Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy 2012

I thought it'd be interesting to look at my blog from last January to see if I had any big ambitions for 2011 and how I did. It turns out that I actually wrote the words, "I just want to do an Ironman and that's all."


I kept my New Year's resolution?!

I am totally on a roll.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Calendar quagmire

Friday, December 30. As my husband so wisely asked before getting out of bed, "What is the point of today?"

It's not the last day of the year, when I'll go watch some football, cook some more goodies, and spend all night playing games with family. But it's also not the first day of the year, when I'll (over)enthusiastically get to work on my 2012 goals and the Whole30 challenge.

It feels a little too late to be just chilling out and reveling in the Christmas afterglow but a little too early to go into hyperdrive and start taking down the decorations.

What is the point of today?

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Factors of 10

I've been toying with an idea for my New Year's resolutions…or maybe I should think of them as a set of stretch goals for 2012, since they're pretty ambitious. See what you think:

  • Memorize 10,000 words (approximately the final 14 chapters of the book of Romans).
  • Walk 1,000 miles (any running miles would count, too).
  • Sell 100 items on eBay (yes, I probably do have that much junk, and if I run out, my parents have plenty that they want me to sell for them).
  • Lose 10 more pounds (from my low of 169 in November, not from whatever nonsense I weigh now).
  • Write 1 children's book and try to get it published.

Some of these seem rather…challenging all by themselves, let alone in combination, but I like the fancy round numbers. And I like challenges. Anybody want to try any of these with me? Walk 1,000 miles??

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Total and utter meltdown

My husband and I are playing cooking chicken. No, no one is cooking chicken. We're playing chicken to see which one of us breaks down and actually cooks something first (besides eggs).

Until I give up and admit defeat—and it will almost certainly be me who does—we've all been subsisting on the holiday leftovers. Mainly mashed potatoes, rolls, cookies, sugared pecans, a giant cookie, a popcorn cake, chocolate-covered pretzels, pie, and chocolate-covered macadamia nuts.

If I'm not back here to blog about my next Paleo challenge on January 1, it's because I'm dead.

Friday, December 23, 2011

End-of-year unraveling

I had the other half of the jicama for breakfast, cooked pretty much the same way. I had leftover chili for lunch. Now I have a problem. I'm starving again, and there are no more Paleo leftovers. Anything healthy I want to eat, I'm going to have to cook.

I must be backsliding, because a month ago, "If you want to eat, you have to cook" was pretty much my motto. Now it is, "But I don't waaaaaaaant to cook." There's too much other stuff to do, and the sugar addiction has taken hold—which is actually why I'm starving in the first place. I never got this hungry when I was good about eating Paleo.

Plus, I'm suddenly being flooded with work. Don't people realize it's December 23??

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Jicama hash

After reading about them somewhere, I bought a jicama. It looked like this:
It sat on my counter for six days. This morning, my husband referred to it as the "jicama of shame."

So this afternoon, even though I would have rather had chocolate-covered macadamias for lunch, I cut it open, peeled it (with some difficulty), and tried it. I had heard the taste described as "a cross between an apple and a potato," and that was pretty accurate. It also reminded me of a water chestnut.

The thing seemed too sweet to be treated like a potato, but I've been having good luck with hashes. I first fried some bacon in order to cook it in the grease. (I wanted this jicama to get the message loud and clear that it should be savory, not sweet.) When the bacon was done, I took it out and added to the pan about a quarter of a chopped onion, a clove of minced garlic, and half the jicama (grated), plus salt and pepper. When I had deemed that all more or less cooked, I cracked in an egg and stirred it around to coat everything and let that cook. Then I crumbled the bacon over it.

It was fairly yummy. I think I like it better than sweet potatoes, anyway. The true test will be what happens to the other half-jicama sitting in the fridge.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Sugarfest 2011

We're having a Christmas Eve dessert with my in-laws over at our house this year, and I'm getting psyched. How often do I get to bake with actual sugar and flour anymore?

The menu so far: cinnamon rolls (or maybe a cinnamon roll cake), chocolate-covered pretzels, candied pecans, and roll cookies, plus hot chocolate, tea, and coffee. That's probably more than enough for six people, but I still feel like there's something missing. (Plus, I can share the leftovers with my side of the family on Christmas Day.)

Hmm. Caramel corn? More cookie varieties? What's pretty and well worth the sugar hangover?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Ode to breakfast

I used to think I could never eat Paleo because I had to have Cheerios, bananas, and milk every day for breakfast. It was my favorite meal of the day, because I loved not having to plan it or think about it. Pour, slice, pour. Mindlessly delicious. I generally rolled out of bed, ate while reading the newspaper, and then went straight to work.

Well, I'm here to tell you, I've found a new rut.

Breakfast remains my favorite meal of the day, hands down. But the new default is two fried eggs, two strips of bacon, and a grapefruit. I frequently branch out, though, with turkey sausage, sweet potato hash browns, sauteed mushrooms, or different kinds of fruit.

It's still a no-brainer, but it definitely isn't mindless any more. I now start my day by cooking hash browns for the boys, quizzing them on whatever they're working on for school, chatting with everyone while my husband packs their lunches and I put away last night's dishes, and making tea. Then the kids do a few quick chores, my husband gets them off to school, and I start our breakfast. If I don't have to work right away, we eat it together while playing a few hands of cards.

Even though I've just told you how poorly I've been eating for the past week, it has never crossed my mind to change anything about breakfast. I love having energy, and serenity, in the mornings.

Monday, December 19, 2011

RICE and sugar

I am having trouble with yoga because of this groin muscle that won't heal. I know the drill is Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. But the injury is in an awkward spot for Ice and Compression, and the only way to Elevate it would be to stand on my head. I guess that leaves Rest, which is really Annoying. I am starting to make serious strength gains and hate to stop now. Plus, it seems like every time I show up there, someone tells me how Skinny I am looking, which always makes my day.

I actually haven't lost any more weight lately, but I wouldn't expect to, because truth be told, I haven't been eating well. It seems like one day last week I was allowing myself a single Belgian chocolate sample at Costco, and the next thing I knew I was eating seven sugar cookies in a row and having half a pizza for dinner (that was yesterday's disaster). Sugar in particular is really insidious. Once I start, I crave it like crazy.

As of this morning I'm trying to clean up my diet again, but it's a bit of a lost cause, because I'm already planning on eating sugar on Christmas Eve, Christmas, and New Year's Eve. I've been thinking that in January I should do another Whole30—or Whole31—which is the strict Paleo challenge that got me started. At least in January I will have the moral support of millions of other New Year's Resolutioners. Eating well in December is like trying to be the only one in your social circle who doesn't do crack.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

"Food, Inc."

My son and I watched the first half of the "Food, Inc." documentary on Netflix last night—his idea, not mine. Before it started, I told him, "Now, look. They're probably going to say some bad things about ground beef. I want you to know that Dad and I always get organic, so it probably doesn't apply to the beef we eat."

Good disclaimer, me! They said some horrifying things about ground beef. So horrifying that I'm not sure buying organic is good enough, since I still don't really know anything about where it comes from. I'm seriously considering buying half a cow from my husband's uncle, who is a small rancher here in Montana, even though it's really expensive upfront, and it also means we would also have to buy a freezer to keep all the meat in.

I have another problem, too. We don't buy organic chicken (YET), and now I'm not sure I can eat what's sitting in our freezer.

I don't want to scare you out of watching it. It's gross, but not in a terribly graphic way. You'd be almost as disgusted if you just read the transcript. But it's really, really important stuff. I mean, this is what we eat. We should be up in arms about what's been happening, but at the very least, everyone can educate themselves and vote with their checkbooks.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Vitality now!

I still have a nagging cough, but I'm delighted to be well enough for yoga again. As a bonus, I've discovered that I can now do a yoga push-up (visual aid at left). Why I suddenly developed that ability after a week and a half of being sick, I couldn't tell you. Maybe I am more determined now to be full of vitality.

Speaking of health and vitality, I noticed the other day that my plantar fasciitis is finally completely gone. My heels first started hurting back in February, but I just kept pounding the crap out of them anyway until the race in June. It then took SIX MONTHS of no running before I could get out of bed in the morning without limping. I was surprised by that, but in a way I didn't mind. I always knew my body would take a serious, serious beating if I did the Ironman.

Here's what I do mind, though: When I was in the throes of this virus, I bent over to reach for the floor and pulled a muscle in my groin. Just bend…twang. (Apparently one feature of the disease is that it turns your muscles into old rubber bands.) That was about a week ago, and it hasn't even started to heal.

My parents claim it's old age. Whatever it is, I don't like it. If I'm going to be limping around, I'd at least like a finisher's medal or something to show for it.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


One of the Paleo bloggers I have been following declared recently that he now thinks Paleo is a fad diet and he's no longer an advocate. Now, obviously he didn't conclude that boxed macaroni and cheese was better for him. He just thinks the diet as most people follow it contains too much fat and protein (i.e., meat) and not enough carbohydrates (i.e., vegetables). So now he eats mostly fruits and vegetables, with fish a couple of times a week.

