Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Story of My Journey to a Healthier Me, Part 2

Lately I've been kind of obsessing about food, and not in the usual way.  I guess the juice fast really got me thinking for the first time about what I put into my body and how it affects me.  What I've always known to be true (you eat junk, you feel like junk, and you get more junk in your trunk) is manifesting itself to me now more than ever.  It seems like every single thing I eat affects me almost instantly, which is probably the main reason it's always on my mind.

I am, by nature, a junk food addict.  I grew up on delicious homemade baked goods, white bread, Cheetos, pop, cookies, etc.  I honestly never thought about what I ate, and I never needed to. I was a skinny ninny.  It wasn't until middle school that a well-intended, health-conscious friend began pointing out the evils of my diet.  However, I didn't care.  Why should I, when I felt and looked great (besides the occasional headache)?  If anything, I wanted to be less skinny.  I was always self-conscious of my small frame, feeling like a little girl as other girls my age were sprouting upward and outward and getting curves I would just never have (until much later).  High school brought a new dynamic to my unhealthy diet, with off-campus lunches, a car, and money in my wallet.  I discovered fast food and a passionate love affair began. Still, though, I was skinny, and I was getting curves in the right places so I was beginning to love my body.  Why shouldn't I eat whatever I wanted?  My mom and sisters would walk in on me eating a second lunch after school each day, usually consisting of a corn dog, chips, and Fudge Stripe cookies and say, "One day that's gonna catch up with you." And I would obnoxiously take a bite of my cookie and say, "Then that's the day I'll worry about it." Despite my figure, I was growing increasingly tired each day and my headaches were occurring more frequently.  I attributed this to puberty and newly prescribed antidepressants.

It wasn't until after I graduated from high school that I began to gain weight.  I finally hit 100 pounds and gained the typical "Freshman 15," even though I was still living at home.  I lived on fast food.  And even though I was beginning to get stretch marks in places and some rolls in my stomach that I really wasn't happy about, I was still a size 4 and wasn't complaining much, other than wanting to sleep literally all. day. long. 

And then I got married and pregnant, and pregnancy + a diet of strictly deep fried foods and sugar don't mix well.  I gained 50 pounds, lost some of it after having my daughter, then got pregnant again and gained 80 more.  EIGHTY.  That was 10 years ago and I still have not lost it all. In fact, I've gained back all that I lost over the years and I'm the closest I've ever been to that second pregnancy weight than I ever have been since having my son.  And that is a terrifying, depressing thought. The weight, though, as much as I hate it, has become secondary to my health when it comes to the physical effects of my horrible diet.

Over the past 10 years my headaches have increased by an alarming amount.  After a solid year of unexplained nausea, I was tested for Celiac.  The blood test came back positive.  My doctor had me go off of gluten for a month before having an endoscopy scope of my insides done, which I now know was stupid for 2 reasons: 1) You need gluten in your system for the scope to see it and 2) a month probably wouldn't do anything anyway.  Needless to say, the scope and biopsy found no signs of Celiac, but showed definite signs of GERD (acid reflux), which would explain the chronic heartburn, nausea, and stomach pains, which were sometimes so severe I was doubled over in the fetal position, crying. When I was diagnosed, the gastroenterologist told me it could be diet controlled.  I went to my regular doctor and got a prescription for Prilosec.  Such an easier fix. When that wasn't enough, I had her add another one.  Now I could still eat whatever I wanted without the pain and heartburn.  But the nausea still came sometimes, and my headaches persisted.

Fast forward to now.  I have begun seeing an almost instant physical reaction after eating, whether it's a headache, nausea, or other digestive issues I will spare you the details of.  For a long time I attributed this to sugar, and the harder I tried to stay away from it, the more addicted I felt, the more helpless I felt in abstaining.  But then I began to realize it wasn't just the sugar.  It was all the garbage I was putting into my body, and all the good stuff I wasn't putting in.  Since then I have been educating myself on diet and health and what my body needs to function at its peak capacity.  I want to feel good.  I honestly don't remember what that feels like.  Of course I want to lose the weight and be skinny and look good in clothes and not cringe every summer when the pools open up, but that will come.  Right now I want to wake up with no headache.  I want to come home from work and not want to crash in bed.  I want to go a week without random nausea.  I want to be an example to my kids, who are already showing my propensity to eat all things that taste good but are not.  I fear for them.  And I fear for me.

