Trusting Myself: An Update

I did a funny thing this morning. I decided to write a blog post.

I haven’t blogged anything in a really long time. I have several blogs that I used to keep up, but I haven’t posted anything on any of them in quite a while. Lately, however, I’ve been feeling the blogging itch coming on, so I know that I have a few things that I want to say. I will tell you this – it has been so long since I’ve written a blog post that I totally forgot that I changed the name of this one. This blog was my Paleo blog that I started in order to chronicle my Paleo journey. I did Paleo for five years and then, a couple of years ago, took a detour. I was worried that I wasn’t doing Paleo in a healthy way. In fact, I was starting to become obsessive and it was very unhealthy for me in how I was approaching it mentally.

The break really helped and gave me some perspective. I spent most of that time not subscribing to any one diet or lifestyle. I simply enjoyed food in all of its glory. Everything that I had missed, I ate. But then I began to feel bad, and I gained a lot of weight. An eating disorder that I had not had to worry about since going Paleo reared its ugly head in the midst of a ton of stress that I was going through. It was a very crazy and unhealthy time.

I switched jobs to lower my stress level, which has ended up being one of the best decisions that I have made, despite my brain trying to manufacture stressful situations. It hasn’t been a total walk in the park, this new job. I am an assistant teacher now, but the lead quit not too far into the school year so I had to assume the role for a time while they tried to find a new one. The classroom itself has been stressful, but still hasn’t touched the stress that I was dealing with previously.

In all of this, I tried to go vegan. Clint (my fiance) is vegan and has been for some time. He researched it after I adopted our rescue beagle and it has become a lifestyle for him. I tried several times through the stressful period to join him on that journey but it did not really help with all of the stress. Once my stress level went down I tried again and started doing pretty well. But I’m a very introspective person, and I spend a lot of time monitoring how things make me feel (like stressful jobs and lifestyle changes). I wasn’t feeling good on the Vegan diet. I had almost constant brain fog, which made it hard for me to focus and concentrate, something that is very important in my job, as well as in the side projects that I am always doing. We have had a lot of snow days lately, which would be really good for my side projects, but one day I had such a lack of focus and willpower that I spent the entire day sitting on the couch playing games on my phone. My feet and legs have constantly been hurting. I have been consistently tired. I spent pretty much the entirety of winter break sleeping, which I probably needed because I was at the beginning stages of recovering from a year of stress, but was still worrisome for me because I don’t usually sleep like that. My sleep throughout the night has been inconsistent – I don’t think I’ve really gotten a full night’s sleep since I went full-on vegan. And that is one thing that I don’t like to mess with, sleep. I love sleep and I love my mornings, and when my sleep gets so messed up that I’m sleeping until 8 in the morning (which I know is normal for most people, but not me), then I have a problem. All of that sleep in the morning was making up for sleep that I wasn’t getting in the night, which has been a sometimes problem for me but never a consistent, nightly problem like it has been.

Throughout my foray into Veganism I consistently flirted with the idea of going back to Paleo. I think I recognized that Paleo made me feel better than Veganism was, and I wasn’t doing it for the noble, moral reasons that Clint was. I was doing it to be healthier, and all of the literature that I was reading claimed it was healthier, but I didn’t feel healthier. I felt almost like a zombie. I felt like I couldn’t get anything done. It was becoming a struggle to get out of bed, and the constant aching in my feet worried me. I’ve felt that ache before and I’ve blamed it on shoes, concrete floors, any number of things that could cause foot aches. The bottom line for me was that I remembered the ache going away when I was eating Paleo. I remembered the energy and the clear-headedness; I have old status updates on Facebook about brain fog lifting and energy levels skyrocketing. The lack of focus has really become a problem. I work with kids, and when I can’t focus or even have a lot of energy, it really diminishes the impact I have in the classroom. I can’t give my full self to the kids because I don’t have as much to give. That is not acceptable to me while I’m in this field, which is so demanding of time and energy.

