Eat Your Cake…and Enjoy it for Pete’s Sake!

I know there are some people out there who identify so entirely with their food lifestyle that they not only must share with everyone in the room, they also imply a weird sense of superiority if you aren’t on the same page. You know, like the mom raising an eyebrow at me while I let my 6 month old lick frosting off my finger from the giant sheet cake in the room. The mom went on and on about what her little one did and did not like and what they did and did not allow her to have, naming all the toxic ingredients in processed foods and the dangers of sugar, all the while seemingly perplexed at why her three year old daughter was shooting daggers at her hummus sandwich (she usually loves hummus!) as the other kids ate cake.

Now you, reader, are a grown adult. If you love your cupcakes and ramen, then eat your cupcakes and ramen! The thing is, the crap that a steady diet of cupcakes and ramen does to your system isn’t going to change just because you would prefer it that way. For example: soda is toxic. It just is, people. Not only does it inhibit weight loss and increase weight gain, it’s been linked to so many diseases it’s ridiculous. But if you really like your Diet Dr Pepper, then drink your Diet Dr Pepper. You don’t have to feel guilty or shamed by it, just understand the risk and make your decision with your eyes open. Don’t try to justify it, either, with “Well, I had OJ at breakfast so I can have my soda now and be fine.” Nope. It’s still toxic poison. Own it and move on. I’m not about shaming or guilt-ing anyone about their food choices-but I’m not about lying about its effect on your body just so you feel better about your choice. Alcohol is a poison and I consume it on occasion knowing this. I’ve got my big girl panties on, I’m ok with it.

Nutrition is just one reason why we eat food. Pleasure is a big reason for eating food, and so is social companionship. They are ALL valid reasons for food. Now, I like feeling energetic and healthy and not have as many annoying headaches and weird spells of foggy headed lethargy, so for me the cutting out preservatives and processed foods has made a difference and continues to do so. It is totally worth it for me. But you know what else is totally worth it? Sharing birthday cake with my boys. Licking cookie batter. Cheese fries with friends. I don’t do those things frequently, and even my “unhealthy” choices are getting healthier because my taste is changing and I’ve become a lightweight when it comes to processed sugar, but I do them, and I enjoy every last minute. I don’t have “cheat days” or “cheat meals”, this is a lifestyle choice. I choose to eat birthday cake with gusto and guilt free-just not everyday.

I would challenge you to keep track of what you eat for a couple of days. Read a few labels. Do some google searches on some of those preservatives that have health nuts up in arms. You might be surprised with how much unhealthy stuff you consume without realizing it. The first step is knowledge. This isn’t about a diet to get you to squeeze into a pair of skinny jeans, it’s about making intentional decisions about what you’re eating and enjoying your life-and food!- in the process.

Let’s Talk Chemicals

You guys, I love chemistry. I’m not a chemist. I don’t have an advanced degree in it, and I’ve only had your standard chem classes in college and two semesters of Organic Chemistry, so I am not claiming to be the bee’s knees when it comes to all things chemical. However, you don’t need a PhD to understand the very basic premise that EVERYTHING is chemistry.

I know, it’s borderline pedantic to pick on the clean eating community for using, “NO CHEMICALS!” as a rallying call, but yeah, I’m the voice in the back going, “Well, actually, everything is a chemical…” My issue with processed food then clearly isn’t that chemicals exist, but rather which chemicals are present (Potassium Bromate in bread *shudder*) and also how those chemicals were made.

For example, THE GREAT NITRATE DEBATE! Sodium nitrate is a preservative in almost all sausages, bacon, hotdogs, and deli meat. Synthetically created sodium nitrate has been linked to cancer. Naturally derived sodium nitrate from celery powder or liquid, on the other hand, doesn’t cause any problems. This confused me to no end at first, because I was looking for “uncured” meat that was actually not uncured at all, just cured with celery powder/liquid (ie naturally occurring sodium nitrate).

Wait, wait, wait. So one sodium nitrate is ok and the other isn’t? That doesn’t make any sense!

Actually, it does. There was this drug called Thalidomide used in the 60’s to treat morning sickness (among other things) with great success! Except for the side effect of horrible birth defects in many of the infants. The problem? Isomers. The molecule came in two forms, mirror images of each other. Until the scientists figured THAT out, and then figured out how to separate the isomers, the toxic isomer was causing birth defects while the non toxic isomer was just doing it’s job.

