Monday, March 30, 2015

In Like a Lion, Out Like a Tiger.

Went for my annual physical and all my medications are being changed.  My blood pressure was not good and my thyroid has whacked out again.  So, we start from scratch with new meds and higher dosages and this means I'll probably be at the doctor every 3 months in 2015.  The only good thing about it was that I started getting sick last Sunday and by the day of my appointment I had full blown sinus issues and bronchitis.  So she wrote me scrips for that as well.

I had my fourth and final birthday celebration with my sister and her fiance.  They surprised me with tickets for us all to see Sinbad.  We had a nice dinner first and then saw the show.  Oh my, he is as funny as ever and boy have I needed a laugh like that.  We laughed so much our cheeks were hurting by the time we left.

I needed that laugh because the very night we went, we were in the midst of yet another snowstorm. Because of the timing it wasn't sticking to the roads too bad thankfully since we were driving to the casino that's a half hour away from my house.  It was supposed to stop by 2 am so you can imagine my surprise when I got up the next day and not only was it snowing, it was worse than they had predicted.  We ended up with about 4 inches of snow.

And that was the first day of spring.  I had promised Mr. Helen that no matter what I was putting my Happy Spring flag up and I did.  I'm sick and tired of winter and just want it to go far, far away.  I decided I'd take a photo a week to see the progression of the snow pile.  In a week, we had enough melting that the bottom of the flag got set free and some of our grass was beginning to show up on the one end of the yard that's getting some sun now.

Well, guess what?  It snowed again here this past weekend. It showed all day long on Saturday and at first it wasn't sticking but then it did.  By the time we got up Sunday, all the areas of grass that had been starting to show were covered again.  I think it will melt down more this week but still it's maddening at this point, even if it is just a dusting.  Maddening I tell ya!

My neighbor's bike when it first started sticking

Our front yard looking down the street on Sunday morning.  Sigh...

I know it has to end, but guess what?  It's snowing here this morning.

Little Helen and her fiance came home at the last minute- yep they drove in snow - and I think we might have a ceremony venue.  They realize they procrastinated too much and now they are having to just go ahead and make decisions.  I'm just glad it looks like we're moving on!

I've also moved on a surprise 60th Birthday Party for Mr. Helen.  It has come together really well down to me being able to get his favorite DJ.  It has been nice to take out my not-being-able-to-plan-a-wedding frustrations on his party.  I'm having it outside the house and it will be catered so really my biggest decision is how to decorate.  Fun times!

I'm still sick today - a week later.  Because it has been in my chest, I haven't been running.  I know I'm sick because I haven't even wanted to exercise.  But really, I am ready to feel better. I think it's entirely possible that I had a bit of a relapse over the weekend, since Fiance Helen came in and he was sick and then Mr. Helen started coughing and guffawing and snorting and all the lovely stuff that goes with getting a cold as well. Clorox and Lysol are our best friends right now.  I need spring to come so we can open the windows and air the house out!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Hope for Tomorrow

On my last post about the food detox I did, that also contained some information about my work with a nutritionist, Debby commented and asked, “Helen, I'm kind of wondering what your thinking is about the work you did with that counselor(?)at your workplace last year, where I think the thought was to be content where you were.”

Normally I would just answer the question within the comments, but my answer is a bit convoluted and I knew as soon as I read that, I would write another post.

Last summer an anti-dieting coach did a 12 week workshop at my place of work.  The emphasis of the whole workshop was to get off the diet bandwagon by learning to love and honor yourself. Her belief is that if you truly do that, you will automatically make better choices regarding food, health, and fitness and your body will follow, putting you at the weight you should naturally be at.

It wasn’t so hard for me to believe, after all, because I live with someone who does not diet and just eats.  He has days when he eats for fuel and he has times when he eats for pleasure. Yet, his weight remains fairly steady and I know it’s because, bottom line, he doesn’t abuse himself with food.

I really enjoyed the workshop and while I didn’t love all the techniques or homework she gave us, for 12 weeks I did not “diet” and while I didn’t lose any weight, I didn’t gain either.  Victory!  

