Monday, July 28, 2014

Kids Musical

Our kiddos attended a music camp last week; they worked on the musical part each morning, and then had fun outings each afternoon.  They both really enjoyed themselves, although D was not super excited about the actual performance part (which was Sunday evening). Well, yesterday after church he kept saying he wasn't feeling well.  He didn't eat much for lunch and was unusually quiet, but I shrugged it off thinking he was just trying to get out of singing (we'd already had a few discussions about that).  Around 3, I noticed he was feeling very warm, so decided to take his temp. 102.  Took it again thirty minutes later, and it was clear that he truly did have a fever.

A had a small solo in the program (check out the video!) and D sat beside me watching.  The whole performance was great - I was really impressed that the kids pulled that off in just a week, complete with motions.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Some Thoughts on Healthy Living

So I've been THMing for over ten months now. Wow, I can't believe that!  I've tried so many stinkin' "diets," and I usually burn out by the six month mark, tired of counting calories, measuring portions, and never feeling full...

My weight loss has really slowed in the past three months, but that's OK.  The crazy thing is that even though that number on the scale isn't moving much, my body is continuing to change.  I just did another round of purging in my closet - the clothes that I couldn't wear when I started this journey are now falling off.  I've run out of notches in my belts, and even my shoes are looser.  That's amazing.

So what have I learned from this journey? (so far)
  • I firmly believe that weight is 90% what you're eating; I'm not saying that exercise doesn't play a part in your health (good for your heart, building muscle helps metabolism and prevents bone loss, etc.) but you do *not* need to work out an hour a day to start losing weight.  You are in charge of what goes in your mouth, and the majority of us Americans choose convenient crap rather than REAL food.
  • It's about making small, good choices consistently.  You'll mess up, and that's OK. Don't use it as an excuse to write off the day/week/month and drown your sorrows in a box of doughnuts.
  • Although it's overwhelming at first, it really and truly does get easier.  If someone had told me a year ago that I'd be completely sugar free, I would have rolled my eyes and started laughing.  I still enjoy sweets (made with stevia, erythritol, and/or xylitol - stop and think about that acronym!) but I'm no longer controlled by my cravings.  No, I'm not overstating that - if I had a taste of something, all I could think about was how I could have MORE.  Food is definitely my drug of choice.  Which leads me to:
  • Sometimes moderation is not an option.  I had to completely cut sugar out before my cravings started going away.  That's tough since sugar hides in everything; I used to say that I ate pretty healthy, and I've always made a lot of our food, but I didn't realize how much junk was hiding in the stuff like BBQ sauce and salad dressings.
  • Having support is HUGE.  I'm truly blessed to have a group of ladies locally; we've been meeting for over two years now. We come from very different backgrounds and are all at different places in our health journey, but what a blessing to have a safe place to gripe, ask for prayer and share recipes.  I've also found that I enjoy the online community; there's a FB group specifically for those following THM who have over 50 pounds to lose, and it's great to know I can post there and that those ladies get it.
  • It's important to pay attention to YOUR body.  We're all different, and what works for one person may not work for another.  That's actually one thing I love about THM - it's NOT "Here's your eating plan for the next week." I've learned I do better with a minimum of six E meals weekly (Energizing: 25-45 grams of healthy carbs along with a good lowfat protein, i.e. grilled chicken breast with brown rice or pork loin with beets) although the S meals (Satisfying: these are fattier meals, very similar to Atkins) sure are tasty!
A few Non-Scale Victories (NSVs, as we like to refer to them online) I've noticed - beyond needing smaller clothes :)
  • My skin has really improved!  I've always had acne - not as severe as when I was a teen, but annoying nonetheless.  I also have mild rosacea. The photo above is me without makeup. 
  • Speaking of that photo: it's a selfie I took because I mentioned getting a new haircut, and a long-distance friend wanted to see it. I hate selfies - I shoot a whole bunch of pictures, but then hate looking at them (my chin, my cheeks, whatever!) Well, I only shot two tonight (and I had my eyes closed in the first one, LOL). Confidence increasing, self loathing decreasing!
  • My nails are stronger.
  • My arthritic knees hurt less (I used to pop 800 mg of ibuprofen each morning to help manage the inflammation, but haven't done that in months).
  • Much fewer headaches.
  • Increased energy levels.
  • Sucking in my gut in to scooch through a tight space only to discover it wasn't necessary :)
  • My feet don't smell bad anymore!  This is the one that has surprised me the most - never considered that might be related to my diet.
But a word of warning - I'm becoming one of those crazy people, you know: those annoying friends who talk way too much about whatever it is they're into.  I was chatting with a casual friend yesterday who's had some gallbladder issues.  She asked me some questions about the way I was eating, and I then asked her if she was taking any supplements, such as ox bile.  As soon as I said it, I stopped and had one of those, "Whoa, where did that just come from?!" moments.  Yes, I am still reading all sorts of things about nutrition, and apparently more of it is soaking in than I realized!

