Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Dog Days

We are dog people.

We have, over the years, had quite a few pets, but there has pretty much always always been at least one dog. We also have a parrot, but he is more like a tiny alien who must be appeased than an actual pet.

Over the last year or so, I started to "borrow trouble". Particularly once spring hit, and I realized Bosco, our beloved 90 88 lb. pound puppy, had turned the big 1-0. Everything I have read, about "big dogs not living that long" started to haunt me. Veteran that I am of many pet dogs, I have done the "mourning a deceased pet" thing, and while I was heartbroken and bereaved, would never have considered cloning a pet- Until this big guy.

 He is widely considered to be The Best Dog, even by people who are NOT dog people. He's not an indiscriminate licker, he's not a leg humper, he loves everyone, he has a calm demeanor but loves to play fetch and chase his tail for comedic effect, he responds to commands AND hand signals, he's highly intelligent, he heels automatically when on walks, he eats his vegetables, he plays gently with visiting children. If he has faults, it's that he DOES shed like a Wookie, he doesn't like to be left alone, and he loves to raid the garbage. So we bought a Furminator and a trash can with a lid that closes. Separation anxiety has luckily dissipated over the years.

A few years ago, buying treats at the pet store, I saw a tiny version of Bosco in a cage- she belonged to a rescue organization. Same markings, like a jaunty fluffy tuxedo. She was shivering. She needed a home. Bosco needed someone to keep him company and to play with. And after much begging and pleading and promises that we both knew I didn't intend to keep, Moxie came home with us.

Moxie is a WHOLE different kettle of fish. She is a stereotypical small dog- at least I think she is, she is the only one I have ever had. She came to us with a serious attitude, a dislike of being outside, other dogs, being brushed or generally interfered with in any way, and a kindergartener's sense of waiting until the dire last minute before going out to take care of business. While she tolerated Bosco, she preferred lurking under the bed like Grendel to playing fetch. But Bosco loved her anyway, and we grew to love her too, quirks and all.

After the realization that Bosco was getting older, we finally were back in the house and had access to a large backyard, and I started thinking about how great it would be to get a puppy. I had something specific in mind: more a personality thing than an appearance thing.  And I guess it happened organically: friends invited us over for a BBQ, they happened to have a puppy they needed a home for, and she spent the evening alternating between sleeping on my lap and SG's. A week later, we took her home. I know, we're suckers. 

The first thing we noticed: lots of burping. And farting. For such a dainty little girl, she certainly wasn't shy about bodily functions. And unfortunately, we had named her Sassy, so "Gassy Sassy" wasn't much of a stretch! And she was so....quiet. Almost eerily so. While the vet had given her a clean bill of health, and said she was an "old soul", there was a certain puppy mischievousness that just wasn't there.

She was eating specific puppy food (it came with her) but was much more interested in our dogs' grain-free kibble than her own, so we just stopped putting out the puppy food. After a week or two of gorging, she seems to be slowing down- and somewhat miraculously, the sound effects have all but disappeared too! She's also regained her puppy curiosity and energy and is growing like a weed- she's tripled in size over the last month, and is living up to her name and giving Bosco a run for his money. We try to get them both outside before it gets too hot,  and they spend as much time as they can wrestling and playing tug-o-war in the backyard. Bosco is having a blast, and is very sweet and patient with her. In fact, both dogs love to play with Sassy- it took Moxie awhile to come around, but now all three of them get along. It does my heart good to see it. I know Bosco doesn't have a huge amount of time left, and I am determined to make sure all three of them are as healthy and happy as possible. 

Which brings me to today: the vet visit for the two older dogs. Our new vet was mightily impressed by how healthy they both are.  They have both lost some weight (probably all the wrestling) and are going strong. She specifically mentioned their shiny eyes and coats, and the health of their teeth- How often did we brush their teeth? When I said we don't brush, she was amazed. I guess little dogs in particular are prone to tartar, and neither of them needed any dental work. I honestly didn't realize until I was driving home that it probably has a lot to do with the grain-free diet we feed them. Food for thought!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Whole 30 Results/Observations

After the first couple of days of being super irritated about having to avoid cheese- and butter- and stevia- Things got easier. I don't think I ever got to the "tiger blood" stage of the transformation...and considering that Tiger Blood reminds me both of Charlie Sheen and a Sno-Cone syrup flavor, that's probably a good thing.

What I did get:

Amazing sleep. AND occasional naps. My body wanted to sleep. I let it sleep. This tapered off a bit toward the end. 

Weight loss- although that didn't come until super-late in the game. 5 lbs, and a 2% drop in bodyfat (according to my Tanita scale).

