Thank God for Brave Decisions

It’s funny how one brave decision can change your life.

After thinking about it for a couple of decades, last year I decided to take a yoga class. Unfortunately, I bravely walked into that class 30 minutes late. I can laugh about it now, but that day I was mortified. As I walked across the classroom, I really wanted to say, “Oh, I’m sorry. I was looking for the donut shop?” They might have believed that I was looking for donuts rather than a workout, except I was carrying a brand new yoga mat in my hands. Determined not to be a complete idiot, the next week I arrived to class 30 minutes early.

Then - March 2012

Then – March 2012

Thus began my yoga journey which inspired a blog post called Conquering Mind Over Matter on a Yoga Mat. In it, I wrote how Donna Ornter, owner of Balance Yoga Studio, told me during a private lesson that I had a pretty Warrior II. We even took a photo of my “pretty” pose. Goodness — I was practically standing straight up, which isn’t the intent of the pose. A couple of weeks ago, as we were recreating the photo, I scolded her for calling my Warrior II pretty back then.

“Well, it was pretty,” she laughed. “And it was the best that you could do at the time.”

If for no other reason, that is why you should find a yoga class rather than buying a yoga DVD. A teacher will encourage and inspire you. A DVD will only frustrate you and reinforce all the little doubts in your mind. Thoughts like you can’t do yoga. Or that it’s hard. Or that it’s a waste of time. Or. Or. Or. Believe me, yoga is for EVERY body and EVERY mind. If I can do it, so can you.

Now - March 2013

Now – March 2013

A year later, my Warrior II has improved. It still has a long way to go, and I constantly struggle with the poses and with balance. But yoga is a journey, not a race. More than I ever expected, I’ve gotten stronger and I’ve gained a lot more flexibility.

Last fall, I found my way into another yoga classroom and began working with Marcy Snodgrass, owner of 3 Hearts Yoga. After attending one of her hot yoga classes, I wrote the blog post, Thoughts I Can’t Swat Away. I’ve discovered that Marcy’s studio is the perfect place for me to challenge my determination and my yoga resolve. My subconscious has gotten as much of a workout as my quads. I’ve shed a lot of emotional baggage as well as sweat in her heated studio.

In November, Marcy invited her students to do a 90-day pose challenge. We were to work on any pose that was giving us difficulty. She promised that after 90 days of focus and intent, our ability to do the pose would improve. I couldn’t decide which I wanted to work on because all of the poses are uniquely challenging. I finally selected Forehead to Knee pose, as it would demonstrate increased flexibility. When the challenge began, I was scared to stand on one foot while holding the other foot. While bending my torso over the outstretched leg. While breathing. And squaring my hips. And relaxing my shoulders. And smiling.

Forehead to knee poseKnowing I’d never do it, one night during class I bravely gave the pose a try. I took a deep breath, grabbed my foot, and stretched out my leg. Then, I took another deep breath and squared my hips. Success! Someday, when I least expect it I’ll bend my torso over the outstretched leg and put my forehead on my knee. Until then, I’ll keep celebrating the courage I found to go for it.

Machine Gun Kelly has a song that is becoming part of my life’s soundtrack.

2013 Forehead to KneeI hear voices in the air
I hear it loud and clear
They’re telling me to listen
Whispers in my ear
Nothing can compare
I just want to listen
Telling me
I’m invincible
Telling me
I’m invincible
I am

Whose voices and whispers do I hear? I hear my teachers who are inspiring me to unlock the potential my body still has — even at 49. I hear the other students who are constantly motivating me. I hear my own voice redefining what the rest of my life will be like: healthier and stronger. Thank God that I made that brave decision. And then another. And another. And another.

I’m invincible — I am.

Curious About Juicing?

Glass of Green Juice

My favorite organic green juice made from cucumbers, carrots, kale, and an apple.

If you can’t eat your veggies, maybe you should try drinking them.

Juicing is all the rage these days. It seems like everyone is talking about the goodness gained from a tall, fresh glass of green juice. Even Martha Stewart starts her day with green juice. After all, it’s a good thing. When I’m juicing, you can see it. The dark circles fade from under my eyes, my complexion becomes clearer, and there’s a spring in my step.

I get lots of questions from people eager to learn about juicing and buying a juicer. I always ask them why they’re interested. Because while juicing is awesome, I can’t recommend it for everyone. Juicing is part of a complete nutritional shift. If you’re still drinking liters of soda, smoking, or consuming lots of processed food, don’t waste your money buying a juicer. Instead, start with incorporating green smoothies into your diet. They’re good for you, they offer a nutritional boost, and most people have some sort of blender. If you don’t have a blender then a 2-cup food processor will do the job.

