Food Prep and Figuring Out Being a Railroad Wife

Food prep can be a significant time saver when it comes to making meals, and can even save money by getting produce to last longer.

I’ve never been very good at it.

Mostly, I just don’t take the time to do it shortly after grocery shopping. As a result, I have to do everything when it comes time to make the meals, and often waste produce that goes bad too soon.

bnsfMy husband recently started working for the railroad, which means he’s gone for as much as three days and nights at a time now. Since he’s still training, his schedule is especially busy, since he doesn’t have any days off yet and they’re working him constantly. Apparently, the idea is not only to train him, but to show him what “the worst” is so he knows exactly what he’s in for. By extension, that means me too.

On the road, he’s put up in hotels each night, none of which have a kitchen in the rooms, only a mini fridge and a microwave. That means that even if he has a grocery store within walking distance, and I’m not sure he does as most of the hotels, he’s stuck with precooked or microwaveable food, almost none of which is healthy, more or less Paleo. If I were in his place, I wouldn’t even want to spend my time off the tracks walking to grocery stores and figuring out my food for the next day, I’d much prefer to be utilizing my free time with a book, a laptop, or the hotel gym or pool.

As for me, it’s much harder to bring myself to cook full meals when Steven is gone, because it feels like I’m just cooking for me, and I have a baby who’s still young enough that he rarely can entertain himself long enough for me to cook a full meal. This has resulted in me eating fast food way too much, and in neither my hubby or I eating Paleo very well. Neither of us are as healthy — or as low in body fat –as we’d like.

For me, this means that meal prepping is getting very important. After I chatted with both my husband and with another railroad wife, we got Steven a cooler just big enough to hold a few days’ of meals, and I plan on making a few meals in a single day a couple times a week, probably when he’s heading home or when he’s sleeping right when he’s gotten back after working all night. .He’ll be able to take all or most of his meals — breakfast, lunch, and dinner — in his cooler, which means better quality and healthier meals through his trips and little or no money spent on food while he’s out. He may get teased a bit by the other guys on the road for bringing his cooler, but as the other railroad wife I talked to said, they get jealous when he pulls out a home cooked meal for dinner. For me, it means I have meals ready to go while he’s gone, which means I’ll be able to just heat them up and not have to worry about my son being either entertained or sleeping while I cook, or about cooking for only me every day, so I’ll also spend less and eat healthier. 

Bell peppers, strawberries, blueberries (in the colander), romaine, spinach, and broccoli and cauliflower (in the sink).

Bell peppers, strawberries, blueberries (in the colander), romaine, spinach, and broccoli and cauliflower (in the sink).

Today, I started in on it all. I chose a bunch of meals — more than a weeks’ worth, perhaps as much as two weeks worth depending on leftovers — to go shopping for. I did one big shopping trip for it all. And then I started doing prep.

It’s true that prep takes time, but it’s worth it. It just takes a bit of planning. Do it on a day when you actually have time to do food prep, so you don’t have to worry about it on days that you don’t.

My big goal was to get all the produce washed. Washing produce is helpful for removing dirt and such, but also for making it last longer. Washing it in the (clean) sink in water and a little apple cider vinegar helps kill bacteria that will cause it to go bad faster. I also removed stems from the spinach and broccoli (the cauliflower was already chopped) and separated the leaves on the romaine hearts before washing.

Prepping greensI recently learned of a good way to make greens last longer, so we’ll see how it goes. Wash them well, and then spread them out on a towel or paper towels no more than a couple layers deep so they’ll dry. After they’ve dried fairly well, transfer them onto a dry towel or paper towels, no more than two layers deep, and lay another towel or paper towels over top. Roll it up and rubber band it, and store in the fridge. This will allow moisture (which makes them go bad faster) to wick away, and make it easy to pick out any individual leaves that are going bad. Throwing out produce that is starting to go bad and leaving the produce that is still good preserves produce longer, as the produce that is going bad speeds up the process with produce that is still good.

Next on the list of food prep will be to cook up a few meals and food items in one go. For instance, I have breakfast sausage links to go with breakfast, and I can do multiple meals with ground beef, and then maybe the next set of meals I cook would be with chicken, which makes thawing out meat ahead of time easy to plan for.

 

Do you  prep your food? How do you do it?

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Book Review: Good Calories, Bad Calories

28552493_4ed41893bd8a0Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes challenges the conventional wisdom of nutrition by surveying the facts, studies, and history of nutrition.

