: Obesogens: An Environmental Link to Obesity for more information.) Chemicals, such as pesticides, have also been linked to a higher rate of heart disease and cancer. But in our society I’m pretty sure that the statement “They’ll make you fat” would be more successful in deterring people than “It might give you cancer”.

Those are the meat and bones of my new “diet”. When evaluating how I wanted to change my eating habits, because I’ve always wanted to eat more healthily, I had to ask myself two things.

  1. Can you see yourself eating like this 10 years from now?
  2. Can you maintain this “diet” 90% of the time.

If you can’t answer both of those in the affirmative and mean it, then it’s not the right diet change for you. A change in diet, one that will make you healthier, has to be sustainable. It has to be something you can carry with you for the rest of your life to be truly successful. It also has to provide wiggle room. We all have parties, graduations, weddings, summer events to attend. We can’t always be expected to skip the slice of cake, or the occasional Italian beef sandwich. We just have to “cheat” in moderation and within limits. An ice cream cone is okay a gallon of Ben and Jerry’s is not. A simple rule of thumb, don’t keep cheat foods in the house. If you have to go out to have them, they’ll be more difficult to binge on. Walk to your local ice cream shop for that ice cream cone. You’ll get some exercise and still have your “cheat” treat.

I’ve said it before and it bears repeating… how is it that on the whole, we’re  so much more informed about what is and isn’t good for the human body, but we’re unhealthier than ever in human history? Get back to the basics, eat like your grandparents (or great grand-parents) ate, and you just might find that you feel a thousand times better.

On my journey to clean eating I’m going to try to review products that I find, devices that I use and recipes that I make. I hope you’ll all join me in adding healthier choices to your diet and stop using the word “diet” as something you only do to lose weight.

My thoughts for the day-

-LDd

A Warrior Woman Rises!

Warrior Dash was amazing. I’m totally hooked. Not a fan of the running part, mostly because I slacked off the last couple weeks with my running program, but I loved the obstacles. I feel like I zipped through all of them. Next year, however, I want an earlier run on the first day. By my wave on Day 2 the course was destroyed and there were numerous times where I had to proceed with extreme caution, including an entire half mile where I feel like it took me 20 minutes for what should have taken 5. But, I finished in 1 hour, 6 minutes and I completed every obstacle.

Fire Jump

I moved like I had blinders on, my only concern with forward momentum. One of the last obstacles, a steep hill rope climb with wooden slats to help you up, had a line at the bottom. For good reason too, it was at the end of the half mile mud disaster and the wooden boards and rope were completely slicked over with slimy mess.

 At the far edge I noticed there was no wait… there was also no rope. After a quick survey of the climb itself I decided I could barrel through with no rope. Carefully placing my feet on the bottom slat I reached up and forward to grab the next slat so I could get a foot hold on it. I spider crawled my way up to the next level of muddy mess until I was through. As I waited for my teammates at the top, I treaded carefully to a quasi-dry patch to catch my breath and exhaled in victory. I was three obstacles and about .2 miles from the finish. That last half mile of slipping and sliding through the mud took a lot out of me, but I felt accomplished. The rope wall climb, the horizontal cargo net, the rock climbing wall, the barbed wire army crawls… it was all so much more fun than I expected.

 I can’t wait until next year. I’m going to get my running up to par and then next year I want to finish time under 45 minutes. I also want to fund raise as a Warrior for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. It’s a great cause and I feel that these challenges need a higher purpose for me to find them truly satisfying. This year I donated my shoes (which were in okay condition prior to the race) to Green Sneakers for cleaning and reuse. That coupled with the fact that this was my first race (of ANY KIND, let alone off-road obstacles) made finishing a very satisfying accomplishment.

Mission Accomplished

Mission Accomplished!

My shopping for my “clean kitchen” continued yesterday with an enormous grocery trip that consisted of 4 dozen cage free, vegetarian fed brown eggs (on sale for 2.49), about 25 lbs of fruit and veggies, 10 lbs of chicken, and 4 pounds of steak. Now I need to spend a day cooking, portioning, and freezing meals for the next two weeks. Which will put me into my deadline of July 1st. If I can keep it to 150 every two weeks, I’ll be ecstatic. But I’m pretty sure I’m going to over-run my budget on occasion. On the plus side, the 4th of July is coming up… this is my favorite time to stock up on post-holiday sale meats. Two years ago I purchased 77lbs of various meat cuts for 82 dollars. Portion Packaged and frozen, that purchase lasted me 9 months. I’m hoping to repeat that this year… though I might need a deep freezer by the time I’m done.

After resting following Warrior Dash (glad I took a day off of work) I’m looking at my finances and my schedule so I can plan my training program. I’ll let you know how that pans out.

