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Paleo: 365

This past Sunday marked the 1 year point for my paleo experiment.  I would say “Woot!”, but since I see this as my new norm and plan on eating this way forever, it would be a little silly.  Like giving a cheer after brushing your teeth or making your bed.  Well, if I ever made my bed, I might actually give a cheer, so that’s a bad example.  Lol.  My mother would weep if she read that.  She did teach me better, but I rebel.  And digress.

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Clearly I like this Paleo thing a whole lot.  It’s pretty amazing and has been instrumental in turning my health around.  Today I just want to hit on the key points I’ve learned while eating Paleo this last year:

1.  The cleaner your diet, the stronger your body’s reactions when you stray.   It seems a little counter-intuitive.  You’d think that by giving your body a break from highly processed, sugar-laden, additive-filled, inflammation causing, gut destroying foods, you would help strengthen your system so that it could better tolerate the occasional powdered donut or bag of peanut M & Ms.  But it doesn’t work that way.  Turns out your body likes feeling good, and when you put bad fuel into the tank, it is more than happy to let you know you done wrong.  And punish you for it.  With joint pain, edema, bloating, headaches, breakouts, hives, sinus congestion, wheezing, diarrhea, constipation, and all manner of gassiness.  The body is fantastically creative with the myriad ways it can hate a bagel.   If you’re going to stray from the path, better make sure it’s for the best meal of your life.  Otherwise, it’s just not worth it.

2.  Sugar.  If this year taught me anything, it is to pay attention to one’s sugar intake.  It effects everything from energy levels to immune functioning to gut flora.  It seems so innocent, but sugar really, really, really is completely and utterly responsible for so very much of ALL THE BAD happening in your body.  Did you see how many unnecessary modifiers I used to emphasize this?  Here’s the thing:  I have a monster sweet tooth.  This sweet tooth, unlike what many Paleo gurus promised, has not gone away in my year of very strict Paleo eating.  So learning to live with this whole sugar issue is important to me (and to the happiness of everyone around me).  I have to find a balance.  What I’ve learned through many much reading is that fructose in particular is the form that is harmful.  And although sugar intake should be moderated no matter what kind you’re ingesting, some forms are better than others.  But always, always in moderation.  If you read point #1 above, you’ve probably guessed already that the cleaner you’re diet, the more moderate your body’s idea of moderation.  So, what was a moderate amount of sugar intake in the first few months of my Paleo diet is now too much, and I’m wrestling with tapering off my sweet binges even more.  Wish me luck.

3.  Legumes.  They really do mess with the gut.  Lectin.  Who knew?  When I started Paleo, this was the one category that I had a hard time believing was actually causing any problems.   I was skeptical.  I grew up eating rice and beans like most people in the States grow up eating mac n’ cheese.   But I was good, and I cut out legumes completely for the first 6 months.  Then I reintroduced peanuts back into my diet.  And then chickpeas (in the form of hummus).  I had my mom’s rice and beans once as a treat, and I ate some Korean gochujang (soy based) a handful of times in the last month or so.  And you know what?  Although legumes are delicious, they are hell on my system.  I never would have suspected any of this if I hadn’t tested it on myself.  And so we refer back to point #1 yet again.  I’m not saying I’ll never eat them again, but it will be a rare treat for sure.

4.  Macronutrient needs are changeable.  Fat especially was incredibly important in helping maintain my body temperature in cold weather—-and as a person with hypothyroidism, this can be so hard to do.   In recent years, I’ve worn long johns under my clothes from October to May.  But this year, I was really happy to have made it through winter with more cold tolerance than I’ve had in years.  I stayed warm, which is really saying a lot.  And I learned at the 6 month mark that unlike the rest of the dairy food group, butter causes no problems for me whatsoever.  That is reason for a WOOT! if ever there was one.   I have a good understanding now that protein is the core food for giving the body long-lasting, stable energy.  It’s common knowledge, I know.  But it’s one thing to read it and another thing entirely to experience it.  But what was most interesting to me was finding the right balance of carb intake.  No matter what anybody says, Paleo is not meant to be another low-carb Atkins diet.  Carbs are important.   Sweet potatoes are great for boosting carb intake—just be careful not to base your diet entirely on carbs rather than greens, veg, and protein.  Your waistline will tell you quickly if you’re overdoing it.  Lol.

5.  Water.  I’m going to state the bleeding obvious now:  The body doesn’t work right when it’s not properly hydrated.  What is not bleeding obvious is exactly how much water intake is necessary to be properly hydrated and just how quickly the body gives signals that it needs water when intake has been inadequate.  Signals that have nothing to do with thirst.  You have to pay attention.  Again, as mentioned in point #1, the ways that this translates in the body are many and varied.  The subtle symptoms of low-level dehydration are much more noticeable after you’ve started to feel better in general.   After all, when you ache all the time, what’s one more discomfort?  But when you feel good, it’s much easier to pinpoint the cause of dis-ease.  There was a time when I would have considered being so sensitive to everything as a weakness, but now I see it as a really amazing, fine-tuned diagnostic skill.  It’s very cool to be that in tune with your own body.  It is useful—but only if you listen to it.

6.  Exercise.  Bring the ass, and the mind will follow.  My mantra.  Moving around is crucial to health and well-being—both physical and mental.  It is absolutely one of the most fundamental aspects of the Paleo template.  You can eat the cleanest diet ever, but if you don’t use your body—-if you don’t move it and lift heavy things and run and play—-you will never achieve true wellness.  I also learned that if you don’t maintain regular exercise, the body reverts back to it’s old ways very, very quickly.  If you take a week off, prepare to hurt a little when you get back to it.  If you do like I did, and get all anxious and depressed and don’t exercise for, oh, 4 months, prepare to basically start over from scratch.  Especially if you are on the far end of your 30’s.  Ahem.

7.  Greens.  You need ’em.  By the bale.  Paleo diets can vary a lot—some people eat tons of meat, some only eat fish, some are near vegetarian.  But the one thing that needs to be a dietary focus no matter how you eat Paleo is the intake of a wide variety of dark, leafy greens.  Greens are nutritionally dense and supply vitamins, minerals, and fiber that you’re just not going to get with any other foods.   I crave them.  I daydream about grazing on kale.  It’s a little (or a lot) weird, but I think it’s my body’s way of making sure I get all my micronutrients.  Clever brain.  Which brings us to…

8.  The gut is the second brain.  If it doesn’t work right, not much else in your body will work at it’s best either.  And it absolutely effects mood and thought patterns.  So, if you want to be healthy and happy, you gotta have a healthy gut.  Everything I’ve been reading points to the fact that excess sugar in the diet feeds harmful bacteria in the gut.  This negative balance of intestinal flora not only messes with basic digestive habits, but it often leads to inflammation of the intestinal lining, and therefore an inability to properly absorb nutrients and to uptake serotonin.  It can also lead to leaky gut syndrome which is a big deal if you have any autoimmune issues like I do, because it causes further negative autoimmune responses and inflammation in the body.  I think the importance of this point cannot be stressed enough.  The gut is the key.