This week I made a choice. Part of living a beautiful life and practicing self-love is being able to trust yourself, something that I have a hard time with. I’m a people-pleaser. I want to make sure that everyone around me is happy and I do what I can to make that happen. I tend to project other people’s moods onto myself, making it hard for me to listen to myself because I am so busy listening to the moods of those around me. But in this case, I don’t have a choice. I have to listen to myself or risk being unhappy, feeling unhealthy, and being unmotivated. And I’m not in a place where I can do that right now.

Detour to my current side-project, which is very important to me. For many years I have been studying about trends in education, specifically early childhood education, and contemplating about how those trends transfer over to education as a whole. For years before I got my degree, I read books and studied education, creativity, and motivation. I developed a personal philosophy of education that is sometimes at odds with the current system. And now, many years later, I am attempting to start a school that utilizes that philosophy. It is an exciting and daunting journey, much more exciting and daunting than any of my previous side-projects. But the difference with this one is that I haven’t had the focus, energy, or motivation to self-start, to organize my thoughts, or to organize my actions. In some cases I know what the next step is but I get caught in a rut of procrastination mixed with a lack of energy and a complete sense of overwhelm. I am a huge procrastinator, a professional really, but in my last big project (starting my own business doing professional development workshops) I don’t remember the sense of overwhelm and lack of motivation being so high. I was doing Paleo then, and I just remember feelings of high positivity and a constant drive to work through the overwhelm and a feeling of focus that I have a hard time achieving now.

I switched to Paleo two days ago. Already I am feeling more energy, and my focus has been a lot better. I have been able to get some housecleaning done and focus on my project enough to start, something that I had seemingly been avoiding before. My desire to sit and play on my phone is diminishing slowly, and I feel better walking – so much better, which is great because I do need to walk this dog. I think she is tired of her pitiful little walks because of the snow. There have been many benefits already, although it is early into the journey. I keep thinking that it might even just be the placebo effect, since it happened so quickly, but I’m not sure. Knowing me, I will be monitoring the hell out of how I am feeling to make sure that it is the right thing to do. But I do know one thing: listening to myself and trusting myself is already paying off.

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Yoga Challenge Revisited

Well, here I am. I got farther with the original yoga challenge than I thought I was going to, but I don’t remember what day I stopped at. I may have to check my Facebook to find out because I logged most of my workouts under #100dayyogachallenge. I didn’t make it to 100. I think that day 100 would have been sometime this week, but this week I simply started over. No hashtags, no counting. I’ve simply been trying to make an effort to get on the mat every day. Except tomorrow. That is my rest day unless I change my mind and just try to stretch out a little.

I’m trying to figure out how to tap into that motivation that I had when I started eating Paleo. I blogged about it a lot on here in order to see how far I had come, but I just did it. Every day I did it. I didn’t whine about how hard it was or about how I didn’t want to cook (ok, maybe I did that). I didn’t focus on how hard it was or how crappy I felt at first. I looked forward to the results. I looked forward to all of the positives that people said would happen and that helped push me beyond the initial icky carb flu and lack of energy so that I could get it done.

I guess I’m in icky carb flu stage with the yoga. And as out of shape as I am, I’m not sure how long that stage is going to last. I have made some changes in my life that might make it easier. I quit my stressful job three weeks ago and found a job that I love that is much less stressful. Still in childcare, so still very much a part of my passion. The lack of stress has made it that much easier to get on the mat in the mornings, because I am more confident that I can push through this tiredness to the end of the day. Before I had to bring my A-game every day to work, and I got no support. I still have to bring my A-game, but I have an amazing support system now that I didn’t have before. It helps a lot, and I can tell that it is helping a lot with my transition into this next phase of my lifestyle.

