Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Paleo Project

For those of you who don't know my journey from many moons ago, Jeremy and I were at a point in our lives where we packed on the pounds from eating too much crap and not exercising. When Jeremy started popping buttons off his slacks and not having energy to play basketball with our son, along with my parents telling me, ' don't need to gain any more weight,' well, that was an eye opener.  It was time to make a change.

Our goal has always been to BE healthy from the inside out. The problem was, how do we achieve our goal?  So, we started the painful and uncomfortable journey of trying to figure out how to become healthy. There were some crazy stints we tried like Jeremy's period of eating only canned pears and jogging. Yes, he lost weight, but he was far from healthy.  Since we loathed the idea of exercising, I came up with the grand idea that if we just ate healthy foods, then surely, we would become healthy.  We stocked up at Whole Foods with all kinds of healthy foods, threw out all the crappy food at home, then realized I didn't know how to cook the new food in a healthy way.  Within 48 hours, most of the new healthy food was starting to rot. What a concept, fresh food doesn't stay fresh very long. That turned out to be a very expensive lesson.

The problem was we were trying to make too many changes at once. After stumbling through our quest for healthy living for a couple of years, we realized we needed a balance of eating healthy foods and exercising on a consistent basis.  The turning point was making small achievable goals within a reasonable timeline to hit our targets. My very first goal was to eat at least one healthy meal per day paired with the goal of running one mile nonstop within 4 weeks.  Mission accomplished when I was able to commit to healthy breakfasts for 30 days and within three weeks I ran my first mile nonstop. Since it takes about 30 days to create a new habit, my next step was to maintain the two new habits I created and then add two new goals. From there I expanded the amount of my healthy meals and incorporated lifting weights.  30 days later, mission accomplished.  Repeat process every 30 days.

Our intent was never to achieve a specific weight, we weren't chasing a diet; diets are a temporary fix.  We were creating a healthy lifestyle. As a result of being consistent with healthy food and exercise, I shed 45+ pounds and Jeremy 75+ pounds.  Notice I didn't say, 'We lost weight,'  because we didn't lose it, we're not looking for it.

Here I am, 15 years into my healthy living lifestyle and throughout the years I like to change things up a bit.  Over the past year, Jeremy came to the realization he is allergic to gluten. We've tweaked our eating to minimize gluten. While Lizzie and I are not allergic to gluten, it's just easier for the family to have the same eating style. At the same time, I started hearing a lot about eating the Paleo way. After doing some research, I find parts of Palo intriguing so we've incorporated some concepts into our way of eating. Over the past 4 weeks, we have invested in organic meats, fruits and veggies and have eliminated cereals and the all natural chips and frozen meals that we used to buy. Did you notice I didn't say, 'we spent our money on expensive foods.'  Something important I've learned on my journey, choose your words wisely. I feel good about investing money in foods that will keep my family healthy. I don't feel good when I spend because that gives me a sense that I wasted money. See the difference?  An added bonus was discovering that by choosing to eat healthy, our visits to the doctor have diminished considerably.

How does society adopt the idea that breakfast must contain loads of sugar and other yucky stuff?  Fresh foods should be available and affordable to everyone and crap should be sold at a premium price. Just my $.02.  I like not having to resort to the typical breakfast of cereal, toast, muffins, etc.  Our breakfasts now are a variety of fresh eggs (we get them from Lizzie's friend) with sautéed veggies, or steak and eggs with spinach, or fruit salad with whipped coconut milk topped with cinnamon, or smoothies with greens, fruit, nuts, etc.

Being healthy doesn't mean we will never eat pizza or ice cream again.  Since our lifestyle is about balance, we continue to enjoy a pizza or an ice cream blast now and then.  Quite frankly, I would not want to give up my most favorite pizza in the world - Aurelio's. :)

Some meals I will cook up this week are:
Potato leek soup seasoned with herbs I brought home from Paris
NY strip steak with roasted yams and greens
Fish tacos served on greens with homemade guacamole
Finish the chicken soup I made the other day

Cooking bigger batches gives me leftovers for breakfast, lunch, or snacks.

Speaking of cooking, we recently upgraded from this...

to this!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Time To Detox

Every year I do a 2-3 day fast to clean out my system and detox from extra goodies eaten during the holidays. It's a time for me to focus more on God, thank Him for my blessings, and pray for continued good health for my loved ones and myself. Coming off our trip to Paris was the perfect time to do a fast.  While deciding how long my fast would last, I realized that I totally forgot to fast in 2012 because my focus was healing from the surgery.

I came down with a head cold and thought it best to do a 24 hour water fast. I'll never forget my first fast years ago, I thought I was going to die because I had a horrible headache. It was a painful experience because my body was full of toxins; all the crap I used to eat. Anyhoo, the fasts have become much easier, except for the final few hours of a 3 day fast. I've tried juice fasts but prefer sticking to water.

Half way through this year's fast I decided to break my habit of coffee in the morning because I didn't like the way my body felt if I forgot coffee first thing in the morning and an odd headache would set in. That was a sign my body was addicted to caffeine. As I was nearing the end of my fast, my cold worsened a bit which amplified my throbbing head. The cold held on for a few more days along with a splitting headache. Severals days after the end of my fast, I realized the remaining headache was linked to the lack of coffee in my system.  I stayed focus on breaking through the point where the headaches would disappear and they finally did almost two weeks after my fast ended.

Will I ever drink coffee again in the future?  I don't know, maybe, but my intent was stick it out until my body was free from the caffeine and to see what it feels like. I've always enjoyed tea and just plain hot water.  As I came off the fast, our family decided to eat Paleo style which is explained in the next blog.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Next Chapter

I want to thank everyone who has visited my blog and pray that it continues to be entertaining and/or beneficial in some way.  Moving forward, the content of my blog is leaving the recovery phase and entering the next chapter: archery training.  Remember when I shared my race walk events and how I was considering walking or handcycling the NYC marathon?  Over the past few months, I learned that the amount of training required for such a goal would mean many long hours of training by myself and quite frankly, is not feasible with my family's schedule.

Why in the world would I want to start training for archery competitions as a para archer?  Because it fits perfectly into my family's schedule, I don't train alone and, quite simply, because I can.

A chain of events occurred at one of my daughter's archery tournaments during the summer of 2012.  I've had zero experience with archery but can tell you the difference between a recurve and compound bow.  During this particular tourney, I had to ask the event director a question so I walked toward him and saw a gorgeous cobalt blue compound bow that looked right out of a futuristic movie.  I said to myself, "Wow!  What a great looking bow!"  After chatting with the director, I walked by the bow again and heard the archer say, "... yeah, I don't have the strength that I used to, so I picked up this bow... it's the lightest they make..."

At this same event was Lee Ford who had just returned from competing at the 2012 London Paralympics.  I recognized Lee from an archery club my daughter shot with a couple of years ago.  I was very happy for Lee and her accomplishment and got curious; what is her disability?

Several days later, I started Googling this mysterious bow and discovered a para archer in England who recently acquired the exact bow I saw at the tourney: Hoyt Carbon Matrix G3.  Google came to the rescue again when I found Lee's bio and learned about her journey into the archery world and her disabilities.

My wheels are really turning at this point and I start thinking about the possibility of me learning how to shoot and someday compete.  Remember in an earlier post I said I could never win a 5k race as a walker, but that I will always finish.  Well, with archery, I do have the possibility winning a tourney.  That revelation was so exciting!

At this point, I found out who Lee's coach is and I reached out to Jim White to see if he would consider me as a student. After explaining my disability and sharing xrays, Jim said we should meet so he could evaluate me and see if I was capable of drawing a bow as a staring point. During our meeting I told Jim that I had been living my life over the past few years in the, 'I can't do (fill in the activity) because of my back,' mindset. Guess what?  I'm now living in the, 'I can,' mindset which is what urged me to meet Jim.

Jim asked me if I'd like to compete which I do. He explained that the best way for me to compete is by using a compound bow because I won't have to hold the full draw weight compared to a recurve bow. What this means is, if I'm drawing the string of a 25# recurve bow, I must hold the full 25# draw weight until I release the string. A compound bow, through the use of cams/pulleys, has a 'let off' point when an archer draws so that the same 25# draw weight let's off after the string is drawn close to the face and the weight lightens up between 65%-80% depending on the bow. This allows the archer holds less draw weight until the string is released. What this means for me is that I will have less stress on my back shooting a compound.

