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.

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.)

 

 

 

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!

 

 

Weeks Three and Four of our Juice Cleanse

juicyjuice

It’s time for an update on the whole juice cleanse thing.  You can read about why we decided to do a juice cleanse here, how the first week went here, and how we changed it all up the second week here.

 

Week Three was supposed to be the week that I added some moderate exercise back in.  I was excited to implement this change as I have always enjoyed exercising.  I like the surge of endorphins that comes after a good cardio workout.  Also, I hoped that exercise would help kick the weight loss back up into turbo mode.  We planned to continue the juicing throughout the morning and afternoon as we had the previous week.  Monday morning, I searched frantically for appropriate workout clothing and decided to start off the week with a Wii Fit workout.  The batteries in the Wii Fit board were dead;  I spent another fifteen minutes hunting down fresh batteries and replacing the old ones in the board.  Where was the Wii Fit disc?  I couldn’t find it anywhere – this could be perhaps to my not-so-awesome organizational skills – and was about to give up on the whole idea when I discovered the Gold’s Gym for Wii disc.  Oh yeah, I dimly remembered.  This is pretty fast-paced and involves a lot of boxing.  I put the disc in and got to work.

 

Yeah, so maybe working out was not as fun as I remembered.  My muscles cried out after months of not being used.  Still, I persevered through the first set of roundhouses and uppercuts.  After all, my children were watching me.  All of them.  And they were screeching with excitement, saying such encouraging things as, “Why don’t you go faster, Momma?” and “I don’t think you’re doing it like the lady on the tv!”  Halfway through the second set, as I bobbed and ducked punches, I felt a sudden, oh-this-is-not-good pain shoot through my lower back.  I grimaced and fell to my knees.  “What’s wrong, Momma?”  Gabi asked, genuinely concerned.  “Is the exercise too hard for you?”  I reassured her that I was fine, when indeed I was not.  I struggled to my feet, and like the stubborn idiot I am, I somehow finished the rest of the workout.  Including reverse crunches.  I know!

 

I turned off the disc and tried to walk to the kitchen to refill my water bottle.  At every step, jarring pain in my lower back took my breath away.  I couldn’t stand up straight and could barely move without intense pain.  I texted my husband of my plight, and thankfully he was able to leave work early and come home.  He has a history of back pain and knew what to do.  He set me up in our bedroom with a strange assortment of pillows shoved under my knees and a icy cold pack on my back.  It was me, my Ipad, and  my woefully boring-looking bedroom for the next day and a half.  Chris took care of the kids while working from home while I muttered things like “It figures.  As soon as I start something good like exercising, something comes in to screw it up.”

 

I wish I could say that I was really good with the juicing and eating during this time.  Nope, not really.  I did have some juice but mostly I snacked on little things all day.  They were mostly good things – veggies, fruits, whole-grain chips, etc. – but a bowl or two of ice cream may have sneaked in there.  And when I finally convinced Chris he could go back to work (who seriously could get any work done at home with four unusually energetic children racing around?!), I knew that it would be a few more days before I could attempt to exercise again.  So much for beginning exercise that week!

 

The next week, I was determined to try again.  This time, I set my alarm clock for 6:00 am in preparation to go for a good brisk walk in the morning.  Without kids.  That part is important, obviously, because kids always throw wrenches into your plans for having a great, unobserved workout.  Monday morning, I was up with the birds and walking around my new neighborhood, which I discovered has NO sidewalks.  None.  It’s also apparently very busy early in the morning; so I spent that walk mostly dodging oncoming cars and pretending I didn’t care when passing vehicles splashed up muddy water on me.  I researched and found out that there was a little nature trail at the library not far from me.  That trail became my go-to path for the next two days.  Life was awesome.  Then I was reminded that I live in the land of liquid sunshine for the rest of the week.  It poured down cold rain for five days straight.  I don’t mind walking in rain – it’s kind of a requirement around here – but this was the stuff that made me wish for windshield wipers on my glasses and about six more layers of warm clothes.

