The 40th Birthday I’ll Never Forget

If you weren’t already aware, E.J. and I live and work in the north part of Houston. Which means the last 2 weeks have been nothing short of crazy.  First there was the massive run on food, fuel and supplies at the grocery stores getting ready for Harvey to arrive, then the “Hunker Down” part when the storm actually hit.  This is the part of the process when you’re glued to the Weather Channel and/or our local news networks (one of which even went off air for nearly 2 days when their studio flooded) and the massive worry…  “Did I buy enough food?  Will the retention ponds hold?  What about my pets?  Do I know how to get help if I need it?  What if my cell phone stops working?”

We were lucky and had no damage from the storm, but one of my really good friends wasn’t so lucky.  She and about 500 other homes in her neighborhood started flooding early on day 2 and eventually ended up with 6 1/2 feet of the San Jacinto River in her home.  Fortunately, she and her family along with some neighbors escaped by boat and drove through shallow flood waters down to where we live, and we hosted her neighbors for the next day and a half until the rain finally stopped.  On the same day that our house guests arrived, E.J. was activated with the National Guard.  My 40th birthday was Tuesday – the morning I got the text from one of my users that our entire network had gone down in one of the floods and that no one had email or connectivity to any of the rest of our systems.  The remainder of that day was a fire drill trying to acquire another emergency Internet connection to our systems via phone and then getting everything back up and running.

E.J. has remained active since then, but fortunately he’s been assigned to work from his home armory which is just down the road from us, so he’s been able to come home for a few hours every other day or so, if just to grab supplies, drop off/pick up clothes, and have a meal with us.  On my birthday, he even managed to acquire flowers, steak, and a fabulous port, and proceeded to cook me a fantastic meal after a horrendous day.   If that’s not PaleoMarine superhero stuff, I don’t know what is!!

This weekend, once the water had receded, I helped my friend clean and move her stuff to her temporary living arrangements while I watched wave after wave of volunteers come through to gut every house on her street.  It was heart-wrenching and heart-warming, all at the same time.  Golf carts were coming through every 10-15 minutes with meals, drinks, and snacks for anyone that needed it.  I can’t say I’ve ever seen anything like it, but I can say it made me proud to be part of this community of people who sweat and cleaned, and did anything they could to help a fellow human in need.  Some of these people came from hundreds of miles away just to help wherever they could.  On Saturday, a bunch of my friends surprised me with a belated birthday party at one of my favorite restaurants that had reopened.  It was definitely good to step out of the crazy for awhile and enjoy some normal.  By yesterday, Labor Day, most of the city near me had returned to business as usual, and I was able to enjoy some shopping and a badly-needed pedicure.

Needless to say, clean eating wasn’t exactly first priority through all of this.  There were definitely a few evenings that ended in a bottle of cider or a couple of glasses of wine, if just to calm my nerves.  But all in all, we did what we could to stick to our routines.  While everyone else was clearing the shelves of bread, peanut butter, jelly, pop tarts, and all of the other comfort foods, I was stocked with 5 lbs of bacon, 5 dozen eggs,  smoked pulled pork, cooked sausage, Hungarian meatballs, some fresh fruit and veggies, and lots of sweet potatoes.  I also had ice chests standing by in case I lost power and needed to transition anything out.  I cooked out of our freezer for most of the meals during the storm just so I could reduce our exposure to a power outage.  Fortunately, we never lost any utilities, other than a few short brown/blackouts during the height of the storm.  I’m up about 3 lbs, but all things considered, I’m ok with it.  There’s a #Harvey15 that’s circulating down here to reference the weight everyone put on while cooped up in their homes with ample junk food and high-strung nerves.

E.J. is still on active duty, helping with operations in Beaumont.  He’s thinking it might be a month before they stand down again.  Until then, I’m still cooking, just smaller portions.  I’m back to running now that the weather has cleared up too.  I’ll do my best to stay on track until our world settles back to normal again.

 

 

 

A Keto Detour

Ok, time to get real again.  The job stress is hitting a crescendo right now because of a major project that’s coming online at the end of next week.  On top of that, E.J’s been gone over a week and won’t be back until Friday, which is exactly when I will need to be focusing on work instead of him.

Avoiding the sugar dragon right now is not an option.