And so I am determined to change.  I have resolved to change the way not only I eat, but my family as well.  I am going to get healthy.  How will I do this?  I will tell you eventually, in a third installment.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Smart People Can Be So Stupid

I kind of pride myself in being an easy-going person. I don't get worked up about a lot of things, I'm almost impossible to offend, and it takes a lot to really make me mad. I attribute this to many years of anxiety and depression. When you've spent most of your life fighting to feel good and normal, once you finally do, all the little irritations in life just don't really matter anymore. 

Don't get me wrong--I get road rage like nobody's business (Hey, you. Yeah, you. That stick next to your steering wheel? That's a blinker. You should try it sometime.)  Pushy salespeople make me want to karate chop them to the throat, and brand new purchased items that don't work the way they're supposed to bring out a special kind of crazy in me. To name a few. 

But the little every day interactions between people where someone says something in passing that rubs the other one the wrong way or even thoroughly ticks them off? Not so much for this gal. 

Until yesterday. 

There is someone I see on a daily basis who is not of my same religion (I'm a Mormon). We'll call her Jane. Jane is somewhat knowledgeable about said religion as she is surrounded by Mormons every day. She has often expressed her opinions to me on various points of doctrine and beliefs held by us, usually in a respectful, objective way, which I appreciate. Yesterday Jane struck up a conversation with me about a "friend" she has on Facebook who is LDS. This "friend," from Jane's description, sounds fairly obnoxious and not like someone I would get along with at all. She happens to be liberal, this "friend," and makes unintelligent comments on Facebook that do not reflect her in a positive light. The conversation about this "friend" ended with Jane saying, "It's people like her who give your religion a bad name."

Cue record needle scratching across surface of record as the music comes to a halt. Say what? My usually lukewarm blood began to boil almost instantly and I had to physically walk away. But in my head the conversation continued, one-sided: "I'm sorry," I said sarcastically. "Your obnoxious, self-centered 'friend' on Facebook gives my entire religion a bad name because she happens to belong to it?" None of the stuff this "friend" was ranting about online had anything whatsoever to do with being Mormon. Had it been, I could maybe, maybe see some tiny hint of justification in condemning an entire religion based on the actions of one stupid person. (But not really.) But to say that this person's idiotic and totally secular posts on Facebook reflected badly on her religion is the equivalent of me saying that Mel Gibson gives Australians a bad name for making anti-Semitic comments, or Tiger Woods gives golfers a bad name for cheating on his wife. Ridiculous? Yes! Because the two are. totally. unrelated. 

And it didn't end there. Jane picked it up today right where she'd left off, only now I'd had 24 hours to think about her ignorant statement, to stew over it, convince myself more and more how stupid of a statement it was for someone fairly intelligent to make. So when the subject was approached again, I was ready. In my most (forced) casual, non-argumentative tone, I said "You're going to find stupid people everywhere. It doesn't matter what religion they are." Then I proceeded to tell her that we Mormons have an unfair disadvantage. Because some parts of our beliefs are so well known throughout the world and very black and white, we've been dubbed as "supposed to be perfect." Then, when we're HUMAN and make a mistake, or even just do something completely normal that an outsider has decided "real" Mormons shouldn't do, then we're not "good" Mormons and we're disgracing our whole religion. Now, more than ever, the Mormon church is under a microscope. It's hard enough trying to live each day in a way that would never give anyone a reason to question our faith. But on top of that, now we're to be judged by our intelligence level, tact (or lack thereof), and overall persona portrayed on social networking sites? I'm calling it: Not Fair. Not Fair at all. 

The next time Jane says something stupid (and she will), I'm going to say, "It's people like you who give people who wear glasses a bad name." Bam. 

