Category Archives: Sugar Free

Feeling Sassy and Full of Joy

The week after Thanksgiving when I stepped on the scale to see where I needed to go for the new year, and to see why my blood pressure was so high—I’m trained, like you are, to blame it on my weight, not stress or anything else it might be—I was shocked to find myself sitting firmly at 260 pounds. I’m 5’3″ tall, so 260 pounds is quite a little load to bear for someone of my stature.

I also looked in the mirror and saw someone who had recently come through a really bad depression, and when I say really bad, I don’t say that lightly. The details of that depression are fodder for a different essay, somewhere else, in another time when I am further away from that period in my life. I saw someone who was really stressed at work and who didn’t believe in herself the way I had always believed in myself.

I looked in my exercise journal and saw that I had been faking it at running, always having an excuse: my foot hurts, I’m too tired, or I was standing at work all day. I looked more deeply and saw that I was faking it at trying to play soccer. I played on Monday nights, minimally. I loved it, but I wasn’t pursuing it. I wasn’t swimming, biking, strength training, doing yoga, or anything that I wanted and needed to be doing. I wasn’t doing a lot of what I love.

I was simply existing. Unhealthily existing.

I’ve noticed lots of patterns in my life where I realize I’m drowning inside myself, so I throw out every life preserver I can think of. I change my diet, I exercise like a fool, I quit this that and the other all at once, and then I fail. The failure then makes me feel like I am drowning all over again.

I gave myself a couple of weeks to wallow.

The week before Christmas, I decided to cut out caffeine as a first step toward healing. I chose caffeine first, because I realized I was having difficulty sleeping, even if I quit drinking coffee before 11AM. I also realized that a lot of the caffeine I was drinking was in the form of really sugary coffee drinks, so I figured that would help with my January plan of cutting a lot of sugar out of my diet.

In January, along with caffeine, I cut out most added sugar. I say most, because I do indulge in one sugary snack each day, to allow myself some pleasure. I know me. If I don’t have some pleasure, I will fail. I’ve tried moderation before, and even failed at that, so I get one treat each day. Usually I choose a small hot chocolate with dark chocolate, no whip, and almond milk, but it’s getting too sweet for me, so I’ve switched to a Ghirardelli dark chocolate square with blueberry in it. Yes, I know chocolate can have caffeine, but less than half the caffeine in a double espresso or cup of coffee.

In January, I also joined with my brother to commit to 30 minutes of exercise each day. During the first couple of weeks, even 30 minutes of exercise seemed like hard work, but in February, I added another 30 minutes of exercise each day for a total of an hour each day. I am being very intentional and careful about what exercises I do each day, so that my muscles get a chance to relax and recover between days.

For March, I am adding in strength trainings. See? I’m trying to progress incrementally. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I bike and swim. One Tuesdays and Thursdays, I strength train and walk, and on Saturdays and Sundays, I walk with my wife.

There are four main changes, aside from the above mentioned diet and exercise changes, I’ve made that have made a difference in my mental health, my physical health, and my spiritual health. I quit drinking alcohol. I meditate more frequently. I eat lots of good food. I am learning to be present, to be joyful, and to give myself grace.

I quit drinking. I didn’t think it was a problem in my life, but it was, and I wanted to be perfectly sober for the next four years if you know what I mean. I met with my priest—I say my priest, but I rarely attend church anymore—just to chat about my depression. We met in late July or early August. When I told him about what was going on, he said, “Well, have you tried not drinking? Alcohol is a depressant, you know.” Since he is “only” a priest and not a mental health practitioner, I didn’t heed his advice until January 19, and I haven’t had a drop to drink since then, unless you count the minimal alcohol in kombucha.

For me, alcohol was a huge stumbling block to joy. Did I have a hard day at work? Have a rewarding beer! Did someone piss me off? Have a Scotch to right things! Instead of dealing with the situation that upset me, I’d just drink until it felt better. I’m not sure that makes me an alcoholic, but it sure made me dependent upon a substance for healing when there are so many other things that are better for me.

I meditate more frequently. Whenever I swim, I treat my time in the pool as meditation. I focus on my breath and my form. Since I have my handy Watch to count my laps, I am free to simply focus on the silence of the water, the breath that comes in and goes out, the way body moves in the water, and the way the water feels against my skin.

I also meditate when I am not swimming, using an app called Insight Timer. If you’re reluctant to try meditation, you should check it out. There are guided meditations preprogrammed, and you can set your own program. I sometimes spend time in prayer after meditation or before, and I have to say that people notice a difference in me. A coworker asked me if I was okay the other day. I said yes, why. He said, you just look so calm and centered.

I eat lots of good food. I watched a video courtesy of our wellness group at work, and the nutritionist talked extensively about fixing a broken metabolism by eating enough good fuel. She said that many of us have broken metabolisms from low-calorie diets, from over exercising and under eating, or simply from not eating food that provides sustainable energy for our bodies.

Whenever I have wanted to lose weight before, I have always cut calories and exercised harder. This time I used the Mifflin-St. Jeor calorie calculator, which she suggested in the video, to figure out how many calories I actually need. I was surprised to find out that with my level of activity, I need about 1900 calories per day to promote fat loss. I’d been cutting to less than 1000 to try to lose weight, but according to the nutritionist, that is a level where most people’s bodies think they are starving, so adding calories is way to jump start our bodies into thinking we’re well fueled and can sustain our levels of activity.

I’m seeing my body change, and I am eating food to fuel that change. I’m eating food as fuel and for pleasure. This is a whole new way for me to relate to food. And I like it.

Finally, I am learning to be present, to be joyful, and to give myself grace. There are days when I mess up, when I treat people poorly, when I don’t exercise, when I eat things that aren’t particularly good for me, when I don’t meditate, when I wish I could be anywhere else besides where I am, where things are all joy and puppy feet and rainbows.

More often than not, I am in the moment. I am present. With myself. With others. With my pets. With nature. With [Them]. I. Am. Present. There’s a line in The Alchemist that says, “The secret is here in the present. If you pay attention to the present, you can improve upon it. And, if you improve on the present, what comes later will also be better. Forget about the future, and live each day according to the teachings, confident that God loves his children. Each day, in itself, brings with it an eternity.” I have found this to be true. Instead of looking for what will be, I’m learning that relaxing into what is and improving on what is, brings an eternity in and of itself.

Most days I am filled with joy, because why not be? If a small bit of joy can be found in front of me, why not revel in it? Why not try to use my joy to make others joyful as well?

And finally, I am giving myself grace. One thing about living in the present is recognizing that when I am not present, or when I do not have joy, or when I behave in a way that doesn’t recognize and honor the divine spark in those around me, I can be vulnerable, honest, gracious, and refocus. I can come back to being present. and I can improve on that present.

I’m learning a lot of new things about myself on this new journey.

The Bad Waitress; Wellness Update

This morning my friend Stevi and I went to the Bad Waitress, here in Minneapolis, for breakfast. We both had the Heavy Pedal, which is a tofu scramble with whatever added ingredients the consumer desires. Stevi got some vegan sausage as a side, and I have to admit that it looked amazing. She said when she first tasted it, she thought they gave her the wrong sausage. If I can forego being humble for a moment, I am sure it tasted almost as amazing as the vegan sausage links I make. I haven’t made them for a while, but I should probably make it a point now that I’m vegan again.

I loved my meal, because it was full of good stuff like broccoli, mushrooms, curry powder, and turmeric. I also got gluten-free toast as a side and a delicious Americano to drink. Sadly, the gluten-free toast wasn’t vegan, but I ate it anyway, because it was already toasted, and I hate to waste food. Once I started eating the toast, I was pretty excited because it was the best gluten-free bread I’ve ever tasted. Now I’m on a quest to find delicious gluten-free and vegan bread so I can eat toast at home sometimes. I just love toast. I mean, I really, really love toast. TOAST!

After we ate, we walked down a couple of doors to Glam Doll Donuts, where Stevi bought some vegan donuts to take home to share with her fiancé. They seriously have a dozen different vegan donuts there, and surprisingly, the guy who helped us wasn’t pretentious. I prefer Mojo Monkey Donuts, because the women who work there are all kind and helpful, it’s closer to my house since it’s in St. Paul, and I’ve never had good luck with the folks who work at Glam Doll. However, this visit really bolstered my desire to return there to get some vegan donuts, because the guy was kind, funny, and helpful. Basically, he may have saved my faith in Minneapolis donuteries. Mojo Monkey is still my favorite, though.

On our way back to our meeting point, we stopped at Mississippi Market Co-op, where Bec and I are members, to get some Shea butter and turmeric. I ended up buying organic, fair-trade bananas and a container of organic, fair-trade Shea butter for my super-dry skin. I looked at some apples, but they were all $8-14 per bag, so I decided to buy those at our regular grocery store where I can get organic apples for $6 a bag, and I decided not to get the turmeric right now, because it was also very expensive. I get paid on Friday, so I’ll go this weekend to pick some up.

I have read and been told that turmeric can help to manage inflammation, but I am not a huge fan of the taste of it, unless it’s mixed with curry powder like in my tofu scramble this morning. I thought I would buy some turmeric capsules to help keep my joints from aching and my skin from itching so much. I have to admit, that short of some dry skin, my itching “from the inside” (as I like to think about and explain how my allergic itching feels) is all but gone. I have had one hive in the past two weeks, and I haven’t been taking my allergy medicine at all.

I don’t feel tired, and I don’t have pain when I go for a long hike. I’ve hiked as far as six miles on hilly terrain with no soreness in my joints. I’m at a point where I want to start running again, and I thought I would start again once May got here,  but I’ve decided to hold off until I get back from Indiana and start running again on June 1. I’ve lost 13 pounds since March 28, which wasn’t a real goal, but I’m pleased that it has happened, since being less fat will certainly make running success come easier.

I’m feeling content with my dietary decisions, and will continue them through May 25th when I visit Indiana. I am trying to decide how to manage life with being vegan full time, and will likely compromise with vegetarianism sometimes. As for sugar, well, I am hoping to be done with it, since sugar is neither good for me, nor does it help with my mood stability, and I’m just addicted to it. Once I start eaten M&Ms, I can’t stop until the entire bag is gone. I’m also planning to remain mostly gluten-free, but I have no desire to be insistent about it. Since food is an excellent way to bring people together, the last thing I want to do is cause people to be anxious about preparing meals in which I will partake. I am, however, planning to ask for a food allergy screening at my physical this summer, just to see what things may have actually caused me to feel so yuck all winter long.

Lastly, I got a great shirt in the mail last night. It says, “Eating animals is weird.” The more I think about it, the weirder is to me, and the sadder I am that I ever went back to it. Today, while Stevi and I were talking about speciesism and Danna Hardaway’s book When Species Meet, I was thinking about when I’ve shared the 50-wing platter at the Anchor Bar with Adam or Josh. That’s 25 chickens right there. The thing about veganism, or even vegetarianism for me, is that I feel so much more at peace. More kind. More compassionate. More loving. I’m not ingesting violence. And I feel it. Call me hippie-dippy, but I seriously feel more at ease in this world when I don’t have another animals blood coursing through my veins. And, I don’t have dreams of cows, pigs, and chickens chasing me at night.

25 chickens, dead for one meal.

25 chickens.

25.

Eating animals is weird.