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Simplifying Dietary Changes

The Struggle is Real

The holidays are over and I am still having trouble getting back on track with my diet. These are the thoughts that have been floating around in my mind:

Carbs taste good, I’m pregnant, just one more day, it’s just “social” eating, one more treat, I’m tired of cooking, cleaning, planning, purchasing.

There ya have it. All excuses to not be my best self. Have you ever had that dialogue floating around in your mind?

I KNOW changing my diet changed my life. I found a healthy, stable weight, my periods returned like healthy clockwork, my son’s medical issue resolved, my feelings of anxiety released, and countless other benefits.

Why, oh why are bad habits so hard to break? Why is convenience more important than health?

Last night, I really had to give myself a reality check. I’m going to deliver a baby in just a few short months, and I do not want a repeat of my last birth experience. Plus, I want my body to bounce back so that I’m not telling another story of postpartum depression or healing difficulties.

Three Tips to Simplify

Simplifying the diet is key. I’ve had to adapt so that I’m not cooking and cleaning all day, or having to run all over the state finding appropriate ingredients.

How have I simplified?

1. Shopping in bulk and mail order has been #1. I found a local source for high quality meat, and place a big order about every 2 months.

Our Costco membership has also been amazing and saves quite a bit of money. We can find compliant cheeses, vegetables, grain-free products in bulk, nice cooking oils, avocado oil mayo, almond flour, compliant salad dressings and several other staples. Scheduling this every 4-6 weeks keeps our pantry stocked and minimizes our trips to run out for just an item or two.

Amazon Prime or Thrive Market are excellent sources to find items that aren’t as accessible in the mainstream market. For me, I would have to drive an hour to a grocery store or health food store that carries compliant baking items.

2. Meal planning is also important. I used to be able to replace a meal with a protein shake to lighten my cooking load. Being pregnant has required that I eat 3 meals and only use shakes for protein rich snacks. Have you ever tried planning 21 meals a week? Its laborious.

Batch cooking and freezing is a good method to lighten the load or just having a plan for dinner by 10 am tends to work for me. Unthawing meat, knowing what veggies need prepped and just general timeline can make the task easier.

Cooking enough food to have leftovers for lunch is also a time saver, or cooking a bigger batch of a favorite that can be eaten over the course of several days for lunch.

3. Instant Pot

I have had my instant pot for about a year and wasn’t sure if I loved it or not. It is not something I use daily but it works wonders to cook a good, healthy, nutritious meal very quickly. I love it for soups and stews or to cook a perhaps frozen chicken very quickly to use for multiple meals.

These are just my tips and tricks that help me stay focused and on task with what I’m putting in my body. I am going to share one of my favorite lunch, batch cooking recipes. I make enough for several days and serve on a bed of greens with a few Simple Mills grain-free crackers. It’s both healthy and satisfying.

Lemon Tarragon Chicken Salad

2 lb. pasture raised chicken breasts

3 stalks of celery, diced

lemon juice

4 Tbs chopped, fresh tarragon

avocado oil mayo (Chosen Foods brand, I buy at Costco)

handful of dried, unsweetened cranberries

1. Drizzle chicken breasts with avocado oil and lemon juice, sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake at 375 degrees for about 25 min.

2. Cool and dice chicken breasts.

3. Add diced celery, tarragon, salt, pepper, and enough mayo to coat thoroughly. Approximately 1/2-3/4 c. Mix well. Add 1-2 Tbs. lemon juice and cranberries and mix again.

4. Chill and serve.

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Growing Pains

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Today, I am sitting down to write. I have looked at this screen and have not known where to go with my posting. I jot down words and half sentences nearly every day, however knowing where to go with those notes is often perplexing. Today I am writing on what it means for me to be an adult. My birthday is coming up tomorrow, so what a perfect season to reflect on adulthood. I mentioned in a previous post that I had to grow up quickly. I did. I took on adult responsibilities like earning an income, buying groceries, doing my own laundry, etc. These tasks are part of being an adult, although the longer I’ve been on this earth, the more I’m finding the meaning of growing up is much deeper than the chores I manage.

Becoming emotionally mature has been a much bigger piece than the “tasks” of day-to-day adulthood. How my life goes, how it is perceived, how I struggle (or enjoy) all depends on what goes on in my mind. If the world is my mirror then I must approach the world with positive attitude so that this place I inhabit is a positive place.  In all of my self-improvement studies and yoga practices I have heard the words “forgive”, “let go”, and other flowery words that sound so nice and peaceful. My mind would always struggle with those concepts. How do I let go? How do I keep the thoughts, the pains, the pressure from returning?

