Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Finding Balance in the Midst of Chaos

I teach high school students.  They can be a rough crowd by nature.  Their everyday gruff exteriors can pack a punch on the mental stability of your average high school teacher.  They have just about the worst diets imaginable, are burdned with baggage that would make you cringe or cry, and have all the hormonal angst you and I remember from the days of our own potentially crippling teenager-ness. Yet, for some reason, I trusted the independent study Autos students to work on my brakes today. 

One of the brightest stars of my career is toiling away, as I type, trying desperately to get the job done perfectly.  He will be mortified if something isn't just perfect.  While I wait, wheeless, I opted for a run around the lake on the property next door.  I would usually be on my way home, but motorless as I am it seemed like the perfect thing to do with my time.  A mid day workout? Unheard of. 

The air is clean, the sun is bright, and the lake is glistening as the tiny waves ripple like sparkling diamonds.  It was the perfect chance to clear my mind before picking up the kids.  It is the perfect way to recharge from a stressful morning.  It was a serene moment to myself, the kind that happens all too rarely.  It was the kind of moment that made me start to think.  Uh oh. 

I got to thinking about the fact that moments like I just had are rare, but why? All teachers have planning periods.  We usually use one for lunch, and the other to plan, grade, or organize.  We tell ourselves it is our time to get our things together so we can face the rest of the day.  But in reality, there is no break, there is no least not for many.  I remember how my first few years of teaching came with the unwritten rule that eating at your desk was the way to self-fulfilment; that by pouring yourself into your job you would become the best teacher you could be.  In recent years I have come to feel differently. 

After I finished my run today, just a quick 20 minute workout, I felt rejuvinated.  I felt that if I had to work a longer day I could.  The time I spent oxygenating my muscles and centering my mind was the time I might have once used to 'get something done'.  By choosing more desk time, I was always choosing more stress, more anxiety, and more baggage. 

The husband often uses his lunch break as a time to go to the driving range, something that seems quite foreign to me. The idea of LEAVING the premises during the workday? It seems almost like breaking the rules.  I mean, how could I regularly excercise during the workday, even with the time desginated as my own?  I would finish the day sweaty and unkept.  How unprofessional would that be?

My answer to myself?  Very professional.  It would be the ideal way to show our students, many consumed by countless hours of video gaming and some who believe high fructose corn syrup is naturally occuring in all fruit (yes I really did have MANY students tell me that this year), that  healthy and successful adults do more than just work every second of the day. That part of what makes us successful is our ability to manage our time and the constant strive to maintain our own mental balance; neither of which is truly possible without dedicating time to living a healthy life (diet and excercise included). 

When my wheels were returned to me, my student asked why I had changed clothes.  "I went for a run", I told him.  "A run? Here?" he replied.  Yes, a  And I felt like a new and better person for it.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Going Public and The Best Cream of Broccoli Soup

So I know this very successful blogger.  She's savvy, snarky, and so very artistic she makes my head spin.  She has a keen eye for party planning, is an amazing organizer of fantastically fancy dining events, and is sometimes showcased as a sparkling TV personality. For all those many reasons I was terrified to share my tiny little blog with her.  What if I have a typo? (I am certain I do.) What if I sound stupid? (I really try not to.) What if, in all her infinite blogging wisdom, she finds my little endeavor lame? Then last night it hit me: she'd point out my weak spots, pat me on the back for the good stuff, and give suggestions to make it better. 

I'm not sure I would've come out and shared the link on my own, without any prodding. But after sharing a Facebook status about the best Cream of Broccoli Soup I've had in years (ok, the only Cream of Broccoli Soup I've had in years), my blogging guru friend gave me the kick I needed..."Would you just start a blog already?" she asked. Without that question, I'm not sure I could've or would've shared.  Up until last night, this little piece of me has been doled out to a few friends here and there.  I shared with some family, but even that was done after many months of pining, of struggling with the thoughts that "they may laugh, they may think this is stupid".  With the urging from an idol, I bit the bullet and posted a link to this blog filled with whatever errors may exist. Then I watched neurotically as my 'pageviews' count increased. I didn't know who read my thoughts, I didn't know their opinions, and I was terrified by that fact.