9.  Keeping it simple.   The further I go on this journey, the simpler I want my food.  Fresh ingredients prepared with as little fuss as possible.  That’s what I crave.  I don’t know if it’s a psychological thing or a physical thing or both.  But it has been a persistent theme this year.  With the exception of the occasional paleo brownies, I’m not interested in recreating “normal” food with Paleo versions.  First of all, I don’t like cooking that much.  Second of all, a lot of those recipes (much like in the raw food diet) are really nut-heavy, and it’s just not very good for you to eat that many nuts.   I do think, in part, that it’s helpful to eat simply when having to weed out food intolerances—not only from a practical standpoint, but also because it is tiring to spend so much time thinking about what you can or can’t eat.  Keeping things simple in the kitchen allow you to get on with your life outside of your food allergy/intolerance issues.   It feels really good to just get on with it.

10.  Fine tuning.  Your body’s needs change frequently, and it’s important to listen and respond accordingly to those needs.  What works in the winter probably won’t be good in the summer.   You might find yourself craving foods as they naturally come into season, but not want them otherwise.  That was me with apples this fall.  Normally, they make me feel sick, but this fall I couldn’t get enough of them.  I figure it might have had more than a little to do with the fact that they were in season locally.   As long as you listen to your body and respond accordingly, it all balances out.  Most importantly, let your body—not a dietary dogma—be your guide.

Future plans?  I still hope to experiment with some raw, cultured dairy.   I miss yogurt.   Strangely enough, I also miss oats.  A lot.  I’ve been reading about raw, sprouted oats, and I wonder how I’d respond…  Worth an experiment, yes?  Aside from these two things, I’m pretty happy.  I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything at all.  My main goal now is to lower my sugar (by which I mean honey) intake, eat simpler, more nutrient dense foods, make my own fermented/probiotic foods, drink more water, and buy a kettlebell.   A good plan.

Here’s to health, healing, and having the guts to heal your guts.  :D    It is so worth it.

Paleo(ish): Month 6

Alright.  Today is the 6 month mark for my Paleo journey thing.  I already wrote a monster post on “why Paleo” and all that, so I’ll keep this one short.  Let’s start with the numbers.  I didn’t go Paleo to lose weight, I did it out of necessity for my health.  But losing weight has been an added perk to eating right and working out.  Let’s see the progress, shall we?

Jan/Feb 2012:

Height:  5’3″     Weight:  165     Shoulders:  45.5″     Chest:  38″     Waist:  33.75″     Hips:  42.75″     Thigh:  20.5″     Arm:  10.5″    BF%:  35.9

June 2012:

Weight:  145 lbs     Shoulders:  41″     Chest:  36″     Waist:  30.5″     Hips:  41″     Arms”  10″     Thigh:  19.5″     BF%:  32

August 2012:

Weight:  138 lbs     Shoulders:  40″     Chest:  36″     Waist:  30″     Hips:  39.5″     Thigh:  19″     Arms:  Hard to measure by yourself  BF%:  couldn’t measure

November 2012:

Weight:  122 lbs    Shoulders:  40″    Chest:  36″    Waist:  28″    Hips:  38″    Thighs: 18″     Arms:  11″     BF%:  No clue, but a lot less
Not bad!

The Paleo has been going pretty well overall.  I’ve only had a few mishaps—namely, french fries.  But that won’t be happening again.  Why?  Turns out that simple little food that you thought was just fried potatoes is no longer just fried potatoes.  Most fries are now coated in combinations of wheat, dextrose, rice flour, and sugar.  For realz.  Which explains all of the headaches I’ve had (4) in the last 3 months.  Boooooo!  You know what I think of companies that fill up what should be a simple food full of crap to make it hyper-tasty and cheap?  I think they’re assholes.  The good news is that those 4 headaches are the ONLY symptoms I’ve had this whole time.  Woot!

Drinking enough water is still a challenge for me, but it becomes clearer every day how many elements of health hinge on proper hydration.  So, I’m working hard on it.  The probiotic foods have totally done the magic, however, so all is good in intestinal land.  I’m finding now as the weather gets colder that I’m craving a lot more fat, carbs, root and cruciferous vegetables.  All your brassicas are belong to me!  I also crave sweet things, by which I mean my almond butter and honey.  I’m pretty sure I’ve eaten my bodyweight in apples this fall, but usually only one or two a day.  With some almond butter and honey or maple syrup.  That’s the only sugar I have.  But I’m starting to wonder if that’s too much… but I’d be really sad to not have that little bit of sweet in my life, and my god,  one has got to draw the line somewhere.  Right?  Maybe not.

So, I’ve been thinking about doing a Whole30.  If I start today, I’ll be done by Elevensies, which would be perfect.  (Elevensies is the winter holiday my family celebrates.  It is the celebration during the generally 11 days between the Winter Solstice and the New Year).  I’m already doing everything else on the Whole30 with the exception of the odd potato, the odd carrageenan additive (hard to get almond milk without it), and honey and occasionally maple syrup.  I’d like to know how I feel completely sugar-free.  I’ve been reading Sarah Wilson’s blog (which I love), and it raves about the results of living sugar-(read fructose)-free.  She’s also got Hashimoto’s autoimmune thyroiditis like I do, and much of her information relates to how being sugar-free has helped her symptoms.  Finally, I watched this amazing video by Dr. Lustig called Sugar:  The Bitter Truth.  I highly recommend watching it.  It will rock your world.

The only thing holding me back is that I’ve already cut out so much from my diet.  I’m happy for it.  There are very, very few foods that I miss, and most of those have great Paleo alternatives.  I worry about getting too strict, and then I remember how I felt before I went Paleo.  I will not ever go back to that, so strict is a very good thing.  It’s only for a month, and it would give me some good data.  So, yeah.  I’m going to do it.

As for the rest, I told myself that I’d do a strict 6 month baseline before trying to add anything back in.  I’m feeling really, really good right now.  Energy is good, I’m sleeping great, and my mind is clearer than it’s been in years.  This is the best I’ve felt since before I was diagnosed with Hashi’s 14 years ago.  It’s a really big deal.  Because of that, I don’t want to mess with things too much.  The only food that I will consider trying to add back in right now is butter—specifically grass-fed ghee.  I think that’s important.  I’m not going to add in any grains, as I really don’t think I’ll respond well to them.  I’m surprisingly fine without legumes—the only notable exception being chickpeas for hummus (om nom nom). I think I can let a few chickpeas slide now and then.  But for now, that’s it.

