Category: food

It’s a slippery slope… How I turned to the Autoimmune Protocol

If you’ve ever stopped in to this blog before, you know that I frequently talk about what is ailing me or what new diet I [a] want to try or [b] am currently on.  When I look back or even think about its totality, I get it; it’s a rather self-absorbed rambling rant, but it’s not really for you, it’s for me…. to keep track of progress, major setbacks or victories, what’s working and what’s not working.  It’s only for you if you: share a problem, you stumble upon this blog, and we can help one another in any way.  That is why I share in a public forum.  I have gained so much knowledge and support through the Internet, I cannot imagine tackling a chronic illness without it.  I truly came into my own in my forties and I continue to grow wiser/calmer/happier in my fifties.  I was thrown a bit of hardball with the RA diagnosis, but what the heck, it made me forget about menopause. Menopause, smenopause, if I can thrive with Rheumatoid Arthritis, menopause is not even on the radar.

So, a couple of years ago, I lost almost 50 pounds and I was on top of the world.  Then someone stole my wings and over the next couple of years, I slowly and painfully gained over half of it back.  It feels like more since I also lost some lean muscle as I could not walk/zumba/hike/run like I used to.  I cannot blame this all on the RA, making unhealthy food choices is a slippery slope that once you begin to slide down seems like a super slide with no stopping mechanism.  Sugar and simple carbs are poison to me; I know this.  When I eat them, I am medicating with food.  I have done this my entire life.  My Mother and Grandfather taught me.  Food was comfort, food was reward, food was a drug, and food was an ever present focus.

You cannot read about health issues or autoimmunity [I already have at least 2 autoimmune diseases], without learning that our gut is the new center of our health.  Hippocrates, was evidently, right all along when he said “all disease begins in the gut.”  Our microbiome is as messed up as our planet.  I discovered a couple of years ago that gluten and I didn’t get along and I cut it out. It was no picnic in the beginning, but I am used to it now.  I have become quite creative with alternative flours and grains, but I know that I am still allergic to something because of persistent rash on my thigh that reacts to my food intake by inflaming and healing in turns.  I suspect I may be sensitive to other grains, lignans, dairy, or eggs.

October is an auspicious month for me.  It’s my birth month and I have had two successful beginnings on October 6th. October 6, 1999, I stopped smoking and never looked back.  October 6, 2013, I began using Take Shape for Life/Medifast and lost almost 50 pounds in 5 short months. So, on Monday October 5th, I began the Autoimmune Protocol.  It basically removes anything that might be allergenic or that tends to promote leaky gut for at least 30 days- it is easier to say what I can eat than what I cannot.  I can eat fresh unprocessed meats, broths, vegetables that are non legume, and fruits that are non citrus.  I cannot have coffee, sugar of any kind, nuts, seeds, or grains, eggs, or dairy.  I am allowing myself only one grain and that is a bit of brown rice, and only if the brown rice is soaked, slow cooked in coconut oil, and then refrigerated for 8-12 hours.

I’m on day 5 and I feel more energized already.  Seriously, once the sugar is gone for a few days, it no longer has power over me and I feel back in control.  I’ll be writing this month to record how this elimination protocol is going and how I reintroduce foods.  If you have tried it yourself, I’d love to hear from you or get a link to your blog.

Wicked Wheat

This morning I awoke to a swollen ring finger joint that hurts when I bend it or even when I touch it.  My knees ache and my feet ache when I walk.  Blissfully, my shoulder pain has subsided, but my left elbow is still sensitive to touch and my right thumb is painful to bend [so I don’t bend it].

My rash had receded, my joints were beginning to quiet.  I had started back on plan and had a string of wheat-free, low-carb days only to hear a siren song of cake last night at a home party I attended.  The host said, “you must taste my Preacher’s Cake- homemade with pineapple and nuts- I found the recipe on Pinterest.”  I guess she had me at Pinterest, because delectable cake images flashed across my mind at that moment.  “Just a tiny slice,” I said, because I am apparently deep in denial that wheat actually is the primary cause of these myriad ailments- joint pain, skin rashes, congestion, fatigue.  I say that I believe that wheat is the culprit, with my mouth, but I don’t say it yet with my behavior because either at some level I am in denial or I have not reached a bottom that would allow me to say ‘no more.’

I know that I must sound like the whiniest of the whiny with this blog focused so much on my eating and health worries, but I don’t conceptualize myself that way.  I see myself as strong and stoic and hardy.  I am also a natural detective and so I find myself trying to ferret out the cause of any symptoms that make my life harder or give it lesser quality.  I don’t trust doctors, and given the clusterf*@% that is autoimmune disorders and the way my Hashimoto’s is misunderstood by doctors who insist they know how much and what kind of thyroid replacement I need, I prefer to treat myself with diet and exercise whenever I can and be ready to tell health professionals which direction to point when I am forced to sit on the crinkly paper in their offices.

I believe that the progest/estrogen compounded cream is helping in general and I think with my joint pain in particular, but every time I eat wheat, I exacerbate symptoms and get sent back to square one or at least square 5 or 10.  Last night as I walked to my car after the party, literally 30 minutes after ingesting wheat, I found myself itching intensely in my stomach and chest, and I thought, “oh, &*@%.”