Did you know that our current ideas about nutrition (saturated fats are bad, low fat is good, low cholesterol from food is good, grains are good, lowering calorie intake is the magic weight loss solution) all stem from a study that, at best, only showed a correlation between cholesterol and heart disease? Did you know that the health of a low fat diet has never been proven, and there is even evidence against it?

America became a giant health experiment a few decades ago, and the experiment has failed. Taubes explains how this came about and why.

Nor is weight loss just a matter of reducing calories. The body will compensate by lowering energy output. It is the kind of calories consumed that matters. A person could eat 2500 calories of one kind of food and be obese, but eat the same number of calories of a different kind of food and be very healthy. Taubes examines how the body processes different kinds of macronutrients — fat, protein, and carbohydrates — and their effects on weight.

Taubes concludes, through careful and thorough examination of the evidence over the last couple hundred years, that a diet of refined carbs in particular and high carbohydrate in general is uniquely fattening and responsible for many of the diseases of civilization. On the other hand, a whole foods diet without refined carbs and which is relatively high in natural fats is healthy.

This book goes into great detail with the evidence and in examining how our current ideas of nutrition came about; it amounts to about 500 pages of detailed information. Taubes has another book that condenses this information and makes it more accessible to people who don’t want to wade through so much information. I would highly recommend either book.

A Rant About WIC

I’ve been considering writing this post for a little while, but hesitated because I didn’t want to seem  ungrateful. I’m currently using WIC, although the need for it will likely soon be done soon. However, when its very nature makes it less useful than it should be for the people its supposed to help, there’s a problem, and that’s what I want to talk about.

WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) is a government program that helps low-income women, infants, and children with “healthy” foods.

Unfortunately, the foods provided on WIC are, in many ways, highly impractical in the quantities and even types of food provided. Let’s consider a few.

Milk

As an exclusively breastfeeding woman, I get six gallons of milk a month. My baby doesn’t drink it. It’s just my husband and I. We do not go through that much milk in a month, which means we either don’t get everything that we’re supposed to be able to get, or some of it goes to waste. We generally opt for getting less than we’re provided, since we aren’t aware of anyone we know needing milk. Even getting less and often freezing some so that it doesn’t go bad, there’s often a little out of each just that goes to waste before it can be finished.

Moreover, I’m not allowed to get whole milk. I think it’s allowed when giving it to children, but not for pregnant and breastfeeding women. The fullest fat I can get is 2%. Yet full fat dairy would be far better for a developing baby, and for the mom, than milk that has had some of the fat removed. Why? Because natural fats are very important in a healthy diet.

Nor am I allowed to get raw milk, even though it contains enzymes that help process the lactose, and is safer to eat than the eggs or even some of the produce I’m allowed to get on WIC.

Also, that much milk isn’t always nice on my system.

Do you know what can happen to a breastfeeding woman whose system is being upset by the food/drink she’s consuming? A colicky baby. And a baby screaming for a few hours while you can do little to sooth him or her is no fun. Take note of that. It will come up again.

I’m not allowed to substitute dairy milk with coconut or almond milk, either, despite those being healthy dairy alternatives. I could do soy, but that’s got its own host of issues, so I’ll stick with something that is at least an animal product.

I suppose the point of that much milk is the calcium, but there are other sources of calcium that don’t have the negative side effects of dairy, and that don’t require such a ridiculous quantity.

Produce

WIC does provide produce…but only $10 worth per month. Let me say that again. $10. Per. Month. That really doesn’t go a long way if you’re eating healthy, especially since the less expensive produce places like local produce stands often don’t take WIC checks. You also only get it once a month, so you’ve only got fresh produce for a couple of weeks. Two $10 checks per month for produce would do a lot better for promoting the health of the people that WIC is helping. They could take off a few gallons of milk to balance off the costs, while they’re at it.

Meat

Fully breastfeeding women get the most protein on their WIC checks, with being allowed two dozen eggs and a few cans of canned tuna or salmon per month. Others only get one dozen eggs and no canned fish.

Protein is important for nourishing children. Fat and protein are some of the most basic building blocks for the human body (whereas carbs aren’t nearly necessary in nearly the same quantity.) Now, my husband and I can go through two dozen eggs in one week easily. Even if it’s just me, I could go through a dozen in one week, and potentially more if I’m baking anything. (And I bake Paleo foods, so even my baked treats are relatively healthy.) Not only that, but I pretty much never eat canned fish, especially since I stopped eating bread while following Paleo.

