How My Mom Taught Me to Enjoy Desert

I have this vivid memory of being about 22 and in the car with my mom. I was home from college for a weekend. And we were at an ice cream shop in my hometown. My stepdad walked to the ordering window for her and brought back a sundae. She was so excited about it.  She was around 150 lb. overweight at the time. To her this was a treat that she didn’t allow herself very often. To my stepdad it was one thing he could do for his sick wife. For me it was a meaningless errand that I was running with my parents.

As we were about to leave, I looked out the window to see a man and his twelve year old son in the car next to us laughing and making fun of my mom for daring to enjoy an ice cream sundae at her weight. I remember being torn between wanting to punch this man in the face and wanting him to just keep quiet so my mom didn’t hear.

A little background on my mom: when I was a child she started having frequent migraine headaches. Her doctor dismissed these as normal. But her health began to decline. My mother had volunteered at my elementary school weighing around 115 lb. and standing 5’5 tall. By the time I was in middle school she began to struggle with her weight, have even more frequent headaches and struggle to leave the house sometimes.

Finally, when I was in high school her doctor discovered that she had a brain tumor on her pituitary gland. A somewhat risky surgery removed the tumor during my senior year of high school, but left her pituitary gland damaged. She had Cushing’s Disease. Her health became very complicated from then on. I know that because whenever she would end up in the hospital for something (losing consciousness because of a urinary tract infection, etc.) that’s what the doctors would say, ‘your mother’s health is complicated.’

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My mom in 1980. I’m the baby.

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My mom in the the early nineties. These were middle school years for me. By this point she was having headaches, but hadn’t been diagnosed.

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This is my my sister with my mom post-surgery. I was probably in college at this point.

 

At some point during all of this my mom developed diabetes, painful joints, nonfunctioning adrenal glands, heart problems, anemia, low blood pressure, thyroid problems, sleep problems, anxiety, depression, and blood clots. She took a ton of medication including steroids. They all had their own side effects. And over time she gained a lot of weight. Her health became very complicated. Could she have had more control over her health and weight? Probably some, but not completely and not like most of us. She felt increasingly terrible.

Through all this though, she was a mom, a grandmother, a wife, a daughter and a sister. She continued to take me to lunch when I was in town, make art, sell antiques at the flea market, and answer my phone calls when I was having a rough day or had a question about how to bake a potato. Only in the last couple of years of her life, was my mom unable to really live a normal life. Her pain became so powerful, and she became so exhausted that moving from one room to another was a struggle for her. Still we talked frequently. She laughed frequently. And she still showed up for my daughter’s first birthday, even though it was a two hour drive and she would die less than two months later.

Fat activism became a thing I was really aware of only towards the end of my mom’s life. It has changed the way I think about my own body. But when I follow the movement I mostly think of her. When I see a 200+ lb. woman dare to enjoy food, clothes, or life, I see my mom having the strength to push herself to show up until the very end. But I also see the confidence that I wish my mom had been able to have when she was instead afraid to see people from high school out in public or ashamed to wear the clothes that she felt most comfortable in because she thought it’d “look ridiculous” post weight gain.

Now, for every photo, news story or ad that dares to celebrate a person who is overweight, there is some asshole who feels convicted to shame that person. They will reply in the comment section on Facebook or write their own article or blog post about how this person’s happiness and/or success is somehow an affront on everyone else’s health. And when I read/hear this person’s point of view, its like they’re talking directly to my mom. They’re telling her that her new outfit, the one whose print she adores, that fits her perfectly, is disgusting. They twist her story to say that her happiness and courage is teaching everyone else that they shouldn’t want to be healthy. They seem to think that the last ten years of her life should have been spent inside in complete shame.

If you happen to be this person, or at least sympathize with them, here’s what you don’t seem to get: The fat person that you just can’t let other people celebrate might be sick like my mom or they may have gained weight after experiencing emotional trauma, they may have a different body type but actually have pretty healthy habits, or they may eat a whole lot of calories.

The point is, you don’t know. And unless they feel like telling you their story, its not your business to know. Because, like my mom, we all live in bodies and circumstances that are only somewhat within our control. And like my mom’s, all of our bodies are temporary. But every single one of us deserves to live and enjoy life in whatever body we’re living in. Sometimes that means recognizing the beauty in that body.  And sometimes that means eating the fucking sundae.

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Hashi Who?

Last October I went to my sleep specialist for our last insurance-obligated appointment. After two sleep studies and sleeping with a CPAP machine for six months, he had ordered blood work in preparation for our last meeting.