Trial and error has shown me over the past two years that my body cannot process sugar and carbs in any kind of an efficient manner, and that I feel best when I eat paleo and minus processed wheat and sugars.  Unfortunately, I don’t live in a paleo world. I live in Roxboro, NC, where there is a processed/simple/carb around every corner and at every event.  There is no health food store.  I have to drive to Whole Foods in Durham to find the coconut milk I like, the one with vanilla flavor and no sugar.  I can’t find good quinoa here or any alternative flours.  The restaurants do not lean heavily on fresh green ingredients, although I do have some places I can get a quick salad that passes the muster.   It takes a tremendous amount of planning to stay on plan, especially when I am busy and/or stressed.

If you eat paleo, have Hashimoto’s, are near menopause, or feel like you have wheat sensitivities, feel free to weigh in.  I’d love to hear what works for you and share some tips and recipes.  Message me.  We’ll talk.


Okay, so if you follow me, you may have noticed that I changed the name of my blog again.  Acknowledged.  And, we are just going to leave it at that.  If you know me, you’ll figure it out.

I wanted to comment on a new acronym I learned from a friend who is in recovery:  H.A.L.T., which stands for hungry, angry, lonely, tired.  Sidebar:  I am fascinated by addiction and recovery for myriad reasons.  One, I own that I have addict-like behavior where food is concerned.  I spent the better part of my adult life medicating with sugar/fat and white flour.   Two, I have lived with and loved an addict.  Three, I think the majority of us are addicts in some form or shape, we just use different substances/behaviors to mask our pain–  some people shop, some people take risks or have affairs, some people medicate with food, some people have addictive behavior associated with religion, and the list is endless….

So, I learned that people in recovery use this acronym as a gauge to determine how susceptible they might be to using/falling into addict-like behavior[s].  If you are experiencing at least two of these at any given moment, then you are at risk for relapse.  If you have more than 2, you might need to call your sponsor or head to a meeting.

I have been working on losing weight and gaining optimal health [with the goal of ultimately leaving behind my addictive relationship with food] since October.  I am experiencing success.  It’s up and down, but it’s success nonetheless.  I have had some planned cheats, admittedly some of these turned into snowball situations.  And, I have also had some times when I just went suddenly AWOL for no apparent reason.  Obviously, I continue to have addict style behaviors where food is concerned.  Reflection upon those times where I have gone off the end of a cliff so to speak, shows that I indeed was experiencing at least two of these four apocalyptic horsemen each time I derailed.  Angry is sometimes just frustrated or irritable.  Tired is a big trigger for me.  Lonely is a no brainer- I rarely go off a cliff with witnesses.  Hungry, well, when you’re trying to head off a diet catastrophe, hunger would certainly be a big factor.

TSFL is a plan that helps by making sure that you keep your blood sugar stable and that you eat small and very frequent ‘meals’ [I understand that it’s a stretch to call them meals].  It is also a plan that focuses heavily on community.  Having a coach and a community of support goes a long way to keeping me from becoming lonely and I know that I have people I can call on at any time to talk me off a ledge or alter my perception in a positive way.  I am finding out as I go along, that sleep is more important than I ever imagined.  Research shows that getting less sleep can increase your appetite and make you actually consume more calories.  My motivation and energy wane when I get less than 6 hours of sleep a night, especially over a period of time.  Luckily, this plan and its mild ketosis offers extra energy, but I have to be careful not to get tricked into thinking I don’t need my 7+ hours of sleep a night.  Anger, I have found, retreats during times of mild ketosis and I get into a calm zen state, however, whenever I do choose to cheat and go out of ketosis, I know that I will deal with anger/frustration/irritability again as I walk through that tough place between eating off plan and going back in to ketosis.  Those have been some of my most trying moments.

So, remember H.A.L.T.  whatever your addiction might be.  Keep yourself nourished– physically and spiritually.  Stay in community and relationship with others.  Have strategies to deal with anger and frustrations when they arise.  Love yourself.  ❤

Back on the Bus

Okay, so I am going to talk about food again; specifically, what happens when you go off plan and then come back on.  So, just a pre-warning, in case you are sick to death of hearing about my current eating proclivities, that’s where this is going.  I started on plan on Oct. 2nd, and did not have my first cheat until Christmas.  It was then, that I made my first discoveries about my body’s reaction to carbs and about how taste and preference and habits can change.  I have had another cheat [actually two in a row sort of] and so I feel compelled to talk about what this has taught me so far.  The reason I feel a need to share this is because when you have been on plan for a long time [ie.. longer than a few weeks or a month] and you are thinking about going off plan, you wonder things like: “How is this going to make me feel?” or  “How much weight might I gain?” or “How damaging is this to my overall progress or my health in general?”  I had many more questions than this, but you get the idea.  I actually googled some of these questions trying to find out if others had written about their experiences with going off and back on plan.  Hopefully, this will help others who are faithfully following their plan and making wonderful progress toward their goals to decide if, when, and how they might go off plan and then come back on.  It can possibly just give you more points for your risk-to-benefit ratio list.


The trajectory of this post will change due to some influences over the past week, not the least of which has been Daniel Cox [I’ll end this post on a video note from him].  I will, however, continue with my original direction for a moment by saying that I chose Valentine’s Day as a planned cheat day.  I love chocolate so very much that having a planned cheat day helps me to keep from caving to temptation by allowing me to say “later” instead of “no, thank you.”

