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!

Happy Half-Century to PaleoMarine!

Today is Mr. PaleoMarine’s (my husband E.J.’s) 50th birthday.  I feel incredibly lucky to be married to this guy, not just because he’s my best friend and my favorite person in the whole world, but because it’s been so inspiring to watch him take stock of his life over the last several years and fix the things about himself he felt were broken.

With the pace that the world moves around us, it’s easy to say that we’ll be better tomorrow, or to give excuses why circumstances or luck keep us from being the best version of ourselves that we can be – but it takes a lot of courage (and maybe a little healthy fear) to take an honest look in the mirror and summon the determination to change the things we don’t like.  Those of you who have been following our journey here or on his blog at PaleoMarine.com no doubt have been impressed at his weight loss (over 150 lbs to date), but the actually that’s only one small part of his transformation.  In addition to getting his weight under control, he has also been working out to improve his fitness, adjusted his sleep habits to ensure he’s getting enough rest, made a conscious effort to look at the world in a more positive light, improved his money management and personal savings, and makes a conscious daily effort to be the best husband, father, and friend he can be.

The result has been awe inspiring, not just for me, but for many of the people that he talks to about his journey over the last couple of years.  We personally know more than 20 individuals and couples who have made similar improvements in their lives as a direct result of E.J.’s story.  Yes, it requires effort for both of us in equal measure to keep a good thing going, but it is so worth it.  It’s amazing how one positive change affects the next and the next, and how you can look back after a while and wonder how and why you didn’t make the changes sooner.

I challenge everyone, regardless of age or situation, to find the courage to take a hard look in the mirror and ask yourself, “What is one thing about yourself that you really want to change?”, and then form a plan to change it.  Know that it may take years to make it completely, but every journey begins with a single step and a determination to reach the destination.  Try to take someone with you if you can – the support of a friend or spouse definitely makes the journey easier, but if you have to go alone, be sure to keep a journal and or find an online community with similar goals to help support you in the moments when you want to give up.  And when you fail (and you will), remember to love yourself enough to get back up, dust yourself off, and keep going.

Happy 50th Birthday, E.J.!  I’m so incredibly proud of you, and like a fine wine, you’re definitely getting better with age!!

 

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 3

Week 3 is always when things start to finally feel better.  On each of my Whole30’s, week 3 is when the swelling is pretty much all gone, my clothes feel looser, I’m sleeping better, and the scale is starting to cooperate again (down 7 lbs now).

This week we had E.J’s favorite meatloaf, brisket, smoked ribs, and Crock Pot Orange Chicken.  For dinner on Monday we had Crab-stuffed Tilapia, which I took to the next level by using Primal Kitchen’s Chipotle Lime Mayo and adding some crushed red pepper  to the stuffing… OMG, serious yum!

This weekend, we even had a little impromptu pool party IMG_2784where we served some Whole30-friendly summer fare that everyone really enjoyed.  E.J. grilled up some sugar-free smoked sausage from one of the smokehouses out near Weimer, TX, and my friend Anita contributed her now-famous Cucumber, Tomato, & Avocado salad, which is perfect for a hot summer get-together.

I also found a new Whole30 & Paleo friendly potato salad that everyone (including me) raved about.  Potato salad is serious business down here in Texas – everyone has a favorite recipe, and I’m no exception.  As far as I’m concerned, my mom’s mustard potato salad with pickles, boiled eggs, and gobs of Miracle Whip is the epitome of the classic summer dish, but since E.J. and I have decided to ban white potatoes from our diet, we’ve been looking for a decent substitute.  While I’ve tried several sweet potato versions, the texture and the sweetness of the yams just hasn’t really worked for me in this application, so I was thrilled when I finally found the legendary “white sweet potatoes” at Whole Foods.  They call them Japanese sweet potatoes, and they have a dark red skin with a white inside.  They are harder and not as sweet as a Jewel Yam or other standard sweet potato, so they actually work really well for dishes that you want to be more savory.  This recipe from Paleo Running Mama is the ticket.  I am so glad I made a double recipe, because we have leftovers that we will definitely be enjoying this week.

IMG_2783Now comes the final week of the Whole30, which will be made even more difficult due to my need to travel for business Monday – Wednesday, but as always I’ll pack as much as I can in the way of snacks and emergency meals just in case, and I’ll just be really picky with my meal orders while dining out.

 

 

 

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.

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!

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.