Get it? The scientists didn’t know (Yeah, stricter drug testing may have been a result of that fiasco…).  I am not claiming sodium nitrate is an isomer, what I’m saying is we still don’t know a lot. The cool thing about science is there is always more to explore. The crappy thing about science is it can lead to some pretty stellar ego problems. I, for one, don’t assume that even though all known tests rule a synthetic compound as identical to a naturally occurring one, that identical is really what they are. They could be different at a level that right now is too subtle for science to understand and identify. So forgive me, scientists, if I don’t jump on board the “Oh it’s fine” band wagon just because it looks the same. There are those other scientists doing studies that seem to indicate that some of these chemicals really aren’t “fine” at all.

I don’t know, you guys, I don’t know all the facts about all the chemicals. I don’t believe the food industry is necessarily out to poison us all or that there is a health insurance conspiracy to make us all sick. I do believe the idea of preserving food for longer was based predominantly on money, but it seems ridiculous to accuse people of functioning typically in a capitalist economy.

The increasing rates of not just obesity but disease in this otherwise 1st world country makes me nervous. The fact that the FDA still allows additives and food colorings that are banned in other countries alarms me. And I am doing the research, as slow and tedious as it is, to read the studies that link all sorts of additives and preservatives with all sorts of issues. Until I KNOW which ones are ok and which ones aren’t, eating clean at least 80% of the time just makes sense-ounce of prevention equals pound of cure and all that. AND it has already made a difference in my health. I have more energy now with two small children and sporadic sleep patterns then I did when living with just my husband and my dog. My moods are more stable, not less so. I was back into my pre first pregnancy jeans by 6 months post partum with my second child even though I wasn’t working out as much.

In a nutshell, every food is chemical, but not all chemicals should be added to food.

A Bad Week

This week has been great for a lot of reasons-the boys are super cute, Brian is on nights so he’s home during the day (ie, he helps out with naptimes), we had a roadtrip to the Air Force Museum and the beach to celebrate Zane’s first birthday a week early, I made lemon poppyseed pound cake from scratch for said birthday (a half a cup of butter, a full cup of sugar, 3 eggs, mmmmmm…), lots of good stuff.

However, this week has also been pretty bad as far as clean eating and fitness goes, for a lot of the same reasons-the boys, although cute, also have to be out of the house almost all morning so Brian can sleep which makes mornings a rush to get out the door and they don’t like it, and Brian is here for naps-but not bed time so I’m running the nighttime put down solo (it ain’t pretty, but it gets done) but that also means workouts are either with kids or after dark. PLUS we had a road trip that totaled about 5 hours in the car with two small children which meant crappy food (not that you have to eat crappy food on a roadtrip, just that I wasn’t as well prepared as I would’ve liked to have been so crappy food was consumed). And then, of course, there is (was) the cake, which-although delicious-was probably not the best choice for my breakfast this morning but there it is.

I couldn’t figure out why midweek I was dragging butt soooo badly. I mean, yes, Zane has recently been waking up anywhere between 430-6am to start his day grumpy, tired, and miserable for some reason, and Brian home during the day and gone at night was throwing all of our schedules for a loop, but by 11am I was toast. Like, drunk toast taking antianxiety pills toast. I was so foggy I could barely keep my eyes open while standing upright. And then, as I muzzily tried to narrow down my options, I realized one possible culprit was staring me in the face.

I am always attempting to find recipes that are healthy but that the boys will eat, and then I usually eat the leftovers for lunch. Well with Brian home I wanted to eat lunch with him (I rarely get a chance to eat a meal with my husband any more, flight school is a booger) so we made beans and rice. Not the healthy beans and rice I make with wild rice, nitrate free andouille sausage, and home cooked beans. No, the Campbell’s bean and bacon soup from a can, white rice, and a chopped up hotdog variety. AKA what used to be THE staple in my diet for close to six years (except for when he was deployed and when I was pregnant). Almost every day we had beans and rice. It was a ritual: him mixing the soup while I sliced the hotdogs, waiting for the beans to simmer, arranging the hotdog pieces on the plate so they didn’t touch and fuse together in the microwave… I think I miss cooking in the  kitchen with him more than anything, just the comfortable familiarity of the thing.