On Valentine’s Day, I was only able to wait until about 1:30 pm before I caved to temptation.  I had a little smartly decorated brown paper sack on my desk full of goodies and I chose one of my very favorites to indulge in:  A 3 in. Hershey chocolate bar.  I love chocolate and appreciate fine chocolate, but I am also devastatingly loyal to Hershey.  There is something about the taste and the melt point and the teeth sink, especially in these little bars that are slightly thicker than a traditional bar and not as thick as a kiss, that does me in.  So, I took that first bite…. and …. o. m. g.  …. it was so wonderful!  I ate that mini Hershey bar so much faster than I intended to. Before I knew it, I had eaten four of them; yes, I said 4 of them!  I then began stuffing candy into my mouth like Charlie Bucket.  The next piece was a Reese’s peanut butter heart, which was oh so forgettable followed by one of those long skinny Tootsie Rolls.  Now, when I got to the Tootsie Roll, I was able to stop and take stock and realize that it didn’t even taste remotely pleasant.  It tasted sort of plastic and watery sweet– so underwhelming that I spit it into the trash after only chewing for a few bites.  After this orgy of candy eating, I felt slightly nauseous and out of control.   I was horrified that I could be so seemingly in charge for so many weeks only to behave like a fiending junkie when faced with the opportunity to indulge in a planned cheat.  What I learned?   Candy, specifically chocolate candy, is a trigger food that makes me behave like a shameless, unconscious addict.

Later that day, I continued my planned cheat with wine at supper [first glass since September] and Lily’s pizza [2.5 slices] followed by buttered popcorn and Nestle’s Bunch-a-Crunch at the movies.  The wine was heavenly as was the pizza, especially that pillow-like crust that sent waves of pleasure through my entire body.  If it sounds like I have a sexual relationship with food, it’s because I do; you are not imagining this.  Now, the Bunch-a-Crunch and the popcorn were  big let downs, probably because I had already indulged so much this day that I had reached a saturation point of sorts, but more likely because they never were really that good and I am just realizing this.  What I learned:   good pizza is really wonderful and so is a great glass of Riesling after a five month absence, but I wasted a lot of time pining for popcorn and Bunch-a-crunch when it is not really that good, and finally, carbs make me incredibly sleepy and behave just like narcotics in my body.

Next day, I felt really ready to go back on plan and I did, but then came Saturday when Bean and I and the kids were out of town at a getaway to the Great Wolf Lodge where we found that our hotel had its very own Dunkin’ Donuts, Pizza Hut, and Dippin Dots outlets.  Bean said he might not stay on plan while we were there and I found myself encouraging him by saying, “oh, that’s fine, I might not either.”  Lesson learned- coming recently off a cheat makes me more susceptible to cheating again [it’s a slippery slope, folks] and being the addict that I am where food is concerned I found myself in rationalization mode.  Good habits die hard, though, and so this day became about the battle between good and evil inside of me.  I carried my OP snacks and water about and watched Bean and little beans eat fries, corn dogs, and chicken tenders and I walked around the water park irritable and complaining about the lack of a lazy river, about the temperature, about the wetness of everything [really], but even when faced with Cracker Barrel for supper, those good habits were still winning battles when I chose a low-carb option of a burger and turnip greens for supper.  I was full and satisfied and did not need another thing that evening, but I lost my head again when sitting in the lobby of this den of temptation and it was me [I know, I cannot believe it or that I am admitting this] who suggested that we go downstairs and have ice cream in a waffle cone and then wake up to a breakfast of Dunkin’ Donuts and coffee.  I suddenly had gone off the edge.  I was in free fall and ready to make poor choices for the remainder of the weekend.    Note:  the ice cream was forgettable and not worth eating.  I fell into a carb fueled sleep but woke anticipating those donuts.  The donuts were really good- Dunkin’ Donuts knows how to make ’em and when they are fresh, they are divine.  I found myself having a much better day in the water park.  Bean commented, “wow, you seem so much more relaxed today.”   The connection was clear– I was calmer and more relaxed because I was impaired.. like a junkie– I had slept after a fix and woke to another fix and I was feeling fine, medicated right into bliss.  I continued this crazy binge with Bojangles for lunch, Chubby’s Tacos for supper, and raspberry thumbprint cookies from Francesca’s for dessert!

Writing about this makes me see the addict in me so much clearer.  It is scary as hell and I can tell you that I was more than ready to go back on plan.  The price of re-boarding the TSFL bus next morning was that I would have to go through days of irritability and would not be back into mild ketosis and feeling really good again for anywhere from a few days to a week.  I also paid with the weight I would have lost during this week or so and I am sure there were negative effects on my blood sugar, triglycerides, and other body systems.  What I learned, though, was that even though I have been following this plan for over four months I still have work to do toward reframing my relationship with food.  Going back on plan was comforting on so many levels:  I felt in control again, I was now back to structured choices within a defined scope, and I was eating those foods that had taken me to this new place that I love so much– my cereal crunch and my hot cocoa and chicken noodle soup.


And so now, here I am over a week after I went off plan [or as Daniel Cox puts it- “got off the bus”] and I am back into mild ketosis and feeling pretty darn good again.  The downside is that I weigh the same as I did before my planned cheat, so I literally lost over a week of progress.  This week was not has difficult as I anticipated, although I did have a meltdown about 5 or 6 days in where I over-reacted to something Bean did and got so upset I cried.  Daniel is so right when he talks in his videos about having to feel our feelings when we can’t eat them anymore  and, well, sometimes they just come spilling right out over the top.

