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“It’s the climb”

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This morning, “It’s the Climb” by Miley Cyrus came to mind because I’m in the middle of a blip. Oral thrush and fungul sinusitis. More prednisone and an antifungal. My diagnosis yesterday. Ugh. I had a bit of pity party because how much more? I had to step a bit out of myself to find the answer to this one. The bottom line is I suffer from chronic, autoimmune disease. It’s always going to be  there and my normal will never be just normal. And the truth here is that although I’m currently sick, I’m much better than I was this time last year and that I’m going to have blips along the way. What counts is how I handle those blips that determines the success of what I’m doing.   Some days I handle it with grace and other not so much.  But I’m human, right? No matter the day, the most important advice I can give you is to be kind to yourself.  I can’t control this illness anymore than I can control the weather.  However, I CAN control the severity by how I treat my body. By what I put in and on my body.  By staying positive even when I want to curl up into a ball and cry. By taking an active role in my health, I am beating this and I will continue to beat this because what other choice do I have, really.

So, today I thought I would share some simple tips with you which make my life a bit easier and all of this less daunting.

  • Get out of bed.  No really.  That’s it.  I have RA. Things creak and hurt.  And right now I don’t feel so hot.  However, get out of that bed.  Move.  The more you move, the better you are going to feel.  And, I’m going to say it, the better your “system” will work, if you get my drift. And gut health is key here (more on that another day).  Those endorphins will also make you feel better.  REALLY! Also, getting dressed and made up can make you feel better about yourself.  Sometimes it really is all about those little things.
  • PLAN AHEAD!  Eating paleo is not something you can’t just do on the fly.  It isn’t.  But, it can be with a little prep work.  When you get home from the store, dice those veggies, spiralize the squash, prep the sauces. Trust me, you will be glad you did during the week.  Because now that you’ve prepped, you have paleo fast food at your fingertips!
  • Meal prep – This doesn’t have to be fancy OR difficult.  In fact, some times dinner is something as simple as a fried egg over leftovers.  I’ve found that we no longer waste food.  Tonight’s dinner could become tomorrow’s breakfast or lunch or repurposed for dinner.  But, here’s a few hacks for you:
    • Riced cauliflower – You can buy it ALREADY done.  Yup.  Just open the bag and you are set.  However, to save money, I rice up a few batches and store in my freezer. That way I always have cauli-rice on stand-by.  You can also mix this up by ricing some sweet potato or carrots as well, just for variety.
    • Spiralized noodles – You can also buy these already done.  I like to keep in the fridge for whenever the mood strikes but generally I spiralize ahead of time and store in the fridge.
    • Cook up you sweet potatoes and spaghetti squash ahead of time in the microwave or Instant Pot. Still just as good and way quicker.
    • Spiralize veggies and then roast them in the oven.  Once cooked, throw into a bowl and add a beaten egg or two and then cook up in your waffle iron.  YUM!
    • Do you have veggies in your fridge that are looking sad.  You know what I’m talking about…  That little bit of cauliflower, baby carrots, broccoli and asparagus left over in the back of the bin.  Take it all, toss with a little olive oil and roast for 15 mins at 425 degrees.
  • Travel – Never EVER leave the house without food in your purse, bag, whatever. Let me repeat that. Never EVER leave the house without food in your purse, bag, whatever.  I always have a compliant snack in my purse and I always carry protein.  And I never leave home without water.  If I’m traveling long distances, I pack more snacks. Never get caught with nothing to eat.  Do you know what happens when you do that?  You eat crap and then you FEEL like crap.  You can go to Danielle Walker’s Against All Grain Blog for lots of tips on how to eat while traveling.  For me, I like to pack nuts, apples, lettuce wraps, hard boiled eggs and I always have one of those little tuna packets with me.  I also like to make my own cereal bars (and these are super easy to make and taste better than that awful store-bought crap.  http://againstallgrain.com/2012/08/11/glutenfree-cereal-breakfast-bars/  
  • Tools – Have the right tools in your kitchen.  If I was going to be stranded on a deserted island and could only bring one kitchen tool besides a knife and a fork (with electricity of course and an abundance of food – hey this is my fantasy…) I would bring my Instant Pot (although my KitchenAid was a close second.  Those attachments and the machine count as one, right?).  How I went so long without an instant pot can only be summed up that I am a big, fat chicken who was afraid she’d blow her house up.  Hasn’t happened yet.  What has happened is I make fantastic meals in a fraction of the time. Now I have more time for fantasizing about that deserted island and grocery shopping on line.
  • Research – You can’t do this alone.  Believe me, I tried and failed.  Visit the different blogs and web pages out there.  My favorites are Against All Grain, Whole30, Nom Nom Paleo and Physicalkitchness.  You can find their web pages or look them up via social media.  I have found a plethora of support and it makes me not feel so alone in this.
  • Shopping – Eating paleo can get expensive but there are ways to save (both time and money).  Our local grocery store will do the shopping for you and bring it to your car. I love this.  While I’m prepping my meal plan for the week, I shop online and pick the groceries up two hours later. A shame they don’t unload them for me, but that’s what the Hubs is for.  Also take advantage of sites like Thrive Market.  The discounts I get by shopping at their site more than make up the annual fee.  And they ship fast.  Whole Foods –  did  you know some stores deliver?  OMG!  And right to my office door. Then there is Costco for things I buy in bulk like coconut oil, ghee, nuts, nut flours, etc.  I also shop Amazon for deals as well.  Sometimes you even get same day delivery.  Wow. How lazy am I? Although I prefer to say I’m efficient and making the best use of my time. I round my shopping out with local farmers markets when I can get to them.  I really need to be better about that.
  • Keep your pantry/fridge stocked!  Things I ALWAYS have on hand: coconut milk, coconut oil, ghee, bacon, nuts, nut flours, almond butter, sunbutter, cashew butter, bone broth (more on that in a minute), avocado oil mayo, honey, arrowroot powder, spices, chomp sticks, compliant apple sausage, chicken, coconut aminos, apple cider vinegar, Nutpods creamer, fresh fruit and veggies, tuna, eggs and almond milk.  There’s more and maybe my next post will be a lists of all things needed.
  • Broth -Make your own.  It’s super easy.  Especially with an instant pot.  I’ve been making Rebecca Katz’s Magic Mineral Broth.  I make giant batches of it and then store some in the freezer.  It is the base of all my soups, etc.  And when I’m not feeling well I like to sip on it.  If you are going to buy broth, make sure it’s bone broth.  Much better for you.
  • Go see an Integrative Specialist.  Get tested for food allergies/intolerances.  Or follow the Whole30 plan. It’s not easy but 30 days is doable and isn’t your health worth it? You will thank Melissa later.
  • If changing your whole routine is too large a task at the moment and it seems overwhelming to you.  Then make one small change at a time.  However, if you really want to get good results, the Whole30 is a great tool to follow.