I started juicing as part of my effort eliminate the effects of bad eating habits. I read books that described juicing as a way to flush your cells with nutrition, thereby washing away toxins from soda and other processed food. My imagination went wild envisioning sad, tired cells trying their best to work while coughing toxins like cartoon characters cough smog. I wanted happy, healthy cells that replicated themselves with lots of energy. I pictured newly empowered cells attacking viruses like pro wrestlers – superplexing them into oblivion. I purchased a juicer and bought bags full of organic veggies that were suggested for juicing. The hardest part was taking that first taste of the bizarre-looking elixir. It didn’t taste like anything I ever imaged. It was cool, with a almost milk-like density.

While I’d love to juice everyday, I can’t always get the organic vegetables I prefer. It is important to stress here – only juice organic vegetables and fruits. Otherwise, you’re dumping toxins (and God knows what else) into your bloodstream.

Why Juice?

Simple biology. We all know that food provides energy for our bodies. However, did you know that 60-80% of the energy gained from a meal is used to digest it? When I drink juice rather than eat a meal, suddenly my body has an energy surplus because I’m not digesting food. I don’t know about you, but I need all the energy I can get. Juicing allows me to consume double or triple the amount of vegetables I normally eat. That means double or triple the nutritional value. It also allows me to experiment with new vegetables like kale. One isn’t born with taste buds that like kale. But now, I love it.

There are several reasons why you should be juicing. But there is only one reason why you shouldn’t juice. If you think you’ll lose weight by juicing, you’re wrong. Losing weight is the byproduct of healthy nutrition. Many people start juicing with high hopes of losing extra pounds because they’ve heard that a juice fast is a quick way to lose weight. But like all other diets, a juice fast isn’t a permanent fix. It’s a temporary solution, just another diet gimmick. Oh, you’ll lose weight, but it won’t stay off. You’ll gain it right back unless you completely change your nutritional intake. But for some people, I recognize that juicing can be a necessary beginning to a complete nutritional change, especially if they aren’t eating vegetables or if their meals come through a drive-thru window. Juicing introduces them to vegetables.

1) Few people eat enough veggies.
If you drew a line down the middle of your plate, would 50% of your meal be veggies? What kind of veggies are you consuming? Do you eat enough dark leafies that are filled with chlorophyll to cleanse your cells? Or do you only eat potatoes, sweet corn, and green bean casserole? Consider this: Are potatoes still a vegetable after you boil the dickens out of them, then add a stick of butter and a drown them in milk? My southern taste buds say yes, but my cells say no.

2) Juicing green vegetables adds chlorophyll.
Chemically, chlorophyll is almost identical to hemoglobin – the substance which transports oxygen from the lungs to the tissues of the body. The benefits of chlorophyll fall into three main categories: purifying, anti-inflammatory, and renewal. It has numerous health benefits, as it can help cleanse and oxygenate the blood, detox and alkalize the body, and help promote healthy intestines.

2) Raw veggies provide their full nutritional value when juiced.
Cooking lowers the nutritional value of food. The more you cook them, the less effective vegetables are. I once cooked green beans in a crockpot for three days so that they would taste like my great-aunt’s southern-style green beans. While delicious, there wasn’t an ounce of nutritional value left in them. Poor things.

3) Juicing flushes toxins from bloodstream and from cells.
Every second, millions of your cells replicate. Your body is constantly replacing old cells with new ones. By drinking green juice, you are helping to rejuvenate your body at the cellular level by feeding them what they need — clean energy and glorious vitamins.

What kind of juicer do you have?
My juicer isn’t fancy and it wasn’t too expensive. I bought a Warner Juice Extractor from Lowes. You can easily get one from Wal-Mart, a catalog store, or on-line . The day I bought mine, I discovered it while my Beloved was looking at building supplies. It’s done a good job despite the paces that I’ve put it through including juicing hundreds of tomatoes last summer. I don’t remember exactly how much I paid for it, but I think it was around $80.

Veggies Ready to JuiceWhat’s your favorite juice recipes?
While I prefer green juice, you can try any combination of veggies and fruit using the magic formula: 3 veggies:1 fruit. Its important not to use a lot of fruit in juicing. You can easily spike your blood sugar levels if you use too much fruit. Besides, eating fruit is easy. Eating vegetables is generally the problem. Use fruit to sweeten your blends, not overtake the spinach. The internet is full of juicing recipes. You can easily find recipes, but below are a couple of my favorites. The organic vegetables are often available, even in Murray.

Green Goodness
2 Cups of Organic Kale (or organic spinach)
2 Organic Cucumbers
2 Organic Carrots
1 Organic Apple

Carrot Delight
6 Organic Carrots
1 Organic Apple
1 knuckle organic ginger

 

Happy Birthday to Us!

Happy Birthday 2

We’re celebrating our blog’s first birthday!

It seems unbelievable that a year has passed since we posted our first story about making homemade stock.