Thoughts? I'd love to hear them. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Crime Don't Pay (Unless You're a Glass Company)

So Friday morning I stayed home from work, sick.  I slept all morning and woke up at around 10:30 to the sound of glass shattering. Very LOUD glass shattering.  Like, literally, it sounded like someone took every drinking glass out of my cupboard and threw them on my kitchen floor.  I jumped out of bed and ran through my house, trying to find the source of the noise, thinking maybe our light fixture above our kitchen table had suddenly and inexplicably dropped out of the ceiling.  It was intact.  I ran to the bathroom, because clearly a shattering of that magnitude would only happen on hard floor.  No glass there.  I turned to Payson's room, suddenly fearful for Rusty's life.  Although Payson's room has carpet, his tortoise's tank is definitely enough glass to make a loud crash.  Nope, Rusty was safe inside his shell inside his log inside his tank. I turned to Macy's room and saw a neighbor lady peering in the window on her cell phone.  My first thought: "She knows what the crash was.  She knows what's going on." My second thought: "Put some clothes on!!" I grabbed a blanket and wrapped it around myself while running to my front door.  But it wouldn't open.  I checked the deadbolt.  It was unlocked.  I checked the doorknob, locking and unlocking it.  It wouldn't turn.  "Somebody's done something to my doorknob so I can't get out!!" I thought in a panic.  I ran back to Macy's window and opened it, asking the neighbor lady what was going on.  She was standing with another neighbor guy.  They told me they had just called 911 after hearing the glass shatter and seeing a kid on a bike tear out of our backyard like a "bat out of hell," looking terrified.  It wasn't until THAT point that I finally put together what happened.  I ran to my backyard and saw Payson's window had been smashed in.

 And our garden rake directly below it.

The pictures don't do it justice at all, there was glass EVERYWHERE.  I ran back inside, threw on some clothes, and grabbed my phone to call Bill.  I ran back outside to my neighbors where they filled me in more.  As they did, I called Bill to COME HOME NOW.  At this point the cop showed up and asked questions, interviewed the neighbors who knew way more than I did, got a pretty detailed description of the dirty little delinquent, and took pictures.  He thought it was more likely that the kid used a rock to smash in the window, pointing to our play area filled with rocks smaller than ping pong balls.  I was skeptical as I eyed the rake laying below the window.  But, I'm not the cop, so I followed him in to Payson's room to "help him look for a rock" and that's when I saw the glass.  Everywhere.  All over both his bunk beds, clear across the room to his closet.  How had I missed it before?? In my bare feet?? As we looked (and found nothing), I told him how the creep had done something to our front door knob so it wouldn't work anymore.  As I said the words, it occurred to me that in my panic I may have been locking it when I thought I was unlocking it.  It would have already been unlocked since I had never left for the day.  I went to check it.  It was locked.  I had locked it trying to get out instead of unlocking it.  I felt a little sheepish.  Luckily he was a nice cop and said something about the crazy things we all do when we're in shock mode.  Thank you, nice cop man. 

Then Bill showed up and told us the kid must have used the rake because it had been over on our patio before (I KNEW it!).  The cop was on his walkie talkie the whole time and told us they'd found the bike in some yard a few streets over, abandoned, which was good for the people he'd stolen it from (we found out later he'd stolen it) and also good for the dogs they were about to send out to track him now that they had his scent and he was on foot.  Alas, they didn't find him, but they did find a woman living in a shed with multiple warrants, so that was a bonus.  (I really love my neighborhood, can I just tell you?) They told me she was unrelated but now I'm hearing that maybe she wasn't so much.  Anyway, after everything calmed down and the cop left, the neighbors left, and Bill reluctantly went back to work, I had a pretty decent headache from the stress and excitement of it all, not to mention the fact that I was already not feeling well (remember the reason I was home in the first place?).  I lay down on my couch and within minutes of Bill leaving, started hearing noises and booked it out of there, ran down three houses to my friend's house--pajamas, glasses and all.  (Turns out it was just the wind through Payson's busted window rattling his door that I'd forgotten Bill had closed.)

