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.

Living Your “Un-lived” Life

“We all hurt in silence, but silence is too loud sometimes. Too much silence will make you deaf.” – Anonymous

She sits at her desk, doing her job she is so good at…she has her head in her hands.  “Is this all life is?  There has to be more than this”.  She lives for her her husband and children, the home she created with her family, her job she dedicates so much time and energy to and the routine she created.  She loves her life and her family dearly, she feels fortunate, even though there are days she feels unappreciated… she knows there is a part of her life she is not living.  What does she want?  Maybe just more time, freedom to put aside the mundane routine and enjoy life a little more; laugh a little more.

He loves his family, loves his job even though it consumes more time than he ever knew.  He tries to make time for himself when he can, although difficult anymore. He loves his children and his wife.  He works out, eats well…tries to look good for her, but she doesn’t even notice him anymore. He just wants to run and run…

She’s worked so hard, gave up so much…maybe too much to her, but she hopes she is on the right path.  She is balancing a job and a business on limited time and funds.  She is almost at her wits end though.  She has a mental overload…needs a vacation? more money? can’t get either.  She needs a new job, a man, a new place to live, a whole lot of luck…needs something to go right before she goes crazy.

Growing older, the woman he has loved for so many years may not be the woman that will grow old with him.  He has dreams that she wants no part of…she has her own life, which he doesn’t seem to be included in anymore.  He wants to work on that bucket list…live at a beach, scuba dive, hike a mountain…anything, but he did not want to do it alone.  This wasn’t the way it was supposed to be.

She sits on the floor, crying and staring at the canvas.  Cannot get it together, cannot get inspired.  There is no time to create a painting anymore and when there is time, the creative flow just isn’t there.  Her real job, the one that pays the bills, consumes a lot of time and takes away the mental energy from what little time her creative energy allows.  She feels she cannot make the break from this job to live another life…what will happen if she does?  Life has become such a routine anymore.  She knows she needs to make changes; preaches it, even.  She is afraid.  Everything else in her personal life is wonderful, she has fallen in love, made a lot of positive changes in her life,  but still needs this one thing to fulfill this too long lifelong dream.

She knows she has to lose weight, feels bad all the time and hates looking in the mirror anymore.  And to even think about shopping for fall clothes…well that just won’t happen.  She knows she needs to eat better and exercise, but it all just seems too overwelming.  It’s hurting her relationship too because he doesn’t even care about himself anymore to care about her.  And he won’t even try with her so why bother? She sees other people’s success, but buries herself in her lack of self-esteeem.  She is trying to reach out.

She loves somebody else and has for a long time, but she cannot bring herself to even tell him…cannot endure the crushing pain of possible denial.  It’s killing her inside…she just wants a life with him, but that may never happen.  So she continues on with her life feeling alone inside; afraid to love anyone else that may come along because they don’t compare to him.

She stays in an unhappy marriage.  Works her little job for extra money…it’s not enough to live on.  She suffers through abuse and feels trapped.  This was supposed to be forever wasn’t it.  She’s lost her independence and can’t even remember what her dreams were anymore.  Career? Hobbies?…they ceased to exist anymore and now how does she get them back?  She lives in silence.

He has found the love of his life, the woman he will grow old with and share dreams with, but hates his job.  He tries to like it, does well at what he does; it pays the bills and buys them some fun extras in life, but this job has carved a huge crater in his mental being.  He feels incomplete because of it.  He’s not even sure what direction to take, but doesn’t want to wake up one day with regrets.  He doesn’t want to just share dreams with her, he wants to live those dreams.

Each situation represents several people I know or have come in contact with…and oddly enough most of the conversations I’ve had have been in the past couple of weeks, like I was meant to hear their heartbreak. I felt it.  When we think we are the only ones with problems and then realize too many people are not living the life they wish…all in the same situation, it makes it even more dismal.  I think too many people with this struggle are (as the book says) “fifty shades of fucked up”.  We all share similar problems and many are looking to live that “un-lived” life…that is the missing piece to the puzzle of life that could possibly give us complete happiness. We are afraid to make changes in our life…afraid to let our weaknesses show.

It’s time to move past the road blocks we’ve created for ourselves and really examine the life we want to live.  We have to prove our independence to ourselves by stating the changes we wish to make and actually following through with them.  It’s time come off auto-pilot and take time to enjoy this life we have.

If the life you lead and the life you wish to lead are far apart then find what you need to do to make them closer and hopefully overlap, so the once “un-lived” life is now your real-lived life.  I have made many small changes in the past several years and a few monumental ones.  My real life and the “un-lived” life I longed for were so distant it seemed unattainable.  I’ve shortened that distance a lot…not quite there yet, but I feel so close to living the life I always thought I should live.  Call it finding yourself or changing your reality.

