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!

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 1

First, I need to give a shout out to my friends and family members for their support on this latest Whole 30 effort.  You guys are awesome, and I appreciate it!  I even went to a party this weekend where there were lots of approved options on the table so I was able to enjoy a healthy and tasty plate!

Second, I think I can say this is the easiest Whole30 I’ve done to date.  I’ve learned quite a few things about myself since the last time – the most important of which is the mindset.  There is a determination that you simply have to embrace to make the most of these 4 weeks.  I keep repeating to myself, “I don’t want sugar.  It’s making me uncomfortable and keeping me from being my best self.  Eating those cookies or cake may be enjoyable for a moment, but the self-loathing I would feel for breaking my commitment would be much worse.”  I’ve also done some self-discovery into my cravings, and 90% of them come after dinner and before bedtime when I’m trying to calm my brain from the stresses of the day so I can relax and eventually sleep.  E.J. finally got me to try some caffeine free hot teas from Celestial Seasonings, and I’ve actually managed to find something that kills the craving – “Tension Tamer”.  The ingredients are  “Eleuthero, peppermint, cinnamon, ginger, chamomile, lemongrass, licorice, catnip, tilia flowers, natural lemon flavor with other natural flavors, hops and Vitamins B6 and B12.”  I add a packet of true lemon to the cup when it’s steeping, but otherwise drink it as is.  It actually calms my brain, helps me relax, and prevents the urge to raid the freezer looking for paleo cookies.   With one cup of tea every night, I’ve managed to not just survive the first week, but feel like it was no big deal.

Finally, the best part is the result.  I know you’re not supposed to weigh yourself, but I managed to lose 5 lbs in 7 days.  That’s half of the weight I was hoping to lose in the 30 days gone in the first week.  It just tells you how much of the weight we’re all carrying around comes from bloating and inflammation from sugar [even natural ones like maple syrup and honey], dairy, and alcohol.  All of those had crept back into my regular diet, and that’s really all I’ve cut back out.

I’m still battling the knee pain, but I’ve been religiously riding the exercise bike 3-4 times a week and have added push ups and crunches to those days as well.  I’m determined to make this the best Whole30 yet!

Stepping Up My Game: Sous Vide

Happy Mothers Day, everyone!  Mr. Paleo Marine got IMG_2724[1]me a really awesome Mother’s Day gift this year – an Anova Precision Cooker for sous vide.  I’ve never tried sous vide cooking before, and honestly I’ve been a bit intimidated by it… anything with a fancy French name sounds complicated in my book.  Turns out, there was nothing to be afraid of – in fact, I’ll say that it rivals the Instant Pot in its simplicity, with the convenience of a slow cooker.

After spending some time reading up on sous vide in general and agonizing over what to try first, I decided to go big or go home, and break in the new toy with lamb chops.  I’m a big fan of lamb, but I am always afraid of preparing it myself for fear of drying out an ruining a fairly expensive chunk of meat.  But it was Mother’s Day and while I got to enjoy a very nice lunch out at a fancy restaurant for the occasion, I really wanted to try the Anova, so lamb for dinner!

I used a FoodSaver vacuum sealer to get the chops settled in with salt, pepper, and rosemary, and then attached the Anova to one of my deeper cooking pots.  I got everything arranged, used the app on my phone connected to bluetooth to run for lamb chops, and then forgot about it while I did the rest of my Sunday cooking for the week.  About 45 minutes before dinner time, I roasted some spaghetti squash and made a simple roasted tomato sauce on the cooktop.   Right before I plated everything, I heated up some butter in a large cast iron skillet, removed the chops from their packets, and seared them.

The result was heavenly… perfectly melt-in-your-mouth lamb with a fantastic flavor and texture that rivals some of the fanciest restaurants.  E.J. said we’ll be spoiled when it comes to restaurants now because we’ve figured out the secret to amazing meats.  Next up is a slab of pork belly and some flank steak.  I can’t wait to see how these turn out!