As I said in that first post, launching a blog during the early days of January was hardly inventive, but it seemed a good time to put perspective into the way we live our life. For the past year, we’ve shared our successes and our failures. It didn’t seem to matter what we wrote about, you faithfully read our adventures. You will never know how much we appreciate it!

I believe this blog is perhaps one of the smartest things I’ve ever done. It made me evaluate who I was unlike anything else and finally convinced me to make changes I so desperately needed to make. Weekly photo sessions forced me to look at myself realistically. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I wasn’t a happy fat chick, as I often described myself. Instead, I was exhausted, bloated, sick, and a depressed woman.

But because of this blog, I finally confronted all the junk I was putting into my body in addition to our healthy meals. The snacking, the grazing, the late-night calorie consumption that fed a chronic sugar addiction starving my body’s ability to heal itself or have a healthy lifestyle is nearly gone. Writing has lead to changes that I couldn’t have believed possible.

If you had told me a year ago that today I would be 50 pounds lighter and wearing skirts again, I would have laughed in your face. There is no doubt that this has been a year of transformation as I said goodbye to soda, eliminated processed sugar, and gathered enough courage to take a yoga class. Thank goodness, I am not the same woman that I was a year ago.

My passion about whole food, healthy living, canning, and sustainability is still there. Only now, it is ignited by my passion that good nutrition can cure almost anything. You just have to be willing to let go of the myths we’ve spun. And you have to be brave enough to discover the truth about nutrition, such as choosing not to eat anything green is childish. Choosing to believe that manufactured food is better than what is grown a in a garden is ridiculous. The truth is, we are what we eat. When you eat processed food, your body will become a toxic wasteland where you have no resistance to stress nor ability to fight off whatever is going around.

Medical professionals won’t tell you this, nor will they consider nutrition as the first defense against illness. Could it be that we’d rather have a pill rather than a plate of greens? Or a procedure rather than give up sweet tea or pizza? Possibly. Could it be that if Americans became better educated about nutrition the first industry to suffer would be pharmaceutical? Frankly, I believe its because medical professionals know that most people won’t listen. And that they are just as disillusioned and cynical as anyone.

It doesn’t have to be that way. It’s easy to implement change. Don’t worry, I’m not going to turn this blog into a continued discussion about weight loss and turnip greens. Despite Everything is about discovering food and life again. I’m not an expert, nor am I a nutritionist. But for me, weight loss is the by-product of healthy nutrition, not starvation.

What will 2013 bring to Despite Everything? We’ll do our best to be inventive and entertaining. You’ll see more recipe development that teaches basic nutrition. You’ll see more posts about our garden. We’ve already begun planning what we’ll grow this year. And, you’ll see more stories about our critters and life here at Chez Medlock.

One of our most poplar features was Other Voices, where guest writers participated in Tomatopalozza, my annual tomato canning bonanza. I loved reading stories from my friends about their canning adventures. From the number of hits we had during Tomatopalozza, you loved reading their stories too. There will be more opportunities for guest writers in 2013. Many of my friends are beginning paths toward better nutrition, and I’m hoping they’ll share their journeys. And we’ll take peeks into other people’s gardens to see that urban farmers are everywhere.

I was once asked why I didn’t release stories on a regular basis. The thing is, I never know when the need to write will overwhelm me. Or where the next blog post will come from. Sometimes the best posts come from the smallest inspirations. Believe it or not, I have refrained from making everything I do a blog post. After all, nobody really needs to know that I’ve cleaned out my closet or organized my herbs.

Backbends

He cooks, he gardens, and he does back bends to install under-cabinet lighting.

So how does a blog celebrate a birthday? I don’t really know, so we’re celebrating by finally installing under-cabinet lighting. When we built our new kitchen, we couldn’t find the type of lighting we wanted. So we decided to be patient and wait. We’ve been working in the dark ever since. It’s a wonder we’ve been able to cook or clean anything for the past year because there isn’t a lot of natural light in the space.  While it’s been frustrating, I’m glad we waited because now we have the exact wireless lighting plan we wanted.

All things come in good time…Despite Everything.

Thoughts I Can’t Swat Away

It’s been a really good summer for canning. But I couldn’t stop thinking about how much I missed yoga.

Have you ever had a recurring thought that you couldn’t swat away?

The other night we were watching TV together when I propped my leg up on the couch. I glanced down at my thigh, and it totally confused me. Whose thigh was that? I wasn’t mine. And yet, it was attached to me. But it wasn’t familiar. After all my thighs are plump and lumpy. The thigh that was propped in front of me–wasn’t. It was smaller and had a defined shape other than a cream-filled eclair.

That was the first time I noticed a change in my physical being.  Don’t get me wrong, that thigh was far from anything perfect. But it just didn’t look like my thigh. In the past few weeks, I’ve been surprised by other little changes occurring to my body as I’ve taken control of my sugar addiction.

Since March, I’ve lost just over 30 lbs thanks to giving up soda and making a conscious effort to reduce processed sugar in my diet. For the first couple of months, I was faithful. I went to a few Pilates classes and had private yoga practices. I did yoga during lunch. I even changed my Pandora station to Yoga Workout music. I watched every gram of sugar that went into my mouth. Then I began to hate it all. I felt restricted and deprived. If I heard another song with a sitar again, I was going to scream.

I wanted to be able to eat chocolate occasionally. I wanted to be free to eat whatever I wanted like the old days. I watched people consume processed food, soda, and even dessert without thought. Did they know or care what they were eating? I hated waiting until after 7 pm for Pilates. I hated committing to 8 am yoga on Saturday mornings. I hated having my life so structured. Work is structured enough. I couldn’t handle having my downtime structured too. The reality was that it wasn’t really all that structured, but it felt it. Nobody made me feel this way. My teachers were completely supportive and nothing but encouraging. Instead, I did this to myself.

So I took a break from the physical stuff but stayed on the diet, with fewer restrictions. I allowed myself to have a glass of wine. I ate some peanut M&M’s. I even had a small chocolate milkshake (it took me two nights to finish it). I tried to find my boundries. And I still lost weight. I easily fit into my “skinny clothes.”

All of my pantry cabinets are full.

This summer I have a busy, busy beaver with canning and freezing. My freezer is full. My pantry is full. If I finish my Tomatopalooza goals, I’ll have to start storing filled jars in our guest bedroom like my sister does. Its been a fabulous summer. I am thrilled with what I’ve accomplished. I’ve tried new canning recipes, and I’ve gained a few new skills. Take today for instance. I have 14-day pickles working, apple butter is in the slow cooker, and I have apples waiting to be made into applesauce. My beloved has a batch of home brewed beer ready for bottling. As Martha would say, “It’s a good thing.”

In the past few weeks, there has been a nagging feeling that I couldn’t swat away. I missed my yoga mat. In July, Balance Yoga began offering new classes. Several times, I nearly committed but changed my mind. I wasn’t ready to get back to my mat. I was eyeball deep into canning tomatoes. I told myself that I didn’t have time. Besides, I had to know for sure what I wanted from yoga this time.

Yoga has never been about weight loss for me. It’s about building a strong and flexible body, to realize my physical potential even if I’m approaching 50 years old. It’s an intense practice, not because of the physical demands, but the mental ones. Granted, the physical aspects are challenging for a middle-aged fat chick with breasts. But to me, yoga is about courage and mind control–reaching beyond what my mind believes what my body can do. Can I touch my toes? My mind says, “heck no!” And yet, during a yoga practice, I can. Can I touch my toes and exhale a breath at the same time? Sometimes.

It seemed that every time I logged onto Facebook, someone was talking about or sharing about yoga. No matter where I put my mat, it was always in the way. I finally put it in the trunk of my car. Then I bought all those cucumbers and three cases of jars when I went home to make pickles with my cousins. What’s the first thing I saw when I opened my trunk? My mat.

My Pilates teacher announced a Pilates Wake class starting in September. The class would start at 6 am on Monday mornings for four weeks. Perfect! Surely Pilates would scratch the itch. So I happily signed up, thinking that I would be content with waiting until after Labor Day, and began looking at apple jam recipes. But it didn’t scratch the itch. The enticement of the approaching apple season couldn’t hold my attention. Yoga was not content to be ignored any longer. Still unsure why, I took drastic measures and signed up for Hot Yoga.

There are a lot of people taking Hot Yoga right now. Hot Yoga, is a practice of 26 poses taught in a 105-degree room. Extreme. A few of my friends are involved in a 26-day challenge, where they attend class six days a week. They would post things to Facebook about it being the best thing they’ve ever done. More than once, I considered them to be off their rockers. Then one friend posted that she now knew why Satan was so fit: hell had hot yoga. I contacted the teacher and explained my situation. I wasn’t sure if I could it, but if I could come sweat out what was going on in my head, then maybe I could finally resolve it. She completely welcomed me. And so did her class. Ironically, I chose the class that started at 7:30 pm.

I arrived to class excited and scared to death. Before I left the house, I lingered on the goodbye kiss to my Beloved in case I never saw him again. I knew that I was going to die from a heart attack. I must have kissed our son four times before he kicked me out of his room. Even the dog got tired of me saying goodbye. So I drove to class. As I walked up the stairs to the studio, I could feel the intense heat and pondered what I was doing. I’ve spent a lifetime avoiding the need to sweat. Didn’t menopause teach me anything? I hated hot flashes. And yet, here was I paying someone to completely ignore energy-efficiency standards. Surely, I had lost my mind.

The teacher, Marcy Snodgrass, and I agreed that my first goal was to stay in the room. I could try the poses, but I wasn’t to push myself, and I wasn’t expected to keep up with the class. (No worries there!) It was unlike anything I have ever done. The heat is completely unlike being outside on a 100-degree day. This was a hot and humid room, like after a hot shower. No sun or bright light, only a floor lamp casting shadows in the early evening twilight.

I could tell from the faces of the other students that they love the practice. Decked out in their yoga gear and cute tank tops, they were eager to get going. I could feel the buzz. Marcy found a spot for me on the back row in the corner, next to the wall. Perfect, I thought. If I fall down, the walls will catch me. I recognized the music from my Pandora station. Thanks to all the sweet smiles and welcoming waves, I knew it was going to be okay. They didn’t look that crazy.

That first night, I achieved my goal. I stayed in the room. I didn’t pass out and I didn’t throw up. I tried about half of the poses. (Okay, 30%). I was wobbly when I got home because I didn’t eat much that day. But my skin felt electrified. I had sweated gallons despite the fact I laid on my back and concentrated on two knots on the wood-paneled ceiling most of the time. I refused to think about what I wanted from yoga or if I was ready to climb back on my mat for good. I simply wanted to live through it.

My sweat-soaked tank became my red badge of courage.

The second night, I rocked it. I had eaten a small lunch and drunk plenty of water. I didn’t get dizzy. I attempted middle-aged fat-and-lazy chick adaptations of every pose. Although I fought to stand on one foot, I tried. For the first time ever, I used my core muscles to lie down on my mat. (Look Ma, no hands!). I actually did the power sit ups, again like the middle-aged fat chick that I am. When I got home, I felt amazing. My body was tingling, and once again I had sweated buckets. I was thrilled that my t-shirt was soaked. It was like my red badge of courage. That night, I slept better than I had in weeks.

On the third night, I wasn’t mentally prepared when I got to class. Too much stuff had happened during the day, too many things were going on, I had rushed from work to get there on time, I was nervous about making it to the football game–it wasn’t my best effort. I struggled. I couldn’t focus. It happens. If you aren’t focused, you aren’t going to have a good practice. But you try and make the most of it. As I lay on my mat at the end of class, I allowed a single thought to bubble up.

I want more.

Rejuvenating a Smile

Pickled beets are NOT Cheyenne’s favorite snack.

Last Wednesday night, a hurricane arrived on our doorstep.

With a rare break from college, work, and an internship, our niece Cheyenne came home mentally and physically exhausted. And fighting a cold. She tries really hard to eat right, but like most Americans she gets caught in a trap between what’s really healthy and what’s convenient. It’s a Catch-22. When you’re a busy college student, it’s an impossible battle to win — especially when campus food services are catered by hospitality organizations that don’t share your aunt’s obsession with real, whole, and organic food.

The trip home, which usually takes three hours, had taken her seven. She left campus late after training all day for a new job. Between detours, pit stops, quick visits, and making a couple of deliveries, it was after 11 pm by the time she walked in the house keyed up and running on adrenaline. The storm surge that occurred after welcoming hugs left a puddle in the middle of the floor in the shape of Cheyenne. She had held it all in as long as she could.

It’s been a tough year.

Thankfully, I was clued in to the fact that our typically bubbly girl was at the end of her rope and needed to completely recharge her spirit and her body before heading back to Memphis. I had exactly one week to turn her world around and get her ready to face the new semester. We sent my Beloved off to bed. Then Cheyenne and I sat up until 2 am talking and crying. Crying and talking. We’re chicks — it works. Because she was so stressed, if she didn’t cry it all out the first night she would continue to hold everything in.

Once the stress-induced tears subsided, it was time to implement my Recovery Plan. I knew she needed to untangle her muscles, ridding them of the toxins that were being held in her tissues. I had bought her an unlimited pass to Balance Yoga Studio, and I told her that I expected her to go to at least one class every day. Yoga works differently than any other form of exercise. It stretches the muscles and stimulates the organs. The mental aspect is as important as the physical strength that it provides. Thankfully, she likes yoga, so she agreed despite the fact she just wanted to lie in bed for a week. There was no way I was going to let that happen. When you’re tired, depressed, or stressed, the worst thing you can do is lie in bed. It goes against everything your body was designed to do. Granted, it feels good to crawl under the sheets and hide, but it’s the worst thing you can do for your muscles and your brain. Unless you just want them to turn to mush.

I had told her before she came home that I planned to provide her a steady diet of wholesome foods that would help her detox. But at 2 am, no one cares about detoxing. So it didn’t take long for her to realize that there was no junk food in the house. No chips, no ice cream, no chocolate, no soda — nothing that her body was craving. Instead, I popped a nectarine in her hand and gently smiled.

