Fat Fridays: Week 16 Finding the New Normal

Here we are again, another week has zoomed past and I’m stopping to take some time to reflect on what theme stands out from this week. This week has been one of those weeks where I really questioned whether my diet is actually doing me any good. My weight loss seems to have slowed down. I have had a couple days where I’ve been really tired, two mornings where I’ve woken up with a really bad headache. My blood sugar has been dropping really low at unexpected times, where I find myself shaking and needing to eat immediately. And of course I blame it on my diet. I’m not getting enough protein, I’m missing out on some key nutrition, I’m doing this wrong somehow…

I was starting to feel really discouraged  two days ago and then I thought about it and got some perspective. First of all, not only do I have a giant diet-change going on, I also stopped nursing my toddler. Cold-turkey. He’s over 2 years old. I never meant to nurse him this long, it just kind of dragged out. He’s our last baby and I wasn’t in a hurry for him to grow up. But then the nursing was starting to get really annoying. He was getting up every night and then wanting to nurse and being whiny all day about it. I was complaining about it to my husband last Thurs and he said, You need to wean him! And I agreed. And we just stopped. One week later, he is sleeping through the night, has stopped pestering me all day and seems a lot happier. It was definitely the right time. But, as I have blamed my diet for making me feel weird this week, I conveniently forgot about the fact that my body is going through the shock of not nursing anymore. And it’s an even bigger shock because, aside from about 3 months back in 2010, I have been nursing or pregnant for 19 years straight. I think I need to have a little grace for this poor body as it tries to figure out what is going on and get adjusted.

The other thing to take into consideration is all the toxins in our environment. Toxins that get inside of us and then get stored in our fat cells. And then, when you lose weight, those toxins get released into your body. That might account for some of my headache days I’ve been having. I woke up with a headache this morning so I took some chlorella which helps flush your system of toxins, and drank a bunch of water and the headache eased off after about an hour.

I wish that I knew exactly what was going on inside my body since I’ve changed my diet. If some of you readers have articles to share that teach you exactly what is happening hormonally and on the cell-level when you change over to a vegan diet, I’d love to read them. Share a link in the comments. I have always been one of those people that need to know Why? Why do I have a headache? Why am I sick? What is going on exactly in my body? What is this medicine actually going to do inside of me to make me feel better? My mother is Physician Assistant, and I remember as a child, when I was sick, I always wanted in-depth explanations of what was going on in my body, and she was always willing to take the time to explain it to me. I still want that in-depth explanation.

In the end, I think this week has been about my body trying to find the new normal. My hormones trying to adjust to no longer supporting another life, me trying to figure out exactly what I need to eat, and how much in order to keep my blood sugar steady, my body trying to drop weight and having to deal with some negative side-effects from that. I think it’s going to take a while to find this new normal. But, knowing that I’m going through an adjustment period, instead of the diet failing me, helps me to not be discouraged. I’m not giving up! Onwards, towards the new normal!

Goals for this week: EXERCISE!! Since I’m using this blog as a sort of accountability, I will make myself confess that I, once again, did not exercise much this week. Aside from a walk to the park with a bunch of kids that involved me pushing a very heavy stroller up a very long, steep, hill…I have not exercised.  THIS IS GOING TO CHANGE!!! Cause it’s getting embarrassing to keep having to tell you guys that I didn’t exercise. That’s it. This is my only goal besides sticking to the diet. See you all next week!

Fat Fridays: Week 13 Eating to Live

Dr. Fuhrman wrote a book called “Eat to Live”. It’s a good book. I’ve always had a hard part with that “eating to live” thing though. What about birthday cake? And dessert? And donuts? And popcorn at the movies? And ice cream cones? What about eating for enjoyment? It’s a national pastime!

This past week has shown me how much “entertainment” eating that I do. When you are reduced to eating fruits and vegetables and nuts, some hidden habits start becoming very clear. At the beginning of this diet I bought a big bag of frozen berries to be my “treat” snack. I poured them into my pretty bowls and would pretend like I was indulging in the most decadent dessert, carefully eating one plump berry at a time. After a couple days I started getting tired of frozen berries. So I bought a different combination that had peaches and mangoes and grapes. That kept me happy for a couple more days and then my body just said, Enough with the frozen fruit already! I had been eating a bowl of frozen fruit in the evening when I typically would be eating a piece of chocolate or having a bowl of ice cream. Then, one evening came, and I was just tired of frozen fruit and I wracked my brain to think about what I should eat instead. As I was trying to think of something in the fruit and vegetable family that sounded appetizing, I realized that really, I wasn’t hungry. I had eaten a good filling supper and I didn’t need anything else.