 Hope everyone is enjoying this early summer weather as much as I am!!

Always challenge what you think you’re capable of. You’ll probably surprise yourself with the results!

The SHIT they put in our food and other highlights.

By now it should be quite clear that I am not a writer. A poet, I used to be. A mother, I am most definitely. A woman striving to live the “good” life, absolutely. I share what I feel is worth sharing and sometimes I blog to clear my head.

Today is a little of both. I haven’t blogged in a while and my brain is swimming with thoughts I need to express; some of which may actually be worth sharing.

Progress, on almost all fronts, has stalled to a certain degree. Following a money crunch, I couldn’t re-up my fitness classes this session. And, without appointments to keep me on track, I got lazy. Well, as lazy as one can get when you still have a two-year old to keep up with and a life to live. I’m not gaining or losing weight and my clothes still fit great, so I’m not going to sweat it too much. I know I’ll get back into my classes because I enjoyed them so much and I actually miss them.

We took a family trip to the Dells, where I formed a whole new obsession for Bikinis. I now have four of them. My reasoning is that I’m looking for the “Perfect” bikini. But, since I’m limited to JC Penney (where I can charge them) I doubt the “perfect” bikini is going to be found this season.

My little man, who is so close to being 3 that I don’t want to call him 2 anymore, started swimming on his own during that trip. Safely bundled up in his life vest he now kicks and paddles back and forth from mommy to daddy and back again. He jumps off the short ledges, disappears under the water, and pops back up with an enormous grin on his face. It brought tears to my eyes. Bittersweet, proud, and sad tears that only a parent could fully understand. My beautiful little man is growing up and these “little” days will be coming to an end way too soon.

Warrior Dash is this Sunday and I’m fairly certain I’m going to die. But not before completing it. I’m more worried about the heat (projected high of 92) than the running; and the obstacles just look like fun to me. If I can finish under an hour I’ll be happy. But, yeah, I might die afterward. If I do – at least I’ll die with a smile.

I’m preparing for July 1st, when my new, back to basics eating habits are fully enacted. I’ve been cleaning out my cabinets and fridge, trying to put new practices into place in increments and cleaning out all the “junk”. I’ve always been an enthusiast for whole foods. But I’ve been accepting of the “junk” in our lives as a necessary evil or perhaps, just a familiar friend. But as I more actively read labels, more and more products go back on the shelves permanently. Mac and Cheese? HOLY CRAP. Bye. I can make that from scratch in the same amount of time the boxed stuff takes.

I realized that the whole grain, high fiber, super yummy, no HFCS, etc bread that I buy from Trader Joes goes bad in a matter of days if I don’t keep it in the fridge. At first this upset me. Then I realized – wait for it – REAL FOOD SHOULD GO BAD IF NOT REFRIGERATED!!! I know, right. It was like a super startling epiphany. It is NOT natural for bread to sit on your counter for two weeks and not sprout mold. It’s not natural for it to stay soft for two weeks without refrigeration.  There’s a lot of things about our food that we’re used to that isn’t natural. In fact, it’s biologically, ecologically, and chemically just wrong!

And at the same time, there are other things that work in the reverse. Fresh eggs, just laid, can last for weeks (over a month) on your counter or in the coop. But, once washed and processed, they must be refrigerated and they keep for two weeks – Max. I watched an episode of “how it’s made” that included Eggs and it infuriated me. Now, keep in mind that I already buy cage free, organic, humane brown eggs but was willing to substitute regular eggs when money is tight because there’s a big difference between 88 cents and 2.49+.  Not anymore.

Hens (which normally have a life span of 8-16 years depending on the breed and living conditions) are kept in an environment where they are exposed to artificial UV light 24 hours a day, to simulate daylight, and fed a steady diet of hormones, both of which increases egg production. They lay 1-2 eggs a day (normally the best breeds lay a max of 1 egg a day or an average of 1 every 36 hours) and reach the end of their “useful” lives after only 72 weeks. Do the math, that’s a little over a year. And then, of course, they’re sent to slaughter where their unnaturally large chicken breasts (sometimes over a pound each) are sold to consumers for 3-4 dollars a pound.

I’m sickened. Truly, some days I think I should become a vegetarian, because the way we treat the animals we consume makes me sick to my stomach. But I’m far too honest with myself to try becoming a vegetarian. What I can do is purchase meat from animals that have been humanely raised, organically fed, and ethically kept and slaughtered. I already did this when I could afford it. Now, if I can’t afford it, then I either eat less meat or none at all. I can’t keep contributing to the artificially low-cost of meat that is achieved through such heinous methods. It’s a personal decision, and one I came to surprisingly easily.