Turns out I am the sensitive type, ever fearful of rejection or condemnation or anything that resembles failure.  Over the years I've worked hard to conquer that character flaw and last night I gave myself one more kick in the ass to say, "get over it already, you're a grown woman with nothing to lose!" So now this blog has been viewed by many friends, maybe they'll share with many more- maybe not.  What really matters is that I put myself out there in a way I couldn't have a year ago, 6 months ago, or even 6 days ago. 

So, thanks be to Jen Luby, diva of party design, master of fashion and wit...this Cream of Broccoli Soup is for you.

Best Cream of Broccoli Soup
1 medium onion, (I used white)
1/3 cup green onions
1 medium carrot
1 clove garlic (unless you LOVE more)
2 teaspoons thyme
3 cups Yukon Gold potatoes
8 cups Vegetable Stock
1 cup water
1/3 cup nutritional yeast (completely delicious!)
4 cups broccoli florets
salt and pepper to taste

Chop and combine both types of onions, carrots, and garlic.  Sauté, using just enough water to keep from sticking, until onions become translucent.  Add thyme and chopped potatoes (I cut them into small cubes so they will cook more quickly) and sauté another minute or two.  Stir in vegetable stock and water.  Add nutritional yeast (this will give your soup a great salty/smokey/cheesy flavor and provide you with tons of vitamin B-12). Bring the pot to a boil, then add broccoli.  Cook until the potatoes are soft.  Using an immersion blender, blend until smooth- or whatever consistency you prefer.

*The basis of this recipe came from Forks Over Knives: The Cookbook. It did not have many of the ingredients that my version does, but the recipe from that book did look fantastic also.  If you've never looked into that cookbook, I highly recommend doing so.  Also, check out their website on maintaining a 'whole-foods, plant-based diet"

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


A very large reason I write this blog is to air my feelings and get them out of the way.  It seems like a good venue to say what I think; it's fairly anonymous, I try to be constructive, and most of what I'm thinking turns out with a happy ending for myself and a tasty recipe for you.  So imagine how frumpy I feel that two of my last three posts have dealt with death, aging, and the downsides of change.  Usually, I am struck by some amazing dietary discovery or awed at the power of maternal relationships, perhaps wowed by some newly published peice of genius.  Recently though, I've been overcome by the effect one little dog had on my life.  I'd like to be able to leave it at my last post, one of my final thoughts being that 'he would love me fiercely until his end'...but I can't.  I feel like I owe him more than that.  I feel like I owe him one last goodbye in a very public way.  Right here.  Right now. 

My family and I said goodbye to my long time friend on Thursday, February 28.  The previous evening, my husband and I had made the decision to call the in-home euthanist, we would have her conduct the procedure on Friday.  However, the night of February 27 was a terrible one for the little guy.  He couldn't lay down without coughing.  He couldn't jump on the bed.  He couldn't stand without gagging.  Everyone told me I would know when it was time and no more than 30 minutes into our regular bedtime routine, I did. We made it through the night before I said it to the husband, "if she can come today, I think we should have her come.  Tomorrow is too long for him." And just like that, the end was scheduled.  Scheduling the moment your loved one will die; when it's put like that it sounds barbaric.  In reality, it was anything but. 

I arranged for my dear friend, Megan, to take the girls to dance class.  I didn't believe they needed to watch him pass away.  They needed to hear what was going to happen, to understand he wouldn't be there when they came home, and to hug him one last time- to say goodbye.  Understandably, it was a rough day for them at school and the ride home was filled with tears.  I explained why I wouldn't be taking them to dance and that 'Momo', as she's been known since their birth, really wanted to be part of their day and help us out.  They understood that much.  They hugged Sparty one last time, scratched his ears, and told him they loved him before they headed out the door- keeping the rest of their day as normal as possible.

Nancy, anesthesioligist by morning- in home euthanist by afternoon; she promised to make our needs work with her schedule and arrived at our home at 3:30pm on the dot.  What a human being, to be able to do this work everyday.  She remembered him from the vet's office, she shared in our heartbreak, and she explained how things would proceed. We would hold him in a blanket, scratch his ears, and she would adminster a sedative to help him relax, help him not be afraid. She would wait outside for about 10 minutes; we would have the time to say goodbye. He would have time for the sedative to go to work and then it would happen.  She would administer the chemical that would end his pain and suffering, that would end our time with him.   It would take about one minute and he would be free to run and jump once more. Of all the woulds that were about to happen, I kept telling myself that jumping and running were the woulds that really mattered.

Since being diagnosed with cancer, Sparty did not enjoy being held like he used to.  There was a time when he would eagerly jump, literally, into our open arms.  That hadn't happened in quite some time.  Even picking him up to place him gently on the bed caused him discomfort and he often shied away, until he realized he couldn't do it on his own.  But this time, when I came for him with one of his favorite fleece blankets he stood patiently, looking at me with those chocolate brown eyes filled with love and understanding.  I almost felt he was inviting me to help him, to carry him through just a few more moments while wrapped in my embrace. He didn't squirm when we sat down.  He got up once after the sedative, he appeared to feel he was going to throw up- which Nancy said was common.  But he was almost eager to settle into my arms once more and didn't leave me again until Nancy carried him out the door.

I remember holding him.  I remember Nancy taking him from me. I remember one last look in his eyes. And then I was doubled over, hanging off the couch, screaming.  The husband, Kevin, must have let Nancy out and then returned to pull me into a hug.  We sat and hugged and cried and remembered.  

I've never been able to completely wrap my mind around death.  One day, your love is here and you are happy.  The next day, there is a massive and gaping whole in your heart and soul- your loved one never again to be seen on this side of heaven's doors.  It makes so little sense. 

In the time since Sparty's passing, his ashes have been returned; we will bury him under the tree where he used to bark at the birds.  The girls asked that we plant some blue flowers for him on his birthday, which is their birthday as well.  They feel that blue was probably his favorite color and that he might just like some new flowers in our garden. We also learned that his third litter-mate, Brady- a beautiful blue IG, is currently in kidney failure.  Brady still lives in Michigan with the breeders, Dick and Marilyn and we've remained quite close over the years. For them, there has been too much loss in so little time. Fortunately, we have the souls of 6 year olds living under our roof to help shed light on what's really happening. 

When discussion turned to Brady's untimely health problems, Izzy proudly proclaimed with a big toothless smile, "Well, at least Sparty will be in heaven so they can play together!" And I thought, That's it! Yes- Sparty is there waiting for his brother...what a beautiful way to see it.  So there it is, an explanation for the eternal mystery.  Maybe death isn't so hard to understand after all, maybe it's just one of us going ahead to wait for another that we love. And with that, I wiped one more tear.  But this time, it was a tear that saw the beauty only my child could show me. My comfort and clarity is found and tomorrow will be that much easier than today. 

So goodbye my dear friend, my best buddy, my fuzzy little guy.  Thank you for bringing me comfort, may you bring that same joy to another as you wait for me on the other side.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


I have a few talents, as I mentioned elsewhere in the archives.  Change?  It's not one of them.  It's different, it's unknown, it makes me cold.  Not the kind of cold that leaves you comforted by a warm blanket, the kind of cold that leaves you chilly in your soul.  I can change my hair color without missing a beat, I can change my mind about what to eat for dinner, I can even change the book I'm reading if I don't find it satisfying.  It's major life changes I don't really like, cringe when I see them coming, and am never really sure how to prepare for.

I've already written about how sick my little Sparty is right now.  He did really well for a few weeks, but last night things changed.  It was hard for him to jump on the couch, hard for him to get comfortable laying down, everything was just a little off.  I'm not going to kid myself.  I know a major change is headed our way and my eyes are opened wide enough to know that this change is coming quickly- maybe even light speed quickly. I've known for a while it would happen, that my cuddly little guy is slowly slipping away. I thought I was prepared, turns out I'm not. 

Watching him fade makes me realize how fleeting every moment is.  I remember watching soap operas when I was a teen, anyone else remember the lines: "Like sands through the hour glass, these are the days of our lives"? As I write this now, I see the hour glass of my life and the sand tumbling all too quickly through.  For eleven years I have lived in this home, a fantastic friend and neighbor, only steps away.  For ten years I have lived in this home, two little dogs following me room to room.  For six years I have lived in this home, the sounds of little footsteps padding through the hallways.

The fantastic friend and neighbor is moving tomorrow, I am saddened to see her go. One of my little dogs approaches the end of his life, I am melancholy for my immenint loss.  The little footsteps that once padded through the halls are not so little anymore, they get bigger every day. 

I wouldn't change any of these moments for any amount of money.  But, being the uber sensitive gal that I am, they all play a number on me when the moment slips away.  I see the grains of sand as my moments in time and see them slipping through, escaping the bottleneck, and landing atop the other precious life memories who made me who I am.  Even if I could put a stopper in the hourglass, stop time from moving forward, I know the sands of time must keep moving.  If anything, as I've aged I've learned to relish the moments as we live them.  I may not sound like I'm doing much relishing today, but I'm trying to make a point to remember why I loved each of those major landmarks in my life...