The word to describe the “how” of letting go and forgiving is surrender. Surrender is the ability to balance and calm emotions when we are being very rigid or stuck in our ways. Often when we’ve experienced a trauma or a tremendous pain, we carry that pain with us for years or even decades. This can block our vision to a happier, healthier future. The negativity can create stress in our bodies, and the longer we hold the stress we create tension patterns that can then turn to disease. When we surrender, we relax our bodies and clear our minds so that we can focus on what is important and the steps to get to the “other side”. The “other side” is just living in a space where we operate from joy and from love.

If we can operate from a space of joy and love we can truly begin to enjoy life, see the beauty of what is around us. Sometimes stormy thoughts keep us from noticing what is good even if it is right in front of our face. Choosing to surrender, in a sense cleanses the mind and the body. Any fear, anxiety, or negative chemistry are then released and  softness is created in the body, a release of tension. When we release tension from negative emotions, we are maturing and defeating an enemy of sorts– the enemy that is ourselves.

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My “Why”

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To be propelled toward a goal, most often a pressing “why” or urge is the force that drives someone. That why is a motivator, something to stay focused on. Since the beginning of my life I have had a pretty clear “why” statement. I was born into a family full of addiction and abuse. I remember sitting in my room at age 4 telling myself I would “break the cycle”. It was a strange clarity for a little girl.

As a fourth grader, I learned how deep the drug addiction was. I learned about crack cocaine, methamphetamines, overdose, and who to call when it happens. This is also the year I attended my first Al-Anon meeting. I took notes in the Al-Anon meetings, I knew what it meant to be an “enabler”, a “scapegoat”, the “hero”, and all of the other verbiage from these meetings. My dad was the known addict in our family, the one who lived a more openly addicted life. My mom was just as bad– although better, for a while, at covering her tracks. My brother quickly spiraled down the same path of addiction at a very early age. I learned about the lies it takes to be an addict, and I became a good liar when it came to covering up what my home life was like.

When someone is addicted, they can not love. No matter what, the drug or object of addiction is the only thing that matters. I grew up quickly, taking on the role of adult before it was age appropriate. I felt it was unfair, that surely life did not have to be this way. I connected myself to bad relationships where I continually had to play the role of “mother”, or “fixer”. Co-dependent is the title for that role. Growing up without proper role models and support is definitely a different sort of path, and a path I was quite ashamed of.

Thank heavens I know what I know now. I learned how to change a story and recognize your “why”. The desire to break the cycle of addiction, poverty, and abuse became my mission. Luckily, I stumbled on to the right information to begin to make it happen. Years of therapy never helped release my body from the anxiety. It felt as if the only way to get to the “root’ of the issue was by rethinking and retelling my stories over and over. That kept my mind in a place looking for someone or something outside of myself to either blame for the pain or to keep me feeling victim to the circumstance. I was not going to take a pill to make myself happy.

Becoming the author of my story was quite empowering. Realizing that I had the power to not be a victim, but the owner. Their actions, their words did not have to control my actions or my outcome. Just because something is a struggle once, or a million times, the power to release the “bondage” of the past came from me. Changing my role in my family was the first step, and changing my thoughts surrounding it was the next one. For me, I would feel anxiety, despair, or depression often. A sadness that came from the loss of what a family “should” be. A feeling of unfairness, or of lack. Instead of whining and feeding the story (those feelings), the power comes from reaching for something “good” when those old feelings of anxiety or despair resurface. Good food, good books, good friendships, good music, an essential oil or a yoga pose– you get the idea. This is a practice. Something that I have to remind myself and repeat over and over. Not to say I do not have “bad” days anymore, it is just that the “bad” days are much shorter.

Regaining my balance now takes a fraction of the time. The anxiety, despair, anger, or depressive feelings used to encompass days, or weeks of my time. Now I can look around and count my blessings and attune to something happier or more beautiful than the darkness that used to float around in my mind. I can send loving thoughts toward my family, even though I no longer feel I  have to participate or try to “fix” their circumstances. Sharing my story from a place of empowerment, of health/wellness, and purpose changes the role I used to carry. Which is modeling a different example for my children, therefore breaking the chains of addiction that were modeled for me.