This will mean some tweaking of my budget come July, because in addition to getting rid of all products that are highly processed and cooking from scratch, I now have the added expense of higher quality meat and eggs. I’m hoping this will balance out with the lower cost of fresh veggies, grains, rice – etc. We’ll see.

I don’t understand how we became so accepting of all of this, pardon my French, shit that we allow in our food. In a relatively short period of time in human history we moved from a 100 percent natural diet where even canned goods were generally homemade to a diet that is 85% chemically or genetically modified. And we wonder why we’re fat. Evolution hasn’t provided us the genetic tools to digest this garbage we’re stuffing into our bodies any more than it’s provided us a way to clean the pollution from the air before it goes into our lungs and our bloodstream. How is it that at the same time we learn more about the human body and how to keep it healthy, the more processed and polluted our food becomes. Technology is allowing us to learn so much more – but it’s also allowing for the development of all this shit that’s going into our food. We were healthier in our food habits back when the human race, in general, didn’t know anything about how, why, or what was healthy.

You wanted to eat, you had to cook. I bet it was a lot easier to eat less (for example) potato chips, when you had to obtain, peel, soak, and fry your own. Hence the logic behind my new lifestyle… When you think about food and snacks, you’re more likely to reach for fruit, vegetables and nuts if the alternative is time-consuming prep work and cooking. That should be reserved for major meals. And if all you have in the house is healthy snacks, you won’t be eating a full bag of potato chips or M&Ms, because they just aren’t there to be eaten.

This isn’t a diet. It’s a return to the way we were meant to look at food. It’s a return to the way we were meant to eat food. And it’s going to be difficult as hell for someone who was raised on a “modern” style of eating. I’m not going Paleo, or Atkins, or Southbeach or whatever trendy title is being thrown around. I’m just trying to get back to the natural way of eating for humans. Fruit, grain, nuts, meat; Less additives and processing and more real food.

I’ve also been looking more into the future of my education. I want to go into Nutrition. Period. I don’t know how I’m going to manage the internship that’s required to get my R.D. but, that’s two years away – minimum. So I’m not going to borrow trouble. I’m just going to pursue my dreams and do what I can, when I can, to make things happen. If it means I have to get my Masters (which usually includes the internship) and take out a huge student loan to live on when I do it, then so be it.

I’ve always been fascinated by the different nutrients, vitamins, bacteria, and acids that occur in food. I find it amazing the way they work inside our bodies and I honestly feel that I’ve finally found my calling. So I’m going to reach out with both arms and step into the unknown. I’m going to hope that, through sheer stubbornness, everything works out.

I’m also looking at buying a house – but I think I’ll leave that story for another post.

The 30 Day Challenge

I consider myself diet conscious. I try to eat right. I’m working on exercising more. I have a keen interest in nutrition and the holistic benefits of natural food. I’ve considered going vegetarian, but confess readily that I’m an omnivore so it’s unlikely to happen. I devour nutrition books and information the way other people shovel down French fries (figuratively speaking). I know what’s good for me, I know what’s bad for me, and I strive for moderation and balance.

Even then, I know that it’s not quite enough.  And, because I am easily distracted, I know I’ll never step my game up and meet my own standards of food unless I challenge myself to do better. So today, I’m thinking, it’s time to start planning. It’s going to take planning before I can implement my 30 day food challenge. It’s going to take preparation and the steely resolve of the truly determined.

Unfortunately, I cannot achieve everything I would like to. Veggies and fruit completely grown at home (or at the very least through a crop share), Amish Chicken raised locally on a sustainable farm that produces equal quality in their cage free eggs. A diet completely lacking in refined sugars and flours that doesn’t sacrifice taste. A handsome, half naked, tousle-haired Australian chef to do all of the cooking for me – because I do NOT have this thing people call “free time” often enough. Clean counters, cabinets and refrigerator shelves that house only the easiest, most nutritious snacks and meals. The list goes on and on… truly.

Current Progress

I gave up sugary drinks as a child because soda makes me sick to my stomach, literally.

I love broccoli, spinach, kale, lima beans, green beans, black beans, white beans, cucumber, bell peppers, and tomatoes. I strongly dislike carrots but I eat them because I know they’re good for me. I’m not a fan of corn and avoid it whenever possible.

I cut back my coffee intake, even though I drink it black, to help my sleep schedule.

I drink, on average, a gallon of water a day.

I eat a ton of fresh fruit, veggies, yogurt, eggs, and chicken.

I exercise a minimum of 4 times a week for 45-90 minutes each time.

I get approximately 8.5 hours of sleep each night.

