Thursday, December 18, 2014

Healthy Baby On the Way!

I have just reached 20 weeks so I'm ready to start sharing my thoughts... I planned to wait until I hit the magical 12 week mark to start posting these updates. It was very hard to contain my excitement but I totally get why waiting until then is the convention. 12 weeks came and went and somehow, I still wasn't quite ready. But here, at the halfway point, it's time to let it fly! 

This post was written on August 27, 2014 -- the day after I got my positive test. I just cannot wait to start cataloging this journey! So, for now, this is just for me with the idea of posting these updates starting in a couple months.

I am still very much in shock. It's been over 4 years of not preventing conception, with only one other pregnancy, which was an extremely early miscarriage that happened before I knew I had been pregnant. It was traumatic physically, but emotionally I just couldn't process that I had lost something I didn't even know I'd had. My doctor thought it was ectopic (a tubal pregnancy) because they didn't see anything on ultrasound, despite my insistence that I could only possibly be a day or two pregnant due to knowing my cycle. They did eventually see something in the uterus, but it was not viable by that point in any case. 

That was two years ago and since then, nothing. I went through periods of actively charting my cycle and doing tons of research and planning. I also went through times when I couldn't think about it at all. I needed to enjoy my life the way it is, which is fantastic. 

All the time, the clock was ticking... I was staring at my 37th birthday and just knew that it was now or never in terms of taking a proactive approach. I saw my doctor, got some preliminary tests (all seemed fine). Sam was checked. We started jumping through the hoops my insurance needed for our referral to the fertility center (dealing with two different sets of medical systems -- Kaiser and GW was quite the fun time!) 

I signed up for a Yoga for Fertility Class. I joined Baby Launch Camp. I worked with a Health Coach. I downloaded Fertility Meditations. I recommitted to daily temperature and fertility sign charting. I was on this! But, somewhere in the back of my mind was Negative Nelly whispering how this just wasn't going to happen for us. I started looking into adoption and foster care (the latter something we want to do eventually, regardless of whether was have a biological child). Those are great options that I support but there was this niggling craving to have this all-too-human experience. I wanted to find out "for sure" (at least as much as the medical establishment can determine this) before exploring other options. 

I'm not sure what "did it" this month. Not much has really changed -- I still eat a Paleo diet, which has been including Perfect Health Diet starches to varying degrees. I had been counting calories and slowly losing a bit of weight (nothing significant yet). The main difference is that I did put my intention on the process to a much greater degree. 

I also read somewhere that stevia is used for contraception in some cultures (totally controversial and not an established fact) so I stopped using it. I had been using it quite a bit in smoothies and coffee/tea. I'm telling you, if that turns out to have been the issue I will scream! I was trying to avoid sugar at all costs only to be undermining my fertility? So wrong! But, who knows? These days, I'm working to eat things without a sweet taste and to use honey sparingly when I really want it. Sugar is sugar, but at least the body knows how to process glucose/fructose. I figure that small amounts won't cause too much trouble. The idea is to avoid the dreaded blood sugar spikes. 

That brings me to several days ago when I realized that my temperatures weren't starting to drop in advance of my expected period. That was a good sign! Then, a few more days went by... And yesterday, I decided what the heck? Just take a test. And it was positive! I could not believe it. So, I took another one. Also positive! Seriously? Was this really happening? I stared at the sticks for a minute or so, then ran down two flights to find Cute Man. He was surprised but very happy! 

I contacted my doctor right away to ask to take a blood test to confirm. She said that it wasn't needed and that the home tests are accurate. I should just make an appointment in a few weeks for my first sonogram. Really? It didn't seem like it could be official without a doctor pronouncing me pregnant. Even so, I know in my heart it's true -- it's happening. I have such a wave of joy that has just permeated everything for the last two days. And tonight, I'm going to my very first prenatal yoga class! Is it weird that I've dreamed of going to prenatal yoga? It's like a club that I just couldn't get into. Now, I have my free pass  and I'm not wasting any time taking advantage of it! 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Health Coach - Part 2

I like this picture because it's from a time when movement was nothing but fun. I adored gymnastics as a kid and that joy has translated into my love of yoga as an adult. Where else do you get to stand on your head as a grownup? It's also nice to see evidence of a time before my hormones went haywire and I was just a normal, cute little kid.