 

Chris came through by running to Game Stop and purchasing EA Sports Active for the Wii.  I spent the remainder of the week trying out this new (to me anyway) game instead of freezing on my walks outside.  I liked that it was customizable, that the workouts changed daily, and that it hurt.  And I must have been doing all right, since the scales at the end of the fourth week indicated that I was down another three pounds.

 

This coming week, barring all ridiculous injuries or intense rain scenarios, I plan on doing my walks in the early morning and then doing the EA Sports Active later in the day.  Because I am upping my exercise time, I don’t think it’s wise to just have juice throughout the morning in afternoon.  I’m going to continue to start off my days with green juice and then have one more veggie juice later in the day.  In between, I plan on eating some good protein (think oatmeal with peanut butter) and some healthy fats as well. (like avocados)  I guess with these changes, I should probably not refer to it as a juice cleanse anymore.

 

Oh and I have one more goal this week.  I need to get more sleep! I am a terrible night owl, and it is affecting me getting up early to go walking.  My plan is to be in bed by 10:30 or 11:00 pm at the latest.  This will require great fortitude and strength of will.  It will also require me to finish this post, now!  I need to go to bed.

 

Week Two of Our Juice Cleanse

juicyjuice

(To read about why my husband and I started a juice cleanse, click here.  To find out how our first week went, click here.)

 

We finished off our first week of drinking only fresh vegetable/fruit juice and water, and as I mentioned in a previous post, I felt great!  I had lost weight and gained a ton of energy.  At the end of that first week, Chris and I sat down to evaluate how everything had gone so far and if we wanted to continue.  Inspired by my success so far, I wanted to keep going.  Chris had a different idea.  He was bothered by the fact that we all sat down at the dinner table, us parents with our juices and the kids with their meats and veggies.  He felt like it wasn’t very easy to encourage the kids to eat their vegetables when we weren’t doing the same.  I agreed – it just wasn’t the same time of bonding and family fellowship when we didn’t eat with the kids.  After a lot of discussion, we decided to continue the juice cleanse for the mornings and afternoons and then eat a meal of lean proteins and veggies for dinner with the family.

 

So that’s what we did.  The first evening, we had grilled chicken and salad, and that night, I had a lot of stomach cramps. Chis felt fine, but apparently my body needed a little more time to adjust to this change.  We continued with our new plan, and I was pleased to discover that I still had a high amount of energy as well.  I had such a craving for chocolate cake one evening that I gave in and made a previous favorite of ours, Two-Minute Chocolate Mug Cake.  I split the recipe between us, and although it briefly satisfied the taste buds, it didn’t have the desired effect.  I was also getting a little tired of the juicing process by this point.  I liked drinking the juice, but I wasn’t as fond of all the washing, peeling, and chopping of the veggies and fruits and especially the cleaning of the juicer.  It also was a big time suck – I found myself getting up earlier to get enough juices ready for Chris to take to work with him.  (And of course, this process was constantly interrupted by kids clamoring for breakfast and diaper changes and use of the tv remote).  I decided that for my own sanity and for continued momentum in this process, I would make juices the night before.  I know that fresh juice is best straight out of the juicer and that the longer it sits, the more nutrients it loses.  But I did my best to preserve the nutrients by adding a little lemon to each juice and by filling my mason jars completely to the top before sealing the lids tightly and putting them in the fridge.

 

I learned a few new things this second week of juicing.  First, I realized that my thought process has been much clearer since we started the juice cleanse.  I can focus on a project to completion (the housework rejoices!), and my creativity has greatly increased.  Secondly, I learned that I need to figure out how to listen to my body better.  That night that I wanted chocolate cake so badly, my body was really telling me that it was thirsty.  Plain and simple.  The next time I wanted something sugary  and sweet, I drank a glass of water and found that my body was satiated.  We also discovered that listening to our bodies meant not always sticking entirely to the “rules.”  One morning, I felt the need for something with more staying power than just juice.  A handful of almonds did the trick.  Chris had a day at work when he was having a lot of trouble focusing and getting anything done.  A small turkey sandwich on whole-wheat bread made all the difference.