Anyway, I am still very much a devotee of THM.  Someone online was complaining that it was too hard with all the rules. I completely disagree - I have found it liberating to learn the basic principles and tweak them to fit our lives.  I was pretty strict with eating on plan the first six months, and even managed to do well while hubby was in the hospital (on a side note, if that had happened a year prior, I probably would have gained 10-15 pounds during that period as I would have sought solace in baked goods).  We went on vacation earlier this month, and there were a few meals where I really and truly couldn't eat entirely on plan - and that was OK.  I did the best I could and kept moving on -- I didn't inhale a plate of fries, but I did eat a couple.  I even had a Wendy's frosty; I wasn't sure how I would feel after that, but I was fine.  I have noticed that when I choose to have something like delivery pizza or a fast food burger, I'll get bloated and my face usually breaks out about three days later. Fascinating.  It's not a gluten issue (I do use some low carb wraps and tortillas for convenience sake, and they are not gluten free), but there's obviously something in the white flour that my body does not care for. 

Oh, the things I'm learning!

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Omnivore's Dilemma

So on my quest toward healthier living, I've been reading. A lot.  Normally I'm strictly a novel kind of girl, but turns out I can stand an occasional round of educational nonfiction ;)

I read The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan last month, and wanted to share a bit about it here (and ramble on longer than I would in a goodreads review.  Anyone else on there?)

A few friends raved about this book, so I took a chance on it.  The author essentially decides that he wants to evaluate our food chain, so he can better answer the question, "What should we have for dinner?" There are three main sections - Industrial/Corn, Pastoral/Grass (this was my favorite section by far) and Personal/The Forest.  I had a hard time getting into it initially and skimmed a bit in the first 50 or so pages.

He spends about 100 pages just on corn - the government-subsidized stuff that now fills most animals' feed bins (even cows, who naturally would be eating grass), not to mention the processed products lining the shelves of our grocery stores (HFCS, of course, but must of the emulsifiers and such are corn-based); and I think we're all aware of the GMO argument these days.  He points out many shortcomings in our commercialized, industrialized nation, and I admit that I am now even more jaded about the USDA and the government's nutritional recommendations, but this book is not just some anti-government rant...

As science has advanced, we are quick to embrace the discoveries and confidently proclaim we've solved the mysteries.  Pollan discusses studies of soil,  and the discovery in 1840 that the chemicals nitrogen, phosphorus, and and potassium are crucial to plant growth, which soon led to an "NPK mentality."
When we mistake what we can know for all there is to know, a healthy appreciation of one's ignorance in the face of a mystery like soil fertility gives way to the hubris that we can treat nature as a machine. (pg 148)
Wow.  I actually stopped and read that sentence a couple times. Sir Albert Howard, an English agronomist, fought vehemently against "artificial manures" (fertilizer) in the 1930s-1940s, saying they'd leave plants vulnerable to pests and disease, and eventually cause damage to the health of the animals and people who ate them. Hmmmm.

But moving along... all this reading has also led me to have a deeper appreciation of this amazing body that God created (even though an attempt is made to ascribe these capabilities to evolution)
The fact that we humans are indeed omnivorous is deeply inscribed in our bodies... Our teeth are omnicompetent - designed for tearing animal flesh as well as grinding plants.  So are our jaws, which we can move in the manner of a carnivore, a rodent, or an herbivore, depending on the dish.  Our stomachs produce an enzyme specifically designed to break down elastin, a type of protein found in meat and nowhere else.  Our metabolism requires specific chemical compounds that, in nature, can be gotten only from plants (like Vitamin C) and others that can be gotten only from animals (like vitamin B-12). (pg 289)
Pollan visits Polyface farms, whose owner, a graduate of Bob Jones university with a Jesus fish on his car, describes himself as a "grass farmer" (as it's the basis of the intricate food chain found on his farm, which includes chickens, cows, turkeys, rabbits, and pigs, not to mention tomatoes, sweet corn and berries). He does not qualify for the government designation of "organic" yet uses no pesticides or fertilizers, but instead utilizes the animals themselves to provide all that's needed (the cows eat the grass and leave their poop behind, the moveable chicken coops are wheeled over a few days later so the chickens can eat the bugs crawling all over the cow patties, and while pecking at it spread the manure nicely on the ground, plus of course leave their own behind...)  This is highly labor-intensive farm, but Pollan clearly admires the ecological system that's been created.