Over the last 8 months I have continued to enjoy the freedom of not being obsessed with food, at all.  I really worked on listening to hunger cues for eating and allowed myself to enjoy treats.  Even over the holiday eating period of Halloween to New Years, I didn’t gain any significant amount of weight, but I didn't lose any either and the plain fact is, I'm overweight.

Now, imagine this:  the entire time that I’m learning to just love myself and appreciate the things my body does for me on a daily basis, I have a constant nagging thought: I wish I could figure out WHY my body won’t allow me to lose weight because I know I will feel better and my health will better if I can drop even just 10% of this weight.

I mean, in my head I know it’s a combination of 10 years of thyroid dysfunction which is now combined with age and muscle loss and menopause.  But I can’t help but wish it could be figured out, because I am overweight.  I haven't looked in a while but I actually think I'm borderline obese by the charts used by professionals.

So this nutritionist comes along and offers to work with me… and I can’t help but want to try.  What if this is the answer and will get me down a few pounds and give me some relief from some of my health issues:  blood pressure, nagging aches and pains in my joints, pain in my lower back, etc.

And that’s why I decided to try.  Plus she promised me no drastic dieting and the first thing she did was ask me to eat more and exercise less. Unfortunately, I just didn’t fit in her plan and I don’t think she knew how to adjust it for me. 

But back to the workshop and the things I learned. I still love and accept myself in a way I didn’t before the workshop – my clothes are indicative of that.  One of the ways I always punished myself was to not buy clothes in bigger sizes and I would squeeze into anything I had.  But over the summer, fall, and winter, I’ve purchased items that fit me properly.  Guess what?  Those clothes don’t make me feel bad, they make me feel better!  The smaller clothes were like a constant guilt noose – not good for the body or the soul.

I got a bunch of gift cards for my birthday and you can bet I will joyfully spend them on beautiful summery clothes, if winter ever leaves here – I refuse to buy any more sweaters or leggings!

Debby, I hope that makes sense… still lots of self love and care going on here and I’m still not “dieting,” but I haven’t given up hope that the answer is out there somewhere.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

It Starts - and Ends - with Food: Detox Diary

Once again, as I did my food detox (basically removing "white" and sugar) I was reminded how much better I feel when I eat as healthy as possible.  I was also reminded that while all calories are not equal, not all calories are bad either.

The issue for me with a detox is that it's boring.  It's the same food day in and day out and while I can do that for a bit, it's just not sustainable for the long term.  By day 3, as in the last time I did this, I wanted to throw my hands up in the air and wave them like I just didn't care and quit.  I thought if I had to eat one more green salad, or one more piece of chicken I'd scream.  But since I've done it before, I also knew the feeling would pass, and it did and I made it through the week.

One of the things I like about doing this reset is that it also seems to reset my mind - almost like a fog clears - and reset my hunger signals.  The plain facts are, if you're eating only 6 oz. of chicken or fish and lots and lots of vegetables every day, you will feel hunger.  You just will.  So that's a good thing.

I actually managed to lose all the weight I'd gained over the weeks of working with the nutritionist but it didn't feel like a victory of any sort, just a "been there, done that" feeling.  Nothing to celebrate because I still haven't gotten past (or below) where I started.

All of this has had me thinking, a lot, about food.  Not in an obsessive way but more of analyzing why one way of eating seems to work better for me while Mr. Helen or my girlfriend can eat very different things and are not affected in the same way that I am.

I think one of the reasons I get so annoyed with people declaring foods are "bad" is because food is not inherently bad.  For example, I made my Mexican Quinoa Stuffed Peppers for lunches this week and just after I finished, I was surfing Facebook and a friend posted  that she was looking for good quinoa recipes. So I told her about my peppers and another cold quinoa salad.  She asked me to share and I bluntly told her that I was hesitant because she is an Isagenix queen (it's one of those 2 shakes and a strict list of foods programs).  She insisted that it would be fine.  So I share and her immediate comment was they looked delicious and that the "only" bad things in the recipe were the corn and the cheese (mind you it's 1/2 cup of corn and 1/2 cup of 2% cheese for four peppers).  I just couldn't let that remark go and told her that those foods were not "bad" and thinking like that is what gets most of us in trouble with food.