 

By the end of the second week of juicing, I had lost just one pound.  My body hit a bit of a plateau in the weight loss department, although I noticed that my jeans were still getting looser. 🙂  Energy levels and patience levels (what?!) were high.  Encouraged by these results, we made a commitment to continue juicing during the day and eating healthy, balanced meals in the evening.  I determined also that this next week would be the week that I would start doing some moderate, intentional exercise.

 

And next week, I’ll share how that week went.  (Hint – somebody ended up flat on their back in bed for two days and the kids ended up watching a LOT of tv.)  For now, I’ll leave you with another favorite juice recipe.

 

Red Sparkler Juice

1 medium red beet, washed well

4 carrots

2 oranges, peeled

1 bunch of cilantro

 

Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired

 

 

1-juicy

It was nearing three’o’clock in the afternoon, and I was wiped out.  I felt tired and sluggish, and my mind seemed to have no ability to focus on any one task to completion.  I sighed heavily, dragged myself to the kitchen to make myself yet another cup of coffee in hopes it would get me through the rest of the day.  This had become a pattern for me – at least two cups of coffee in the morning, maybe three if homeschooling was driving me crazy.  Another two or three cups in the afternoon, and still I was exhausted, grumpy, and mentally fuzzy.  I was tired of being tired.  I was sick of feeling sick and of never having enough energy to keep up with my kids, my marriage, and the housework.

 

So how did I handle it?  Well, I had a meltdown, of course!  My body couldn’t take it anymore, and one day my husband came home to find me furiously cleaning the house while sobbing the whole time.  The concerned kids told him that mommy had been like this all day.  We talked a lot that day and tried to get to the bottom of my fatigue.  My husband said that he, too, had been feeling like crap for a while, and as we continued to sort things out, we realized that we were both barely holding our heads above the water.  We prayed for peace and answers, and the next day, the answers came.

 

I had put the kids to bed and sat down on the couch to recover from the day.  I scrolled through the new choices on Netflix and on a whim, I chose to watch the documentary Food Matters.  At first, I only partly paid attention to it as I played some word games on my phone, but I was soon mesmerized by the information the doctors and others interviewed in the film were sharing.  “Chris, it’s my fault! It’s my fault!”  I suddenly blurted out.  He came into the room and stared at me.  “My body!  I’ve been treating it terribly; so of course I feel terrible all the time.”  He sat with me, and we watched the rest of the film in silence.  Afterwards came a flurry of words.  “We have to change our ways for the sake of our family.  I want more energy – I want to feel good.  I have to fill my body with good things if that is going to happen.”

 

The next day, we bought a juicer.  I wasn’t exactly sure how this was going to fit in to a new healthy lifestyle, but I knew my mom had been juicing for years to help with her cancer.  I was eager to see if it would help me feel better and more energetic.  We tried some juice recipes.  Chris, also known as the pickiest eater in the entire world, surprisingly drank every one – including the “Big Green” one, full of broccoli, kale, spinach, romaine lettuce, and cucumbers.  Meanwhile, we started focusing our meals down to lean proteins and lots of veggies and fruits.  But we both had a desire to up the ante.

 

I had heard that Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead was a good documentary to watch if you were trying to live a healthier lifestyle, especially one that included juicing.  So we watched it.  At the end, Chris said, “I want to do that.  I want to go on a juice cleanse.”  We discussed how long would we do this.  What about the kids?  How would we work it out with our daily schedules?  What were our goals in all of this?  And it was settled, that the coming weekend, we would begin our juice fast together.  A juice fast, in case you aren’t familiar, consists of drinking only fresh fruit and vegetable juice and lots of water over a set period of days.  I didn’t set a certain number of days, because frankly, I wasn’t sure I would be able to make it past one day.  Chris thought maybe he would like to try going sixty days, like the man in the documentary.

 

So we began our juicing cleanse journey.  It certainly was not without its ups and downs.  I will share some of the things we went through as well as some amazing juice recipes in tomorrow’s post.