Time to Say Goodbye

Well my back is getting progressively worse, and my doctor is not optimistic that anything can be done. I have failed all conventional therapy and my surgical options are grim. At this point I am just hoping that I can continue to work, since that is the one useful thing I am still able to do. I am in constant severe pain. A year ago I was training for triathlons. Now I am hobbling around the house with difficulty using a cane. After a disastrous attempt to make truffles with the girls again as a Fathers Day Treat, I realized that it is silly and futile for me to attempt to cook anything but the most basic and necessary dishes. As the time on my feet is extremely painful, I can’t take the time to take pictures on the days I do manage to cook something. I will leave this blog up because it is a handy reference for me to find my recipes. Sorry I won’t be able to post anything else.

Finished a Whole30!

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Well I’m glad that’s over. I saw no miraculous transformation from Whole30, and it didn’t change my life except for making more annoyed than usual. Of course, I was already eating a Primal diet, and I was not trying to lose weight. My back is doing somewhat better, although today I’m having a lot of pain. I don’t think my back pain is related to diet, but I’ll reevaluate after I see how I do next week. This was probably not the best time for me to do a Whole30. I have no plans to do another Whole30, but I would consider doing one again to get myself back on track after the holidays or after vacation. I’ll list some of my observations, in the order in which they came into my head. I posted my preliminary findings at the halfway point in this rant.

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Jewel with onion ring bracelets

1. I am noticing the natural sweet flavors of food more now, so I do think that Whole30 has re-sensitized my palate to sweets.

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Jewel - silly fighting stance

2. I had to fight NOT to lose weight on this program, even though I’ve not been exercising or tracking my calories. I’ve been able to get my weight back up to 119, which is about what it was before I started, but that is only through stuffing myself.

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Cider-braised bratwurst contaminated by an onion - see https://greenhsv.wordpress.com/2012/01/08/primal-celebration-dinner/

3. I’ve gotten used to drinking my coffee black again, so I plan to continue doing this.
4. My cravings for non-Paleo food have been much worse on Whole30. I am very content eating a Primal diet and only rarely get cravings for grain-based foods. I found Whole30 too restrictive. Primal allows me dairy, wine and naturally sweetened desserts in moderation, and for me these aren’t “gateway drugs” to grains and white sugar. I plan to indulge in a beer tonight and have Bandito some time in the near future. I miss the taste of beer much more than the alcohol.

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Lacinato Kale

5. I’m still hungry every 2-3 hours. I guess that’s just my metabolism. I think that having to eat frequent snacks made Whole30 more difficult for me.

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Sauteing the onions and peppers for Cider-Braised Brats - see https://greenhsv.wordpress.com/2012/01/08/primal-celebration-dinner/

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some cooking to do! Mom is coming back into town this afternoon, and we are going to celebrate!

Over Halfway Through Whole30 – A Rant

I am proud to say that I have made it over half-way through my Whole30 without completely cracking yet. On a positive note, my back is hurting less. There is a small but non-zero chance that this is related to the Whole30 Plan, but I think it is more likely related to the fluid from my failed epidural injection finally bring absorbed by my body. We’ll see if my back behaves any differently after I go back to my regular Primal diet. I must say that doing a Whole30 has made me appreciate how liberal the Primal diet really is! Here are my observations on Whole30 so far:
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1. It has made me irritable, that is, more irritable than baseline, which (in case anyone hasn’t noticed) is already pretty damn irritable.
2. I miss dairy more than anything. This is especially true of my snacks (more on that in a minute). I also miss using a strong-flavored cheese as a sort of condiment. A half an ounce of goat cheese, Gorgonzola or feta can go a long way in enhancing the flavor of a dish. I am constantly reminding myself that I can’t use Parmesan. This is a typical dilemma I face in cooking. Gourmet food is fresh food, simply prepared, which is generally consistent with what I consider healthy. However some dishes scream for heavy cream and cheese.
3. The snacks are tedious. I miss my homemade yogurt and my homemade buttermilk cheese. I’ve taken to making unusual concoctions of different combinations of nut butters, cherry or blueberry coconut bowls and banana boats. I’ve run out of grassed beef jerky, and sardines just haven’t sounded appetizing. So I’m eating too many nuts. Hey, what else is new? If I were able to get by eating 3 or 4 times a day, this would be a lot easier.
4. I don’t miss alcohol. Well I did for the first few days, then I pretty much forgot about it. I even went to a party last night where everyone was drinking and I didn’t really care that I was just drinking water. I do miss using wine for cooking.
5. I don’t miss eating desserts, even chocolate, but I miss making desserts. There are so many ideas I want to try!
6. This is a tough diet to follow while nauseated. I was very thankful that I had bone broth on hand and that I had made homemade chicken soup. I could also stomach hardboiled eggs, but I really wanted some toast! I’ve been trying to just tough it out. At least the Zofran allows me to keep my food down.
7. The only way that I’ve been flagrantly cheating is in weighing myself. I am not trying to lose weight, in fact, I’m trying NOT to lose weight. Hitting my lowest adult weight since college was not really my plan here. Of course, any time you eliminate broad categories of food, it is easy to lose weight. Give people more limited choices, and they eat less. Although Whole30 is a far healthier diet than the standard American diet, I’m not convinced it’s healthier than the standard Paleo diet.
8. At this point I’m having almost unbearable cravings for Bandito Burrito, although I know that that is the last thing my gastrointestinal system needs right now.
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So I guess I have alluded to the fact that I’m not going to extend my Whole30 throughout the whole Lenten season. See, my best drinking partner is coming back into town on day 31, and that was the clincher. Plus we plan to do a lot of cooking, and I’m sure we will need butter, heavy cream and cheese. 12 more days till Mom comes back – can’t wait!