Over the years I've tried just about everything under the sun so that gives me some pretty good information about myself:  I like variety.  It's not even that I will necessarily choose all sorts of variety from day to day, but the minute you start telling me I "can't have" something and there's no medical/health reason to back that up, inside I become like a 2 year old throwing a full on tantrum and screaming NOOOOOOO!!!

So again, I'm brought back to the place of wanting and needing to figure out how to eat to allow me to reach my health goals. All during detox week I kept wishing I could have pasta or sweet potato instead of that damnable 1/2 cup of brown rice allotted every day (I was so tired of it, I didn't eat any rice the last day lol!). But here's a funny:  it's a new week and I still haven't had those things.  It's simply the fact that I can if I want to.

I have to admit, I'm a bit frustrated with the nutritionist at this point.  She hasn't really helped or done what I thought she would.  It was ME insisting that I stop eating at her macro percentages that put a halt to the weight gain.  I mean, how many weeks in a row did I have to gain before she changed something?  When she fluffed it off the last time, that was when I stomped my foot and said no more!  I reminded her that the reason I agreed to work with her was that she was supposed to be helping me find the right formula and that while she had given me something to start with, we were 8 weeks in, I'd gained weight, and she hadn't changed a thing!  I think I was right to feel frustration and to do my own reset/detox.

Then, to top it off, she was so excited about the weight I lost doing the detox she wanted me to continue it for another week.  This was after I specifically told her I was doing it for one week only, knowing from my past experience that it's not sustainable.  I repeated that sentiment in the detox notes I sent her and reiterated that I'm searching for a way of eating that will allow me to live without stress over food, lose some weight, then maintain that in the future.  She then asked me "so what do you want to do?"  Sigh.

Here's to hoping I can figure that out sooner than later.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Spring Cleaning

We've been having a bit of a meltdown around here and it has been chicken soup for my soul. Seriously, last Thursday we had yet another storm that dumped 9 inches of snow (my little city had the highest total in the state)! Coupled with the fact that I had to get to both jobs that day, I was a pretty miserable human being. Especially when I got to my mall job only to sit there and take notes of the stores that were closing early. The mall has around 100 stores and 63 of them closed early.  Yet, the mall didn't close so there I was stuck. I got home around 9:30 that night and lost it with a piece of chocolate birthday cake.  I didn't need it for sure but I sincerely did. not. care.  The sugar rush provided the endorphin release I needed.

One of the reasons I needed endorphins was that I took from March 1-March 6 completely off from exercise.  I KNOW!  (Debby you can pick yourself off the floor now lol!).  Here's what led to that.  If you've been reading along you know I started working with a nutritionist who is trying to help me figure out why the heck I can't seem to get any significant amount of weight off and keep it off.  It has turned out to be quite interesting.  When we first started she told me I exercise too much, too intensely and didn't eat enough.  I agreed to eat more as long as she would let me dictate my exercise frequency and intensity.  In the first couple of weeks I lost 3 pounds - pretty good right?  And then (I want music to go da da duhhhhh right here), my weight stalled, and then I started gaining.

When I weighed myself on February 28 and had yet another gain, I threw a hissy fit and told her I quit, that it was too much stress.  I explained that in the upcoming week I had 4 days of birthday dinners & celebrations (very hard to track everything when eating out so much), we had snow forecast 3 times - which means shoveling before work rather than exercising, I had to work at the mall 3 nights and I just could not deal with it anymore.

She let me stew for a day then told me she wanted me to just get through the week, no tracking, no exercise, just get through the week.  So I did. As the week went on, I felt calmer and calmer (even though that Thursday snow was stressful) and by Saturday the 7th I was actually looking forward to working out.  When I weighed myself, with a week of birthday indulgences, eating out, (and the stress cake I ate!), and no exercise, I weighed the same as I did on February 28th.  Huh.

When I emailed my weight to her I mentioned that this was like every single time I go on vacation - lots of indulgence, no exercise and I either maintain or like last year, lose weight.

