Tuesday, January 31, 2012

That's what I get for cheating

I woke up this morning actually excited that I would get to weigh myself. I was guessing I'd lost at least 5 more pounds since my cheatin' weigh-in on January 14, when I hit 166, so I was really hoping to have broken into the 150s. But no. I now weigh 165.

My first thought was, "One measly pound? This can't be right! I just had someone tell me yesterday that she'd never seen me this skinny!" But then I remembered: I haven't been this skinny in about 20 years. I lost 9 pounds in the month of January, and I've lost 19 pounds since I first started all this on September 1. So I have nothing to complain about.

Will try, therefore, to keep the grumbling to myself.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Paleo challenge, Day 30

Well, I've eaten my last meal of the Whole30 challenge (an obscene amount of spicy Vietnamese pork with cabbage). What to do now, with no rules? How do I cope with this thrilling, dangerous freedom?

Well, the temptation is to change to different rules. The Whole30 people actually posted a blog about this very topic, and they suggest slowly backing away from the rules altogether and trying to find a healthy balance. And then when you inevitably slide back into your old eating patterns, you're supposed to do the Whole30 all over again. I've done that cycle once already, so I think I'm okay with that. It was a lot easier the second time, and I learned a ton. It should make the dream of rule-free healthy living that much easier to achieve.

I do have a plan for tomorrow, though. I'm going to weigh myself and have exactly one of the chocolate-covered macadamia nut clusters Santa brought me for Christmas. Not sure which one I'm looking forward to more.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Freeze Your Thorns Off 5K virtual race report

After a month and a half of sitting around trying to rest my strained groin muscle, I made the questionable decision tonight to take part in the Freeze Your Thorns Off 5K virtual race. It was my:
  • First virtual race
  • First 5K
  • First time running more than a tenth of a mile consecutively since July.
So why did I do it? Well, since I've been eating Paleo and losing weight, I've been repeatedly surprising myself with athletic achievements. I figured that if I could do two consecutive yoga pushups, swim a 33-second wall-start 50 free, and run up and down staircases without getting winded, then I could probably do a 5K on a treadmill in record time with no training whatsoever. Plus, it just sounded fun, and I heard there were prizes. Hopefully not just for fast people…but I'm getting ahead of myself.

For some background, when I trained for the Ironman (mostly on the treadmill), I was running anywhere from 4.5 to 5.5 mph generally. 5.5 mph took me right up into the upper heart-rate ranges I was supposed to hit. I remember at one point I tried running a 10-minute mile, just to incorporate some "speed"work, and it was pretty tough.

So I've established that I am slow. Now I'd like to also establish that I have no idea how to pace a 5K. In marathons and half marathons, the strategy is to pick a pace you feel like you can hold forever, and then just run at that pace until you're finished or something breaks. But I didn't want to do that for this race, because I truly wanted to see how fast I could go. I thought maybe I could hold a pretty decent clip for 25 to 30 minutes, so why not go for it?

So I started out at a pretty decent clip. It wasn't bad for about the first half-mile, but then my heart started feeling like it was going to burst out of my chest. So I slowed down some, and finished the first mile in 9:40. Okay. Not bad for me, and still faster than when I was training for the Ironman.

Mile 2, I knew at that point, would not be great. But I thought if I could run a little slower and get my heart to settle back into its place, then I might be able to pick up the last mile and still break 30 minutes. My legs felt pretty good, and my breathing was fine, but my chest still felt explody, and I didn't want to go into cardiac arrest in the middle of the gym. That mile was about 11 minutes.

I started to pick up the pace again in the final mile, but I realized pretty quickly it just wasn't going to happen. I dropped down to a 13-minute-mile pace, just so I wouldn't have to actually walk, and sped up again only for the last two-tenths or so. The goal at this point was to finish, alive, in time for yoga.

Final time: 32:56, alive, and in time for yoga.
Lesson learned: Next time, train.
Other lesson learned: Losing 15+ pounds makes you faster, training or no training.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Hail the queen

I decided to go back to yoga today—not to my regular class, but to one I know to be much easier, because I'm still working on recovering from my injury. The downside was that this class is taught by a woman whose personality sometimes rubs me the wrong way, but maybe just because she is Billings' generally accepted queen yoga guru, and I have a problem with authority figures.