As he went over it, he casually mentioned that there were antibodies present that indicated that my hypothyroid condition was also an autoimmune condition called Hashimoto’s. I wondered if I should be devastated- terminal illness style- or slightly disappointed like someone who gained ten pounds. He went on to explain that my body would eventually destroy my thyroid and that I would have to stay on medication for the rest of my life.

Sooo…. that didn’t sound good, per se. But I still wasn’t sure exactly what it meant. I needed to have a conversation with Web MD stat.

After a lot of research, many of my questions have been answered:

Am I going to die sooner because of this? No.

What can I blame on this condition? foggy brain, anxiety, infertility, ADD, weight gain, fatigue, joint pain (I’ve had all of these).

What should I be doing to help myself? As I read more and more, I stumbled upon the Autoimmune Paleo Diet and Mickie Trescott and Angie Alt. In the middle of reading their book, I visited my OBGYN for my yearly exam. We discussed my recent Hashimoto’s diagnosis and she pointed me in the direction that I was already headed, suggesting cutting out gluten and dairy and following a Paleo diet to slow down or even stop the progression of my condition.

I started the diet right after Christmas, around six months ago. Since then, I’ve started attending an integrative medicine practice, my anxiety is almost gone, I feel much more clear headed and I’ve lost 30 lb.

During the past six months I’ve been thinking about this blog and how I let it fall by the wayside but could use it more than ever. I have learned about so much in such a short time: kombucha, bone broth, essential oils, integrative medicine, supplements, massage, CSAs, cutting chemicals from my cleaning and beauty routine. I have so much to tell you about.

And I still have so many questions: Can I ever find an exercise that I don’t dread or a bone broth that doesn’t gross me out? How am I ever going to find a use for all the cucumbers that keep coming in my CSA? What don’t I already know about gut healing? How do I get over this two month long weight loss plateau that I currently find myself in? So many questions!

Thanks for coming along for the ride. ❤

The Power of Eating in the Now

I have a confession. I read a self help book- and I liked it.

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Geneen Roth has been on Oprah, Good Morning America, NPR and everything else you’ve ever watched on TV or heard on the radio. She’s been around for a while. But maybe, like me, you missed that.

This book, in a nutshell, is about being present. Being mindful and present as an answer to life’s biggest problems is certainly no new idea. What is a bit of a unique concept is the connection that Roth makes between mindfulness and the way we treat our bodies. According to the book- and I’m paraphrasing big time- when we take the time to really pay attention to our bodies and the food we put in them, we will know what we need and therefore come to a healthier place both physically and psychologically. Mindless eating, or any compulsive behavior, is considered a result of disengaging from the present. And it makes sense when you think about it. Why would a person eat when they’re not hungry or eat food that they know will make them feel bad? According to this way of thinking, we do this because we are checked out of the present moment.

Unlike the diet industry, this book makes no claim that being a certain size is the worst thing that could happen to you. The worst thing that could happen to you, in fact, is to be so disconnected from the present that your only reference for what your body needs is a number (scale, clothing size or calorie)- again this is my interpretation of the book. The answer then is listening to your body, not shaming it, not depriving it, but learning how to feel when you’re hungry and pay attention to what your body is really telling you it needs. Really paying attention to what your body needs is not easy when you’ve spent your whole life trying to overpower your body with diets.

Whether you’re into biologypsychology, or books like Women, Food and God you can find support for the same idea. Diets can be a distraction or even part of the problem when it comes to issues with food.

After reading this book, I realize that the diets that so many of us have been on for so many years, the ones I really hope my daughter never subjects herself to, are just the flip side of mindless eating. I realize that both cause you to avoid addressing what compulsion (to eat when not hungry- a really weird habit when you think about it) is all about.

This book is (figuratively) huge; and I’m really suprised I didn’t hear of it before. I know that there are tons of people out there like me who have been caught up in the diet/indulge/regret cycle for too long. I don’t believe this book has every answer. But I love that it in a sea of books and products that only muddle the issues, Geneen Roth is looking deeper.

I’m Sensing a Pattern.

When I started this blog I did it with the intent of changing one thing a week, mostly diet or exercise-wise, in an effort to become healthier every week and therefore super healthier in the longrun.

This is how its gone so far.

Week One: I cut out caffeine.

After two days of excrutiating headaches followed by three otherwise normal coffee free days I started remembering that I’ve read tons of stuff about coffee actually being good for you. Also I love coffee. Also I’m a better person in the morning when I drink coffee. And why was I even trying to give it up?

Week Two: Add 30-minute walks daily.