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Whole30 for Lent

The

Although I am no longer a practicing Catholic, I have been observing Lent for the past few years. One of the things that I like about the Roman Catholic Church is how the church calendar follows the seasons. In December is Advent, the anticipation of the birth of the Christ Child. In late winter and early spring is Lent, a time for penitence and reflection leading up to the death and resurrection of Christ. The readings from the Bible follow this pattern as well, and the sermon is based on the readings, not vice versa. For this reason I do get something out of going to a Catholic mass, even though I don’t agree with all the teachings of the church. I am not a fan of the modern services that have become trendy in Protestant churches now. They pick a topic and then pick a few verses from the Bible out of context to justify the point they want to make, and then give it some sort of catchy name that is similar to a video game or a tv show. That just seems backwards to me. Also, there is no change to observe the seasons, neither in the readings nor the mood. The mood is “happy happy joy joy” all the time. If this works for you, then great! Everyone is different. I am just explaining why it doesn’t work for me.

I observe Lent with no sense of obligation. It is a personal choice. Last year I gave up Facebook. The year before that I gave up Facebook games. These were choices that led me to spend more time with my family, and 40 days is long enough to break a habit or start a new one. This year I am doing Whole30, which is a very strict version of the Paleo diet: no grains, legumes, dairy, sweetener of any sort, white potatoes or alcohol. Also no Paleo desserts, junk food or baked goods. I realize that this is almost the antithesis of traditional Lenten fasting, but I am going “meatless” on Fridays. (I still eat fish.). The other thing that is forbidden during Whole30 is weighing yourself and measuring your food. You are supposed to eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full. I like this idea of trusting my body rather than obsessing over the numbers. I’ve been eating Paleo for long enough to know what my portions should look like, so this has freed me from calculating the calories of everything I cook.

So, how many people knew that Lent was actually 46 days long? Yeah, me neither. The Sundays in Lent don’t count. If I were doing a traditional Lenten fast (no dairy, meat or oil), I’d be all about chowing down down on some meat and fat on Sundays! But the key to Whole30 is to break old habits, and indulging once a week would not be helpful. I don’t know if I’ll make it 46 days. I will reevaluate how I feel on Day 30. I am hoping that eating 100% clean will help my back, but I know that I am grasping at straws at this point.

For the next month or so, starting yesterday, I’ll be posting recipes that are Whole30 compliant. For the most part these will be savory dishes, but I will include some fruit-sweetened treats. Larabars are allowed on Whole30, so I plan to make some homemade versions. If anyone else out there is doing Whole30 for Lent, please leave me a comment. It would be great to support each other.

21 Day Primal Transformation Summary

Overall diet success score: 9

Overall exercise success score: 2

Overall lifestyle success score: 6

Hardest parts:  Although I didn’t struggle with the diet, I had a difficult time at the end with nearly constant hunger.  This was also accompanied by weight loss, so I think I just need to eat more.  I thought the exercise plan was quite reasonable, but my back was giving me too much pain most days to exercise.  Even as a child I wasn’t much one for spontaneous play, and this certainly hasn’t improved with age.  I prefer to focus on a task until it is done rather than take breaks and have to figure out where I left off.

Best parts:  The single best part of this transformation was reconnecting with my family.  I had been spending too much time on my computer and not enough time with my family.  I was devoting my emotional energy to work and then coming home and spending time on social media instead of real social interaction.  Jewel especially has gotten excited about trying new Paleo recipes, and she has gotten more involved in cooking now, as has Tom.  (Dora already is quite the cook!)  The second best part is the diet itself.  The food is so satisfying that I don’t miss grain products.  I thought after awhile the novelty would wear off, but at least as of yet I am content to eat this way indefinitely.

Remaining needs to improve items:  I need to figure out a way to manage my back pain.  I can’t predict when it will flare up, and I can’t take anti-inflammatories, so I am limited in how I can treat it.  Also, I haven’t figured out a way to both get adequate sleep and exercise.  The only time I can count on being able to exercise is very early in the morning before work.  I’m working on going to bed earlier, and now that I won’t blog every day, maybe I can make that happen on a more regular basis.  The other item I am still dealing with is hunger.  I do not want to lose any more weight (or even fat for that matter), so I am adding back in starchy vegetables to see if this helps.  I also quit tracking my calories for the time being so that I am not artificially limiting myself.

