35 Days of the Fruit and Vegetables Challenge

My recent trip has reminded me that sugar is the big challenge. While traveling I let myself splurge a lot. It wasn’t downing boxes of cookies or gallons of ice cream or anything out of control like that. But, it was eating sugar filled pieces of cake and ultra rich desserts with most of my meals.

Now, I am stuck with the results. Not only did I add a few pounds, but I’m going through the steps of withdrawal again and recognizing how easy it would be to slide back into a sugar filled, processed food reality and destroy all that I’ve worked for.

Sugar withdrawal means being tired, feeling hot flashes, being worn, and getting grumpy and frustrated, needing to just hide away for a bit to recover. It means craving, wanting ice cream or chocolate or whatever sweet option there is. I’m trying to come down with frozen fruits with yogurt and such, but it is what it is and I’ll need to struggle through for a bit again. Maybe someday I will learn, not eat the sugary stuff, and not put myself through this again.

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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.

Food for Thought From the Garden

Roughly 45lbs of food, that’s what came out of the garden that I share with my friend David yesterday.  I will admit there was apple tree involved and apples are heavy.  Still, it’s an impressive haul from just an average small town back yard.  I haven’t been consistent about weighing the food that I harvest, but this makes me wonder.  How much have I gotten from the garden this year and how much is there?  Is it 200lbs, 500, a 1,000?

In any case, it the experience is worth its weight in gold.  The dog and I walk the few blocks over to David’s house where I unleash Bella to let her lay in the shade while I weed and discover the bounty.  Depending on the amount to harvest and the number of mosquitoes we may be there a few minutes or a few hours.  If David is home we enjoy some visiting while we’re there.

Yesterday I found a butternut squash where I thought I’d accidentally killed off the vine.  It was great find.  Earlier this summer I was awed by lettuce that kept producing tasty leaves even in the hottest days of July.  I can’t say that I ever find this kind of joy and wonder in the aisles of the supermarkets looking at the harvests trucked in from 500 miles away.

I spent most of my day yesterday in my kitchen watching movies on my computer while making spaghetti sauce for winter, freezing carrots, drying apples, baking granola, and making a bit of cucumber salad.  I still have quite a bit of that 45 lbs of produce to preserve so I’ll be back at it tonight. But, it brings me such simple joy.

I spend the time engulfed the sweet and savory smells of my creations eyeing the wonders that I had the good fortune to harvest, being awed just that they’re real.  I get to bathe in the memories other times and other kitchens with friends and family, so much laughter and so much love.

I think a lot about convenience.  I think about how we were sold the idea of processed foods in the 1950’s.  We were told they were convenient, time savers.  Yes, I spent a wonderful day yesterday enjoying the food I grew and harvested.  I got to spend time with my dog and cats, just being at home and being creative.  I don’t know a better use of that time.  I am glad I didn’t give it away to something else less valuable.  I am confident too, that there will be times this winter that I will be glad of my pre-prepared sauces and soups and other wonders that I can heat in just a few minutes for supper that were made in my kitchen and not a science lab with food not food-like substances.

The Detox Day 20

I did something a little out of the ordinary a few weeks ago, 20 days ago to be exact.  It was my friend Bob’s fault.  Last summer I had some allergy testing done to see if changing my diet might help with my epilepsy.  I’ve made some significant changes to how I eat and it’s been great!  I’ve lost nearly 40 lbs.  I feel so much healthier and I think my seizures have decreased as well.

Among my allergies are cane sugar, olives (olive oil), green pepper, and black pepper as well as a few other things.  That brings us to the incident of 20 days ago.  I’ve said goodbye to ice cream, cakes, and cookies without too much sadness.  I’ve just figured out ways to replace them with things I can eat.  There is one thing that I’ve not successfully said goodbye to though– pizza.   I still fall prey to the mediocre pizza buffet.  I can successfully avoid the slices covered in green peppers and olives for the most part though every once in a while one slips in covered in cheese.  But, there’s just about always cane sugar, olive oil, and black pepper hidden in those creations.  Plus, the pizza buffet is one of the few places that I have a glass of pop anymore as well.  20 days ago I was on Facebook pondering a trip for pizza when Bob responded by telling me that I’m an addict and need a 120 day detox.

Well, whether or not addict is the right word I don’t know.  But, I am nothing if I am not stubborn.  Bob seemed to be questioning if I could go 120 days without pizza.  I thought about it and realized that since my mom died in 1984,  I’ve probably never gone more than two weeks without a slice.  I was twelve when she passed and had quite limited cooking skills.  When Dad was at work and I was home I ate a lot of frozen pizza, potato chips, and coke.  Now, all three are gone from my diet.

In college, my housemate had a piggy bank in the shape of the Sesame Street character Bert.  We used it to save our change for a trip to Europe.  We never got to Europe because every time we got enough we bought pizza.  I’ll be making my first trip to Europe this summer.

Today is a day of celebration.  I think it may be the longest I’ve gone without eating pizza since I was 12 years old.  I am treating my body with the love and respect that I deserve.  Feeding myself good and healthy food that I enjoy and that makes me feel good.

Only 100 more days to the pizza detox.  I am asking myself how I will celebrate my accomplishment when it’s done.  Will I go out for pizza? Stay tuned to find out.

How are you caring for yourself today?  You deserve the best.  Treat yourself with love, caring, and respect.

Challenges and Gifts

My father will turn 90 in just a few days.  Family is gathering for the party tomorrow.  I’ll be 500 miles away.

That wasn’t the plan.  The plan was that I’d drive home yesterday, spend a little time with friends along the way, then head for a weekend with family.  My body, well actually my brain, changed the plan.  I have epilepsy.  I was diagnosed in 2013.  My seizures have been well under control, but one showed up a few days ago and I had to set down the car keys for the next few months.  And, I had to take a few days to just rest and recover.

The good news is that it encouraged me to pick up the laptop again.

I don’t know why I have epilepsy.  I come from a large family and I am the only one with this challenge/gift.  I can hypothesize a list of possibilities, and I have many times. But, the reality is that it’s here and I get to live with it.

Why write about it?  Well, because it is a gift and gifts are good to share.  What? Epilepsy is a gift? No way!

I will admit it’s not a gift I would have chosen and if I had the receipt I would most definitely return it, but it is a gift.  Here are just few reasons why I consider my epilepsy a gift in my life.  I wonder what unexpected and perhaps unwanted gifts life has given you?

  1. It’s helped me look at the temporary nature of life to better understand that there was a time without me and there will be another time without me.  That’s ok. Now is my time to be alive.
  2. It got me to take pause to take care of myself.  I’m now a whole lot more conscious of when I need to just relax.  I’ve totally changed my diet, lost a lot of weight, and feel much better and happier.
  3. It’s helped me empathize with the experience of others.  Seizures scare people.  They also sometimes limit some of the things that I am able to do.  Epilepsy is covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act.  So, I am told, by the law, that I now have a disability.  Some days I agree.  Some days I don’t.  But, I do know that I have a better understanding of how both my brain and societal rules create limits.
  4. I have found great support.  I am a lucky one.  I have a strong family and friends that don’t run when they get scared.  I’ve also been able to find some excellent online support groups that have added to the group of people that I have that understand.  How amazing is it when people stay with us through the our rough spots?
  5. It’s continued to inspire my work to encourage healthy living both as individuals and as community.  My experience simply reminds me that we need to take care of ourselves individually and as a community if we’re to survive and thrive.

What challenge/gifts inspire you and carry you forward?