However, not only have I lost my taste for beans and rice ( 🙁 ) it also may not agree with me. I remember feeling a bit sluggish after eating beans and rice (fondly termed “beans and rice coma”), but I think it was a bit more of a shock this go round because I had been eating so well for awhile, and then all of a sudden I was back at square one for two days in a row. I haven’t had beans and rice for the past two days and although tired I am nowhere near the fall flat on my face exhaustion that I was earlier in the week-and I should be, we just survived a road trip with two toddlers for goodness’ sake!

That said, this week has taken a toll. I physically feel rather icky and bloated, tired, and just kind of gross. BUT I feel much better today then I did yesterday, so it’s just a matter of getting back on track. Which is why I’m writing in this blog, so you can keep me from eating any more Big Macs (tastes so good, then my stomach rebels twenty minutes later, sigh) and make sure I’m keeping my exercise dance on fleek, or whatever. 😛

Final Meltdown

Day 2 of Cize and it was ugly. It’s standard advice for most exercise that “2nd day is the worst” and I’ve found this applies to kids, too. Second day of a routine change is the worst. Second day of sleep training is the worst. Second day of travelling THE WORST. I didn’t have super high hopes for today, just maybe actually completing the entire workout.

That’d be a big fat nope.

Chaos reigned. Zane managed to flip himself backwards off the child recliner, I stepped on Cade at one point, both kids knee tackled me repetitively and neither of them stopped fussing from start to when I finally gave up and turned it off-with 17 minutes remaining. It was supposed to be a 43 minute workout, oh well. I managed to work up a light sweat-maybe because I did just the foot work while holding Zane for 5 minutes.

On a positive note, I am actually enjoying these DVDs. I find some of Shaun T’s commercials really annoying, and it was with a heaping spoon of skepticism that I purchased these DVDs, BUT they aren’t that bad. The moves, so far, are basic enough that anyone could do them, and he hasn’t gone psycho “I’m gonna pump you UP!” in your face at all. He’s encouraging, but low key. There is ample repetition to help you remember the moves and he breaks things down well, always building onto the sequence but not making you feel entirely rushed. There is nothing overtly sexualized either, which I like. I mean, yes, some of the backup dancers shake their money makers a bit more than I’M going to (aaaannd I’m pretty sure the camera person is male by the attention they get), but the moves are steps and slides and bouncy squat thingies for the most part, and the hand movements are clean-you can add as much or little sass as you’re comfortable with.

Ain’t no way I’m going to “break it down” in a club, but I’m enjoying these workouts more than I expected so far-even though I’ve yet to complete a routine, haha.

Embarrasin’

So I signed up to be a “Discount Coach” through Beachbody so I could get…wait for it…a discount! My discount is on Shakeology (a meal replacement type drink that I am cautiously enjoying but it’s only been a week so I’m waiting to give it my complete seal of approval). One of the most cost effective ways to become a coach is to purchase a “Challenge Pack” which you customize for what you want, and for me it was my ShakeO order and the exercise pack for “CIZE”. It’s a dance program exercise thingy, and I got it so that I could maybe get Cade and Zane to join in because I want them to witness me exercising as a normal part of life and dance is fun, right?

Oh man. It was disastrous. Cade was thrilled when I turned on the TV mid morning instead of one of the usually scheduled “TV times” but his excitement quickly turned to puzzlement at the appearance of Shaun T with a bunch of back up dancers and thumpy music. His puzzlement rapidly became disapproval as I started flailing around tripping over my feet in my attempts to follow along. He flung out his hand and yelled in horror, “STOP MOMMY STOP!!” repeatedly.

Sheesh kid, way to bolster my pasty white girl hip hop confidence.

As a nice counterpoint, Zane was giggling madly at the dancers and flinging his own arms up and down and twirling his wrists. Super cute and I wish I had my phone set up to video him, but I was too busy relearning my left and right feet.

