Category: food

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!

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.

Is It Control?

Continuing my Turning Toward meditation this morning, I find myself asking if my attempt to look at my need to seek control might not have some aspects of seeking control within it.  Still, it was an interesting exercise and I appreciate what I saw and am left to wonder what might be opening up.

This morning I mentally walked into the meditation acknowledging that I struggle with a need to find some control in my life.  Many years ago it came to life in what maybe was properly labeled as anorexia.  Recently, life has been pretty stressful and I saw, just for a moment, some old tools resurfacing.  Twenty plus years after I thought my battle with my eating disorder was over I found myself thinking about how I could cut my food consumption in some unhealthy ways.  Thankfully, today I have a wealth of other tools in my collection that I didn’t have two decades ago.  I was able to look at myself and say “Woah, I don’t want to go down that path again.  What’s happening here? What do I really need?”  Thus, I meditate, write, balance time with good people and to myself, walk a lot, and with the spring am starting to garden again and eat the fresh veggies that I’ve grown in community with others.  With help, I’ve also been able to address some of the things that have caused the stress.  One by one they’re being taken care of and life is smoothing out again.

Still, I wonder about that control piece.  Why do I need to be in charge? Why do I avoid asking for help? I’ve found some answers in meditation of late, but it feels there is more.  Yet today, the question refused to be acknowledged.  Instead, the meditation took me to the woods.  It was the woodlot on the back of the farm where I grew up, just a tiny patch of trees, but big enough for a little girl’s dreams and firewood for the stove in winter.

I saw the box where we used to store some of wood cutting equipment, at least I think that’s what used to be in that box.  I never did much with it.  The woods was a play place for me mostly.  It was where Hawkeye lived, a chickenhawk who was my symbol of grace, strength and freedom as a child.  It was also home to unicorns, fairies, and an array of other magical beings as well as the creatures of this world.  There were tall trees that had fallen and made wonderful climbing toys.  It was a magical forest.

Hmmm…. maybe this morning’s meditation was simply reminding me of a time and place where I didn’t need control and it was ok

That’s the thought for the day.  Thanks for reading.  And, thanks to Feedspot for adding Sustainablelifeinaction to the to top 75 Sustainability Blogs! https://blog.feedspot.com/sustainability_blogs/

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?

Changing and Staying the Same: The Struggle Goes On

November 22nd, 2014
It’s been a long time.  A lot has changed and some things have stayed the same.  I suppose it’s time to write again.

When I last wrote on this blog I lived in Madison, Wisconsin.  I was in the middle of the progressive haven in the midst of the crushing regime of the man considered by many to be the worst governor in Wisconsin history, and I was tired of being an activist and organizer.  I was taking a break and mostly just being a pessimist and trying to get through a diagnosis of epilepsy.

I had to get away.  After months of searching I came across a position with the Toxic Taters Coalition in northern Minnesota.  I had been looking at Minnesota, but I hadn’t thought I’d move so far north.  Still, I was drawn to this group with the name that made me laugh.  I got the job and suddenly I found myself living less than an hour from Fargo.  Who would have ever thought I’d go to North Dakota when I need to go to a city?

I find myself organizing again and enjoying it again.  My work is bringing together Native and non-Native people in a fight to cut the use pesticides by RD Offutt, the largest potato producer in the world.  The work is growing by the day.  I love to see people who aren’t daunted by the idea of taking on a huge corporation.  They’re just doing what they need to do to keep living, quite literally.

My growth here is in bringing together people across the divides and understanding who I am.  I’ve worked with Native people for a long time, but until now I’ve always lived far away.  Now, my office is on the White Earth reservation and my home is about 13 miles away from the reservation boundary.  The racial divides are clear.

Generations of genocide have destroyed so much of the family/ community structure and created such a sense of despair.  I have met some very strong people who are working so hard to rebuild and foster the seeds.  There’s a lot to do.  I ask myself what role I play.  I am not Native.  I can’t be that nor do I want to.  I have my own history.  I do think I have a role as an ally to act as a bridge connecting people who otherwise do not meet and understand each other.  It is a role that requires both delicacy and strength and a lot of figuring out.

Which brings me back to Madison.  It was just a few weeks ago that the one who has been considered the worst governor in Wisconsin history won again and people started talking about leaving and moving to Minnesota or other more progressive places.   Yes, Minnesota’s government is currently more liberal than Wisconsin, that’s true.  I will give you that.  But,  I wonder, to what degree does it matter?   I’m working with people right now who are fighting for the air they breathe.  They’ve watched the insects, birds, and frogs die away.  They all know someone who is sick or they are sick themselves because of the pesticides.  The other night I went to a meeting and learned about elders heating their homes with their kitchen stoves.  I’ve heard many stories already of families struggling with addiction in their midst.   I wish my home state could have gotten rid of Walker.  I hope to god he doesn’t get any further in politics.  But, someone else in the governor’s office isn’t the answer.  I wish it were that easy.

Those are my thoughts for the moment.  I hope now that the winter is upon us that I might take up this writing assignment more consistently again.  I look forward to developing my thoughts through it and to reading yours.

peace,
amy