I could go on and on and I’m sure you feel like I have.  This is just something I’m passionate about and believe in. By taking an active role in your health, you can change the outcome.  Sure there will be days that are more difficult than others.  There will be some blips along the way but it’s all part of the climb. YOUR climb.

It’s the Climb – Miley Cyrus

I can almost see it
That dream I am dreaming
But there’s a voice inside my head saying
“You’ll never reach it”

Every step I’m taking
Every move I make feels
Lost with no direction
My faith is shaking

But I gotta keep trying
Gotta keep my head held high

There’s always gonna be another mountain
I’m always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be a uphill battle
Sometimes I’m gonna have to lose

Ain’t about how fast I get there
Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side
It’s the climb

The struggles I’m facing
The chances I’m taking
Sometimes might knock me down
But no, I’m not breaking

I may not know it
But these are the moments that
I’m gonna remember most, yeah
Just gotta keep going

And I, I got to be strong
Just keep pushing on

‘Cause there’s always gonna be another mountain
I’m always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be a uphill battle
Sometimes I’m gonna have to lose

Ain’t about how fast I get there
Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side
It’s the climb, yeah!

There’s always gonna be another mountain
I’m always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be an uphill battle
Somebody’s gonna have to lose

Ain’t about how fast I get there
Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side
It’s the climb, yeah!

Keep on moving, keep climbing
Keep the faith, baby
It’s all about, it’s all about the climb
Keep the faith, keep your faith, whoa

Body, mind and spirit

It appears I have a raging fungal infection in my sinuses and am developing another round of oral thrush. Because, of course I do. All stress-related, I’m sure. Fortunately, I know what to do when this happens so I’ve bumped up my supplements and probiotic intake and am drinking lots of water and herbal tea to flush this out.  And then there’s the sinus rinsing.  Lots and lots of sinus rinsing.  I also bumped up my workout routine.  That may seem counter intuitive to you since I’m fighting off infection but it has been really great for me. I have a trainer pushing me and I feel so accomplished and strong after each workout.  Right now, it’s vital that I continue to push myself and fight mind, body, and spirit.

Body – During this time, I’ve been playing around with food. Now that I’m working out harder, I find I need more protein. My latest favorite is lettuce wraps.  How can something so easy be so fantastically wonderful?  Really, I’m addicted to them. And they are so portable.  I fill mine up with turkey, ham, peppers, a pickle, a little mustard and avocado…    And they are super easy to make: just lay out some parchment paper and then place your lettuce and start stacking your fillings.  And then roll, while tucking in your ends.  Once it is rolled, slice in two like a deli sandwich.  I can’t eat the whole thing, so this gives me two sandwiches.  And, they are filling.  If I feel like I need something else or something crunchy, I’ll have an apple. Snacks for me now consist of a hardboiled egg or maybe some tuna or walnuts.  I never realized how tasty plain walnuts are and the healthy fat is good for you. I’m also very deliberate with my breakfast as well, ensuring I have enough protein to tide me over until lunch.  And, water.  I drink lots and lots of water.  I’m lucky in that the women’s restroom is in very close proximity to my office, that’s how much water I consume each day.

Mind and Spirit – A weekend getaway to the ocean allowed me to clear my head and breathe and reflect. I was reminded I am strong in spirit. Maybe a little too strong in spirit because, on the way home from that trip, I registered for a 10k and my second half marathon. I’m also running a 12k in three months. I continue to push myself to run and swim because it makes me feel good – normal. And it’s my way to say to my illness “you aren’t going to win this battle. You are NOT getting the best of me.”

I swam Alcatraz a couple of years ago (850 of my closest friends and I jumped off the boat at Alcatraz and swam back). And I share this because that was THE hardest thing I’ve ever done. And now, when things get tough or I doubt myself, I remember what an amazing thing I accomplished and that no matter what I end up facing, I will do so with the same grace and determination.  Find that one thing which makes you feel strong and embrace it.  Hang on to it tightly and when the going gets tough, remind yourself you are strong, you can do this, whatever “this” happens to be. We all have that inner fight inside us.  We just have to believe enough in ourselves to listen and act upon it. If I can do it, so can you!

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Feeding your soul

I share with you much about feeding your body but not of feeding your soul. And as I type this I’m doing just that. It’s four o’clock in the morning and I sit on the balcony overlooking the ocean. Not another soul is stirring. It’s just me and my thoughts and the sound of the ocean in a place which means so much to me. A place which evokes so many memories of my children and my own childhood. Today, this is my church and I sit in the silence  just listening. God is all around me. I feel it and I am comforted. A friend of mine said many are with me this weekend as I walk the beach and also as I pray. And I feel it. I feel their prayers and love. In this moment I know I’m not alone.

I share this with you because we all need to experience a moment like this. To be still and just feel. To listen. And it’s a rare moment we do just that. And it doesn’t have to be at the ocean. We just need to find a moment in our day to still ourselves. To center ourselves body, mind and spirit. We are so careful of what we put in and on our bodies but what of our soul? To truly heal, we must care for that as well.

I challenge you to do just that. Find a quiet place and just be. Listen to the things around you. The wind or the rain, the birds… Just listen and breathe. If you need to, go back in your mind to a moment or place in time. Hear the sounds, breathe in the scents. Breathe… I guarantee you will find the same innner peace I did this morning.