So, the one month plan is to do a Whole30 and test out adding grass-feed ghee into my diet.  We’ll see how it goes!

Paleo(ish): Month 3

Sunday marked month 3 of my Paleo(ish) diet experiment.  If you want to know more about what the Paleo template is, I highly recommend reading this excellent article on Fitbomb.   I would put a ton of Paleo links on my post, but he’s got them all on his.  It really is a very well written article.  Why Paleo?  Very simple.  I took up Paleo because my body happens to say NO to the same foods that Paleo says no to.  Giving my dietary “choices” a catchy name makes it easier to explain to people and strangely seems to make it more acceptable to them.  Why Paleo(ish)?  Two reasons.  First, because I’m hoping to modify the diet in the next year to include foods that are not technically allowed on the Paleo diet.  The second reason is a big one—I do not believe in all the tenets of the Paleo diet.

Is it nutritionally sound?  Yes, it absolutely can be if you eat a variety of nutritious whole foods and not just meat (as some people think you’re supposed to).  Is it scientifically sound?  Sometimes.  Depends on what author you read.  I’ve read some great, balanced and well researched articles and books, and I’ve also read some works where the author clearly has no understanding of human physiology.   It’s important to keep your critical thinking cap on when reading diet information.  There’s a lot of BS out there.   Is it historically sound?  No, I seriously doubt it.  Paleo is based on the belief (note, I didn’t say knowledge) that we are genetically adapted to eat a certain way because for millennia our Paleolithic ancestors did so.   Proponents believe that humans have not been able to evolve over the last 10,000 years (the Neolithic period after the advent of agriculture) to eat other types of foods such as grains and dairy.  Here are a few reasons why I take issue with these ideas:

1.  People ate the food that was available in their geographic location.  As you can imagine, this would lead to incredibly variable diets all over the world.  There cannot be one perfect way to eat for everybody.  Also, seasonal diets would require people to eat a diet which potentially varied widely in its macronutrient balance from season to season—sometimes being very protein or fat heavy, and sometimes very starch, veg, and carb heavy.  Humans, we’re adaptable.

2.  People who know about Paleolithic man, ie  anthropologists and archeologists, widely dispute the idea that Paleolithic man didn’t eat grains or starches.  There is evidence that goes back well before the 10,000 year mark of Neolithic man.  So that kind of chucks that whole grain-free, starch-free theory out the window…

3.  If Paleolithic man didn’t eat grain, then why on earth, when people settled down and started farming, did they say, “Hey, I know what we should grow—this stuff that we’ve never eaten before!”  That just doesn’t make any kind of sense.  Of course they would grow something that was at least somewhat familiar in their diet.

4.  Some Paleo diet proponents say that salt should not be used in the diet either, because Paleolithic man most likely did not harvest or mine salt.  This might be true, but that doesn’t mean that it’s bad for you.  There are a lot of studies done to show that it’s not that big a deal if your eating moderate amounts of good salts.  Chris Kresser has a great write-up on this.

5.  While we can derive some amount of data from looking to the past to see what Paleolithic man ate, we cannot assume that this diet would be our optimal diet.  Yes, there are all kinds of lifespan charts and such being used to prove that Paleo man was healthier than the peoples that came in the following agricultural societies, but there are SO MANY factors at play that make oversimplifying this data dangerous—-the effects of living in massively larger population groups, living with animals, more sedentary lifestyles, diet limited by growing conditions… you see my point.  Do I think that eating a grain-based diet changed the health of people?  Yes.  But not necessarily as much initially as in the last 100 years—new research is showing that the grains we’re growing now bear little resemblance to the grains grown even 100 years ago—they now contain more gluten proteins than ever before.   Some scientists think this may be the reason for the increasing rates of Celiacs disease and people with gluten intolerances and autoimmune related diseases.   The point is, unless someone can prove that Paleolithic man had perfect health, free from disease, and that this can be chiefly attributed to their diet only, I’m not going to romanticize the way people ate 30,000 years ago.  They ate that way because that’s what there was to eat.  That does not translate into “we’re designed to eat that way”.

I don’t need my dietary lifestyle to have an agenda, and I certainly don’t need it to take on any dogmatic religious zealotry.  It’s food.  It’s fuel.  It should make us feel better, not worse.  It would be nice if it were simple, but interaction with other living organisms (ie, eating food) is complex.  While it’s tempting to get all earth goddess on this and think that all of Mother Nature’s bounty is wholesome and nourishing, it’s just not true.  Just about everything that you eat has both nutrients and toxins.  We have livers for a reason.  We cook, ferment, cure, and sprout foods for a reason.  No food is 100% perfect for us all the time.

So enough of the downside.  Here’s why I think Paleo(ish) is a good way to eat:

1.  It emphasizes eating fresh, whole, unprocessed foods.  On Paleo, there are no junk foods.  Not even pretend-healthy junk foods.   But a healthy diet is not just taking out the bad stuff.  In fact, I would argue that what is added into the diet is even more important that what is taken out of it.  There is a lot of evidence to show that many health issues are due to nutrient deficits.   Western diets are full of empty calories.  On Paleo, you eat very nutrient dense foods.  You give your body vitamins and minerals that are often severely lacking in a typical Western diet.  Of course you’re going to feel better eating this way!

2.  Paleo done right is not a diet.  It is a template for a lifelong way to eat healthy.

That’s it!  We could go into the whole need for healthy fats, and we could go round and round in circles about animal proteins, but I don’t want to.  The reason why I talk about the Paleo template (rather than diet) is because it is incredibly adaptable to your needs.  It can be higher protein or higher carb.  It can be mostly meat-based or mostly veg-based.  There is a lot of room for variations and tweaking to find what makes you feel best.   And while a lot of people have done a great job to make it super trendy, complicated, and to make money off of it, at it’s core it is pretty simple.   What it really is, is a springboard to better health.  At least that’s how I’m choosing to look at it.

The results?  I believe that it takes a few months to really start feeling the difference dietary changes can make, good or bad.  You can’t know in just a couple weeks if something is working for you or not.  Your body needs time to adjust.   Here’s my 3 month Paleo low-down:

For the first 2 months on Paleo, I felt mostly better, but I had a lot of digestive issues.  It was… disconcerting.  I mean, I hadn’t actually changed my diet that much.  So I thought.  My gut disagreed with this notion.  Also, my skin and sinuses got really, really dry.  Aside from these two issues, I felt great, so I decided to start reading up on trouble-shooting Paleo issues.  Turns out, I was dehydrated and in need of some probiotics.