As I mentioned earlier, I've been working with a health coach to try and get things back on track. Sometimes you just need a little outside perspective! It's been a very positive experience and I would recommend that anyone who feels stuck to try working with someone.

Some things I've been working on:

  • Tracking all my food on My Fitness Pal
    • This is something I've actively resisted for a long time. Finding Paleo seemed to free me from the need for this but over time, the weight has started to creep back on. Seeing my food choices documented in black and white helps keep me honest and also allows for some wiggle room for a few indulgences within reason
    • I've finally made my peace with this. I've found that tracking things really does keep me accountable. I also must do this 100% for every penny I spend so it shouldn't surprise me that it's important for my food intake as well. I feel great about it these days, which has surprised me. I've let go of the resistance and I'm just letting it be a tool that is helping me. 

  • Meaningful Activity
    • I've been focusing on walking and yoga, mostly. I'm thinking about doing a membership at a local yoga studio -- it's the only "exercise" I really look forward to so why not go all in with it? 
    • I also think sprinting (interval training) is super important. I've only actually done it a couple times since instituting it as a goal but the plan is to an interval workout once a week: 30 seconds hard; 2 min recovery. Repeat for 15 minutes. Doesn't sound like much, but it really gets the heart rate up and has great hormonal effects. I use the elliptical at my work gym and do some stretching afterwards. 
My initial bundle of consultations is now up with my coach and I'm deliberating about whether to continue. I was indeed super helpful, but it is another budget item. It's coming down to either the coaching or the yoga membership at this point and I'm leaning towards the latter. I can always seek out help again if I feel like I'm slipping. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Health Coach - Part 1

It's been a month and a half since the retreat and I've spent that time trying to sort out my goals. As with most things in life, having that experience was transformative and enlightening, but not at all in the way I thought it would be. Going in to it, I was feeling extremely good. I had hit a good rhythm with activity level and what I was eating. I thought the retreat would just cement those positive changes and spur me on to even greater things.

Since I had the great honor and privilege to attend the retreat as a work-study person, I had a somewhat different experience from the other guests. I am eternally grateful to the organizers for giving me this chance. Huge thanks to Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet, Whitney Ross Gray, Kamal Patel, Laura Schoenfeld and her mother, Pam Schoenfeld. I had a singular opportunity to learn from the best, and value all I absorbed from the daily lectures, cooking demos, and informal discussions. 

The break in routine really through me, though. Also, with hindsight being so clear, I have noticed a few other things that conspired to knock me off course:

  • Slightly less sleep than normal
  • Higher carb consumption than what I was doing with my version of PHD prior to the retreat
  • Less downtime than I'm used to
  • More social interaction (I'm an introvert, so I need quite a bit of alone time each day to recharge even though I love people)
  • Intermittent fasting (we ate only from 12:00pm-8:00pm each day and I was up at 6:00am; I've determined that I really do need a whack of protein in the morning to feel my best)
  • Vitex (I was taking this supplement for several months to try and regulate my hormones -- I finally realized it was having the opposite effect from what I was intending and it made me very moody, emotional, and increased my PMS and menstrual symptoms, things it was supposed to help relieve. I finally found some info that noted that some people can react this way so I'm pretty sure this was the biggest culprit).

All of this is to say -- I came home not feeling that well at all so this post is mostly about how I'm working to get myself back on track. I've had to move past a lot of self-blame for not being more resilient, flexible, and adaptable -- all qualities I've always thought of myself as possessing. I've finally come to the conclusion that I truly was not myself at the retreat. It was not a failure of me as a person, rather a failure to recognize or address the issues I outlined above. 

Since I initially blamed my mood/exhaustion issues all on the carbs, I resolved to go low carb again shortly after I returned since I always felt so good when eating that way. This time, it didn't seem to "work". It took me some time but I finally realized it was the Vitex and stopped that just last week. I already feel better. Go figure!