Peace.

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Here we go again…

I’ve been a little quiet lately because there’s just been too much going on – I’ll get to that later…  I had planned to share Super Bowl snacks with everyone because that’s a day wrapped around food and can be tough when you are on a limited diet.  Tough, but not impossible.  In fact, we didn’t suffer one bit! It was just me and my husband, so I made guacamole and served with Taro chips and baby carrots, and then we ate ribs that I cooked in the instant pot with potato salad and artichokes also cooked in the instant pot.  All paleo, all delicious!  And, not mindlessly snacking the whole game didn’t even bother me. And what a game, huh? The potato salad was from Danielle Walker’s Celebrations cookbook https://www.amazon.com/Danielle-Walkers-Against-Grain-Celebrations/dp/1607749424 and I used the barbecue sauce from her blog: http://againstallgrain.com/2015/04/22/paleo-bbq-sauce/.  I cut up the ribs to fit in the instant pot and then seasoned with garlic powder, salt and pepper and then stacked on the tray in the pot.  I then added some BBQ sauce to the ribs, added the water to the bottom of the pot and cooked for about 20 minutes.  Then, I pulled the ribs out of the pot placed them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment, added some more BBQ sauce and put in the oven for 10 minutes on each side.  These ribs were so good and tasted like I had slow cooked them all day! For dessert, we had homemade applesauce with cinnamon that I made earlier in the day, again in my instant pot. Gosh, I can’t believe I went without this magical appliance for so long.

This week, meals have been easy because I made a large salad on Sunday, cooked up a bunch of chicken thighs, and made a giant meatloaf.  Yup, you guessed it, both in my instant pot.  I just add in fresh veggies during the week and, voila, yummy meals. What’s great about eating this way is that we don’t have much in the way of waste.  I noticed some yams and sweet potatoes that were either going to have to be used up or trashed.  So, I made hash and that has been the base of my breakfast all week.  It was also part of my dinner last night as I was craving an egg.  So, dinner consisted of crumbled meatloaf over the sweet potato hash with a fried egg on top.  Heaven on a plate, I say!  The meatloaf was an experiment so once I firm up the ingredients, I will share the recipe.  But, what I can tell you is it included bacon and BBQ sauce.  The only thing I love more than a fried egg is bacon.

So, now to what is going on.  By creating this blog, I committed to being totally open with my readers about what is going on with my health because I hope, through me, you can learn.  I mentioned a while back some redness I noticed on my right breast and how I was scared.  I’ve been down this road before about a year and a half ago before I got really ill.  The doctors were convinced I had Inflammatory Breast Cancer and my husband and I spent three months in Hell. I don’t wish that on anyone.  Fortunately for me, I finally responded to an antibiotic and whatever “it” was cleared up.  To this day we still aren’t completely sure what “it” was.  The Dr. said maybe MRSA or cellulitis but she was really just guessing. Shortly thereafter I became ill and it all went downhill from there.  Was this a warning of what was to come?  I don’t know.  I’ll never know.  However, here I sit all these months later, again with the same redness on my right breast. I, of all people, should know better about putting something like this off but I finally called the doctor and was seen yesterday.  He said he thinks it’s NOT an infection and requested an urgent mammogram.  Here we go again.  All those emotions I experienced before came flooding back and I was terrified.  What if they got it wrong last time?  What if all this time has been wasted when I could have received treatment?  If it’s not cancer, is this a warning my immune system again taking a dive? And, here we go again… After the mammogram, I had an ultrasound as well.  No lump but I do have some skin thickening and it was requested that I have a biopsy.  Today I’m in fight/anger mode.  I’ve been in remission for two, almost three months.  Really, couldn’t I just be healthy for a while?!! My head tells me to stay calm and that this is nothing but I very rarely listen to myself.