This week has been about reaching for a habitual snack, remembering I can only eat fruits and vegetables, and then realizing that I’m really not hungry. I think I’ve actually started to “Eat to Live” instead of eating for entertainment, or to improve a bad mood, or calm down a temper tantrum, or all the other unhealthy reasons I was eating. A big part of this triumph has to do with the fact that fruits and vegetables do not give me the rush and feel-goodness that junk food and bread and processed meats like sausage and bacon do. I have read a bit about it and I know that there is science to back that up. Bread and processed meats actually have things in them that trigger your brain to be happy. It’s a drug. Really. I am realizing that without that drug, food has become a lot more about not-being-hungry than about seeking pleasure.

That’s not to say that eating a well-cooked vegetarian meal is not pleasurable, it just seems to be the kind of pleasure you can manage. You eat till you’re full and then you stop. That urge to eat just a little bit more isn’t near as strong with a vegetable bean soup as it is with a cheeseburger.

Well, I’ve finished two weeks on this vegan, grain-free diet. I have decided I’m going to give it three months before I start adding grain back into my diet. I feel like my body has only, in the last two days, started feeling adjusted to this new way of eating. I have not adapted quickly and easily. But, I can tell that I’m starting to lose some weight, so that’s encouraging. 🙂 I have the next size down in pants and I tried them on yesterday. If I really absolutely had wanted to button them, I could have. 🙂 I didn’t have any pressing reason to do that to myself, but I’m hopeful that these pants will fit me very soon!

Here’s the plan: stick to the diet and start trying to find some better recipes since I’ve had quite a few flops. An old back problem has limited my exercise this week, but I have stretches that are supposed to help that, so I will focus on getting my back in shape again so I can keep doing my elliptical. I’m also trying out a vegan shake for breakfasts. I’m not a big shake fan, but it seems really simple and full of lots of good nutrition. We’ll see how that goes. See you all next week!

Fat Fridays: Week 12 I’ve Survived the First Week!

Well, this has been an interesting week. Today completes day 7 of only eating fruits, vegetables and nuts. First, I have to say that in some ways, it was a lot easier than I thought it was going to be. I pictured myself watching my family eat meat and bread and me standing off to the side munching on a leaf of lettuce, disgruntled and fighting overwhelming cravings. It didn’t work out that way.

So, I’m going to break this down into Failures, Successes, and Challenges.

Failures

My first attempt at cooking vegan and grain free was a bit of a flop. I was trying to make some vegetable soup and I was kind of just tossing in whatever leftover vegetables I had in my fridge. I found a big bag of broccoli that was on it’s last leg and needed to be eaten immediately, so I chopped it up and threw it in the soup. Bad idea. The soup ended up tasting like slightly-off broccoli. My desire to not be wasteful had me eating it anyway. Not so fun. My other recipe fail was when I tried to cook a spaghetti sauce with chunks of butternut squash in it, but the butternut squash remained grainy and wouldn’t completely soften up no matter how long I cooked it (another situation where I had bought pre-cut butternut squash and I left it a bit too long in the fridge).

Also, not necessarily a failure, but I had a couple days where I was just in a really bad, spaced-out mood. Not a bad mood about the food, but just about life in general. It made me a not-nice person to be around. Sigh.

Successes

I  took a trip to Walmart and explored their frozen vegetable section. I found some pretty nice things. Like pasta made out of lentils and zuchinni and “riced” cauliflower with sweet potatoes which cooks up a lot like rice, and also frozen carrot spirals and frozen zuchinni spirals. Great finds.

My one recipe super-success that I plan to repeat was this. I fried (just a little coconut oil) some onions, garlic and fresh ginger. Then I added a bag of the riced cauliflower/sweet potatoes. When that looked like it was mostly cooked I added in a bag of pre-made coleslaw mix and some soy sauce. I mixed it up and then covered it and let it steam till the cabbage was soft. Then the final touch was to open up a can of black beans and pour it over the top. It was good, hearty, filling, and easy. I’ll probably make it more often.

