Category: eating

One Week In On The Fruits and Veggies Challenge

Well, if I made six cups of fruits and veggies today, it was just by the skin of my teeth. I took a trip to South Dakota this afternoon. It was the 152nd annual Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate Wacipi (powwow) and it felt time to go. I am glad that I went. Powwows, however, are not the place to find nice, healthy fruits and vegetables. They are though the place to find the best fry bread known to humanity and that’s reason enough to go.

So, my food at home was good and healthy; yogurt with strawberries, mango, and banana, fresh green beans to snack on, things like that. At the powwow though I enjoyed a delicious Indian taco and some nachos with cheese. The day wound up a bit under 1600 calories, so not too bad even with some high carb indulgences which were well worth it.

The food was just one piece of the powwow. I’ve gone to many before and they are always good for the heart. There’s a special power in the drum. It’s good to feel the music. I find myself watching the dancers, thinking it’s probably nearly time for me to step away, but I can’t just yet after all it’s men’s fancy, my favorite dance. Then a few minutes later I think it’s near time to go, but I can’t right now, it’s women’s traditional, my favorite dance. This goes on through all the different dances. Each has it’s own strength. Each holds a role in teaching the children to be proud of who they are. It’s a gift to get to sit there on the sidelines and witness what remains, how the strength of generations continues forward never to be squelched by the colonizers.

I sat today on the sidelines when the older man sitting in front of me turned to talk with me. He asked where I was from when I answered and asked where he was from he told me, just down the road and then proceeded to speak to me in Dakota. I looked at him confused. He translated what he’d said for me. He told me he’d learned English when he went to school and asked me if I was surprised that he was Native. I was a bit, but I’ve known a fair number of blond haired, blued eyed Native people in Minnesota, so it wasn’t too big a surprise. Then he went on and told me stories of his life. He must have talked for at least an hour talking of his family, ancestors, speaking in both English and Dakota. He shared so many bits of wisdom. It was one of those life moments that cannot be anticipated and reaches in to do amazing things.

It was a good day and has been a good first week. Let’s see where next week goes.

6 Days Into the Journey

I had a strong start today with an apple/rhubarb/strawberry smoothie with just a bit of greens thrown in and some scrambled eggs with greens, banana peppers, broccoli, and tomatoes. It sounds like a lot of food as I write it down, but it was only a bit over 400 calories. It’s really amazing how much one can eat when you eat the right foods.

My dog, Buddy, and I celebrated his first birthday this morning with a trip to Monson Lake State Park for a nice little hike. He’s so happy when he gets to go on an adventure in the woods, sniffing for treasure everywhere, finding mud puddles to lay in, meeting new friends. We followed up our hike with a bit of human indulgence. We went to Willmar for a stop at Culvers. I was happy with myself though for not getting any pop or ice cream, just a cod sandwich and onion rings. Still, a meal like that is roughly 1,000 calories, the same as the total of my other two meals for the day and it’s not really more food. It’s just the wrong food to eat too often. I am happy that there isn’t a Culvers near Morris and it’s a special treat to go.

We did take advantage of being in Willmar though and gave Buddy another treat for the day. We went to the dog park. Buddy had a great time! He met two huge Great Danes, Stout and Porter, who were just a few weeks younger than him and each about 70 lbs bigger. They came with their little friend, Ebony, a Springer Spaniel mix about a year older than Bud, but closer to his size. It was a laugh to watch Buddy play and wrestle with his new pals. It was a gift to see him so friendly with the giants and to feel his trust as he ran toward them and then would come back to me when he needed a bit of space and assurance. I am grateful for his trust. He’s a good friend.

The rest of the day was napping, joining the community band in a parade, watching the pageant at the Starbuck Heritage Days, and just generally relaxing. It was good.

I am doing really well with getting 6-9 cups of vegetables and fruits each day, though some days, like today, I’m at the lower end. My challenge is to keep away from too many trips to the places that serve me high calorie and unhealthy options. I can get there.

Day 5 of the 78 Day Challenge

Thinking today about my recent visit with the dietitian. It was basic visit, too basic for me. I’ve read a lot, watched a lot of videos, and listened to quite a few professionals in health care over the past twenty or so years. But, I needed to see a dietitian to get the okay on dietary changes so that my neurologist and general practitioner might know I’ve seen a professional to approve how I feed myself. It’s a messed up system. After all, who knows our bodies better than ourselves? Still, I visited with hopes that she could give me new insights that would help me along my journey. Here’s what I came up with.

She encouraged me, as health professionals do, to pre-plan my meals and write out a shopping list. She told me that it’s okay to sometimes go out to eat and indulge in my favorite pizza, but I should have a salad as well so that I would fill up and not eat as much pizza. I was frustrated as I left with that simple advice, late on my way to another meeting.

Today, I thought about it a bit more as I indulged in some of my favorite pizza choices along with a large salad and some pickled beets. I realized that even with the salad and beets that I could easily eat just as many slices of pizza as ever. I’d just added a bit more food rather than cut any out. With that I was reminded how little food has to do with physical hunger, at least that’s true in my world as a reasonably economically stable white person in the United States today. Eating is more about filling a space, emotional or social or maybe something else, but it isn’t simply physical. We eat for the comfort of eating. I certainly don’t go to Pizza Ranch for the quality of their food. I go to read a book, enjoy some quiet time, imbibe in some stuff that is rich and greasy and some that is sweet, decompress from whatever stress I’ve been facing. I don’t go to fill my caloric needs. That’s not why we eat, at least not the primary reason. The question then becomes, how else might I fill those needs?

I don’t know the answer to that yet. I do know that answer needs to be found for my happiness. Meanwhile, I think I hit six cups of fruits and vegetables today, and, not surprisingly given that I went to Pizza Ranch, I wound up high on calories, carbs, proteins, fats, and sugar. Still, much better than a lot people in the US, so it’s okay. I am on my way.

Halfway Through Week One

This experience has me baffled at the moment. I weighed myself this afternoon and the scale read the highest that it has in more than a year. I hope that it means that the batteries are dying in my scale.

Today was a low calorie day. I did well today with my fruits and vegetables intake. I hit nine cups! Strawberries, mango, banana, rhubarb, asparagus, mixed greens, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumber, and a bit of hummus. The hot weather helped. I didn’t want to cook so smoothies, yogurt and fruit, fresh vegetables and hummus were all good options for the day.

I suspect that at some point I will start to see weight loss. But, I wonder when? It is a strange thing that my weight is up rather than stable or down. I think I need to do some more reading to better understand what is happening.

I feel good though. It’s been a quiet couple of days without a whole lot going on and sometimes being so quiet can get me feeling down. I noticed today that I didn’t feel that. I just felt quiet, but not melancholy. I don’t know if my eating over the past few days has impacted my emotions, but I can hope that it has.

Now, I suppose might be a good time to put some thought into my grocery list for the weekend.

And oh, for those who’ve been following this journey, I waited for morning to have the berries and yogurt. I recognized last night that I was just wanting to eat for entertainment and not to assuage my hunger. I decide to find other ways to entertain myself.

Day 3

Still high on the calories, that, I will admit, was due to a trip to Pizza Ranch though. The good news though on my pizza indulgence was that it included a large salad and a little less pizza then previous trips. I don’t know how much that matters given that their salads are made with spinach that is probably well sprayed with chemicals throughout its growth and nuts that are glazed with sugar. But still, it tells me that it is possible to have a meal out that is mainly reasonably healthy food and still enjoy it.

I didn’t hit the full nine cups of fruits and vegetables today, but I am within my goal of six to nine cups with roughly six cups. Given that most Americans are eating less than two cups of fruits and vegetables a day, I feel quite good about that. Plus, I am still considering a bowl of freshly picked strawberries with some yogurt. It feels a bit late and I am well over the calories for the day, but I just went to the U-Pick this afternoon and came home with just over twelve pounds of berries. It seems a shame not to eat some right away. Doesn’t it? Hmmm…..

2 Days In

Day 2 of the 78 day challenge was a hungry one, but I am happy to say that I didn’t slide into the world of pizza and I did well with getting about nine cups of fruits and vegetables.

A purist in this journey toward better health might say that I’m depending too much on berries and bananas. But I’m going to say that in the world of sweets that some berries and bananas with a bit of cream and some sugar-free chocolate chips is a pretty good healthy option and I’m willing to go with it if it means that I’m not eating cake and ice cream.

For dinner I treated myself to dinner out at Mi Mexico. So, my calories were high for today. Still with a vegetarian option, I was able to keep on track with my vegetable intake goals. My protein, which is typically low, was also right on target. I’m hoping that this means tomorrow will not be a hungry day.

Feeling good. I am already not as tired as I was a week ago. I suppose, at this point, it’s mere coincidence, but we’ll see how it continues. I am hopeful that my health will continue to improve.

Day 1 of the Challenge

I took a nap yesterday after writing my post, declaring my intent with the 78 day challenge to increase my fruit and vegetable intake, lower my carbohydrates, and just generally improve my health and lower my weight. I woke with one thought in my mind– “What the heck was I thinking???”

Well, the dice were tossed, so I am here to play the game. Today was a good start. It began with a smoothie. A cup of greens, one of mixed berries, and one of rhubarb with a bit of almond milk and maple syrup to sweeten and a few pecans on the side. It was surprisingly tasty. I had wondered if the rhubarb might be overpowering, but it worked well.

