10 lbs and New Recipes

Well, I know I went off the grid for awhile, but it’s been good…  my work situation is stabilizing a little, and E.J. and I decided to spend September doing a “quiet” Whole 30 – basically we have been following the Whole 30 rules all month, with the exception of special occasions, and choosing meals that are as compliant as possible when we eat out.

For me, this was a much needed self-check.  I had managed to gain about 20 lbs of my original 70 lost 2 years ago.  Some of it was just falling back into old habits of eating too much and craving sweets after dinner, even when the meals and sweets were fully Paleo compliant.  Some of it was the 2 European trips we took where we threw healthy eating out the window for 2 weeks each.  Most of the recent damage was actually due to emotional eating and alcohol consumption, generally due to my company being acquired and the chaos that ensued from that event.

I was still exercising and doing my best to eat according to plan, but even the best diet can be totally derailed when the “treats” become commonplace.  On top of that, all it takes is a bottle of cider or glass of wine with a weekend meal, and most of my resolve goes out the window.  Next thing I know, I’m eating bread and ordering full desserts…

Anyway, in August when my clothes were too tight, and I started feeling sluggish again, I was ready to get serious about eating right again.  Fortunately, E.J. is a great partner in these cycles, and was right there with me.

The 30 days will actually end next week, but I’ve already lost the 10 lbs I had targeted for the month.   I’m back in my favorite jeans and dresses in time for the fall, and feeling a lot better overall.  It’s funny how taking control of your diet and your weight can help you feel better about taking control of everything in your life….

In that journey I did run across some new recipes I’d like to highlight:

  • Cajun Sweet Potato Chowder – This stuff is amazing.  It’s a little higher-carb than many other Paleo soups because of the potato, but it’s positively yummy!
  • “Honey” Mustard Chicken – I made this one with the date paste to keep it Whole30 compliant, but it was positively scrumptious.  I served it with broccoli, and smothered the extra sauce on it as well as the chicken
  • Apple Squash Pork Casserole – This is a great one for fall as temperatures are cooling off, and I modified it a little to account for the fact that I smoked a pork shoulder in advance, and just braised it a bit longer in the pot with the apple juice before adding in the rest of the veggies for the casserole.

Enjoy!

Better now.

Ok, last week’s post was definitely borne of sheer frustration, but like all things – patience pays dividends.  I stuck with the plan – Whole30-focused meals with an emphasis on portion size.  This seems to be the magic combination for me.  I’m down 7 of the 12 lbs I gained on the trip, so I just need to keep on keepin’ on.  For me, the quantity of food is every bit as much a challenge to my weight goals as the quality, and I know I’m doing it right when I’m starting to get hungry about an hour before each meal.  It’s not exactly the most pleasant hour, but I’ve borrowed one of E.J.’s tricks and have a cup of coffee or a glass of lemon water during those hours to calm the hunger pangs.

E.J. posted this morning on the variations on the Paleo diet that he’s experimented with.  What I discovered is that while Keto may work well for some folks, my body does not do well with cheese & other dairy products, even when lactose free.  I get really bad swelling, terribly painful constipation, and honestly I have a harder time eating proper portions because I really love the taste of cheese with meat.  Paleo/Whole30 focus on veggies and healthier root vegetables works better for my digestive system, and as long as I cut out the dairy, my rings and clothes fit so much better.  Fortunately E.J. and I are able to agree on a strategy, and so far it’s paying off for both of us.

Since I know many of you are following me for some new recipes, here is a new one I’ve stumbled into recently:

Easy Paleo Pecan Crusted Salmon – This one is super simple to put together and can easily be made into a one-pan dish by adding asparagus, broccoli, or another veggie to the pan, drizzled in oil and sprinkled with spices for a healthy roasted side.

Now that we’re back into the swing of things, I’m hoping to try a few more new recipes this week and I’ll be sure to share the ones that turn out well!

With a Little Help From My Friends

We’re in the final stretch of our January Whole30, and all in all I think it’s been a success.  I didn’t quite hit the weight target I wanted, but my clothes all fit nicely again, and I certainly feel better.  Work stresses aside, this really was the easiest W30 yet, and one of the reasons why it was easier is because of the amazing support of friends and family.

When we started with Whole30 and Paleo 2 years ago, things were much different.  When I would turn down office treats, or carefully order food at restaurants with specific requests, or bring strange food to the office potlucks, I found myself explaining what I was doing and the reasons behind it over and over.  The reactions were all over the map: encouragement, admiration, skepticism, and pity – but fortunately I was never met with ugliness.  After a few months, when the weight started to drop, I had a lot more questions, and a lot more earnest interest.  Now 2 years later, 2 others in my department have dropped over 50 lbs, and another is just starting her journey.