I was a little confused by this, because as far as I can tell his diet is still Paleo—at least it follows all the same guidelines about what not to eat. And it got me thinking: What's the difference between identifying with a diet "movement" and just trying to eat as healthfully as possible, according to your understanding of what an optimal diet is? I think it boils down to this: Being part of a movement is more fun. We all know we should eat healthy foods, but that's a day-to-day struggle and, frankly, kind of boring. Plus, everybody does that. It's much more entertaining to embark on a special 30-day challenge and then tell yourself you're eating a certain way because you're now a different kind of eater.

The past few days, I've gone down a rabbit hole of reading about nutrition research and the debate over "Paleo," and I have several takeaways:

  1. I'm going to continue to think of myself as a Paleo/primal eater. ("Being healthy" was never the motivator that "eating primally" has become.)
  2. There's a lot of debate over what percentage of fat, carbs, and protein people should eat, and some dedicated and well-meaning people are busy trying to figure that out. But I've come to the conclusion that I've been eating too much meat and fat lately. I think I'm going to try to not be so free and easy with the bacon for a while. (As a bonus, eating less meat will be great for our grocery budget, which has gotten out of control.)
  3. It just doesn't seem like humans are built to eat dairy outside of infancy. The fact that most people in the world are actually intolerant of it should probably be our first clue. I'm going to try harder to stay away (again, good for the grocery budget).
  4. The federal food pyramid, which tells people to make grains the foundation of their diets, is just wrong. If people replaced all those mostly-wheat carbs with fruit and vegetable carbs, it would make a world of difference. People may debate about the sugar in fruit, but you just cannot go wrong with vegetables. That doctor who cured her MS by improving her diet suggested eating 9 cups a day. I'm going to keep learning to cook them until I love them.
  5. You should definitely not be coming to my blog for nutritional advice. I don't know nothing about nothing. All I'm doing is giving you my impressions and sharing my experience. If you have time and good critical-thinking skills, go find a blog with lots of citations to get your advice from instead.
And sorry to post another long diatribe about nutrition. It's just that when I get into something, I really get into it. This, too, shall pass. Maybe next I will become obsessed with something fun, like roller derby, or balloon animals!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Christmas card dilemma

Now that I'm well enough to type, and presumably well enough to piece together a coherent sentence, it's time to write the annual Christmas newsletter. But I'm in a quandary. My husband and kids don't even like to be mentioned in the thing, and really my only news for the year is the Ironman. Any ideas on how to twist a 16:34 Ironman finish into a heartwarming Christmas message from the whole family?

Dear loved ones, enjoy this tale of the year I abandoned my children and spent hundreds of dollars on myself in order to improve the appearance of my knees, prove how cool I am, and secure an amazing picture of me me me ME MEEEEE!

Okay, now I'm really laughing, because the linked-to post already declares that the finish-line photo is "going on the Christmas cards this year for sure!"

Guess I set myself up for a Very Narcissistic Christmas from the start, eh?

Monday, December 12, 2011

No virus zone

I am slowly crawling out of the hole that is this disease. On Friday I got showered and dressed in the morning and declared myself cured, but that didn't work. On Saturday, I stayed in my pajamas and watched movies on the couch all day, but that didn't work either. On Sunday, I thought I might actually be well, but then I discovered that an hour and a half of sitting in church was pretty much the limit of what I could handle for the day, exertion-wise.

Today I have gotten dressed, worked a little, and gone out shopping, and still haven't felt the need to lie down on the couch with my box of Kleenex. Though if I was truly well, I would have gone to yoga, so I'm not quite back to my normal self yet.

I was hoping that Paleo eating would mean a fast recovery, but after a few days, the problem became that I was too pathetic to cook, and no one else particularly wanted to whip up complicated, delicious dishes that met my strict dietary requirements. The fasting thing went right out the window, too. I figured it made more sense to eat whenever my body decided was a good time.

And so now I don't care what anyone says about jinxing, because as soon as I have the strength, I am taking such immaculate care of myself that I am never getting sick again. Mark my words.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Something tells me I'm getting predictable

So I was telling my 13-year-old about this video I watched today:

"It's a talk given by this woman who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, which is an incurable disease. It makes your brain shrink and messes up your balance and motor control. She was taking the medicine for it and everything, but she just kept getting worse and worse, and pretty soon she couldn't even sit up in a normal chair but had to use in a special reclining chair. But this woman is also a doctor, so she did a bunch of research and found out about some vitamins that might help her, and they did slow down the disease but didn't stop it. So then—"

"Let me guess. She started eating Paleo and now she's cured."

Well…smarty pants…actually, yeah. But it's still pretty amazing. The great thing is she's now involved in clinical studies that will help see if her experience might help others as well. I linked to the video at right under "We have a choice."

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


I must be feeling a bit better because I spent a lot of time in the kitchen today. (On the other hand, I had to sit down and rest frequently, so not a lot better.)

First I made some turkey sausage patties for breakfast. I didn't have all the spices called for in the recipe, but I used salt, pepper, fennel, thyme, garlic, cloves, and nutmeg. Verdict: Very tasty, super easy, and nice to have something other than bacon with my eggs once in a while. But next time I will skip the cloves and nutmeg, because that tasted as odd as it sounds.

I found some spaghetti squash at the store the other day, so next I decided to try it and see if you could really use it in place of spaghetti. I also made meatballs that I was sure the kids would eat; they were basically just balls of hamburger with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and fennel mixed in. (But I made sure to grind the fennel up first so they would never suspect they were eating something new.) Verdict: I wouldn't want to eat the spaghetti squash plain, but with sauce and mushrooms and meatballs all over it, you can't really taste it at all, so I'd say it was a success. It looks cool, too! And the kids seemed to like the stripped-down meatballs. Or at least they were eaten without dinnertime heartbreak. Close enough. (I cooked them real noodles and didn't make them try the squash.)

Finally, I took another stab at a cookie recipe I've been working on. They're not Paleo, because they contain chocolate chips with sugar, but frankly, they're a step up from the Frosted Mini-Wheats the kids used to eat all day. They're made from almond butter, apples, cocoa powder, coconut milk, coconut flour, salt, and chocolate chips. They're not really sweet enough right now unless you load them up with the chocolate chips, but I'm experimenting to see how many apples I can get in there before anyone notices that they actually contain apples. Verdict: I loaded this batch with chocolate chips, so they were pretty awesome. The look and texture is exactly like "normal" cookies, and they are almost sweet enough. I'll post my recipe if I ever get it just right. It's pretty darn good for a low-sugar, wheat-free, egg-free, dairy-free cookie.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Color commentary

From the now-well 13-year-old:

"Mom, I told you not to keep saying you never get sick. Now you've jinxed yourself." Beat. "I mean, there, there."

Helpful definitions

Headaches, sore throats, and fatigue don't necessarily mean anything. You might not be at your best, but you can still get through your day. Here's how you can tell when "fighting off a virus" crosses that fine line over into "sick":
  • Your body is producing enough mucus to inconvenience you.
  • Every time you stand up, you think, "Oh, I shouldn't be standing."
  • You don't speak loudly enough to be heard because you haven't the strength.
  • You stop caring about the side effects of NSAIDs.
  • The warmth of the space heater is nice, but you need to move it farther away because you can't tolerate the blowing.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Immune system under fire

This weekend, I decided to test my frequently made claim that I never get sick by locking myself in various small spaces with a 13-year-old germ machine. Just to add to the challenge, I ate a bunch of fast food, didn't get enough water, and stayed awake all night listening to coughing.

Translation: The 11-year-old had an out-of-town swim meet, and even through his brother had been sick, we decided to bring him anyway and hope for the best. He never really got any better, though, so it was a long weekend in a small hotel room for everyone.

I do feel pretty poorly right now. But I'm going to say it's 35% crap-food hangover, 40% lack-of-sleep hangover, and 25% fighting off a virus. So I don't know if I'm going to count it as being sick. I would hate to end my streak over a tiny sore throat and a bit of fatigue. And a headache.

Yeah, I'm doing just great. Shut up.

(Hey, the swim meet itself was pretty successful, though. The boy improved a lot of his times, some of them impressively, and also swam the mile for the first time. He now says it's his favorite event, and his coach has nicknamed him "Ironman." Awww.)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Verdict: I am cuckoo

I finished off my November Health Month "game"—the big payoff at the end was a load of virtual "fruit" and the phrase "Verdict: You are awesome." It's not much, but I'll take it. :)

I broke one of my eating rules around Thanksgiving (gasp), but by far the hardest thing was limiting my Internet time-wasting to an hour a day. I did it, but I absolutely hated it, especially the necessity of using a timer to keep track. And after all that effort, I don't feel one bit less addicted to blog-reading or even slightly reformed about time-wasting.

But today I added my new rule, which is to do 20 minutes of housework every day. (Cooking and dishes don't count; I'm talking bathrooms and vacuums and clutter here.) I used an online timer for that, too, but counting down was fun and rewarding. I was happy the whole time I was cleaning, and when the alarm went off, I was all, "Verdict: I am awesome!!" I looked around and thought to myself, "Finally I'll be able to get all this cleaned up and organized!"

And then: Wait. Stop right there. What the tasty pie?