But I’m back to running 30 minutes 3 times a week, now that my knee is better, and I’m not willing to give into the extra lbs that keep trying to creep back on, just because I’m stressed.  So what’s a Paleo person supposed to do to keep things under control?

Have you heard of this Keto stuff?  E.J. suggested I look into it.

Keto is a cousin of the Paleo diet that’s more focused on weight loss than long term health, and basically while you give up carb-heavy veggies like sweet potatoes, beets, and butternut squash, you add back in small amounts of cheese and sugar substitutes like erythritol (Swerve).  Other than that, the diets are similar to a “Primal” Whole 30.  The point is to get your body into ketosis, where it starts burning fat instead of carbs for energy.  And based on everything I’ve read, it seemed like it would be worth a try.

So last week I pulled up one of those “Fat Bomb” recipes off of Pinterest, just to see if I could handle the sweetener.  My weakest part of the day is craving a sweet finish after dinner.  The first night I had one after dinner, I tried one along with some decaf coffee to see if it would satisfy.  My first impression was how “fake” and strange the sweetener tasted compared to the natural sugars I had been enjoying in maple syrup and honey.  After about half an hour, I also had some very unpleasant stomach aching and a lot of intestinal discomfort.  But slowly over the rest of the week, the intestinal issues subsided as my body adjusted and figured out how to digest it.

Would you believe that I dropped 3 lbs in 4 days?  I’m being careful to only use cheese sparingly for flavor, and still using coconut milk as a cream substitute, but I think I’m starting to get the hang of this.  Today, I made this Quiche Lorraine along with some Crock Pot southwest chicken for lunches, and it was awesome.  Mom and Brendon had some for lunch today, and both pronounced it a winner.

I actually feel like I have a formula now that will get me through the next couple of weeks and I won’t automatically be gaining 5 lbs.  In fact, if the last few days are any indication, I might be back to my lowest by my birthday at the end of the month.

Wouldn’t that be a nice present!!??

Whole 30 #3 – Week 4

Heading into the final few days of my third Whole 30 now, and I think it’s safe to say I’m going to make it to the end this time.  Since I had to travel twice during this run, and ended up eating out quite a bit, I don’t think I can swear that I never had sugar or soy, or any of the other no-no’s that often hide in restaurant foods.  But I can say for sure that I tried my best to make compliant choices at every opportunity.  The sugar cravings have subsided substantially this time, and I don’t see myself diving into any cookies on day 31.  In fact, my plan is to do my best to maintain a near-Whole30 eating pattern as my standard diet, and use my newly found tricks with tea and coffee to avoid sliding back into the afternoon and evening sweet habits.

While the scale has stalled again this last week, I did manage to lose some size, as several of my clothes that were tight before are looser now.  Now that I’ve got the sugar back under control, I need to continue working on limiting my meal portions.  I still struggle to stop eating when I’m full when I’m really enjoying what’s on my plate.

My knee still aches when I’ve been walking and/or standing for long periods of time, so I’m probably going to wait a few more months before I try running again.  For now, I have to be content with the exercise bike, and just try to keep strengthening the ligaments and muscles.

All in all, I think this was a highly successful Whole 30, and I definitely feel much better coming out of it than I did going into it.

Whole 30 #3 – Week 2

Ah, week 2 – this is the one where you always wish you had picked a different 30 days to do your Whole 30.  Week 2 is when real life hits you in the face like a ton of bricks, and typically challenges your resolve in major ways – a birthday party, an invitation with the boss for happy hour, or something similar that makes being on a Whole 30 incredibly awkward.   In my case it happened when I needed to schedule 2 last minute business trips, and my ability to choose my meals and eating times was going to be sorely tested.

So what do you do?  Honestly you have 3 options as I see it.  You either 1) Give up your Whole 30 and start over again when the threat to your plans is passed 2) allow yourself to go off the rails when you have to, and then get right back on that horse as quickly as possible or 3) Do your best to navigate the tricky waters of resistance to temptation and social awkward questions to the waitstaff, and simply do your best.