When we have potlucks now, we are sensitive to all of the dietary requests – things are labelled gluten free, paleo, and vegetarian, and people are proud to share their favorite health-conscious foods with the team and enjoy how good they taste.  No one brings donuts or kolaches on Fridays anymore either.  We’ll share treats for birthdays and holidays, but otherwise, we now keep nuts, Lara bars and other healthier options lying around the department instead.   The funniest thing about it is I never mentioned anything about office foods.  I never preached or gave anyone any grief about wanting to bring something yummy to share with the team.  But over the course of 2 years by simply politely declining and choosing my own path, the entire team has chosen to follow it, and some of them have dramatically improved their own health in the process.

Even the waiters at our favorite restaurants are supportive.  At the places we visit most frequently, E.J. has talked to the waiters and shown them the pictures… they all know the story, and remember us when we come in, so we rarely have to give our special orders anymore – they know what we want and how we want it.  It’s just so much more comfortable.

It’s the same with our close personal friends.  E.J. and I have a number of couples we will hang out with and have adventures with on the weekends, and while they might not follow our diet as strictly, they are all sensitive to it and have recognized the benefits themselves.   I feel incredibly lucky to be blessed with friends who have not only accepted the changes E.J. and I made to our lives to improve our health, but have embraced them and actively help us find new recipes and  ways to continue to thrive with an active social life.  When we entertain friends, they know my menu will be mostly paleo unless there’s a special request, which I’m happy to accommodate.  And when we go to our friends’ house, they always let us know what foods are compliant and which ones aren’t so we can make conscious decisions about how to build our plates.

And then sometimes, like this last Friday, they just rock and make a new paleo recipe that I’ve never seen or tried and it is nothing short of amazing.  Our friends Kenny and Elaine made this Whole30 compliant InstantPot Crispy Mojo Pork with tostones and it was spectacular.  I’m totally adding this to the Favorite Recipes list.  My friend Anita has also been tagging amazing looking recipes on her Facebook so they pop up for me, and I can’t wait to try them.

So, while everyone’s journey must be a personal one, I can certainly say that our ability to sustain our new lifestyle would be a much more difficult without “A Little Help From My Friends”.

After 5 months, Sherry finally got her groove back…

This morning, a nasty, muggy August-in-Houston morning, I finally finished a 5K after 5 months of pain and recovery.  It wasn’t fast or pretty, but it was complete, and without pain.

It was a long road full of pain, depression, frustration, and fear.  There’s nothing worse than working hard for something, only to have it slip away, and have to fight for it again. But people do it all the time.  For some people, it’s their health, wealth, or love that they lose and have to find again. For me, it was my ability to run – I know it’s insignificant in the big scheme of things, but it had become a big part of my life, and I really missed it.  Worse yet, when my mom turned 40, her fibromyalgia symptoms began to set in, and she’s been fighting it ever since.  I kept wondering if this was the beginning of it for me.  Am I destined to spend the rest of my life in pain the way she does?

If it hadn’t been for E.J., I don’t think I’d have made it back.  There were plenty of times when I could have given up – on the diet, the exercise, and all of it.  It felt like every time things started to get better, I’d hit a setback.  But he was my rock the whole time – he really listened, and didn’t judge.  He just kept helping me find solutions and new things to try.  I think having that support is the biggest key to success when we set off on a really big challenge.  We’re all going to stumble and wonder if we should just give up.  But the worst thing we can do when we feel that way is to keep it to ourselves.  Tell someone – a friend, a family member, or even a supportive group online.  Just talk about it.  First, you’ll often find that what you’re feeling is normal, and even common among your peers, and second, you’ll find ideas and inspiration that will keep you moving.  Sometimes it’s backward, or sideways before you go forward, but no matter what, keep moving.

 

First Run Since Injury

If you recall a previous post several months ago, I really messed up my right knee right after we got back from vacation in March.  It had already been bothering me a bit, and then after sitting on the porch one day with Buddy on my lap for an hour or so (putting pressure on my knee cap) I got up and had excruciating pain under my kneecap.

I thought at first that it would be temporary, but the pain was persistent and kept me walking with a limp, sometimes to the point where it would just give out while I was trying to walk or come down stairs.  Finally after an MRI, I was diagnosed with Runners’ Knee – a common, but nasty condition where the cartilage under the kneecap has worn down and the kneecap keeps moving out of the groove where it’s supposed to be.

The only remedy is time and therapy, strengthening the ligaments and muscles around the area and allowing the tissues to recover.  I was making great progress with it after a couple of months, and then one day twisted it just right and felt like I was back to square one.

The frustration at wanting to run and not being able to is excruciating and infuriating.  I have to admit to feeling a range of emotions because of it – depression, anger, and even resignation that I might as well give up the whole diet and exercise thing because if I can’t exercise, the diet has to be really strict for me to maintain my lower weight.  It’s really hard to watch the scale creep up when you know how to make it go back down, but can’t physically do it.  Fortunately, E.J. and I counsel each other regularly on this journey, so when I hit this roadblock, he hit the Internet, looking for ways to help me “adapt and overcome”.

First, he bought me a good exercise bike.  Fortunately the bike allowed me to get my heart rate up, and strengthen the muscles around the knee without the damaging impact.  I’ve been doing 30 minutes on the bike 3 times a week for the last couple of months to ensure I still get some cardio exercise, but I just don’t get the sense of satisfaction that I get from running.  First, it’s hard to stay in the same place going nowhere for 30 minutes, and 2nd, it just doesn’t get my whole body moving like running does.