What, exactly, was stopping me from getting things cleaned up and organized before? Lack of a rule? Whatever is wrong with my brain that I do this to myself?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Fun with T-shirts

I have been playing around with designing T-shirts on, and I just added a new one to my fancy store. (Is it just me, or is this the greatest expression ever?)

My T-shirt designing skills are a little weak, I think, but it's really fun, so I'm going to get better at Illustrator and keep cranking them out as I have time. So far I just have shirts I think my kids would like. Let me know if you have any requests or ideas!

Monday, November 28, 2011

What the tasty pie?!

I had no work scheduled today, so I decided to go for a little swim after yoga to see if I still remembered how. I felt a bit off, actually; my shoulders were tired from sun-saluting and whatnot. But since I was there, and since they are so doggone good for me, I decided to throw in some short sprints.

I was just going to do four 25's, and before taking off on my last one, I looked at the pace clock. I was really hoping I could still do a 25 free in 20 seconds, which is about my best sprint pace from when I was training for the Ironman—swimming three days a week. I wasn't too confident, though, since it was only the second time I'd been in the water since June.

But when I touched the wall, I was shocked to see that it had taken me only 15 seconds. I had intended to go right into a cooldown, but suddenly I was extremely interested in what my 50 time might be. I rested for a minute, then sprinted again.

33 seconds! (As my son would say, "What the tasty pie?!") I'm pretty sure that with a dive, and not right after yoga, I could get under 30:00, which is a time I never thought I'd see again.

It seems I've taken about 7 seconds off my wall-start 50 free time in the past five months, with essentially zero swimming. I've had a hunch I've been getting stronger because yoga has felt so much easier—but there are no pace clocks in yoga.

I am, as my other son would say, "totally pumped."

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Square One

I think I'm paying for those three days of letting loose. (By "letting loose," of course, I mean "eating exactly the way I did all my life up until three months ago.") I'm back to eating well again, but it's not the same.

Cooking is hard. Choosing Paleo things to cook is hard. Nightly fasting is hard. Caring about what my family eats is hard. Keeping my Health Month commitments is hard. And annoying.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Eating whatever I want

I had three days in a row of eating whatever I wanted (pizza and candy on Wednesday, and everything else on the face of the earth on Thursday and Friday). It all caught up with me last night. My stomach was aching, I was exhausted, I had a headache, and my back hurt from tweaking it in yoga on Friday. Ugh.

So I'm fixing this today by eating…whatever I want. Yeah, that's right. I have a serious craving for vegetables, meat, and healthy fats.

P.S. I added a new link over to the right, which I've called "The whole thing explained." It's kind of long, but it's the best explanation I've ever read about what Paleo means, how it compares to "primal" and "Atkins," why it's not a diet diet, why it's not about actually eating what cavemen ate (looking at you, Kurt), and why my family should stop making jokes at my expense (looking at you, M.H.). Seriously, everyone should read it. Warning: Contains studies (looking at you, Steph).

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Fridgies

Thanksgiving was at my mom's house (as usual), but she sent us home with tons of food (more than usual). So on top of the preexisting leftovers, the fridge was packed with many bowls of extra goodies, and I announced to the family that no one was allowed to cook anything new today. And! Anyone who finished something off and got the bowl or plate into the dishwasher would win a prize! ("What kind of prize?" "It depends on what you finish off." "What if I finish off all the potatoes?" "Then you win the potatoes prize!")

Besides the coveted potatoes prize, today we awarded the stuffing prize, the egg yolks prize, the pico de gallo prize, the cupcakes prize, and the pie prize. Also the vegetable tray prize, but only because I re-sorted all the veggies into their appropriate bags.

I had a share of the pie prize, and since I've temporarily thrown dietary caution into the wind, I might also go for the quinoa salad prize. I need fuel for decorating the Christmas tree.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Hey, pizza!

I can't believe I've failed to mention my life-changing pizza crust breakthrough. The recipes I was working with were pretty close, but they were missing one secret ingredient: parchment paper. Like, to bake it on.

I'm still tweaking the recipe, but this one works pretty well:

Pizza crust
1 egg
2 egg whites
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
2 Tbsp Parmesan cheese 
4 Tbsp ground flaxseed
2 cups fresh spinach, wilted in a skillet and then dried with a paper towel and chopped

Mix everything and spread it onto your parchment-paper-covered pizza pan with the back of a spoon. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes, and then flip over and bake for 15 more. Add (pre-cooked) toppings and cheese and put under a broiler for 4-5 minutes until cheese is just melted. (Yes, I put cheese on the top even though the crust is basically made of cheese.)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Health Month

I was reading a while back about how people will modify their behavior for "points"—even if the points are actually meaningless—and it intrigued me. I started Googling the topic and came across this site called Health Month that lets you create rules for your life and then awards you points if you follow them. There's a bit more to it than that, but frankly I don't really understand it all yet, which is why I've never mentioned the thing, even through I've been using it since November 1.

Health Month is supposed to be a cross between a game and a social networking site, but the game part isn't actually fun, and the social networking aspect is a little bizarre, since I don't know anyone there. On the other hand, it's been a handy way for me to stay accountable to my little rules and to keep track of my complex new system of eating. The free version of the game allows you to create three rules for yourself, and mine are "no more than three primal meals a week," "no more than three 'whatever' meals a week," and "no more than seven hours of total Internet time-wasting per week."

The food rules are pretty easy to follow. The Internet rule, on the other hand, is driving me crazy—first, because I can't wrap my head around how difficult it is for me limit myself to an hour a day of goofing off. But secondly, and mostly, because I really, really love all that Facebook and blog reading and Scrabble.

I'm going to have to get used to cutting back, though, because my New Life Plan is to keep playing Health Month, adding one new rule each month and consolidating all my old rules into a "follow all old rules" rule. I'm thinking two years of that, and my life will be just about perfect. What could possibly go wrong?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Weight-loss update

I heard several status reports today: Since the first of September, my mom has lost 19 pounds, my sister has lost 29, and my dad has lost 49! I don't know how strict they're all still being about eating Paleo or primal or whatever, but I'm thrilled for them and glad that my experiment was at least what got everyone started.

I've lost around 15 pounds, which might seem kind of paltry compared to all the overachievers, but I'm pretty sure I'm now the lightest I've been in about 15 years, so you will not hear me sneezing at it.

When I was working up to the Ironman, I was warned repeatedly that endurance training is not a good weight-loss tool, but it's been interesting to see that firsthand. Eating well, even with very little exercise (and quite a lot of desk-sitting), has been much more effective. If I could just lighten my workload a bit, I'd love to see what eating well with an optimal amount of exercise would do.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Still going strong with the fasting

Of all the things I've done to try to improve my health in the past few years (and there are many) 16 hours of daily fasting is by far the easiest. It makes sense, right? It takes no time, no planning, and no effort. I don't have to put on any special clothes, learn any skills, or buy any equipment. All I have to do is…nothing. Just don't eat in the evenings.

Actually, I guess there is one thing I have to do: Eat a slightly bigger breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Oh, please don't throw me into the briar patch.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The first word is "Paul"

A woman stood up in church last Sunday and invited everyone to a small group that's been meeting at her house for a few weeks now. They're memorizing the book of Romans—every word of all 16 chapters—for fun.

I'm fully aware that that sounds crazy, but it sounded like my kind of crazy, so I joined up.

Most of the group has already pretty much memorized the first chapter, so I'm way behind—and yet not way behind, because that's only a tiny fraction of what we're ultimately going to do. Apparently it takes an hour to recite the whole thing.

I'm a little surprised at myself. I didn't think I'd be taking on another ridiculously difficult challenge until I turned 50 (which is obviously the perfect year to run 50 miles barefoot).

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Approximate recipes

I just made the best lunch ever, and I'm going to write down the approximate recipes before I forget. (Starred ingredients are VERY approximate. This is not a recipe blog; sorry. You'll just have to wing it.)

2 pounds ground pork
1 pound ground beef
5 or 6 grated baby carrots
4 or 5 cloves of garlic, minced
*fist full of cilantro, minced (maybe an eighth of the bunch?)
*1 tsp fennel
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp onion powder
*1 Tbsp coconut aminos
*1/8 cup coconut milk
*1/4 cup ground almonds (aka almond flour)
Mix well and form into about 24 large meatballs. Bake at 350 for 40 minutes on foil-lined cookie sheets.

My husband and I each had four of those served over…

Saucy vegetables
Just a big skillet full of vegetables (I used a frozen mix but would have added some broccoli slaw if we'd had it), cooked in some coconut oil. When mostly done, add this completely addictive Paleo Pad Thai sauce and cook for several more minutes or you can no longer stand the saucy goodness:
*1/4 cup almond butter
*1/4 cup coconut milk
1 Tbsp coconut aminos
1 tsp salt
*1 tsp garlic powder (but minced garlic would have been better, probably)
*1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (shake them on to taste; they're very spicy)

I remembered that we had an older blender in the house that we retired when we got our fancy new one, so I dug that out, finished grinding up my almonds, and made apple muffins for dessert as well. They were good, but next time I'll use less coconut oil and add some salt. The old blender actually seems more suited for grinding up nuts, so maybe I won't have to spend $200 on kitchen appliances just yet.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Smoke and sauce

I got some more Paleo dessert aspirations and set out to make apple muffins. But I'm too cheap to buy pre-made almond flour, and when I was grinding sliced almonds in the blender, it started making funny noises and then started smoking. I ran it outside, fearing it might burst into flames, and opened all the windows in the kitchen so the fumes wouldn't claim a second victim.