I would say I wonder why non-vegetarian/vegan families aren’t given, say, a few pounds of chicken or ground beef or whole fish per month, but I know why. It’s because many protein sources are also fat sources, and the government just can’t endorse fat. They also probably don’t want to deal with providing alternative protein sources for vegetarians. Eggs are fairly safe. While they have saturated fat, they’ve been vindicated in their effects on cholesterol and heart disease (go figure). Many vegetarians are also willing to eat non-fertilized eggs. And many people who don’t like other meats are willing to eat a bit of fish.

There are no substitutes allowed for eggs, though, so I feel bad for any moms or children who have egg allergies. I wonder if there’s something that can be done if they bring in proof of their allergy?

Whole Wheat and Other Grains

And of course, wheat must be included in a government-controlled food program. Because, you know, even though the evidence is mounting against the necessity and even desirability of whole wheat in the diet, the government subsidizes the grain industry because its, you know, “healthy.”

Right.

Not.

Again, it is something that bothers many people’s systems, even if they don’t know it (which many don’t, since they’ve been led to believe that it’s so good for you). That means, once again, colicky babies for breastfeeding moms who are intolerant to grains, especially gluten in wheat. And why in the world are we feeding this stuff to our young children? It has very little nutritional value compared to many other options, and gluten can tear up the GI tract, which is not good for a developing child. Gluten is increasingly becoming linked to many autoimmune disorders, attention orders, diseases, and other health problems. Even many average people who don’t have serious disorders, diseases, or conditions often feel better when they cut gluten out of their diet. So why in the world are we giving something that can potentially cause so many issues to mothers and their young children?

Besides, most “healthy” whole wheat choices have things like high fructose corn syrup in them. Even the ones that don’t are, ultimately, going to largely break down into glucose in the system, driving insulin spikes, fat storage, and setting the stage for obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.

But yes, we want to make sure pregnant and breastfeeding women and our youngest children are getting enough. Insert eye roll.

In addition to this, breakfast cereal, which is all grain-based and often loaded with sugar, is included. The reason? Oh, well, they’re “fortified” with vitamins and minerals. They have to be “fortified” because they’re so lacking if its not added in! I could get way more iron, without the negatives of grains, from leafy greens and some beef. Actually, steak with a salad sounds like an excellent source of iron…yummy.

Legumes (Or Peanut Butter)

I’m going to assume that these are included because they’re another protein source. But legumes (and yes, peanuts are legumes) are not an ideal source of protein.

For one, there are often more carbs than protein. For instance, black beans are over 70% carbs, and only 22% protein. A cup of raw black beans has a glycemic load of 57 (daily target, according to Self Nutrition Data, is 100). Even peanut butter is nearly even in the carbs-to-protein ratio; the protein in one serving is barely more than carbs.

Let’s go over this again. Carbs break down into glucose. Glucose is sugar. We don’t need to be loading up on more sugar.

Second, most (or all?) legumes are not complete protein sources. Women would get much more benefit from some sort of meat instead of legumes.

Again, we also face the fact that legumes tend to cause gastrointestinal upset. More than that, legumes, like grains, contain phytates, which act as anti-nutrients, binding to minerals like calcium so that they pass through the body without being used. The result? Moms aren’t getting nearly as much as that calcium from the milk as they think they are.

We go with the peanut butter. At least it has some good fats and a better carbohydrate:protein ratio than most other legumes. But even then, natural peanut butter isn’t covered even when it costs the same and is made by the same company as other options. How does that make sense?

Juice

While I enjoy a cool glass of juice occasionally, it’s really not the best thing to be drinking on a regular basis. Especially from concentrate. Especially if it has added sugars, which often include high fructose corn syrup. Yuck. And fresh squeezed organic? Forget that being an option on WIC.

While many parents give their kids juice daily, often without considering it, the sugar load without the benefits of whole fruit (which often have less sugar than a serving of juice) is setting the child up for sugar addiction and future obesity and metabolic syndrome. Sure, there’s lots of vitamin C in juice, but there’s lots of it in whole produce, too.

 

 

Notice all of this kept coming back to the need for more whole produce and more protein sources, particularly meat? Yeah. That’s because those things are actually healthy and provide the necessary nutrients, both macro and micro, to make optimally healthy mothers and children.

I don’t like walking into the WIC office, knowing that they’re supposed to be there to help, and knowing that some moms and children on it are in far greater need than I am and depend on WIC far more than I do, but that they’re being given food based on nutrition ideas that are outdated and continuing to be peddled to the public — including those who are in need and looking for help — because it is profitable and comfortable to continue to promote the common wisdom, rather than the facts.