And maybe that is a difference, too. I always looked at Paleo as my lifestyle, especially after I experienced the benefits. Maybe instead of looking at yoga as a way to get back in shape or get stronger, I need to look at it as part of my lifestyle. Part of how I live my life, because I know that if I don’t do it my life isn’t the same. And it isn’t. When I don’t do my yoga I get cranky and stressed and my muscles feel tight and everyone around me knows that I haven’t done my yoga. When I do it I feel calmer and stronger. Tired, but relaxed. I can take on the world, because I had that little bit of time in the morning to connect with me. Or maybe I can connect with the world better because I have taken time to connect with myself. Maybe that is why I feel less stress and more connection. Either way, the benefits of getting on my mat are greater than what I get when I don’t. It is time for commitment to this next part of my lifestyle.

100 Day Yoga Challenge – Day 3

Who would have thought that the day after I publicly announce my personal challenge would be the hardest one so far for me? I almost talked myself into staying in bed for an extra 15 minutes. I didn’t, though, and I can honestly say that I am glad that I made myself get up. One of the things that I have always loved about yoga is its ability to make me feel great when I am done. Sometimes it is hard to see that when you are sore and tired and just want to sleep, but that is part of what this challenge is about – kicking myself in the butt so that I can get to this feeling. So here I am, day three done.

In the interest of being totally up-front, I should also mention that I am in the middle of a sugar detox of sorts. I usually steer clear of sugar on a daily basis because it tends to affect my energy and mood, but this time of year I let myself have a little leeway because berries are in season. Well, I found out that my ginger-in-a-tube that I was using in my eggs in the morning had dextrose and fructose in it, and I was using it every day! No wonder my sleep started getting messed up and I started getting crabby during the day. All if that is sorting itself out now as I go through this sugar detox. My sleep is starting to return to the wonderful Paleo sleep that I love, and my mood is starting to stabilize as well. Now that I have that sorted out, I figured it was the perfect time to get into this challenge. I seem to feel more motivated to move when all of my food-oriented stars are aligned.

I guess we will see what tomorrow brings!

Grapeseed Oil Is Not Paleo

This has been an interesting week. I have made it my mission to do at least thirty minutes of activity a day so that I can get in better shape. Plus, I am hoping that doing this will get me out of the habit of hibernating during the summer. I used to not care if it was hot out, when I was a kid. Now, I can’t stand to be in the heat. But maybe if I try to be more active, try to get my kids outside more, that will help me get over that. There is a lot we can do outside, and perhaps I need to invest in some tank tops or something. That way I won’t feel as if I am dying every time I try to go outside and do something. Today I took the kids to the park. We played catch and the little one rode her bike. We went for a hike. I attempted to fly a kite but there really wasn’t enough wind. Plus I wasn’t feeling like running around trying to get the kite going. It was pretty warm out there. I don’t complain about the warm when I am taking my class outside to play, but when it is me outside on my time, I guess I’m complaining about it a lot. 

Earlier this week – Thursday, actually – I had a great yoga session. I was very proud of myself. Then on Friday on and off throughout the day my ankle was hurting. I didn’t connect the two until Saturday when I tried to do some more yoga. I tried to go into Upward Dog and I couldn’t do it because of my ankle. I’m not sure if I didn’t rotate my thighs right or if I just put too much pressure on my ankle, but I had to stop because I couldn’t put much pressure on my ankle like that. I tried to do a search about why my ankle would be hurting from doing that, but most of the posts I saw talked about back pain coming from doing Upward Dog wrong, not ankle pain. 

Saturday afternoon saw us at a gathering for my fiancé’s aunt’s 90th birthday party. I was a pretty cool gathering. I made sure that I ate before we went, but I didn’t eat a lot. There was NOTHING Paleo at the event, but since I had eaten I didn’t mind. I don’t get hung up on whether or not there is stuff for me to eat at events because not everyone eats how I do, especially here in the south. But when we left the event I was starving. We went to another the house of another aunt of his, and she had stuff for me to make a salad. She offered me grape seed oil and vinegar, and I gratefully took it. However, I found out pretty quickly that grape seed oil is not Paleo. That stuff was doing a number on my stomach. I looked it up yesterday, and grape seed oil is just as processed as canola and vegetable oil. It was good in a pinch, but I’m not sure I’ll ever try that again.