I have reached the point where I consistently consume the 1250 calorie minimum I set for myself (this was a big one for me.).

The New Plan

Remove all refined flour items from my diet. No crackers, white pasta, cookies, etc. 100% whole grain from here on out.

Remove added sugar and sweeteners from my diet as much as possible. This means checking labels and deciphering the ingredients.

Adhere to portion sizes strictly.

Reduce intake of highly processed food.

Add two fish meals a week.

Institute a “meatless” day of the week.

Reevaluate my cabinets, counters, and fridge contents. Donate or pitch any items that don’t meet my new goals. Stock shelves with handy snacks.

Increase and diversify my vegetable intake; shop at local farmers markets when possible.

Maintain workout schedule.

Maintain water intake.

The Hurdles to Overcome

All of this sounds easy, until you consider my life and the people in it. We can start with my 2 year old son, who is on what the doctor calls “the white diet”. Common for children his age, he eats only chicken nuggets (fried with smooth batter texture), chips, crackers, and pretzels. We have tried everything with him. My parents even stopped arguing with me when they saw how he would sit there and refuse to eat, even after having fasted all night while sleeping, for three hours. He’ll honestly cry for three hours and refuse to eat ANYTHING that doesn’t fit on his personal approved list. I kid you not. He doesn’t eat cookies, candy, ice cream, Jell-O, or even cake, because he has “texture” issues with them. That’s one difficult factor.

The next factor is my parents who, bless their hearts, feed me dinner about 3-4 nights a week because I work and am in school 9 months out of the year. Typical dinners include a lot of white pasta, heavy sauces, and double portion sizes. Add in my sister, who is a huge believer in eating healthy but also a faithful Herbalife user who, (no offense because I love her to death) seems to think that I shouldn’t eat two of my daily meals, I should drink them instead.

My best friend and hetero life-mate is also my partner in crime. We have the ability to support each other in our goals, but also tend to rationalize and justify each other’s slip ups. This is a double edged sword, but I wouldn’t give up time with her for the world.

Then there is my son’s father. He’s a healthy guy who’s lost a lot of weight, toned himself up, and is running a new business as a personal trainer. He’s a great inspiration and adheres (mostly) to the chicken, rice and veggies rule of weight loss. He’s also my biggest deterrent in this, because I cannot stand the idea of eating the exact same thing 3 – 6 times a day, or worse, the same meal for breakfast, the same lunch, the same dinner, etc… every day. If my meals are that boring and repetitive, I’ll never make it.

An additional complication is that I spend so much time shuffling from my place to my son’s father’s place, travelling with an overnight back twice a week. Whatever I eat has to travel well.

The Planning

Now, I know that people overcome obstacles worse than these all the time but we are all different and, knowing myself as well as I do, I know my own limits.

Here is where the planning comes in. I purposely set a start date for this challenge of July 1st, over a month away, to give me time to get over the stress of training for Warrior Dash as well as give myself some downtime following a rough spring semester. It gives me time to purchase items I need and organize my life and living space better. It allows me to investigate and collect recipes. And all of this allows me to formulate a plan of attack for the food prep I’m going to have to do every Sunday. Because that is pretty much the only day I have each week to prepare my meals for the week.

I’m going to need to pack a full day’s meals every night before bed. Breakfast, snacks, lunch, snacks, etc.  On days when I won’t be home I have to pack or plan dinners for me and my son’s father.

I have to figure out how to accommodate my son’s picky eating (which our doctor says he’ll grow out of eventually) without tempting myself.

And, more importantly, I have to get the people I love on board with it. They don’t have to join me, but I don’t need them unintentionally sabotaging me either.

I’ll keep you all posted with updates as progress is made. And, if anyone has any recipes or ideas to share, I’d love to see them!

Keep Calm and Tread On.

 

Life Lessons – Don’t Panic (Take the Help When it’s Offered, Dummy!)

 Life LessonPanicking gets you nowhere.

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Don’t Panic

Things go wrong at the drop of a hat. Little things. Big Things. Planned things. Things that make you feel like Karma is out to get you on a daily basis. One second life is going according to plan a

 nd the next thing you know everything you planned has been uprooted, delayed, destroyed, or otherwise interrupted. From something as small as a flat tire when you’re trying to get somewhere to the ending of a relationship you had built dreams around to an unexpected financial or professional hiccup, we all face challenges on a regular basis.