Later that afternoon Bill cleaned up the mess and boarded up the window really well.  Payson's room is as dark as a tomb, and will be till the glass people can repair it this next week.  But he's handling it fairly well, considering.  This is the child I've had to have multiple conversations with convincing him the chances of us ever getting broken into were slim to none.  And whose room does the would-be-burglar pick to break into, of all the windows in the house?  Payson's.  Thank you, you little delinquent punk.

Now that the excitement is over, we're just trying to feel safe in our house again.  It's not an easy thing to do when you feel so violated.  Payson's room is like this black crime scene, a constant reminder of what went down.  The scariest part for me, the part I try and fail not to think about all day long, is what would have happened if the guy hadn't been scared off.  If he'd been in Payson's room when I wandered in there trying to find the source of the noise.  Which leads me to tomorrow's post...till then...

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Story of My Journey To a Healthier Me, Part 1

I guess the best place to begin is at the beginning.  A few weeks ago my sister Amy and her husband John watched a documentary called Hungry For Change on Netflix.  They were so inspired by it that they did an instant overhaul of the way they ate.  Even their kids took a second look at what they were putting into their bodies.  Soon after, they watched another documentary called Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead.  They convinced our parents to watch them as well, and soon both of them and my mom were all on a juice fast.  When they first told me about it I wasn't interested.  Good for them, but I could never do it.  Obviously they aren't as addicted to food as I am, I thought.  10 days of drinking their meals? They won't make it past the third day, I predicted.  But I was wrong.  They made it past the third day, all the way to the 10th, and then some.  When I heard their success stories, how good they felt, how much weight they'd lost and how not completely impossible it was, I started to think that maybe I could do it.  If they could, surely I could.  We are so similar in our physical and mental make-up.  My mom, my sisters and I have all struggled with the same dietary weaknesses, addictions, feelings of complete lack of self-control.  Reading success stories in magazines and online is one thing but to see my family actually do it is another.  I was ready to check this whole juice fast thing out. 

I don't have Netflix so I signed up for the month-long free trial just to watch the movies.  I knew watching them would make the difference.  I am one that likes to arm myself with information.  If I know the facts, I am more likely to stick to something.  I don't want to hear that I should do it, I need to know why I should do it.  And Hungry For Change answered that question for me, tenfold.  To be fair, it wasn't much of anything I didn't already know.  I've known for years that sugar is a "drug" comparable to cocaine, hence the sugar addiction.  I've known that our bodies store fat because they were designed to do so back in the caveman days when we had no food for winter.  I've known how horrible processed, manufactured foods are for our bodies.  But I needed the reminder, and it was definitely an eye-opener.  Then I moved on to Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead.  (I definitely recommend watching the movies, and in the order I did.) This was a much different movie from Hungry For Change, not so much an informative documentary as a video journal of one man's (Joe Cross) quest to get healthy.  He chooses to do this by juice fasting, and he takes it to the extreme by doing it for 60 days while traveling across America.  It's fascinating and incredibly inspiring and it completely convinced me to to the 10 day juice fast.

Now, I had several things working for me when I started.  I was about a week behind my other family members who had finished their fast and transitioned into the "maintenance" part.  I had witnessed firsthand their success, and that made me know I could do it.  I give SERIOUS props to my sister and brother-in-law for doing it with no one to follow, but I guess doing it together probably helped them.  I couldn't have done it.  I don't think so, anyway.  Also, I did one really smart thing that came with an unintentional side-effect: I put it on Facebook.  I didn't do this for the purpose of holding myself accountable, but that's exactly what it did.  On Day 8 I was ready to be done but there was no way I was going to give up 2 days early with everyone cheering me on! Also, I had an incredibly supportive husband who, although he thought I was a little crazy and had zero interest in the fast himself, did everything he could to help me succeed.  Yay for supportive husbands!