It’s great that there’s a resource for people who need help. It’s not great that that help is not the quality they need.

Being A Paleo Christian

I eat Paleo.

Or at least I do in theory. Pregnancy and such got my husband and I out of the habit, and I’m starting to get us back on track. But we have been fairly strict Paleo in the past, and got great results.

What is Paleo?

Paleo is a diet lifestyle. Not a diet like something you do but hate and give up on easily. It’s a sustainable way of eating that fuels the human body well, can be kept up long term without feeling deprived, and tends to get good results not only in achieving a healthy weight, but for health in general.

Paleo focuses largely on meat, produce, and natural fats. Grains and highly processed, sugary foods are the main foods that get eliminated.

Why is it Controversial for Christians?

The name Paleo comes from the word Paleolithic. Paleo and other “ancestral” diets (which tend to be very similar overall) are based largely on the idea of eating what we’ve evolved to eat, all the way back through the chain of hominids that human beings supposedly descend from.

Obviously that is a problem for most Christians, even those who aren’t strictly young earth creationists (I lean toward old earth creationism myself). Macro evolution is something that most of us outright reject, or are at least extremely cautious with — and for scientific reasons as well as our beliefs, if we’ve done research.

Obviously, a way of eating that so openly embraces macro evolution and common descent of humans from hominids is something that Christians will balk at. I don’t, for a number of reasons.

We Were Made to Eat What God Provided

God provided produce and animals from the beginning. The Bible doesn’t record God telling us to eat meat right away, probably because there was no death in the Garden, but He had provided animals. He had given Adam dominion over them from the beginning. A natural, whole foods diet based on meat and produce is not antithetical to the Bible or to how God created mankind.

On the other hand, working the ground to get bread was part of the Fall and the curse on Adam. Also, the bread we get in the grocery store tends to be very inferior nutritionally to what earlier agricultural societies would have had.

The Same Conclusion Can be Reached Without Evolution

A great example of this would be  Gary Taubes’ book “Good Calories, Bad Calories.” He reaches very similar conclusions regarding a healthy diet without having to appeal to hominids and macro evolution, using thorough science.

Examination of each type of food that is included and each type that is excluded is also revealing. Even if macro evolution were true, it would be silly to take lessons from those distant ancestors if they were barely making it on substandard fare. However, there is good science showing the desirability of the included foods and the drawbacks of excluded foods.

For instance, wheat had gluten, which has ill effects even on largely tolerant individuals. It also contains anti-nutrients, and stimulates excess insulin production, which has its own host of problems. Excess glucose from excess carbs also tend to be stored as fat, and raise triglycerides.

Meat, on the other hand — particularly ethically raised — has positive effects on cholesterol, contains essential vitamins (many in large amounts), provides the body’s best fuel source (natural fat), provides protein for muscles and cell repair, and requires very little insulin to process.

Paleo Supports Ethical Agriculture

A lot of the ethical problems surrounding agriculture, primarily animal agriculture, is how the animals are treated.

Christians don’t have to be vegetarians. God gave us animals. Jesus himself at least ate fish; probably mutton, too, in his culture. But we were called to be stewards of creation.

Paleo encourages purchasing food that has been raised sustainably and ethically, including animals. For instance, we prefer grass fed beef and dairy (for those who eat dairy). Grass fed beef means that the cow was allowed to be in a field with grass which it freely ate. If you’ve ever seen Food Inc., you know how much more desirable and healthy that is than the way they are often raised for mass production.

There are many answers to the problems our agricultural society has. Not only does going vegetarian or vegan but necessarily make those problems go away, it’s also not necessary. The Paleo community tends to care about finding answers and supporting those farmers and producers who implement them. I’m all for being a good steward of the earth God gave us.

Paleo Can Help Major and Minor Health Problems

The USDA brought the food pyramid to you courtesy of controversial and largely unsupported science that became a political issue without ever getting the supporting science first. America became a giant health experiment, and it has failed.

As I said before, the foods either allowed or cut out on Paleo have scientific backing completely apart from anything so controversial as evolution. While it would be great to see some large scale studies as well, there are plenty of reasons to believe — based on science — that Paleo and similar lifestyle diets are ideal.

The anecdotal and experiential evidence bears this out. Many people with serious health problems have, if not reversed them, at least gotten them under control for the first time in their life. The average person sees great benefits as well.