If you’re a planner, like me, you might get thrown for a serious loop when something goes wrong. If you’re the person who goes more casually through life these hiccups might still represent a destructive curveball. Little or big it doesn’t matter, when you get thrown that curveball it can send you into a panic.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years it is that Panicking will get you nowhere. It will get you a headache. It will get you a lot of confusion. But mostly it gets to a place where you’re mentally spinning around in circles chasing a non-existent tail while you try to get back on a path that may not even be there anymore. And for those of us with anxiety issues it can snowball into an obsessive thought process that not only doesn’t end, but convinces us that everything is wrong and hopeless. It’s the first domino in the chain and, in our own minds we connect every other domino. We find every link in the chain that could possibly be severed by this one event. We see everything that could possibly go wrong for the next 30 years because of this one small life event.

Is this you?

“My deposit didn’t clear in time. I’m going to overdraft my account. I’ll get hit with 500gajillion dollars in fees. What if I get a flat tire? I won’t have the money to get my car towed or replace the tire. I’ll have to leave my car on the side of the road. Then I won’t be able to get to work. I’ll never pay off those bank fees. I won’t be able to pick my kid from daycare. I won’t need daycare because I’ll lose my job because I don’t have a car. My credit score will plummet and I’ll never be able to get another car. I’ll never be able to work a decent job again. Maybe I can get a job as a waitress at the restaurant on the corner, because once I get fired from this job, I’ll be a joke in the industry. I’ll never be able to show my face again. It doesn’t matter, since my credit is ruined I won’t be able to buy a house anyway, so what’s the point of having a good paying job? My kid is going to be raised in a bad neighborhood with bad schools and end up running with a bad crowd. Oh my god, my kid is going to end up with a baby at 14, and then my kid’s life will be destroyed too. We’ll all be living on food stamps and public aid. F*ck my life. I don’t know why I bother. Nothing ever works out right anyway.”

Once in a while following the cascading fall of the thought dominoes isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But the more frequently you have this kind of thought process, the more likely it is that you suffer from an anxiety problem. Anxiety can come and go. You can be fine most of your life, then experience a “trigger” event that causes you to suffer from severe anxiety for days, months, years, or even the rest of your life.

I’ve learned that the first thing you need to do in that situation is breathe. Do NOT forget to breathe. Then you need to ask yourself three things.

1.)    What is the real problem?

2.)    What can I do to resolve the problem right now?

3.)    How much control do I actually have over the outcome?

Starting by identifying the problem may sound like a moronic “duh” moment but clearly identifying the problem at hand is the first step in keeping the issue from spiraling into a havoc wreaking, life ending, this will haunt your family for 15 generations, karmic attack of doom.  It provides you the necessary perspective to see the problem that is directly in front of you.

Asking yourself what can be done “right now” provides you focus and keeps you in the moment. This is because you can’t live in the future. You have to live in the now, deal with problems in the now, and stop borrowing trouble in the future. It sounds simple; do what you can do now and if you can’t do anything right now to resolve the problem, try to stop worrying because you’re just borrowing trouble.

And lastly, you have to identify how much you can actually affect the issue. How much control do you have in the end result? Be honest with yourself. If this is something that’s totally out of your range of control or influence, then you need to step back and just focus on damage control.

Whatever you do, don’t panic. Panicking gets you nowhere you want to be. If, in the end, you find that you can’t stop worrying about every little detail. If you find that your thoughts endlessly trail to the ‘What-ifs” until you’re uncomfortable sitting still for no real reason. If you find that you can’t sleep for all the thoughts that swirl around in your head…. Well, I think you get the point. If you get to that place then I suggest you talk to your family doctor.

This leads me to another life lesson:

Take the damn help when it’s offered, dummy.

The oddest thing in the world: The people that have depression, anxiety, etc. are the ones most likely to see something horrible in getting help for it. So let me make something completely clear: needing help doesn’t make you “crazy”. Needing help and refusing to get/take the help you need is what makes you “crazy”. Think about it. If you saw someone trying to push their car to the gas station, you wouldn’t think they’re crazy. But, if you saw someone pushing their car, waving away everyone who offered them help and the guy with a can of gasoline, you’d think that person was nuts.

If you suffer from depression or anxiety you’re the guy pushing the car. It might be a momentary problem, you might be able to push that car to the gas station in a few days or weeks or years and struggle the whole way there. Or, you could accept the help your friends and family are offering you. You could see your family doctor and get the fuel you need to get you to the gas station with less suffering.

You might need a good night’s rest or a change in your diet or exercise program. You might need vitamins or medications. I can’t speculate because I don’t know you. But if you feel like your thoughts or feelings are out of control then accept the help that’s around you. It makes you a stronger person to admit you’re in a place where you need help, not a weaker person.