Anyway, she walked in and proclaimed that the local newspaper was interviewing her for a feature story in the Health section and that a videographer would be coming in to shoot the class for the online edition. So the first 20 minutes of class was her talking about this, adjusting music and lighting levels, and anxiously waiting for the guy to arrive. The next 20 minutes was an exaggerated, slow-motion version of her class for the benefit of the camera (she actually had us redo one series because she was afraid the videographer had missed it) and coaxing people to stand in front of it and talk about her. The last 20 minutes I spent basically giggling with a friend of mine about the whole situation—until we realized she was asking us in that calm yet authoritative voice to shut up and let everyone else do their savasana thing.

So…it's all good. Yoga was terrifically amusing, and I was happy to find that I can now do two yoga pushups in a row. Plus I might be famous or something.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Paleo challenge, Day 25

My problem lately is that I'm bursting with energy but have been relentlessly chained to the computer.

I did get out of the house for a couple of hours today to take my grandmother to a hearing aid appointment and grocery shopping. (But since she walks at 0.5 mph, that wasn't as much help as you might think.)

Obviously, this is a nice problem to have, since it hints at both vigor and income, but I'm still going a little stir crazy.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Looking forward to the end

I've started to give some thought to what I want to do after the 30-day challenge is up this time. Ideally, I'd like to find some magic formula to keep me eating Paleo nearly all the time, but (a) still have some occasional chocolate and (b) not have to order something non-pizza when we find ourselves in a pizza restaurant.

There are lots of other temptations that crop up from time to time, of course, but I think I'd be pretty much content if I could just have (a) and (b).

I'm eager to hit the end of the 30 days, not so much because I want to eat junky food again (although some chocolate does sound good), but more because I'm looking forward to weighing myself. I have a hunch that I might be skinnier than ever.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Swim meet and a Paleo "picnic"

First of all, my 11-year-old did great at his swim meet, with massive time improvements* from the last meet just four or five weeks ago. Three coaches told me independently how hard he works at practice, but he's always done that…so I'm playing up the fact that his diet has improved a lot in those four or five weeks. Hey, kids! Look what happens when you listen to your mother and eat your veggies!

As far as our Paleo "picnic" (no access to hot foods), it was not so great. By Sunday afternoon, my stomach hurt, probably from eating so many nuts, and I was thinking that going hungry might have been the best option after all. But we got through it with no cheating and were glad to get home to the leftover chili, Vietnamese pork, and tasty, tasty cabbage. (Shredded cabbage! I am putting it in everything now!)

First thing this morning, I hit the pool. Those darn kids make it look so easy.

*59 seconds off his 400 IM, 2:35 off his 1000 free, 40 second off his 500 free, 6 seconds off his 50 fly, 22 seconds off his 100 IM…

Friday, January 20, 2012

Weekend provisions

We're going to be at a swim meet all weekend about an hour's drive from home, in a town with no restaurants that don't have "Mc" in front of their names. Or "King" or "Queen" at the end. There might be a "Bell." But the point is, NO PALEO FOOD.

So we've been puzzling over what to pack that's (a) Whole30 legal and (b) will be decent cold or at room temperature. So far we've come up with hard-boiled eggs, tuna, fruit, raw vegetables, nuts, and the banana-walnut muffins I just made. We should be able to survive on that, but I will miss the chili and lo mein in the fridge.

I suppose ideally I'd just pretend the hunt wasn't successful and go hungry for six hours, but that seems like a really bad idea at a place where they're going to be selling pizza and doughnuts.

P.S. My swimmer has been looking incredibly strong lately when I see him at practice. (Could it be the improved nutrition???) I think he's going to destroy some of his times this weekend, and he seems to think so, too. Stay tuned.

P.P.S. Paleo challenge Day 20? Nothing to report, sorry.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Five cool things to do with a food processor

I've been having lots of fun with my food processor. My new favorite thing is to disintegrate vegetables and then throw them into my cast-iron pan with some oil and meat. In fact, I made my kids Disintegrated Vegetables for dinner tonight, customized to the vegetables and seasonings each one likes—or should have liked, if they were old enough to be reasonable about such things. I keep reminding myself that forcing them to eat vegetables is in my job description.

