Working on my PCOS

Probably all the chemicals I have put in my body could fit in here.
Probably all the chemicals I have put in my body could fit in here.

This morning hubby and I were high fiving in the kitchen and I was yelling ecstatically “Yeah! My ovaries are my bitch!!!!”

Not even thirty minutes later I was laying on the bed wincing and crying out in pain, “Your still my bitch!!! You’re still my bitch!!”

As I write this I am blissfully pain free because I took two Aleve and a Tramadol.

See, I accurately depicted that I would start my period this morning and I did. I know, those of you who have periods are like, “Big woop, Danielle, we all do that.” My response would be, “No we don’t.” For the past twenty years, I could no more tell you when my period was gonna coming then what whining lottery numbers are going to be. Having PCOS means I don’t ever know when Aunt Irma will visit. She can sometimes leave me alone for years, only to come back for six months, or come every two weeks, or two days even; basically my menstrual cycle is totally random.

Also, there is the horrific pain, but I will conquer that next. Even though the cramps are still debilitating, the fact that I have been regular two months in a row, is astounding. Twenty years of medications and doctor’s visits have not given me so much as a step closer to regular periods. I am not blaming that all on the doctors although I will say my healthcare hasn’t at all been comprehensive until recently and mostly because I have been doing most of the leg work. I am really working hard to be informed.

I have been researching getting healthy for myself and my family. I have a vested interested in all of our hearts continuing to beat and both of my parents have had heart attacks so it is a red alert situation. Even before the most recent heart attack Brad and I wanted to go organic. Since I am in charge of the groceries now for the past three months, I have been buying strictly organic food.

I started worrying about the chemicals and antibiotics after watching food Inc and then it took three antibiotics to get rid of my ear infection. I am really of tired of ingesting stuff I don’t have any idea of what is in it. (I know there are fertilizers in the organic stuff too but I struggle to buy local as well so I am feeling good about my chances.) Since it started I have been reading a lot about how our hormones are affected by these chemicals in our food. Essentially PCOS is rooted in hormone issues.

Going organic is the only thing that I have done consistently for the past three months so I feel  that my regular periods are a direct correlation to the elimination of those chemicals. We have only gone veggie the past two weeks, so I don’t think it is that. I am not an expert. I can only tell you what I know but it seems pretty conclusive to me. I am feeling pretty amazing lately. If you have PCOS, you might give it a try. I can’t say it would work for everyone will PCOS, but it seems to be helping me.

Positive Peer Pressure

Sights seen while walking with my honey!
Sights seen while walking with my honey!

So most of my family is buzzing with healthy ideas. My brother Matthew and I have been talking about our progress and he referred me to a documentary called Forks over Knives. I like to always listen to my siblings because they are impressive people, so that day hubby and I decided to watch it. I am not going to review the movie here, but the gist is; by eating a healthy vegetable diet you can lower your risk for heart disease and even reverse it. The statistics they give are amazingly definitive. So we have been researching and have decided to try it.

I must tell you my Midwestern roots sort of shudder in their boots when I say it out loud. My husband and I are working towards changing our diet to dare I say it…vegetarian. I cannot believe I am going to stop eating meat but it is something we are working on slowly. We are going to phase out meat slowly. The slowly part is something we realized after searching for recipes and understanding we know nothing about being vegetarian.

My friend Emily has pointed out that learning recipes from blogs aren’t always the best ways to start out because those recipes are usually the most impressive. I need to start with the basics. So I am going to first do one veggie meal a day. It is still a challenge for someone who was raised meat and potatoes style. I don’t know if everyone else has this problem but the normal protein sources that are part of a vegetarian diet I have not put into my recipe repertoire. I am researching recipes to get us on the right path.