For eleven years in this home, I grew a friendship that has been extremely important to myself and my children.  I didn't know it when my neighbor moved in, but she was going to help me through a few very trying moments.  She was a shining beacon when I was having difficulty becoming pregnant; pep talks, spirit bossts, hand holding- she did it.  When my kids were born and grew, our kids became almost inseperable.  Through countless conversations at one or the other's kitchen table, she inspired me as a parent and gifted me with her friendship. What a gift.  I knew it then, I know it now.

For eleven years in this home, I was followed from room to room by two of the most loving little dogs I could imagine.  They loved me when I didn't always love myself, they comforted me when my dreams of having a child were only that - dreams, they have looked at me with a warmth most people can't muster.  Every challenge I've faced over the last ten years was faced, not only with a loving husband and family to talk me through, but with the wordless love and gestures only a dog could offer- gestures that soothed my heart and soul. Could I ask for anything more? I'm not prepared to lose one of the pups, but I am content in knowing that he will love me fiercly until the very end.

For six years, I have listened to the sounds of childhood and heard those sounds age each day.  As I write this now, I hear raucos shouts and squeals of joy, and size thirteen feet running through the upstairs hallway.  If I could freeze my girls for a moment in time, I wouldn't.  Even though I get misty eyed (ok, maybe waterfall eyed, rainstorm eyed, terrential downpour eyed) at the thought of them growing up and beginning their own lives, I cherish every day of the process. What a contradiction I am.  Despise change and love it all at the same time?  It is ebery moment of their six years of life that make me adore them more every day, and it is in their growing that I am getting the most satisfaction.  They are growing.  They are GROWING!  They are not helpless little babies.  They are people who can tie their own shoes, brush their own teeth, and read their own books.  My girls, who will forever be 'babies in my heart' (as I tell them all the time) are smart and capable and amazing.  Isn't that whay every mother wants?

Stopper the hourglass? No. At first it sounds like a great idea, but the next great moment of life would never come if the sands stopped moving.  I know there are people and events and moments yet to be encountered that could change my life just as drastically as those I've mentioned in this note.  I just have to be willing to let the sands flow, keep my eyes open for the new possibilities, and await the days of my life that are yet to come. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Zombie Fever...or maybe just the FLU

And here I was, feeling invincible. Weight loss, muscle gain, staying far away from dairy.  Two weeks ago, when the husband was sick on the couch and out of work for nearly a week, I kept waiting for it to hit me. Everyday I felt fine.  No signs, no symptoms. I was, I believed, an immune system Super Hero. The Amazing Aimee. Powers beyond belief. The ability to knock out germs with a single blow. As long as I avoided my krypton (dairy and wheat), I'd be fine.  Wrong.

Exactly two weeks after the husband was sick here I am, apparently mortal and very sick with the FLU. Yesterday, when my doctor offered to meet me for an evening treatment and I made my way to the car, I felt more like a "Walker" than a living, breathing, human. Shuffling, scraping one foot behind the other, groaning in pain.  Yep, I was a "Walker". I even had the super high fever to prove it: 104.8 degrees.  For real? Yes, for real.  Not such a immune system Super Hero after all.  

Although I'm definitely on the mend, it's slow going.  There are many holistic meds on the night stand and I've already taken a wet sock bath, followed by a neti pot treatment.  But there's one not so home remedy that I really miss.  It's a guilty pleasure that we all know is bad, bad, bad.  I hang my head in shame to admit this to you, but I really miss ramen soup.  It's not just the noodles, it's the seasoning too.  All of it filled with bad stuff I just can't eat.  But, there are some good things too; there is one very good thing in fact...turmeric.  With its anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties, it's actually the one ingredient that might be called good for you.  

A few weeks ago, I had a craving and decided to attempt a homemade version.  Switch out the ramen noodles for rice noodles, the powdered broth flakes for vegetable stock, and add some turmeric.  Ok, it needed just a little bit more, but not much.  I whipped up a batch today, at about noon, before I had a chance to become a "walker" again and it did, in fact, keep me human for a little while longer.  

