Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Feast 2013

It’s new year’s eve, the last day of 2013.  Usually this is a time for one to reflect on the year past, and think about what to do differently in the new year ahead.

But not for me.  Not today.

I’ve already done all that reflecting.  I have marveled at 2013, at how much change I’ve endured, at how far I’ve come, how much I’ve progressed, how much my thinking has changed.  The things I’ve accomplished, the friends I’ve gained, the friends I’ve lost.  I’ve looked back at this year’s journal entries and laughed and furrowed my brow and even got a little teary-eyed.  I’ve even patted myself on the back a little and thought to myself that I’m a pretty good writer.

But today, I’ve had enough of that.  And tomorrow, there will be plenty of time to look forward to the year ahead.

Today:  I FEAST.

Typical new year’s eve fare in my house includes lots of slutty food.  Today is no different.  And no, it’s not really an effort to say goodbye to the dairy and carbs I will miss starting tomorrow; no, it’s nothing like that.  It may appear that way on the surface, but I promise, this year’s feast is all about cooking for my cookbook.

This year’s menu includes brie and crackers (because I picked up my favorite wedge at Wegman's last week); pizza dip; bread dip; BBQ weenies; and lemony cream butter cake.  Think it's enough?  I mean there’s only two of us, three if you count my daughter who will likely scrunch up her nose and say “I don’t wike it” to most of the offerings; we don’t really need anymore than that.  So we will have plenty around to nosh on tonight if anyone feels like popping in and joining us.

(Side note:  My daughter loves brie.  She couldn't get enough of it at Thanksgiving.  Mama so proud!)

But I’m excited.  I’m excited to wrap up this round of cookbook cooking and spend January going through the photos and working on the layout of the new book.  Yippee‼

I’m also excited, as you know, to start Paleo tomorrow.  Also, it's pretty much decided - my dog is going Paleo with me.  That should make for some interesting blog posts.  I'm going to do some before and after pictures of her too.  I found a website called Philly Cow Share where you can not only buy an eighth of a local cow for yourself that has been grass-fed and loved its whole life - but you can buy a box of organ meat.  Organ meat is supposedly the most nutritious raw meat you could feed a canine.  It's $80 for a 26lb box.  Is that a deal?  Damned if I know.  But I think it's worth trying, especially when I'll be stretching her diet further with fruits and vegetables.  I think I can make 26lbs of organ meat last for the month, and if we notice an improvement by the end of January... well maybe we will all just love our dog again instead of wrinkling our noses up at her because she stinks and yelling at her to stop scratching every 5 minutes.  Poor thing.  (She really does stink though.  She had a bath last Sunday before Christmas and by Tuesday she was stinky again.)

You know how the other day I was thinking I couldn’t put my finger on what all I was excited about?  I think I found another thing.  I think I’m totally stoked that all my recipe planning and grocery shopping lists are already laid out for me.  That’s actually something I love doing every week, but it’s kind of nice that I won’t have to do it for the next four weeks!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Some Final Pre-Paleo Thoughts

You guys, I am SO excited about going Paleo.  I don't think I've ever been so excited about a change in my diet.  I wasn't this excited when I joined Weight Watchers.  I wasn't this excited when I spent months depriving myself of different things.  I wasn't even this excited when I started clean eating.

Why am I so excited?  I'm not really sure.  I can't put my finger on it yet.  Maybe it's because there's a part of me that feels like the Paleo way of life just makes sense - and therefore, it will actually work.  Do you want to lose weight and be healthy and all that good stuff?  Well eat the good stuff.  It's the same thing that's been drilled into our heads for ages now.  And all the bad stuff out there about corn and grain and carbs... I'm starting to believe it, at least for me.

When I started clean eating in September, I cut pasta out of my diet.  Boy did I miss it.  I didn't crave it, really; I just missed it.  I love a big plate of warm saucy pasta.  Since September, I can count three times, maybe four tops, that I've had pasta.  And each time afterwards - my stomach makes weird noises and I feel sick.  And not just for a little bit - like into the next day.  Pasta also gave me heartburn on two occasions.  Now that never happened to me before, ever; only when I cut it out of my diet.  You know what else happened?  I started breaking out, and bad.  My skin is a hot mess right now.  My eating habits were plenty good right on through November, but I hit December and on came the sugar, the cookies, the cooking for my cookbook... and my skin blew up, and my stomach was not handling it well.

So many physical reasons so far to be excited about going Paleo.