Overall comments on 21 day challenge:  My primary reason for attempting this challenge was to see if this diet would improve my back pain.  It was disappointing to find that it didn’t help at all.  Perhaps I need to give it more time, but I would think that I would have seen at least a small improvement by now.  The improved relationships with my family have made the challenge worth it.  Many of the daily challenge items were difficult or impossible for me because of the nature of the work that I do and the fact that I live in Alabama and it’s winter.  I do feel that Sisson wrote the book with a southern California bias.  Also I felt that the book was more geared to a single male lifestyle, or at least a male with no children.  He addressed the issues of being a mother (especially a working mother) very briefly.  I would have had more success with this challenge in the spring, when the days are getting longer, it’s warmer and the farmer’s markets are open.  I do think that this was a great way to jump into the Primal life with both feet for those who are ready to make this leap.  Other people may find it easier to slowly adapt parts of the diet and lifestyle over time.  This wasn’t all that different to how I already ate, and I was already trying to follow the exercise program, so for me it made a lot of sense.  I also enjoy cooking from scratch and absolutely detest most processed foods.  Aside from not eating crap, I’m not a picky eater, and I’m open-minded about trying new foods.  I think a picky eater, especially a picky eater in the typical American sense of wanting things to be breaded, deep-fried and free of anything green, would have a hard time with this diet.  I recommend this book to anyone who is ready to make positive steps to optimize their diet, exercise and lifestyle .

Back to the Blog

Ok, I’m back.  I don’t have any good excuse for being away for so long.  I guess I felt that I wasn’t making an impact, that my efforts weren’t making enough of a difference to even discuss.  Recently I have come to realize that we all have a small part to play, and if we all made small changes they would add up. So I’ll share my recent efforts, successes and failures in the hopes that some good can come of them.

I started composting last week using a small kitchen composter.  Maybe I am doing something wrong, but I filled it up in two days. Is that normal?  I bought another one but filled it up in two days as well.  My understanding is that the material needed to ferment for two weeks.  If anyone can share their composting knowledge I would appreciate it!  I am not a gardener but thought I could share the compost with my neighbors and my Mom.

The other thing I have started recently is a plastic tally.  Please check out my week one report on Beth Terry’s blog, My Plastic-Free Life. It was very disturbing to realize how much disposable plastic we are still using in our household.  The most disturbing thing I learned contained plastic is chewing gum!  Yuck!  I have managed to break the habit by way of natural lemon and ginger candies.

I’m going to keep this short tonight and plan to be back soon.

One week of greener living revisited

Today I am posting an update on my progress toward greener living.

Small steps I made last week:

Brought my own silverware, hand towel & stainless steel water bottle to work. Brought a to-go cup to work in case I want to get Starbucks.  Started taking bread for a sandwich in a container rather than a baggie & eating out of the container rather than off a Styrofoam plate.

All these things have made my life easier if anything. I am not wasting time searching for plates, plastic ware and paper towels. My water tastes better out of the bottle than it did out of a plastic cup. I’m using the cup to store my silverware now.

Bought fresh fruit and vegetables from the Farmers Market on 431, brought my own bags there and to Publix for the rest of my shopping

The produce was very high quality. Taking my own bags was no trouble and actually less work than saving plastic bags to take back to the store to recycle.

Ordered cloth produce bags, Wrap-N-Mats for packing sandwiches and cloths to use in place of paper towels

The cloth produce bags &Wrap-N-Mats arrived today. My older daughter J remarked that they shouldn’t come packaged in plastic. My younger daughter D requested a sandwich for lunch tomorrow.

Started saving empty glass containers to either reuse or recycle…

See blog entry from 5/2 about glass not actually being recycled in Huntsville. Currently I am saving glass bottles for a friend’s art project. I have gathered a small collection of glass containers that I have started using for storage and shopping.

Steps I plan to take soon:

Phase out plastic in favor of glass and metal containers

In process.  I hate to just throw the non-recyclable plastic away.  I’m open to ideas about what to do with it, but for the moment I am continuing to use it.

Bring my own containers to the store to buy items in bulk

In process

Make my own cleaning supplies when our stock runs out

Minimize clothing purchases

Give up chewing gum (very hard task for me, I will try!)

Bought Peelu gum at Whole Foods, which has less packaging but is in a plastic container. I don’t really like it so probably will resign myself to giving up gum.

Order parts for our ice cream maker so we can make our own ice cream rather buying packaged desserts

These parts cost $40 retail!  Haven’t been able to find the parts used so will probably just have to fork out the money.

Look into making my own yogurt again

Found a large glass Mason jar in the pantry that should work. Plan to attempt making some this weekend.

Bake bread rather than buying pre-packaged rolls

I baked bread on Sunday but wasn’t very impressed with it.  I’m consulting with Mom on this.

Week of 5/3:

Finish cleaning out the pantry

Use up items I already have in the pantry, freezer & fridge

Make iced tea and lemonade instead of drinking bottled mineral water and soda

Use cloth napkins instead of paper

Minimize printing at work; print on both sides when possible

Request eco-friendly items for Mother’s Day

Here are some “before” pics of my fridge, freezer & pantry: