Saturday, March 29, 2014

Headaches and Diet, Butter and Scones

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I'm starting this post while suffering from a pretty serious headache. It's in the back of my neck and behind my eyeballs. Sounds lovely, right? Further, I'm sick. I imagine the two are related. I started getting sick on Wednesday evening; I woke up Thursday morning with a painful chest cough. Yesterday my boss told me to eat some ginger so at Whole Foods last night I bought a made-in-store juice called The Fog Cutter, which was simply carrots and ginger. The ginger flavor was intense, causing the juice to have some spicy heat even. As I drank it throughout the evening, I kept telling myself it would cure my cold, trying to harness the power of positive thoughts.

Anyway, the headache started last night. I took something and was able to sleep. But the pain woke me this morning. This is my second, possibly third, headache in the last couple months. In the past I got headaches all the time, like once a month even. But they all but disappeared when I changed my diet and started exercising.

So I'm wondering about my diet being the cause of the headaches lately. As you know, I've been eating more junk lately, more processed foods, than I normally do. Yesterday I had Taco Bell for lunch (2 regular tacos with sour cream) and later I had a Snickers bar. I know, poor choices, though it's not like I'm eating this way regularly. Doesn't really matter, my point is I've been making choices that I don't think my body likes very much.

I took some Advil and now my headache is gone. Between starting this post and now I got up and baked - candied ginger scones. I haven't made them in a while but they're a favorite of mine. And since reading in the New York Times that Butter is Back, well, I feel even better about making them. I like The Joy of Cooking's recipe, easy and flaky and all around yum.
Classic Currant Scones
Makes 8 to 12 

* 2 cups all purpose flour
* 1/3 cup sugar
* 1/2 tsp salt
* 1 Tbsp baking powder
* 6 Tbsps (3/4 stick) cold, unsalted butter
* 1 tsp orange zest (optional) [I had some on-hand and forgot to add it]
* 1/2 cup dried currants [I used candied ginger]
* 1 large egg
* 1/2 cup heavy cream (plus more for brushing)


1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Whisk the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt together in a large bowl.

2. Cut in the butter using either a pastry blender or 2 knives, until the largest bits are the size of small peas and the rest resemble breadcrumbs. Add the currants (I used candied ginger instead) and stir briefly to combine.

3. Beat the egg in a small bowl with the heavy cream and the zest. Add this mixture to the dry ingredients (you can make a well in the middle of them to pour the egg/cream into), then combine with a fork or wooden spoon until all the dry ingredients have been moistened. Pull together into a ball of dough by kneading against the sides of the bowl until it sticks together and the sides of the bowl are relatively clean. Try to handle the dough as little as possible as it will get stiff otherwise.

4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and pat it out into an 8" round. Cut into either 8 or 12 wedges, depending on how big you want the finished scones to be. Place the wedges on an ungreased baking sheet and brush the tops with 2-3 tsps of heavy cream then sprinkly lightly with sugar or a mixture of cinnamon and sugar.

5. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until the tops are nicely browned. Remove from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack or serve warm.
I served warm. With coffee.

So, now I'm feeling better, less coughing than yesterday and no headache. It's going on 1:30 and I'm dreaming up errands to run and things to cook. I almost feel like exercising but I don't think that's a great idea. I skipped exercise on Thursday and yesterday to let my body rest. Maybe, if I'm still feeling up for it, I can go on a short run tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Pharmaca Personal Weight Challenge

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My local Pharmaca store
Weight challenge, huh? you might be thinking. Well, hear me out, this is different. Pharmaca is an integrative pharmacy...what does that mean? It means they are a traditional pharmacy (just like any other pharmacy) but that they offer holistic remedies alongside your typical prescriptions.

But they're also one of those "lifestyle" type places, with a store selling not just remedies but food, make-up, earth-friendly stuff, even greeting cards and the like. Here are some pics of my local store.

the beauty counter

Probiotics and Omega-3 oils


So the folks at Pharmaca contacted me and asked if I'd be interested in working with one of their nutritionists in their Personal Weight Challenge program, which they described as if I have "a little extra weight to lose or to start some healthy habits in 2014." Ok, not so much on the losing weight, but YES on the healthy habits. And it just so happens there's a Pharmaca just a few miles from my home.

They give you a reusable bag, a blender bottle and a Personal Weight Challenge journal as part of the program. Full disclosure: I was also given a gift card (which I used toward the purchase of the items listed below). Still, opinions are all my own. And for you, if you're interested, is a 20% off site-wide coupon for, BPWCBLOG14.

I set up my appointment with Janine, the herbalist at my local store. Admittedly I have not been a big herb/supplement person. I take a daily multivitamin and a B complex vitamin. Most days. But I've been struggling with unhealthy snacking/eating, low energy levels, getting enough sleep, stress, etc etc and I thought maybe Janine could help me out with at least some of these things.

On top of that, and I've been kind of mum on this so far, I'll soon be having that surgery that got re-scheduled back in December. I'm not quite ready to go into the details on that but I'll tell you, the recovery has me shaking in my boots a little bit. I thought maybe Janine could help navigate me through the preparation and recovery process.

So I set up an appointment and we met this morning. We chatted for a bit, going over my history of weight stuff, my current struggles with unhealthy snacking, sleep challenges, and the surgery. Then we took my weight vitals. She had a Taylor Body Analysis scale. I took my morning weight at home and was 143.8 and 29.5% body fat so I was curious to see what hers would say. Her Taylor scale had the option of setting me as being an athlete, "you look like an athletic type". We decided to go with that. Without delay, here are my stats:

Bone mass
Weight: 145.6
Body fat %: 22.2*
Water weight: 54.3
Muscle mass: 108.2
BMR: 2616
Bone mass: 5.5

So this is based on me being an athlete. *But when I took my measurements without the athlete setting my body fat was closer to the 30% range, which is what my home scale (which doesn't have this athlete option) tells me. I found this blogger who went crazy comparing Bod Pod body fat with home scale readings and what he basically found was, unless your body fat % is in the single digits, the normal reading is likely closer to accurate than the athlete reading.

In other words, I'm probably not 22.2% body fat but rather, closer to the 29.5% I got at home and on the Taylor "normal" setting. Bummer. But still healthy, which is most definitely NOT a bummer. The Pharmaca booklet they gave me says for women aged 40-59 a healthy range is 23-34% body fat (based on NIH/WHO BMI guidelines). Ok, enough with the numbers, let's move on to herbs and whatnot.

After our discussion Janine made several recommendations.

1. Start taking a probiotic...healthy gut flora, improved immune system, etc. 

Ultimate Flora

2. Add adrenal support which helps your thyroid do its best work, provides hormonal balance and can help with stress. That all sounds worth a try.

Vital Adapt

3. Sleep...most of my sleep issues are behavioral but we discussed taking something an hour before bedtime to help my body settle and to serve as a behavioral cue that it's time for bed. I set a reminder on my phone to take this around 9:30pm with the goal being to get in bed around 10:30, read for a bit and be sleeping by 11pm.
gaia Sound Sleep

4. Surgery. She recommended Arnica, a homeopathic, natural pain reliever that helps with muscle pain and stiffness, swelling, and bruising.

So, today I took my first round of probiotics and vital adapt along with my multivitamin and B vitamin. I'll take my Sound Sleep tonight and the Arnica before and after the surgery. And we set goals. I'll be meeting with Janine two more times and blogging about my progress over the next couple months. Here are the goals I'm working on with her.

1. Maintain my weight in the post-surgery recovery phase. Of course I'll gain some immediately after due to swelling, etc, but within a few weeks I should be back to normal. I won't be able to exercise for a while so I want my eating to be balanced and healthy to help maintain my weight.

2. After the surgery, improve healthy eating habits. Yes, I'd like to lose these 6-7 pounds I gained in the last six months but I'm not putting this goal in those terms. I'd rather focus on the unhealthy eating behaviors with the knowledge that doing so will mean my weight will take care of itself.

I'm hoping that with these supplements I'll be healthier overall and maybe even less stressed. Studies show a correlation between those who take vitamins and overall health. What they don't know is it that those who take vitamins are more health-conscious to begin with or is it that vitamins make you healthier? I'm inclined to believe the former but either way, there's a correlation, which means taking action to improve my health via supplements, herbs, etc, means I'm more likely to make healthier choices.

Thanks Janine!
And I like the support, accountability and increased knowledge that will come out of meeting with Janine. She was very supportive, encouraging and gentle. She was respectful of my goals (some people scoff at a "thin" person wanting to get in better shape) and I felt like she was recommending things she'd recommend to a close friend, ie not trying to sell me a bunch of stuff I don't need.

After the visit I went next door to Trader Joe's for some groceries. I was on a health high, really wanting to make better choices for myself and the kiddies. To that end I purchased a Fage and blueberries for a snack and ate it in the car on the way home.

I tell ya, I'm feeling good about this whole nutrition, integrative, herbal, supplements, challenge. It feels good to be talking with someone about my goals and have it be a whole approach, not just food and exercise but also the other stuff like stress, sleep, etc. Ok, that's it from me today. I'm off to exercise! I don't get to keep this body by sitting on my duff.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Camp Moms

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Boy oh boy, the past six days have been busy. Thursday I went to the gym after work and rode the upright bike and then did weights. It was another of my "pressed for time" workouts (I might start calling them PFT workouts for short being they happen so much lately) so I only did 20 minutes on the bike and had to drop a few sets of some exercises.

That day I made a last-minute decision to go camping. My buddy Michelle was also on her own with the kiddoes so she was on board. And at the very last minute my other mom friend Catherine was able to come for one night with her daughter. I was a bit hesitant but mostly felt like the kids are old enough that I can handle something like this with a group of friends.

