The Strong Girl Survives

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor  the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to  change. ~Charles Darwin

Changes in my life have changed me for what seems a million times.  I’d like to think it’s eased up by now and definitely getting better.  Most changes that I’ve endured have also changed my body, looks and self-esteem over the years…for the good and many for the bad.  And for those reasons I thought I would go more in-depth to some of the occurrences in my life that have made positive or negative changes.  Back at the beginning of my blog I gave you my health and fitness journey for the past couple years, but I think the body and mind affect each other over time.  I can’t go into the “why’s” of it all…because I just really don’t know why…I think change (shit) happens and I guess the strong girl survived.

Let’s dip back in time to early teens…yes the awkward stage for most girls and boys and geez was I ever awkward.  I was overweight, had bad acne, glasses until the 9th grade, not “popular” and add in that it was the early 80’s…not a good image!  Eating at home wasn’t that bad, but there was a corner store across the street that was full of candy bars and chips just for me!  The poor self-esteem started to develop.  My best thing going for me was my artwork. By the 11th grade in high school being able to draw Prince, Michael Jackson and Simon LeBon made me a hit for a while.  And my weight fluctuated of course because I was feeling good.  That is until  September 26th, 1984 when my mom passed away from leukemia at age 39.  I’m sure I do not need to go into how devastating it was for me and my family.  I was 16, starting my senior year in high school…life was not good.  I remember my art teacher telling me I needed to snap out of it…not to be harsh, but I was becoming comatose.  I did a little, but starting college my funk grew worse on the inside and for the next few years and I gained and gained and gained weight.  I would cope on the outside trying to stay happy and focused (at least I think that’s the game I played), but my insides needed hot fudge sundaes and big plates of whatever I could shove in.

Then I saw the photos of my drunken 19th birthday at the bar (yes in Canada the drinking age is 19) and I was horrified!  Had I not looked in a mirror for a few years?!  What happened to me?!  The oversized baggy clothes covered me up.  I stepped on a scale and it tipped at 180lbs for my little 5’0″ frame.  BOOM…Change!  I went on a “health” kick or what I would call now a starvation diet.  I kept track of every single calorie that went in my body.  If it was low-calorie, low-fat, low portion then I was in.  I kept myself to 500 calories a day during the week and on Saturdays and Sundays I would splurge a little, but on going out/drinking nights I wouldn’t eat so I could drink.  Nice.  I also exercised a lot…whatever excercise video I could fit in. In a year I lost 81 lbs…down to weighing 99 lbs!  Sounds good…uh no…someone actually told me I had a big head.  I learned some good exercises, but I had no muscle at all (because it weighed more so why do that!) and I was skinny.

The next 20 years, and boy have they flown by, can be considered a roller coaster of life events that would affect me mentally and physically over time…some of it literally a blur; a whirlwind of depression to happiness and seemingly going nowhere in-between…from marriage/divorce to moving adventures to owning a restaurant to a hurricane to this, that and the other.  The final “blow” per se, would be the day my Dad passed away suddenly in 2006…rolling about life, doing pretty well, the phone call comes in.  Back to that numb feeling.  Yes, it affected my weight again and put me in a sad state, but after a year of that I knew something in me had to change.  It sounds corny to say I had to “find myself”, but I think everyone does at some point in their life…and since it didn’t take overnight to get myself into this rut, it wouldn’t happen overnight to get out of it.  My dad had a huge change in his life when my mom passed away…he could have withered away, but decided to take life by the horns and live it to the fullest…knowing there is only one life to live and it’s pretty short, relatively speaking.  I would say he was, all in all, having a happy, fun life up until the day he died.  Hmm…something to learn from this man.

Since that day, the changes kept coming…trying to figure out how life is supposed to work…I still stumbled and I think earlier this year the lightbulb went off, which lead to my current journey.

A few months ago, when I started my blog, my cousin sent me a message on Facebook: “Congratulations, I’m really impressed with your transformation.  You should feel proud.  I’m only sending these so you can gloat.”  And attached was three photos, which I thought were from my worst moment at 19 years old, but looking closer, it was only about 10 years ago.  I was shocked because I didn’t recognize that lost, overweight woman.