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Judgement Free Zone

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Tuesday evening I watched my son receive his green belt in Tae Kwon Do. Several times a week I sit in the dojang waiting on his class to end. I look around and see the tenets of Tae Kwon Do on the wall. As a yoga practitioner, it hit me that his tenants are very similar to what Patanjali spoke of in the Yoga Sutras. This is a book of attitudes and behaviors, if we embody will lead to a more purposeful life. The Sutras are a list of to-dos and restraints that we can align our actions towards.

Lately, I have been contemplating judgement. This would be addressed in the TKD tenet of courtesy and in yoga as ahimsa or non-violence. How we judge others is often a reflection of how we judge ourselves. If we are self-critical, we have a near constant stream of internal dialog running. For me, I started contemplating judgement because everything I do in my profession is of service– as a mother, a doula, a yogi, and an entrepreneur. How can I truly serve people if I am coming from a place of judgement?

I took a video of my son doing his form for his belt test, when I went back and watched it I can see that he is very aware of his body, looking at his feet and his arms to make sure his form was in proper alignment as he was supposed to be in a place of stillness and strength. Feelings of insecurity, unworthiness, fear or worry about the past and future  are often the culprits of any sort of judgement. This can cause us to become our own worst bully. The things we think are energy, and judgement creates an energy of criticism.

Becoming aware of our thoughts is the first way to begin to make a change. Thoughts have a lot of power. They are in fact, things. If we are intensely thinking negative, we can quickly downward spiral because thoughts become words, words become behaviors, behaviors become habits and our habits then become our values. Svadhyaya in yoga is self-study or observation. When we become aware of how we think, how much energy we give to certain thoughts, whether constructive or destructive we can begin to make a change. The opposite of judgement is love and compassion, so when a thought of judgement of self or others come up, quickly switch to a loving thought.

For me, the place I see my self-judgement the most is when I sit to meditate, which mimics what I see in Keenan’s forms class. I will sit and bring my focus on my breath, and that is where the judgement begins and my breath will constrict and become shallow. I judge how I breathe! I tell myself I will never be able to do it right! Breathe?!? This is something I have been doing naturally, each and every day since the moment I was born. Pretty ridiculous to judge and stop myself from breathing, lol. Being gently aware of this, I can begin to release the judgement and criticism. Love myself one breath at a time!

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Reset and Rebound

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Last week was a week for the books. Our family has a rhythm, a routine, as I’m sure most families do. The spring time hustle has begun, so our “normal” rhythm is starting to adjust to longer daytime hours and spring activities. Last week, we barely had time to eat together as a family, so the mindfulness we were using at mealtimes was pushed aside for quick, throw together meals. Having this ability is a necessity when your days are full.

Revamping habits and taking hold of a new lifestyle requires discipline and adaptability. This goes for physical, mental, or emotional “weeding”. Since beginning the Plant Paradox, I have really become aware of my relationship with food. I have an anxiety with the thought of being without, or not knowing where my food will come from next. I also have a fear of boredom, or not liking my choices. After 6 weeks of following the lectin-free dietary suggestions, I realized my habits were starting to detour toward the familiar. Even though I was still following the “compliant” foods, my cravings were moving toward sweet, or “comfort” type meals. Heavy meats/protein meals, cheeses, and yogurt were what I would reach for, rather than the vegetables that should lead the show.

We gradually moved toward our old habits unconsciously, which is how most old habits resurface. In our family, we are working on changing our lifestyle, not just “dieting” to lose a few pounds. We are focusing on the insides of our bodies, not the outsides. Over the weekend, we realized how we were feeling and our habitual patterns. My husband and I decided to realign our bodies and our minds and jump-start our gut health by following a 3-day cleanse which helps feed the good guys, not the bad. Looking at our digestive health and our cravings point to the fact that our bad bacteria were asking to be “fed”, so we need to let that go and move toward feeding our bodies not our minds. When we feel stress or pressure from having busy days, that can lead to wanting convenience and comfort, which often is relational to food.

When cleansing, and following a strict plan you realize how little your body actually requires and how much time is often consumed by food. Whether it is thinking about it, planning for it, shopping for it, cooking it, cleaning it up, or going out to eat, and starting the cycle all over each day. It is also easier to see what emotions arise when the atmosphere changes around eating habits. I can use this metaphor around any type of “weeding” I am doing in my life. Good habits take work and repetition, even when it feels easier to “slip” for a day or two, old habits die-hard.