Lesson learned: React faster to funny noises.

Or buy a food processor. (And a new blender.)

So instead I got out the bag of cranberries I'd bought—I just can't help myself when they're in every store, so Thanksgivingy and full of promise—and set about trying to make them sweet enough to be edible without sugar. I cooked them in pineapple juice and also added a bit of orange juice, but it was not even close. Then I got the brainstorm to mix in a bunch of frozen blueberries, and that finally got it to the point where I could stand to eat it. Of course, by then it was more blueberry sauce than cranberry sauce.

Then, with my characteristic optimism, I served it to the kids. Their reviews ranged from "I hate it" to "I tried a bite and made the choice not to eat any more."

Monday, November 14, 2011

Stuff I've learned

To answer some questions I raised in my previous posts:

1. Yes, actually, everyone is pretty much in agreement that short fasts are good for you. Sorry, "conventional wisdom"! I guess I'm just a bit behind the times. When I started digging into intermittent fasting (this is a good starting place), I found out that not only is it hugely popular, but the benefits are all right there on Wikipedia for anyone to see. And if that's not conventional wisdom, I don't know what is.

2. Yes, apparently you ARE supposed to maintain an eight-hour eating window every day, forever. Fasts that last a bit longer are good, too, but "8/16" is considered a very mild, easy, maintainable way of fasting. And do you know what? It is really easy. I set out to try it for just one day, but once I started, I didn't want to stop, and I've been doing it for almost a week straight now. It makes me feel fantastic, not to mention free from the tyranny of trying to think of a fourth meal to cook in the evenings. And it is much more satisfying to have three (or even two) larger meals than a bunch of snacks. (In case you're worried, I would never push fasting of any kind on the kids. They just fend for themselves in the evenings.)

So now you're updated on the latest New Life Plan. (The exercise stuff, sprinting in particular, has kind of fallen by the wayside for now, although I am still doing a lot of yoga.) The only downside is that if I'm going to eat three meals a day instead of four, I need to reduce the number of cheat meals I get each week to stay 90% primal (because all that stuff is still part of the NLP). Bummer.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Food that hurts

We were out of town for a swim meet today, and I didn't even try to make healthy choices for my non-Paleo meal: I just went right for the giant muffin. My kids were like, "Mom, you're going to regret this later!" and of course they were right. Because apparently the punishment for eating healthy stuff most of the time is an insta-headache whenever you go back to your old ways.

I am learning, though, to drink lots of water whenever I have bread or sugar, which does—

Wait, is it counterproductive to offer "tips" for how to eat crap without excessive suffering? Forget I mentioned it.

Friday, November 11, 2011

A new obsession

This idea of getting all my work done during daylight hours just has a huge appeal to me. I suppose it's because over the past few years, I've been so focused on building this freelance business that I've let work spill over into almost every of the day—getting up for an assignment arriving at 5 a.m., for example, or staying up till 2 a.m. to finish something by deadline. And there have been some days I've literally rolled out of bed, gotten on the computer, and worked every waking moment, while my husband delivers food to my desk.

I guess that explains, more than any sort of "primal" philosophy, why I've gotten a little caught up the past few days in trying to get everything done within a reasonable window of time. There's still more work than I can fit into the daylight hours, but last night I actually took a few hours off and sat down in a comfy chair to knit (and yes, as a matter of fact, it was with jasmine tea). I like that it brings a sense of urgency to get things done while it's still light out, so I end up not wasting those working hours.

I've also been darkness-fasting the past two days. I eat my last meal for the day around 4 p.m. (the sun goes down around 5). I do feel a bit hungry in the evening, but I've tried not to worry about it. It's a new concept, because until two days ago, I had never intentionally skipped a meal in my entire life, but it's not hurting me, and I'm not going to die. In the morning, I'm raring to go and not hungry at all. The sun comes up around 7, but I have breakfast after the kids are off to school, a little after 8. So I get an eight-hour window to eat out of every twenty-four.

I honestly don't know if there's any point to fasting the way I am. There was something about a sixteen-hour fast in the article I linked to, but I'm not sure if you're supposed to do it every day forever or what. It kind of seems right, though. I really like the way I've been feeling in the mornings. And if I can't rest my muscles and brain every evening, I guess I can at least rest my digestive system.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

While the sun shines

I had to listen to a General Mills investor conference for work yesterday, and it gave me the same icky feeling I get when I have to listen to R.J. Reynolds talk about how they're "improving demographics" by spreading to new markets.

In General Mills' case, they're "educating healthcare professionals and consumers about the benefit of whole grain" because they see "terrific opportunities for continued growth in global cereal." In other words, people in Japan are having fish and vegetables for breakfast! We need to get them eating Trix!

I can't do anything about cereal companies trying to make the whole world fat, but I figured I could at least reduce the cereal consumption in my own house. So I got up early this morning and made the kids hash browns, bacon, and fruit for breakfast. Then I did the dishes, made some tea, made breakfast for my husband and me, got several things ready for an easy lunch, and got straight down to work.

See, I'm embracing my whole "make hay while the sun shines" philosophy. Except not hay, because those grains will kill ya.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

This fasting thing

My husband wisely pointed out that, if you look at it in Paleolithic terms, chances are that hunter-gatherers did their eating during the daylight hours and spent the darkness sleeping and just generally hunkering down. That makes sense, right? And there's a certain appeal to the idea of eating only during daylight hours.

In fact, wouldn't it be great to get all your working, cooking, eating, cleaning, exercising, EVERYTHING done during the daylight hours, and then just spend the evenings in quiet retirement, reading and quilting and knitting, sipping a cup of jasmine green tea?

Overseeing beginning trombone practice? Watching the boys leap over furniture as they chase each other all over the house? Listening to the teen-a-ma-phone ring every five minutes? Serenely getting fired from all your freelance jobs because you couldn't meet deadlines?

Dream on, Ironmom. Even if your life permitted serenity, you live in Montana, and in the winter, you'll get nine hours of daylight, tops.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Conventional Wisdom

I'm really getting tired of reading about all the ways that Conventional Wisdom for healthy eating is wrong. I mean, everybody is reading the same studies, right? Isn't there anything that's universally accepted to be true? (Vegetables are healthy? Except not corn? Can we all agree on that one?)

We've all been hearing for years about how it's best not to let yourself get too hungry—to space out your meals and snacks so that you're eating a mini-meal every two to three hours. That's supposed to keep your blood sugar nice and steady and keep your body from switching into "starvation mode." It sounded logical to me, and we rearranged our mealtimes several years ago so that we serve four meals a day (breakfast, lunch, "meal," and dinner) instead of three.

So what's with this intermittent fasting stuff? Who am I supposed to believe?

Actually, don't worry about it. I'm going to go ahead and believe the primal guy, because he supports his arguments with links to lots of studies—many of which I actually clicked through—because he's always upfront about what he doesn't know, and because my experience tells me that he's been right about everything else so far. But darn it, Conventional Wisdom. This is getting ridiculous.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Mr. Coke, in the Taco Del Mar, with the sugar

It's not fair that when you eat well for several weeks, the good things that happen are sneaky and gradual, and you barely realize that anything has changed (except the comforting knowledge that 10 pounds are gone)—but when you eat crap for ONE DAY, you feel like you got run over by a truck.

We were out of town all day for my son's rock climbing competition, and I had two fast-food meals, a sub sandwich and a burrito. I threw in a fountain Coke at the last minute since I wanted one for the drive home and since it was a "whatever" meal. I'm still within my self-imposed limits for non-Paleo for the week, but now I feel woozy and headachy and thirsty and like I'm coming down with something (not that I will; I never get sick). It's that gluten/sugar hangover!

I'm kind of looking forward to cooking tomorrow.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Banana-based desserts

I found myself with five nearly-overripe bananas, so I decided to exploit all that natural sugar and create a couple of desserts. And they turned out so well that I'm recording them here for posterity:

Banana bread
2 cups slivered almonds
1 cup walnuts
½ cup ground flax
½ tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
4 ripe bananas
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
Grind the dry ingredients in a food processor or blender until powdery. Then mix everything in a mixer until combined. Pour into a bread pan greased with coconut oil, and bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes.

Chocolate ice cream
1 can coconut milk
1 ripe banana
4 Tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla
Mix well in a blender, and then pour into a container and freeze. Check and stir every 30 minutes until it's the consistency of soft serve. The leftovers will freeze rock hard, but you can always put them in the refrigerator for a few hours before trying to eat them. I would have added nuts to this if it was just for me, but I was hoping my 13-year-old would like it (which he did).