For me, it was a combination of acknowledging my stressors and reactions to them. I had to change my diet, add in physical activity, start taking vitamin supplements and add in medication until I feel ready to stand on my own two anxiety confronting feet again. I don’t feel like less of a person for admitting I needed medication along with the other changes. In fact, I’m so much happier with my life now that I really don’t give a crap what other people think of me. My family and the people who love me are happy that I’m happy and they’re the only people that matter.

“Oh, well if you’re on medication then your advice for handling stress doesn’t count.”

I’m calling bullshit on this one… you can try to rationalize not helping yourself or getting the help you need, but I’m not going to let you dismiss me entirely. Just because I’m on medication doesn’t mean I don’t still suffer some anxiety. It doesn’t mean my stressors went away. What it means is that I can think clearly enough to identify where I went wrong dealing with those stressors in the past and try new ways to cope with them without going into a blind panic. It means I can breathe. 

The two life lessons here were painful to learn. My life was completely devastated, turned upside down and inside out before I was able to learn them properly. I could have saved myself a lot tears and heartache if I’d learned them sooner. I’m a better person for learning them, though. I still come across problems, set-backs, and the little hiccups that make life interesting. I see them as challenges now and I work to overcome them. You will never hear me say “f*ck my life” because something goes wrong.

I just remember to breathe and…

Keep Calm and Tread On.

A Progress Post – To Keep Me Honest

For those of you that don’t know -The happy, shining, optimistic, “totally have a handle on everything” type of people, can lose our focus and perspective too.

In the first quarter of this year I lost 30 pounds due to stress. I had what was, basically, a nervous breakdown. I am the opposite of a stress eater. I suffer from stress induced anorexia, I also tend to not eat when I’m really involved or occupied by something. Obviously no one, not even me, was happy with my weight loss. But when I got a handle on things and was able to drag my happy, optimistic self back up to the gleaming surface of the world again, I decided I was going to seize this moment and turn it in my favor.

It was time to take something that was unhappy and unhealthy and turn it into something beautiful and empowering.

I resolved to eat better. Not healthier, per se, because I already focus on veggies, fruit, and moderated portions. But definitely more often and on a routine schedule – so I started packing a full work days’ worth of meals every day that included snacks and vitamin supplements.  I limited my coffee drinking to before 11:00am and I increased my water intake to nearly a gallon a day. I started tracking my calories again.

I signed up for Warrior Dash, which forced my unmotivated behind to return to the gym (where I hadn’t been for 4 months) where I signed up for two boot camp and one spin class each week.

I’d lost the weight, which was half of what was holding me back. Now it was time to tone and strengthen.

So, to keep myself honest, this is my progress report.

To date: I’ve gained 5 pounds but lost: 4 inches on my hips, 1.5 inches on my waist, and 1 inch on my chest.  I wear a size 6 jean (7 juniors) but I now have to wash and dry them on hot and after wearing them for an hour or so they sag in the thighs and butt. Official sizing charts put me in a size 4 (5’6” – 34, 25, 36) but we’ll see about that.

The bikini I purchased for motivation is, because I’m a moron and bought a large, too big on the bottom. So I’m going to have to buy a new bottom prior to our trip to the Dells at the end of the month.

On the exercise front: I can run a mile at a 6 mph pace without stopping or feeling like I’m going to die. My squats go all the way to the floor now and I have actual muscle in the back of my arms, as opposed to old lady pigeon wings. I don’t even complain about the diamond push-ups in boot camp anymore.

I’ve been lazy with my running program. I’d like to say I’ve been too busy with school (I just finished another 4.0 semester which brings me to 3.88GPA overall) but the truth is I’ve just been more interested in having a life. I’m going to try to get back on board with the running, but I won’t kick myself too hard if I don’t, since I’m still taking classes during the week.

My food intake has improved, but it’s not perfect. I do great on the days I’m at work, but on Thursday and the weekends I forget to eat, I sneak coffee in the afternoons, I don’t drink enough water, and I completely forget about my vitamins. I’m working on a solution for this… Probably making a week’s worth of meals on Sunday, so I have no excuses not to eat. But, at least on average, I’m meeting my calorie minimum every day!

All in all, I’m glad I’m back to my shiny, happy self. I’m determined to continue on my path of personal growth and, barring another extremely traumatic series of events, am hoping to avoid any more nervous breakdowns because it’s really not the preferred method of losing weight.

This post is my way of keeping me honest about my progress this far. Pictures might be added at a later date.

Magazines are Ruining Your Relationships! (a meandering and nearly unstructured musing on relationships.)

“Top 10 Tricks to Keep Your Relationship Strong!”

“Seven Secrets of Successful Couples Revealed.”

Get in line at the checkout of any store and these headlines pop out at you, challenging you to pick it up off the rack and add it to the cart full of stuff you probably don’t actually need. You thought you were happy with your relationship, but maybe those “successful couples” know something you don’t.