Take me for example. I wasn’t in need of any serious weight loss, but I did lose a couple of pounds, and it was distributed perfectly. I kept my womanly curves, while fitting into the same size I wore in high school. I had a 25″ waist. I wasn’t even working out regularly to get that result. I also had less fatigue problems, and my hair and nails were healthier than before.

Many other ways of eating, even some of the better ones like clean eating, fail in their examination of the best foods and the science. While people will be healthier while, say, eating clean than they will be eating like most Americans, there are many people who will still suffer from ill effects of some of the foods that are allowed and even encouraged. For example, legumes are allowed in clean eating, but they cause indigestion in many people, myself included.

It Tastes Great

It takes some time, research, and preparation to fully transition to Paleo, especially successfully. Deciding that Paleo is eggs for breakfast and chicken with broccoli for dinner pretty much every night is not very exciting and fulfilling. Getting rid of non-Paleo foods and replacing them with tasty Paleo meals takes a little effort, such as finding a good assortment of recipes.

When you do take some time to get a good assortment of meal options and recipes, it can be very very tasty. I’ve got a gain-free bread called Maple Banana Spice Bread from the cookbook Primal Cravings just out of the oven, and it is yummy.

It Conquers Cravings and Addictions

My husband is a pizza and pasta guy. He craves then frequently. He can eat unholy amounts of refined carb foods. He also puts weight on easily, so this is obviously especially not good for him.

Knowing this, I had a strategy when I implemented Paleo. First, I stopped replacing the unhealthy foods when they ran out. Second, I made sure to find tasty recipes that I knew he would like — not too hard, since he really likes meat too. When you’re being fed food you like, you don’t think too much about other food you’re just eating. It didn’t take long before he wasn’t craving those foods anymore. Finding that those foods also made him feel bad after having eaten better for weeks went a long way as well. Before I knew it, his requests were pretty much always Paleo.

Being very low sugar and without refined carbs, it’s a satisfying way to eat that successfully kicks cravings for and addictions to such foods. The transition can be rough, especially if you were eating very badly before, but the results are certainly worth it.

In short, there are plenty of reasons for embracing a Paleo (or similar) diet that don’t in the least require Christians to embrace the idea of macro evolution as well. And if it really works (it does!), it might just be worth a try.

Yes, Our Ancestors Ate Meat, and Most of Us Should Too

We know that human beings were hunter-gatherers before they started herding and farming. We also know that herding and farming hasn’t been going on long–it only started maybe 15,000 years ago, which is only a fraction of the timeline for homo sapiens and other hominids that scientists say were either our ancestors or closely related to us. (I haven’t looked too closely into the science on that yet; as a Christian its particularly important to me to really understand certain things before I decide what I believe about them.)

However, no matter whether humans were created essentially as is, or whether we did come from some other hominids first, our homo sapiens ancestors were still hunter-gatherers. And a lot of people miss a very important word there. Hunter.

“But they just hunted rodents and insects and other easy to catch gross things!”

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Well, no.

Our ancestors invented tools like the atl-atl tens of thousands of years before they ever invented a blow. Tools like these were invented in the Middle Paleolithic period, even as early as 90,000 years ago, allowing game to expand to fish in abundance and even some larger prey–even the woolly mammoth! Imagine hunting something that size! More complicated tools like bows and spears developed as early as 60,000 years ago, allowing hunting to be even easier and abundant. So let me get this straight. Our ancestors were possibly not hunting big game before 90,000 years ago, but still ate meat when they could get it. And they have been increasingly more able to hunt big game since 90,000 years ago.

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Think about Native Americans. The teepee made of animals skins is one great example of how a hunter-gatherer type nomadic society utilized their abilities to hunt. The body of just one animal was thoroughly used and highly valued. I remember learning about the hunting parties and the tools used and how much of the animal got used in elementary school during social studies. This isn’t new news, people!

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There are still some tribes that live a more hunter-gatherer lifestyle, such as African bush tribes. They are often physically fit, well nourished (except perhaps in times of drought and other factors beyond their control that we don’t experience with the grocery store just down the street), and have very few chronic diseases. Not to say they have none, their incidences are just significantly lower. Most of their causes of death are related to things that we are less likely to encounter and more likely to survive because of modern medicine, and from societal traditions that more modern societies don’t have. Which basically means, even if we don’t want to adopt their social practices and shouldn’t give up an emergency room when we need it, we shouldn’t be afraid of the hunter-gatherer type of diet.

We also have access to a diversity of plants and meats that hunter gatherers usually don’t because of geography. If they have a water buffalo in sight, that’s what they’re going to shoot. They have only their local flora and fauna–what have much more available to us, and we can make use of that.