Before we went to bed, we mapped out her days. We planned which yoga classes she would attend and added in the other things she had planned to do while she was in town — hair appointment, eye doctor, and visits with friends. I laid down the law. For the next seven days, her plate had to be 50% greens and veggies — no breads, no fats, and no sugars. Most especially, nothing processed. She was to drink nothing but water and green tea. And most importantly, she was to sleep on a regular schedule and have a shot of wheat grass every morning to wake up her blood cells. With a hug and a quick kiss on her forehead, I sent her to bed.

Bless her heart, she listened. She went to yoga. She ate her veggies. She drank buckets of water and green tea. She avoided sugar. I slowly reintroduced healthy fats once the bad ones had been eliminated. On Friday night, we watched my favorite documentary, Hungry for Change. This documentary changed my world. It explains why diets don’t work and the importance of eating whole food. If you have ever been on a diet and then gained the weight back (plus a few extra) then you must see this movie. Go to the website. Buy the download. And watch it — repeatedly. You’ll thank me later.

By the time we pushed “play,” she had been home 48 hours. Her system had been hydrated with good nutrition. She was already feeling better, and the fog was lifting from her brain. We stayed up and talked. And talked. And talked. Again, we’re girls — it works. By the time we went to bed, we had solved the world’s problems. Or at least a few of hers.

On Saturday, we went to the Downtown Farmer’s Market, had breakfast, visited with friends, and then headed home. That afternoon, we took the boat out and went swimming. We soaked up the vitamin D and relaxed. On Sunday, we took the boat out again. By then, her skin was glowing, her eyes shining, and the crinkled forehead was smoothed. It was time to kick her detox up a notch by adding veggie juice to her new diet. Juicing improves blood and oxygen flow to muscles and organs.

I had gotten an email a couple of weeks earlier from The Weekly Juicery, a retail store in Lexington, Kentucky, that makes and sells veggie and fruit juices. Occasionally, they make deliveries to Murray. Kimmye Bohannon, owner of The Weekly Juicery was coming to town and bringing juice. I order two cases (16 portions per case) of freshly pressed juices, one for Cheyenne and one for me. I love The Weekly Juicery’s drinks. Pure, healthy, and fresh, they add a direct boost to my diet. Their Green Lemonade is a powerhouse of nutrition. When we came home from the lake, we went and picked up our juice. Then Cheyenne, Vince, and I headed to a yin yoga class together. Yin is a slow stretch yoga that just feels good, especially after an afternoon at the lake.

Fresh veggie juice fuels a healthy body.

Cheyenne did everything right and her body responded. Smiles and giggles replaced brave faces and tearful pouts. I literally watched our niece go from gray to technicolor in just a few days. She’s always been beautiful, but she became radiant in every aspect of the word. It was amazing to watch her respond to my hippie-new-age conditioning. Others might not agree with how I handled her diet. My mother would have filled my plate with mashed potatoes, mac ‘n cheese, fried chicken, and chocolate pie. Comfort foods do not provide any nutritional comfort to your body. Instead, they clog your arteries and build fat cells. Well-meaning fat cells, but they don’t enrich your blood stream or stimulate your colon.

It was gratifying to see her accept the peace that good nutrition and healthy exercise can provide. We watched her transform, like a rose blooming after a morning dew. She headed back to Memphis refreshed, renewed, and with a backseat full of frozen juice. They will continue to work their magic, getting her off on the right foot for another challenging semester. The hurricane had calmed and a rainbow of peace had taken its place.  New dorm, new job, new classes — she’s going to need all her strength. But she’ll do it and then take on the world, Green Lemonade in hand.

Aunty Am’s Recovery Plan

Exercise at least 30 minutes every day (preferably yoga for the stretching of muscles and organs)

Establish a regular sleep routine that includes at least 8 hours of rest

Watch the documentary Hungry for Change

Eat a healthy diet of whole foods (preferably organic)

  • 50% of your plate filled vegetables and fruit. Choose lots of green leafy vegetables first.
  • 25% protein (nothing fried)
  • 25% whole grains

Stay away from processed foods which can be loaded with salt and sugar.

Start Juicing!

Do you actually look at your dinner plate?

Mondays we typically have stir-fry.      My beloved chops up fresh veggies then sautes them into a wholesome dinner. Tonight we paired the veggies with pasta.

What did you have for dinner?

In our fast-paced, zoom-zoom-zoom life, I wonder if anybody actually looks at their dinner plate anymore.  Meals have become something you eat on the go, something to curb the appetite, or something to do while you’re watching American Idol.  Let’s face it, we’re hungier than ever because we have no idea what we’re even eating. Let me tell you — it’s mostly crap.

As you know, I’ve been on a food journey these last few months.  In the effort to eliminate all the hidden sugar in my diet, I’ve eliminated soda, and I’m strictly controlling the amount of processed sugar I consume.  It’s not for everyone, but for me, it’s working.  I’m losing a couple of pounds a week, and I’m seeing positive changes in my physical health.  Understand, I’m not dieting. I’m simply eating better.  And so is my family.  My son has lost weight, as has my beloved.  While there is still a long way to go, we’re getting there one plate at a time.