Both of these were awesome. And so filling. I had a couple of slices of banana bread and a couple of spoonfuls of ice cream around dinnertime, and I was too stuffed to eat anything else. My favorite dinner so far this week!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Bold lead-ins

Blatant self-pity: I simply cannot believe how much time I've spent in this office chair today*. I always think it's just a "busy week," but I'm coming to realize it's been a couple of years since I had a week that wasn't pretty much like this. (And I usually work on the weekends, too.)

Sobering perspective: When you're supporting your family on a freelance income, the only thing worse than having too much to do is having too little.

Healthy goal: Still, it would be great if I could find a way to swing Sundays off on a regular basis.

Perpetual stumper: Where did the time to train for the Ironman even come from?

* Self-pitying footnote: 14 hours and counting, minus food and bathroom breaks.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Oil and vinegar

Just heading downstairs to make me some cilantro vinaigrette. Except I'll be using apple cider vinegar instead of rice wine vinegar. And grapeseed oil instead of canola oil. And a lot less orange juice. And no honey. And no ginger. And lemon juice instead of lime juice.

In other words, I'll be winging it, as usual.

But I have been going crazy trying to figure out a decent non-dairy salad dressing so I can keep more of my meals Paleo, and it suddenly dawned on me that "dressing" does not necessarily have to equal "ranch." Like, when you go to a restaurant, there's usually a whole list of them or something, right?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Clean slate

The past three days were pretty much what I expected. I ate, let's see…pizza, pizza, pizza, pizza, cake and ice cream, and infinite miniature Snickers, in that order. And yes, pizza on four separate occasions. At least the cheating wasn't wasted on foods I don't really enjoy.

So basically, the primal experiment I was supposed to be doing in October was completely sabotaged, some of it in a well-reasoned, mature way, and some of it with an out-of-control Snickers binge on the floor of the living room with my husband and costumed kids. But I weighed in this morning anyway and had lost a pound for the month.

I have (surprise) a New Life Plan for November, and hopefully onward. With what I've learned in the past two months, I'm confident it's realistic. I want to be 80% Paleo and 90% primal. So the plan is to have no more than six non-Paleo meals per week. And no more than three of those can be non-primal. The last three can be whatever I want. (Paleo is just meats, vegetables, healthy fats, and some fruits and nuts. My version of primal allows dairy, dark chocolate, potatoes, and quinoa as well. "Whatever I want" is probably pizza.)

I made quinoa salad yesterday and therefore have already blown two of my three primal meals for the week, but that's okay. I'll cook something hardcore Paleo next.

I'm glad it's November. This is why the year is divided up into months. Twelve opportunities to start fresh and pretend THAT didn't just happen.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Hassles and stress

I got some unexpected work on work of the regular work I was already working work, plus Mik has a swim meet this weekend, plus HASSLES! STRESSES! LIFE! AAAAUUGH!

(In fact, the only reason I'm on the computer now is that we forgot to bring a few things to the meet when we left the house at 6:30 this morning. So I got to come home and retrieve them—and bask in the bliss that is not needing to watch any swimming for at least an hour.)

I just want to say that it's pretty challenging to eat primal foods when you're this busy, and relying partly on a concession stand for sustenance. I'm hanging in there so far, but my mom has already informed me that for my dad's birthday party this weekend, we are just going to order pizza, and to heck with healthy. (It seems HASSLES! STRESSES! LIFE! AAAAUUGH! has visited their house as well.)

If I have any time after the swim meet today, I'm going to spend some of it shopping and cooking so that I don't starve next week. Not sure how I'm going to squeeze in exercise.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Bean Frencher!

New Norpro # 5125 Green Yellow Bean Frencher Deluxe Slicer
We were in a thrift store the other day and saw one of these little beauties sitting on a dusty shelf for $2.99—the Bean Frencher! It's for French-cutting green beans, of course, but my mind immediately turned to Pad Thai and the arduous task of slicing up pea pods to help them pretend to be noodles.

We got it home and realized it wouldn't clamp to any of our counters, but we jerry-rigged something, poured out a pile of peas, and started frenching like mad. It was a two-person job, though fun, and before long we had a gorgeous pile of thinly sliced pea pods. I got the brainstorm of cranking the onions through it, and they turned out beautifully, too. Honestly, I don't think any time was saved, but thinner-sliced veggies always taste better, so it was totally worth the trouble. Plus I like the name. Need anything frenched?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Just wanted to let you know my husband has started a darn fine blog (chronicling his career as a so-far unpublished novelist) over at It will not contain any triathlon-obsessed stuff, ever, but some of you may be still interested. It's even possible he'll one day decide to write about his "semi-primal" eating adventure. One never knows.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Fall fun

I guess I'm transitioning early into a fall-off-the-primal-wagon-when-eating-out system, because that's what I did yesterday when my family decided to go to Sonic after an afternoon of hiking around outside. (Two of us played Frisbee golf, one of us climbed boulders, and one of us foraged for interesting evergreen boughs and other plant stuff to turn into a fall wreath. Guess who did what!*)

Anyway, my threshold for sugar has certainly changed a lot. I got a small lemon slush, and it tasted sickeningly sweet. My popcorn chicken, though—while I'm sure it was full of nasty oils and chemicals and breading—was crazy good.

This month's primal eating experiment is really not getting a fair shake, but that's okay. I'm not going to lose as much weight as I did in September, but it does seem like it's still coming off. By the way, my sister is still eating Paleo and has now lost 20 pounds. Woo-hoo!

* You don't really have to guess. If you don't know us in real life, you don't care, and if you do, it's blatantly obvious.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

If I had a hammer…

You know how they say when you have a hammer, every problem starts to look like a nail? Well, I've got this hammer called primal eating now, and the more I learn about it, the harder it is to keep from smashing everyone I know over the head with a lot of very useful information they didn't ask for. Outside this blog and my immediate family, I think I've been pretty restrained, but I told my husband a few weeks ago that my goal was to start looking so skinny that people started asking me what I did to lose weight.

Well, much to my delight, that happened. A yoga instructor and a couple of acquaintances from class complimented me on how good I looked and asked the magic question. (Stop! Hammer time!) I started in with a bit of an explanation, and they all seemed pretty interested. Then one told us all about this nutrition book she'd been reading about how important it is to control the pH levels in the body. And one told us about how vital it was to monitor portion sizes. And the other one told us all about how Americans don't exercise, and we need at least an hour of vigorous cardio every day.

It's so cute how we all have hammers.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Cooking lesson

Not all of my cooking has been a success in this Paleo/primal adventure, but I usually eat it anyway. In fact, the only food experiment I've thrown away so far was a tomato soup that, very unfortunately, looked like a vomited spaghetti dinner. Yes, and not only was it a chunky mess, but for some reason I had put a squeeze of lemon in it, so even the taste was…never mind.

Oh, and there was my first, sad attempt at quinoa flour pizza crust.

But my point is, I really hate to waste food. And so I'm always checking the fridge for leftover ingredients I can toss into whatever I'm making. Here's what I learned today:
  1. Quinoa flour is a terrific addition to meatballs. I guess it does what breadcrumbs would have done, which is to make them more tender.
  2. Cauliflower, though white, cannot be blenderized into mushroom soup to turn it into "cream" of mushroom soup. Mushroom grits is more like it. (Don't worry, I'll eat it anyway.)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Hitting a wall

That workout yesterday felt like nothing (and in truth, it was around 40 seconds of hard running), but, oh, I am hurting today. My heels are killing me, my quads and hamstrings are sore, and there's a tiny sharp pain below one kneecap. I've done lots of exercise in my life, but I'm learning that all-out sprinting is a whole different animal.

On the eating front, I hit a wall today. Around lunchtime I was tired, hungry, busy, and there was no one to cook for me. Normally that situation would call for a bowl of cereal, but that stuff will kill you, apparently. So I opened the fridge, hoping for some leftovers to microwave. Long gone. Eggs? Had them for breakfast. Fruit? Gone. Nuts? Not exactly lunch-worthy.

So I opened the fridge again, reminding myself that if I want to eat this way, I have to cook. Well, there was that head of cauliflower (and not much else). I remembered the pizza crust recipe and figured I had nothing to lose.

And what do you know? It was good. Mine wasn't the most cohesive crust—in fact, it had to be scraped off the cookie sheet in sections and ended a pile of pizza substance on a plate—but it was tasty. It was also really filling (which is not surprising, since it contained a full cup of shredded mozzarella, just for me). But I haven't been hungry for the past seven hours, which, frankly, is exactly what you want when you're really busy, out of food, and sick of cooking.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

It's not running, it's racing!

On an impulse I invited my 11-year-old to come running with me—or actually, as I phrased it to him, come outside and race me. The boy has a budding interest in running and triathlon, and the last thing I want to do is make it seem boring. Besides, I was supposed to be doing short bouts of sprinting, and what better way to get that accomplished than to race?

We jogged for maybe three minutes, with me explaining to him that I was old, and if I didn't warm up a little I might hurt myself. He said he didn't mind and that if he got tired he could just walk—which he then demonstrated, easily keeping up with me. (Oh, snap.)

We went out onto the bike path near our house and had four races of about 10 seconds each, walking and resting in between. We had a ball and came home huffing and puffing, having also raced to the front door. I didn't really feel like I had gotten a workout, but now, a couple of hours later, I can definitely feel it in my legs.