This was great for both me and my awesome dog, Riggs. This change is a keeper.

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Week Three: Cut out peanuts

This lasted one day before I really wanted peanut butter which is weird because I don’t even eat peanuts or peanut butter very often. I prefer almonds. Do you see the pattern I’m seeing?

Week Four: Add 45 minute walk every week day

I love these walks. 45 minutes is really not that different from 30 minutes except I feel like more of a winner and Riggs is even happier.

Week Five: Cut out dairy.

I thought this was a really a great idea for several days and then… yeah you probably can guess.

Somewhere during this period I added vitamins, added more fruit and vegetables, upped the walk to an hour, and had five different doctor sessions revolving around my sleep issues (Good news on that front, by the way).

So it turns out I’m like a bratty kid that rebels against anything they have to do and has to be treated very carefully… by myself :/. Is that crazy? That was rhetorical.

 

Change is in the Air

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About a month ago I started blogging about making small changes weekly in order to become a healthier person over time. And look who’s biting my style this week!

This article really did have a lot of great ideas for making small healthy changes, which is apparently backed by research (Who’s a genius!?).

In my own healthy news, this week I did part two of something I have been avoiding for years.

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I slept in a tiny room while being filmed and monitored by a stranger…

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and hooked up to wires. It was a blast!

When I started talking about sincerely trying to be healthy a few months ago, M made me promise to talk to my doctor about my ungodly sleeping habits. Apparently, I kick, talk, scream, go long periods without  breathing and snore like an old man with a cold. Sexy!

My doctor referred me to a sleep specialist who referred me to a sleep lab and I suffered through sleep study #1.

It. was. awful. The night started with a stranger gluing sensors to my head,legs and neck while making me engage in small talk. It then dragged on with my waking up every hour and laying uncomfortably still so as to not dislocate any of the 2,000 wires attached to me for eight hours.

A month later the sleep specialist informed me of the results.

I snore like an old man with a cold.

I am getting half of the deep sleep that I should be getting.

My limbs move more than they should while I’m asleep; and when they do it wakes me up.

I don’t have sleep apnea but might have a deviated septum.

I had to get a second study done to see if a cpap machine would help.

The second study was last night. And… the hills are alive with the sound of music! I haven’t felt this rested in… ever. I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to be 98% more alert and productive than I have been for the past ten years. And all I need is air blown in my nose all night to get back to my old self! Now that I’ve found it I won’t let it go! Please, sleep specialist, please say I can have my very own CPAP!

I’ll keep you updated.

 

 

What I’m Doing Here

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Rewind two years and four months. I was at the OBGYN five months pregnant. It had taken me two and a half years to get pregnant, two and a half of the hardest years of my life. Infertility is awful! I already loved this little being growing inside me and I just knew he was a boy. I could feel it.

At first he wouldn’t uncross his legs so that the ultrasound tech could confirm his gender. Then twenty minutes later he finally moved so that everyone could see. He was… a girl!

A girl?!

I like girls. I am one. I never didn’t want a girl.But I had never thought of myself as the mother of a girl. I was terrified, for reasons I didn’t really understand. Now, as the mother of an amazing, funny, strong, beautiful girl, I know a little more about those fears. How I got from there to here is connected but complicated. Here is my attempt to explain it:

I went on my first diet in third grade and struggled for the next twenty-six years with body image, weight and the idea of what it means to be healthy and/or pretty. Like many American women, my happiness, idea of beauty, body image and confidence were wrapped up with my female identity in such a tangled mess that I didn’t know if I would ever be able to see any of it clearly. What did it mean to be healthy- not just skinny (I spent a good fifteen years just working towards that), but really physically, emtionally, socially healthy? Was that even something I was capable of? I wasn’t (still am not most days) sure.

But now there is this little two year old carbon copy of me running around my house asking me things like “What’s that?” (boobs was the answer) and refusing to eat vegetables. I need to be able to show her an example of what healthy, happy, beautiful girls look like because I want her to have a fighting chance at being one. So I’m on a mission to become one myself.  I’m writing right out here on the internet because it forces me to be more reflective.

I’m a teacher by trade, something I love and have dedicated a large chunk of my life to. What I know from teaching is that you don’t have to have all the answers to start. My students ask me a new set of amazing, never-before-have-I- thought-about-that questions every week. What I know is that there is power in saying ‘I don’t know. How can we figure that out?’ So this blog is sortof a huge inquiry project. I have questions. Maybe some of my readers have the same questions. I know that reflecting and communicating are both really important to the learning process. So I hope the reflective journal that is my blog can get me (us if you want to come along for the ride) a little closer to some of the answers.