Jim went on to explain that as a para archer I can not only compete, but I can go as far as the Paralympics if I want to using a compound with a maximum shooting distance of 70m.  At this point, I was super excited but nervously waited for his decision as to whether or not he would take me on as a student. He went on to say that he typically works with elite athletes or those whose goals are to become elite...

Wait for it... here it comes... I'm holding my breathe at this point!

He said he would be happy to be my coach and train me when I'm ready for competitions. Yippee!!!!!  Jim connected me with Lee Ford and said she will be a great resource for me. Jim said for me to learn the basics with Lizzie's coach first and then if I decide I enjoy the sport, let him know and then we'll talk about me buying gear.

So my curiosity increased and I reached out to Lee with a lot of questions.  Lee has been incredibly helpful and I was surprised to learn she started shooting 4 years before competing in the Paralympics. What an inspiration!  Believe it or not, she has a spine issue too.

I've been training with Lizzie's coach on a 15# recurve (the club doesn't have any compound) and have found club equipment (gear archers borrow during class) is not as reliable as your own gear because many people use the same equipment.  I decided to take my stretch bands with me to Paris so I could continue my workouts and I stuck to my routine.  Several weeks before our holiday, I started using Lizzie's 25# recurve to start training my back on what it feels like to pull 25#.  I was only able to pull once but am now up to x3 per session.  The first time I shot in class after our trip, the 15# recurve felt very easy to draw.

Early in January, I decided it was time to invest in a bow.  After consulting with Jim and the fellas at Archery Learning Center, I ordered a custom Matrix G3 30#-40# draw weight.   Jim suggested I buy an adjustable bow 30#-40# because I'll need that weight to shoot the long distances.  The tech guy at Archery Learning Center said he can torque this bow back to 25# which is perfect because that is what I've been practicing on with Lizzie's bow.

My bow should arrive toward the end of February and I am super jazzed!  The challenge I have with my disability is that I will never be able to bend over or twist and the majority of my back is numb.  Drawing a bow does not involve using one's bicep; it is all in the pull of the scapula muscles.  Well, that's fine, however, I'm having to learn how to pull with my scapula since I cannot feel anything back there.  Lizzie took a video of me so I can see what's happening back there.  I was quite tickled to see my scapula move and look forward to strengthening and building muscle.

My training is bow hold with Lizzie's bow x3 days a week and alternate with stretch band and weight exercises, in addition to shooting x1 or x2 a week.

It's been an abundant 2012 and am eager to see how 2013 unfolds!  :) 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The City of Lights

We are home from our incredible journey to Paris where we celebrated Lizzie's 13th birthday, Christmas, New Year's and me being postop over a year.  Leading up to our trip, my prayers were focused on God keeping us healthy and safe, prayed for the flight crews to be focused on safe travels and thanksgiving for the opportunities we were about to experience.

After researching info about the Charles De Gaulle airport and how it is poorly laid out, I called Delta and arranged for a wheelchair at all ends of our flights.  One of the best decision because we were whisked away by my transports who guided us to the front of the lines at customs, passport checks and security.  It was seamless and extremely stress free.  I plan to do this again for our next international trip.

My plan was to take a valium (I have left overs from the surgery) on the 8 hour flight to help me sleep, something I've never been able to do on a plane in the past.  Shortly after taking the pill, I slipped into a comfortable sleep but was awoken about 45 minutes later by the two young women sitting behind me.  At first I thought they were singing, so I turned up the volume on  my headset to drown them out, but then I realized they were chanting in a different language.  I could clearly hear them despite wearing my headphones and when I was about to ask a flight attendant to ask them to be quiet, they stopped.  So much for my theory of sleeping on a plane.

Lizzie came down with a fever the day before we started our trip and had a bad head cold.  Fortunately, I packed plenty of meds for her to keep her symptoms under control.  The fever only lasted 3 days (day before trip, day 1 of trip and day 2 of trip); however, the head cold hung around for almost half of our trip.  She was such a trooper.