I’m also trying to eat a handful of nuts every day. After multiple trips to the store where I kept forgetting to buy nuts, I finally bought four little bags of raw pecans and dumped them into a large bowl and covered them with salt water. The next day I drained the nuts, rinsed them a little bit and then laid them out on a cookie sheet. I put them in the oven on the lowest setting (my oven only goes down to 170 degrees) and left them overnight, about 12 hours. Voila, amazing nuts that don’t have any bitterness in them. (The person who taught me this also told me about all kinds of health benefits to this process, but I’ve forgotten those.) They’re very addicting. It’s a challenge to only eat a handful a day. When the pecans run out I’ll do walnuts.

pecans

My other success was that I didn’t cheat. And the biggest success was that I didn’t really feel like cheating (except when I was really hungry, then it was a bit tempting).

Challenges

I’ve started taking a bunch of supplements again: Vit B complex, Chlorella, probiotic, magnesium. I am always easily swayed by people’s varying reports on which supplements are necessary and which ones aren’t. Who to trust? Which ones to try?

I stopped exercising this week. I feel kind of like a juggler trying to keep a bunch of balls in the air. When I started this diet it was like my brain overloaded. WHOA! Way too many balls keep up in the air. I need to set one down. So, now I’ve got to get exercise going again.

Also, eating this way is all about being prepared. It’s not like you can stop at McDonalds and find a sugar-free, dairy-free, meat-free, grain-free meal. And there’s not too many restaurants where that will be easy either. Since the only time I contemplate cheating even a little is when I’m really hungry, being prepared is going to be important.

I haven’t noticed any weight loss so I hope that starts happening soon. If it doesn’t, I’m probably going to get discouraged. Also waiting for my moods to even out, that needs to happen soon too!

So, the plan is to continue with the diet this week and try to get exercising every day again.

See you all later!

Fat Fridays: Week 10 If At First You Don’t Succeed…

Here we are in week 10. I’ve had my first real setback this week. I haven’t exercised in two days, I came off of 9 days without sugar and blew it with pancakes and syrup yesterday and then donuts this morning. I’m finding that my setbacks are really tied to my bouts of depression. I hit a real low this week and I find that trying to keep myself moving and keep doing the right thing is really difficult when I’m feeling so low I don’t want to move.

Frankly, I’m getting pretty tired of this depression. A while back I went through about two years of deep depression. Now it’s every month I just have a couple days when it’s hard to cope. The problem is that while I’m in the midst of it, I feel like it’s all my fault. I am a horrible person. I’m a failure. I’m lazy. And then slowly the fog lifts and I get back to normal and I realize that I had been fighting off depression like it was a giant cloud that had settled around my body. This seems to be a cyclic thing. Some new, bizarre form of PMS? I don’t know. I think I’m going to start keeping a simple diary and see if I can track a pattern of which days I feel depressed, see if if there is any rhyme or reason to it.

I am at the point where I’m ready to start researching diets that lift depression. Right now if someone told me that eating a Keto diet (my personal version of hell) would take away my depression, I would be like, OK, sign me up.

So, here I am. I’ve been doing really well these past 10 weeks. Exercising, being more thoughtful about what I eat, trying to significantly reduce sugar. And then I fall off the wagon. This is where the real challenge lies. What am I going to do about it? Am I going to shrug my shoulders and think, Well, I’ve never been able to do anything long-term, might as well just give up and have a nice binge. Or am I going to accept the fact that this is how life works. It’s impossible to be “good” all the time. You mess up. Acknowledge it and then get back to work. Start exercising again. Cut back on the sugar again. Try to be mindful of what and why you are eating again.

I need to give myself this pep talk. You are not perfect Esther. No one expects you to be perfect all the time. One mistake does not make you a failure. You can do this. Have grace for yourself.  Don’t give up. Try again.

So, this is the plan for this week. Research diet and depression. Stop beating myself up for falling off the wagon. Climb back up onto the wagon. Keep going. And remember to be kind to myself.

Here’s to Trying Again.

Fat Fridays: Week 8 There’s a Place for Law

I read a book recently, “A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Rooftop, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband Master” by Rachel Held Evans. It’s a good book. She explores the whole idea of what does it mean to be a biblical woman, and in the process points out how we tend to pick and choose which “biblical womanhood” principles that we like. In the book she set out different tasks to achieve each month. One of those tasks was to observe an orthodox Sabbath day. At the end of a very peaceful day where she found herself truly at rest, she observes,

“I knew in a way that I hadn’t known before that we had created a false dichotomy, that sometimes the law is grace.”

