A Life Change, Part One

 

I’ve posted in the past about doing a juice cleanse to get healthy.

I’ve posted weekly updates about exercise and motivation and the avoidance of sugar.

I’ve posted about our family’s adventures in trying a Paleo diet.

In all of these posts, there was a tale of moderate success to be told.  I even described myself as a “big fan of healthy living” in my About Me.

But all of these things came to an end in one way or another.  Juicing felt great at first, and it was a good way to jump start better eating habits.  But, honestly, slamming your body with that much sugar, albeit natural sugar, had its ups and downs.  I was cranky and hungry a lot. WE were hangry people.  And being hangry is not a great way to sustain a healthy lifestyle.  Exercise was fine, when I could manage to fit it in somehow.  I tried to do home video workouts and attempted to go running early in the morning when I could.  The video workouts were not very motivating for me, and it was difficult to keep kids at bay while I did them.  I was constantly interrupted or worse, observed entirely too closely, and the workouts became a thing of the past.  Running, well, it just wasn’t for me.  I trained for a 5K and successfully did it; then I lost interest.  Also, PNW winters are no fun for running.  I admire people who do it, but I am just not one of those people.  The Paleo experiment was interesting.  It was difficult to get the family on board, and it was expensive to be eating that much protein all the time.  We did it exclusively for almost three months and then gradually added back in some dairy and some grains.  Paleo was helpful for figuring out some of my body issues, but for our family personally, it was not sustainable for a long time.  We do tend to have meals that are Paleo at least a few times a week, but the rest of the time, we are enjoying brown rice or whole-wheat pasta or roasted potatoes with our proteins and veggies.

Around Thanksgiving time last year, I made an unconscious decision to stop trying.  I wasn’t exercising at all or even attempting to be active beyond what was required of me in my daily life.  I stopped caring so much about what went into our daily meals and snacks.  Delicious homemade meals with extra helpings for all became normal.  I started drinking soda again – sometimes two or three in one day.  I thought nothing of having a venti sugary Starbucks drink and then having a dessert after dinner on the same day.  At Christmas time, my in-laws gave me some money for a gift, and I used it to get myself some new jeans.  Bigger jeans.  A size I had never worn before.  That should have been a wake-up call right there, but I continued right along in my apathetic ways.  I stopped planning meals and fast food sneaked in more and more.  The kids would ask me to come out and jump on the trampoline, but I always had an excuse not to.  They stopped asking.  I would sit inside at the dining room table, folding laundry while watching them through the window.

My clothes got tighter.  I would sit slightly hunched over at church or in other public places so my belly wouldn’t stick out so much.  Still, I could not seem to find motivation to change, to stop this indifferent lifestyle.  I was miserable all the time.  I was exhausted all the time.

One day, I went into the bathroom and took a good long look in the mirror.  I didn’t like the person I saw there.  It was not even about the weight gain, the protruding stomach, the flabby arms, and the round face.  I didn’t like the person inside of me.  Why couldn’t I have any self-discipline in this area of my life?  Why was I willing to throw in the towel so easily?  Why couldn’t I commit to something and stick to it?  The deeper questions came next.  Why do I care so little about myself?  What is it about me that is unworthy of change?

Facing these questions about yourself is hard.  I knew I could go to the computer and google “getting healthy” or “losing weight” and find hundreds of plans for doing so.  But I didn’t need a plan.  In that bathroom that day, I realized I needed a heart change.  The diet books and the exercise videos were not going to help me with that.

Paleo Kids

DSC_0047So we plunged headlong into eating Paleo that Monday.  Surprisingly, for myself and Chris, it was not too difficult a transition.  We didn’t have any grains or dairy around to tempt us; we just ate what we had at home.  Plus, I had drawn up the detailed meal plan for the week which pretty much mapped out everything we would be eating and when we would be eating it.  Well, this is going better than I envisioned, I thought to myself.

Enter the children.  Children who have been used to bowls of cereal with milk and peanut butter toast for breakfast.  Children who voraciously ate string cheese and crackers and pretzels and popcorn for snacks.  Children whose favorite dinners involved fluffy pancakes or creamy macaroni and cheese.  Yes, the transition for these children was not going to be easy.