Our mission once we settled into the apartment was to find food for the next few days.  In Paris, shoppes actually close for the holidays unlike the US.  Outside our front door was a boulangerie (bread shop) where we had our first authentic croissants, pain de chocolat (chocolate bread) and baguette.  A stone's throw away was rue Poteau where all the food shoppes were located.  One of the first things we learned to ask was, "Parlez-vous Anglais?"  Do you speak English?  If a shopkeeper responded, "No," our next question was, "Parlez-vouc Espanol?"  Do you speak Spanish?  Jeremy is fluent in speaking Spanish even though he won't admit it but he's been told he is by native speakers of the language.  We had a 50/50 chance of someone understanding either language.  The few times we encountered folks who only spoke French, pointing worked out well for us when trying to communicate in restaurants.  We quickly acquired a few days worth of food and headed back to the apartment for a nap.

The weather changes quickly in Paris so we planned most of our outings when we woke up in the morning because the forecast was drastically different from the night before.  We took a bus tour through Paris which really gave us a good idea of the lay of the land so to speak.  The first time we saw the Eiffel Tower on the tour, it was a grey cloudy afternoon.  

That same evening we cruised the Seine river, the clouds went away and the Eiffel Tower sparkled at night.  It was incredible!  

An important thing to know when traveling in Paris, you must pay-to-pee in Paree!  :)  If you are not eating in a restaurant and you are out and about, you will have to pay to use a toilette.  Another thing to keep in mind is the women's bathrooms are often, not always, located in an area where you must walk past/through the men's urinals which usually have no doors.  Obviously, women did not design the toilette layout in this city.

Most everything closes for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day was like a ghost town.  We walked around our neighborhood, Montmartre, on Christmas Eve for a bit and then stayed in the apartment all day Christmas Day so Lizzie could sleep in and rest up.  Our landlord, Rolinka, stopped by to bring us some Christmas decorations to put up in the apartment.  Rolinka is a super sweet woman and we highly recommend her apartment whenever you are in the city!  It was a 2 story, 2 bedroom apartment with plenty of space, dishwasher and washing machine close to metro and shoppes.  Tell Rolinka that Doreen referred you.  ;)

Early in our trip we went 1 metro stop south to visit Sacre Coeur which is an incredible church on the highest point in Paris.  There were a couple of shoppes that we were looking for in the area too.  Prior to arriving in Paris, my research warned me about some recent scams occurring throughout Paris and we walked smack-dab into the middle of one scam that day.  We were in awe over the sight of Sacre Coeur and as we walked toward the church craning our heads upwards to stare at it, we didn't realize we walked into several packs of men who were aggressively trying to tie "friendship bracelets" onto our hands and then demand money as payment for the bracelet.  My first hint that something was wrong was hearing Jeremy say in an increasingly loud voice, "No thank you, no, let go, NO!"  Before I realized it, one of these men grabbed my wrist and pulled my hand out of my coat pocket and was getting ready to tie a string onto me.  I yelled, "NO!" which I think surprised him because he said, "Ok, ok," and he let go of me.  Lizzie was like super glue to me and we rushed past the pack of men.  What we realized afterwards was that these packs were completely surrounding all entrances up to the church, but if you walked around to the back side of the church, or on the other side of the street, no one was there to bother you.  On our way back to the metro, we saw an unfortunate woman surrounded by one of the packs who had tied a string to her thumb and wouldn't let go demanding money.  Literally, these are pieces of string with a price tag of E20+ which is $26.

Lesson #1, don't let anyone touch you much less tie something onto you or say, "Madame, you dropped your ring, you can have it back for XX euros."

Lesson #2, if someone approaches you asking if you speak English, do NOT respond, ignore them and keep walking away.

That was the only drama we experienced and I must say I was shocked that these guys actually grabbed Jeremy's arm too.

230+ steps up and 230+ steps down to get to the church.  That's me in the green coat (bottom right corner) looking up at my step-workout!

Anyhoo, I found the first store on our To-Do list (we were saving museum visiting for later in our trip): Marche St. Pierre which is a 5 story fabric shoppe.  My sole purpose was to acquire French napkins and kitchen towels.  Mission accomplished!  Nice clerks who spoke English.

The second store on the list, Chine Machine, which is a vintage clothing store.  One of the clerks is from the US so obviously spoke our language.  We discovered the cool cellar area with stone walls and some whackadoodle outfits.  It was a lot of fun as Jeremy was being silly trying on a bunch of different jackets.  Lizzie scored a killer authentic French military jacket and a cozy cardigan while I acquired an animal print scarf, leather belt from Italy and a 1950's Parisian dress (Peter Pan type collar, fitted bodice and pleated skirt).  Voila, mission accomplished x2!