This change in my habits is causing some disbelief from my family. We were talking about the fact that I made a veggie sandwich for dear Bradley to take to work, and how after I told him about said sandwich he declared, “But there is chicken in the fridge.” It was meant to be a story about how brain dead I was in the early morning. I had forgotten about his plan to take said chicken, but Momma jokingly said, “Poor Brad.” As if my hummus, cheese, spinach, and red pepper sandwich was something so depressing. We both laughed and Mom asked, “Does he have cash?” I said yes, and she said “Well, he is gonna throw that sandwich away.” I insisted that he wouldn’t although I was giggling at the prospect of Brad just being like, whatever, and throwing away my sandwich. I told Mom it was Brad’s idea that we start eating mostly veggie, but she was unconvinced. I said I will have him take a picture of him eating that sandwich, she said, “Don’t do that Danielle. Don’t make that man lie! He will take that picture and then throw it in the trash and then go with the guys to the roast beef shop.” I will tell you that this conversation brought me intense joy, as did the subsequent conversation with Brad about this.

His response was, “Oh sure. I can explain this to my boss. What are you doing Brad? Oh, I am taking a sandwich selfie. It’s a thing, right? a sandwich selfie?”

Brad did take the sandwich selfie at different states of eating. I was impressed at his thoroughness. I then emailed it to my entire family.

For your pleasure, the sandwich selfie:

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That’s another change. I have been sharing all the healthy stuff we are doing with my family and hopefully they will with me. I am hoping that seeing that their oldest, chubbiest sibling is eating cut up radishes and sweating her ass off in the hot Philadelphia heat will be motivating and health affirming, but more on that later.

Right now, I am asking if you could give me any good, simple vegetarian meals they have made or any tips for becoming more veggie centric. I would love to know your opinion on a produce heavy diet.

Treats for Me!

I bought the one in the upper right hand corner. I took this picture from their facebook. I hope they don’t mind.

My emotional attachment to food sometimes hits me in the smallest and most rare ways sometimes. I live only about three blocks from Reading Terminal Market. It is filled with delicacies and some of the best food in Philadelphia. If I stayed there a week- eating all day- I couldn’t eat all of the deliciousness there. It is number four on trip advisors best restaurants, and one of the restaurants – a donut shop – is number one. That shop, Beiler’s Bakery, is the first place I went Thursday.

“Oh, no Danielle! Don’t eat donuts,” you say.

I give you a discerning look.

“Donut’s are fattening and you are trying to lose weight,” you gently remind me.

If anyone said that to me a year ago, I would have said, “Whatever.” Then I would have gone back to Beiler’s and eaten a box of twelve in self deluded retaliation. However, I understand certain things about myself that I didn’t before. Losing weight can’t be about deprivation for me, more like allocation. I need to be able to eat a donut if I want, especially the apparent best donuts on the planet. In other words, if I say no donuts to myself eventually I will be down at that counter ordering up as many as I can afford. Last time I bought donuts a couple of months ago, I bought at least three for myself. Thursday I went to Beiler’s and ordered one, only one. I took it and a coffee and sat down at a metal table and took about thirty minutes enjoying it. Bite by bite I savored it and my surroundings. The fact that I didn’t go back and order two more is the success. I also remember it’s richness as well, and don’t believe I will need another one any time soon.

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The Magic Elixer

Small decadent treats I believe are going to be my secret weapon in the battle of the bulge. In this spirit I bought another treat on my shopping trip. Along with the wise vegetables and meats in my cooler, a very special honey rolled home with me. When I was little, my Grandma used to serve this type of honey with breakfast. It is the raw light honey that you can spread over toast. I have bought it since, and time and time again it has turned out not to be the honey I remembered. Either it wasn’t sweet in the right way or it was so hard I couldn’t spread it. Finally at the market I found it. This morning for breakfast I tried it finally. I had made a frittata and cut up fruit (very healthy.) Then to add the finishing touches on our leisurely Saturday morning, we had a nice whole wheat toast with the holy grail of honey. As I bit into the pale golden elixir, I was transported back to the round hard table in my grandma’s kitchen, looking at her sweet rosy face and kind blue eyes. The electric coffee pot is gurgling in the corner, when I remember watching my Grandpa break up his poached eggs with his fork. Each bite solidified those memories down to the smell of the bacon left over on the stove.