The kids ate the eggs I made for breakfast and snacked on fruit and veggies throughout the morning.  There was no shortage of questions asking when will we be able to eat crackers again and what’s wrong with cereal anyway and seriously can we just have some cheese, Mom?  It was a little discouraging, but I had to remind myself that this was a big change for them and that it would take time.

Also, I had to immediately google “helping kids transition to paleo” as everyone knows that Google has the answers to everything.  If that didn’t work, we were all going to run outside to the backyard and jump on the trampoline while I figured out what in the world we were going to do next.  Thankfully, Google pulled through.  With articles like this one on Paleo Leap and this one by Sarah Fragoso of Everyday Paleo, I quickly learned that it was advised NOT to take it all away at once but rather ease them into it a little at a time.  Oops.  I had already packed up all the non-Paleo food and given it away.  No, the little minions reminded me.  There’s still a bunch of string cheese from Costco in the fridge.  Well then, it was string cheeses all around and everyone looked a little relieved and dare I say it, happy.

Another helpful suggestion was to try to make their favorite foods, only Paleo-style.  Apparently there are recipes for Paleo chicken nuggets and Paleo pancakes and Paleo waffles and Paleo crackers and pretty much anything your child could ever want.  I immediately made a Pinterest board for all the recipes that sounded like my kids might actually eat them.  I decided to work on finding a good Paleo pancake recipe first.  We tried a few different recipes throughout the week, none of which were favorably received.  Finally, I tried Sarah Fragoso’s Paleo Pal Pancakes.  Although Gabi proclaimed them “still not as good as the ones you used to make”, all the kids enthusiastically ate theirs and asked for seconds.  That’s a win in my book.

And speaking of books, I found that recipe by googling “books about Paleo for kids” and discovering that Sarah Fragoso had written a children’s book about Paleo a few years ago called Jimmy and the Carrot Rocket Ship.  A quick check at our local library later that day led to us bringing the book home as well as Sarah’s Paleo family cookbook.  The kids read and re-read the book.  They pored over the recipes in the back and begged to try several of them.  It was a cute way for them to learn a little more about the “whys” of eating Paleo.

Next,  I figured if they were helping me in the kitchen more, they might actually be more inclined to try the food we made.  I promised that there would be lots of knife action, and all the kids clamored to be the first to help.  We made a schedule – Gabi helps me Monday nights, David Tuesdays, Michael Wednesdays, and Hosanna Thursdays.  There is a lot of fervent vegetable chopping and meat sizzling going on around here.  I give them my meal plan but allow them to make some changes if they want (for example, switch out the carrots for green beans or mash the cauliflower instead of roasting it.)  Not only are they learning valuable kitchen skills (hello homeschooling!), but they are eager to try new things.

Each day, I saw a little more of the resistance fade away.  I’ve tried to make special treats too to make this whole thing a little easier.  One favorite is Kitchen Stewardship’s Easy Grain-free Coconut Muffins.  It’s easy to whip up a batch of these to take to Grandma’s or have with some fruit after dinner.  But the family’s favorite Paleo treat so far?  Grain-free chocolate chip cookie bars.  You can find the recipe here on Tasty Yummies.  They are incredibly fluffy, not too sweet, and just perfect for a tasty snack.

The last thing I did to help the kids embrace Paleo a little more was open the kitchen.  In our dining room, I have a long buffet table that holds baskets of bananas, apples, oranges, pears, and tomatoes.  In the cabinets, the kids can find containers full of cashews and almonds, a bag of pumpkin seeds, a bag of raisins, and some beef jerky.  In the fridge, I always have a dozen or so hard-boiled eggs, baby carrots, sliced cucumbers, celery sticks, leftover meat, nitrate-free lunch meat, grapes, and sometimes berries.  I told the kids with great fanfare that they would no longer have to ask me for a snack.  If they were hungry, they could help themselves to any of these foods at any time.  My oldest is especially happy about this change.  She really thinks about the choices she’s making, and just the other day I saw her put a banana back and choose carrot sticks instead while she worked on an art project.

So no more pouting.  We are a Paleo family!

The Starting Line

Our family had a new mission: start this Paleo lifestyle together and stick it out for thirty days at least to see if it would help our health and well-being.  (What’s Paleo?  Why are we embarking on this journey as a family?  Read this post to catch up.)