And then I received another message from him that really touched me and means so much to me…I would have been hesitant to include this, but support like this keeps the journey going : “Hi Denise, First off, congrats again on the tremendous transformation.  Unreal.  I want to say though your greatest accomplishment is the mental toughness that it took to see it through.  Your determination is remarkable.  Even more though, good for you finding your solid ground of independence.  I know you’re a victim of mental abuse for at least a period of time.  I heard it myself.  Your breakthrough should be a celebration of self-confidence, determination and belief.  A lot of people spend a lot of time believing in something else, but you’ve shown a wonderful belief in yourself.  I’m happy for you.”

Writing this today, I have most certainly almost come full circle.  Even I have realized health, fitness, food, love, positivity and doing what you enjoy are the keys to happiness.  It’s not just one thing.  Coming full circle means connecting each of those rings of life.  Making it happen.  And still as I’m typing, I am still trying to figure part of it out.  I want my art to be a bigger part of my life, some way some how.  That will connect the rings.  I guess the changes will keep coming, but now I know to just adapt to the change and not just react by grabbing the first box of cookies and hiding in my cave.

I know my story pales in comparison to some and similar to many.  If you have a life story of overcoming the many obstacles you faced, let me know and possibly write a post about it.

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Stop the Holiday Bulge

So you’ve finished gobbling down pounds of turkey with gravy, sugary cranberry sauce, hoards of stuffing, marshmallowy sweet potatoes and ooey gooey pies and cakes.  And probably couldn’t move….but today you barely lifted your ass out of the bed or away from the TV to hit the sales at the stores. Well, this is just the beginning of 6 weeks of holiday fun, or should I say: don’t buy that holiday outfit yet because at this rate you wont fit in it!  And in New Orleans we get another 6 weeks of indulging with Mardi Gras, aka King Cake season. starting right after New Years.

I love the Christmas season…the lights, the trees, the music, the scents, the magical feeling, but last year I stood strong and did not give in to the holiday extra pounds.  It’s not that I didn’t or won’t have some fun in the way of food or drinks, but I’ve learned how to not let it control me.  Aren’t you tired of starting the New Year with another useless resolution to lose weight, get in shape and get healthy?  Well it’s okay to start now and still have some Holiday fun.  So, let’s put the Thanksgiving pig-out party aside and go ahead and buy yourself a new outfit for the holiday parties…and girls make it cute and sexy….this will be your first incentive to not gain any more weight this Christmas season.

No more jumping up and down trying to get your jeans on and laying down hoping they will button up…and no more having to wear sweat pants to Christmas dinner because you filled up on Holiday party goodies since Thanksgiving.  I’ve complied a few ideas to keep you on track and no, it won’t include forced vomiting after inhaling piles of cakes, cookies, breads and pies!

  • If you have a workout schedule now, don’t quit.  If you do 4 days a week, do 4 or at least 3.  If you don’t, then take up walking outdoors.  Winter, especially those of you with snow (or even sand) have a great advantage to keeping that heart rate up and staying fit.  Lift some weights!  Chop down your own tree.  Move all those boxes filled with decorations.  Holiday cleaning. Keep moving.
  • Before the holiday parties, eat at home.  Eat a meal or a good hearty snack.  I know you don’t want to cook, but having a good size portion of protein or even some nuts and healthy carbs like fruit or a big sweet potato will fill you up and keep you focused.  There is no worse decision (and I’ve done it before) than to starve yourself all day so you can eat and drink whatever you want that night at the party.  Not sure what is worse, the hangover from not eating all day or the misery of stuffing your face so much because you were starved when you arrived.
  • Choose not to bake this year.  I always felt obligated to bake numerous mounds of family cookie and pie recipes.  And although they bring great memories and taste oh so good, I would say I ate half of them! I’d give them away as gifts, bring them to work…bake and bake and bake and really would eat and eat and eat.  As you’ve read before I am addicted to sugar and most people are…so why put the crack in front of the crack addict?  I WAS a Christmas treat junkie and have put that aside.  Last year I only made meat pies and gave those away.  This year…I am making nothing.  Saving myself and my bank account.
  • If you do want to or need to bake for a party, then choose wisely.  Choose a cookie or treat that won’t make you weighted down, bloated and miserable for giving in.   I can’t go into enough why sugar and gluten (grains) are bad for your health and waistline, but instead of putting all that here, just believe me that using some recipes from many Paleo websites, blogs and cookbooks are definitely the way to go and you will be able to leave the guilt behind. (of course provided you don’t eat the whole pan of those too).  Choose coconut or almond flours instead of gluten filled flours.  Don’t use sugar, but if you must use extra dark chocolate without soy products added or a little local real honey. Nuts and dried fruit make a cookie or dessert hearty and sweet.  Don’t use vegetable shortenings, but instead use lard, grass-fed butter or coconut oil.  Keeping it full of good fats and nutrient filled ingredients instead of glutenous globs of gunk will make your new Christmas desserts a hit!
  • Go ahead and drink some adult beverages (if you are of age, of course).  Since I’ve discovered hard apple cider (or Pear) drafts, I’m hooked.  If that doesn’t suit you for a beer substitute, then just try to steer clear of gluten filled regular or light beer.  And try to steer clear of sugary liquors.  Opt for wine (red preferably) or clear liquor like vodka or tequila.  Egg nog is probably not a good choice because of the sugar and dairy, but if you do have some, and who can have much anyway, stick to the full fat egg nog made of egg and real cream…it’ll be so rich you will only have one.
  • When you hit the buffet, make good choices (as a friend of mine always says).  Go fill up your plate with the meat, seafood (not fried), veggies and fruit.  That will be the most satisfying and you probably won’t want much more. And stay away from the pastas, fried food, sauces, dips, crackers and breads. IF you still crave a “treat”, then go for it after you have filled up on the meat, fruit and veggies.  Just try to hit the non-bread or cake/non-gluten varieties…a piece of fudge is better than a piece of cake or cheesecake and don’t eat the crust or have homemade ice-cream.  Control yourself Sweet Cheeks…one treat is fine…