I don’t have any new recipes right now. I am still trying to get used to having time on my hands, since I’m not in school. It has been nice to be able to get out with the family and do things, and not be so stressed out that I don’t want to do anything. Taking some time out and re-evaluate where I am standing and what I want has been great, and I have come up with some new directions for myself. As far as this goes, Paleo is serving me well. Especially this past week when I have been increasing my vegetable intake and decreasing my protein intake. I have felt great! I think I feel a difference in how my clothes fit, too. 

A Learning Experience

I know that it has been a very long time since I have posted anything, but I warned you all that I needed to focus my energy elsewhere. Through this entire time, I have kept my Paleo lifestyle intact. Well, for the most part. I can say that I have not knowingly or willingly eaten something that has not met my exacting specifications, and I have done a super-stellar job of planning through the holidays. Whenever you are in the process of changing or even keeping up a lifestyle change (especially one that goes so heavily against popular culture) it is vitally important to plan.

So the “knowingly or willingly” part of the above statement is crucially important for the learning experience that I have been through this past week, because I apparently ingested some sort of wheat substance at some point about a week ago. I suppose that, since I don’t eat wheat products at all (and am very careful about reading labels) it really took its toll on me. I had definite carb flu symptoms all last weekend, but nothing compared to what I went through this week.

On Monday I was still going through the carb flu. I think it was the last day of it. Tuesday I felt absolutely great, and I thought that I was on the downhill slope. But on Wednesday, my stomach started feeling a little weird. It didn’t last too long on Wednesday, but when I got to work on Thursday and I was in excruciating pain I asked my boss if I could go home early to go to the doctor. By the time I got to the doctor, the pain was gone and I was given some antibiotics for a bladder infection that the doctor couldn’t find. I ate a huge dinner on Thursday night – and promptly spent the entire night in an excruciating pain that I can only compare to child birth.

By that time I’d had enough, and I started doing some research into this pain. I had noticed a pattern – it seemed to show up about two hours after I had eaten a meal. With my trusty internet in hand, I started Googling. And what I found out was amazing.

IBS. Irritable Bowel Syndrome

I had heard of it before, but I’d never known anyone who’d had it or what causes it. But apparently, known catalysts are caffeine; just about any food that is listed on the Paleo “Do Not Eat” list – including wheat, dairy, and legumes; and stress. I had been concerned that stress was a factor in whatever it was going on because I am currently involved in a couple of events that are causing considerable stress. The caffeine made some sense because I had been staying away from coffee since last Saturday because of how I felt – and began to feel better – and began drinking it again on Tuesday. And I already suspected that I had ingested some sort of wheat product at the end of the week because of how I felt during the weekend.

Yesterday I spent the entire day at home recovering from the long, painful night. I made a huge pot of beef bone broth (find out more about this stuff here) and spent all day drinking it and hanging out on the couch. I’ve already had two cups of it this morning and I’m still hanging out on the couch, although I’m not in pain any more.

One thing that I can’t believe about IBS is that there are people who go through this all the time! Doctors don’t have a “cure” for it, so it can just pop up at any time if one of the catalysts is present and the person is sensitive to it. I can’t imagine going through that type of pain all the time. I missed over a day of work because of it. It really reinforces my already strong belief that “cheating” on this “diet” isn’t worth it in the long haul. I have found replacements for just about everything, including candy (roasted sweet potatoes are making a fine substitute for that). And if I can do that, it shouldn’t be hard for others to do it, too.

