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.

Crescent City Connections

“Cords are made of astral and etheric energy and connect two people’s subtle bodies. They stretch between two people very much like an umbilical cord and transfer emotional energy and chi between the two. It does not matter how far away the other person is, as the cord is not a physical substance and distance is irrelevant, so it is still effective from the other side of the planet.” ~Alchemy Realm

There are connections between two people, who have shared a special bond that they, themselves, cannot describe.  Complete and natural energy within draws them together.  An instant and very strong bond of friendship and/or love.  It is a spiritual, almost psychic connection with this person, that so often words are not even needed because the connection is so strong.  It can happen miles away.  We look at this person or think of them and smile and feel happy.

It instantly forms a telepathic-like bond that when there is the touch of a hand or hug, it can feel like coming home.

I believe it is possible with everyone, but rare if the feelings are fought or the chance is not taken.  This connection forms a relationship that helps you grow and learn together and within oneself.  You get that feeling of connection when you find your best friend.  It can be a connection between two strangers.  It can be the family members or friends you are drawn to the most…who you can’t wait to see and spend time with and laugh with.  It is the connection you feel with a place you visit or live that draws you to the heart of it.  It can mean a soulmate or true love; the person with whom you feel true happiness and joy and which brings a feeling of having waited for this person your whole life…primal attraction.

Your heart and soul is called to them at the moment your eyes meet.  You just know.

Paleo Pizza Recipe

Well, vacation is over and as I’m cooking my turkey meatballs and chili for lunches and dinners and decided to post some recipes this week.  Along with some I’ve played with over my vacation, a good friend of mine, Lyle Gadin, had a couple wonderful recipes he has sent me that I wanted to share with you.  Lyle is a personal/group trainer, who was one of my trainers at GymMatrix and he has since moved his family back to Seattle.  Like many people, even being a trainer at a gym does not mean you always keep your diet healthy.  He is the one that first mentioned the Paleo Diet to me and got me interested…so we started approximately at the same time.  What is special about Lyle’s situation compared to mine is that he has a wife and small children to satisfy and keep healthy…and in the past couple months he has dropped 20+ pounds and he feels better than ever.  Lyle came up with the following recipes for Paleo Pizza (yes Paul and Kim we can enjoy PIZZA!) and Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf aka “The Bacon Bomb” that I plan on trying soon.   The Bacon Bomb will be coming up soon.  If you are wondering why regular pizza should not be consumed, well…sugar, gluten, grains, processed ingredients…so go ahead and try this one that you can make and not feel guilty…filled with good fats and necessary nutrients.

Please follow Lyle on Twitter @lyle_g or his group training facebook page Peak212 – Small Group Training

PALEO PIZZA (from the kitchen of Lyle Gadin):

Ingredients (found them all at Whole Foods):
2 cups almond flour (Bob’s Red Mill – not as coarse)
1 cup arrowroot powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. – ish oregano (I used fresh organic and diced oregano)
1 1/2 tsp. – ish basil (I also used fresh and diced basil)
1 tbsp. – ish of finely diced garlic
1/4 tsp. black pepper
3 eggs
1/2 cup almond milk

Preheat oven to 425°. The batter is like pancake mix consistency, FYI.

I mixed everything and put it in a butter greased round 9″ cooking pan (you might want to use some type of lard, the base did stick a little to my non-stick pan even with butter. After some patient utensil work, I got the pizza bases out unbroken)

I wanted thin crust so I cooked the batter for 6 – 8 mins to firm up then took it out to cool down so I could put the toppings (then I repeated this 4 more times since I only have one Pan, lol). Just make sure the middle is firm. I was able to get 4 thin Pizza bases out of this. If you want a thicker base, maybe cook it 8 – 10 mins so the middle is firm.

I used organic tomato sauce, turkey pepperoni, roasted bell pepper, mushrooms…whatever.

Then I cooked for another 8 – 10 mins at 425° to cook ingredients ( and I like a crispy crust)

I would like to add that you can use any meats or veggies on your pizza, be creative and when you use bacon or pepperoni please use “nitrate free”.  And having made my Paleo pancakes several times, in order to keep from sticking, try some grass-fed butter room at room temperature mixed into the crust ingredients.  For some Paleo people who can tolerate dairy, please use grass-fed raw cheeses or a good parmesan. If you make this, please let us know what toppings you tried! Enjoy!!

Breathe In, Breathe Out

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Three days with no phone, no Internet and no television.  Ahhh felt great…and although most times I love our advanced ways of life, I sure do appreciate rustic semi-primitive life.

My brother, Paul, his wife, Kim and I have just returned from Long Lake in the southern central part of Michigan. Rolling hills, country side, small towns, Amish villages and many lakes filled with summer vacation homes and boats. People from the cities flock here on the weekends looking for their escape from reality. Kim’s family has been coming to their cottage for many years; her grandfather having built the house in the 1940’s and most of her life is filled with wonderful memories that include times on this lake.

And we’ve created new memories the past few days.  Boating, swimming in the lake, home-cooked meals, campfires, sunning on the dock and sunset cruises. My dogs, Mama Bear and Bandit enjoyed hikes in the woods and their first boat rides on the pontoon boat.  We all shared childhood memories and dreams of living like this all the time.  Why can’t it always feel this good…this relaxing?  Really, why can’t it?  Although I love living in New Orleans, the thoughts of traffic, construction and busy neighborhoods really can squeeze the life out of you sometimes…making it difficult to relax.  Being at that lake was like it’s own form of meditation for me and I’m sure for Paul and Kim too.  Actually I know it has, because it brings them home to figure out what obsticles lie in their way trying to incorporate more of that oasis of a lake in their regular life.  And how can I when I get back to New Orleans?  More walks in the parks, strolling the quiet areas of the French Quarter, hiking the swamps and woods…I don’t know.  Breathe in, breathe out…

But I will have some great memories left for me on this trip…a refreshed feeling.  There is no sense of urgency right now.

My favorite part to this song: “I’m going where the sun keeps shining, through the pouring rain…going where the weather suits my clothes.”