I’m horrible at drinking enough water.  Horrible at it.  On my own, I might drink a couple glasses a day.  I just rarely feel thirsty.  What I’ve learned is that feeling thirsty in your mouth is one of the last signs of thirst that the body has.  When I ate a normal diet, my symptoms of dehydration were masked by all my other crappy diet symptoms.   Dry skin, dry sinuses, wheeziness and other bronchial symptoms, headaches, stiff muscles, sluggish digestion—all have to do with hydration.  On Paleo, I felt good enough to realize that something else was going on.  My water intake was too low.  As soon as I bumped it up, those symptoms went away.  But I really have to drink a lot—a minimum of 2 liters a day (which is a lot to me) to feel good.

The gut issues were related both to the water intake and to a need for beneficial bacteria.  I started eating kimchee and sauerkraut and drinking the occasional Good Belly juice, kombucha or KeVita, and all became right in the world.  Gut flora, it’s important.  Fermented foods are your friend.

I’ve continued dropping weight—I’m down to around 133 lbs now.   It’s important to note that I am not restricting my calories at all.  I don’t count them, I don’t think about it.  I just eat until I’m satisfied.   One of the great things about eating Paleo is that the foods you eat tend to be very filling and very satisfying.

Most importantly, I feel great.  My energy levels are very stable throughout the day.   I feel balanced.  I have very few cravings.  My autoimmune symptoms are super under control, and I’ve had only 2 mild migraines this whole time, both due to not drinking enough water.  This is a big huge deal and goes a long, long way to confirm my suspicions about the links between food intolerances and my health issues.   I am still avoiding caffeine almost entirely (a bit of chocolate being the only exception).  I’m also avoiding foods high in tyramines, although my worst offenders are knocked off the list by virtue of being Paleo(ish)—aged cheeses, aged and cured meats, soy products, breads, and red wine.  Some fruits and vegetables contain tyramine (olives, avocado, pineapple) but they haven’t caused any problems yet.   Caffeine and tyramines are major triggers for me.

What’s the plan now?  Well, I’ve been hardcore Paleo for 3 months now, and I want to give this another 3 months to establish a firm baseline before I start introducing any foods back into my diet.  Based on what I now know of gluten issues and autoimmune disease, I will never eat wheat again.  I’m cool with that.  But I’d like to be able to reintroduce occasional rice, buckwheat, and oats back into my diet.  I’m hesitant, however, because my blood sugar gets all jacked up when I eat grains.  Like a rollercoaster.  We’ll see.  I’d also like to add butter and eventually homemade raw milk yogurt or kefir back into my diet.  I think raw milk is good for a body.  We’ll wait and see if my body agrees.  Finally, I’d like to find out if I really have any issues with lectins or not.  It will be interesting to see what happens when I try lentils or chickpeas again.  It’s all a big experiment.  As long as it keeps working, I’ll keep eating this way.   If it stops working, I’ll reassess and tweak.

Another thing I’ve been reading up on is the GAPS diet, and think that this might be in my future at some point, specifically because of my autoimmune issues.   The GAPS diet is a very specific temporary diet that is based on the premise that many illnesses stem from gut issues resulting in poor nutrient absorption, leaky gut syndrome, autoimmune issues, and food allergies and intolerances.  The point of the diet then is to heal the gut so that eventually a normal healthy diet can be resumed.  This is done primarily by removing foods that digest into disaccharides which then feed harmful gut flora.  By starving the bad gut flora and also bolstering the good gut flora by taking serious probiotics, you create an environment which allows the gut lining to heal.     When the gut lining is healed (which takes a period of 1-2 years), then slowly foods can be reintroduced and digested properly.  A lot about this diet makes sense to me.  I love that it focuses on nutrient-dense foods.  But it is very labor intensive and expensive.  We’ll see where I am at the 6 month Paleo mark.  If GAPS still seems right then, I think I’ll give it a go.

Mookies and the New Year

I hope you have all had a very happy Elevensies and that the New Year brings you much happiness, many blessings, and every good thing. Since we recently moved a couple hours away from most of our friends, we realized that we would not be able to celebrate Togetherness (aka, EmpanadaFest) in the way that we used to do–with a big open house and mountains of empanadillas–what with the distance and drive time in poor weather. So instead we had a low-key four-of-us New Year’s Eve and Togetherness Day today. In addition to beating pots and pans and sweeping out the old year and lighting incense for the Ancestors, it may have involved watching The Big Lebowski. It also involved food.

I never thought I’d have a recipe on my blog, lol, but here goes. As part of that celebration, I made a recipe that I’ve been working on for a little bit now. It’s a delicious paleo take on a cookie-muffin hybrid love child. I basically modelled it after a traditional chocolate chip cookie recipe, but substituted paleo ingredients, and lo, it worked. Yes, it’s just that easy! Fool’s luck and all that. The muffin tin is key for achieving maximum brownage. Just like the corner pieces are the best part of brownies, the perfectly browned exterior is the best part of a cookie. Caramelized sugars are a gift. But first, dude, can I just say that food photography is wicked hard. My hat is off to all of you brilliant bloggers who take beautiful food photos. That shit takes skill.

World, I present to you…

Mookies!

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups blanched almond flour*
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • roughly 1 tsp of baking soda or baking powder**
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 2 sticks of butter, softened***
  • 1/2 cup honey****
  • generous splash of vanilla extract (I use 2-3 tsp, because it’s mas deliciouser)
  • 3 eggs******
  • one bag gluten, dairy, and soy-free chocolate chips (ie, Enjoy Life chocolate chunks or mini-chips)

Quick Asterisked Asides:

  • *Raw almond meal works, too, but is not as elegantly foo-foo.
  • **Technically, you should use baking soda because pH. However, I suffer the misfortune of being able to taste baking soda in baked goods (it’s a distractingly gross metallic taste that makes me want to wipe my tongue clean with a sponge, and doesn’t that sound fun?), so I always and only use baking powder in recipes. Some would have you believe that interchanging these does not work, but I have yet to experience any baking FAILS due to this exchange.
  • ***Since this is a Paleo recipe, I am obligated by law to tell you that this butter should be grassfed if you’ve the dosh for it.
  • ****Supporting your local bee population and local apiarist(s) by purchasing local honey is an honourable deed.
  • ******I love my chickens!