This honey, while not great for my waist line, has brought me back to one of the most pleasant memories I have. While not probably the most scientific of theories, I believe a small treat now and again will really go a long way towards not feeling like I am depriving myself. I also believe it will provide normalcy to this new life where I am eating differently and overhauling my entire life. A spoon full of sugar…

Cooking as Meditation?

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Lately, I think of cooking as a chore. I don’t know what has changed in my perception. What I used to love most was to get up on Sunday mornings and make my husband blueberry whole wheat pancakes, French toast, or my own special blend of omelet. There is something about the breakfast meal that my particular brand of multitasking is meant for; trying to get eggs, bacon, and hash browns all out and hot at once is a challenge that I used to enjoy. Not to mention, the look on my husband’s face -like he was the luckiest man to walk the earth- was worth a million breakfasts.
However, mornings have been kind of cloudy affairs lately. I wake up excruciatingly slow and only truly feel like myself after I have had something to eat. Thanks for that hurdle, Diabetes. So I wake up and sort of dry heave a little until I have something to eat. Even after that I feel out of sorts for about thirty minutes. Brad has been taking over breakfast, mostly because of my nausea. I don’t even cook it on the weekends. No, I am not pregnant.
Brad does the other cooking because he is applying for jobs and working from home. However, I feel like I am not contributing enough. I really do need to get back in the kitchen on the weekends in some form, even if it is just to show husband he is appreciated.
Studies also show that the best way to lose weight is prepare your food at home and control what goes into it. I just haven’t ever enjoyed cooking dinner or lunch in the same way as breakfast. It is sort of slow and boring. The chopping, standing, sweating, and with me the breaking things and burning the fingers.
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However, I just read an article in Yoga Journal called, “The Power of the Pan.” They were interviewing the brilliant Michael Pollan, who is the author of many books relating to food. He said something that really hit home with my new plan to slow down and be mindful.
“I was hasty in the kitchen, hasty chopping onions—mine were always chunky and I didn’t sauté’ them long enough to get them sweet and caramelized. Samin Nosrat, my cooking teacher, who was a serious student of yoga, was always trying to get me to slow down. She said the key to great cooking was patience, practice, and presence. And this was a very hard thing for me to learn. It involved basically paying much greater attention to what I was doing. Learning how to just be there is the hardest thing of all.”
Sing it brother! I am telling you, focusing on only one task is the hardest thing for me to do, but I want to be more mindful. I want to teach my mind to enjoy doing things fully. I want to learn to focus on the task at hand and just enjoy it, and I also want to eat healthy. That makes two birds but with one stone, yeah?
So this weekend I will be cooking a nice dinner for my lovely, long-suffering husband and I hope to knock his socks off.
Pollan enjoys cooking now, so maybe I will too. He says, “Once you do, it’s this beautiful process that absorbs all your senses in a way that checking your email or watching television does not.”
I am going to try this way of cooking and tell you how it goes. If you have experienced this sort of bliss, please share it here on the blog site. I would love to hear about it.

Envy as Motivation

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See, beautiful and a beautiful Christmas dinner

I have this gorgeous Aunt Nicole that I idolize. She is a lean, curvaceous redhead with spunk and charisma. She is one of those women who you wish you could hate because she does everything perfectly. She is a sharp dresser, maintains a beautiful home, and is so good at cooking that she is a caterer. Her fluency in the kitchen I totally envy. A normal dinner at Nicole’s is like spending time with a confident beautiful chef. She times the meals perfectly and only serves the most fresh and desirable food. She does all this while making sure your glass is full and effortlessly entertaining her guests with jokes and stories. She accomplishes all of this without breaking a sweat. When all is said and done, the kitchen is clean, she kicks her feet up, and still has the same make up on that she started with and not one hair out of place. See what I mean? If she wasn’t so nice, loving, funny and congenial, we would all hate her.