Anyway, my new food processor is cool. I have so much to tell you about it that it calls for a list:

Five Things I Suggest You Do with a Food Processor
  1. Peel a head of garlic (in less than 10 seconds), throw it in there, and make a little bowl of chopped garlic to facilitate future cooking. Don't worry about it going bad in the fridge. It's only about a day and a half's worth if you cook like I do.
  2. Coarsely chop a head of cauliflower, throw it in, and create insta-perfect cauliflower rice. You don't even need to cook it beforehand, because once the pieces are rice-sized, they steam or fry in about 15 seconds flat.
  3. Disintegrate vegetables. Carrots! Broccoli! Onions! Everything is better in tiny chunks. My aunt says she even pulses Brussels sprouts for a few seconds to get a big pile of leaves, which sounds amazing. (I don't think my food processor is big enough for that, though.)
  4. Let seven or eight frozen strawberries defrost in the food processor for an hour or so (this is for the safety of the little food processor, which nearly self-destructed when I tried this with hard-frozen ones). Then push the button, and when they start getting creamy, add a couple tablespoons of coconut milk and about a teaspoon of vanilla and pulse some more. (You could do honey, too, if you haven't temporarily banned all sweeteners like I have.) Bam, ice cream! Eat it now. 
  5. Turn almonds into almond flour. Almond flour is ridiculously expensive, but almonds aren't too bad. So make your own almond flour. Then do this: Pour some coarse almond flour and some salt into a nonstick pan, along with some coconut oil. Cut in the coconut oil as it melts, like you were making pie crust. Cook it over medium-high heat until it smells really good and starts to brown. Then cool and sprinkle over anything. Or just eat with a spoon. My son calls these "random crunchies" and prefers the spoon method.
Bonus sixth thing: I've heard a rumor that if you keep processing nuts past the "flour" stage, they will eventually turn into nut butter. Frankly, this sounds too good to be true, so I haven't tried it yet.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

My first eBay selling spree

I spent half the day working on eBay and got 13 items listed for sale. Believe me when I say it's just the tip of the iceberg of what I have to sell. I haven't even ventured into the realm of outgrown toys yet. But this means I've also just committed myself to half a day of work a week from now to (hopefully) get all this valuable merchandise shipped.

I tried to plan this so it's just one trip to the post office a month. I hope I'm right, because I really hate the post office.

P.S. Do you think "Small flat-rate Priority Mail box full of 10 years' worth of assorted broken crayons" would sell?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Paleo challenge, Day 16

I can't believe I let Day 15 go by without a Paleo update. Guess I've been too busy SITTING HERE editing my husband's new book. I'm trying to get as far as I can with it this three-day weekend, because next week I expect to be SITTING HERE with a ton of work. No time to be SITTING HERE blogging.

Yeah, did you catch the subtle theme of that paragraph? I spend a lot of time sitting at the computer. And now that I'm deliberately not walking so much or going to yoga, I feel like I've reached crisis levels of sitting at the computer. I'm seriously going to start swimming several times a week, starting this afternoon, at least until I can go back to yoga.

Anyway, the update is that despite all that sitting, I'm feeling great. I've got a lot more energy than I did even six days ago. For some reason it seems like I've been a lot hungrier, too—but I just roll with it and eat more. (The problem might be that everything I cook now is so stinking delicious.) (Bacon ranch excepted.) I've been trying lately to eat only in the eight-hour window when it's light out, as I was doing before, but I've been getting hungry in the evenings and usually have at least a small snack after hours. Again, I just roll with it. Fasting was easy before, and I'm sure it will become easy again.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Cheating (but it's not what you think)

Part of the deal with the Whole30 challenge is you're not supposed to weigh yourself for the entire 30 days. The idea is that, rather than obsessing about your weight, you should focus on how your food choices make you feel.