Being calm, cool, and collected she noticed that the weight gain started right around the time that we started having the relentless snow storms (we have about 4 feet on the ground now, all of it fell between January 26 and March 5 - a mere 5 weeks).  Not one other thing had changed. She emailed me back and said she was convinced that I have a stress issue that needs resolution. I have a myriad of issues that seem to be causing hormonal disruption: menopause, thyroid, poor sleep, very very busy lifestyle, and winter, and all that adds up to stress which equals more hormonal disruption, which means that my hormones never settle down and let my body do what it should do. And did you know exercise actually causes stress?  In other words, I'm in a constant stress state almost like a fight or flight response.  That made complete sense to me because a couple weeks ago I remarked to her that I felt like I was in a battle with my own body - that no matter what it was not going to release any weight.

So, where to go from here? Based on the earth's rotation and the sun at a level where it shines directly into my house, I need to do some spring cleaning.

Prior to me taking the week off, I had already told the nutritionist I wanted to do a mini food detox after my birthday. Brought on by recent posts from Shelley and Lori, and the fact that I did indeed have 4 days of birthday eating and drinking and desserts,  I felt inspired to try one week of strict eating to reset myself and break the sugar thing.  She reluctantly agreed it would be fine as long as I didn't go under go under 1000 calories. HA!  Like that would ever happen!

So, I spent about 5 hours of my only day "off" prepping food for this week.  I'm doing a modified version of the Dr. Oz detox I did last year. Spring cleaning my diet... will my house be next?

Roasted Broccoli, Cauliflower "Rice", Ratatouille, Roasted Asparagus, Chopped Cucumber Salad

I also made my delicious Rosemary Chicken and Red Potato pizza to have as my last carby supper on Saturday night.

I'm three days in and already feel better.  Of course, that might also be because we've had a streak of no snow days with moderating temperatures - it hit 50 yesterday - and brilliant blue skies. There has been some snow melt and while I still feel certain we'll have snow in our front yard on April 1st,  I feel like the Winter Warlock in Santa Claus is Coming to Town... my icy heart is melting. I hope my stress melts along with it and I get the results I deserve from the hard work I put in.

Quick Hand and Wrist Update
Here's a comparison photo of the initial burn and one week later. (Yeah, that was probably another stressor as well!)

As you can see the skin is turning brown because it's actually dying and starting to flake off.  It's gross! You can see it in this closeup:

The skin underneath is light pink and baby soft... the new skin also looks less wrinkled than the skin on my left hand. Sort of makes me understand why people go get peels on their face!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

I'm Still Full

 I was looking forward to this past weekend as we had some celebratory things planned for my 55th birthday, which was Monday, including a visit from Little Helen.  Unfortunately, the bang it started with on Friday morning wasn't a good one.

I always bring a thermal cup of coffee with me to work.  Because I was busy the minute I walked in, the coffee got cold, so I took it to the microwave and heated it up.  Took it out and as I was putting the lid back on, for some reason, it tipped.  And unfortunately, it tipped on my right hand and wrist.

The pain was so incredible it was making me clench my teeth.  I went and showed it to a paramedic and he told me to take some ibuprofen to help the pain and try to keep it under cool water every time it started to burn.  He also said if it blistered I should go to the ER.  I left the office and ran to the pharmacy to get ibuprofen and also bought a burn cream - that did absolutely nothing to help it.  But after a few hours of running it under cold water every couple of minutes and taking 800 mg of ibuprofen the pain subsided.  So, I figured first degree burn.  But when I got up Saturday morning, there were tiny little blisters all over my hand. Some of them have gone away but my wrist area is pretty swollen.  I have a feeling that's going to be discolored for a while to come.

When I got home Friday night, Mr. Helen was so concerned about my burn he told me just to put my feet up and relax.  But he had also decided that the celebrations should last the weekend.

I was happy to oblige (the burn thing was quite stressful) and  I hadn't watched Downton Abbey yet so I changed into my comfy clothes began to watch that.. As I was relaxing, he brought a TV tray up to the living room and next thing I knew I had a nice appetizer plate and a glass of champagne.

It made me a little verklempt because honestly, I love champagne and that's the first time he's ever spontaneously bought me any!  He also heated up a Quiche Lorraine that he'd bought and made a nice salad. Friday ended up being pretty good after that bad start.