Breakfast was followed by a visit to my dietitian to follow up on earlier discussions on how to improve my diet so that I might become less dependent on my epilepsy medication and reach my goal weight as well. She added a few ideas that may prove helpful, encouraging me to work on my meal planning and move away from red meats in favor of more fish, among other things. There wasn’t a lot new there, but it was good nonetheless.

Lunch was simple, just some homemade tomato soup with a little cheese thrown in and some broccoli and hummus.

Dinner was the most complex meal of the day. Broiled walleye with a side of leftover mashed cauliflower and another of yam chips. Dessert was mixed berries with banana and sugar-free chocolate chips covered with just a bit of maple syrup and some whipping cream.

A quick review of the numbers told me that my carbs were still at 174 for the day. My goal is 100. I could get much closer by taking out syrup, raisins, and sugar-free chocolate chips. Taking out the yams would have put me well within range. I have to ask myself though what is most important to me? Is it that carbohydrate goal or enjoying a little bit of sweets? I don’t know. I do know that my carbohydrate levels must have been simply out of control before I started down this path a few years ago and that a keto diet sounds painful!

Still, it was a good start and I am happy with how I did.

The 78 Day Challenge

Probably about fifteen years ago or so I started having headaches, bad headaches. At their worst they’d cause me to black out and cause nausea and exhaustion for days. Then about six years ago a housemate discovered me having a seizure. The seizures continued and I finally had a diagnosis. I had epilepsy.

While after a couple of tries my neurologist and I found a medication that dealt with the seizures and my headaches were largely gone with only a very rare occurrence. There were a couple of problems though. My medication causes brain fog. High doses make even simple tasks like spelling a big challenge and short and long term memory became an issue. Another problem was simply that I don’t like taking medicine and don’t want to take it for the rest of my life.

So, about two years ago I decided to embark on another path. I had my foods tested. The testing came up with nine food sensitivities. I leapt in taking my allergens out of my diet and starting to heal my gut. The results were great! I had been obese when I was first diagnosed. Upon changing my diet the weight started to come off. Ultimately, I lost about 50lbs and got to a reasonable weight. Adding in CBD oil over the past six months, I’ve been able to cut my zonisamide use by more than half and stay seizure free.

I’m still taking medication though and after two years of my diet changes I find myself slipping more lately and going to some of those bad for me foods. Pizza is a big one for me. Too many carbohydrates and too much dairy in general. I’ve added back a few of the pounds I lost and I’m noticing a bit fatigue lately.

It seems time to up the game again and I’ve realized that I need a form of accountability. That’s the 78 day challenge. My next neurologist appointment is in 78 days. I want to take some significant steps toward healing my brain and making my body more healthy before that visit.

I’ve been listening to Dr. Terry Wahls recently and am intrigued by her work, particularly by the idea of eating nine cups of vegetables a day. I’m intrigued because that’s a lot of food and I admit it, I like to eat. It’s also a way of looking at diet as a gift. So much of our food consumption is based on denial. I want to eat a diet that encourages me to take in a variety of delicious foods that treat me well.

Over the next 78 days I want to aim for that nine cups of vegetables a day, limit my bad carbs and dairy consumption, and increase my good fats and turn to healthy proteins. I am aiming to lose that last 25 lbs, get rid of that fatigue, and get a positive report from my neurologist.

I am hoping that you’ll join me on this journey. I’ll be updating here 3-7 times a week to let you know how it’s going. I would love to hear about what you are doing to care for yourself too!

The New Year Update– Spring Edition

In some ways January 1st seems so long ago. But, here in west central Minnesota I can just look out the window and it seems like only yesterday. We’re still knee deep in snow with the promise of a really exciting blizzard in the upcoming day or so. Right now, it’s in the upper 30’s so the snow is melting and rain is coming down. The streets are running with rivers and many Morris residents are busy moving everything in their basements to higher ground and making sure their sump pumps work. I, meanwhile, am being thankful at being a renter without a basement.

So, where things from that list of lofty goals I made back in January. Well, here’s the update.