And who won, I suppose you want to know? Let's just say I'm going to want a rematch.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What, running?

I finished working tonight about five minutes too late to go to yoga. The gym's class schedules are not matching up with my work schedule this week at all—but the weather has been beautiful for walking, so I'm still keeping up with my plan. Since a spin class isn't in the cards either timing-wise, I have the "opportunity" tomorrow to try a short sprint workout on foot (I believe that's also known as running).

Hey, fun fact: Not so long ago—in March, April, and May, actually—I was running more than 100 miles a month. And in June I ran for six and a half hours straight. Why does the thought of running for 15 minutes tomorrow fill me with dread?

Important pizza update: I tried for pizza crust again with the rest of my quinoa flour…aaaaaand I'm over it. I was able to actually ingest the crust I made this time, but it's just too gritty and weird for me. And I'm afraid the whole experience left me negative associations with both quinoa (which makes such a lovely Greek salad in its other incarnation) and pizza (gasp). I'll continue Crust Quest some other time and let you know if I come up with anything decent.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Experiments in pizza

I tried a quinoa pizza crust, and I think I made a few mistakes. I'm not sure if my homemade quinoa flour was too coarse, or if I made the batter too thick, or the pan was all wrong, or if I didn't cook it long enough, or I didn't cook it in enough oil—or all of the above. Whatever the problem was, I couldn't eat much of it.

And yet…sitting atop the disaster was a pile of yummy pizza toppings, so I scraped those off and was still happy. I mean, crust can be pretty tasty, but ultimately it's just there to hold up the good stuff.

I still have a head of cauliflower, so maybe I'll try that version tomorrow. And if that doesn't work, I also have some leftover quinoa flour to use for a third try.

I really don't see a downside to experimenting with pizza.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Gluten hangover

Pizza last night was goooood…but I woke up in the middle of the night desperately thirsty and with a splitting headache. Huh. Gluten-induced dehydration? It fits with my theory that my body needs tons of water to flush out those simple sugars.

I spent a couple of hours today cooking—but nothing fun, just more of my new standbys. I was hoping I'd end up with enough food to get me through the next few days at least, but a lot of it is already gone. I guess I just have to accept that cooking is one of those tasks—like, um, all housework—that never really gets "done." I think I'll make something exciting tomorrow to keep my enthusiasm up. I've been eyeing a recipe for a cauliflower-based pizza crust…

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Calculated cheating

I was going to try another whole month of fancy eating with no cheating, but I changed my mind (no, not "slipped up," not "broke down," not "failed"…changed my mind). It's because of good news: This week I sent out the invoice that means I've made 100% of the income our family needs for the year, so we decided to have a "hundred percent party" on Thursday night. We went out to a Mongolian grill place, where it's pretty easy to stick to meat and vegetables—but all the sauces have either soy or peanuts. So rather than go flavorless, I had soy and peanuts.

And while I'm confessing, I'll let you know that I'm planning to "cheat" again tonight. My husband and I are going to a concert and then out for pizza, and this time—rather than turn a fun night into a big pile of difficulty and annoyance—I'm going to actually have pizza. (It will be my first wheat since August 31.)

I still want to finish out the rest of this month eating almost 100% primal, but I've been doing a little calculation. I eat four meals a day, so about 120 meals in a month. If I want to be at least 90% primal, that means I have 12 meals a month—or about three a week—where I could eat less than optimally. That's a lot. I don't think our family eats out three times a week even in our busiest (laziest) weeks.

So that means this is going to be easy. All I have to do is eat primal at home and try to make relatively sensible choices at restaurants and in other situations. And I won't have to make any little charts or anything to keep track, either.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Blood work

My mom emailed me the results of her and my dad's recent blood work. (My dad did not go 100% Paleo, but most of what he eats now ends up being Paleo anyway, because my mom does so much of the cooking.) From this time last year, her cholesterol level went from 232 to 198, and his went from 241 to 198, with less than 200 being "desirable." Her triglycerides went from 111 to 102, and his went from 241 to 143, with less than 150 being considered desirable.

Pretty impressive, huh? It makes me wish I had some before-and-after medical tests of my own, but that would have required going to the doctor, which I avoid.

My still-unconverted (ha ha) sister just commented that she was waiting for all of us to figure this out before making any dietary changes in her household. Well, as far as I'm concerned, it's a done deal! I'm convinced that I need to keep eating this way, and the blood work just confirms for me that there's no reason to worry about clogged arteries. Really the only thing left to figure out is how to steer my kids in a primal direction, too—but I guess if I could eat junk for 40 years and stay as healthy as I have, then they will probably survive their childhoods if I just do the best I can and don't annoy them too much with my "weird" cooking.

On the plus side, this morning my youngest put in dinner request for what he calls "death by tasties" (translation: mashed cauliflower, potatoes, and garlic). I think I'll make it DBT and meatballs, and see if anyone even notices that they're eating a darn-near-100%-primal meal.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


I just realized I could backdate today's post and make it seem like yesterday's post so I could use today's post to whine about the swim I did this afternoon. (I didn't want to have two posts in one day. THAT WOULD BE SILLY.)

If I'm acting a little loopy, it's because I'm so darn tired from swimming.

I did only 1,000 yards total, but the main set was a 400 IM broken into a set of sprint 25s. And in the spirit of the primal exercise philosophy, I gave it my all. Like I was being chased by a killer eel. (Or any eel. Ick.)

And now I see why you're not supposed to do sprint workouts more than once a week. Because I will probably have to psyche myself up just to lift my hands off the keyboard and onto the mouse to hit Publish.

3…2…1…Publish. Oof.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Saturated fat links

I've been researching (okay, just Googling; I guess there's a difference) the role of saturated fat in heart disease. It seems to me that the federal food pyramid and even groups like the American Heart Association are way behind the times.

There's lots of interesting stuff out there, but the take-home message, which is so counterintuitive that a lot of people simply can't accept it, is that fat does not make you fat. See also this, this, and this.

(Don't ask me how I became a primal eating evangelist. I'm not sure myself.)

But I'm suddenly wondering why federal guidelines haven't changed to reflect the evidence. Is there actually a sinister wheat-and-corn lobby at work?

Monday, October 10, 2011

A pep talk

I just got off the phone with my mom. She's happy that she's now lost 14 pounds eating Paleo but says she's sick and tired of it. She wants some bread. And some pasta. And some pizza!

I don't feel that way at all. (Well…if you know me, you know I want pizza.) But it seems like almost every day I get an idea or two about something new to cook. And since my husband is eating semi-primal with me now, we can cooperate on meals, which makes life a lot easier. Really, though, the most helpful thing is that I like what I've been eating. That must be what happens when you put a lot of thought into your food versus just microwaving the first edible thing you find in the fridge.

This is a huge change for me. Make no mistake: I was the queen of microwaving the first edible thing I found in the fridge. (I also ruled at pouring bowls of cereal.)

So for example yesterday I made these hamburger buns out of—no kidding—nothing but eggs and cream cheese. It was amazing. They went into the oven looking like white blobs of meringue and came out looking like the picture in the link. Now, mine were perhaps undercooked and actually MELTED when I tried to put hamburgers on them, but that's beside the point. The point is that trying stuff like this is fun. And when you hit a home run and get something new to add to your repertoire, it just makes it that much easier to stick with it.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A funner kind of fun

I feel like I've spent the past six weeks glued to the computer—and way too much of the time just waiting for the stupid work to show up. But no more! I should be free again tomorrow, and I'm turning over a new leaf. I'm getting out of the house more. I'm doing more yoga. I'm going on more walks. I'm going to run, bike, OR swim every week.

This fits well with the primal philosophy toward exercise, which is to not do just a bunch of mindless cardio (hello, Ironman training). Instead, you're supposed to do resistance work (I'm counting yoga in that category), a lot of very light exercise (the walks), and the occasional bit of sprinting (the weekly run/bike/swim). And also to do stuff that's fun.

My new plan should qualify there. I know it's going to be more fun than five-hour trainer rides, although those were sort of fun in a twisted kind of let's-see-how-much-misery-I-can-stand sort of way.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Kona love

I thought I had the Ironman bug out of my system and had moved on. Didn't stop me from spending all day watching Ironman Kona online! The pro race was great, but I'm getting jazzed watching the middle-of-pack finishers cross the line, too. I don't suppose my husband will let me stay up five more hours to watch the mighty stragglers…

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Rush job

Oh, all the food I've made is definitely way too tasty. What a conundrum. If I don't cook ahead of time, I'm tempted to put cheese on bread and call it lunch. If I do cook ahead of time, I'm temped to have four bowls of quinoa salad (with cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and feta) for lunch.

The problem isn't the cooking, really. It's the being in such a hurry that I don't even think my meals through.

So far, this month has been even worse than last in terms of sitting at the computer. I'm hoping to be freed up by next week, and to really start doing this primal experiment justice. There's a whole exercise philosophy to go along with the eating philosophy. Did you know?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Give them an inch and they'll take a mile

Rounded out my cooking frenzy over the past few days by making stuffed peppers, a new batch of chili, and a quinoa salad (with cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and feta). The idea is to have a ton of toss-in-the-microwave meals for the coming workpocalypse.