Saturday Little Helen came in with the plan to celebrate my birthday and do some wedding stuff.  They arrived around 12:30 and since we all needed a bit of lunch, we decided to go to the Cabin Fever Chowder Festival.  It's a fundraiser for a local food bank, held at Old Mystic Village which is a shopping area where all the buildings look like a little village.  You get 12 tickets for $10 and each ticket gets you a 2-3 oz. portion of chowder.  We had a blast going in and out of the shops sampling chowders, some of which were quite unique... Sweet Potato and Shrimp, Corn and Chicken, Oyster - so many.  Then we got to vote for our favorite.  We split our votes with Little Helen and her fiance voting for a classic creamy New England Clam chowder and Mr. Helen and I voting for a Surf and Turf chowder that had lobster and bits of steak and vegetables in a creamy tomato base.  We were laughing at the end because we figured we'd each eaten about 24 oz. of chowder! On the way out of the village we stopped at a coffee place that sources everything locally and I got a peppermint mocha.  I took a photo of the design for you Lori!

After going back home for a few hours, we headed out again for dinner at The Engine Room.  Though they have a few other things, their specialty is gourmet burgers and handcut french fries, again all locally sourced.  If you click on that link you can see the menu... we had such a hard time deciding what to get, we got too much lol!  For appetizers we tried the Avocado Half, the fried chicken on a biscuit and the cornmeal dusted oysters (not me, I don't eat those).  Then I chose the Smoked Pork Burger.  So, so yummy! I ended up cutting the burger in half and had leftovers.  But we will definitely go back, the food was delicious.  Little Helen gave me gift card to Sephora and a gorgeous scarf.

Sunday morning, we had plans for all of us to go to brunch along with some friends but the snowstorm coming in meant Little Helen had to leave early.  Bummer! (And even leaving early it took her an extra 1 1/2 hours to get home.) We went anyway because Mr. Helen normally works Sunday and can't go to brunch.  The big photo is the Open Face Smoked Turkey Eggs Benedict (that was mine!), at the bottom, left to right: Fresh Raspberry French Toast, Crab Cake Eggs Benedict, Lobster Omelette, plus a couple of shots of the buffet. As good as the food was, it was just a great time being with good friends!

As we were finishing up, the storm started and it was sticking fairly quickly so we rolled ourselves out of there and went home.  I actually ended up laying down to read while Mr. Helen watched TV and I fell sound asleep!  I haven't napped on a Sunday afternoon in forever - that was a nice treat.  Since it was snowing, we just hung out and caught up on some TV we'd wanted to watch.  At about 6 I took a load of laundry upstairs and glanced out the kitchen window to see this:

What on earth?! Mr. Helen informed me that while I napped they changed us from 3 inches and an advisory to 8 inches and a warning.  SO. OVER. IT.  I looked at him and said, "I swear, my flag pole is going to be buried and on March 21st, I am going outside and draping my Welcome Spring flag over that pile of snow!!

I made it to Monday without any cake or dessert and then there was a cake explosion.  My coworker made me a cheesecake - we had a running joke because she was supposed to make it when I turned 50 and then she had something happen and couldn't do it.  So this cheesecake was 5 years in the making.  Another coworker provided cupcakes for those who didn't care for cheesecake. 

I left work and picked up Mama Helen so she could go for dinner with us. When I got home, one of my brothers was there and he had brought me a cupcake-sized chocolate bomb.  I opened gifts and Mama Helen had made me carrot cake cupcakes and finally, Mr. Helen had bought me a chocolate torte cake, which he thought would be fun to absolutely fill with candles.

My smart alec husband also provided this balloon for entertainment...

We all left and went to one of our favorite local pubs who have been doing a Soul Food Sunday/Monday.  I had the sampler which had ribs, jerk chicken, southern fried chicken wings, macaroni and cheese, candied yams and a piece of cornbread.  So yeah, about half of that came home with me - so much food!

When we got home I had a sliver of that chocolate torte because I am a firm believer that if you like cake, you should eat cake on your own birthday!  But now, I'm freezing the rest of the cheesecake in individual pieces, sent the cupcakes to work with Mr. Helen, and kept the bomb and the torte.  Mr. Helen loves chocolate so he'll pick at that all week.

And today?  Even though I really enjoyed the break from meal prep, all the partying, and gifts (I haven't even mentioned all the nice gifts I got!), I'm ready to get back to my usual reality - which may or may not include food as I feel like I'm going to be full until next week!