That statement has stayed with me. We talk about law versus grace, always coming down on the side of grace, but, as Ms Evans observed, following the law can be a form of grace. I have noticed this in the realm of exercise. I set myself a law: no reading unless you are on the elliptical. I love reading so I got on the elliptical a lot. I am now doing thirty minutes to an hour every day on the elliptical. It’s become a habit. But it’s also become a source of dealing with bad moods, irritation, lethargy. I notice I’m feeling bad and so I go get on the elliptical. I have fallen in love with exercise and all the benefits it gives me. I’ve relaxed the “read only on the elliptical” law because I no longer need it. I now want to exercise.

I have also been thinking about this in terms of food. I have already come to the conclusion that I’m not going to do well living in a rigid, highly structured “diet” plan. It goes against my personality, it sets me up for a big crash. But, there is a place for discipline, “law”. I have a very real sugar addiction. It is my go-to, feel-good, substance of choice. Feeling irritated? Eat chocolate. Feeling angry? Go buy a donut. Wanting to celebrate? Eat ice cream. I was kind of hoping that as I adopted a healthier lifestyle that I would just naturally reduce my sugar intake. So far that hasn’t happened. I am realizing that in order to eat less sugar I’m going to have to put down some heavy Law in my life and fast from sugar for a while. I do not want to make a statement that from this day forward I will no longer eat sugar. I can’t do it. I don’t want to do it. But, I think I’m going to have to take a break from it so that I can get rid of the addiction and form a bit healthier relationship with the substance. It’s really hard to gradually reduce your intake when you are dealing with addiction. I have found in the past that if I could completely go off sugar for a week, sugar lost it’s hold on me. I no longer had this daily craving to go eat something sweet. Fruit started tasting sweet and satisfying again.

So, this is my goal. Fast sugar for a week. Break the addiction. Start treating sugar as an occasional treat instead of a daily need. I’ll let you all know how it goes. Of course, I’m not starting today. My husband gave me box of chocolates for Valentines Day. When those are all gone, then I’ll start. 🙂

Fat Fridays: Week 6 Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day

I’m on Week 6. You would think that by now I’d be able to report some magnificent number of pounds that I have lost. Except that wasn’t my goal. When I first started thinking of losing weight I started clicking around on the internet and found all kinds of weight loss programs that promised wonderful things like, “LOSE 20 POUNDS IN 10 DAYS!” or “LOSE 60 POUNDS WITHOUT CHANGING YOUR DIET!” or “JUST TAKE THIS LITTLE PILL AND YOU WILL INSTANTLY LOSE 5 POUNDS!” Kind of like Get Rich Quick schemes. One particularly well-written advertisement promised I’d lose 20 pounds in one month just by following their very simple meal plan. I went and checked out the meal plan. It had charts and stars and complex computing systems. And the recipes had exotic ingredients and were the type of food that my family would never eat. Good grief.

These lose-weight-fast programs have a lot of appeal. You look at yourself in the mirror and you feel almost panicky. Like, I’ve got to lose this weight RIGHT NOW. Also, if you are going through all the sacrifice to start exercising and stop eating all the food that you like, you feel like you need some compensation. By Golly, if I’m going to suffer I better see some results, RIGHT NOW!

Well, I’ve tried those diets before. I never stuck them out very long. I think the most dramatic weight loss I ever had was 10 pounds in one week. I didn’t keep it off though. I eventually found the diet plan to be very burdensome and irritating and gave it up and gained back 10 pounds shortly afterwards.

So, I’m trying something different. I’m trying to get to the root of why I’m overweight and start addressing those issues and start making small daily choices that will put me on the road to better health.

It’s hard to track progress when you’re doing this, but I’m going to try. First thing is that I’ve started exercising. Instead of sitting in a chair reading my book I have made myself read my book while doing my elliptical machine. I am now doing 30 minutes to an hour every day on my elliptical and lots of stretching  afterwards. I am starting to get addicted to it. I feel grumpy and irritated and so I get on the elliptical and 30 minutes later I feel relaxed and happy. I’ve been doing this for close to 2 weeks now and it’s starting to become a habit.

As far as eating is concerned, I’ve started getting more organized with meal planning. My husband gets paid every 2 weeks and so I started planning out 2 week menus and doing one big 2 week grocery shopping.  I still have to go back to the store to restock fruit and bread and milk, but everything else is bought. This has helped reduce greatly the number of times I run out for pizza or McDonalds simply because I’m not prepared to cook a meal. I just wrote out my next 2 week menu and this time I made sure that all the meals had lots of vegetables and lean meat and healthier carbs. Of course, I’m still going to have to learn how to eat the right portions and how to stop the excessive snacking, and not eating my kid’s cereal…But, it’s progress.