I’m not saying you should shove your face with tons of bacon–although some days I won’t say no. But I am saying that you should eat lots of vegetables, lots of berries, a fair amount of fruit, some nuts and seeds, a decent amount of meat, and little or no grains, legumes, and dairy.

That’s not to say you can have no cultured food to follow a healthy diet. For instance, a lot of foods we have available, like sweet potatoes, are rare at best if they’re not cultivated, but they’re a perfectly good food choice for you.

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I had this in my last post too, but its worth repeating

Anyways, back to meat. I honestly get tired of people trying to say that animal products are horrible for us and our bodies aren’t made to handle them. Especially when those same people say you should eat lots of whole grains. Guess what we’ve been eating for tens of thousands, perhaps even a million, years? Meat. Guess what we’ve been eating for no more than 15,000 years? Grains. Guess which our bodies are most adapted to? Uh, yeah. Meat. We’re meant to eat lots and lots of plants, and meat. Especially fish, which were probably some of the first easily caught meat our ancestors had in abundance. Do you have any idea how good fish is for you? Even most doctors and scientists who advocate plant-based diets have to admit that fish are pretty darn good for the human body.

No matter what I believe about macro-evolution, I do accept micro-evolution, and I believe very firmly that our bodies are designed by both God and nature to handle meat.

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The Western Diet and meat eating are not synonymous with each other. You can have a diet that includes meat and be very healthy, as the hunter-gatherers above were before their diet was Westernized. Making the two diets synonymous is a disfavor to people who really want to know what our dietary problems are. The problems aren’t a high protein intake from meat. The problems are sugars, grains, refined foods, bad carbohydrate sources, and in many cases consuming primarily the fattiest, worst meats which are often fed on corn and genetically altered. The solution is to have a more natural diet of more raw, whole foods, choosing lean, good sources of meats, and getting rid of the problem foods.

Quite a Week

This week has gone terribly fast, probably because a lot has happened…and I wasn’t sick! Miracle of miracles, after how October went….

Of course, elections were Tuesday. I won’t go on a long rant, but let’s just say I’m not happy about the results. I voted for Romney, as he’s more conservative and definitely more fiscally responsible. I voted for McKenna for the same reason–I tend to vote Republican/conservative. I voted against legalizing same-sex marriage, which probably isn’t a surprise after my recent post on homosexuality. I voted against pot legalization, not so much because I have a problem with moderate marijuana smoking but because some of the laws surrounding the initiative were counterproductive to legalization. So you can see how I’m unhappy about the results.

My younger kitty, Sharkbait (the other one is Tamale) got spayed on Wednesday. Now you must understand, Tamale came to us spayed since we adopted her. Sharkbait is my very first cat I’ve had from a kitten. She’s my baby; I picked her out, she sleeps with us at night, she’s super friendly and lovable and totally cute. Her getting spayed was the first time I’ve ever been responsible for putting a pet through surgery, more or less one I love so darn much. I can handle them getting their shots, I have no problems with exams, even Tamale’s occasional blood donations don’t bother me. But I spent all of Wednesday on edge and anxious to get home to pick Sharkbait up, because a real surgery for my baby was new for me and quite harder to handle than I’d expected.

It didn’t help that when I did finally get her home, she immediately started yanking at her stitches, so my baby has to wear the cone of shame.

 

Yeah, poor baby. Once I went to bed, she probably spent two hours sleeping under the blankets cuddled with me. She’s improving pretty steadily now, but the cone is still on, because she’s not easily discouraged by bad tastes, scruffing, or anything else, and excessive licking of the incision or yanking on the stitching is just asking for infection and/or wound breakdown.

That same night that Sharkbait got spayed, one of my sisters-in-law found out she was pregnant with their second child. Another is already pregnant with their fifth, so by the end of next July I’ll have seven nieces and nephews. Most of Steven’s siblings are still too young and/or unmarried, and my brother is only nineteen and unmarried, so we’ll be getting lots of nieces and nephews over the years as they all get older, find a spouse, and start families. I love being an auntie! Although I think in a short while I’ll love being a mom, too. No, I’m not pregnant yet, I’m just looking forward to it.