So, in the do as I say and not as I do spirit, I will end with a video by Daniel Cox who is a fellow health coach.You should check out his YouTube channel if you are already on TSFL and he will motivate you in so many ways.  I loved this particular video because it helps put going off plan into perspective and I like that he ‘gets real’ with his viewer in sort of Dr. Phil style.  So, thanks, Daniel.  You are an amazing inspiration.  I don’t necessarily regret going off plan this time because of what I learned, but I want you to know that in part because of you…I plan to “stay on the bus.”

Be calm & keep moving forward..

I have been meaning to write this post for a number of days now.  Some of you may know that my weight loss journey has been so successful this go round that I decided to pay it forward and become a health coach for Take Shape for Life.   Anyone who has talked to me in the past 3 months knows that I am crazy excited over this program and how it has worked.  That might lead them to believe that it has been easy for me or glitch-free, but that is not the case.  The things I love about this program are that it is:

  • so simple to follow
  • that it is healthy and balanced
  • the weight loss is faster than on other plans I have been on [seriously, ever]
  • that it is structured enough that I don’t self sabotage by making poor food choices that hijack my blood sugar or fudge on points and flexpoints

I love how it makes me feel- more energized, more alert upon waking, empowered, and sometimes giddy with excitement.  But I have not been successful because I have more will power than someone else [I most certainly do not] or because I lose weight easily [I do not- I have hypothyroidism and it is harder for me to lose weight].  And while it has been the most successful weight loss journey I have had in my adult life [and the most swift], it has not been without moments of doubt or feelings of frustration. 

I have only been a coach for a month now. My new clients include my sister, my boyfriend, my sister’s friend, and several other personal friends. Some of them have complained at times that they are not losing fast enough, that they did not lose fast enough in the first week, that they did not lose fast enough in the second week, or other complaints about the pounds and the numbers of the scale.  My sister called one day and said, “I don’t know what is going on, I haven’t lost any weight for six days and I am getting discouraged.”  I said, “my goodness, you lost 22 lbs. in 25 days- that is almost a pound a day- your body needs to rest every now and again or you are going to look like a Shar Pei!”   She has a lot to lose and had large glycogen stores and lost quickly in the early days.   Some have been disappointed that they “only” lost 5 in the first week and someone else lost 9.  They are happy when they are losing a pound a day or 7-12 in a week, but then dejected when they have a week where they lose none or just a few.  They look at me, seemingly shrinking away in just 3 months and want that and want it now.  Well, these three months have been longer than you think, and I think it is important that I share some details of my weight loss. 

Month Pounds Lost Numbers I was seeing on the scale
October 17.5 190’s
November 5.5 180’s
December 7.5 170’s
January TBD 160’s

I have lost more than 35 pounds, but I started at the beginning of October.  If you look at the chart above, you will see that I have gone steadily downward since I began the plan and I have only gone off plan once- Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.   If I made a chart of what the numbers looked like each day, you would see how they go up, down, same, up, down, down, same, down- well, you get the idea.   I was discouraged during the times the scale stayed the same or went up, but I trusted that if I followed this plan, there was nowhere to go but down.  I am glad I did not give up. Weight loss is a funny funny thing, too.   You don’t lose in a linear fashion, you have ups and downs even when following the plan.  This is mostly because you are more than70% water and your degree of hydration at any given moment affects the numbers on the scale.  Weight loss is funny too, because you won’t always like how it looks.  When I first started losing quickly, I looked at my thighs at the end of the second month and thought, OMG, I can’t live with these hideous things!  They were sagging and looked like they had had bites taken out of them, like literally there were lumps and bulges in weird places and they were not smooth or shapely.  A month later, they are bagging less and in different places and the bulges and hollows have moved.  As your fat cells shrink, they do not do this in a perfect and orderly fashion, it is sort of haphazard and random.

What if I had quit after that first plateau?  I would have gone back to my old eating ways and most likely gained it all back and more.  It would be three months later and I would remain stuck and feeling sluggish and fat and like a failure. I would not have been able to open a package from Kohl’s and remove a size 10 petite pants and hold them up and go, “geez, I will never get into these tiny little things,” only to have them fit!!!  What a moment that was!  What if I had quit during December when every single day someone was eating wonderous foods around me- butter cookies, candy, cake, meatballs in sweet sauce, martini’s, you name it and the weight was not falling off of me- remember I only averaged a little over a pound and a half a week that month.  I would have missed that moment today, when I walked into REI and took a size L blouse off the sale rack because they run so small  there, only to have to go back and get a medium!  If I had given up, I would not have had my first glimpses at my collarbones 28 years!!

If you are not losing fast enough on this plan, go back and read your quick start guide and make sure you are not   messing up on types of leans or greens and their amounts.  Make sure you are not using too many condiments [half n half, parmesan cheese, artificial sweeteners, whipped cream, etc…].  Determine that you are drinking enough water because this is the hardest part for some people and losing weight robs you of water.  If you are sick, go off the plan and come back on later.  Get well first; the plan works best when you are healthy and well hydrated. 