And so I hit up Costco and bought a week's worth of fruits and vegetables.  (I was told this was the best deal, but now that I'm not juicing every single meal I buy smaller amounts at Winco or Walmart so the produce doesn't go bad before I can eat it.  This is recommended in Joe Cross's book.) And on Thursday, May 1st, I began my juice fast, or my "reboot" as Joe calls it.  It's not a diet.  It's a detox, a way to give your body a jump start to a healthier lifestyle.  It releases the toxins from inside you and gives your digestive system a break from having to break down all the crap you've been putting in it by giving it only raw, plant-based food in liquid form.  For 10 days (or however long you do the fast) your body is only getting the nutrients and vitamins it needs and none of the garbage.  To people like me who had only been giving my body garbage, it was a bit of a shock to my system.  Day 1 and Day 2 were pretty rough, with mild nausea, dizziness, and a pretty decent headache.  But they went away quickly and it wasn't long before I felt amazing.  My mind felt clear, I had energy during the day (unless I was overdue for a juice, then I got pretty sluggish), my desire for daily naps lessened significantly, my headaches disappeared completely, and most importantly, I felt better about myself than I ever had before.  I was finally treating my body the way it deserved and NEEDED to be treated. 

Don't get me wrong, it was never easy.  I felt hungry a lot of the time, but I got used to it.  I learned that not always feeling full isn't a bad thing.  It's okay to feel hungry.  When I began to feel too hungry (gnawing pains in my stomach, lightheaded) was when I knew it was time for a juice (I probably waited a little too long most times).  And once I drank one, I felt instantly full and satisfied and content.  For once I wasn't eating food as a hobby or obsession or addiction, for recreation or entertainment or a quick high.  I was eating purely to keep myself alive, but I wasn't starving.  I was giving my body just what it needed and nothing more.  And it got easier and easier the longer I went.  I missed food like crazy, but the anger and frustration at not getting to eat what I wanted was overwhelmingly trumped by all the positive things I was feeling, both physically and mentally.  And when I stepped on the scale on Day 10 and saw a ten pound loss, I almost thought about going longer.  Almost.

So for those of you who have asked, here are the specifics of my fast: I juiced three meals a day, and by "juiced" I mean I put raw fruits and vegetables into a juicer (this is totally different than a smoothie in a blender, the difference being the blender gives you every part of the food you put in, and I'm guessing is a bit more of a strain on your body to digest than just the juice.  Joe discusses this in his book but I haven't read much about the difference yet.) and drank just the juice that comes out.  I drank a large (roughly 25 oz) glass for every meal.  Now, Joe says to drink 4-7 a day, but you can really have as much as you want.  I could never seem to get more than 3 in.  Although they were good juices, they were still the same thing day in and day out and I like variety.  So I was happy with 3, and I wasn't starving on just 3.  My sister needed more, and that's just fine.  It's whatever works for you.  Joe recommends 80% veggies to 20% fruit.  This is where I failed, and I'm okay with that.  After making his Mean Green juice for my first few juices, I just couldn't do it anymore.  It wasn't horrible, but if I was going to get past those first few days, I needed to be enticed to make and drink the juice.  So I eliminated some of the greens and added more colorful vegetables (which he also recommends--"drink the rainbow") and fruits until the juices tasted like fruit juice to me.  I know I didn't do enough greens, but that's okay.  If I had I never would have made it 10 days.  I ended up doing this recipe more or less each day:

1 apple
1/3 cucumber
1 stalk celery
1 "coin" ginger root
1 or 2 handfuls of Power Mix (kale, spinach and chard, found at Costco)
1/2-1 orange, depending on how sweet I wanted it
1/2 lemon
1 carrot
From there the fruits I added varied, depending on what I had.  A few handfuls of blueberries, grapes, a pear, a few slices of mango, pineapple, etc.  Anything you want, that's the beauty of it.  I found one I liked and stuck with it, but there are tons of different recipes on his website.  

And that's what I had, every day, for 10 days.  That's the juice fast.  It doesn't have to be 10 days, it's whatever you want.  I did 10 because that's what my family members had done and I'm not sure where they got that number, but it was a good number.  Joe recommends anywhere from a week to 15 days, or however long you can make it if you can't do that long.

Now I am transitioning out of my juice fast and back into food, which I will talk about tomorrow, as this is already a long post.  Hope this answers the questions of those who have asked! Let me know if you have more, I am more than happy to help!