While I am not too shabby at making certain meals people rave about, dining at my house is an experience of a different color. You may be met at the door by my husband or me, or you might just hear a panicked “COME IN!” When you make your way to my kitchen you will see me running around frantically opening and closing the oven, or dumping pasta, and all while trying to get drinks all at once. The entire time I am sweating, breathing heavy, and my hair (that I perfectly curled only an hour before) is pasted to my forehead. I rarely entertain anymore because I just don’t seem to pull it off without being a puddle of a human before I have even laid the dishes on the table.

Red faced, clammy and slightly smelly, I sit down to a meal with my guests and try to catch my breath. Mostly the conversation is held by my guests with only an occasional word from me, and there is no doing the dishes while I talk to other people. That would turn into a wet t-shirt contest.

One morning I managed to pull off a beautiful breakfast for my writing group. I made pancakes and eggs. They were the whole wheat kind, some with blueberries. The coffee and tea flowed. I even managed to fill people’s glasses as soon as they were done, and hopped to it in order to bring my guests warm flapjacks when their plate was empty. I was calm, cool and collected. This meal was so unusual that I remember it seven years later. We joke that I was channeling Aunt Nicole that day. We believe that at some point in the morning she must have fallen asleep because that is when I accidentally spilled hot tea all over myself.

I want to lose this weight so that I can entertain without melting down. I want to be able to cook and entertain while being effortlessly pretty. This cause can only be helped by losing weight and getting in shape. I think exercising is the only way to improve my coordination, agility, and my ability to be cool under pressure. I want to glide into my dining room with beautiful food and laugh and gab with my friends. I want people to say, the way I remark on my aunt, “How does she make it all look so effortless?

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Nicole and I at my wedding, which see catered! It was so delicious

 

Going back to Childhood

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Feeling the joy swinging with my nephew. That’s my handsome brother pushing him!

I am on vacation right now. It has been a year since I have seen my close knit family in Oklahoma. I can tell you right off the bat, Oklahomans and my family, are a beautiful people: strong, friendly, and giving to a fault. I am so happy to finally be seeing them. When I am away from family sometimes it feels like there is a small part of myself that other people just don’t understand. Right off the plane, it feels like okay, yep, there it is, that is the hole I needed filled. That is the understanding I was looking for. Instantly there are the hugs, smiles, and giggles that I missed.

Two things are aligned against me this week in the weight loss arena. One, I am on vacation and I haven’t seen these people in a year so it feels like I am entitled to splurge on some freshly grilled cheeseburgers off my brothers grill, my Mom’s homemade yummy chocolate cake, or Eskimo Joe’s famous cheese fries. These are only just a few of the don’ts I did this week and they were delicious. Family and food I think at least for me seem interchange able. We eat and talk or play games and talk. It is inevitable. So what do you do in those situations when you are caught up in the moment and you just want to be like everyone else eating the cake and ice cream? Luckily I did well in that moment so I am proud of that. I ate only a small piece of cake maybe four bites and a small scoop of ice cream maybe three bites. But those fries…took me down.

A good or bad part about being around family they watch your sugars and your proteins because they know you are. They are helping in the way that you know you are being watched. Yesterday my sister said, “Don’t you want some ham or something? You are eating an awful lot of carbs and I don’t want you to get sick.” (She was sharing her Valentines chocolates with me, another bad move on my part.)

That is sort of the other thing. Most of my family and I have the same fatal flaw too, we have bad eating habits. Dad and I have been comparing out diabetic testing machines and testing each other’s sugars. As I mentioned, my sister and I shared the chocolates. Mom too has a weakness for chocolates. My mom has learned portion control long ago, she eats a very small amount of food, but not much of it is healthy. My brothers are doing better. Patrick takes an hour walk every night. I threatened to go with him a couple of times…never did. Matthew is a father and has an amazing wife who I believe encourages him to make healthy choices. They feed their kid veggies and fruits.