Ultimately, know that if you follow the plan– you will be smaller next week than you are today, you will be much smaller next month, and the next, no matter what numbers are on the scale.  Try not to be a slave to the scale– they are just numbers and you are much more than numbers.  People ask me how much more I want to lose.  At just over 160, I would need to lose at least 35 more to be at an optimal BMI, but those are numbers; I will know when I get there.  Already, I feel younger, I move easier, I breathe easier, I snore less, I feel more energetic, I wake up easier in the morning, I pant less when walking up hills or stairs, I can run faster and for longer jaunts.  I am happier and I make new discoveries about myself every day.  I have learned I was eating way more food than my body needed for most of my life.  I have learned that I can live without bread and Hershey kisses, that I can make small, continuous choices that add up to big success.  I have learned that I can live without leaning on my drug of choice when in crisis or stressed- sugar; and that instead, I can lean on others, I can write, I can go for a walk, I can have a cup of tea, or I can just have a good cry. 

So, when you tell me that you are frustrated and the scale is not doing or saying what you want it to say;  I understand.  I have been there and will be there again.  But, I can tell you that only three months into this journey, every one of those moments have been worth it. 

“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”

Martin Luther King Jr.

Yummy Broccoli & Cheese Soup

Trying to find ways to use my Vitamix and incorporate fresh vegetables into my daily diet.  Here is the recipe that I found on and then altered a bit to fit my needs today.  Feel free to play with it if you like.

Cream of Broccoli Soup with Cheese

  • 4 cups fresh broccoli
  • 3 or 4 cups water
  • 2-4 tbsp. finely chopped leeks or onion
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • chicken bouillon and water or 1 c. chicken broth
  • 1/3 c. flour
  • 2- 2 1/2 c. whole milk or half and half
  • salt to taste
  • pepper to taste
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2-1 cup shredded cheese [I used Cheddar and Monterey jack]

Cook the broccoli in the water for just 5 to 10 minutes on med high.  Save water to the side.  Take 3/4 of the broccoli and process it until smooth.  Chop the rest into smaller pieces.  Melt the butter in the bottom of a sturdy dutch oven or sauce pot and saute the leeks for 5-10 minutes until golden brown.  Add the flour and stir to make a brown rue.  Slowly stir back in the water from the broccoli and the broth or an extra cup of water and bouillon.  Bring to a rapid boil and cook until the mixture begins to thicken nicely.  Add all the broccoli back in, season, and stir in milk or half and half and cheese and cook through. 

Delicious– with a really pretty fresh green color.


If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, “thank you,” that would suffice.  ~Meister Eckhart

I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.  ~G.K. Chesterton

My Thanksgiving holiday began yesterday afternoon at 3 o’clock when I left my classroom until next Monday morning.  Today [Wednesday before] is always a day of cooking and preparation for the holiday.

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays.  Jason always says that it is his favorite.  There is no pressure to buy gifts or decorate extensively.  It is a simple, beautiful holiday that is all about abundance– family, food, laughter.  We meet at Shana’s house in Wake Forest and everyone brings food.  We used to go to Wilmington to Mom’s but she finally found that she could not handle all of us descending upon her with our families that were expanding so quickly.  The chaos of all of us staying in her house, even given its size, was just too much and she found it exhausting instead of exhilarating.  So, now she comes to us.  Shana volunteered to be the host for this annual event at least 5 years ago-  maybe more.  She & Scott and the kids wouldn’t have it any other way.  Mom makes a huge turkey and Scott likes making his alternative Turkey– sometimes deep-fried, sometimes cooked in a pit, or under a large trashcan.  Hannah likes decorating and making her homemade applesauce.  Mom makes her s’mores on sticks for all the kids.  I always make the greens, this year they will be curly kale, organic, from Whole Foods made with uncured smoked and peppered bacon.  I also make sauerkraut with diced apples and bacon, corn pudding, and tiny chocolate pie tarts for the kids [Jim loves them too].  I might get ambitious and make a Mexican Chocolate Pound Cake.  Every year there is family, Mom, Jim, us three girls and our families, sometimes Julian, Andrew & now Courtney, and most years there are also others.  Last year, Scott’s cousins from MI joined us along with my new friend, Duane.  Duane will be back this year with his kids. In some other years we have had other random guests– our coworkers or friends with no family close by.  Each year we take family photos, some of us for our holiday cards- and Mom always wants one of her grandchildren.  This one is from two years ago– 2008.  It was my boys’ first Thanksgiving after losing their Daddy.  Before we divorced, when Thanksgiving was still in Wilmington, Kenney would have a huge pig pickin’ or oyster roast at his parents that weekend and/or again on New Year’s Eve each year, so these holidays are times Jason & Alex remember their Daddy cooking and entertaining and making things happen at his parents’ home in Myrtle Grove.

So far, Mom has 10 grandchildren including Jenny and 2 great-grandchildren and another about to arrive at any time– Cooper Thomas Whitman will be her 3rd great-grandchild bringing the grand total to 13!

Thanksgiving is a holiday centered on gratitude and over the past ten years or so, I have truly come to realize what a sacred gift gratitude really is.  I have always expected goodness in my life, and that is what I have received.  I have had my trials, some more challenging than I ever dreamed I would face.  I have felt deep emotional pain, fear, and doubt; but underlying any adversity in my life, I have always been able to draw from a reservoir of hope.  I continually believe that good triumphs over evil- not only in the world at large- but in my small world.  I look for it and I find it every time.  In between times of great sorrow or happiness, I simmer gratitude.

I have so many things in my life to be grateful for:  my children are smart, healthy, happy, and they are close to me– they make me laugh daily.  I am surrounded by dozens of other children who also give me great joy– Cameron, my students, my foster children, nieces and nephews, and children of friends. I not only have a job– I have two that I love.  I am healthy enough to work hard and sleep deeply each night.  I am in love with a man who is kind, funny, loving, and gracious.  I am blessed with two sisters and close friends to share stories, secrets, and laughter. I find beauty in small things every single day.