Call it a new beginning.  Yes, find that one or two or five parts of your life that do not complete your happiness and throw them aside one by one or all at once. Remove the people, jobs, poisons, negative energies that are holding you back. It’s time for positive changes and thinking…time to set goals, make plans, take chances.  You deserve it don’t you?  Do you think the grand plan for your life is that you really deserve unhappiness? Deserve unsatisfaction? Deserve struggle? Deserve fear?  I don’t.

“That’s Not Paleo!”

So at work this week, we had our monthly birthday cake and ice-cream gathering in the kitchen.  All I can smell is the sugar from the cakes and it doesn’t even smell good to me anymore.  We sing Happy Birthday and leave to go back to my desk.  Someone asks me, “Aren’t you going to have a piece?”.  And I say with disgust, “No indeed!”…I want a huge grass-fed ribeye for my birthday!  I now realize I think I might be a health food snob!  Oh no!

But I’ve found I really want people to be healthy; know what I know!  I want to help, but is it coming across that way?  I find myself looking at people’s carts at the grocery, even Whole Foods, and judging what’s in their carts.  I somehow find it hard to believe people still buy things in a box!  Cereal? Yuck. Milk? Quinoa? Pasta?…now they know that’s not Paleo, right?  They don’t know about GMOs and why to buy grass-fed beef and pastured chickens and eggs?  How could they not, I talk about it all the time?  And why is anyone still drinking and eating out of BPA filled plastic bottles and containers? Eww.  Gluten and grains, really?…it will destroy you!  They don’t even know the difference between Omega 3 and Omega 6?  Don’t they know if they just do Paleo for 30 days they will feel great.  I say or think all this.  I think about these things while I’m listening to the Robb Wolf podcasts, cooking my pastured eggs and grass-fed burger in bacon fat, while rubbing coconut oil on my body after I cooked my broccoli in it! And I talk the foodie talk with other people I got to do Paleo, like they’ve been doing it forever too. We can’t figure out why everyone isn’t just jumping on our band wagon! We have a “language” now.

Oh and I’m the same at the gym.  Really, people who look like hamsters on wheels on those cardio machines for an hour are annoying.  I look at those wimpy guys who have been working out for months and I lift heavier than they do…makes me want to scream.  And the people who look the same after a year of working out 5 days a week when I have transformed in the same time…how have they not figured it out?…I’m not performing miracles!  I eat Paleo and weight train…it’s easy!

Or is it?

I can laugh at myself for what I say with no regret, but I realize I am never going to change the way people eat or exercise by judging them or making them feel guilty.  I truly do want to help and I want them to see my results and know they can be healthy and happy too.  I need to get people to be excited about food and health; bring them into my conversations and ask me questions.  So I will be patient and remember the long journey I had also; that it took a long time for that lightbulb to go off for me.  I will be ready to answer if they ask.

Great Things to do with Coconut Oil

Coconut oil has become one of my favorite ingredients in the kitchen.  LOVE the flavor my unrefined coconut oil gives to my eggs, vegetables and meats.  Hell I’ve had spoonfuls of it and it makes me feel great! And the healthy fat it provides my body is so beneficial.

And over the past few months I found out other wonderful personal benefits of coconut oil.  With research, I’ve found that not just what we put in our bodies is harmful to us, but also what we put ON our bodies can be harmful also.  Liz Wolfe at Cave Girl Eats says, “If you’re serious about improving your health from all angles, take the ‘I don’t eat crap’ mentality one step farther – start getting rid of the crap in your self-care products. What do you have to lose?”  And if you think all skin products are safe because they are on the shelf, think again.  Liz also says, “The best part, though, is the new sense of connection to your body that arises when you take your routine out of the hands of Methylparaben and Benzalkonium Chloride. There are very few laws governing the ingredients in personal care products. If an ingredient won’t kill you instantly, it can probably find its way into a PCP.  A product has only to contain CARBON to be TECHNICALLY considered part of an “organic” body product. “Dermatologist Tested” means very little. And “Non-comedogenic” simply means the product doesn’t cause comedones. Zits. Congratulations, Zit-fighting product. Your best advertising technique is to tell everyone your product doesn’t. Cause. Zits. Because if it did, I suppose we’d have a REAL problem on our hands.”

Rubbing layers of chemical-filled creams, lotions and sunscreen on our bodies goes IN to our pores.  Even the hair products we use can enter the body.  Knowing all this I have started in simple ways to change some of my daily body care habits and like all things in my life these days I have a goal to change all my body care to natural products.  I don’t eat junk anymore and I don’t want to put junk on my body anymore.  I’m going to live this Paleo lifestyle inside and out!

Since it will take some time and effort to make soap, lotions and other products, I started with the best and easiest product I could find already at home…Coconut oil!