I knew that in order for this mission to work, we had to be organized and have a plan. We had to be fully committed.  We had to figure out how on earth we were going to get the kids on board with this. 🙂  So, for our first week of going Paleo, we decided to just focus on the food changes.  Proper sleep and exercise would come in time, but it would be too overwhelming to conquer it all at once.  I wrote out a detailed meal plan for the week, including breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks.  I tried to incorporate the leftovers of the previous night’s dinner into either breakfast or lunch the next day, as eating so much protein would definitely be expensive and I wanted to make sure we utilized every bit.  For example, Monday night’s dinner was hamburgers in lettuce wraps with roasted green beans. Then, Tuesday’s breakfast consisted of a fried egg over leftover hamburger with nuts and a little fruit.  After writing up the meal plan, I made a list of all the ingredients for a shopping list and added things like fish oil supplements and magnesium capsules.

I headed to Costco first to get the majority of the groceries we needed.  Due to financial constraints, we decided at this time to forgo grass-fed beef and just make do with the best meat we could afford.  After Costco, I went to Fred Meyer to get the remaining ingredients on my list.  Here’s a little breakdown of the foods I bought to start off our Paleo adventure.  The fruits I purchased were bananas, clementines, grapes, strawberries, and blueberries. (We already had apples at home.)  The vegetables I chose were kale, spinach, romaine lettuce, cauliflower, grape tomatoes, green beans, bell peppers, broccoli, asparagus, zucchini, onions, and spaghetti squash.  Proteins would be very important in this new diet; so 10 dozen eggs, lean ground beef, 10 pounds of chicken breasts, sirloin steak, nitrate-free applewood ham, and nitrate-free herbed turkey made their way into the cart.  For healthy fats, I bought macadamia nuts, olive oil, coconut oil, almonds, avocadoes, and pumpkin seeds.  Other items on the list were organic marinara sauce (from Costco). fish oil supplements, magnesium capsules, and salsa.  The total cost for all of this was $322.64.  Gulp!  I had to remind myself that a lot of the stuff I bought would last much longer than one week.  The olive oil and unrefined coconut oil was bought in bulk, as I knew we would use it frequently.  Of course, the supplements would last for quite a while.

When I got back home and put away and organized all the new groceries (hello, workout!), I faced the task of purging the pantry and fridge of non-Paleo foods.  Things like oatmeal, granola bars, and canned soups were boxed up to give to others.  I wanted to be sure that there was no way I could cave to the kids’ begging that was sure to come that week.  That night, we kicked off the week with a celebratory dinner of grilled steaks and tossed salad.  We briefly explained the coming changes to the kids and told them that they would be “mostly-paleo.”  For us, this meant that when the kids were invited to parties or friends’ homes or even out to eat at a restaurant, they would be able to eat whatever they wanted and not worry about it being Paleo.  Chris and I however were going to stick to eating strictly Paleo.

The last thing we did before going to bed that night was to measure and record our starting weights, waist size, and hip sizes.  Chris and I took pictures of each other as our “before” shots, hoping to document a very visible physical change.  Our Paleo journey had begun.

A Dinosaur of a Solution

bookimage(See yesterday’s post for the first part of this series)

My mother-in-law gave me The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet by Robb Wolf to read first.  I put it aside for a few days, reluctant to start reading what seemed to be a very scientific book.  Then a heat wave hit, and the kids wanted to be in the pool practically every second of the day.  I had to be out there with them; so The Paleo Solution became my poolside read.  I will admit that I skipped a few chapters here and there because they were too “sciency” (ha! new word!) and because I just didn’t want to focus that hard.  However, the rest of the book surprisingly made a lot of sense.  Basically, the Paleo lifestyle entails what the author believes our ancestors, or cavemen, followed.  Although I am a firm believer in God creating the universe and all that is in it, therefore denying the existence of “cavemen”, I do get the gist that this diet, or lifestyle, would have most likely been prevalent for Adam and Eve and subsequent generations after the fall of man.  A Paleo lifestyle consists of three components: food, fitness, and sleep.  When these three components are followed within Paleo guidelines, physical health should improve, weight will be lost, and athletic performance will be increased.  Here’s a closer look at these three components.