To help bring clarity to my situation and get an outside perspective, I've decided to work with a health coach. I have a new game plan that I'm working on with her help. I will lay it out in Part 2, since this is getting so long!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Perfect Health Diet Retreat, New Fitbit, Whole Food Juicing and T-Tapp

In just  few days, I'll be heading out to NC for the Perfect Health Diet (PHD) Retreat. I am super excited to be going on this two week adventure and very proud of myself for contacting the organizers and arranging to come on a work/study basis. This program is amazing and well worth it, but simply not in the budget this year. I'm glad to be going as the onsite helper, where I'll be able to reap the rewards of the program and assist the other participants as well. I will be sharing much of what I learn/experience here periodically while at the retreat.

In other, related news, I decided to take the plunge and buy myself a Fitbit Flex. I've coveted these for some time, but again, budget concerns kept me from making the purchase. Oddly enough, it was the upcoming retreat that spurred me into action. One of my duties will be to make the morning coffee, etc. so I'll need to be one of the first people up. Part of the PHD is working on your circadian rhythms and good sleep is extremely important in that regard. The last thing I wanted to do was to wake up my roommates (I'll be in a shared room with other women) with my blaring iPhone. Yikes! So what does this have to do with the Fitbit? Well, the Flex version has a silent alarm feature that vibrates to wake you up gently. I've tired it out and it works! I've also been loving the step tracking, which is fun to watch in real time on my phone. I am such a little kid. Easy to please :)

My more recent food related passion is juicing. Yes, really. I was always so against it, due to the blood sugar spiking and fiber wasting. Well, I found a way that does neither. Enter Whole Food Juicing. Using my trusty Vitamix, I'm able to blend my veggies and fruit so well that it drinks like a juice but still keeps all the fiber. There are tons of great recipes at the Blender Babes. My current favorite is a version of this Giada De Laurentiis one (I use cucumber instead of the carrot and granny smith apples to keep it bright green). I've really been enjoying these and feel great getting in so many more raw veggies.

Last but not least, I am still loving my T-Tapp DVDs. Doing the basic, 20 minute workout 2-3 times per week has me feeling way more toned and great in my own skin. I can't even explain how awesome it is. The effort to results ratio is astounding. I've never done such an effective workout, especially one that doesn't leave me in a puddle on the floor by the end. I highly recommend you check this out!*

*Please note that many of the above links are affiliate links to Amazon. If you click on one of them, and then go on to buy something, I get a small percentage, which is awesome. However, I get nothing for recommending T-Tapp. I just think it's wonderful :) And I only link to anything that I truly use and love whether it's on Amazon or not. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

In the Swing of things: Perfect Health Diet and an Activity Challenge

Gnomes make me happy 
Since going all in with the Perfect Health Diet, I've set up a few guidelines that are keeping me feeling good:

  • Refined Sugar is out (except small amounts of dark chocolate).
  • Fruit is OK and I'm not limiting it at all (I wind up having 2-4 pieces a day). Knowing that this is always a sweet option makes me feel less panicy and restricted. 
  • Starch comes mostly from things that contain resistant starch -- cooked cooled potatoes/rice, green bananas but also from sweet potatoes. I am limiting processed starches like rice noodles, etc. to roughly 1 x per week.
  • Non-starchy veggies fill half my plate at every meal with the other half split between meat and starch. I have to purposely focus on this and it has led me to eating much less meat overall since my appetite has gone down.
  • Mindful activity is a part of each day. I printed out a full year calendar and hung it on the fridge. Every day that I do at least 20 minutes of purposeful activity, I put and X over the date. I'm over 3 weeks in and haven't broken the chain. Yay! Sometimes I do more (like an hour yoga class), but keeping the goal manageable has been key to attaining consistency, which is what I was after. 
  • Almond milk is a daily addition to my morning smoothie, in which I get to dump all my food-based supplements like collagen, probiotics, prebiotics, green bananas for RS, fiber, and even liver powder sometimes! Since the store-bought variety comes with additives and stabilizers, I decided to try my hand at making my own. I used this method (I just use the almonds, water, and vanilla) and bought this nut milk bag to strain it. Making homemade almond milk is way easier than I imagined and turns out delicious. It smells amazing whirring in my Vitamix - fresh almonds and vanilla - yum! 
  • Almond meal is a lucky side benefit of making homemade almond milk. Who knew? When you strain the milk, you're left with very finely ground almond meal, which you can use to bake cookies. The milk recipe I linked to suggests drying it out in the oven, sending it through the blender again, etc. I am way too lazy. I just save it in the fridge and then make some cookies when I get enough of it. Since it's still damp, not at all like my beloved blanched almond flour, it's a whole different animal. I found I had to turn the oven temp down and bake them longer than usual, but they come out moist, chewy, and more like oatmeal cookies. I love the idea of using one raw ingredient to get so many yummy things! Talk about being thrifty. My Grampy would be proud. 