Not So Bad For You Ramen

2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup water
1-2 tablespoons Tamari (depending on how salty you like it)
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 tespoon garlic
1 ounce flat ride noodles

To be honest, I am guesstimating my measurements here.  Some days I prefer a stronger garlic flavor, some days more salt.  Use this as a rough guideline and suit your own tasts.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

My Handsome, Brown Eyed, Boy

As I write today, I am busy wiping away my tears.  On Monday, we received definitive word that our beloved little friend, Sparty the Italian Greyhound, has cancer.  They give him somewhere between two weeks and two months to live.  There is so much to be said about the little guy, so much I have to put down before it's too late.

He came to us, along with his litter-mate Sophie, 10 years ago this spring.  I was beginning to feel the need to mother and mothering of a little person was some ways in the future, with many obstacles yet to overcome.  When we agreed that we would get a dog, we agreed to get "A" dog- a little girl.  It took much searching to find the breed that would be right for us and eventually agreed on an Italian Greyhound.  The husband has pretty severe allergies to pets, but the IG is pretty close to hypo-allergenic.  Finding one of these rambunctious creatures to adopt proved to be a challenge.  Having never had a puppy of his own, the husband very much wanted to look for a puppy rather than a rescue.  I know, some people look down on that, but it was the right decision for us and one that changed our lives. 

Italian Greyhounds are a very protected breed.  Every breeder I spoke to basically gave me the same line: they weren't sure what I was up to, but they were certain it was no good.  Every single breeder doubted my intentions.  Until I talked to Dick and Marilyn Michigan.  It turned out they had a litter of three pups, two of whom would be available for adoption. If we were willing to make the 6 hour drive to spend the day getting to know them, they MIGHT consider us as an adoptive family for one dog.  I don't know and I never asked, but I wondered if the offer for us to drive that distance was a test to see how bad we really wanted a new family member.  I know it was a test to see if we could handle a true IG.  Dick and Marilyn had more than 10 dogs in their Michigan home at the time, so a visit would definitely prove something.

We readily agreed and set a date.  When we arrived, we were greeted by some of the most spirited little creatures you could ever imagine.  IG ownership is certainly not for everyone, but right away we knew it was for us. There was only one 10 pound problem.  There were two dogs up for adoption and I wasn't leaving without committing to the little girl.  But the other one, the little boy Sparty- I could barely stand to leave him for a trip to the restroom, let alone never see him again.  There would be a waiting period, during which time any adopted puppy would be spayed or neutered and then the breeders would drive to our home to deliver our newest family member.  It broke my heart to leave either dog for my return home and the waiting period that would follow.  I knew we would leave committed to Sophie, but the thought of not bringing her brother to live with us tore me to pieces.  With a little convincing, the husband agreed that two pups were the way to go.  Truth be told? Something about Sparty's incessant need to lick won over the husband long before I had a chance to do my best convincing act.

The weeks passed and eventually the doorbell rang.  Two of the most wonderful pups were welcomed into our home. In the years that followed, they became our dearest family members.  Rare was a family event to which the puppies did not go, rare was the evening we didn't stay snuggled under a blanket. Our lives were changed. And then motherhood happened.

I had always said I would not be one of those women who shunned the dogs when two legged children arrived.  I wasn't.  Sure there were times when my hands were full and fewer scratches were given, but I never for a second forgot that those two pups were my best nursemaids while I was on bed rest during pregnancy.  Never could I ignore their melted chocolate-brown eyes when one or both came padding into the girls' room. And, without a doubt, never could I forget a birthday for the little four legged fuzzy guys- my girls were born on the same day as the dogs (separated by four years time.) My 9-1-6ers, that's how they were all collectively known. Life was chaotic, sometimes frustrating, often overwhelming, but never without unconditional love.

I find myself looking back at the last handful of years and realizing that time has been perfect, especially since I got my health in order.  When I found health and peace, I began to see that my life was as close to perfect as one girl can get.  A loving husband, two great kids, and dogs that cuddled with me whenever I saw down.  One dog who was so devoted, that even a late night with friends, couldn't send him to bed without me. Those deep, knowing, compassion filled eyes were always watching. He. Was. Always. There.

When I received the crushing news, a friend mentioned how hard she knew it was for me and how symbolic to me it must be. At first, I couldn't identify what was symbolic about this situation, though I knew she was right. Then I figured it out, through many shed tears. The symbolism lies in my devotion to him.  My relationship with Sparty, is much like a marriage.   It took time to cultivate our routine, our understanding of one another, and a relationship of comfortable habits. I think back to the past couple of years and the peace I have found cuddling in bed, watching TV or reading, with the my soft and caring friend.  It was comfortable and warm and peaceful and known. 