Last night my husband and I had a date night. My husband loves ice cream and so we stopped at the store on the way home and each bought ourselves a pint of ice cream. We got home and it was late and we collapsed on the couch by the fire. I had stuck the ice cream in the freezer when we got home, uncertain if all my littles were asleep yet and not wanting to be caught red-handed holding ice cream if they came downstairs to find Mama. As we sat on the couch I thought about the ice cream in the freezer. I thought about how I felt and realized that I was still full from supper and really didn’t need to eat anything. And so I didn’t. I just left the ice cream in the freezer. For me, that’s really big progress.

Gradual progress. One small change at a time. One good decision at a time. The hope is that one day, I’ll look in the mirror and realize that I look I different. I feel different. And it all came about one small step at a time.

Elliptical Machines and the Kindle App

About two years ago our family got a membership at the YMCA. It was during a time when I was really struggling with depression. The gym became a life-saver for me. It was only a five minute drive away. I would tell my older kids they were babysitting, drive down to the gym, get on the elliptical machine for 30 minutes then quickly come back home, usually only being gone for 45 minutes. I felt better from the exercise and from having a short break from the house. I went as much as six times a week, usually no less than four.

Well, after we decided to stop homeschooling and my kids started going to public school, I no longer had a “big kid” to babysit, which meant I had to load up my little ones (there were three at home at the time) and take them to the gym with me and leave them at the daycare room. My trips to the gym now became long, drawn-out hassles that involved dressing little children, finding missing shoes, loading kids in and out of car seats, and then abandoning screaming children to a daycare worker. Just so I could get a 30 minutes workout. My trips to the gym quickly decreased. We were also still getting accustomed to everyone being gone all day at school and by the time the kids got home and I had a babysitter available again, I did not want to leave them to go do my own thing. I started only going on weekends. This past summer I finally pointed out to my husband that we simply were not using the gym to its full potential anymore and should probably cancel our membership. He asked me when I was going to exercise and I said something like, I’ll take a walk, or get a video workout or something.

So, around the time of my birthday, this fall, my husband informed me that he was going to buy me an elliptical machine with his bonus he had received. WOW! I was surprised, excited, and a little nervous. Elliptical machines have been my go-to because they have been the only form of exercise that has worked consistently with my various back problems. Having my very own at home would be a dream come true. Having my husband fork out a chunk of money so that I can exercise at home felt a little more dangerous. Especially when he calculated the cost of the machine (we found one on sale!) versus the cost of a gym membership and said I would need to exercise diligently for two years before having a machine at home could be considered cheaper than the gym. Yikes. To say I felt a bit of pressure to use my new machine would be putting it lightly.  

I am proud to say that I have, until Christmas time, been very faithful with using my machine. Christmas really threw me off, but I started back yesterday and I feel a renewed desire to keep exercising. Since I am not a particularly athletic or disciplined person, you may be surprised at this. So, here’s my little secret. I read when I exercise. I have a kindle app on my phone and I have a book at the ready, put it on the little shelf and just incorporate finger swipes to turn the page as part of my exercise routine. This is proof that if I am reading I can endure almost anything. The nice part about reading is if you get to a particularly intense part of the story, you automatically speed up and get an even better workout! 🙂 I guess this probably points to the fact that I am a bookworm, have been since second grade, and probably will be all my life. I average 4 books a week. Sometimes more. Rarely less. The library and I are good friends. All this to say, it is very exciting to find out I can make exercise (which can be boring!) into a time when I can read a book without any guilt. Long live elliptical machines, and long live the kindle app!

(Ok, I’m aware that people often watch TV or listen to podcasts while working out. I have found that I really don’t enjoy TV much, it doesn’t hold my attention, and I am not an auditory kind of person, so listening to someone speak into my ears through headphones is kind of stressful for me.) (Yes. I’m weird.)(Maybe there are more weird people out there like me though, so I’m sharing this amazing discovery with them!) (Ok, I also understand this is not exercise-guru type advice, I know, I need to do some other types of exercise as well, but, hey, something is better than nothing!)(I love parenthesis, they are so handy!) (And fun.) (I might just possibly over-use them.) (Maybe.) (Perhaps I should take a poll.)