I am off to go try my hand at baking my low sugar (fruit sweetened) chocolate chip cookies. I'm going to refine the recipe a bit then come back and post an official version with pictures. Stay tuned!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Mint Chip Super Food Ice Cream

In honor of St. Patrick's Day, I decided to churn up some creamy green goodness. I'm trying to avoid refined sugar so I used a combo of medjool dates and stevia to sweeten it. I added some avocado and spinach for the green as well as collagen, probiotics, and some green banana for the resistant starch. That's a lot of nutrition packed into a tasty frozen treat!

Mint Chip Super Food Ice Cream

2 Medjool dates (take out the pit first!)
1 very small avocado (half of a medium or large one)
1/4 cup frozen spinach*
1/2 frozen green banana*
1/2 contents of one probiotic capsule
1 Tbs collagen
1 tsp powdered stevia
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
1/4 tsp real salt
1/2 cup enjoy life chips

Blend all ingredients (except chocolate chips) -- I used my Vitamix. I blended it for quite some time because I wanted to make sure that everything was completely incorporated. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before churning it in an ice cream maker until it reaches the consistency of soft serve. Empty into a quart sized Tupperware container and mix in chocolate chips. Dish out a nice scoop into a chilled bowl and enjoy! Stick the rest in the freezer and get your super foods in each day for the rest of the week.

I prefer to make my ice cream really rich and creamy as opposed to lighter and less filling. I tend to only eat a tiny bowl of it at a time and really savor it. I find it's much more satisfying than something that I can eat and eat without getting full.

*You can use fresh/not frozen spinach and banana - just chill the mixture longer before churning.  

Friday, March 7, 2014

New Discoveries and a Shift in Focus

For the past three years, I’ve been focusing pretty fiercely on my attempt to lose weight. I’ve tried to keep a good, body positive perspective but have never lost sight of that end goal. Since my experience with Intuitive Eating prior to discovering Paleo, I’ve been pretty fearful of letting go and losing control. I did not trust myself to make good decisions for my health so I settled on the prize of weight loss to keep me on the straight and narrow. I also harbored a secret fear that no one would ever take me seriously in the Paleo community if I was still fat.

I don’t know if there is something physically, psychologically, or otherwise holding me back from achieving my desired body composition, but any which way, I’m over it. I am over actively trying to change my body. Here’s a little recap of what I’ve been working on lately to take the very best care of myself without the express goal of weight loss:

I’m in love with this program. I look and feel better than ever and haven’t lost a pound (not that I’ve weighed myself!) I cannot recommend it highly enough for promoting great self-care and expression true to yourself. Life changing.

I’d heard of this before but never thought it would be for me. It was mentioned in one of the DYT videos and I decided to give it a whirl. I feel more toned, energetic, and have gotten lots of compliments from Cute Man since doing this 2-5 times per week. The basic workout takes less than 20 min. Score.

Yes, that again. I’m just eating real, normal food while avoiding nasty oils, processed food, added sugar, and wheat products. The biggest difference is that I’m not doing it to try to diet or lose weight. My only goal is to promote overall health and avoid the acid reflux, psoriasis, headaches and other health problems I dealt with pre-Paleo. I’ve also started incorporating resistant starch, which blunts blood sugar spikes and promotes gut health. It just means that I cook my potatoes and rice a day in advance to allow them to cool down after cooking in order to allow the RS to be formed. My appetite is WAY down and my sugar cravings have diminished a lot. I feel almost incapable of overeating. When I’ve had enough, I have to stop right in my tracks with a feeling of not being able to take even one more bite. I can’t eat even half what I used to for dinner. Very interesting. I am not eating any rice noodles or other gluten free processed foods – those seemed to set me off and gave me acid reflux. I started with the RS after listening to this Latest inPaleo Podcast. More info on Free the Animal (warning – he is very unpolitically correct, so if you’re easily offended, please avoid).