It may sound strange, but I equate it to the idea of dating again - something that I am beyond happy I am not doing.  There comes a peace when a relationship hits the point of being content and comfortable.  At that point, each other's faults are known and accepted.  That is where I am in my marriage and in my relationship with everyone in the household, including that little dog.  Much like my relationship with my mate, where I have finally realized I don't need to always be right and that he loves me no matter what, my relationship with Sparty is a comfort.  It is a comfort I am not ready to give up, and don't know that I will ever be prepared to be without.  When we learned the devastating news I told him that I will not be selfish.  I will not let him suffer.  I will be for him what he has always been for me.  I will hold him, I will love him, I will see him through.  I am terrified for every second of that goodbye, but I owe him the kindness he has always shown me on my darkest days. 

And when it is over, when the end has come and gone, I will carry the pure and unconditional love forward.  The thought of never again looking in his eyes and seeing a universe filled with devotion and love is killing me, but I will keep looking until they close for the last time.  I will shower extra scratches on Sophie, for she has never known a day without her brother.  I will give her just one more treat, and love her even more.  And I will never forget the time I had with them both, no matter how long either lives, because it will never be long enough.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Baby Steps

I have a friend. Well, I have more than "A" friend, but this story is about one in particular. We had a talk last night that got me to thinking. I have some very good luck: great insurance and unique opportunities to address medical conditions holistically. But, what do you do if that isn't your lot? What if your family isn't quite on board with dietary changes, or your insurance says a big fat NO to the treatment you're so desperately looking for?
Baby steps. Take a breath, take a step back, roll up your sleeves, and do what you can for yourself-by yourself. It may not be easy, but I believe in you and I think you can make it happen.
Baby step #1- Dairy Detox
Pour out the cow milk, toss out the cow cheese (even more rapidly toss out the plastic cheese known as Velveeta, because admit it- that stuff is just gross.) Get your kids some goat milk, take a tour of Whole Foods and learn about the other types of cheese they sell- that is, of course, if your family can't live without cheese or milk. My kids can't. They both love yogurt, one can't be separated from milk, and the other has to have goat cheese in her lunch a couple of times a week. Me? I could do without it. But just in case I ever have the urge, the ONLY options in the house are options I can believe in.
Oh, and find ways around ordering pizza for a few months. The addicting (and I truly mean addicting) combination of mozzarella and sauce on a flakey crust- that smell will mess with you when you're trying to detox from killer cow dairy. Trust me, that was the hardest thing. I sometimes felt like one of Pavlov's dogs in those first couple of months off cow dairy. Every time a Papa John's commercial came on (you read that right- Papa John's), all I could think about was pizza. It's been two+ years since I had a slice of pizza, the commercials stopped triggering a salivary response long ago, and the smell of pizza now leaves me slightly grossed out. Step one complete.
Baby step #2- Rage Against the Grains
The Doc told me no gluten, which is found in a handful of grains. As I mentioned somewhere else in the archives, it messes with my thyroid. One other very good reason to rage against the grains? Wheat, rice, rye- they're calorie hogs. The way I see it is this: I have two choices- eat meals packed full of nutrient rich fruit and veggies (leaving room for several snacks in the day) or have a giant piece of bread (nearly void of natural nutrients), be hungry an hour later, and go back for more of the same nutritiously vacant food as a snack.
For many people, the idea of removing most grains from the diet leaves them wondering what else there is to eat. The fear seems to be rampant hunger- if bread, breakfast cereal, or a giant bowl of noodles aren't part of a daily diet, they think there is nothing left so starvation MUST be imminent. Wrong.
But what is there, really, besides bread and pasta? So much. How about some lightly steamed veggies, just steamed enough to make them brightly colored and super crunchy? What's that you say...your kids hate steamed veggies and your husband will only eat broccoli? They're  carb-a-holics? Easy fix, make a sauce from scratch that secretly has sweet potatoes, carrots, and squash blended in- tucked far from their field of view. Let them have their pasta if they must. On your plate? More of those steamed veggies, a small piece of fish, and a drizzle of that sauce you just fooled them with. Maybe the family will take in a little rice now and then? Great! Make it brown and make less than usual. Why less? For me, rice is a weakness. If I make a smaller amount, I feel bad taking too much because there might not be enough for the kids. Its my own little trick to keep from over indulging and over serving myself. Another option: become new best friends with quinoa. It's an easy substitute for rice. I even told the kids it was a special kind of rice and they bought it. It too can be pretty high in calories, but it's low on the glycemic index, high in protein and packed with amino acids. It works well in stir fries, fried 'rices', served on a bed of cooked greens with a piece of chicken or fish. Step two, manageable.