I also decided to start bringing our diet more towards paleo. I don’t know that we’ll quite go 100%, but I recently read that even 80% will still give a lot of the benefits, especially if the remaining 20% isn’t bad. I think the occasional bowl of ice cream, plate of chicken Alfredo on a date, or bowl of oatmeal with breakfast will still happen, and we definitely have a lot of non-paleo food to go through anyways, but I see a lot of pros to a mostly paleo diet. What I see is that paleo causes a diet to be very natural, to focus on the best sources of macro-nutrients, and eliminates or reduces most stuff that people have problems with, whether the problem is as small as getting a little bloated after eating it or whether its a complete intolerance or allergy. Diets like paleo and clean eating are good in my book, because they are a way-of-life diet, not a fad diet, and they work because they make you eat healthily.

http://www.paleOMG.com is seriously my new best friend for finding recipes and food ideas.

I went food shopping today. (I know, exciting, right?) But I did pretty well shopping for primarily fruits, veggies, and lean meats, so I feel good about what’s stocked in my fridge right now.

I think I also found the gun I want to get for concealed carry (once I get the concealed carry permit, of course!). Its a .38 Ruger LCP. I like that its got more knock back than a .22 would, which is the caliber I’d have to have to go smaller. Its super tiny, only a little larger than my cell phone, smaller than my hand for sure, so its concealable even for someone tiny with tighter clothes like me. You may laugh at its size, but I’d rather a small gun than no gun, and a .38 to the heart or head will stop someone as well as a larger caliber. Need to go get my driver’s license updated before I can buy the gun and get a concealed carry permit before I can carry the gun, but I’m glad to know what I want.

Random story to share with you in honor of prostate and testicular cancer awareness month! Apparently as a joke, some guy recently took a pregnancy test. His girlfriend left it in his bathroom or something,  not sure. But it came up positive! He of course thought this was great and posted it online, where someone told him to go see a doctor because it shouldn’t do that (obviously). He took the advice, and it turned out he was starting to develop testicular cancer! Apparently testicular cancer produces the same hormone that pregnancy does! Because it was caught so early, he has a 99% chance of survival. So men, take a pregnancy test once a year! I find it completely awesome, interesting, and hilarious.

The Healthy Lifestyle

With all those fad diets, conflicting food information, weight loss myths, and 5-minute workout plans, how are we supposed to know how to really be healthy and not just bounce around from useless myth to useless myth? Especially if we’re paying money for any of it!

Well, rule one is that there is no “quick fix.” There is a healthy lifestyle.

So how do we eat right? There’s a bit of variation between healthy diets. Whether you’re doing Weight Watchers (one of the only diets I think works), paleo, eating clean, or something similar, there are a lot of similarities in how and why you’re ultimately going to achieve good end results. These mostly have to do with the macro nutrients you’re taking in and where you’re getting them.

Carbohydrates We see carbs and think “Bad!” but the reality is that there are good carbs (complex carbs) and bad carbs. Mostly it depends where you’re getting the carbs from. Sources like white flour, white rice, and sugar are bad carbs. We need very little of these, and most of our sugar intake should come from natural sugars like in fruit. Complex carbs on the other hand are necessary for energy and even for fat loss. You need these to be healthy. Complex carbs come from fruits and veggies and whole grains, although whole grains should be limited. Its best to get the biggest amounts of carbs in the morning to fuel your day and right before a workout to fuel the workout and help your body burn fat.

Protein Girls see “protein” and think of bulking up. Guys see “protein” and think red meat. Protein is essential for both men and women, especially those who workout regularly. It helps significantly in increasing lean mass (which is good for everyone) and is key to a healthy diet for a number of reasons. And girls–no, you won’t bulk up just because you get enough protein. Protein helps you have lean mass instead of excess fat. The best sources of protein are meats. Dairy, nuts, and some vegetables like spinach also have protein, although not as much nor as complete as in meat. Obviously someone with lactose intolerance shouldn’t count on dairy to get protein. A protein shake is also not a bad resource, although it can be high in sugar, so the best time to drink it is immediately after a workout, when your body processes protein and sugar best.

Fat Believe it or not, you need a certain amount of healthy fat to lose fat and to stay healthy. Meats, especially fish, are great for this, as are nuts, avocados, and cooking oils (choose a healthy,natural cooking oil). A fish oil supplement is also a great idea, as it has other benefits such as lowering risks of certain cancers like breast cancer and boosting your brain as well.

Supplements Obviously they aren’t macro nutrients, but they can help you get what you need that you don’t get from your diet alone. A multivitamin, calcium supplement, and fish oil are good basics.