Well, I woke up this morning feeling discouraged. Sitting for long periods of time makes my injury really achy, and I spent last night playing cards at my parents' house, doing just that. Every time I stood up, it hurt, and it took me a couple of minutes to work the kinks out. I felt like I might as well be 80, not 40. And on top of that, everyone else there was eating chocolate cream pie, including my mother, who has now semi-Paleo-dieted herself down to a Size 4. (Why, yes, that is the jealousy talking.)

I decided I had to know whether any of this was doing any good. So I got out of bed and got on the scale, hoping to have at least lost the 5 pounds I gained in December. It was better than that: I've lost 8 pounds, meaning I'm at my lowest post-kids weight ever at 166.

I'm not interested in turning into a weight-obsessed "dieter" who lets the numbers on the scale dictate her mood. But I have to say, it did make me feel better. Pressing on now.

Friday, January 13, 2012


I went to yoga, but every time I should have backed off, my ego got in the way. We did Bird of Paradise, which is my very favorite impressively-hard-pose-that-I-can-now-do, and it would have taken a better woman than I to quietly sit it out. Now I can barely walk without sufficient warm-up. And I'm heavily favoring my uninjured leg for everything, so I'm worried I'm going to pass this problem around to other muscles.

I was seriously considering trying physical therapy, which still might not be a bad idea, but then I realized something: I am not training for an Ironman anymore. I can actually rest this thing, give it time to heal, and I will not be out a $600 entry fee or a lifelong dream. It might make it impossible to walk 1,000 miles this year, but who cares? Maybe it means I'll swim more!

By the way, I officially withdraw my recommendation to make Paleo ranch dressing out of bacon grease. I tried to eat some of it today, and not only did it taste nasty, but it was a solid, about the consistency of hard ice cream. (I guess "liquid at room temperature" is a positive attribute for the oil in your dressing.) I bought some light olive oil today and will try again someday when I regain the heart for it.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Bacon ranch, first attempt

I was thinking about the ranch dressing problem again. (That being either the problem of me not being able to eat a salad without it or the problem of making a Paleo version that tastes good, depending on your perspective).

The thing that's a turnoff about the Paleo ranch (besides it being annoyingly time-consuming to make) is that it always tastes so strongly of whatever oil was used to make it. But last night I read something that made alarm bells go off in my head: Instead of oil, you could make it with bacon grease. Like, bacon ranch??! OK!

I wish I could say I now have the perfect recipe and a tasty little bowl of it in my fridge. What I do have is a little bowl of something promising that somehow ended up way too salty and also a bit sour. But at least now I feel like I'm on the right track.

As a bonus, it was a great excuse for my husband and me to each have four pieces of bacon for breakfast this morning so I could harvest enough fat.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Taking time to heal

I'm taking a third day off from exercise in a row, which would be fine except for the goal I set to walk 1,000 miles. I'm acutely aware that 1,000 miles of walking in a year averages out to almost three miles every day, and I hate to let these precious days slip by when it's only the second week of January.

I did some more Googling about groin and hip flexor injuries, and I saw an article about how doing a lot of yoga might create an imbalance, with the back of the legs very flexible (yep) and the front of the legs much less so (yep). Here I was thinking this injury was a fluke, but it might actually be a systemic problem. I think I'm going to take yoga down yet another notch for a while and be very conscientious about stretching my hip flexors. Also, it wouldn't hurt if some magical healing powers of Paleo would start kicking in soon. This is not causing me much pain, but I do prefer NO pain.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Paleo challenge, Day 10

I keep trying to buy fresh spinach by the ginormous box from Costco, but since it's usually just me eating it, I can never get through it fast enough. But I recently discovered the secret to eating lots and lots of spinach: Cook it. When it's raw, I can't choke down more than a cup at a time, especially now that ranch dressing is out and I still haven't found a great substitute. But it cooks down to nothing, and you can sneak it into almost anything that way.

Today alone, I used at least four or five cups of it making this meatball and spinach soup. It was so good that my husband and I finished it all, which means we each ate at least two cups of spinach. (Uh, not to mention more than a half-pound of ground beef, but remember, this experiment is about food choices, not calorie counting.)

The update for Day 10 is that I'm feeling pretty good. I'm pretty sure that I've started to lose some weight again, and I'm not collapsing in exhaustion in the middle of the day anymore.