  1. Writing at least 50 blog posts– I think I better get to work on this one, but I’m not horribly far off. This is number 6 with just 41 more weeks in the year.
  2. Reading/ listening to 50 books — I’m a little behind on this one too, actually about the same amount as I am with writing my blog. I am six books in right now and working on number seven. I must highly recommend “Becoming” by Michelle Obama. What an incredibly inspiring person. I’d also say read “Driving Miss Norma: One Family’s Journey Saying Yes to Living.” It’s a beautiful tale of life in its final moments. “The Education of Will” was quite good too.
  3. Getting back on track with my healthy eating habits– I’m doing ok here now. I did have a really rough time for a few weeks when the majority of my diet was pizza and burgers. I don’t know how much I got depressed because of what I was eating or how much I was eating so poorly because I was depressed. But, I am doing a lot better now and feeling better too.
  4. Running a 10k or 1/2 marathon (I haven’t decided yet, but I know more than 5k and probably not a full)– I’m not starting running until I don’t have to plow through snow drifts to do it.
  5. learn to play guitar– I found someone who teaches guitar, that’s a start. Right?
  6. finish at least 3 or 4 knitting projects– I’ve got 1 done. I actually switched to crochet, but I’m going to count it.
  7. Get Buddy started with his therapy dog training– We started with dog training. Then it got snowed out so many times that I decided to start again in the next class series. He is learning tricks pretty well. Now, if I could just get him to learn not to chew on his human.
  8. Cutting my screen time significantly, especially facebook time– Not perfect, but doing well here. It helps to have my book reading goal. I can’t read and do Facebook at the same time. Spring will help too. I have a commitment to not looking at social media when I am out walking and I love to get out when the weather is nice.

So, that’s where it’s at. While I’m not quite where I aimed to be at this time, I’m feeling pretty good about what I’ve been able to do and am glad that I set goals this year. What about you? Who else set New Year’s goals and where are you at?

Every week I have my students write down two goals for themselves. One is a project goal to remind themselves about what they want to accomplish on the effort that they are working on with their community partner for the semester. The other, and this is maybe the more radical one for college students, is a self care goal. Most of my students are pretty generic in their self care goals. They want to sleep, to eat vegetables, or to study. But, that’s o.k. It’s makes no difference to me if they have some simple goals or even if those goals stay the same all semester. I just want them to write that self care goal every week for 15 weeks. I want them to leave the program thinking that it’s important to take care of themselves as well as to have a direction in the work they choose.

That’s why I put together my New Year’s goals this year and why I am coming back to them now in March to check in and see how I am doing, because I am important enough to take care of. We all are. I hope that you’re finding a good way to care for yourself today.

Sweet Holidays

About one and a half years ago I changed my diet. I didn’t go on a diet. In my experience, diets are almost always temporary fixes that don’t lead to long term solutions. I opted instead to change the foods I eat for a lifetime in order to live longer and better with hopes that it would help decrease my seizures and help with the bouts of depression that I’d been facing.

I worked with an old friend who now is a medical professional to test my food allergies. We found nine. Not surprisingly, most were things that I was eating daily, things like potatoes and cane sugar. I was craving these items just like any other addict would crave the substances that harm them. So, my list of harmful substances in hand I cleaned out my kitchen and began again.

It was tough at first, but I began to quickly see the benefits and they kept me going. Over time I lost 50lbs, found greater energy, began to be able to sleep through the night again, felt mentally clearer, and stopped needing to run to the bathroom every two hours. The change of eating habits definitely has helped my life a great deal. It’s hard to say whether it’s cut my seizures or not, but I’m down to about one a year which is much better than bouts of them every few months where I was a few years ago.

Over the holidays I decided to try an experiment to see how my body has healed in the last one and a half years. I decided that while I was visiting family for the week between Christmas and New Year’s that I wouldn’t stick with my healthy food choices. I wouldn’t go overboard, but I would allow myself things like sugary Christmas cookies and cheesy potatoes if I wanted them.

It is amazing to me the impact that food has on our bodies. There were many meals this past week that told me immediately that they weren’t right for me. I wondered how I handled the food roller coaster for the first forty-five years of my life. I’d find myself eating some food that I’d once loved; processed macaroni and cheese, buttered noodles from Noodles and Company, rice crispy bars, all these heavily processed, sugar laden, super carb foods that were one minute tasty on the tongue and the next causing me to say “ugghhh, I should not have done that.” Food should not elicit that kind of response.

Over the week I found that most of my allergens I can live with or without and not care too much, but there is that one demon. Yes, you probably guessed it, sugar. I am only allergic to cane sugar, but just eliminating that from my diet significantly cut my overall sugar use. When I reintroduced it this past week, I suddenly found myself reaching for more and more Christmas cookies even though I knew that within the hour I’d want a nap. Every day I slept for about an hour in the afternoon. Every night I got up at least once. I could see and feel the changes in my complexion and just my body overall even in just nine short days. And, the cravings were amazing. It is a strange thing to find myself thinking about the next cookie or piece of chocolate or whatever.

I am glad that I did the experiment and glad to be home and going back to my normal way of eating. I’ll probably be juice fasting for a few days to rid myself of toxins. Then, I hope I can keep passing all the sugary processed stuff everywhere and get back to being healthy. Wishing you all the best of health in the new year.