As my mind was racing about PALEOPALEOPALEOPALEO last week, I started thinking.  If the Paleo diet cures many of what ails us humans.... couldn't it also cure what ails our dogs?  My dog has had a severe, severe issue with skin allergies for the last 8 years or so - pretty much as soon as we moved to Philly.  We took her to the vet for her constant itching and scratching and licking, and he diagnosed her with a food allergy.  He recommended we start her on a hypoallergenic (*cough cough* expensive *cough*) food immediately.  Within a couple weeks, her allergies seemed to have cleared up.  But soon she developed a tolerance to that food, and we had to switch her to something else.  Then she developed a tolerance to that food, and we had to switch her again.  And again.  And again.  And again.  After several years and many thousands of dollars, we switched vets for another opinion.  He confirmed that it was allergies (duh), and wanted to do allergy testing, steroid shots, antibiotics... the whole nine yards.  After another thousand dollars or so, they were able to tell us that she is allergic to "something", but they don't know what.  (Thanks, I'd like my money back now.)  By this time we had cycled her through every hypoallergenic, healthy skin & coat, skin calming, grain-free, corn-free, wheat-free, gluten-free food you could find on the market and it would appear that she was allergic to every damn one of them.  This vet took a different approach though; he didn't think it was food.  He thinks it's environmental.  So we started taking her to get steroid shots every three months.  They used to last for at least 2 months.  The last time we took her?  The effect barely lasted a week.


Fuck if I know.  But it dawned on me - what if a Paleo type diet would help her?  At this point, what the heck do we have to lose?  So I started doing some research on what "people" food dogs can and can't eat.  I stumbled across the "raw" diet for dogs.  It all sounds quite expensive, but if she can eat what I'm eating, essentially... maybe it will help.  I mean, it can't hurt.  If you think about it - why can't we give dogs "human food" anyway?  Maybe dogs didn't evolve to eat grain-laden kibble just as much as humans didn't evolve to eat corn and grain.  Dogs are much closer to their hunter-gatherer roots than we are as humans, from an evolutionary perspective.  Dogs weren't hunting around for kibble back in the day.  They were eating what they could.  That probably included plants and their fruits, as much as it included raw meat.

So.  I've already kind of started feeding Moko a raw diet.  Yesterday she had some apple, carrots, celery, cantaloupe, and raw pumpkin, with a drizzle of coconut oil on top.  Today she had some raw chicken.  Bonus to my dog eating a raw diet?  All the beef and chicken trimmings - can go right into her bowl.  Normally I'd toss that stuff, but she can eat it.  And it won't stink up my trash can or destroy my garbage disposal.

I need to find a butcher though and see if I can find some cheap cuts of meat, or some organ meat.  That would round out her raw diet well.

So anyway.  It sounds like me and my dog are going Paleo for January.  I am so, so excited to see what improvements await us.  And I really, really hope this works for my dog.  We have really honestly tried everything, and I don't know what else we can do for her.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

A Look Back

Well, it's almost the end of December, and I'm pretty sure I won't have met my goal to lost 10 more pounds by the end of the year.  See what had happened was...... well, first I got really sick and didn't go to the gym for a whole week.  And whenever that happens, a downward spiral is sure to follow.  I have still been eating smart, for the most part, but, I've also been trying to eat some of the things I think I'll miss next month when I go Paleo, and I also decided to make some of the recipes for my new cookbook so that I can photograph them.  But aside from that, my eating has been fine.  In fact, I wouldn't be surprised at all if I weighed myself and my weight didn't change by more than a pound or two in either direction.  I'm really not too worried about my weight.

I've always said that the number on the scale is not as important to me as how I feel, and I still feel that way.  I still look at myself in the mirror and am happier with what I see now than what I saw 8 months ago.  I feel a lot better about myself still.  And hell, my husband still finds me sexy as ever, and that's honestly one of the only things that really matters to me.  :)

I've been thinking a lot about two things recently - one, how far I've come, and how much I've achieved this year; and two, my Paleo January coming up.  So I'm going to put my thoughts down about both tonight.

1.  When I first started on this "year of resolutions" endeavor, I wasn't entirely convinced that I'd actually form new habits from it.  But when I compare who I was 12 months ago, to who I am today, I honestly can't believe the progress and changes I've made.  I think almost every month had something to do with putting me on the path to going Paleo next month.  Let's take a look back at 2013 and my eating habit highlights:

  • THEN:  In January, I was a wreck.  My diet was a wreck.  My job had me in a pretty bad spot so I was unhappy and most likely compensating with food.  The very first step I took was probably the most baby step I could have taken - I cut out juice and soda.  I drank water all month.  NOW:  It's been months since I bought soda, but even longer since I've been drinking it on a regular basis.  A few months after January I think I started going back to it, but I stopped again.  And, since Aaron and I started clean eating in September, we haven't had a pack of soda in the fridge since.  All we drink now is water, milk, and orange juice in our house.  I can count on one hand the amount of times I've had soda to drink since September.  I think I can safely say that soda is no longer a part of my diet.
  • THEN:  In February, I realized that when I cut soda out, I was still craving sugar, so I compensated with candy.  And I compensated to the extreme.  I was eating A LOT of candy.  NOW:  Candy is not a regular part of my diet.  Once in a while I might grab a candy bar or something as a treat - which if anything, is how it should be - but it is not a daily part of my diet anymore.
  • THEN:  In September, I started eating clean.  It didn't suck nearly as much as I was afraid it would.  It was also my most successful month on Weight Watchers.  I was not 100% clean, but I did the best I could with what I had.  NOW:  I'm thinking of taking it a step further and going Paleo for an entire month.  And not just, "do the best I can"-Paleo; like, "100%"-Paleo.  If you had told me in January that by the end of the year I'd be going Paleo, I would have laughed in your face.  Me?  Live without candy, sugar, soda, grains, and dairy?  I'd have cracked up in your face.  Now I'm actually excited about it.