1.  Food.  Well, what food would have our early ancestors eaten?  Certainly nothing processed and nothing that would have taken too much effort to make.  From these concepts, the Paleo foods are derived:  an abundance of fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, nuts, eggs, healthy fats such as coconut oil and olive oil, beef, chicken, bacon, pork, shrimp, and fish.  Foods not allowed on the Paleo diet are cereal grains, legumes such as beans and peanuts, refined sugars, dairy products, potatoes, processed foods, and vegetable oils.  Why would someone want to avoid grains, legumes, and dairy?  Well, I would encourage you to read Robb Wolf’s book yourself to get into all the technical terms; but to put it simply, these three groups of foods are really all in the same category.  They contain proteins that irritate the gut.  They can cause a lot of issues in people with automimmune diseases.  Because they damage the gut lining, your body does not absorb nutrients correctly.  Grains and dairy also affect the gall bladder, causing your body to misuse vitamins.  Basically, these foods strip down your gut lining and other organs, leaving you wide open for a host of diseases and even cancer.

2.  Fitness.  The first people to live on this earth did not sit at a desk staring at a computer all day.  Adam himself was cursed to a lifetime of working the fields by the sweat of his brow when he disobeyed God’s command in the garden of Eden.  People back in those days did a lot of running, carrying, building, digging, hunting, climbing, gathering, etc.  Daily exercise was a natural part of their lives.  And while many people today exercise to lose weight or stay fit, the truth is “If you do not exercise, you are broken.” (The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet by Robb Wolf, p. 145.) Basically, in order to be complete, a person following the Paleo lifestyle should do enough physical exercise to build some muscle, keep that muscle, and strengthen bones.  This exercise would not be cardiovascular in nature, but rather would focus on strength, mobility, flexibility, power, and endurance.  Thus the Paleo lifestyle emphasizes circuit training, also known as interval training.  Robb’s book offers a plethora of exercises to try, and there are many websites devoted to Paleo fitness and exercise as well.

3.  Sleep.  Again, going back to the first people on this earth, it is unlikely that any of them were “night-owls.”  You wouldn’t have found a person then that stayed up way into the wee morning hours working on a project and then rising early to a loud alarm clock, chugging coffee or some other source of caffeine to make it through the day.  No, these people went to bed when the sun went down and got up when the sun rose.  They didn’t need alarm clocks – their bodies were naturally well-rested and would give themselves a “wake-up call.”  Subscribers to the Paleo way of life make sure that they get a good amount of quality sleep every night (Wolf’s book suggests at least nine hours!) They get this sleep by sticking to a strict bedtime, making sure their bedroom is completely dark, and avoiding stimulants such as coffee in the afternoon and evening.

After reading Wolf’s book (and then going back later to wade through the more technical chapters), I was mostly convinced.  I still had some questions.  Won’t I be hungry a lot without grains and dairy to fill me up?  Is this some crazy diet that is actually going to mess with my body?  Won’t all that meat and produce be expensive?  So I hit the internet, found lots of information that settled my fears and misgivings, and encouraged me that this could be the solution our family was looking for.  (Here’s an easy post to read about the top five misgivings people have about Paleo).

Okay.  The husband and I discussed it at length and decided that we were going to give this Paleo thing a try for at least thirty days.  We planned on Monday, July 21, being the first day of this new lifestyle.

(My next post will detail how we planned to do Paleo as a family and the costs involved.)

 

 

 

The Search for a Solution

A little over a year ago, I blogged about my husband and I doing a juice fast that extended over a few weeks.  It was extremely helpful in clearing out all the toxins that had been building up in our bodies and in giving us a good jumpstart into a much healthier lifestyle.  And for a while we rode that healthy train, eagerly eating the fresh fruits and veggies that were so readily available in the summer and early fall months.  Come winter time, our motivation began to slide.  Exercise fell to the wayside in the cold rainy months of December and January, and the good eating habits quickly followed.  I soon found myself drinking sugary coffee drinks and soda on a regular basis again.  I put absolutely no thought into what was going into my body.  We frequented fast food places and indulged in desserts daily.

