Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Iditawalk 2013

So, in the deep midwinter, we were blessed with a day of springlike weather. It was the boggy, muddy sort of springlike weather, but the earth thawed out just long enough to enable me to fill my lungs with fresh air and the smell of the promise of growing things. Overnight my driveway went from being a treacherously planned amateur luge run to plain old warped blacktop. I know the respite is temporary, but that is the nature of respite. And arguably, what makes it sweet.
(I can't rotate it. I tried. I'm sorry.)
On February 1st, I begin participation in something I have participated in before, a very long time ago. Back in 2003 I wanted something fun and motivating to get exercising again. I can't remember where I stumbled across the event, but I was struck by the inventive idea of involving the whole world in your fundraiser.

You can read about their goals and history here, but simply put, from February 1st to March 31st you commit to walking 1,049 minutes. You log your time every day that you walk to meet the goal. I always liked the timing of it because right when winter starts to make you feel restless and anxious, you have something to focus on that is a sense, you walk right out of winter. Or almost out of winter, given winter's tendency to linger in these parts like the last guy to leave a party. No one is going to give you their number, winter. Go home already.


Because I can never leave well enough alone I decided to make it a little interesting. In addition to the walking, which I am defining as 'joyful movement' and which may also include some DVD exercise and housecleaning, I am doing two other things.

One: For the two months of the Iditawalk I am giving up coffee. This has actually already started, since it made sense to stop when I ran out of ground beans and creamer. I cleaned and put away my machine today, but I actually haven't had coffee for about three days. I noticed my intake creeping up and up and it was going from pleasant morning beverage to three times a day drug habit. So I'm pausing to get some clarity on that. I am still allowing tea, since I don't find myself 'needing' tea, but my caffeine intake is drastically reduced. This is less of a thing than I expected it to be. The coffee 'problem' was compounded when I discovered the perfect combination of no calorie sweeteners that made my coffee taste exactly like it used to when I would put sugar in it. So much so that some of my old sugar-addicted wiring started sparking again. I haven't had any real sugar, but my lizard brain sure seemed to think that the 'good old days' had returned and this is no bueno. At a certain point in breaking a hard habit, you realize that keeping it broken has to be a priority. So we'll see. I'm thinking it is just a matter of drinking it without sweetener. Which is completely doable.

Two: While I have increased my vegetable intake, I want to increase it even more, trying new things, trying new ways of preparing familiar things, to give vegetables center stage in food preparation. I'm already pretty much doing this but I want to do it even more. Mostly  because vegetables are awesome.

So the Iditawalk, for me this year, is going to be about celebratory movement, cleaning out my closets (literally and figuratively), enjoying new tastes, and doing the heart and soul work that needs done for my ongoing wellness. I expect to walk into a glorious spring with all the hope that is emerging in full bloom.

My reading list for the next few months is also aimed at doing the 'soul work'. I'm interested in continuing to educate myself and embrace truth that gives life! I've been listening to a lot of people whose stories are full of encouragement and I realize that good stewardship of the body I've been given is a labor of love and joy, not obligation and drudgery. Here are the titles I have in my 'virtual stack'.

  1. Made to Crave by Lysa TerKeurst (this is actually the subject of an ongoing small group study)
  2. Wheat Belly/Wheat Belly Cookbook by Dr. William Davis (I have read both but still refer back to the information in both, as well as the recipes, which are outstanding. This is the book that started it all for me. 
  3. Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease by Dr. Robert H. Lustig (Dr Lustig has a talk on YouTube about sugar. It is very much worth your time.)
  4. The Gabriel Method by Jon Gabriel (working on your head, not just your body)
  5. Why We Get Fat..and What To Do About It by Gary Taubes
  6. Secrets to a Healthy Metabolism by Maria Emmerich
As I said before, I started to get traction on this journey when I chucked out everything I was ever taught about what constitutes healthy food. Since I started I've learned a lot, improved a lot, and found a lot of encouragement and hope from various sources. I am on the road, but there are miles to go. I'm just much more certain that they will be miles of celebration and joy. 

Registration for the Iditawalk is still open if you are interested in joining me! In the meantime, here's a little bit of encouragement. As I've said before and will continue to say....
Change is possible. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


Typically, the first thing you do when you haven't posted in three months is write some long self deprecating paragraph right about here that delineates all the reasons why you've been absent, lamenting writer's block, sunspots, the current national social climate, and why you can't ever seem to get a decent tomato in the supermarket, and all the ways those very serious conditions scheme to keep your blog in blackout mode. 

Imma skip all that. 

Honestly, over the last however-many weeks since I've blogged, FANTASTIC things have been happening. Here's the deal.