2.  SO!  PALEO!  I was inspired by my cousin-in-law (is that a thing?) Dawnita when I visited her in November.  She is responsible for planting the seed and my subsequent research and recipe-hunting has gotten me very excited about taking this on.  I'm excited about the prospect of resetting my taste buds and living without things I rely on too much right now.  I'm excited about incorporating new and different vegetables into my diet and learning to like them.  I'm excited about the idea that I might actually lose weight from all of these changes.  I'm excited about spending quite possibly the worst month in a Pennsylvania year in my kitchen, cooking and prepping and cooking and prepping.  I'm excited about only having to exercise three times a week.  I'm just excited about all of it.  With all that said though - I didn't get excited until I was completely, fully prepared for Paleo January.  What did I do to prepare, you ask?

  • I started with the idea of "If I can find 15 dinner recipes that sound good, I will just make them twice each and have dinners covered for the month".  I started with my most difficult meal to make "Paleo" and worked back from there.  I figured I would be eating a lot of leftovers for lunch, so I had many lunches covered.  I found some quick and easy breakfast recipes and I felt well on my way.
  • I ordered all the recipes so that I wasn't eating three stews and soups in a row, and was using similar ingredients so that my grocery shopping lists weren't too wild and extravagant.
  • I bought a binder, sheet protectors, and a 31-tab set of page dividers.  Then I created a Word document with a page for every day in January.  Each page details what I am eating for breakfast, lunch, and dinner; what exercise routine I'll be doing; and what prep work I need to do for the next day's recipes.  Within each page divider in the binder is: a diary entry sheet taken from a Paleo quickstart guide I read (this just details what I eat, how I feel, etc); the daily page that tells me what I'm eating and doing; and every recipe I will be using that day.
  • With all the recipes ordered properly, I started making grocery shopping lists for every week in January.  I made a separate list for items that were more specialty - like almond flour, tapioca starch, etc.  And I made another separate list for items that I could buy ahead of time that wouldn't spoil by January.  I've been buying chicken stock like crazy, it's been on sale so I have been stocking up.  Little by little I've been stocking my fridge, freezer, and pantry with things I'll need next month, to help spread out the cost of things I don't usually buy on a weekly basis.

I know you're probably thinking that I'm a crazy woman, right?  Well, I know.  But, I'm doing the best I can to make sure I don't go off the rails.  Being Paleo means being (added) sugar-free, grain-free, dairy-free, and legume-free.  While at first it sounds pretty limiting, when you do your research, you will find that it's not; but you won't get there unless you really get organized and plan it all out.  I REALLY don't want to go off track in January.  I REALLY want to succeed.  I REALLY want to do pre- and post-January pictures and measurements and all that stuff.  And ultimately, I REALLY want to incorporate this way of eating into my daily life as much as possible.  You know, maybe I don't end up being Paleo 100% of the time; but being Paleo 90% of the time is a vast improvement over what I've been in the past.

I don't know how much I'm going to continue the "year of resolutions" into 2014.  My focus as of late has been eating healthy and being healthy and supporting organic initiatives.  I've watched a ton of documentaries on Netflix that have set me on this path (Food Inc, Farmageddon, Food Matters, Forks Over Knives, Vegucated, etc) and I just believe in it.  It just makes sense that if you put the most natural version of something into your body, you will get nothing but good out.  I don't know that I could find a single person that could argue to me that processed foods are better than whole foods.  Nobody can argue that with me.  So I really just want to continue down this path in 2014.  I may not have monthly resolutions, but maybe I will.  Who knows, maybe at some point, I'll do a Whole30.  :)

On the whole, this has been a good year for me.  I'm a healthier person (mentally and physically) than I was at the beginning of this year.  This year has had its share of hurts and disappointments and slaps in the face, but look who I am and where I am now.  I am healthy.  I am happy.  My family is my everything.  I wouldn't trade where I am right now with anyone or anything in the world.  I'm excited about where I've been, and I'm excited about where I'm going, and I feel nothing but confidence going into next year.

Merry Christmas everyone, and Happy New Year.