We’re cultivated from birth, in our culture of consumerism and vanity, to always look for the next best thing. Nothing is ever supposed to be good enough. There’s always a better version around the corner. And there are magazines, commercials, and all other forms of marketing there in the background whispering, always whispering, that you’re probably not as happy as you should be. With yourself, with your thighs, with your food, with your children, with your relationships; you don’t even realize it but as a woman everything about you is under a slow, steady, never-ending merchandising attack.

Stop at the magazine rack the next time you‘re at your local bookstore and note the difference in headlines. Ironically, the Men’s Magazines and the Women’s Magazines might feature a beautiful woman on the cover, but for completely different reasons. When was the last time you saw a Men’s Magazine that said “10 Sex Moves that Will Blow her Mind and Bind her Heart”? The sexism of the media and advertising has been much debated over the years but all you really have to do is walk through a store and pay attention to what lines the aisles; the differences between how things are labeled for men and women.

Cosmo Spoof

Women: Your wrinkles, laugh lines, cellulite, graying hair, dull uneven skin, lifeless or limp tresses, saggy arms (boobs, thighs, butt, whatever) are all HORRIBLE. You will hate yourself forever if you don’t fix them. Your children are not smart/cute/advanced/gifted/spoiled/organic/indulged/enlightened/etc.. enough and will grow up to be gang banging serial puppy murderers if you don’t catch up. Your relationship is NOT happy! You’re deluding yourself if you think it is.

Men: You need to increase your physical and sexual performance, take this supplement. Look at this half naked model on the cover; she likes puppies and her turnoffs are drama, carbs, and puffy-beer bellied men. You should work out more. You should also eat lots of meat, drink lots of beer, watch lots of sports, and be practically chained to your grill.

Yes, that was a very sexist view of the marketing strategies aimed at women and men and it represents just the two extreme sides but really… walk through a store and really look around. If you’re not offended, then I applaud you. Eventually, we’ll go into depth about the garbage that bombards women from the day they’re born and makes them so neurotic, but that day is not today.

Today I want to focus on relationships. Now, you might ask why I lead in to this subject the way I did and there are a couple of reasons for that.

1.)    American culture presents relationships and the associated value of said relationships differently to men and women.

2.)    Men and Women have been trained to view relationships differently.

3.)    There’s a good chance that something is sabotaging your relationship and you don’t even realize it.

4.)    It’s my blog and I can lead in to a topic any way I want. So Nyeh!

First, let’s get the obvious out of the way:

We’ve all be taught to look for the fairy tale. True, all consuming, match made in heaven, they lived happily ever after, love. The pieces will fall together perfectly and it will seem almost effortless. Even when you fight it will be (relatively) easily resolved. “I’m Sorry” always heals all wounds.

Wow! What a load of CRAP! You might find your perfect match and it might feel like that – for a little while. But all relationships eventually require work. They will not always be perfect. You will argue. You will fight. “I’m sorry” sometimes won’t count for shit.

Now we can move on to the real heart of the relationship issue:  

Women learn early that a relationship is essentially required in order for her to be complete. Men, however, are taught to be complete on their own. This isn’t anything new and really shouldn’t be surprising to anyone. But for some reason, I’m fairly sure I can hear the indignation of the women reading this right now.

“I don’t need a man to complete me!!!”

And you’re right. You don’t.

But, chances are, you’re still acting and thinking like you do. See, a woman secure in herself and her relationships reads that and thinks “That doesn’t apply to me.” She gives a little shrug and moves on to a different blog. She doesn’t get upset or defensive. She also doesn’t buy magazines because they have such enticing articles as”2012 – your astrological predictions for lasting love”.

If it makes you feel any better, I’m with you. I still get defensive; just not as often as I used to.

The more aware you are of yourself and your surroundings (including the little landmines that try to sabotage your relationship and self-esteem) the more you’ll be able to be like the confident woman who read that and clicked the little “x” on their browsers thinking “Wow, what a completely ridiculous thing to say. That blog totally doesn’t apply to me.”

The more aware you are, the more you’ll challenge the way you view things. Why do you think your wrinkles are ugly? Why do you think your cellulite makes you less attractive? Why do you think the stretch marks you gained while creating life are hideous? Where did you get the idea that you have to wait for someone to sweep you off your feet? Who do you think has the perfect life and why do you think so? How much airbrushing do you think that model needed?

You’ll challenge yourself so much, in fact, that you could end up viewing everything in your life differently. But you have to be willing to ask and answer the hard questions. You have to give up your current mindset (” This is wrong with me”) and adopt a new one (“this is right with me”).