And so, this Thanksgiving, I will savor every moment of a day shared with the people I love most in the world, and the prayer I will live this day will be: ‘thank you.’

Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls “ blossom.” — Marcel Proust

Day 9- Zen

Today is day 9 of my 10 day Real Food Challenge, and I can honestly say it has not been a huge challenge– but it has been incredibly enlightening.  During the first few days, I could not really appreciate the challenge, the process, or even what benefits might come since I felt so sick, but during the second half of the challenge I have hit my stride.  I can now assess and share a variety of benefits that I have experienced– some expected and some unexpected.

One benefit I expected was to lose weight.  I did that.  I have lost about 5 or 6 pounds.  I also got to lose some inches from my waist.  I noticed by day four that my stomach was less bloated and more flat, so that was great.  I did not expect to be made sick initially, but that passed and now I feel pretty fantastic.  Another unexpected benefit has been the stabilization of my mental state or what feels sort of like “zen.”  I am more confident, less emotionally labile, calmer, and more content [even in the face of stress like I experienced today, I was- what can only be described as- zen calm].  While initially, I was exhausted, I am now more energetic and feel pretty good.  I expected to have intense cravings and to have to fight them and write about them to ward them off.  I have not had intense cravings; and frankly, after the first day, have experienced almost no cravings and have not felt hungry or ravenous at any time.  I am much more satisfied by less food.

This might be the best part of all.  I suppose the main benefit of all is that I am eating because I need some fuel for my body and I am not eating to medicate.  The removal of the sugar means that I am not compelled by forces seemingly beyond my control to engage in mindless eating of empty, sugar/carb loaded, nutrient-starved foods. Before the challenge, I had reached a point that I sometimes get to when stressed where I literally feel out of control.  These are times when I don’t feel very well physically, so I reach for foods that are fast or comforting or sweet.  These foods don’t really satisfy hunger very well and they increase the desire for more like foods, and I get sucked into a vortex where I literally feel like I lose the ability to make good choices and I am on sort of an out of control autopilot.  Eating real foods has taken away that panicky loss of choice and given me a measure of control– maybe not even control so much as a detached objectivity that allows me to make good choices and not be hijacked along the way by the mad impulsivity fueled by sugar cravings.

Real Food Day 6 [& I made it through a weekend]:)

So, day 6 of the Real Food 10 Day Challenge, which means I have only four more days ’til my birthday, and four more days of the challenge.  I am not really going crazy or anything and it hasn’t been nearly as difficult as I anticipated.  Day 2-day 4 were not very fun because I was feeling so bad.  Even this weekend, I continued to suffer from nausea at various times.

So, my physical complaints during the first half of this challenge were:  headaches, body aches, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, and other intestinal issues.  I thought I had a virus; my son [the nurse] thought I was in detox.  He believes that the absence of sugar, artificial sweeteners, white flour, processed foods, and chemical additives and preservatives sent my body into a tailspin.  At this point, I am beginning to think he might be right.

This weekend was good.  I made the Jambalaya that I found on the Food Illusion blog and it was really good– local sausage, shrimp, onion, celery, creole seasoning, tomatoes, and brown rice.  Tonight we had whole wheat pasta and homemade spaghetti sauce, and it was pretty good.

What I miss the most is–surprisingly enough– Diet Coke.

10 Days of Real Food Day 3

I wanted to announce the first day of my Real Food Pledge adventure, however, I have been so busy I barely have the time I need to actually plan, prepare, and eat real food.  I literally have worked until 8 or 9 every work night for the past three weeks, and I am exhausted.  The only reason I have time to blog today is because my body crashed and I am home sick today.

So, here is an update of how things are going with my 10 Day Real Food Challenge

I picked Sept 21 as a start date because I needed to pick a stretch of 10 days that did not include some sort of celebration that required cake.  Bean’s birthday is the 17th and mine will be the 1st of October, so this 10 day period worked in that respect.  I also wanted a time that was after the big audit but before our trip to Cincinnati.  So, Tuesday was the big day.  I arrived at school with a large bag full of provisions so as not to have to resort to m&m’s, pizza, or diet coke in weak moments.

Here are the rules again:  I can eat:  whole foods, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, dairy products that are not sweetened artificially or with sugar, nuts, seeds, healthy meats preferably those without growth hormones that are locally raised.   I can have beer or wine within limits and can use sweeteners found in nature like maple syrup, honey, and agave nectar if used sparingly.  I cannot have:  anything processed or refined like sugar, flours, rice, no sweeteners that are refined: including white sugar and cane juice, no artificial sweeteners like Splenda, Equal, Sweet n’ Low, etc…  Nothing out of a box, can, or bag that has more than 5 ingredients [allowable ingredients only], and also no deep fried or breaded foods.

This pretty much eliminates most of what I would normally eat on a daily basis.  A normal day for me starts out pretty healthfully with cereal of some sort or toast with coffee and half and half and one sugar with a half a sweet n’ low.  It only goes downhill from there.  By lunch I am famished and I usually have a diet coke with something marginally healthy, but by mid afternoon I am craving sugar and I usually cave to something chocolate like m&m’s or hershey kisses.  Dinner is generally on the run and that means eating out a lot which means heading further south nutritionally.  If my day has been really stressful, I will soothe myself with something sweet after dinner.  The mainstays of my diet are, therefore, white flour, preservatives, processed foods, non foods, artificial flavors and sweeteners, sugar, and unhealthy fats.