In May, Chris was informed by his job that he would traveling to China for ten days for a work convention.  He panicked, knowing that he had gained quite a bit a weight in the last few months.  Not wanting to be the “big guy” on the long plane flight there, he started making immediate changes to the way he ate.  He joined a gym and played racquetball a few times per week.  Inspired by his changes, I stepped on the scale and was shocked to find that I was heavier than I had ever been before.  I joined my husband in his efforts to eat healthier and exercise more.  After he returned from China, we went on another juice fast to hopefully help kickstart more weight loss.  Then we started watching pretty carefully what we were eating – whole grains, good dairy, fresh vegetables, fruits, etc.  Occasionally we allowed ourselves a “treat” by getting fast food or having a dish of ice cream.  I watched the scale and was frustrated that the pounds didn’t seem to budge.  Even worse, I was having daily digestive issues, exhaustion, and brain fatigue.  I couldn’t figure out why I was experiencing all these health problems when I was doing my best to eat better.

Something had to change.  But what?  I researched online and read health books.  Everything seemed to point in the direction I was already facing.  One day I poured out my frustrations to my mother-in-law.  She related to me that a few weeks ago she had gone to see a naturopathic doctor with her husband to help him with his physical ailments, some of which were the same as mine.  The doctor had put them both on a Paleo diet for fifteen days.  Within a few days of starting this new way of eating, they both felt so clear-headed and energetic.  As they progressed, physical issues like extreme tiredness and digestive problems resolved themselves, and the weight was just dropping off.  After the fifteen days were up, they continued eating a mostly-Paleo diet with very favorable results.  I was impressed, interested, and. . . skeptical.  How could not eating whole grains and dairy be healthy?  Wouldn’t there be missing nutrients and vitamins?  Wouldn’t you feel hungry all the time?

I guess I had a lot of questions.  And when you have a lot of questions, there is only one thing to do.  Find the answers!

Intentional

DSC_0038-001A lot of living and a lot of loving have happened since I last posted.  It was a season in which far too many things took priority over this blog, and I don’t regret giving in to those things one bit.  It’s all part of the ebb and flow of life.  Now, I’ve reached a time when blogging and sharing my ideas and thoughts is once again a very possible part of my schedule, and I’m thrilled to be back.

I realize that I left off my My Journey to Freedom series right in the middle.  I fully intend on completing that series soon.  Since I posted the third installment of the series, God has led me even deeper into that journey of faith.  I absolutely would not have chosen the path He picked, but I am walking it still and am glad for the strength He gives each day.

On my old blog Temporary Insanity – Permanent Joy, I started off 2013 with a ridiculous and copious list of new year’s resolutions that with my absurd confidence I posted for all the world to see.  I read that list recently and just shook my head at the enormity of things I had hoped to accomplish in a single year.  With the wisdom that is gained through personal failure, I entered 2014 with a completely different outlook.  Instead of a long list of impossible resolutions, I decided to focus on a single word for this year.  I know it’s not a new idea – I admit that I stole it from oh, just a whole lot of other bloggers I read.  But the idea of a single word propelling some changes and opportunities for growth this year was very appealing.  And so, after a lot of prayer, I chose the word intentional.

I am not by nature a very organized person.  I often have the best of intentions and then fail to follow through.  This year, I will be putting this word intentional in a prominent place to remind me to live more deliberately.  In my marriage, I want to be consciously putting forth more of an effort to grow and strengthen our love and to be fully present even when he is trying unsuccessfully to get me excited about some computer concept.  With my children, I want to make the most of each moment I have with them, and that means purposeful planning ahead and working diligently to get individual time with each child.  In homeschooling, I want to stop avoiding the direction I know we need to take just because it will require more work and planning. (more about that in another post.)  And in my relationship with Jesus Christ, I want to be more deliberate in pursuing Him and in facing those areas of my life that need to be changed.  As far as my health is concerned, I need to be more intentional about the food I eat and the physical activity I do.

So that’s it.  I guess I am hoping to be a lot more intentional about blogging as well.  Come back soon for the final post in my Journey to Freedom series.

Health and Fitness Update

sweat

You may be wondering what is going on in the health and fitness department around here, as I haven’t posted about my progress or lack thereof for a few weeks now.  The last time I posted, I was still juicing a few times a day, working out every day, and making a goal to get to bed at a decent time.