We soon realized the incredible deliciousness of the baked goods at our local boulangerie, and we quickly fell into the daily breakfast of croissants and pain de chocolat and a fresh baguette for lunch or dinner.  Even though we ate two packages of the most incredible French butter during our stay, I only gained two pounds.  Walking our hineys off and climbed many, many steps everyday which helped burn off the extra calories.  Just to get from the street level of the metro down to the actual train was 122 steps one way. 

Wednesday evening we attended the ballet Don Quixote; what an incredible evening!  Thursday morning was our private food tour with Wendy Lyn an ex-pat from Panama City, FL.  Lizzie was really feeling rough that day and the weather was incredibly cold mixed with rain. We bought some delightful breads, cheeses, meats and wine during our tour.  Much to our surprise, the butcher made a slight error when we ordered a duck breast stuffed with foie gras which we planned to roast for New Year's Eve dinner.  We discovered he gave us 1.5+ pounds of foie gras instead.  Oops!  It was fabulous!  :)

Erik Kayser is the most spectacular artisan breadmaker. We learned some secrets about choosing the right baguette and discovered one of the most decadent chocolate chip cookies!  The next stop on our tour was a poissonarie, fish shop. Wendy recommended we buy a whole fish called a Bar fish and roast it at our apartment. Believe it or not, I had never cooked a whole fish before because I thought it was complicated. Boy, was I wrong!  The fishmonger cleaned the fish which is probably the step that I thought would be complicated because I didn't know someone could clean the fish for me.  I placed a couple of lemons slices in the cavity of the fish and sprinkled a little bit of herbs de Provence inside too, wrapped it in foil and baked for one hour at 180c, about 350f. Voilà!

Our next stop was the fromagerie owned by Laurent Dubois who holds the prestigious MOF (Meilleurs Ouvriers de France) title in cheese. This means he has the BEST cheese in all of France.  Monsieur Dubois happened to be in the shop while we were there. Wendy taught us the proper protocol for food shopping in Paris and even showed us the faux pas made by a tourist in the store. We indulged in some decadent cheeses: Irish porter infused with Guinness beer, a brie that was so incredibly soft it oozed onto the plate, another brie with black truffles, etc. 

The final stop on our tour was at the chocolatier of MOF Patrick Roger, pronounced Pah-treek Ro-jay.  Let's just say, Monsieur Roger is called the Tim Burton of chocolate. One of his projects involved traveling the world observing animals in their natural habitat and sketching the animals. He returned to France and recreated some of these animals in chocolate sculptures.  The biggest chocolate masterpiece weighs 4 tons features 20 carved hippos in a river... all chocolate and one year to create, genius!  

Friday was spent at the Louvre, lunch at Angelina's (world's most decadent chocolat chaud (it's a thick syrup of chocolate deliciousness that coats your throat and tummy), climbing to the top of Norte Dame, and climbing to the top of the Arc de Triumph at night.  Jeremy calculated I had walked more steps on Friday alone than the steps in the Empire State Building.   

 World's best chocolat chaud served in a pitcher:


Winged Victory (aka Nike) took my breath away in the Louvre:
Inside Notre Dame I sat for a bit and prayed.

We walked 422 steps to the top of Notre Dame!
Gargoyle with an attitude

Yet again, another 200+ steps one way to the top of the Arc de Triomph:
Looks like a nautilus shell
Arc de Triomph
View from the Arc rooftop

Saturday we spent at Versailles, the kings' palace; the epitome of uber-opulence!  Sunday we spent in the catacombs - HIGHLY recommend!  Despite a three hour wait in freezing temperature, it was a super fun day.   

Versailles blue skies
Versailles Golden Gate
Versailles Gardens

Me and Lizzie at Versailles
6 million people placed in the catacombs!
Descending into the catacombs
  New Year's Eve at Scare Coeur overlooking the Eiffel Tower, in the cold rain... PRICELESS!

I could go on and on (as if I haven't already) about our trip, but to wrap things up:

French food is sublime.
French men and women are quite frankly, handsome and beautiful.
10 hours on a plane is about all I can handle.
So far, this has been the trip of my lifetime.


Au revoir & Bonne Annee!