So, now you’re ready for the Holiday Season right? Let’s have some fun and start it off right with some good decisions we won’t feel guilty about and with a little Christmas cheer from New Orleans (the last time it snowed here in 2008)…

It’s Not Just a Diet, It’s a Lifestyle

Paleo diet, Caveman (or Cavewoman) diet…whatever you want to call it, it’s more than a diet, it’s a decision to change your life for the better.  It’s about obtaining and maintaining ultimate health…more and great sleep…forming a community…little stress…making time to play…make time for yourself…positive attitude…loving yourself…more fun…lifting heavy things and enjoying it…happiness.  It’s getting back to the basics.  Adapt to nature.  It’s about spending time with family and friends, laughing together, eating together, playing together…sharing life.

When I took on the diet part I didn’t know about anything more than taking control of my health, which really, when you take care of this main part the rest of it falls into place.  With all the research I did, I realized in order to have the best health possible I would have to put the whole picture into perspective.

Surprisingly most of the changes came naturally with the diet; hard to explain.  Even though I’ve adapted to the diet 100%, I am still working on the lifestyle…this requires more discoveries, more time and more changes I am more than willing to make.  I like this life.

  • Exercise becomes more natural.  Lift heavy things.  Take long walks (walk dogs).  Feel stronger.
  • Enjoy nature.  Listen to the night sounds.  Savor the sound of waves on a beach.  Watch sunsets and sunrises. Encounter nature alone or with others.  You will just be more aware of your surroundings.
  • Discover all the parks around you.  I know of several parks in Southeast Louisiana that I would love to visit again.  It’s peaceful.
  • Enjoy the sun and feel the benefits of natural vitamin D without coating our skin with chemicals.
  • Sleep for 8-9 hours a night because it makes us feel good, productive and necessary for good health.
  • Learn to appreciate real food and how it is made.  Discover real farmers who raise animals, vegetables, eggs and fruits in a natural way.  You will just be more thoughtful about your food and make better decisions about what you put in your body when you commit to only eating whole real food.
  • Discover new local places to get your meats like a local butcher or a farmer’s market.  Plant some vegetables or herbs.
  • Researching to know what foods make you healthy and why.  What nutrients and vitamins are contained in food you eat.  It not only gives you more knowledge for yourself, but you will be able to help others.
  • Spending time with family and the people you love.  My last trip home was more significant to me than I ever thought it would be and that is saying a lot. Laughing, playing, cooking together.  From sunsets and boating to a concert to happy hours to BBQ family gatherings to cooking together and laughing together.  Really enjoy good times.
  • Finding people with like interests with the Paleo lifestyle and forming a little community of friends to bond with.  Maybe it’s in the city or an online group.
  • Simple living.  Cut things out that have no meaning.  Throw things away that aren’t necessary.  Maybe it’s time to just live a little more basic because it is really all you need.  You will find you will appreciate what you own more than before.  It might be papers, books, Mardi Gras beads, clothes that don’t fit.  Maybe it’s people in your life that clutter your head.
  • Enjoy slow living.  Have a campfire or make a fire pit.  Walk in the rain…I do have my shrimp boots :). Have a picnic.  Go camping.  Go canoeing or kayaking.  Go fishing. Go boating to enjoy that sunset. Plant a garden. Stare up at the sky and star-gaze.  Play games.  Be silly. Throw water balloons.  Build a fort inside or outside.
  • Be creative.  Creative art, writing (hey who would have thought I would have started a blog!), photography, building things, collecting, sewing.  Make it fun.  Creating makes you happy…believe me.