Then most recently, he bought me a new knee brace.  I’ve actually tried at least 3 different ones since the initial injury, trying to find one that was flexible enough to move in, stayed in place, supported the kneecap, and breathable enough to wear all day.  He found a bunch of people on Reddit who had my same injury who recommended a specific brace and patella strap set that’s only $8 that they swear by.  Well, after wearing the brace comfortably for about 2 weeks, I can now officially say it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread.

Not only did the pain go away when I walk, I can wear heeled shoes again all day at work, go down stairs without wincing, and this morning, for the first time since March, I went out and did running and power walking intervals for 20 minutes… and I’m walking without pain afterward.  I’m so excited to feel like I’m finally getting back to where I want to be physically.  Obviously, I need to baby it for the next few days so I don’t overdo it too quickly, but I’m looking forward to trying a few more intervals over the next few weeks on my way back to a 5k.

Moral of the story:  Don’t let injury, vacation splurges, or anything else get in the way of your long term goals.  Accept your situation, whatever it is, and keep trying to find a strategy that works for your specific circumstance… and when it changes, be flexible enough to “adapt and overcome”!

Summer Party Fare

This weekend, in addition to E.J.’s 50th, we also celebrated 6 or 7 other summer birthdays with our annual Summer pool party.  We had quite a large, diverse group in attendance, and still managed to keep the party very Paleo-friendly while offering tasty summer-season flavors that received a ton of compliments.  I was actually feeling a bit under the weather going into the party, but with the help of the A-Team (my awesome friends Annie, Anita, and Amber), we had a fabulous banquet for all to enjoy.

Here were the new dishes we tried for the party:

Watermelon Feta Bites – Annie put these together with some festive party picks for a light and refreshing appetizer.  The sweet of the watermelon nicely offset the salty feta, and the balsamic drizzle was a nice touch.  Annie and her son Noah put this one together and he apparently enjoyed snacking during assembly 🙂

Cherry Orange Salsa – Annie also brought this one, and it was a huge hit.  It was a departure from the standard chips and salsa and seasonal sweet cherries were fabulous with the jalepenos.  We served the salsa with Siete tortilla chips, and people were surprised at how good it was.  E.J. and I ended up grilling some pork chops afterward and making a meal of the salsa on the chops for an easy packed lunch this week.

Bacon Wrapped Prawns, Stuffed with Jalapeno Cream Cheese and Drenched with Honey – How awesome does this sound?  It tastes even better.   I know cheese is off-limits for Paleo, but I picked up some lactose-free cream cheese from Whole Foods to help offset the negative effects, and these flew off the plate.  For the record, I only used jalepenos and kept the serrano out, but yum!

Spicy Salmon Cucumber Bites – I had some cucumbers that needed to be used, and decided to consume them with this easy recipe.  Instead of baking the fish, we smoked the salmon first, which was not only yummy, but also pretty with the cute red tomato bits on top.

Bacon-Wrapped Pineapple – it doesn’t get any simpler that this folks.  Amber brought this one and it was the first dish to be cleared.

Hooray for Healthy and Happy Summer Party guests!!

4th of July Fabulousness

For this year’s 4th of July celebration, we kept it simple since next weekend is when we’ll be celebration E.J.’s big 50 with friends and family.  We made a few fan favorites and I also tried a couple of new summer dishes, since the crowd was particularly Paleo-friendly.  Fortunately, we had a lot of wins, and some of them were in definitely in that “Better than non-paleo” category, which is always what I’m going for.

Coconut Fruit Dip – I served this with Strawberries and Blueberries for a red, white, and blue appetizer.  I initially tried whipping the coconut cream but quickly realized I ruined it when it started separating in the mixer.  I think the key to this is to make sure your cream is very cold if you’re going to whip it.  I didn’t have a chilled can, so I just skipped the whipping step and mixed everything together by hand.  It was still really tasty and I didn’t have any leftovers.

Death By Chocolate Ice Cream – this dish was made on a whim after I ended up with a bunch of egg yolks following another recipe.  I used Penzey’s high fat cocoa for the powder, honey for the sweetener (I probably only put in 3 or 4 tablespoons), and added dairy-free mini chocolate chips while it was churning.   It ended up being a super dark-chocolate masterpiece, and people were saying this was the best chocolate ice cream they’ve ever had… there weren’t any leftovers of this either.

Apple Pie – I wasn’t quite sure about this one, especially since it relies heavily on coconut sugar for all of the sweetness, but I was pleasantly surprised with the result.  I also got rave reviews on this one, especially for the strudel topping… yum!!

Vanilla Cupcakes – this time I completely cheated… I used a cake mix from Simple Mills and the vanilla frosting I picked up at PaleoFX this year.  The icing is REALLY sweet, but the cake is flavorful and satisfying.  These disappeared in a flash.

I hope everyone enjoyed their holiday as much as we did!