Lovely skin- Something I have always fought with. I had one minor breakout (yay, hormones!) in the 30 days. The rosacea has been gone since I gave up wheat a few years ago, but I still always had reddish patches around my nose and between my eyebrows, and I was religious about concealer. After about a week, those slowly began to fade into oblivion. The W30 marks the first time I have ever regularly and voluntarily, gone outside without any makeup on.  Because I felt like I didn't need it. That's huge, for me.

Another crazy thing: I have a small raised scar on my right forearm: a definitive bump, about 1/8 inch in diameter. Since I got it, nearly 10 years ago, it's always been the attractive purplish color of scar tissue, and I hate it. Standing at my desk and typing about 2 weeks in, I noticed that my scar had flattened out considerably, and faded to a less-noticeable pinkish color. I posted something about it on the Whole 30 forum, and evidently, I am not alone. That blew my mind! 

Cravings- gone, with caveats. My tastes changed. There were lots of things (like iced tea) that I would dump stevia into automatically. I learned to drink stuff that was more naturally pleasant-tasting, (passion tea, as opposed to green tea) or just stick with water. After the first two weeks, I was perfectly happy with the unsweetened versions of the stuff I used to add stevia to. I also became obsessed with produce.

Energy- It wasn't until the very end, but I WANT to exercise- something that has never really been high on my priority list. My gift to myself for finishing was a pair of runners and a pair of cross-trainers in fun colors. Bonus: SG wanted a FitBit, and wanted me to get one too. I lost mine long ago, so I insisted I get the new FitBit Flex: which is a bracelet. So it's much harder to lose. I guess it's just been released, and Amazon and Best Buy were sold out. After deliberating further and going over reviews, I got the Jawbone Up instead.  The best part is, I had enough reward points at Best Buy to make it practically free. I am enjoying it quite a bit! (And to be honest, it looks cooler than the Fitbit bracelet.) 

Perspective- All those little things add up. After saying, "What the hell, it's not like I am going to lose weight, I am just glad I am going to be healthy, yes, I'd like truffle fries with that bunless cheeseburger" I have figured out that I can still be flexible- but within parameters. If I am going to indulge, it will be with cheese, or with eating fries that aren't fried in an ideal oil (although that should be the next thing to go out the window). My ice cream fixation seems to be conquered, which is something of a miracle. Sugar is finally out, although I may indulge in Paleo treats on special occasions, like holidays.

As it was, SG begged me to make The Domestic Man's Skillet Pizza last night. The thing is full of cheese- and butter. And a ton of starchy tapioca flour. And sure enough, I cooked it, and it was delicious. But immediately afterward, I felt a strange "heavy" sensation in my stomach. That didn't stop me from eating the leftovers before I went to bed. And this morning, I feel kind of gross. Duly noted.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Work In Progress

It's been an interesting ride on the Whole 30 so far.

I think my body is doing something different- and I am hoping that means it is healing. It also means that my previous indulgences, in the form of cheese and occasional sugar (most of which snuck in over the holidays, and stayed around as a crutch during the crazy moving and remodeling process), are just going to have to go- pretty much forever.

Confession time: I haven't been "obeying" the W30 stricture about weighing. (I do plan to do before and after measurements, though.) I know this is supposed to save frustration, etc, but since I have been living Primal/Paleo for 4 years now and not lost a significant amount of weight, I figured I am used to it, and could handle it. I wouldn't give up, no matter what the scale said.

And the scale said, "Oh Hi! You still weigh the same amount you did yesterday/last week/on Day 1!" Poop. Still, I know I feel better. And I have been sleeping a LOT- the deep, satisfying, wonderful kind of sleep. I am just doing my best to listen to my body, on the off chance that it is finally able to fix whatever the heck is wrong with it.

Last night, I noticed something odd.

I've had a raised bump of scarring on my right forearm for the last 7-8 years. It's small- about 1/8 inch in diameter, probably the result of a mosquito bite that I scratched. It sticks up quite a bit, and is purplish and shiny, and I hate it.

While trying away at the computer last night, I glanced down, and realized that my scar is suddenly closer to my skin color, and is noticeably flatter. This seemed nuts to me. I tried to google it, and got a lot of info on HOW to flatten raised scars. Most of them mentioned silicone patches, laser surgery, and unguents. Dietary change wasn't mentioned AT ALL. So I hopped over to the Whole 30 forums, and asked around.  So far, two other women (with larger scars than mine) have responded to say that they noticed the same thing, and they both agree with my thoughts on the matter: that it probably has to do with the reduction of inflammation in our bodies. That's- well, it's freaking amazing, honestly.