Well, Cade finally ran to the couch to watch in scowling disapproval (so much for me getting him to join in) and Zane became so enthusiastic that he wrapped himself around my knees with the tenacity of an octopus (future parents take note-small children develop an uncanny ability to utilize phantom limbs that make it impossible to pry them off of you). I finally gave up when Zane started wailing because I wasn’t picking him up-but I made it to the last 8 minutes out of 30!

At the end of the workout I was definitely sweaty and tired, my heart rate nice and high, but it didn’t surprise me. I knew dance was stinking hard work, I’d watched my sister dance for years. What surprised me is how sore I am ALREADY even though I did nothing but the easy basic for beginner program and the moves did NOT seem that difficult physically, the challenge mainly seemed to be the whole “arms do this while feet do that independently but in rhythm” thing. It hurts just sitting here typing this.

Anyway, I’ll give it another go tomorrow. Maybe Cade will warm up to the idea with enough repetition? (HA!)

Pour Some Sugar On Me!

SCENE: I’m in the kitchen, doing my thing- cracking eggs, and stirring, and seasoning, and sending my two year old to time out for punching his brother, and more stirring- and then suddenly, I look down at my bowl of pancake batter in surprise.

Pancake Batter: Pour some sugar on me!

Me: Huh?

Pancake Batter: In the name of love!

Me, half smiling: Yeah, the boys would love that….NO! No, wait, why on earth would I do that?!

Pancake Batter: You’re depriving them of taste! They’re totally going to be the weird kid among their friends who will try a donut for the first time and flip out because they didn’t know they existed…

Me, guilty eyeballing the coconut sugar: I mean, I could just do a teaspoon and use coconut sugar, it’d barely be anything and coconut sugar is better for you…

Nutrition Angel appears on my shoulder with an eyebrow raised and sounding remarkably like my mom.

Nutrition Angel: Why would you add sugar now when they’ve enthusiastically eaten your banana pancakes every time you’ve made them without sugar with no problem?

I take a deep breath, glare at the batter, and pour a few dollops into the pan.

Pancake Batter: NOOOO!!!! *sizzle*

Sugar, you guys, just isn’t good for us in large quantities and it was one of the big reasons I started eliminating processed foods. My goodness, it is in EVERYTHING! A little sweet something something every now and again is one thing, but sugar for breakfast, lunch, and dinner was just ridiculous. I was proud of myself for eliminating all those nasty sugar sources, but I didn’t expect the sugar mindset to be such a stumbling block. I believe everything “tastes better” if you add sugar to it, ESPECIALLY in reference to making meals for my children. Like every parent out there ever, getting your child to eat well is just a boatload of exasperation, and I have this ingrained idea that if I just add a little sugar it’ll be more palatable and this is a good thing.

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Hmm, I think this needs a bit of something…

Nothing could be further from the truth. There are multiple studies on sugar addiction and the very real trouble our culture is in with the rising trends of obesity and the obsession with putting sugar in everything we consume. Children are a blank slate in some ways, and for my boys more than anyone else I strive to keep junk out of the house. It’s true, in a sense, that I am depriving them-of chocolatey cereal and krispey cremes, of canned spaghetti sauce and processed breads, of sugary drinks, of artificially sweetened anything, but this is NOT a bad thing! Sugar has been linked to Type 2 Diabetes (obviously), depression, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease…the list goes on. The risk of that list is what I’m trying to deprive my children of, and the beauty of it is they don’t need to know they are being deprived.

When my sons get older they will make their own eating choices and that’s fine. My goal is to set a foundation and to provide a model of healthy eating in the home, so even if they eat Papa John’s every night for four years of high school, they’ll have the base of what healthy eating looks like in reality. Hopefully that knowledge and understanding will eventually reassert itself.

Until then we eat a lot of fruit for our collective sweet tooths and I refrain from adding sugar-even coconut sugar-to recipes that just don’t need it.

**On the blog proper (like the homepage for it instead of just the post) I just started a Research Page to collect and post links to articles and studies that shape my perspective. Just an FYI.**

Nuts and Bolts

Ok, so, thanks for everyone so far who has read/commented/subscribed, I really appreciate it. I wanted to put some definitions/goals out there so that I’m transparent about what I’m aiming for with these posts.