His name is Caleb. Being around such a young eater reminded me how fun food can be. At three years old, Caleb eats one bite out of his cucumber and says, “Look it’s the moon!” He also had sliced pickles on his plate that he made little moons out of. I told him, “That pickle used to be a cucumber.”

He replies, “I don’t get it.”

But then he patiently listened while I tell him about the spices and the vinegar. I think we all can find hope in young eaters like this.

I look at the way my brother and his wife feed Caleb and think, I should take just as great care in what I put in my mouth. I should examine it and understand it in the intrinsic way he seems to as if it is the first time eating it. Maybe I should look at food like it is new. I feel I need to ignore all I have learned and know about the food I eat, and just focus on its unique properties. Perhaps this mindful aesthetic approach will be more enjoyable for me.

There is so much drama in food for my family. I have been thinking about how it affects all of us. I hate onions, sister hates cheese, brother hates pasta, and Dad hates pretty much most green foods. There is so much emotion behind it too. My sister regales us with tales of trauma suffered by a certain food and the bathroom adventures. Oh, and forget a certain persons aversion (yes even mine) and be accused of just not caring at all. Then there is always the food guilt, shame, and weight loss baggage, that’s a big soup of drudgery to stir through.

That leaves an imprint, a mark on your tongue and heart. How do you clear out the cobwebs of this emotion and just look food like the miracle of God that it is? Look at a cucumber and say, look its whitish green soft flesh, and when I bite it, it’s the moon! It might be time to play with the food, and look at it with awe and intrigue again. Perhaps I will rediscover how it nourishes me and how to cohabitate with it healthfully.

The Big Mistake I Keep Making

Roasted Asparagus

If you haven’t roasted asparagus in the oven, do it now! Little olive oil, salt and pepper, for fifteen minutes, YUM!

I can’t stress this enough in my head and to my soul, falling off the wagon makes it so hard to get back on. I have to keep telling myself this. This is like a trap door that I keep forgetting is there. I walk across it every time. I feel foolish afterwards, I have bruises and scratches and for a while remember but then a month later, I am tricked by its allure again. I go walking that way and woops.

Here is what I think makes it even harder. If you feed yourself Taco Time nachos, crisp meat burrito, and a large mexi-fry one night and then the next night you try to feed it a chicken thigh and some asparagus, your tummy is saying WTF where is all that food I had last night. I am still farting it out to make room for all the food I was promised today.

Yes, this is a true life example. I had a really urgent craving for nachos and so we fell off the wagon. I super gorged on Taco Time, which was lovely for the thirty minutes it took to eat it. The tough part too, is after a major binge like that, the next day your tummy isn’t happy, especially when you binge on Mexican food. So for the next eighteen or so hours I felt lethargic, bloat-y, and tired. I can’t tell you how upset my tummy was because I want to not be indelicate. Let’s just say I spent a lot of time in the restroom and leave it at that. Just when I have flushed out the last of it, it seemed, it was dinner time again.

So exhausted from my body trying to get rid of the evidence I sit down to dinner with the hubby. He made delicious chicken thighs with roasted tomatoes and oven roasted asparagus. We sat down and ate together, and I have been trying to eat more slowly, but when it was over I was still hungry. I thought I will give it thirty minutes, like those diet people say to do. Nope, I was still hungry. Brad and I had some popcorn, still hungry. I was hungry until I went to sleep but had eaten my points and had to take it. I needed to re-shrink my tummy. I knew it had to be done.

I do it to myself sometimes. In the sixth month of this my life change I am realizing how bad it truly is to eat so much in one sitting. Brad even said when he went to bed how hard it was to retrain your tummy after gorging on tacos. I can’t do it again to myself. I need to not fall back on those habits. If I crave nachos, I will just eat nachos. I will put them in as points too. That night I let myself get off the reservation and paid for it the whole next day. Never again I cry with my fist in the air!!! Never will I ever allow myself to be allured by the smell of tasty food, and gorge myself. I will stick to the diet or it will make it worse for me. I hope I have learned my lesson.