And then I woke up this morning, hopped on the scale, and it's finally moving in the right direction. YES. I am hoping that this is the beginning of something new for me.

12 days left!


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Involuntary narcolepsy

Days 3 and 4 of my Whole 30 have gone pretty swimmingly. I still really miss stevia, and my Kerrygold butter. Last night, I bit the bullet and turned 3/4 of my butter stash into ghee, aka clarified butter. While ghee is just not the same, the aroma while the butter simmered brought back childhood flashbacks of watching my mom and grandmother make Armenian rice pilaf, which calls for clarified butter. Notably, Mom doesn't bother to clarify the butter anymore. (And I have to admit: while ghee is nice, it's nowhere near as nice as butter. I think that when I use this up, I will just use coconut oil instead.)

While I was stirring the ghee, I threw some artichokes and sweet potatoes into the oven to roast. The potatoes just got stabbed a few times and thrown in on a cookie sheet: no foil, no nothing. I invested more time in the artichokes- peeling garlic cloves  and drizzling olive oil on top, then sprinkling with sea salt.

While everything else worked out great, I suspect the oven temp was too high for my poor artichokes, and they had shriveled into sad little leathery pods by the time I bothered to check on them, halfway through the bake time listed on the recipe. I ended up having to throw the poor little crispy critters out- burnt on the outside, raw on the inside. I am going to blame the recipe I followed for that one.

Another Whole 30 quirk: it seems to be a well-known fact that around days 3 and 4, people complain of tiredness. Both yesterday and today, I woke up feeling great, and raring to go. Then around lunch time, I would sit down and ...Zzzzzzzzzzzzz. Involuntary naps, both days. I haven't noticed the shorter fuse that other people talk about, though. It's been relatively easy so far- but then, I haven't made a very drastic change, and didn't do the crazy "last supper" that most people do beforehand. We will see what happens this weekend: I am going out of town with one of my buddies, and I am hoping to stick with it the whole time!

Other, more pleasant side effects: my skin looks awesome. I swear, I look younger. I am also automatically paying more attention to the ingredients in packaged foods, out of necessity- something that everyone starts out with in the beginning, but after a couple of years of this, I have been on auto pilot. The only dairy I was consuming before was occasional ice cream, ditto Greek yogurt, and cheese and butter. I would also occasionally have a sugary treat. My sleep has been so much better, I am thinking that I will feel better if I emerge from this with a stricter interpretation- closer to Paleo than Primal. I hate the thought of ditching dairy altogether though!   

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Yoga Mat Snafu

I was awakened this morning by yelling and doggie claws skittering, followed by whining and doors slamming.

SG let the dogs out for a constitutional around midnight. Usually they can make it through the night with no problem,  but they began making a racket at 5AM, so he let them out again. I didn't wake up for that one. I woke up for the next one at around 9.

Evidently, the yoga mats I had laid out in order to do my situps and pushups had been defiled. Which is pretty smart for dogs- they knew pooping on the new laminate floors was verboten, so they improvised. Each used a different end of the mat. Let's hear it for teamwork!

SG was kind enough to clean it up before I got out of bed. The house smells really strongly of Method pink grapefruit all-purpose cleaner. The mat in question is still outside on the patio, after being hosed off- awaiting a spin through the sanitizing feature on my new washer. The doggies are outside too. They aren't happy about it, and are much more vocal about their displeasure than the yoga mat. 

I still haven't done my situps. Can you blame me?

Day 2 of the Whole 30 is going well so far. There have been a few near-misses- one having to do with a habit I didn't even realize I had, grazing out of the bag of chocolate chips. Every time I'd see that bag, I would grab a few- which adds up. I ended up putting the bag where I could no longer see it, and voila! One problem solved. Earlier today, SG offered me an Altoid, and I almost took it- then I remembered, not ok.

Other than that, I feel good. I am glad I have a bunch of compliant food "in reserve"- I would much rather not cook or go shopping while I am getting into the groove. From what I have read about it, Days 3-4 tend to be pretty rough. Changing my habits is hard, but do-able. I am realizing just how much I relied on stevia, and recognizing the areas where I had backslid. I am drinking a lot more water too, in place of all the tea (hot and iced) that I used to drink.

Monday, April 8, 2013

The whole (grain and dairy-free!) enchilada

It was probably a mistake to use this picture- *drool*
Yesterday, we were unpacking, because that is what we do. And SG opened a box labeled "Bathroom" and emerged, triumphantly, with the scale.

Oh scale. I didn't miss you, and the 5 months I spent without you have been lovely. But of course, SG has been losing weight effortlessly, and he wanted to program the thing and see how he was doing. Suddenly, he was in our bedroom, exhorting me to step on. "I put in your age and height- just step on, I won't look!" he promised.