While travelling this past week, I went for option 3.  I made sure I brought snacks with me for the trip in the form of Rx Bars and mixed nuts.  I also brought some of my new favorite tea, and some True Lemon packets to help liven up bottled water.  Obviously black coffee is often available fairly easily, so between my lemon water and coffee, I was ok on drinks.  It was a little harder for meals though, so for the ones I had control over, I was squeaky clean.  I ordered bacon and eggs a la carte for breakfast instead of browsing the buffet, and enjoyed a steak with bacon & brussels sprouts for one of the dinners.  One of the lunches, however, required ordering from a very restrictive pre-fixe menu, so I went with a salad as the best option presented.  The salad was primarily greens, poached eggs, chicken, small tomatoes, and croutons (which I dutifully picked out before eating).  The dressing was a vinaigrette, however, and I’m sure if I insisted at looking at the bottle’s ingredients, it would have indicated added sugar.   That being said, I think the important thing to remember when choosing any weight loss strategy is to always keep the “Do your best” motto and not sweat the small stuff.  All of the other options were pasta-based or sandwiches.  There was going to be more protein on the salad than any of the other choices, so that was the best I could do.

We had several other situations over the weekend, including a “Family Day” event for E.J.’s Army National Guard battalion, and a trip to the ER with my mom for another stroke scare.  (she’s ok, btw, and now they’re starting to think her symptoms are actually being caused by migraines instead of her heart)  In each of these, we made sure we had compliant snacks packed so that we could quash any hunger until we could get solid Whole30 meals.

The result – not a blip in cravings, or in weight.  My weight stayed steady for the week, and I consider that a victory in and of itself.

Time for another Whole30…

In my last post I shared how the struggle continues long after the initial weight loss, and how much I have to battle the sugar dragon even now, a year and a half later.  Lately the dragon has been winning more than I have, and it’s time for me to buckle down and kick it’s butt again.  Starting today, May 30, I’m doing a Whole30.  This will be my 3rd one – the last one I attempted was in January after the holidays and I ended up cutting it short a few days.  For this one, there can’t be any quitting.

There are clothes I bought in my closet that looked great before Spain, and I haven’t been able to get into since.  I’m struggling with being tired again and with fitful sleep.   My knee still can’t handle running (I tried last week like an idiot and had lots of pain to show for it), but I have the exercise bike, the pool, and a kettlebell.  No excuses.

I’ve got all the meals lined up: Chimichurri Meatballs, Chicken with Bacon Mustard Sauce, TexMex Casserole, and Shepherd’s Pie, packed and ready for lunches.  I’ve also got smoked brisket, fresh trout, and some T-Bone steaks I picked up at the store on sale.  Bacon is cooked and ready for quick breakfasts, and I’ve got mixed nuts ready for snacks.

Let’s do this!

Confessions of a Life-long Emotional Eater

Back in September 2015 when E.J. and I started to change our eating habits, we did a lot of soul searching.  What makes us eat what we eat?  What do we crave and why? Can we really change, or are we just wired to do what we do?

Though E.J. and I were both very overweight, we took very different paths to get there.  E.J. had grown up thin and healthy – an avid bike rider and swimmer, and eventually a super-fit Marine.  His weight gain started once the kids were born, and I honestly think the sleep deprivation, the stress of his difficult marriage (pre-Sherry), the financial burdens of a young family, and the sudden switch from an active Military life to a Corporate desk job were the biggest contributers to his weight gain.  When you have a family, your personal needs often take a back seat to everything else, and it’s so much easier to solve hunger with McDonalds and Dunkin Donuts than it is to plan and cook regular meals.  E.J. had great health for so long previously that the weight gain was fairly gradual, and didn’t honestly impact him that much… as his doctor’s said, he bought himself credit with all of the good fitness which had finally caught up with him years later.

I, on the other hand, have always been overweight (well, as far back as I can remember anyway.  My mom says I wore slim pants when I was a toddler).  Both of my parents are overweight, though neither of them appear to have been so before I was born… (Noticing a pattern here?)  And according to my mother, while she tried to get me to eat healthy home cooked meals, I was extremely picky and refused to eat anything that I didn’t like, even to the point of vomiting it up at the table if I were forced to try.  I’m personally appalled by that now, of course, but truth be told, it’s somewhat consistent with the way I’ve approached food as long as I can remember.  I’m simply not going to eat what I don’t want to eat, and I no one can tell me otherwise.  It’s as much a control thing as a pleasure thing – there are a lot of things in my life that are out of my control, but food isn’t one of them.  And there’s the root of my problem.  Even when my parents tried to scold me, or punish me for not complying, I’d find ways to stash, sneak, or otherwise circumvent the issue.  Once I was old enough to drive and have my own money, a huge percentage of it was used to avoid eating school-made or home-made lunches and get food I really liked.  People could be mean to me, make fun of me, or otherwise cause me to have a bad day, but I could always drown my sorrows in a Wendy’s classic Frosty.  My only saving grace was my activity – I played all kinds of sports (gymnastics, diving, softball, volleyball, basketball, soccer, badminton, racquetball, cheer leading) and so I remained a “stocky” athlete who was never the fastest, but was strong and coordinated.