On September 20, 2012, the day began with a garbage bag. I took a big black bag, opened the door to my pantry, and chucked a whole bunch of food. On the advice of a friend, I decided to experiment and see if the elimination of wheat from my diet would address some very persistent and unpleasant health issues I was having. Scary as it was, I decided to go all-in. And since the program I began with suggested the elimination of sugar, I was down with that as well. 

Those of you who have known me all or most of my life know that was probably an even bigger deal. I have been a sugar hound from pretty much day one. I essentially torched my House of Comforts and watched it burn to the ground. I didn't write about it when I started because I was afraid this would be 'just another thing I've tried' and that my enthusiasm would fade over time. I have certainly lost weight before, and I am all too familiar with the feeling of clinging desperately to little victories trying to drown out the massive anxiety caused by maintaining a relationship with food that was difficult to manage. That describes my experience with every single "diet" I've ever been on in my life. When the marching bands in the positivity parade got back on the bus all that rang in my ears was my obsession with what I could and couldn't eat, when I could eat it, and whether I was 'doing it right'. Eventually the stress of that day to day would cause me to let go of whatever I'd aspired to do. So you see why I was reluctant to say "Yaay, loookatmeee". 

Four months on, it doesn't feel so crazy to talk about what has been happening. Because what has been happening feels like a miracle. 

First, some realities:
1. I have not had any wheat whatsoever, or any sugar other than what naturally occurs in fruit and vegetables, since September 20, 2012. Absolutely none. I've deliberately and systematically rejected the typical American diet.
2. I had to retool my cooking completely, which necessitated the purchase of some new-to-me ingredients. I had lots of help from more experienced wheat-free cooks and access to a ton of recipes that are both delicious and easy to prepare, so I have by no means freelanced this process on my own. 
3. I no longer eat any processed food. None. No boxed dinners, no canned soups, no frozen dinners, no commercial snack foods. Obviously I'm not churning my own butter and such, so there is some element of processing to what I buy, but if something has a giant paragraph of ingredients I don't buy it. No fast food. I do still eat in restaurants but I make very careful choices, and there are some places where the menu is a total lockout. (ie Pizza Hut) I no longer eat fried food of any kind. 

That probably seems like a grim and heavy list. It probably sounds boring and oppressive and horrible.
It isn't. 

Here's another list. 

1. Since 9/20/12 I have had absolutely no heartburn. This was the first thing to go. I used to have it for some duration or intensity Some foods I ate would burn from the first bite going down. I had acid reflux. I would wake up coughing and sometimes with acid backed all the way up into my throat. I had to be careful not to eat at least five hours before bed. I took omeprazole on a regular basis and I had to keep Tums in my locker at work. This has completely and totally ceased.

2. I had chronic edema, which gave me swollen ankles and feet and it hurt to press on my shins. Its gone.

3. My feet hurt every day. In fact most of my joints used to hurt every day. There were days when I could force myself to walk a mile or so and I'd be all right, but I'd pay for it the next day with stiffness and soreness.
That is completely gone. I can be on my feet all day with no issues. Nothing hurts. 

4. The initial impetus to try this was a persistent and very itchy rash that kept recurring. It would retreat but never really leave me, and nothing I tried to control it for about four years did any good. 
It is completely gone.

5. I had persistent fatigue. I never felt rested, never felt energized, dragged myself through most days with an outward good attitude (publicly, anyway) that was an effort to maintain. This is gone.

6. Through no other effort than this change in diet, as of this writing I have lost 39 pounds. This was never the goal, but it is happening, and now exercise is returning to my life not as a hated chore to mold myself into a less-hated form, but because I have energy, I want to spend it, I like movement, and movement feels good. 

7. My focus, concentration, and energy level has increased. A lot. So much at times that I feel obnoxious to myself. :) 

The anxiety I felt any time I ever approached this life improvement process from a weight loss angle is gone. I feel strong, energized, and hopeful. If I were to put a number on it I'd say I feel about 25 years old. I see what is possible, and it is exciting. The weird thing is, it hasn't been hard. Some food is just food, some food is a drug, and when I stopped using the drugs, there was no more negotiation, no more struggle, no more deprivation-feeling, no more distress. 

So I'll be checking in with this from time to time, I decided that it was important for me to chronicle what's going on so I don't feel sad that I didn't keep track later on. I'm doing some things to make it all fun and I'll be writing about those here, efforts to fine-tune my nutrition and movement and make the best of what it turning into a very, very good thing. I spent enough time feeling is time for a little freaking-amazing. 

Here's a bit of encouragement. I watched this documentary recently and it has a LOT of good (and sobering) information in it. 
Oh, and the guy pictured  in the first little screen shot? That's Joe Cross. He has an amazing story to tell too, which you can see in this second film. 

Change is possible.