This whole journey began as we developed the blog. During the writing process, I’ve learned a lot about myself and exactly how healthy our family – wasn’t.  I’ve also come to realize that modern American families know very little about nutrition.  I certainly don’t, and I know few of my friends understand it either.  We’re constantly talking about the struggles of simply getting a meal on the table.  For many families, it’s easier to grab something on the way home than to roll up our sleeves and head into our beautifully-appointed kitchens.  I understand — I’ve been there and done that.  But it’s time to get over it and put those fabulous stoves to work.

One of my favorite bloggers recently posted a picture of what she had packed for her child’s school lunch.  It was a photographic delight that any child would be thrilled to find in their lunch box.  But as I read her post, I was shocked that, for all her knowledge about “real food,” she had made a grand mistake about meal planning.  Nearly everything she packed in that lunch was sugar- or fructose-based with very little protein included.   My 48-year-old body couldn’t handle that much sugar, and frankly, I don’t know how her 1st grader could either.

“Here’s my 1st grader’s lunch: Triple-decker waffle/cream cheese sandwich, fruit (mango/grapes/blueberries), and a little homemade trail mix (sunflower seeds/pumpkin seeds/dried apple rings/dried mango). What did everyone else pack today?”

For some unknown reason, I decided to call her out on it.  Dozens of moms took me to task for it.  One even told me that the cream cheese alone was 10 grams of protein and that six-year-olds only needed 30 grams per day.  I don’t know about them, but my mother would never consider a triple-decker waffle/cream cheese sandwich as nutritious, especially when paired with fresh fruit and dried fruit trail mix. And I don’t either.  While it might make an excellent midnight snack, as a meal it’s just–whacked.

We all make nutritional mistakes. Goodness knows I still make them.  I once posted a recipe on this blog for muffins that was so full of sugar that I am surprised it didn’t cause someone to lapse into a diabetic coma.  (See how much I’ve learned?)

I think we all need to step back and rethink how we organize our meals and actually look at what’s on our dinner plate.  We know this stuff people. We’re smart, educated individuals.  Our mothers raised us to know what was healthy and nutritious — thru osmosis if nothing else.  But what are we teaching our children?  Too busy to cook? Call for pizza delivery.  No wonder obesity is now the norm; we’re nutritionally bankrupt.

We need to open our eyes and actually look at our dinner plate.  What do you see?  What will that food do for your body?  Will it provide you the energy you need?  Will it build healthy blood cells and strong muscles?  How much of that food will turn to sugar?  If you don’t know, then head for your nearest internet search engine and find out.

For the next couple of weeks, I’ll be posting on our Facebook page and on Instagram what we’re eating for dinner.  I invite you to follow along.  Disclaimer: our meals are not something you can create in 30 minutes or less, and they certainly aren’t “semi-homemade.”  But each meal is full of nutrition, and the leftovers are often packed for lunch.  How do we do it?  We cook together, and we plan ahead.  My favorite tool in our kitchen? The deep freeze.

Join in. I invite you to share photos of what’s on your plate.  It’ll be fun, and maybe we’ll all learn a thing or two.

Goodbye Soda

Goodbye Soda

For years, there was always at least one soda can within my reach.

Hello, my name is Mary Anne, and I’m a soda addict.

It might sound odd, using that phrase in regards to soda.  But I remember the day that Diet Coke was introduced.  As a freshman at Western Kentucky University, I had already experienced the Freshman 15.  Diet Coke seemed to be a great solution to replace my favorite drink of choice, Coke.  In my 18-year-old mind, it seemed simple: switch to Diet Coke, jog around campus a few times, add a salad here or there, and then head off to the mall to find the perfect swimsuit.

During the spring semester, when they finally added Diet Coke to our vending machine, excited voices filled Poland Hall.  In 1983, there were few soda choices.  There were the browns: Coke or Pepsi.  The clears: 7-Up or Sprite.  The yellows:  Mello Yellow or Mt. Dew.  The fruities: Nehi or Crush.  The diets: Tab or Fresca.  If you wanted an energy drink, Gatorade Original was the only choice.  I remember riding the elevator with my roommate, going to the vending machine, then going back upstairs and tasting Diet Coke for the first time.  It wasn’t good, but it wasn’t awful.  Thankfully, it was heaps better than Tab or Fresca and I had weight to lose.  And so it began…

Growing up, I didn’t drink water.  Our farm didn’t get “city water” until 1988. Until then, we got our water from a spring-fed well that went often went dry in the fall. Each July, our father started reminding us not to be wasteful.  Five minute showers were considered good enough.  We didn’t leave the water running while we brushed our teeth, nor did we wait for water to warm up just to wash our hands.  We had bricks in our toilet tanks to conserve flushes.  We didn’t wash cars, pets, or water the lawn.