Instrucciones:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Grease a mini-muffin pan with butter or coconut oil or some other culinary unguent of your choice.
  3. In a large bowl, beat wet ingredients until you feel comfortable that you’ve done a pretty good job at mixing it all together. Some of you may perform this step with a hand-mixer or a posh standing mixer. That’s cool. I’m sure it’ll work just fine. I use a fork. It’s a special magical fork that came into my life when I met my dear husband (of now 18 years!). It was, and I do not joke, his only fork when he was a hip young bachelor living in a studio apartment at Uni. Lol. Anyway, it is known as The Fork, and it is mine now, mwah-ha-ha-ha, and I use it to mix everything. If I can’t mix it with The Fork, I don’t make it. And I’ve made angel food with this fork, so… One does not need fancy equipment to make deliciousness. That’s all I’m sayin’. Here is a picture of the fork to inspire you:
  4. In case you are unsure, the wet ingredients are the Butter, Eggs, Honey, and Vanilla. Which could be a recipe on its own, right? Om nom nom. But don’t stop there…
  5. Add dry ingredients (flours, salt, leavening) to wet ingredients. Beat until well incorporated.
  6. Your dough should be slightly loose, but not at all runny.
  7. Add chocolate chips and fold in with a rubber/silicon spatula.
  8. Use a spoon or something to fill the mini-muffin pan bits with the dough.
  9. Bake for 12-15 minutes depending on your oven. It’s 13 minutes to heaven in my oven. ;)
  10. Cool for a few minutes before trying to remove the mookies from the muffin pan. Cool completely on rack.

Mookies cooling. Be patient.

Two quick alternatives for you:

Alternative #1–I’ve made this recipe with 2 eggs instead of 3. It makes for a drier, more cookie-like crumb. Don’t overbake.

Alternative #2–Leave out the chocolate chips and make thumbprint mookies instead! After spooning the dough into the mini-muffin pan, use a spoon (or your thumb, for authenticity) to make divots in the center of each mookie. Fill with jam of your choice and then bake. Super delicious, like, whoa. Great with tea.

Enjoy!

A Healthy Dose of Gratitude

I was recently asked by Dr. Mario Trucillo of the American Recall Center  to participate in their Who Keeps You Healthy? campaign. The American Recall Center is a new website dedicated to providing information on medical device and pharmaceutical recalls and general health information.  I really like their values: Educate, Trust, Empower, Advocate, and I appreciate their vision not only to inform, but also to be informed by the community that shares their stories on the site.  Thank you, Dr. Trucillo, for considering Grackle & Sun for this campaign.  I am happy to support health advocacy in any way I can.

Who keeps me healthy?  My first thought was I do!  I am my own health hero (hear me roar)! Tru fax to be sure.  However, although I am proud of my hard work and effort, it is only a small fraction of the whole in my wholistic health journey. With closer reflection, I realized that I was experiencing a knee-jerk reaction—a defensive response after years of learning the hard way that I had to be a hardass, lookout-for-number-one advocate for my health in a system that frequently leaves patients confused, frustrated, and unhealed when they should be informed, confident, and above all, cared for.  It was this last bit that got me thinking.

Care is the heart of it all.  Healthcare. In my struggle to find solutions to illness, I often wished that health and healing could be more straightforward, more systematic: do A, B, and C and voila! Healthy! But it doesn’t work like that.  We are human, and we are more complicated than any amount of kale can fix.  We are human, and we do not need maintenance.  We need care.  It is not only our own caring that starts the healing process, it is the care that we receive from others that truly heals.  It is this caring that supports us, nurtures us, and shows us that our good health matters.

I’ve been very fortunate to have incredibly supportive family and friends—people who have not only cheered me on and even joined me as I changed my diet and started working out, but also many who, through their own actions, research, and advocacy, showed me a better way.  I am thankful for all of them.  Most of all, I am thankful to the one person who has held my hand through good times and bad, sickness and health—my husband, David.  He has been a spring of encouragement, compassion, and support.  So, in honour of the Who Keeps You Healthy campaign, I am writing a thank you letter from my heart to my heart. With gratitude and love.

Dear David,

Thank you for encouraging me to always strive to be better and healthier, and thank you for always loving me as I am no matter what. 

Thank you for being supportive of my countless hours of research and not ever rolling your eyes when I tried something new in my quest to not be sick.

Thank you for trusting me, even when the doctors didn’t, that Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism really was jacking me up that bad and that the connection between diet and auto-immune disease is for realz. 

Thank you for all the steamrolling (massages) when my migraines made me want to curl up and die.  Or hurl.  Usually all three.  

Thank you for cooking amazing food for our family, and for never, ever complaining about my crazy food intolerances.  Not even when I did the raw thing.

Thank you for getting on my ass about exercising and being patient with me even when I whined and complained and maybe even stomped my foot, not that I’d admit it.

Thank you for telling me how proud you are of me doing the whole awesome workout thing.  And for not mentioning it when I slack off.  And for happily commiserating with the pain of working out again at our age.

Thank you for doing the whole Paleo thing with me.  It has helped more than you can know.  

Thank you for being compassionate through my struggles with anxiety and depression, which have been many and terrible.  And thank you for always being there at the other end of the tunnel, smiling.

Thank you for always reading the labels to make sure our food is safe for me to eat.

Thank you for never thinking I was crazy even when I started to wonder if I was crazy trying to figure out all this crazy migraine/thyroid/allergy/IC business.  

Thank you for knowing when I need greens.  And when I need chocolate. And when I think I need chocolate but really need greens.

Thank you for being in full command of mad cooking skillz. 

Thank you for being awesome.

Thank you for being with me.

Thank you for listening.

Thank you for caring.

Love, 

Wife

 

 

Mayday

May 1st.  A day to be brave.  

This is a post for my Self.

It is also a heartfelt hug for the tens of millions of people, adults and children, who live with anxiety, panic disorder, and OCD.   I am sending a huge good-energy filled squeeze to my big sister who knows all about what I’m talking about, and also to Claire at The Ascent Blog for lending a big dose of bravery mojo.  I’d had this in the drafts folder for weeks when I read her post.  A little push in the right direction… let’s begin.

I was born into this world with my hardwiring all jacked up, and I have suffered from anxiety, panic attacks, and OCD since I was a very small child.  Back in the early 70’s and 80’s, this kind of thing wasn’t really acknowledged yet, certainly not in children.  I was just a “worrier”… and a fair share of weird.  Although my childhood was full of love and laughter, looking back on it now, I know that this child-me still desperately needed understanding and help, and I sometimes allow myself to wonder how I would be different if I’d had help.  Hindsight and all that.

It’s funny.  All through my childhood, I knew that my worrying made me different, that not everybody fixated on problems like I did.  That it was something to hide.  But I had no idea that my other behaviors were of any concern, so seamlessly did I meld them with my intrinsic creative and imaginary world.  It was not until my 20’s, that I learned that what I thought was “normal” was not, and I will always be thankful to the remarkably observant person who very matter-of-factly, and yet very gently, told me that what I was doing without even thinking about it (counting, rechecking, ordering, turning circles, making things ‘even’, etc) was more than just a “quirk”, and that no, not everybody did that.  It was a much needed signpost, one that would help me as my anxiety escalated into my late 20’s.