  1. No more lotions from Bath and Body or Victoria Secret…I started spreading on coconut oil all over my body after my shower instead of lotion.  Smells delicious and my skin feels wonderful; super soft.  No more dry crusty feet or elbows! Eventually I will add some other scents to infuse into the oil.
  2. Coconut oil makes a perfect make-up remover.  I looked at the ingredients in my regular make-up remover and couldn’t believe all that went into it and the coconut oil worked great.
  3. Have you seen how expensive products for hair shine or de-frizz are?  Forget them…try a little (just a little!) coconut oil to smooth onto your hair.  Works great, well the best it can in Louisiana humidity!
  4. And for hair again, it makes a great occasional full conditioner.  Put a good amount over your hair and leave on for about 30-60 minutes then wash out with shampoo or even cider vinegar works too if you want to go very natural.
  5. For make up I use coconut oil  to put on my face before foundation and I use very little of that anymore.  I know you are thinking your skin would break-out, but believe me my skin is very sensitive growing up with acne, and it’s done wonders for my skin.  I believe eating real food only and putting good products on my skin, the appearance is much better!
  6. For the lips. Makes a nice light gloss and moisturizer for my lips. I found a small little container for my purse to put on whenever.
  7. And finally one I haven’t tried, but will (on a day off alone first…LOL) is for deodorant!  Cavegirleats.com says, “go with the trusty combo of baking soda and coconut oil. A swipe of oil topped with a dash of BS will leave you odor-free all day.”

That’s a start!  I’ve been searching for good recipes also for lotions, bars for soap or insect repellents, shampoos and even laundry cleaners and I have found some great ones on http://cavegirleats.com/ and http://wellnessmama.com/ if you would like to check them out.  And if you try them before I do or have recipes of your own, then pass them to me and I’ll share.

Well, I know you’re thinking I’m going hippy, but it’s more Paleo hippy…it’s the hippy that’s healthy and smells good…like coconuts.

And I’m Feeling Good

“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.” ― Eric Roth, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button screenplay

The fear of change is very real, but all it takes is believing in yourself and the movement of one step forward.  What do you have to lose? Even if you tell yourself you can’t make a change, you have to think past that; think past the heart pounding or the lump in your throat and just move forward.  Every time you make a decision to do something that makes you feel better about yourself or makes a beneficial change in your life, your whole experience will be great.

When you stick to your health and fitness goals the change may take a while but great things happen to you.  I am often asked about my change and my experience.  The first step was the decision to make the change in my life and these are the wonderful things that happened to me.

The first time I was able to buy a smaller clothing size.

Learning how to weight train properly and then managing my own training routine.

Deciding to eat clean and feeling proud of the change in how I felt and then quickly losing weight.

Meeting my first goal of losing 25 lbs.

The time I could fit in my skinny clothes, which were a size 4.

Reaching my next goal of losing 35 lbs and feeling confident and hungry for more.

The time I went to buy a pair of jeans and it was a size 0 and so happy I told everyone about it, even the girl at the store!

Going to a different store and verifying it really was a size 0.

The feeling that I could do anything!

Bringing all my former skinny clothes to the Salvation Army.

Noticing some muscle definition.

Reaching my next goal of 40 lbs lost.

Changing my eating and living plan again, deciding it is a life change to give up sugar, processed foods and grains.

Losing 2 more pounds for a total of 42 lbs and 2 more inches off my waist!

Being able to lift heavier weights easier.

Actually having muscle definition in my arms and legs and noticing stomach muscles for once in my life!

And others noticing too!

Being able to do 2 semi-assisted pull-ups.

At 44 years old I now look younger and feel 20 years younger.

Feeling super confident, sexy, healthy and alive!

I made the decision to step forward and change my life; to nourish myself and my well-being and I don’t mind patting myself on the back because I feel good!  And if you are looking to make that change…go ahead give yourself the push to take that step!

When people are ready to, they change. They never do it before then, and sometimes they die before they get around to it. You can’t make them change if they don’t want to, just like when they do want to, you can’t stop them.” ― Andy Warhol, Andy Warhol in His Own Words

Sleep is Calling My Name…

My eyes are half closed so this will be a quick post. I am on call this week for work…my duty. It requires about 70 hours in the office plus weekends, phone calls out of the office and waking up at 0345 each morning. Even though my personal time is shortened by about 3-4 hours each day during this week, that doesn’t mean I skip any workouts. I try to keep them to an hour and work as hard as I can. Of course add in time for the dogs and cats, preparing meals, dishes, laundry, grocery shopping, errands, maybe some time for artwork and of course blogging…this leads to less sleep and one tired chick.  But you know what does not get done? Housecleaning. Screw it!  It’s not high on my list when my time is so valuable.  There is no choosing between “me” time and mopping floors.  That kind of stuff in your life won’t vanish…it will still be there when you are ready to tackle it.

Lesson:  do what’s important in your life first, keep your obligations, minimize chaos, keep time for yourself, and please don’t worry about cleaning the damn house! Oh and sleep. I just turned on my nature sounds app.

Peaceful.  Sweet dreams.

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!