The only problem is that all the various tasties in the fridge are calling my name, and quite a bit louder than the work that's finally dribbling in. I never really wanted to overeat when I was on a strict Paleo diet. Maybe the bits of sugar and dairy I've let back in are working their black magic.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Turning things around

I woke up from a nightmare at 5 a.m. and couldn't go back to sleep, so my day started poorly. I made it worse by being grumpy to everyone. Then outside forces made it even worse yet—I had a week's worth of work to do in the next three days, and my client just wasted yet another day. So now I have a week's worth of work to do in two days. If I'm lucky!

I tried to solve this problem by eating Paleo ice cream, then by having a square of dark chocolate, then by making primal chocolate banana bread.

Finally, it was time for yoga class, where we're often told to "set an intention" for the practice. (I often think to myself, "I intend to spend the next hour doing yoga.") But today I said to myself, "By the time this class is over, I will be happy." And it worked like a charm.

Lesson learned. I hate emotional eating and adore yoga. Gotta be true to myself.

Monday, October 3, 2011

More for me!

I ran out of work, so today has been a bit of a cooking day. My usual process is:

  1. Get an idea for something I want to make.
  2. Google a bunch of recipes.
  3. Decide none of them is quite right and just wing it.

That's how I came up with the tastiest meatballs ever. I fed them to the kids (with spaghetti for them and with mushrooms for me) but they made faces. So I scraped theirs into my bowl and tried not to let on that I was glad I didn't have to share. (My husband liked them, so I may have to share with him.)

Then I announced that I wanted to make some more coconut milk ice cream, and would my 13-year-old be interested in strawberry-banana? He thought strawberry-kiwi sounded better, and I had two very ripe kiwis, so I made that. It was awesome, but he didn't end up liking it. Heh, heh, heh.

Now I'm off to create some homemade ranch dressing and maybe some spicy sausage patties to freeze (I bought a Costco amount of ground pork). I'm going to need my own fridge soon.

Picky primal

The more I read (and experience) about primal eating, the more convinced I am that I need to try to steer the kids in this direction, too. But it's about a million times harder than fixing my own diet.

Child One is allergic to dairy and eggs—and without eggs, I don't think I would have made it through September. I just don't know how to have meat and vegetables for every single meal. Plus, he doesn't even eat a lot of different meats (which is my fault, because I don't either). Child Two is even pickier, doesn't like eggs, won't touch lunch meat or chicken, turns up his nose at 80% of all vegetables. Sigh. We worked on this kid for years to teach him to like hamburgers (figuring it was the only way he would survive his American childhood).

Yesterday, I made them a vegan version of Pad Thai to try (i.e., removing the offending chicken and eggs), but neither was too enthusiastic. I think I will keep trying until they learn to love it, though, because that is some tasty stuff. Until then, those leftovers are mine.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Another After moment

I just realized something extremely cool. You know how when you walk up a fairly long flight of stairs, you feel a bit out of breath at the top? (It's not just me, right?) I mean, it's not like I was ever clasping my chest and sucking air, but even when I was training for the Ironman, I regularly felt winded by stairs. I knew I wasn't "out of shape," so I just figured it was a fact of life.

Well, I just heard the cell phone ring, realized it was two floors down, sprinted down there, answered it, and then jogged back up, talking to the caller the whole time. Not even thinking about it, and not even a little bit out of breath. This is on almost zero "cardio" training for the past three months.

Wrap that in your low-fat tortilla.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

My first After

Okay! The 30-day challenge is up. As you know from my constant whining about it, I felt pretty good before I started, and I feel pretty good now. So I can't personally report any huge changes. But here's how I did compared with the baseline I drew up before this all started: 

Before: I need to lose 20 to 30 pounds.
I just weighed myself and—without ever trying to limit the amount I ate, mind you—I lost 9 pounds. This delights and amuses me, because it's exactly the same amount I lost while training for the Ironman (over nine months) and exactly the same amount I gained back (in two months) after the Ironman. I will be interested to see if I can actually get below this weight in another month of primal eating. (Is there anything below this weight? I can't seem to remember that far back.)

By the way, my mom lost 11 pounds in the month, and my sister lost 12. My mom had the least to lose but was by far the healthiest eater—she was all about the celery sticks and broiled tilapia, whereas I was all, "Let's see if I can make ice cream and sweetbreads out of Paleo ingredients!"

Before: I am easily distracted when I should be working.
I've never heard any claims that Paleo can fix distractability, and I can't say I noticed a ton of change in my ability to focus. (If anything I was more distracted because I was constantly looking up recipes online.)

Before: I can't do any yoga pose requiring hip flexibility.
Again, Paleo doesn't claim to fix this. And it didn't. Sitting all the time didn't help.

Before: I never know where I've left my keys.
Now, this is interesting. I've never heard any claims that eating Paleo can fix flakiness, but I have to say I do feel distinctly less absentminded. I know exactly where my keys are at this moment.

Before: My STUPID FEET STILL HURT constantly. 
At first I was hopeful that this was going away, and it did get a bit better, but alas. My STUPID FEET still hurt (but they don't require quite as much capitalization).

Before: A lot of my hair is falling out.
Huge change here. My hair had been falling out by the handful, and now it's just a hair here and there—like a normal person.

Before: I have no desire to have an organic garden or play an instrument.
Those examples were jokes, so I still have no desire to do either. But I do feel generally more ambitious, more excited about being healthy, and more energetic.

Before: My fastest marathon is over six hours.
Frankly, I feel like I could beat that tomorrow, with no training. When I get more time, I'll probably start running again. The desire is slowly returning.

Before: My bathrooms are dirty, despite my having the desire for them to be clean and the ability to make them clean.
Oops. I've been feeling a bit more gung-ho about keeping the house neat, but that impulse hasn't yet extended to the bathrooms.

Before: My mother-in-law can beat me at arm wrestling.
I wish I had some other objective measure of strength to compare myself with, because I'm really not going to arm-wrestle her! But I have noticed in yoga that I feel much, much stronger. But maybe that's just because I'm doing more yoga now than I have for the past year.

I got a surprise, too: After years of getting up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom—sometimes even twice—I'm generally not needing to anymore. It's maybe one night out of every four now. My theory is that there's less sugar in my body; therefore my body needs less water to flush it out; therefore I'm just not drinking as much.

Okay, Paleo challenge, you had me at "hello, you just lost 9 pounds." Let's do it again!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Plans for next month

I'm hoping for great news when I weigh myself tomorrow morning, but however it goes, I'm not sure I truly did this Paleo experiment justice. First of all, I was extremely sedentary the whole month. I did go on a yoga kick where I attended classes for six days in a row, and I've gone on a few walks, but really, in between, I've done nothing but sit at the computer. Secondly, I think I ate way too many nuts. The more I read about them, the more I see that they're really not all that great for you. Plus they can be used to make sneaky fake-carb, easy-to-overeat, dessert-type items (like the yummy banana bread I made today and have already eaten half a loaf of).

So I'm giving these dietary changes at least another month to work their magic, hopefully with a more balanced diet and some more moving around. For October, though, I'm going to switch things up a bit to more of a primal style of eating, and also make some adjustments that seem reasonable and convenient for me. Here's what's in and what's out:

  • Grains: Mostly out. Okay, I'm convinced that grains are evil, but I'm going to make an exception for quinoa, partly because I went on a quinoa kick a while back and bought a ton of it that I need to eat up. But also partly because it seems to be a reasonably healthy grain, especially if soaked overnight before eating. And it's high in protein.
  • Legumes: Out. I don't think they're horrible, but they're carbs, and I don't even like them that much.
  • Dairy: In, in moderation. I think eating a bit of dairy (for example in a decent homemade ranch dressing) will actually make it easier for me to eat more vegetables. I don't plan on going crazy with it, but since I've never had any intolerance that I know of, and because I really like it, it's back in for now. Let's see if I can handle moderation in one area of my life.
  • Sugar: Mostly out. This is pretty much a no-brainer, but I'm going to make one exception. Dark chocolate is good for you, I love it, and it has a bit of sugar. (I have built-in moderation on this, because my husband is already in charge of doling out the dark chocolate squares.)
  • Potatoes: In. They are not all that nutritious, but they are certainly natural, and I don't think they do any harm. My not eating potatoes actually causes major inconveniences to my kids, because they love my husband's beef stew and my mashed potatoes and cauliflower.
  • Soy: Out. The only soy I remotely missed was soy sauce, and coconut aminos are a perfect substitute, so no problem there.
I think I can easily do one more month with zero cheating, and then I'll see if I have the willpower to transition to a 90% primal diet. Odd that 90% is probably going to be harder than 100%, but there it is.

So that's the plan. Did I forget anything?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

In praise of chili

I can't believe I forgot to mention Paleo chili as one of my culinary successes. Chili is a no-brainer, because it's delicious, it's easy, the leftovers are microwavable, and all you have to do to make it Paleo is eliminate the beans, which I never really liked much anyway.