Just before I turned 30, after a crazy-long, majorly bad episode which resulted in me finally seeking professional help for the first time, I learned that all of this—and I—in fact had a very real diagnosis for a very real problem.   Most alarmingly, I was also told that what I considered my baseline level of anxiety, what I lived with on a day-to-day basis, was ridiculously high.  Worryingly high.  (See what I did there?)  That provided much needed perspective re: what one should feel capable of tolerating.  I thought suffering through my anxiety made me strong.  It did in some ways.  It also broke me down.  Everyone needs relief at some point.  Admitting that need is not a sign of weakness.  It is the first step to getting better.

My brass-knuckles rumble with and eventual reprieve from anxiety/OCD is a long story for another time.  Suffice it to say, therapy and I did not make good dance partners, and I was far too anxious about the possible consequences of taking medications to even consider trying.  I chose instead, for better or worse, to stumble down a different path.   All that need be said now is that I thought that I’d left that fight behind—a year ago, I found some profound answers, used them to heal, and lived this last year completely and utterly anxiety free.

For the first time in my life.

3rd bubble 004

The human brain is a beautiful thing, and when it functions well, it is a marvel to behold.  This last year, I experienced the brilliance and lightness of engaging the world with clarity:   without the heavy tread of irrational, dark, or harmful thoughts wearing ruts through my mind; without the overwhelming mental fatigue from trying to maintain a facade of control and normalcy, just trying to get through the next day, the next hour, the next minute, holding my shit together; without the sheer physical exhaustion of repeated panic attacks and the embarrassment of the controlling OCD behaviors that inevitably accompany the whole mess. It was like being born again, only this time not broken.

But you know, just when you get comfortable, just when you think you’ve got everything figured out, the Cosmos likes to come kick the shit out of you and remind you that there are lessons still to be learned. And in January, I got my ass handed to me with knobs on.

I haven’t yet been at a place where I could examine too closely what happened.  All I know is that one moment I was fine, and the next, I wasn’t.  The timing was horrible—the panic attacks started halfway into the first day of my new job.  Out of the blue.  After over a year of not having any anxiety at all.   And yet, the anxiety had nothing to do with the new job.  It started before the job.  It was just there.  There are no words for how stunned I was, for how low this laid me.  I am still struggling, and though I hate to admit it, have been doing a terrible job of dealing with depression because of it.  I mean, I thought I’d figured out my anxiety thing.  I thought I was healed.  It was like coming out of remission.  It was devastating. But there was no time to even catch my breath—I had a new job to do.

I’ve had years of practice perfecting the art of functioning through anxiety.  It sucks, but it is doable.  When my kids were born, I learned really fast that life and responsibility do not stop for anxiety.   Change a diaper while feeling like you’re having a heart attack?  Yes, you can.  Make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich while your brain is wreck over your latest irrational fear?  You bet.  And because I never wanted my children (or anyone else) to know what I was going through, I put a lot of energy into hiding my anxiety.  Ignore the racing heart, breathe through the shakes, tension, and nausea, tamp down the alternating hot and cold flashes.  Focus on being in control.  Focus on calming down.  Breathe.  Smile.  Keep it all inside.

Focus on appearing ok.   Focus on appearing ok.  Focus on appearing ok.

It is an endless cycle of fear, control, relief, fear… and the anxious thoughts loop over and over in your mind like a record skipping. Over and over and over.  It. Just. Won’t. Stop.  With enough practice, however, you can eventually become somewhat detached from the anxiety and the panic.  You can observe it as a foreign thing, set it to the side, and do what needs to be done—whether that’s making the kids lunch, running errands, or trying to succeed at your new corporate job.   I’d done it for years, and I thought I could do it again.  So, I panicked the whole drive to the office.  I panicked during the ride up the elevator.  And then when I walked through the door, I put my solar plexus on lock-down, pasted on a smile, and didn’t panic.  I did my job.  At the end of the day, I had a brief moment of relief as I walked out the door…  and then the panic attacks started right back where they left off.   I even woke up with attacks during my sleep.  It was fun times, let me tell you.

The thing about coping strategies is that they do only that—they help you get through something—but they don’t fix the problem.  They don’t even really make anything better, and you can only go for so long just coping before you burn out altogether.  Ask me how I know.

The new job was surprisingly stressful in it’s own right, and though I was doing well, it was not a good fit for a few key reasons. Otherwise though, it was a pretty damn good gig—super nice co-workers, good hours, great pay.  But I wanted so hard to believe that it was the source of my panic attacks, because then I would have an answer—and relief.  So. Even though I knew in my heart of hearts that my new job was not to blame for my sudden resurgence of anxiety, I gave my notice anyway.  It was the right thing to do because of the “not a good fit” thing, but still.  I wish it had been different.  I did experience a day or so of relief.  A day or so.  That’s the insidious part about anxiety—you can think that you take away all the triggers, but it will find new ones.  It is like the body becomes habituated to the roller coaster-like ups and downs of the crazyass neurochemical cocktails that accompany both the anxious phase and the relief phase of a cycle.  And even when you are able to get a grip, break through the fear, and think rationally about what is happening, it is often not enough to stop the physical response to the episode.  You just have to ride it out.

I’ve been riding this out since January.  And I’m ready for it to stop.  For realz.

Luckily, I finally realized that there were probably some very real physiological reasons why the anxiety might be occurring.  A)  I stopped working out regularly during the holidays.  Lack of physical activity has been a co-trigger before.   Also, B)  my prescription for Vitamin D ran out.  During the winter.  Duh.  Without it, my levels are off-the-charts low.  As soon as I realized that, I started taking it again, and have slowly seen improvement.  It’s amazing how much a low Vit. D level will affect.  And then there are two major dietary things:  1) I’ve been cheating on my paleo diet with peanuts.  A lot of peanuts.  Because peanut butter is freaking delicious all of a sudden, now that I can’t have it.  Lol.  And 2)  I had a month or so where I didn’t eat much kale, which, as you know, is full of EVERY GOOD THING.  And lots of vitamins.  Could that have effected me?  Maybe.  I know that it effected my digestive health—and a ton of serotonin receptors are in the gut.  So, it’s not outside the realm of possibility.  Aside from that, your guess is as good as mine.

It’s interesting to me that the anxiety that I’ve been experiencing only compares to what was once my “normal panic attack” level, but since it’s been a year since I’ve had any, it has felt a lot worse than that.  Harder to handle.  I think part of that is because I really thought I’d never have to “handle” it again.  Now I know.  One of the hardest parts of dealing with this is my disappointment in how I’m dealing with this.  I just kind of shut off.  I haven’t wanted to do anything other than get through the day and go to sleep.  It’s been rough, and I’m trying to dig my way out.  Luckily, I have amazing support at home.  I’m very thankful for my wonderful, brilliant husband who has been so understanding during all of this.  As hard as it is to live with anxiety, I think it must be at least as hard living with someone who has it.  It is not something that is easy for others to understand.  There is no switching it on or off.  It takes an amazing amount of understanding and compassion to deal with the irrationality and lack of control with kindness and support.  I am blessed to have this support now.