Baby Step #3- Go Green...and Red, and Pink, and Orange, and Blue
Fruits. Vegetables. Eat them. Every day, every night, and for snack time in between. After dinner, I prepare my breakfast and lunch for the next day. While lunch is usually a small portion of leftovers, breakfast is always fruit. I fill a glass bowl with about 2 cups of fruit and seal it up for the next day. In the summer it was mango and grapes. Now it's grapes, strawberries, and blueberries. And what about dinner? As I near my target weight I have fewer calories to consume every day, so I find myself leaning towards home prepared soups. I can control how many vegetables are in the recipe, I can assure there is no gluten, and I can be certain no dairy touches the pot. Thanks to those factors, I can also control the calorie content. Last night's thick tomato soup totaled 52 calories per cup and contained tomatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, and parsnips to name a few items.
For the family? Anyone who wanted soup got a cup and I made sure there were other options for everyone that were my version of healthy. There were several varieties of fruit, goat yogurt for the kids, and broiled fish for everyone (besides myself). It was a small amount of additional work to cut the fruit and broil the fish, but not much. I didn't feel like I was making multiple meals, if I stopped with the meal I planned on eating there wouldn't be enough calorie content for the husband and not enough variety for the kids. I think the problem we face when modifying our own diets is not making several meals, but being creative about what we're actually putting on the table. Step three, always in process.
Baby Step #4- Calorie Track
Why? Because by the time you get to step 4, you've probably started to see a difference in your body. It's hard to imagine NO change, after radically changing your diet. If nothing other than noticing a difference in how you feel, something is changing. In my own story, calorie tracking was step 1. I tracked my daily intake for a while before I took out dairy and stopped eating gluten. On the one hand, tracking my calories from the start was very rewarding. I began to see a change in weight pretty quickly. On the other hand, it was just one more thing to try and keep up with when I was already changing so much. I've been tracking what I eat, every day, since July 2011, and I've seen a loss of 42 pounds. It seems strange to some, me pulling out my phone before every meal. I found it very enlightening in the beginning and now, as I near the end of my weight loss journey, I see it as daily motivation. The enlightening part is this: I never thought I ate much in volume. Sure, I had the special occasion meals where I did eat too much and knew it, but most meals were average sized and I didn't gorge all day. What I didn't realize was how many calories even the healthy snacks brought with them. The calorie content in an avocado or a banana is shocking. They're both great snacks, but the calories quickly add up when you are trying to save 500 calories a day, the calorie deficit needed per day in order to lose one pound per week.
If you have a smart phone, there are all sorts of apps meant to track your calorie intake on a daily basis. Some are free and are very good. If you don't have a smart phone, but you do have a computer, there are free calorie tracking websites. The husband says calorie tracking is too much work. He's right, it takes dedication, a lot of dedication. That's one more reason to start tracking calories after you've become comfortable with the major changes listed above. Step four, doable if you want it bad enough.
Baby Step #5- Pre-made = Pre-packaged Problems
This is it, the last step. Well, the last step to getting started anyway. I'm saying to make it the last step, even though it might seem like the most obvious. There's a reason for that. When you start trying to do the other things: remove dairy, minimize grains (especially gluten filled grains), and consume more fruits and veggies, you start doing this step almost naturally. Take a look at the side of a box of anything. Wheat of some form, dairy in some fashion, and the only form of fruit is usually a fruit juice concentrate and even that is toward the bottom of the list (meaning it's in there, but just barely.) So, if you're being careful to follow the other steps, you've automatically cut most boxed goods already and this isn't even really a step, it's more of a companion to the others.
Onward We Go
There it is 3 must do steps, plus 2 steps to really get you going. I say do them one at a time. Little by little, and bit by bit, you'll get there. It won't happen quickly and it won't be easy. But you have at least one friend to cheer you on...Me. I believe in you, you CAN do it.