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First off, I define clean eating as “nothing preprocessed.” Meaning, I avoid boxes, cans, and packages when I grocery shop. I also don’t use refined sugar (I made the switch to coconut sugar if I use any sugar at all). I DO, however, process my own food-meaning, I cook (poorly, but hey, work with me here.) I have exceptions-I buy canned tomato sauce no salt added (ingredients are tomatoes and citric acid) and I still buy pasta. I bake from scratch all bread/tortilla/muffins etc (so no, I’m not gluten free). Honestly, clean eating really does sound faddish and a bit stupid, but the goal is basically not to consume a bunch of preservatives and unnecessary crap.

I still use dairy, but I am increasingly trying to find recipes without it because Cade has a dairy sensitivity that makes his skin break out. I am hoping to eventually find a small farm I can get milk directly from the source so to speak, because boy does it make a difference, but in the mean time, we don’t use a lot of milk. I don’t buy any cheese with natamycin in it (a mold inhibitor) but we do eat a substantial amount of Fage greek yogurt (substantial as in-one container every 2 days). Eventually I’ll get around to making my own like my neighbor just for the wonders whey does for bread baking. 😛

I follow the “80/20” rule-I eat clean 80% of the time and don’t worry about it for the 20%. Honestly, it gets harder and harder to “eat dirty” haha. I can’t stomach anymore a lot of the foods that used to be a staple part of my diet…but I don’t say no to the occasional homemade batch of cookies. 😉

**This did not happen overnight! It took me almost a year to “eat clean” so to speak, and I didn’t have a lot of bad habits to break to begin with.**

GOAL: I’d like to do some clean eating challenges on here if people were willing. It’d be basically be a few days of prep and then 5 days of eating clean and reporting what you ate. I’ve done a clean eating challenge on my friend and coach’s page and the accountability does wonders. Also, I like to keep things positive about food and it’s a great way to scope out new recipes. 😛 Food is fantastic, I have no desire to deprive myself of all the wonders of eating, ha.

On to the exercise: Confession time.

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I love exercise you guys. I love it-maybe too much. It does wonders to fight off depression, to balance my mood, to revel in this amazingly strong yet fragile body I’ve been given, exercise does me good-body and soul. That said, I struggle, just like a lot of people, to get my lazy rear in gear and DO IT. But then, to compound the matter, when I DO get on an exercise streak and am feeling fit and fine and fancy, I can go overboard. Right now I’m trying to tone it back a hair.

WARNING PERSONAL INFORMATION AHEAD Brian and I are thinking about baby numero tres and my cycle has been flakey these last three months-possibly because I went from no running to running 5 times a week and breaking speed PR’s left and right. :/ END WARNING ALL CLEAR OF TMI.

It’s been SO NICE to run! To get out of the house away from the needs and demands of wife and mom and just, go. I don’t want to give it up, but my body is telling me I need to back off, and it sucks. I’m sticking with 3 days a week and keeping it to 3 miles and under. Why am I telling you this? Because, readers/friends/hecklers, I would like to live vicariously through you. Tell me of your fabulous exercise regimes, the fun, the failures, the sweat and exhaustion and then that smug sense of accomplishment.

GOAL: Somehow, some way, I am going to make exercise accountability/story time a part of this blog, because I need it.

Why all this hype about accountability? Well, that is it’s own blog post, but in a nutshell-it works. I am using Beachbody to hold me accountable-I stalked my coach, Danielle, ‘s page for over a year and watched her drop 60+lbs with clean eating, exercise, and accountability. So that’s the system I’m using. I am NOT, however, asking you to do the same. You need to find what works for you as a system, there are plenty of them out there. I am hoping you’ll help add to my accountability with comments and emails and challengey stuff though (just through the blog, no need to sign up for anything except reading my silly posts), because I’m a flake when it comes to consistency, so the more people watching (waiting for me to screw up–I mean, ahem, encouraging me) the better I’ll do.

AND -the biggest goal I have for this blog- I think it’d be really cool to help others create and keep nutrition and fitness goals, so if you’ve got some goals and want some accountability right back I’d love to return the favor. 🙂

My Beef with Zucchini

We’ve got no issues with fruit in this household. Ok, well, my husband does but I let him fend for himself when it comes to meals so he doesn’t really count. The boys, however, can DOWN some serious fruit. I go to the grocery store at least once midweek to replenish our fruit supply since they can demolish an entire carton of strawberries in one sitting. Yay fruit!