Monday, January 9, 2012


I was getting out of the car this morning—carelessly forgetting that I am 104 years old and easily damaged—and pulled my hip flexor/groin again. Or at least something very painful happened in that region.

I've been trying very hard to walk and do yoga without hurting it, and it seemed to be getting better, but it might be time to try total rest for at least a few days. Grumble, grumble, thousand miles, yoga pushup, grumble.

The most aggravating thing about all this is do you remember how I hurt myself in the first place? Sprinting? Doing the splits? Trying to jump over the couch? Nope! Bending down! (As I recall, I was in the kitchen demonstrating what a swimming track start looks like, but let's just pretend I was reaching to pick something up off the floor, because it would be the same motion, and that sounds a lot less stupid.)

I read that these things can take six weeks to heal, and I am really not in the mood.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Ode to veggies

A year ago, I would never have believed that my standard grocery list would ever contain zucchini, cauliflower, and cabbage, but we've been buying that stuff by the truckload and can't keep it in the house. (Not to mention, I'm working my way through my second jicama and third sweet potato.) I had never eaten zucchini until a few months ago, but everything I make with it is so unfailingly delicious, I think it might be my favorite vegetable. And my 11-year-old routinely gives the nickname "death by tasties" to anything with cauliflower in it.

This Paleo experiment has been well worth the trouble, if only for this new-found ability to cook and eat vegetables.

Here's a great recipe for Paleo lo mein, which I made without the deadly celery, replacing the water chestnuts with chopped jicama. I also loved these zucchini cakes, even though I couldn't get them to stay in actual cakes on my first try. And today I made an aMAZing version of Paleo Pad Thai using grated jicama and zucchini instead of chopped peas and onions.

I've discovered that I also like Brussels sprouts (another new veggie for me), but they always seemed too dry. Until I invented this:

Creamy Brussels Sprouts
Four slices bacon
half a bag of Brussels sprouts, ends and outer leaves chopped off and cut in quarters
2 cloves garlic, minced
10 button mushrooms, washed and quartered
half a large onion (or one small one), chopped
half cup of coconut milk

Cook the bacon in a skillet, removing when it's done and leaving all the fat. Cook the veggies in the bacon grease until tender. Stir in the coconut milk, heat through, salt and pepper to taste, and stir in crumbled bacon.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Grocery walk

It was only 25 degrees out this morning, but it was calm and blindingly sunny, so a long walk was high on my agenda. We also needed some groceries, so I got the brainstorm that my husband and I could just walk to the grocery store. It's about two miles from our house, and almost entirely bike trail and dirt path if you go the back way. We decided to bring our cloth bags, since we didn't want to deal with a plastic bag breaking on the way home.

It really was a lovely day, and the trails were all full of dog-walkers, cheerful joggers, and one guy who was walking home from Subway. We got our groceries and were heading back, when all the sudden my husband burst out with, "Look at us walking home from the store with our produce in our cloth bags! The people driving by probably want to go home and kill a tree just to offset our virtue."

What a great walk.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Paleo challenge, Day 5

I'm not going to sit here and tell you this Paleo thing is easy. You have to cook. And peel. And chop. And shop. And blend and grind and grate and measure and stir-fry and roast. (I think you can get by without braising and marinading and julienning, though. Those are advanced skills.) The plus side is that when you go to that much trouble to make a meal, it's almost always a heck of a lot better tasting than a bowl of pasta. The difficulty is definitely not in eating good food; it's in cooking it.

Anyway, here's a Day 5 status report:

I still feel flabby (maybe slightly less so?) and not as strong as I was. My groin injury is healing up now, but at the same time, my heels are telling me they're unhappy with all the walking I've been doing. That means I'm going on more or less a year now of plantar fasciitis. Sorry, feet, for destroying you.

I'm sleeping better, but I still don't feel like I'm actually well rested. In fact, today I took a break from work and just flopped on the bed and lay there with my eyes closed for 10 minutes. Sometimes I think I need more than eight hours of sleep a night, but I don't see that happening. I think fasting is what really got my energy levels up last time, but I haven't felt ready to go back to that yet.