Once I hit College, the athletics dropped off, save for the intramural volleyball, badminton and racquetball that I enjoyed, and once I graduated, the exercise was gone.  I ballooned at that point, and drowned my stresses with work, loneliness, and trouble at home (my parents’ divorce and related family issues) with food.  When I met E.J. I was already pretty big, and we both got bigger those over the next 7 years, eating cheap, comfort foods that kept us moving in between full-time jobs, E.J.’s school, and the kids’ activities.  Any time I had a bad day, I would tell E.J. I needed “queso therapy” – my term inexpensive binge-eating on chips and melted cheese.

I tried several times over the years to break the habits – I can’t tell you how many short-lived calorie-counting exercises I went through.  I had some measure of success only twice before this one – one when I was in 8th grade and wanted to be a cheer leader (I lived on fat-free hot dogs and salads for half a year so I could fit in the uniform and still fit in it through the end of the season) and once in 2009 when I had a small health scare and I removed regular sodas and breakfast burritos from my diet and replaced lunch with a half a turkey sandwich from a convenient sandwich shop.  Both times, my stress levels were fairly low, I was in a good place in my life, and the weight came back when circumstances changed and stresses returned.

Then when we started the Whole 30 in September of 2015, while I was naturally skeptical of the whole Paleo concept, I was determined to help E.J. and maybe finally myself get rid of the life-threatening weight.  I learned to cook and bake all over again, made exercise a regular part of my life, taught myself how to say “no” to office cake and donuts, learned to drink unsweetened coffee and tea, and found stress relief in a walk outside, stretching, and mindful breathing.  Now here I am, 20 months into a journey where I’ve lost over 65 lbs, and I’m struggling with 5 of them which have returned and don’t appear to be interested in going away again.  I think E.J. will agree that the beauty of Paleo and why it works, is that you eat good foods that you enjoy, you can eat out occasionally and still lose weight, but that last 5-10 lbs is a b*$@#.  Worse yet, when I hurt my knee, I couldn’t run anymore.  I didn’t realize how much I relied on that regular exercise both for stress relief and calorie offset.  You see for me, the journey has been a lesson in control – learning how to control my emotions and cravings and not reaching out for a cookie or a bowl of queso to fix it for me.  That struggle for control hasn’t gone away and I don’t think it ever will.   For me, it will be a day-by-day commitment to myself to make better choices wherever possible, be willing to put in the effort to make those choices available as much as possible, and courageous enough to recognize and manage my stresses in healthier ways.

Don’t think for a second that once the weight comes off, the hard work is over.  If anything, it is just beginning.  But I will tell you this, though – it’s all worth it.  Every little good decision, every day.

Diagnosis: Runner’s Knee

This morning I got the diagnosis from my MRI last week and the answer is Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome or “Runner’s Knee”.  Honestly I had never really heard of Runner’s Knee previously, but now doing some reading on it, it makes total sense.  Pain going down stairs but not up?  Check.  Pain after stitting or standing for long periods? Check.  Pain around and/or behind the knee cap?  Check.

What apparently causes it is either poor running posture/habits (which I’m sure I’m guilty of since I never ran competitively and never had any training) or weak quadrcepts – also very likely because I haven’t been doing much in the way of strength training along with my running like EJ has.

Here’s the real kicker – it’s slow and painful to recover, to the tune of 4-6 weeks with anti-inflamatories and slow, but consitent physical therapy.  Sigh.  But at least now I know what I’m dealing with, know that it’s pretty common, and have a game plan for getting better.

If you’re having knee pain when you run, definitely check this out.  You may be able to save yourself a lot of agony…

https://runnersconnect.net/runners-knee-symptoms-causes-and-research-backed-treatment-solutions-for-patellofemoral-pain-syndrome/