Vegetables, however, are a different story. Not going to lie, I like fruit better, too. It’s sweet, what’s not to love? I’ve just recently started to really try and include more vegetables in our diet, the motivation coming from the realization that my two year old hates meat of any flavor. I’ve tried sausages (of various persuasions), chicken, turkey, ham, pork chops, beef…he is simply not impressed. So I’ve been searching for nutritional meatless recipes and that means, more veggies. Mushrooms have so far been a hit, and portabellas seem to hold their weight as a main meal, but last night for our informal, “Meatless Monday” I tried a zucchini casserole that I made in a pie dish.

First off, waaaaay too much pepper. I actually measured the full teaspoon of black pepper it called for instead of just sprinkling a bit in like usual and holy cow, way too much. Cade, my two year old, choked down maybe one slice in between lots of water, and Zane, my 11month old, was able to eat two slices before refusing any more. Evening and bedtime routines continued as per usual, but even though Zane finished his night time bottle and a few mouthfuls of bread I managed to stuff into his mouth, I was justifiably worried.

Sure enough, at 530am SOMEone was already awake and moaning in his crib. 530 is way too early, and Zane is a reliable 630-7am waker upper. The fact of the matter is zucchini has no staying power. Veggies in general seem to have no staying power with the boys. I know they’re full of fiber so they supposedly make you feel full longer (though some of that may just be gas, I mean really) but when they crash they crash hard. Cade ate a bowl full of broccoli before nap-and I mean almost an entire bag of “family size” steamed broccoli on his own-and he woke up saying “else to eat, else to eaaatt!”

I’ll tell you one thing, the next “Meatless Monday” is going to be heavy on the beans. Those suckers have enough protein to keep them sleeping till 8. Or maybe sweet potato. Starch overload equals sweet dreams…

Where to begin…

So, I, uh, have this new blog here and, well, I’d love for you to follow/subscribe and read what I have to say. But no pressure! People have there own lives, I totally get it, busy raising families and making careers and stuff. But, if you get bored or something, you could maybe read a post or two just as something to take your mind of things, right? Just think about it…

What’s it about? Oh. Well, I was kinda hoping you wouldn’t ask because then I’m pretty sure you’re going to either roll your eyes or run away screaming. I’m fine with the eye rolling, heavens knows I’ve done more than my fair share while setting this up. I am so far outside my comfort zone I’m going to need to live in a Holiday Inn Express to make this work-but the thing is, when it’s all said and done, it’s important to me.

I’ve always been an exercisey type person, from gymnastics to a brief stint swimming, track and field (hurtles and hugh jump), to martial arts to ultra marathons-I’ve always loved physical activity, and I use it to fight off depression and to keep myself centered and calm. But I never really bothered eating right because, well, I’m skinny so I don’t have to, right?

Nope. It started with a tiny blip on the radar. An ultrasonic one. All of a sudden it wasn’t just ME I was hurting with fast food binges and vegetable avoidance, now I had a little blip that was suffering my poor choices as well. So I started being a little pickier about my meals, upping my salad and trying to avoid greasy stuff. I had no clue beyond the “I should eat more fruits and veggies and less fat, right?” Then that blip became a baby, a breastfeeding baby who was *still* dependent on me for nourishment. Then I was pregnant again while the baby started solid foods. Nutrition was looking a heck of a lot more important everyday, and exercise became more and more challenging to squeeze in between diaper changes and feedings.

To make a long story short (for now) I’ve started “eating clean” so to speak along with maintaining my exercise. It continues to be a juggling act, what with two small children and a husband in flight school. I’ve found the value of eating well exponentially improves my workout experiences and I continue to try and figure out ways to be healthier for my sanity as well as the for the health of my kids. This blog is hopefully going to be an accountability type thing for me- a way to publicly hold myself to my goals by sharing my success and my failures, as well as to organize a place where I can easily find all the articles and studies that have shaped my understanding of health. I’d appreciate any and all type of “followers” whether you are the “pass me the other cupcake while I read this moron’s health post” type or the “I can relate to this” fellow aspiring health nut. Feedback is always welcome.

If you made it all the way to the end of this post, thanks, it’s a start. 🙂