Right.  So, here’s the thing.  I am still juicing twice a day.  I have a green juice every morning and a carrot/tomato/celery juice in the afternoon.  I have, for the most part, been eating healthy lunches and dinners full of veggies and protein.  However, a cup of coffee or two has been sneaking its way back into my diet.  I drink it black, making it pretty much calorie free, but I was amazed at how quickly my body slipped back into “needing” coffee.  My head tells me that the juices and healthy diet should be enough for energy, but past, well-ingrained habits say otherwise.  I had my last cup of coffee this morning and put the Keurig machine away.  I have also found the “need” for desserts arising more frequently, especially at night time.  It started a few weekends ago, when my husband and I decided to go on an impromptu overnight trip to the coast for our ninth anniversary.  As we drove out to Cannon Beach that Friday afternoon, we decided that we weren’t going to stick to eating healthy while on our little trip.  I figured a few sweets and happy drinks wouldn’t hurt anything.  After dinner at a fabulous seafood restaurant there, we strolled the boardwalk and ended up inside the candy store.  Every time I’ve been to the coast, I always get myself a few pieces of sea foam candy as a treat.  If you’re not familiar, sea foam is made by boiling water, vinegar, sugar, and corn syrup together and then adding baking soda to make it light and airy.  Of course, it is also dipped in a chocolate coating.  Anyway, we purchased the sea foam and some cheesecake pops and quite a bit of salt water taffy in an alarming array of neon colors.  Back at the resort, Chris brought out some ingredients he had packed to make some celebratory drinks, and between those sugary beverages and the candy, we thought we had it made.  Not so much – the candy tasted gross (hello, artificial everything – hadn’t tasted you in a long time!) and the drinks made me sick.  The next day, we raided the local grocery store to buy some green juice to help us feel better on the road.

You would think that would have cured me of sweets for a while.  But the taste of sugar fueled my desire for more.  Over the next two weeks, I found myself making lots of excuses to have a sweet treat here or there.  They were all-natural, homemade desserts, but the point is that they were not in moderation.  At all.  And today I find myself desiring something sweet again and telling myself the handful of raspberries and almonds for a snack is enough.  I know it will be difficult to train myself away from those sugar cravings again.

As for exercise, I have been doing pretty well in regards to actually doing it.  I turn on the Wii almost every day and sweat my way through increasingly harder workouts.  I also have been making more of an effort to “exercise” with the kids – running around the yard, dancing in the living room, etc.  Still, when I honestly looked at what I’ve been doing the past couple of weeks, I realized that I am not good at pushing myself.  I do just enough to get through the workout and check off my exercise box for the day, but I don’t try to see if I can get through two workouts or if I can push myself deeper with every squat and lunge.  I don’t run a few laps and then push myself to run more when my body says no.  I do what feels comfortable and not much beyond that.  I think that I am not as motivated any more.  I have about ten more pounds or so to lose, and these are always the pounds that have refused to move in the past.  I feel “okay” with where I am, and therefore I don’t feel the need to push myself harder. It’s time to up the pressure on myself.  I’m going to find a goal to push towards – running a 5K, perhaps – and then write out a list of steps that it will take for me to get to that goal.

The sleep factor is still the most difficult thing for me right now.  I cannot seem to get myself into bed before midnight, and I usually lay there for at least a half hour more with my mind racing with all the things I need to do the next day.  Little Hosanna is usually the first to awaken, many times at 6:30 am.  That doesn’t make for much sleep for mama.  This leads to crankiness and a much more overwhelming desire to reach for that coffee, not to mention a tiredness during workouts.  I need my husband’s help with this.  He is a complete night owl, and I think that if he made the effort to get to bed earlier also, it would help me.  Any suggestions on how I can bribe him to do so? (no sugary rewards! haha)  Seriously, though, I have to have a plan (and a lot of self-discipline, too!) for consistent earlier bedtime and a wind-down time before bed.  What do you do to relax before sleeping?

I have not weighed myself in a few weeks, but clothes are still a little loose.  Last week, we were invited to a pool party for one of the children’s friends, and I was delighted to find that I needed to buy a new (smaller!) swimsuit.  The progress continues, then, and I find I am learning so much about myself along the way.  Here’s to another week of health and happiness!