And I’m not telling you this for sympathy.  Although if you can say a little prayer for me, I sure won’t turn that down.  I tell you this for your own personal awareness.  Breast cancer doesn’t always appear as a lump.  Sometimes it’s dimpling or redness.  http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/inflammatory-breast-cancer/basics/definition/con-20035052  I beg of you, if you see something that seems strange, call your doctor.  Don’t wait.  You know your body better than anyone.  The odds are it probably isn’t cancer, however better to be sure and be treated right away. This goes for anything, really.  If you notice anything that seems strange, CALL YOUR DOCTOR!  This is YOUR life.  YOUR health.  Take charge.  Question your doctors.  It’s ok.  And by taking charge of your health, I mean not only asking questions but being smart about what you put in and on your body.  Read labels.  Be informed.  We have but this one life and it’s up to us to take care of ourselves. 

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Food, food and more food

I promised you a peek this week into what we eat, so here is a midweek snapshot. Again, remember I prepped everything over the weekend so now we can just grab and go or reheat. I was especially thankful for this last night, as I was able to go for a run when I got home from work and not worry about having to cook dinner.

Let me start with our brunch on Saturday- I made a veggie hash (cauliflower, shredded Brussels sprouts, diced red, yellow and green peppers, onion and garlic) with fried eggs and bacon.  A healthy and well-deserved meal after a six mile run. I was famished!

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On Sunday, a few favorites I prepped were “corn” bread, chocolate zucchini muffins and applesauce.  The “corn” bread is from Danielle Walker’s Celebrations cookbook and is gluten and corn free but tastes amazingly like the real thing.  I made the applesauce in my instant pot and I can never wait for it to cool down; I love it when it’s still warm. And I shared the recipe for the chocolate zucchini muffins with you on Sunday.  OMG they are so good and taste like a chocolate cupcake.  These are gluten, nut and dairy free and let me just say I’m in total love and, once again, my family is none the wiser!

 

We are early risers and are at the gym by 5 a.m. so need to have a portable breakfast to heat up.  I like making steel cut oats in my instant pot but I also make an egg bake every Sunday as well, filled with whatever veggies I have on hand and even add a diced sweet potato now and again.  Each week, the egg bake is a little different so we never grow tired of it.

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One of the things I prepped for the week was a giant batch of shredded buffalo chicken in my instant pot.  During the week it’ll be used in salads and GF street tacos.  I also made a batch of GF, dairy free ranch dressing using avocado mayo, coconut milk, dill, salt, onion powder, garlic powder and celery salt.

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The fried chicken meatballs?  They were a hit! Our granddaughter thought they were good chicken “nuggets.”  I served them with mashed sweet potato, homemade applesauce and a salad with the dijon mustard vinaigrette I make (honey, dijon mustard and champagne vinegar).  Also, note the gravy on the potatoes.  Instead of using flour as a thickener, I used arrowroot powder.  The stock was left over from the whole chicken I made and I seasoned it with some salt, a little pepper, sage and dill.

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One of my favorite finds was the crispy “swoodles” from Nom Nom Paleo.  I was craving a waffle and tried her experiment by adding one egg and then cooking in the waffle iron.  I was really craving a waffle and this not only took care of that craving, but it was fantastic.  I’m thinking I need to make a batch of these this weekend.

 

And finally, my dinner last night.  I went for a run after work so was again thankful to be able to quickly reheat.  Last night’s feast was chicken and apple sausage, “swoodles,” leftover green beans and my homemade applesauce.

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As you can see, we don’t eat cardboard.  Sometimes eating this way means having to be creative but creative doesn’t equal bad or tasteless. In fact, what we eat is quite the opposite of tasteless or weird.  Danielle Walker shared a video yesterday on her lasagna.( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=53urdKo55rA&t=6s ) I can’t wait to make that, as I’ve been craving her lasagna for a while.  Again, something I made for unsuspecting family and they practically licked the pan clean. I’ll keep sharing my meals with you and posting recipes and links.  I know you are wondering about snacks and what to do in the middle of the day when you are famished but know you shouldn’t hit the vending machine – because you shouldn’t. I always carry food with me and next time will share ways to beat that mid-afternoon slump.  Until then, happy eating.