I stepped on. And I have gained 10 lbs.

Cue horror. And then bewilderment because...just where the heck have I put it? My pants still seem to fit fine, and my tummy is actually flatter than it was before. I am not even going to turn to that old saw, gaining muscle mass, because it's not like I have been pumping iron. So....

Out came the measuring tape. Mystery solved. All 10 lbs. seem to have migrated south for the winter. My hips, butt and thighs, which I have never worried about (unlike pretty much seemingly every other women in the free world) have both gained at least an inch. Yeah, okay, my tummy and waist are both smaller, which is supposedly healthier. I will take it as an indicator that things are evening out. But I spent most of the evening feeling dejected. I've been so happy to just maintain, and I have to admit that a. I've been lazy and stressed, and my diet has shown that, and b. it's been time to step it up. For a long time. And I haven't done it. And it's time.

So this morning, I wrote all the measurements down, and I stepped on the scale and wrote that number down, and I went to the Whole 30 website and re-read the pertinent parts of the corresponding book. I evidently bought the thing in September- following one truly awful and stressful period of my life, only to jump into another horrible and stressful event after that. And even though I am still dealing with the aftermath of that- No more excuses. Enough!!! If I am going down in flames, I am going to look and feel spectacular doing it, dammit. 

Today I made chicken soup and Curried chicken apple salad, unpacked more boxes (blessedly scale-free) and did some pushups and sit-ups. The goal is to go for a run one day this week, and get some active time in every day. I think the hardest parts will be avoiding the scale for a month, and cutting out stevia, of all things. I am also not thrilled about having to turn the Kerrygold into ghee, which is on the list for tomorrow. And I admit, I will miss cheese. ("and this ashtray....and this-")  But I need to know I can do this. 

Breakfast/Lunch: curried chicken apple salad, carrots, cucumber slices
Dinner: homemade chicken soup

Enough chicken for one day. I think eggs and bacon are on for tomorrow!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

No Tomfoolery.

No Substitutions!
As my last post indicated, we have been slogging for quite some time. Trying to write while you are out of your mind with worry is- for me, pretty much impossible. It seemed like everything that could go wrong was either already off the rails or going there in a hurry. Which doesn't typically make for fun-filled reading.

 If there's a bunch of trauma and turmoil, it needs happiness at the end to make it worthwhile for the reader.  While I admit, happiness has been in short supply, at least we are working our way back to a point where every day is relatively normal. Knock on wood!

So we have spent the last three months cleaning up the shambles the renters made of our house, getting back into routines after the move, and dealing with the reality of living and staying Paleo- on a rapidly diminishing budget, while we both looked for jobs.

The good part is, I love my revamped home, particularly the kitchen. We are eating out a lot less, and we are a lot more active. SG has gone from 60/40 to 80/20 Paleo, and immediately lost his seasonal allergies and a good portion of his spare tire. He's heading back into the military, to get his retirement in 6 years, and get into a field that I know he will be great at!

Since the scale is still packed away somewhere, I hesitate to make any wild claims about my personal situation, but I have noticed that my own tummy seems to be flattening out a bit, my hormones are calming down (I think all that stress did a number on me), and my face is not as puffy. And I have a promising-looking job interview tomorrow. Hooray!

The bad part: when you are faced with little money coming in, working full-time on remodeling your own house, dealing with insane tenants who claim that they cleaned, so they want their entire security deposit back, and carrying a property that isn't selling, you have to take a look at your rapidly shrinking bank account and decide that something's gotta give. Which leads me to the chicken.

Confession time: We'd stockpiled a freezer full of pastured stuff from Tara Firma Farms, which we brought with us when we moved. But as of a couple of weeks ago, we'd reached the end of it, and were at Costco. And we needed chicken.

Now, they have good quality chickens at Costco. We've bought the organic ones from them before. But they are at least double the price of Foster Farms. After a lot of hemming and hawing, I decided it was time to suck it up, and get the "regular" chicken. And yes, I felt guilty.

Yesterday, I did my usual thing: Crockpot "roasted" chicken. I used all the same seasonings. And yet...

It just wasn't the same. I know the chicken hadn't gone bad, but what typically is a delicious roast chicken odor was underlaid with something- off. And eating it was off too: it seemed really bland, but gamy. And there was a staggering amount of fat in the bottom of the crock. I thought I was just being a weirdo, until SG commented: "Don't take this personally, but did you do something different to the chicken? It tasted a little weird."

I think we've been converted.  We'll just eat less meat, but the better quality stuff.