Now let's talk about the culture of eating - mealtime, preparing the food, etc.  America, so proud of its "melting pot" heritage is always looking for the next new thing (not only in food, but also diets!) and never really established its own set of cultural "food rules".  Consider the French paradox - they "eat all sorts of supposedly unhealthy foods, but they do it according to a strict and stable set of rules: They eat small portions and don't go back for seconds; they don't snack; they seldom eat alone; and communal meals are long, leisurely affairs.  In other words, the French culture of food successfully negotiates the omnivore's dilemma, allowing the French to enjoy their meals without ruining their health." (pg 301)

As women have left the traditional stay at home role, food companies have focused on introducing convenience foods, so that even a six year old can make his own meal - and there's powerful marketing telling us that we need those highly-processed simpler, time saving options!
Several years ago, in a book called The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism, sociologist Daniel Bell called attention to the tendency of capitalism, in its single-minded pursuit of profit, to erode the various cultural underpinnings that steady a society but often impede the march of commercialization.  The family dinner...appears to be the latest such casualty. (pg 302)
The final section of the book is devoted to hunting and foraging, and this was probably my least favorite.  It was interesting to learn more about mushrooms (and the sub-culture of those devoted to gathering them) but the descriptions of hunting were pretty ridiculous. I was raised in a hunting family, and the vast majority of our meat was whatever my Dad had shot -- so the author's description of  the experience of stalking an animal and shooting just left me rolling my eyes (although I'm sure there are plenty of vegetarians out there who were offended)  He actually does address vegetarianism here, starting with the book Animal Liberation by Peter Singer.  Again, this had me rolling my eyes: Singer claims it is "specieist" to discriminate between animals and humans - either we do not owe any justice to the severely retarded, or we owe it to animals with higher capabilities.  Seriously?!?  All I could think at this point was what a ridiculous outcome the belief in evolution has led us to...

So I did indeed make it through the 411 pages, and while I don't regret reading it, I wouldn't exactly call it a "must read."  Definitely food for thought, though. Ha :)

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Whew, what a crazy couple months!

Haven't posted in awhile, but things have *not* been quiet at our house.

The most "exciting" news was that hubby spent some time in ICU. Ugh.  Took him in to the hospital as his cold would just not go away, and I was sure that it had developed into walking pneumonia; I expected him to get a breathing treatment, a prescription for an inhaler and antibiotics, and be on our way... instead, his blood pressure was scary high (but he had none of the normal symptoms) and yes, he *did* have pneumonia, but complicated by the BP issue, which was also causing him to retain water.  Only it was going to his lungs, rather than ankles like most "normal" people. He ended up spending six days in the hospital, and at that point we were just trying to keep his BP below 170/100.  He was home about a week, and then we ended up back in the hospital - overmedication caused his kidneys to rebel so the second admission was for "acute renal failure."  He was re-admitted on the kids' last day of school, and this time he was there five days.  I am *so* done with sitting around in hospitals, waiting for doctors to make rounds.  I do want to say how incredibly thankful I am for the amazing friends who stepped up and helped take care of our kids while I was at the hospital.  We are truly blessed.

In other news, our church has purchased a building, and that's another crazy story.  Our congregation has been meeting for over eight years now, the majority of which we've been meeting in the cafe/auditorium at a local middle school, and we have a small office space rented in a storefront... Well, we have a realtor that attends our church, and she was handling a listing for the old Sears Service center in town. She called our pastor while he was away at a conference to tell him she thought it was a possibility for our church.  Fast forward a few weeks, and we were running a super-abbreviated capital campaign in June - you know, the worst time of year to ask for money since people are on vacation and such.  But through yet another miracle we managed to raise enough money that we raised sufficient pledges to secure funding through our denomination, and officially purchased the building on June 30. Wowzers. It needs some reno, but we're hoping to start meeting there in late September or mid October. Super excited to think about actually having a facility -especially with our children's ministry.  Being able to put up bulletin boards, or make copies on Sunday morning -- what a luxury!!

Still working on things around the house, still purging & organizing and I want to do some painting, too.  Hard to believe, but we're coming up on our 5 year Texas anniversary!  We did go away for just a couple days to Corpus Christi to celebrate the 4th, and hope to post a few pics later this week :)