By August, things became extreme if it didn’t rain.  Laundry was done in town, and toilet flushing received a whole new set of rules.  If the well went dry, my father became tense.  It meant a lot of extra work for him, which was already jammed packed with his day job at Peabody Coal and his other job – tending livestock and farming. There just wasn’t time or extra hands to haul water.  It also meant extra work on my mom.  Money was tight back, and hauling 500 gallons of water wasn’t cheap when you were trying to get three kids ready for school to start.

In my child’s mind, I somehow concluded that drinking water was wasteful.  So I never drank it. My mother bought a carton of Pepsi’s each week.  On Sunday nights, rather than cooking, she would make a big bag of popcorn, and we’d each have a cold Pepsi for supper.  She knew we weren’t hungry because we would have gorged ourselves after church at our grandparents’ house.  Sunday nights were special; it was a quiet pause before the Monday chaos.  I think I started loving soda then — not so much for how it tasted but for what it represented: watching the fulfilled faces of my parents, spending time together as a family, and sensing all was well with the world as we watched the Disney movie of the week.

My paternal grandparents kept “little Cokes” in the fridge. Unrestricted access to these little treasures, paired with the fun-filled antics of my grandmother, meant good times.  If you packed that little Coke with peanuts, you would experience a salty sweetness unlike anything else.  “Have a Coke and a smile.”  We lived that advertising campaign on her front porch. Even now, a little Coke and a packet of peanuts can instantly take me back to her swing, people-watching the fine folk of Hanson.  When sitting on her front porch, it seemed like the entire world whizzed by on Highway 41.  She’d make up ridiculous stories about where everybody was going in such a hurry, and I’d laugh myself silly.

I’m telling you all this because I think it’s important to understand how soda became part of me.

The Freshman 15?  I never lost it.  When my father was killed working 3rd shift at the mines, the stress and grief I experienced was crushing. I gained more weight, then more, and more.  I couldn’t figure out why as I slurped my way through Diet Cokes through the 90’s.

My weight finally stabilized when my son was born.  Since then, I’ve added a few extra pounds, but nothing like before. Soda addiction is a vicious cycle.  The more you drink, the more you want.  It never conquers thirst.  It only leaves you wanting more.  Whenever I became stressed, I would reach for a soda.  It was as if I were reaching for those happy childhood moments to calm me down.  And it delivered — every time.  Whenever that cold and fizzy sweetness would touch my tongue, it was like an instant hit.

According to a recent 60 Minutes episode, your brain responds to soda just like it does to cocaine. It’s manufactured to feel that way. You’re not going to believe how clueless I truly was.  After all we’ve been through eliminating processed food and chemicals from our home, I never once considered eliminating soda.  Neither my husband or my son drank it.  But I existed on it.  A diet soda was never far away.  I always had one with me.  Photos always included at least one can within reach of me. Sometimes, there would be two or three. You could always find empty soda cans in my car, as I never got in a car with one a ‘fresh one for the road’.  If I were on a business trip, I couldn’t relax until I knew there was at least one soda in my hotel room.

Addiction is addiction.

In the past few months, I have harped about the dangers of bottled water — while holding a can of Diet Dr. Pepper.  Making bottled water the enemy was easy for me.  After all, it echoed those childhood images of hauling water.  Thankfully, a co-worker finally called me out on it.  It was like she threw water in my face when she told me that the soda I was drinking at the time was just as bad her bottled water. Instantly, I knew she was absolutely right.  As I read the ingredients on the side of the can, I realized that I was breaking my own rules about three ingredients or less.  There were also many ingredients I couldn’t pronounce.  I finally realized what I should have known all along: the soda had to go.

The thing is, it’s hard for me to comprehend that the FDA isn’t the watchdog I took them to be.  The FDA is not on our side. Corporations only want to sell their products, then find a way to get me to buy more.  If that means using chemical additives that make my brain respond, then so be it.  And if those chemicals cause cancer in animals, then it’s my fault for buying it.  After all, they only make it available.  They don’t make me purchase it.  They don’t make me use their coupons. Its not their fault that I didn’t know that propylene glycol is the scientific name for antifreeze.  And they are right.  I should have known these things.  But I didn’t.

Many of you have followed my efforts of giving up soda on Facebook.  To my amazement, many of you expressed a desire to know how I did it.  Some said that they could never give up soda. You CAN do it, and most importantly, you SHOULD do it. There are 1000 reasons why, but you have to find the reason that best fits you. I’ve had friends tell me for years that I shouldn’t drink as much soda as I did. I knew it wasn’t good for me, but I didn’t want to hear it.

What will make you listen?