You get the idea.  I still like the Paleo or Caveman lifestyle to describe it…maybe that forgotten world is really what it’s supposed to be like for us humans. We know all animals should eat, live and play in their own natural way, but that’s changed for us, but why? Sure progress is wonderful, but not if we are too sick, too busy or sad to enjoy it.  It’s a nice feeling to eventually have a stress-free, peaceful, happy life…one in which I am fulfilled on the outside and the inside.  Euphoria.  That’s what I’m striving for.  I feel I make discoveries about myself, my life and my surroundings daily.  Ever-changing.  Becoming fearless.

Love this song…it’s a little primal in sound and the only words “Don’t think about all those things you fear, just be glad to be here”.

Pink-Slime Chicken and Cheese in a Tube Anyone?

This may be shocking to many of you, but much of what is consumed in today’s diets is just edible food-like substances that passes itself off as food.  It is stuff that your great-grandmother would scratch her head trying to decipher what the 15 ingredients are on the label or hell, food was actually food in her day so they didn’t have labels and warnings!

Do you accept that because of the outside of the box (the marketing ploy) tells you the content is “healthy”, “nutrient-rich”, “low-fat”, “diet”, or “gluten-free” then it must be true?  It has a picture of a skinny person on it that it will make you thin? That these people really care about your health?  Surprise, surprise…they don’t and it’s not true.  We have all believed the scam and by now you know I have done my research and none of the crap they tell us is true; it is not good for us. Hell a lot of that food won’t even go bad even if you haven’t touched it for months!  Example…I threw out an open bag of shredded cheese a few weeks ago that had been opened a few months prior and the crap did not have a speck of mold on it.  In fact still smelled and looked fresh as the day it was purchased. (I use the word “fresh” lightly”) What the hell did they put in it to make it stay that way?  Maybe this is another way of telling you don’t eat food that won’t rot!

Eat the way we humans were designed to eat, eat Real Food.  Don’t be part of a science experiment. Nearly all foods that are processed contain some kind of ingredient in it that has had its “DNA” interfered with by scientists,  I’ve heard it called “Franken-foods” (great name) – tested in labs and determined “good” for you and your family.  Scary. Whether you call it Franken-foods or Synthetic-snacks, they are filled with crap you can’t even pronounce and sadly people are buying it and injesting in huge quantities daily. There is plenty of facts documenting the hazards on health of this so-called food.  Some of the items in these fake foods your doctor may even tell you will cure you…like whole grain (that’s a whole other blog post).  There is Potted Meat in a Can…gives me the shivers to think about it. And I saw yogurt in a tube. I guess the containers are too cumbersome. What’s next, Pizza in a can? Or how about chocolate chip pancakes, syrup and breakfast sausage in a tube? (oh I don’t know those could be on a shelf now)……just squeeze it in the pan and fry in some plastic margarine that apparently cures heart disease.  And processed food can look totally normal…look at the ingredients in pretty much every cereal and granola bar…pretty soon you will hear “Clean Up on the Diabetes Aisle”. Take a look at any “diet” food.  They replaced the ingredients, which they think you shouldn’t have, with more mystery ingredients and names that are otherwise known as sugar just to take calories out. Well, people buy this stuff, then go to the doctor, who gives you drugs to take.  Then what…statin drugs, insulin reducers, and blood pressure meds in your food? That vicious cycle is possible if you keep buying into it. The fact is that companies come up with these crazy ideas and people actually buy them.  And I am all about making money, but come on!  Think about what you put in your body.  The old saying “you are what you eat” really is a true statement.

Next time you are at your box grocery store, take a look in some of the carts and see what is in them, then look at the people.  Astonishing right? Now…take a look at your cart.

Real food is my rule.

Here is a video from George Carlin on food.  Boy, not only was he hilarious, he had the most clever and honest way of putting our real life situations.  If you are offended by cuss words then don’t watch.  Enjoy!