It also reinforced my belief that, as I go through day after day without coming in contact with wheat, dairy, soy, legumes, and additives, I have created a situation where I am much more sensitive to those things when I do come in contact with them. Usually I can pinpoint the culprit and make a mental note to stay away from it. In this case I can’t. I had gotten some ham steaks from the grocery store that Thursday – even though I read the ingredient list three times in the store, I didn’t catch that they had dextrose until I got home, and I still ate them. By the way, if a meat has an ingredient list, it is probably best to stay away from it. Friday we went to a burger place that I’ve never had a bad reaction to. They made my burger with a bun and I sent it back. I made play dough with wheat flour twice in two weeks, and I usually have a mild reaction to it each time I do it. I try not to make it more than once a month, but I found some really cool play dough activities that I wanted to try for the holidays. It really could have come from any one of those things, so I really have no idea what brought on the IBS symptoms. But I know that I have learned a lot from the experience.

Eating Out Paleo

I have to say it: ever since I started the Paleo lifestyle, eating out has not been much fun. I like to eat out as much as the next person, but experience has led me to realize that no matter how straight-forward something sounds on a menu, you really don’t know what you are going to get.

Take Mexican food, for example. There is a Mexican joint that I absolutely love not far from where I work. I have gotten fajitas without cheese, tortillas, sour cream, or half of the other stuff that makes them fajitas many times. Extra guacamole. And then an hour after I have eaten what I thought was a perfectly fine Paleo meal, I have seriously felt like crap.

Or how about instances like today: I took my daughters to a restaurant and found a hamburger steak (hold the gravy), baked onion, and salad with oil and vinegar. I was served the smallest hamburger patty on the planet that had absolutely no flavor. Apparently they only put flavor in the gravy. I’m not sure what kind of vinegar they were serving, either; it looked like it could have been rice vinegar, but I don’t know. When I left that restaurant I felt so dissatisfied that I wasn’t even sure that I had eaten anything.

For me, this lifestyle has been a journey involving flavors, textures, and simplicity. It has been wonderful and eye opening, and realizing that a restaurant’s hamburger steak only has flavor because of the gravy is a bit of a betrayal. Mainly because I took hamburger And made a meatloaf with flavor that would knock your socks off this evening. With flavorful mashed garlic cauliflower and my own baked onions. It was one of the best meals that I’ve had in a while.

Paleo Meatloaf

2 lbs. ground beef
3 tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp marjoram
1 onion, minced
1 red pepper, minced
1/2 green pepper, minced
3 c chopped fresh basil
Salt & Pepper
1 egg

Heat your oven to 350. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and then shape into a loaf in a large (9×13) glass or metal pan. Bake for 1 hour.

“B” Day

Well, yesterday was the day that we were supposed to go to the beach. No, I didn’t totally flip out about food and decide not to go.

On Wednesday, while we were at work, our home was broken into. The thieves didn’t take too much – a couple of laptop computers, a game console, and one of my fiancé’s pistols – but in the grand scheme of things, it was relatively little. Of course, we are mourning what they did take. We are also mourning our feeling of safety.

Wednesday night, after I had found out and had talked to the police, I had to take my youngest and get her something to eat. That is probably the closest that I have come, mentally, to cheating really bad on this diet. My stress level at that moment was so high that I almost didn’t care anymore.

As a teacher, I bad mouth operant conditioning as a way to teach children. For anyone who is not familiar with operant conditioning, it involves using punishments and rewards to achieve a desired behavior. I would have to say that for me, operant conditioning, as well as developing a strong habit of eating right, has played a crucial part in getting me through this weekend (as well as having the most supportive fiancé on the planet). See, when you “cheat” on this diet, there are consequences. Usually there are consequences with any diet – you gain weight. But this is different. You physically experience the consequences of your eating. If I eat sugar, it messes with my digestion and my energy. Grain products make my energy tank so bad that I don’t want to get out of bed for two days. Talk about punishment!

I said that we have been mourning our safety. We decided to take the opportunity of our long weekend to move. Since it is very short notice, I haven’t been able to pack a little here and pack a little there for a few days up until moving day, but starting Thursday night, have just been madly packing like a mad woman. I am so tired and stressed at this point that I can feel myself starting to get sick. But we will get through it all, we will feel safe again, and life will continue on, much better than before.