Plus, it has a strong flavor, so if you were to, say, mix in a few spoonfuls of weird enchilada sauce and top it with crumbled kale chips, your taste buds would never know the difference.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Kale, and other fails

I've talked about a few of my Paleo culinary successes (the Pad Thai I love, the easy "orange whatever is on hand" stir fry I eat for lunch almost every day, the banana pancakes that delight me but horrify my family). But haven't mentioned as many of my dismal—what do the kids call them these days?—fails.

Just last week, I fell under the spell of a "chicken enchiladas" recipe. Of course, with no tortillas and no cheese, I should have realized it's nothing but chicken with sauce on it. But still, I spent 45 minutes chopping and simmering various things and then put it all in the blender to make it smooth. It looked like enchilada sauce, but when I poured it over chicken, it did not make enchiladas. It was chicken with some sauce on it. Weird-tasting sauce.

Then, the other day, armed with a few different almond flour bread recipes but no actual almond flour (that stuff is more precious than palladium, apparently), I tried to invent my own apple cinnamon bread. It was fun to make. I used blenderized walnuts, cashews, and flax, a couple of eggs, coconut oil, salt, baking soda, apple cider vinegar, and lots of apples and cinnamon. I was shocked that it came out of the oven looking like bread (it had even risen) and that I was able to slice it without it falling apart. Then I was shocked again when I put it in my mouth and it was a salty, greasy, disgusting mess. Albeit with tasty little apple chunks.

And just today I decided that no Paleo diet experiment would be complete without trying these kale chips I keep hearing so much about. They sounded weird to me, but every person I've ever heard mention them just raves: So much better than potato chips! Once I have one, I just can't stop! But it doesn't matter, because it's only kale! And a drizzle of olive oil and sea salt and perhaps a squeeze of lemon! In other words, they're a culinary litmus test as to whether or not you're cool.

So I made them. They're light, crispy…and taste like seaweed. Sort of like you'd expect them to taste, actually.

It was disappointing. I can handle the "learning experience" kind of fails. But being so vigorously off-trend, that burns a little.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Blaming it on the Paleo

I cleverly planned to break up my busy, stressful workday with little bouts of fresh air and/or exercise.

Break number one was a refreshing late morning walk with my husband. It was truly a gorgeous day, and I contemplated the bright blue sky and interesting cloud patterns for about 10 steps before it dawned on me that I had a deadline assignment arriving RIGHT NOW, AND HOW COULD I FORGET THAT GOOD GRIEF AM I AN IDIOT? Total walk: 20 steps.

Break number two was a 6 p.m. yoga class. My afternoon was going like this: Get one page of work done. Send an email trying to solve the Great Font Disaster of '11 on the book I'm editing. Help my son with an algebra problem. Get another page of work done. Exchange another series of disaster-solving emails. Help my son with another algebra problem.

Finally I got fed up and went downstairs to have a snack I wasn't even hungry for. The time on the kitchen clock was 6:22. AAARGHHHH I NEEDED THIS BREAK IT'S A GOOD CLASS TOO HOW COULD I FORGET THE ONE THING I WAS LOOKING FORWARD TO ALL DAY? Total yoga: 0.

I don't know what's wrong with me today. Did somebody slip me a gluten? Why am I not an efficient, bright-eyed rememberer of things? It's Day 27; where's my stinking After?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

In the kitchen

Never eating out has its drawbacks.

We are constantly hand-washing frying pans. The vegetable drawer is stuffed so full you can't open it. We have three cutting boards, and they're always in the dishwasher. There's never a measuring cup or spoon clean when you need one. I've been buying fruit in bulk, and so there's always a bag of grapefruit or something out on the counter. The grill thingy we use for meat is constantly soaking in the sink. And we have to run the dishwasher twice a day.

Whine, whine, whine. But my mom says her blood pressure is down to 109/76—from what, I don't recall, but something a lot higher. I've never had high blood pressure, but I love hearing that, because it means good things are happening, and they're probably happening to me, too. Can't wait to weigh myself in five days and see if living like this is worth all the dishes.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

A kinder, gentler Paleo?

Something I read today made me suddenly realize that there IS a difference between the Paleo and primal styles of eating. Upon further research, I discovered that Paleo sticks strictly to the foods our ancestors would have eaten before the dawn of agriculture (evil, evil agriculture). Primal is a bit looser. It emphasizes those same foods but also allows a few things that, while they wouldn't have been available back then, aren't particularly harmful. The primal folks are big fans of grass-fed butter, for example. And—more to the point—they say that for a small treat, there's really nothing wrong with an occasional bit of cheese or dark chocolate.

Now we're talking!

It's funny, but I think eating this way for a month really does change your way of thinking. To me right now, a square of dark chocolate sounds like a huge, reckless indulgence. A peanut butter sandwich sounds crazy and dangerous. Cake with frosting is completely out of the question. I don't even know who I am anymore.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Paleo and the family

Some of you were asking how the Paleo thing is working with the rest of my family, so I thought I'd attempt to explain.

First of all, my husband and sons are too hilarious for their own good, and so the main effect it's had on their lives is that it provides endless fodder for jokes:
"Mom! Be careful! There's corn chips over here!"
"Do you want me to cook this steak, or are you just going to gnaw on it raw?"
"Did they make crackers in their cave blenders in Paleo times?"
"I don't think it counts as forage if you can buy it at Walmart."
And so on.
So no, no one is doing this with me. My husband, though, sees merit in cutting back on breads and sugars, and he's generally happy to share in the Paleo meals I make—though sometimes adding rice or cheese to them.

So do we cook two different sets of food at every meal? I wish. It's usually more like three or four. See, one of my kids has dietary allergies, and we've always had to cook something separate for him. The other one is fairly picky, and over the years we've found it hard to enforce that he has to eat what we're eating when his brother never has to.

But we're used to adapting everyone's meal. Say we're having tacos, for example. Allergy Son has his with everything but the cheese. Picky Son has cheese microwaved on a tortilla and refried beans, and then is forced against his will to eat a tiny pile of ground beef and a bit of iceberg lettuce. Paleo Mom turns hers into a taco salad with fancy lettuce, ground beef, and tomatoes. And Normal Dad has normal tacos.

Sometimes, I admit, it gets a bit wacky. Just now for "meal" I wanted hamburgers and the kids wanted pancakes. So I had a lettuce-wrapped burger, cauliflower, and mushrooms. My husband had a hamburger patty with cheese and mushrooms, cauliflower, and a couple of soymilk pancakes. And the kids had the pancakes with chocolate chips…and cauliflower.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Paleo Pad Thai

I just made a version of this Pad Thai recipe (one of my bazillion new recipe links)—and it was by far the best Paleo creation I have ever made. If it fell short of restaurant Pad Thai, it was only because it wasn't topped with chopped peanuts (which are forbidden). The recipe did suggest topping it with chopped cashews, and if I had had any around, that probably would have made it perfect.

I was supposed to use spaghetti squash as a substitute for noodles, but I'm a little scared of squash in general, and besides, the grocery store didn't have it. So I used my previous (genius) idea and substituted broccoli slaw instead. It makes such perfect little "noodles," turning sort of translucent and picking up the flavor of the sauce.

I'm going to have fun working my way through all these Paleo recipes (there's even one for bread!). I've never found cooking particularly enjoyable, but I love experimenting.

As far as the overall Paleo experiment, it's Day 22 and I'm pretty happy. I'm sure I've lost some weight, and when I can get to yoga class, it feels amazing—I'm stronger than I was a few weeks ago. I think it's unfortunate that I've been so busy with work all month. But if I manage to lose weight, even after being chained to my computer for four weeks straight? Well, let's just say I won't be hurrying back to the Kraft Macaroni & Cheese.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Recipe bonanza

So this Paleo blog I've been reading asked people to post links to their favorite recipes. And it got 50 bajillion comments in response. I read through a couple of pages and bookmarked a bunch of recipes, but I had to stop because I've got two book deadlines coming up and I don't have time for this nonsense. (I was all, "Down, girl! The Paleo cooking fun will still be there when your work is finished.")

Then later I couldn't stand it anymore and tried to make some "strawberry ice cream" out of frozen strawberries and coconut milk. I'm eating it right now. It's really nothing like ice cream, but it beats sitting at the computer and not eating a frozen dessert.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Eating out

Despite last week's potluck fiasco, I've been feeling confident about my ability to survive on this diet (an achievement, trust me). So much so that I've been in a bit of a rut with my food choices. And so that's why I agreed to go out to dinner with my husband last weekend. We went to my favorite pizza place. They have a lot of variety, and I figured if all else failed I could always have a salad or a steak. It turned out they had a salad with steak on it, so that seemed perfect. But it wasn't. I had to send it back once. And even afterward, it was just okay.

But of course that's the real problem. Why was I even out to eat at all if my meal was just going to be okay? There were delicious-looking pizzas and calzones all around me, and even though my husband was kind enough not to order something I particularly loved, his french fries looked mouthwatering.

Maybe the time will come when I feel so great eating this way that I can't imagine even wanting to have a piece of pizza. But for now, feeling more or less the same as I did before, my takeaway lesson was this: Avoid eating out. And if you do, just have the stupid pizza. After my 30 days are up, of course.