So, I’m working on this.  Sometimes we get knocked for a loop, and it’s takes us a minute to shake it off and get going again.  That’s ok, right?  That’s part of life.   We joke that it’s one step forward and two steps back, but I try really hard to see that as a sexy dance.  The merengue of life.  Who wants to walk in a straight line anyway?   When the ocd kicks in, sometimes I do.  Lol.  Just joking.

Getting Fit in 2495 Words

Goal:  Husband and I have decided to race the MR340 next year.

This is a crazy race:  paddle 340 miles of the Missouri River, from Kansas City to St. Charles, in 88 hours or less.  It’s really hard, and people who are serious about it train really hard.  Everyone else just hopes to finish at all.  Time to start training.  For realz.

The Klepper.

Hurdle #1:  I am the antithesis of athletic.

Hi, my name is dre, and I’m a 38 year old mother of 2.  I homeschool my kids and work nights as a waiter.  I knit, dye yarn, garden, and watch old British tv shows.  When I grow up, I want to be Felicity Kendal in Rosemary & Thyme.  I’ve never done anything like this before.   I have no athletic abilities.  My sports experience includes swim team and volleyball… in middle school.  I did train horses for a long time in high school and college, but that’s really a different animal altogether, what with the horse doing most of the work and all.  Aside from a tiny little bit of fencing I did with Husband in my early twenties, the closest I’ve come to anything remotely athletic was chasing and hoisting toddlers a decade ago.  I am not kinesthetically gifted like my husband is, and my awareness of my body in space is non-existent.  I am frequently clumsy and occasionally asthmatic.  I lack self-discipline.  I get distracted easily (I forgot I was making the kids lunch while typing this paragraph and almost burned the rice).   I have always been fairly strong—growing up on a farm will do that to you, but I’ve never been super fit.   In my thirties I haven’t even approached kinda fit.

Baseball, basketball, football, volleyball… No. Yarn balls? YES!

Hurdle #2:  I’ve had a lot of health issues over the last decade that have taken way too much of my time and energy.

For ages, Husband has been trying to get me to be more physically active.  In his wise way, he knew that it would help me feel better.  See, I’ve not been well for quite a while.  That’s a long ass post for another day, but suffice it to say that when you don’t feel well, exercising is the furthest thing from your mind—even if it’s one of the things that will feel you better.  So much energy went into my illness(es) and into trying to fix me, that I convinced myself I had none to spare for something as seemingly frivolous as working out.  Sometimes I haz a stupid.

Solution #1:   Healing the body, even a little bit, frees up energy for action.

In December, a major piece of the puzzle concerning a longstanding illness fell into place, and by January, I was feeling like a new person.   One day while driving to work, I passed a billboard that advertised a membership to a nearby gym for only $20 a month.  One of those “New Year’s resolution” memberships.   I thought about it that whole night at work, and realized that it was time to start taking care of my body in a new way.

Solution #2:  A body active is a body healthier. 

I signed up.   That was the beginning of a whole new journey for me, a new process to learn.  One that I want to keep track of here.   My first day at the gym was with a complimentary training session with a personal trainer.  I’m going to post the numbers here in all their glory, not only because I’m proud of how well I’m doing, but also because I think it is incredibly important for all of you to understand that if I can change my eating habits, start challenging my body and become more fit, you absolutely can, too.   Here are the numbers from when I started out:

Height:  5’3″     Weight:  165     Shoulders:  45.5″     Chest:  38″     Waist:  33.75″     Hips:  42.75″     Thigh:  20.5″     Arm:  10.5″    BF%:  35.9

Pre-pregnancy, I weighed 120 lbs no matter what I ate.  Post pregnancy averaged around 145 lbs.  This was the highest I’d been since right after I gave birth.  Twelve years ago.  Ouch.

Hurdle #3: Bumpy starts are bumpy.

The trainer showed me how to use all the equipment, namely all the weight machines.  I’ve since learned that this is standard cookie cutter gym protocol, so watch out for it.  It became apparent very quickly that those machines are not designed for short people.   The pivot points are all in the wrong places, and there was no way to adjust the machine enough to correct this issue.  This discrepancy in sizing meant that a stupid amount of torque was placed on joints, and it hurt.  Not in a “feel the burn” kind of way, either.  It was frustrating and discouraging.  I already felt super out of place in the gym.  This wasn’t helping.

Solution #3:  When something doesn’t work, don’t quit— fix it!

So when I met with the trainer for a follow up appointment a couple weeks later, I asked her to show me exercises that did not involve the machines, and this is when she lit up.  Want to know what she showed me?  KETTLEBELLS.  All caps.  Kettlebells rocked my world!  Finally, here was something that I could get into.  Kari Syme at Eclectic Kettlebell has a great post on why you should train with kettlebells.  Kettlebells immediately challenged me—but in a way that I could build up to.  I appreciated the functionality of the exercises, and the fact that it required me to use my whole body, not just isolated muscles.  Kettlebell training makes you stronger for the real world, for daily life.  And I saw my strength, balance, and flexibility grow quickly.

This new-found, first-in-a-lifetime excitement for exercise got me researching more types of functional exercises.  I found a few great sites that have become my go-to sources for all information regarding fitness.  Two of them are  Angry Trainer Fitness and FitStudio.  Alfonso Moretti, the Angry Trainer, tells it like it is.  He is a personal trainer and body builder and has made it his life’s work to know all the ins and outs of nutrition and fitness.  His site is loaded with interesting articles on all kinds of fitness topics, but my favorites are his how-to videos where he teaches proper form on common exercises and his exercise videos where he shows you exercises that will kick your butt and keep you from getting bored.  Srsly.  Find the “10 ways to do burpees” video and the one where he shows you how to do bird dogs.  Bird dogs changed my life.  Six months ago, I would have laughed if somebody said I would be typing that now.   I used FitStudio’s free video glossary of exercises to learn a bunch of new moves to try.  These clips are all about 30 seconds long, and are a great way to cross-reference exercises when you read other websites and have no idea what the trainer is talking about.  Hey, not everybody knows what a rear delt row is.  (raises hand)  