Day One of the challenge was pretty easy, actually.  I had some agave nectar in my coffee, which is really actually pretty good and you don’t need a whole lot of it.  I fixed some long cooking oatmeal and sprinkled on a tiny bit of Zero, which is a natural non caloric sugar alcohol, and a pat of real butter :).  Jason stopped by at lunch and ate most of what I had for lunch with me and seemed to enjoy it immensely.  We had sliced cucumbers and cherry tomatoes with olive oil, apple cider vinegar, oregano, and salt and pepper.  We also had a few triscuits [whole wheat/one of the few crackers allowed along with whole wheat matzo] and some muenster cheese and a kiwi.  After lunch I had an apple and some popcorn for snack.  At a later meeting, I had a Lara bar for snack [they are allowable if they have 5 ingredients or less and this one had dates, walnuts, apples, cinnamon, and raisins].  Later that night I stopped by Whole Foods and found a couple of prepared foods made with allowable ingredients:  pulled pork, brown rice, and greens.

The most surprising thing about the first day was that is was really pretty painless and I felt really good and not very hungry.  It is truly amazing, but when you get refined sugars out of your system, you are not jonesing for food any longer.  I actually have felt some hunger pains in the past few days, which I don’t usually get to feel because I am eating crap constantly, but they are undeniably different in that they are hunger pains but I am not crazy for food.  Normally, I don’t feel actual pains but I am irrationally craving stuff to eat when I am not even hungry.  So, what is pretty awesome is that when you take away the refined sugars, you can eat to live and not live to eat, so to speak, without the typical compulsions that do you in.

Since I had made a trip to Whole Foods and found some really good 5 ingredient whole wheat bread from the Ninth Street Bakery the night before, I started day two with toast, butter, and whole fruit wild blueberry spread.  This was the best tasting thing I have had since my love affair with toast in the UP this summer.  I had my agave coffee and was good for the morning.  Lunchtime, I had the cukes and tomatoes again but this time added some sliced sweet onion.  Then I had a big bowl of strawberries and sliced kiwi with pieces of muenster cheese on the side [yum].  Later, when our meeting for staff development began, I was still hungry, so I had a piece of the whole wheat bread folded over with some organic hummus.  It was just okay.  The new development for day two and that by 2 pm on day two, I was feeling like hell.  I was tired and just feeling off like I might be trying to come down with something.  It’s hard to describe that feeling, but you know it:  I call it feeling squirrelly and really it is just feeling really tired and hot or cold or both with a dash of nausea or dizziness thrown in.  I went home and decompressed briefly with a bowl of watermelon before heading back out to do a two hour training with a family in their home that would last until at least 8pm.  After leaving there, I was pretty darn hungry, but it was late, and I had nothing planned, so I was at a total loss and having a weak moment where I could have caved in to something completely inappropriate, and pretty much did.  I wanted to go and get a cooked chicken from Food Lion but I was literally too tired to motivate through the grocery store, so I went to KFC and bought grilled chicken for Alex and I.  I took the skin off a breast and ate it when I got home with some frozen peas that I cooked in the microwave.  I later took a peek on the website at the ingredients for grilled chicken which would seemingly be not much more than chicken, and thank God I removed the skin before I ate it, because KFC’s grilled chicken has 22 ingredients.  Nope, I am not kidding.  Here they are:

KFC® Grilled Chicken

of Turmeric, Dehydrated Carrot, Onion Powder, and Not More Than 2% Each of Calcium Silicate and Silicon Dioxide Added As Anticaking Agents ExtractivesYeast Extract,  AutolyzedFresh Chicken Marinated With Salt, Sodium Phosphate, and Monosodium Glutamate. Seasoned With: Maltodextrin, Salt, Bleached Wheat Flour, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and Cottonseed Oil, Monosodium Glutamate, Spice, Palm Oil, Natural Flavor, Garlic Powder, Soy Sauce (Soybean, Wheat, Salt), Chicken Fat, Chicken Broth,

But that is nothing compared to the more than 100 ingredients in the Chicken Pot Pie [no, I did not eat this] that they serve which appears to be so far from real food that it deserves a spot next to the Twinkle in the Awful Not Really Foods Hall of Fame.  Here they are [yes, you can get this on their website]:

Chicken Pot Pie

Chicken Stock, Carrots, Potatoes (With Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate To Protect Color), Peas, Heavy Cream, Modified Food Starch, Contains 2% Or Less Of Wheat Flour, Salt, Chicken Fat, Dried Dairy Blend (Whey, Calcium Caseinate), Butter (Cream, Salt), Natural Chicken Flavor With Other Natural Flavors (Salt, Natural Flavoring, Maltodextrin, Milk Solids, Nonfat Dry Milk, Chicken Fat, Beef Extract, Ascorbic Acid [To Help Protect Flavor]), Monosodium Glutamate, Liquid Margarine (Vegetable Oil Blend [Liquid Soybean, Hydrogenated Cottonseed, Hydrogenated Soybean], Water, Vegetable Mono And Diglycerides, Beta Carotene [Color]), Roasted Garlic Juice Flavor (Garlic Juice, Salt, Natural Flavors), Gelatin, Roasted Onion Juice Flavor (Onion Juice, Salt, Natural Flavors), Chicken Pot Pie Flavor (Hydrolyzed Corn, Soy And Wheat Gluten Protein, Salt, Vegetable Stock [Carrot, Onion, Celery], Maltodextrin, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Flavors, Dextrose, Chicken Broth), Chicken Stock, Sugar, Mono and Diglycerides With Citric Acid to Protect Flavor, Spice, Seasoning (Soybean Oil, Oleoresin Turmeric, Spice Extractives), Parsley, Citric Acid, Caramel Color, Yellow 5. Enriched Flour Bleached (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Ferrous Sulfate, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Hydrogenated Palm Kernel Oil, Water, Nonfat Milk, Maltodextrin, Salt, Dextrose, Sugar, Whey, Natural Flavor, Butter, Citric Acid, Dough Conditioner, L-Cysteine Hydrochloride, Potassium Sorbate and Sodium Benzoate (Preservatives), Colored With Yellow 5 & Red 40. Fresh Chicken Marinated With: Salt, Sodium Phosphate and Monosodium Glutamate. Breaded With: Wheat Flour, Salt, Spices, Monosodium Glutamate, Leavening (Sodium Bicarbonate), Garlic Powder, Natural Flavorings, Citric Acid, Maltodextrin, Sugar, Corn Syrup Solids, With Not More Than 2% Calcium Silicate Added as an Anti Caking Agent OR Fresh Chicken Marinated With: Salt, Sodium Phosphate and Monosodium Glutamate. Breaded With: Wheat Flour, Salt, Spices, Monosodium Glutamate, Corn Starch, Leavening (Sodium Bicarbonate), Garlic Powder, Modified Corn Starch, Spice Extractives, Citric Acid, and 2% Calcium Silicate added as Anticaking Agent OR Fresh Chicken Marinated With: Salt, Sodium Phosphate and Monosodium Glutamate. Breaded With: Wheat Flour, Sodium Chloride and Anti-caking Agent (Tricalcium Phosphate), Nonfat Milk, Egg Whites, Colonel’s Secret Original Recipe Seasoning OR Potato Starch, Sodium Phosphate, Salt, Breaded With: Wheat Flour, Sodium Chloride and Anti-caking agent (Tricalcium Phosphate), Nonfat Milk, Egg Whites, Colonel’s Secret Original Recipe Seasoning OR Potato Starch, Sodium Phosphate, Salt, Breaded With: Wheat Flour, Salt, Spices, Monosodium Glutamate, Leavening (Sodium Bicarbonate), Garlic Powder, Natural Flavorings, Citric Acid, Maltodextrin, Sugar, Corn Syrup Solids, With Not More Than 2% Calcium Silicate Added as an Anti Caking Agent OR Potato Starch, Sodium Phosphate, Salt, Breaded With: Wheat Flour, Salt, Spices, Monosodium Glutamate, Corn Starch, Leavening (Sodium Bicarbonate), Garlic Powder, Modified Corn Starch, Spice Extractives, Citric Acid, and 2% Calcium Silicate Added As Anticaking Agent OR

Set in Vegetable oil. Breadingof Annatto.  Extractivesof Turmeric and  ExtractivesDry Milk, Onion Powder, Dextrose,  NonfatWith: Wheat Flour, Wheat Gluten, Salt, Dried Egg Whites, Leavening (Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Sodium Bicarbonate), Monosodium Glutamate, Spice and Onion Powder. Breaded With: Wheat Flour, Salt, Soy Flour, Leavening (Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Sodium Bicarbonate), Monosodium Glutamate, Spice,  PredustedPhosphate), Salt, Dextrose, Monosodium Glutamate, Spice and Onion Powder.  Monocalcium, Onion Powder), Soy Protein Concentrate, Rice Starch and Sodium Phosphates. Battered With: Water, Wheat Flour, Leavening (Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Sodium Bicarbonate, ExtractivesSeasoning (Salt, Monosodium Glutamate, Garlic Powder, Spice

Contains Egg, Milk, Wheat and Soy.

*Will contain one of the Ingredient statements above, depending upon regional suppliers

As soon as I ate dinner, I was so exhausted, literally unusually exhausted, that I headed to bed and was asleep before 10 -which is very atypical for me.

Another issue, is that since I am limited to water, milk, or natural fruit juices for regular beverages, and I am not really drinking the milk or juice, I have had only water the last couple of days and not enough of it.  I don’t particularly love water and I am not a big drinker anyhow, so I think I could be slightly dehydrated.

So, this brings us to Day 3 where I woke up feeling more than squirrelly and sick on my stomach and awful and I called in sick.  Jason came by and I told him and he thinks I am detoxing.  He attributes my sickness to the radical change in my diet, the increase in the fiber, and the decrease in the fluff– that my body is going ‘wtf’ what is she feeding me?  So, it is almost 11 am, and this morning I have had whole wheat toast with blueberry spread which is still divine and a cup of hot tea with honey, and I am still nauseous but I am sitting up and typing and my breakfast seems to be staying with me.

So, you might be thinking, wow, this diet has just made her sick!  But there are already benefits and here they are:

  • I have lost more than 3 lbs in 2 days [I know, Bean, it is probably water]
  • My skin looks better [face]
  • my eyes are brighter
  • I am not hungry

Those are the only benefits I can think of right now when my thinking is clouded by feeling not up to par, but I feel positive they will increase daily.