We left after I got off work on Friday (so, no workout on Friday). I chose the Petaluma KOA because a) they had available sites, b) it wasn't too far to drive and c) they have lots of stuff for the kids to do like a pool, playground, petting zoo, etc. We stopped at In&Out Burger for dinner in the car on the way up. Making dinner and setting up camp seemed like too much. I had a hamburger with ketchup and mustard instead of the special sauce. And a handful of fries.

We got there and I was shocked, shocked at the size of the campsites. I'd never seen campsites so small in my life. I think the park caters more to RV campers but after switching sites we at least had a big enough space for our tent. We have a double wide tent and I took that for Michelle and her kids on one side, me and mine on the other.

Speaking of the time we started setting it up it was pretty well dark. I've never set this particular tent up on my own. I had to read the directions. Classic. But lo and behold, we did it! I wasn't so sure we'd manage it but we did. Air mattresses and sleeping bags and before long, we were snoozing.

The kids had a blast. They were in camping heaven. For us parents it was a mixture of fun and stress. Kids wired up on camping all day can wear you down. Normally that would be balanced out by some late night relaxing with a drink by the fire but that wasn't in the cards. I was too tired come the end of the day to make a fire and stay up drinking.

Our days were mostly spent lounging by the pool while the kids played. The pool itself was like ice water, they don't start heating it for a few more weeks. But there was a hot tub and I spent a good amount of time there with the kids. Time for a few pictures.

Marek and his buddy Peyton at the top, Myra working her way up
Myra showing Walker how to make bubbles
It was super chilly Friday overnight and Saturday morning. I got up and headed to the nearest Starbucks for coffee. I know, sort of cheating but I didn't care. The hot coffee hit the spot! We let the kids play at the playground and scoot around on their scooters until it was warm enough to go to the pool.

After spending all day in and out of the water we headed back to the campsite for dinner. Hot dogs and mac&cheese for the kids. The grown ups had ribs, tortillas and beans. Yummy. And I reminded myself more than a few times that being able to pull something like this off is yet another reason why maintaining a healthy weight and fitness level is so important to me. Doubtful I would have done something like this before.

And I really liked the idea of showing the kids that moms can handle stuff too. Especially my daughter, seeing that I can put up a tent in the dark, shoo a spider out of said tent and pack up the car to go home - I think that's good for a girl to see. And a boy.

Oh, a highlight of the weekend was I took the kids on a run. Well, more like a "run" really. We did a small loop around the campsite. They're always asking to go on a run with me so I figured they'd love this. Marek is ready to start training for his first 5k. Why not? He's already got one key element down, carb loading. That kid loves his carbs.

So Sunday came and lots of sad faces but the kids were also worn out. I decided to stop for a late lunch on the way home so I wouldn't have to cook.

Me and my babes
I ate plenty of too much of everything. But I didn't go too crazy. Except maybe with the Oreos. No official exercise this weekend but lots of movement and I must have burnt a ton of calories yelling at the kids to "come back, that's too far" as they scooted out of sight. Not enough though to balance out the nightly ice cream I've been eating.

See, we have this tub of chocolate chip ice cream leftover from Marek's birthday party. I know, why didn't I toss it or donate it? Because I'm imperfect and sometimes fantasize that I can handle such things. I had some Sunday night and promised myself the next time I dipped into it, the garbage disposal fate it would face.

Monday came and I had a plan to exercise after work but that got derailed. Life, you know? It just gets in the way of my plans sometimes. And in comes the ice cream. I had some and then promptly shoved the rest down the disposal. I actually felt relief that it was gone.

Today, Tuesday, I was determined to hit the gym. Another PFT workout but I headed out for a short run anyway. I think I ran around 2.5 miles or so but I'm not sure. In any case I ran for about 25 minutes before going in to do chest/triceps/core. At the beginning the weight training seemed particularly difficult but it got easier as time went on. All in all I exercised for 56 minutes and burned 413 calories according to my Polar.

Things are much the same. Exercise is pretty good, eating is fair to middling (to outright poor). My weight was 144 point something this morning and my body fat was up to 29.5%. Ugh. But, I remind myself, "keep it in perspective, Michelle," I can't always be in top shape. I'm happy. I'm happy. I'm happy with this body. I wanted to slack come gym-time this afternoon and I told myself as I walked around in my skinny cords and fitted top - "you don't get to keep a body like this by skipping your workouts and repeatedly eating from a tub of chocolate chip ice cream." Nope, it just doesn't work that way.

Of course I was happy after my workout. A nice little energy boost to carry me through the evening. The kids were getting on my last nerve tonight so I just did my best to get through. And remember less stressful days. Like this past weekend. I'll close with Myra's remark to me as we were walking back to the campsite after the pool, "Mommy, I love this town."