My other Before complaints were that I was thirsty and headachy and unmotivated. The first two were obviously from all the holiday sugar, and they went away as soon as I got it out of my system. As for motivation, I feel some of it returning, though right now I have enough to cook three meals a day from scratch and not a lot more.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Walking weather

I haven't noticed that the gym is that much more crowded than usual this January. The sidewalks and bike paths, though, are packed. The weather has been terrific—for January in Montana—and it looks like the whole city has resolved to get outside and enjoy it. (Cue blizzard.)

I've been spending my share of time out there. As they say, those 1,000 miles aren't going to walk themselves.

I finally got back to yoga tonight for the first time in, what? Two weeks? My legs feel weaker than they were before—or maybe I just weigh more for them to hold up—but I was happy that I can still do a push-up. After getting sick, getting injured, and then going crazy sugar happy because the calendar made me do it, I'm glad I don't have to start from square one again.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

New Year's pep talk

Okay, I'm about to drop wisdom again. Prepare yourself. And apologies if this grand insight sounds more like common sense, or you just read it somewhere, or you've known it all along.

But listen: There's only so much you can do in a day. You run out of time, resources, and energy. Or, long before any of those things actually happens, you lose the will, or just reach the end of your willpower (which apparently is a limited resource) and suddenly you're slumped in a chair clicking a remote or a mouse or a game controller for the rest of the night, wondering what the point of your life is. So how do you keep your human nature from torpedoing your New Year's resolutions before you've even gotten started?

You have to take whatever energy and willpower you do have—this is the wisdom part now—and focus it all on feeling better. If you feel better, everything gets easier, including feeling even more…better. Eventually, you'll feel great! And when that happens, you'll never have to make resolutions again. You'll do all that good stuff because you wanted to all along—and now you feel great!

Obviously, stuff happens, our bodies inevitably decline, and not everyone can feel great. But I bet almost everyone can feel better.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Barefoot walking and cauliflower rice

All through the Christmas break, I would wake up at 5 a.m. and have a lot of trouble going back to sleep. This morning, the first "back to normal" day, wouldn't you know it? When the alarm went off at 7, I was still sleeping like a stone. But I guess that's a good thing. And my stomach is 90 percent better. I'm going to go ahead and credit both of those to my one day of eating a vastly improved diet, so thanks, Whole30! That's two giant steps away from feeling rotten.

I think I got some of my gung-ho back, too. After making everyone breakfast, I got right down to work and finished everything up in time for the new 10:20 yoga class. I even walked to the gym. But it turned out that the class is actually starting next week, so I tried a little barefoot walking on the treadmill instead. It felt OK (although my toes were numb from walking outdoors), so I did a very short (less than one minute) fast run barefoot. I need to be sprinting again, but I want to work up to it gradually this time.

When I got home, my husband and I made this for lunch with my new food processor. Wow! My first attempt at cauliflower rice was so awful, but this recipe was just amazing. We were going to save half of it for later but ended up devouring the whole thing. (Oh, the guilt from our cauliflower pig-out!) I've been striking out a lot with introducing Paleo things to the kids, but I'm almost sure at least one of them will love this cauli-rice, or some variation of it.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The new Before

My stomach has been hurting since last night; either I have a bug, or it finally decided to rebel against the onslaught of junk food. Did that stop me—or even slow me down—at the New Year's party when I was eating chocolate-covered pretzels every time they caught my eye? Ha. But it did provide extra motivation to clean up my diet at the stroke of midnight.

I really wish I was a behaviorist so that I could study the part of the human mind (please say it's not just mine) that goes, "Thank goodness it's 2012! Now I can start taking better care of myself again!"

Eating Paleo isn't going to be nearly as challenging this time, and I'll tell you why. Last time I was thinking that I felt pretty good already and that eating differently wouldn't have much effect. This time, when I compare how I feel now with how I felt a couple of months ago, I have to admit that I feel rotten. My stomach hurts, I have an injury, I take Advil all the time for headaches, I'm getting flabby around the middle, I'm constantly thirsty, I'm not sleeping well, and I have no motivation to do anything. (Oh, I still have my famous ability to make plans. I just don't have the ability to follow through with them.)

So a 30-day challenge—that I know I can do because I've done it before—that may very well fix most of that? Bring it on.