Calories Each macro nutrient carries calories. Carbs and protein have about the same amount of calories per gram (I think 5?), and fat has a lot more. As far as how many calories you need daily goes, it depends on each person and their activity level. Someone who is in shape and works out regularly needs more calories daily than someone who sits on the couch. Generally, women shouldn’t regularly go below 1200 per day and men shouldn’t go below 1500 per day in order to remain healthy. How many you need daily is determined by your height, weight (or weight goal), and activity level and fitness. There are many resources for finding this range, such as on MyFitnessPal or with a personal trainer.

Now we’ve covered the basics of nutrition. How about working out?

Its best to work out at least three days a week to get results. You do need rest days, so don’t expect to work out 7 days a week. That’s not to say that you can’t do anything on your rest day, but an actual normal workout is a no-no. Your muscles need to rest in order to improve, since you tear them when they work out so they can only grow and strengthen by repairing. Anywhere from 3-6 days a week will get you results, but start with three or four at first and work up if you want to. Don’t feel like you have to.

You need a certain amount of different kinds of activities to achieve overall physical health.

Muscle Strength/Endurance This is best gained through weight lifting, calisthenics, and similar types of exercise. Ladies, don’t be afraid to lift the heaviest weight you can (without losing good form, of course!). We don’t bulk up very easily; it takes either steriods or years of hard effort to bulk for women, and can easily be avoided. Weight lifting will definitely make you stronger and define your muscles, but the result will be a toned body, not a manly body. Don’t be afraid of those squats! Leg days actually release a lot of human growth hormones since they’re stored in large amounts in the large muscles of your legs, so those squats and leg presses help tone the rest of you, too. Remember, muscle burns more calories even when you’re sleeping than fat does, so even if your ultimate goal is to lean out, you should focus on muscle gains too. Weights aren’t the only strength exercises. Plyometrics and calisthenics are good to do as well. You should do muscle strength/endurance exercise probably at least three days a week.

CardioIts almost a curse word to me, but its so necessary. Generally, it should be done at least a couple days a week for at least twenty minutes. Don’t just get stuck on the treadmill or elliptical, though. There’s other cardio options; stair climbers, swimming, Zumba. Have fun with it. Also, don’t think that just going one pace is always the best. Distance running is great, but doing some HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) is a great fat burner too. This is done by alternating high intensity cardio with very low intensity, such as by sprinting for a minute and then walking for a minute for twenty minutes. It causes you to burn more calories during and more after because you’re not letting your body fall into a pattern. No matter what you do for cardio, remember to not go to a dead stop (such as lay on the ground) immediately after cardio, especially intense cardio. It can literally stop your heart. Walk for a couple minutes or do something else low intensity where you are still moving. Remember if you’re trying to gain a lot of muscle strength, go really light on the cardio so the calories can go towards building muscles instead. But if you’re trying to lean out a lot, go heavier on the cardio.

FlexibilityStretch after your workout. Stretching cold muscles before a workout can actually increase your chance of injury, but doing it after gives your muscles a good stretch because they’re warmed up and decreases chance of injury. Flexibility will be nice to have through your life, even if only so you can still tie your shoes when you’re 60, so even if you never do the splits, make sure you keep reaching for those toes.

Keep a few other things in mind.

One, always use proper form. If you don’t know it, find someone or something to teach you. I’ve made the most use of the personal trainers at the gym and the exercise database on bodybuilding.com to know how to correctly do workouts. This is especially important when you’re doing heavy weights or something that puts a lot of stress on your back or knees.

Two, abs need rest days too. They do repair faster than other muscles because they are fast-twitch muscles, whereas muscles like your quads are slow-twitch, but they do need repair time still. They’re a muscle group like any other, so work them no more than a couple times a week. Keep in mind there are many workouts, like squats, that work them too, so they’re going to be improving even on days you’re not focusing on them.

Three, there is no way to “target stubborn belly fat with this five minute workout!” or anything like that which you see in the check out line. Fat will come off where it goes off, when it comes off. Consistently following a healthy diet and exercise plan is the best way to get fat off anywhere. It will probably start to look better pretty quickly if you’re toning the muscles underneath the fat and starting to lose, of course, but you can’t specifically remove fat from a certain body part/area except through lypo.

Four, cycling what you’re focusing on can be very helpful. A lot of body builders and fitness models do it. You focus on gaining muscle for a while, and then switch and focus on leaning out. Whether its every other week or every six months (somewhere around four to six weeks if you’re going for a goal like a photo shoot or competition), switching your focus can help you break plateaus and improve your overall fitness. Start by gaining muscle–do only a little cardio and hit the weights hard and heavy. Then switch to doing more intense cardio and lift the weights lighter with more reps. You’ll love the long term results.

Good luck!