Two other websites that really helped me out were Bodyrock TV and Zuzana Light’s Youtube channel.   Now, a fair warning—both of these are very… boobcentric.  By which I mean, they really use “visuals” (wink, wink) to get people to watch.  It’s pretty off-putting, because on the surface it’s more about T & A than workouts.  However, if you have it in you to look past that, the workouts are good with lots of creative circuit sets.   I no longer have the time or energy to wade through the all that to get to the workouts, so I’ve stopped using both sites.   I think it’s unfortunate.   I learned a lot about bodyweight exercise by watching Lisa Marie on Bodyrock.  She is infectiously cheerful and encouraging—which just doesn’t fit with the rest of the image the website is using which is pretty bow-chicka-wocka-bow, if you know what I mean.  So in the end, I feel like I don’t know what they’re actually trying to be about.  But despite all that,  it was Bodyrock that got me into using bodyweight exercises, and for that I’m thankful.  I just wish I didn’t have to turn it off when the kids come in the room.  :/  Zuzana was the original host (and part-founder) of Bodyrock TV, but has since left to host her own Youtube channel called ZWOW.  She is awesome—friendly, engaging, and encouraging.  And her form kicks ass.  When she started ZWOW, I thought it was going to be something new and different, but it seems that she’s going to keep doing the whole Bodyrock type thing, too.   Whatevs.   You can still learn some fantastic exercises that require very little equipment.  And with both of these you have the advantage of getting new workouts daily for free and being able to pause and rewind them as many times as you need to.  Totally do-able.   The lesson here is to be able to take what you need and walk away from the rest.

So, armed with an arsenal of bodyweight and kettlebell exercises, I started working out 5 days a week.  Because of my schedule, I could only go after work—usually around 11pm.  I also started adding in some HIIT training.  High Intensity Interval Training is a method used typically with running that involves walking or jogging at an easy pace for a specified period of time, and then running balls out for that same period of time, all for maximum total time of 20-30 minutes.  HIIT training helps achieve conditioning much more effectively and in less time than longer, slower paced runs.  I started this method because I heard that it was particularly good at helping to build lung strength.  As an occasional asthmatic (chief triggers are cats and exercise), I really needed help in this department.  So, I started by walking for a minute and then running for a minute, for 20 minutes.  I did this 3 times a week.  Very quickly I was able to increase my speed until I jogged at 4mph and then ran at 7 mph for the intervals.   Dude, this was a major achievement.  Until this point, I was of the steadfast opinion that running is something you do to save your life.  It is not done voluntarily.  HIIT training taught me to love running.  Mostly.  And my lungs loved it, too.  I saw significant improvements in my tolerance and capacity.

Finally, as an experiment I also started monitoring my diet on Fitday, a free dietary system that helps you keep track of caloric and nutritional intake as well as weight goals.  It is highly customizable, and I found it incredibly helpful in educating me about my daily intake values and my portion sizes.  A real eye-opener.  I’m not going to lie, it’s a pain to keep track of every bite you eat—even with a computer program, but I approached it as an experiment.  I really wanted to see if my caloric intake was way off or not.  So I limited my calories to between 1300-1500 calories a day.  I ate foods that would get me to 100% or over of my daily RDA values for vitamins and minerals.  That was the hardest part.  But I really worked at this.

The results?  After 3 months, I was stronger, more flexible, and more comfortable in my body.  I was more knowledgeable about nutrient dense foods and how to eat in appropriate portions.  But after 3 months of working out 5 days a week and eating a restricted caloric intake, I’d only lost 10 pounds.  I was happy for that 10 pounds, but still, it pointed to something in the equation being off.

Not so much a hurdle as a brick wall:   When your body talks, listen or pay the price.

And then I hit a super stressful couple weeks in May.  Isn’t it crazy how a little bit of stress will derail you?  I ate all the wrong things for me:  wheat, dairy, sugar…  These foods have been on my verboten list for years.  It was stupid, and I paid the price.  I got really, really sick.  Like, my body threw in the towel.  So I said, that’s it.  No more playing around with my diet.  It was time to listen to my body.

Solution to brick walls:  Sometimes you’ve got to turn in a whole new direction.

I’ve known for a long time that a number of my health issues either start with or are exacerbated by food intolerances.  I’ve researched and experimented with this for years, with many frustrations and a few successes.  But it’s hard changing your diet, especially when you seem to have a bit of a threshold.  Well, my threshold went down the tube in May.  It was time to take things seriously and to do what my doctor advised several years ago.  So I went Paleo-ish.  I cut out all grains, dairy, legumes, and sugar.  Now I eat lean meats, healthy fats, tons of greens and veg, and a healthy amount of fruit, nuts, and seeds.  And I started feeling better.  I stopped counting calories, which is awesome, because as informative as that was, it was also unpleasant.  It’s not healthy to obsess over every bite you put in your mouth.  Now, I eat like a hoss—as much of these whole foods as it takes to satisfy my hunger.  It’s wonderful.  I feel good.

A little over a month later, in June, I met with the trainer again for a follow up, and here were the results:

Weight:  145 lbs     Shoulders:  41″     Chest:  36″     Waist:  30.5″     Hips:  41″     Arms”  10″     Thigh:  19.5″     BF%:  32

That’s 20 lbs down, and 10 of it after I went Paleo!  And a bunch of inches!

Then, I quit the gym.

Hurdle #4:  Timing.

Turns out that training late at night sucks for me.  It was jacking up my sleep and taking away family time that I wasn’t willing to part with any longer.  It would have been easy to quit at this point.  But I’d developed some self-discipline with all this working out.  Bonus!

Solution #4:  Location, location, location.

I started working out at home.  That’s right, in the comfort of my own living room!  Lol.  But it turns out that when you’re doing functional and bodyweight exercises, you don’t need a lot of room or equipment.  You just need a floor and your body.  That’s it.  No excuses.  I’ll prove it.  Here’s where I work out now:

The living room, aka my home gym. No contract, no membership fees.

All caught up to speed.

My measurements as of this morning:

Weight:  138 lbs     Shoulders:  40″     Chest:  36″     Waist:  30″     Hips:  39.5″     Thigh:  19″     Arms:  Hard to measure by yourself  BF%:  couldn’t measure

I think this is proof that the Paleo helping.  There have been challenges, which I’ll talk about specifically later, but overall I’ve seen major improvements over the last 2.5 months.  I’ll admit, over the last month or so, I slacked off in working out.  Which is to say, I didn’t work out.  This happens.  But I’m back on track, and now that I have the goal of paddling the MR340, I am more dedicated than ever to getting in shape. When the burpee squats are kicking my ass, and I want to quit, I look up and remember what I’m doing this for now:

Motivation.

For most of my life, I’ve been unhappy with my body, unhappy with my level of fitness.  But I always had excuses.  Not enough time, not enough money for a gym, not the right equipment, too stressed out, too fat to work out, exercise is boring… I justified my inactivity any way I could.  The thing is, that the only way to get fit is to do it.  One burpee at a time.  One sit-up at a time.  One jumping jack at a time.  Whatever you can do, DO IT!  That’s how you get in shape.  You start by walking, you end by running.  And your body will thank you with every step, with every heartbeat, with every breath.

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