In all relationships (friends, lovers, family, etc…) each person brings something to the table and needs something in return. Both parties come with baggage, surprises, and scars. But they also come with unique views and, hopefully, characteristics that can help you achieve a better personhood. See, a good partner won’t complete you (sorry, Jerry Maguire fans) but it should assist you in your personal evolvement. It should be something that you can grow with, something that gives you room to be yourself, helps you feel secure to become the person you’re supposed to be, and provides support, encouragement, and love in times of setbacks or frustration. Just don’t expect it to always be perfect. Because, there is no such thing as perfect. 

I’m not going to give you a list of the top ten things you should do to make your relationship better.

But I will tell you what I’ve observed Happy couples doing. I say happy as opposed to successful because… how do you judge success in a relationship? Longevity? A couple can be miserable but stay together for 60 years. So… let’s go with happy.

1.)    They respect each other: They might tease, joke, or play around. But they have a mutual respect for each other’s feelings, opinions, and input.

2.)    They feel secure together:  I think that a small degree of jealousy can be a good thing. You should feel protective of your relationship and partner because it holds high value to you. But at the same time, you should feel that your partner is as dedicated to your relationship as you are. You should feel completely secure in yourself and how your partner feels about you.

3.)    They’re open, honest, and accepting with each other: They have nothing to hide from each other, so nothing is hidden. They wouldn’t think twice about saying “Hon, there’s an email from my sister on my account with the address, would you mind printing it out while I finish getting ready?” They know how each other feel, they express their feelings without fear, and they’re not afraid to have detailed billing on their joint cell phone account. Usually, if someone acts like they have something to hide it’s because they’re hiding something.

4.)    They still say please and thank you to each other: In other words, they don’t take it for granted when their partner does something for them.

5.)    They’re still affectionate towards each other: even when the super passionate period cools off. Small touches, protective gestures, and loving body language are the little physical I love you’s that show in a happy couple.

6.)    They make decisions as a couple and keep each other informed: This goes hand in hand with respect. No one person has the full power to make all the decisions and no critical information is ever held back.

7.)    They have similar interests, opinions and hobbies, but they are not attached at the hip. They’re as comfortable doing their own thing as they are doing things together.

8.)    They’re both willing to work when things get difficult: It’s never a one sided relationship. No one wins, no one loses. They both win when they work things out.

9.)    The good is more valuable than the bad: These people place more value on the good times than they dwell on the bad times. The good things they share are worth more to them or are enough to make the bad times easier to get through/work out. They can go through a stretch of hell, when everything looks bleak, and it seems to last forever. But, no matter how bad it gets, they work through it together without forgetting how they feel about one another.

10.) They mean it when they say “I’m sorry” and they understand that forgiveness doesn’t come with a time-table. Little things are forgiven with a kiss while large ones are forgiven through mutual effort and willingness to forgive.

I’m sure there are many nuances to these happy relationships that I’ve missed. But those seem to be the common; underlying themes to every couple I know who is truly happy.

The world, your friends, the media, without even trying, is going to try to sabotage your happiness.  So I guess the only thing I’d add to this list is that when you feel angry, or hurt, or upset, or unhappy in your relationship; that you ask yourself “why” you feel that way and then answer honestly.  Is it a “toilet seat” issue? (the equivalent of being angry because you sat down on the cold, porcelain rim of the toilet or almost fell in – in other words, something you should let go of.)

Is it something that needs to be thought about further? Is it something that needs to be discussed?

You might learn something about yourself, what you expect/need from a relationship, and, at the very least, why you respond to things the way you do.

Do not let the media, society, your family, or even this blog tell you how to be happy. Question yourself and what you think you know. Next time you’re in a grocery line and you’re thinking you want to pick up a magazine, get the one with the collection of 30 minute meals. It’s less likely to make you dislike your body, your home, and your relationship.

And keep in mind that I’m divorced and currently single. So I probably know absolutely nothing about the actual practice of building a solid, lasting relationship. I can only try to interpret what I see, be happy with who I am, and try to implement it when I find a partner I feel is worth it (and me).

Oh, and I avoid magazines that have headlines that say “Top 10 Tricks to Keep Your Relationship Strong!. Really? 10 tricks to a strong relationship? Something about that just doesn’t sit right with me.

Assumptions

The next time someone assumes something about you that isn’t true:

Try to breathe. Take a step back. And remember not to assume something about them in return… (Mainly that they’re an a$$hole) because it’s counterproductive and only damages your own mental health. Remember: Keep Calm and Tread On.

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Judgement Day

Warrior DashJune 17th, 2012
Judgement Day: A day to push past my limits, cavort in the mud, and celebrate with a beer!
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