 

Getting out Much

I am a total hermit by nature. I love people. I love having new experiences. But my couch… its so comfortable.

These past few months in South Carolina, though, have even been too much for me. The “thousand year flood” seems to have kicked off a monsoon-style rainy season that has gone on now for three months. Mostly, we’re now the Northwest U.S., but less progressive and with (I imagine) a little less flannel.

We had to get out of the house today because I was going to start beating my head against a wall. And miracle of miracles! It wasn’t raining (cloudy and wet, yes, but no rain).

So we got lunch and headed to The State Museum.

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We watched Polar Express in the museum’s 4D theater. N was a trooper for the whole 15 minutes! It was really fun.

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We had some free time after Polar Express, so we were able to walk around and play a little.

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M is 6’5. So N gets an extra special view everywhere we go.

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Our last stop was at the museum’s planetarium for a holiday laser show. It was a little long and N started screaming about the potty half way through. So that was cool.

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Over all, today was a reminder of how much there is to do even on a cloudy, wet day and how important it is to get out there. This year I hope to make small changes to be the healthiest person I can be. I want to fight my hermit ways and remember, going places is good for you. ❤

 

In With the Good

So far I have added a prenatal vitamin (not pregnant, but hopefully within the year), Vitamin D, B12, fish oil, more vegetables and more fruit. The hardest thing to add was vegetables. But it is slowly becoming more of our normal life.

This is what N and I had this morning for breakfast.  (Spinach and sweet potates for breakfast- I’m such a grown up!) She prefers yogurt. But I’m really into it.
Good thing- because this recipe makes a ton. There is enough in the kitchen to last M and me three days and another week’s worth in the freezer!

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Dairy Free and 15 Meals in My Freezer

So far in this venture I have given up coffee, only to add it back the next week, and dairy. I know some people would argue that dairy is, in fact good for you. I am not interested in arguing. What I do know is that I have given up dairy twice in my life, once while I was vegan in my twenties and once when N was still nursing and had a cow’s milk intolerance. Both times  my skin and sinuses were clearer; and I felt overall better.

So I’m giving it a go again. Unlike when I was vegan, I don’t plan on dreaming about gelato at night (I literally did.) and constantly thinking about the the tablespoon of real cream I want to put in my coffee. If I really want it I’ll have it. But overall I’m going to try to cut it out. This, along with my plan to add more veggies , led me to Pinterest last night and the grocery store today where I got all of this edible goodness for just $210.

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I cooked for at least four hours. And now there are fifteen freezer meals in my freezer not counting the taco soup we had for dinner! I’ve only done freezer cooking one other time (when N was getting ready to make her world debut). It feels really really good to know that there is a freezer full of meals in my kitchen and that I won’t have to worry about cooking dinner for several weeks. I love that all of the meals are relatively goood for us too. That I saved a ton of money from buying in bulk and not letting anything go bad before I had a chance to cook it is an added bonus.

Here are the recipes I used. I doubled most of them to make two meals for the freezer.

Chicken Barbeque Roast

Red Beans and Rice

I used turkey instead of beef in the next three recipes.

Taco Soup

Chili

Sloppy Joes

Vegetable Soup

Red Lentil Curry

Cilantro Lime Chicken

I’ll let you know how they come out. ❤

 

Goal: Add More Veggies

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My goal for last week was to add more vegetables to my diet. Now I’m going to whine. It is really hard, like I’d rather just give up all carbs and call it a day hard. Its hard because M and N don’t like vegetables at all. And its hard because it takes planning and cooking. I love planning in theory (year long list of small healthy habits planned out in advance anyone?).

But in reality, my house is a mess, I have a class full of 27 pre-Christmas fourth graders, 1,000 calls to make, a toddler to raise, a husband to hang out with, lessons to plan and I need at least an hour a day to watch my latest bad science fiction show on Netflix. Woe is me. I don’t have time to make kitten shaped veggie nuggets from scratch that N may or may not spit right back into her plate like a little savage.

So yeah, it didn’t go that well last week. The victories of the week were discovering a decent bottled veggie smoothie at the 24 hour Kroger on my way to work and making an edible last minute stir-fry that N refused to eat. I’m not giving up though! I’m not giving in. Here are some recipes I plan to make this week brought to you by Pinterest. I’m leaning heavy into the freezer meals and crock pot cooking because I have a hunch they could be my saving grace.

Pinterest Inspiration One

Pinterest Inspiration Two

Pinterest Inspiration Three

Wish me luck!